Applying What I’ve Learned in My One-Place Study to Genealogy Research, Part 2

Today’s we’ll continue with the second important topic developed from my one-place study – religion.

Remember the peoples I previously mentioned who passed through or settled in the mountainous areas around Hajtovka and Udol – the Slovaks, Rusyns, Hungarians, Russians, Romani and the Germans?

Each of these ethnic groups had one religion to which the majority of the people belonged. In Nana’s case, all the way back to 1827, when Ujak aka Udol’s church records begin, all my ancestors were recorded as Greek Catholics (today called Byzantine Catholics). The Greek Catholic religion is pretty much a trademark sign that a family was Rusyn in origin.

However, in the 1800s, it was not the only religion practiced in the area. While transcribing church records, I noted that a number of families had mixed religions – Greek rite and Roman rite Catholicism. I also noticed that almost all of these families lived in Hajtovka, rather than Ujak.

I also noticed that the church records usually mentioned where the family lived and sometimes where the people were born.

Remember the location of these villages – very rural – and the economic status of most of the residents – subsistence farmers with no education or possibility for life quality improvement.

The only means of transportation they had was their feet, aside from perhaps a slightly more well-to-do resident possibly owning a wagon that could be used.

The old adage about a young man courting no more than five miles from home fits here.

Villages that are named in the church entries include the villages that I mentioned in the neighborhood of Udol – all less than five miles away.  Maly Lipnik is 3 miles, Hromos is 5, Matysova is 5 1/2 and the big town of Plavnica is just 2 1/2 miles in distance from Hajtovka.

Because my ancestors were all clearly identified as Greek Catholic, I never ventured to learn what records are available for the other villages. Several sets of church records have been digitized, but aren’t yet viewable online, but those for Plavnica are accessible online.

I previously mentioned that in St. Dimitry’s Church records, most of the mixed Greek and Roman Catholic families lived in Hajtovka, not Udol. Hajtovka is about one mile close to Plavnica than Udol is – one less mile that Udol residents would have had to walk.

St. Dimitry’s records begin in November 1827 and have less detail – like parents’ names or ages – than later years. Therefore, I was quite excited to discover that Plavnica’s Roman Catholic church records date back into the 1600s!

The Catholic church noted its parishioners’ religion, too, but it was quickly evident that not only were Catholics noted (in the late 1700s and early 1800s, Catholic was Catholic regardless of Greek or Roman affiliation), but mentioned were MANY Lutherans who married Catholics (remember the Germans who settled in Chmel’nica) and even some Jews and Romani who had family members to bury are mentioned in the Roman Catholic records.

Although probably 99% of St. Dimitry’s parishioners found in Plavnica lived in Hajtovka, there were a handful who lived in Ujak. I found MANY Greek Catholics, both brides and grooms, who married Roman Catholics from Plavnica and then settled in Hajtovka to raise families.

Before I expanded my research horizons, I noticed that many families in the 1869 census had huge gaps in the births of their children that couldn’t be accounted for in deaths.

Although these families were identified as Greek Catholic in the census, I soon came across them in Plavnica records because one of the parents was Roman Catholic. It was common for a bride or groom who felt strongly about children being baptized in the Roman Catholic church, to make the trip to Plavnica to make sure they were members of the Roman Catholic church.

How did the Plavnica records help expand my knowledge of St. Dimitry’s  Church parish? I easily found close to 200 baptisms, marriages and burials of mostly Hajtovka residents, with a few from Ujak in the mix.

That means I now have records for a number of Hajtovkians born and/or married in the 1770s and later, In some cases, I’ve extended the family line back 40 or more years before the 1827 records of St. Dimitry’s!

This, in an area where the single source of records are parish registers, is a bonanza for me!

The lesson to be learned here is that it is prudent to check records for towns nearby ancestral villages. Don’t assume that a family never married outside of its known religion. You might be very surprised by what you find!

Next up is a discussion of surnames, their spellings and those pesky aliases often found in French and Scandinavian records. Guess what? I had never come across any in Nana’s family – until now!

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