Cousin to Cousin

While genealogy internet sites that include real records have grown exponentionally over the nine and a half years since this article was published it still represents a small percentage of all of the records that are available. It is interesting that while some jurisdictions are making records available, others are severely limiting access in the name of protecting an individual's identity.

Probably the greatest benefit of the Internet is to allow distant cousins to get in touch with each other and share information. The following article shows what was possible a decade ago.

Now with Facebook, personal webpages, and posted family histories it is even easier to find and contact cousins and other people who are researching the same families or in the same area. It is easier than ever to scan and share photos, family bible pages, and other home sources.

Cousin to Cousin

By Jeffrey A. Bockman

Heritage Quest Magazine, Issue #94 - July/August 2001, page 110.

With more information being added to the internet everyday, including indexes and records, I decided to see what I could find out about my paternal grandmother’s place of birth, Prelesje, Austria (then Yugoslavia in 1918, and now Slovenia since 1991). Knowing that, while sitting in one location, their house has been in three countries during the past 83 years. I began with my normal checklist for online locatity research:

1. World/US GenWeb – see what resources are available – maybe find transcribed records

2. Genealogical Society – learn about research sources or published records.

3. Governmental sites – any official records online?

4. Libraries and Archives – what is available – images online?

5. Family History Library Sources

Much was learned about Slovenia but no records were found. I already knew that the Family History Library had microfilms of the early church records from Stari trg ob Kolpi that had been filmed in Graz, Austria – probably the district repository under the Habsburg Empire. I had not looked at them because there was a gap of at least one generation

Using my favorite search engine, [hard to believe it has been around that long] I tried a few searches for Prelesje and Stari trg ob Kolpi and found a few photos of the towns and a photo taken in the dining room of a campground owned by one of my second cousins. It is amazing what you can find when you take the time to search.

On 25 February 1999, what would have been my father’s 79th birthday, I posted a query on GenConnect – Slovenia.

Jozef Kaps born 18 Mar 1854, died 25 Dec. 1915

married to

Marija Stefanec born 1859, died 1943.

both are buried at Stari Trg ob Kolpe.

Have information on their descendents.

Looking for information on their parents and siblings.

(GenConnect is not connected with GenWeb however many GenWeb county coordinators use GenConnect to handle queries since the posting is automatic and the answers are threaded and available for everyone to see).

On 12 March (15 days later) I received a reply to the query from a man who said “I have some information from Stari trg ob Kolpi parish and still try to find more information from that parish. Send me an e-mail.” Shortly, he wrote again to tell me that he had acted as a translator for a lady named Nancy who had gone to the church at Stari Trg ob Kolpi and filmed the records. He said she also took photos of some pictures at the Kaps’ home in Prelesje. He said that she was currently on her way back home to America and he gave me her email address.

On 28 March 28 I sent Nancy an email telling her about the family that I was researching. Her reply included a brief description of her project, the old German names for the towns, details of her visit to the house where my grandmother was born and about meeting my father’s cousin and his wife, and her connection to the area. She had attached two photos:

One was of a gentleman taken in Red Jacket, Michigan.

The man’s picture looked identical to the photo on my Great-grandfather Jozef Kaps’ tombstone. I had received a photo of it from one of my second cousins in Canada. I was not sure if Jozef had ever come to America or if it was possibly a brother?

The other was of the family home in Prelesje when it still had a grass roof with a number of family members standing in front of it, one of which might be my grandmother.

[While Nancy and I are not directly related our families have both married into a Kotze family, so we are second cousins-in-law?]

Nancy was not sure who the people were in the family photo. I thought that it could possibly be the five children in my grandmother’s family, but I didn't know.

It turned out that the five people in front are: Peter Kaps– ason, Jozef Kaps – the father, Maria (Stefanc) Kaps – the mother, My Grandmother Katarina Kaps – daughter, and Marita Kaps– a daughter.

The people in the background are patrons of the Gostilna (public house or tavern) in 1905.

On May 10th I received an email that took forever to download. It was from Nancy stating that she had finally scanned the records from Prelesje. There were no Kaps listed in house #1 but they were listed in #5. Sometime over the years the numbers must have been changed. She said that this was usually recorded in the records, but not this time. What had taken so long to download was a page from the Status Animarums. It listed the families that lived in the house.

At the bottom of the page was a Katarina with a date of birth 8 Feb 1890 (my grandmother) and in the comments it gave the year she went to America: 1910 – Kalumet (Calumet, MI).

There was also information on her brothers, sisters, and parents including marriage dates and death dates.

At the top of the page was information on her father’s family. Her mother’s entry showed that she came from Rad 9 (town abbreviation and house number). There were also some older people listed at the bottom. My father’s family twig was finally growing.

Record for Prelesje #5 >

This church record for the house at Prelesje #5 was basically a completed Family Group Sheet for my grandmother’s family and for her father’s family with a link to her mother’s home. Here is the type of “Home Page” that every internet genealogist would love to find.

I had been hoping to get a copy of the page for the Stefanc family in Rad #9 because I was going to Salt Lake City shortly. I wanted to see the microfilm of the older church records to see if I could now make a connection. I was hoping to get more information before leaving but Nancy said that she found an upper Rad #9 and a lower Rad #9 but no Stefanc family. A few days before leaving I got another very slow to download email and it had the Stefanc records from rad#9. It turned out that there were 3 communities of Radence: upper, lower, and middle. I now had another family sheet and more great great grandparents. Dad’s twig was now a tree.

Family Is Thicker Than Blood

Earlier, on 16 March (19 days from the initial query) I had received an email from another person asking for more information about my Kaps family because there were two unrelated Kaps families in the area. I replied with some information about the children. It turned out that we were interested in the same family. We exchanged information, filled-in missing details, and found out more about each other.

I had previously been given some information on my grandmother’s older brother Joze’s family and had noticed that the children of a son, Peter, had a different last name. I found out that the person answering the query was the daughter of one of them. She lived in Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia) and spoke English. She told me that her biological grandfather had been killed in World War II and that her grandmother married my grandmother’s nephew but that the children were never adopted because they would have lost their benefits. Peter helped to raise the children and he had been her grandfather.

My first reaction was that we were not blood relatives. Fortunately that thought was very short lived as she considered herself part of the family. She was the only person in the country that I knew that spoke English, and she was interested in genealogy and in the Kaps family, she had email, and seemed very nice. Officially she is my father’s first cousin’s stepson’s daughter, but basically, my Cousin. OK, Second Cousin once removed.

Small World

It was about this time that I had received the family home photo from Nancy. I emailed it to my new cousin to see if she knew who the people were. She printed it out and gave it to her parents who were going to Prelesje for the weekend to see if they could help identify the people. We had the photo back at the family home within about a week of when the stranger from America came to the home and took a photo of the picture. Who needs seven degrees of separation, we did it in four.

My new cousin in Ljubljana helps us translate Slovene Christmas cards and letters. We scan and email them to her and she emails back the text. She helped us plan a trip to Slovenia for the summer of 2000. She also agreed to go with us to Prelesje since only one person there spoke any English at all. We met her and her parents, who also speak some English, and we all had a wonderful “slow meal” in Ljubljana. Three hours of delicious food in many small courses with a number of different wines provided a great opportunity to talk and really meet each other. We then went on a midnight walking tour of Ljubljana’s “old town.” They proved to us that family is more than blood. The next day we all went to Prelesje where I met 14 other cousins and 7 of their spouses. As we were leaving one of my second cousins said “Language a problem.” Even though we didn’t have a common speaking language there was still a form of communication unique to families. It was conveyed with smiles, wine from their own vineyard, food, more wine, coffee (kava), old family photos (slikas), homemade hazelnut flavored brandy, my nine foot wide descendant tree with colored pictures, even more wine, and a few words of Slovene.

I am glad that the research was done before we left home, thank you Nancy. We had a wonderful time while we were visiting my grandmother’s home. As much as I like to do research, there are times and places where you do not want to be in a dark room reading old books especially if they are available at home on microfilm, CD-ROM, or on the internet. Remember genealogy is a hobby, and hobbies are supposed to be fun. We had fun in Prelesje.

Cousin to Cousin

While more and more original records are being posted on the internet by jurisdictions, archives, commercial services, and societies it will be a very long time before the records that you or I need will be posted. Yours will be the next to last and mine will be the last. With high quality digital cameras and scanners it is now possible for individuals to make their own copy of an original record and email it in reply to a query or post it on the web for their family to view. Digital images or copies of old photos, ancestral homes, and tombstones are now possible. Sharing of information between “cousins” has been going on for centuries but the quality of the information being shared has been greatly improved with each new technology: Word of mouth, Pen & Paper, Typewriter, Photocopy, Color scanner, Digital camera, and who knows what’s next. The internet and email have greatly increased the speed of communication and replies.

Besides getting information it is also nice to share it. In an effort to help make some of these records available I have posted them (with Nancy’s permission) along with some Kaps family information. [2010 it is now located at - more records will be posted in 2011]

I also posted a reply to my own query [photo] listing the names found with a link to the site. GenConnect really lived up to it’s name with my Slovene query.

[2010 Note that the query is now located at the Ancestry Message Board at]

Also see the GATJ article Genealogy Vacation for more on our visit.

Some photos from our 2000 visit to Slovenia

The family house

At the Cemetery in Stari Trg ob Kolpe