Carpatho-Rusyns are one of the major ethnic groups of Pennsylvania. From the time they settled the state’s small towns and cities in the late 1870s until the present time, Carpatho-Rusyns have left an indelible mark on the state, and their story should be told. This blog is about a project that will do just that. Read more

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

CGSI Genealogical and Cultural Conference 2017: A Preview

One of the first books published for the Rusyn American
community, in 1897, included 8 profiles
of large active Rusyn immigrant communities.
Of those, only this profile of the Rusyn community
of Mayfield, Pa., mentioned villages of origin:
Kunkova, Losja, Peregrymka, Stavyša, Virchomlja,
Svjatkova, and Došnycja. One other history
(of Olyphant, Pa.) mentioned the main counties of origin
of the immigrants. From Pershiĭ rusko-amerykanskiĭ kalendarʹ
(Mt. Carmel, Pa.: Svoboda, 1897)
In just a short week from now, the 16th Genealogical and Cultural Conference of the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI) will be held, October 17-21, in Pittsburgh, Pa.

As part of an extensive program of talks on genealogy, history, and cultural topics, I will present two lectures:
  1. From the Carpathians to the Alleghenies: Carpatho-Rusyn Immigrants in the Greater Johnstown, Pennsylvania Area (Friday, 3:30-4:45 p.m.);
  2. A Village-Based Reframing of the Historical Narrative of Carpatho-Rusyns in the United States (Saturday, 12:30-1:45 p.m.).

The first presentation will be very similar to one I gave in Johnstown, Pa., in the Fall of 2015 (though a bit expanded). The second will drawn on my contribution to a discussion I participated in at the ASEEES Convention last November, but a somewhat more in-depth.

As a preview of the second presentation, here is the syllabus.

A Village-Based Reframing of the Historical Narrative
of Carpatho-Rusyns in the United States

“Laborsky Basket Picnic” – for natives of Medzilaborce, Zemplín County, and vicinity. East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.
“If a person from [Carpathian Rus’] were asked his identity, he would respond that he was ‘from here’, from a particular village or county…”
Magocsi, The Rusyns of Slovakia: An Historical Survey (1993)

Carpatho-Rusyn communities in the U.S. began to publish articles and books about their churches and other institutions in the 1910s. Whether these texts were in English, Rusyn, or another related Slavic language, the authors described their community initially with fairly specific geographic/ethnic terms. In later decades, as English took over and their audience became primarily American-born, these texts described the community’s ethnicity and geographical origins in increasingly generic or vague terms. But with a rediscovery or revival of Carpatho-Rusyn identity in recent years, these articles and books have returned to specificity in terms of describing their origins as such and including European villages of origin.

To analyze the initial expressions, then loss or abandonment, and finally return to specificity of ethnic and village origin in written history of Carpatho-Rusyn American communities, the presentation will discuss:
  • How do we know where they came from?
  • Evidence the immigrants left of their village of origin
  • Connections they maintained with their villages
  • Published descriptive texts and histories about their communities: what did those texts say about geographic origin and ethnic identity, and how did that change through time?

How do we know where they came from?
  • ship manifests
  • church records
  • fraternal organization records (applications & death claims/listings)
  • oral history

What evidence of village origin did the immigrants leave?
  • tombstones with birth villages on them
  • church stained glass windows with village name inscriptions

What connections did they maintain with their villages and fellow villagers?
  • collections for aid to native villages
  • village-native social clubs and events

When did they start to publish descriptive texts and histories about their communities, and what did those texts say about geographic origin and ethnic identity?
  • Early written materials; first church anniversary books
  • Post-WWII church anniversary books – much more vague, ethnically and geographically
  • Post-“Roots” era – return to specificity with a greater appreciation of village/geographic origin and chain migration
  • Coming full circle: Village history books published in Europe that discuss places of settlement and history of their natives in the U.S.

Village-native Clubs

Social events for natives of certain villages, such as picnics (or kermeš) and reunions were organized by formally-organized village clubs or by informal networks of village natives.

Mock wedding play performed by members of the Bajirovčan’s Club – natives of Bajerovce, Šariš County – in Cleveland, Ohio, 1936.
Cleveland, Ohio had 6 clubs of this type; others were found in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Passaic and Jersey City, New Jersey. But social gatherings organized by and for natives of specific villages were held throughout the Carpatho-Rusyn settlements.

Websites and Facebook

Recent years have seen a proliferation of village-specific websites and especially Facebook groups. In fact, there are currently more than 35 Facebook groups of this type, some run by an individual in the village (usually separate from an official village page), others run by a descendant of the village or by a village native living elsewhere. Postings on these sites tend to be in various languages, including Rusyn and English, and include information on genealogy, history, and current events.

These Facebook groups/pages include:
  • Čertižné, mij ridnyj kraj
  • Czystohorb/Chystohorb/Чистогорб
  • Descendants of Hyrowa, Mszana, Polany, Smereczne & Olchowiec
  • FB Smerek Group
  • Frička, Fryčka ridna mati
  • Jarabina/Орябина
  • Kamienka
  • Karlykiv Parish, Sanok County
  • Komancza, Dolzyca, Jawornik, Czystohorb Genealogy & History
  • Kulaszne Podkarpackie Poland
  • Kwiatoń/Kviaton’/Квятонь
  • Labowa, Nowy Sącz - Genealogy Club
  • Ladomirová
  • Losie Kermesh
  • Łosie kiedyś i dziś Лося вчера і днесь
  • Mecina Wielka Diaspora
  • Medzilaborce (Ancestors, genealogy)
  • Naša Litmanová
  • Obec Ruské
  • Osturna
  • Patskan'ovo / Пацканьово
  • Pielgrzymka, Klopotnica, Wola Cieklinska, Folusz, Huta Samokleska Genealogy
  • Płonna/Polonna/Полонна
  • Príkra - najmenšia obec na Slovensku
  • Radocyna descendants
  • Ruski Krstur
  • Sulin
  • Tylawa Diaspora
  • Vápeník – Вапеник
  • Village of Wislok & Vicinity Genealogy
  • Virtual Bortne / Віртуальне Бортне
  • Криви над Сяном - наша Предківщина
  • Перечин
Although the immigrant generation in the U.S. having direct ties to their native village is basically gone (with but a few notable exceptions), the prevalence of genealogists in the Carpatho-Rusyn community, increased travel to the homeland, a greater emphasis on “village consciousness,” especially through organizations like the Rusin Association, Carpatho-Rusyn Society, and the Lemko Association and their newsletters, and the availability of resources on the Web to determine one’s ancestral villages and connect with them in some way, have contributed to a greater interest in having this information and presenting it to the Carpatho-Rusyn American community and to the public at large.

Group of Rusyn immigrants from Komloša (now Chmeľová), Šariš County, in Bayonne, New Jersey, 1925.
Bibliography – Print and Web:
  • Pamiatna knyzhka selo Hanchova, Horlyts’koho povita, na Lemkovshchyni: 1528-1960 (Yonkers, 1960)
  • Teodor Doklia, Nasha hromada: Mynule sel: Iasiunka, Kryva y Banytsia na Lemkovyni (Yonkers, 1969)
  • Mitro Jurchisin, Carpathian Village People: A Listing of Immigrants to Minneapolis, Minnesota, from the 1880's to 1947 (Minneapolis, 1981)
  • Richard Custer and Gregory Gressa, Losja, Gorlyci County, Lemkovyna (Davisburg, MI, 1998)
  • Richard D. Custer, “Porač Comes to America,” in Rusyn-American Almanac of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society 2004-2005 (Pittsburgh, 2005)
  • Michal Blicha, Richard Custer, and Vladislav Grešlík. Príkra (Prešov, Slovakia, 2006), “Emigration from Prykra to America in the 19th and 20th Centuries”

Example of a Rusyn parish anniversary booklet whose history clearly identifies the founders/early members as Carpatho-Rusyns from a particular group of villages. (St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church, Lyndora, PA, 75th anniversary booklet, 1988)

Another Rusyn parish anniversary booklet (St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church, Nanticoke, PA, 90th anniversary booklet, 2001) whose history clearly identifies the founders/early members as Carpatho-Rusyns from a particular group of villages. Prior books from this parish identified the founders as simply “from Europe.”

— Looking forward to meeting some of you at the CGSI conference!

Original material is © by the author, Richard D. Custer; all rights reserved.

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