DNA Project

Immigration Routes

Family Ties

Family Treasures

Journey To My

Future Projects

Conatct Info


Now that I have sort of unscrambled the scrambled part of the Jerkovic roots, let’s see where the immigration routes lead us and to how many continents.   The question also has to be asked “Why did they leave their ancestral homeland? “  I have concluded that there are numerous reasons for the flight of individuals from what is now known as Croatia, and more specifically the islands of what was then Austria, and later Yugoslavia.  There is even a flow of immigrants coming to America today from Croatia trying to better their lives as their country is in a terrible state of disarray economically, with unemployment at a high rate.  People are still looking for that land of opportunity – free to work as they so desire, so coming to America, the land of the free, and streets that are paved with gold, is still one of the tantalizing destinations.

Immigration Routes

The primary reason to leave their homeland was economics so that they may achieve a better life for themselves and their families.   Another reason was a blight on the vineyards and farm land of our ancestors.  As you can see by Image 2-1, their rationale for leaving was strengthened by the lack of the industrial complex in the region.  Many times, the male would go first and the family would follow later after enough money was saved to bring them to their new country.  In some instances it could take up to nine years or possibly longer, to be joined as a family.  In some cases, not all family members were able to come to the new country and were left home.  This in itself was a tragedy. 

Another family tragedy developed because of the size of their homes.  Homes were small and there were large families.  Whenever an unexpected pregnancy occurred, and there was no more room in the house; the oldest sibling was told to move out of the abode. 

The Balkans were extremely volatile and there were constant conflicts, with some leading to large scale wars.  This was the case around 1910 and 1911.  Serbia and Croatia were at war and many men left because of this.  Our grandfather, Mathew Jerkovich said that he left his homeland for this reason.  And World War I followed, exacerbating the problem.

Because of the migration of the male population, there was little potential for a female to get married.  If she wanted to get married she might leave her homeland to pursue a mate in her new country.  She might even meet an individual that had been arranged for a possible marriage for her as in the case of Marija Rudan who came to America, then to Ensenada, Mexico, to meet and marry Jack Zupanovich

In later years, communism was the driving force to flee the country.   One of our cousins escaped from the island of Hvar with a couple of friends in the early 1950s.  They stole the only boat in the village and were extremely lucky that it was foggy the night they left.  As the were crossing the Adriatic Sea, they heard aircraft overhead searching for them.  If they would have been caught, they probably would have served a lengthy prison term.  They made it to Italy.  From there they went to an American refugee camp in Austria.  After staying there a period of time, papers were processed for our cousin to come to the states.  He journeyed to Bremen, West Germany, and was able to board an American Army boat, along with about 1,300 other refugees.  He was one of the first refugees to come to America during that period, thanks to President Eisenhower easing the quota restrictions.  Yes, there were strict quotas in the 1950s.  It took 10 days to reach New York, where our cousin caught a train to Chicago, then on to Los Angeles, where the Jerkovich clan met and welcomed him to the United States.

Hopefully I’ve clarified some of the reasons why individuals would leave their homeland.  Now I hope to address the routes that most of our ancestors took to their new “homeland.”  With economics being one of the key elements for leaving to find a better place to live, how did our ancestors have the means to travel from the island of Hvar to the United States or other countries?  In the case of our grandfather and great uncle, they borrowed money from the local Catholic Church to pay their way to the new land.  With that said, how did they get from the island to Trieste or one of the other destinations to emigrate?  Again, in our family’s case, they travelled to Stiniva, a short distance from Jerkov Dvor, where they boarded a vessel that stopped at the port of Split and other islands to pick up passengers.  This short journey took about a month to get to Trieste.   While in Trieste, they would try and come to America, but if no quotas were available they would take the next ship to wherever it was going.   Dida and Uncle John were lucky that quotas and a ship were available for their journey to America.  This is why we have relatives in Costa Rica, Panama, Chili, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, and Germany.   

Through my DNA testing and family marriages, we also have relatives in Asia, making ancestors and/or relatives in five of the seven continents on earth – Europe, North America, South America, Australia, and Asia. 

From my genealogical research, most ancestors’ port of debarkation was Trieste.  Other ports were Bremen in West Germany and even South Hampton in England.  If they journeyed to the Port of New York and Ellis Island, the trip would take approximately 10 days.  Then it would be another three to four days of processing at Ellis Island.  Most of our ancestors would have to get a job in New York before they could proceed any further.  Once they had funds to journey by rail to the Midwest, they would start their journey to Chicago.  There they would stay with relatives or Croatian friends for a short period, working to make more money to continue their journey to the west, whether it is to Bellingham, Washington, or Los Angeles, California.  Some Jerkoviches, another branch of the family, migrated down to Florida, others to Wisconsin, and the Puget Sound area of the state of Washington.  After nearly twenty years in Bellingham, our family settled in Biola, California.  Some Mateljans and the Zaninovich family also settled in the Kerman area.  The call of the fishing industry in San Pedro drove some of the relatives to establish residence there to work in the fisheries, canneries, become a crew member of a fishing boat, or to start their own fish business.  Occasionally a relative, who had intentions of going to California, would stop of in Chicago and decide to settle there and fall in love and the dream of California was forgotten.  Other relatives came through ports of entry at Baltimore, Maryland; Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; San Pedro and San Francisco, California.

According to the book “Now Respected, Once Despised – Yugoslavs in New Zealand,” by Andrew Trlin, The Dunmore Press Ltd, Palmerston North, New Zealand, 1979, Part A, Family Names of Pioneers and Dalmatian Settlers, pages 220-246, the following ancestors, including their village and the year they arrived in New Zealand.  Most, if not all, were able to find work in the gum fields.

Barbaric – Zastrazisce – 1905    
Curin – Gdinj 1906    
Fistonic – Zastrazisce – 1908                   
Jerkovic – Bogomolje – 1903    
Jerkovic – Zastrazisce – 1908    
Jerkovic – Makarska – 1904    
Marijan – Pitue(?) – 1906    
Mateljan – Zastrazisce – 1908    
Trbuhovic – Gdinj - 1911  

The Great Depression of 1929 hit our relatives hard.  Some nearly lost their farms or businesses – they were the fortunate few.  Others did lose their farms.  Some resettled to San Pedro, and others went back to Chicago to be with relatives.  One family lost a son for nearly five years because of the depression.  One day he said he was going outside the house to work, this being 1929, and they did not see him again until 1934.  He rode the rails during those years so that his family would not suffer more by having to provide for another mouth to feed.  How many sons would do that today?  I guess that is why I always had so much respect and admiration for him.  In my eyes, he was a true hero.
Upon deciding to leave for the United States (hopefully), our ancestors would get whatever means of transportation available or walk from their village or hamlet to Stiniva, board a ship to Trieste, and then anxiously await a ship to the United States.  If they were lucky enough to travel to America (if a quota was available) they would normally travel to the Port of New York, and then be transported to Ellis Island where they would be examined to determine if they were healthy enough to stay in the United States.  Some were unfortunate because they did not pass the medical requirements and were sent back to their homeland.  This would cause family separation, leading relatives to wonder what happened and why they were not allowed to enter the United States.  From New York they would normally travel to a city where a relative had already established residence.  They would then stay for a short period and travel to Washington or California.  Sometimes they would decide to stay in that city and establish their new home. 

Others would take the long way to California.  From Trieste, they would go to Argentina, stay for a period of years, and then travel by boat through the Panama Canal to the Port of Los Angeles.  The majority would stay in Argentina.   There is a large population of the Jerkovic, Dulcic and Curin families in Argentina.  A few Jerkovices have settled in Chili.  Some of the Dragicevic families have settled in Panama, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Australia.