Tag Archives: Patorai

Maternal Branches in the Family Tree: Maria Patorai (1839-1912)

The April glimpses into the maternal branches of my family tree will focus of two of my Rusyn 2X great grandmothers. “2X greats” sound so far back in time, don’t they? However, when I instead call them my Nana’s grandmothers, that doesn’t sound nearly as ancient.

Maria Patorai, like the generations before her, was born on 5 March 1839 in Ujak (now called Udol), Slovakia in the Presov region of Rusyn villages. She was the eldest of six children – 3 sons and 3 daughters – born to John Patorai and Anna Szurgent. Unusual for the time, all six grew to adulthood, married and had families.

While life remained hard in the village, Maria was the first generation of her family to experience the modern world, which would slowly creep in during the latter part of the 19th century.

When Maria was born in 1839, residents of the village and surrounding area were living the exact same daily lives that their ancestors had been living for centuries – lives of little more than serfdom to the local nobility.

Peasants owned no land and lived in shacks with dirt floors, working long hours just to feed their families. There were no schools, no doctors, and the only locals who could read and write were the parish priests.

However, by the late 1840s, the political climate would begin to change and nobles weren’t quite a powerful as they had been. There were governmental changes, too, in the 1850s and 1860s, clearly seen as the Greek Catholic church registers repeatedly changed overnight from Latin entries to Cyrillic, back to Latin and then the cycle would start again.

Maria grew up helping her mother in the house. There was cleaning to be done, at least as much as was possible with dirt floors, animals to be fed – perhaps sheep, chickens and, if they were lucky, a cow. Clothes were sewn and mended and food had to be prepared daily. Electricity didn’t reach Udol until the 1960s, long past Maria’s lifetime!

Maria and her family would have attended church each Sunday and all the holy days at St. Dimitry’s Greek Catholic Church, just up the road. The church was always “up” the road, as in up the hill. Rusyns had learned long ago that when fire burned the village, the church could be saved if it was built up the hill from the homes.

Church was not only a time to worship, it was a day to socialize with friends and other family members. Hajtovka, an even smaller village just one mile away, was also part of St. Dimitry’s parish. Sunday worship provided the opportunity to see acquaintances, too.

Unlike many young men and women in Ujak, Maria never made the trip to America, although her youngest brother, Peter, did permanently emigrate to Passaic, New Jersey around 1900 with his wife and children.

Instead, Maria married John Scerbak on 11 February 1861 in Udol. Maria and John faced much sadness, losing five of their eight children in their youth.

Children, all born in Udol:

1. John, born 18 July 1862; died 28 February 1938, Garfield, Bergen, New Jersey; married Catherine Dzuriczki, c1886, probably in Pennsylvania
2. Maria, born 17 April 1865; died 1 April 1872
3. Michael, born 17 February 1868; died 16 March 1932, Udol, Slovakia; married Anna Murcko, 22 October 1892, Passaic, Passaic, New Jersey
4. Anna, born 11 June 1870; died 22 December 1955, Udol, Slovakia; married Michael Zavaczki, 16 July 1894, Udol, Slovakia
5. Stephen, born 3 January 1875; died 2 November 1876, Udol, Slovakia
6. Suzanna, born 28 June 1878; died 11 January 1879, Udol, Slovakia
7. Maria, born 19 September 1881; died 28 December 1882, Udol, Slovakia
8. Stephen, born 10 December 1883; died 1 April 1884

By the late 1880s, life changes were becoming evident in Ujak. The great migration of Eastern Europeans to work in the factories and mines in America had begun.

Maria’s eldest child, John, left for America in the 1880s, returned for a short time when his daughter was born in August 1894, but then left again forever for New Jersey. Maria never saw her son again.

While many chose to remain in America for the opportunity to a better life, many young men AND women, left the village to make their fortunes in America, but then return to the village with money in their pockets.

Maria’s second son, Michael, my great grandfather, did just that. He left in 1890, married Anna Murcko from the neighboring village of Hajtovka while both lived in Passaic, and then moved the family back home c1897. Michael earned enough money in Passaic to buy a small plot of land in Ujak.

The 1890s brought other changes to the village. Although the population was dropping due to immigration, the Hungarian government, now firmly in charge of the area, brought schools to the villages.

Maria’s children didn’t benefit, but her grandchildren became the first family members to learn to read and write. Schooling was offered through the fourth grade level.

Maria knew most of her grandchildren. Son John had one son and one daughter alive during the interval when he returned to Europe, but others were born later in New Jersey. Maria never met them. Son Michael had seven children, although one died as an infant in Passaic and the other an infant who died in Udol. Although her daughter, Anna, gave birth to four children, she buried three who died in childhood. One survived to adulthood.

Maria lived long enough to see the first of her Ujak grandchildren leave for America, too. Julia, my Nana, left in 1910 and never returned to Europe. Others followed, but not until after Maria had passed away.

Maria (Patorai) Scerbak died two years later, on 27 January 1912, and was buried in the Ujak cemetery. A wooden cross would have been placed to mark her burial spot, but the cross is long gone.

She lived a long life compared to many Rusyns, passing away a few weeks before her 73rd birthday, but she was the first of Nana’s grandparents to pass on.

There are no known photos of Maria. I doubt that she ever met a photographer, given that she lived in a small village in the foothills of the mountains.








Patorai/Patoray Family of Udol, Slovakia & America

This family is part of my one-place study of St. Dimitry’s Greek Catholic (today Byzantine Catholic) Church parish, serving Udol and Hajtovka, Slovakia, covering the years 1827-about 1920. I will be sharing family records, roughly once a week, until all families in the parish are posted. Be aware that ages at marriage and death frequently don’t match baptismal records, when found. If you have ancestors who lived in these two villages and would like to receive an invitation to a shared Dropbox folder, please leave a comment and I will contact you.


Patorai recte Mikulik, Andrew & Maria Janoskova, Ujak, GC – See Mikulik.

Patorai, Anna, Ujak, GC

  1. Elias, born 14 March, bp 22 March 1868

Patorai alias Knap, Elias & Susanna Csanda, Ujak, GC, GC

  1. John, born 1 January, bp 3 January 1896
  2. Stephen, born 30 July, bp 1 August 1898

Patorai recte Mikulik, John, born c1811 & Anna Szurgent, born c1815, married 22 November 1836, Ujak 1 & 38, GC, GC – See Mikulik.

Patorai, John & Anna Mikulik, Ujak, GC, GC

  1. Anna, bp 24 August 1842

Patorai recte Mikulik, John (18 March 1849-1898+), son of John Patorai recte Mikulik & Anna Szurgent  & Anna Fecsisin (25 May 1852-1898+), daughter of Peter Fecsisin & Susanna Petrisin, married 27 January 1873, Ujak 1, GC, GC – See Mikulik.

Patorai, John & Maria Hrinya, Ujak 1, GC, GC

Note: America

  1. Maria, born 12 December, bp 17 December 1907

Patorai recte Mikulik, Michael (bp 4 July 1851-18 October 1902), son of John & Anna Szurgent & Helen Miklus (c1857-1897+), daughter of Michael & Susanna Pathanej of Ujak 47, married 9 February 1874, Ujak 1 & 17, GC, GC – See Mikulik.

Patorai, Michael & Maria Heloncsik, Ujak 1, GC, GC

  1. John, born 28 April, bp 29 April 1913; died 29 April, buried 1 May 1913, aged 1 day
  2. Peter, born 3 July, bp 9 July 1916
  3. Michael, born 27 October, bp 3 November 1918

Patorai recte Mikulik, Peter (born 3 February, bp 10 February 1856-1894+), son of John Mikulik alias Patorai & Anna Szurgent & Maria Buk (26 December 1862-1894+), orphaned daughter of John Buk & Maria Miklus of Ujak 27, married 7 February 1881, Ujak 1 & 2, GC, GC – See Mikulik.

In spite of Patorai descendants today, I think that the surname, by DNA lines, is actually Mikulik. It appears that Andrew Patorai and Maria Janoskova, both born in the late 1700s, either had no surviving children, or at least no sons to carry on the name.

John Patorai who married Anna Szurgent in 1836 is noted in several records as “John Patorai recte Mikulik,” as are two of his children. John Mikulik may have taken the alias Patorai in order to continue on the family name.

Story of an Alias: “Patorai recte Mikulik” – 12 for ’22

This is my first post in my “12 for ’22” series, based on Jacqi Stevens’ research project for the new year, found on her blog, A Family Tapestry.

In American experiences, aliases are often a signal that a person is up to no good. Otherwise, why would a person with an alias be identified? The word alias itself gives the implication of wrongdoing.

Its meaning is narrow in American usage. If a person has legally changed a surname, that man or woman isn’t typically called a person with an alias.

However, American usage of the word is much narrower than the way many of our European ancestors used the term.

In fact, aliases contributed to the development of surnames.

The origins of many surnames generally fit into four categories:

1. Physical characteristic of a person (Short, Gross)
2. Occupation (Cook, Taylor, Zimmerman)
3. Geographic location (Hill, Rivers)
4. Paternal relationship (Peterson, Andrews)

Why were aliases adopted?

First, they contributed to the development of surnames. Perhaps John who lived by the Hill was a Shepherd by occupation. At first, he was called John Hill, but then too many people lived near that hill and he then became known as “John Shepherd correctly Hill.”

Secondly, mortality rates were very high in Europe for a number of reasons. Some families died out while others not only prospered, but became quite large and unwieldy in terms of identifying people correctly.

Catholics, for example, had to name children after saints. In Udol, the favored names for boys were Michael and John. For girls, it was Mary and Anna.

Now, let’s say that the Lesko family, which was quite large, had 4 different branches and each had a Michael Lesko born within ten years of all the others.

In this case, the various Michaels might take an alias so as not to be confused with cousins close in age.

Thirdly, there are examples of a man changing his surname at marriage because his wife’s family had no males to carry on the name to future generations. I imagine something of value was promised to the groom and he was then known by his wife’s family name.

While I was very aware of aliases in families, such as the French Canadian dit names, I hadn’t come across them in my own research.

That is, until I started my one-place study of St. Dimitry’s Church in Udol, Slovakia.

Years before the internet came to be, I had paid for family history research through the Czechoslovkian Embassy in Washington, DC. I received quite a few vital record certificates that filled the Rusyn branch of my paternal grandmother’s family tree.

Nana knew all four of her grandparents; her father’s parents were John Scerbak and Maria Patorai.

Patorai is an unusual surname, even in Eastern Europe and I’ve always liked the way it sounds. I was acquainted with some Patorays in New Jersey, too, as they were related to Nana.

John Scerbak and Maria Patorai married on 11 February 1861 at St. Dimitry’s Church and my government-provided certificate identified her parents as John Patorai and Anna Szurgent.

As the church registers begin in 1827, John Patorai’s estimated birth year is c1810. Anna Szurgent was born c1813.

Their marriage record names Anna’s parents as John Szurgent and Anna Gmitrisin.

John’s parents are named as Andrew Patorai and Maria Janoskova.

So far, so good. We have documented records for:

Andrew Patorai & Maria Janoskova
John Patorai & Anna Szurgent
John Scerbak & Maria Patorai
Michael Scerbak & Anna Murcko
Julia Scerbak, my grandmother

Then came the bump in the road.

John Patorai and Anna Szurgent were the parents of six known children:

1. Maria, bp 5 March 1839; married John Scerbak
2. Anna, born c1844; married Michael Knapojurka
3. John, bp 18 March 1849; married Anna Fecsisin
4. Michael, bp 11 July 1851; married Helena Miklus
5. Peter, born 3 February 1856; married Maria Buk
6. Susanna, born 8 January 1859; married Michael Miklus

However, when I came across these people in St. Dimitry’s Church records, I found Maria called “Patorai recte Mikulik.” Her brother John was called “Patorai recte Mikulik.”

RECTE comes from Latin and gives us the word “rectify” or “to correct” or “correctly.”

Therefore, I had more than one event in which at least two of Andrew Patorai’s and Maria Janoskova’s children were called by their aliases plus their true surnames “Patorai correctly Mikulik!”

Okay, so how did the Mikuliks start using Patorai as their surname?

I don’t think there will ever be an answer found to that question.

It was thought that Andrew Patorai who married Maria Janoskova might have been the son of Andrew Patorai and Elizabeth Tarbaj, baptized 9 December 1787 in Lipovce in the Presov district. Lipovce was a Roman Catholic village, so probably ethnic Slovak, not Rusyn.

The name is uncommon and the birth year would fit for a man whose eldest child was born c1810. There are no later entries for this family so it is possible that they moved on, possibly to Ujak (today Udol).

Lipovce is about 30 miles from Udol. Certainly, they weren’t in each other’s backyard, but they also weren’t out of the realm of realityfor a family who might have migrated elsewhere in the region.

There are many Mikuliks who lived in Ujak throughout the 1800s. That is probably why aliases were adopted.

In addition to the Patorais, there are several others to be found:

Mikulik alias Matsmaruv
Mikulik alias Holodnyak
Mikulik alias Huszar
Mikulik alias Kacsmar
Mikulik alias Kacsmarszemana
Mikulik alias Szurgent

Andrew Patorai and Maria Janoskova only appear as parents in the church records. They could possibly have both been alive for the 1869 Hungarian empire census since I’ve found no burial record for either of them. However, the Patorais lived in House #1 for many years. Wouldn’t you know that the digitized images begin with House #2?

The short answer to this long post is that I have no records that call the family patriarch, Andrew, anything but Andrew Patorai.

However, two of his children – daughter Maria and son John – are called “Patorai recte Mikulik” at least one time each.

My theory at the moment is that Andrew Patorai and Maria Janoskova had no surviving sons and John Mikulik who married Anna Szurgent agreed to take on the alias of Patorai to continue the family name.

If my theory is true, then no Patorai today, who has Udol origins, has any Patorai DNA at all. Their DNA matches should show connections to other Mikuliks. If they can’t figure out how the Patorais and Mikuliks are related, John Patorai recte Mikulik is likely the answer.