Tag Archives: One Place Study

“One” and Genealogy

“One” usually isn’t a great word when it comes to genealogy. Why? Because we all want more than one – more than one person, one record, one location, etc.

However, there are two of what I consider underused genealogy resources that include the word ONE.

First, there are One Name Studies. Do you have a surname that is of high interest to you? It might be a more unique, single-origin surname like mine – Stufflebean – or it might be common to one locality or it might not be a rare surname at all.

The Guild of One Name Studies is based in England. While many of the surnames are of English origin, there are many with origins in Europe and elsewhere. The society publishes a journal, offers online resources and even has links to members’ websites, if they have one.

I found one of my family tree surnames in the guild – Antrobus.

My ancestress was Joan Antrobus who married (1) Thomas Lawrence and (2) John Tuttle and then settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by 1635.

The Antrobus entry gives background about the study followed by a lengthy list of details about the surname, such as origin and where it is found today.

There is also a short list of General Search results on the website:

There are both public access pages and guild-member only access. Membership levels include guild membership alone or guild member hosting a study. Basic membership for one year is about U.S. $22, depending on the exchange rate. Membership plus registering a study is about U.S. $40.

While browsing, I notice that one of the studies is an FTDNA link.

That is another type of one-name study that can be invaluable to genealogical research – FamilyTree DNA and its DNA surname projects. Most of the projects appear to be free, but some ask for donations to help support the study.

The website description:

A Surname Project studies the different Y-Chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) lineages associated with a surname or group of surnames. It may be narrowly focused on one particularly spelling variant in a specific location. It may also include all known variants of a surname in any time or place.

Even if you are female or a male who hasn’t done a Y-DNA test, many of the project results are publicly available because no personally identifying information is in the charts.

I visit the Williams DNA Project occasionally looking for new clues about my husband’s Williams line centered in Cumberland County, Virginia in the mid-1700s.

The DNA Results link on the left opens a long list of various Williams ancestors grouped by shared DNA results. What is really interesting in the list is how many “earliest known ancestors” don’t have the Williams surname!

That covers the first ONE that is helpful to genealogists.

The second kind of ONE is the One-Place Study. Now, before you say, “Oh, my family is from Chicago, way too big a city for this to help me,” be aware that a PLACE is more than a city – it is a house, an apartment building, a school, one city block, a local church or a small village or town or whatever single place on which you want to focus.

As with one-name studies, there is a Society for One-Place Studies,  also based in the U.K.Membership is about U.S. $15.50 per year.

If you are interested in beginning a one-place study or you would like to search for a particular study, there is a One Place Studies Directory, which includes verified studies in 14 different countries, including well over 400 in the U.S.

WikiTree, free but requires an account to participate, hosts a One-Place Studies Project, too.

There is even a database program website, Name & Place, which you can use to record details in your study.

I had toyed with the idea of creating a one-place study of St. Dimitry’s Church in Udol, Slovakia and subscribed to Name & Place. I ultimately decided I don’t have time to set up, add to and monitor a study like that, but I have to recommend Name & Place. The premium program is very easy to use and when I had questions, the support help was excellent.  A one year subscription for a single user is about $140 U.S. There is also a team rate for 2 users that costs about $215 U.S. However, this small company has offered introductory rates at virtual conferences I’ve attended. There is also an option for a free trial.

Have you been convinced that ONE can be a great number for a genealogist? I hope so. Take some time to explore the websites. You never know when you’ll hit genealogy gold!



History of St. Dimitry’s Parish, Udol/Hajtovka, Part 4: Industrial Revolution & Village Emigration

The people of Ujak and Hajtovka, Slovakia had lived the same daily lives for hundreds of years, from the Rusyn settlement in the late 1500s until 1880.

Governmental and political changes did little to affect the lives of economically poor and uneducated people who struggled to survive. They were sometimes hungry, cold and without any means to better themselves.

In spite of the difficulties that life presented to them, the Rusyns were a hardy group and St. Dimitry’s parish reached its peak population with 400 in Hajtovka and 800 in Ujak by 1880. Even the never ending epidemics couldn’t wipe them out.

Unbeknownst to anyone, the time period from the 1880s to 1920 would bring about more drastic changes to the villagers’ way of life than any other historical event.

For the first time in history, a few opportunities for a better future were presenting themselves. The economic stranglehold that the nobility had on the peasants was diminishing. Men became able to work for themselves. Land ownership was even a possibility although money was still scarce. Daily wages for a 14 hour day in the village equaled pennies on the dollar.

The meteoric growth of businesses in the Western world hadn’t yet made their way to Eastern Europe. That quickly changed as agents for European and American businesses sought out workers willing to emigrate and work for low wages in their new homeland.

The definition of “low” pay was seen very differently in the eyes of the villagers. By U.S. standards, factory workers worked long hours for little pay. However, what an American factory worker earned in an hour equaled Rusyn wages for that 14 hour work day.

Colonial emigration to America meant that men and/or their families left Europe for life across the pond. Young single girls generally didn’t set out on a long difficult voyage alone in that time period.

The Rusyn emigration to America was different. At first, it was the young men who headed across the Atlantic to find out if what they had heard about opportunities was really true. They likely had no expectation of returning home to friends and family, but would send word about their new lives.

Word received back at home was positive – men easily got work, often for the same company with factory shifts set up so that people speaking the same language would be working together. Money began flowing back home to their families. That, in turn, encouraged not only young men, but unmarried young women to head for the United States.

Passaic, New Jersey was a popular landing point for most residents of Ujak and Hajtovka who emigrated. The effect of the decrease in population can be seen in St. Dimitry’s church books with notation after notation made by the priest – “Emigrated” or “Amerika.”

Some residents who emigrated decided, for whatever reason, to return home. In those cases, the priest often wrote in the Observations column of the parish register – “Married in Amerika. Proof of marriage not shown.” In those cases, the priest actually left the legitimate/illegitimate status of a baby being baptized in Ujak empty because the couple failed to bring back a certificate from (usually) St. Michael’s Church in Passaic confirming the date of marriage.

My own family is a good example of what this emigration did to village families.

My 2X great grandparents, John Scerbak (1836-1916) and Maria Patorai (1839-1912) were the parents of eight children, of whom only three survived to adulthood and married:

1. John, born 18 July 1862
2. Michael, born 17 February 1868
3. Anna, born 11 June 1870

John married Catherine Dzuriczki in the late 1880s and they are one of the couples with the priest’s entry of married in America, but proof lacking.

John and Catherine returned home to Ujak before the birth of daughter Maria in August 1894. However, by September 1899, they were living in New Jersey, where they spent the rest of their lives.

Michael, my great grandfather, is found on a passenger list in 1890, arriving in New York. My great grandmother, Anna Murczko, also left Ujak sometime before October 1892, when she and Michael married at St. Michael’s in Passaic.

Michael and Anna lived in Passaic for about five years before they moved permanently back to Ujak. However, in future years, three of their five surviving children emigrated to America and never returned to the village.

The youngest of John and Maria (Patorai) Scerbak’s children, and their only daughter, married Michael Zavaczki and lived out their lives in Ujak. The village child mortality rate affected this family is a big way. Three of their four children died as toddlers. Their youngest child, Joseph, also lived in Ujak, where he died in 1999.

My great grandmother’s family faced much the same fate. Anna (Murcko) Scerbak was the daughter of John Murcko (1831-1917) and Maria Szova (1845-1925). They were the parents of six children of whom four lived to adulthood.

Anna was the eldest. Daughter Susanna left for America and married John Kovalycsik at St. Michael’s in 1894. They lived out their lives in New Jersey.

Son John married Maria Fedus and emigrated to the U.S.

John and Maria (Szova)’s youngest, Helen, married Stephen Pristas and settled in New Jersey.

It is estimated that from the 1880s until 1920, 75,000 Rusyns emigrated to the United States. Most lived in small villages like my family.

I’ve read that houses in Ujak (renamed Udol in 1948 after the Communist takeover) and Hajtovka didn’t even have electricity until the 1960s!

A quick review of the village population through the years clearly illustrates the decline:

1869 – 313
1890 – 281
1921 – 196
1970 – 160
2021 – 91

Ujak (now Udol)
1869 – 718
1890 – 685
1921 – 524
1970 – 574
2021- 303

The United States closed its borders to most immigration by 1921. Hajtovka’s inhabitants decreased from 313 to 196, while Ujak’s decreased from 718 to 524.

I recognize so many of the surnames found in St. Dimitry’s records – somewhat Americanized in spelling – because I wrote out the addresses on Nana’s Christmas cards. Pristas, Chanda, Biss, Fedus, Kovalycsik, Murcko, Sedlak, Hrinya, Mikulik and the list goes on.

I even recognize some of the names of my classmates, who as I was growing up, I had no idea were from Nana’s villages – like Warholak and Arendacs.

The same families who made the villages what they are also left an imprint on Passaic.

By the 1960s, even while under Communist rule, the decline continued as young people left to find work in nearby cities.

My grandmother’s youngest brother, who, by the way, she never met as he was born after she returned to America in 1910, lived out his life in the village, married and had six children.

The family still has a house in Udol, but it is for weekend getaways, not a permanent home.

Life goes on in St. Dimitry’s parish. It is drastically different than life in the 1800s, but it is still there.

A trip to Slovakia is on my bucket list. I want to walk in their footsteps! Maybe when this pandemic ends. 🙂




History of St. Dimitry’s Parish, Udol/Hajtovka, Part 3: Daily Life in the 1800s

With the historical foundation established for the small villages of Hajtovka and Udol that make up the parish of St. Dimitry’s Greek Catholic Church, it is time to examine the daily lives of the people who lived there in the 1800s.

It was previously mentioned that lives of these hardy people hadn’t changed much through the centuries. Life in the 1400s wasn’t much different than life in 1800.

However, there would be drastic changes in the parish by the turn of the 20th century.

Let’s look at economic, social and religious factors. From this, it will clearly be seen that all three influences were the causes, so to speak, of the lack of upward mobility for the villagers.

There is only one governmental census for this area of Slovakia; it was ordered by the Hungarian government and enumerated every person in each household in 1869.

The parish had quite a few rudimentary houses. Homes were made with wooden logs and were usually one single room, but there were a handful of houses that were two rooms and even two stories. In the case of a two story house, the animals were housed on the ground floor to keep them warm and safe.

Only the males had occupations listed and almost every single male of working age – and that means 14 or older -worked outside the home doing physical manual labor. Males worked for the noble, cutting trees, caring for livestock, planting, digging ditches, repairing buildings and doing anything else on the estate that needed to be done.

Zsellers, of which my family were included, were men whose family “occupied” a small home that included a small piece of land for personal farming.

However, a zseller was required to pay rent to the noble and to pay taxes to the church, leaving his family struggling to stay fed and clothed.

Less fortunate men had no land of their own to work.

Note, though, that no one owned their own real estate. The land all belonged to the noble family.

Everyone of working age toiled six days a week. Sunday and church holy days provided respite from work and the opportunity to socialize with friends and family.

It’s unlikely that the villagers ever had much hard money. Until later in the 19th century, a barter system of goods and services was likely used.

Aside from friends and family from nearby villages, there wouldn’t have been many outside visitors to St. Dimitry’s parish with the exception of Romani, or travelers, passing through.

The church registers include occasional entries through the years mostly recording the baptisms of Romani children and some burials. There were two or three notations of “zingarus” in the marriage records, but the wanderers, as they were called, didn’t often marry in Udol.

Women worked in the home, preparing food, weaving cloth, helped care for livestock and often helped husbands in the fields. There was a village midwife who helped women give birth. Her social status would have been higher than that of other females, due to her “medical” skills.

Many babies were born to these families, but, sadly, the infant and childhood mortality rate was so high that few infants survived childhood.

The family of Peter Csanda & Catherine Ratvan is not my direct line but is representative of village families. They were the parents of eight children, but look closely at the details.


  1. Veronica Anna, born 8 November, bp 13 November 1870; married Anthony David, 24, son of John & Helen Fengya of Ujak 96, 11 February 1890
  2. Maria, born 20 April, bp 4 May 1873; died 13 July, buried 15 July 1874, aged 1 year
  3. Peter, born 5 January, bp 16 January 1876; died 1 December, buried 3 December 1878, aged 2 years
  4. John, born 8 July, bp 13 July 1879; died 5 April, buried 7 April 1880, aged ¾ year
  5. Michael, born 1 September, bp 11 September 1881; died 12 September, buried 14 September 1881, aged 2 weeks
  6. Nicholas, born 11 June, bp 24 June 1883; died 7 August, buried 8 August 1884, aged 1 year
  7. Anna, born 10 August, bp 30 August 1885
  8. Michael, born 5 December, bp 11 December 1892

Five of their eight children died before they were two years old. I can’t imagine the dread along with excitement they felt each time Catherine was expecting, knowing that most children died young.

Eldest child Veronica married Anthony David and they emigrated, like so many other villagers, to Passaic, New Jersey. Youngest daughter Anna left the village in 1899. Her destination was the home of her brother-in-law, Tony David; in the 1900 census, she is enumerated as a mill hand in Passaic. It appears that Peter and Catherine’s youngest son, Michael, also left for America at some point although I haven’t found him in immigration records.

The villagers socio-economic status, or lack thereof, went hand in hand with the lack of education in the region. A young boy who showed promise to the priest might be fortunate enough to be sent to school to become a priest. No such opportunity existed for girls.

For the most part, aside from the priest and the cantor, the entire parish was illiterate. Schooling wasn’t an option for anyone until the 1890s when a basic education up to perhaps 4th grade was mandated.

Religion, therefore, was the center of everyone’s life. Sunday not only provided a chance to worship in church, but allowed young men to court young ladies and elder men and women to visit.

Hajtovka’s dwellers had to walk the mile or so over to Ujak to go to church, as there was no church building in their own village until 1872, when the Church of the Holy Mother was erected.

Given the high mortality rate, it is quite amazing that from the beginning of St. Dimitry’s church register in November 1827 until 1907, the parish was served by only three priests. Rev. Damian Csopjak arrived sometime before November 1827 and remained until he died in 1847. Rev. Anthony Bernatyak then served the parish from 1847 until he passed away in the spring of 1868. For several months, priests from neighboring villages served the parish until the arrival of Rev. George Andrejkovits in March 1869. He had the longest tenure, as he was the parish priest until his own death in 1907. Nana would have attended his Divine Liturgy celebrations at St. Dimitry’s as a young girl.

Baptisms and marriages were times of celebration. Until the late 1800s, it was the custom to marry in late fall, usually November, or after Christmas in January or February. it was also common for multiple couples to marry on the same day. Wedding feasts might go gone for two or three days.

Deaths, too, allowed family and friends to mourn the deceased. Burial took place after a 2 day wake with a procession following the casket on its last journey to the cemetery.

Although two villages of people attended the one church in Ujak, each village had its own cemetery. It would have been quite a job transporting a casket by hand from Hajtovka over a mile away to the Ujak church cemetery.

In a typical year, there were perhaps 40 burials recorded.

However, epidemics made regular appearances. Diphtheria, typhoid fever, cholera and dysentery killed many adults and children. Children were also susceptible to whooping cough, measles and chickenpox, diseases for which we have all been vaccinated.

From August through October 1831, it was cholera. Between October and December 1836, cholera made a second appearance.  The summer of 1843 brought chickenpox. In 1848, there was an outbreak of dysentery, followed in 1858 by whooping cough.

In the spring of 1864, the village suffered through both cholera and whooping cough.

The summer of 1873 brought back cholera with 80 people dead, followed by a typhoid outbreak in the summer of 1874.

Scarlet fever took the lives of many children from November 1878 through March 1879. Then diphtheria appeared immediately after in April 1879.

1880 brought a four month return of diphtheria, lasting into March 1881, when typhoid fever arrived.

In 1890, there was a triple whammy against the children with many cases of measles, diphtheria and whooping cough.

Life went on, as it had for centuries in St. Dimitry’s parish. The approach of the 20th century brought huge changes to the village way of life.

That change was brought on by the Industrial Revolution – not in Slovakia, but in America. After hundreds of years with no real change in the daily life of St. Dimitry’s, life far away finally gave the villagers a choice to control their own destinies.

In the final post of this series, we will look at the effect that factory and mining life had on Hajtovka and Ujak as the villagers headed into the 1900s.