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. 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. 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. 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 and John’s mother Johanna as well as Mary’s father lived there in 1908. 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. 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 (http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?1511797 : 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. 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?). 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. 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: http://www.tenement.org; click on History, then on Photo Search.
- H. A. Dunne and Co., http://www.nycvintageimages.com/category/old-new-york-photo-catalog/lower-east-side
- 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.
 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, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 17 August 2009). Ancestry.com indexes George’s surname as “Mientka.”
 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, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 19 August 2010). The manifests indicate the time period that each was previously in the U.S.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 Eric Homberger, The Historical Atlas of New York City, revised and updated (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2005), pp. 110-111.
 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.
 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.
 StinkyCigar.com (http://www.stinkycigar.com/CigarTerms/ : accessed 27 July 2009).