Mining for Ancestors on the Ellis Island Website

If you have 19th or 20th century immigrant family who arrived in New York, you most likely have checked out the website.  There is a passenger search button in the upper right corner of the home page. I’ve visited this website a number of times, but have only searched for a select few known family members.

I decided to expand my horizons a bit because some, not all, of the passenger entries give very specific town names as the place of origin for each family. Since I know the family names and places where they lived, I can enter the names and then scan the towns of origin in hopes of finding some distant relatives.

My grandmother’s family names were Scerbak, Murcko and Patorai, but I know quite a bit about many of them already so instead I am going to focus on “Kucharik” and an alternate spelling of “Kuharik” since the Ellis Island site doesn’t work with wild cards.

Kucharik isn’t a terribly common surname, but it isn’t rare either. In Slovak, “kuchar” is “cook.” My Kucharik family is small and they mainly lived in the villages of Okruzna, Also Sebes and Felso Sebes, today known as Vysna Sebastova, a few miles east of Presov.

Searching the spelling “Kucharik” brought up the largest number of hits, but there was only one of interest.

Janos Kucharik was from “Alsoscbes, Russia.” The passenger manifest list is hard to read, but details included the fact that Janos had been to Pittsburgh, PA in 1905. He was a farm laborer and on this trip he was going to stay with his brother, Matyas Kucharik, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The street address given was 568 Hillside Avenue.

This is probably his brother’s World War II draft registration card. Notice that he is only living a couple of blocks away at 725 Hillside Avenue:

Matthew Andy Kuharik

In spite of finding his information, I have found no records – birth or marriage – near Presov that might fit either of these two brothers. However, given that the Kucharik family near Vysna Sebastova is quite small, my first guess would be that these might be second cousins of my great grandfather, Stefan Kucharik, born in 1855.

The other two entries in the Ellis Island database were for two young women, Anna and Maria Kuharik. Maria arrived first, in 1905 from “T. Sebes.” The “T” is probably a misreading of an “F.” Anna came in 1913 from “F. Sebes, Hungary.”

Maria “Kuharik” arrived on 24 August 1905. She was single and aged 20, on her way to the home of her brother-in-law, Janos (John) Stipkala,  in Cloquet, Minnesota. Now, John Stipkala married Mary Kravjar on 9 February 1903 in West Superior, Wisconsin, which is a stone’s throw from Cloquet. Mary Kravjar was the daughter of Stephen Kravjar who married Anna Kucharik and lived in Nizna Sebastova, another name for Also Sebes. (Political border changes meant that town names also changed, depending on the government in power.)

I have not been able to find out how Maria Kucharik, nor can I readily identify Maria’s parents. However, I am sure there is a family tie here because my Stephen Kucharik lived at Szengeto #2. Stefan and Anna (Kucharik) Kravjar lived at Szengeto #5.

Anna Kuharik arrived from Bremen, Germany on 15 March 1913. The passenger manifest names her father as Mihaly (Michael) Kuharik and Anna is headed to Superior, Wisconsin, the same general area (only 20 miles from Cloquet) in which Maria Kuharik went to five years earlier.

This Anna Kucharik is likely the daughter of Michael and Susanna (Magnus) Kucharik and she was born on 8 October 1894 in Okruzna, Slovakia. As with Janos and Maria Kucharik, I am certain there is a family tie to my Stephen because Michael and Susanna Kucharik were living at Szengeto #1 when Anna and her siblings were born.

Also, my Stephen had a brother, Michael, born in 1859. He is the perfect age to be a father of several children born in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Michael and Susanna’s first known child was born in 1880 so they likely married in 1879. No marriage record was found for them in Roman Catholic registers and the Greek Catholic register for Okruzna seems to have some pages missing as the only marriages recorded there in that year were in February. Unfortunately, I have not yet found any other records for Anna in the United States or back in Slovakia.

If you haven’t tried looking for immigrants with the same family surnames as yours who named the same towns and villages as your ancestors’ homes, then you might be missing a great opportunity to find new distant cousins here in the United States. I still have work to do on these Kuchariks, but I have no doubt that I will discover more clues and possibly be able to prove the direct relationship to my Stephen.

I was able to pick up the trail of the family of John Stipkala and Mary Kravjar (whose mother was Anna Kucharik), but that story is for another day.


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