Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Who Is Your Current Favorite Ancestor to Research & Why

Saturday night is here, yet another time. It seems this week has gone by even faster than most other weeks, although I’m not sure why.

In any case, it is time for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun with Randy Seaver on Genea-Musings.

Here is our challenge for this week:

1) Who is your current favorite ancestor to research and why?

This is quite easy to answer because my favorite ancestor to research is usually the one who has pulled me down a rabbit hole of one sort or another.

I’ve been cleaning up my RootsMagic database, which has taken be back into the Udol, Slovakia Greek Catholic Church records, which are digitally available on FamilySearch.

My Nana’s maiden name was Scerbak (often Scserbak or Cserbak), which sounds like sher-back.

The earliest patriarch of the family is always identified as Mikulas Scserbak and he’s my current favorite ancestor.

The local Slovak Archives transcribed this name as Mikulas Scerbak on my (very expensive) typed transcription from 1985:

Mik(ulas) or Mich(ael)?

He was born before the church registers begin, most likely right in the tiny village of Udol, and he also married before the start of those same church books. His wife was Helena Murczko.

However, an 1842 marriage record identifies one son, born c1820, and baptismal records identify four more children – Maria, born 1831, Anna, born 1833, my ancestor John, born 1836 and Helena, born 1843.

With the 11 year gap in there, they certainly had several more children who haven’t been identified.

Why is Mikulas my favorite? Because going back and rechecking all these church records has led to a small surprise.

His name wasn’t Mikulas – translated as Nicholas – but Michael!

The 1842 marriage record shows that the priest abbreviated almost every person named Michael as Mich. The H, though, is clearly an H and not a K.

Here is another sample of the handwriting. If you are wondering how I figured this out, practice makes perfect and there is a very limited number of surnames in a village of 700 people!

Mich(ael)       Mikulik

Notice the difference between the h and the k. This is the same priest’s handwriting.

He did write out “Michael” once on this page:

Michael Koval

There is no doubt in my mind that all of these Mich samples refer to Michael and not to Mikulas.

Therefore, I now know that the earliest Scerbak ancestor is MICHAEL Scerbak, born no later than 1795 and possibly as early as 1783, if his widow’s age at death is anywhere near accurate.

This makes me happy knowing that my ancestor can now be known by his correct name!

Thanks, Randy, for this week’s challenge, especially as it reminded me to check original records for myself.


2 thoughts on “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Who Is Your Current Favorite Ancestor to Research & Why”

  1. It’s great that you figured that out. Reading more than your own entries in a record book always pays off!

  2. Hi, my ggf was Andrej Janosko born 1877 in Orlov, married to my ggm Maria Scerbak born 1891 in Andrejovka, they also wound up in Passiac/Garfield NJ.
    Pretty safe to assume we are distantly related lol, everyone has passed away that had any knowledge of things, I have heard my ggf may have been Hungarian but im not sure, my ggm said she was Slovak, never heard any mention of Rusyn despite being from villages associated with them and birth records from the local greek catholic church.
    Im curious as to the origins of their families, are the Scerbaks always from that locale ? Where they all Rusyn or just your side or a recent adaptation ?

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