Recently we interviewed one of Croatia’s leading genealogists, who talked about the rise in the number of people with Croatian ancestry from the diaspora tracing their history in the ‘Motherland’. We caught up with one of them – American-Croat John Kera – who is currently in Croatia discovering more about where his forefathers came from. John tells us about he traced his family tree as far back as 1710, how Croatia has impressed him and about how he plans to document his adventure…
Can you tell us a bit about where you were born and your family history in Croatia?
I was born in Los Angeles, California and my parents came from Croatia. I am the second of two children in my family. My father came from the city of Nin, where he was born and raised up until his early 20s where he came to the United States in New York City. My mother was born and raised in Vrsi, Croatia and moved to New Jersey at the age of 14 with her parents and two brothers. I have relatives here in Croatia, an uncle from my father’s side, my Dido on my mother’s side and several cousins living here in Croatia. My parents met in New York when they were paired up as a groomsman and bridesmaid and both fell in love and got married in 1975.
What inspired you to come to Croatia and trace your roots and had you been before?
When I was a kid my dad showed me a family tree that he got from his father. When he showed it to me and my brother, I wanted to know more about the Kera family. Where we came from, what we did and how there are as Kera’s. I’ve been her 4 times in my life. The first time at the age of 5 in 1984 with my brother. The second time was in 2003 for vacationing. The third time was in 2009 when my maternal Baba passed away and this year in 2015 I am here for both vacation and research about my family.
How did you go about getting information about your family tree?
We’ll the first time we got the family tree is when I was a kid and that was dated back to 1880. But, we got some information from one of our relatives in Croatia by the name of Boze Kera who is a physics professor who sent us a family tree that dated back to 1710 from the island of Vir. I knew that my paternal Dido came from Vir when he was a young man and settled in Nin.
Did you learn anything interesting in your search?
That I now have a much larger Kera family and more Christmas cards to give out. Lol. Many of the Kera family members are artists, writers, educators and business owners. I was very impressed by that, however, I am still conducting research on the past Kera family members. I am finding it difficult since of the locals here state that some records were destroyed by the Yugoslavia government or during the Balkan wars in the early 90s. Some records, sad to say, were never kept.
What has this search meant to you?
This search means finding out about my family of who we were or are in this world. In America, growing up around American kids, many of them have family trees that they can trace back to the founding of our country. I could never since we didn’t the technology like we do today to research about family records and documents about us as a family. I think it’s important that people no matter where one comes from, that they should know where there family has come from in this world.
What has impressed you the most about Croatia?
What impresses me about Croatia is its rich architectural history and landscapes. I have always been a fan of history, architecture, the arts and literature since I was a kid. I love exploring around Croatia photographing many of Croatia’s buildings, old homes, churches and seascapes such as many of the beautiful beaches has to offer.
How long are you in the country for?
I plan on being in Croatia until early September when I fly back to Los Angeles. I am hoping that I am able to get enough information about my family to create a photobook (The Croatian Diaries) that will include photos of places I’ve been such as Nin, Zadar, Vir, Vrsi, Zaton, and I plan on visiting Pag, Split and among other locations before my time is up.
What are your plans next?
When I return home from Croatia, the photobook will be put together no matter how much information I’ve obtained. I want people to see the photos and messages I have uncovered about my family and what other information I can provide the readers. After that, I am scheduled to begin filming a short film I wrote called The Job Offer, where I star as a Navy SEAL who is recruited by an underground criminal organization called The Community. The film will be directed by Robert Ashwell and it co-stars Jeanette Wagner Davis. Yes, I work in the Hollywood film industry, which I would love to bring a film or two here in Croatia since it has a lot to offer.
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