Searching for Slovenian roots – Bill

During Christmas holiday season a genealogist in me usually has more chance to be proactive in this passionate activity, spending more time on genealogy sites/forums and  digging from databases. Two years ago I found some desperate letters, sent from Bill Proznik to an US forum with very few replies. He was searching for any information not only about his Slovenian ancestors, but specially for possible relatives in Slovenia to make contacts. He was stuck with basic data about his great-grandparents, who immigrated to US:

Andrej PRAZNIK was born in 1874 in Velike Lasce and died on May 27, 1943 in Eveleth, Minnesota. He married Agnes KOSLAR about 1897. Agnes was born in 1876 in Pristova and died on Nov. 17, 1937 in Eveleth, Minnesota. They had three children:

  1. Mary PRAZNIK was born in 1898 and died on an unknown date (later data showed she was born in 1901).
  2. Andrew PRAZNIK was born in 1900 in Eveleth, Minnesota and died in 1948 in Eveleth, Minnesota (later data showed he was born in 1904).
  3. Lewis PRAZNIK was born in 1906 in Eveleth, Minnesota and died on Dec. 30, 1978 in Eveleth, Minnesota.

Another genealogist, Joe Esterreicher replied to him, that he has to look for different spelling of his surname, which was originally PRAZNIK and latter in US turned to PROZNIK. Bill believed that Andrej’s mother was born (about 1845) as Maria Famnik (As I discovered later her surname was JAMNIK) and that Agnes Praznik was born in Pristova (actually a lot of villages in Slovenia are named PRISTAVA, but none in vicinity of Velike Lasce). Bill’s great-grandfather Andrej Praznik died on 27 May 1942. The family tomb is in cemetery in Eveleth (MN, USA). The surname was recorded in different Census records as: Praznik, 1899; Prasnik, 1910; Prosznik, 1920; Proznick, 1940;  and finally as current form Proznik. Bill himself also had made some spelling mistakes in his letters, including the country name Slavania instead of Slovenia 🙂

Bill wrote: “My Great-Great Grandfather Andrew Proznik married Agnes Kolzack in the early 1900’s. I am looking for any relatives of Ms. Kolvaks….”, and the next reply: “The spelling of Great-Great granpa’s wife could also be Kozlack.” Finally US genealogists disovered a couple Andrew and Agnes KOSLAR/KOZLAR POSNICK to be married for 10 years and naturalized in Virginia MN [St Louis Co].

I felt I need to help Bill at least to find some information in Slovenia. In the Glossary of Slovenian Surnames there was no Proznik case, but almost 700 Praznik people, distributed in all regions of Slovenia. After searching for Praznik people in Slovenian genealogy database I found out that Bill might have relatives in Slovenia: even Andrej Praznik born 8 April 1874 in Velike Lasce has been mentioned twice. But my fear that it would not be easy to find correct family branch later came true. Praznik is not so rare surname in Slovenia. After searching through phone book I identified 33 different Praznik families and sent an e-mail to Bill with this information. His reply and entusiasm surprised me very much:

“I do have a question, I should have people I can now write to, right? Also will send you another name that I was very surprised to find. I have found that there was a Ludwig Klun, born July 5th in 1922 and the Mother was a Proznik. He died Aug. 6th 1996 in Eveleth, Minnesota.…«

I asked Bill not to call all these Praznik people or send them letters, since they may not speak English. He might be disappointed as he was after recent contacts with priest and some Praznik people in Velike Lasce. I decided to do this on his behalf. On 13 January 2013 I sent letters to 33 Praznik families in Slovenia, asking them for any information they might have about their ancestors 3 to 5 generations ago, if they have any relatives in US or might know people mentioned in connection to Bill:

Spoštovani g. Praznik!

 Pišem vam v imenu Billa Proznika, ki živi v ZDA, v državi Wisconsin, in išče v Sloveniji tako svoje prednike kot sorodnike. Z Billom sem prišla v stik kot članica Slovenskega rodoslovnega društva in mu skušam pri njegovi raziskavi pomagati, saj sam ne zna slovensko, zelo pa si želi izvedeti, če ima v Sloveniji kakšne sorodnike.

Billov praded je bil Andrej Praznik, ki se je leta 1899 priselil v Ameriko. Njegovo zadnje bivališče v domovini je bilo v Velikih Laščah. Pri svojih 25 letih se je čez nemško luko Bremen na ladji Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse odpravil v New York. Kasneje se je naselil v ameriški zvezni državi Minnesoti, v mestu Eveleth City. Andrej je bil rojen 1875. leta, poročil pa se je s Slovenko Nežo (Agnes r. Koslar, *1876), za katero ni znano, kdaj je prišla v ZDA. Imela sta tri otroke, rojene v Minesoti: Marijo (Mary), Andreja (Andrew) in Alojza (Lewis, Louis). Pri njih je bila leta 1908 na stanovanju tudi Marija Zidar (r. 1883). V ameriških arhivih pa je zabeležen tudi prihod morebitnih sorodnikov v Eveleth leta 1900: Neža (Agneza) Praznik, stara 21 let in Jožef Praznik, star 23 let, ki sta bila oba doma iz Pristove.

Billov praded Andrej Praznik je umrl 27. maja 1942. Družinski grob imajo na pokopališču v Evelethu (Minesota, ZDA). Priimek se je v Ameriki različno zapisoval (Praznik, 1899; Prasnik, 1910; Prosznik, 1920; Proznick, 1940; vir: Cenzus, Joe Esterreicher) in dobil današnjo obliko Proznik.

V Slovenskem rodoslovnem društvu imamo zabeleženega Andreja Praznika, rojenega okoli leta 1770 v Malih Laščah 4 in poročenega z Uršulo Drofenik (poročila sta se okoli leta ~1800), ki bi lahko bila sorodnika, če že ne prednika (vir Hawlina).

G. Praznik, če ste slišali za katerokoli osebo iz tega pisma ali pa poznate kakšnega starejšega sorodnika/sorodnico, ki morda kaj vedel o družinski zgodovini, vas vljudno prosim, če se mi javite pisno ali na gornji telefon.

Z lepimi pozdravi!«

I was very much surprised about the feedback: everybody tried to provide immediate information. I found out, that there were numerous Praznik families near Velike Lašče and all around Slovenia, but they are not listed in phonebook (in Hrustovo, Podsmreka in Preserje near Velike Lašče, Marinčki): they are either too old or with dementia or just passed away, I was told. Some also left to US (like Anton Praznik, who originated from Dolenjska, his relative had doubdts in relation to Bill). One family Praznik from Savinjska valey has a lot of Praznik relatives in US: their ancestor Franc Praznik and later also his son Franc and daughter Mary imigrated to US, Michigan, but they originated from farm in Tabor (Ivan Praznik). Another family Praznik from Savinjska/Štajerska region has 7 brothers Praznik with descendants, who contributed to many surnames in a phonebook, but they are obviously not connected to Velike Lasce family.

My letter to Bill, sent on 19 January 2013:

Dear Bill,

Today I have spoken to most of addressees, who received my mail with questions on their ancestors. I am afraid, that until now there is not much known if they are somehow connected to your family. A lot of people just died and younger people do not know much about great-great-parents.

I got information about other Praznik people, who left Slovenia and have lived in USA, but none has had the names form your list.

But I have good news, too. I found out, that 2 km south from Ljubljana there is a village named Prazniki; which means, that you roots are for sure from this area: In the past people were given surnames by places, where they lived. So Prazniki is a village where in meadle age lived free people, who helped their lords to build castles and churches, maintained them and served as security gard. They didn’t need to pay taxes in goods and to work for the lord on the fileds, as the other villages, like the would have holidays whole year around. Prazniki in Slovenian means hollidays (you could be alias Billy Holiday :))).

Another good news is, that the village Prazniki is in the vicinity of Velike Lasce and Male Lasce, where your great-grandpa had last known address. So your ancestors were from that area (see the file attached).

What is less favourable: people from the village Prazniki are not necessarily related. It is not a big village, but centuries ago there could be ~5 families with the same surname, who were not related.

Anyhow: you are lucky one: you know where your roots were centuries ago. We only need to find any written record in archive: on Wednesday I am appointed to search there and you will be informed about results.

Best regards…

I think Bill was not very satisfied with my answer. He wanted relatives to write to and discover more, how they live, if they are interested in lost branch in US… But for me the saying was confirmed again: “more you give – more you get”. Helping Bill I learnt the ethimology of PRAZNIK surname (source: ‘ŠUSS – an online resource for Slovenian language and linguistics‘):

  1. Praznik – “dan, ko se navadno ne dela …” = a day, when nobody usually works
  2. Praznik – “zgod., do odprave tlačanstva kmet, ki ni glede vseh stvari svoboden; polsvobodnjak: prazniki in svobodnjaki” = hist., until the abolition of serfdom (1848), a farmer who is not confined to a farm, but he is not free either; a half-free man towards a free man.
  3. Praznik – “zgod. v fevdalizmu podložnik, ki se ukvarja s predelavo rude. = hist. in feudalism bondsman who is engaged in processing of ore.

Ethimologicaly Praznik/Proznik surname very probable means “a half-free man”, who might have a farm to produce some food for the family and feed for his animals, but he did not give products to the landlord. He used to serve in other manner: he was not completely free from work for a landlord (praznik = dela prost; najprej oseba, potem dan). In a specific case Praznik surname supposed to be linked to a village Prazniki near Turjak, a fameous castle of Auerspergs. In this area, many villages got names by single/few family names (Lužarji, Logarji, Marinček, Tomažin, Jakičevo…) and family names seem to be formed from occupation or status of people. Just like Prazniki.


Cerkev Sv. Trojice v Malih Laščah

Cerkev Sv. Trojice v Malih Laščah


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