Croatian Symbol/Hrvatski Greb: courtesy of
Tomislav Mikulic

Croatian Genealogy Newsletter

Current issue No. 12 July 2005

Step-by-Step Guide to Croatian Genealogy

Differences in Croatian and European DNA?

Past Issues

Contact Information

Step-by-Step Guide to Croatian Genealogy

For those seeking family data this is a quick guide to tracing the steps needed to find documents for births, marriages, and deaths.

  1. Family Outside Croatia
    For data on other countries follow the genealogical sources for those countries. They are too numerous to list here. One source is found in Croatian genealogical books.

    Family Inside Croatia . . . . . Go to Step 2

  2. Location Unknown
    Check surname indexes. Examples are Leksik Prezimena Socijalisticke Republike Hrvatske and Prezimena i nas u Istri.

    Location Unknown . . . . . Go to Step 3

  3. FHC Film Found
    Search on Family History Center (FHC) site for available microfilm at and then conact the nearest FHC near you to order the microfilm at

    FHC Film Not Found . . . . . Go to Step 4

  4. Parish Records Exist?
    Check for dates of parish's existence in church indexes such as, Vodic Crkve u Hrvatsoj.

    Write to Croatian archives or Church office. Samples records found in sources such as Searching for your Croatian Roots: a Handbook and A Guide to Croatian Genealogy. The latter also has addresses for archives.

    No Parish Found . . . . . Go to Step 5

  5. Contact Fee-Based Genealogist

Differences in Croatian and European DNA?

The use of genetic features to answer genealogical questions is a relatively new phenomenon. Genetic markers can anwser two type of questions for genealogical research. One type of genetic marker can indicate to what population does a certain group belong. This type of research can look at comparision of Croatian populations to other groups. A previous, issue ( Issue 9, January 2004) discussed the question of Croatian relationship to Iranian populations. Another type of question can determine if an individual is genetically close or identical to other individuals from a particular family. This genetic research is useful when comparing identical or related surnames for which no genealogical data is avaialable to determine relatedness. In this discussion, the different genetics groups are described from the studies of mitochondrial DNA. Technically, the groups are often referred to as haplogroups.

The January 2004 issue of the newsletter described how the population on the large Croatian islands of Krk, Brac, and Vis have distinct genetic markers on the mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is passed on only from the maternal line to all children. Father's do not pass on any mitochondrial DNA. The Adriatic island populations have probably been more isolated than the rest of the Croatian mainland populations. Recent studies (1) show that Croatian coastal people and Croatian mainland people, in general, have very similar mitochondrial DNA markers.

However, the small differences in the frequencies of group or haplogroup J and K between the coastal and mainland populations of Croatia may substantiate the claim that the Adriatic island people, at least for some of them, have some rare mitochondrial DNA that though found in other parts of the world is rare in Europe (see Table 1). This does not necessarily mean that the Adriatic populations with the rare markers came from outside Europe. It is more likely that the rare types developed naturally over time because they were isolated for a longer time than mainland or coastal Croatian populations.

In fact, when Croatian mainland populations are compared with other former-Yugoslav populations there is little difference. Mitochondrial DNA markers for Euorpeans, including Croatians fall into one of nine groups, or haplogroups. These groups are labeled by letters of the Roman alphabet. The nine groups are H,I,J,K,T,U,V,W,X and together they account for 99% of all European mitochondrial DNA. The proportions of the nine groups are very similar between Croatians, Herzegovianins, Bosnians, Servians, Macedonians, and Slovenians. The following table shows the percentage of each of the nine markers in these populations.

Croatian & Ex-Yugoslav MtDNA (Table 1)

Region H I J K T U V W X
Croatian mainland 45.1 1.4 11.9 3.6 0.7 0.7 4.0 2.2 2.2
Croatian coast 45.8 3.1 3.1 6.3 1.0 2.1 5.2 4.2 .00
Herzegovinans 43.1 0.8 8.5 9.2 0.8 .00 3.8 2.3 0.8
Bosnians 47.0 2.4 7.3 5.3 2.4 3.2 2.4 3.6 2.0
Serbians 41.0 3.4 6.8 4.3 .00 1.7 3.4 3.4 .00
Macedonian 41.1 1.4 7.5 3.4 .00 0.7 1.4 2.7 6.2
Slovanians 47.12 1.9 9.6 3.8 4.8 .00 .00 4.8 .96

Most European populations have slightly varying percentages of the same nine markers. Expections to this are found in groups like Gypsies and the Saami of Scandinavia. Groups or halplogroups H,I,J,K,T,and W are found almost exclusively in Europe, of these halpogroup H usually accounts for approximately half of all markers in European populations. Haplogroup H in a population decreases from west to east, so that Portugal and Spain have one of the highest concentrations of haplogroup H and Bulgaria and Turkey has one of the lowest concentrations. Russian and Pole mitochondrial DNA groups are somewhere in between these European extremes. Croatian mitochondrial DNA groups fall into this intermediate group (See Table 2).

Croatian & European MtDNA (Table 2) (3)

Region H I J K T U V W X
Spain & Portugal 58.52 .57 5.9 4.5 5.9 10.5 5.9 1.99 1.7
France & Italy 53.6 .81 6.04 6.05 14.5 10.0 2.8 .81 2.02
UK & US 52.0 3.2 7.6 10.8 10.6 9.7 1.8 1.8 2.5
Croatian mainland 45.1 1.4 11.9 3.6 0.7 0.7 4.0 2.2 2.2
Poles 45.1 1.8 7.8 3.4 9.4 0.2 .00 3.6 1.8
Russians 42.2 2.4 7.9 2.9 8.9 .00 .00 1.9 3.4
Bulgaria & Turkey 38.2 1.9 14.7 5.8 9.8 11.7 .00 3.9 3.9
Iran 17.1 2.0 13.5 7.5 8.4 21.5 - 2.0 2.9
Saami (Finland) 5.68 0 0 0 0 45.45 39.77 0.57 0.62

The overall picture painted by the mitochondrial DNA demonstrates that Croatians have basically similar proportions of the various European haplogroups as other populations on the continent. Other DNA markers, such as those for certain short tandem repeats (STR) show that the Croatian population show no differences from other European populations (4) and adds further evidence of the European ancestry of Croatian populations, both on the coast and on the mainland.

The mitochondrial DNA data also shows the differences between Croatian and Iranian populations. Even though Iranians have the same nine haplogroups as Croatians and other Europeans, their frequencies are different, and even some haplogroups, such as U7, which show up in Iranians up to 9 percent, are rare in European populations. Therefore, we can use genetic data, mitochondrial DNA in this case, to refute the idea that Croatian populations have an Iranian connections, and to show, instead, that Croatians are much more genetically similar to other Europeans.


1. S, Tolk H, Lauc LB, Colak I, Dordevic D, Efremovska L, Janicijevic B, Kvesic A, Klaric I, Metspalu E, Pericic M, Parik J, Popovic D, Sijacki A, Terzic R, Villems R, Rudan P. (2003) Coll Antropol. 28(1):193-98. Frequencies of mtDNA Haplogroups in Southeastern Europe: Croatians, Bosnians and Herzegovinians, Serbians, Macedonians and Macedonian Romani.

2. Hernstadi C, Elson J, Fahy E, Preston G, Turnbull D, Andersen C, Ghost S, Olefsky J, Feal M, Davis R, Howell N. (2002) Am. J. Hum. Genet. 70: 1152-71. Reduced-Medium-Network analysis of complete mitochondrial DNA colding-region sequences for the major African, Asian, and European Haplogroups.

3. Mitochondrial DNA frequencies for France/ Italy, Germany, Spain/Portugal, Bulgaria/Turkey, Saami from: GENEALOGY-DNA-L Archives, January 15, 2004.

4. Grubic, Z, Stigl K, and Kastelan A (2003) International Congress Series 1239: 171-173. Genetic analysis of the short tandem repreat loci D1S1656, D12S391, D18S535 and D22S683 in the Croatian population.

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