Life wasn’t always easy for Andrej Daniel, one of my four Slovak great-great-grandparents. Born in relative comfort, Andrej lost his father when he was a young boy. For the rest of his life, he moved from town to town, living in other people’s houses. He was taken in by relatives as a child and eventually sent off to work as a servant. While he did manage to marry twice – first to a young woman Anna Filak and then, after Anna’s death, to a middle aged widow named Barbara Macka – Andrej always lived under his in-laws’ roof.
From his two marriages, Andrej had ten children by my count. Four of them died young. But two of them emigrated to America, bequeathing to his descendants a prosperity Andrej never knew.
I descend from Andrej’s second marriage. Their one daughter, my great grandmother Maria (Mary) Daniel, was born in June 1880 when Andrej was 46 and Barbara was 47 years old.
Maria emigrated to America in 1895, settling in Raritan, New Jersey. Only recently, I learned that her half-brother, also named Andrej, came to America in the late 1880s. He spent some years in Pennsylvania before settling in Garfield, New Jersey.
Andrej’s early years in Žehňa and Obišovce
Andrej Daniel was born in Žehňa, Upper Hungary (the town’s Hungarian name was Zsegnye) in 1834. Like all my Slovak ancestors, he was raised in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Žehňa is the seat of an old, established parish.
I found Andrej in the Žehňa church records, available online. According to an entry in the church’s metrical books, recorded in Latin, Andrej (Andreas) was born on May 18, 1834. His father, also named Andrej, was a landowning farmer (colonus), which had a relatively high status at a time when Hungary was still transitioning out of feudalism (although, from the record, it looks like many of the farmers in Žehňa were coloni). Andrej Sr. was born in Obišovce (known in Hungarian as Abos), which is where my Slovak ancestors went to church.
Andrej’s mother, according to the record, was Alžbeta (Elizabetha) Fagulya, a native of Žehňa. But there is a confusing discrepancy here. In Andrej’s two marriage records, his mother is identified as Alžbeta Minar. I can’t explain the reason for this inconsistency but, in light of all the evidence, I’m pretty sure I have Andrej’s actual birth record. Later records show that Andrej grew up in Obišovce at house number 45. I have a death record for Alžbeta Fagulya Daniel dated January 1854 showing that she too lived at Obišovce 45. And the 1869 Magyar Census shows a family named Daniel living at that address.
Andrej Sr. died on February 6, 1839 at the age of 29; the cause of death was not recorded. Andrej Jr. was only four years old. As far as I know, he was an only child. Before long, mother and child left Žehňa and moved in with the Daniel family in Obišovce.
Alžbeta died on January 21, 1854, making Andrej an orphan at the age of 19. There is no evidence that she ever remarried.
A new life in Trebejov
Around this time, Andrej was sent to Trebejov (the Hungarian name was Terebö) to work as a servant. Trebejov, a tiny village with under 200 inhabitants, was the ancestral home of my Sabol ancestors. One of Andrej’s new neighbors was a young woman named Anna Filak.
Anna was born and raised in Trebejov. From her birth record, dated February 4, 1838, we see that she was the daughter of Andrej Filak and Maria Mazak, landowning farmers (coloni) living at Trebejov 14. They attended the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Obišovce.
Andrej and Anna were married on November 23, 1857. From the wedding record, written in Hungarian, we see that Andrej was 23 and Anna was 19. The ceremony was witnessed by Juraj Horensky, a landownding farmer, and Maria Rudies Feczko, a tenant farmer.
The wedding record provides some insight into Andrej’s difficult early life. In the fourth column of line 8, we have confirmation that Andrej’s father was already “the late” (nehai) Andrej Daniel. We know that his mother died in 1854, making Andrej an orphan at the age of 19. But the wedding record refers to Alžbeta Minar, who was apparently still alive. Was she his guardian? In the third column, we see that young Andrej was raised (nevelt) in Obišovce but had been working since the age of 18 as a servant (szolga) in Trebejov at house number 22.
Over the next two decades, Andrej and Anna had at least nine children. Four of these, tragically, died in childhood.
A census return from the 1869 Magyar Census provides an interesting snapshot into Andrej’s family life. We see that Andrej was living in the house of his in-laws, the Filak family, at Trebejov 14. Altogether, there were nine people living there. Anna’s mother Maria, by then a widow, was the head of the household. Anna’s younger sister Maria was also living there along with an infant named Anna Simko.
There were six members of the Daniel family living at Trebejov 14 – Andrej, Anna and their four living children: the twins Jan and Alžbeta (5 years old), Anna (4) and Andrej (1). It’s hard to make out much of the handwriting, but in column 13 of the chart below we see that Andrej and Anna could not read or write.
The household was relatively prosperous, with a barn and a large selection of livestock. Andrej may not have been head of his own household, but at least he was comfortable.
In a few years, however, tragedy would strike the family. Anna Filak Daniel passed away in November 1877 at the age of 39. Her death record is lost so we don’t know what the cause of death was.
Starting over in Kysak
About a year after Anna’s death, on January 12, 1879, Andrej married Barbara Macka Chovan (also spelled Hovan), another recent widow. Barbara’s husband Michal Chovan was a soldier who died only two months earlier. While this seems startling today, it was not unusual for bereaved spouses to remarry so quickly. Family survival would have depended on it.
Barbara lived in the nearby town of Kysak. The Chovans had at least six children but the 1879 marriage record only mentions two: Andrej (born 1854) and Jan (born 1873). I wrote about Jan Hovan in an earlier post. He also emigrated to the United States and lived for a time with my great-grandparents.
Once again, Andrej moved into his wife’s home. My great-grandmother’s birth record from June 1880 shows the couple living at Kysak 4. It’s not clear if Andrej brought his five children with him. If he did, the house would have been awfully crowded.
I don’t know much about Andrej after 1880. I had access to church records through 1896 and couldn’t find a death record. If Andrej was still alive in the mid-1890s, he would have been in his sixties. He would have lived long enough to see two children move away to the New World, forever.