In the space of a year, I have made a lot of progress researching my mother’s side of the family. I have traced the ancestry of my maternal grandfather Harry Agin back to my fourth great-grandfather James Agin (1759-1836), a farmer from central New Jersey who fought as a teenager in the Revolutionary War. And I can trace the lineage of my maternal grandmother Anna Sabol all the way back to my fourth great-grandfather Michal Sabol (1775-1833), a tailor from the village of Trebejov, Slovakia.
But I still know frustratingly little about my mother’s aunts, uncles and grandparents – people who may have still been living when I was born.
From census records, I know that Harry Agin was the third of eight surviving children of Jacob Sylvester Agin and Mathilde (Tillie) Miller. Jacob was born and raised in New Jersey while Tillie came to America with her mother at a young age. The couple had two other offspring who died before 1900 and were not enumerated in any census.
The census records also show that Anna Sabol was the second of six surviving children of Andrej (Andrew) Sabol and Maria (Mary) Daniel, both Slovak immigrants. The Sabols had three other children who died young. They were noted in census but not recorded by name.
But after much searching, I still don’t know how long my four great-grandparents lived (apart from Mary Sabol who lived until the late 1960s) or where they are buried. And the lives of my grandparents’ siblings have been, for the most part, shrouded in mystery.
My sister Cathy and I visited the New Jersey state archive in Trenton to search for vital records, but this was less helpful than I had hoped. While we did manage to find a birth certificate for Harry Agin, we couldn’t find one for any of his brothers and sisters. None of the Sabol children had publicly available birth certificates either. There were no death certificates for the children noted in the census forms. And there was no marriage certificate on file for Jacob Agin and Tillie Miller, although I did locate one for Andrew Sabol and Mary Daniel.
The trip did yield these few clues about Harry’s siblings:
- Ada Agin married James Cronen, a chauffeur from Manhattan, in 1920. The marriage record shows that the couple was married by Rev. J. A. Dewald. A Google research revealed that he was pastor for many years at the Emanuel Lutheran Church in New Brunswick. (Was this the family church?) It appears that James Cronen died in 1964 but I don’t know how long Ada lived.
- Jacob Agin Jr. married Myrtle Goddard some time after the 1930 census, but the marriage was short lived. A death record shows that Myrtle died in February 1937, at the age of 26, from a heart ailment coupled with a blood infection. She was buried at Van Liew Cemetery in North Brunswick, where my grandparents were also buried. (Could the graves of Jacob and Tillie Agin be there too?) Again, I don’t know became of Jacob afterwards.
- Vivian Agin, the youngest child in the family, died tragically of pneumonia in October 1916. She was only three years and four months old.
We also found a death certificate for my grandmother’s older brother, Andrew Sabol Jr. He died of tuberculosis in March 1943 at the age of 43. leaving behind a wife named Mary and two sons, John and Richard. He was buried at the New Cemetery in Somerville, N.J. (Were my great-grandparents buried there too?)
I know from experience that newspaper obituaries are a great source of information. After searching online without much luck, I decided to make a quick trip down to my mother’s home town of New Brunswick, where the public library has back issues of local newspapers on microfilm.
It took only a few minutes to locate my grandfather’s obituary in the July 5, 1970 edition of The Home News. It revealed that three of his seven siblings were still alive and living in New Jersey: William Egan (why the different last name?) of Chadwick Beach, Mildred Zielinski of East Brunswick and a Mrs. Henry Baxter, who turns out to be Lillian, of Seaside Park. We can infer that Ada and Mary, along with Vivian mentioned above, were already deceased.
I quickly tracked down William Egan and Mildred Zielinski on the Social Security Death Index, which provides a date of death. With this information in hand, I was able to locate their obituaries too.
I found out that William Egan died of a heart attack in December 1977 while wintering in Marathon, Florida. He was 69 years old. (I remember attending his wake with my parents and grandmother, although I have no memory of ever meeting him while he was alive.) William owned the Egan Monument Co. in New Brunswick from 1951 until his retirement in 1963. He served in the Navy in World War II and later married Mary Kocsis. It appears that the couple did not have any children.
Mildred Zielinski died in June 1998 at the age of 86. She married a man named Stanley Zielinski and together they operated a small business in East Brunswick. After Stanley died in 1980, Mildred worked as a school crossing guard for a while. She spent the last six years of her life at the Roosevelt Care Center in Edison. Again, there is no mention of any surviving children.
I wasn’t able to find Lillian Baxter’s obituary, although the Find A Grave website lists a Lillian E. Baxter (1914-1984) buried at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Toms River, New Jersey – not far from Seaside Park. The year of birth is consistent with the census record so I’m guessing this is her. There is also a Joseph H. Baxter (1914-1999) buried there. Was this Henry?
Finally, I also found my grandmother’s obituary in the Sept. 11, 1988 edition of The Home News Tribune. It reveals that she had two siblings still living: Hermina Sabol of Beverly Hills, California (I wrote about meeting her in an earlier post) and Steve Sabol, who was still living in the family’s home town of Raritan, New Jersey. So it may be fair to conclude that Elizabeth and Ruth Sabol were already dead.
I could not find Hermina Sabol in the Social Security Death Index. But there were seven people named Steve or Stephen Sabol born in either 1917 or 1918. Perhaps one of these is my great uncle.
All in all, a fruitful day’s work. But there are still many unanswered questions. My next step will be to see if there are any church records available. I have already been in contact with the Sabols’ family church in Raritan. And I was able to take a peek at the Emanuel Lutheran Church, which was a block away from the library in downtown New Brunswick. The church was founded in 1873 to serve the city’s German speaking population, so I’m optimistic about my chances of finding something there.