Category Archives: Patorai

Story of an Alias: “Patorai recte Mikulik” – 12 for ’22

This is my first post in my “12 for ’22” series, based on Jacqi Stevens’ research project for the new year, found on her blog, A Family Tapestry.

In American experiences, aliases are often a signal that a person is up to no good. Otherwise, why would a person with an alias be identified? The word alias itself gives the implication of wrongdoing.

Its meaning is narrow in American usage. If a person has legally changed a surname, that man or woman isn’t typically called a person with an alias.

However, American usage of the word is much narrower than the way many of our European ancestors used the term.

In fact, aliases contributed to the development of surnames.

The origins of many surnames generally fit into four categories:

1. Physical characteristic of a person (Short, Gross)
2. Occupation (Cook, Taylor, Zimmerman)
3. Geographic location (Hill, Rivers)
4. Paternal relationship (Peterson, Andrews)

Why were aliases adopted?

First, they contributed to the development of surnames. Perhaps John who lived by the Hill was a Shepherd by occupation. At first, he was called John Hill, but then too many people lived near that hill and he then became known as “John Shepherd correctly Hill.”

Secondly, mortality rates were very high in Europe for a number of reasons. Some families died out while others not only prospered, but became quite large and unwieldy in terms of identifying people correctly.

Catholics, for example, had to name children after saints. In Udol, the favored names for boys were Michael and John. For girls, it was Mary and Anna.

Now, let’s say that the Lesko family, which was quite large, had 4 different branches and each had a Michael Lesko born within ten years of all the others.

In this case, the various Michaels might take an alias so as not to be confused with cousins close in age.

Thirdly, there are examples of a man changing his surname at marriage because his wife’s family had no males to carry on the name to future generations. I imagine something of value was promised to the groom and he was then known by his wife’s family name.

While I was very aware of aliases in families, such as the French Canadian dit names, I hadn’t come across them in my own research.

That is, until I started my one-place study of St. Dimitry’s Church in Udol, Slovakia.

Years before the internet came to be, I had paid for family history research through the Czechoslovkian Embassy in Washington, DC. I received quite a few vital record certificates that filled the Rusyn branch of my paternal grandmother’s family tree.

Nana knew all four of her grandparents; her father’s parents were John Scerbak and Maria Patorai.

Patorai is an unusual surname, even in Eastern Europe and I’ve always liked the way it sounds. I was acquainted with some Patorays in New Jersey, too, as they were related to Nana.

John Scerbak and Maria Patorai married on 11 February 1861 at St. Dimitry’s Church and my government-provided certificate identified her parents as John Patorai and Anna Szurgent.

As the church registers begin in 1827, John Patorai’s estimated birth year is c1810. Anna Szurgent was born c1813.

Their marriage record names Anna’s parents as John Szurgent and Anna Gmitrisin.

John’s parents are named as Andrew Patorai and Maria Janoskova.

So far, so good. We have documented records for:

Andrew Patorai & Maria Janoskova
John Patorai & Anna Szurgent
John Scerbak & Maria Patorai
Michael Scerbak & Anna Murcko
Julia Scerbak, my grandmother

Then came the bump in the road.

John Patorai and Anna Szurgent were the parents of six known children:

1. Maria, bp 5 March 1839; married John Scerbak
2. Anna, born c1844; married Michael Knapojurka
3. John, bp 18 March 1849; married Anna Fecsisin
4. Michael, bp 11 July 1851; married Helena Miklus
5. Peter, born 3 February 1856; married Maria Buk
6. Susanna, born 8 January 1859; married Michael Miklus

However, when I came across these people in St. Dimitry’s Church records, I found Maria called “Patorai recte Mikulik.” Her brother John was called “Patorai recte Mikulik.”

RECTE comes from Latin and gives us the word “rectify” or “to correct” or “correctly.”

Therefore, I had more than one event in which at least two of Andrew Patorai’s and Maria Janoskova’s children were called by their aliases plus their true surnames “Patorai correctly Mikulik!”

Okay, so how did the Mikuliks start using Patorai as their surname?

I don’t think there will ever be an answer found to that question.

It was thought that Andrew Patorai who married Maria Janoskova might have been the son of Andrew Patorai and Elizabeth Tarbaj, baptized 9 December 1787 in Lipovce in the Presov district. Lipovce was a Roman Catholic village, so probably ethnic Slovak, not Rusyn.

The name is uncommon and the birth year would fit for a man whose eldest child was born c1810. There are no later entries for this family so it is possible that they moved on, possibly to Ujak (today Udol).

Lipovce is about 30 miles from Udol. Certainly, they weren’t in each other’s backyard, but they also weren’t out of the realm of realityfor a family who might have migrated elsewhere in the region.

There are many Mikuliks who lived in Ujak throughout the 1800s. That is probably why aliases were adopted.

In addition to the Patorais, there are several others to be found:

Mikulik alias Matsmaruv
Mikulik alias Holodnyak
Mikulik alias Huszar
Mikulik alias Kacsmar
Mikulik alias Kacsmarszemana
Mikulik alias Szurgent

Andrew Patorai and Maria Janoskova only appear as parents in the church records. They could possibly have both been alive for the 1869 Hungarian empire census since I’ve found no burial record for either of them. However, the Patorais lived in House #1 for many years. Wouldn’t you know that the digitized images begin with House #2?

The short answer to this long post is that I have no records that call the family patriarch, Andrew, anything but Andrew Patorai.

However, two of his children – daughter Maria and son John – are called “Patorai recte Mikulik” at least one time each.

My theory at the moment is that Andrew Patorai and Maria Janoskova had no surviving sons and John Mikulik who married Anna Szurgent agreed to take on the alias of Patorai to continue the family name.

If my theory is true, then no Patorai today, who has Udol origins, has any Patorai DNA at all. Their DNA matches should show connections to other Mikuliks. If they can’t figure out how the Patorais and Mikuliks are related, John Patorai recte Mikulik is likely the answer.




Patorai/Patoraj/Patoray Family of Slovakia

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written about my father’s side of the family so I decided it was time. My 2X great grandmother was Maria Patorai and she married John Scerbak in Udol, Slovakia. The family is small even today, but it was even smaller in the early 1800s.

In fact, there is only one Patorai to be found in those earliest Udol church registers – Andrej/Andreas Patorai who married Maria Janoskova. They had one known child, John, born c1810. There are no known surviving church registers for Udol before 1828, so there is a bit of a gap to cover here.

However, Patorai in whichever spelling is quite a rare surname, so I took a look at FamilySearch to see if the name appears in other Slovak villages. It did, but not very often, so I examined the registers much more closely for two other towns, Lipovce and Nizny Slavkov, which are the only ones that have Patorai in the baptismal records on FamilySearch.

Udol, Nizny Slavkov and Lipovce
Source: Google Maps

The distance from Udol to Nizny Slavkov is about 20 miles. From Udol to Lipovce is about 38 miles. The distance from Nizny Slavkov to Lipovce is 25 miles. None were exactly day trips back in the 18th and 19th centuries, but it is also within the realm of possibilities that the Patorai clan migrated from one village to another seeking better opportunities.

The following baptismal records were found:

1. John, son of George and Susanna, baptized 14 June 1770
2. John, son of Jacob and Elisabeth, baptized 20 January 1771

Then there is a gap in Patoraj births in Lipovce:
3. Anna, daughter of Andreas Patoraj and Elisabeth Tarbaj, baptized 10 July 1783
4. Andreas, son of Andreas and Elisabeth Tarbai, baptized 9 October 1787

Although marriage records also survive for Lipovce, the only marriages found were for:
1. Alexander Ujusky(?) and Anna Patoraj, 22 January 1753
2. George Patoraj and Maria Lasinszki(?), 27 June 1760
3. Andreas Patoraj and Elisabeth Tarbaj, 8 February 1778

George who married in 1760 could be the same George married to Susanna when their son John was born in 1770, but George didn’t marry Susanna in Lipovce.

The burial records yielded more Patorajs, but most were infants and none of those buried gave family relationships except for two:

Maria, buried 18 February 1761, aged 1
Elisabeth, buried 27 April 1761, infant
George, buried 30 August 1767, infant
Maria, buried 23 April 1769, aged 6
George, buried 14 April 1771, infant
John, buried 20 April 1774, infant
John, son of Jacob, buried 15 January 1776, infant
Anna, buried 17 June 1778, aged 65
John, son of George, buried 15 April 1782, infant
Jacob, buried 25 May 1784, aged 68

I continued to read burial records through 1815, but no other Patorajs were buried in that time period. With the high mortality rate, I believe they likely moved to another village/parish.

Given the uniqueness of the Patoraj surname, it is probably somewhat safe to say that Jacob and Anna were spouses, but that doesn’t really answer any questions about any of the other children and to whom they belonged.

Nizny Slavkov records provided even fewer clues. There is one Patoraj family who had children baptized there:

  1. Michael, son of Jacob Patoraj and Elisabeth, baptized 23 August 1785
  2. Martin, son of Jacob Patoraj and Elisabeth, baptized 13 August 1787
  3. Jacob and John, twins, sons of Jacob Patoraj and Elisabeth, baptized 15 June 1790

There were only two burial records through 1805:
1. Anna Patoraj, buried 14 January 1785, aged 70
2. Paul, son of Jacob Patoraj, buried 30 April 1785, aged 3, but there was no baptismal record found for Paul back to 1780

In reviewing this data, I think it is possible that Andreas Patoraj who married Elisabeth Tarbaj in 1778 could be the parents of my Andrej/Andreas Patoraj who was the father of John Patorai in Udol, born c1810. Andreas born in 1787 would have been about 23 when John Patorai was born.

I find it very interesting, too, that although Andreas married Elisabeth Tarbaj in 1778 in Lipovce, the only two children who appear in the records weren’t born until 1783 and 1785. There are no infant burials for their possible children either, which again leaves open the question about transitory residence.

If I had to fit these Patorajs together into a family unit, I would surmise that Jacob and Anna, born c1716 and c1713, might be the parents of Anna, George, Jacob and Andreas, but there is no way to prove any of this as the only records that survive in this time period are church registers.

These people were all peasants, either farming or possibly having a trade by which to make their living. I wouldn’t even think of trying to connect these people unless their surname was as rare as Patoraj.

The only other avenue open for research is to begin browsing the church registers for other parishes along the loop from Udol to Lipovce to Nizny Slavkov and back to Udol. That will take some time, but it is doable.


An Alias. . . .and Another Alias, But Why???

While working on the Patorai/Patoraj/Patoray family, I discovered that sometimes John Patorai and sometimes his wife, Anna Szurgent, were called “recte” (right or correctly) Mikulik. Mikulik is a surname found in the village of Udol, Slovakia, but I am at a loss as to explain why each was given that alias at different times even though both were listed in the same record.

A picture or two or three is worth a thousand words, so here is the mystery.

First, we have the marriage record for John Patoraj and Anna Szurgent, who married in Udol on 22 November 1836.

1836 Marriage Record

Column 1 – Joa Paterej, gc, Col Ujak, Anna Szurgent, gc

Translation: John Patoraj, Greek Catholic, Parish Ujak, Anna Szurgent, Greek Catholic

Column 3 gives John’s parents as Andreas Patorej, Greek Catholic, Ujak, Maria Joanoskova. Anna’s parents are John Szurgent, Greek Catholic, Anna Gmitritisin, Greek Catholic.

Next, we have the baptisms of their children. The second column is the important one in these records:

1.  Maria, 5 March 1839

Month March

Joa Pateraj
gc Col Ujak
Anna Szur

Translation: Parents – Joannes (John) Pateraj, Greek Catholic, Parish Ujak, Anna Szurgent

2. Anna, 24 August 1842 (first column =  dto or ditto). Again, note column 2:

Joa Patoray
gc Col Ujak
Anna Miku
Translation: Parents – Joannes (John) Pateray
Greek Catholic, Parish Ujak, Anna Mikulik

Okay, pause here. Did Anna Szurgent die and John married again to Anna Mikulik? Well, there is no burial record for Anna Szurgent, nor is there a marriage record for John Patoraj. Remember, this is an extremely uncommon surname even in this tiny Udol village. Let’s go on:

3. John, 18 March 1849

John’s 1849 Baptism

Again, look at column 2 –

Mikulik, Ja
nos et Szur
gent Anna
Greek Catholic

Translation: Parents are Janos (John) Mikulik and Anna Szurgent!

The question here is who, if either of these people is the Mikulik and why do they have this alias???

Next in the family is Michael, but in between these two births, the Hungarians took over the local government and the records changed overnight from Latin to the Cyrillic alphabet.

4. Michael 11 June 1851

Cyrillic Alphabet Entry, 1851

Column 3 is Michael and column 4 has the parents – Patoraj John and Szurgent Anna.

5. Peter, 3 (month?) 1856

Cyrillic Alphabet Entry

The far right columns are the ones to look at with this entry, as they have the parents’ names and the village and house number (Ujak 38).

Parents are John Patoraj and Anna Szurgent, based on the fact that the letter that looks like our N is a P in the Cyrillic alphabet and our S is a C in Cyrillic.

6. Susannah, 18 December 1859

Thankfully, the Hungarians were gone and the priests reverted to Latin entries in the church register:

1859 Baptism

Parents are John Patoraj, Greek Catholic, Parish Ujak and Anna Szurgent, Greek Catholic and the family had moved to Ujak house #1.

That wasn’t the end of the alias situation because when son John married in 1873, Mikulik was again mentioned:

1873 Marriage Record

Joan, (father Joannis Patoray recte Mikulik Col. Ujak filius
Translation: John, John Patoray correctly Mikulis, Parish Ujak, son

The Patorajs lived in house #1. John married Anna Fecsisin, daughter of Peter of Ujak, but no house number recorded.

A couple of baptismal records for John’s and Anna’s children also mention the Patoraj/Mikulik alias.

Anna Szurgent Patoray died 20 July 1873 during a cholera epidemic and was buried the next day.

Burial Record for Anna Szurgent Patorey, 1873

No burial record has yet been found for John Patoraj/Mikulik. It will take some searching because the records again switch from Latin to Hungarian and baptisms, marriages and burials are not in consecutive years.

The question remains – why did either of them use the Mikulik alias and was the Mikulik name attached to Anna or John? Anna was apparently not a widow when she married John in 1836. Village records only begin in 1828 so there are no records found for their parents that would indicate why Mikulik was being used as an alternate surname.

Readers, any thoughts on the matter would be most appreciated.