Story of an Alias: “Patorai recte Mikulik” – 12 for ’22

This is my first post in my “12 for ’22” series, based on Jacqi Stevens’ research project for the new year, found on her blog, A Family Tapestry.

In American experiences, aliases are often a signal that a person is up to no good. Otherwise, why would a person with an alias be identified? The word alias itself gives the implication of wrongdoing.

Its meaning is narrow in American usage. If a person has legally changed a surname, that man or woman isn’t typically called a person with an alias.

However, American usage of the word is much narrower than the way many of our European ancestors used the term.

In fact, aliases contributed to the development of surnames.

The origins of many surnames generally fit into four categories:

1. Physical characteristic of a person (Short, Gross)
2. Occupation (Cook, Taylor, Zimmerman)
3. Geographic location (Hill, Rivers)
4. Paternal relationship (Peterson, Andrews)

Why were aliases adopted?

First, they contributed to the development of surnames. Perhaps John who lived by the Hill was a Shepherd by occupation. At first, he was called John Hill, but then too many people lived near that hill and he then became known as “John Shepherd correctly Hill.”

Secondly, mortality rates were very high in Europe for a number of reasons. Some families died out while others not only prospered, but became quite large and unwieldy in terms of identifying people correctly.

Catholics, for example, had to name children after saints. In Udol, the favored names for boys were Michael and John. For girls, it was Mary and Anna.

Now, let’s say that the Lesko family, which was quite large, had 4 different branches and each had a Michael Lesko born within ten years of all the others.

In this case, the various Michaels might take an alias so as not to be confused with cousins close in age.

Thirdly, there are examples of a man changing his surname at marriage because his wife’s family had no males to carry on the name to future generations. I imagine something of value was promised to the groom and he was then known by his wife’s family name.

While I was very aware of aliases in families, such as the French Canadian dit names, I hadn’t come across them in my own research.

That is, until I started my one-place study of St. Dimitry’s Church in Udol, Slovakia.

Years before the internet came to be, I had paid for family history research through the Czechoslovkian Embassy in Washington, DC. I received quite a few vital record certificates that filled the Rusyn branch of my paternal grandmother’s family tree.

Nana knew all four of her grandparents; her father’s parents were John Scerbak and Maria Patorai.

Patorai is an unusual surname, even in Eastern Europe and I’ve always liked the way it sounds. I was acquainted with some Patorays in New Jersey, too, as they were related to Nana.

John Scerbak and Maria Patorai married on 11 February 1861 at St. Dimitry’s Church and my government-provided certificate identified her parents as John Patorai and Anna Szurgent.

As the church registers begin in 1827, John Patorai’s estimated birth year is c1810. Anna Szurgent was born c1813.

Their marriage record names Anna’s parents as John Szurgent and Anna Gmitrisin.

John’s parents are named as Andrew Patorai and Maria Janoskova.

So far, so good. We have documented records for:

Andrew Patorai & Maria Janoskova
John Patorai & Anna Szurgent
John Scerbak & Maria Patorai
Michael Scerbak & Anna Murcko
Julia Scerbak, my grandmother

Then came the bump in the road.

John Patorai and Anna Szurgent were the parents of six known children:

1. Maria, bp 5 March 1839; married John Scerbak
2. Anna, born c1844; married Michael Knapojurka
3. John, bp 18 March 1849; married Anna Fecsisin
4. Michael, bp 11 July 1851; married Helena Miklus
5. Peter, born 3 February 1856; married Maria Buk
6. Susanna, born 8 January 1859; married Michael Miklus

However, when I came across these people in St. Dimitry’s Church records, I found Maria called “Patorai recte Mikulik.” Her brother John was called “Patorai recte Mikulik.”

RECTE comes from Latin and gives us the word “rectify” or “to correct” or “correctly.”

Therefore, I had more than one event in which at least two of Andrew Patorai’s and Maria Janoskova’s children were called by their aliases plus their true surnames “Patorai correctly Mikulik!”

Okay, so how did the Mikuliks start using Patorai as their surname?

I don’t think there will ever be an answer found to that question.

It was thought that Andrew Patorai who married Maria Janoskova might have been the son of Andrew Patorai and Elizabeth Tarbaj, baptized 9 December 1787 in Lipovce in the Presov district. Lipovce was a Roman Catholic village, so probably ethnic Slovak, not Rusyn.

The name is uncommon and the birth year would fit for a man whose eldest child was born c1810. There are no later entries for this family so it is possible that they moved on, possibly to Ujak (today Udol).

Lipovce is about 30 miles from Udol. Certainly, they weren’t in each other’s backyard, but they also weren’t out of the realm of realityfor a family who might have migrated elsewhere in the region.

There are many Mikuliks who lived in Ujak throughout the 1800s. That is probably why aliases were adopted.

In addition to the Patorais, there are several others to be found:

Mikulik alias Matsmaruv
Mikulik alias Holodnyak
Mikulik alias Huszar
Mikulik alias Kacsmar
Mikulik alias Kacsmarszemana
Mikulik alias Szurgent

Andrew Patorai and Maria Janoskova only appear as parents in the church records. They could possibly have both been alive for the 1869 Hungarian empire census since I’ve found no burial record for either of them. However, the Patorais lived in House #1 for many years. Wouldn’t you know that the digitized images begin with House #2?

The short answer to this long post is that I have no records that call the family patriarch, Andrew, anything but Andrew Patorai.

However, two of his children – daughter Maria and son John – are called “Patorai recte Mikulik” at least one time each.

My theory at the moment is that Andrew Patorai and Maria Janoskova had no surviving sons and John Mikulik who married Anna Szurgent agreed to take on the alias of Patorai to continue the family name.

If my theory is true, then no Patorai today, who has Udol origins, has any Patorai DNA at all. Their DNA matches should show connections to other Mikuliks. If they can’t figure out how the Patorais and Mikuliks are related, John Patorai recte Mikulik is likely the answer.




One thought on “Story of an Alias: “Patorai recte Mikulik” – 12 for ’22”

  1. I think I got all that…and yes, it would make sense that a man might change his name to match that of his in-laws if it meant he could then inherit from them.

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