Most American Perekstas descend from one of two men: my great-uncle John (b. 1882, Prislop; d. 1948, NJ), or George (1878-1938) also born in Prislop and who died in Ohio. There was another Anna Pereksta who lived in Binghamton, NY (as my grandmother did) married to a Wasyl/William Pastorok. My aunt referred to her as ‘tall Anna Pereksta’. We have corresponded with people researching each of these families but not been able to establish if or how we are related.
Here’s what I’ve been told.
My family knows nothing about my great-grandfather Ivan Pereksta’s origins beyond his birth on 25 Jan 1857 in Prislop (present day Slovakia). My aunt remembers hearing of one cousin – a George Pereksta who came to America, was a miner in Pennsylvania and then moved to Vermont where he died in mining accident. He was married to a widow with daughters who settled in Binghamton after his death. He had no children. This happened before 1925. When I discovered a William Pereksta on the 1920 and 1930 census living only blocks from Uncle John I asked again. My aunt had a vague memory of a Mary Pereksta who was a cousin of Uncle John’s. Her father and Uncle John quarreled and the two families stopped communicating. These were the only hints that we were related to any other Perekstas in the United States.
In the 1980s or 90s my aunt told us the following story. About 1975 she attended a wedding in Berwick, PA. She didn’t remember whose wedding it was but was certain it was not a relative. A woman leaned across the table and asked her if she knew that Pereksta was a “made up” name. She had been told that my aunt’s grandfather had been Jewish. He had fallen in love with and married a Greek Catholic girl and changed his name. She said the name meant “a bridge” or “crossing over”. This was news to my aunt, and she had trouble believing it. She asked a Pereksta cousin if she had ever heard anything similar from her mother (she had not) and finally asked her mother, Anna, if the story was true. While Anna denied the family was Jewish, she did not dispute the story entirely. The phrase she used was, “So I have heard.”
When we visited with our Pereksta cousins in Slovakia they had no further information. We did not specifically ask how other Perekstas were related, only if they knew anything more about Ivan than we did.
My father corresponded briefly with a man researching the family of Anna Pereksta Pastorok. In 2000 he wrote that he was researching the following associated families: Macan, Lupkovics, Bundja, Simkulet, Pastorok, and Pereksta. He gave Anna’s husband name as James and said they had been living in Danbury, CT in 1902 and in Binghamton, NY by 1920. They had a son William or James (he used both) who married Susan Macan in 1911 in Auburn, NY. He gave Anna’s birth as abt. 1867 in either Prislop or Starina.
We have corresponded with descendants of the George Pereksta who settled near Cleveland, Ohio. According to their information, George was born in 1878 in Prislap (as they spelled it) and came to America in 1902. He had a sister Anna and a brother whose name they didn't know. George married Anastasia Jafko in 1899. She was born in 1880 in Velko Polana, Czechoslovakia and came to America in 1906. They had 8 children, three daughters born in Pittsburg and 5 sons born in Cleveland. Two of the sons died very young.
Finally, through Facebook we have been in touch with someone researching a Pereksta who does not descend from my uncle John or from George in Ohio. His family is from New Jersey.
Next week – What I have learned.