Earlier this year I wrote about my visit to Croatia and my experience with researching at the Croatia State Archives. I had hoped to locate my maternal great grandfather, Josip Kos’s military records to discover if they contained any medical information.
The family story recalls that Josip was an officer in the Austrian cavalry and while his horse was being re-shoed, he was kicked in the chest or the head which resulted in him getting asthma or epilepsy. His poor health made him leave the service and subsequently, he emigrated to the U.S.
Josip became Joseph Koss in the U.S. and died in 1919 after the flu he contracted during that epidemic became pneumonia. He was only 42 when he passed away.
While at the archives I was told to contact the Austrian archives as they supposedly had the military records. As soon as I got home I sent off an email to Austria but received a response that all of their records were available on FamilySearch.org. I was unable to find the ones I needed there. I had asked in person in March when I was at the Family Search Library about the records and was told that they had no schedule of when new records would be placed online so if they had them and they weren’t showing in their card catalog, they couldn’t give me a time frame. Sigh.
The email from the Austrian archives stated that all records for areas that aren’t now in Austria were returned to the original location. So, I was going in circles!
This gave me two options – wait indefinitely or try something new. I know that genealogy is a study of patience but I am not a patient person so I went with the latter option.
In June, I attended the International German Genealogy Program that was held in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The conference used Whova, a type of social media App. I began to post everywhere on that site a request for help in finding these military records. I also attended every lecture that revolved around military records.
Fortunately, a wonderful genealogist, Christina Kaul, responded to my queries. She provided me a personal example of her great grandfather who had been killed in WW1; he had records in two locations. Since my great-grandfather left the service before WW1, Austria would not have any of his records as they only maintained a record for those who were wounded, killed, missing in action, or decorated during WW1.
Christina further explained that military records were kept by the regiment and not location so identifying where and when recruitment occurred was important. I believed that the regiment was a local one as old family stories told of every male serving locally for generations. I was even able to see the castle where they supposedly trained.
Although I could not find Josip and his wife, Jana’s marriage certificate, I did find the names in the baptismal records of several of their children who had died between 1895-1900. I was certain Josip was in the military at the time my grandmother was born in 1900 and served for most of her childhood. Since I knew the location of their home, I knew the village was Dubranec.
Christina verified what I thought by reviewing the church books. It was there, though, that she noticed something interesting; 50% of the men in the Dubranec book were noted to be a pl – plemeniti ljudi (people of valuable origin).
My grandmother was always proud of that pl status and had said it was a title given by nobility long ago for service fighting against the Turks. The family was permitted to hunt in the King’s forest and were the leaders of the small community.
Christina, though, was able to provide me with more information about pl’s. That title was never awarded by the Austrians but was used instead by ethnic Hungarians and the reference to “valuable origin” meant they were old members of the Magyar tribe.
I had to laugh at what Christina wrote, “For the Austrian empire these were difficult guys and potential trouble-makers as they were fiercely independent and not easy to assimilate into existing social structures.” Yes, that sums up my mother’s side exactly!
Interestingly, she guessed that the village could go back as far as the 12th century and she would be correct as I did find land records from that time period.
This also sheds light on something I never really thought about – both my great aunt and great uncle and one of my aunts married Hungarians. No one married an Austrian. Sometimes clues are right in front of us but we miss them!
Thanks to Christina, I followed her suggestion to write to the Croatian State Archives again and add an email to the Hungarian National Archives to see if they have the military files I seek. Again, the Croatian State Archives did not and directed me to Hungary. I haven’t received a response from Hungary.
I would also like to highly recommend connecting with Familia-Austria, an Austrian Genealogical Society where Christina volunteers. If you are interested in researching that area, they are a wonderful group to contact. Their website, found here, is in English or can be translated into 14 other languages. Christina can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.