Elizabeth O’Neal’s April 2018 Genealogy Blog Party theme is about being unique, or one-of-a-kind. There are many different directions this could go, as noted in her list of possibilities:
- The only person to hold a certain type of job or career
- The only person in the family to have red (or any other color) hair, freckles, be very tall, etc.
- The only “only child” in the family
- The only person to move away from (or to) a specific location
- The only person to participate in professional sports, acting, music, art, etc.
It took some pondering for me to decide which ancestor deserved the moniker of one-of-a-kind. I finally decided on my paternal great grandfather, Stephen Kucharik. There is definitely something very unique about him and this uniqueness hasn’t been found among any of my other male ancestors. I venture to guess that few of you have any males in your family lines that can boast of this either.
Exactly what is this one-of-a-kindness? It’s the fact that Stephen lived his life using three different surnames and none were being used to hide from criminal actions or anything like that.
I have only one photo of Stephen, the one above, and he doesn’t look particularly friendly or happy to be photographed!
It took many years to find the Kucharik family’s ancestral village in Slovakia – the brick wall broke down in 2011. However, Stephen was a bit mysterious even before that time.
Back in 1979, when Nana was still living, I mailed off to both St. Michael’s Church in Passaic and to the state of New Jersey for a copy of her marriage record, as she didn’t have one.
I requested the record of George Sabo and Julia Scerbak who married on 6 September 1915 at St. Michael’s in Passaic. Imagine my shock when neither the state vital records department NOR St. Michael’s reported having the record!
I was 27 years old and learned something I never knew before then. When I told Nana there was no record for George SABO and Julia Scerbak, her quick reply was “That’s because his name was George KUCHARIK!”
Sure enough, when I looked for the family in the 1900 census, no Stephen Sabo and family were to be found, but the KUHARIK family was there in Passaic, right where I expected to find them.
Aside from the fact that I had never heard our family name was originally Kucharik, it didn’t seem all that strange that the family had renamed themselves. It wasn’t done legally, as Passaic County has no record of a legal name change. Stephen didn’t have that kind of money anyway. Even in his old age, he was a laborer in a laundry.
Genealogically speaking, life went on until 2011, when I discovered the Kucharik’s Slovak home was the village of what today is Vysna Sebastova, located somewhat east of the city of Presov.
Neither Stephen nor wife Maria Kacsenyak seemed to know their birthdates or exact ages. However, a quick look through the church registers solved that issue.
Stephen was born about 6 February 1855, or a few days earlier. Infants were quickly baptized after birth as the mortality rate in the villages was very, very high.
Stephen was the son of John Kucharik and Maria Repko, who married on 11 August 1849 in what was then called Okruzna and were the parents of at least six children:
1. John, baptized 22 October 1849; buried 20 October 1858
2. Anna, born c1854; married Stephen Kravjar
3. Stephen, baptized 6 February 1855, Vysna Sebastova; died 4 June 1933, Wallington, Passaic, New Jersey; married Maria Kacsenyak, 28 August 1877, Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia.
4. Michael, baptized 18 June 1859; married Susanna Magnus, 25 September 1882, Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia.
5. Maria, born 13 October 1861; died 11 September 1916, both in Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia; unmarried.
6. John, baptized 16 May 1865; no further record.
Here is where things get a bit weird. Throughout the late 1850s into the 1860s, church records and the Hungarian census record flip back and forth as to the surname of the family.
I originally thought that John Kucharik had died and Maria had remarried. that is in spite of the fact that the village is very small and no burial record could be found for John nor a marriage record for Maria and John Tomko.
There is a gap in births between 1855 and 1859 and a second gap between 1861 and 1865, indicating that either a spouse or child had died. I found a burial record for one John Kucharik in 1858, which has an abbreviation in it “cli g” or “ch g” and TOMKO, followed by “filius” or son.
However, this appears to be the burial record for the 8 year old son of John Kucharik and Maria Repko. It also seems to indicate that the family used the alias of TOMKO as early as 1858.
John’s 1861 baptismal record names his parents as John TOMKO and Maria Repko.
Hungary took a census in 1869. At the time, this area of Slovakia was part of the Hungarian Empire. Szengeto was the neighborhood that the Kuchariks, aka the Tomkos, lived in; they were recorded consistently as Szengeto #1 or Szengeto #2.
Sure enough, here they are. John Kucharik with wife Maria Repko and children Anna, Stephen (Istvan in Hungarian), Michael Maria and John, but they are enumerated as the Tomko clan.
Eventually, I discovered the burial record for John Kucharik aka Tomko:
Notice that John lived at Szengeto #1. The Kucharik and Tomko surnames are not plentiful in this area, so I feel quite certain that this is the father of my Stephen Kucharik.
I have no idea why John used both the Kucharik and Tomko surnames. Aliases can be used to denote an illegitimate birth, but John’s 1820 baptismal record names his parents as George Kucharik and Anna Miklus.
It’s a total mystery to me, but records prove that my great grandfather, Stephen, grew up being called both Kucharik and Tomko. Later, as an adult, he adopted the surname Sabo, which came to be my own.
He’s the only male in my family documented with three different surnames!