Who Are They? Passaic, NJ Wedding, c1912

Who Are These Young Men?

Here is another unmarked mystery photo from my Passaic, New Jersey collection of photos.

There are just a few facts about which I am sure:

  1. They are of Slovak heritage and likely from the area around Udol, Slovakia.
  2. They are Greek Catholic.
  3. They were likely attendees or members of a wedding party sometime between 1911-1914, probably c1912 or so.
  4. They likely were parishioners at St. Michael’s Church, 96 First Street, in Passaic, New Jersey. (Today, it is the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel.)

If you have Passaic family members living there in the early 20th century and think you recognize either of these dapper young men, please contact me. I would love to know who they are and/or return this original photo to one of their descendants.

Will of John F. Williams, Hardin Co., KY 1814: Releasing 11 Enslaved People

John F. Williams died in Hardin County, Kentucky, where he left a will dated 6 March 1814 which was proven on 11 July 1814. As far as I can tell, this John was not a member of the extended Williams family of Cumberland County, Virginia as they migrated westward.

As a follow up, I checked online trees and this man is said to be John Fenley Williams, born 1756 in Prince Georges County, Maryland. He was the son of Thomas Williams and Elizabeth Gibbs and married Ann Mudd there in 1782.

Therefore, these enslaved people may have been brought to Kentucky from Prince Georges County, Maryland with the Williams family.

Will of John F. Williams, Hardin County, KY 1814
Will Book B: 131-132

In the name of God Amen I John F. Williams of the County of Hardin being Intirely possessed of my reason do make this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following.
It is my will that my beloved wife Nancy Shall Have the following Negroes (Viz) One negro woman named Canutta and the Increase also One Negro Boy named Isaac also one Negro Girl named Gilly and One Negro Boy named James so long as She lives or during her Widdow hood. Also to my beloved son I Charles I Give one Negro Boy named Spencer also the tract of Land the said Son now lives on. Also my son Philip I Give One Negro Boy named Charles Also the place where he now lives. Also my Daughter (Linia?) to have her maintenance during her life. Also my Daughter Elizabeth I give One Negro Girl named Fanny Also my son John One Negro Boy named Philip And One Small Colt. Also my son Thomas one Negro named Milly Also my Daughter Mary One Negro named Maria Also my son Elisha One Negro Girl named Melvina Also I give my Daughter Nancy an Equal part and of her mothers part of said Negroes all said property to be given to my said Children when they come to the years of maturity or marry. I likewise give my plantation and all my Stock of Horses Cattle Hogs and Sheep and plantation untencils (sic) House hold and kitchen Furniture during her life time or widdow hood and it is my wish that my wife shall give all my children a good Horse saddle and Bridle and a good Feather Bed at the age of twenty one or marry and after the death of my said Wife Nancy See the said property and Increase to be Equally divided Between my said Children Also Give my little Neffew  Joel One Hundred and Fifty Dollars and a good Horse Saddle and Bridle at the age of twenty one years. As Witness my Hand and seal this 16th day of March 1814–

John F (hisXmark) Williams (seal)

In the presents of us
John H. Gibbls
Hez Stovall
William Scott
Walter Mudd

At a county Court began and Held for Hardin County at the Court House in Elizabeth Town on Monday the 11th day of July 1814, The within Instrument of writing purporting to be the last Will and Testament of John Williams deceased was produced in Court and proven by the Oaths of John H. Gibbs, Walter Mudd and William Scott and Ordered to record.

Attested Samuel Haycraft Jr. (?)

Carpatho-Rusyn Heritage & Resources: A New Series

A good portion of my research time last year was spent gathering information on my Carpatho-Rusyn heritage. Alas, church records only remain back to the early 1800s, so it wasn’t possible to add any ancestors to the tree.

You’ve never heard of Carpatho-Rusyns? Well, even though it is 50% of my heritage, I had never heard the term either until I moved to California in 1979. The first person I met, who is still a friend today, had a Slovak surname and she was interested in her family history.

That friend told me that her family was Carpatho-Rusyn, but I had never heard the term before. Nana always said the family was Slovak.

It turned out that my new friend’s ancestral village was only a stone’s throw from that of my Nana AND, more incredibly, her father was baptized in New York by the same priest who married my grandparents in Passaic, New Jersey.

I asked Nana how that came to be. She said the priest was transferred from Passaic to Brooklyn just before she and my grandfather married. They asked Father Irenaeus Janitczky if he would do them the honor of returning to St. Michael’s Church to marry them on 6 September 1915, which he did.

Small world, isn’t it? It gets even smaller. I met up with some GeneaBlogger Tribe friends at the SCGS Jamboree in June in California. One of them is also of Carpatho-Rusyn background, but the husband of another is not only Rusyn, his ancestors are from Ujak. I almost fell off my chair when I heard that because that is were Nana was from. Today it is called Udol and it’s a small village.

I had one more surprise last year. Several of the ladies in the genealogy group that I teach have Polish ancestors. At our December holiday luncheon, we each shared one great find of 2018. I shared a book on Carpatho-Rusyn history and had to explain the swath of land in Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania where the villages were located.

One of the ladies of Polish descent said her grandparents were from villages in the little tip at the bottom of Poland – which, as the crow flies is directly north of Nana’s villages. She learned that day that she, like me, is 50% Carpatho-Rusyn and both of her ancestral villages are included on the list of historical Rusyn villages.

I guess there are many more of us Rusyns (for short) around than I realized!

Now that you know the short version of my Carpatho-Rusyn ancestry, I’m going to give a very, very short history of this ethnic group and then list a bibliography of resources to get you started if you are a member of this interesting ethnic minority.

The Eastern European Home of Carpatho-Rusyns

First, I’ve already mentioned that Carpatho-Rusyns lived in villages and towns on both the north and south sides of the Carpathian and Tatras Mountains.

Rusyn villages are spread over a wide area from eastern Slovakia through southern Poland into western Ukraine and touches just a portion of northern Romania and a bit of Croatia.

There are 1,022 villages that have been identified as part of the Carpatho-Rusyn culture in the 20th century. If you know the names of your family’s towns and wonder if you, too, are Rusyn, check the list to see if your ancestral home is on it.

St. Michael’s Church Rusyn Pageant, Undated
My Personal Photo

History of the Carpatho-Rusyn People

Rusyns are a Slavic people and the earliest settlers are believed to have been farming in the areas of today’s Rusyn villages by the 6th century.

Further, Rusyns have never had a homeland with one central government to call their own. They have forever existed side-by-side with invading tribes and armies or as part of various empires and politically formed entities like Czechoslovakia. Given the area of eastern and central Europe in which they lived, they have faced centuries of warfare, governmental changes and hard times.

Throughout this series, I will be sharing more details about Rusyn history, religious beliefs, culture and social customs.

If you are of Carpatho-Rusyn descent and would like to read more about your heritage, there are some excellent books available.

1. With Their Backs to the Mountains, Paul Robert Magocsi, Central European University Press, Budapest- New York, 2015. This is the premier book written about Rusyn history in terms of details and depth of information. Dr. Magocsi is a professor at the University of Toronto and has published many books and articles about Carpatho-Ruthenia and its peoples. I’d highly recommend purchasing this as a reference book. ($40.00+ on Amazon)

2. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, Stephan Thernstrom, Editor, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, 1980. This book has nine pages (200-209) dedicated to statistical information about Rusyns who settled in the United States. There are also numerous footnotes identifying scholarly works for further reference. An added benefit is that information on the collateral ethnic group to which your family belongs (Polish, Romanian, Ukrainian or Slovak) can be found in this book, too. (There are copies on eBay now for under $6.00.)

3. Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture, Revised and Expanded Edition, Paul Robert Magocsi and Ivan Pop, University of Toronto Press, 2005. ($76.00+)

4. Carpathian Rus’ A Historical Atlas, Paul Robert Magocsi, Governing Council of the University of Toronto, 2017. ($37.00+)

5. The People from Nowhere, Paul Robert Magocsi, V. Padiak Publishers, Uzhhorod, Ukraine, 2006. ($24.50 from CRRC – see below)

6. The Rusyns of Hungary, Maria Mayer, East European Monographs, Columbia University Press, New York, 1997. (($24.50 from CRRC)

7. The Rusyns of Slovakia, Paul Robert Magocsi, 1994 (($50.00)

8. Our People, Carpatho-Rusyns and Their Descendants in North America, Paul Robert Magocsi, 2006 ($24.50 from CRRC)

9. Lemko Studies: A Handbook, B. Horbal, 2010 ($42.00 from CRRC)

10. The Rusyn-Ukrainians of Czechoslovakia, Paul Robert Mabocsi, 1993 ($14.00)

Several of the books on this list included prices from CRRC, which is the Carpatho-Rusyn Research Center, P.O. Box 35, Grand Isle, Vermont 05458-0035. They have a fairly extensive catalog of books about Carpatho-Ruthenia and ship quickly. Ask for a publications list – sometimes their prices are way better than online. (For example, The Lemko Studies handbook by Horbal online is $1495.50 !!!)

Next month, Carpatho-Rusyn religious customs will be discussed in some detail.