A brick wall has been shattered!
My maternal grandfather’s line is a part of my family history that I didn’t really have a lot of information on. My maternal great-grandfather, Janos BICHREST, came to the United States around the turn of the century. His Ellis Island records pinpoint his place of origin as Parno, Austria-Hungary. Parno is modern day Parchovany, Slovakia. During my research into my great-grandfather, I had observed that there are a large concentration of BICHRESTS in Maine, near the Lisbon Falls area. From my research, I know that it was a popular destination for Slovaks from Austria-Hungary. In particular, it was a destination for those from the area near Parno. Many of the BICHREST records I had come across, but could not connect into my line, listed Lisbon Falls. I have long suspected my family was connected to the many BICHRESTS of Maine, given the rarity of the name in the grand scheme of genealogy.
In 2009 I was able to enlist the help of a very gracious genealogist in Maine. He had written about some BICHRESTS on his website. He was able to share with me some research he had done through the Family History Library (FHL) of the 1869 Hungarian Census. The 1869 Hungarian Census was conducted by the Hungarian government to enumerate all individuals living in the empire, regardless of religion or property ownership. The census includes the town of Parno and it listed a family of BICHRESTS on page 68 of the microfilm copy. The head of the household is an Andrej Bichrest, born 1818. Among their family is listed a Pal (a Slovak variant of Paul), born 1859. As I mentioned before, the SS-5 for my great-grandfather Janos listed his father as a Paul BICHREST. Since Janos was born in 1891, it would put this Paul at the correct age range to be his father. However, I had very little to back up this assertion.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I usually Google surnames every so often to see if anything new has popped up. In this case, I came across some old posts (circa 2001) to a genealogy forum about some BICHRESTS. I had not seen these posts before. One mentioned a Roman Catholic priest. I remembered my mother telling me of a Roman Catholic priest, a BICHREST, that used to visit my grandmother. My mother said his name was John, but could not offer much information beyond that. Among my grandmothers documents was a photo of who I believe is the priest.
I took a shot and emailed the author of the post, a BICHREST. I fully expected the email to bounce considering the age of the post. To my elation it did not bounce! A few days later I had a reply from the author of the post. He mentioned that his great-grandfather Paul Michael BICHREST (b 1884) also came from Parno, Austria-Hungary. This great-grandfather Paul Michael had three siblings. Two sisters, Maria and Anna, and a brother, Jan. He mentioned that Maria had a married name of PAPIN, and that Anna had a married name of TOPOLOVSKY. He also mentioned his great-grandfather’s parents names were Pavel BICHREST and Zuzanna CIZMAR. Look closely at the names. Pavel is also a Slovak variant of Paul, and Zuzanna is a Slovak variant of Susan. These names matched very closely to the parents listed on my great-grandfather’s SS-5. If you had previously read any of my posts about the Bichrest family, you might recognize the name PAPIN. I have seen the name associated with my family before. My great-grandfather listed a Pal Papin as his contact in the United States on his immigration records.
Connecting all the dots, I believe that Paul Michael BICHREST and my great-grandfather Janos BICHREST (a.k.a John Joseph BICHREST) were brothers. I believe the final piece of the puzzle lies in the 1910 Federal Census. Previously, I could never find my great-grandfather in that census. Armed with all of the above information I discovered two BECHRISTS, John and Paul, boarding in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They are listed as rooming with a Michael PAPIN. The reason I could not previously locate him was what appears to be a transcription error (Bichrest to Bechrest).
I believe all of this is sufficient proof that our line of BICHRESTs is indeed connected to the BICHRESTs of Maine, and that we are descendants of the family of BICHRESTs listed in the 1869 Hungarian Census. A whole new line of research has been opened up for me, pushing my tree back 2 more generations. and I’m in the process of adding many more BICHRESTs to my tree. I hope to share the complete tree soon.