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 »  Home  »  History  »  (E) PRINCE OF HAWAII was CROATIAN
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  10/28/2004 | History | Unrated



The Honourable Mr. John 'Aimoku Dominis with HM Queen Lili'uokalani

By Adam S. Eterovich

John Dominis-Gospodnetich

John Dominis was a sea captain sailing out of Boston in the 1820's-40’s, who later settled in the Hawaiian Kingdom. He was the captain of the ship Bolivar and the John Peabody. His son, John O. Dominis, married a young Hawaiian princess of good family. She became the Queen Liliuokalani, last queen of Hawaii. He was also the governor of Oahu. This Dominis-Gospodnetich clan originated in Pucisce, Island of Brac, Dalmatia, Croatia and at the collapse of the Venetian Republic moved to Venice. Since the death of Prince John Dominis there has been speculation as to his ethnic origin. The following facts and documentation will prove him to be of Croatian origin from the island of Brac, Dalmatia, Croatia.

Gospodnetich-Dominis Heraldry

The Gospodnetich-Dominis Coat of Arms comes from the old nobility on the island of Brac, Dalmatia, Croatia. The Arms are related to the house of Simrakovich and Krstich-Krstulovich from Bosnia. The Arms are carved into the doorway of the palace of Gospodnetich-Dominis in the town of Dol, island of Brac, Dalmatia. Arms were formally registered since 1657 until the fall of Venice in 1797. Gospodnetich and Dominis mean the same thing in Croatian and Latin, a person of high rank. Dominis could also be taken as a Clan name of Gospodnetich. The name is found in a number of towns on the island of Brac. (Duisin 1938)

Gospodnetich-Dominis on the Island of Brac

Dominis is remembered in the town of Pucisce, island of Brac since 1647. The priest Ciccarelli notes that this noble family resettled in Venice in the year 1795. In the town of Dol on the island of Brac, many references are made to Gospodnetich-Dominis. One was a judge; another a ship captain. Most came from this town. (Jutronic 1950)

Gospodnetich-Dominis Church Records

Church records of Saint Jeronim from Pucisce, island of Brac were searched by priests Don Tonci Kusanovic and Don Ivan Eterovic and reveal that four brothers went to Venice in the 1790’s: Simon, a priest; Jeronim, Ivan (John), and Ante, mariners. Records further indicate this was a noble family with a long tradition as sea captains.

Croatia and Croatians

In order to understand the history, culture and people of Croatia, one must first be aware that Croatia was ruled, administered, conquered, and federated with Yugoslavia, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary and the Protectorate of Hungary, Italy, Turkey, the Republic of Venice and the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) for up to 900 years. Croatia was partitioned at the same time for up to 400 years between Austria, Hungary, Venice and Turkey. An individual with a desire to study the history, culture and people of Croatia would out of necessity have to read portions of Austrian, Hungarian, Turkish and Italian history.

About Croatian Immigration

Croatian immigration would have the same considerations as above. Croatians have migrated for over 300 years. Prior to the discovery of America, Croatians migrated to (and were taken into slavery) Turkey, Austria, Italy, Venice, Spain and to other parts of Western Europe. Croatian Galleons were in regular trade with Spain, Portugal, France, England, Italy and the Ottoman Turks prior to the discovery of America. Croatian immigration to the New World started with their participation in Spanish, Portuguese, and Venetian fleet and mercantile operations. When Croatians migrated they left as nationals or citizens of Austria, Venice, Hungary or Turkey. Ethnically they were always Croatians, but in immigration Croatians were identified by America, Canada, South America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia as above or in recent times as Yugoslavs and were recorded as such.

Misidentified Croatians

Because of a lack of a Nation-State, Croatians were in most cases identified by the country that ruled them and were not accorded a place in history. Almost all Croatians that made a contribution to any endeavor were misidentified. A few examples:

John Dominis-Gospodnetich--Italian, Venetian--Prince Consort to last Queen of Hawaii, Queen Lilioukalani. Origins were from Island of Brac, Croatia. Joseph Haydn-Hajdin--famous Austrian composer. Origins were Croatian. Marco Polo-Pilich--Venetian explorer to China. Origins were Sibenik, Croatia, born on Island of Korcula, Croatia. Peter Tomich--Austrian. Medal of Honor winner, Pearl Harbor. Born Croatian in Hercegovina. Ferdinand Konscak-Gonzaga--Austrian. A Priest, proved California was not an island. Origin was Varazdin, Croatia. Bozo de Raguza..Hungarian. Voyage of exploration in South America, 1520’s. Origin Croatia.

Croatian Names in Dalmatia

The merchant and the noble class in Dalmatia did use two names, one Latin-Italian as citizens of Venice and their own Croatian name in their own circles. Bogdanich became Bogdaneo, Mladinich-Mladineo, Arnerich-Arneri and Glavinich-Capogrosso. Some simply used the Latin-Italian meaning of their name, such as Cvietkovich-Florio, Lupis-Vukasinovich, Dominis-Gospodnetich or Polo-Pilich.

Captain John Dominis-Gospodnetich

One of the most interesting Croatian sailors in America was John Dominis, who became master of an American ship plying between Boston and the Pacific and who brought to Massachusetts the first cargo of salmon from the Columbia River in the Oregon Territory. According to Professor Samuel Eliot Morison, Dominis worked his way up from the forecastle of Josiah Marshall's ships to a master's commission.
Captain Dominis' adventurous life had really begun after his settlement in Boston, Massachusetts. It is there that he started his maritime career on the brig "Owyhyee" (this is the old spelling of the word Hawaii), owned by the firm of Josiah Marshall.
He married Mary Jones, a "'pretty girl" from Boston, on October 9, 1824, with the blessing of Josiah Marshall. According to the information supplied by an article published in Schenectady Gazette on August 27, 1932, the couple first moved to Schenectady, New York, Where John Owen Dominis was born on March 10, 1831 at 26 Front Street. His middle name Owen was for his maternal granddfather, Owen Jones, a distinguished Boston citizen. The fact that the bark on which the captain and his family arrived in Honolulu on April 23, 1837 was named "Jones" could further indicate his close ties with his father-in-law, who probably financed the long, costly journey to Hawaii from the Eastern United States.
John Dominis decided to move his trade operations to Honolulu, already well-known to him from numerous previous visits. As a definite sign of his intentions to stay in the dynamic mid-Pacific kingdom, he came with his wife, Mary Jones, and their six-year old son, John Owen - the future husband of the tragic and colorful Queen Liliuokalani.
During the period of 1842 to 1846 the captain built in the heart of Honolulu a beautiful, stately-looking mansion, later called Washington Place in honor of George Washington, which subsequently became the residence of Hawaii's governors.
His wife resided in Honolulu with his son, John 0. Dominis, who later became governor of one of the islands and married Princess Lydia, who in 1891 became Queen Liliuokalani.
One of the early records we have of Dominis is that he was second mate and sail mate on the "Paragon" which sailed from Boston to Honolulu in 1823. On January 21, 1827, Dominis was again at Honolulu, as captain of the brig "Owhyhee" and ready to sail for the Northwest Coast by way of Alaska where he was to collect all the skins he could find. Those skins Dominis later sold in China where he bought goods for the Boston market. On February 10, 1827, Dominis was at Hanegas Harbor, not very far from the present Juneau, Alaska and on June 4, 1827, he entered the mouth of the Columbia River. Sixteen days later he was at San Francisco in Mexican California and in November at the port of Canton, China. On May 12, 1828, he was back at Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. In July, 1828, Dominis was off again for the Northwest Coast where he arrived seven months later and where he spent about a year, with the exception of a brief visit to the Straits of Juan de Fuca for the purpose of obtaining 300 beavers. It was in the spring of 1830 that Dominis hit upon an idea which was to bring fortunes to Massachusetts merchants. Why not cure fresh Columbia salmon, after the Boston style, and sell it in the New England market? Dominis asked himself. The fish cost practically nothing, transportation was no additional expense, and the experiment was worth trying. And try he did. After a side trip to Honolulu to visit his wife and chiland after trading in other Pacific islands, Captain Dominis returned to Boston with a cargo of sixty-three barrels of Columbia River salmon on April 15,1831. The experiment at first did not seem successful, for the United States Government taxed it as a foreign importation, the fish was not of the best quality and the sale at retail was not easy to work out. Yet, as Prof. Morison points out, "that very autumn the brig Sultana left Boston for the Columbia with 1000 empty salmon barrels and in 1834 Nathaniel J. Wyeth made salmon fishing one of the principal objects of his Oregon expedition. "We may then conclude," adds Prof. Morison, "that the Owhyhee's cargo was not an isolated and insignificant venture, but the beginning of a trade in salted salmon between the Columbia River and the Eastern United States; and we may safely name Captain John Dominis the pioneer in a business that under changing methods and means of transportation has grown steady in volume and in value." Dominis we learn from Bancroft, was the first man to plant peach trees in the Oregon Territory which he brought from the Island of Juan Fernandez. From California he brought to the Northwest a fine lot of sheep for breeding purposes. Dominis in later years was master of other ships, like the "Joseph Peabody" which traded in Alaska in 1836 and the "Bolivar Liberator" which in 1834 was engaged in hunting sea-otters along the coast of southern Oregon and Northern California. In 1835, Bancroft tells us, Dominis "placing at defiance both English and Russians opened up the trade along the coast, exchanging rum for furs." Captain Dominis thus was one of the pioneers who by drawing other American traders and settlers to the Northwest coast helped to create the "Oregon Question."
Captain Dominis had left Honolulu on August 15, 1846, aboard the brig "William Neilson" for China to assist the new United States Commissioner in Honolulu, George Brown, to establish closer relations between the United States and China; both men perished in the sea withour any trace. Captain Dominis unexpected death provoked some speculation about his allegedly violent death; and Queen Liliuokalani, many decades after his death, maintained that he had been strangled in his bed and thrown overboard." (Morrison 1927)

Prince of Hawaii

On September 16, 1862, John 0. Dominis married Lydia K Paki who became a princess and later Queen Liliuokalani. Following the death of John 0. Dominis on August 27, 1891, the Daily Bulletin published a long obituary which ended with these remarks, dictated by Queen Liliuokalani about her husband:
The Prince was a contemporary of five reigning sovereigns, every one of whom he exercised a strong influence. His counsels were born of an excellent judgement and he had rare tact in impressing others with his views. Few people were aware of the beneficial services that Governor Dominis had time and again rendered to the country. His retiring disposition and manner prevented him from receiving a title of the praise that was due to him as a public man..
Queen who evidently took the loss of her husband very hard, made this comment, officially recorded in 1895:` ... in the month of July my husband was taken sick on the 27th of August, 1891, he breathed his last. I felt his loss very much, as his experience with Kamehameha IV and V, and also under Lunalilo and Kalakaua's reign, proved valuable to me. He was a kind and affectionate husband, a man of honor, and is esteemed by all who knew him. To those he gave in charity it was never spoken of. His death was a severe loss, for I needed him most at that time to advise with the affairs of state.
On September 3, 1891, the United States Minister Resident to Hawaii informed the Department of State of the death, on August 27, of John Owen Dominis, Prince Consort, husband of the Queen, and gave the following brief biographical sketch:
He was born in Schenectady, New York, in 1832. His father was of “Italian? birth, and his mother a native of Boston, Massachusetts. He came to these Islands as a chiId with his parents, his father being a master mariner. He was educated at a Honolulu School, and for a while served as a mercantile clerk in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, and afterwards in one of the principal American commercial houses of Honolulu, until he was appointed private Secretary to Kamehameha Fourth, the reigning Sovereign. Subsequently he was appointed Governor of Oahu, which position he held for twenty years. In 1862 he was married to the lady who is now Queen, by whom on her accession to the throne, a few months since, he was proclaimed His Royal Highness Prince Consort. By his associates he has been regarded amiable in character and of strong American sympathies. His remains are now lying in state at the Royal Palace, and Sunday, September 6, will be buried with royal honors.

Search for Ancestors

Queen Liliuokalani's search for husband’s ancestors began on June 20, 1892, when she had instructed her Chamberlain, James W. Robertson, to send a letter to Mr. Victor von Schonenberger, Hawaii's Consul at the Austrian Habsburg Court in Vienna. Her search was related to the tragic loss of her husband and increasing worries about the possibility of losing her crown.
Letter from the Archives of Hawaii in Honolulu: This letter was sent to Mr. V. von Schonberger, Her Hawaiian Majesty Consul, at Vienna on June 20, 1892. Dear Sir, I take the liberty of writing to you, to ask if you could obtain any information regarding a gentleman who resided on these Islands many years ago and who was known here as Captain John Dominis. The gentleman referred to was born at Trieste in the year of 1803 of parents of high standing and birth. His mother was born in 1776 or 1778 and was a lady of rank. She was of middle height, and rather fat, and wore a star on her breast which showed she was of rank. She had a very stern expression. She may have been an Austrian lady. Her name, I think, was Leopolda or Leopoldina Dominisi del Galo, or nearly like it, perhaps it was the family. His father was an “Italian?, of higher rank than his mother, and was born in 1771. The father of Captain Dominis wore a crown - in 1771 was above the crown. He was killed with a sword while fighting a duel. Three son's and daughter was born to them. One of the sons was also killed in a duel; this one had very light hair and a fair complexion. The two remaining sons quarreled, and one of them left home for foreign ports and landed in America. There he assumed the name Captain John Dominis. In the year 1830 or 1831 or thereabouts be married in Boston, Massachusetts a lady by the name of Miss Mary Jones, of that city who had a large circle of well-to-do relations. In 1832 a son was born, their first child. Two more children were born, both girls, who attained the ages of 12 and 13, when, they died. In 1836 Captain Dominis, brought his wife and family to the Islands. He made Honolulu their home, while he himself traded between these Islands and China, for some time, in several vessels as commander. He built a handsome house for his wife and son, but left the Islands just before it was completed.
During his lifetime he only once made a reference to who he was, or mentioned his family connections. It was to his wife and son (when the latter was very young) [that) he said that he was born in Trieste and that he came from a family of high standing and respectability. He also spoke causally of a Marquis, did not mention any names. I enclose a copy of his picture, taken perhaps 60 years ago, also one of his son John taken at the age of 14 years, and another taken later. They may be the means of giving a clue by which we might be able to trace Captain Dominis" relatives, for it is supposed that his sister still lives and if the search meets with satisfactory results it will place us under great obligation to you. His son John married in 1862 a Hawaiian lady who survives him. I also enclose a picture of him taken five years ago, hoping to hear soon from you. I remain, Yours very truly, J.W. Robertson KC. of the Royal Order of Kapiolani. (Robertson 1892)

Austrian Warship Fasana

It came about, that one year after the death of Dominis, the Austrian Warship "Fasana? arrived at the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and the widowed Queen Lydia Liluiokalani requested the commander to ascertain on his return to Austria whether there existed any relatives of her deceased husband for the distribution, it appears, of a presumed inheritance. The commander, immediately on his arrival at Pula, Croatia made a detailed report to the Ministry of War. The report of the Commander of the corvette Fasana to the War Ministry in Vienna: The Kriegsarchiv answered that they did not have the inquiry by Queen Lilluokalani nor the report of the commander of the Fasana. However, there was a 1ist of several enlisted men named Dominis, among them Girolamo Dominis, born in Jelsa, island of Hvar, Dalmatia. He was enrolled in 1860 for eight years, but deserted on November 1, 1861; was arrested on December 8, 1861 and on December 10. 1863 he again deserted from Venice (which was now under Austrian sovereignty). The Staatsarchiv did have information of several documents in a special fascicle labeled "Researches regarding the alleged relatives of John Dominis, Queen Liliuokalani's husband." There was also the report of the commander of the Fasana to the War Ministry in Vienna, dated August 5, 1892, from Yokohama. The report looks quite different from that described by the newspapers. The commander wrote that on the occasion of the dinner offered on June 22, 1892 in honor of the officers of the Fasana, the Queen requested him to ask the authorities of the imperial navy to help her in her search for the relatives of her late Prince Consort who might still live in Austria. The commander also repeated the information contained in Robertson's letter and added that the Queen purposely omitted to mention the high position of her husband in order to avoid sensational comments in the daily press. The War Ministry passed the entire question on to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This office learned that there were some people named Dominis in Dalmatia and wrote to the Governor of Dalmatia in Zadar. It wasn't until February 8, 1893 that the office of the Governor answered that there was a Dominis family in Rab and another in Zadar. The letter continued:
A member of this family by name Jerolim (Girolamo) Dominis many years ago emigrated to San Francisco and on his voyage allegedly often touched the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), as emerges from the enclosed note of the imperial-royal office of the District of Zadar, dated January 27, 1893. The letter further stated that according to the known data it was impossible to conclude whether Girolamo was identical with Sir John Owen Dominis or with his father Captain John Dominis, but it recommended further research in Galveston, Texas where peopled lived who might give further information about him. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on February 2, 1893 advised the consul in Honolulu, Mr. Glade, about the results of the investigation and added that it was quite possible that Girolamo changed his first name to John or Hermann. It ordered the consul to notify the Queen about the results of the inquiry and to return her husband's photo which she had handed over to the commander of the Fasana. Emilia de Dominis, married name Soavi, now widow, born at Venice of Dalmatian origin from Castel Puciochie, 1sle of Brazza (this is Pucisce, island of Brac) claimed to be a relative of the defunct sovereign. It goes on that the Italian and Austrian government's were not interested in Queen Liluiokalani's case about her husband's relatives. (Badovinac, R 1976) (War Ministry, Vienna, 1892)


Anon. “John Dominis.? Journal Adriatico, Venice, September 26, 1891. States Dominis came from Castel Puciochie, Isle Brazza. This is Pucisce, Island of Brac, Dalmatia, Croatia.
Anon. “John Dominis.? II Secolo of Milan, February 12, 1893. States Dominis came from Castel Puciochie, Isle Brazza. This is Pucisce, Island of Brac, Dalmatia, Croatia.
Anon. “Death of H.R.H. JohnO. Dominis, Prince Consort.? Friend, September 1891.
Badovinac, John. “Hawaiian Islands Once Ruled Over by Prince Consort of Croatian Descent.? Zajednicar, Sept 8, 1971.
Badovinac, Robert J. “John Dominis and the Queen of Hawaii.? Zajednicar, Oct 27, 1976. Dominis was from Croatia.
Bancroft, H.H. History of Oregon. San Francisco, 1886. Dominis in Oregon.
Duisin, V.A. Zbornik Plemstva u Hrvatskoj, Slavoniji, Dalmaciji. Zagreb, 1938. Croatian Arms in Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia. Gospodnetich-Dominis Arms carved on doorway of his palace in the town of Dol on the island of Brac, Croatia.
Eterovich, Adam S. Dominis-Gospodnetich, Prince consort of Last Hawaiian Queen-Liliuokalani., Scrap Book. San Carlos, Calif.: Ragusan Press, 1981.
Gasinski, Thaddeus Z. “Captain John Dominis and His Son Governor John Owen Dominis-Hawaii's Croatian Connection.? Croatian Studies (1976): 32pp.
Howay, F.W. “Brig Owhyhee in the Columbia 1830.? Oregon Historical Quarterly (1923). Captain John Dominis a Croatian.
Jutronic, Andre. Naselja i Porijeklo Stanovnistva na Otoku Bracu # 34. Zagreb: Jugoslavenska Akademija, 1950. Settlement and genealogy of people on the island of Brac, Croatia. Dominis moves to Venice.#
Knaus, Vincent. “His Royal Highness- The Prince Consort John Owen Dominis.? American Croatian Historical Review Vol I (1946).Dominis is Croatian.
Kusanovic, Tonci Don. “Birth Certificate and Genealogy of Ivan Dominis from Pucisce, Island of Brac , Croatia.? In Library of Adam S. Eterovich, 1985. Adam S. Eterovich requested a search of church records on the island of Brac, Croatia. Captain Dominis of Hawaii is a Croatian from the Island of Brac.
Mercantile Trust Co. “Beginnings and Developement of Trade on the Pacific Coast of North America.? Monthly Review, March-April 1923. About John Dominis.
Morrison, Samuel E. “New England and the Opening of the Columbia River Salmon Trade, 1830.? Oregon Historical Quarterly, June 1927. Dominis shipped the first salmon to the Atlantic Coast
Rosenfeld, Heyer von, Carl. Der Adel des Konigreichs Dalmatien. Nurnberg: Bauer and Raspe, 1873. Coats of Arms of the Kingdom of Dalmatia. Part of Siebmacher's Wappenbuch. Dominis is registered as Dominis-Gospodnetich.
Schiavo, Giovanni. The Italians in America Before the Civil War. New York: Arno Press, 1975. Captain John Dominis planted first peach trees in Oregon.
Taylor, Albert. “Dalmatian Lady heir to Hawaiian Prince.? Paradise of the Pacific, 1927 Vol 40, No 6.


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  • Comment #1 (Posted by Patricia Gospodnetich Solano)

    Long ago Adam Eterovich shared some history of the Gospodnetich-Dominis name which was fascinating to me because my father years ago had told me of the Dominis-Gospodnetich connection! And now, my granddaughter searched the Gospodnetich and Dominis names and found this website and is thrilled to learn so much of our history. She has been to Croatia and met some family members and loved the country and wants to go back again! How wonderful! This site is so full of information ... thank you soooo much!!!
  • Comment #2 (Posted by Lena Martin)

    Fantastic reading. I am thrilled to hear that a Croatian was married to a Hawaiian Queen. Hawaii, a place I love & visit often.
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