He also describes himself as
the son of a postal worker and the grandson of a coal miner. His grandfather was so poor, Mr. Kasich recently told voters in New Hampshire, that he would bring home scraps of his lunch to share with his children. “They would even be able to taste the coal mine in that lunch,” Mr. Kasich said. “Some of you can relate to that.”Wikipedia currently describes his background and ancestry as follows:
("John Kasich Balances His Blue-Collar Roots and Ties to Wall Street," New York Times, Aug. 24, 2015)
Kasich was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, an industrial town near Pittsburgh. He is the son of Anne (Vukovich) and John Kasich, who worked as a mail carrier. Kasich's father was of Czech descent, while his mother was of Croatian ancestry. Both his father and mother were children of immigrants and were practicing Roman Catholics. He has described himself as "a Croatian and a Czech". ("John Kasich," Wikipedia, accessed March 8, 2016)We know that Czech immigrants in Pennsylvania were few and far between. Is Gov. Kasich really, as he has said, of Czech ancestry?
His parents, who both died in August 1987 as a result of an automobile accident, are buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in McKees Rocks:
|(Photo: R. Custer)|
|Birth:||Apr. 20, 1919|
|Death:||Aug. 20, 1987|
|Birth:||Feb. 8, 1918|
|Death:||Aug. 23, 1987|
|"She is the mother of Ohio Governor John Kasich."|
As the governor has stated, he has Croatian heritage, and his mother's maiden name Vukovich seems to be Croatian enough.
But what of the Kasich side?
The following document gives the birth date and place of John Kasich (the governor's father): born April 20, 1919, in Smithdale, Allegheny County, Pa., and living in Lowber, Westmoreland County, Pa., at the time of his entry into military service in 1941.
The 1930 Census shows the Kasich family (here spelled Kasics) living in Lowber, Westmoreland County, Pa., with parents Charley, a miner, and Eva, and children Mike, Andy, John (11 years old), Stephen, Ann, George, and Elizabeth.
On this census form the country of origin of the parents is given as "CzechoSlovakia," and their mother tongue/native language is given as "Czech." Genealogists know how notoriously inaccurate the U.S. census has been when identifying these traits. Looking at the several other "Czech"-speaking individuals on this form, we don't see Czech-sounding names among them.
Below is the 1929 Petition for Naturalization for immigrants Vasil Kasics and his wife Jevka, residents of Lowber, Westmoreland County, Pa. (southeast of Pittsburgh). It shows that they had a son, John, born on April 20, 1919 in Pittsburgh. (This is inconsistent with other documents that give Smithdale as his birthplace.)
Several important points from this information:
- "Vasil" is a given name typical of Eastern Slavs such as Carpatho-Rusyns, Ukrainians ("Vasyl'"), and Russians ("Vasiliy"). Its occurrence among Czechs and Slovaks is almost nil.
- In the U.S., many men christened Vasil went instead by Charles or Bill (or occasionally Basil, its direct English equivalent). Vasil Kasics went at times by Charles or Charley.
- "Jevka" or Yevka, in English Eva or Eve, is likewise a typical Carpatho-Rusyn form of the name Eva.
- Vasil's birthplace is given as "Hustni, Czecho Slovakia"; Jevka's is given as "Suchy, CzechoSlovakia." See further information below.
|Location of Smithdale/Lowber relative to McKeesport, Pittsburgh, and Gov. Kasich's hometown of McKees Rocks. (Courtesy of Google Maps)|
The baptism was performed by the Reverend Valentine Gorzo, longtime pastor of St. Nicholas Church. In the annotations column, it notes John's 1948 marriage to Anne B. Vukovich in St. Nicholas (Croatian) Roman Catholic Church on the North Side of Pittsburgh.
(Thanks to the Rev. Donald Voss, pastor of St. Nicholas Church, and parishioner Joseph Prokopchak for providing access to, and images of, this record, in January 2018.)
In 1929, when the Petition for Naturalization was filed, the territory of Ung (or Už) County was located in the Czechoslovak Republic. Today most of Ung/Už County is located in the Zakarpats'ka Oblast of Ukraine. The villages of Husnŷj and Suchŷj are nearly adjacent, and located in the Zakarpats'ka Oblast. Basil and Eva's birthplaces as noted in the baptismal record for their son are consistent with those given on the Petition for Naturalization.
|Location in Carpathian Rus' of Husnŷj and Suchŷj, prior to World War I. (Map used with permission)|
|Location in Carpathian Rus' of Husnŷj and Suchŷj within current international boundaries. (Map used with permission)|
|Suchŷj (Ukr.: Сухий) and Husnŷj (Ukr.: Гусний) in present-day Zakarpats'ka Oblast of Ukraine, situated near the Ukraine/Poland border and adjacent to the border between the Zakarpats'ka Oblast and the L'viv Oblast. (Courtesy of Google Maps)|
Vasil is named here as "Karol" (a Slavic form of Charles); presumably he was already using the name Charles in English, even though his naturalization document above refers to him as Vasil, his given name and the name under which he presumably entered the United States.
From this we consulted the records of St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church in Trauger (near Latrobe), Westmoreland County. The marriage register of the parish records the wedding as follows:
Their birthplaces are given as Erdőludas, Ung County (which is now Husnŷj) and Szuhapatak, Ung County (which is now Suchŷj).
This a death certificate for Paul Kasics, son of Charles Kasics and Eva Lukan, born 1930 and died 1931 in Lowber, buried in West Newton Cemetery in West Newton, Pa., the main cemetery serving that area, including Smithdale and Lowber.
Jevka had a brother Andrew who came to the U.S. in 1907. On the ship manifest, his birthplace is given as Szuhapatak, Hungary (i.e., Suchŷj); his "Race or People" is given as Russniak (a term used at the time as the equivalent of Ruthenian, to refer to Carpatho-Rusyns and Ukrainians).
Andrew's 1970 obituary mentions his surviving sister, Mrs. Charles Kasich of West Newton. He was a member of the Greek Catholic Union of the U.S.A., the largest fraternal insurance society founded by Carpatho-Rusyns in the United States.
And the Greek Catholic Union's publication of deceased members in its Amerikansky Russky Viestnik/GCU Messenger newspaper from November 19, 1970 listing Andrew Lukan is below. He was a member of Lodge 502 of New Alexandria, Westmoreland County, Pa. His birthplace is given as "Ungvar" (the old Hungarian name for Užhorod), which was the administrative seat of Ung/Už County. This was probably a simplification found either on his membership application or made by whoever was compiling the deceased member listings.
The governor's paternal grandparents, Vasil ("Charles") and Jevka ("Eva") are buried in West Newton Cemetery. Their gravestone includes the traditional three-bar cross used by Slav Byzantine/Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians, especially Carpatho-Rusyns.
|(Photo: R. Custer)|
[REVISED 3/16/16 with additional information, including documents courtesy of Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak; many thanks to Megan for the contributions!]
[REVISED 3/18/18 with images of the baptismal record of Gov. Kasich's father John, from the register of St. Nicholas Byzantine/Greek Catholic Church of McKeesport, Pa.]
Recent articles about Governor Kasich's childhood with some reference to his ethnic roots:
- The place where John Kasich went from being ‘Pope’ to consensus politician (Washington Post, March 8, 2016)
- Kasich’s roots in McKees Rocks are a familiar theme in campaign (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 9, 2016)
Original material is © by the author, Richard D. Custer; all rights reserved.