Tag Archives: George 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!


52 Documents in 52 Weeks #6 – Same Forms, Same Year, Different Details

Sometimes, the depth of details differs even when the same forms are filled in for two different people. Today’s documents are baptismal certificates used by the Greek Catholic churches in 1893. They are for my grandparents, Helena Anna (Julia) Scerbak and George Kucharik (Sabo).  Julia was born on 17 August 1893 in Passaic, Passaic County, New Jersey and George was born on 24 May 1893 in Delano, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Both families were Greek Catholic. Julia’s baptism took place at St. Michael’s Church, today known as the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel. George was baptized at St. Mary’s Church in Mahanoy City, which borders Delano.

Helena Scerbak’s Baptismal Record

This information is quite easy to figure out, as it is arranged in columns. Nana was child #51 to be baptized, her dates of birth and baptism are given (although I admit I am not sure what the baptismal date is with the way it is written), place of birth is recorded, her parents’ names are given, the names of godparents are listed and the priest’s name is given.

I am lucky enough to be the keeper of this original certificate as well as the caretaker of my grandfather’s baptismal certificate. Before I share the image of his certificate, I need to state that Nana told me about her family’s ancestral home in Slovakia. Her family lived in the adjacent small villages of Ujak (today called Udol) and Hajtovka.

I never knew my paternal grandfather because he died of tuberculosis when my father was ten. If my grandmother ever knew the village from where the Kuchariks emigrated, she had long forgotten it. I am not sure she ever knew, though, because George was born in Pennsylvania and she wasn’t overly fond of her other in-laws. She did say they spoke the same dialect of Slovak that she spoke, but that is all she knew.

I had searched U.S. records for clues to the Kucharik ancestral village for years, but they didn’t leave many records. The eldest son, John, died between 1900-1910 and I have not found any death or burial record for him. The other children were born in Pennsylvania. Stefan and wife Maria never became naturalized citizens, they owned no property and their death certificate say nothing about where in Slovakia they were born.

I didn’t realize it until about seven years ago, but I had the answer in my hands all the time. Now, take a look at George’s baptismal certificate:

George Kucharik’s Baptismal Record

Note that the form is the same and the information is the same, EXCEPT and this is a HUGE except, there are extra words between the names of George’s parents.

The purple arrows are pointing to those words, which are difficult to read. The form itself is in Latin, but these words are not Latin. It looked like it said “Sebes loku: Jaros, Hungaria.” It seems to be citing a place, but I couldn’t find any place called Jaros or Sebes.

When I photocopied this certificate and took it to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I headed to the Eastern European help desk. I was lucky enough to talk with a lady who was from Slovakia. She looked at the certificate, looked up information in two or three books, asked me what religion they were (Greek Catholic) and then printed out several pages of microfilm numbers.

She said that “Jaros” was actually the old Hungarian county “Saros” and Sebes referred to either Also Sebes or Felso Sebes, two villages not far from Presov, Slovakia. Next, she highlighted the films with the Greek Catholic records on them and sent me off to the microfilm readers. These villages aren’t more than about forty miles from Udol and Hajtovka.

A few minutes later, I had the marriage record of Stephen Kucharik and Maria Kacsenyak! The brick wall had been busted open and I was able to trace the family back to the earliest church registers.

Moral of this story: Take additional looks at documents you already have and find a way to learn what information is recorded on them.

Helena Anna Scerbak, aka Julia Sabo

I told the story of my grandfather, George Kucharik, aka George R. Sabo, the other day, on the 78th anniversary of his death. Today, I would like to tell you about my Nana, Julia Scerbak Sabo. Like George, Julia had a bit of a name change. She was born in Passaic, New Jersey on 17 August 1893, the first child of Michael Scerbak and Anna Murcko, Slovak immigrants from the tiny village of Udol (then called Ujak) in today’s Slovakia. The village sits in the Tatras Mountains. I explain to people that if you were a bird and flew southeast from Krakow, Poland over the Tatras, you would be in Udol.

Like so many others in the neighborhood around First Street, Michael and Anna worked in the factories. Julia was baptized at St. Michael’s Church and given the name “Helena Anna.”  Now, it doesn’t take much to figure out that “Helena” would like be “Helen” in an anglicized version. However, my grandmother told me that girls named “Helena” were called Julia here in America. She did have an aunt named “Helena,” born in Udol and called Julia in America. Maybe it was a family thing, I don’t know, but I never understood how “Helena” turned into “Julia.”

The Scerbaks lived in Passaic until about 1897 or 1898 when they returned to Udol. I asked Nana why they went back. She said her mother said the air in Passaic wasn’t very good for her and she wanted to go home. Anna was a smart lady – all the fumes from the (unregulated) factories produced a lot of very unhealthy smog and toxins.

As far as I know, Anna never returned to the United States. Michael did make at least one trip and, from conversations I remember with Julia, he likely visited here at least a couple of times.

Julia returned to the United States in November 1910, just missing the census. She was seventeen and traveled with a cousin and some other people making the trip from Udol to Passaic.

I have no photos of her as a child. I doubt Michael and Anna had the money for that in Passaic and I don’t think there were many photographers running around Udol in 1900. They likely wouldn’t have had money for photographers there, either. The earliest photos I have of her are when she was twenty when she was in the wedding of John Biss and Helen Osifchin on 6 September 1913 at St. Michael’s Church in Passaic.

Julia, marked with “x” on left in back

I originally thought that Julia was the young lady with the “x” marked out in the back on the right. Nana said that was her cousin, Susanna Patorai.

Julia married George Kucharik/Sabo – exactly two years after the Biss-Osifichin wedding – on 6 September 1915, also at St. Michael’s Church.

George & Julia Wedding Party
George and Julia with Their Wedding Party

My father, George, born on 9 February 1926 in Passaic, was George and Julia’s only child. My grandmother never mentioned whether she had lost any children and I never thought to ask back then. Nana did say that George was born at home and he weighed over nine lbs. at birth! Julia was a small woman, about 5′ 2″ and slender. Giving birth to a nine pound baby at home was not an easy task.

Julia took care of George and helped out at the meat market throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s. My grandfather died in 1936, but I believe my grandmother continued to help out at the store. The Central Market not only made it through the Depression, but did well. It also prospered during World War II, but, ironically, it didn’t survive the post-war economic boom in the 1950’s.

As far as I know, Julia never worked outside the home except at Central Market. After George died, she did rent out a back room in our two-family house at 49 Summer Street to make some extra money.

Julia was an talented gardener; she loved flowers. There were always plants in bloom in the spring while summer brought all the garden tomatoes.

When the 1940 census was released, I was excited to find her and my father. Nicholas Tidik, son of her deceased sister, Mary was also living in the household. I was surprised to see her age: 35! (Remember, she was born in 1893 and corrected store clerks when they gave her the wrong change when she was 90.) I guess she didn’t see the need to tell the census taker how old she really was!

Sabos are three families up from bottom

Julia was an active member of St. Michael’s Church, belonging to the Rosary Society. She had a wide circle of friends, whom I now recognize as fellow immigrants from Udol.  She and her brother, Peter Scerbak, took part in church plays.

She raised my father as a single parent and made sure he got a good education. This photo of Julia and son George is from around the time he graduated from high school:

George & Julia in Front of House
Julia and My Father, c1945

Nana was very religious. Although she always attended St. Michael’s, she often visited other Catholic churches around Passaic. I can remember being taken with her on these walks, stopping in at St. Nicholas, Holy Trinity, St. Anthony, St. Mary, Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. . . .we always walked to these churches and they were spread out around the city.

St. Michael’s Church celebrated its 90th anniversary in 1980. Remember how Julia didn’t like the census taker knowing how old she really was? Well, the pastor of St. Michael’s called and asked us to bring Julia to their banquet dinner at the church celebration. She was to be introduced as the oldest living member who was baptized at St. Michael’s. We took her to the banquet and she was introduced. Nana was 87 and was not happy that everyone knew it! She liked it even less when she saw this in the Eastern Catholic Life newspaper:

Cathederal Parishioners Honored (Julia Sabo)
Julia at St. Michael’s Celebration

She lived a long, healthy life. I don’t ever remember her going to the doctor’s except for once when she was in her 80’s and had the flu. Actually, I think the doctor made a house call.

Julia's Obituary
Herald News Obituary, 31 May 1985

Julia died in her sleep on 24 May 1985. She had been baptized at St. Michael’s, married there and her funeral was held there, too. She was buried next to husband George, whom she outlived by 49 years. On her other side was my father, who predeceased her by 8 weeks, passing away from lung cancer.

I’m very grateful for all the years I had growing up with Nana as she always lived with us. I am also very grateful that she broke down our family history brick wall. If she had passed away before I started researching, I likely would never have learned that our family name wasn’t Sabo, it was Kucharik!