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Croatian Immigrant History Project

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The goal of this project is to collect and archive old photos and short biographies of Croatians who emigrated prior to 1920.

The scope. This project involves only the southern-most part of Croatia, from the Peljes"ac peninsula south to Montenegro, centering around the city of Dubrovnik. (We apologize to all other parts of Croatia and encourage them to start their own such projects.)

The collected photos and biographies will be donated to the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Dubrovnik, and to the State Archive in Dubrovnik. Note: Only scanned copies of photos are collected -- never the original.

A text list of the data collected so far can be seen here.
An index of photo collections on this website can be found here.

[Watsonville residents, please see bottom of this page.]

Why this project? There are several reasons:

1) To provide future genealogists with a foundation on which to base their research. If someone 100 years from now looks through this database, they will hopefully find enough information to get started (and perhaps a photo of their great-great-grandparents).

2) To provide a safe repository. Right now, most of this information is in family collections. As we all know, over the years these collections can get lost, scattered or destroyed. By donating information to this project, you provide a safe place for it for many centuries. And remember -- you are providing a
copy only. You keep the originals.

3) For the past decade, the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Dubrovnik has been researching the surnames and family histories of all people in the region that once was the Dubrovnik Republic. As a result, they have published several books on surname histories, lineages and demographics. But it has not been easy for them to research the history of their emigrants, and especially to obtain photos. This project will help provide them with such information. A book may eventually be published containing this data.

4) During the recent war for liberation (1991-92), hundreds of homes near Dubrovnik were burned. Many old photos were lost. Often, copies of these old photos are in the possession of emigrant families in other countries. In the past several years I have been able to return many copies of old photos to the original families in Croatia. This is one of the most heart-warming and emotional endeavors I've ever been involved with. The recipients are truly grateful to again have photos of their ancestors. If I can help you in any way to copy and/or deliver old photos to your family back in Croatia, I will do so. This service can be considered separate from the Project, if need be (i.e., it's not necessary to participate in the Project to have these photos delivered).

Almost every family of Croatian descent has old photos in its possession. PLEASE help us collect these photos for posterity (unidentified ones are of interest, too -- see below). The process is quick and easy. Here are instructions. If you do not have photos of your immigrants, you can still particate by filling out a short
biographical sheet. Click here to download a PDF version of the bio sheet (60K). Or here to see an HTML version.

Write names on your photos. In the past 5 years or so I have seen over 3000 old photos of Croatian immigrants in private collections. Less than 3% have names written on them. In another generation, no one will know who these people are.

I truly feel sorry for the people in these photos. They did not go to the expense and effort of being photographed to be forgotten. Yet many of them have been, or soon will be, if names are not written on the photos.

Forgotten faces. Photos without names written on them eventually become photos of forgotten people. Perhaps they are old friends of your grandparents. Maybe they are of your own family. We actively seek out and collect such unidentified photos. If you have such photos, we would love to copy them. It is surprising how many we can eventually identify by various means -- usually by comparison with other known photos from other collections, but also by asking for help on this website. I have personally found photos of my own family buried in some of these collections. The families knew each other 100 years ago and exchanged photos like Christmas cards. But today the families don't know each other.

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For Watsonville:
Project coordinator, Tom Ninkovich, is currently in the Watsonville area. Please make an appointment with him. He can scan your photos at your home or he can meet you at the Pajaro Valley Historical Association archives on Beach Street. To make an appointment, call 831/247-4456. Or email.