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A Guide to Croatian Genealogy

By Adam S. Eterovich

© copyright 1996, 1997 by Adam S. Eterovich and FEEFHS; all rights reserved

Postal Address
2527 San Carlos Avenue'
San Carlos, California 94070
Telephone: (415) 592-1190
FAX: (415) 592-1526


In order to understand the history, culture and people of Croatia, one must first be aware that Croatia was ruled, administered, conquered and federated with Yugoslavia, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary and the Protectorate of Hungary, Italy, Turkey, the Republic of Venice, and the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) for up to 900 years.

Croatia was partitioned at the same time for up to 400 years between Austria, Hungary, Venice and Turkey. On Croatian Territory we have Catholics, Moslems, Jews, Orthodox, Greek Catholics and some Protestants. Further, Croatia has a Croatian ethnic minority, a Serbian minority (10%) that migrated to Croatian territory, Hungarians and Italians.

An individual with a desire to study the history, culture and people of Croata would out of necessity have to read portions of Austrian, Hungarian, Turkish and Italian history.


Croatian immigration would have the same considerations as above. Croatians have migrated for over 300 years. Prior to the discovery of America, Croatians migrated to (or were taken into slavery) Turkey, Austria, Italy, Venice, Spain and to other parts of Western Europe. Croatians were palace guards to the Caliphs of Moslem Spain in 1000 - 1200 A.D. and palace guards to the kings of France.

Croatian Galleons were in regular trade with Spain, Portugal, France, England, Itlay, and the Ottoman Turks prior to the discovery of America. Croatian immigration to the New World started with their participation in Spanish, Portugese, and Venetian fleet and mercantile operations.

When Croatians migrated they left as nationals or citizens of Austria, Venice, Hungary or Turkey. Ethnically they were always Croatians, but in immigration Croatians were identified by America, Canada, South America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia as above or in recent times as Yugoslavs and were recorded as such.

In America, any and all articles, books, etc. with the subject head or title "Yugoslavs" one will come to the conclusion that at least 70% of the subject matter pertains to Croatians.


Croatian immigrant research was primarily conducted with the use of U. S. Census of Population records from 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900 (1890 was destroyed). City and State Business Directories from 1850-1920, Cemetery records, Genealogical Society Publications, Croatian Society Records, American and Ethnic Croatian Newspapers and Indexes, American Church Records and Croatian Churches in America, City and State Libraries and Archives, Personal Interviews and any other resource available.

The research was conducted from 1960-1990 and all Croatian pioneers were recorded on 3x5 index cards; Bibliographic sources were also recorded on 3x5 index cards; regional Scrap Books were organized with abstracted Articles and other Documentation, Books, Booklets, Pamphlets, Journals, Almanacs, Magazines, Original Documents and Copies of Source Material were collected.

The Pioneer research of individuals was in the West and South with indexing of all Pioneers found prior to World War I. Collection of Documentation and Abstract of Articles and other material was done for all of America. Other area of the world with Croatian immigration was also collected.

The material was organized by Countries, by State in the USA, The New World, by prominent occupations such as Business, Sports, Fishing, Gold Mining, Religion and by outstanding accomplishments of individuals.

A Croatian Pioneer Register is now being computerized with 14 fields of information and a Croatian Immigrant Bibliography is also being computerized. All research will be donated to the Croatian Immigrant Library, University of Zagreb, Croatian Fraternal Union Library and the Croatian Library of California. All of the above will add to the history of Croatian immigration (see attached).


Because of the lack of a Nation-State, Croatians were in most cases identified by the country that ruled them and were not accorded a place in history. Almost all Croatians that made a contribution to any endevour were misidentified. A few examples:

John Dominis - Gospodnetich - Italian. Venetian - Prince Consort to the last Queen of Hawaii, Queen Liloukalani. Origins were from the island of Brac, Croatia.

Joseph Haydn - Hajdin - famous Austrian composer. Origins were Croatian.

Marco Polo - Pilich - Venetian explorer of China. Origins were Sibenik, Croatia, born on the island of Korcula, Croatia.

Peter Tomich - Austrian. Medal of Honor winner, Pearl Harbor (1941). Born Croatian in Hercegovina.

Ferdinand Konscak - Gonzaga - Austrian. A Priest, proved California was not an island. Origin was Varazdin, Croatia.

Bozo de Raguza - Hungarian. Voyage of Exploration in South America, 1520's. Origin Croatia.


Serbo-Croatian was the term used in the English speaking world for the Croatian language since the end of World War I (1918). Prior to the formation of Yugoslavia and the end of WW I, Croatia and Serbia had never been historically united, they were simply Slavic neighbors. Croatians formalized their alphabet in approximately 1850 with the use of a diacritical-accent mark system.

Croatians coming to America, based on circumstance of where they came from in Croatia, had their names modified on passports. A good example would be that in the Italian alphabet there is no "K", so those named Kristovic from Dalmatia or Istria would be registered as Christovich on their passport. Some from Dalmatia or Istria would also use two versions of their name for busines reasons such as Mladinic Mladineo, Marijanovic Mariani.

An accent or diacritical mark was used by the Croatian and Hungarian language. So, a persons name could have been modified to conform to the Italian, Austrian or Hungarian alphabet or language. Then again changed by American authorities to conform to English. Many Croatians also has Clan names that were a legitimate part of their name, and some immigrants used their clan name as it could be easily pronounced in America (see attached).


The first Croatian immigrants migrated to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. This started approximately 200 years ago. They actually migrated to Spanish and French America which is now part of America. In the South they were fishermen, oystermen, mariners, and business men. They were in Biloxi Mississippi, Mobile Bay Alabama and in Plaquemines Parish and New Orleans, Louisiana. In fact, four military companies of Croatians were organized in the Confederate Army. A Croatian Society and Cemetery was organized in 1872 in New Orleans.

With the discovery of gold in California, many left the South for the goldfields of California. They arrived in 1849. They were goldminers, mariners, fishermen, bartenders, saloon and coffee saloon keepers, restaurant owners, fruit, liquor and fish suppliers. The Croatians could be found in all goldmining areas of california and sivermining areas of Nevada.

With the collapse of the mines, they purchased farmland and were pioneers in wineries, vineyards and orchards. The first Croatian Society and Cemetery was organized in 1857 in San Francisco. Some of these Croatians settled in Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and on the west coast of Canada. 

The majority of the above Croatians came from Dalmatia and Istria with a strong Venetian-Italian influence. The Venetians called them Schiavoni or "Slavonians" rather than Croati-Croatians so that they would not rebel and join their inland Croatian brothers. In many cases "Slavonian" was in use in the West and South...this became an Americanism and had no relationship to Slavonia in Croatia.

Croatians immigrating to the East and Midwest came during the Industrial Revolution of the 1870's and settled in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and West Virginia. The majority were employed in steel mills, coalmining, miningpacking houses and other types of heavy industry. They came with a strong seanse and feeling of their Croatian heritage. They formed societies, clubs, social clubs, and singing and tamburitza instrument groups. The first Croatian Society was formed in 1894 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Croatians seeeking work later moved into Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. They worked in open or strip mining enterprises. In all communities where they settled they formed benevolent societies and cultural societies.


In many cases individuals tracing their Croatian roots do not know the correct spelling of the name, location of village, town or city in Croatia, name and address of church, city hall oer archive in Croatia.

I will not cover American naturalization records, census records, port lists, American cemeteries or local genealogical societies as these sources are all available and well known and publicized.

I do strongly recommend researching Croatian Benevolent Societies, Clubs, Churches and Cemeteries in America. In most cases, if your immigrant ancestor in America belonged to or participated in these institutions, you will find the correct name recorded and the specific village or town of origin in Croatia.

The following are the best starting point sources in America:

Croatian Directory of Institutions in America and Canada
2527 San Carlos Avenue,
San Carlos, California 94070-
Telephone: (415) 592-1190
FAX: (415) 592-1526

This directory lists all societies, churches and other institutions in America by address (see attached).

Croatian Genealogical and Heraldic Society
2527 San Carlos Avenue,
San Carlos, California 94070-
Telephone: (415) 592-1190
FAX: (415) 592-1526

The Croatian Genealogical Society provides a basic service of verifying, correcting and identifying all available information prior to the start of a complete genealogical research in Croatia. The Society holds a Census of Croatia for 1948; Census of Slavonia for 1740's; Census of Bsonia Hercegovina for 1740's (see attached).

Croatian Fraternal Union
100 Delany Drive
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 
Telephone: (412) 351-3909
FAX (412) 823-1594

The Croatian Fraternal Union is the largest Croatian immigrant society in the world. They have branches in all states and have a weekly newspaper in English and Croatian serving 10,000 members. Write them for possible membership and records of your ancestor in America.

Croatian Catholic Union
1 West Old Ridge Road
Hobart, Indiana 46342-
Telephone: (219) 942-1191

The Croatian Catholic Union is the second largest Croatian Society in America. They have a monthy magazine and branches in most states. Write them for possible membeership and records of your ancestors in America.

Croatian Heritage Catalog
2527 San Carlos Avenue,
San Carlos, California 94070-
Telephone: (415) 592-1190
FAX: (415) 592-1526

This 50 page catalog has over 400 books available for sale in the English language. Maps also included.


Birth, Death and Marriage Records in Croatia

As of 1945 all Birth, Death, Marriage records held by churches were turned over to the to the civil authorities and where deposited with the opcina or city hall.

Any Birth. Death marriage records older than 1860 were turned over to distict historical archives (see attached).

Church Records

Churches were allowed to keep religious records records such as Baptismal and Status Animarum or Stanju Dusa (Status of the Souls). Status of the Souls is an excellent genealogical record of any one generation in that it listed the man and wife upon marriage and each child as they were born and would comment if migrated or if death had occurred.

Military and Marine Records

Austrian military and Marine service records are also a valuable source of information. You must know the district or place of origin of your ancestor in that regiments are normally organized on that basis. 


Croatia had a hereditary and minor nobility in greater numbers disproportinate to her population. With constant warfare on croiatian frontiers, many individuals gained nobility thru valor in battle. Genealogical material is available in croatian archives.


Maps are available in croatia and America listing place names. We have provided some historical maps (see attached). We have a list of Croatian place names of major places in Croatia, Italian, German, Hungarian and English.

Location of Churches and City Halls

Small villages or places did not have a Church or City Hall -- the Church or City Hall would then be in the next largest village or town. We have a directory of all Churches for Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Vojvodina. The directory does indicate date bult and when the parish was organized, We also have a Directory of all place names including the City hall and County.