Rozsa Dobokay , an Educated Woman

My great-grandmother Rozsa Dobokay was born on September 4, 1857 in the city of Brassó (now Brasov, Romania) the only child of Zoltan Tamás and his wife Heidi.  Rozsa was baptized in the Hungarian Reformed Church.

At that time Brassó was on the eastern border of the Kingdom of Hungary with the Kingdom of Romania. Zoltan worked there as a customs agent. Heidi was the daughter of a professor of German. At a time when most of the population was engaged in farming, the Dobokay family was more educated than most.

Portrait of a Woman in Lilac by Szinyei Merse Pal

Portrait of a Woman in Lilac by Szinyei Merse Pal 1874

Rozsa was fluent in French and German and made her living as a governess. The family story is that she taught the children of a Transylvanian baron. Perhaps it was on the baron’s estate that she met György Orbán, a widower with a 2 year-old daughter, Ilona.

It seems like an unlikely match. She was protestant. He was Catholic. She came from an educated family. He worked as a groundskeeper and shoemaker. Perhaps Rozsa liked little Ilona and was ready to leave her position and start her own family. She was older than the usual marriageable age and given the sentiment of the times other marriage offers were perhaps not likely.

Most likely they were married in 1892 but we don’t know where the wedding took place. Rozsa was 35 and György was 32. Their only child together was my grandfather Balázs who was born on June 9, 1893 in Etéd. She and Gyorgy would have been very proud to have a son.

Gyorgy died in 1916 at the age of 55. Rozsa lived another decade as a widow in Etéd.

In 1923 Balázs married Erzsébet Nagy. According to family stories, Rozsa was a bit of a snob and refused to meet Balázs’ wife Erzsébet Nagy whom she considered to be a peasant. We don’t know if she ever met her granddaughters.

Balázs and Erzsébet had their first daughter, Elizabeth in November 1923. Their second child, another girl, Ibolya (Violet) was born 2 years later. When the baby was only 6 months old Balázs left for Canada in August 1926. Rozsa died of pneumonia a month later. She was 69 years old.

We have no photograph of Rozsa but this painting by a Hungarian artist of the time evokes the dress and the setting of her life as a governess.



Then and Now: Székelykerestúr

My great-grandparents Tivadar Nagy and Borbala Both shown in front of their home in Székelykerestúr sometime in the 1960s. The woman standing is Tivadar’s niece.

Kerestur old tivador copy

This page from my parents photo album from 1983 showed that the place was showing its age.

Hungary 1983036

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Csíkkarcfalva, great-grandmother’s hometown

There are many little Hungarian villages tucked away in the Hargita Mountains in the Székely region of Transylvania. My mother’s family is from there. Relatives still live there, including some that Mother never talked about. Perhaps she didn’t know them either. My great-grandmother Borbála Both was born in 1883 in the village of Csíkkarcfalva ( Cârța in Romanian).  A century later my parents travelled there for the first time. This summer my husband and I visited the village with my cousin and her husband as tour guides.

Church 1983

Csíkkarcfalva Church 1983For centuries the village market took place at the foot of the hill in the center of town below the fortified church.

The 15th century fortified church occupies the top of the hill in the center of town. For centuries the town market took place in the main street below.

In my parent’s photo from 1983 a soviet style flat-bed truck raises dust clouds as it rumbles through town. Now the roads are paved. My cousin told me about a local politician who was able to direct infrastructure improvement funds to the village for that purpose. Continue reading


The Szekely Land in Winter (Székelyföld télen)

My great-grandmother, a shyly smiling little woman in a black babushka summer or winter, was Both Bórbala (in English Barbara Both). both borbala 1 b75pct  She was born in Csíkkarcfalva, Erdély, Hungary in 1883. In 1921, after Trianon, it became part of Romania and was renamed Cârţa.

It is a little village high in the Hargita Mountains of Transylvania where the winters are long and harsh. It lies up the road about 20km from Csíkszereda (Miercurea Ciuc) where Hockey is a religion. Continue reading


Grandmother’s Photos

Since our retirement my husband and I have been doing a lot of road trips mixing sightseeing and family visits because all of our family is at least two days drive in one direction or another.

When we got to Cousin Barb’s house Tuesday evening, she brought out a fantastic photo album that had been our Grandmother’s.1961 Erzsebet Borbala in SzK A Continue reading


A Wolf in the Family

Bórbala (Barbara) Both was mother’s mother’s mother. She grew up in the little town of Csik Karcfalva in the Hargita mountains of Transylvania. According to Wikipedia it is still a small town. In 2011 it had a population of 2,688, of which (99.67%) are Székely Hungarians

Csik Karcfalva fortified church

Csik Karcfalva fortified church

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Names in the Clouds

Have you ever seen a tree in the clouds? Or a cloud of names in a tree?

Direct Line Ancestors

Direct Line Ancestors

A friend posted a link to a list of the most popular Hungarian surnames (2006). In the top spot is Nagy, the ‘Smiths’ of Hungary. Although, to be accurate,while Smith is the most common English language surname in Hungarian it translates to Kovács, which ranks #2 in Hungarian popularity.

In our direct ancestry line these surnames were ranked in the top 100;

Nagy #1     Tóth #3     Kis #7     Mólnar #8

Pintér#28     Vőrős #62     Orbán #82

This tree word-cloud shows all the known surnames in our direct line.

And that’s the Big (Nagy)  and Small (Kis) of it.


New Family Tree Page: Családfa Oldal

The Family Tree/Családfa  menu option at the top of the page now links to a new page with descendant and ancestor charts for the four branches of the family. The link to the interactive family tree is there as well. brigitte picture tree

I like this family tree format from Legends software but it is limited to just 3 generations. Last month I taped together all the ancestor and descendant charts and it was about 12 feet long. Hope the links on this new page make it easier to see the big picture.

Brigitte is our little sister that left us too soon. I love this photo of her but it makes me sad.


Good News for Genealogy Research in Romania

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1767-1848 Székelykeresztúr

Several months ago I ran across an article titled: Genealogy Research in Romania is not Impossible. The article then went on to explain why it is close to impossible. For decades the Mormon Church has been copying vital records from countries all over the world. The older records are on microfilm, but they have many ongoing projects to convert to digital images, index the records with the help of volunteers and make the records available online. This service is free, and priceless. I spend many hours looking through records for many parts of Hungary and surrounding areas.

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Hungarian Names from Anna to Zsigmund

Hungarians typically selected names for their children from a rather short list. In most families a son was named for his father and a daughter for her mother. Other children were often named for grandparents or aunts or uncles. Often when a child died very young, that child’s name was later given to another baby.

anna edes 222x366


Saints names were popular, and for boys, names of famous Hungarians especially kings. Church and civil records were often recorded in Latin so the names were listed in the Latin version.

Among the 54 direct ancestors identified in our family tree, the most popular name for girls was 3 for variations of Rosalie, Rózsa and Rosina.
Other popular girls names, with 2 each were; Anna, Katalin (Catherine), Erzsébet (Elizabeth), Eva, Julianna, Maria and Theresa (Teréz, Terézia). Continue reading