Advanced Family History

Yes, two family history-related posts in about one week. Sue me. I’m on a bit of a family history kick right now. My goal? Find all of Denisa’s ancestors back six generations. Right now I’m four names short of having it complete to five generations, and 33 short of the sixth generation, but when I started this latest round I was 12 names short of five generations, and 45 short of six generations. I’m definitely making progress. (And back when I first started, there were gaping holes even in the third generation.

It’s been tricky work, as I mentioned in my post from last week, but I thought it might be interesting to show the sort of research I’m doing to get to the bottom of some of these names. A case study, if you will. Ready?

So my latest foray into the record books was focused on Maria Ferencova, Denisa’s great grandmother. I knew from family records that she was born in Košicka Nová Ves, a small town outside of Košice in Eastern Slovakia. Her parents names were Ondrej Ferenz and Anna (no last name). I had a birthday in 1896, and no death date. has almost all the Slovak church genealogies digitized, but they usually start around the end of the 1700 and end around the end of the 1800s, depending on the town. Sometimes there are records for births, marriages, and deaths. Sometimes they’re incomplete. (I’m still not sure if that’s because they haven’t been scanned yet, or they just don’t exist.)

Bad news: for Košicka Nová Ves, the birth records end in 1895, so Maria’s record isn’t there to see. Worse yet, Familysearch had no listings for any marriage or death records for the town, so for over two years, I thought it was a done deal. I’d hit a brick wall.

Except then I thought there might be other records somewhere else online, so I started doing some digging these last few weeks. And after a fair bit of research, I discovered Familysearch has a different interface to search its records. I had been going through a location-based guide listed in each hyperlinked record, but they have an actual catalog you can search as well. (That’s great news for a trained librarian.) Going into the catalog, I found marriage and death records for Košicka Nová Ves. The marriage records ended in 1895, but that was okay, since odds were if Maria was born in 1896, her parents must have married in 1895 at the earliest.

Bad news: the records were in Hungarian. Worse news: they were in an almost impossible to read (for me) cursive variant. All I knew is that it was likely Maria’s parents had married in Košicka Nová Ves. I had no idea how old they were when they married. Was Maria their first child, or their last child, or somewhere in between? Had they married young? I didn’t even know if they’d stayed their whole lives in that town (though it was likely, from experience with the rest of her family histories). When you can’t read the writing that well, that can be very discouraging. It’s searching for a needle in a haystack when you’re only sort of sure there might be a needle there to begin with.

I went back to around 1850 with no luck. Pages and pages of scouring, and it had all come up empty, though I was still not sure I’d been reading the language right. After looking at all those pages, though, I’d gotten better at reading the cursive, so I decided to start from the beginning again. This time through, I found it.

Clear as mud, right?

You’re just going to have to trust me when I tell you that says Andras Ferencz married Anna _________ on November 25th 1895. He was 25 years old. She was 21. His father was also named Andreas Ferencz, and his mom was Ersebet ________. Anna’s dad was named Andras, and her mom was named Anna. Last names were too hard for me to decipher from this. Ferencz was a unique name for the town, so I was very confident this was the right record.

Armed with that information, I went looking for birth records. I found nothing in Košicka Nová Ves for Andras in the five years before and after he should have been born, but for Anna _________, I found a much easier to read entry.

Down that path, I ended up discovering her mom was listed as Anna Nagy in some records and Anna Lengyen in others. Same address. Same husband. Same first name. Only one marriage record for Andras Lihvar (also written Lichvar) and Anna Lengyen, however.

So that took care of half of Maria’s parents, but her father was still an unknown. While Ferenc was a unique name to Košicka Nová Ves, it’s a fairly common name in Slovakia. Doing a search for the name brought back too many records. Was there any more information I could get from the marriage record? What was that word next to their name?

I looked at other records to try and get a better feel for what was written there. It’s the town where they’re from. For Anna, it’s Kassaújfalu, which I only figured out after looking up the Wikipedia entry for Košicka Nová Ves and finding out it had a different name Hungarian. Knowing those words are Hungarian town names, what could the other be?

Googling got me nowhere. I was almost sure it was “Rozgany,” but nothing showed up. (It doesn’t help that town names can be conjugated in Hungarian, so the exact spelling was up in the air.) So I went to Google Maps and looked around Košicka Nová Ves to see what it might be.

Up there in the right corner, you’ve got Rozhanovce. Wikipedia let me know it’s Hungarian form: Rozgony. Success!

Using my previously acquired skills, I searched the Familysearch records for Rozhanovce and discovered they were listed under Byster. I went into them and searched, confident I’d find the Andras’s birth record at last. Except I came up empty. Nothing there, which made no sense at all.

I did some more digging. Byster seemed too far away from Rozhanovce to make sense, and it turned out those records were Protestant, where the marriage record had been Roman Catholic. There was nothing else in the catalog for Rozhanovce, so I went back to the hyperlink method I’d started with, going to the Slovakia records as a whole, selecting Roman Catholic, and then looking at the place names around Košice and comparing them to towns around Rozhanovce. Košické Olšany is just to the south. What about that?

There he is! Born on Groundhog Day in 1870. Let the celebrations commence.

Anyway. Maybe that’s way too much information about family history searching for what you signed up for, but I find the whole process invigorating and exciting. Each step is like that, where you’re searching for something that might or might not be there. There are disappointments, false leads, and frustrating developments, but when you actually use the clues and find what you’re looking for, it’s quite the thrill.

I have no idea how to do it in English record books, but if you need work done in Slovakia, I’m your huckleberry at this point.


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