Y-chromosome haplotree growth

World’s largest Y-DNA Haplotree from FamilyTreeDNA (Image generated using iTOL; FTDNA Blog)

Male part of humankind has been having an important role in identification of people by their origin and belonging. Often they were seeking for a new land, trade or better resources, while women and children stayed in camps. Therefore, they were more mobile also in the time when bare foot was the only means of travelling. Those facts are important for understanding the meaning and interpretation of human haplotree, which is created based on testing of Y-chromosome (attribute of man).

Family Tree DNA is a pioneer in DNA testing specialized for genealogy (hosting a Slovenian origin project among hundreds of others), starting with commercial test soon after the human genome was first sequenced in 2003 (The gaps of some DNA parts have been sequenced only recently). Family Tree DNA is actually a pioneer of genetic genealogy with systematically established the world’s largest DNA database for genealogy, comprising not only atDNA, but also Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA records. Nowadays, their partner Myheritage, with which they share the testing laboratory, has larger database with atDNA results, but Family Tree DNA remained the leading company with their Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA records, which give specific ancestry information of direct lines. You are in the best hands when you test with MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA, as the atDNA results are exchangeable and both interprete the results obtained. You have to bear in mind only that your biological sample sent to Family Tree DNA for atDNA testing (Family Finder), will be kept for further purchases of tests like mtDNA and Y-chromosome DNA. If you send it to MyHeritage, it will be discharged after obtaining their results.

Family Tree DNA is well known for their work with National Geographic on the Genographic Project (2005 – 2019). This was the project with first attempt to build the humankind family tree and interpret migrations for last 200,000 years based on analysis of STR markers on Y-chromosome. I was inspired by book The journey of man (Spencer Wells), which introduced the DNA testing and haplogroups to me. At that time they tested very little on SNP markers (single nucleotid polymorphism) and focused more on STR markers (short tandem repeats).

SNP as genetic marker is a change in the sequence of nucleotides in a DNA chain that indicates a particular phenotype (like hair colour). In genealogical genetic analyses, they determine the matching of SNP genetic markers among descendants (SNP means change in a single letter of DNA alphabet A, C, G, T). A genetic marker means a physical location on a chromosome (locus). Also STRs are used as genetic markers. For example the Y-DNA67 test is a sequence of 67 markers with short tandem repeats (STRs). To learn more about how testing of Y-chromosome evolved over time watch the video from RootsTech presentation.  

The exponential growth of Y haplotree is due to new generation technology, which is commonly named as “Big Y” and has been introduced by Family Tree DNA in November 2013 (See the table below).

FTDNA Y haplotree in 2010 and 2020 (It cannot be shown on a poster anymore). Source – FTDNA at RootsTech.

Big Y analysis has changed the accuracy and level of testing of Y-DNA. However, the raw data results would not help much an average user due to lack of knowledge and equipment. We need strong scientific support of the Family Tree DNA at interpreting the testing results. Even the determination of haplogroup does not happen only automatically.  The SNP markers are carefully examined by a specialist Michael Sager who also manages the Y haplotree. He assesses incoming datasets, which are usually from Big Y results, but may be from other sources, such as academic research, and carefully builds out branches on the tree. At Family Tree DNA they say that it is a one-person job and not a role that can be filled by anyone else. For more information on that process, watch this video from RootsTech. When Big Y tests are completed, they receive the automated haplogroup assignment based on the existing tree, but no new branches will be added to the tree, and no haplogroups will be updated until Sager’s intervention. So, pay attention to your Big Y results: Your haplogroup can be updated several times during years, as the database of testers grow and new information become available. Details for some haplogroups and lineages are still missing, so those, who have tested only markers Y-37, Y-67, or similar are encouraged to upgrade to Big Y analysis to get a better placement on the global Y haplotree. Remember, that a SNP must be observed in at least two related man before it can be uploaded into haplotree as a new branch. So, unless you would like to stay with your “private variants”, contact your Y-37 matches (or similar STR results) and invite them to invest to their Big Y – to place themselves into the tree and also contributing to general benefit of humankind.

The exponential growth of Y haplotree through last 20 years is shown in the table below (Source: FTDNA at Rootstech conference).

Year of developmentNumber of variantsDeveloper of Y-haplotree
2002245 SNPsY Chromosome Consortium Tree
2006436 SNPsISOGG tree
2008790 SNPsISOGG tree
2010935 SNPsISOGG tree
20122067 SNPsISOGG tree
2013, September3610 SNPsISOGG tree
2014, April6200 SNPsBig Y introduced in NOV 2013
2016, November23,767 SNPsBig Y
2017, November58,590 SNPsBig Y-500
2018, May100,000 SNPsBig Y-500
2019, January200,000 SNPs, 20k branchesBig Y-700 released, 50% more SNP coverage
2020, December350,000 SNPs, 30k branchesBig Y-700
2021, May400,000 SNPs, 40k branchesBig Y-700
2022, 1st of January470,000 SNPs, 50k branchesBig Y-700

A Big Y analysis was a milestone in the Y-chromosome testing and building the global Y-haplotree. However, the genealogysts know very well, that the information on direct paternal line is very little piece of ancestry compared to all other ancestry lines. Therefore, a testing of all other chromosomes gives much more information on recent relatives of last 6 generations and also from paleo-ancestry. It is very interesting to compare our results with archeological samples and read interpretation of MyOrigins how parts of our genom show ancient ethnicities and their migrations.

However, the next milestone has been reached recently by international team of scientists, who combined genetic reports of 3,609 individual genome sequences from 215 populations around the globe to produce the largest family tree ever – it identifies nearly 27 million ancestors and origins where they lived, dating back more than 100,000 years ago (Source: A unified genealogy of modern and ancient genomes/Oxford University Big Data Institute). The authors conclude: “Whole-genome genealogies provide a powerful platform for synthesizing genetic data and investigating human history and evolution”.

Which DNA testing company to use for genealogy?

It is not all in the size of a database of service providers. Good tools for genealogy matter. See how to make the DNA testing services work for your goals in genealogy.

Recently, I have commented the analysis of Family History Fanatics about “What is the Best DNA Testing Company for Genetic Genealogy Research?”, which they usually prepare at the beginning of the year. I though it would be nice also to put here some of my experiences gained so far in genetic genealogy. They scored different features and rated the best companies by the main criteria of the database size for matching.

Scoring of Andy Lee gives the first place to Ancestry, followed by MyHeritage, GEDmatch, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and LivingDNA. The main criteria was the size of users database, which has increased significantly in the last year in companies at the first and the second place (Source: Youtube, Family History Fanatics)

I was glade to read another comment with conclusion that “having all three – FTDNA, Ancestry and GEDmatch is probably ultimately better than only having one”, as I shared their view completely. It encouraged me to add to these three also the fourth one: MyHeritage. I use all four of them to benefit of their best features. I recommended doing so also to my colleagues from Slovenian Genealogy Society and other genealogists who joined my Club of Genetic Genealogy on Wednesday, 27 of January 2021.

Here is my experience, how to include a DNA testing as a tool to your genealogy research:

1. I tested the atDNA for several people at MyHeritage, where these results live their own life in matching, as all tools are built in and shown to the users in friendly way to explore linked matches and their family trees. I especially love their new ethnicity origin estimates.

2. Then I exported data of DNA testing from MyHeritage to FamilyTreeDNA, as they have the same good tools for comparissons as the Gedmatch. The tools are built into the system for simple use of the donors of samples, who are not experts in genetic genealogy.

3. The size of FTDNA database I incerase by exporting the raw data to GEDmatch and I do analysis there (at least One-to-Many and then One-to-one for the best matches). As I am from the EU, I appreciate data protection compliance (GDPR) of both, FTDNA and Gedmatch.

4. In FamilyTreeDNA I have organized a country-wide project and a surname project of all tested people of this origin or surname. This is a unique tool among all service providers, which enables citizens’ science and further genealogy research. As one of the Admins, I can help the other 200 members to improve their pedigree charts or do additional testing on Y-chromosome and mtDNA.

5. The FTDNA has improved their genealogy part with myTree recently, where they show Shared Origins of tested ethnicity, as well as the haplogroups of Y-chromosome and mtDNA, linked to the profile with ancestral surnames and places of origin. A wonderfull identity card of MRCA also for post mortal times… And there is no subscription for my account at FTDNA – all is paid by the tests ordered.

6. The size of the database is indeed important for matching, but also FTDNA has a size big enough for successful start, especially for those of European origin. I spent two years researching my matches there. If I find a surname, origin or other data match in other systems of 23andMe, Ancestry or MyHeritage with atDNA test, I invite them to import to FTDNA and join our country or surname project. They do not need to test again, only unlock the tools available inside for comparison. Later, when they become interested in, they usually buy a Y-chromosome test (for man only) and a mitochondrial DNA test (for anyone) to place themselves into deep history of paternal and maternal lines and onto phylogenetic trees.

7. In December 2020, I bought a subscription at Ancestry and then ordered also a DNA test to find my remote cousins whose ancestors went for better life over the Ocean before WWI. My results at Ancestry have not yet been ready, but I am really looking forward to fishing in their big DNA pool.

8. Last year I have discovered also the fifth company, which I use now for Y-haplotree matching and mtDNA-haplotree matching in the period of 3000 years before past to 1600 AD: MyTrueAncestry. Just try to export your atDNA results from any of your favorite testing companies and import to MyTrueAncestry – one sample you compare for free. Voila, incredible personal history is in front of you….

So, it is not all in the size of a database of service providers. Good tools for genealogy matter. We need to make those testing services work for our goals in genealogy 🙂

Slovenian haplotrees up to genetic Adam and Eve

There is a great piece of news to share: the first 50 Slovenians are shown on a phylogenetic tree after DNA testing. We have simplified the Adam’s and Eve’s trees and even gave the names to founders of genetic tribes.

A few days ago, a new Slovenian portal for genetic genealogy has been established to help genealogists in their research. The first 50 Slovenians are shown on a phylogenetic tree after DNA testing.  The portal named GENES shows simplified global phylogenetic trees of the mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA testing results for 50 Slovenians, who have been also verified for their grandparents’ origin by their pedigree charts published at Family Tree DNA portal, which host Slovenian origin project.
Those who tested their Y chromosome, are shown on Adam’s tree, as this test is possible only for men, who inherit Y-chromosomes from their fathers. By rule of Mother Nature, Y-chromosome remains unchanged while passing through generations. So, testing a man today unlocks a secret of his affiliation to the original tribe, in which a founding man lived hundreds thousand years ago. In genetic genealogy, descendants of this man are called a haplogroup, which has been marked by letters A to Z. For the Slovenian Y haplotree a minimal reference phylogeny for the human Y chromosome has been used. This unique system of ISOGG enables each modern nation to give those Adam’s sons names in their language. In the Slovenian haplotree, the sons of genetic Adam are: Anton, Blaž, Ciril, Dominik, Ernest, Frančišek, Gregor, Henrik, Izidor, Janez, Klemen, Lovrenc, Matija, Nikolaj, Ožbolt, Peter, Quirin, Rupert, Simon, Tomaž, Urban, Vid, Walter, Xander, Yanik, and Zaharija.

Those who tested “Big Y”, which gives a piece of final haplotype information to the man, are for now 15 out of 50 in the tree. If in the future this number is increased, Slovenians will receive better information about their prehistoric tribes. Having got this information, an individual man can place himself on the global YFull tree, which contains almost 100,000 branches. He will receive information about his specific little branch. The whole tree can’t even be well presented to the public. Specialists understand it, but not the general public. So, creating a Slovenian haplotree enables the tested man to find himself in the neighbourhood of others of Slovenian origin, as only those haplotypes are shown,  which are represented by testing result of Slovenian origin. Some foreign origin ypsilons are shown for comparison, how connected European nations are when we come to the prehistoric origin.

Human migrations from prahistoric times with indicated development of mtDNA haplogroups (A-Z and colour routes in time-scale of 1000 years before present; source: ISOGG Wiki)

Just equally to the paternal line, also a maternal direct line can be traced back into prehistoric times by testing of mitochondrial DNA, which we have in each cell independently of gender. So both, men and women can test their mtDNA, which unlocks a secret of their affiliation to the original tribe, in which a founding woman lived hundreds thousand years ago. Popularly she is called genetic Eve. By rule of Mother Nature, mitochondria of a newborn life come from a mother’s egg, to which a father contributes only genetic material.

Mitochondrial DNA  is a circular genome, contained in several copies in each cell, and remains unchanged while passing through generations, as they do not recombine.  In genetic genealogy, descendants of this first discovered woman, whose receipt for mitochondria is still in use today, are called a haplogroup. The haplogroups have been also marked by letters A to Z, as each of Eve’s daughter changed the mother’s receipt for mitochondria in single letters before passing to their sons and daughters. When the sons became fathers, they can’t share their mitochondria to a newborn life (with some rare exceptions). When the daughters became mothers, they passed their receipt for mitochondria unchanged to the next generations of children. But some daughters again changed their receipt for mitochondria in single letters before passing to their children. These changes are called mutations and are inherited by descendants, who form further branches in Eve’s haplotree. Until now, 170,000 mtFull sequences have been added to global mtDNA haplotree, from 180 countries. Though it is of utmost importance to show on Slovenian tree matches of Slovenian origin (see geographic map of mtDNA donors’ origin), which fall for sure into several international clusters on a global tree.  

The unique system of ISOGG in naming the haplogroups enables each modern nation to give those Eve’s founding daughters names in their language. In the Slovenian Eve’s haplotree, the daughters of genetic Eve are: Ana, Barbara, Cecilija, Doroteja, Elizabeta, Frančiška, Gabrijela, Helena, Irena, Jera, Katja, Lucija, Marija, Nika, Olivija, Queen, Rebeka, Sara, Terezija, Uršula, Helena Vera, Vesna, Wendi, Ksenija, Yvona, and Zora.

Some of these names are not Slovenian, as the Slovenian alphabet does not contain letters Q, W, X and Y, so foreign names have been used, which indicates Slovenian’s nature: we have always been open to foreigners, who came to our tribes to live and work. We hope that those personalised trees will bring more Slovenians to test. Which means also hope for those, who are seeking a missing paternal or maternal link from Slovenia, to find a matching man or women.

The design and the outlook of Adam’s and Eve’s trees have been developed by Slovenian knowledge of Dr Uroš Ocepek, who is developing useful web-tools for genealogy in portals Genes, PriRod and Zagorje Tree. Most data for Genes come from FamilyTreeDNA, but also from other testing sources like National Geographic, even an old test result from Ancestry, and modern whole-genome-sequencing labs. He cooperates with different content developers, who are all genealogists, like himself. In case of Genes and PriRod this is Vlasta Knapič, who is also a founder of “Slovenian origin” project hosted by FamilyTreeDNA portal and author of geographic maps with data on Y and mtDNA haplotypes. Both, Dr Uroš Ocepek and Vlasta Knapič are active members of Slovenian Genealogy Society.

Sources of information:

van Oven M, Van Geystelen A, Kayser M, Decorte R, Larmuseau MH (2014). Seeing the wood for the trees: a minimal reference phylogeny for the human Y chromosome. Hum Mutat 35(2):187-191. doi:10.1002/humu.22468; web http://www.phylotree.org/Y/marker_list.htm
Mannis van Oven (2016) PhyloTree.org – mtDNA tree Build http://phylotree.org/tree/index.htm

A pioneer of modern apiculture is Slovenian

Bees are very important to Slovenians. In the last decade, the number of registered beekeepers has increased from around 8,000 to more than 12,000 in 2020. The front sides of Slovenian beehives are by tradition painted in colours, showing sceenes of daily life or stories.

The first beekeeping teacher in the Habsburg Empire (German: Habsburgermonarchie) was of Slovenian origin: Anton Janša (1734—1773). He was a pioneer of modern apiculture in Central Europe. When the Empress  Maria  Theresia  founded  the  beekeeping  school (Oekonomie-Gesellschaft) in  Augarten (Wienna) in  1769, she soon appointed Anton Janša as the first teacher of apiculture. He learnt the art of beekeeping from his ancestors, as Carniola was known by good yield of honey and special Carniolan bees, the meekest animals among bees. His natural intelligence made him a good zoologist and an expert, whose knowledge the Empress ordered to share after his death in all schools of the empire. His methods and hives are still used today all over the world. Since 2018, his birth day, 20 of May is celebrated globally as a World Bee Day.

Anton Janša was a simple young man from Carniola  who  attended  the  school  for  copper  engraving  and  painting  in  Vienna. Anton Janša originated from  Upper  Carniola  in  Slovenia,  from  the  environment  where  beekeeping  was  very  developed, advanced, and also profitable. Prof Dr Šalehar noticed that Janša’s beekeeping method was based on the knowledge of Upper Carniolan  beekeepers. Janša lectured that the bees must not be killed, he advocated moving hives to bee pastures, he rejected the belief that  the  drones  are  water  carriers  and  lectured  that  a  queen  bee  is  inseminated  by  the  drones  in mid-air, the fact that the old Upper Carniolan beekeepers were the first in the world to discover. He wrote  two  books  on  beekeeping  in  German  language: Abhandlung vom Schwärmen der Bienen (in Wien 1771, reprinted: Wien, 1774; Grätz, 1775; Berlin, 1927) and  Des Anton Janscha … hinterlassene vollständige Lehre von der Bienenzucht (Wien, 1775; Prag, 1777; Prag, 1789 [?]; Wien, 1790, etc., issued after his death). 

Božidar Jakac (1973): Anton Janša

Partial pedigree of the Janša family has been known from several authors. Dr Ksenija Rozman first completed the family history. Anton originates on the father’s and mother’s side from solid Slovene farmhouses. Already his father had over one hundred bee hives himself. By tradition, neighbouring farmers would gather at the village and discuss farming and bee-keeping. In 1769, Anton began to work full-time as a bee-keeper at the Habsburg court in Vienna and a year later became the first royally appointed teacher of apiculture for all Austrian lands. Anton Janša is known as a pioneer of modern apiculture and a great expert in the field. He was educated as a painter, just like two other brothers: Valentin and Lovro, who were both painters in Vienna, Lovro even a professor at Painting Academy in Vienna.

The genealogy data are gathered from the registers of the Radovljica parish, which included the villages of origin of Anton Janša ancestors:

– Hraše, where Anton’s grandfather Andrej had the double-farm homestead (Grundbesitzer) and where the Anton’s father Matija was born;

– Breznica, where Anton’s father Matija moved to and made his home and where Anton was also born;

– Dvorska vas, where mother Lucija Debelak was born as a landowner’s daughter and where the eldest beekeeper’s sister Neža was born. 

There were nine children in the family of father Matija (1683 –1752) and mother Lucija (1705–1781): Neža (1729), Polona (1732), Anton (1734), Uršula (1734), Janez (1738), Jakob (1741), Marija (1744), Valentin (1747) and Lovrenc (1749). Unfortunatelly, there are no known living descendants of this family.

As parents both originated from well situated agricultural families, they could buy their own land, built a house with barns and lived also out of selling honey and other apiculture products. This was quite an advantage, as in this period of feudalism a majority of farmers were still not owners of the land, but peasants working on the landlord’s land and may not freely move anywhere. 

When in 1752 the father Matija died, his eldest son Anton (18 years old) took care over his beehives and helped his mother in raising the family. They kept painting in the barn, until Anton Janša and his brother Lorenz went to Vienna in 1766. Anton brought with him 16 hives with Carniolan bees, which served as initial population for later dissemination all over Austria and Hungary. 


Rozman,  Ksenija (1973) Rodovnik čebelarja in slikarja Antona Janše.- Slovenski čebelar 75(1973)3, s. 67-72.

Source: Šalehar, Andrej (2017) Anton Janša [Elektronski vir] : biografski in bibliografski mejniki.- monografija Rodica : samozal., dLib

Slovenian DNA Pool at SUA 2019 Convention

In honor of the Slovenian American Heritage the President of Slovenian Union of America, Ms. Mary Lou Deyak Voelk, in support of Slovenian Governement hosted genealogists Peter Hawlina and Vlasta Knapič as presenters and guests at the SUA National Convention. “Believe it, our people were reintroduced to themselves. They come from a long history of people,” she said.

On 14th of January 2018 I received an e-mail on behalf of DNA club of Slovenian Genealogy Society: “Vlasta, I am Mary Lou Deyak Voelk, President of the Slovenian Union of America.  I have been thinking about a gene pool for a long time. We are having a convention in Cleveland in 2019 and I thought this would be a great way to celebrate the organizations 94th anniversary!

I believe the way to keep the Slovenian heritage alive in the USA, is to link people with their ‘family’ back home in Slovenia, people will become interested in research, finding long lost relatives. One is my family on my grandmother’s side.  I cannot find anyone!!!”

The S.U.A. National Convention takes place every four years. This one was organized in Cleveland, Ohio with the moto: “Let’s Sing & Dance!” to highlight the musical history of Slovenians. Everybody enjoyed lively events from Thursday, June 13, starting with strolling musician, Joey Tomsick,  to Sunday, June 16, 2019, finishing with Slovenian Mass at St. Vitus Church, the 1st documented Slovenian immigrant church (1893) in the US. Beside social gatherings and Cleveland tours, with many opportunities to connect with SUA members, business and educational sessions took part. Two lectures about professional musicians, who started rising at the beginning of the 20th Century in the US, gave a great overview of music history. Especially Joe Valencic, who runs also a Polka museum in Cleveland, gave a comprehensive overview of accordion players in Cleveland, the Slovenian Capital outside of Slovenia. Two peaks of the social gathering were a celebration of the 90th birthday of the SUA official magazine Zarja with Joey Tomsick Orchestra and the Convention Banquet with the Frank Moravcik Band and speakers: Slovenian ambassador in US, Washington DC, Slovenian consul in Cleveland, Joe Valencic, and many others.

Where does a lecture on genetic genealogy fit in? We could not believe: at the very first day of the SUA 2019 National Convention in Marriott East (26300 Harvard Road, Warrensville Heights) on Thursday afternoon, just after a welcome reception! Smaller meeting room needed to be replaced by a hall where more than 120 people fit. Two speakers from Slovenia were invited: Peter Hawlina and Vlasta Knapič. Both are the main promoters of genetic genealogy in Slovenia, investing in testing and organising DNA projects within FamilyTreeDNA. Peter Hawlina is the SGS president emeritus and enthusiastic genealogist. In Hawlina group we can research among results of three generations of Hawlina close relatives and also his remote cousins.

On behalf of the Slovenian DNA Club Vlasta has recently created a project group within the Family Tree DNA portal: the Slovenian origin, to be able to assisst to and compare results of anybody of Slovenian origin, who joins the project. Beside DNA results, every record contains genealogy data, including ancestral surnames and places of origin. This new platform enables interactive communication among project members in the “Activity feed”, where a member can ask questions, share photos and ask for help in interpreting genealogy data in English. Our country name has been already years ago taken by another dual-project group based on geographic origin and surnames, run from US by Slovenian Genealogy Society International. As FTDNA project Slovenia is not really maintained and has a single unactive administrator, talks to merge both initiatives into one project – the “Slovenian DNA Pool” had started, but with no result obtained yet.

If people wish to interact with other Slovenian genetic genealogists and upgrade their DNA tests in the future (mtDNA, Y-DNA, or dual based internal project groups), they should either test atDNA at Family Tree DNA or transfer their raw data from other providers, like: Ancestry, 23andMe, or myHeritage (download) and upload the file to the Family Tree DNA. Start with creating an account and follow the instructions. Hoping to see you soon at FT-DNA Slovenian origin project group, where we can also interact in closed group activity feed with the other members of the group. Later you will be guided to provide your grandparents origin and surnames.

As there is no genetic genealogy without a classic genealogy,  the 4-steps-Slovenian-origin-2019 – exploring your ancestral origin can be followed by:

  • Identification of your ancestors, who came to the USA from Europe a Century ago from places in Austria, Hungary, Italy, or Krain, Steiermark…
  • Identification of ancestral places of origin and original family names is crucial for successful research. Learn more.
  • Create your family tree as detailed as possible. Use the official historical records as a source of information. Fill in the Pedigree_form and Family_record_form.
  • Test your atDNA or upload at Family Tree DNA. Your grandfather is closer to Slovenian origin than you. Test the olderst members of the family first. Join FTDNA.

The participants, led by Mary Lou have been satisfied with the outcome of the DNA talks and interest at the convention. “Believe it, our people were reintroduced to themselves. They come from a long history of people.” Already among the first 100 people in a project group, Mary Lou has been able to find few of her remote cousins in Slovenia. Including me. Few months later she received quite exhaustive family tree from Slovenian genealogists. The maching family name among four of us is Prijatel, which in Slovenian means a friend 🙂

Presentation: 4 Steps of exploring your family history of Slovenian origin.

Borderless Slovenia

Slovenians, who leave abroad for several generations and do not have documented pedigree, can still find their relatives and prove common ancestry by DNA testing.

Easter, the biggest Christian feast, by tradition brings families together. Long lost children return back home alone, or with their own families from capitals and foreign countries, to visit their parents along with other relatives, who never dared to leave the homeland. A week before and after Easter, roads become extremely busy. As reminders of peoples’ migrations, which were occurring over the Slovenian geo-strategic position also in the history: from North to South, from East to West. These patterns are still recorded in our genes. They are shown out in DNA analysis results and matching.

A celebration of spring starts at the beginning of Holy Week when bunches of spring greenery are brought to churches for the blessing. They differ in forms, size and species of greenery, flowers, and ornamentals, as well as by their names in different parts of Slovenia. The Christian custom of plaiting bundles dates to the 9th century and probably derives from a custom known throughout pagan medieval Europe. Easter has in Slovenia many colourful traditions and customs dating centuries into the past. Due to lack of food during the winter time, it was practical to introduce a long fast, which started on Ash Wednesday and ended on Easter Friday. On Easter Saturday a cooked ham, horseradish, potica, and pirhi are blessed in churches, to be later put on the table on Sunday morning.  A special Slovenian cake, potica, is still made at homes in Slovenia. Also colourful decorated eggs, in Slovenia called pirhi, pisanice, pisanke, remenice or remenke, make the feast special.

Slovenians, who can come for the Easter visit, are settled in other EU countries, as well as in Switzerland and Balkan countries. The largest part of the Slovenian diaspora lives in Germany, Sweden, France,  Austria, and Switzerland. The reasons for leaving home were of an economic nature. Similarly, emigration occurred in republics of the former Yugoslavia. Slovenians live in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. 

Primarily for the economic reasons, the first compatriots left the homeland already in the last quarter of the 19th century, followed by departures in the 1930s, after World War II, and then in the 1950s and 1960s. Significant communities of Slovenian emigration is located in countries across the oceans in the USA, Canada, Argentina and other countries of Latin America, and Australia. Today, in these countries, we already meet with a third, and sometimes with the fourth generation of Slovenians. Many of them have been mixed with other nationalities, but for quite some, we can still find donors of DNA samples, which could be proved by documents to be of Slovenian origin.

Exactly for those we need to devote the most efforts that older generations are not the last Slovenians abroad. Slovenian Genealogy Society supports in organised and professional manner realisation of wishes of new generations to discover their roots and explore places of origin of their ancestors. In successful stories, Slovenes in the motherland and Slovenes around the world find their connections and become increasingly linked to Slovenia by the bond with the motherland, Slovenian language and culture.

Join the ‘Slovenian origin‘ group at FT-DNA. You can ask questions or publish news in the activity feed of the group. The administrators will help you with further information.

easter1   easter2


Family Finder can find your realtives

Bennett Greenspan is a pioneer in genetic genealogy. He founded the first American company to offer genealogical DNA testing directly to the general public in 2008. He is still in charge of this company as president & CEO and an enthusiastic genealogist, who manages also several projects and give lectures on the use of genetics in genealogy.

We speak about Family Tree DNA company, which developed first mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome tests. In 2010 they launched revolutionary Family Finder test, in which they test and compare 700,000 letters in DNA. While testing of mtDNA and Y-DNA results enable discovery of deep ancestry of direct maternal and respectively direct paternal line, testing of autosomal DNA can give matches up to 6 generations back from the donor (last 150-200 years) with great accuracy.

When to take a Family Finder test? In case you are curious to know your ethnic, ancestral origin, and relatives you have never thought to find. This test is designed to find relatives on donor’s ancestral lines within the last five generations by any male or female line. At the same time, Family Finder gives you a breakdown of your ethnic makeup by percent (myOrigins) by comparing your DNA to reference populations around the world that have been tested through scientific research, especially archaeological, going back in time for last 50,000 years. Once your test is ordered and paid, no other costs are charged for running a profile with matching results (see some help, how to find your matches)

In choosing a donor it is very important to find the oldest living ancestor and ask him/her to give a biological sample. He/she is much closer to a genetic and geographic origin of source population than people born from a third or fourth generation in America due to combining of DNA and increasing number of ancestors at each passing generation.

Nowadays we have a lot of online records to search for genealogy. But the most important new tools available only since 2008 can help you find your ancestors even though you do not have written records about them. DNA testing can help you make the first steps in your journey ‘Trough your DNA testing to your Slovenian roots’. Or to any other ethnicity, of course. If you have already tested your atDNA and have Slovenian ancestry, join our group at Family Tree DNA ‘Slovenian origin‘.


Slovenian Historic Records in Latin and Old German

Despite Slovenians got their state already after the First World War (1918) in the Kingdom of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, Slovenia was not independent state until 1991, after her split from Yugoslavia. As Vatican was one of the first states that internationally recognized the newly created independent state of Slovenia in 1992, Slovenians will forever remember the Pope’s words in Slovenian at the occasion of his visit in 1996: “Papež ‘ma vas rad!” (“The pope loves you!”). Pope’s John Paul II visit was devoted to celebration of the gained independence of the Slovenian state and to commemorate the 1250th anniversary of Christianity among the Slovenians.

In 8th Century Slovene people start loosing their independance first under Franks, then under the German Holly Roman Empire. This influenced also the culture, including the langugae use. The Freising Manuscripts are known as the earliest document of Slovenian culture, created in 10th Century. These prayers are the earliest preserved writings in Slovenian, as well as the earliest Slavic texts, written in the Latin alphabet. ‘Monumenta Frisingensia‘ (can be listen and read online in translation from early Slovenian into five languages, including modern Slovenian) have documented the use of Slovenian langugae in Christian liturgy in Upper Carinthia, which belonged to the Freising diocese. Later the liturgy was hold everywhere in Latin as this was the official European langugae.

This means that general public still spoke Slovenian langugae, but official languge of nobles and the rulers became first Latin and from 12th century the German. Dictionarium quatuor linguarum is a 16th-century book by the German polymath Hieronymus Megiser that includes a multilingual dictionary with German, Latin, Slovenian and Italian vocabulary. While a large part of Europe in the 16th century adopted a humanistic cursive (“Latin” script, antiqua) as the dominant font, the duality between the “German” and “Latin” fonts was maintained in Central Europe until the begining of 20th century. So the archive documents could be found in Latin and German also for Slovenian origin. While the Latin records are easy to read, a German handwriting is more demanding and requires skilled genealogyst or translator. In both cases basic vocabulary needs to be learnt to understand written information, for example an occupation.

Despite all these historic records in German, and information at the imigration documents, that passanger’s state of origin was Austria, your ancestor may be of Slovenian origin. If you start discovering this by your genetic matches in Slovenia, do not hesitate to contact them – in every family you will find somebody, who speaks English.

Many Americans imagine Slovenia as an eastern communistic country, close to Russia. Which is far from truth. Firstly, Slovenia has a Central European geographical position, and secondly, her communistic party split from Russian policy soon after Second World War. As Slovenia was one of the six Yugoslav republics, certain level of self-governement was retained. For example, Slovenia got her first constitution in 1947. Nowadays we can read legislation and use Slovenian langugae in all official procedures not only in the Republic of Slovenia, but also in the institutions of the European Union. Whether this is a guarantee that a language spoken by 2 million of people will survive in globalised world or not, we can not say.

What is worth mentioning, the Slovenian origin means ethnicities rooted in the geographic regions in Central Europe, where Slovenian speaking people have lived in the past millennium and have been using various Slovenian dialects (Ramovš, 1931).


Territory of Central Europe in Austria-Hungary Empire with Slovenian names of counties and towns.

Classic vs. genetic genealogy

Since 2000 genetic genealogy is available for commercial use, as the DNA testing became available. Since then, consumer genomics testing has been increasing exponentially, especially for genealogy purposes (can be ordered also for health, nutrition, etc.).  With the help of advanced techniques and information technology, for a consumer, a biological evidence is easier to compare than historical records.  Matching of potential relatives simply occurs on your screen. Of course, the investigation only starts with this and has to be done in combination with data from traditional genealogical and historical records. For the Anglo-Saxon world, great databases of genealogical and historical records have been available online, so your research can be done from anywhere anytime.  Also in our country, you can find great sources of historical information online, like in Digital Library of Slovenia, or the register of cultural heritage (a register of protected cultural monuments, including archaeological sites, secular and church buildings). But, what about the genealogy sources?

In Slovenia, the primary sources of genealogical information can be obtained from the civil and ecclesiastical archives (Ljubljana, Maribor, Koper), where these are largely still available in the form of original books or their duplicates, created more than 100 years ago. Younger books are still in use by official registrars at administrative units. Because of data privacy rules, an access to these registers at administrative units is very limited: you need to be an immediate relative or registered researcher with an authorization of a descendant to be able to obtain genealogy relevant information even for events 100 years ago.

The main registers, used for genealogical research are birth, death and marriage books, for which responsible registrars or priests enrolled the life events of the residents of a parish to which they belonged in a given period. Thus, it is necessary to know for each person a period in a history, the relevant administrative  or church territorial and hierarchical organization in the Habsburg Monarchy, to locate the register in the correct archive, parish and book. While the church records of settlements which remained in Austria until today are online, for settlements, which are today in Slovenia, this is not the case. Not even half of parish books have been scanned, but also the scanned ones are available via a very limited number of client screens, placed in the archives. A long waiting period, short working hours and long summer holidays make a lot of opportunities for dissatisfaction with the situation.

We would need the wisdom and openness of the enlightened ruler Maria Theresa, who introduced numerous reforms in 18th Century in these countries, still nowadays. Her military surveys have been revitalised by digitalisation and georeferencing in the MAPIRE portal, that serves today online to interested users. Old maps of cities and countries can be viewed in a synchronised and even 3-D view.

But, again in a case of cadastral maps, these are available for neighbouring countries of former Austria-Hungarian Empire. For Slovenia, only Krain/Carniola region is included. As the state archive has no interest to participate in a project. Maybe the Ministry has recognised the financial interest of a private company behind a user-friendly searching of historical places: first, they offer their services free of charge, to attract users and donors of material, then they start limiting the access and charging for their upgrades. However, Slovenia offers the Francis cadaster (SVN Franciscejski kataster, GER Franziszeische Kataser; Franz II, Holy Roman Emperor) of parcels of land and their owners and users for a period 1818-1828 online (zoom-in). 

Franciscejski kataster today

Good news is, that the Archive of the Republic of Slovenia offers also all cadastral maps and scanned registrars at their portal free of charge for low-resolution maps (high resolution can be ordered). These are in a bit rigid archivist form, which demands some knowledge of past territorial organisation. We share this knowledge below to enable their usage for Slovenian land (alphabetical lists of owners and other lists, which enable restoring the farms, are freely available). Nowadays statistical regions are indicated above the historical Habsburg regions for a given period:

  1.  Lower SavaSoutheast Slovenia, Littoral–Inner Carniola, Central SloveniaUpper Carniola:
  • Imenjska knjiga za Kranjsko (1539-1871)
  • Terezijanski kataster za Kranjsko (1747-1805)
  • Franciscejski kataster za Kranjsko (1823-1869)
  • Reambulančni kataster za Kranjsko  (1867-1882)

2. Drava, Savinja, Central Sava:

3. Carinthia:

4. Mura:

5. Gorizia, Coastal–Karst:

Franciscejski kataster 1826

Picture above: Geographical centre of Slovenia Vače (German: Waatsch) on Francis cadastral map restored at mapire.eu show farms, fields, forest and other categories of land use together with names of settlements (Waatsch), field names and farm names (vulgo surnames), which are all of great importance for genealogy. Three examples on the picture give a basis for the surname explanation:

  • Hostar, the surname still exists today in a form of Hosta (etymology: by field name ‘na Hosty’ = in the forest)
  • Lebek, the surname is extinct (etymology: by field name ‘na Lebeki’)
  • Farbar, the surname is extinct, or it exists in a form of Brvar (etymology: the owner of the farm had also an occupation being a painter = ‘barvar’, from ger. Faerber, Färbar)


How to start my family history research?

Genealogist reveals personal information about individuals and, according to kinship, brings them together in family relationships in a given time and location. With a fast technological development and Internet-driven information and tools, the first family tree can be created by anybody. If only he or she is interested in personal details of parents and grandparents, like:

  • When and where they were born?
  • Where did they go to school and studies? What exactly is their occupation?
  • What do they do for the living? What interests and hobbies they had?
  • What is their ethnic origin? If immigrated, what is their ancestors’ country of origin? Etc.

For great-grandparents and further ancestors, the genealogist intervenes with family and general history. The best stories are told when family history is linked with generalities in the past (find some milestones and characteristics for past generations), and some photos are added.

The first source of information are your parents, grandparents and other older relatives. Ask them about their youth and life, they usually love to talk about these. Collect family photos and be sure, that you recognise people on them by names and origin. Then find a reliable software to create your family tree. Install it on your local computer (for example MyHeritage Family Tree Builder) and be sure, that you have verified information before publishing your family tree online.

If your first thought is still: “How should I start?”, take some time and learn from masters at FamilySearch. This service is still free, you need to register and search for records.