Sunday, January 23, 2011

George Michutka: A Snapshot

It would be good to begin with an overview of my grandfather’s life. He had a relatively long life, simple, quiet. Everything I mention here will be elaborated upon in later posts, and with proper (I hope) source citations.

George was born Juro Mičutka in April of 1891 in Makov, present-day Slovakia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was the second child of Matuš Mičutka and his wife Johanna Fiuri-Pavlik. There are several indications that the Mičutkas were a family of drotars, or wireworkers in English. There are some indications that Johanna’s family had a shop of some sort, and maybe were financially a little bit better off than many others.

George’s father died in 1905, possibly of tuberculosis, when George was in his early teens.  Sometime in his boyhood, George was sent to live with an “uncle” in Germany; the exact relationship has not yet been identified. And it was Germany that George listed as his place of residence when he boarded a ship for America in 1907. He joined his widowed mother and a number of other Mičutka and Pavlik relatives in New York City.

George met Valeria Grečnar in New York City. Although she had lived in Makov for a number of years, they apparently had not met each other there. They married in Manhattan, at St. John Nepomucene parish, on February 2, 1913. Sometime not long after, they moved to London, Ontario, Canada, probably with George’s mother Johanna; George and Valeria’s first child John was born there in London on New Year’s Day 1914. 

In 1916 the family moved back to Manhattan, where daughter Jennie was born later that same year and daughter Josie in 1919. Sometime in 1920 the extended family moved to mid-Michigan, possibly together, possibly at slightly different times: George and Valeria and their 3 small children; Johanna and the man she would later marry, Andy Luzenia; and George’s cousin Orsula (Mičutka) Medvedik and her husband and small children. Andy was only a few years older than George, and was his best friend.

George and Valeria settled in the area where Clinton, Gratiot, and Shiawassee counties meet. Although they moved many times over the years, they always stayed in the area around Ovid, Michigan. Five more children, all sons, were born, ending with twins in 1929. For the most part the family supported themselves, barely, with farming and occasional other work—not so different from many other people in the first part of the 20th century.

On June 3, 1947, George proudly became an American citizen.

At some point, likely in the mid-1940s, Valeria was diagnosed with colon cancer, and a doctor suggested that they move to town so that a home with electricity and running water would make life easier for her. By then, the three eldest children were out and on their own, married and with small children. The next three sons were serving in the Army during World War II. The twins were in their late teens, one in his senior year of high school and the other probably living with an older sibling. Valeria succumbed to the cancer in October 1947.

The late 1940s also brought the deaths of George’s mother Johanna and of his step-father and best friend Andy Luzenia.

George gave up the house—whose rent was probably paid by one of his sons—not long after Valeria died, and hired himself out as a live-in farm hand. I don’t know how long that lasted, or what George did until my childhood. He was hit by a car about autumn 1957, recuperated at his son Vincent’s house for a while, and then went back to Ovid. I remember my grandfather living in a sort of boarding house for older men, in Ovid, in the early- and mid-1960s. He began to have health issues, including a (mild?) stroke. The boarding house where he lived closed, and George ended up in the nursing home on the edge of town where he lived for the last couple years or so of this life.

In mid-April 1967 a call came that George had had a stroke and was not expected to live. He died a day or two later, on April 13, a couple weeks shy of his 76th birthday. He was survived by his 8 children, 24 grandchildren (there would be 26 total: one last grandchild would be born the following year, and one grandchild had died in infancy), and 2 great-grandchildren.

This is very much a bare-bones recital of a few events and the years they occurred, but it will do for a skeleton to flesh out in later blog posts. I wish I could also write an entry here about what George was like: what made him laugh, what ticked him off, how he expressed affection and frustration, what he thought about his own life, how he and Valeria met and what attracted them to each other, which foods he loved…. But I don’t know much of those things, and I don’t know that there’s anyone alive who does—but aunts and older cousins are welcome to prove me wrong!

Next Monday's blog: April 1891


  1. Good luck researching your family tree. I have had the most difficult time with my Austro-Hungarian line with border changes and different town names based on different languages... It is fun and addicting but sometimes a bit frustrating.
    (Tangled Trees)

  2. Thank you, Theresa! It's a challenging area to research, but I love the hunt (most of the time).

  3. Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"