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Family Histories

About ten years ago, my mother started a research project to find the origins of my father's family and their immigration to the US. Here is the nutshell version of what she found out.

John Ragenovich immigrated to the US in 1892 from what is now the Montenegro region of Yugoslavia. However, on the census form he listed his birthplace as Austria. This is correct, because at that time most of what is now Yugoslavia was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Yugoslavia was not officially formed until 1926. Some of the other “Yugoslavians” on the census forms listed their birthplaces as Croatia, Slovenia and Dalmatia, which are all now regions of Yugoslavia. These were all crossed out and replaced by Austria.

John’s birth date is April 1872, so he was 28 in 1900. He came to the US with his friend William Mitrovich, also age 28 and the two of them ran a saloon together. They apparently chose Wardner, Idaho because John had an older relative named John who was already there having arrived in 1890. This other John was born in June 1855 and so was 44 years old in 1900. He was a laborer who could not read or write English, but could speak English. He was married and had been for 19 years. The younger John, your grandfather, could read, write, and speak English.

There were 12 Yugoslavians all boarding with Robert Brooks, a carpenter. One of Mr. Brooks’ boarders was Samuel Ragenovich, 24 years old, who had been in the US only a few months in 1890 and could not read, write, or speak English. He was probably your grandfather John’s younger brother. Another boarder was 27-year old Mike Mitrovich who arrived in 1900 and was probably William’s brother. Except for John the saloonkeeper and William the bartender, most of the Yugoslavians worked in the mine as laborers.

In the Mormon Library, I learned that in 1982 a family of Ragenovich’s listed their names in the LDS files. All of their ancestors came to the US in the 1890s and were from the Montenegro (Crna Gora) region of Yugoslavia. (Montenegro means Black Mountains.) They specifically list the towns of Vrba and Sveta Stefan.

I think that the mine that all these Yugoslavians worked in was called the Last Chance mine. It was probably a lead mine, not silver, and it was connected by a “cherry hoist” (a shaft) to the Bunker Hill mine in Kellogg, Idaho. Bunker Hill closed down about 8 years ago but has since partially reopened. The other mines in the area are the Sunshine mine in Big Creek and the Hekla mine in Kellogg or Wallace.

There is no John Ragenovich listed in the 1910 census for Wardner, Idaho so he must have moved on by then with his family including Pops and Don.


Following this initial research, my parents visited Montenegro for the next phase of researching this branch of our family.



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