Croatian Ties
5/2/2011
Unravel shifting borders, changing rulers and other research binds with our guide to tracing Croatian roots.
If you're looking for family ties -- and what genealogist isn't? -- you may find "ties" of a different type in your Croatian lines. That's because men's modern-day neckwear traces its origins to Croatian mercenaries of 17th-century French King Louis XIII. In fact, cravat, the name for the forerunner of neckties and bow ties, is a corruption of the French word for "Croat." Whether your ancestors were soldiers from now-independent Croatia or later immigrants to North America, you'll find that records they left are the ties that bind you to your origins.

Tied to History

The Croats are first identified as a distinct Slavic group in the seventh century, when they moved following the shape of a crescent -- first to the area between the Danube, Drava and Sava rivers (called Slavonia); then westward to the Gulf of Venice (Istria); and finally southward along the Adriatic coast (known as Dalmatia since Roman times).

They organized two dukedoms, and beginning in the 640s, the Croats converted to Christianity. After rule by Frankish kings including Charlemagne, the Kingdom of Croatia was created in 925 when Duke Tomislav united the dukedoms. The Venetian Republic and its successor states, though, for many years held some areas ethnic Croats inhabited along the Adriatic coastline.

Croatia -- Hrvatska in the local tongue -- was called a kingdom until the end of World War I in 1918, but it was independent only until 1102. For the next 400 years, Croatia was in personal union with Hungary -- though some scholars claim Hungary occupied Croatia. Then, after the Ottoman Turks surged into to the area, resulting in the death of the Croatian and Hungarian King Louis II in the 1526 Battle of Mohacs, Hungarian and Croatian nobles elected a member of the Austrian Habsburg family as their king.