I am a third generation Valentine on multiple sides! I have a fairly well-rounded amount of research for my Great Grandfather Balint (Valentine) Taraczkozy. I would like to present what I have so far here and then I will update as I expand the research and (maybe) request assistance from someone fluent in the language.
The very first document recorded in the United States for my Great Grandfather was his arrival ship manifest and it notes his name as Balint Taraczkozy. When looking at the historical documents of my ancestors, especially when it comes to their naturalization and immigration records, I look at the first spelling of their name and consider how it is spelled. If that spelling is noted repeatedly for them and is eventually changed, I tend to believe that the first spelling was correct and for whatever reason, “America” changed it. (Side Note: the Americanization of so many immigrants’ names pisses me off at times.) William was what he noted as his first name – this is pulled from numerous documents – he went by Bill. On the birth certificate of his son, William Jr., it notes his name as “Valentine Taraczkozy”. Which, as my regular readers know, tickles me to death! His wife, Elizabeth (Marosi) was born on Feb 14 (Valentines Day). I will write more about her in her own separate blog. On William Jr’s delayed birth certificate (below), it notes that Balint is Hungarian for William. However, a quick Wikipedia search of the given name notes that it is “a variant of the name Valentinus“. But that is a deep dive blog for another day. This delayed birth certificate was signed by his mother, Elizabeth.
Research tip: If you are searching for vital statistic records in the state of West Virginia (like the birth certificate above), make sure to use this link: http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_select.aspx. There, you will find a large database of scanned birth, death and marriage records. If you do not find what you are looking for on the first search, try searching with the exact year and the first name only or just do a last name search with no date or first name. There are multiple variations you can try in hopes of finding records. Sometimes it requires having to scroll through pages of records but that is something you should never shy away from. For me, having so many ancestors in West Virginia, this site proved to be a valuable research tool. In addition to their online database, their physical location (in Charleston, WV in the capitol complex) offered additional resources for the person willing to roll up their sleeves and search through miles of microfilm. Of all the things my state is backwards on, the West Virginia Archives is not one of them.
Balint was born 11 Apr 1872 in Beregszasz or Gecse Hungary, I have found conflicting information and am unsure which is most accurate. My language barriers make it difficult to research the Hungarian records. I found a brief history on Beregszasz here: https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Berehove/
I believe this history ties into my Ancestry DNA results noting I am 3% European Jewish, although a bulk of my ancestors hail from the regions of Hungary, Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia (from every side, including my adoptive Dad- I know, that would not affect my DNA but still, this is my ancestral neighborhood). It is a long-term goal of mine to understand the various percentages of my DNA and to find all the direct links to each.
I was told as a kid that Balint fled Hungary because of a brutal military regime. I have bought a number of books on the country’s history and have found solid links for the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 which would have been the prequel to his life. I hope further research into the military aspect of Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 will shed further light into what was expected of men of his age at that time. One of my Pawpaw’s sisters wrote a paper about my Great Grandmother’s journey to America. In it, she noted that attached to the document there was a photocopy of Great Grandpa’s military pass book. My Mother must have lost it or put it somewhere because I never found a photocopy for reference. I transcribed the story here: https://seletyn.com/2018/04/12/genealogy-coming-to-america-the-taraczkozy-tale/. Only last year I was able to secure a copy of the military pass book from a relative who also had a copy of the story.
I wrote about my searches on this military pass book here: https://seletyn.com/2018/08/30/genealogy-all-the-hungarian-words/. I heard back from a couple of Hungarian Genealogy folk on one of the pages I follow. One of the Hungarian researchers in this group for noted this: “Well, that quality of the images in the blog are not good enough for any translation. The left side of the first image is in German with so called “Gothic” writing (Sütterlin Schrift). The left side is partly Hungarian and it says he was applied for living in Budapest in 1901. The second image contains parts of two different documents or at least two different pages of a document. So it doesn’t worth to do any efforts to translate it because there are just half sentences or cut words. The words I was able to read out refers that he was born(?) or at least lived in Beregszász, today its name is Beregovo and belongs to the Ukraine. From there almost nothing is available for research. It would good to know what religion he raised? Military records: if he was not any officer his military records most probably not exist any more. In the 1950’s the Hungarian Communist power destroyed the personal files of soldiers born before 1910. Only the officers’ files remained (partly) and a part of the decorated soldiers. To search for any military records a bit more of exact data would be needed, also about his military service (in which unit, which rank he served). I do researches in the modern Ukraine’s former Hungarian territories. I searched through may former collected files- and it looks he was not born in Beregszász. The place Bereckszacse is not a Hungarian place name and I don’t know what else can be if not Beregszász. But lived or served there that’s sure as the document’s copy in the blog refers to this.”
I have reached out to this researcher to inquire how much he would charge to help me find any records for Balint and his wife. I am hoping he can help me find the Hungarian records or at least confirm the few I have found which are written in Hungarian. Around the same time the above exchange happened, I also reached out to the Hungarian Military Museum for answers. They politely answered that because he was not an officer, there are no records for him because records that old were only kept for officers. I have since found that there are some records possibly at the National Archives of Hungary [Országos Leveltár] in Budapest. Also, although some of the earliest records have been lost, most of the existing records are stored at the War Archives in Vienna. I hold out hope that one day, despite language barriers, I may be able to find more information on his military service (if there was any) as well as the Hungarian birth and marriage records.
Balint married Erzsébet Marosi, by my best estimates, in 1899. I am basing 1899 strictly on the birth date of Baler, their eldest son (28 Dec 1899). Erzsébet would have turned 18 on 14 Feb 1899 and then ten months later she gave birth to Baler. Even though this marriage year is not confirmed, I feel fairly confident that it is correct. Last year I sat down with my cousin (1st cousin 1x removed), Nancy Pat who told me the story of the marriage. Nancy lived with Erzsébet for a time and knows the stories first-hand. She said that Erzsébet was an orphan, living with her aunt. Her aunt’s daughter was promised in marriage to Balint. But, love is a fickle thing – it chooses who it chooses. Balint fell in love with Erzsébet and they had to travel to another town to find a priest who would agree to marry them because of the already arranged marriage. She bore him two sons while living in Hungary (Bela Albert was born on 28 Dec 1899 and Stephen Pista Wilmer was born on 20 Aug 1902). Balint would immigrate to America in August 1904 and leave his small family behind while he established a home and employment. Erzsébet and their two sons would follow in June 1905.
On 18 Aug 1904, Balint Taraczkozy left the port of Bremen, Germany to sail to America. At some point I want to research Bremen and it’s role in the early 1900’s immigration process. I have a number of ancestors who left from that port. Thirteen days later he arrived at the Baltimore MD entry point. His name is noted as Balint Taraczkozy, birth date 1872. His race is noted as Magyar (Hungarian). The ship who carried him was named Cassel. He was meeting a friend, Istvan Turdic who would then see him to McKeesport PA / He had $7 in pocket.
The vessel Cassel was a Norddeutscher Lloyd steamship built in 1901 at Geestemünde by J. C. Tecklenborg. The awning deck steamers of the “Köln” class which were built for the Baltimore and Galveston lines. The steamers of the “Köln” class which comprised the “Köln (2)”, “Frankfurt (2)”, “Hannover (2)”, “Cassel”, “Breslau”, “Chemnitz” and “Brandenburg”, represented a type which corresponded with the particular requirements of the service for which they were built. Whilst possessing but limited cabin accommodation, they had ample space for the conveyance of a large number of steerage passengers, and for the transport of large quantities of grain and cotton. The steamers were 136 meters long, 15 meters wide, 13 meters deep, and had a carrying capacity of 8,850 tons. They could accommodate 50 cabin, and about 1,600 steerage passengers. The arrangements for cabin passengers were very comfortable, the sleeping accommodation being in no way inferior in point of comfort to that on the express steamers. The arrangements for the steerage passengers had also received particular attention. Apart from the lofty sections having large and numerous ports with ample light, there were in two sections of the main deck, outside cabins for 4 to 10 persons. For the expeditious handling of the 11,000 cubic meters of cargo that could be stowed away in the ships, there were six hatches with ten steam winches and 18 derricks. The machinery consisted of two sets of triple expansion engines of 3,300 indicated H. P., capable of giving a speed of 13 knots. In order to render these steamers suitable for the transport of troops they had been provided with the necessary arrangements in accordance with the experience gained during the China expedition.
The arrival manifest notes the arrival date as 31 Aug 1904 and contains the following information – Name: Balint Taraczkozy / Race: Magyar (Hungarian) / Birthdate: 1872 / Departure: Bremen, Germany / Ship Name: Cassel / Friend: Istvan Turdic / Dest: McKeesport PA / $7 in pocket. I will try my best to research Istvan Turdic and McKeesport PA to understand why he was headed there. I have found a few people by that name in that area during that time.
14 Jun 1905, Erzsébet made the journey to America with Baler and Steve in tow.
Twelve years after his arrival, he filed his Declaration of Petition to Naturalize in Raleigh County, West Virginia. From this document, we see that he is now going by “Bill” with the same spelling of his last name as his arrival manifest. He is 44 and was born in Budapest Hungary on 11 Apr 1872. His current residence is in McAlpin, West Virginia. It notes that he emigrated through Havre, France. His arrival document notes Bremen, Germany. It could be possible that he sailed from Havre to Bremen and then traveled on from there. He notes that he arrived in New York City on 15 Aug 1903. He is only off by one year and two hundred miles. Sigh. Because his arrival records noted “Tarasztkozy” when transcribed, it would take me almost two years and a complete accident in MY spelling while doing a search to find the manifest. I had been searching records in the Ellis Island data base, using Havre, France, 1903. I cried when I found the actual manifest from Baltimore – all because of researching late at night and accidentally spelling the name wrong because my eyes were blurry.
I would like you to look at how beautifully he signed his name! He made sure to include two z’s even though the person typing up the document only had one!
In this photo, there are seven children. The seventh child was Joe and he was born May 1915. From the “look of age” for the baby in Elizabeth’s lap (assuming it is Joe), I place the picture around late 1914, early 1915. That would mean the toddler out front would be my Pawpaw (Alex).
On 18 Mar 1919 Bill Taraczkozy became a COTUS (Citizen of the United States). The information contained within this document fairly mirrors the Declaration of Intention above. This one also notes that he is married to Elizabeth, also born in Budapest, Hungary. They live in Beckley WV and by this time ten of their eleven children have been born: Bela 1901 Budapest, Steve 1902 Budapest, Bill 1906 WV, Elizabeth 1909 WV, Vilma 1911 WV, Alex (my Pawpaw) 1913 WV, Joe 1914 WV, Olga 1915 WV, Frank 1916 WV and Wilson 1917 WV. Sadly, Wilson would pass away five months later.
On his naturalization records, it notes H.A. Dickerson, Deputy Sheriff of Slab Fork WV and JR Gilman a miner from WV (cannot make out the town’s name). I would like to see if I can find additional information on the Deputy Sheriff. I find it interesting that a person within a police force was his witness of residence.
Below: I love his hat and tie! I SO wish this was colorized, to add character. Another descendant of Bill and Elizabeth’s reached out to me about the research I had posted on Ancestry. She was their son, Baler’s line. She sent me two photos via email that I had never seen before. My heart soared to see these photos! I wonder what they were doing in this photo. Were they headed to church? A wedding? A holiday? Those lost minutiae of their daily life. It is worth noting that Elizabeth was not even five foot tall. And Bill was a very large man. My Pawpaw told the story that Bill’s shoes had to be special made because of how large his feet were. And, at the time of his death, a special coffin had to be ordered because his dimensions were larger than the standard size. Most of the photos I have of them are with him seated. Standing, as they are in this picture, you get a better idea of their difference in height.
As of the writing of this blog, if you were to go on the website newspapers.com, and search “Taraczkozy” (spelled correctly), there are 783 matches. I am 100% confident I am related to the people mentioned in all 783 clippings. I have sorted through all 783. It took me several weeks but I skimmed over them all, clipped some and added to Ancestry what I clipped. Some of them were amazing treasures. Others were things like, I don’t know, a stray cow…
The Raleigh Register (Beckley, West Virginia) • 13 May 1920, Thu • Page 20
In addition to herding cattle, in 1920 the Taraczkozy family would be included in that year’s Census. I cannot find a 1910 Census mention of the family but, according to stories told, they moved around quite a bit. It could have been that the census taker never caught up to them. From this document, we learn that the census taker transcribed his name wrong! Turacykozy. I pity the person, really. That is a heck of a name to write. By that time Wilson had passed away – all of the other nine children are noted. His birth date is correctly noted as 1872 but his Native Language is incorrectly noted as Polish. The family is living on Washington Street in Beckley, WV. They rent the home. Bill has taken back up his trade of shoemaker. He has submitted his papers to naturalize but they note is immigration year incorrectly as 1901. He can read but not write.
Research tip: On Ancestry, you can find most census entries for your Ancestors with relative ease. Instead of only looking at the lines associated with your specific target, make sure to skim up and down the page to see if the neighbors are also relatives in your tree or people of interest. You can also toggle to the next (or last) page. By doing this you can maybe find additional relatives up or down the street. On the left side of the Ancestry page (when looking at the census sheet) you will find a left pointing arrow. If you click it, the details (as transcribed) are noted. This is most helpful when you are struggling to make out what something says. Take note: sometimes transcribers get things wrong. Just ask the Turacykozy family! There are two menu tabs in addition to “Details”. When clicked, “Related” will offer you suggestions of other documents that might be related to the individual. The third tab is the “Source” tab. This is like a bibliography in a book. It gives you the information regarding where this document was found.
I cannot state how important libraries are to genealogy research. If you have relatives who were born, lived or died in an area which has a public library close by – go to that library. They can be a wealth of information. Most will have a section (or even a room) specific to genealogy research. Look for old directories and telephone books for the years your ancestors lived in the area. You can sometimes find these on the newspapers.com archive site as well.
Below is from an excerpt from the 1921 Beckley Directory. It notes Bill (Elisabeth) Taraczkoski at 78 McKinley Street, Beckley WV. He is a shoemaker. Just below their names are those of Bill Jr, Laborer (40 Heber St) and Steve (78 McKinley St) also a Laborer.
Below is the 1929 Beckley Directory. It now notes Wm (Eliz) Taraczkozy at N Heber St, Beckley WV. It notes Guarantee Shoe Repairing Shop as their business.
Below is a Huntington WV directory from 1930. It notes Wm Taraczkozy as the manager of South Side Shoe Repair on 10th Street. I wonder if this was just a business address, not their home, as Elizabeth is not noted alongside of Bill.
In the 1932 Beckley Directory below, Wm (Eliz) Taraczkozy are once again noted together and he is a shoemaker at Guarantee Shoe Shop on McKinley St. Noted above him (all at the same address) are his sons: Alex, Baler, Joe and Steve. Steve is noted for shoe repair and Joe is noted as a student.
By 1932, all of their children have been born. They are pictured in this photo. I do not know the exact year but I would think between 1932-34 because of the similarity of looks in my Pawpaw (back row, second over) to the photo of him with Mawmaw and their daughter, Helen (second photo down).
Another photo from around the same time as the two above (Pawpaw in the back row, first person). One of the siblings is missing from this photo.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE Elizabeth in this photo. Just casually leaning over with an elbow on her husband. That sly little smile.
Ok, back to documents….
I found two interesting news clippings from 1932-33. The first one notes a donation from Bill of shoes to prisoners. The second notes Steve, the second oldest son, as the president of the local Shoe Repair Association. My Pawpaw (Alex) would go on to follow in his family’s trade of shoemaking. That is how he met Mawmaw.
The Raleigh Register (Beckley, West Virginia) • 15 Jan 1932, Fri • Page 9
The Raleigh Register (Beckley, West Virginia) • 19 Nov 1933, Sun • Page 5
Other clippings I found for this time are a bit sadder – it appears they might have been struggling financially during this time as they were repeatedly in the newspaper for delinquent taxes.
Beckley Post-Herald (Beckley, West Virginia) • 10 Nov 1934, Sat • Page 6
The Raleigh Register (Beckley, West Virginia) • 20 Jul 1936, Mon • Page 5
The last of the newspaper clippings I am posting for Bill and Elizabeth involve the dogs in 1936:
The Raleigh Register (Beckley, West Virginia) • 09 Jan 1936, Thu • Page 11
The Raleigh Register (Beckley, West Virginia) • 12 Jul 1936, Sun • Page 9
For the 1940 Census, we find William Taraczkozy, his wife, son, two daughters and a son-in-law living in Skelton, Raleigh County, West Virginia. Bill is noted as 49 years old and an estimated birth year of 1891. Both incorrect. He is still married and owns a shoe shop (as well as owns his house). The highest level of education completed was elementary school, fifth grade.
The final official document I have for Bill is his death certificate. From this certificate, we confirm that he died on 16 Dec 1941 of a cardiac issue. I cannot make out the second word of his diagnosis, however, cardiac is clear as a bell for the first word. It is noted that he has no social security number. I wonder if years of working for himself allowed him to never need one? His residence at the time was Skelton, Raleigh County, West Virginia. His birth place is noted as Bereckszacse Hungary. He is in the business of Shoe Repair. Father’s name: Mike Taraczkozy-Hungary (I have Antol as his father’s name, could it have been Michael Anthony? – more research needed), Mother Unknown. With a date of birth being 11 Apr 1872, he was 69 years 8 months and 5 days old at the time of his death. The informant was his son, Steve. He was to be buried at Sunset Memorial in Beckley, Raleigh County, West Virginia on 19 Dec 1941.
I am always amazed at the immeasurable love I have for these ancestors I was not alive to meet in person. I wish I knew the finer details of their daily life, their stories. My research has led me to a greater understanding of their lives and the big ticket items they came across. But I would love to know if they listened to music, did they laugh often, were either smokers, did the give the love back to those they received it from? I wish there were audio recordings. I know with my own Parent’s (both now gone), the thing that I miss the most now is their voice.
Bill and Elizabeth Taraczkozy, later in their lives. They do look happy.