Each of us, as a matter of simple biology, descends from sixteen great-great-grandparents. When I started this research project. I didn’t know who any of them were. Ten months later, I can name eleven of them.
- My Polish great-great-grandparents, Bazyli Bosakowski, Rozalia Kwaśnicka, Jozef Buczny and Teresa Dubrawska, lived in the town of Zalozce in the far northeast corner of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a few miles from the border of Russia, in what is now Ukraine. Both families were shoemakers.
- My American great-great-grandparents, Samuel Davis Agin and Rhoda Wyckoff, lived in central New Jersey. Samuel fought in the Civil War and Rhoda descended from some of the earliest settlers of the New Amsterdam colony. They were farmers.
- My German great-great-grandmother, Mary Miller (perhaps it was originally Müller), became a widow at a young age. She made the journey to America with her young daughter, Tillie. After settling in New Jersey, she married George Hendricks (whom she later divorced) and William Vannote.
- My Slovak great-great-grandparents, Jan Sabol, Elisa Filak, Andrej Daniel and Barbara Macka, lived in the neighboring villages of Trebejov and Kysak in the Hungarian-controlled portion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (in what is now Slovakia). They were farmers.
I haven’t found any leads on my four Ukrainian great-great-grandparents. I’m sure they lived in the town of Kharucha Vel’ka, Ukraine and they were probably also farmers.
Through a careful review of Lutheran church records from Obišovce, Slovakia, available on microfilm through the Family History Library, I have learned a bit more about my four Slovak ancestors listed above.
The records are written in Hungarian, which makes reading Polish and Latin seem like a breeze. But I am beginning to make sense of them with the help of Google Translate, a glossary of Hungarian terminology found in old vital records and the Slovak Genealogy Research Strategies website.
A note about names
I am making some assumptions about what my ancestors’ names actually were. Vital records in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were either recorded in Latin or in the official language of the region. The records from Obišovce were recorded in Hungarian, since the Slovak language did not have any official status.
For my Polish ancestors from the Austrian town of Zalozce, the Catholic church kept records in Latin and recorded people’s names in Latin. But it’s obvious they spoke Polish and it’s easy to surmise that Ioannes went by Jan and Catharina went by Katarzyna.
It seems equally obvious that my Slovak ancestors and their fellow townspeople spoke Slovak, not Hungarian. This is confirmed by various notations and page inserts written in Slovak. So András in the records probably went by Andrej and Borbála went by Barbara.
Surnames present a particular problem. Many of them appear in a Hungarian version different than the spelling I know (so Sabol was recorded as Szabo and Hovan was Chovan). But it’s hard to say for sure how my ancestors spelled their names a century and a half ago. (They probably couldn’t spell at all.)
I believe it makes sense to use the names my ancestors used when they immigrated. So I will note the spellings of names as recorded in the records but I’ll refer to people in what I think is the Slovak version of their names.
Jan Sabol and Alžbeta (Elisa) Filak
Jan Sabol and Alžbeta Filak (Szabo János and Filjak Erzsébet in the Hungarian records) were married in the village of Trebejov (Terebö) on November 27, 1867. Alžbeta was also known as Elisa, which equivalent to Liz in English.
From the marriage record, we know that Jan’s parents (my third great-grandparents) were Michal Sabol and Anna Tkacik (Szabo Mihály and Tkacsik Anna). The Sabol family lived in the town of Trebejov in plot number 11.
In the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the government surveyed the land and created cadastral maps that divided up towns into numbered plots. In some archive somewhere in Slovakia, I should be able to get my hands on the cadastral maps for ancestors’ hometowns. That would allow me to pinpoint the actual address in modern day Trebejov – even the actual house if it’s still there.
Elisa’s parents were Andrej Filak and Alžbeta Stoffan (Filjak András and Stoffan Erzsébet). The Filaks also lived in Trebejov although the plot number is not specified.
The marriage record does not list occupations for Jan and his father Michal, but I know from other records that they were landowning farmers (telkes) as opposed to tenant farmers or peasants (zsellér). I’m not sure what Andrej Filak did. He was mostly likely a farmer but that should become clear with some more digging through the records.
The groom was 30 years old and the bride was 24 at the time of the ceremony. It was the first marriage for both.
I wondered if they were a bit old to be getting married. In the mid-1800s, my Bosakowski ancestors from Zalozce and even my Agin ancestors from New Jersey typically got married in their late teens (for women) and early twenties (for men). But looking over the records from Obišovce, it would appear that people married a bit later. Jan may have been a couple of years older than the average groom. Elisa seems fairly typical.
After the marriage, the couple lived with Jan’s parents. In my great-grandfather Andrej’s 1872 birth record, the family’s address continues to be Trebejov 11.
Andrej Daniel and Barbara Macka
Andrej Daniel and Barbara Macka (Daniel András and Maczko Borbála) were married on January 12, 1879 in the village of Kysak (Köszeg). Both had been recently widowed.
Andrej was 44 years old. He came from the town of Žehňa (Zsegnye), about ten miles to the northeast. Žehňa was also home to a community of Slovak Lutherans. I found those church records in the Family History Library too. (You can actually peruse the records online so there’s no need to order any microfilms.)
Andrej’s father was also named Andrej Daniel and his mother was Alžbeta Minar (Daniel András and Minar Erzsébet). They were landowners back in Žehňa although, by the time of the marriage, Alžbeta was already dead.
At some point, Andrej moved to Trebejov, just down the road from Kysak, and married a woman named Anna Filak. (Was she related to Elisa Filak?) It appears that Anna died in 1877 but the handwriting is hard to read. The couple had five children: Jan, Alžbeta, Andrej, Michal and Juraj.
There is no occupation listed in the marriage record, but I see from other records that Andrej was a tenant farmer, not a landowner. So the move to Trebejov did not seem to improve his economic lot.
Barbara was 47 years old. She was born and raised in Kysak. Barbara’s parents were Andrej Macko and Helena Kollar (Maczko András and Kollar Illona). They were landowners.
Barbara was previously married to Michal Hovan (Chovan Mihály), who was not only a landowning farmer but also a soldier (katona). The couple lived at Kysak 4. They had at least two children, Andrej and Jan, before Michal died in 1878
After the wedding, Andrej Daniel would move from Trebejov to Kysak, moving into Barbara’s home at Kysak 4. The family lived there in January 1880 when my great-grandmother Maria was born. It’s amazing to realize that Barbara was 48 years old at the time. That must have been quite unusual in those days.