Monday, February 28, 2011

A Closer Look at George's Baptismal Record

It’s time start looking at the setting in which George was born. Here is the first half of his baptismal record again, entry number 43, born 29 April 1891, baptized 30 April 1891:

"Georgius Micsutka" birth & baptismal record, Makov, Slovakia, 29 April 1891, first half

The parish registers at this particular time were kept in Latin (versus Hungarian or Slovak), hence his name is recorded as “Georgius.” He actually went by the Slovak name “Juro,” which also has the variants Juraj and Jur, but Juro was what he called himself.

George—for consistency, I’ll refer to my grandfather by his American name George—was the second child and second son of Matuš Mičutka and Johana Fiuri-Pavlik.  As with George, their names are recorded here in Latin, Mathaeus (English Matthew) and Joanna (English Johanna, Slovak Johana). George’s older brother Jan (English John) had been born in October 1889.

George’s father Matuš was the son of Juraj Mičutka and Anna Kubačka.[1] Matuš lived a relatively short life, 1862-1905, and he might have been a drotar, a tinker who traveled part of the year. I’ll explore this family in more depth in the future, but give a snapshot here. Matuš was the second of six children, 5 boys and one girl. His older brother Michal (English Michael), born 1860, is the only one whom I have not yet been able to track past early adulthood. The next younger sibling was the only girl in the family, Maria, who married Cyril Bartek, and she was (as far as I can tell) the first of the Mičutka family to immigrate to America. Born in 1867, she died in Connecticut in 1930 and has descendants living here in the U.S. Brother František also died young, living 1869-1904. He was definitely a drotar, according to the stories in his family. He has descendants both in Slovakia (including the current mayor of Makov) and in the U.S. The next two brothers, Peter (1871-1925) and Gašpar (English Casper) (1877-1937) came to the U.S. Peter died in New York City; one of his sons (also a Peter) came to the U.S. and died childless (as far as I can determine); other of Peter Sr.’s children remained in Slovakia where their descendants live today. Gašpar returned to Slovakia; married, he had two children but no grandchildren.

Johanna came from a larger family than Matuš, and she appears to have been the eldest child of her parents Jan Pavlik and Johana Fiuri.[2]  The family name is often recorded as a hyphenated double name, Pavlik-Fiuri.[3] Born in 1870, Johanna was several years younger than Matuš, whom she married in 1889 when she was 18 years old. Johanna’s younger siblings included Vincent Pavlik, who has descendants in America; Mariana; who also has descendants in America, including Soychaks (Sojčak); Stefan; Anna, also with American descendants; Jozef and Adam who died in childhood; Veronika, who married a different Matuš Mičutka (cousin of my great-grandfather; and just to further confuse things, both families named a daughter Stefania); and Agnes, who died a young woman.

The baptismal register in which George is recorded in 1891 appears to have been re-bound at some point, as the columns on the inner edges are now caught in the binding and were not completely captured in the microfilming process. From earlier and later pages in the register, I can see that the columns immediately after the parents’ names denote the gender of the child (M or F was written there), then whether or not the child was born legitimate (Leg or Illeg). The first column on the adjoining page is the family’s residence, where we can see “[Ma]kov 453.”

"Georgius Micsutka" birth & baptismal record, Makov, Slovakia, 29 April 1891, second half
The priests keeping the parish records were not consistent over the decades with how they denoted place of residence. Sometimes they simply wrote the town name. Sometimes they noted the household number, as in this stretch of the baptismal register.[4] Other times they noted the section of the village, or the name of the hamlet, where the family lived. And Makov has many many hamlets! The hamlet name can be useful, because lacking a map showing where each address is, it can be an indication of which families lived near each other.

It is likely that George was born into an extended family household. His grandfather Juraj Mičutka had died several weeks before his (George’s) birth; his grandmother Anna (Kubačka) Mičutka died less than a year later; and both their death records place them in this same residence, Makov 453. This household number may have been associated with the family for at least a couple of decades; Juraj’s parents’ (George’s great-grandparents’) deaths in 1867 and 1875, recorded in another tightly bound section of the parish register, place them at Makov 45[?], where only the very edge of the final digit is visible. It might well be Makov 453. 

George’s godparents are recorded as “Georgius Mojk cum Anna cons[ors],” or, Juraj Mojik and his wife Anna. Anna Mojik was born Anna Fiuri in 1855, the sister of Johanna’s mother, and therefore George’s great-aunt. Traditionally, it was the godparents who took the child to be baptized and named it; I don’t know how long that custom persisted in the area where my grandfather was born, to make assumptions about who named him. As for his name, well, he was born quite near the important spring feast of St. George, which was observed on April 23.[5] Then, too, George’s grandfather had very recently died; perhaps that influenced the choice of name. His older brother Jan had the same name as their maternal grandfather; George had the same name as their paternal grandfather. Coincidence, or not?

The next column in the baptismal record shows only ditto marks; it records the priest who baptized George, and his name is at the top of the column: “Jos. Krizsan, Par[ochus] Loc[i]” or Jozef Križan, pastor.[6]

The final two columns of the register provide space for additional dates and notes; the priest was supposed to return to the baptismal register and record there a person’s marriage and death dates (as well as recording them in the marriage and death registers). Not all priests were so quite scrupulous in their record-keeping, but Krizsan was, at least for this stretch of years. These columns are blank for George because he neither married nor died in Slovakia.

George was born into a village which with its many surrounding hamlets had a population of about 2500.[7] About 120 babies a year were baptized in the parish during this time period.[8] When I first went through these records systematically (versus skipping around, hunting for my own ancestors only) I was struck by how many of the baptismal entries around George’s included dates of death that were sadly close to the dates of baptism. And so I counted two years’ worth of entries, and noted the dates of death. Exactly half the babies had died before their fifth birthdays.

The whole page: baptisms, Makov, April & May 1891; double-clicking on the image should enlarge it

Next Monday: Childhood deaths in a village, or What bullets did George dodge?

[1] Matuš’s father’s name never occurs in its Slovak spelling in the parish registers. There is no way to know what name variant he used in everyday life—Juraj, Jur, Juro—and so I’ve chosen Juraj for my own convenience. Later, I’ll be denoting him as Juraj Jr. to distinguish him from his own father, another “Georgius.”
[2] As with George, I’ll be using the English version of her name, Johanna, as she too immigrated to the U.S.
[3] I’ll go into possible reasons for this in a future post. I will note here that the order of the two names varies, sometimes Pavlik-Fiuri and sometimes Fiuri-Pavlik; also, the spelling of Fiuri has a few variants in the records, such as Fjury, Fjuri, and sometimes with an umlaut over the letter u. I’ve encountered no modern incidences of this name that I can definitely associate with our family, to know how the spelling of the name might have become standardized.
[4] I must note here that we cannot assume that households next to each other were numbered in sequence; even today, that’s not the system in many places in Slovakia. What the system was and is, I’m still not clear on. I’ve read speculation that the houses were numbered in the order in which they were built, but I can point to at least one instance where I know that’s not the case. But I’ve also tracked families in other 19th century Slovak villages where the interactions—marriages, godparent choices, addresses at death—lead me to suspect that a number of families were located near each other and their households numbered somewhat sequentially. Only a map of the time, showing the household numbers, would answer questions of location vs address, and I haven’t seen one of those for Makov yet.  The Pavlik-Fiuri family was associated with the household number 458, so perhaps they lived near the Mičutka family—or perhaps not.
[5] I will sometimes see in Slovak baptismal registers a whole group of boys (or girls) given the same name within a few days, and almost always it turns out that the name is that of the current saint’s day. In these cases I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t the priest who’s naming them, rather than the godparents. My grandfather is the only Georgius in this section of the baptismal register.
[6] Pastor in Makov from 1881 to 1907. For the list of the parish pastors, see: Makov: 100. výročie samostatnosti obce, 275. výročie prvej písomnej zmienkz o obci [100th anniversary of the independence of the village, 275th anniversary of the first written reference to the village], 1995, p. 32.
[7] Makov’s  population in 1900 was 2583. See: Vlastivedný Slovník Obcí na Slovensku [Encyclopedia of towns in Slovakia] (Bratislava: VEDA, 1977), 2:212.
[8] There were 120 baptisms in 1890, 124 in 1891, and 118 in 1892. There was only one church in the village; the very small Jewish population had its own register in common with the Jewish residents of the neighboring village Vysoka nad Kyscou. Therefore I use the Makov Catholic parish registers as a record of the community at large.  For the baptisms, see: Sv. Peter a Pavol [Saints Peter and Paul] Roman Catholic Church (Makov, Slovakia), parish registers, inventory no. 610, volume II, 1836-1908; FHL microfilm 2,003291, item 3.

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