Category Archives: Kacsenyak

Kacsenyak Family of Slovakia and the U.S.


On the surface, this doesn’t appear to be a very difficult surname to research. Kacsenyak is the maiden name of one of my maternal great grandmothers, Maria Kacsenyak, who married Stephen Kucharik on 28 August 1877 in Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia, which is in the Presov district in the eastern half of the country.

The surname itself is rather uncommon, which normally should be a blessing. However, it can be spelled a myriad of ways – Csenyak, Kosenyak, Kaczeniak, Ksenyak, Kacsenik – which can be challenging to find in records.

To add to the difficulty, not very many people with this surname emigrated to the United States and no other close family relations of my Maria appear to ever have reached U.S. shores.

Today, in Slovakia, the name appears in both the Presov and Kosice districts, which are perhaps 40 miles apart in distance, with Kosice being directly south of Presov.

The final drawback in researching this family is that local church records only begin in the early 1800s. Given that my Maria was born in 1859, that doesn’t leave many years with surviving records beforehand.

The earliest Kacsenyak for whom I have any details is John Kacsenyak, so I consider him the family patriarch of this branch of my tree. John was born about 1798, likely in or near Vysna Sebastova, Presov, Slovakia. He was reportedly 26 years old when he married Anna Fucsik on 8 December 1824 in the Greek Catholic church in Okruzna. The church record noted that John and Anna both lived in Szengeto, which today is part of Vysna Sebastova. Anna was born about 1800, the daughter of John Fucsik. The marriage record doesn’t name the father of the groom.

Slovakia had a mix of Greek Catholics and Roman Catholics, who made up the bulk of the population in the 1800s. However, Catholic was Catholic and the two groups intermarried frequently. The tradition was that the couple married in the bride’s church, but the children were baptized in the husband’s church.

John Kacsenyak was Roman Catholic, while Anna Fucsik was Greek Catholic. Therefore, they married in the Greek Catholic church, but all future entries regarding the family – baptisms and burials – are found in the Roman Catholic church, which was nearby in Nizna Sebastova.

While working on this family, I also discovered that John Kacsenyak used an alias, but for what reason, I have no idea. His surname wasn’t common, but several records for his children record him as John Petro. Maybe Kacsenyak was too much of a mouthful.  However, it is clear from the combination of family records that the two surnames relate to a single person.

John and Anna had a large family, but a number of children died very young.


  1. Anna, baptized 27 September 1825; buried 28 September 1825.
  2. Anna, baptized 29 October 1826; buried 3 August 1832.
  3. Maria, baptized 14 January 1830; buried 5 September 1831.
  4. John, baptized 18 October 1832; buried 13 February 1837.
  5. Michael, born September 1834; died after 1881 and probably after 1900, as no burial record has been found for him through 1899, when the burial records end; married Anna Haluska.
  6. John, baptized 29 April 1837; married Barbara Desatnik.
  7. Barbara, baptized 17 September 1839; married Stephen Kvasny, 1864.
  8. Andreas, baptized 16 January 1842; married Anna Merhel(y), 1864
  9. Anna, baptized 28 August 1844; buried 12 December 1844.
  10. Anna, baptized 16 December 1845; buried 31 December 1845.

The Kacsenyak family is another sad example of the infant mortality rate in Slovakia. Of ten children, only Michael, John, Barbara and Andreas lived to adulthood and married.

John Kacsenyak aka Petro was buried on 21 December 1849. No death or burial record has been found for wife Anna, but son Michael was listed as an orphan when he married on 28 September 1858. Burial records for Nizna Sebastova from 1853-1858 are missing. She likely died in that time span and no second marriage record has been found for her.

Second Generation:

  1. Michael Kacsenyak, baptized 21 September 1834, Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia;  married Anna Haluska, 28 September 1858 in Ruska Nova Ves. Michael was Roman Catholic, while Anna was Greek Catholic. Both were alive for the 1869 census and no burial record has been found for either through 1899, the last year the church registers are available.

They had nine children:

  1. Maria, born June 1859, Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia; died 5 March 1926, Passaic, Passaic, New Jersey; married Stefan Kucharik, 28 August 1877, Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia.
  2. Anna, born 1861; buried 17 September 1863, Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia.
  3. Barbara, baptized 22 February 1864; Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia; died after 1869 census.
  4. Anna, baptized 12 June 1865, Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia; died before 1869 census.
  5. John, baptized 28 August 1868, Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia; died before 1869 census.
  6. Anna, baptized 29 July 1870, Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia; nuo further record.
  7. Erzebet (Elizabeth), born and died 16 January 1875, Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia.
  8. Maria (name might be entered incorrectly since first child Maria was still living), baptized 3 February 1879, Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia; no further record
  9. John, baptized 23 July 1881, Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia; no further record

2. John Kacsenyak was the second surviving child of John and Anna (Fucsik) Kacsenyak, baptized 29 April 1837, Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia. He married Barbara Deszatnik, 2 June 1862, Ruska Nova Ves, Slovakia. She was born about 1836. No further record on her has been found.

They had five children, all born in Ruska Nova Ves, Presov, Slovakia:

  1. Maria, baptized 10 December 1863; buried 2 October 1866
  2. Anna, baptized 8 June 1866; buried 8 July 1873
  3. John, baptized 2 March 1869; died after 1869 census and possibly emigrated to the U.S.
  4. Dorothy, baptized 4 May 1871; no further record
  5. George, baptized 21 April 1874; no further record

3. Barbara Kacsenyak was the only surviving daughter of John and Anna (Fucsik) Kacsenyak, baptized 17 September 1839, Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia. She married Stephen Kvasni, 30 June 1864, Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia. He was born c1839.

They had seven known children:

  1. Anna, baptized 6 January 1865, Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia; buried 15 February 1865
  2. John, baptized 6 January 1866; died after 1869 census
  3. Anna, baptized 26 May 1868, Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia; buried 1 December 1868.
  4. Stephen, baptized 12 August 1870, Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia; died soon.
  5. Stephen, baptized 1 December 1872, Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia; no further record.
  6. Michael, baptized 19 September 1874, Radacov, Presov, Slovakia; buried May 1887.
  7. Maria, baptized 20 March 1880, Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia; no further record.

4. Andreas Kacsenyak, the youngest surviving child of John and Anna (Fucsik) Kacsenyak was baptized 16 January 1842, Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia and married Anna Merhely, on 30 June 1864 in a double wedding with his sister. She was born about 1844. Andreas, his wife and Michael all lived with brother Michael Kacsenyak and his family, along with sister Barbara Kvasni, her husband and son at the time of the 1869 census.

They had two known children:

  1. Michael, born c1869 and in the 1869 census.
  2. John, born 24 February 1873, Nizna Sebastova, Slovakia; no further record.

As most of these village church records end about 1900, I am limited by a lack of records into the modern era, just as I am trying to move further back into the 1700s.

Right now, the only Kacsenyak that I can prove is part of this small family is my great grandmother, Maria Kacsenyak Kucharik. The Ellis Island site only lists four Kacsenyaks, all arriving between 1900 and 1913. However, two – Dorothy, aged 30 and Anna, aged 2, arriving in 1905 show Ujfalu as their home. Ruska Nova Ves had a village by that name in the 1800s so they might be part of the family. they were headed to the Yonkers, New York to Dorothy’s husband, Stephen.

If you see anyone here that you think might be your family, please leave a comment. I’d love to find some cousins in this branch of the family, as I don’t know of a single relative right now.

A “Nice” Person – Maria Kacsenyak Kucharik

By the time I started asking Nana about my grandfather’s family, there were few people still living who knew Maria Kacsenyak Kucharik, later known as Mary Sabo, as the family dropped the Slovak name “Kucharik” and took on the Hungarian surname of “Sabo.”

Maria appears in all the usual records – baptism, marriage, death and censuses – but I personally know little about her. My grandmother, who wasn’t fond of most of her in-laws, did say Maria was a “nice” and a “kind” person, but didn’t know much else about her except that she “was a cook for the Emperor Maximilian.” I doubt that was true, but it is possible that she worked as a cook for some local government official before the family emigrated to the United States.

I do know that, like many other Slovak immigrants, her life was not easy.

Maria was born and baptized on 14 August 1859 in what today is Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia.

She was the first born child of Michael Kacsenyak and Anna Haluska, who had married eleven months before on 28 September 1858 in the nearby town of Ruska Nova Ves.

Michael was a “zsellar,” or peasant – the same description given to almost every adult male in the village. Peasant farming was a hard way to make a living. Even those with trades didn’t fare much better.

Physical labor and a lack of money weren’t the only difficult parts about village life. Medical care was non-existent. Women often died giving birth and, even if they survived, the baby often didn’t. If one survived birth, another scourge came along on a semi-regular basis – epidemics. Every few years, diphtheria, pertussis or whooping cough, the flu and typhoid fever swept through the villages. The priest was kept very busy burying the dead for two or three months at a time.

If a person managed to survive to adulthood, the average lifespan wasn’t very long in the 1800’s. Death often came to those in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. There were a handful who lived into their 70’s and 80’s, but that was quite unusual.

I have read many pages of church register deaths and burials and am amazed at the high mortality rate back then.

The Kacsenyak family was typical of the other village families. Maria’s mother, Anna, eventually gave birth to a total of nine children. Maria, born in 1859, was followed by Anna in 1861, Barbara in 1864, Anna in 1865, John in 1868, Anna yet again in 1870, Erzebet in 1875, a second Maria in 1879 and another John in 1881. At least four of those children died very young – the first two Annas, the first John and Erzebet. My Maria married in 1877 and I wonder if because she was no longer in the household, her parents named a second surviving daughter Maria.

Maria was eighteen years and two months old when she married Stefan Kucharik. From comments made by both my grandmother and my grandfather’s surviving sister-in-law Mary Sabo, Stefan was at best a difficult man to be around.

Stefan and Maria had at least eight children born to them, as noted in the 1900 census in Passaic, New Jersey. Stefan apparently came first to America in 1880, with Maria and the children following a few years later. They reported on the census that they arrived in 1883, but it seems to have been closer to 1886, based on church records. Before they left the village, Stefan and Maria had at least three children – son John and daughters Mary and Anna. However, Anna died soon after birth in Vysna Sebastova. A second Anna was born in 1889, probably in Pennsylvania, followed by two more sons, George in 1893 and Stephen in 1897. Somewhere in that mix, two more children were lost. They also lost eldest son, John, sometime between 1900 and 1910.

In the 1900 census, Stefan and son John are enumerated as laborers, possibly in the local mills. Daughter Mary is a mill hand. Interestingly, Maria is not shown as being employed. That was very unusual for an immigrant family in that time period, but I am sure she wasn’t sitting at  home relaxing. I think it is more likely that she perhaps cared for children and did cooking and cleaning for other neighborhood families, probably off the books.

Maria Kacsenyak Kucharik

The family originally settled in Delano and Mahanoy City, both in Pennsylvania. Stefan worked for the railroad, according to my grandmother, and I have the watch that he used on the job. It no longer works and I’ve been told it isn’t worth the cost to have it repaired.

Stefan’s Railroad Watch

Nana had no idea why the family moved from Pennsylvania to Passaic in the late 1890’s, but if it was for railroad work, Stefan didn’t remain there long.

In 1910, Maria still is enumerated with no job. At that time, she reported that she had given birth to nine children, four living so he had not only lost son John, but lost her last baby, too. Stefan worked at a bleachery, son George was a shipping clerk and Stephen was at school.

By 1920, the last census for which Maria was living, she was now called Mary, still with no job. Husband Stephen and son Stephen both worked in the bleachery. The other children were all out of the house and married.

This is the third picture I have of Maria. She was only 66 years old when she died. She appears to me to be much older than that in this last photo. In each of the photos, she has a kindly face.

Maria, c1910

Maria died in Passaic, New Jersey of lobar pneumonia on 5 March 1926, twenty-six years and two days before her great granddaughter was born.

Even though I have three photos of her and have placed her in a number of records, I know very little about Maria Kacsenyak Kucharik, aka Sabo, except that she was “nice” and “kind.” However, I wish that our lifespans had overlapped so that I would have had a chance to get to know her. Like Nana, I think I would have liked her, too.



Road Trip to Germany & Slovakia

“Road trip” is another one of those themes that I needed to ponder for a bit. Nothing really jumped to mind when I thought about car trips that our families have taken. I suppose ancestors migrating from the East Coast could be considered road trips of a sort, but no one in the family knows anything about the migratory trips they made except that they “went there.”

I decided instead to focus on a road trip that I had told Dave a few years ago that I would love to make. The plan hasn’t come to fruition yet, but it is a definite possibility for a future vacation.

I confess that I have been very, very lucky to have been able to visit some of my ancestors’ home towns, both in the U.S. and abroad – through the years. My dream road trip would take a bit more planning – and travel to areas where languages are spoken that neither Dave nor I speak, but the trip is certainly doable.

A Dream of a Road Trip
Map Image: Bing Maps

Why would this be my dream vacation? There are still two ancestral homelands in Europe that I have not visited – the German Palatinate home of Dave’s Whitmers and Stufflebeans and my father’s grandparents’ homes in Slovakia. All of the ancestral villages are quite small and we could fit in stops in some beautiful, historic cities along the way.

Here is my travel plan:

1. Arrive in Munich. Pick up the rental car.

2. Head west to BARBELROTH, Germany, which was the home of Dave’s 5x great grandfather, Johannes Whitmer, who was born in Barbelroth in 1751. He was a small boy when his family left Germany and settled in Frederick County, Maryland. Barbelroth has always been a small village. Today, there are about 600 residents.

3. Leaving Barbelroth, we would head north to LAUBENHEIM and LANGENLONSHEIM, home of the Stufflebeans, known as Stoppelbeins in 1740, when they emigrated to Columbia County, New York. Laubenheim is also a small village with a population of about 800. Langenlonsheim is a town of about 3,700.

4. Leaving Laubenheim, we would head east and stop in Dresden, Germany and Cracow, Poland. Both are said to be beautiful cities, but, as they are not ancestral homes, I won’t do more than mention them here.

5. Next, we will cross into Slovakia, homeland of my paternal ancestors. Both my grandfather, George Kucharik, and my grandmother, Julia Scerbak, were born in the United States after their parents emigrated. The Scerbaks were in Passaic by 1890, but decided to return home about 1898, when my grandmother was about five years old. Her father, Michael, was from the village of UDOL, (known as Ujak back then) and which today has only 400 residents. Her mother, Anna Murcko, was born in HAJTOVKA, about a mile from Udol. Hajtovka’s population today is 75! These villages are a short distance southeast of Cracow as the crow flies and they sit in the foothills of the mountains separating them from Poland.

My grandmother’s youngest brother’s family never came to the United States so I have a number of second cousins still living near Udol. We have exchanged letters and photos through the years, but they don’t speak any English and I don’t speak Slovak. We’ve needed intermediary translators to help with the correspondence.

6. The last ancestral stop would be about forty miles southeast of Udol and Hajtovka. My grandmother had no idea where husband George’s family lived in Slovakia. Unlike the Scerbaks, when the Kuchariks left about 1885, they were never to return to Europe. It took years to unearth the name of their village. While part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, it was called Felso Sebes and was in Saros County, Hungary. Today, it is called VYSNA SEBASTOVA and is a small town of about 1,000, a bit east of Presov, Slovakia.

7. As we would head west back towards Munich, visits would be made to Vienna, Austria and Salzburg, Austria.

The total round trip would cover about 1,650 miles and, ideally, it would be wonderful to spend about two weeks there.

Now, I just need to talk Dave into planning out an actual trip!