Finding my relatives
I would like to share with you my experience in finding live relatives, hoping to save some of you a lot of time and frustration.
Let us presume you know the names of your Grand parents. They were the ones that emigrated some 100 years ago. You can be pretty sure, that there still are people with blood relation to you, living somewhere in Slovakia.
Let us also presume, you know the place where your ancestors were born. What would be the first step? And next?
Quite easy you can put together a list of all persons with certain surname, that you can find in a phone book. Priority lies with those, that still live in that place or near. Are these my relatives?
Is this the question I should ask them?
They do not know that. They do not know your ancestors and have probably never heard about them. 100 years ago they just disappeared and many never contacted their family back home in Slovakia.
What people here can remember is in general the same as what you can; the names of their Grandparents. You will understand that their Grandparents can not be yours. So, what could they then be?
Each of your Grandparents probably had siblings. If he/she was the only one who left the country, then some of those siblings might have survived , got married and had children . The descendants of the siblings of your Grand parents would be your living relatives now. If these lines did not survive, then it would be the descendants of the siblings of your Great Grand parents.
It is also very likely, that your living relatives will not carry the original surname. Probably the same way as you. In this case, you can not go and look for them in the phone book. You just donít know their surnames and whereabouts.
I soon realized, that asking the assumed relatives whether they remember this or that leads you nowhere. It is simply not enough to declare somebody a relative, if he remembers your ancestors or stories about them.
I have only one question, always the same, when I first approach potential relatives; ď What were the names of your Grand parents?Ē
Mostly people know that.
Now, on my side, I have made a research about the siblings of my Grand parents and their descendants to such extent, that I have pairs of parents, that married around 1900 and thus could be Grandparents to somebody, who still remembers them. Sometimes I find even more data, so that I already have direct parents of still living persons.
If the person tells me the names that I have on my Tree, he is my relative. I must look for as long as there are any potential candidates. If this fails, then I have to go one generation back, find the siblings and their descendants and the whole process is repeated.
One of the problems associated with the search for living persons is the fact that most Church Records end with 1895. Younger Records must be sought in Town Halls or Mayorís offices, which are not so easily accessible, due to the Privacy Law. Sometimes the Parish office has managed to save the Records from being taken away in the 50ties. The availability varies very much from Parish to Parish. A cemetery search can also be of help in such cases, however, very old headstones are seldom to find, since the cemeteries have in many cases been renewed or moved or graves have been reused and old names are not there any more.
There is also a psychological aspect of this search.
One has to understand, that your motives for finding your ancestors,
places of origin, their old homes, relatives etc. may not be fully understood the way you feel about them. American Family values are not quite the same as here. Sooner or later, a question may arise, whether you are after some property.
Most of the persons that emigrated, became heirs at some point in time. These inheritance issues have been solved in different ways.
It may well be, that in some cases, there are some unsolved ,open questions.
For this reason, having this in mind, one has to approach the newly found relatives with great care and respect, showing them only your pure genealogical interest. They will need some time to feel comfortable with that. Nobody likes too many questions. You should rather motivate your relatives to tell stories and alike on their own.
Time will come, when you will be able to ask anything.
If you are thinking of visiting the relatives there are also some points to be considered;
Every family clan has a certain internal hierarchy. If you find one related family, there will be five more right away. Try to find out, which family has the key position in that hierarchy and try not to ignore them. They should be #1 regarding your visiting plans.
If you will disregard this, the family will have a quarrel after you leave.
Lodging with the family is a very tricky business. Not to recommend for the first time. You all have to get used to each other first. You will also want freedom of movement, which would be difficult to have while staying with the relatives.
One also has to consider that the living standard here is much lower than in the US. Such a visit is a heavy burden to the family budget.
From the very beginning of your contacts, try to figure out an appropriate way to at least partly compensate for the costs. There were cases, where the relatives, wanting to show their hospitality, have taken a loan to cover the costs of hosting the visitors.
Most of your relatives do not speak English. Be sure to have a good interpreter which not only knows the language, but can also observe and comment.
While being here you will maybe not find all the comfort you are used to have at home. Never mind. This is a country and people that have survived very hard times and are trying to catch up. Slovak hospitality will make it up for.
Having said all this and I am sure, there could be more, I would just like to recapitulate the most important points:
What is an Alias?
Alias or aka or nickname appears sometimes with individuals, mostly male, in church records and other documents.
The main reason for someone to have an alias appears to be the need of community to tell apart several families with the same surname. Alias was always given to a person or family by the community there were living in. However, there are also instances, where someone was alone with his surname, but still had an alias. He probably brought it from another place when he married into a new community or was it given to him for some other reasons. Very often it is not possible to explain the meaning of an alias.
In my recent research I came across a Roman Catholic parish of Kysucke Nove Mesto, where there were very many aliases used. I found this so interesting that I transcribed some of them. From the research point of view this parish is also interesting because it is very hard to figure out, when one name is an alias and the other is a regular surname and vice versa. Several aliases namely gradually changed into regular surnames. Names and aliases are written as found in the Church records from 1880 till 1895.
Nove Mesto Roman Catholic parish Aliases :
In case you might want to consider a professional assistance, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last update :
12 / 2005