Jim Is Still Finding More of His Kramberger, Veršič, & Tement Roots
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
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
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
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
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:
Genealogy and Heraldry in Slovenia
James R. Dangel
1504 Sawmill Creek Road
Sitka, Alaska 99835 USA
Hiding my address underneath to avoid getting spam and unsolicited viruses
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