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: The Killer Lake

The Killer Lake, Gyilkostó in Hungarian, is high in the Hargita Mountains in the Székely region of eastern Transylvania. The name in Romanian is Lacul Roșu, or Red Lake. The ‘red’ color comes from the sediment of the Red Creek that feeds the lake, although it really is more of a murky brown. Of course the ‘bloody’ color is also the origin of the more creative Hungarian name.Gyillkos To Szekelyfold  about 1985-300px

A massive landslide in the 19th century caused the entire mountain side of trees land in the lake upside down. The tree stumps are easier to see in this picture of my parents in 1983. 31 years later the stumps are disappearing. I’m glad we got there before they were all gone.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my parents. They looked very happy. Dad was very hip in those flared leg pants and sideburns. It was Dad’s first time back to Hungary since he escaped in 1948, and Mom’s first time visiting her parents’ homeland.

A&D Gyillkosto 300pxWe were happy too. We spent the day driving the crazy mountain roads with my dear cousin and her amusing husband. And this picture is one of my favorites from the trip.

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


Great-grandpa’s house in Kolozsvár !

20140709-230032.jpgThis is the address where my great-grandparents lived in Kolozsvár, Hungary when my grandpa was born. Today the city is called Cluj-Napoca, Romania.


Some of the buildings on the street are run-down but this looks better and it has some nice details. It has lace curtains in the windows and a bit of a garden in the back. I bet great-grandmother would have loved that.20140709-233053.jpg










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Greatⁿ-Grandma Katalin, Hajdú Warrior

kato egri copyKerekes Katalin is hands down my favorite ancestor. Our lineage gets a little fuzzy in the 17th century so I’m not sure how many ‘greats’ apply. In the early 1600s Katalin was fighting by the side of her warrior husband, Édes Gergely, and his brothers. She received nobility in her own name because of her valor. This was no small accomplishment at a time when women were considered less than human. She was “a big strong armed woman who fought like an animal’ according to the patent of nobility. Her husband’s family was from Székelyföld. No word about her dad, but Katalin’s mother was a hajdú.

The hajdúk (plural for hajdú) had been peasant cattle drovers on the puszta, the eastern plains of Hungary. Driving herds of the big grey long-horned ‘Magyar szürkemarha to market, they had to become fierce fighters to defend themselves on the vast treeless plains.

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Béla’s Hometown – Growing up in Kolozsvár

Cluj 1897 cropBéla Édes, my grandfather, was 6 years old in 1897 when this map of Kolozsvár was published. His family lived on Nagy utca, shown by the red line drawn on the map.

You may notice the tracks along the street for the villamos (tram) that would have taken the family to the city center (now Unirii Square).

Kolozsvár villamos

Kolozsvár villamos

Kolozsvár is located in a wide valley on the bank of the Szamos river. It was described as “a pleasant, clean-looking town, with wide streets diverging from the principal Platz, in which is the Gothic Cathedral of St. Micheal” 1. Szent Mihály templom, as it is known in Hungarian, is at #17 on the map. The imposing cathedral was begun by King Sigismund in 1401 and named for the Archangel Michael, the patron saint of the city. Béla’s Catholic family would have gone there for mass on Sundays, then probably home for a big Sunday meal.

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The Story of the Origins of the Édes family

Fighting nobles, religious conflicts, deceit, treachery and shifting allegiances were all part of the landscape in the Kingdom of Hungary in the 17th century. Add in the story of a fearless Hajdu woman who fought at the side of her family, and you have the history of the origins of the Édes family.Ede clan on the move - no cows

Among Belá Édes’s documents are copies of the ‘Incunabulum’ the history of the family.  István Édes documented the oral history as told by his father in the 17th century. He then hid the document in the lining of a book where it was discovered in the mid 1800s.

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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