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

Sunday, January 15, 2023

C-RRC Summer Seminar 2022 on “Flavors of Rus- Identity” Among American Carpatho-Rusyns

After doing the kind of research I first undertook three decades ago, which had not been seriously undertaken as a comprehensive look at Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants as a whole rather than only at one particular church jurisdiction/confession or in the context of a neighboring group with whom they sometimes identified, naturally I would start to get invitations to speak at genealogy conferences, Carpatho-Rusyn educational seminars, and churches. Eventually my work was being noticed by some prestigious entities and I was able to participate in scholarly conferences and some similarly notable venues. As I described in my previous post, in 2022 I was given the opportunity to create and deliver two papers/presentations, to two different audiences but both being prestigious in their own way.

The first I gave on August 30, as part of the Carpatho-Rusyn Research Center Summer Seminars series that continued the successful series of 2020 and 2021. The lineup was a mix of established professional scholars and Europe-based doctoral candidates; I suppose I fell somewhere in between, though the “independent” in “independent scholar” always suggested to me the idea of “lone wolf”!

  • Unlikely Brothers: Carpathian Mountain Brigands and American Superheroes
    Dr. Patricia Krafcik, Professor Emerita of The Evergreen State College
  • The Art of the Coal Region Renaissance: The Painter Anthony Kubek
    Dr. Nicholas Kupensky, Associate Professor at the United States Air Force Academy
  • Lemko Art as an Artifact of Memory
    Michał Szymko, Doctoral Candidate at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University
  • The Lemko Language as a Cure
    Anna Maślana, Doctoral Candidate at Jagiellonian University

These were all great and we eagerly await their availability on YouTube. (I’ll update this post with the links when they are available.)

My presentation, ‘We’re Russian, But Not High Russian’: Flavors of Identity Among American Carpatho-Rusyns, was based on my paper from the 2021 Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) national convention in New Orleans. Freed from the strict 15-/20-minute constraints of reading a paper on a panel with 2 or even 3 other scholars, I was able to dig in a little more deeply and restore some of the passages I’d had to cut from the original paper.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Year 2022 in Review

The adage “time flies” gets more and more evident with each passing year. It’s already been more than a year since I last updated this blog. Which isn’t to say that year has been uneventful. I directed much of my online energy to posting to my Facebook and Instagram pages – I hope you’re also following those. If you are, some of what follows in this post will sound familiar.
On Memorial Day weekend, I spent some time in northeastern Pennsylvania. This would be my only “research trip” per se of 2022.  It was a research trip along the lines of those trips in the pre-pandemic years. However, having already finished most of the intensive research to be done in the region, I concentrated on polishing—taking fresh and hopefully much better photos of church interiors I originally photographed >20 years ago (with different tech and decidedly mixed results).
Some thoughts: in 2022 the number of Rusyn-founded church buildings from the immigrant era is still quite large, but those with what resembles their original interior are rather few. Icon screens have been replaced (or added, where there had never been one), stained glass windows that probably had very interesting donor inscriptions not in English have been replaced, and even original cornerstones have been removed or replaced.
Church interiors I photographed that weekend include:

  • St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church, Freeland, Luzerne Co.;
  • St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church, Scranton, Lackawanna Co.;
  • St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church, Scranton;
  • St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church, Scranton;
  • St. Nicholas Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church, Scranton;
  • All Saints Orthodox Church, Olyphant, Lackawanna Co.

St. John's Byz. Cath. Church, Scranton
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Scranton
All Saints Orthodox Church, Olyphant

Clearly the primary stamp left on this region by Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants and their descendants is these churches, and they are lovely and inspiring, even if today it appears that many of these congregations must struggle to maintain them.

Friday, October 8, 2021

A Year of Return to “Normal”

You might also call this blog “A Quiet Place.”

It’s been almost a year of no posts, a year of hope and loss, isolation and longing, procrastination and frustration, a year of figuring out how life can return to a normal we can work with.

Certainly much has been happening on the “Carpatho-Rusyns of PA” front, but I haven’t found the time or, unfortunately, motivation to write about it. Fortunately I’ve managed to keep my Facebook page alive with items of interest and even post occasionally to my still-new(ish) Instagram page.

Here are some worthwhile things that happened or are coming up soon. I do hope to do longer posts about them when time and life allow.

  • Early in the year I was contacted by a gentleman who is a media personality of some renown, who was looking for assistance exploring and documenting his Carpatho-Rusyn heritage. He hired me to produce a written narrative about his Lemko Rusyn immigrant great-grandparents and their “life and times” in northeastern Pennsylvania. As a follow-on to that, in mid-September I led him on a heritage tour of sorts through the towns and Rusyn communities in northern Schuylkill County in which the family lived, worked, and worshipped.

  • On August 24, 2021, we lost a dear friend when Professor John Kelnock of Marion Heights, Northumberland County, departed this world. Without his inspiration and unflagging help that began years and years ago, I doubt I would have done any of the things written about in this blog. John will be the subject of a much-deserved tribute in an upcoming post. May his memory be eternal – vičnaja jemu pamjat’!

  • After a year and a half of essentially no field work, no site or archive visits, I did make a research trip of a few very productive days over the Labor Day weekend. The highlights centered around places like Conemaugh, Lyndora, Curtisville, McKees Rocks, and Central City, plus I was very happy to attend the (this year abbreviated) Pilgrimage in Honor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at Mount Saint Macrina in Uniontown after a year's hiatus due to...well, you know. A good bit of that trip is worth a post.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Author Gives Presentation on Carpatho-Rusyn Fraternals to CGSI

On October 24, 2020, I was a presenter for the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International's (CGSI) Virtual Symposium. The theme was Czech and Slovak Fraternal Organizations, but I spoke on the related topic of Carpatho-Rusyn fraternals.

The full title of my talk was "Carpatho-Rusyn American Fraternal Organizations: Record Sources for Your Family History."

The talk was recorded and is available to CGSI members, but I'm happy to share a selection of my slides (click to enlarge).

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Follow Us on Instagram!

Have you seen our Instagram account? We're @carpatho_rusyns_of_pa.

Take a peek, and follow us for new content, favorite content repackaged in an interesting way, and an eye on some of the visually striking aspects of Carpatho-Rusyn history in Pennsylvania.

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

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Upcoming Virtual Seminar on Carpatho-Rusyn American Fraternal Organizations

On Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, I will give a presentation during the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI) Virtual Symposium and Annual Meeting:
Carpatho-Rusyn American Fraternal Organizations: Record Sources for Your Family History

You can find more info and register at the CGSI website.
Original material is © by the author, Richard D. Custer; all rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Seeking a Research Assistant!

UPDATE (4/22/20): I already received two applications from most worthy candidates! But if you found this opportunity interesting, I will probably be posting another research assistant opportunity in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I hope you still enjoy the post.

Christos voskres! Christ is Risen!

2020 has been an unusual year, to say the least. Can we start over, or fast-forward to 2021? But really, I hope and pray you and your family and loved ones are safe and caring for each other in these difficult times.

Even though I've not posted here in 2020 until now, I've been working hard behind the scenes to finish gathering resources and computerizing some of my data. It started to dawn on me just how time-consuming the various aspects of putting it all together will be.

I want to start, as soon as possible, the process of creating the town/area maps for each chapter (community), and within many of the communities, I want to also illustrate where in the town (or city) the Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants primarily lived. And that's down to specific streets and blocks as much as possible.

Homestead & Munhall, Allegheny County, 1908.
The original Rusyn church in town, St. John's Greek Catholic Church (later Cathedral), was built in 1897 at 531 Third Avenue, then moving in 1903 to 10th & Dickson Streets. In 1914, some Carpatho-Rusyns joined with Ukrainians from the Russian Empire to establish St. Gregory's Orthodox Church at 237 4th Avenue in an existing Protestant church building, later building a new church on East 15th Avenue. Finally, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church was founded in 1937 at 903 Ann Street. During World War II the Homestead Works expanded and took over many of the streets in the original neighborhood where the first St. John's was built and where many Carpatho-Rusyn and other Slavic and Hungarian immigrants lived. My goal is to map not just the churches' locations in the height of the immigrant era, but the Rusyn-owned businesses and clubs and the primary streets and blocks where Carpatho-Rusyns lived.

Naturalization document showing home address of a Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant in Duquesne, Allegheny County.

Some of this information is available in the church records I've gathered, and another good source is census records, which I haven't made extensive use of. But what I do have, numbering into the many hundreds, is naturalization documents. These tend to give the full address of the prospective citizen. The challenge is to sort through them and document the addresses in order to be able to map them. Realizing that this could be quite time-consuming, I hope to find a volunteer research analyst who can do that and provide me with some kind of database and report from which the specific settlement area in each town can be mapped.

Note I said "volunteer" -- but that doesn't mean you won't be compensated. Successful completion of the agreed-upon work plan will guarantee you a copy of the finished book. (I'm not sure how to do this beyond a promise / gentlemen's/gentlewomen's agreement, so if we are already friends or acquaintances it can be an easier mutual trust by which we each benefit as intended.)

So, if this sounds interesting to you, and if these specifics keep you interested, please get in touch (via Facebook or at and we can discuss it further.
  • You'll work from naturalization documents I've gathered from county courthouses and online.
  • I will also supply you with immigrant household addresses I've gathered from church records.
  • You are welcome to make supplemental use of census data depending on any access you might have to online sources (Ancestry, FamilySearch, etc.), but this is not required.
  • Ideally, you will enter the immigrant's name and address into an Excel sheet or other database/spreadsheet format, but we will discuss the specific requirements (they will be the minimum required to be able to do the mapping).
  • You don't have to read any Slavic language; you may have to decipher challenging English handwriting depending on the naturalization document, but most are (mercifully!) typed.
  • You won't create the maps, but the data you compile will be an essential input for the cartographer.

There is a chance for follow-on research that would be paid work, pending satisfactory completion of this project.

And lastly, if you successfully complete this project, you will be credited in the book, which, as mentioned above, you will receive a gratis copy of upon publication.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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