Tag Archives: Mahanoy City PA

George Kucharik aka George R. Sabo

Today is the 78th anniversary of the death of my paternal grandfather, George Kucharik, aka George R. Sabo. I never knew him because he died sixteen years before I was born. My grandmother, Julia, loved him very much – she wanted to be buried with her wedding band on – and said he was a wonderful, kind, loving man. They both adored their only child, my father, who was named for his father.

Here is the story of my grandfather so he won’t be lost to history.

George Kucharik was the seventh of eight children born to Stephen and Mary Kacsenyak Kucharik. I have written before about my great grandparents.  Three of Stephen and Mary’s children were born in Vysna Sebastova, near Presov, Slovakia before the family emigrated to the United States: Son John was born 25 Aug 1877. Daughter Mary was born 15 Jan 1881, followed by Anna born 4 Feb 1885, but who died soon.

They first lived in Delano, Pennsylvania, but attended St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in nearby Mahanoy City. Another daughter, also named Anna, was born 18 Apr 1889, in Pennsylvania,, then son George, born 24 May 1893 and youngest son, Stephen, born 18 February 1897, both born in Delano. Somewhere in the gaps, Mary lost two more children.

George’s Baptismal Certificate

By 1900, the family had moved to Passaic, New Jersey and are found in the census there. Stephen worked for the railroad and perhaps saw more opportunity in Passaic, which is only about 15 miles from New York City.

Family of Stephen Kuharik, 70 First St., Passaic, NJ, 1900

 Here are the George and Steve with, I think, brother John who died 1910-1915, probably in Passaic, New Jersey.

George, Stephen and ?John Kucharik-Sabo, c1908

Details about this family are hard to come by. My grandmother was fond of her mother-in-law, Mary, but she didn’t care much for George’s father or his siblings. By all accounts, my great grandfather was a bit difficult.

Passaic was an industrial city, full of factories and work. Many Slovaks gravitated to the area around St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church, today St. Michael’s Cathedral, because of the large ethnic neighborhood. All of the immigrant families rented space in two- or three- family homes and they moved around often. The Kuchariks were no different.

I have no idea who took these photos, but they look very much like a friend or neighbor had a camera and took pictures of them at home. As poor as they were, they embraced the American dream of a better life and determined that their children would have a better life than they did. Stephen and Mary’s children all had the opportunity to attend school. My grandmother kept my grandfather’s school certificate; I found it among her old papers and photos when she passed away.

George Sabo’s School Certificate, 1907

Have you notice the surname change for my grandfather? In the 1900 census, the family was enumerated as “Kuharik,” which actually was misspelled “Kucharik.” Somewhere along the line, the family stopped using their legal surname (which means “Cook” in Slovak) and adopted the surname “Sabo,” which means “tailor” in Hungarian.

I had no idea this had happened until 1980 when I mailed away for copies of my grandparents’ marriage record at St. Michael’s and from the state of New Jersey. Neither the church nor the state had a record for George Sabo marrying Julia Scerbak on 6 September 1915. When I asked my grandmother why no record was found, she said, “Because the family name was Kucharik!” I was dumbfounded. When I mailed out new requests, both the church and the state sent copies of the marriage record.

I have never found any court papers indicating that Stephen legally changed the family name and I don’t think he did. First, Stephen and Mary worked at unskilled labor jobs. They didn’t have the money to pay court costs for name changes. Second, the fact that George gave his true name, Kucharik, at the time of his marriage indicates that the name was only used socially. Even the church record states his name as George Kucharik.

Kuharik, Scerbak Marriage Certificate
St. Michael’s Marriage Record

George and Julia Sabo Wedding Picture
George and Julia on their wedding day

After George and Julia married, they rented homes in Garfield and Passaic, the chosen neighborhoods for many immigrants from Julia’s home village of Ujak (today Udol.) Like many of her friends, Julia worked in Passaic’s factories.

George became a butcher and, by 1930, he was in a partnership with my grandmother’s brother, Peter Scerbak, and two other men. They owned Central Market Market and Julia also worked in the store.

Amazingly, the meat market continued to prosper through the Great Depression. A friend of my grandmother’s, Anna Stanchak, attended Julia’s funeral in 1985. I asked her how she came to know my grandmother. Anna said that she was forever indebted to her because my grandparents hired her as their maid during the Depression. My immigrant family was living the American dream.

Likely one of the last happy events my grandparents experienced as a family was the 10th birthday party they hosted for my father, George, Jr., in February 1936.

George Sabo Birthday Dinner Announcement
George Sabo Birthday Party, 1936

I never asked my grandmother (Nana) how long my grandfather was ill with tuberculosis. In any case, he passed away on 27 November 1936 at Valley View Sanatarium in Haledon, Passaic County, New Jersey.

George Szabo Death Certificate
St. Michael’s Death Certificate

George was buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery in South Hackensack, Bergen County, New Jersey on 30 November 1936.

Sabo Headstone
St. Michael’s Cemetery, South Hackensack, NJ

On December 3, 1936, Julia’s card of thanks was published in the Passaic Herald News:

Card of Thanks
Card of Thanks from Julia

By the way, George Kucharik became George R. Sabo. What did the “R” stand for? I asked Julia. She said it stood for nothing. My grandfather didn’t have a middle name, but he thought having a middle initial was more distinguished so he added “R” to his name.

R.I.P. Grandfather George. You aren’t forgotten.


George Kucharik and Julia Scerbak – Another Brick Wall

My paternal grandparents, George Kucharik and Julia Scerbak,  were first generation Americans; their families came from Slovakia. They were long time parishioners at St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church on First Street in Passaic, New Jersey.

Julia and George were married at St. Michael’s and both their funerals were held in the church, which sat across from the Dundee Canal in Passaic. After several decades, the steeples were deemed unsafe and the church was renovated. If you visited the cathedral today, it would look like this:

StMichaelTodayCathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, Passaic, NJ

Julia, or Helena as she was baptized, was born on 17 Aug 1893 in Passaic, NJ and baptized the same day at St. Michael’s. I am lucky enough to have her original baptismal certificate:

George’s family didn’t move to New Jersey until the late 1890’s, having first settled in 1883  near Mahanoy City in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. George was born in the town of Delano on 24 May 1893 and baptized at St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Mahanoy City. The design is amazingly similar to that of St. Michael’s.

I never knew my grandfather because he died of tuberculosis at the young age of 42 years.

My grandmother didn’t like her in-laws and after George died, she had little contact with them. As I began the search for my Slovak roots, Julia could tell me many details about her family and life in the villages of Udol and Ujak, in the foothills of the Tatras Mountains, not far from Presov in today’s Slovakia.

Other than George’s family was also Slovak, she knew nothing about their Slovak town of origin or even when they first came to the United States. I actually knew more than she did because the 1900 census told me they arrived in 1883.

Recently, I wrote about strategies to break down brick walls. Step #1 was to review the documents and information already at hand. Now, I have to admit that I didn’t have this document when I first started the hunt – I found it among my grandmother’s papers after she passed away – but it held the Kucharik key to their Slovakia home. It was George’s original baptismal certificate:

GeorgeSaboBaptCertPennBaptismal Certificate of George Kucharik

This certificate was actually written on 17 October 1906. I am not sure why they had to return to Pennsylvania to obtain it – perhaps George needed it to attend school.  The official church baptismal certificate had been changed slightly, although both are written in Latin. In both cases, the child’s name, parents’ names and sponsors’ names are on the certificate. However, George’s certificate includes information not recorded by the priest on Helena’s (Julia’s) certificate, which is the “place of origin” of the parents.

Look at George’s certificate where the names of his parents, Stefan Kucharik and Maria Kacsenyak are recorded.

CroppedWhat Does It Say???

Stephanus Kucharik origene et(?) Sebos? Coru(?): Jaros?, Hungaria, et uxor eius? Maria Kacsenyak. Gr. Cath.

Translated: Stefan Kucharik origen is (I think) . . . . Hungary and his wife Maria Kacsenyak, Greek Catholic.

This was back in the day of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, but wherever this was it was most likely in current day Slovakia. I got nowhere looking for place names that looked anything like these, BUT I was fortunate that I was already booked for a trip to Salt Lake City. I can’t say enough great things about the FamilySearch Library in general, but the workers on the international floor for Eastern Europe and Scandinavia are nothing short of spectacular.

I photocopied George’s baptismal certificate and my first library stop was at the help desk for Eastern Europe. The lady who helped me was actually from Slovakia. She took one look at the information and said it was the town of (sounds like) “Shebesh” in Saros County. After checking a gazeteer for name changes, she said the names back then were Also Sebes and Felso Sebes, but today is the town of Vysna Sebastova, not far from Presov. She also handed me a computer printout of the film numbers for the Catholic records in that area.

As I read through the films, I found the marriage record of Stefan Kucharik and Maria Kacsenyak and was able to trace the family backwards from there.

Although Julia had no idea where the Kuchariks were from, their home village was less than forty miles away from hers.

In this case, Step #1 broke open the brick wall!