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You Need Geography and History???

Yes! Family Tree researchers do! You'll find that Geography and History are going to be vital when solving your genealogy puzzles whether researching in the US or around the world.

People leave their homelands or states for reasons good and bad. Most famously in Western Europe the Irish Famine that began in 1845 resulted in a million deaths and the emigration of up to two million people; forever changing the country ( People leave home to pursue political and religious freedom, to escape poverty, to search for a better opportunity, or to get rich. Think about the gold rushes in California and Alaska!

I researched a Petrovitz family that came to New York in 1920. The family knew they were from Eastern Europe or Russia, and were curious to know more. I like to start with the first known immigrant, and luckily, he had a very unusual name, "Zoltan Petrovitz."

At I found a NY marriage record! Thank you, Manhattan!(Reference ID: cn 2975 GS Film Number: 1653545)

Name: Zoltan Petrovits

Birthplace: Nagy Mihaly, Hungary

​Father's Name: Joseph

​Mother's Name: Mary Jock

Spouse's Name: Mary Kozma

Spouse's Birthplace: Iglo, Hungary

Spouse's Father's Name: Haver

​Spouse's Mother's Name: Mary Kaplrsth

In 1926 Zoltan filed an application to become a US Citizen. He said that he was born in Hungary, and swore to renounce all loyalty to the "Czechoslovakian Republic," of which he was "a subject." I found this puzzling. Hungary was in Czechoslovakia in 1926?!?! Time to check a map and do some research.

Holy guacamole, I found there is a lot of turnover and disruption in this part of the world! I looked for "Nagy Mihaly" and "Iglo" the cities on the marriage license for Zoltan and Mary. Nagy Mihaly, Hungary is now called "Michalovce" and is in the Slovak Republic. Depending on which language you are using, you will find it listed as: Nagymihály (HU), Michalovce (CZ), Mikhaylovets (Yiddish). It was named for the Archangel Michael. From the website :

"From the end of World War I until 1939, Michalovce was part of the new nation of Czechoslovakia. In March 1939, after the collapse of the Czechoslovak government, Michalovce was part of the autonomous Slovak Republic while southern Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia were ceded back to Hungary. From 1945 until the creation of the Slovak Republic in 1993, Michalovce was again part of Czechoslovakia. It is the largest town in the Michalovce okres (district), which is part of the Košický (Košice) kraj (region) of Slovakia."

Iglo, Hungary is now called "Spišská Nová Ves" and is in the Slovak Republic. Here is a listing of all the different national entities this one city has had! My favorite fact I learned here (wikipedia) was that Iglo was pawned as loan security by the King of #Hungary to the King of Poland for a term of 360 years! You go to bed one night loyal to the King of Hungary, and wake up the next day as a loyal Pole!

In 1910, Michalovce had 6120 residents, of whom 3792 were Hungarian, 1586 Slovak and 542 German. After WWI, Zoltan found himself no longer a Hungarian. He was now Czechoslovakian. The same thing happened to his wife's family. Zoltan left for the USA in 1920. After WWII, the remaining ethnic Hungarians and Germans were expelled from the country, so perhaps these #families saw the writing on the wall and sought new lives in Manhattan when they did. Click here to go look at the Google map showing Spišská Nová Ves and the neighboring countries (Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Switzerland, etc.)

Zoltan's parents and at least one grandparent later emigrated to NY. I was able to trace wife Mary's family back to her paternal grandparents, but found no records of what their fate was after her emigration and marriage.

As the United States was colonized over the centuries the geography and cartography obviously changed! As more territories were acquired, people migrated west. As more people moved in, governments were established and counties were formed.

US Expansion Map from Census Bureau

You may find some #Census info may be conflicting. In one Census year the family may indicate they were from South Carolina, and in the next, they indicate they were from Georgia. Sometimes they are referring to the state they most recently resided in, and sometimes they are referencing the state they were born in.

While working on a Collins family tree, I found land records (including headrights) in Panola, Shelby, and Harrison counties in Texas. How was possible? According to the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas on March 30, 1846, the Texas legislature established Panola County from parts of Shelby and Harrison counties. While family did eventually move, it was not between these three counties! Always check the state's county formation histories in case of confusion.

A love (or at least an appreciation) of history is a requirement for good genealogy research. Being able to interpret a map can be very helpful, so I am grateful for my education in both of these areas. However, I have still not found a use for trigonometry although I'm not trying very hard! LOL

Thanks for stopping by and sharing some time with me. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know! Email me at for a free quote about your own tree. I am enjoying meeting you all, please do like and share!

Wishing you a good week and weekend,

Leslie Ryan

Still not compensated by any of these sites!


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