I’ve decided to do a mini-series about the villages from which my Rusyn ancestors came, followed by family sketches of the earliest known ancestors and their descendants.
I have many distant Rusyn cousins here in America because our common ancestors left today’s Slovakia and made their way to New jersey, New York, Connecticut, Ohio and Pennsylvania to improve their lives.
Some stayed permanently and became citizens, some came, but quickly returned home and many made multiple trips across the ocean to earn money and provide for their impoverished families, who had little hope for comfortable lives.
It’s hard to imagine what their lives must have been like. First, until the 1890s, there was virtually no opportunity for any kind of schooling. Even at the turn of the 20th century, the opportunity to receive a 4th grade education was all that was offered.
Most of my ancestors lived just as their ancestors had before them – as peasant farmers working poor land, living in small homes inhabited by many people and with very high mortality rates for all.
A lack of medical care meant infant mortality was high – I’ve seen vital records for women who gave birth to 8 children, but only two survived childhood.
Every few years, cholera, typhus and diphtheria came to visit, leaving a hundred dead behind them. This was in a village of 750 people.
If one was healthy enough to survive childhood and the epidemics, there were many less serious maladies and accidents to claim more lives.
The 1869 census of one of my ancestral homes showed only two people in their 70s and not many more in their 60s.
It’s no wonder that so many decided to come to America.
My paternal grandmother’s villages will be the first two covered in this series of four.
Hajtovka and Ujak (today called Udol) , less than one mile apart and heavily Greek Catholic (today called Byzantine Catholic) were home to all of her family at least back to the early 1800s, when the church registers begin.
Village #1 is Hajtovka, home to two of my ancestral lines – the Szova and Murcko families.
Hajtovka is and always has been a very small village, nestled in the foothills of the Tatras Mountains near the Poprad River in eastern Slovakia.
As I mentioned, it has historically been Greek Catholic, with just a handful of Roman Catholic brides and grooms who lived in villages just west of Hajtovka.
Latitude & longitude:
49.260 degrees North
20.7730 degrees East
It is in the Stara Lubovna District of the Presov Region in northern Slovakia.
Although there is little in the way of written history, Hajtovka (pronounced High-Toe-Key) is an ancient village, first documented in 1427, when it was called Ayathuagasa. By 1773, it was known as Hajtuvka and Hajtuska. .
The length of the village is one small road and today’s population is but 72 people. It covers about one square mile. At its biggest, in the 1869 census, there were 313 souls. The population has declined steadily since then as residents leave for better lives in the cities.
Hajtovka, courtesy of Google Maps
Hajtovka has always had close ties with Ujak (Udol) because the two villages share the parish church of St. Dimitry.
The parish priest enumerated the following households in Hajtovka in 1853:
- Mola Hajtufken (Hajtovka millstone)
- Misko Liscsinszki
- Petro Liscsinszki
- ” ” Senior
- Andrej Szova
- Janko Lesuf
- Misko Lesuf
- Misko Murczko
- Gmitro Szova
- Misko Fedus
- Josef Arendacs
- Misko Szova
- Janko Liscsinszki
- Janko Arendacs
- Misko Mucha
- Janko Fedus
- Misko Arendacs
- ” ” Junior
- Janko Fabian
- Misko Murczko
- Misko Zavaczki
- Andrej Zavaczki
- Suska Nyemecz
- Justo Knapik
- Misko Tengi
- Josef Sedlyar
- Jurko Murczko
- Janko Kravecz
- Janko Muhanin
- Maria Szova
- Janko Arendacs
- Janko Knapik
- Misko Huszar
- Vaszko Hanicsin
- Janko Szadlok
- Kacsmar Hajtufski
From these households, Liscinski, Murcko, Szova, Tengi and Sedlak are found in my own family tree while Arendacs, Fedus and Fabian are names I recognize growing up in Passaic, New Jersey.
Sadly, given today’s resident population, there may well come a day in the not too distant future when Hajtovka becomes an abandoned village.
Next up is the Szova family and descendants of Hajtovka, Slovakia.