Preparation for the Trip
Upon my commitment to take the trip my interest and activity increased. I searched libraries and the Internet for information about our more famous relatives, and the places where they had lived. One of my computer friends who is interested in Jewish genealogy lent me a stack of publications from two organizations covering the subject, and I photocopied more than a hundred pages of information about the ways of getting information in the places we expected to visit. I got maps and travel guides, while Bob was continually digging deeper in his sources.
The link to much of our investigation was Josefa’s sister Charlotte, whom Dad had said had married into the Pulitzer family. American books about Joseph Pulitzer go into great detail about his life in America, but say little about his early life or ancestry in Hungary. They mention his being born in Makö, a city near the Romanian border in southern Hungary, and the names of his parents and three siblings. They talk about two siblings who died young, and Albert, his brother who came to America, but Albert’s wife was not Charlotte. Nothing is mentioned about his uncles, but Bob’s digging found Charlotte in the microfilms of Makö. He found the registry of her marriage to Mihaly Pulitzer in 1840, but no indication of Mihaly’s relationship to Joseph. Click here for Charlotte’s marriage. Here my Internet research paid off, for I found that there was a booklet about Pulitzer written in 1985, in Hungarian, and there is a copy on microfilm of Pulitzer Jozsef Maköi Szarmazasarol by Andras Csillag in the New York Public Library. Fortunately the booklet had a two page English summary, and it indicated that Mihaly was Joseph’s uncle, and it listed other siblings.
Bob found other microfilms of Makö that showed Josefa’s parents and grandparents, and her sisters and in-laws, but none showed Josefa. The 1848 census was taken after Josefa had married and moved away. It showed Charlotte’s parents as Samson Nagel and Katalin Kohn, that Samson came from Topolcany (now in Slovakia), and that her grandfather, Farkas Kohn, was born in Miskolc, a large city in northern Hungary. We now knew that we would want to go to Topolcany, as well as Makö.
Looking in the Levittown Public Library I found, in a book called “Genealogies in the Library of Congress,” that there is a family genealogy book about the Brockhaus family that Dad had mentioned, which is logical for a German family in the publishing business. And then, on the Internet, I found that there is a copy of the book in the New York Public Library. I went there, and scanned through the parts of the book (in German) that seemed to apply to the generation of interest. Sure enough, I found a whole page devoted to Josefa’s husband’s brother, Bernard Xaver Franz Weisz. It mentioned that Bernard Franz was born in Lugos, a small city in northwest Romania (now spelled Lugoj) that his mother’s name was Katalin Deutsch, and that his father Ferenc Xaver Bernard Weisz had taken the name of Weisz when he arrived in Lugos about 1770 from either Moravia (southern Czechoslovakia) or Walachia (Central Romania). We knew that several of Josefa’s children had been born in Lugos, so we added Lugos to our list of destinations.
Our research had now taken us back one and two generations from our earliest known ancestors, and a strange fact had come out. When we named our second daughter Cathleen we did not know that her grandfather’s grandmother’s two grandmothers were each named Katalin, and we even found out later that one of them spelled it with a “C” at times.
We prepared for the trip with a copy of the big family tree and computer printouts of the exact births, deaths, and marriages, as we understood them to be. Bob received a letter of introduction from the Mayor of Hackettstown, and I received one from Tom Gulotta, the Nassau County Executive, and Bob went one step further and had his letter translated into Hungarian by the Hungarian Consulate in New York. The U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad provided information on Jewish cemeteries in Topolcany and Makö.
Although our initial objective was only to see the towns where our ancestors had lived, our goals now included research to fill in gaps in our understanding of the family. In Topolcany we wanted to learn the exact relationship among the Nagel men, of whom documents had shown their place of birth as Topolcany: (1) Samson, Josefa’s father, (2) Mayer, her daughter Theresa’s husband, (3) Benjamin, Josefa’s sister Rosa’s husband, (4) Herman, Benjamin’s father, Abraham, and Isak. In Makö we wanted to learn everything we could about the way the family lived.
Many years ago I had acquired a copy of Jakob Weiss’ death certificate (in 1856 in Temesvarin Romania) showing that he was Evangelical (Lutheran). The first four children that he and Josefa had were known to be Jewish; the fourth, Bela, born in 1848, converted when he was an adult. We had the 1855 baptismal record of Johann, the fifth child who had been christened at birth. Therefore we had a rough idea when Jakob’s conversion had taken place, within a seven year period. Perhaps either Lugos or Timisoara would reveal a more exact date.
We knew that Josefa had died in Vienna, so we wanted to see her death records to confirm that she was born in Makö, and that she remained Jewish until her death.
We were now ready to leave. For our next step we went to a travel agency that specialized in Hungarian travel, and bought tickets (and at the same time had them translate a few items from the Mormon microfilms.) We packed clothes for hot weather, and cold weather, packed cameras and other supplies, and on Wednesday, May 31, 1995 we took off for Vienna.
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