Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Quest for the Rusyn Soul by Keith Dyrud – A Rusyn History

Today’s post isn’t a traditional book review, but a combination of a book discussion and my observations about Rusyn history.

First, a bit about the history. Carpatho-Rusyns are a small ethnic minority who have lived along both the northern and southern foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe for centuries.

Rusyns have never had a single united homeland, for a variety of reasons – economic, geographical, political, cultural, religious and educational. In short, for just about every societal factor that one can imagine.

In my opinion, geography was probably the first big stumbling block, given that even today, clusters of Rusyns live in southern Poland (who call themselves Lemkos), northeastern Slovakia, Ukraine, Croatia and Romanian.

Those are a lot of miles to cover if trying to unite one people.

Politics was probably the second biggest factor in the non-unification of the Rusyn people.

Governing bodies in the region changed frequently with some more and some less willing to allow ethnic autonomy. Those in power used religion to encourage support of opposing governments, although Rusyns have leaned towards the Eastern Slavic churches for centuries. Cultural influences also played a part in Rusyn divisions.

If that wasn’t enough baggage to shake off, economic conditions (many were peasant farmers or worked a trade) and education, or the lack thereof, thwarted the occasional efforts of Rusyn leaders to connect and unite.

The Rusyn migration to America for a better life could have led to the demise of the Rusyn identity, but, thankfully, it did not.

I watched and waited for Keith Dyrud’s book to pop up online for sale at a reasonable price; I jumped at the chance to purchase it for $64.00 – as opposed to the other sellers asking $900+!!!

The full title of Dyrud’s book, first published in 1992 by the Balch Institute Press in Philadelphia, is The Quest for the Rusyn Soul: The Politics of Religion and Culture in Eastern Europe and in America, 1890-World War 1.

That sounds like kind of dry reading for most, doesn’t it? Well, it was an eye-catcher for me because my paternal grandparents, both Rusyn, were born in 1893 in America and their families had arrived less than ten years before their births.

Many Rusyns, like my grandmother’s extended family, first came to America with no intention of remaining forever. They made multiple trips across the ocean throughout their lives. The plan was to earn a lot more money in the U.S. than back in the village, save it and return home to live much more comfortably.

Others, like my grandfather’s family, might have come with the intention of returning to Europe, but never did. They settled in America for the rest of their lives.

Did they keep in touch with news back in the villages? Did they take political stands here in the United States? The ansewr to both questions is YES.

I’ve wondered, off and on, about some of the curiosities in my family history:

Why did my great grandfather changed the family surname from Kucharik to Sabo between 1910 and 1920?

Why did Nana never tell me that my great grandfather’s brother, John (Nana’s uncle) lived just a town away in Garfield, New Jersey? She not only didn’t tell me, she said her father only had sisters – NO brothers. That was absolutely not true and her uncle didn’t pass away until 1938 when Nana was 45 years old!

Why did Nana’s brother, Peter, born in New Jersey in 1895, apply to become an American citizen when he was in this 30s?

These questions can all be answered by reading Dyrud’s book.


Introduction: The Rusyns
1. The Development of National Awareness Among the Rusyns in the Austrian empire
2. Russian Interests in the Rusyns in the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1900 to World War I
3. The Influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on the Cultural Consciousness of the Rusyns in America
4. Hungarian Cultural and Nationalistic Activity with the Greek Catholic Church in America, 1900-1907
5. Conflicts in the Establishment of the Greek Catholic Church in America
Epilogue: The Fruits of Propaganda and Rivalry
Essay on Sources

Mr. Dyrud does a meticulous job both setting the scene for 1890 events and in detailing all the forces that influenced Rusyn behaviors and their religious and political allegiances.

How does all this affect my own family?

Two of the main political forces on Rusyns during the existence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were the Ukrainians/Russians and the Hungarians.

My grandfather’s family arrived in the United states in the 1880s and remained for the rest of their lives. I know of NO visits back to Europe, so my (illiterate) great grandparents would probably have learned of social and political unrest from friends and neighbors here.

The fact that my great grandfather changed the family surname from the Slovak Kucharik to the Hungarian Sabo between 1910-1920 might well reflect his support of the Hungarian side of Rusyn politics.

On the other hand, Nana and her brother, both born in New Jersey, returned with their parents to Udol, Slovakia about 1897. Both were too young to remember life in New Jersey.

However, Nana returned for good to New Jersey in 1910 and Peter returned about 1920.

By this time, political sides had been drawn among the Rusyn communities in Europe and in America. Nana was extremely religious and would have grown up hearing parents, grandparents and other family members discussing both Hungarian and Russian intrusions into daily life.

Rusyns were almost 100% Greek Catholic, today called Byzantine Catholic because ‘Greek’ referred to an alignment with the Eastern Orthodox churches, not specifically to Greece.

As for Nana never admitting her father had a brother, I believe there is a simple explanation. Her uncle, John Scerbak, left St. Michael’s Church in Passaic and joined the newly formed RUSSIAN Orthodox Church.

My grandmother always had an intense dislike of Russia and leaving the Greek Catholic Church would have probably been enough of a reason for her to cut her uncle out of her circle of family and friends.

The dispute among St. Michael’s parishioners was reportedly so intense that John might have reacted in the very same way, cutting Nana and other relatives out of his own life.

It takes a solid foundation of knowledge about political, cultural, social and religious issues affecting our ancestors to get a good handle on their daily lives.

For Rusyns, Keith Dyrud’s book provides that insight. It is well worth the $64.00 that I spent.





New Englanders in the 1600s by Martin E. Hollick: Book Review

For the better part of the last year and a half, I’ve spent uncountable hours taking a new look at the many early colonial New England families perched in my family tree.

These are families for whom much of the research had been done long before I came along – some of it in the 1800s.

Although paper versions of genealogical journals, magazines, newsletters and even books are becoming more rare, there has been a mountain of genealogical research published, particularly about New England settlers,  since I began researching in 1979.

How can we locate all these new books and articles?

Martin E. Hollick has come to the rescue! New Englanders in the 1600s might not catch your eye if you are looking for information about specific people and families.

However, the complete title tells it all: New Englanders in the 1600s: A Guide to Genealogical Research Published Between 1980 and 2010.

Now, that caught my eye!

This is a fabulous book that everyone who is seriously – and by seriously I mean doing their own original research, not cutting and pasting information found online – should have on his/her reference book shelf.

The format is simple. Surnames are entered in ABC order, with given names added. There is a key to the source abbreviations in the entries at the beginning of the book, making it very simple to determine where the published information can be found.

Sometimes, it is in a book, while other times, it is a scholarly genealogy magazine or journal. In either case, the reader still needs to locate a repository to access the information, but identifying what has been published about who has been done for us by Mr. Hollick.

Here’s an example of one entry:

Crosby, Thomas, b. ca. 1575, d. Rowley, Mass., May 1661. Dancing, pp. 285-312; Crosby I:13-36, including English origins; wife of Simon2, Anna (Brigham)’s ancestry at Crosby I:1-4; descendants of Timothy7 at Crosby I:75-205, II: 206-340.

The key tells me Crosby and Dancing refer to two books by Paul W. Prindle and Susan E. Keats, respectively, with full bibliographic sourcing.

New Englanders in the 1600s: A Guide to Genealogical Research Published Between 1980 and 2010, Expanded Edition was published in 2012 by the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

Check the website for current availability. Copies can also be purchased online at everyone’s favorite website. Prices vary between $20-$25 for the reasonably priced copies.


Irish Emigrants in North America: Consolidated Edition Parts One to Ten by David Dobson: Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review and I have received other books from Genealogical Publishing Company, also for review. However, my opinions are my own and not influenced by outside sources.

David Dobson, I have to say, is one of the most prolific authors/compilers of genealogical records that I know. Genealogical Publishing Company actually has 182 entries under his name!

Irish Emigrants in North America, published in July 2023, is a consolidated facsimile print of the original ten books, now available in one large volume.

This is a fabulous reference book for anyone researching extensive Irish roots. There are literally thousands of names, presented in alphabetical order, with reference citations provided for every entry.

David Dobson provides a 2023 introduction to this new book, explaining a short history of events that led to mass Irish emigration from the 1600s through the 19th century.

There is also a two-page small map of Ireland, including the six counties of Northern Ireland,  and an even smaller one-page map of Ireland as it was in 1848, but both best read with a magnifying glass.

Some entries are quite short and provide only basic details:

Callahan, Cornelius, in Montserrat in 1677-1678

while others have a bit more:

Deane, William, emigrated from Newry to New York on board the Buchanan, Captain Cochrane, October 1765 [with Nesbitt Deane, immediately preceding on the same ship and date]

and, if you are lucky, practically an entire biographical sketch is written up:

Nowlan, Pat, born 1798, with his wife Betty, born 1810, and children Peggy born 1828, James born 1830, Mary born 1831, Mick born 1832, John born 1834, Ellen born 1835, Martin born 1839 and Biddy born 1841, from County Wicklow, emigrated via New Ross, County Wexford, aboard the Star, a 727 ton ship, Captain Baldwin, bound for New Brunswick on 21 April 1848, arrived at St. Andrews, New Brunswick on 28 May 1848

Not all entries relate to migration history. Here is one for a wanted man:

Henney, James, born in Ireland, aged 24, hazel eyes, fair hair, fair complexion, a downcast look, and a swaggering carriage. Genteely dressed in a blue suit, height about 5’8″, has absconded from William Hardie’s brewery and taking away a black pony with harness and carriage. Montreal, 23 May 1823.

There are a few entries for females:

Waring, Margaret, born 1678, from Queen’s County, a four year indentured servant, emigrated via Liverpool to Virginia aboard the Elizabeth of Liverpool, master Gilbert Livesay.

I have to admit I love getting drawn in by BSOs (bright shiny objects) and the entries in this book are fascinating, ranging from reprieved pirates to a Loyalist killed by Indians in 1780 to men shipwrecked off the Capes of Delaware and much more.

This Consolidated Edition is 835 pages long, packed with genealogical details of Irish emigrants and includes a 60-page all name index.

Dobson’s Consolidated Edition isn’t cheap at $85.00. However, this book is an excellent Irish reference and should be in every genealogical library and on the home book shelf of anyone with an extensive interest in the Irish who settled in North America through the centuries.

Irish Emigrants in North America: Consolidated Edition, Parts One to Ten by David Dobson is available to $85.00 and can be ordered online from