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Evaluation of the genealogy services of Nenad Vekaric' and Niko Kapetanic'
Dr. Vekaric' and Mr. Kapetanic' collaborated for many years on many genealogy projects, and have authored and co-authored several books on the surnames of the Dubrovnik region. Mr. Kapetanic' specializes in Konavle, the southern-most tip of Croatia. Dr. Vekaric' (now deceased) specialized in the region of what once was the Dubrovnik Republic.
The website for Mr. Kapetanic' can be found here.
The above website lists services, prices, and how to contact.
I purchased a family tree and a family history of my mother's family from Dr. Vekaric' in 1999. But Kapetanic' did much of the work on the tree because his expertise is Konavle where my mother's family was from.
The tree cost $500 and the history was approximately $150. They went back to around the year 1430. I then lived in Dubrovnik for over a year to learn where this information came from and to take photos of some of the documents to include in a book I was writing on this family. I went directly to the churches and to the Archives to view these documents. I even learned to read a bit of old Italian, Latin, and Croatian; what I couldn't figure out on my own I had translated by a professional. In this way I learned a few new things that I included in the book, and I found some nice illustrations for the book.
But mostly I learned what a huge task it was for Vekaric' and Kapetanic' to collect all this information in the first place. They had computerized every church record in this area, and have researched most of the civil records in the Dubrovnik Archives for information on local surnames (over 3000 of them). This required a monumental effort, and all of us whose ancestors came from this area are very fortunate. We should be very grateful. There are few places anywhere in the world where this type of information has been gathered in this way.
To draw an equivalent, hypothetical situation, let's say your ancestors came from the Jenner family of Cornwall, England, and that the Jenner family had been in Cornwall since at least 1500. And now you, a descendant in the States, would like a copy of every piece of information on the Jenner family that exists in Cornwall -- all the tax records, all the census records, all the court records, the land records, the church records (birth/marriage/death), etc. I'm sure you can realize what an extraordinary and expensive task this would be. It would require months of your time or a professional's time.
For those of us from the Dubrovnik area, this task has already been done for us. This type of complete research gathering has not been done in any other part of the world that I know of, not even in genealogy-crazy America.
On one of the Croatian forums on the Internet I recently read an oblique reference to Dr. Vekaric''s service. It did not mention him by name but the comment said "some people are even charging $500 for a family tree." An acquaintance of mine said "I can buy a ticket to Croatia for that kind of money." My answer to this is "yes, you can buy the ticket. You can even live there for 2 or 3 years, learn how to read old Italian, Latin and Croatian, spend hundreds of hours researching in the Archives and in the local churches, and you still won't find half of the information that Vekaric' and Kapetanic' have already found." And when you consider that the research time spent on any given surname is perhaps 30-40 hours, $500 is an incredible deal. And Kapetanic' is charging even less at $400.
I can't fault anyone for wanting to see the original documents for themselves-- they are great for illustrating family history books; I, personally, get much satisfaction from simply touching the 500-year-old ink of my family's name. But don't ever think you can find all those documents on your own. It's worse than finding a needle in a haystack. Not only are there no indexes for most of these books and manuscipts, not only are they hand-written in old Italian or Latin, but simply recognizing your surname in them can be difficult to the untrained eye. Check out this document that was written in 1499. Can you find the name "Metkovich" in it? (2nd line from the top; the man's name was Pribassinus Metchovich).
For what is offered, the services of Vekaric' and Kapetanic' are actually underpriced. But this is not obvious if you do not know what the possibilities are or what amount of effort went into finding the information.
The average person who would buy a family tree or a family history from Kapetanic' or Vekaric' would probably not want to see the original documents. For such a person I assure you that the services of both Vekaric' and Kapetanic' are thorough, are worth the money, and their integrity is impeccable.
For those who are used to doing their own genealogy work and wish to see the original documents, my suggestion is to buy a family tree and a family history, and then use the listed sources to find the original documents. You will never, in a decade of searching, find all those documents otherwise. To me, the sources alone were worth the money. (The original documents can be photographed or photocopied by professionals; email this website for more information.)
Are there documents that Vekaric' and Kapetanic' have not found? Undoubtedly. No one could ever claim to have found everything in that huge paper warehouse called the Dubrovnik Archive (in fact, some things found there were lost, and then refound -- but that's another story). But I'll bet they have found a good 95% of what's important to genealogists.
I should mention that Dr. Vekaric' (now deceased) was primarily a demographer (he was head of the Croatian Academy of Science and Arts in Dubrovnik). He had the integrity of a good scientist. You will find very few mistakes or incorrect claims in his work. He was a native of the Peljes"ac Peninsula (just NW of Dubrovnik) and authored books on the surnames of that region.
Mr. Kapetanic' has a true love for the history of his beloved Konavle. There's hardly a stone there he hasn't turned over, both literally and figuratively (and God knows there are many of both types). A family tree from him would be a true labor of love.