Who Were Mat’s Parents and Family? (Stephanz Family)

We know Mat lived in Kansas City from the time he was born until he married Clara in 1920 and that Mat joined the Navy.  But, where did his family come from?  How did they end up in Kansas City?   To find this information, I had to start with his last place of residence and the last record on him I could obtain,  his Social Security Application.  You thought I was going to say his Death Certificate, didn’t you?  Well, because that record is 50 years old, I cannot obtain a death record unless I get it from a family member.  We think this may be in Clarice’s things.

This SSN application confirmed that Mathias Stephanz and Mary Svegel were his parents.  I say “confirmed” because this information was known to me via some other family trees started by my Uncle Marshall Gibbs and a paper tree that is from either Clara or Mat.  However, information in genealogy is best backed up by documentation.

I edited the document so as not show his social security number.

Mathias Stephanz SSN Application edit


However, having the names did not really tell me where they came from.  For this, I had to go back to the census records and Strawberry Hill.  The 1900 census record shows that both of his parents were from “Austria” and the 1910 census says “Austria Germany”.  I knew from Marshall’s tree that they came from  Črnomelj, Austria.  From this information I was able to find census records for 1920 and 1930 on Mathias and 1920, 1930, and 1940 for Mary.  The census records also told me that he did not finish school and in 1900, Mathias became Naturalized.  This record also states he is from Austria.

Mathias Stephanz Naturalization Record 1900.jpgThe later census records showed they were from Yugoslavia and that their native tongue was Slovenian.  With all these different places listed, how was I to find them?  After much research I found that Slovenia suffered at the hands of many armies due to it’s location to the Italian peninsula.

From Wikipedia:  Historically, the current territory of Slovenia was part of many different state formations, including the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, followed by the Habsburg Monarchy.  During World War II, Slovenia was occupied and annexed by Germany, Italy, and Hungary, with a tiny area transferred to the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi puppet state.  Afterward, it was a founding member of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, later renamed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a communist state which was the only country in the Eastern Bloc which was never part of the Warsaw Pact. In June 1991, after the introduction of multi-party representative democracy, Slovenia split from Yugoslavia and became an independent country. 

Imagine that, not until 1991 did they become independent!

One interesting article was written by a genealogical cousin, Peter Hawlina.

Slovenia by Peter Hawlina

Slovenia has been an independent country since 1991. Before this, it was a part of Tito’s Yugoslavia. Prior to the second world war it was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Until the end of the first world war, it belonged to the Austrian Habsburg monarchy for centuries but also for a short time was under the direction of Napoleonic France. More than one thousand years ago the Slovenians lived in a Slavic empire led by King Samo. A more curious reader can read more about this in other publications. As an illustration, I will name just one example from modern history.
My sister was born in 1940 in the kingdom of Yugoslavia. I was born in 1941 under the Italian occupation in Italy. My brother was born in 1943 in Germany after the Italians capitulated, while my next sister was born in 1945 in the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. We all were born in the same house in the suburbs of Ljubljana, so it is important for a genealogist to be aware of the fact that there were changing religious and civil jurisdictions at various times. These changes are of critical importance when conducting this research. I will not go into details but I will mention those characteristics that would be helpful to the inexperienced researcher.


I share all this history of Slovenia because I think it is important as an explanation as to why they, my 2nd great grandparents, came to America seeing as today Slovenia is not only independent, but is an absolutely beautiful country.

Remember my Strawberry Hill article and my reference to the Stephanz’ neighbors, the Wolf’s and Chop’s?  In the research that came out of Don Wolf’s genealogy, he led me to others who were researching their own Slovenia heritage.  Out of that came information that there were numerous Facebook groups helping others with research, people all over the world, even Slovenia.  Another researcher is Jeffrey Bockman who created his own website to share his documentation and research with others.  By joining these groups and speaking to others through Facebook and email, I was able to find the villages our ancestors came from.  It’s been an interesting journey “traveling” to all these places from my living room and I am as excited to share it with you.

Matijas Stefanc, born 11 Nov 1867, came from the settlement of Stari Trg ob Kolpi above the left bank of the Kolpa River in the Municipality of Črnomelj in the Southeastern part of Slovenia.  stari-trg-ob-kolpiThe local parish church is dedicated to Saint Joseph and belongs to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Novo Mesto.  I tell you this because the records I obtained from Jeffrey Bockman’s website and from other’s who have traveled there are Status Animarum Records.

Status Animarum translates as “the state of souls.” They contain names and information about baptism, marriage, burial, and relationship to head of household for everyone living in a parish by house number. Spouses often show the town and house where they were born or moved. They were kept by the parish priests for internal purposes. Handwriting and format varies by priest. Below is the Status Animarum for Matijas’ household.

Book C ST10 & 06

Each town has records for each household listing the individuals and various details including birth, marriage, and death dates along with maiden names and birth house, and other notes.  The record is in Latin.  If you look to the far right column, it shows that this family went to “Amerika”.  Our Matijas here is on the third line.  You’ll see that the last name is written as “Stefanec”.  He is from the town of Dolenji Radenci, house #10.  It also shows he was an only child.  The numbers to the right of his name show the years in which he was baptized, his First Confession, and his First Communion.  The tic marks to the right of that show which years he was involved in the church, the Parish Church of St. Jozef in Stari Trg ob Kolpi .  This means they were there as long as at least 1886.  I have their arrival to America as 1892.   And, lo and behold, above his name are his parents and the villages they came from!!

If you Google the Stephanz name, you will not find many.  The ones that are listed are ones we already know of, our own North Carolina clan, Mark, Hannah, Lynn, etc.  I know when Susan and her Dad, Uncle Buddy, were researching, they tried the Stephanz name in Germany and came up empty too.  That is because the name was changed when they came to America.

In my research I have seen the name and cousin’s who are Steffans, Stefanac, and Stefanec.  I have a genealogical cousin whose ancestor’s name went from Stefanc to Steffans in Montana.  We have not found our “connection” yet, but our DNA shows we are related  at about 6 generations away.  One Stefanc family went to New York.  And, as we saw in Mat’s letter to Mary, there are Stephanz in Toledo, Ohio.  And, of course, our family went from Stefanc to Stephanz in Kansas.

Okay, so who was Matijas’ wife, Mathias’ mother?  From his SSN application and the trees from Marshall, we know it was Mary Swegel, otherwise known as Svegel.

True name:  Marija Švegel.

Marija, born 19 Nov 1867, came from the village, Deskova vas (also called Brettendorf) #4, Črnomelj, Austria. Marija only went to school through to the 6th grade.  She was also Catholic.

Deskova vas
Deskova vas, Slovenia


Deskova vas 4 Jozef Svegel Household_Koce

In this record, it shows that Marija’s father married twice.  First to Marija Koce, our Mary’s mother, and second to Marija Sterk, whom he came to America with.  Until this record, I did not realize that this Marija was actually our Mary’s stepmother.

Mary’s mother died when she was only 9, on 12 Jun 1877, only seven months after giving birth to Mary’s brother, Peter.

Jožef remarried and brought his family over in 1893.

Matija and Marija must have known each other in Slovenia before coming over as they married shortly after her arrival in America.  In a funny coincidence, they were married at St. Joseph’s in Kansas City.   The below record also in Latin.  This was before St. John’s was built in 1904. The witnesses we’re Franco Mavrin and Marija Strbanac. Found at St. John’s in marriage register on page 9.

Mathias Paul Stephanz, Jr. was born 13 months later.

Marriage Record

Now known as Mathias and Mary Stephanz, they lived their remaining lives in Kansas City, Kansas raising their two girls and two boys.  Mary was Naturalized in 1895 and Mathias in 1900.

Stephanz Family Abt 1905

In 1900 it shows that Mathias’ occupation was a Packing House Laborer and they owned their home at 411 Sandusky Avenue.  The meat packing industry grew with the construction of the railroads and methods of refrigeration for meat preservation. Railroads made possible the transport of stock to central points for processing, and the transport of products.

This is interesting because by 1910 he was a “Coach Maker” for a railroad.  And, he is shown as the Secretary for the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen Terminal Lodge #447 in 1916.  He’s even listed in their Railway Carmen’s Journal, volume 20.   Between 1860 and 1930 railroads were the most common means of inland transportation, thus the railroad car was born.  A “Coach Maker” receives wood, prepared by woodworking machinist (486) q.v., and builds up, by hand, with woodworking tools, according to design supplied, into framework, lining, floors, and other wooden parts of bodies of coaches, carriages, motor cars, railway carriages, tramcars, perambulators, etc.; cuts or chisels each part, if necessary, with saws, chisels, etc., to make it fit more perfectly; fits ‘them together with bolts, screws, etc., and fits in wood panels and moulding on metal parts; sometimes specifically designated, e.g. bassinette body maker, coach body maker, motor body maker, perambulator body maker.

United States declared war on Germany in 1917.  By then, the Stephanz were telling the census workers that they were from Yugoslavia.

In 1919, Matijas may have witnessed one of the “Palmer Raids” (between November 1919 and January 1920, Attorney General A. Mitchel Palmer responded by hunting for communists in over 30 cities across 23 states) while living in Kansas City, Kansas, when fear of communism caused what historians call the first “Red Scare.”

By the 1920’s he is a “Cabinet Maker” at a Cabinet Shop.  It seems he took his skills as a “Coach Maker” to work on furniture.   This skill took him to Abernathy Brothers Furniture Store. Mary Swegel and Matthias Paul Stephanz, Sr. In 1936, while working as a “furniture packer” with Abernathy, he received an injury  that became infected and caused Streptococcus in his left hand.  It seems it went downhill from there with pneumonia and fluid in his lungs.  I wonder if it had to do with Kansas City experiencing one of the worst heatwaves in North American in the same year causing it not to heal.

He died at only 68 years of age.

Death Certificate 1936Above is his death certificate.  It also lists the information of where he was buried, Mt. Calvary Catholic Cemetery.

In the 1940 census, Mary is living by herself in the same home.   She died on August 30, 1942, in Kansas City, Missouri, at the age of 74 of a heart attack due to her high blood pressure.  Her daughter, Mary, now Krilly, was the informant.

Another interesting tidbit.  Had I known about this family back in 2012, I might now be living in Slovenia!  In researching Mathias’ father, I received a Google response of :

Matija Štefanc, rojen 17. 2. 1845, nazadnje stanujoč Dolenji Radenci 10, pošta Stari trg ob Kolpi, umrl neznano kdaj, je nedvomno že pokojni, ni pa mogoče dobiti dokazila o njegovi smrti. Poziva se vse, ki kaj vedo o Matiji Štefancu, zlasti o tem, kdaj in kje je umrl, da to sporočijo Okrajnemu sodišču v Črnomlju, najkasneje v treh mesecih po objavi tega oklica, ker bo sodišče sicer po preteku tega roka, imenovanega razglasilo za mrtvega.
Okrajno sodišče v Črnomlju dne 21. 5. 2012

Google translation is:

Matija Štefanc, born 17. 2. 1845, last residing Dolenji Radenci 10 mail Stari trg at Kolpa, died when the unknown is no doubt already late, but it is not possible to obtain proof of his death. It urges all to what they know about Matija Štefanc, in particular about when and where he died, to report this to the Local Court in Črnomelj, within three months after the publication of the notice because the court after expiry of this period, known as declared dead.
The District Court in Črnomlju of 21. 5. 2012

This land was property of our ancestor Matija Stefanc. As the Republic of Slovenia built a road through this land and they could not reach the person or next of kin, they proceeded with an act through the court who proclaimed him as dead.

These are generations that are still being researched and I am finding a lot of connections with other families who were neighbors or step relations, in laws, etc.


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