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Surname Change

  • 23 July 2022 1:39 PM
    Reply # 12858756 on 12791366

    The same thing happened to my family. Our great-grandfather, Michael GALAN, of Rokitocz, Zemplin changed his surname to  McCallus for the 1900 US census (Packer Twp., Carbon Co., PA) which has been carried on through today.  We don't know the reason for the change, but possibly it was for the military reason suggested in this thread.

  • 30 June 2022 2:51 PM
    Reply # 12834390 on 12791366


    My paternal grandfather and his three of his brothers that stayed in America  changed the spelling of their last name. All their children and future generations have gone by the new spelling. I was told they changed the spelling to be more American even though they always identified themselves as Ruthenian!

    Lois Fitzurka Erhard

  • 25 May 2022 5:54 PM
    Reply # 12793927 on 12791366

    Thank you Tom,

    Will look into it. Who knows what else I might find there.

  • 24 May 2022 12:03 PM
    Reply # 12792034 on 12791366


    You can write or contact the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society.They can search the RC records of St Joseph in Minooka where this marriage took place.  They will send a copy of this entry to you for a small fee.

    I think this is probably your couple.  No GC Churches at this time.  Your Joseph Racz baptized children in St Mary GC Scranton along with a John Racz (brother? also from Kis Azar).


    Tom Peters

  • 24 May 2022 10:47 AM
    Reply # 12791883 on 12791366

    Thank you, David for that interesting reply and on that note that would make sense for my great great grandfather who, I believe, did emigrate to the US when he was 18 years old at the time according to one of the ship's passenger list I found awhile ago and 21 years old when applying for marriage license. Never realized that was the case for many east European men coming over here (if, like you said, that was true). 

    Just curious, based on your research, what were the ages that these people would search up to? I do know that my 2nd great grandfather would eventually become naturalized in 1891, making him around 25 years old at the time and most records I currently have dating since 1891, were listed as Racz/Race.

    Thank you, again!

  • 24 May 2022 4:48 AM
    Reply # 12791524 on 12791366

    I learned recently a major reason for changing surnames.  A 14 year old boy lived with his grandfather for a full year and learned many stories about families from the grandfather's home country (Galicia, specifically Western Ukraine).  The grandfather said authorities from Austria Hungary (probably from around 1850 to start of WW1) would come to America and force military age males to return to Austria Hungary to fight in their wars.

    To hide from these authorities, men would change their surname and move frequently.  Sometimes far from their current location when authorities came close.  In Monessen, Westmoreland County PA, a house next to the Orthodox Church had about a dozen men living there.  When one moved to a new location, several would follow the first.  This happened for several years and several locations.  The man (and families if they began raising one) would move to the same locations.  Some changed their surname more than once.

    Authorities would look for men at their workplace.  When a worker disappeared, they may not tell anyone.  If a superintendent was sympathetic to the immigrants, they would tell authorities "No one here by that name." 

    I suspect, but do not know for sure, the Church helped immigrants find homes, jobs, and even spouses.  Also helped them hide from the authorities.

    Would appreciate if anyone can corroborate this scenario.  I know it's true for a group of men that I am doing research on with a collaborator.

  • 23 May 2022 11:02 PM
    Message # 12791366

    Hello Everyone!

    I've done a quite of bit of research on my maternal Slovak and Ruthenian ancestors for several years.  Currently, I've been delving into one of my hard-to find-2nd great-grandmother Julianna Milyo who was born 1866/7 in Bacsko, Zemplen, Austria-Hungary (Today's Backov, Slovakia). She emigrated to the U.S. sometime between 1885-1887 and ended up marrying my 2nd great grandfather, Joseph Racz, in 1887 in Lackawanna County, PA.  Joseph  was born 1866 in KisAzar, Zemplen, Austria-Hungary (Today's Male Ozorovce, Slovakia). He also emigrated to the U.S. around 1884-1886. 

    After many unsuccessful searches, over the years, I finally found and secured an 1887 Marriage License Docket from the Lackawanna County that identifies and who I tend to believe is my 2nd great grandmother, Julianna Milyo based on the information provided in the docket (i.e., age, birthplace, and place of residence) and since there hasn't been too many Julianna Milyos identified in the several places in Pennsylvania that she lived in or the timeframe.

    The problem? The name of the groom is identified as, Joseph Obrien. But what is strikingly interesting is that with the exception of the Obrien surname,  all  other information listed in the docket matches my 2nd great grandfather's confirmed information I found from Slovakia records [age (b. 1866), birthplace (Austria-Hungary), and the first names of the parents (Michael and Anna or Annie).

    Coincidental? Maybe. But I've been leading to argue whether this Joseph Obrien is really my 2nd great grandfather, Joseph Racz based on the fact that I find it hard to believe that an Irish/Scottish name like Obrien to have come from Austria Hungary,  for which I've done research on that; locating several Joseph Obriens in the Lackawanna, PA area and all of them, being born in America (PA and NY), having different parental first names, and ages that were several years apart from 1866.

    All of these findings have led me to come to a couple of possible conclusions or theories: maybe there was a case of mistaken information or identity when applying for marriage either by the clerk or some other individual; or, could it be possible that this Joseph Racz may have, for some unknown reason, changed his surname to appeal to a more friendly, approving name like Obrien to secure employment or survive some other livable factor in a harsh prejudiced society of the times?

    Which leads me to ask any researchers out there, has anyone ever heard of such instances when one of some Ruthenian/Slovak/ or maybe Ukrainian surname would change his or her surname in order achieve some unknown purpose back then? I've heard and seen names maybe changing its spelling a bit, but something completely different, not so much. Strangely enough, almost all other records I currently have on my 2nd great grandparents have or were identified with the Racz surname (which was changed to RACE after 1900).

    Such a curious case and one that has led me to really think "outside the box" when trying to determine the accuracy or legitimacy of my Slavic ancestors.

    Just a thought.


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