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About GHGA

GHGA was founded in June 1992 by a group of seventeen subscribers to the newsletter, The Gottschee Tree, when they met in Salt Lake City, Utah for a Gottscheer Western Regional Reunion. In 1993 GHGA was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the state of Colorado.

As of September 2005, there are more than 450 members. The Board of Directors is composed of four officers, five elected directors, and two appointed associate directors. The Board meetings are in January (telephone conference) and in June. The annual business meeting of the organization is the last weekend in June.

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Our Mission

It is the mission of the Gottscheer Heritage & Genealogy Association (GHGA) to preserve the history, culture, and genealogical records of Gottschee by collecting and preserving the histories of Gottscheers and their descendants; disseminating this information through appropriate means as determined by the Board of Directors; coordinating cultural tours to the former area of Gottschee; supporting archival activities; and collaborating with other Gottscheer organizations.

Our History

Board Members

  • Elfriede Stiene Stonitsch, President

    A charter member of GHGA and Secretary from 2000 to 2015, Ellie led the 2008 Gottschee Tour to Slovenia and was also on the 1999 tour. She co-edited History of the Parish of Mösel. Ellie compiled a Gottscheer Bibliography containing over 400 entries that is now on the updated GHGA website.  Ellie was born in Dreml (near Rann) in the Resettlement area and in 1950 immigrated to Glendale, NY.  Ellie and her husband, Lou Stonitsch, lived in the house her father built at the Gottscheer Country Club in Walden, New York. Ellie’s parents were Heinrich Stiene of Doblitschberg and Anna Banowetz of Jelsevnik. Lou’s parents were Ludwig Stonitsch of Unterdeutschau and Anna Verderber of Otterbach. Ellie and Lou live in the Atlanta, Georgia area and are the parents of two married children and have three grandchildren.

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  • Dale Schuss, Vice President

    Dale was elected Director in 2013.  He was appointed an Associate Director in 2012 after his father retired as a Director after 8 years.  Dale travelled to Slovenia several times and was on the 2011 GHGA Tour to Gottschee.  Dale’s paternal grandmother was born in Maierle and his grandfather in Rodine.  They immigrated to Canada around 1930 and settled in the Vancouver, British Columbia area.  Dale is a Facility Management Consultant living currently in Victoria, British Columbia with his wife, Amy.

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  • Jennifer Machgan, Secretary

    A member of GHGA since 2013, Jennifer joined the board as an Associate Director in 2020. Jennifer is a 2nd generation American whose mother is an immigrant born in the refugee camp Lager 5, near Kapfenberg, Austria.  Jennifer’s other relatives on her mother’s side came from Gottschee, Slovenia including her Aunt Mary Rees who is the current Director on the GHGA board.  Jennifer remembers growing up listening to stories that Oma and Opa would tell from the old country and fondly remembers the Gottschee language, songs/music (especially the accordion) and food.  Jennifer has been to Slovenia twice with the GHGA tour of Gottschee and Slovenia (2014 & 2017) where she fell in love with the country and wants to learn more.  Jennifer’s hope is to continue to carry on the stories, food and song of her heritage to the younger generation to keep the traditions alive.

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  • Wendy Petschauer Walters, Treasurer

    A GHGA member since 2007 and a Director since 2012. Wendy has served as editor of The Gottscheer Connection since 2012 and Treasurer since 2016.  Wendy was a member of the 2008 GHGA Discover Gottschee Tour and was thrilled to visit the village of her great-grandparents, Johann Petschauer (Mitterdorf #10) and Josefa Sterbenz (Untertappelwerch #13), who immigrated to Iowa in 1899.  A native Minnesotan, Wendy is a founding member of the Gottscheers of the Upper Midwest and is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries.  She enjoys playing the piano, biking, cheering on the Minnesota Twins, being at lake, and researching family history. She and her husband, Alan Gale now divide their time between Florida and Minnesota.

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Directors

  • John Gladitsch

    A GHGA member since 2001, and a Director since 2003. John is liaison to the two Gottscheer clubs in Slovenia. He translated the history of Nesseltal from various sources as well as several other articles. John was born in Austria. His father, Hans Gladitsch, was born in Niedertiefenbach #25, and his mother, Edeltraud, was born in Morobitz. In 1956, his family immigrated to the United States and settled in Ridgewood, Queens, New York. John graduated with a B.A. in Fine Art from York College of the City University of New York in 1974. In 1996 he created an Internet site titled Images of Gottschee.  John enjoys photography and videography and is seen at most Gottscheer events with his cameras. John also posts videos about Gottscheer events on YouTube.  John travels often to Slovenia and lives in Middle Village, New York.

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  • Mary Krische Rees

    Mary is currently the Membership Chair.  She was appointed Director in the year 2000.  Mary was born in Wretzen, Gottschee in 1939. The family of five moved to the Rann Resettlement area in 1941. Four years later they ended up as refugees in Lager 5, near Kapfenberg, Austria. In 1952, now a family of seven they immigrated to the United States. For 24 years, she was an accounting manager for Berlitz GlobalNet, retiring in December 2002. She is an artist, and has donated a number of her paintings to GHGA for fundraising. She created a songbook of Gottscheer songs, printed in Gottscheerisch, German, and English. Mary has transcribed the recorded oral histories of Gottscheers and has written several articles for The Gottschee Tree. She and her husband, Bob Rees, hosted several tours to Gottschee and live in Chatsworth, California. They are the proud parents of three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.        

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  • Erich Mille

    A GHGA member since 2009, Erich was elected Director in 2012. Erich was born 1944 in the Resettlement Area and in 1952 immigrated with his family to Bushwick, New York. His parents are from Nesseltal parish: his father Franz from Lichtenbach and his mother Aloisia (nee Koenig) from Reichenau. He understands Gottscheerisch and speaks German. Erich is retired from his 33-year career at Delta Airlines and lives in West Valley City, Utah.  He is married to Lenore and was very pleased she joined him on the 2014 GHGA Gottschee Tour.  He is proud of his two sons and their families.

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  • William Schinkel

    A member of the GHGA since 2004, Bill was appointed Associate Director in 2009, elected Director in 2010 and elected Vice-President in 2012.  Bill was born in Arch (now Raka), Untersteiermark and, with his family, came to the United States in 1950 and settled in Pennsylvania.  In 1957 Bill and his family moved to Ridgewood, NY.  Bill’s father was born in Masern and his mother was born in Oberwetzenbach.  In 2008 and in 2017, Bill traveled with the GHGA tour to Gottschee and Slovenia with several family members including his sister Gertrude (now deceased), his daughters, Irene and Katherine, and his son, Mark.  Bill is retired from the U.S. Geological Survey and lives in Herndon, Virginia.  Bill has four children and four granddaughters and one grandson.

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  • Brigitte Hutter Schmidt

    A GHGA member since 2013, Brigitte co-chaired the committee for the organization of the GHGA conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in June 2015. She participated in the 2017 GHGA tour of Gottschee and Slovenia which allowed her to visit her mother’s birthplace, Merleinsrauth, and her father’s, Hinterberg. Her maternal grandfather was from Mittergras and immigrated to Canada in 1927 to work as a lumberjack and in the gold mines of Ontario. Through his sponsorship, her parents were able to immigrate to Timmins, Ontario shortly after Brigitte was born in Klagenfurt, Austria in 1948. For over five decades both parents were active members and leaders of the Toronto Gottscheer Club. With an honours degree in German and English Literature from the University of Toronto, Brigitte pursued a career in education as a secondary school teacher. She retired in June 2012.  Brigitte is married to Larry Schmidt, Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto who shares her interest in Gottscheer history and helped her to organize the Toronto conference. Together they have raised four children whose questions about their ancestry led Brigitte to join the GHGA.  She and Larry are also the proud grandparents of six grandchildren.

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  • Elizabeth Nick, President Emeritus

    A founding member of GHGA and President from 1992 through 2015 and now chair of the Publications Committee. Liz was the creator of the newsletter, The Gottschee Tree in 1987.  Liz’s maternal grand- parents were Joseph Kobetitsch (born in Schlechtbüchel) and Helen Hoge (born in Rotenstein) and her paternal grandparents were John Nick (born in Schäflein) and Katerina Fugina (born in Tscheplasch), all of whom immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s. Liz has a MA in Anthropology, and an Ed.D. in community college education. In June 2005, she retired as adjunct instructor in sociology and anthropology at Front Range Community College in Westminster, Colorado. She recently relocated to the Kansas City area.

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  • Elizabeth Perz - ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR

    Elizabeth joined the GHGA in 1999 and rejoined in 2015. Born in Ridgewood, NY, Elizabeth has lived in San Antonio, TX since 1992. She is the daughter of Raimund Perz (Schalkendorf #58) and Frida Tomitz (Schalkendorf #4) who left Gottschee in 1941, arrived in the US in 1950, and married in Ridgewood in 1957. Her Tomitz and Perz ancestries trace back to the villages of Schalkendorf, Seele, Klindorf, Koflern, Oberloschin, Niederloschin, Obrern, Ort, Windischdorf, and Stalzern. Elizabeth very briefly visited the City of Gottschee and Schalkendorf with her parents in 1982. Her efforts to learn more about Gottschee began in 1999 when she began researching her grandparents’ siblings who arrived in the US in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She remains fascinated by the lives and stories of the Gottscheer immigrants in the various locations in which they settled. Elizabeth speaks German and understands Gottscheerisch; her ability to speak Gottscheerisch improves whenever opportunity arises to converse in Gottscheerisch.

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