If you read my story from yesterday, you know how the second part of the title of this post came to be – Stephen Kucharik, my great grandfather, decided to change the family surname long after they emigrated to America, finally settling in Passaic, New Jersey.
My newly found cousin, Judy, and I started to piece together as many records on this family as we could. A definite handicap was the fact that Okruzna parish records begin around 1815. There is a slight variation between start dates for births, marriages and deaths and it appears that at least one of those early registers has been lost to time.
The plus side of this work is that the family is small, although we did find miscellaneous Kuchariks here and there that are undoubtedly related to our Stephen and George. On the minus side, our ancestors were peasant farmers. They struggled to live, owned no property and certainly didn’t leave wills. I doubt most of them even knew how to read or write. Perhaps some could sign their names.
I had done minimal work on flushing out Stephen Kucharik’s other family members. When Judy contacted me a couple of months ago, I knew the following:
John Kucharik married Maria Repka, 11 August 1849. John was the son of George Kucharik and Anna Miklus, baptized on 28 November 1820 in Okruzna. Their marriage record doesn’t include any parental names. There were three Maria Repkas born 1820-130, but my Maria gave her age as 20 when she married. Her birthplace was the village of Varallya. That fit the birth record of the daughter of Stephen Repka and Elizabeth Gulyas, baptized on 8 January 1829. John and Maria settled into married life in Szengeto, house #2.
John Kucharik and Maria Repka had the following children:
- John, baptized 22 October 1849
- Stephen, baptized 17 February 1855; died 4 June 1933, Wallington, Passaic, New Jersey
- Michael, baptized 18 June 1859
- Maria, baptized 12 October 1861
John had apparently died some time between the birth of daughter Mary and 1864, as John and Mary Repka Tomko lived at Szengeto #2 when Mary gave birth to their child in 1864. Although I looked more than once, no burial record was found for John and no marriage record was found for John Tomko and Maria Repka. That is pretty much where I had left things after my initial discovery in 2011 of Stephen Kucharik in his home village.
Judy had limited information about her ancestors, George Kucharik and Barbara Merchely. That information was basically some birth information and names of their children. George Kucharik was baptized on 1 April 1830, the son of George Kucharik and Anna Lukats.
- John, born 6 August 1859
- Anna, baptized 3 June 1862
- Michael, born 20 October 1864
- Maria, born 7 February 1867
Judy noticed that the baptismal record for George and Anna’s son, John, born August 1859 noted that they lived at the same address as John and Maria, whose son Michael had been baptized in June 1859 – Szengeto #2.
Next step was to abstract the Kucharik records from the Okzruna (Greek Catholic) and Nizna Sebastova (Roman Catholic) church registers. There were family members living in several small villages in the Okruzna church parish, but our family was mainly in Szengeto.
My working theory was that since our common George and John Kucharik families shared the same dwelling place for well over a decade (and perhaps much longer), they were likely closely related in some way.
Marriage records didn’t go back far enough, but there were several records for a father named George Kucharik before 1840. Dates are of the child’s baptism, followed by the parents’ names and sponsors:
Anna, 20 Jan 1815, George Kucharik & Anna Pelehat, John Kravjar & Anna Batsa
John, 8 Nov 1816, George Kucharik & Anna Batsa, John Kravjar & Anna Vavrek
John, 28 Nov 1820, George Kucharik & Anna Miklus, John Kravjar & Anna Vavrek
George, 1 Apr 1830, George Kucharik & Anna Lucats, John Kravjar, Anna Orsulyak and Andreas Vavrek
All these records indicated that these people all lived in Szengeto, which you need to remember consisted of one short road.
There were also two marriages of interest:
Anna Kucharik married John Kravjar, 12 Nov 1833. She was the daughter of George Kucharik and Anna Lucats.
Maria Kucharik married Michael Koszsel, 21 Sept 1841. She was the daughter of George Kucharik and Anna Miklus.
If you haven’t already noticed, each of the children found in the baptismal records had John Kravjar as a godparent. Then in 1833, George’s daughter, Anna, married a John Kravjar, possibly the son of the godparent. To me, this is a strong clue that this George Kucharik is one man and that he married (at least) three times, each to a woman named Anna.
I also think that the record for Anna who married John Kravjar named her father correctly, but that the priest simply wrote in the name of George’s current wife as her mother, when in reality Anna Lucats was her step mother. No burial records have been found for any adult Anna Kucharik.
Pestilence epidemics swept through this area every few years, based on the months of burials that all give cause of death as smallpox or cholera. It is likely that the priest might have forgotten to record the names of some of the dead. Sadly, he was too busy burying them.
How does the Tomko name fit into this story? Remember, John Kucharik had apparently died after his child was born in 1858 and before 1864 when his wife, Maria Repka, and her then husband, John Tomko welcomed their son into the world.
However, all was not as it seems. I hope you’ll come back to hear how the final puzzle pieces were put into place.