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, requested the pleasure of our company as presenters and guests at the National Convention “Let’s Sing and Dance”.

On 14th of January 2018 I have 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 took place 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? You will 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 SGS Vlasta has recently created a project group within the Family Tree DNA portal: the Slovenian origin, to be able to 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 by Slovenian Genealogy Society International. Talks to merge both initiatives into one project – the “Slovenian DNA Pool” are on their way.

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 older members of the family first. Join FTDNA.

Mary Lou has 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.

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

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‘.

DNApool-SI-znak

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)

Barvar-Faerber

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.