Jim Is Still Finding More of His Kramberger, Veršič, & Tement Roots in Slovenija

my picture
This is me, taken in Ptuj,
Slovenia in January of 1997.

By James R. Dangel



I have had a wonderful time eating, sampling wine, and meeting cousins in Europe. When I started the quest for my European roots in 1994, it was to satisfy my curiosity about where my ancestors had lived. I find it more interesting to visit places where family has lived, and often is still living, than common tourist attractions. It was easy finding the family of the father of my father in Alsace, now France. We knew the town was Durlinsdorf from old letters and photographs, and had located Durlinsdorf on a map. It was more difficult to locate the family of the mother of my father. My grandmother, Josephine Versic Dangel Genochio, did not know what part of Europe her family came from. She said Butz, Austria. Butz or Putz does not exist as a place. It is an old Austrian or Bavarian word for a dwarf, or a bogeyman. I think my great-grandfather, Joseph Versic, was kidding her as to where he was from. It took me a long time to remember that years before I had seen copies of Joseph Veršič's christening and death documents. The documents were from the Catholic Church of Saints Peter & Paul in Pettau, Styria, Austria. On my first trip to Europe in 1995, I visited a cousin in Alsace. At that time I did not know Pettau was no longer in Austria. He had a map of Austria and surrounding areas that showed the German name of Pettau as well as the Slovenian name of Ptuj.  Slovenija was new to me, as well as to the world, since its independence in 1991 (American = Slovenia; Slovenian = Slovenija).
 
 


Joseph Veršič (1863 - 1913)

Gertrud Kramberger Veršič (1870 - 1896)


 
When my great-grandmother, Gertrud Kramberger Versic, died a few months after Grandmother was born, little contact remained with the Kramberger family. Great-Grandfather remarried and had more children, but he died when Grandmother was 17. I took photographs with me to show relatives in Europe. In Ptuj I found a picture of Gertrud Kramberger Veršič with cousins living in the same house where Gertrud was born. They had a copy of the samepicture taken in Dayton, Ohio, that  I had with me. They did not know who she was except that she was a deceased aunt. Apparently great-grandfather Veršič and his second wife did not frequently correspond with his or his first wife's family in Europe. Only one Veršič cousin had pictures of Grandmother and siblings. They had belonged to her mother, a first cousin, but they were not identified. They were unknown to the cousins in Ptuj until Ronald Versic, my father's cousin from Dayton, labeled them.

It is interesting how I found cousins in Slovenija. I had written to the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. for help with Butz. They suggested Slovenija and provided an address. After my first trip to Europe, the Slovenian Embassy sent information and a note about the Slovenian Genealogy Society in the United States. Albert Peterlin of the society provided a list of names and addresses in Ptuj from the telephone directory for those with the three surnames from the church records. With his guide for writing example sentences in Slovene, I wrote two letters to each of the three surnames from a total of about 20. I had a reply in English from Anica Kramberger, widow of Branko. She included a genealogy for Branko's family to his grandparents, Franc Kramberger and Theresia Veršič. I suspected they were brother and sister to my great-grandparents. My Aunt Evelyn Dangel Detels confirmed we had an Aunt Theresia I had not known about (unknown to me, Grandmother had named a gentle horse after her Aunt Theresia). Dr. Branka Lapajne (108 Hollywood Avenue, Willowdale Ontario M2N 3K3 Canada), a lady who wrote a book on Slovenian genealogy resources in Slovenija, found the connections and more on her trip to Slovenija in June of 1996. Anica Kramberger was also answering for her sister-in-law, Angela Kramberger Tement, since I had written to Angela's son Franc. Angela is still living in the same house (the old address was Rogoznica 2) in which my great-grandmother was born, and where my great-grandfather returned to die of tuberculosis in 1913. His sister had married his first wife's brother. I had only the one reply to six letters, but saw four of my letters in my visits with cousins.


Aerial view of the family farm with grassy moat in the center -- for centuries Rogoznica 2

 
The younger generation accompanied Ronald
(with the hat, 3rd from right) and I to Ptuj Castle

When I visited Ronald Versic and other American cousins in Dayton in the fall of 1996, we found we were to be in Europe at the same time. So in January of 1997 we met in Vienna and took the train to Maribor, Slovenija. With the rental car we were a little concerned about driving into Croatia by accident! Ptuj is about a half hour or a little more away to the south, the same distance to Croatia from Ptuj. Anica Kramberger had written we were welcome to stay with her in her home, and she had arranged for a translator. Her home is modern and to the west of downtown Ptuj and the Drava river. The first afternoon we visited the family farm, where our cousin, Anica's sister-in-law lived. It had been a small castle previously and still has the moat! Underneath the house where the family has lived for generations is a cellar with vaulted ceilings that must be from the original castle. I have visited the archives several times and found the family had been there before 1800 as "half-peasants". I will write about the research of the castle later. Most recently I found that our ancestor Mathias Gollob, had been allowed to build a house in 1750 on the remains of the old wine cellar. They belonged to the Lords of Ptuj, the Leslie family of Scotland, who lived in the castle on the hill. The family had not been peasants nor nobility either, but somewhat in between. When Ronald and I visited Ptuj castle and underground wine cellars in Ptuj, all the family except the older generation accompanied us! See photo above.

While we were in Ptuj in January the weather was like Alaska or Ohio, cold and snowy and poor visibility. When Ronald left after four days, I stayed to visit and see more of the Ptuj area. I left driving and touring around Slovenija until the weather was better. The cousins entertained us royally (they still treat me too good). They drove us everywhere and introduced us to many of the other cousins. They fed us great local food and wine; I am writing about this separately. Everything is a little different, but still very similar; things are not the same, but serve the same purpose. For example, lots of families raised pigs and prepared their own sausage and ham. My hostess obtained her beef and pork from her sister. Families frequently live closely. Franc and Angela and their son Franc Tement live separately in the old home and a new structure attached to the old. Angela's sister Marija and husband Simon Tement (brother of Franc) live in a new home and their son Branko lived in the old house while building a new home, all of them mere meters apart. Simon Tement's sister lives near.

When I found that the kurent that Anica had suggested we come for was in February, I rearranged my flexible schedule in Europe to return for their version of carnival prior to Lent. (I had not known what it was and we came when Ronald was free.) For kurent, many of the cousins join other locals dressed in costumes of sheepskins and colorful masks, wearing cowbells to scare away winter, and entertaining the town. Lots of wine and jelly filled raised doughnuts, usually apricot! So this time I did not rent a car and visited even more cousins. Angela was better than a backup disk for my computer. She explained my family and Alaska pictures better than I could and in Slovene! Originally we had a retired high school English teacher as a translator, then we depended on grandchildren studying English to translate. Finally Angela, Anica, and I struck out on our own to visit other cousins. I had my list from the dictionary of what I needed for dates and places for the genealogy so the information came in order for entering in my portable computer. Sometimes a grandchild entered data. Several have computers with the data and a genealogy program to display it. Now I know to speak very slowly and clearly. With dictionaries for them for Slovene to English, and one for me for English to Slovene, we get by pretty well. Slovene TV does not dub American programs into Slovene. They just add subtitles. So the cousins have learned some English! They are not willing to use it on first meeting me, but familiarity brings relaxation of tension and understanding.

I was surprised to find that some of Grandmother's godmother's family, her Aunt Katarina Kramberger Sket, have lived in the San Francisco Bay area without anyone knowing the other was there. It is unfortunate females lose their family names. I had called my Aunt Evelyn in California from Vienna, after my first visit, with the news about our aunt's family in California. By the time I had returned home, she had written and met a second cousin, Vlado Bevc. For about 45 years, Grandmother and two of her first cousins lived across San Francisco Bay from each other without knowing it! I found out about them in Ptuj. I was visiting the only two first cousins of Grandmother that most of the other cousins knew were living. Feliks Kramberger looked enough like my Grandmother to have been a twin; his sister, Marija, does not remind me as much of Grandmother. Feliks' daughter, Vera, showed me letters from Vlado in California and they told me about Vlado's mother and her sister, two more living first cousins of Grandmother. Aunt Evelyn, who looks like her mother, said Vlado and she had decided their mothers looked very similar. They were first cousins.  My grandmother was 97 when she died several years ago, and Vlado's mother died more recently at the same age! I was anxious to meet Vlado, his aunt,  and the other cousins. I had visited more cousins in Europe than in the United States! My parents and I headed for California in September of 1997 to visit old and new cousins. Before my return trip to Slovenija in May of 1998, with Vlado's encouragement, I had finally telephoned his first cousins in Ljubljana. I should have telephoned as I was passing through the capital the first year. They spoke English and said I must visit them and they could plan on attending a picnic in Ptuj.

First Cousins - Cousins Germane


Ivanka Sket Bevc

rojena 1900
v Celju, Slovenija
umrla 1997
pri San Francisku

Babica Josephine
Veršič Dangel Genochio

rojena 1896
v Daytonu, Ohio
umrla 1993
pri San Francisku

Feliks Mihael Kramberger,
Srečko

rojen 1909
v Mitterdorfu, Avstrija
umrl 1998
pri Ptuju


Angela and her son Franc went to the church archives with me in Maribor.  We had help reading the old Gothic German script and found a number of records on Tement. When I pieced them together later, I found the connection from my great-great-grandmother, Ursula, to the godparent of her children, Blas. He was her brother and was the ancestor of Angela and her sister's husbands. They were married to their third cousins. The husbands were so nice to us I was determined to find the relationship. The husbands were my father's third cousins; their wives are my father's second cousins. This was not my first trip to the archives, nor the last. The Tement relationship to the rest of the family was one of my primary interests, and I was very pleased to find it. I had already found the more important double cousin relationship with many of the cousins before my first trip to Slovenija - many of my relations are descended from both the Veršič and Kramberger families. With the new Tement information, all known Veršič cousins are related to the Tement cousins because of Ursula Tement, sister of Blas Tement, marrying Johan Veršič. Many of the cousins are related to me three ways, so are triple cousins! One of the highlights of my May, 1998, trip was meeting the family of Janez Tement still living in the same place where Ursula was born in 1840, old house number 12 in Zabovci. This is just south of Ptuj and the family were millers and ground grain just as did those of my family name in Alsace. I was able to examine the wine cellar of the original house and the milling equipment. The mill had been moved stone by stone from across the street when the river Drava shifted and left it without water. The mill is no longer operating and used electricity, instead of water power, at its present location next to the family home.

From the first visit with cousins in Slovenija, we discussed a family reunion picnic at the old family home in Ptuj. My fascination with the site and the existing moat that now supports grass, not water, made it the logical location. I returned in October of 1999 during the grape harvest and we had our reunion picnic. When I had showed my genealogical charts with photographs to cousins while visiting on my previous trip, they did not know many of their other cousins. I knew more cousins than they did, even if I could not speak their language! That is the reason I was asked to send invitations (in Slovene, translated by a cousin). I sent 65 invitations with a map from Alaska. After reviewing the list of addresses after I arrived, we sent another 15 from Ptuj. We had a very good turnout of 240 persons for the event. I had made name labels for the 450 cousins I knew of that could have come. The invitation had stated that they were to invite all their family, not just the ones I knew. The most recent tally is that 650 cousins were in Europe and could have come if they had wished and been informed. (To date I have found information on 42 first cousins of my grandmother, and 382 of their descendants not counting spouses. Many of these are related to my Ohio cousins, who had a different mother than my grandmother. In the United States, from my grandmother and her six siblings, there are 71 descendants. I have met and collected data on the Tement relations on recent trips and am still finding more cousins! Many Tement cousins are more distantly related, so are not included in these totals.) For the reunion picnic, we had coverage on the local radio, local newspaper, and a national magazine from Ljubljana. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. The salmon I brought from Alaska was a big hit. Everyone was surprised to find so many acquaintances that were their cousins.

picnic group
Photo of the group at the picnic at Rogoznica 2 by Vito Tofaj from Jana
Jim, the author, is bottom center between Anica and Angela

I have really enjoyed my visits to Europe even when I have not been able to see all of the cousins I have wanted to. It would be nice to meet everyone and get to know them, and them me. I have liked, savored, and relished my short sojourns. There is something very satisfying about being in places where my ancestors lived. I seem drawn to them. Visiting and seeing how my cousins live is very interesting and enjoyable. It helps in understanding the area to see how people live and what they eat and drink. The ancient and modern architectures are interesting and a contrast to what I am accustomed to in the United States. It is especially nice to be able to drop in unexpected on cousins. They sometimes seem surprised or embarrassed, but almost universally pleased. When I am expected I can guess that extra effort and expense has gone to prepare for visitors. I prefer to be family and welcome in the kitchen and be offered the normal fare. I would learn more about everything and everyone if I were treated just like everyone else.

My Aunt Evelyn told me that my Grandmother would have been very pleased that I have found her missing family. Grandmother knew nothing about her parent's families. Since she had never had any contact with the old country of Austria, she missed knowing about her relations and perhaps she felt like an orphan. Aunt Evelyn said Grandmother had often expressed regret at not knowing anything about her family other than those remaining a long way away from California in Dayton, Ohio. The families in Europe had lost contact with those of us in America, too. They seem genuinely pleased to find what has happened to their relations and to know about us also. I find cousins frequently do not know each other, or see each other seldom. I find it very satisfying to see them enjoy visiting and getting acquainted even when I do not understand the language.
 


Originally in Slovenija, Quarterly Magazine
Summer (No. 2), 1997, Vol XI, pages 47-50
Revised again 3 April 2000


Click here to see my Slovenian Picture Album
or an interesting review of a
book about ancient Slovenes: Veneti
or
Genealogy and Heraldry in Slovenia



James R. Dangel
1504 Sawmill Creek Road
Sitka, Alaska 99835 USA
Phone: 907-747-3348
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