Tag Archives: Slovak Research

Navigating Slovak Church Records and the 1869 Census

Today, I’d like to share some tips for navigating Slovak church registers and the 1869 Hungarian census.

My paternal family tree is 100% from an area that is today’s eastern Slovakia in the Presov region.

I’ve written multiple posts about my Rusyn ancestors who live din this area. Nana’s family was easier to document because her parents lived in neighboring villages (Hajtovka and Ujak, now called Udol) which shared one Greek Catholic church.

My paternal grandfather’s family was a bit more complicated to trace . The tips I sort of stumbled onto are tips that will save you some time by not having to struggle as I did.

FamilySearch has digital records for both church registers and the 1869 Hungarian census, which includes today’s eastern Slovakia.

Before starting your family research, you need to know (1) the main religion of your family and I say “main” religion because Greek Catholics often married Roman Catholics and one village usually didn’t usually have two different churches.

Second, you need to know the various names by which the village was known. Town names changed as different governments took power.

The easiest way to explain this navigation path is to demonstrate, so here goes.

My grandfather’s Greek Catholic Pennsylvania baptismal certificate says his parents were from “Sebes” (pronounced “Shebesh”) which was part of Saros (pronounced “Sharish”) County in the Austrian Hungarian empire.

Nana said my grandfather’s family was also Rusyn and from the same area (she didn’t know the town), but her villages were near the city of Presov and an old map confirmed that area used to be Saros County.

With some help from the reference desk in Salt Lake, I learned that my first set of church records would be for Okruzna, Slovakia.

Now, let’s look at the FamilySearch catalog for the Slovak church records:


Yes, I want to browse!

My first choice is to sort by religion and I’ll choose Greek Catholic.

Records are now sorted by Greek Catholic with the above counties as choices.

My family was in the Presov region, so I’ll choose Presov County. There are only 11 locations in Presov County that have Greek Catholic parishes. Nana’s village of Udol is listed and so is Okruzna, where my grandfather’s family lived.

The only reason the above steps are included in this post is to give you an idea of how to even get to your family’s town or village.

We’re now getting to the meat of today’s post to learn how to find your family both in church registers and in the 1869 census.

Here is a portion of one page from the Greek Catholic church register for 1820 in Okruzna. From experience, I can say that the Roman Catholic registers are very similarwith facts entered into columns.

The language for both churches is usually Latin (as you can see by the column headings, but when the governments change, the church records immediately change to the official language, which is sometimes Hungarian and sometimes written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

For now, it is enough just to be aware that you might run into that issue.

Let’s look at this sample page. Notice the purple arrow pointing to LOCUS. In this column are several of the smaller villages, or neighborhoods, which are served by this Greek Catholic church.

Some of the towns are Korosfo, Kokeny,  Kellemes and “Waralljae.” My family lived in Waralljae, which in actuality is spelled Varallya in most of the records, but Varalja in modern language.

Now, I really want to look for a family member in the 1869 census that Hungary took. It’s also on FamilySearch and the records are divided by the old county names.

I’ll choose to browse the images so I can navigate right to Saros County. The county page brings up a long list of municipalities with their old names and modern names.

Notice my Nana’s village listed as Hajtuvka (Hajtovka)

This is a really, really important page if you don’t know the old or modern village name.

Now, where will I search in the 1869 census to find my family? The church is located in Okruzna. Well, I read every page of that village and they weren’t there. Why not? No, they didn’t move.

Go back again and look at the LOCUS column in the sample church page. Remember all those little places within the parish? And I said my family lived in Varallya?

Here are the “V” locations in the census list:

There is no Varallya! It’s had a name change and because it was so small, it might even have been swallowed up into another village.

An old online Hungarian gazetteer showed multiple Varalja in the empire. The one in Saros County said something about “A. Shebesh,” and the rest I couldn’t read.

Next stop was using our favorite search engine to see where Varalja, Slovkia might be. It came up in several searches, but one also included the town of Podhradik, which was unfamiliar to me. That led me to a map search.

I found it! I already knew I had family living in Vysna Sebastova, Okruzna, Ruska Nova Ves and near Lubotice in Nizna Sebastova (purple arrow where it is, although the name isn’t appearing on this map.) The village that is outlined is Podhradik and Castle Sebes (remember, it’s “Shebesh.” is located in it.

I returned to the FamilySearch page with the municipality list for the Saros County 1869 census.  Look what I found:

There it is! Remember, too, that Kellemes was another neighborhood served by the Greek Catholic church in Okruzna. right above “Sebes-Varalja (Podhradik)” is “Sebes-Kellemesretek (Sarisske Luky), which tells me where I’ll find the census list for anyone I might have living in Kellemes, which today has the completely different name of Sarisske Luky!

The same municipality list tells me that my Kuchariks who lived in Szengeto, also part of the Okruzna Greek Catholic parish, would find themselves in the renamed town of Severna today.

This hasn’t been a simple, straight forward lesson, but the extra steps of doing an online place name search and map search might be necessary for you to find your church family in the 1869 census.

Yes, I followed through with my Varallya family and they are indeed enumerated in Podhradik.

My family lived only in Saros County, but the same methods should work for you searching any of the other Slovak villages that were enumerated in the 1869 census.

The 1869 county municipality list is way too long to clip an image. It’s very possible that you’ll find your village name is already to be found and you won’t need to do extra online searches.

If you get stuck, I’d be happy to try to help. Just leave a comment in this post.