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The Zuvela Surname

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Dalmatia (the dark purple) within todays modern Croatia The island of Korcula is marked red.

The Zuvela surname has strong roots originating from the western end of the island of Korcula in Croatia. Its original spelling was Xuvella. Another variation on the surname is Zuvella. In the Croatian language the Z in Zuvela is actually Ž. The ž is pronounced as J in French 'Jacques', so z is zh.

The Zuvela’s Arrived on the West End of Korcula in the Early 1600s

The Zuvela’s arrived on the west end of Korčula [1] in the early 1600’s and settled in a small field called Rasohatica (previously know as Rasohatija). There are still small remnants of stone huts there to this day. First time the surname Xuvella was mentioned was in Blato (previously also know as Blatta) in a document dated 2nd of February 1642.[2] At the time, Korčula was part of the Republic of Venice within the Venetian Dalmatia province[3] (Dalmazia Veneta or in old Venetian: Dalmàssia). From where the original Xuvellas migrated is still a mystery to this editor. The Republic of Venice [4] did have population movement within her eastern Mediterranean empire and did accept refugees and migrants within her boundaries during her long history. They came from all parts of Europe (i.e. Spain [5]). Many of them were Christians from the Ottoman Empire [6] which ruled the Balkans for centuries.

Rasohatica-One of the first stone Zuvela (Xuvella) houses on the island (1600s)

The Zuvelas abandoned Rasohatica and moved to live in the village of Blato. From there members of the Zuvela family moved to (and helped to establish) the town of Vela Luka (previously know as Vallegrande). It is interesting to note that the Xuvellas have had houses in the bay of Vela Luka since the 1690s.

In more modern times they have migrated to Australia as well as the United States and other parts of the world.

The information concerning the early Zuvelas of Korčula is taken from a local 19th century historian from Blato called Nikola Ostojic (below):


36. Xuvella. Of these people I don’t have any history except for their primitive residence that was in Rasohatica from where they moved to Blato, Velikom Ucijaku. Afterwards from the 1700s they built large houses and floors/attics/lofts which now remain largely empty because of their move to Vela Luka [7]


He wrote a book about the town of Vela Luka in 1853. The book was published in 1953. It was originally written in Italian with a slight Venetian dialect. Italian was the official language of the Dalmatian province[8] at the time and had been so for centuries.

In the 1860s the Croatian language which was referred to as Illyrian[9][10] , was introduced by the Austrian authorities as a second standardised language within the Kingdom of Dalmatia (Konigreich Dalmatien, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). It then slowly replaced Italian altogether. Thus the surname Xuvella became Žuvela. From the late 19th century onwards the Dalmatian Italian culture has all but disappeared from the region. The last Italian language government school was abolished in Korčula (previously know as Curzola) on the 13th of September 1876.[11][12]

  • Beginnings of Formal Education - Vela Luka states:

Italian language was not only the official language in all public Dalmatian establishments, but also was the spoken language in a significant number of white-collar, civil service and merchant families in the cities and major markets within towns [13]


Historically the mother tongue of the majority of the population of the island of Korčula (in particularly the west end) is old Croatian.[14] The Korčula dialect [15] of local Croatian language acquired many influences over the centuries, such as the now extinct Latin Romance language Dalmatian,[16] Venetian and others. It has to be taken into account that some parts of the population were bilingual (or even multilingual).

Vela Luka Primary School - Osnovna Škola "Vela Luka" Info PLUS Mike Zuvella From USA

Below is information taken from the Vela Luka Primary School records. It mentions one Xuvella Giacobbo di Francesco:

  • School year 1862./63.; III. r. [grade 3] Xuvella Giacobbo di Francesco [17]

Note according to www.familysearch.org a one Mike Zuvella was born on:

  • 14th March 1884 in the city of San Francisco-California, USA passed away in October 1970. [18]


Detail of Nikola Ostojic's writing (p29).
Vela Luka (Croatia) on the island of Korčula. Nikola Ostojic referred to as Vallegrande.

A Zuvela circular dry stone building in Bradat. According to the locals (Vela Luka) the Zuvelas built them. Locally they are referred to as a Vrtujak.

Zuvela Vrtujaks

There are circular dry stone buildings (Vrtujak/Rotunda/Trullo) on the island of Korčula in CROATIA which are mainly found in the west end of the island. There are around 15 of them in the region. Most were built by the Zuvela families (Vela Luka - Blato area). Locally they are called ‘Vrtujak’. The vrtujak term in the Croatian language references the circular nature of the structure. These unique architectural field stone houses seem to have been built in the late 17th to 18th century during the Republic of Venice period and some were built even in the 19th century (Lesetov Vrtujak meaning built by the Lese Zuvelas).

Other circular dry stone buildings which are closest to Korčula are in southern Italy (Trullo). They are in and around the town of Alberobello (in the province of Bari). Also they are found in Istria, called ‘Kazun’ which is also in Croatia.

HERETOV Rotunda. A Zuvela circular dry stone building in Strmena. Locally they are referred to as a Vrtujak.

New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island) 1892-1924

A Korcula postcard from 1902 in Italian. The last Italian language government school was abolished in Korčula on the 13th of September 1876.

In 1907 a young 18 year old Peter Zuvela arrived in New York. On the "List or Manifest of alien Passengers for the U.S Immigration Officer at port of arrival" his name is registered as Peter Ante Zuvela. Later for some reason it was change to Peter Zuvola. In the actual Immigration Manifest there is mention of another Zuvela, both were registered as Non Immigration Aliens.

Below info taken from familysearch.org.[19]

  • Given name: Peter A...
  • Surname: Zuvola
  • Last place of residence: Vela Luka
  • Date of arrival: 08 Mar 1907
  • Age at arrival: 18y
  • Ethnicity: Austrian, Dalmatian
  • Port of departure: Trieste
  • Port of arrival: New York
  • Gender: Male
  • Marital status: S
  • US citizen:
  • Ship of travel: Pannonia

New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island)

A Vela Luka-Vallegrande postcard from the early 1900s written in Croatian and Italian. Photo taken by E. Furlani

List from Korcula [20]:

The spelling is per the New York Passenger Arrival Lists of Ellis Island.

1. Doda Marino Zuvela - Curzola 1901

2. Kokot Vinc. Zuvela - Corzola 1901

3. Iroce Nicolo Zuvela - Vallegrande 1902

4. Petrun Antonio Zuvela - Vallegrande 1902

5. Antonio Zuvela - Vollegrande 1903

6. Geovanni Zuvela - Triest 1903

7. Luigia Zuvela - Velaluha, Austria 1904

8. Doda Zuvela - Velaluha, Austria 1904

9. Vincenzo Zuvela - Vallegrande 1904

10. Piotr Zuvela-Kroz..., Austria 1905

11. Giorgis Zuvela - Cuyola 1906

12. Marin Zuvela - Veloluka 1906

13. Petar Zuvela - Veloluka 1906

14. Ivan Zuvela - Blatto, Dalmatia 1910

15. Tote Zuvela - Blato, Austria 1910

16. Marko Zuvela - Blatto, Dalmatia 1910

17. Jerko Zuvela - Velaluka 1912

18. Yela Zuvela - Vallegrande, Austria 1914

19. Petar Zuvela - Raguse, Herzegov (USA) 1920

20. Mare Zuvela Grizim - Valegranda, Jugoslavia 1921 [21]

Additional surnames similar to Zuvella but not of Korčula origins:

  • Athena Zouvella from Zakynthos, Greece 1922 [1] Zouvella from Zakynthos is the closest spelling to Xuvella.
  • Felippa Zavello Ianain 1892
  • Angela Zavello Oddalengo, Oddalengo, Grande, Italy 1907
  • Emanuele Zivello Castelfranci, Italy 1910 [2]
  • Franceso Zavello 1922

Gallery-Zuvela Crosses and FX signature on the Island of Korcula

Zuvela cross (Brbe) at Vincidur. Built in 1761.
Zuvela cross near Rasohatica (next to Krusevo). Built in 1818.
FX signature from 1837. X is for Xuvella. Photo taken in Vela Luka


Based on the records and information which are available to me, I have come to this conclusion written below. My research is largely based on the writings of Zvonko Maričić (Maricich) and Nikola Ostojic plus his original book (for viewing) and three 'Family Trees of the Zuvelas' that were kindly given to me.


The Xuvellas came to the Republic of Venice in the 1630s (most likely refugees). They settled in the west end of the island of Korčula (Curzola). Residency was set up in a small field called Rasohatica (Rasohatija).

Three male names come up in my research that are not recorded as being born on Korčula (not registered via church records of births):

  • Antonio Xuvella
  • Cosma Xuvella
  • Matteo Xuvella

Antonio Xuvella is mentioned in the town documents[22] and is the oldest which was in Blato (Blatta) dated 2nd of February 1642.

The Newly Arrived Xuvella's Started Families

With the current records that are available I can confirm the newly arrived Xuvella's brothers had three sons:

  • Antonio had a son called Giacobbe (Jakov) Xuvella.[23]
  • Cosma had a son called Giovanni (Ivan) Xuvella.[24]
  • Matteo had a son called Antonio (Antun) Xuvella with Francisca (Frana) who was born 1651 on Korčula . [25]

Antonio (Antun) Xuvella then married Katarina (Kata) and they had five children (Matteo's grand children):

  • Matteo born 1670, Matija in (modern) Croatian.
  • Marino born 1675, Marin in Croatian.
  • Giovanni born 1681, Ivan in Croatian.
  • Jacquilin born 1683, Jaka in Croatian.
  • Nicolo born 1684, Nikola in Croatian.

Referenced from the Zuvela - Grizun family tree as Antun and Frana Žuvela [Antonio and Francisca Xuvella] who in total had five children.

Are all Zuvelas descended from these individuals ?

One has to ask, is it possible that the Zuvela families are all descended from the individuals mentioned above? It’s most likely true. We may also be looking at the original residents of Rasohatica!

Importantly the early Zuvelas in economic terms were no time wasters (wealth might have been brought with them). A Mr Antonio Xuvella in the 1640s was an owner of no less than 211 sheep. The Xuvellas moved to the near by village of Blato and bought, acquired houses and properties there, later land and properties acquired or bought in and around the bay of Vela Luka (Vallegrande).

For many centuries Romance Latin language called Dalmatian was the norm on the island. Later it was joined by old Croatian Chakavian language [26][27]. With time these languages started to overlap. By the time the Zuvelas arrived on the island the majority of the population of the island of Korčula (in particularly the west end) spoke old Croatian [28] with a mix of the Romance Dalmatian language [29] and with heavy influences of Venetian (Lingua Franca of that era). This is in essence is the old Korčula dialect.

So with time verbally Antonio would become Antun or Ante. It is quite possible later that both verbally Antonio and Ante were used with Antonio slowly disappearing from local language. Written language was a different story, Latin and Venetian Italian were the standard written language back then so Antonio still existed in written form. In 1797 the island of Korčula was no longer part of the Republic of Venice (dissolved by the French Empire: 1797). The last Italian language government school was abolished in the town of Korčula on the 13th of September 1876.

Currently my thoughts on the actual word Xuvella as a surname might have been created (or reinterpret) with the Zuvelas arrival on the island in the early 1600s, which signalled a new fresh start for the family.

See also

Detail of Nikola Ostojic's book (front cover) from the 19th century were the Xuvellas are mentioned.

Notes and References

  1. ^ In Croatian the c in Korcula is pronounced ch and is written "č".
  2. ^ Vela Luka od 1490 do 1834 by Zvonko Maričić (p168)
  3. ^ John Everett-Healu. "Dalmatia." Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names. Oxford University Press. 2005. Encyclopedia.com
  4. ^ Note: In old Venetian 'Repùblega Vèneta' also know as La Serenissima
  5. ^ Dalmatia and Montenegro: With a Journey to Mostar in Herzegovina -Volume 1 by John Gardner Wilkinson (p116).
  6. ^ The Land of 1000 Islands by Igor Rudan Copyright © 2006 by the Croatian Medical Journal. All rights reserved.
    • "However, the clashes between the Ottoman Empire and Venetian Republic produced extensive migrations from the mainland areas, especially from today's Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the eastern parts of the islands of Brac, Hvar, Korcula, and Pag."
  7. ^ Vela Luka-Historijsko Topografski Prikaz by Nikola Ostojić
  8. ^ Osnovna Škola "Vela Luka" Vela Luka Zbornik-150 Godina Školstva u Velaoj Luci (p12)
  9. ^ Osnovna Škola "Vela Luka" Vela Luka Zbornik-150 Godina Školstva u Velaoj Luci, (p.50) written in Croatian
  10. ^ Illyrian is taken from Illyricum which was a province of the Roman Empire. It was named after one of the indigenous peoples in that region. Please note it was later established that the Slavic Croatian language had nothing to do with the ancient Illyrian population of Europe.
  11. ^ The Italians of Dalmatia by Luciano Monzali (p83)
  12. ^ Editor's Note: In the neighbouring Kingdom of Croatia (within Austro-Hungarian Empire, Königreich Kroatien - Österreichisch-Ungarische Monarchie) a Croatian nationalistic movement was established and alongside that, within the Balkan region a Pan-Slavic movement was growing (the beginnings of the ill fated Yugoslavia). These political on goings started to be felt in the Kingdom of Dalmatia. The Austrians in the 1860s started to introduce (a process of Croatisation, Neo Shtokavian) within the Kingdom of Dalmatia a standardised Croatian language sometimes referred to as Illirski. It then replaced Italian altogether. In effect the government undertook culture genocide. For centuries the Italian language was the official language of the Dalmatian establishment. It was also the spoken language in white-collar, civil service and merchant families. For a few years Italian schools were still being run privately in the Kingdom of Dalmatia, i.e the city of Zadar and Split (Lega Nazionale at Spalato).
  13. ^ The Early Beginnings of Formal Education - Vela Luka (beginnings of literacy and Lower Primary School 1857 – 1870) (p.12 written in Croatian, part of Vela Luka Zbornik-150 Godina Školstva u Velaoj Luci)
  14. ^ Editors note: Recent DNA studies have stated that more than three quarters of today's Croatian men are the descendants of Europeans who inhabited Europe 13 000-20 000 years ago. The term Slav was first used by the Byzantines (i.e. Procopius-Byzantine scholar, Jordanes- 6th century Roman bureaucrat) and was recorded in the 6th century (c. 550) in Greek (Σκλαβῖνοι-Sklabenoi). Later in Latin it was written Sclaveni. Slavic tribes invaded the region of Roman Dalmatia in the early Middle Ages. Prior to the arrival of the Slavs, Roman Dalmatia was mainly inhabited by a Roman Latin-Illyrian population. The first primary source (factual-that its authenticity isn't disputed) to mention the Croatian-Hrvat identity in the Balkans was Duke Branimir (Latin: "Branimiro comite dux cruatorum cogitavit" c. 880 AD). Branimir was a Slav from Dalmatia.
  15. ^ NOTE: The local dialect is sometimes referred to as Naski or more correctly Naški. The š is pronounced sh.
    • Sir John Gardner Wilkinson (an 19 century English historian. October 5, 1797 – October 29, 1875) was an English traveller, writer and pioneer Egyptologist of the 19th century. He is often referred to as "the Father of British Egyptology". He referred to the Dalmatian Slavic (old Croatian) as Illirskee. Cited from Dalmatia and Montenegro: With a Journey to Mostar in Herzegovina by Sir John Gardner Wilkinson. (p33)
  16. ^ Collegium Antropologicum, Volumes 15-16 by Croatian Anthropological Society-1991. (p311)
  17. ^ Osnovna Škola "Vela Luka" Vela Luka Zbornik-150 Godina Školstva u Velaoj Luci (p50)
    • The Early Beginnings of Formal Education - Vela Luka (beginnings of literacy and Lower Primary School 1857 – 1870):
    "The article analyses the preparations for the foundation of the first regular primary school in Vela Luka based on numerous archival materials and bibliography. The school was founded as Scuola Elementare Minore in 1857. The introductory part examines a general context, i.e. development of Vela Luka as a town and a parish until the-mid 19th century. The article also gives a brief outline of formal education of girls."
  18. ^ www.familysearch.org: Mike Zuvella
  19. ^ www.familysearch.org: Peter A... Zuvola
  20. ^ mainly referenced from https://familysearch.org/search/collection/results?count=20&query=%2Bsurname%3AZuvela~&collection_id=1368704
  21. ^ referenced from https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J6NH-PTP
  22. ^ Vela Luka od 1490 do 1834 by Zvonko Maričić (p168). It mentions Antun (Antonio) who is not part of the Zuvela Korčula born family trees (or any family tree). This could indicate him as a Korčula island migrant arrival.
  23. ^ Info obtain via Zvonko Maričić's work. He writes "…. Giacobbe [Jakov] Xuvella of late Antonio had one small piece of land ..... ". Referenced from 'Vela Luka od 1490 do 1834' by Zvonko Maričić, page 168.
  24. ^ Info obtain via Zvonko Maričić's work. He writes "…. or Giovanni [Ivan] Xuvella son of the late Cosma 22nd of December 1672". Referenced from 'Vela Luka od 1490 do 1834' by Zvonko Maričić, page 168. Ivan in Venetian Italian is Giovanni and Kuzme in Venetian Italian is Cosma. According to Zvonko Maričić, Ivan (Giovanni Xuvella) was a witness to a contract being signed in 1672 and his father was Kuzme (Cosma Xuvella). Cosma Xuvella is not part of the Zuvela Korčula family trees as being born on the island, this may indicate him as a migrant arrival.Please note: It would seem that the Xuvellas could read. We are looking at Old Venetian and Latin.
  25. ^ According to one of the Zuvela family tree Antonio (Ante) Jnr was born 1651 and is the son of Matteo. Matteo Xuvella is not part of the Zuvela Korčula family tree as being born on the island of Korčula.
  26. ^ Smiciklas, CD V, (p237); N. Klaic, Povijest Hrvata u Razvijenom, (p130): "In 1262 the Venetian praised the Slavs and Latins on the island of Korcula for submitting to the prince Venice had sent." Note: What we can safely assume is that from the 13th century onwards there were two ethnic communities living on the island in the middle ages, one being descendants of the Roman Empire and the other being of Slavic descent
  27. ^ When Ethnicity Did not Matter in the Balkans: by John Van Antwerp Fine. (p103)
  28. ^ Closely related to Chakavian of the 15th century. " ..... Chakavian dialects of western Croatia, Istria, the coast of Dalmatia (where a literature in that dialect developed in the 15th century), and some islands in the Adriatic. In those areas... " taken from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/104539/Chakavian
  29. ^ Dalmatian-language:"Dalmatian language, extinct Romance language formerly spoken along the Dalmatian coast from the island of Veglia (modern Krk) to Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik). Ragusan Dalmatian probably disappeared in the 17th century; the Vegliot Dalmatian dialect became extinct in the 19th century" taken from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/150247/Dalmatian-language.

External links

The Chapel of Saint Cosmas (Kuzma) and Saint Damian on the island of Korcula. The foundations are from the 6th century AD (Roman), whilst the rest of the Chapel was rebuilt in the 11 century. The Chapel is near by Blato and Rasohatica. Photo by Peter Zuvela