Michael Scerbak, 1895-1895

Lately, I have been reading a lot of parish records and, although I have seen many infant deaths recorded in the years that I have spent doing family history, I am still surprised and saddened at the high mortality rate through the years. Thankfully, in the modern world, the death rate among infants has dropped significantly.

Today, I want to tell the short life story of little Michael Scerbak, the younger brother and second born child of Michael Scerbak and Anna Murcko, who migrated from Udol in today’s Slovakia to Passaic, New Jersey.

When I first started asking my grandmother about her family, I asked about her brothers and sisters. I knew her brother, Peter, and I also knew she had a sister, Mary, who had died of tuberculosis in the 1920’s. I also knew that I had “cousins” in Slovakia, but I didn’t know many details.

Besides my grandmother Julia’s brother, Peter and sister, Mary, I learned that she had several other siblings. She had a brother, Michael, born about 1906 and who died in “Russia” in the 1950’s. The cousins that I knew of in Slovakia were children of her brother, Stefan, who she never met.  You see, Julia was born in Passaic in 1893, but the family returned to the village of Udol about 1898. In 1910, when my grandmother was seventeen years old, she left the village for the last time and returned to Passaic to live.  Her youngest brother, Stefan, wasn’t born until 1917 and he never came to the United States. They corresponded by letter and occasionally spoke on the telephone, but they never met in person, but that is a different story.

I asked Nana if she had any other siblings. She said her mother had given birth to one child, who she said was stillborn. I haven’t found any record of that child yet, but it was likely born in Udol.

Nana said she had one other sibling, a brother Michael, who was born after her in Passaic. She said she remembered when he died, but I am not sure she really did, as she was only two years old when it happened. She most likely has early memories of people remembering baby Michael.

Julia was born on 17 August 1893 in Passaic. Her brother, Peter, was born on 25 December 1896, also in Passaic. That left a large enough gap where another child could have been born. When I wrote to St. Michael’s Church in Passaic asking if there were any records for a baby Scerbak born in 1894 or 1895 to Michael and Anna, back came the reply:

Michael Scerbak, son of Michael Scerbak and Anna Murcko, was baptized on 30 Jan 1895 at St. Michael’s Church. It was customary for babies to be baptized within a couple of days of birth, so Michael was likely born about the 27th or 28th.

There was also a burial record:

Michael Scerbak, son of Michael Scerbak and Anna Murcko, was buried on 13 October 1895, also from St. Michael’s Church.

Infant Michael was not quite nine months old when he died. My grandmother said he was taking a nap and didn’t wake up. If her information is accurate, it sounds something like today’s crib death. However, immigrant families in Passaic at the time didn’t have much access to medical care. It is also certainly possible that Michael became ill and died. There are no New Jersey state records detailing his birth or his death.

I learned a bit more about baby Michael recently. Ancestry has the 1895 state census of New Jersey in its database. I searched for the Scerbak family and found one Mickael Scserbak and family living in Ward 1 in Passaic, which is the area around St. Michael’s.

Scserbak Family, 1895, Passaic, NJ
Ancestry.com Database

This census page is somewhat faded and a bit difficult to read. However, eight lines down on the left page is Mickael Scscerbak, Annie, Julia and baby Michael.

This particular census was taken between 15 May and 1 July 1895. The Scerbak family was living among a neighborhood of friends and relatives, including Michael’s brother John, who is enumerated on Line 15, living in the same multi-family household. I recognize other names – Spirko, Knapp, Timcsak and Murcsko – on the same page. They were all from Udol.

Sometime during the summer of 1895, Michael Scerbak, my great grandfather, took a trip back to the village. My grandmother said he crossed the ocean several times. I found him on a ship’s manifest returning to America.

I can only imagine how excited he was, landing in New York after a two week or so voyage, and only fifteen miles from seeing his wife and children again. However, there is one detail that this manifest page doesn’t show – the arrival date in New York, which was 24 October 1895.

When Michael arrived in Passaic, he arrived to the news that his infant son had died and been buried just eleven days before. A happy arrival home became a very sad day for him.


Newspapers to the Rescue! Martha Lord Doughty Carlisle

Because I know so little about the family of my Loyalist Robert Carlisle, I have tried to keep track of each family member as I find them, hoping together more details about Robert. Robert and his wife Catherine, had at least seven children and possibly as many as thirteen. One of them was son, James, child number 3, born about 1789 in New Brunswick. The family was living in Sussex Vale, Kings County, and that is likely where James was born.

The Carlisles left New Brunswick and crossed the border into Maine in the 1820’s, settling in Charlotte, a very small town near Calais in Washington County. James Carlisle married Ann Steeves about 1811, probably in New Brunswick. They had a number of children before Ann died in 1838. James remarried to Martha not long after Ann’s death, about 1839.

Martha and her four Carlisle children (George Edward, James Henry, Charles Albert and Harriet, all born in the 1840’s) were my mystery family. James died in Charlotte, Washington County, Maine in August 1859.

James, Harriet, their four children plus James’s youngest child from his first marriage, Abigail, were all in the 1850 household. Martha and her four children appear in the 1860 census, too, still in Charlotte.

However, this 1860 enumeration was a bit of a surprise because the first two people in the household after Martha were a James Doughty and wife, Nancy, with the notation that they had married within the year. Who was this James Doughty and why was he listed before her Carlisle children? Son George was not at home, but he was twenty years old by that time, so that wasn’t too surprising. Abigail Carlisle, James’s daughter, wasn’t there either, but she would have been 30 and likely married soon after the 1850 census. The other three Carlisle children were there – James, Charles and Harriet.

The stumper was that by 1870, there was no sign of Martha, James, Charles or Harriet. Where had they all gone? Martha could have died in the interim – they all could have – but it seemed unlikely that that had happened.

I found no trace of Martha in 1870. However, I did find a James H. Carlisle living in Oshkosh, WI with wife, Emeline. He was born about 1844 in Maine so he could be James’ and Martha’s son.

Next, I tried looking for James Doughty since the surname isn’t all that common. Up came a James Doughty in . . . Oshkosh, Wisconsin!

The James Doughty household was doubly interesting because a 24 year old lumberman, Charles “Mary” was living with them. I already knew that the Carlisles had married in the “Merry” family. James Doughty must also be related somehow.

There was another Doughty living in Oshkosh in 1870. Ben Doughty’s family is in the middle of the page and who is boarding with them, but: Martha CARLYSLE and Charles A. CARLYSLE!

The family moved to Wisconsin!

I happened to be browsing in a historical newspaper database at the time so I tried entering “Martha Carlisle” in Wisconsin. Her came newspapers to the rescue and it happens to be one of the only times when my family has been found in a digitized newspaper. In the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern on 30 Mar 1887 was the death announcement of Martha Carlisle:

Death of Mrs. Carlisle
The Demise of a Very Aged and Respected Lady

The death of Mrs. James Carlisle occurred at nine o’clock this morning at the residence of her son Benjamin doughty. Mrs. Carlisle was about seventy-six year of age and her death resulted from general debility and old age. Last December she lost her mind since which time she has gradually failed until her demise which occurred at the time above stated. The deceased had been married twice and leaves three children by her first husband, James and Benjamin of this city and Mrs. Higgins of New Brunswick. she leaves four children by her second husband whose names and residences are as follows: G.H. Carlisle, Providence, RI; J.H. Carlisle, fort Howard; C.A. Carlisle, Minnesota, and Mrs. Howlett of Black Wolf. the funeral will be held from the residence of Benjamin doughty Friday afternoon at two o’clock, and the services will be conducted by Rev. H.P. Haylett of the Algoma Street Methodist church, assisted by Rev. Dr. Owen of the First Baptist. the following will act as pall bearers: Leander Choate, Robert McMillen, George Rogers, K.M. Hutchinson, A.H. Pease, M.N. Conlee, William Radford, James E. Kennedy, and T.E. Crane. The remains will be buried at Riverside.

A couple of days later, the following was published in the same newspaper:

Funeral of Mrs Carlisle

There was a large attendance yesterday afternoon at the funeral of Mrs. Martha Carlisle, which took place at the residence of her son, Benjamin Doughty. The floral offerings were very handsome. Rev. H.P. Haylett officiated, assisted by Presiding Elder Welles and Rev. Dr. Owen. The remains were buried at Riverside Cemetery. The pall bearers were Robert McMillen, Leander Choate, Geo. Rogers, J.F.W. Decker, E.N. Conlee, A.H. Pease, J.E. Kennedy, W.K. Rideout.

These articles sent me to a reference book which I consult regularly as I have so many family members who lived in Washington County, Maine – Vital Records from the Eastport Sentinel of Eastport, Maine 1818-1900, edited by Kenneth L. Willey and published by Picton Press of Camden, Maine in 1996 as Maine Genealogical Society Special Publication No. 24.

On page 80, I found a listing that may well be Martha’s first marriage. In Campobello on 21 Dec 1826 by C.R. Hathaway,  Daniel (?) married Martha Lord, both of West Isles.

Martha had three Doughty children: Benjamin, born about 1828, James born about 1833 and a daughter who married Mr. Howlett and who was likely born in between the births of her brothers.

The timing for a marriage of Martha Lord to Daniel [Doughty} in December 1826 matches the births of the children. Daniel Doughty then died sometime in the 1830’s and Martha married James Carlisle about 1839.

I will need to check probate and land records in New Brunswick, but I think this brick wall has been cracked open.

Recommended Reads

My choices for Recommended Reads this week include:

Beware the Accuracy of the Darned Census by The Ancestry Insider

Family History Library Offers Free Webinars About English Genealogy Research by Gail Dever on Genealogy a la Carte

The Genealogy Do Over by Generations Gone By

The Life and Murder of Peter Harper by Vonda H. on Genealogist by Night

The Mystery of Fanny Wiler: A Two Part Saga by Amy on BrotmanBlog: A Family Journey

Baby Boy Hacht – Born July 1944 – Dead, or Kidnapped and Alive Today?? by Patty Hacht on DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

5 Lessons We Can Learn from Who Do You Think You Are? by Yvette Hoitink on Dutch Genealogy

Building Community – Call to Action – What’s Missing? by Pat Richley-Erickson on DearMyrtle

Christmas Greetings from 1930 by Joanne Cowden on Researching Relatives

Finding and Using Apprenticeship Records by Wayne Shepheard on Discover Genealogy

Marietta E. Henshaw by Susan Messler on Genealogy Corner

Oklahoma Genealogical Society’s 2015 Family History Writing Contest by Julie Cahill Tarr on Julie’s Genealogy and History Hub

The Mystery of Fanny Wiler, Part II – Answers and Questions by Amy Brotman on BrotmanBlog: A Family Journey

Genealogy Tips & Family History