Tag Archives: Hajtovka Slovakia

My Rusyn Ancestors & Their Villages: Hajtovka, Slovakia

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:

  1. Mola Hajtufken (Hajtovka millstone)
  2. Misko Liscsinszki
  3. Petro Liscsinszki
  4. ”             ” Senior
  5. Andrej Szova
  6. Janko Lesuf
  7. Misko Lesuf
  8. Misko Murczko
  9. Gmitro Szova
  10. Misko Fedus
  11. Josef Arendacs
  12. Misko Szova
  13. Janko Liscsinszki
  14. Janko Arendacs
  15. Vacant
  16. Misko Mucha
  17. Janko Fedus
  18. Misko Arendacs
  19. ”            ” Junior
  20. Janko Fabian
  21. Misko Murczko
  22. Misko Zavaczki
  23. Andrej Zavaczki
  24. (Pusrto)Nyemecz
  25. Suska Nyemecz
  26. Justo Knapik
  27. Vacant
  28. Misko Tengi
  29. Josef Sedlyar
  30. Jurko Murczko
  31. Janko Kravecz
  32. Janko Muhanin
  33. Maria Szova
  34. Janko Arendacs
  35. Janko Knapik
  36. Misko Huszar
  37. Vaszko Hanicsin
  38. Janko Szadlok
  39. 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.






Unexpected Find in Church Registers

How often do you take the time to browse page by page in an online church register? I’ll be the first o admit to having spent many hours, probably totally days, doing exactly that in both Scandinavian and Slovak church registers.

Sometimes, there are unexpected surprises in them. The geographic area that is Slovakia today has been governed by many different peoples through the centuries. There is only one surviving census of which I am aware and that is the 1869 census conducted by the Hungarian government when the village of Udol was part of Saros County.

Church records begin in 1828, but those are pretty much the only records in existence documenting the families who lived there. Most were peasant farmers and owned no property. There was no will or probate when an individual died. There was nothing to pass on to anyone except a new generation of poverty and most were illiterate or perhaps could sign their names and do some basic addition and subtraction.

The only appearances in official records were the recordings of baptism and death, plus a marriage record if one survived childhood.

Two surprises were found in the Udol-Hajtovka church registers – actually the same type of record for two different years, 1853 and 1858. I found house censuses for those two years! Now, it only listed the head of household or two heads if different families shared one house, but they are still great records to have as they tell a bit more about the neighborhood and FAN clubs. Here is the list for 1853, on the left side:

1853 Families
Source: FamilySearch

The longer list is for Ujak (now Udol) and shows 84 inhabited buildings. The shorter list on the same page is for Hajtovka, an even smaller village, and which shared the same church with its Ujak neighbors. Hajtovka (pronounced HIGH-TOE-KEY)had 39 inhabited buildings.

Five years later, the list actually took two pages:

1858 Families, Ujak on right side
Source: FamilySearch

Finish of Ujak and then Hajtovka, left side
Source: Family Search

When I compare the two lists, it is obvious that the house numbers were arbitrarily assigned and there were five fewer inhabited buildings in Ujak in 1858 compared to 1853. There were three fewer inhabited homes in Hajtovka in 1858 compared to 1853.

What do these thriving metropolises look like today? Not much has changed, but they are each a bit larger than they were 175 years ago.

Udol, Slovakia

Hajtovka, Slovakia

Both villages look similar. Here is a street view of Hajtovka:

Hajtovka Road

As for the population – Udol currently has about 400 residents and Hajtovka has about 90 residents. Time has not been kind to Nana’s villages, which had about 800 and 400 when she lived there at the turn of the 20th century.

The countryside, though, is quite pretty. Mapio has some photos of Hajtovka and Udol. I suspect that the first photo, second row on that website, shows a home that might have been standing in the early 1900s so one would have a good idea of the living quarters for one or more families sharing a building like those.

Back to the original topic of this post – I love the two house censuses and plan to browse more pages to see if there were any further entries.

I have seen this same type of list in a couple of Scandinavian church books, so if you are looking for family in small towns or villages, you might take the time to browse through the records. You never know what you might find.


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.