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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Author Receives Seton Shields Genealogy Grant to Support Research

Renowned professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak administers a grant program, the Seton Shields Genealogy Grant. I am thrilled to say that I am one of the grantees for Q3 2015:
Rich Custer has invested a couple of decades traveling around gaining access to Rusyn records that would otherwise vanish, so he’s an amazing gift to the Carpatho-Rusyn community. The grant will assist with costs associated with a week-long research trip to archives in eastern Pennsylvania and northeastern New Jersey. Rich’s aim is to provide detailed accounts of the development of all Carpatho-Rusyn (and related) immigrant communities in Pennsylvania, based substantially on primary sources, and to describe the patterns of chain migration in each place (and by extension, within the state and in other Rusyn communities in the U.S.), thus aiding genealogists to trace the movement of their families and relatives or fellow villagers.
I hope to make this research trip in November, if all the pieces fall into place. The trip will include 1-to-2-day-long visits to these institutions:
  • Eparchy of Passaic Heritage Institute (Woodland Park, NJ)
  • Ukrainian Historical and Educational Center of New Jersey (Somerset, NJ)
  • St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary Library (South Canaan, PA)
  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
Many thanks to Megan Smolenyak and the Seton Shields Genealogy Grant program for helping to make this possible! Folks undertaking all kinds of genealogy-related work can apply for this grant at Megan's website.

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

Friday, September 25, 2015

Author to speak in Pittston, Pa. on Saturday, October 3, 2015

On Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, I will be on the speaking program when the Carpatho-Rusyn Society's Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter holds a day-long seminar at St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church in Pittston, Pa.

“Celebrating Our Past, Understanding Our Future” will run from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at St. Michael the Archangel Byzantine Catholic Church, 205 N. Main St., Pittston. It’s free, but advance registration is requested.

Presentations will be as follows:
  • 9 a.m.: Michele Parvensky, "Staryj Kraj – the Old Country;"
  • 10:45 a.m.: Rich Custer, "The Greater Pittston Area and St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church: A Carpatho-Rusyn Immigrant Hub of the Wyoming Valley;"
  • 1:30 p.m.: Peter Yasenchak, "The Richness of our Coal Fields and the Ancestors who Toiled in Them."
A light lunch and a tour of St. Michael’s is available. Register by phone at 570-654-4564 or online at Include the word “register” in the message or subject line. List your name, the number of people who will attend and a contact phone number.

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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

St. Michael’s Church of Shenandoah: Founded by Ukrainian Immigrants?

In recent weeks, news has circulated among certain ethnic and religious communities that the original church building of St. Michael’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, is in the process of being torn down. In efforts on the part of the Ukrainian community to save the building, it has also been proposed to turn it into a Ukrainian museum. St. Michael’s, identified on that original building as the “First Greek Catholic Church in America,” has also been referred to as:
  • the first building of the organized Ukrainian diaspora in the U.S.A.;
  • the very first building the Ukrainian immigrants built in America;
  • the first building of the Ukrainian immigration on U.S soil;
  • the first Ukrainian Church in the Americas;
  • where the organized Ukrainian American community began;
  • where the first Ukrainian brotherhood in the U.S.A., St. Nicholas of Shenandoah, was established;
  • the church, which was located in the town known as the cradle of organized Ukrainian American community life.
The first building that served as St. Michael’s Church in Shenandoah. Still standing (as of this writing), a sign identifies it as the “First Greek Catholic Church in America.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Author to Speak at Johnstown, Pa., Slavic Festival, Sep. 19, 2015

Yours truly will be a speaker at the upcoming first-ever Johnstown Slavic Festival in Johnstown, Pa., on Saturday, September 19, 2015.

Johnstown Slavic Festival
Heritage Discovery Center
201 6th Avenue
Johnstown, PA

There is no admission charge.

I will be speaking inside the Heritage Discovery Center from 7:30-8:30 p.m.:

From the Carpathians to the Alleghenies:
Carpatho-Rusyn Immigrants in the Greater Johnstown Area

Carpatho-Rusyns first settled the Johnstown area in 1887 and began to establish their own churches and other institutions. Other Rusyn immigrant centers quickly developed: Barnesboro, Patton, Windber, South Fork, Portage, and beyond, with thousands of Rusyn immigrants making this area their home, and making up a significant part of the workforce of the local steel mills and coal mines.

Descendants of these Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants are still found in this region in large numbers, their numerous churches are included among historic landmarks, and they retain a strong love for their roots here and in the Rusyn homeland.

The presentation will cover their early settlement in the region, their places of origin in the European homeland, and the development of their churches and fraternal and cultural institutions here.

full list of speakers

The Carpatho-Rusyn Society will sponsor a Carpatho-Rusyn culture/genealogy/sales table. All are welcome!

UPDATE: My presentation was adapted to this blog format and is available here.

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