Category Archives: Kucharik

John Szabo, Died 1902: Is He My Grandfather’s Long Lost Brother?

I’ve been trying to find out what happened to my grand uncle, John Kucharik, aka John Sabo, for quite a few years. The search has been somewhat complicated by the fact that the family used both surnames, which can be spelled several ways.

Grandfather George & I think his brother, John

My grandfather, George Kucharik, aka George Sabo, was the next to youngest of five surviving children of Stephen and Mary (Kacsenyak) Kucharik, who settled in Passaic, New Jersey sometime between youngest son Stephen’s birth in Pennsylvania on 18 February 1897 and the 1900 census of New Jersey.

John Kucharik was baptized on 25 August 1877 in Okruzna, Slovakia, which is slightly east of Presov. He appears in the 1900 census with the rest of the family, living in Passaic:

Kuharik Family, 1900, Passaic Census
Source: Ancestry

Note that most of their birth months and ages don’t square up with the Slovak church records. Greek Catholic babies were usually baptized within a couple of days of birth because the infant mortality rate was so high.

Also, it appears from Stephen and Mary’s marriage date that John was one of those first babies that didn’t take nine months to arrive!

Aside from that, notice that Mary reports having five surviving children out of eight to whom she had given birth. I’ve only accounted for seven children, but FIVE surviving children is the important detail here.

New Jersey records aren’t the easiest to access, but I have not found any evidence – yet – that John ever married. However, it would be common cultural custom for John to have married when he was in his 20s, which would have been between 1900, when he was 23, and 1910, when he would have been 33.

Next, I looked at the 1910 census enumeration of the family:

Kucharik Family, 1910 in Passaic
Source: Ancestry

Anna and Mary had married and were in their own households. George and Stephen Jr. were students and both living at home with their parents. Look at the right column, next to Mary’s name: 9/4

Mary might have lost yet another child, or the total number might be in error. Stephen and Mary were both spoke little English and I think they were also illiterate in Slovak, too. However, now she only has FOUR living children.

I have searched in Pennsylvania for their son, John, as they first lived in Delano, near Mahanoy City in Schuylkill County for both marriage and death records. Nothing has turned up.

I also checked records back in Slovakia on the chance that John might have returned home to marry a local girl and/or possibly have died there. Nothing has been found there either.

If he traveled to some other state, he might be lost forever, as the Sabo/Szabo surname is way too common to research. It’s Hungarian and means Tailor (Taylor).

That left searching New Jersey records. No marriage record has been found. thanks to Reclaim the Records, there is an online index of New Jersey marriage records, although the groom’s index isn’t complete for all years. Both of the Kucharik sisters, Anna and Mary, appear in the index. John has not been found.

Recently, I came across an index of New Jersey death records that covered the first decade of the 1900s. There was a John SZABO who died in 1902 in Passaic.

Obtaining a copy of the death certificate was an interesting activity. First, I thought that if the city of Passaic had the record, it might be easier and less time consuming to order it from the City Clerk’s office. I made a phone call and the office confirmed that they had death records for 1902.

However, in order to purchase the record, I had to prove my relationship to the deceased, even though the death happened 117 years ago. I duly made copies of documents and mailed off a check with the paperwork (The order form listed CHECK as one of the forms of payment.)

Over 3 weeks later, the entire packet was returned to me, with a note that they didn’t accept checks and to call the city clerk’s office. I did call and found out two things. They accept checks, but only cashier’s checks and, much more importantly, they couldn’t find the volume of 1902 deaths.

I was referred to the state website where I could order the record online, with no documentation required as the death happened so long ago and could pay with a credit card.

Less than two weeks later, I received the record, but not without one more hiccup. Thankfully, I had included the record number found in the index – #18772 – or else they would not have found it.

The death was indexed under Passaic County, but read the record for yourself:

Death Certificate of John Szabo, 1902

About half way down, next to the ink blog on the edge, the place of death is noted as Belmont, New Jersey, where John lived. Belmont is actually a neighborhood of Garfield, which is next to Passaic, but in BERGEN County, not PASSAIC County.

How did this get indexed under Passaic County? Look near the bottom where the medical attendant’s name is recorded. Residence is PASSAIC, NJ.

Unfortunately, this John Szabo is not my grandfather’s brother. This John was born c1854, aged 48 years old when he died of chronic nephritis on 23 August 1902, so he was way older than my John, born in 1877.

Here is John Szabo in the 1902 Garfield City Directory:

John Szabo was the son of John and Elizabeth Szabo of Hungary. He was married at the time he died, but no wife’s name is given and I have not been able to identify him in the 1900 census even though the death record said he had lived in New Jersey for 11 years.

If you are a descendant of this John Szabo and would like the death certificate, please leave a comment.

The search goes on for my grandfather’s brother!


DNA Matches & the Kucharik Family

Recently, I made contact with a Kucharik descendant. We share 28 cM on just a single segment. This person has a family tree online, but I didn’t recognize her Kucharik ancestor:

Anna Kucharik was born in 1843 and married Michael Vargo. She is shown to be the daughter of Joseph Kucharik and Maria Matisz.

I included the family tree branch below Michael and Anna because of the Karahuta surname.

Although I couldn’t readily figure out who these people were, I am certain that they belong in the collateral branches of my family tree because the towns identified in the tree were Felso Sebes, Korosfo and, today’s version of these towns – Vysna Sebastova, Slovakia. These are exactly the same tiny neighborhoods where my Kuchariks originated.

My new cousin is in the 4th-6th cousin range, which unfortunately places our common ancestor born before the earliest surviving church register began.

There were not many Kuchariks living in the area of Vysna Sebastova in the 19th century. Here is my working theory of their relationships:

The earliest Mr. Kucharik was likely born in the 1760s and died before 1810, when the parish register begins. The Kucharik family was Greek Catholic, although they often married Roman Catholic spouses.

Mr. Kucharik, married to one or more unknown wives, was probably the father of four sons who lived to adulthood:

  1. John, born c1786; married Anna Pelahat, c1808
  2. George, born c1793; married (1) Anna Miklus (2) Anna Pelahat (3) Anna Batsa (4) Anna Lucats
  3. Michael, born c1800; married Anna Mihaly
  4. ? Joseph, born c1802 or c1810; married Maria Foltin

Let’s look at each of these children.

First, John Kucharik and Anna Pelahat were the parents of one known son: John, baptized 15 May 1814, in Okruzna, Slovakia.

Second, we have George and Anna Pelahat were the parents of one child: Anna, baptized 20 January 1815, George and Anna Batsa were the parents of one child: John, baptized 8 November 1816. George and Anna Miklus were the parents of two children: John, baptized 28 November 1820 (and who married Maria Repka) and Maria, baptized in 1882 and George and Anna Lucats were the parents of one child: George, baptized 1 April 1830.

My ancestral line is through George and Anna Miklus and their son, John, born 1820, who married Maria Repka.

Third, we have Michael and Anna Mihaly were the parents of five children: Anna, baptized 31 January 1830 and buried 24 March 1831, Michael, baptized 28 August 1832, Anna, baptized 14 January 1836, Maria, baptized 29 November 1836 and Basil, baptized 30 December 1842.

Fourth, we have Joseph, but there is some conflicting information about him. When Joseph married Maria Foltin on 26 April 1834, his age was given as 24 years, so born c1810, and Maria was 20 years old, born c1814. However, when Joseph, husband of Maria Foltin, was buried on 20 May 1847, the priest’s notes said he was “found dead” and 45 years old, so born c1802.

This family was found in the Roman Catholic church register of Also Sebes (now Nizna Sebastova), not in the Greek Catholic church register in Okruzna/Felso Sebes/Szengeto parish.

I think the priest might not have been overly diligent when he made entries in his books. He identified Joseph Kucharik as a Roman Catholic when he married Maria. Not true! He was Greek Catholic. He failed to include Joseph’s Kucharik surname in the burial record, only identifying him as the husband of Maria Foltin.

There is a baptismal record for Anna Kucharik, daughter of Joseph Kucharik and Maria Matisz dated 13 October 1843. That led me to believe Maria Foltin had died and Joseph remarried. I found NO burial record for Maria Foltin Kucharik and NO second marriage to Maria Matisz (and I think the surname would actually be Matyas, but with a more phonetic spelling here.) I think the priest erred when listing Anna’s mother’s name.

Anna Kucharik was identified as Roman Catholic, but her marriage record identified her as Greek Catholic.

What difference does any of this make? Well, the most important discrepancy is in the birth year of Joseph Kucharik. If he was born in 1802, I believe he was the son of Mr. Kucharik the progenitor of the family.

If Joseph was born in 1810, he could still be the son of Mr. Kucharik, by a first or later wife, but he also might be the son of John Kucharik and Anna Pelahat. However, I tend to believe that he was a younger son of Mr. Kucharik.

I think the priest may have estimated ages in his records. The priest also appears to have forgotten to enter some baptismal records, as Joseph buried a son, Joseph (10 years old), and daughter, Maria (3 years old), in 1847 and there were no baptismal records found for either of them.

By the way, the fact that John and George both married an Anna Pelahat is of no consequence. These families used the same given names over and over, several times in a generation of cousins. I have found four Maria Repkas of marriageable age who were contemporaries of my Maria Repka, who married John Kucharik, detailed above.

Joseph Kucharik and Maria Foltin were the parents of: Michael, baptized 29 September 1835 and buried 16 January 1836, Joseph, born c1837 and buried 28 April 1847, John, baptized 27 January 1841 and buried 8 April 1847, Anna, baptized 13 October 1843 (but given Maria Matisz as her mother), and Maria, born c1844 and buried 8 April 1847.

I have to wonder what happened to Joseph, who was “”found dead” and buried on 20 May 1847, just weeks after burying children John and Maria on 8 April 1847 and son Joseph on 28 April 1847.

Anna was the only surviving child of Joseph Kucharik.

If my theory is correct about the early progenitor, Mr. Kucharik, and his children, then my Kucharik cousin is my 4C1R:

As a reminder, I mentioned earlier that we share 28 cM on just a single segment. According to Blaine Bettinger’s March 2020 shared cM relationship chart, 4C1R share an average of . . . . . . . . 28 cM!

I think our relationship chart is quite accurate. Absent the discovery of an earlier church register, this theory will stand.



Social Context & the Life of Stephen Kucharik (1855-1933)

Most of the family sketches I write are created and shared in terms of life facts – birth, marriage, death, homes and emigration. I purposely write in that style because my intent is “cousin bait” – finding new family members who are interested in learning more about our common ancestors.

However, I fully embrace the concept of social context that molds and influences our ancestors’ lives. Social context can often answer the “why” in our families’ lives, too. Therefore, today, I’d like to share the life story of my great grandfather, Stephen Kucharik.

He sure wasn’t the most popular member of the family. My grandmother called him “the old rummy.” When I shared some photos with my grandfather’s sister-in-law, hoping to confirm the identity of people in the pictures, Mary took one look at the only surviving photo of Stephen Kucharik. I asked if she recognized him. Her answer: Why would anyone want a picture of that rotten old man?

Although being “rotten” isn’t necessarily a corollary of living a difficult life, that personality trait was no doubt formed, in part, from the social and economic situations in which Stephen grew up.

To better understand Stephen Kucharik’s life story, it is necessary to study life in the village of Okruzna, Slovakia, where he was born. First, Okruzna, on the southern side of the Carpathian Mountains, was in the western-most portion of the swath of land where Carpatho-Rusyns had settled hundreds of years before. The Kuchariks were Rusyns – a Slavic people that has never had a homeland of its own. One defining characteristic of Carpatho-Rusyns in the Presov area of Slovakia is membership in the Greek Catholic, also known as the Byzantine Catholic, Church.

While knowledge of the local historical events isn’t necessary to understanding 19th century life, it is vitally important to understand the after effects of centuries of difficult life.

  1. Being in the “crossroads” of Europe, there were frequent political and governmental boundary changes.
  2. The local church was the dominant force in the villagers’ lives. They were “hatched, matched and dispatched,” so to speak, through baptism, marriage and burial. The parish priest was often the only literate man in the neighborhood and he was kept busy.
  3. Sunday Mass or Divine Liturgy provided holidays, but were more like relief from daily hard labor.
  4. Most of the men were shepherds or peasant farmers, who worked land owned by others, barely eking out a subsistence living for themselves and their families.
  5. Villagers lived in homes, more like shacks, that they didn’t own, often with several extended families sharing a tiny space.
  6. While women gave birth to many children, the infant mortality rate was so high that sometimes only one or two out of seven children lived to adulthood. Babies were usually baptized within 48 hours of birth because of the mortality rate. If Greek Catholic, they were confirmed at the same time.
  7. The adult mortality rate wasn’t so great either. Epidemics of typhoid fever, smallpox and cholera swept through areas every 20-30 years, wiping out hundreds of adult lives.
  8. There was no opportunity for education until the turn of the 20th century, when schooling was common up to the fourth grade.
  9. Unfortunately, alcoholism was common among many.

Thus, when Stephen Kucharik was baptized on 6 February 1855, he was the third born child of John Kucharik and Maria Repka, but one of two surviving siblings. His birth was followed by that of five siblings in 1857, 1859, 1861, 1864 and 1865, two of whom died young, two of whom I can find no further record (and likely also died young) plus a sister, Maria, born in 1864, who died in 1916 in Vysna Sebastova.

Imagine giving birth to eight children, but only three lived to adulthood. Death was a fact of life, with both the priest and the grave diggers kept busy in these villages.

As a young child, Stephen would have been cared for by his mother at home. However, as soon as he was old enough to be more of a help than hindrance, he would have had house chores and then sent off to work with his father.

There was no first day of school for Stephen. There probably wasn’t even a school in any of the nearby villages. The 1900 census has tick marks for “can’t read/write” for both Stephen and his wife, Maria.

Weddings were a cause to celebrate and most Rusyn young men married between the ages of 21 and 25. Young women were also usually of legal age, but, occasionally, couples were 19-20 years old.

Stephen was very much like his contemporaries as he married Maria Kacsenyak on 28 August 1877, at the age of 22. Maria was 18 years old and a Roman Catholic. The Kacsenyak family also lived in Ruska Nova Ves, which was about 11 miles from Okruzna, where the Kucharik family lived.

I have no idea how they met – perhaps at market day in a town midway between the two.

I also don’t know if Stephen willingly married Maria or was told it was going to happen by his or her or both of their fathers. The reason I say that is their first child, John, was born three days BEFORE they married, on 25 August 1877 and baptized on 26 August. I had to double check that record to make sure I had both dates correct!

Stephen and Maria were married in the Roman Catholic church in Ruska Nova Ves, but their children were all baptized in the Greek Catholic Church, first in Okruzna and later at St. Mary’s in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania.

There was no opportunity for bettering their lives in the village, so c1880, Stephen Kucharik made his first trip to the United States. Emigration years on noted on censuses can be notoriously off target. However, in both 1900 and 1910, the same year was recorded so it is likely Stephen did make his first trip here around that time.

I’ve no idea where he heard about the opportunity to emigrate and 1880 is just about the first year that Eastern Europeans were being recruited to fill job openings abroad. Where he ventured is unknown, but because the family initially settled in the town of Delano near Mahanoy City, that might have been his first destination. He hasn’t been found in the 1880 census.

The 1900 census of Passaic, Passaic, New Jersey indicates that wife Maria and children John and Mary followed in 1883.

My grandmother told me that Stephen first work for the railroad (Reading Railway) in Pennsylvania. I have inherited the watch he used to tell time.

The Reading Railway’s principal business was to haul anthracite from the local mines around Mahanoy City.

Stephen seems to have not followed the traditional FAN club path, as I know of not a single person who followed the family from Okruzna to Pennsylvania or to New Jersey.

There was a definite Rusyn community, though, given that St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Church was built in Mahanoy City, a small borough with just .5 square mile of land space.

However, I suspect that during the Panic of 1893, an economic depression that lasted until 1897, might have meant that Stephen lost his job as a conductor on the train.

Stephen’s and Mary’s youngest child, also Stephen, was born in Mahanoy City on 18 February 1897. Sometime within the next three years, the family moved to Passaic.

There were two big draws to Passaic – a growing Carpatho-Rusyn community and several large mills that hired immigrant labor to fill jobs.

By 1900, the Kuchariks lived at 70 First Street as renters in a multi-family building and within walking distance or a short trolley ride to work.

I don’t know how religious the family was, but they would have attended Mass at St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church, about a half mile away, until St. Mary’s Slovak Roman Catholic Church and St. Michael’s Greek Catholic Church were completed in the early 1900s.

Stephen’s occupation was “laborer,” as was that of his 23 year old son, John. Daughter Mary, 19 years old, worked as a mill hand.

Mary was at home with daughter, Anna, 11 years old, and sons George, 6, and Stephen, 3. She reported having given birth to eight children with five surviving.

Although neither Stephen nor Mary had the opportunity to go to school, all of their children did, at least until they finished the 8th grade.

In 1910, Stephen, Mary and sons George and Stephen were at home at 2 Second Street, Passaic, New Jersey.

Sadly, Mary reported giving birth to 9 children with only 4 surviving. Eldest son John died during the first decade of the 20th century. I have not been able to find even a clue as to exactly when he died, but from city directories, I believe it was probably around 1902/03. Mary also gave birth to and lost her youngest child.

Stephen worked as a laborer in a bleachery, Mary was at home, George was a shipping clerk in a mill and Stephen Jr. was at school.

By 1920, Stephen, Mary and Stephen Jr. were the only ones at home, renting at 77 Hope Avenue, Passaic. Both Stephen and son Stephen worked at the bleachery.

An interesting turn of events happened during the 1910-1920 decade. When my grandparents married on 6 September 1915, World War I had already started, although the United States had not yet entered it.

There was much discussion among the Carpatho-Rusyn community about choosing sides, not so much to support warring countries, but to take a stand about the future of Carpatho-Rusyn people back in the homeland. Some emigrants to America supported the Ukrainians, some the Russians, and some the Hungarians.

About this time, Stephen Kucharik decided to change the family surname from Kucharik to Sabo. Both are relatively common names, as the Slovak surname Kucharik means “Cook” and the Hungarian surname Sabo means “tailor.”

I can’t prove anything about Stephen’s political leanings on the issue, but have to believe that he supported Hungary. Otherwise, why would he change his surname to one that is very Hungarian? By the way, the change wasn’t done with any legal proceedings in the court system. At the time, as long as a name change wasn’t implemented for reasons of subterfuge, people were free to make a change.

Maria (Kacsenyak) Kucharik died of pneumonia on 5 March 1926 at the age of 67 years in Passaic. She was buried at St. Peter’s Greek Catholic Cemetery in Garfield, Bergen, New Jersey.

Maria (Kacsenyak) Kucharik (Sabo), c1920

By all family accounts, Mary was a gentle, warm, well loved person. My grandmother didn’t care for many of her in-laws, but she was fond of Mary. I am surprised that she didn’t have a prayer card from her funeral. That makes me think that the family didn’t choose to have any made. They didn’t have a lot of money and that was a funeral expense they could avoid.

The last few years of Stephen’s life must have been sad. He hasn’t been found in the 1930 census. By this time, I am sure he was drinking a lot and my grandmother said his children passed him from home to home, taking turns housing him. My grandmother said they let him live in the cellar when it was my grandparents’ turn.

I can easily see my grandmother neglecting to tell the census taker that Stephen lived in the basement if he happened to be living with her at the time. It may have been the same situation with his other three surviving children.

Stephen (Kucharik) Sabo, c1920

Stephen died on 4 June 1933 in Wallington, Passaic, New Jersey of a cerebral hemorrhage and arteriosclerosis. I don’t know if he had a stroke or died as the result of hitting his head in a fall. He may have been living with son Stephen and his wife, as they were living in Wallington at the time of the 1930 census. Stephen was buried at St. Peter’s Cemetery, next to Mary.

It’s also a sad commentary that my grandfather was the informant on the death certificates for both of his parents. While he knew that his maternal grandparents were Michael Kacsenyak and Anna Haluska, he had no idea of the names of his paternal grandparents and gave a birth year for his father of 1866, no month or day known. That made Stephen 11 years younger than he actually was.

In summary, I can’t say whether Stephen’s life in America was better than it would have been had the family stayed in Okruzna. Either way, he lived a hardscrabble life, born into meager economic circumstances.


  1. John, born 25 August 1877, Okruzna, Slovakia; died between 1900-1910, place unknown; unmarried.
  2. Mary, born 15 January 1881, Okruzna, Slovakia; died 29 October 1973, Garfield, Bergen, New Jersey; married (1) Andrew Palasko, 3 February 1902, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania (2) Ladislav Bubbly, 1906, Passaic County, New Jersey.
  3. Anna, born 4 February 1885, Okruzna, Slovakia; died soon.
  4. Anna, born 18 April 1889, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania; died 7 June 1959, Garfield, Bergen, New Jersey; married (1) Nicholas Pezont, 1906, Passaic County, New Jersey (2) George Janicko, after 1944.
  5. Child, born and died young.
  6. Child, born and died young.
  7. George, born 24 May 1893, Delano, Schuylkill, New Jersey; died 27 November 1936, Haledon, Bergen, New Jersey; married Helena (Julia) Scerbak, 6 September 1915, Passaic, Passaic, New Jersey.
  8. Stephen, born 18 February 1897, Mahanoy City, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania; died 20 May 1976, Garfield, Bergen, New Jersey, married Mary Mikulik, 23 January 1924, Passaic County, New Jersey.
  9. Child, born and died 1900-1910.

With the exception of Mary losing her last child, I’ve guessed where the other children might have been born.

There are descendants today from Mary and George. Anna had no children. Stephen had one son and one daughter, but neither of them had any children.