Category Archives: Slovak Research

Navigating Slovak Church Records and the 1869 Census

Today, I’d like to share some tips for navigating Slovak church registers and the 1869 Hungarian census.

My paternal family tree is 100% from an area that is today’s eastern Slovakia in the Presov region.

I’ve written multiple posts about my Rusyn ancestors who live din this area. Nana’s family was easier to document because her parents lived in neighboring villages (Hajtovka and Ujak, now called Udol) which shared one Greek Catholic church.

My paternal grandfather’s family was a bit more complicated to trace . The tips I sort of stumbled onto are tips that will save you some time by not having to struggle as I did.

FamilySearch has digital records for both church registers and the 1869 Hungarian census, which includes today’s eastern Slovakia.

Before starting your family research, you need to know (1) the main religion of your family and I say “main” religion because Greek Catholics often married Roman Catholics and one village usually didn’t usually have two different churches.

Second, you need to know the various names by which the village was known. Town names changed as different governments took power.

The easiest way to explain this navigation path is to demonstrate, so here goes.

My grandfather’s Greek Catholic Pennsylvania baptismal certificate says his parents were from “Sebes” (pronounced “Shebesh”) which was part of Saros (pronounced “Sharish”) County in the Austrian Hungarian empire.

Nana said my grandfather’s family was also Rusyn and from the same area (she didn’t know the town), but her villages were near the city of Presov and an old map confirmed that area used to be Saros County.

With some help from the reference desk in Salt Lake, I learned that my first set of church records would be for Okruzna, Slovakia.

Now, let’s look at the FamilySearch catalog for the Slovak church records:

Yes, I want to browse!

My first choice is to sort by religion and I’ll choose Greek Catholic.

Records are now sorted by Greek Catholic with the above counties as choices.

My family was in the Presov region, so I’ll choose Presov County. There are only 11 locations in Presov County that have Greek Catholic parishes. Nana’s village of Udol is listed and so is Okruzna, where my grandfather’s family lived.

The only reason the above steps are included in this post is to give you an idea of how to even get to your family’s town or village.

We’re now getting to the meat of today’s post to learn how to find your family both in church registers and in the 1869 census.

Here is a portion of one page from the Greek Catholic church register for 1820 in Okruzna. From experience, I can say that the Roman Catholic registers are very similarwith facts entered into columns.

The language for both churches is usually Latin (as you can see by the column headings, but when the governments change, the church records immediately change to the official language, which is sometimes Hungarian and sometimes written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

For now, it is enough just to be aware that you might run into that issue.

Let’s look at this sample page. Notice the purple arrow pointing to LOCUS. In this column are several of the smaller villages, or neighborhoods, which are served by this Greek Catholic church.

Some of the towns are Korosfo, Kokeny,  Kellemes and “Waralljae.” My family lived in Waralljae, which in actuality is spelled Varallya in most of the records, but Varalja in modern language.

Now, I really want to look for a family member in the 1869 census that Hungary took. It’s also on FamilySearch and the records are divided by the old county names.

I’ll choose to browse the images so I can navigate right to Saros County. The county page brings up a long list of municipalities with their old names and modern names.

Notice my Nana’s village listed as Hajtuvka (Hajtovka)

This is a really, really important page if you don’t know the old or modern village name.

Now, where will I search in the 1869 census to find my family? The church is located in Okruzna. Well, I read every page of that village and they weren’t there. Why not? No, they didn’t move.

Go back again and look at the LOCUS column in the sample church page. Remember all those little places within the parish? And I said my family lived in Varallya?

Here are the “V” locations in the census list:

There is no Varallya! It’s had a name change and because it was so small, it might even have been swallowed up into another village.

An old online Hungarian gazetteer showed multiple Varalja in the empire. The one in Saros County said something about “A. Shebesh,” and the rest I couldn’t read.

Next stop was using our favorite search engine to see where Varalja, Slovkia might be. It came up in several searches, but one also included the town of Podhradik, which was unfamiliar to me. That led me to a map search.

I found it! I already knew I had family living in Vysna Sebastova, Okruzna, Ruska Nova Ves and near Lubotice in Nizna Sebastova (purple arrow where it is, although the name isn’t appearing on this map.) The village that is outlined is Podhradik and Castle Sebes (remember, it’s “Shebesh.” is located in it.

I returned to the FamilySearch page with the municipality list for the Saros County 1869 census.  Look what I found:

There it is! Remember, too, that Kellemes was another neighborhood served by the Greek Catholic church in Okruzna. right above “Sebes-Varalja (Podhradik)” is “Sebes-Kellemesretek (Sarisske Luky), which tells me where I’ll find the census list for anyone I might have living in Kellemes, which today has the completely different name of Sarisske Luky!

The same municipality list tells me that my Kuchariks who lived in Szengeto, also part of the Okruzna Greek Catholic parish, would find themselves in the renamed town of Severna today.

This hasn’t been a simple, straight forward lesson, but the extra steps of doing an online place name search and map search might be necessary for you to find your church family in the 1869 census.

Yes, I followed through with my Varallya family and they are indeed enumerated in Podhradik.

My family lived only in Saros County, but the same methods should work for you searching any of the other Slovak villages that were enumerated in the 1869 census.

The 1869 county municipality list is way too long to clip an image. It’s very possible that you’ll find your village name is already to be found and you won’t need to do extra online searches.

If you get stuck, I’d be happy to try to help. Just leave a comment in this post.








Udol and Hajtovka, Slovakia Then and Now, Part 2

Yesterday, we strolled through Ujak, now called Udol, Slovakia. Today, we will visit the neighboring, much smaller, village of Hajtovka, Slovakia. First, Udol is pretty easy to pronounce, just be looking at it. It is called: oo-doll, with the “oo” said like it is in “groove.”

Hajtovka is not quite so easy. The closest English pronunciation is about the equivalent of “high-toe-key.’

Here is the statistics clipping from the same unknown book where I found those of Udol:

Hajtovka, Slovakia

Hajtovka was also mentioned in ancient times, but it was known at Ayathuagasa in 1427, which doesn’t look anything like its modern name. By 1773, it was referred to as Hajtuska and Hajtuvka. Also, unlike Udol, the name was not changed after World War II.

The 1869 population of the village was all of 313, and that is actually the highest total of any of the census years in this list. As of 1970, it had only half the 1869 population with only 160 souls living there. I don’t think this has changed much in the last 40+ years.

I have no personal photos of Hajtovka, so this visit is completely via Google Earth street view.

Hajtovka didn’t have its own church – everyone walked the mile or so over to Udol and attended Mass at St. Dimitry’s. However, at some point in the 20th century, the villagers must have built what looks like a very small church or chapel, as I saw this at the end of the road heading west out of Hajtovka:


Hajtovka also only has one main road, with a bit of side sprawl. However, its road is much shorter than Udol’s.

Hajtovka Vintage Home

Not unexpectedly, there is a mix of later 20th century homes with a few of the older wooden structures that are still inhabited.

It is evident that this village is less than half the size of Udol. However, many of the homes are even closer together than those in Udol and there are stretches along both sides of the road where there are no homes.

I wonder if the empty land is where old homes now torn torn were situated and, with no population growth, new homes have not yet gone up there?


The road also doesn’t seem to be in as good repair as the road through Udol.  Overall, Hajtovka doesn’t have the look of a town that is thriving.

How much interaction was there between Udol and Hajtovka? A lot! Because those in Hajtovka had to go to Udol to attend church, there was likely more traffic, so to speak, headed east than west. Yet the two villages are only separated by about one mile, easily walkable.

My Slovak ancestors in these villages had the surnames Scerbak, Murcko, Patorai, Szurgent, Lisinski, Szova, Fengya  and Gmitrisin. The parish priest kept a list every few years of which families lived in which house, numbered from #1 to the end. The 1858 list shows no family by the name of Gmitrisin, but that male line might have died out there by that time. My Anna Gmitrisinova was born probably no later than 1790. Of the other names, Lisinski, Szova and Murcko are living in Hajtovka, while the Fengya, Szurgent, Patorai and Scerbak families are in Udol.

Visiting Hajtovka and Udol are definitely on my bucket list. One of my American cousins took his family back to the old country a couple of years ago where they met up with the Slovak branch of the family and had a wonderful time. I am hoping that in the new few years, I can make the same trip. I think Nana would have been very pleased.

Udol and Hajtovka, Slovakia, Then and Now: A Virtual Visit

The villages of Udol and Hajtovka, Slovakia are ancient settlements, but they are now and always have been small villages. The parents of Helena (Julia) Scerbak Sabo, my paternal grandmother, were born in these villages.Udol and Hajtovka are in the foothills of the Tatras Mountains, which lie between southern Poland and Slovakia.

Udol is the larger of the two. Although I have searched for documented histories of this area, I have found very little. Many years ago, I photocopied this information from a reference book I found somewhere, probably either in Los Angeles or Salt Lake City:

Udol Statistics

With the help of Google Translate, I have figured out the general idea of what this says.

First, in Section I, the village was first mentioned in the year 1427 and called Wyak. By 1786, it was called Ujak and, in 1948, at the end of World War II and the creation of the country of Czechoslovakia, it was renamed Udol, the name it retains today.

My ancestors were most definitely hardy people, as can be seen by the few population censuses and church records that survive today. Section 5 of the statistics, above, give the village population as 718 in 1869. By 1910, there were only 490 inhabitants, probably because the other half of the village had emigrated to Passaic, New Jersey to work in the factories and mills! The latest population count for 1970 showed 574 souls living there.

Over all, the population has remained fairly steady over 150 years, considering the fact that not only did many leave for America, but the mortality rate was extremely high. Along with every day deaths in the village, every few years, epidemics of measles, cholera and diphtheria and other pestilences swept through the villages. It’s amazing that there was anyone left living there.

Section II talks about the condition of the land. The village is on the left bank of the Poprad River; the land has been deforested and has limestone rock. (Note: which has made for poor farming soil.)

Section III mentions the number of homes at various time periods – after the village burned down in 1755! There were 61 homes and 416 inhabitants in 1787 and 88 homes with 663 inhabitants by 1828. Throughout time, the villagers were peasant farmers.

Section IV covers religion. The residents of this area were mostly Greek Catholic. The original Church of St. Dimitry, built in 1866, is gone, but The Carpathian Connection has a photo of the inside of the old building. It was quite beautiful, but by the end of the 20th century, it could no longer be repaired. This old church is the one that my grandmother Julia, her parents and grandparents would all have attended.

Source: Google Earth

The new church was built in the latter part of the 20th century. It sits up on the hill, overlooking the village.

I have a photo of the house where my grandmother’s brother, Stephen lived until he passed away in the 1990s. This was the brother that my grandmother never met because he wasn’t born until seven years after returned for good to the United States.

The house sits up on a hill and it looks like there was an old garage or storage area next to it. Since the village only has one main road and only a section of it is up the hill, a street visit using Google Earth didn’t provide many possibilities for what the house looks like today. Notice the orange triangles on the siding of the house? I think this is how it looks today from the street:

Same House?

This is the only home on the hill that has the same type of triangles on the sides. If it is the same house, then it appears that the old garage/storage area has been replaced with the white one to the left of the house.

Many of the homes in the village look to have been built perhaps from the 1950s to the 1970s. What did the homes look like when my grandmother and her family lived there at the turn of the 20th century?

Well, there are still several of what I would call vintage homes in Udol:


I’d say the entire village probably looked much like this house!

Tomorrow, we will take a quick look at Hajtovka.