Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Day at the Park

Happy New Year everyone! It is now 2018, can you believe it! It has been nearly 4 years since I posted anything here on this blog. I am so sorry about this. So to remedy this, I have joined a writing group and hope to post here more regularly this year. In this group there will be weekly writing prompts. I have so much to share with you that hopefully these prompts will help me to organize my thoughts and put them down on paper for you.

My first prompt is to show you my favorite photo of one of my ancestors. I chose this photo because it shines brightly with the love and freedom of youth. Matthew Farkas and Helen Simon were either dating or just married in this photo. They appear to be so young. They married in 1938, so this photo was most likely taken during one of the Depression years. The romance of a picnic and bike riding in the park is in direct contradiction to the pragmatism of the Depression. Yet, for me, it only adds to its allure.

The make and model of these cars could possibly date this photo, but it is beyond my expertise. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Boldog Húsvéti Ünnepeket (Happy Easter)


What was Easter like for our ancestors? Was their holiday similar to ours today? Did they get together in their Easter finest, go to church, come home and eat a big dinner? Did they hunt Easter eggs? How did they celebrate the holiday?

The Easter holiday is traditionally a 2 day affair. Yet many will tell you that the holiday season officially starts well before Lent. There are several  methods in which Hungarians celebrate Easter.


Matyo People in their traditional clothing
these images were taken in Mezokovesd on Easter Monday, April 21, 2011
Attila Kisbenedek / AFP - Getty Images

Locsolkodás (sprinkling) is a uniquely Hungarian tradition. It is called "Ducking Monday" which is the Monday after Easter Sunday. Males of all ages would get together with their friends and go visit many of the young women in their village. At each stop, they would recite short locsolóvers (sprinkling poems) and toss buckets of water on the heads of girls who were of marriageable age. The girls took great pride in attracting many visitors. The men had spent hours going to the creek or the wells and bringing back many buckets of water to their locations. Sometimes the women were taken to the creeks and submerged on sight.  The women in turn would give them kisses, painted eggs, pálinka ( a Hungarian fruit brandy), a variety of sweets, or all of the above. This would continue all day or until the men had drank more than they could handle.

However, today, the men spritz perfumed water on the girls. Although in the villages, outside the cities, water tossing is still done, particularly by the younger persons. It was said that they were watering the flowers of spring and were making them grow.

The poems would range from traditional and quaint to self-authored and unique:
Zöld erdőben jártam,
kék ibolyát láttam,
el akart hervadni,
szabad-e locsolni?

(I was walking in a green forest, I saw a blue violet, it had started to wilt, may I sprinkle it?)
A dashing lad, am I,
To meet the girls, will I.
For today,
For every girl I bring,
Rosewater, for sprinkling
the girls -
as if flowers were they,
So my conscience
won't say,
That they faded away.
Aye - as important as this
my work may be,
I can't do it for free,
In exchange I decree
All the decorated eggs
Be given to me.

Easter Eggs

Another tradition are the artful Easter Eggs. The women spent days well ahead of the holiday preparing the eggs. Plant based dyes were used to color the eggs. Some were even skillfully carved.
Eggs are decorated with simple geometric shapes or ornamented with swirls of plants and flowers. The color red is often used as it symbolizes the blood of Christ. Many eggs also carry the embroidery of Hungarian designs that are a part of the traditional dress. Painted wooden eggs are also displayed in many Hungarian homes.


They also went to church in their traditional clothing. These beautiful outfits were saved for holidays, just as today, we have our special Easter clothes.

During Lent, as some do today, our Hungarian ancestors did not eat meat. This created the desire for a massive feast on Easter.  On Holy Saturday, what is known as “Nagyszombat” in Hungary, people would have taken food baskets filled with ham, kalács, red eggs and salt to the church, to be blessed by the clergyman. This blessed food was eaten during the Easter dinner after the resurrection ceremonies were over.

Cooked, smoked ham with hard-boiled eggs, fresh kalács,and pickled horseradish usually made up the festive dinner. You would also find fresh spring vegetables such as  lettuce, green onions, cucumbers on the table. Housewives would have decorated the table with colorful spring flowers.

When all is said and done, our ancestors celebrated Easter in a very similar manner, several hundred years ago, in which we do today. They celebrated one of our holiest holidays by putting on their very best clothes, attending church, eating a huge feast and then they had some fun.

                              We are not so different after all.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Rest of the Story.....Part 2

Guess what I have found!  I wasn't sure there was one, but alas, here it is!

...The Coroner's Report for our little Joe Farkas. If you didn't get a chance to read about him before, then head to Part 1 and read it before you begin this post.

So what do we know? We know that Joe was hit by a car and died on the 7th of January, 1921. That is the extent of what his death certificate tells us. The Coroner's report gives us details of the accident that we could not have known otherwise. The documents do not detail that Joe was riding a bike. However, family lore dictates this fact, so I will add it to his story.

A young boy and his bicycle in 1921
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

It was a warm day in the middle of winter. The temperature was in the mid-50's. Joe had gone out to play and enjoy the rare, warm day. He decided to go ride his bike. He probably got the bike for Christmas, the week before. It was probably brand new, a real treat! He would have been too young for the bike before and he was too old for a "baby" bike. How exciting that would have been. A new bike and a lovely day to go ride it. Could his bike have looked like this, in the photo above? Maybe he was still learning how to keep his balance and he did not mean to be in the street. Maybe the bike was just too big for him and he had not grown into it yet. He might not have had control of the bike, rather than riding in the street on purpose. The accident happened late in the afternoon, maybe he was racing to get home before it became dark.

Fatefully, that afternoon, he was struck by a vehicle in the intersection of 3rd Ave and Ross Street. This intersection was several blocks from his home that was located at 542 Fourth Street. Even in 1921, that area was an extremely busy intersection. Even though cars were new on the scene, Pittsburgh was teeming with vehicles and streetcars. Notice from the map below that there is a park just a block away from where the accident occurred. Even though that park is relatively new, it begs the question: Could he have been going to or from a park somewhere close by?

The pinned labeled "A" is the location of the house and the Red Dot is
the intersection where the accident occurred.
Courtesy of Google Maps
542 Fourth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA
Current street view from Google Maps

Joe arrived at the hospital in care of the police and the driver of the car at 5:45 pm on Tuesday,
January 4, 1921. He was examined by Dr. Murray who stated that the patient was unconscious, bleeding from several locations around the head, with several bone and skull fractures. They operated on him to relieve some of the cranial pressure at 7 pm. He improved slightly, but never regained consciousness. He struggled for his life for 3 days, but lost the fight on January 7 at 2:30 pm with his mother by his side.

Also present at Joe's death were Dr Murray, Gerald Walsh, Stanley Gorka, Daniel Schaney, Charles McGraw and Julia Leitner. The last 4 individuals were all local people. They might have been Mary's friends, at the time.

Mary dictated a statement or signed a statement written for her, after identifying the body on the 8th. "That the decedent is my son. On Tuesday, Jan 4th, 1921 about 5:30 oclock pm I was notified that my son, the decedent had been struck by an automobile at 3rd Ave and Ross St, Pittsburgh Pa and had been taken to the Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh Pa. I visited the hospital the same evening, Tuesday Jan 4th 1921 and found him unconscious and I was present when he died. That was on Friday Jan 7th 1921 at 2:30 oclock pm."  Shortly after this, Joseph Farkas was buried at Calvary Cemetery.

From the list above of those present at Joe's death, is Gerald Walsh. Who is he, you might be asking? He lived in Knoxville, Pennsylvania. in the northeastern part of the state. Mr Walsh, a 20 year old, from out of town had struck a boy with his car late in the evening. It was probably near dusk at that time of the year.It might have been hard to see a child at that time of the day. If you remember from above, he was the one that took Joe to the hospital. He didn't even wait for an ambulance. They were at the hospital within 15 minutes. He also stayed with him for the entire time, and was present when Joe died. This man, the driver of the car, was obviously devastated and traumatized, as well. What a horrible experience for everyone involved.

After Joe's death, the coroner asked for an inquest into the alleged accident. A few weeks later, six jurors, including the deputy coroner, declared that the 5 year old child died from the result of an accident.

All I hear is the gavel as it hits the table when the verdict is announced. It leaves me numb. A little child's life cut short before anyone got to know him.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

We Never Got To Know You

Now that we have the first Farkas ancestor here in United States, I am going to start bouncing around and tell you some of the stories that I have uncovered.

When I first began my genealogy journey, the only Farkas family that I knew was the immediate family. By that, I mean my Mother and her Sisters, my Grandparents and Piroska, my Great Grandmother. Mathew Farkas, Piroska's husband, the man that I have talked about here in prior posts had passed when I was a little girl. I do not remember him. That was the extent of my understanding of the Farkas Family. However, the other family members remember some conversations about a few other Farkas's that they had never met.

There had been talk of my Great-Grandfather, (Matyas, Mathew,) having another son that had died as an infant. No one knew anything other than his name might have been Joe. There was also some talk of his death being the result of  negligence from his mother while involved with another man. The child had been outside riding his bike unsupervised and was hit by a car. Whoa!  Now I was intrigued. And, if you know me, I couldn't let that go. There were many questions that would have to be answered if I were to uncover the real story of this little Farkas.

I didn't even know where to begin my research. Should I be looking for a Joszef in Mezokovesd, Hungary; a Joe in Akron, Ohio; a Joseph in Pittsburgh, PA; or a child with a different name located somewhere else? Was he born in one city and died in another? Or was both of the events in the same location? What year should I start looking for this child? Was this family story fact or fiction, or a little of both? I literally did not have one factual element to point me in the right direction. Right now, you are thinking that I was dead center, in the middle of  a conundrum. And you would be right. The only way out was to create a hypothesis and follow it where it took me.

So here is how I began. I knew that Mary Popp (Papp) Farkas came over from Hungary in June of 1914  and she did not have a baby with her. She was alone. Her ship manifest says that she was going to see her husband in Akron, Ohio. Mathew's documents state that he was married until 1918. At that time he declares his intent to become a naturalized citizen and that he is divorced. I went with the assumption that the child would have born before they were divorced and after she came to the states. That left me with a possible time frame to start my research. 1914-1918.

To make a long story short, after years of looking for this little Farkas, I finally found him. This is the story of Joe Farkas, as I see it to date.

Maria Farkas came over to the United States looking for her husband. She left her young son, Maytas, who was only 3 years old home in Mezokovesd. Why did she leave the child behind? One can only speculate. That's for another blog post. But I believe that this fact began the demise of their marriage.  Her end ticket was for Akron, Ohio. Mathew was living in that city at that time, even though he lived in Kenmore for awhile.

Within months, she became pregnant and then later gave birth to a little boy on 11 May,1915 in Akron, Ohio. He was delivered by a Hungarian mid-wife named Mrs. Joseph Kremlp. She lived in Barberton and obviously did not know English. The American birth certificate was filled out in the Hungarian language. Why did she come all the way from Barberton? Was she the only Hungarian speaking mid-wife in that general area? One might have to think that that was the case. I don't believe that she was a personal friend. That name has never been brought up nor have I seen it in any documents. (I had never seen this type of document written in a foreign language. This is very interesting to me.) It says that the child's name is Jozsef Farkas. His parents were Matyas Farkas, a factory worker and Maria Pap, a housewife, who were from the land of Hungary. They lived at 120 Broad Street in Kenmore, Summit County, Ohio.  Matyas and Maria now had 2 children. One young son who lived in Hungary without his parents and now, a newborn son. It also states that the child was legitimate. That means that they were not divorced yet.

Now, at some point before 1918, Maria and Mathew get a divorce. I do not now if she went directly to Pittsburgh or just ended up there, but she is later to be found living in Pittsburgh with her young child. Her oldest son is still in Hungary. Mary is running a boarding house or at the very least working in one, about this time in downtown Pittsburgh, a thriving metropolis. This part of town had many foreigners, primarily Hungarians. They were there to work in the factories. Although not provable, it is plausible, that she could have been with another man at this point. She was divorced and a single mother. She could have been living a life of necessity. Or she could have been involved in a serious relationship with a gentleman. Either scenario fits the bill. Now what actually transpired, we will never know. Was Mary a witness to an act that she had no control over or was she being negligent and did not know that Joe had left the house by himself and was out in the busy city street riding his bicycle. But in January of 1921, a little boy was struck by a car and mortally wounded. The child made it to the hospital, but to no avail, Joe Farkas died on the 7th of January, 1921. Joe never had a chance to meet his older brother, who was my Grandpa, and probably never saw his father that he was able to remember.

Here's what the death certificate says in a nutshell. He was struck  by an automobile and had a fracture at the base of his skull. He was 5 years, 7 months, and 23 days old. It also states that he was born on the 15th of May in 1915. We know that his birthday was actually on the 11th. His parents were Mathew Farkas and Mary Papp. She lived at 542  4th Avenue in Pittsburgh, PA.  A coroner viewed the body the next day and released it for burial.

I have looked in the papers and there were not any reports of a little Hungarian boy who had died tragically that day. How sad that is. Hungarians were not always thought of as persons worthy of recognition. Maybe the Hungarian paper has an account of it. I hope to find it one day. There does not even appear to be a coroner's inquest to the "accident."

The next day, Joe was buried at Calvary Cemetery, many miles away from his home. It is a beautiful and extremely large Catholic cemetery.  It overlooks the river down below and is a peaceful resting place. Years later, his mother will join him in that very same spot.  Nyugodjék békében (Rest in Peace)

Yes, you caught that. The birthdate on the tombstone is incorrect.

One day, I hope to have a picture of this young child so I can see how he resembled the other family members. I imagine he looked just like his brother, my Grandpa. That would complete the story of little Joe Farkas,  as I know it today, the child that no one knew existed.

Friday, July 19, 2013

SS Pennsylvania Ship Manifest

After debarking the ship, Matyas had to go through the interrogations and inspections at Ellis Island. Everything and every answer was verified with the information from the Hamburg ship manifest   and then verifed again in New York. Below is the ship manifest that shows Matyas Farkas and his personal details that were required to enter the United States of America.


This is the entire first page of the manifest. Matyas is the second person from the top.Below I have an enlarged and highlighted view of the above manifest.


Below is the second page of the manifest, again with Matyas on line 2. Below is the enlarged and highlighted view of his entry.
1. No. on List. 2
2. NAME IN FULL. Farkas Matyas
3. Age: Yrs. | Mos. 25
4. Sex.M
5. Married or Single. M
6. Calling or Occupation. laborer
7. Able to — Read. | Write. Yes Yes
8. Nationality (Country of which citizen or subject). Hungary
9. Race or People. Magyar
10. Last Residence (Province, City, or Town). Hungary Mezokovesd
11. Address and Name of whence alien came wife, Maria Farkas, Mezokovesd
12. Final Destination (State, City, or Town). Oh  Kenmore
14. Whether having a ticket to such final destination. yes Akron, Ohio
15. By whom was passage paid? self
16. Whether in possession of $50, and if less, how much? $24
17. Whether ever before in the United States; and if so, when and where? No
18. Whether going to join a relative or friend; and if so, what relative or friend, and his name and complete address. father in law, Istvan Papp, Box 292, Kenmore Ohio
19. Ever in prison or alms house, or institution for care and treatment of the insane, or supported by charity? If so, which? No
20. Whether a Polygamist. No
21. Whether an Anarchist. No
22. Whether coming by reason of any offer, solicitation, promist, or agreement, express or implied, to labor in the United States. No
23. Condition of Health, Mental and Physical. Good
24. Deformed or Crippled. Nature, length of time, and cause. No
25. Height in Feet and Inches  5'6"
26. Complexion Fair
27.Color of Hair and Eyes Black and Blue
28.Marks of Identification None
29. Place of Birth, Country and Town Mezokovesd, Hungary

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A View from the Ship

The day of April 5, 1912,  began early with the sun rise at 5:31 am.  Remember that Daylight Savings Time had not yet been enacted.  Quickly the temperature rose to nearly 70 degrees. The air carried a brisk breeze. The sun was shining. It was a beautiful spring day in New York City!

The SS Pennsylvania, finally finished its journey and arrived at the harbor in New York. Matyas Farkas had arrived at his destination.  Ellis Island was finally a reality. There was a buzz on the ship, everyone had heard so much about this large city. However, the imagination could not have prepared them for the sight that greeted them upon arrival. A bright sun shiny day allowed them to perfectly see the large metropolitan city of New York off in the distance. There must have been a mix of excitement and trepidation among the passengers. Their new life was about to begin. A cacophony of various languages are heard and all are asking the same questions. What would this new world bring? Would they be able to pass the upcoming inspection at Ellis Island?  Would they be sent home? Would they be able to move around this big city without the ability to speak and understand the English language? Would they be able to get a job that was promised them? A job that would allow them the extra funds to send home to their families in Mezőkövesd?

What would have been the thoughts that ran through your mind if that was you? Your entire life you spent in a rural, agricultural and impoverished country. Now, the sights that are in front of you must blow you away.

All photos: Library of Congress
These photos were taken between 1910-1920
"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."  - Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Arriving at Ellis Island

Matyas departed for the United States of America on the 23rd of March in 1912 from Hamburg, Germany. They made a stopover in Cuxhaven, before taking the  journey to Ellis Island in New York.

The ship manifest shows that the ship arrived on Easter Sunday, April 7, 1912.  However, the New York newspapers show that the SS Pennsylvania actually arrived on April 5, 1912. That makes the journey only 13 days. Yes, I agree, that is still a long time on an extremely overcrowded ship, in steerage, no less. They might have had to stay on the ship for 2 days until the ship inspections could be accomplished and then they had to wait their turn in line to debark since there were 15 ships that had arrived at the harbour on the 5th that had to be processed. It took a long time to inspect and process each ship and its passengers, with all of the thousands of people involved. I would only know that was the true reason if the passport and the personal travel documents for Matyas still survived. They would tell the date that he had undergone inspection and claimed his luggage. This would be my guess as to why there is a 2 day discrepencey in the arrival dates. Imagine having to spend an extra 2 days on board the ship knowing that you had arrived, looking at your new life from afar and not being able to do anything about it. There must have been some rare nerves on that ship.

The Sun (New York);  Friday; April 5, 1912;  pg 15