Kucharik to Tomko to Kucharik to Sabo, Part 1

One of my hopes for 2016 is to connect with some new second or third cousins so we can share ancestral information. This is the first in a series of several posts detailing the Kucharik family from an area just east/northeast of Presov, Slovakia.

My maiden name is Sabo, but it should have been Kucharik, as my great grandfather, Stefan Kucharik, immigrated from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire to first Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania and then Passaic, New Jersey, decided sometime between 1910, and more likely 1915,  and 1920 to change the family name. No lawyer was consulted and no court papers were ever filed. The family simply began using the Sabo surname socially. My grandparents’ marriage record states the groom’s surname as “Kuharik.”

1900 “Kuharik” Family

1910 “Kukarik” Family

George Sabo Marriage
George Kuharik-Julia Scerbak Marriage Record, 1915

KucharikCrop31920 “Sobo” Family

Stefan Kucharik, wife Mary, and children emigrated to America in the 1880’s. From census data, it appears that Stefan came first in 1880 and then returned to Slovakia for at least a couple of years. By 1883, the young family left their home in Sebes for the last time.

“Sebes” is located in today’s Slovakia. With the flux in governmental rulers in that area of Europe, the villages were renamed more than once, making a good gazetteer a necessity for research. Today, what used to be Sebes consists of several small villages and towns that lie just east of Presov.

Today, Sebes includes an area that is today Vysna Sebastova and several other nearby villages.

Kucharik records are easily found on FamilySearch in the Slovak church and synagogue books, 1592-1910 collection. Births and baptisms have been indexed, but marriages and burials have not. To complicate matters, because of changing political boundaries, parish registers have details written in Latin, German, Hungarian and Russian. There are also a few lost/missing books in individual church records. On top of those issues, a double search often needs to be conducted because, although most residents in this area were Catholic, they were a mix of Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic and the families often intermarried. A marriage might be performed in the bride’s village at the Roman Catholic church, but she then went to live in her new husband’s village, where there was only a Greek Catholic church so their children were baptized there.

My Kucharik family doesn’t ever appear to have been very large to begin with. Infant mortality rates were very high and cholera, diphtheria, smallpox and other diseases paid  deadly visits every decade or so, decimating the population.

Finding my Kucharik family in Slovakia has been a fairly recent brick wall breakthrough for me, having located them in Okruzna church records in early 2011. I was thrilled when Judy, also a Kucharik descendant whose ancestors also lived in Okruzna, found me online. Yes, blogging about family lines does bring some success!

Because my Kucharik break through happened about the same time as my Johnson/Jensen break through in Copenhagen, most of my focus went towards expanding knowledge about my newly-found Scandinavian tree branch.

Judy’s email had me take a second, third and even fourth look at my Kuchariks. We have a strong working theory, but it turns out that the Kucharik to Sabo name change wasn’t the first name change in this family. By the way, I never would even have known that my maiden name of Sabo wasn’t Sabo at all if my grandmother had passed away before I tried to get a copy of her marriage certificate. (Short version of that story: No Sabo marriage record was found at the church or in NJ state records for George Sabo and Julia Scerbak. When I asked Nana about it, her offhand answer was “That’s because George’s name was Kucharik!” )

Judy and I have been scouring the village church registers looking for pieces of our puzzle. Her ancestors were George Kucharik, born 1830, and Barbara Merchely, married in 1857. My ancestors were John Kucharik, born 1820, and Maria Repka, married in 1849. They all lived in the village of Szengeto, today called Severna. I can’t find any population counts for Szengeto, but I doubt that even a hundred people lived there at any one time. Modern Severna consists of only one road. Its “big city” neighbor on its western border is Vysna Sebastova, which  has only about 1,000 inhabitants.

Thankfully, the early Okruzna church records, a parish which included Szengeto, sorted out all the people of the same name by noting which house they lived in. The families of both John and George Kucharik lived in Szengeto #2. There had to be a close connection.

John’s baptismal record, in 1820, named his parents as George Kucharik and Anna Miklus. George Kucharik’s parents, per his 1830 baptismal record, were George Kucharik and Anna Lukats.

Were the two Georges the same person, but with more than one marriage? Were the two Georges cousins, making John of 1820 and George of 1830 second cousins?

We decided to try to unravel the mystery. For the rest of the story, check back tomorrow.


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