A breakthrough on the Slovak branch of the family tree

One of the first things I learned from my research is that I’m one-quarter Slovak (through my mother’s maternal grandparents Andrew and Mary Sabol). But I couldn’t figure out where my Slovak ancestors hailed from – until now.

Earlier this summer, my sister Cathy and I located our great-grandparents’ “marriage return” in the New Jersey state archives. It tells us that Andrew Sabol and Mary Daniel (finally, a maiden name!) married on October 24, 1896 at the First Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church in Raritan, New Jersey.

1896 marriage record for Andrew Sabol and Mary Daniel.

The ceremony was performed by a Rev. Ludevit Novomestky and the witnesses were Mike Tkacik and someone named Andrew Sabol Jr. (I have found evidence in the census records of another Andrew Sabol who lived in Raritan and was nearly the same age as my great-grandfather. Was he a relative? Or did they share a relatively common surname?)

According to the marriage return, Andrew was 23 years old and Mary was 18. Andrew said he was employed as a “working man.” Since this was still the 19th century, the state didn’t even ask for the bride’s occupation.

To my frustration, the form only asked for the country of birth, not a specific home town. The couple said they came from Hungary, which is technically true because what we now know as Slovakia was then known as Upper Hungary. Not very helpful to me now, though.

But I was thrilled to learn the names of my four Slovak second great-grandparents. Andrew’s parents were John (presumably Jan) Sabol and Elisa Filak. Mary’s parents were Andrew (presumably Andrej) Daniel and Barbara Macka.

Armed with this new information, I once again perused the website of my great-grandparents’ church, now known as the St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church. In an article on the congregation’s history, two interesting things jumped out:

In or about 1882, the first Slovak Lutherans arrived in the then small town of Raritan, New Jersey. At first it was the Slovak men alone, looking for better living conditions and new opportunities. Among the very first to arrive in Raritan were Michael Tkacik, George Kovac, Andrew Mazak, John Kral, Andrew Yuhas, Andrew Straka, and George Liptak. In 1883, the Slovak women began arriving: Mary Yuhas, wife of Andrew Yuhas Sr., and Mrs. John Kovac, Mrs. John Azud, and Anna Tkacik. From 1883 to about 1887, there was a steady stream of Slovak Lutheran immigrants, both men and women, from places like Trebejov, Obysovce, and Kysak. (Emphasis added.)

First, was Michael Tkacik the same Mike Tkacik who served as a witness at my great-grandparents’ wedding? And second, was it possible that Andrew and Mary Sabol came from one of the places mentioned in the article?

I searched online and found the three villages clustered together in the far eastern part of Slovakia, between the cities of Prešov and Košice, each within walking distance of the others. They’re fairly small. Trebejov has a population of 165 according to Wikipedia. Obišovce (that seems to be the current accepted spelling) has a population of 383. And Kysak, which is the region’s railway hub, has a whopping 1390 inhabitants. In Hungarian, the villages are known as Terebö, Abos and Köszeg.

Obišovce, Trebejov and Kysak are located midway between Prešov and Košice in eastern Slovakia.

I searched the database of the Family History Library and found microfilmed church records for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Obišovce going back to 1787. Following my hunch, I ordered one of the reels covering the years when my great-grandparents were born. It took about an hour scrolling through the records, written in impenetrable Hungarian, before I hit the jackpot. I found a birth record for Maria Daniel, who was born in Kysak on June 1, 1880!

Birth record for my great-grandmother Maria Daniel dated June 1, 1880 (third row from the bottom). Click to enlarge.

The parents’ names were consistent with the marriage record, except that Andrej Daniel and Barbara Macka were recorded in their Hungarian forms with the Hungarian convention of surname first (Daniel András and Maczko Borbála). In the late 1800s, the Hungarian government had an official policy of “Magyarization” that mandated the use of the Hungarian language and spelling in official documents. I doubt that my Slovak ancestors ever used those Hungarian names themselves. And from the spelling of my second great-grandmother’s name, I can also conclude that her name was pronounced mahts-ka.

The record also tells us that Mary Daniel was 16, not 18, years old when got married. This is consistent with a pattern I saw in Polish marriage records, where the bride was often younger than the officially recorded age.

Looking around some more, I located my great-grandfather’s birth certificate too. Andrej Sabol was born in Trebejov on May 5, 1872. (So he was actually a year older than the age noted on the marriage record.)

Birth record for my great-grandfather Andrej Sabol dated May 1872 (second row from the bottom). Click to enlarge.

His parents’ names are also noted in their Hungarian forms (Szabol János and Filyak Erzsébet) but it’s easy to conclude they were the same John Sabol and Elisa Filak listed on the New Jersey marriage return.

With a bit more effort, I also found the marriage records for both sets of second great-grandparents – not bad for an evening’s work. I’ll write about these in a subsequent post, once I manage to translate them.

So it’s clear I found the mother lode. Thank you, Family History Library! In the next few weeks, I’ll be scouring through these records. I just need to start brushing up on my Hungarian.

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10 Responses to A breakthrough on the Slovak branch of the family tree

  1. Pingback: Maria Daniel and the next-to-the-last journey of the S.S. Elbe | John Kowal's Family History Blog

  2. Pingback: The other Andrew Sabol | John Kowal's Family History Blog

  3. Pingback: A snapshot of Trebejov from the 1869 Magyar Census | John Kowal's Family History Blog

  4. Margie says:

    Fascinating history. I grew up in Raritan, related to Sabols, Tkaciks, and Kachics & my family all went to St. Paul Lutheran church. From reading your history though, I don’t believe we are related. There’s a lot of Sabols & Tkaciks around. My family came from Kesogg & Trebyov. I’m curious now to learn more than I know after reading this blog. Thanks!

    • johnkowal says:

      Thanks, Margie. We may not be closely related but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a connection going farther back. Kysak and Trebejov were fairly small towns and the Sabols and Tkaciks were closely related.
      I wrote a piece about Trebejov in the 1869 census which you should check out. I will also write one about Kysak, so stay tuned.
      I’m curious who your Sabol relatives were. My grandmother Anna Sabol had several brothers and sisters who didn’t venture too far from Raritan. I’d love to contact some of their descendants.
      Thanks!

  5. Pingback: Thinking too much about cemeteries | John Kowal's Family History Blog

  6. Pingback: Mary Sabol, widow | John Kowal's Family History Blog

  7. Pingback: Andrej Daniel, rolling stone | John Kowal's Family History Blog

  8. Pingback: Answers to old questions at the New Cemetery | John Kowal's Family History Blog

  9. Pingback: Andrew Sabol’s final chapter | John Kowal's Family History Blog

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