Friday, June 2, 2017

Ten years for 100 Years in America!

Wow! A decade has sped past since I made my entrance into the world of blogging on June 2, 2007 with the birth of this blog and Small-leaved Shamrock (about my Irish Pennsylvania roots). A day later, I created A Light that Shines Again (focusing on my Boston Irish family tree).

A lot has changed in the past ten years, although it seems like I just blinked and here we are in 2017. When I started this blog, one-hundred years seemed like a long time. Today I'm humbled as I am reminded how quickly my own life is floating by, and how the century that my family has lived in America is really only a small segment of our long, multi-faceted epic family story.

In honor of the 10th birthday of 100 Years in America, I'd like to share with you a few highlights: some of the most popular articles and some of my personal favorites.

Thanks for stopping by 100 Years in America! I have many drafts waiting in the wings, and more family stories needing a bit of digging before they are unveiled here on the web. Here's to longevity and the unending joy of genealogical research!

If you'd like to see what else I'm up to on the web, visit my website at

Friday, September 11, 2015

"To face whatever lies before us...": New York City disasters and the prayers of young mothers

I was one of the many who witnessed the crashing of the plane into the
World Trade Center's South Tower on the morning of September 11, 2001
after turning on the television to see reports of the first crash

I was several months away from the birth of my third child - a precious daughter - on the morning of September 11, 2001. Taking a few quiet minutes before my sleeping children woke up, I was doing some inspirational reading with a book called In Conversation with God. The day's meditation read:
"It is in prayer that we learn the mystery of Christ and the wisdom of the Cross. In prayer we perceive, in all their dimensions, the real needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world; in prayer we find the strength to face whatever lies before us..." - from a homily by Pope John Paul II, Jan. 13, 1981
The peace of my quiet morning did not last long. Soon I learned the true wisdom of those words and found out the reality of that day's trials.

"...whatever lies before us"... 

I learned the "real needs of [my] brothers and sisters throughout the world" with shocking clarity when I got a call from my Mom.

"Turn on the T.V.," she said. "A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center."


The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire
occurred in the Asch Building
(now the Brown Building)
at 23-29 Washington Place, NYC
It was only last week as I was thinking about another event in New York City's history that I made an interesting connection.

Ninety years before the World Trade Center disaster - on March 25, 1911 - another expectant mother must have been shocked to learn of a horrible tragedy that had just occurred. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire took the lives of 146 garment workers - most of them young immigrant women ages 16 to 23. It would rank as the second deadliest disaster in New York City's history (behind the burning of a passenger steamship in 1904) - that is, until the destruction of the World Trade Center eclipsed them both ninety years later.

Like the World Trade Center tragedy, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire was a catalyst that brought enormous change. In this case, the movement for worker safety and social justice was finally brought to the forefront in New York and throughout the country.

A quick bit of research led me to a startling realization: at the time of the disaster, this young mother and her family had lived only six short blocks away from the Triangle Shirtwaist factory.

The woman? My great-grandmother, Ilona Ujlaky. A new immigrant to America who had arrived only two years earlier. Knowing her, she had said many prayers since she had arrived in the crazy and wonderful world of New York City. More than likely she prayed for these victims and their families, and the struggles of the city in which she and her husband were beginning their new life.

The child she was expecting? Her third. A baby girl. My grandmother.

In 1911 my great-grandmother and her family (she is pictured here c.1913)
lived at 415 East Fifth Street on the Lower East Side,
only about six blocks from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

This article was originally published here at 100 Years in America in 2012. I have reposted it today in honor of the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

News for Smallest Leaf: a new website and a new book!

This week I celebrate my eighth anniversary of blogging here at 100 Years in AmericaSmall-leaved Shamrock and A Light that Shines Again. It has been slow-going at times, but I've stuck with it and look forward to many writing years ahead.

I am thrilled today to announce my brand new website and blog at I have decided to pair my interest in genealogy with my other favorite hobby - poetry! - and use my website to share both.

Many of you have known me as a genealogy blogger for many years, but you may not have known of my love for poetry. Tales from my family tree are a regular source of subject matter for my poems, along with world history, nature, faith and the writing life.

I have just announced the upcoming publication of my first collection of poetry: winner of the Eakin Book Award given by the Poetry Society of Texas. You’ll find the title familiar. I feel a bit like the Irish mother who gives her firstborn a name that has been in the family for generations. My poetry collection is entitled (surprise!): Smallest Leaf. You can read more about my new book on the Poetry page at my website.

Thanks to all of you readers who have followed me over the years! I hope you'll stick around for what's to come. Happy reading!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winter Wednesday Wedding: The 110th Anniversary of Ferencz & Ilona Ujlaki

On a cold Wednesday 110 years ago today 25-year-old Ferencz Ujlaki married his bride, 20-year-old Ilona Bence, in the Catholic church of a small Croatian village in Austria-Hungary.

Their life together would carry them to New York City where they would Americanize their names to Frank and Helen, raise six children, and leave a host of descendants.

Yesterday a cousin of mine and I (Hi, Ric!) worked to calculate the current count of just how many descendants Frank and Helen have as of this, their 110th anniversary. We are happy to report that - tada! - the number is actually more than 110!

In honor of this very special anniversary and in hopes that we, their descendants, will not forget the lives of Papa and Grammy Ulaky (as we now know them) and the sacrifices they made that altered the courses of so many of our own lives, I'd like to briefly share their story once again.


Ferencz and Ilona were born in different villages just across the Drava River from each other in what is now northern Croatia. At the time Donja Dubrava (formerly Alsodomború, where Ferencz was born in 1879) and Legrad (where Ilona was born in 1884) were considered part of Zala megye (Zala County), Austria-Hungary. Presently this area is in Croatia right on the border of modern Hungary. Read more about the fascinating history of their home villages in Međimurje: Meeting place of rivers and cultures.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church (Župa Presvetog Trojstva), Legrad's parish, was the home church of the Bence family. That is where Ferencz and Ilona married on February 15, 1905.

Their marriage record includes lots of information, including their birthdates and birthplaces, parents' names, occupations, etc. Both the bride's and groom's fathers are listed as földműves (farmers). Ferencz himself is listed as bognár: a wheelright. I was happy to see that the document has the original signatures of both the bride and the groom (see the right hand side of the photo below).

Within the first year of their marriage, by the fall of 1905, Ilona was expecting their first child. As one of the couple's daughters shared with me, Ferencz hastened his plans to immigrate to America before the baby was born: he was afraid that he wouldn't be able to bring himself to leave after his or her arrival. He left the port of Antwerp for New York on April 7, 1906. Baby Ferencz was born just a month later on May 9, 1906. Ilona and her baby stayed behind for almost three years. They left the port of Rijeka (Fiume) on February 13, 1909, joining Ferencz in New York City on March 2, 1909. Theirs was a difficult journey, but the small family was finally reunited.

Following their firstborn, Ferencz (later called Frankie), four daughters were born followed by another son. The girls - Ilona (Helene), Marie, Wilma, and Ethel - were born while the family lived in the Hungarian neighborhood of the lower East side of Manhattan. Their youngest child, Kasmir, was born after they moved to Staten Island into a home built by Frank with the help of friends.

Ferencz and Ilona's days were filled with the struggles of new immigrants trying to raise children, make a living, and somehow fit into the new culture in which they found themselves. Theirs was a difficult life, as I realized with even more clarity when I created a short timeline of her Ilona's sorrows over just a 33-year period. Helen lived to be 97. Sadly, Frank succumbed to tuberculosis at only age 60.

Their marriage had lasted only 34 years, yet today we celebrate the 110th anniversary of their union and the more than 110 descendants that are here today thanks to their love and sacrifice. Their wedding took place a day after February 14. That date has two special memorial celebrations in the Catholic Church: St. Valentine's Day (on which today we celebrate love) and the memorial of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the "apostles to the Slavs" who are known for bringing Christianity to the Slavic peoples (my Ujlaki and Bence ancestors included). The saints we celebrate on this day make it easy for me to remember the anniversary of my great-grandparents on February 15.

Happy 110th anniversary, Papa and Grammy!

Frank and Helen (Bence) Ujlaki
Marriage at a Glance
  • Married: 15 February 1905 in Legrad, Austria-Hungary
  • Children: Ferencz/Frankie (1906-1942), Ilona/Helene (1910-2009), Marie (1911-2011), Wilma (1913-2014), Ethel (1920-1943), Kasmir (1922-2006)
  • Duration of Marriage: 34 years ending at Frank's death on 22 April 1939

Ferencz/Frank Ujlaki
Life at a Glance
  • Name at birth: Ferencz Ujlaki
  • Parents: Josip Ujlaki and Terezija Globlek
  • Born: 17 March 1879 in Alsodomború (Donja Dubrava), Austria-Hungary
  • Immigrated: Departed Antwerp aboard the S.S. Zeeland on 7 April 1906; arrived at Ellis Island in New York City on 19 April 1906
  • Died: 22 April 1939 in Staten Island, NY at age 60
  • Buried: St. Mary's Cemetery, Grasmere, Staten Island, NY

Ilona/ Helen (Bence) Ujlaki
Life at a Glance
  • Name at birth: Ilona Bence
  • Parents: Stjepan Bence (1857-1939) and Magdalena Bedenica (1860-1957)
  • Born: 6 May 1884 in Alsodomború (Donja Dubrava), Austria-Hungary
  • Siblings: Katarina (1882-1981), Adam (1888-1915)
  • Immigrated: Departed Rijeka (Fiume) aboard the S.S. Carmania on 13 February 1909; arrived at Ellis Island in New York City on 2 March 1909
  • Died:  15 September 1981 in Staten Island, NY at age 97
  • Buried: St. Mary's Cemetery, Grasmere, Staten Island, NY

This article is included as part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge organized by Amy Johnson Crow. The theme for Week 7, in which this article falls, is "Love". [Note: Hat tip to Donna Pointkouski of What's Past is Prologue for the summary format I've used at the end of this article.]

Monday, November 3, 2014

As the sun sets on the feast of All Souls

If you read my article over at The Catholic Gene about All Souls Day, you know that this day is very important to me. In fact, I consider it THE feast day for Catholic genealogists. (This is the day that our efforts to seek out the stories of the lives of our ancestors intersect directly with our Catholic faith and our responsibility to care for the souls of others. Read more in my article The Catholic Genealogists’ Feast Day: Lifting Your Family Tree to Heaven on All Souls Day).

In spite of the fact that our family had a very hectic All Souls Day this year with lots of activities, I was determined to be sure that we took time to commemorate the feast. It was late afternoon by the time a couple of my daughters and I finally arrived at the local cemetery to make a visit to my dear grandmother's grave. The sun was lighting up the gravestones beautifully as it descended.

We brought new flowers and, as we usually do, carried our small hand broom with us as we stepped out of the car to make our visit. My grandmother is buried under an oak tree, so we brushed aside the acorns that had accumulated since our last visit, and tidied up the place before we arranged the new flowers.

As we were doing so, we spotted a gentleman a stone's throw away who was doing a little tidying of his own around a gravestone. He was not, however, under an oak tree, but a pine tree, so he had a different problem: lots of pine needles. He was working diligently with a small rake and a number of cleaning tools, which interested me, so I walked over to say "hello".

We had a nice visit, getting a little tutorial about his method of cleaning his wife's gravestone, which looked immaculate, polished and shining beautifully. We thanked him and walked back to pay our respects to my grandmother before we planned to leave. A few minutes later, he walked over to us, supplies in hand, and offered to train us. After a minute or so of instruction, he left us with the supplies and tools and walked back to his wife's grave.

What a transformation! In just a few minutes, we had my grandmother's gravestone looking much cleaner than it had in a long time. It didn't look as professionally done as the one that the gentleman had worked on (and, as we learned later, had tended to several days a week for the past decade), but it was much cleaner and actually shined. The sun was getting closer to setting when we gathered up the tools and turned to walk back toward our benefactor to thank him. When we did so, we saw that he had finished his tidying up. He was standing still there before his wife's grave in the setting sun, Rosary beads dangling from his hands: a beautiful image for my girls and I to remember at the close of All Souls Day 2014.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

So I'm from Texas... (Smallest Leaf's take on FGS 2014)

The electric Texas flag at the Institute of Texan Cultures, San Antonio

It's true. I am from Texas, though you might not have known that from reading my blogs. My genealogical search focuses on the states and countries from which my ancestors hailed (I have Pennsylvania Irish, Massachusetts Irish and New York City Eastern European roots). Since I don't write much about where I live, you may not have been aware that Smallest Leaf actually makes her home in Texas.

But Texas was the focus recently of a great genealogical discovery of mine: my very first national genealogy conference! Yes, that's right. I've been researching my family for decades, blogging for over seven years, but had never attended a national genealogy conference until last week. Needless to say, I was very thankful that FGS (the Federation of Genealogical Societies) decided to boot scoot to San Antonio for their annual conference.

Gone To Texas! they called it, and I was happy to make my way across the countryside of this big state to join them. It was a tremendous experience for me.

Now, I've done much reading in the field of genealogy, watched lots of webinars, connected for years with many other genealogists (bloggers and not), but the experience of attending this conference was even better than I expected. The act of dedicating several straight days to genealogy lectures and learning, to connecting with other like-minded folks tracing their roots, and to perusing an exhibit hall dedicated completely to genealogy was an experience that I still need a good amount of time to process. I learned a lot and have lots of new ideas to help me with my continued research.

The conference, hosted at San Antonio's Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center just a few blocks from the legendary Alamo, involved lots of river-crossing.

The convention center straddles the San Antonio River and a portion of its famous riverwalk, so back and forth I went along with many of the nation's genealogists as we hiked to and from lectures, luncheons, the exhibit hall and other places of interest.

I had a difficult time choosing from all of the excellent presentations. I cannot possibly give you a full recap of all that I soaked up from the many speakers I heard at FGS 2014, but I'll share with you some of the "bits of wisdom" I jotted down during the conference.

Some of these I tweeted during the event (and have extended here since there is no 140 character limit!). Some I just pulled out of my notes to share with you for the first time. Unfortunately, I didn't note "quotes" from the speaker of every presentation I attended (though I now wish I had!), so these tidbits don't represent every speaker I was privileged to hear last week.

Whether or not you attended FGS 2014, I hope you find some inspiration in these "sound bites" from the conference, which I've grouped below into three themes.

Words of Wisdom from FGS 2014

On genealogical research

"Build a profile of what's in the shadows. Look deeper at what's outside the flash. Often the places we are looking for are dimly lit. They are in the shadows. They are outside the flash." - J. Mark Lowe

Take time going through manuscripts for stories of ancestors and friends. Don't get what J. Mark Lowe calls "clickitis". "Squirrel!! (That's almost every genealogist I know.)" - J. Mark Lowe

"The best clues to birth family and origins are at the earliest proven place of residence, even if a 'burned county'." - Elizabeth Shown Mills

"A synonym for citation is description...Don't just look up a citation model and copy it, try to understand the source." - Thomas W. Jones

"Documentation is a conversation. Conversation is a description. I think you can have a conversation with your readers that is effective." - Thomas W. Jones

"Scientists don't just state conclusions. They document every step of the research process." (So must genealogists.) Elizabeth Shown Mills

"You have to try to disprove your theories as well as you try to prove them." Elizabeth Shown Mills

"Genealogists never run out of opportunity." Elizabeth Shown Mills (explaining her bullseye genealogy approach)

A few genealogy a-ha's

"Types of maps to seek: any kind of map you can think of, any kind of map you can get your hands on." - Paul Milner

"Boundaries changed, like when the river changed course." Paul Milner

"Photos don't go down from direct descendant to direct descendant. They trickle down the tree and trickle up the tree. The provenance of the photographs represent relationships within the family." - Maureen Taylor

"Have a plan for who will inherit your photos. Decide now, not later, or else all your photos will end up in one of my presentations and I won't know who they are." - Maureen Taylor

Why become a Certified Genealogist? If not, "we're sitting in our bunny slippers at 2 am doing research asking, 'Am I doing this right?!'" - Judy Russell

On the importance of story

"We [genealogists] understand that the story is more than six words. It's more than half a paragraph. We understand that the story is longer than that." - J. Mark Lowe

"Preserve it now! Tell your family these stories now. Even if it's an oral story, pass it down. Share it with your family. Tweet it if you have to!" - Juliana Szucs Smith

"What are you going to leave behind? An inscription? A memorial of some kind? We all have a story to tell." Paul Milner

"You've got names, filled out the family group sheet. But who do you love? The ones whose stories you know. How are you going to tell those stories? How are you going to pass those stories along?" Paul Milner

Button, button, who's got the button?

Smallest Leaf's handcrafted FGS 2014 buttons (it was a family affair!)
alongside my first set of GeneaBlogger beads (courtesy of Thomas MacEntee)

Prior to the conference, I designed and created (with the help of several of my family members) a set of buttons for FGS 2014. It was lots of fun passing them out at the conference to online friends whom I finally had the chance to meet in person, and to fellow genealogists I met for the first time at FGS. I've been told that my buttons were a hit. If you attended, I hope you got one and that I had a chance to visit with you there! If not, I'm hoping that FGS members enjoyed their time in Texas and will come back again to the Friendship State very soon. Ya'll come back now, ya hear!

Tower of the Americas as viewed from the Institute of Texan Cultures, San Antonio

    Tuesday, June 10, 2014

    Little girls, family trees and a cemetery trip

    Every year on my "blogiversary" I like to give a shout out to my readers to let you know that I am still alive and well (though blogging may be light). This year I missed the chance (by about a week) to celebrate the day seven years ago that I started blogging. I had completely forgotten! When I took a look at my calendar to see what had been keeping my attention on the anniversary of the day I started my genealogy blogs, I was happy to see that I had spent my time celebrating genealogy in a very special way: teaching family history to kids.

    I had scheduled a two day Ancestor Detector Day Camp for young girls to begin (unbeknownst to me) on my genealogy blogs' anniversary! I had a wonderful time spending the first part of the week teaching a group from a local troop of American Heritage Girls ages 9-11 how to search for and celebrate their family history.

    Here are a few highlights from our day camp as the girls and I worked to help them fulfill the American Heritage Girl requirements so that they could earn their Ancestor Detector Badges:

    Day 1: Family History Scrapbooks!

    Prior to our first meeting, the girls gathered family documents, made phone calls to grandparents, and started completing a pedigree chart of their family tree. During our first gathering each girl began a scrapbook to include all of the documents, photos, and other memorabilia they had gathered. I wish I had gotten a photo of all the creative books they made! Below is the AHG handbook page with badge requirements for the Ancestor Detector badge, and two of my daughters' scrapbooks:

    Day 2, Part 1: Cemetery field trip! 

    We started our second day camp day by gathering at a local historic cemetery. We live in an area whose history is not easily visible, and I wanted the girls to see some of the headstones dating back to the mid-19th-century and written in the native language of the early German settlers to our area. I was happy to introduce the girls to this historic place, and to help them to understand how to properly respect the final resting places of those that came before us. 

    As part of our field trip, we searched for the headstones of the first settlers to our area (after whom many streets and schools are named), and did a little cemetery scavenger hunt for fun. (We used the form below created by Jennifer of Climbing My Family Tree.)

    It was a beautiful day at the cemetery, but we needed the refreshing lemonade that we brought to enjoy under the shade trees after our romp around the cemetery grounds in the heat.

    Day 2, Part 2: Heirlooms and ancestral countries! 

    Immediately after the hot trip to the cemetery, we gathered (in a cooler place) to complete day two of our Ancestor Detector badge work. The day's focus included the countries of our ancestors, which each girl had done a little research on at home before our gathering.

    We had a great assortment of ancestors from various countries represented, including Germany, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain, Lebanon, Mexico, Haiti and even the little island of Domenica in the Caribbean.

    The final part of our session involved a "show and tell" of family heirlooms (or photos of them). Each day camper brought in a family heirloom (or a photo of one) to share with the other girls. They told the stories of their items and to whom they had belonged: a little lesson in heirloom provenance. My day camper daughter chose to share this little bronzed boot that was worn by her great-great-grand-aunt as a baby during the 1920s:

    The short time I spent with these girls was not nearly enough, but I hope it got them thinking about their family history and lit the spark for a little more ancestral research this summer. At the very least, maybe they'll think of making another phone call to their grandmothers!

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    A St. Patrick’s Day miracle for the Irish/Hungarian genealogy blogger

    You may be thinking, “It’s a miracle! Finally a new blog article from Lisa!”

    Though this very well might be a small miracle, there is a real miracle I’d like to share with you in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. It is a documented phenomenon that occurred over three centuries ago that is still remembered and celebrated today. It is close to my heart for a very special reason, as you’ll see when you read on.

    I first posted this article three years ago, but really wanted to share it again this year. Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Smallest Leaf!

    As a Catholic and a mother, I often look to Christ’s mother, Mary, for inspiration. She is the perfect example of womanhood. Her life has provided encouragement to women for many generations, including my own and my beloved ancestors’ (on both the Irish and Hungarian/Croatian sides of the family).

    In many places throughout the world, Mary is remembered by a special name or title, or honored with a particular statue or painting containing her image. There are countless “names” for Mary. I thought I had heard of most of them.

    I was surprised to come across a new title for Mary recently that I absolutely could not believe. As the descendant of Irish and Hungarian ancestors, I was thrilled to discover the Irish Madonna of Hungary. The story behind this title of Mary involves a beautiful painting, two European cities a continent apart, and a documented miracle that is as surprising as it is inspiring.

    The village of Clonfert in County Galway, Ireland could not hide from the troubles facing the island during the middle of the 17th century. Oliver Cromwell was imposing his will on the Irish people – often brutally – and many, particularly church leaders, were displaced, persecuted, or killed. Among those was one Irish bishop by the name of Walter Lynch. As history tells us, Bishop Lynch was forced to flee his native Clonfert to Galway city. After the attack and capture of Galway, he was pursued to the island of Inisbofin, and then escaped to mainland Europe. He was in Austria by 1655 – four years after fleeing Clonfert. While in Austria, the good Bishop met the Bishop of Győr, Hungary, who offered him the opportunity to continue his ministry within the Győr diocese until the time when Bishop Lynch could safely return to his homeland.

    Sadly, Bishop Lynch, who was making plans to return to Ireland, passed away in Győr in the year 1663, twelve years after leaving Clonfert. During his travels as an exile, the Bishop had carried with him a painting of Mary and the child Jesus (shown below), which he had saved from the Clonfert cathedral. Before his passing, Bishop Lynch had placed the picture in the care of the Bishop of Győr, who put it on display in the Győr cathedral.

    Thirty-four years passed with the painting housed in the Győr cathedral. The Hungarian faithful venerated this beautiful image of the Madonna, and felt sure that Mary’s intercession on their behalf had ensured their recent victories over the Turks. By the year 1697, Hungary was enjoying newfound peace. Unfortunately, that same year, Ireland was beginning to face one of its greatest trials: the outlawing of the Catholic faith, the confiscation of its churches, and the banishment of all Catholic clergy from the British Isles.

    As historical accounts tell us, on the feast of St. Patrick on March 17, 1697 a miracle occurred in Győr. According to the account of a priest who witnessed the event, “…the picture of the Blessed Virgin in the cathedral began to weep copiously.” Additional details recorded indicate that this “weeping”, or “bloody sweat”, went on for several hours, and that witnesses of various denominations were unable to attribute the occurrence to any natural cause. Eventually, word of the miracle spread throughout the city. It was witnessed by thousands, many of whom signed a document indicating their presence at the time of the miracle. These included the imperial governor of the city, mayor, councilmen, the Bishop, priests, Protestant ministers, a Jewish rabbi and many more. A linen cloth used to soak up the liquid is still on display today in the cathedral. The inscription on the case reads: “This is the true cloth which was used to dry the blood, which this picture shed in this church on St. Patrick’s Day 1697.”

    The linen cloth on display in Győr Basilica today
    (Image thanks to Győri Egyházmegye - Győr Diocese)

    The beautiful image of the Irish Madonna of Hungary, also referred to as the Consolatrix Afflictorum (Consoler of the Afflicted), remains in the cathedral to this day, framed in silver above the altar. For over three centuries, it has played a special role in drawing together the two nations of Hungary and Ireland.

    Every March 17 since 1947 (the 250 year anniversary of the miracle), even during the Communist regime, Hungarian priests have made a pilgrimage to the Győr cathedral and visited the Győri Könnyező Szűzanya (Győr Weeping Virgin Mary) or Ír Madonna (Irish Madonna), as they call the painting in the Hungarian language.

    Hungarian priests in procession at Győr Basilica
    (Image thanks to Győri Egyházmegye - Győr Diocese)

    Other special celebrations occur regularly for Hungarian lay Catholics to honor Mary’s weeping image in Győr, and there is even an annual Croatian-speaking celebration. Irish Catholics, too, regularly make pilgrimages to the Irish Madonna of Hungary. The year 1997 (the 300-year anniversary of the miracle) saw a special exchange as the Irish Clonfert Bishop John Kirby was presented a copy of the painting by Győr Bishop Lajos Papai on his visit to the city.

    Győr, Hungary's Bishop Lajos Papai giving a copy of the
    painting to Clonfert, Ireland's Bishop John Kirby
    (Image thanks to Hitvallás)
    As Clonfert’s Bishop John Kirby wrote, “The kindness shown to Bishop Walter Lynch has led to an unusual link between the small Irish rural diocese of Clonfert and the large Hungarian diocese of Győr centered in a big industrial city. It has shown us the value of friendship and the way that the consideration shown to a refugee can deepen the understanding between peoples who might otherwise never have known each other. The history of the painting has an even deeper message. It reminds us of the faith and trust in the intercession of Our Lady that existed both in Ireland and in Hungary 350 years ago.”

    The Basilica of Győr today
    Where were my Irish and Hungarian ancestors 350 years ago? I haven’t determined that yet, but it is interesting to imagine the possibilities knowing the history of the time.

    As you may know, Catholics like to choose patron saints for themselves. I think it’s pretty obvious that Mary, the Irish Madonna of Hungary, is the ideal patron saint for this Irish/Hungarian genealogist! I hope that Győr’s Weeping Virgin Mary, the Consoler of the Afflicted, will smile down on my efforts to continue the search for ancestors on both sides of my family tree: those from Bishop Lynch’s beloved native Ireland, and those from Hungary, the country that welcomed him with open arms.

    If you'd like to read more about the history of the Irish Madonna of Hungary, check out the following websites and books:
    Note: This article is cross-posted to one of my Irish genealogy blogs, Small-leaved Shamrock.  Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!

    Tuesday, December 10, 2013

    My Catholic, Hungarian and Croatian Genealogy QuickGuides™ now available as Kindle eBooks

    If you are tracing Catholic, Hungarian or Croatian roots (or two of those, or all three!), you may be familiar with my Catholic, Hungarian and Croatian Genealogy QuickGuides™. Published in partnership with Legacy Family Tree, these resources were first available as PDF downloads on the Legacy Family Tree website.

    I am pleased to announce that all three guides are now available as Amazon Kindle eBooks. Whether you have a Kindle (or use the free Kindle app on your computer, tablet or smartphone) you can now have handy access to these guides in eBook format.

    What's the difference? The PDF downloads are in a compressed format and make the guide compact for easier printing and sliding into the rings of a notebook. The eBooks include the same content laid out into book format, so they have more pages. They would use up more paper if printed, yet are easily scrollable using a Kindle or Kindle app.

    For more details about each individual guide, visit:

    Happy researching!

    Monday, December 9, 2013

    My new Hungarian Genealogy QuickGuide™: Trace your roots in the land of the Magyars

    Hungary’s legacy as a nation extends back a millennium, and its people (and diaspora) are proud of their great heritage, myself included. As a child I was intrigued by the idea that my own grandfather had been born in a different country a world away. I grew up with the tastes and smells of Hungarian Gulyás (goulash), Töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage), Csirke paprikás (chicken paprika), and Kifli from my grandmother's kitchen. It was only natural to me to want to learn more about this country that figured so largely in the lives of my grandparents and to want to delve into my Hungarian family tree.

    My Hungarian Genealogy QuickGuide™
    is a resource for both experienced researchers
    and those new to tracing their Hungarian roots
    After the recent success of my Croatian Genealogy and Catholic Genealogy QuickGuides™, I decided to focus on sharing the resources and research tips I've found while tracing my Hungarian roots. In partnership with Legacy Family Tree, I am pleased to present a brand new aid in your search for roots in the land of the Magyars: my Hungarian Genealogy QuickGuide™, a downloadable resource that includes -
    • An overview of the history and geography of Hungary (as a nation and as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire)
    • Details about the types and whereabouts of available civil and church records
    • A description of the various types of archives and repositories that house Hungarian records
    • An introduction to the languages in which Hungarian records were written
    • Links to many types of online resources (genealogy guides, translation tools, maps, forums, blogs and more)
    • A list of genealogy-related publications in both English and Hungarian
    • A research strategy to follow for success in tracing your Hungarian roots

    The search for roots within the age-old kingdom of Hungary, though often made complex by various languages and border changes, can be a greatly rewarding experience. Hungary has long been a crossroads, and Hungarian ancestors’ histories and records of genealogical interest are intertwined with neighboring countries and the empires and occupiers that ruled the area over the centuries.

    If you have ancestors who emigrated from Hungary and would like to begin to trace or continue to deepen your knowledge of your family tree, I hope you'll allow me to share what I've learned with you.


    Update: I am pleased to announce that all three of my genealogy guides are now available as Amazon Kindle eBooks. Whether you have a Kindle (or use the free Kindle app on your computer, tablet or smartphone) you can now have handy access to these guides in eBook format.

    What's the difference? The PDF downloads are in a compressed format and make the guide compact for easier printing and sliding into the rings of a notebook. The eBooks include the same content laid out into book format, so they have more pages. They would use up more paper if printed, yet are easily scrollable using a Kindle or Kindle app.

    For more details about the other QuickGuides™ I've authored, see: My new Catholic Genealogy QuickGuide™: Let me help you find those Catholic ancestors and My new Croatian Genealogy QuickGuide™: Journey with me back to your roots in Croatia.

    Happy researching!

    Thursday, December 5, 2013

    Hungarian Kifli at Christmas: A long legacy of motherly love

    I've shared our family's Kifli recipe several times already here at 100 Years in America, telling the story of how I finally learned the Hungarian name of this traditional favorite. (By the time I came along my family was calling them "Gramma's Christmas Cakes". This European treat had Americanized its name along with the names of my immigrant ancestors!)

    This year I'd like to share this delicious family treasure again within my series of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories articles, giving a little more attention to our family's special legacy with regard to this delicious traditional favorite.

    This is the first Christmas that our family will celebrate without a very special family member, my dear Aunt Barbara. She passed away last January. It has been almost a year now, yet the passing of the first Christmas without a loved one is probably one of the most difficult milestones when grieving a loss. So it is with dear Barbara, for myself and the rest of the family, but particularly for her children and grandchildren, I'm sure.

    One of 100 Years in America's most faithful readers, one of Barbara's daughters, faithfully bakes these family Christmas cakes each year (and provided me with the beautiful photograph above). One of the sad moments she experienced this month was not being able to call her Mom and say, "Guess what I'm making?" My cousin was taught by her mother, Barbara, who was taught by her mother, our dear grandmother Mitzi. A young bride at age 18, Mitzi had gone to live with her new husband in the household of his mother (and many siblings) several states away from her home. There she was trained to cook and bake as her mother-in-law did, using her recipes from northeastern Hungary. One of the recipes Mitzi mastered: Hungarian Kifli.

    Mitzi's mother-in-law, Maria (Németh) Tóth (known as Mary in America), was a 34-year-old mother of four when she emigrated from Hungary's Borsod county to join her husband. Along with transporting four children (one a baby!) on that journey, Maria carried with her a wealth of Hungarian family recipes that would be treasured by many generations of our family over the next century (and hopefully more!).

    I like to imagine Maria as a young girl within her mother's kitchen, learning to cook the Hungarian Gulyás (goulash), Töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage), Csirke paprikás (chicken paprika), and Kifli that would become our family's favorites. Maria and her mother could not possibly have imagined that a century later and a world away, their descendants would remember them and their recipes fondly, having received the legacy of nourishing love produced by the hands of their daughters, daughters-in-law, and grand-daughters.

    As I once again share this Kifli recipe, I do so in honor of these women who came before us: my dear Aunt Barbara, my grandmother Mitzi, my great-grandmother Mary (Maria), and her mother (another Barbara): Borbála* (Nagy) Németh.

    *Borbála is the Hungarian version of the name Barbara

    100 Years in America's Family Kifli Recipe

    Otherwise known as "Gramma's Christmas Cakes"

    Apricot Jelly Filling

    3 lbs. apricots
    1 1/2 cups sugar

    • Put them in a pot with enough water to cover them plus about 1 inch more
    • Cook for about 45 minutes until soft, stirring frequently
    • Mash the apricots
    • Add sugar
    • Cook about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until very thick (the longer the better), stirring frequently
    • Sprinkle the jelly with cinnamon

    Christmas Cakes

    4 cups flour
    1/2 lb. sweet butter at room temperature
    6 eggs - separated - at room temperature
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    8 oz. sour cream at room temperature
    4 tablespoons sugar
    1 packet of yeast (prepared by mixing with 1 teaspoon sugar & about 1/4 cup milk)
    Homemade apricot jelly
    1 lb. walnuts (add 4 teaspoons sugar to each lb. when chopped)
    Confectioner's sugar

    • Mix flour with butter and then salt and sugar
    • Make a well in the middle - add egg yolks, vanilla and sour cream gradually
    • Mix and kneed until smooth (keep working the dough until ready)
    • Use flour to make it not too sticky (can freeze - wrap in freezer paper and cover with flour)
    • Roll out dough
    • Cut the dough into 4 pieces
    • Chop walnuts and whip egg whites
    • Roll out one of the 4 pieces of dough
    • Cut into individual 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 squares and fill with a heaping teaspoon of homemade apricot jelly
    • Roll each into a horn (crescent)
    • Top each with egg whites and nuts
    • Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until light brown (about 30-35 minutes)

    Kifli may also be served with a prune filling (prepared similarly to the apricot filling) or a walnut filling, although the apricot kind has always been the favorite in my family. If using walnut filling, add boiled milk to the nuts until pasty, then grated lemon rind.


    This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2013, Day 4: Christmas Recipes. For more Advent and Christmas memories here at 100 Years in America (going back to 2007), scroll through these articles or stop by my Pinterest page. Visit this preview for more details about the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories and to get some inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!

    Note: Our family's Kifli recipe has also appeared previously as part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories here at 100 Years in America several times (once in 2007 and then twice in 2009 - here and here). Over the past six years, these have continued to be among the most frequently viewed articles here at 100 Years in America. If you took the time to try out our family Kifli recipe, please leave a comment and let us know!

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