Where do my ancestors come from? It was a question I had asked myself many times, and I’m sure others have too. I personally don’t know the exact makeup of my own family. I have been told I have Native American ancestors on both sides, but as to those that came from other countries I am not certain. The names of my own ancestors suggest that I likely have roots in England and Scotland. At this point, I can’t pinpoint an exact location for my family, a specific point of origin from whence they came.
We had just found a possible match for Bill’s side of the family for his grandfather and great-grandmother, and in the ship’s manifest, it offered the information for the point of origin for these two travellers.
The name of the town these two came from was Zselyk, Hungary. Now, the strange thing was, this somehow seemed familiar. It seemed to me I had seen this name somewhere before.
From time to time, I go over records that I have looked at before, hoping to see if there is any other bit of information I can glean from them. I was looking again at a copy of the 1920 US Census for the family:
In looking at the columns showing nativity and mother tongue, I noticed the census taker had been extremely thorough (thankfully!) in his job, not only entering the country, but the city as well.
Zselyk/Tselyk, Hungary/Austria-Hungary; I realized they were a match! I couldn’t wait to find out where this city was, and so I typed Zselyk, Hungary as a search on Google Maps. I got nothing back. I tried Tselyk, Hungary. Still nothing.
I was missing something. I had forgotten that a lot had changed in the Hungary that Bill’s ancestors had left and the Hungary of today. Hungary was a much larger country prior to World War I, as older maps will show. After World War I, the country was divided up among several other countries, so it was possible that the city I was looking for was in another country altogether.
I decided to try another tactic and typed into my Google search engine “Where is the city of Zselyk, Hungary currently located?” I started scrolling through the beginnings of the 386 hits I received, and one name popped up over and over again: Jeica, Romania. Now, searching for Jeica, I was able to find the town. It lies on the western side of the Carpathian Mountains in the region known as Transylvania.
So, in this case, some of the family lore turned out to be true! The family’s point of origin was a small village in Transylvania. As to the part about vampires, Bill doesn’t mind garlic at all; it’s onions he can’t stand.
So, now the only person whose ship we needed to locate was Bill’s great-grandfather, the other Mihály Szabados. The only trouble was, I was getting a lot of hits for the name, and nothing I was finding was making sense. The point of origin was off, or the destination wasn’t right. I thought perhaps I would need to put several possibilities in the Shoe Box for a while.
Then, I started to think about what Mihály’s most immediate destination would have been. While ultimately, he was bound for Columbus, Ohio, his ship would likely dock somewhere on the East Coast. The most likely destination? Ellis Island.
Over 12 million immigrants started their journey into the United States through Ellis Island. Through the ship manifests for the Mauretania and the Vaderland, I knew that the ships that had brought the rest of the family to the US had docked in New York; would I be fortunate enough to find my final ship had done so also?
So, I went to the Ellis Island web site and did a passenger search. The information they asked for was simple: (optional) first name, last name, approximate year of birth, and gender. The 1910 US Census estimated the birth year as 1875; I asked it to search within two years before and after that date. I received a total of five hits. Most I dismissed right away because the year of arrival was way off. In the response information though, they gave the point of origin, and for one, the place listed was “Zsalik”, which seemed a likely misspelling for Zselyk.
When I saw the destination was Columbus, Ohio, I knew that I had found the right person. In glancing just below Bill’s great-grandfather though, I noticed the name of another Szabados (Yanos, or Janos) that was crossed out. I wondered why this had happened. Had this other person died on the trip over? Had he been turned away and returned to his own country? Who was this person, and was there a connection between him and Bill’s great-grandfather? For now, those questions remain unanswered.
On Ancestry.com, I found out why I had been having such difficulty locating the record. The name had been transcribed incorrectly. Instead of Szabados, they had transcribed it as Szahados. I was able to take advantage of a feature of Ancestry.com that allows you to suggest a correction for information on a record. By submitting a correction suggestion, it makes it easier for someone else to find a record.
I was able to find the records for Bill’s great-grandmother and his grandfather through Ellis Island also, but not for his grandmother, Mary. I found this a bit strange at first. Since I knew which ship Mary travelled on, I did a search by ship as well. The Mauretania had records of going through Ellis Island in 1921, but nothing in July when Mary came to the US. In 1921, there were changes in the laws (specifically in the quota laws that were adopted), but why that might have meant that Mary’s boat did not go through Ellis Island, I am not sure.