In January 1870, a census taker named Kalmány arrived in the small rural village of Kysak in the region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire known as Upper Hungary (present day Slovakia). He was hired to collect information for the 1869 Magyar Census, an ambitious effort to collect demographic data for regions under the control of the Hungarian Crown.
Kysak, known in Hungarian as Kőszeg or Saroskőszeg, is one of my ancestral hometowns. My great-grandmother Maria (Mary) Daniel was born there in June 1880. Today it is a town of 1,400 residents, best known as an important railway junction.
In earlier posts, I wrote about my review of census records from the neighboring village of Trebejov, the ancestral home of my Sabol ancestors. I analyzed census returns for the household of Michal Sabol, my third great-grandfather, and his son Jan Sabol, my second-great grandfather. I also looked at the census record of Andrej Daniel, another second great-grandfather, who was then living with his first wife Anna Filak. After Anna’s death in 1877, Andrej would marry my second great-grandmother Barbara Macka, another recent widow who lived in Kysak. At the time of the 1869 census, Barbara was living with her first husband Michal Hovan in a house with the address Kysak 4.
The census returns consisted of a four-page questionnaire. These forms captured data on each person living in a particular house along with information about the house itself (number of rooms, whether there was a cellar or barn). Since most people lived on farms in those days, the form also included an inventory of livestock. These records, available on microfilm through the Family History Library, provide a remarkable snapshot of life in Kysak.
From two summary data pages printed in Hungarian (see below), we see that Kysak had 494 residents living in 43 households (házszám). This figure included 9 Roma (or Gypsies) who had a camp in the village, and 85 people living in military barracks guarding the train station and a bridge over the Hornad River. Household size ranged from 3 to 28 people. The Hovan household (see line 4) had 15 residents.
From columns 30 and 31, we see that most of the residents were denoted as family members (családtag) but more than a third of the households also had servants (cseléd) – probably orphans or children handed over by families too poor to raise them. There were 38 servants living in Kysak – about 8% of the total population. Does this mean that Kysak was relatively prosperous? Or was it a reflection of local poverty? Either way, the Hovan household did not have servants.
In just about every case, the houses had two main rooms – a living room (elöszoba) and a bedroom (szoba). Most houses also had a pantry (kamra). Only one house in the village – Kysak 9 – had an indoor kitchen (konyha).
Some large households, including the Hovans’, had more than one house on the property. Since this was farm country, most had stalls for livestock (istálló). Some had toolsheds (félszer szin) or barns (csür). Only the fanciest houses had cellars (pinczér) or storehouses (raktár). The Hovans were the only folks in town to own a sheepfold (akol).
All the houses in Kysak were used for residential purposes – we see there were no shops (bolt) and columns 28 and 29 confirm that the houses were used only for living and not for business (üzletre). I’m guessing that the nearby town of Obišovce, site of the local church, was also the commercial center.
From the individual household questionnaires in the file (excluding the barracks), we also see that Kysak’s religious make up broke down as follows: 246 Evangelical Lutherans (including the family of Barbara Macka Hovan), 146 Roman Catholics, two Greek Catholics, one Swiss Evangelical Lutheran and nine Jews. The residents of the barracks, who came from other parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were almost all Roman Catholics with a sprinkling of other faiths.
There was a schedule for aliens showing that there were 20 residents who came from other parts of the Empire: Poles, Czechs, Moravians, Silesians and Austrians. For the most part, they lived in the military barracks.
The census taker counted military personnel on a separate schedule. In Kysak, 19 men were currently enlisted in the army: 2 were on active duty (tettleges szolgálatban távol van), 17 were on leave (szabadságos) and 3 were reservists (tartalékos). There were also 22 veterans in Kysak: 6 non-commissioned officers (altiszt) and 16 soldiers (közlegény). One of these veterans was Michal Hovan, Barbara’s husband, residing at Kysak 4. We see from the record that he was an ordinary soldier. It’s not clear when he served.
In a future post, I’ll take a look at the census return for the Hovan family which sheds some light on the life of my second great-grandmother Barbara Macka.