After many years of research, I finally learned my great-grandfather's name and the name of the village where he had lived. His name was Jurij and there was another ancestry.com member who had him in his tree! I contacted the owner of the other tree who turned out to be my step-second cousin (if there is such a thing.) My new-found cousin still lives in Slovenia, not far from where my grandfather was raised. He was kind enough to send me the church records for my family. And this is where it gets weird...
Jurij was born in 1854. He and his wife Marija had 7 children. In 1929, Marija passed away. A few months later, Jurij, who was 75 years old, married a 40 year-old woman named Ana. Who was this woman? Why would my great-grandfather marry a woman younger than his children? I had to know more about Ana.
Searching through church records, I found more on Ana. She was from a tiny village in Croatia which was right across the river from Jurij's home. She had 3 children with 3 different fathers, and had never been married. The records showed that the youngest child, Slavko, was fathered by a 15 year old boy. I was shocked. My great-grandfather had married the Croatian version of Mary Kay Letourneau! OMG! What was he thinking? How did his children feel about this? I went to Slovenia to find out.
Jurij was alone in 1929. His wife had just passed away. Only 2 of his 7 children were still alive and both had moved to America. His only brother had died in Switzerland. He had no cousins, no nieces or nephews...nobody.
Ana was raised across the river by a single mother who was also the child of a single mother. Ana's descendants say that being unwed mothers was a "family tradition." I suspect that they worked as prostitutes just to survive.
|Ana in 1960|
Jurij passed away in 1940 when he and Ana had been married for 11 years. Ana passed away at the age of 90 in 1979. Ana's descendants, some of which still live in Jurij's home, say that he was the kindest person and credit him with saving their family.