Tag Archives: familysearch.org

The Stibrik Brick Wall – using DNA info to target record search

So I didn’t last too long in last year’s 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge! Part of the problem for me was finding an ancestor to fit the prompt. So I’m finally back to posting, but I think I’ll stick to free-form — at least for now.

So DNA. DNA-based research has been my focus for a while now. Of course I am still looking at records, but I am using DNA matches to help focus on where to look for records. That’s exactly how I was able to break through the brick wall of my husband’s Stibrik ancestors.


Andrew Stibrik (1881-1940)

Andrew Stibrik was my husband’s great-grandfather on his dad’s maternal side. He was born in 1881 in Hungary (in an area that is now part of Slovakia) and immigrated to the United States in July of 1912 through Ellis Island. His destination was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the home of his brother-in-law Joseph Blasko. His actual connection to Joseph was that they were married to sisters. Joseph was married to Julia Kuzma who was already living in Pittsburgh with her husband and children. Andrew was married to Julia’s younger sister Anna.

So although he was already married and the father of three, Andrew came to the United States on his own in 1912 in order to establish himself. In early 1914, just months before World War I broke out in Europe, Anna and the children joined Andrew in Pittsburgh. (I am in awe that Anna made this journey on her own with three children under the age of 5!) Once in Pittsburgh, Andrew and Anna had three more children. As it would turn out, they spent the rest of their lives in Pittsburgh. Andrew died there in 1940 from injuries he received when he was hit by a car while walking home from work. Anna lived nearly thirty more years, dying 1967.

The challenge has been to find information on the Stibrik family in Slovakia. Andrew’s naturalization papers give his place of birth as Bardejov. Bardejov is a city in the northeastern part of present-day Slovakia, near the Polish border. Interestingly, his wife Anna (nee Kuzma) was from the town of Čaňa. That is in the southeastern part of Slovakia near the Hungarian border. It is nearly directly south of Bardejov. Records for the three oldest children show that they were also born in Čaňa, indicating that either as a child or young adult Andrew moved roughly 100 kilometers (over 60 miles) south from Bardejov to Čaňa.

The only other known information about Andrew was that his Pennsylvania death certificate gave his parents names as Andrew Stibrik and Mary E. (maiden name blank). Oh — and the family was associated with the Catholic Church. They were definitely Catholics!

My main (pretty much only) resource for Slovak research was the Slovak Church records on familysearch.org. In searching this collection I was able to find information on the Kuzma family, but nothing on Andrew Stibrik. Nothing on anyone with the surname of Stibrik. And this is where I was stuck for several years. Did he change his last name? Is Stibrik a phonetic spelling? If so, what would be the original spelling? Or was Stibrik an ethnic variation – with the original spelled differently?

Then several descendants DNA tested and suddenly some new leads emerged. The initial breakthrough was discovering a DNA match who didn’t seem to fit with the other Slovak sides of the family (Tomkos, Kuzmas, etc) – a predicted 4th cousin from Ohio sharing a decent amount of DNA. So I did a little research on the match’s family. I found roots in the Bardejov area. I found an obit stating the funeral of the match’s ancestor was officiated by a Lutheran minister? What? Lutheran? Okay, maybe someone converted after immigration. I checked out the shared matches. I researched some more. I found a pattern of matches tracing back to Bardejov — and they were Lutherans (or at least their descendants who lived in the US were Lutherans.) I was stunned! Could the Stibriks (or one of their allied families) have been Lutheran??

The first step was to find Slovak Lutheran church records. I went back to the familysearch website and dug deeper. And guess what. The Slovak Church record collection includes non-Catholic churches. But in the case of the Lutheran records for Bardejov, they were unindexed. They were online for browsing — but no index for searching. So I browsed, page by page. And I found Andrew Stibrik! He was baptized in the Evangelic (Lutheran) Church at Bardejov, his parents being Andras Stibrik Sr. (a protestant) and Mary E. Szabol (a Catholic)!!

To make a long story a little shorter, the paternal ancestors of Andrew Stibrik were deeply entrenched in the Lutheran Church in the Bardejov area. I was able to find birth, marriage and (some) death records to document back to Andrew’s four paternal great-grandparents (Adam Stibrik, Maria Krukar, Adam Benka and Maria Chovanecz). They were born in the late 1700s to very early 1800s. In the process, I was able to determine the exact connection to some, but not all, of the DNA matches that sparked the initial research into the Lutheran records.

Finally, I should mention that shortly after Andrew’s 1881 Lutheran baptism, his father Andrew Sr. apparently converted to Catholicism. Though I have absolutely no proof, I cannot help but wonder if his conversion was a contributing factor in the family relocating that 100 kilometers.

And that’s pretty much my story of how DNA helped me to break through this brick wall. Essentially, it prompted me to look in a place (Lutheran church records) where I would have never considered looking. In the process I also learned that even though a collection on familysearch has an extensive index, it does not necessarily mean all the records are indexed. And so here is my research tip. Check the familysearch catalog. Maybe the records you need are online and can be browsed. Or maybe they are still only available on microfilm. (Unfortunately this is the case for some of the Slovak Church records that I need for other branches of the family.)

Happy searching! And if we are related on this or any other line, feel free to contact me!


New Databases at FamilySearch.org

If you haven’t gone to the FamilySearch.org site lately you may want to click on over and check it out. They have been adding tons of databases – some with images and some without. Of particular interest to me has been the birth, marriage and death databases for a variety of states, including New Jersey, Ohio, Delaware, Indiana, Minnesota and others. In my goal to identify “all” descendants of some of my immigrant ancestors, I have been quite successful in finding records for several distant (and not so distant) cousins that moved out of our ancestral home state of Pennsylvania.

Now there are a couple of things of which to be aware. For the databases that include images, I believe you need to be registered and logged in to view the actual images. This is really not a big deal since registration is FREE!!

The other thing is that if I know a cousin moved to a certain area, I find it useful to focus my search to a particular database – say the New Jersey marriage database. The easiest way that I have found to do this is to go the main screen and click on the appropriate region under the “Browse by Location” – in my case that would be “USA, Canada, Mexico.”

That brings up a new screen with a listing of all the Historical Records for that area of the world. Rather than scrolling through the list, I type “New Jersey” in the search box on the upper left and the list automatically is pared down to only the records pertaining to that place.

Now it’s just a matter of clicking on the appropriate collection which will take you to the focused search screen. From there I usually just enter the surname and see what records I can find. You automatically get  exact and close matches, although if the surname is really badly mangled in the index you may need to search on a combination of first name and dates.

Also bear in mind that they are constantly adding new collections so if you can’t find what you are looking for check back in a month or so and try again – you never know when the records you’ve been searching for may be added.

Till later,