Friday, April 6, 2012

Census by census: George (& John), 1910

I finally found my grandparents George and Valeria Michutka in the 1940 census, living in Fairfield Township, Shiawassee County, Michigan. But before looking at them in 1940, I thought I’d focus on each of their census records through the years.

Grandpa—George—arrived in the U.S. in September 1907.[1] I have not been able to find him in the 1910 census; he was almost certainly living in New York City, in Manhattan. Our non-Western-European last name is both a blessing and a curse—unique enough to easily track, but so easily misspelled, misread, and misindexed that it is often garbled in print. So George remains unfound.

Valeria, 23, was still back in Makov in 1910. Her mother had died in 1902, and I believe her father was still alive (future research). If I had to guess, I’d say Valeria was living with her married older brother and his family.

Well, that takes care of the 1910 census; not much to say. But as my grown children will probably tell you, I do like to make a short story long. And although I have not found George, I did find his brother John, and his situation was probably comparable to George’s.

First, the Michutka family situation in 1910. Widowed Johanna Pavlik Mičutka had immigrated to the U.S. in 1906; her sons Jan (John) and Juro (George) followed a year later. They joined other relatives, both Mičutkas and Pavliks, as well as others from Makov and the neighboring village Vysoka nad Kysucou. Sometime in 1909, Johanna returned to Europe with baby daughter Mary; by coincidence (or not) Mary’s father also returned to Makov that year.[2] Johanna’s other surviving children were still in Makov: Sophie, who later came to the U.S., and Veronika who died in Makov in early 1910 at the age of 8. Johanna’s mother was likely still living, and perhaps the children were with her. So John and George were young men in 1910, living and working in the middle of an immigrant population that included family members and others from “home.”

John Michutka, 1910 census, Manhattan (citation is at footnote 3)

John Michutka was enumerated in the 1910 census as a boarder at 539 East 13th Street in Manhattan, in the household of a Slovak man named Rubinitz (first name difficult to read) and his wife Mary.[3] The household included the couple’s two children, “Rubinitz’s” brother Paul Kubinitz and their mother, twenty-five year old Joe Bungala [sic], and John Michutka.  Probably the name Rubinitz was a mistake, given the name of the brother, the name of the next family enumerated in the building (Anton Kubinitz), and the fact that the names Kubinec (pronounced a lot like “Kubinitz”), Bugala, and Mičutka/Michutka were all family names from Makov. One of John’s cousins would later married a Kubinec back in Makov, so perhaps the association with this family was even closer than fellow-townsman.

John was not the first Mičutka to live at this address; his father’s sister Marianna and her husband Cyril Bartek had been living there in 1906[4] and John’s mother Johanna as well as Mary’s father lived there in 1908.[5] One could speculate that this was one of the places where immigrants from Makov landed.

This address, on East 13th Street between Avenues A and B, is in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and a few decades earlier this area was the most densely populated part of New York City and one of its worst slums. Tenement lots sometimes had a second multi-story building behind the first, contributing to the high population density.[6] Various ethnic groups lived this neighborhood, and in the early 20th century “Eastern Europeans” had a strong presence here.

Viewing this address on Google Earth, one sees today a rather handsome four-story red brick building between two somewhat taller lighter-colored stone-fronted buildings; the building has 3 windows across the front of each of the upper floors. The framing of the ground floor leads one to think that it might have originally been designed for a shop or other business. 
539 E. 13th Street, from a real estate map.
Atlas of the Borough of Manhattan, City of New York: Desk and Library Edition (New York: G. W. Bromley & Co., 1916), Plate 29; digital image, New York Public Library, “Atlases of New York City,” NYPL Digital Gallery ( : accessed 28 February 2012).
A 1916 real estate atlas of Manhattan shows that the building did indeed have a ground floor store (as did many of the buildings on the street) indicated by the "S" appended to the number of floors ("4S"), and was 25 feet wide and 52 feet deep.  The building did not have a basement--not surprising since the map indicates an old water course directly under the buildings on that side of the street! 
But the 1916 map shows a four-story rear building as well (which no longer exists); this is reflected the census records, and was likely the building that John was living in.  The 1900 census indicates five families (twelve people), mostly Germans, living at #539, and eight more families (forty-two people) living in the rear building.[7] The 1910 census makes it difficult to see that there are two buildings on the lot: the address appears twice, several pages apart, enumerated on different days, the second time (where John appears) on sheets labeled “suplementary” [sic]. The apparent front building in 1910 housed six families of forty-three people, and the apparent back building, six families of thirty people. These seventy-three people lived on a lot 25 feet wide by approximately 100 feet deep.

In 1920, two buildings are clearly indicated again, one with five families (thirteen people) and the other with six (twenty-seven people), mostly Russians. The 1930 census shows four families (eighteen people), mostly Poles; either the second building was gone, or I missed finding it (enumerated separately again?).[8]  In each of these censuses for this address, “family” very often included boarders.

John and the other men with whom he was living were working as “stripers” (strippers) in a tobacco factory, stripping the tobacco leaves from the stem.[9] Many others in the buildings around him were working in garment factories; a few were laborers in construction work. Wherever George was, he was probably engaged in similar manual labor.

John probably did not remain a boarder in this tenement apartment much longer, as he married a month later in May 1910. Surprisingly, his brother George was not one of the two witnesses on the marriage record, again leaving us without a clue today as to just where George was at the time of the 1910 census.

We don’t have any photos from the family’s time in New York City, but there are collections of photos of early twentieth century life in the Lower East Side at the following websites:
  • The Tenement Museum:; click on History, then on Photo Search.
  • H. A. Dunne and Co.,
  • Although it is set about fifteen years earlier than the 1910 census, the Oscar-nominated film Hester Street provides a glimpse of tenement life for immigrants.

[1] Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957, microfilm publication T715 (Washington, D.C.: NARA), roll 986, 10 September 1907, SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie, for Georg Micutka, stamped p. 104, line 26; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” online database, ( : accessed 17 August 2009). indexes George’s surname as “Mientka.”
[2] Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957, microfilm publication T715 (Washington, D.C.: NARA), roll 1750, 4 October 1911, SS Kronprinz Wilhelm, for Johanna Micutka, stamped p. 153, line 13; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” online database, ( : 19 August 2010). The manifests indicate the time period that each was previously in the U.S.
[3] 1910 U.S. census, New York County, New York, population schedule, Manhattan, ED 1681, p. 22A, dwelling 24 [but Xed out], family 362, [illegible] Rubinitz; NARA microfilm publication M624, roll 1033. This appears to be a continuation of dwelling 24 on pp. 16B and 17A, and is likely a case of two buildings on one lot/address.
[4] Saint John Nepomucene Catholic Church (New York, New York), baptismal ledger [volume not noted], unpaginated, Josephine Bartek (1906); St. John Nepomucene Parish office, New York. By 1910 the Barteks had relocated to Connecticut.
[5] City of New York, Department of Health, delayed birth certificate no. 10742 S (issued 17 June 1927), Mary Pavelia, born 25 September 1908; Municipal Archives, New York City.
[6] Eric Homberger, The Historical Atlas of New York City, revised and updated (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2005), pp. 110-111.
[7] 1900 U.S. census, New York County, New York, population schedule, Manhattan, ED 334, sheets 15A & B, dwellings 41 and 42, families 371-383; NARA microfilm publication M624, roll 1096. Dwelling 41 is indicated as the front one, and 42 the rear.
[8] 1920 U.S. census, New York County, New York, population schedule, Manhattan, 6th Assembly District,  ED 518, sheet 3A, dwellings 5 and 6, families 55-65; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1196. Dwelling 6 is indicated as the front one, and dwelling 5 the rear.
1930 U.S. census, New York County, New York, population schedule, Manhattan, ED 31-195, sheet 12B, dwelling 39, families 275-178; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll [?].
 1930 ed 31-195, sheet 12B, ancestry 24/36.
[9] ( : accessed 27 July 2009).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

1940 census: John Michutka (Mitchell)

The hunt for my grandparents George and Valeria Michutka in the 1940 census continues, rural township by rural township. George appears with a specific address in a county directory in 1940, but perhaps the information was actually collected in 1939 and the family had relocated again by census day, April 1, 1940.

In contrast, it took me only a couple of minutes to find George’s older brother John in New York City. I knew that John and his wife had remained in one home from before 1930 until shortly before John died in 1952. An enumeration district conversion tool and the knowledge that they lived in Queens Assembly District 3 (aka College Point), block G, made for quick work.

John and Carrie in front of their house. The reverse of the original copy reads: "Dear Jennie, I am sending you picture taken front of our house. me and aunt Carrie second from left and brother inlaw and wife and others are friends from Norwalk Conn. this was last summer taken" [no date]  

Their house as it appears today. (Google Earth)

John and his second wife Caroline “Carrie” Bachor had bought their two-story two-family house at 131-10 14th Avenue sometime between 1920 and 1930; the house had been built in 1910, so it wasn't very old at whatever time they purchased it. A comparison of their 1930 and 1940 data is interesting. Their home was valued at $9000 in 1930, and their tenant Claus Wiebach paid $35 monthly rent.
1930 U.S. census, Queens County, New York, population schedule, 3rd Assembly District, ED 41-861, page 6B, dwelling 71, family 114, John Mitchutka; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1593.
In 1940, coming out of the Depression, their home value had decreased to $3500, and their tenant Martin Gerhardt was paying $28 a month. John’s neighbor, also renting out part of his house, shows a near-identical decrease in value and rental income.

1940 U.S. census, Queens County, New York, population schedule, Assembly District 3, ED 41-474, page 4A, household 79, line 34, John Mitchell; digital image, ( : accessed 4 April 2012); NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 2729.
Some time between the two censuses, John changed his last name to Mitchell. (This change made it impossible for me to find information about him for several years—try searching for a particular John Mitchell in New York City some time!) John and Carrie were still using Michutka when Carrie paid a visit to her home village in Czechoslovakia in 1931,[1] but when John applied for a Social Security account in 1937 he was using the name Mitchell.[2]

John and Carrie’s places of birth are recorded as Austria in this census. Not quite correct--I’m pretty sure the enumerator was supposed to record the place of birth by the current political designation, which would have been Czechoslovakia at that time (but part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time they were born). On the other hand, maybe the enumerator didn’t question John’s saying they were born in Austria. ‘Cause you know, Mitchell is such an Austrian-sounding name….

In spite of changing their name to something more American-sounding, and buying a house and settling down for years at the same place, neither John nor Carrie appear to have taken steps to become citizens; they are both still aliens in 1940.

Consistent with the 1930 census and with his 1937 Social Security account application, John is doing auto metal work in 1940. In 1930 the census specified “sheet metal” work, and in 1937 he was employed by Bayside Auto Body Work in Bayside, Long Island.

1940 U.S. census, occupation and industry columns for John and Carrie

Carrie will not be found in the 1950 census when it is released in 2022; she died of cancer in 1945. John lived for several more years, visiting his brother George’s family in Michigan at least once. He died in 1952 in College Point, Queens.[3] His only child had died in infancy,[4] so he has no descendants.

John's and Carrie's gravestone, div. 10, row 46, plot 43, Mt. St. Mary Cemetery, Flushing, New York. Whoever took care of John's burial arrangements apparently did not have John's name added to the headstone. Photo taken by Julie Michutka, November 2009.

[1] Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, 1897-1957, microfilm publication T715 (Washington, D.C.: NARA, roll 5035), SS Europa, for Karolina Michutka, p. 151 [stamped], line 20; digital image, “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” online database, ( : accessed 10 November 2006). [corrected from original posting, which mistakenly cited Carrie's 1905 manifest entry]
[2] John Mitchell, SS no. 104-03-8281, 20 May 1937, Application for Account Number (Form SS-5), Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland.
[3] City of New York, certificate of death no. 2346, Caroline Mitchell, 15 March 1945; Dept. of Health. Also, City of New York, certificate of death no. 156-52-403649, John Mitchell, 11 April 1952; Dept. of Health.
[4] City of New York, death certificate no. 29574, Caroline Mitchutka, 27 September 1911; Dept. of Health. John's daughter was the child of his first wife Mary Perdoch.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

1940 census: the first find

Well well well... I found great-grandma Johanna Pavlik Micutka Luzenia AND she landed on the lucky line! So this is just a quick post of what I saw; I haven't even examined every column and thoroughly analyzed the family info yet.

Andy, Johanna, and Mary are found living on Warren Road in Middlebury Township, Shiawassee County, Michigan. I knew they'd been living in Middlebury Township before and after 1940, so it was a safe bet they'd still be there. They owned their home (ok, gonna check for deeds next trip back to Michigan!), it's a farm, and it's valued at "900" and that's in line with the neighbors' home/farm values.

1940 U.S. census, Shiawassee County, Michigan, population schedule, Middlebury Township, page 9B, ED 78-12, household number 187, line 54, Andrew Luzenia; digital image, ( : accessed 3 April 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1820.

Johanna was the informant for the family information. I'm rather surprised at the accurate spellings of the surnames; I wasn't so sure that she was literate. Mary's surname is especially interesting. While I know that it's supposed to be Pavela, the only place it's spelled that way is on her baptismal record. It's misspelled as Pavelia on her New York birth certificate, and that misspelling followed her to the end of her life. (How do I know that the baptismal record is correct and the birth certificate is wrong, and not the other way around? Because I recognized her father on the baptismal record by his unusual first name--he was from the same village as the Micutkas, and was himself a Micutka descendant, and his surname was most definitely Pavela.) Did Johanna pull out her daughter's birth certificate or other document, or did she know how to spell the family names?

Johanna sometimes named herself Annie or Janie in other documents, as she did here. Johanna was born in late 1870, Andy in late 1883, and Mary in late 1908, so the reported ages are pretty close. Relationships and places of birth are accurate--really, great-granny, I'm impressed, you haven't always been so careful with little things like facts in the past!

Levels of education are minimal--just a few years of formal schooling for Johanna and Andy; well, that argues for Johanna being able to spell names at least. Mary was mentally retarded to some degree and had no education.

The family was living in the same house as in 1935.  I should look for deeds before that date, then.

Andy apparently had taken out "first papers" for naturalization. I've looked for them rather half-heartedly in the past, not sure if he had ever pursued citizenship. Now I know to get serious about searching. He was a farmer, worked 60 hours in the last week of March 1940 and 52 weeks in the 1939. He didn't earn wages in 1939, but did receive income of $50 or more from sources other than money wages. Lastly, he's number 100 on the farm schedule, so now I have to find out if the farm schedules are available.

Johanna's basic information shows that she was still an alien, and that she didn't earn work for pay.

Her supplemental information is, alas, about what I expected. Her parents were both born in Czechoslovakia (which was what it was called in 1940, not in 1870 when Johanna was born).

Married more than once, first time at age 18 (that's right--in January 1889); but what's the number in line 50, for "number of children ever born"? I'm going to have to wait for clearer images, plus compare the enumerator's handwriting in other entries. 

So, my homework will be to look for a deed for property out on Warren Road in Middlebury Township, probably purchased before 1935 and sold in the mid- to late-1940s. And if Andy still owned the land when he died (Johanna predeceased  him), there might be a probate file. I need to check for naturalization records again; first stop (online or in person) would be the county courthouse. I should also eventually send for the Alien Registration forms that both Andy and Johanna would have had to fill out in 1940. I've been lazy about noting whether farm schedules for the 1940 census survived and are available, so it's time to find out.

Back to searching; I still need to find George and Valeria.

The 1940 census: looking for Michutkas

It made the national news—to some extent—but you might not have picked up on what an exciting day yesterday was, unless you’re really into genealogy. Yesterday was the release of the 1940 census, seventy-two years after it was taken. This is a gold mine of information for anyone researching family history.

Each census asks a slightly different set of questions, so tracking a family from one census to the next in ten-year snapshots shows more than just the fact that everyone aged ten years. Some censuses ask the year of immigration (for those not born here) and their citizenship status; this is hugely helpful information for then finding a person on a passenger list or locating their naturalization papers. The 1910 census asks each woman how many children she had, and how many are still living; this is often the first clue that a child was born and died since the last census, or that an adult child who can’t be found in other recent records is actually deceased.

The first targets of my searching will be my Michutka grandparents, and my Grandpa Michutka’s mother, step-father, and half-sister. The 1940 census isn’t indexed yet; that will take probably six months, so I have to plan my search geographically, identifying enumeration districts and then reading line by line, page by page. Grandpa and Grandma Michutka moved around a lot, nearly every year, but remained in the area of Ovid, Michigan. I’ve already read through the 1940 enumeration district in Clinton County where they lived in 1930, hoping they might still be there. I found their former neighbors, the Hoffmans and Burls; I saw my dad’s godmother, Mrs. Waydak; and I ran across the family of one of my dad’s best friends growing up, Glenn Decker. But no Michutkas.

What do I expect to see, once I do find them? My grandparents George and Valeria Michutka were almost certainly living on a small farm. The census will tell me whether they owned or rented, and the value of their home if owned, or what they paid for monthly rent. Honestly, I don’t expect they owned. I’ll be able to see how their home value, or rent, compared with others in the area. This census asks the citizenship status of those foreign-born; George did not become a citizen until later in the 1940s, although he took out “first papers” in the 1920s. A new set of questions on this census asks where each person lived in 1935, but I don’t expect any surprises there.

I expect to see sons Don, Victor, and Vincent living with their parents. Eldest children John, Jennie, and Josie were out on their own by then. I’m betting that middle children Joe and Paul were “farmed out,” living with and working for other families in the immediate area. The question is, will they be enumerated with those other families, or with their own family?

There’s a chance that I’ll find my grandparents living with great-grandma and her second husband. At some point, George and Valeria were having a tough time economically (ok, they always had a tough time economically!) and they shared a house with George’s mother and step-father. My dad said that one family lived in the front of the house, the other in the back of the house.

I’m really curious to see this great-grandmother’s family enumeration. Johanna Pavlik Mičutka Luzenia and her second husband “Big Andy” Luzenia always lived near my grandparents, but often over the county line in Shiawassee County. Johanna’s illegitimate daughter, my grandfather’s thirty-year-old half-sister Mary, lived with them. I never know what surname Mary will have in a census, or what her relationship to the head of household (Andy) will be; both have always been wrong in the past. One new thing with the 1940 census—the person providing the information is identified. So, if Mary’s info is wrong again, I’ll know who the guilty party is. Actually, I’ll be shocked if Mary is enumerated with her correct legal surname Pavela, that of her biological father. It took me over twenty years to find that particular piece of information, and it apparently was not known to her nieces and nephews.

This census also asks about a dozen questions regarding the employment status of everyone age fourteen and older. Will it show that my grandmother did field work, or only that she was a housewife? I’m interested in finding out George’s and Andy’s income in 1939, and how that compares with others'. They worked their small farms, but also had other odd jobs such as section hands for the railroad, or digging ditches for a WPA project.

The 1940 census has an interesting variation: one person on each page was asked supplementary questions. Those enumerated on the lucky lines (lines 14 and 29) were asked about their parents’ birthplaces and the language they spoke growing up, their status as a veteran, whether they had a Social Security number (this will be handy for researchers!), more questions about their usual occupation, and for women who were or had been married, whether married more than once, age at first marriage, and number of children ever born. I’d love to see great-grandma Johanna’s answer to the last question, as I know of seven children (four lived to adulthood) but have one document that says she gave birth to eight children. We’ll see if any of the family ended up on one of those lucky lines.

So in the odd half hour here and there, I’ll be looking for my Michutkas. I’m not expecting any surprises—well, if I expected them, they wouldn’t be surprises, would they?!—but I seldom get a new document but what it has information I totally didn’t know about before. So, I guess I’m remaining open to the unexpected. Stay tuned.