Monday, August 30, 2010

The Hricak Girls Save the Day

Researching my father's 20th c. immigrant family has been worlds apart from all other research I've done. Beyond the obvious differences of language and religion there is a very short trail in this country. And until the collapse of the Soviet Union I had no expectation that any relevant European archives or documents would ever be available to me.  Even now there are enormous obstacles.

Thus my goals are entirely different. I'm far more interested in making the connections to modern cousins here than in tracing lines back. Family stories, records and photographs are interesting on my mother's side. They are everything on my father's side. 

My grandfather came to this country after WWI. A sister in Chicago and brother in Binghamton had emigrated earlier from their Austro-Hungarian village of Berezova. He told his children about 4 cousins here - a maternal cousin and 3 paternal cousins in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Los Angeles. There were visits with the Pennsylvania and Connecticut cousins and treasured postcards from the cousin in LA, a barber on Hollywood Boulevard, including pictures from the Tournament of Roses parade. This was exotic stuff in an industrial city like Binghamton. 

Anna & Helen Hricak
But cousin turned out to be a pretty vague term when we started putting together a family tree in the 1990s.  We had lost touch with the California family.  The NY, CT and PA families could all name grandparents and siblings back in Europe and none of them matched up to make the 4 men first cousins.  Visits with family in Europe have given us more information, but we still aren't sure how these men, who knew they were family were family. 

Once the internet and online databases were available I was able to find the California cousin in census and immigration records and tracked down one of his daughters. She'd heard similar stories about relatives in the U.S. growing up but was also unsure of the details.  As we spoke she remembered her father leaving once when she was a girl to go to Chicago.  She thought he might have visited family there and promised to find the pictures he brought home. She told me her father had spent some time in Chicago after leaving the Pennsylvania coal mines and learned to barber there. When my newfound (though still undefined) cousin sent me the pictures they were of my great-aunt's daughters - the Hricak girls all grow'd up. They are quite the glam shots given the snow covered ground, but perhaps they were angling for an invitation back to LA and movie stardom.

Mary & Helen Hricak
The visit probably took place in the 1930s.

It's no proof standard, but for the moment the best we can do to document a family relationship is record the stories and that each of us have photographs of the Hricak girls.

Anna & Helen Hricak and Mary & Helen Hricak,  Photographs, undated. Digital Images.  Privately held by Nolichucky Roots [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], 2004.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, photos as evidence of kinship! My husband's family presents similar challenges, although Italy and Germany aren't too bad for research. Romania, however, is another story.


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