My great-grandfather Andrew Sabol was born in November 1873 in Austria-Hungary. I don’t know the name of the town where he was born. I remember my grandmother telling me that her father’s family owned a limestone quarry near Vienna. If that story is correct, then Andrew may have been born in what is now the western part of Slovakia or Hungary.
Andrew immigrated to the United States around 1891, when he was either 17 or 18 years old. I haven’t been able to find any documentation for his arrival – but that hasn’t been easy for any of my immigrant ancestors. Assuming he arrived in New York, Andrew would have been processed for immigration in the old Castle Garden immigration facility in Battery Park, where the old Castle Clinton fort now stands. (Ellis Island opened in 1892.)
His wife, my great-grandmother Mary Sabol, was born in Austria-Hungary in July 1879. I don’t know Mary’s maiden name or place of birth. From census records it appears that she immigrated to the United States in either 1894 or 1895. Without the maiden name, there is no way to document her arrival. I do know that if she came through New York, she would have been processed at Ellis Island. It’s also worth noting that she was pretty young at the time (15 or 16 years old). Did she make the trip alone or was she accompanied by a relative or friend?
Fortunately, I have managed to locate census records for Andrew and Mary Sabol for the years 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930. I have also found evidence of the Sabol family on the website of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Raritan, including photographs of several of their children. From this available research, I have been able to piece together some of the story of their life in America.
In a few weeks, my sister Cathy and I will do some in-person research at St. Paul’s Church and the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton. In particular, we will be looking for a marriage certificate to unlock some key details: Mary’s maiden name, Andrew and Mary’s places of birth and the names of their parents. We will also be on the lookout for any naturalization papers. But here’s what I know so far.
Andrew and Mary were part of a wave of Slovak Lutheran immigrants who migrated to the small town of Raritan, New Jersey in the 1880s and 1890s. They were both teenagers when they arrived so it’s very possible other relatives made the trip too.
Their social life most likely revolved around the First Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church (the name was later changed to St. Paul’s). The church was founded in 1894 to meet the needs of the growing Slovak immigrant community.
The church website identifies Andrew Sabol as one of the founders of the church. But since it appears that there were two Andrew Sabols in Raritan who were very close in age I can’t say for sure whether they are referring to my great grandfather. Intriguingly, there is a photo of an Andrew Sabol on the church’s website (he’s the guy on the right). Could this have been my great grandfather?
- Andrew G. Sabol, Jr. (born May 13, 1900)
- Anna Sabol, my grandmother (born September 13, 1904)
- Elizabeth Sabol (born about 1910)
- Hermina Sabol (born about 1912)
- Stephan Sabol (born about 1918)
- Ruth Sabol (born about 1921)
Census records also indicate that the Sabols had three other children who died at a young age. Their first-born child died before 1900 and two other children, born after 1900, did not survive until 1910. That’s a lot of tragedy for a young family to bear.
From the 1900 census, we see that Andrew was employed as a laborer on the railroad while Mary stayed home to take care of their infant son Andrew. They rented a home on Fredericks Street. Mary was able to read and write while Andrew could not. But Andrew spoke English while Mary spoke Slovak.
By 1910, the family had grown to include my grandmother Anna and her sister Elizabeth. They now lived on Coddington Street in what appears to be a boarding house. The household includes, in addition to the Sabol family, ten Polish immigrant workers – all men – who work at a foundry. They are all listed as boarders. Andrew is still employed as a railroad laborer but now Mary is also working as the keeper of the boarding house. The house, however, is not theirs; it’s rented. Andrew (age 10) and Anna (age 6) are both in school.
In the years between 1900 and 1910, Andrew became a naturalized citizen but Mary remained a resident alien. The 1910 census form indicates that Mary still spoke Slovak as her primary language.
My great-grandparents also appear to have been active in their church during this period. I stumbled across some wonderful photos from the church’s photo archive. These are the only photos I have of the Sabol children.
By 1920, the family had grown to include five children: Andrew, Anna, Elizabeth, Hermina and Stephan. The Sabols now lived on Somerset Street. Andrew still worked with the railroad but Mary was not employed. By this time, the two oldest children were working. Andrew (now age 20) works for an asbestos manufacturer and Anna (age 16), left school to help support the family as a housekeeper in a private home. Elizabeth (age 10) and Hermina (age 7) are in school.
Also living with the family was a brother-in-law named John Hovan, a 47-year old widow, along with a boarder named Harry Betzler. I’d like to know more about John Hovan as this is the only evidence I have to suggest that other family members made the trip from Austria. Was he Mary’s brother? Or did he marry Andrew’s sister?
According to the census form, John was born around 1873 in “Slovakland Hungary” and immigrated to America in 1890 (the same year as Andrew) and he was married in 1895. He worked as a molder in a brass factory.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find John Hovan in the 1900 or 1910 census or in the 1918 World War I draft registration. Put him on the ever-lengthening list of elusive characters to pursue.
By 1930, the three oldest children were no longer living in the Sabol household. Andrew (age 30) was married and living in Cranford, New Jersey. Anna (age 26) married my grandfather Harry Agin and was now living in New Brunswick. And Elizabeth was working as a “saleslady” in a confectionary story in Somerville, New Jersey, and living as a boarder in the home of the store’s owner.
The three youngest children continued to live at home. Hermina (age 18) worked as a dressmaker in a pants factory. Stephan (age 12) and Ruth (age 9) attended school.
Andrew still worked for the “steam railroad” and Mary did not work outside the home. They lived in a rented home on Frelinghuysen Avenue with a rent of $35 per month.
Looking back over the four censuses, the family lived at a different address each time (and always in a rented home). It gives a sense of how economically vulnerable the family must have been. On the other hand, Andrew did have steady employment with the railroad all through those years. Even in 1930, in the depths of the Great Depression, he had a job.
After 1930, there isn’t much more I can add. I don’t know when Andrew Sabol died. I do know that Mary lived to an advanced age, passing away some time in the late 1960s. I don’t remember meeting her but I do remember attending her wake as a boy.
There are two photos from my parents’ old slide collections of an elderly woman. She is probably my great-grandmother Mary Sabol but I need to confirm this.