Author Archive

The Gyr Mystery

Posted by on Sunday, 28 February, 2010

My general focus the past few weeks has been the Gyr family. When I started researching them, I only had a name of my maternal great-grandmother, Lillian GREER. This was passed along to me by my mother. Lillian GREER married Bernard Francis MACKIN, before 1930.

I was able to locate the death certificate of Lillian G. MACKIN, putting her birth in Jefferson, Kentucky on July 17, 1885. The parents were listed as Mary and Jerimiah GYER. At the time, I had not heard the GYER name before, from anyone. It sounded close enough to GREER though for me to hypothesize that GREER could be an americanized version of GYER. Some surname research of GYER suggested an origin point of Germany or Switzerland. Unfornately, there, the trail went cold for a long time. I wasn’t able to locate any GREERs or GYERs that lived in the Kentucky area that fit the data I already had.

A few months later, my uncle graciously sent me a large collection of photos and documents that belonged to my grandmother. In it, I discovered a few photos of my great-grandmother, Lillian. On the back of them was written “Lillian E. Gyr Mackin“. Two bits of information stuck out at me. First, the name GYR. Although very close to GYER, it was a significant piont in the right direction. Second, the “E”. What was that for? At the time I had no clue. Again, the trail went cold. No Lillian E., Mary or Jerimiah GYRs showed up in records that fit the data I had.

A short while later I quickly ran Lillian GYRs name through familysearch.org. A bunch of Elizabeth GYRs came up, although none in the right time frame or area. Why Elizabeth? After some research I was able to learn that the first uses of the name Lillian were as a diminutive of Elizabeth. I also remembered the “E” I saw on the back of the photograph. Turning back to census records, I was able to find an Elizabeth GYR with the correct birth data, and mother Mary, living in the Jefferson, Kentucky area around the turn of the century.

No sign of Jeremiah, however. I was able to find some city directory listings of what appears to be the correct person, but he disappears from records before the turn of the century. It’s possible that he may have died before 1900.

It took a while to get here, but this has opened up a whole new avenue of research for me and the GYR family. Pays to be persistent, and never let any bit of information, however small, go unresearched.

The ExxonMobil Collection at UT Austin

Posted by on Wednesday, 21 October, 2009

Standard_Oil

I’ve gotten some interest in a post I made to the SLOVAK-ROOTS yahoo group about ExxonMobil historical records. In 2003, ExxonMobil began the process of shutting down its company archives and donated much of its historical data to the University of Texas at Austin. A massive amount of data is contained in the collection, covering well over a hundred years of history. What interested me originally, is that the collection includes information on the Standard Oil company. Having a great-grandfather that immigrated to New Jersey to work for Standard Oil, I wondered if the collection might have any items of genealogical value.

The short answer is “probably not” for most researchers. While I have not consulted the collection directly (I am in Virginia), I have spoken to the graduate student assigned to it quite a few times. The index does make mention of personnel data in some sections, but it seems to be mostly general company policy information and not employee specific. That being said, some of the data could provide interesting insight into your ancestors life. And you never know, you could get a hit. The best thing to do is to look at the indexing guide they provide on their website:

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/00352/cah-00352.html

When looking at the index, try to identify areas that might be of interest to your ancestor in terms of geography and time. Google seems to have indexed the site, so doing a google search with “site:www.lib.utexas.edu <term>” seems to help alot. For instance, doing a search of “site:www.lib.utexas.edu Bayonne” turns up a number of hits. The University of Texas staff can’t do in depth searches into the data, but they will give you insight into what kind of data is contained in a particular section if you contact them. They can copy sections for a fee and ship it to you (http://www.cah.utexas.edu/services/photocopy_fees.php). You can give them a max number of pages to copy.

The reference email address there is cah.reference@austin.utexas.edu. If anyone has had any experience with this collection, I would love to hear from you.

Susanna (Varga) Bichrest

Posted by on Sunday, 18 October, 2009

It took a while, but I was able to locate the Ellis Island record of my great-grandmother, Susanna (VARGA) BICHREST. Again, I used the excellent search engine provided at stevemorse.org. A lot of things were hampering my search. For one, Susanna and VARGA are seemingly very common names in Eastern Slovakia at the time of my great-grandmother’s birth. In the end, my main roadblock ended up being the translation of her name. The record I located spells her name Zsuzsanna VARGA. Zsuzsanna is a Hungarian variant of Susanna.

Here is a break down of the record:

  • She left out of Fiume, Austria on December 18th, 1909 aboard the S.S. Caronia. She arrived at Ellis Island January 2, 1910.
  • She was 17 years old at the time of entry.
  • She was single at the time of entry, as was my great-grandfather. It is possible they did not meet until coming to the United States. I have not located marriage records for them as of yet.
  • Her job at the time of emigration from Hungary was “laborer”.
  • She was able to read and write.
  • It is indicated that she is a Slovak from Gataly, Hungary.
  • Her nearest relative is listed as her father, an “Andres Varga” of Gataly. This is the first piece of tangible data I have located identifying a parent of hers. Hopefully there are census records covering Gataly.
  • It lists her final destination as Bridgeport, Connecticut. I have learned from other research that Bridgeport was a common location for Slovak immigrants. She did not have a ticket to this destination upon her arrival.
  • She had about $30 in her possession.
  • She had never been inside the United States before.
  • It indicates she is en route to meet her brother-in-law, George MITRO in Bridgeport. She was possibly also reuniting with her sister. I have learned from Susanna’s obituary that her sister, Anna, married a George MITRO.
  • She is listed as in good health, with dark complexion, brown hair and grey eyes.
  • Her place of birth is listed as Gataly, Hungary.

Gataly is modern day Hatalov. It is interesting to note that Gataly is very close to Parno (my great-grandfathers village), only a 14 mile difference. However, I have no information that they knew each other prior to coming to the United States.

The Papins of Parno

Posted by on Tuesday, 13 October, 2009

In my previous post, I was curious about the contact listed in my great-grandfather’s Ellis Island record:

eiclip

I posted a request for interpretation help to a wonderful Yahoo! group, SLOVAK-ROOTS. Very shortly after, a few of the members of the group suggested that the name may actually be “Papin” instead of “Papiss”. They also pointed out that some members of a Papin family had previously entered the country with their last residence listed as Parno, Hungary. Armed with this information, I was able to locate a Pal Papin that entered the country on Feb 28. 1906 from Parno. Interestingly, the Ellis Island database actually lists the record incorrectly as Pal Papoass. This is likely a transcription error. Close inspection of the ship manifest leads me to believe this is the same Pal Papin that my great grandfather was seeking.

So who is this mysterious man? The 1910 federal census does enumerate a Paul Papin living in Bayonne, with his job listed as working for the Oil Works. The proximity to my my great-grandfather in his hometown of Parno points to him possibly being a family friend. Perhaps he was influential in my great-grandfathers decision to leave his homeland for the new world.

More on John Joseph Bichrest

Posted by on Monday, 12 October, 2009

I thought I would post a little bit more on the Ellis Island record I located, that I believe is my great-grandfather. It contains quite a bit of interesting information.

  • He was 17 years old at the time of entry.
  • It indicates that he departed Europe out of Bremen, Germany on the S.S. Trave. I recently learned that the Family History Library may have emigration records from Bremen, as well. I plan to consult them as soon as I can get over to a Family History Center.
  • His job at the time of emigration from Hungary was “laborer.”
  • He was able to read and write.
  • It is indicated that he is a Slovak from Hungary.
  • It lists his last permanent residence as “Parno, Hungary” and his destination as “Bayonne City, NJ”.
  • He had no ticket to his final destination upon his entry.
  • He paid for passage himself, and had what looks like $15 in his possession.
  • He had never been to the United States before this point.
  • It indicates that he is en route specifically to 162 22nd Street in Bayonne, and that he is intending to visit an acquaintance (abbreviated “acqn” on the record). After some research I believe this may have been the location of the Standard Oil refinery in Bayonne. My great-grandfather worked a great part of his life for Standard Oil. I cannot make out the acquintances name, but it appears to be something like “Pal Papiss”.
  • He was in good health. It shows his height as 5’2″, with fair complexion, black hair, brown eyes, and no identifying marks.
  • His place of birth is listed as Parno, Hungary.

I would love to know who the acquaintance was John was seeking when he came to the United States. A sponsor working for Standard Oil, perhaps? Here is a clip from the Ellis Island record, blown up and softened for readability.

eiclip

John Joseph Bichrest

Posted by on Friday, 9 October, 2009

My general focus in the past few weeks has been researching the BICHREST family. BICHREST is a variant spelling of my mother’s paternal line, BICKEREST. Currently I am researching my great-grandfather, John Joseph BICHREST, born April 20, 1890 in PARNO, Austria-Hungary. PARNO is in modern day Slovakia, and is now known as PARCHOVANY.

I believe I have located John Joseph’s Ellis Island records. It is often difficult to find records for Slovakian immigrants because of the many variations in spelling of the name. Luckily, a very talented genealogist by the name of Stephen Morse has written a highly extensible interface to the Ellis Island records, which are provided by the The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. Utilizing Stephen Morse’s site, I was able to locate the records of a Janos BIHREST.According to the records, Janos was born in 1890, and arrived in the United States 1907.  After some research, I was able to find out that Janos is a Hungarian translation of John. I do not know why the name is spelled BIHREST. It could be a legitimate historical spelling, or simply a misspelling at the time he entered the country through Ellis Island. The 1907 arrival date is corroborated in the 1930 federal census, which enumerates John Joseph. The Ellis Island record shows his destination as Bayonne, New Jersey, where John Joseph lived most of his life.

John Joseph was married to a Susanna VARGA, my great-grandmother. I do not yet know her origin or their date of marriage. Susanna died at a very young age in Bayonne, New Jersey. Susanna had two sisters, Anna VARGA and Berta VARGA.

IMG_0037_zoomedJohn and Susanna BICHREST

I recently received a copy of John Joseph’s Social Security application (SS-5). The SS-5 identifies his parents as Paul BICHREST and Susan CISMAR. There are no records that I’ve been able to locate on Paul and his wife stateside, so I will probably have to start researching Hungarian census records to find more information on them.  A cousin in Maine did do a quick lookup for me in the The 1869 Hungarian census. The census for Parno lists a family of BICHRESTS, including a Pal BICHREST. Pal is a Hungarian variant of Paul. Is it my Paul? Time will tell.

Genealogy Blogging

Posted by on Friday, 9 October, 2009

Welcome family and friends.

I started doing genealogy research a few months ago, and have taken quite a liking to it. It was something I have long wanted to do, but did not know how to start. I got an email for a free trial to ancestry.com and decided to give it a try. Within a few hours I was finding information right and left.

One of the things I enjoy the most about it is sharing what I find with my friends and family. It’s such a great feeling to give a family member a piece of information about an ancestor that they never before knew. It’s also great meeting cousins, closely related or distantly related.

I hope you will enjoy reading as much as I enjoy sharing.