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

About the Author

The researcher and author, Richard D. (“Rich”) Custer, was born and raised in Pennsylvania. His paternal ancestry, mostly German, is firmly rooted in Pennsylvania going back to the early 1700s. His maternal grandparents were Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants from what is today the Svidník district of northeastern Slovakia. They settled in Clifton, New Jersey, in 1905 and by 1910 had moved to Pennsylvania, where they lived in five different Rusyn immigrant communities, primarily in Cambria and Indiana Counties.

Custer is a founder of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society (C-RS) and served as editor of its newsletter, The New Rusyn Times, from its establishment in 1994 until the end of 2015. Also for the C-RS he compiled and edited the Rusyn-American Almanac of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society 2004-2005. His articles on Rusyn genealogy, history, culture, and language have appeared in such publications as Carpatho-Rusyn American, FEEFHS Journal, Naše rodina, Karpatska Rus’/Carpatho-Rus, and Rusyn and Narodnŷ novynkŷ (Prešov, Slovakia).

During his undergraduate studies in central Pennsylvania, he began an informal study of the history of local Byzantine/Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches founded by Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants. As the scope of this study broadened to cover all of Pennsylvania, and as his interest in Rusyn immigrant history in the U.S. deepened, he amassed an extensive library of materials on the subject. He has presented on the topic of Rusyn American history at regional genealogical and Carpatho-Rusyn conferences. He contributed the paper “The Influence of Clergy and Fraternal Organizations on the Development of Ethnonational Identity among Rusyn Immigrants to Pennsylvania” to Carpatho-Rusyns and Their Neighbors: Essays in Honor of Paul Robert Magocsi.

He authored or contributed to the text of parish histories published by the following:
  • St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church, Barnesboro (now Northern Cambria), Pa. (100th anniversary, 1997);
  • St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church, Nanticoke, Pa. (90th anniversary, 2001);
  • Nativity of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, Osceola Mills, Pa. (100th anniversary, 1993);
  • St. Mary Annunciation Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Ramey, Pa. (100th anniversary, 1993, unpublished)
He was substantially responsible for the list of works on Lemko Settlements in America that appeared as Appendix 4 in Bogdan Horbal’s Lemko Studies: A Handbook (2010). His first co-authored book, Príkra, about his Rusyn grandmother’s native village, was published in Prešov, Slovakia, in 2006. He contributed the chapter on the immigration of Príkra natives to the United States and the history of their communities here.

His Carpatho-Rusyn community involvement includes being a delegate representing North America at eight World Congress of Rusyns from 1997 through 2011. He served as an advisor for the Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture. In 2006 the Carpatho-Rusyn Society National Capital Chapter presented him with a Certificate of Appreciation for contributions made to the chapter as its founder and board member. In 2007 he was presented with the Golden Valashka Award by the Carpatho-Rusyn Society New Jersey Chapter for distinguished service to the Rusyn community.

A native English speaker, Custer is fluent in Carpatho-Rusyn and conversant in Slovak and Ukrainian. He has a working knowledge for research purposes of Russian, Czech, Polish, Church Slavonic, and Latin.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from Penn State University, and an MBA and an MA degree in Eastern Europe area studies from the University of Pittsburgh. He works as a web content manager for a federal government agency in Washington, D.C.

You may contact him at rusynsofpa (at) gmail (dot) com.

Related Publications and Presentations

Books
Articles
Pamphlets
Presentations
  • “Uncovering and Publishing the History of Pennsylvania’s Carpatho-Rusyns,” Carpatho-Rusyn Society Delaware Valley Chapter, Philadelphia, PA, September 2017.
  • “The Carpatho-Rusyns of New Jersey,” Honoring Our Ancestors Conference, St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church, Hillsborough, NJ, June 2017.
  • “Uncovering and Publishing the History of Pennsylvania’s Carpatho-Rusyns,” Carpatho-Rusyn Society Youngstown/Warren/Sharon Chapter, Hermitage, PA, February 2017.
  • Carpatho-Rusyn Village Consciousness as manifested by immigrants in the U.S.,” “The Carpatho-Rusyn Global Village” Roundtable, Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) annual convention, Washington, DC, November 2016.
  • “Uncovering and Publishing the History of Pennsylvania’s Carpatho-Rusyns,” Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church Men's Club, Annandale, VA, April 2016.
  • “The Greater Pittston Area and St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church: A Carpatho-Rusyn Immigrant Hub of the Wyoming Valley,” "Celebrating Our Past, Understanding Our Future" Seminar, St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church, Pittston, PA, October 2015.
  • From the Carpathians to the Alleghenies: Carpatho-Rusyn Immigrants in the Greater Johnstown Area,” Johnstown Simply Slavic Festival, Heritage Discovery Center, Johnstown, PA, September 2015.
  • Uncovering and Publishing the History of Pennsylvania’s Carpatho-Rusyns,” Carpatho-Rusyn Genealogy Conference, King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, PA, November 2014.
  • Northeastern Pennsylvania: The Keystone of Carpatho-Rusyn American History,” Carpatho-Rusyn Genealogy Conference, King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, PA, June 2013.
  • “National Orientation and Ethnic Identity of Carpatho-Rusyns in Cleveland,” Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International annual conference, Cleveland, OH, October 2009.
  • “The Carpatho-Rusyns of New Jersey”, Carpatho-Rusyn Society New Jersey Chapter Annual Fundraiser, Passaic, NJ, October 2007.
  • “Uncovering and Publishing the History of Pennsylvania’s Rusyns,” Carpatho-Rusyn Society National Capital Chapter, McLean, VA, October 2006.
  • “The Rusyns of the Mid-Monongahela Valley,” St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Monongahela, PA, February 2002.
  • “Rusyn Communities of Western Pennsylvania: History and Chain Migration,” Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International annual conference, Pittsburgh, PA, November 2001.
  • “The Rusyns of Connecticut,” Carpatho-Rusyn genealogy conference, Bridgeport, CT, October 2000.
  • “The Rusyns of Western Pennsylvania,” Carpatho-Rusyn genealogy conference (sponsored by Washington County (Pa.) Genealogical Society), Washington, PA, 1999.
  • “The Rusyns of Western Pennsylvania,” Carpatho-Rusyn genealogy conference (sponsored by Westmoreland County Historical Society), Latrobe, PA, March 1999.
  • “The Rusyns of Western Pennsylvania,” Carpatho-Rusyn genealogy conference (sponsored by Westmoreland County Historical Society), Latrobe, PA, May 1998.
  • “The Influence of Clergy and Fraternal Organizations on the Development of National Identity of Rusyn Immigrants to Pennsylvania,” Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN) annual conference, New York, NY, April 1998.
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