For the last several months, I’ve been hard at work on my one-place study of St. Dimitry’s Greek Catholic Church neighborhood, which is made of up two small villages in Slovakia – Hajtovka and Ujak, which today is called Udol.
My project consists of two parts – an Excel database of entries of all baptisms, marriages and burials found in the parish register, which begins in November 1827 – and a Word document in which I’ve built out the parish families through the 1800s and added in bits about the earlier history of the area and lists of the house censuses in 1853 and 1859.
I’ve also transcribed the Ujak and Hajtovka families found in the Hungarian census of 1869, when the villages were part of what was then called Saros (sounds like Sharish) County.
This is the first post in a series about how much can be learned with a one-place study.
Before you think, “Oh, I’ll never do a one place study!” – what I have learned applies to any genealogist seeking “hatched, matched and dispatched” records. In other words, my discoveries might open your eyes, too, as to what is and is not found in official records.
This series will be examining multiple factors in the life of a town:
History of the Region
Religion – Clues to other records
Surnames – Spelling Variations & Aliases
Church Records – Accuracy, Errors & Missing Entries
Daily Life in Udol and Hajtovka, Gleaned from the Church Records
Today, let’s delve into the history of a region. While history is important everywhere – for example in the U.S. when county borders changed in a state or the country changed, as with Texas and the Southwest, those were not events that repeated often in the same place in American history.
For those studying families that lived in mainland Europe, history becomes extremely important.
Let’s look at the history of my maternal grandmother’s villages, Hajtovka and Udol, formerly called Ujak.
First, where are they? Before the internet, you’d be hard pressed to locate either village. I couldn’t find them on any maps back in the 1980s. Queries from Nana elicited only that they were not close to any big cities and the nearby river was the Poprad.
That clue meant that her villages were in northern Slovakia near the Polish border. Today, online maps have simplified the search:
Udol is the light green area in the center. Hajtovka is a mile to the west
Slightly southwest is the town of Plavnica; to the northwest is Matysova while Maly Lipnik and Starina are to the north of the village.
These are ancient towns, as most are mentioned in records dating from the Middle Ages.
Populations? Today, Udol has 417 inhabitants, Hajtovka 72, Maly Lipnik 457, Matysova 72 and Plavnica with a whopping 1600.
These villages are in today’s eastern Slovakia in the foothills of the Tatras Mountains. Udol is also one of the westernmost ethnically Rusyn villages.
Historically, they were in the path of many governmental changes. Passing through were other Rusyns, a few Jews, definitely Slovaks and Hungarians and even Russians plus other Slavic peoples. Surprisingly, Chmel’nica, due west of Udol and Hajtovka, was settled by Germans. A number of Romanis (wanderers) also meandered through the area.
What did this mean politically? In the 1800s, the powers that be determined the official language of government records and documents, which included church records.
Hajtovka and Udol shared one parish church, St. Dimitry’s Greek Catholic Church, which still exists in Udol today. Literally overnight, and I don’t mean 1 January and the start of a new year, the scribe changed the language in which he recorded baptisms, marriages and burials.
While most of the records are thankfully written in Latin, there are time periods where entries are in Hungarian and several decades (including 1851-1857 and the early 20th century) where the Cyrillic alphabet is used.
There isn’t much of a learning curve from Latin to Hungarian, since most entries are in rows and columns so it is a matter of recognizing that Latin Michaelis and Susanna equal Mihaly and Zuzka (Susie) in Hungarian.
I have to admit, though, that sloppy Cyrillic cursive has put a crimp in my extraction progress.
In summary, understanding the history of an area allows a researcher to recognize influences in the daily lives of our ancestors. As we shall see in the next post, it forces us to cast a wider net than we initially expected to catch some big fish!