Yesterday, we took a look at the establishment of the villages of Ujak (now Udol) and Hajtovka, two Rusyn villages in eastern Slovakia, which are nestled in the foothills of the Tatras Mountains.
These settlers were peasant farmers – serfs working under the local noble family. Sadly, their lives had changed very little from the 1300s right up to the turn of the 19th century.
Although the end of the 1800s brought a steady decline in population, as the 19th century began, St. Dimitry’s Church grew in membership with increased population in both Ujak and Hajtovka.
St. Dimitry’s church books begin in November 1827. However, there is another way to at least get a glimpse of a handful of the families who were living there in the second half of the 18th century.
If you’ve read my earlier posts on methodology in my one-place study, you already know that it’s important to look for church records in nearby villages.
In this case, Plavnica’s St. James Roman Catholic Church was a surprising resource for a multitude of Hajtovka’s and a few of Ujak’s records.
While the village church is Roman Catholic, records include both Roman and Greek Catholics and even quite a few Lutherans living nearby who married or had children baptized in the Catholic church.
These records also indicate that, although people didn’t stray too far from their own villages – remember, travel would have been by foot for peasants – they did interact much more frequently than I would have thought in the 1700s.
Plavnica is noted with the red pin in the center of the above map. The yellow arrows indicate villages named in Plavnica’s records and this map doesn’t even include Hajtovka, which sits one mile west of Udol, which is just northeast of Plavnica.
The best part is that St. James’s records begin in the mid 1600s!
However, place names aren’t mentioned much until the mid 1700s. There probably weren’t enough people living in the area before then for village names to be important in the records.
The first mention I found in Plavnica of villagers from Ujak and Hajtovka might well be a direct ancestor of mine, as there was only one known Scerbak family living in Ujak and was that of my Nana – Julia Scerbak:
18 November 1759 – Peter Serbak (Scerbak) of Ujak married Susanna Csaputta, daughter of Jacob Csaputta of Plavnica
This entry is important for two reasons. First, in my own family, it places a Scerbak living in Ujak more than 60 years before St. Dimitry’s surviving records.
Secondly, it indicates that, in spite of the 1755 fire that burned Ujak, there were inhabitants living there full time four years later. If Ujak was abandoned after the fire, it wasn’t that way for long.
These records also gave up more of the lost history of St. Dimitry’s parish.
Father Damian Csopak was the Ujak village priest for quite a few years and his is the first priest’s name entered in 1827 in St. Dimitry’s church register.
However, St. James’s records identify an earlier Ujak priest who baptized, married or buried some of Plavnica’s Roman Catholics in the late 1700s – Father Joseph Kamensky.
Whether another priest served St. Dimitry’s parishioners in the first quarter of the 19th century is not known to me, but if Father Kamensky was fairly young in the 1790s, he might have been the only priest there before Father Csopjak arrived.
Along with the parish priest and church cantor (man who led the songs), another well-respected and important man in a village was the miller, as he ground the wheat.
The Nyemecz family appears in St. Dimitry’s records in the early to mid-1800s. BUT – the family lived in Hajtovka long before 1827 according to St. James’s marriage records.
On 26 October 1768, Judith Nemecz, daughter of miller Michael Nemecz of Hajtovka, married Simeon Mikulik of Ujak
On 13 November 1774, Maria Nemecz, daughter of Michael, miller of Hajtovka, married Paul Dulin of Orlo
Not only was the Nyemecz family Roman Catholic, but at least two Michael Nyemeczs and probably three Michaels worked as Hajtovka’s village miller.
St. James’s records mentioned quite a few Murczkos from Hajtovka. Nana’s father was Michael Scerbak and her mother was Anna Murcko.
I’ve learned from the various church records that Nana’s direct family line were 100% Greek Catholic and lived in Hajtovka. However, there was also a contingent of Roman Catholic Murczkos who lived in Hajtovka at the same time.
Given the small geographic area, the two groups were likely distantly related.
Besides the Murczkos, there were several other Hajtovka surnames that I recognized in the 1700s who were prevalent well into the 1800s, like the Tengi family and the Arendacs family.
The Tengis were almost exclusively Roman Catholic; the Arendacs mimicked the Murczkos, with many families split between the Roman and Greek Catholic faiths.
St. James’s records reinforced two other facts which I learned during my recent project.
1. Although Hajtovka was half the size of Ujak, there was a much more diverse mix of Greek and Roman Catholics living there.
2. The dozen or so villages mentioned in St. James’s records prove that villagers had much interaction with people from other nearby villages, including non-Catholics (mainly Lutherans) and non-eastern Slavic people, such as Germans, Hungarians and even a few Polish settlers who crossed the mountains and headed south.
In the next post, we’ll look at the daily lives of the children and grandchildren who would be the first to leave the villages in the late 1800s for the opportunity to have better lives.
What were the factors that brought the emigrants to the decision to leave all that they and their ancestors had known?