Maternal Branches in the Family Tree: Maria Szova (1845-1925)

Today, the focus is on the life of the last of my paternal Rusyn 2X great grandmothers, Maria Szova. Maria was a contemporary and extended family member of Maria Patorai (1839-1912).

The two Marias had very similar experiences growing up, as they did in a Rusyn community.

However, while Maria Szova’s birth village of Hajtovka, which was also the home of her husband, was way smaller than Ujak (Udol), just one mile away, Hajtovka was more cosmopolitan, if it can be described that way.

Ujak’s population of about 700 was significantly more robust than the 300 or so claimed by Hajtovka, but Hajtovka had something that Ujak didn’t – a fair number of Roman Catholics who attended church in Plavnica. Ujak was almost 100% Greek Catholic.

Plavnica was a good-sized town with almost double the population of Ujak. Why the smaller village had a much larger Roman Catholic population, but it likely has to do with migration patterns. These villages are at the western boundary of known Rusyn villages, making it much more likely for towns to have a mixture of religions and ethnic groups.

Aside from the religious aspect, life in St. Dimitry’s parish wouldn’t differ between the two villages or even compared to Plavnica, with the exception that Plavnica would obviously have more tradesmen plus a handful of shops.

Now, let’s look at Maria Szova, who was born on 23 March 1845, the daughter of Andrew Szova and Maria Fengya. While Maria Patorai was the eldest child in her family, Maria Szova was the fifth of six children, two of whom died young, leaving four siblings growing up in the home.

I have written in the past about my experiences with the village church books – the errors and possible omissions – and one has bearing here.

The priest apparently neglected to record the marriage of Maria Szova to John Murcko, which likely took place around 1867. Back in the 1980s, I had requested vital records for this family from the Czechoslovakian National Archives. No marriage record was found for John and Maria by them, nor by me when I read the records page by page and line by line.

I even looked in Plavnica because, while John Murcko was recorded as Greek Catholic, there were a couple of Roman Catholic Murcko families in Hajtovka, whose vital records are found in the Roman Catholic books in Plavnica. No marriage record was found there, either.

That leads me to believe that the priest forgot to record their marriage, as they are called married in the baptismal records of their children and the children are noted as born in wedlock.

Children, born in Hajtovka:

1. Maria, born 23 July 1869; died 1886
2. Anna, born 23 May 1872; died 28 June 1967, Udol, Slovakia; married Michael Scerbak, 22 October 1892, Passaic, Passaic, New Jersey
3. Susanna, born 5 March 1875; died 14 July 1961, Garfield, Bergen, New Jersey; married John Kovalycsik, 8 June 1894, Passaic, Passaic, New Jersey
4. Helena, born 18 August 1877; no further record, but died young
5. John, born 19 November 1879; reportedly married Maria Fedus
6. Helena (aka Julia), born 7 September 1881; died 20 January 1952, East Paterson, Passaic, New Jersey; married Stephen Pristas, c1901, probably Passaic, Passaic, New Jersey

Another difference between my two Maria 2X great grandmothers is that Maria (Szova) Murcko saw most of her children leave permanently for America and, therefore, didn’t know many of her own grandchildren.

Maria lived long enough to see not only Nana leave forever, but Nana’s brother, Peter, also left before Maria passed away. I can’t imagine what it was like for her to have to say goodbye forever to the younger generation.

Although Maria lived long enough for a photographer to arrive in the village (I have a photo taken in Ujak in the early 1920s), it doesn’t appear that she had her own picture taken. If she did, it either hasn’t survived or passed down to an unknown family member.

Maria (Szova) Murcko died on 6 January 1925 in Hatovka, the last of Nana’s grandparents.




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