Sometimes, the depth of details differs even when the same forms are filled in for two different people. Today’s documents are baptismal certificates used by the Greek Catholic churches in 1893. They are for my grandparents, Helena Anna (Julia) Scerbak and George Kucharik (Sabo). Julia was born on 17 August 1893 in Passaic, Passaic County, New Jersey and George was born on 24 May 1893 in Delano, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Both families were Greek Catholic. Julia’s baptism took place at St. Michael’s Church, today known as the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel. George was baptized at St. Mary’s Church in Mahanoy City, which borders Delano.
Helena Scerbak’s Baptismal Record
This information is quite easy to figure out, as it is arranged in columns. Nana was child #51 to be baptized, her dates of birth and baptism are given (although I admit I am not sure what the baptismal date is with the way it is written), place of birth is recorded, her parents’ names are given, the names of godparents are listed and the priest’s name is given.
I am lucky enough to be the keeper of this original certificate as well as the caretaker of my grandfather’s baptismal certificate. Before I share the image of his certificate, I need to state that Nana told me about her family’s ancestral home in Slovakia. Her family lived in the adjacent small villages of Ujak (today called Udol) and Hajtovka.
I never knew my paternal grandfather because he died of tuberculosis when my father was ten. If my grandmother ever knew the village from where the Kuchariks emigrated, she had long forgotten it. I am not sure she ever knew, though, because George was born in Pennsylvania and she wasn’t overly fond of her other in-laws. She did say they spoke the same dialect of Slovak that she spoke, but that is all she knew.
I had searched U.S. records for clues to the Kucharik ancestral village for years, but they didn’t leave many records. The eldest son, John, died between 1900-1910 and I have not found any death or burial record for him. The other children were born in Pennsylvania. Stefan and wife Maria never became naturalized citizens, they owned no property and their death certificate say nothing about where in Slovakia they were born.
I didn’t realize it until about seven years ago, but I had the answer in my hands all the time. Now, take a look at George’s baptismal certificate:
George Kucharik’s Baptismal Record
Note that the form is the same and the information is the same, EXCEPT and this is a HUGE except, there are extra words between the names of George’s parents.
The purple arrows are pointing to those words, which are difficult to read. The form itself is in Latin, but these words are not Latin. It looked like it said “Sebes loku: Jaros, Hungaria.” It seems to be citing a place, but I couldn’t find any place called Jaros or Sebes.
When I photocopied this certificate and took it to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I headed to the Eastern European help desk. I was lucky enough to talk with a lady who was from Slovakia. She looked at the certificate, looked up information in two or three books, asked me what religion they were (Greek Catholic) and then printed out several pages of microfilm numbers.
She said that “Jaros” was actually the old Hungarian county “Saros” and Sebes referred to either Also Sebes or Felso Sebes, two villages not far from Presov, Slovakia. Next, she highlighted the films with the Greek Catholic records on them and sent me off to the microfilm readers. These villages aren’t more than about forty miles from Udol and Hajtovka.
A few minutes later, I had the marriage record of Stephen Kucharik and Maria Kacsenyak! The brick wall had been busted open and I was able to trace the family back to the earliest church registers.
Moral of this story: Take additional looks at documents you already have and find a way to learn what information is recorded on them.