Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Pick a Day in the Life of An Ancestor

This week, Randy Seaver has issued a different type of challenge, based on a post by Michael John Neill in his Genealogy Tip of the Day blog.

1)  Michael John Neill wrote “Pick a Day” on Thursday in his Genealogy Tip of the Day blog and I thought it would be a good SNGF topic.

2  Read Michael’s post, and then write your own post.  Tell us your day, and your person, and then answer the ten questions:

  • Where was my ancestor living?
  • Who was in his (her) household?
  • What was the ancestor’s occupation?
  • What was the ancestor’s age?
  • What was going on nationally on this date (at this point in time)?
  • What was going on locally/regionally?
  • Were my ancestor’s parents alive?
  • Were my ancestor’s siblings alive?
  • Where would he (she) have gone to church the previous Sunday?
  • Who were my ancestor’s neighbors?

I chose 15 May 1895, the date of the New Jersey state census.

I chose my great grandfather, Michael Scerbak as the focus of this challenge.

1. The family was living in a rented apartment in the First Ward of Passaic, Passaic, New Jersey. The exact address isn’t given, but they were family #451 visited by the census taker with head of household Michael Scserbak being person #2498 in those 451 dwellings. These were tenements occupied by immigrants.

2. Michael ‘Scserbak’ lived with wife Annie, daughter Julia and infant Michael, born in January 1895. Infant Michael died of crib death six months later.

3. No occupation was given in the census, bu Michael worked in the city mills, like the other neighborhood residents.

4. Michael was in the male age group 30-60 years old. His actual date of birth was 17 February 1868, so he should have been ticked in the ages 5-30 category.

5. In the time period around May 1895, several notable items appear: Volleyball was created in Holyoke, Massachusetts, on 27 May, the Supreme Court decided that the federal government has the right to regulate interstate commerce and J.P Morgan and the Rothschilds saved the U.S. Treasury by loaning it $65 million in gold!

6. I have no access to the Passaic newspapers (no subscription), but immigrants were flooding into Passaic from Eastern Europe. Between 1890 and 1900, the population more than doubled from 13,000 to over 27,000 people.

7. Both of Michael’s Scerbak’s parents were living in 1895, but in Ujak, Slovakia. Neither ever came to America.

8. Only two of Michael’s seven siblings were still living in 1895, one brother, John, who is living in the same house in Passaic, and one sister, Anna, who was newly married and living in Ujak. To my knowledge, she never came to America either.

9. Undoubtedly, the entire family went to church every Sunday at St. Michael’s Greek Catholic Church. The building today wasn’t yet built in 1895, but the parishioners had bought a small church building from another denomination, which they used.

10. Neighbors were close in 1895. In the same house where Michael lived were wife Anna, daughter Julia, son Michael, brother John plus John, Susan and Joseph Hudak, John Knapp, Anna Scerbak’s sister, Susan Murcko, and Michael Sklepko. They were enumerated as one family, so living in one apartment dwelling or house portion. Most of their neighbors were immigrants and I recognize a number of the village surnames. Mixed in with them were a few families like the Paytons, who were probably Irish. Without a doubt, they all worked in the mills.

This was a fun challenge, Randy. We should have this topic again in the future, as we can choose different time periods in history.

2 thoughts on “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Pick a Day in the Life of An Ancestor”

  1. It must have been typical that neighbors worked in the same industry. I found that true in Anaconda, Montana where everyone worked for the copper mining co.

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