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Like most North Americans, I’ve discovered that my family roots are in Europe … Ireland, England, Scotland and Germany. But my mom never met her mother’s parents, Steve and Katy Hook, or knew where they came from. Apart from their names and the fact that they’d come to the US from Europe, Mom knew that they had settled in Pennsylvania where her grandfather and some of his sons worked as coal miners.

My search for information on the lives of my great grandparents and their children has already uncovered many details, including the unfortunate fate of two of Steve and Katy’s boys, but I continued struggling in my efforts to uncover their European origins.

When Steve and Katy sailed from Bremen, Germany (Stefan Huk in 1887, Katalin Huk with the children in 1892), the only information noted on their passenger lists was that they were from Hungary. US census documents from 1900 through 1920 noted either Hungary or Austria as their place of origin. Steven’s US naturalization papers indicate Austria-Hungary as place of birth.

For months, I researched this part of Europe and corresponded with a number of people through forums on Ancestry.ca in an attempt to figure out where in Austria-Hungary my great grandparents could have been born. On the 1930 US census, their daughter Katie (who married Joseph Mehok) noted her origin as Czechoslovakia … another clue.

The death certificates for my great grandparents (which arrived more than six months after I’d ordered them from the State of Pennsylvania) provided more useful information in this ongoing search.

Stephen Hook death cert

My great grandmother, informant for her husband’s death in 1924, provided an accurate birth date for Steve as well as his parents’ names: Stephen Hook and Cathyrn ‘Pinchok’. Birth place was still only vaguely noted as Austria.

Katy Hook death cert

My great Uncle Joe, Katy’s son, was the informant when his mother passed away in 1929. Again, birthplace was noted as merely ‘Austria’ but Joe gave the name of Katy’s father: Andy ‘Schopick’.

With these additional tidbits of information, I went to familysearch.org where I decided to search their collection of Slovakia Church and Synagogue Books. In seconds, after entering the surname Huk with parents’ last names Huk and Pinchok, I had found my great grandfather and three of his siblings.

Stephanus Huk baptism

Stephanus Huk was born 14 Aug 1858 in Helcmanovce, Slovakia to parents Stephanus Huk and Catharina Pincsak, and baptised the next day at the Greek Catholic Church. His baptism record* includes his parents’ address: house #184 Helcmanovce. This helped me find the family on the 1869 Slovakia Census.

Stefan Huk family 1869 Helcmanovce census ORIGINAL

I then went through the same process for my great grandmother Katy.

Catharina Szkupek baptism 1863

Catharina Szkupek was born 18 Jul 1863 in Helcmanovce to parents Andreas Szkupek and Elisabetha Zubaly and baptised the next day at the Greek Catholic Church. The family lived at house #37 Helcmanovce.

The census page that included Katy, her parents and siblings, also revealed the names of her paternal grandparents (my 3x great grandparents): Janos Szkupek and Anna Petrilla. In 1869, my 3x great grandfather Janos was 90 years old, blind and deaf.

Andreas Szkupek family 1869 Helcmanovce census ORIGINAL

After searching for my great grandparents’ origins for nearly a year, it almost felt too easy once I’d found them! Every bit of information I found led to more and it was like dominoes tumbling over. My mother was thrilled to finally know more about her grandparents. Details have also been found tracing back to my 5x great grandparents in Helcmanovce (known as Helcmanóc, Szepes Megye, Hungary in the early 1700s).

Helcmanovce countryside

Helcmanovce, Slovakia countryside

*Stephanus Huk’s baptism appears on line 72. On line 75 is the baptism of Michael Szkupek, his future brother-in-law.