George Kucharik aka George R. Sabo

Today is the 78th anniversary of the death of my paternal grandfather, George Kucharik, aka George R. Sabo. I never knew him because he died sixteen years before I was born. My grandmother, Julia, loved him very much – she wanted to be buried with her wedding band on – and said he was a wonderful, kind, loving man. They both adored their only child, my father, who was named for his father.

Here is the story of my grandfather so he won’t be lost to history.

George Kucharik was the seventh of eight children born to Stephen and Mary Kacsenyak Kucharik. I have written before about my great grandparents.  Three of Stephen and Mary’s children were born in Vysna Sebastova, near Presov, Slovakia before the family emigrated to the United States: Son John was born 25 Aug 1877. Daughter Mary was born 15 Jan 1881, followed by Anna born 4 Feb 1885, but who died soon.

They first lived in Delano, Pennsylvania, but attended St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in nearby Mahanoy City. Another daughter, also named Anna, was born 18 Apr 1889, in Pennsylvania,, then son George, born 24 May 1893 and youngest son, Stephen, born 18 February 1897, both born in Delano. Somewhere in the gaps, Mary lost two more children.

George’s Baptismal Certificate

By 1900, the family had moved to Passaic, New Jersey and are found in the census there. Stephen worked for the railroad and perhaps saw more opportunity in Passaic, which is only about 15 miles from New York City.

Family of Stephen Kuharik, 70 First St., Passaic, NJ, 1900

 Here are the George and Steve with, I think, brother John who died 1910-1915, probably in Passaic, New Jersey.

George, Stephen and ?John Kucharik-Sabo, c1908

Details about this family are hard to come by. My grandmother was fond of her mother-in-law, Mary, but she didn’t care much for George’s father or his siblings. By all accounts, my great grandfather was a bit difficult.

Passaic was an industrial city, full of factories and work. Many Slovaks gravitated to the area around St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church, today St. Michael’s Cathedral, because of the large ethnic neighborhood. All of the immigrant families rented space in two- or three- family homes and they moved around often. The Kuchariks were no different.

I have no idea who took these photos, but they look very much like a friend or neighbor had a camera and took pictures of them at home. As poor as they were, they embraced the American dream of a better life and determined that their children would have a better life than they did. Stephen and Mary’s children all had the opportunity to attend school. My grandmother kept my grandfather’s school certificate; I found it among her old papers and photos when she passed away.

George Sabo’s School Certificate, 1907

Have you notice the surname change for my grandfather? In the 1900 census, the family was enumerated as “Kuharik,” which actually was misspelled “Kucharik.” Somewhere along the line, the family stopped using their legal surname (which means “Cook” in Slovak) and adopted the surname “Sabo,” which means “tailor” in Hungarian.

I had no idea this had happened until 1980 when I mailed away for copies of my grandparents’ marriage record at St. Michael’s and from the state of New Jersey. Neither the church nor the state had a record for George Sabo marrying Julia Scerbak on 6 September 1915. When I asked my grandmother why no record was found, she said, “Because the family name was Kucharik!” I was dumbfounded. When I mailed out new requests, both the church and the state sent copies of the marriage record.

I have never found any court papers indicating that Stephen legally changed the family name and I don’t think he did. First, Stephen and Mary worked at unskilled labor jobs. They didn’t have the money to pay court costs for name changes. Second, the fact that George gave his true name, Kucharik, at the time of his marriage indicates that the name was only used socially. Even the church record states his name as George Kucharik.

Kuharik, Scerbak Marriage Certificate
St. Michael’s Marriage Record

George and Julia Sabo Wedding Picture
George and Julia on their wedding day

After George and Julia married, they rented homes in Garfield and Passaic, the chosen neighborhoods for many immigrants from Julia’s home village of Ujak (today Udol.) Like many of her friends, Julia worked in Passaic’s factories.

George became a butcher and, by 1930, he was in a partnership with my grandmother’s brother, Peter Scerbak, and two other men. They owned Central Market Market and Julia also worked in the store.

Amazingly, the meat market continued to prosper through the Great Depression. A friend of my grandmother’s, Anna Stanchak, attended Julia’s funeral in 1985. I asked her how she came to know my grandmother. Anna said that she was forever indebted to her because my grandparents hired her as their maid during the Depression. My immigrant family was living the American dream.

Likely one of the last happy events my grandparents experienced as a family was the 10th birthday party they hosted for my father, George, Jr., in February 1936.

George Sabo Birthday Dinner Announcement
George Sabo Birthday Party, 1936

I never asked my grandmother (Nana) how long my grandfather was ill with tuberculosis. In any case, he passed away on 27 November 1936 at Valley View Sanatarium in Haledon, Passaic County, New Jersey.

George Szabo Death Certificate
St. Michael’s Death Certificate

George was buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery in South Hackensack, Bergen County, New Jersey on 30 November 1936.

Sabo Headstone
St. Michael’s Cemetery, South Hackensack, NJ

On December 3, 1936, Julia’s card of thanks was published in the Passaic Herald News:

Card of Thanks
Card of Thanks from Julia

By the way, George Kucharik became George R. Sabo. What did the “R” stand for? I asked Julia. She said it stood for nothing. My grandfather didn’t have a middle name, but he thought having a middle initial was more distinguished so he added “R” to his name.

R.I.P. Grandfather George. You aren’t forgotten.


What Books Would You Have in Your Basic Genealogy Reference Library?

No genealogist can have too many books. However, practically speaking, with cost and space considerations, a serious genealogist would want reference books in his/her collection that obviously stand the test of time in terms of written quality. I am suggesting that a beginning genealogist also keep in mind books that will allow future personal growth. When the ladies in Kin Seekers, my welcome club genealogy interest group, ask about reference books in general, I often mention the same books time and again.

These books would fit perfectly into the reference collection of a genealogist, whether they be a beginner or a professional. While these choices are geared towards a more experienced researcher, a beginner can grow into them as they develop genealogical research skills.

As with the free websites recommended in yesterday’s post, these books are in no particular order.  Instead of links, as most will go to somewhere to purchase the book and I’m only suggesting quality books for a collection, not recommending the purchase of any one individual book, there are images of the book covers.

1. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, 3rd Edition by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, Ancestry Publishing, 2006.

2. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 2nd Edition by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2012.

3. Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses by William Dollarhide, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1995.

4. Courthouse Research for the Family Historian: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures by Christine Rose, CR Publications, 2004.

5. The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors by Marsha Hoffman Rising, Family Tree Books, updated in 2011.

6. Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case by Christine Rose, CR Publications, 2009.

7. Professional Genealogy: A Manuel for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001

8. 19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide by Gary W. Clark,, 2013.

Like with my recommendations for the top ten free websites, I am leaving #9 and #10 open for specialty interests. Possibilities might include ethnic handbooks, a guide to genealogy and DNA, how to create family history books using multimedia  or a research book on incorporating all the social media and new technological advances applicable to genealogy research. These types of books likely would not having the staying power of the other eight books because of the topics involved.

What are your own top ten essential books for a reference library?


My Top Genealogy Free Websites

When I moved to Tucson four years ago, one of the first things I did was look for a local genealogy society. Finding none, but having joined a ladies’ welcome club, I decided to organize one through the club. Four years later, I am proud to say that I have created new genealogy addicts. We meet regularly once a month and, while all except me were newbies when we organized, we now have a nice mix of somewhat seasoned researchers who have learned how to search for the next person in their family trees.

Aside from having lots of time to research together when we meet, I also teach a mini-lesson on a general genealogy topic each month. I am often asked about both websites and research books that I would recommend. Today’s post covers my top ten recommendations, in no particular order, for free research:

1. – It goes without saying that this should be a starting and continuing resource for any serious researcher.

2. Cyndi’s List – Cyndi’s List is a reference guide for finding websites of for any particular genealogical topic or area of interest.

3. US Gen Web – US Gen Web, organized by state and counties, has varying amounts of fabulous information contributed by volunteers. Some information is readily found elsewhere, while other tidbits are unique to the site. The categories of information vary widely from locale to locale because the site is volunteer-driven. However, a visit to places of interest is well worth the time.

4. Chronicling America – The Library of Congress project, Chronicling America, digitizing historical American newspapers, is worth frequent visits as more newspapers are added to the project. Newspapers have traditionally been underused as a genealogical resource because it if often difficult to access them. Chronicling America has removed that problem.

5. Olive Tree Genealogy – This website has tons of links, many of which go to free websites, covering many less easily found sources of information. The highlight, in my opinion, are all the sources for ships’ passenger lists for both the U.S. and Canada.

6. DAR Library – The DAR Library is one of the premier genealogy libraries in the United States. Even if you has no ancestor who gave service during the American Revolution, the library likely has records for places where your family lived. The GRS (Genealogical Research System) database is available on line. If you think you might have a patriot, the ancestor database can also be searched on line. If you are able to visit the library in person, DAR recently dropped the admission fee for non-DAR members, so entrance is now free.

7. Google Books – Google Books is a terrific way to read genealogical books whose copyright has ended or whose author/compiler has given permission to share the work digitally. Obscure volumes often found only in libraries might well be found on Google.

8. FindAGrave – FindAGrave is a terrific resource, particularly for finding family members who lived in the 20th century. Care should be taken to note whether a gravestone has been transcribed and a photo posted or whether someone has simply created a memorial to a person who may or may not be buried in a particular cemetery.

Two slots on this list should be reserved for topic- or place-specific information often used by the family historian. In my case, I would include:

9. PANB (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick)- I have so many New Brunswick connections that I would be light years further behind in my Canadian research without this site.

10. Statens Arkiver (Danish National Archives) – The Danish National Archives is another site on which I have found so much information and which is free. It contains digital images of Danish parish registers covering time spans well into the 20th century, along with Danish census images. Probate files are currently being added. I would not have found my great grandmother’s family in Denmark without this website.

I have posted a number of articles covering free resources, including some spectacular state libraries and archives  and local government level sites. Check them out and please comment on your own Top Ten Favorite Free Websites.

Come back tomorrow for my recommendations of Top Ten Genealogy Books for a basic reference collection.