Keeping track of the Sabols of Raritan, N.J.

My grandmother Anna Sabol was the second-born child of Andrej (Andrew) Sabol and Maria (Mary) Daniel, immigrant parents of Slovak descent. I always assumed that the other members of the Sabol family stayed behind in the old country and that my grandmother never knew her grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. But it turns out the Sabol family was well represented in Anna’s hometown of Raritan, N.J. My grandmother grew up knowing a surprisingly large extended family.

From census records and Google searches, I noticed that there were other families named Sabol in Raritan. One person who instantly caught my eye was Andrew Sabol, Jr. A year younger than my great-grandfather, Andrew Jr. lived in the neighborhood and even signed my great-grandparents’ 1896 wedding certificate as a witness. After a fair amount of sleuthing, I figured out that Andrew and Andrew Jr. were cousins. I wrote about the “other Andrew Sabol” in an earlier post.

As for the many other Sabols in Raritan, I just supposed they shared a common last name. But then someone named Ken Sabol wrote to me on this blog:

John:

Thanks for all the great research. I’m going on a roots trip to Slovakia this September–and–amazingly–we have some of the same ancestors. My father, Jan Sabol, Jr., was the son of your grandfather Andrew’s younger brother, Jan. Jan lived on 3rd Street in Raritan, NJ and was married to Elizabeth Ahercik. Both attended the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, where my father (1910-1998) was baptized. My mother, nee Anna Tkacik, was born in Trebejov in 1912 (died 1998), daughter of Mikhail (1889-1962) and Mary (1889-1946) (nee Mazak) Tkacik. Her grandfather, also Mikhail Tkacik (died 1925) was also one of the founders of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Raritan.

All were from the same villages you visited and probably attended the church in Obisovce. Your work is invaluable to me as I even have the name of the church where my grandparents birth and marriage records are kept.

With gratitude,

Ken Sabol

I haven’t been able to connect with Ken although I still hope to. (Ken, if you’re reading this, send me an email at johnkowal@mac.com!) But his email opened the door to discovering what happened to a number of Sabol family members who I assumed my great-grandfather left behind.

My great-grandfather Andrej Sabol (1872-1938) was the second of five children. His parents Jan Sabol (1834-1895) and Alžbeta (Elisa) Filak (1843-1921) lived in the small village of Trebejov in the Upper Hungary region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Slovakia). Elisa was literally the girl next door. Jan’s father Michal was her godfather. The couple married in 1867 and Elisa moved in with the Sabol family in their small house at Trebejov 11. They made their livelihoods as farmers, growing crops and raising livestock on an adjacent parcel of land.

Jan Sabol Family ChartWhile their young family remained unscathed when a cholera epidemic swept through in 1873, they tragically lost their oldest child Jan in 1875 – two days after the birth of their daughter Alžbeta. Jan was five years old. In the metrical book kept by the family church in nearby Obišovce, the cause of death was recorded as convulsions or seizures (görcsölben in the official Hungarian). Two more sons would follow: Jan (born 1878) and Michal (1880). (As morbid as it seems today, in that time and place it was fairly common to name a child after an earlier sibling who died.)

In 1890 or 1891, Andrej emigrated to America, leaving behind his parents and three living siblings. He settled in Raritan, home to a burgeoning immigrant community centered around the First Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church (now St. Paul’s). His cousin Andrej Jr. joined him there around the same time. The two cousins would soon marry young women from back home: in 1896 my great-grandfather married Maria Daniel, from the neighboring town of Kysak; and in 1898 Andrej Jr. would marry Alžbeta Daniel (no relation), who hailed from Obišovce.

Back home in Trebejov, tragedy struck on New Year’s Eve 1895 when Jan Sabol was found frozen to death under a train overpass in Trebejov. In the late 1800s, a major rail line was constructed right alongside the town, passing less than 50 meters from the family farm. According to the death certificate, Jan was then working for the railroad as a day laborer. He was 61 years old.

Death certificate for my great-great-grandfather Jan Sabol, who died on Dec. 31, 1895 of gelation (freezing to death). Click to enlarge.

Death certificate for my great-great-grandfather Jan Sabol, who died on Dec. 31, 1895 of gelation (freezing to death). Click to enlarge.

A few years later, in 1901 or 1902, Jan’s widow Elisa (then nearly 60) and her two youngest sons Jan and Michal decided to join Andrej in America. I have the approximate date from census returns, but I have not been able to locate the actual immigration records.

It is not clear whether Alžbeta joined them. She would have turned 26 in 1901 and may have been married by then. It can be difficult tracing women in the paper record without knowing their married name. But there is one distressing clue in a census record from 1910 that suggests a different fate: Elisa says she had only three surviving children. So did Alžbeta die young?

In the New Jersey state archives, I was able to locate a marriage record for Michal (now using the English name Michael). On September 26, 1903 he married Anna Estvanik, a native of Kysak, at the Church of the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic church in Raritan. Michael was 21, Anna 18. It’s the first interfaith union I have come across in the Sabol family tree – evidence perhaps of America’s melting pot effect.

Census records indicate that Jan (now going by John) was married in 1902 or thereabouts. His wife was Alžbeta (Elizabeth) Ahercik. I did not find a marriage record in the archive. Perhaps they married back at the church in Obišovce?

John’s and Michael’s families appear in four successive censuses (1910-1940), living in the same house within blocks of brother Andrew and cousin Andrew Jr. Their mother – my great-great-grandmother Elisa – also lived with them.

In the 1920 census, for example, we see three Sabol households living on 3rd Street in Raritan, probably living in different apartments in the same house:

  • John and Elizabeth Sabol and their four children: Margaret (age 14), John Jr. (9), Rudolph (6) and Milton (10 months). John worked as a laborer for the railroad (just like his father Jan and brother Andrew) and daughter Margaret was already working at a lace factory (my grandmother similarly left school early to support the family).
  • Michael and Elizabeth Sabol and their three children: Michael Jr. (14), Anna (9) and Charles (4). Michael worked for the railroad as a hostler, an engineer who drives locomotives short distances for cleaning or repair (a far better gig than his two older brothers managed to land). Mother Elisa (now 78) lived with them.
  • A widower named George Sabol (46) with his four children: George Jr. (14), Dorothy (13), Anna (11) and Edward (8). Judging by his age, it is likely that George is the older brother of Andrew Sabol, Jr. – and my great-grandfather’s cousin.
1920 census record showing households of John, Michael and Goerge Sabol. Click to enlarge.

1920 census record showing households of John, Michael and George Sabol on 3rd Street in Raritan, N.J. Click to enlarge.

Within a year, Elisa would be dead. From her death certificate in the New Jersey state archives we see that the cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage. The record indicates she was buried at the New Cemetery in Somerville, where I found my great-grandparents’ grave. That time I visited, I photographed a tombstone that caught my eye. It marked the final resting place of two young children – John and Mary Sabol – and someone named Elizabeth Filak who died in 1921. Could this be her grave? Seems pretty likely.

Grave marker from the New Cemetery, Somerville, N. J. Could Elizabeth Filak be my great-great-grandmother Elisa Sabol (nee Filak) who also died in 1921?

Grave marker from the New Cemetery, Somerville, N. J. Could Elizabeth Filak be my great-great-grandmother Elisa Sabol (nee Filak) who also died in 1921? I suspect so.

It would be great to connect with the descendants of these other Sabol families and to learn more about my great-grandfather’s brothers and cousins who emigrated to America. Maybe someone even has a photo of my great-grandfather. I would love to see what he looked like.

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