Grandpa’s House

This year is no different from the previous two, in that Miloš, unknown to me, was busy working to facilitate our next adventure. In addition to taking two weeks off from his communications job to practice English at our school, he had devoted time and effort making calls, connecting with officials in Nedašovce and surrounding villages for clues about the Diviš family. He had set up appointments for us to meet with town clerks to examine their records. And so one day, after a hurried lunch, we: Miloš, Lýdia and Julia (Lýdia’s friend) hopped into their family car, leaving behind classrooms and school to begin our third expedition.

Our first stop was at the Krpelan home to pick up Ivana, oldest daughter, and valued member of my entourage. How many Slovaks does it take to escort one American around the country? Four! Miloš, Ivana, Lýdia and Julia! My team was complete! We left their home in Prievdzská, bidding “Mrs. Miloš,” Iveta, farewell, along with their grandfather and youngest sister, Lenka. Unbeknownst to me, they have a plan of their own to keep them occupied for the afternoon.

Back on the road, Miloš received a call from the clerk of Rybany, a village not too far from Nedašovce. Vlasta Gálisová maintained the town’s record books. Vlasta had something to show us, so she called to confirm our visit and to suggest we drive to Partizánske and speak with the clerk there. But that was a challenge, as it was already 1 p.m., the Partizánske office closed at 2 and would not wait for our arrival before closing their doors. My hosts reminded me that bureaucracies in Slovakia turn very slowly, with little or no personal touch. As time was passing, we focused our efforts on connecting with the Rybany office.

Vlasta, unlike that stereotype, greeted us warmly and took us to the mayor’s spacious office. There was no sign of a mayor, but more importantly, on the table, were two very large ledger books entitle Sobášna Matrika – Marriage Registry. One was dated 1907-1922, and the other 1923-1949. Handwritten in beautiful cursive penmanship, the pages were filled with records of the village marriages. Each volume held a treasure for me. Vlasta pointed to an entry recording the marriage of my Grandfather’s niece, Emilia, to Stefan Hancko on July 5, 1948. It listed Emilia’s father as Josef Diviš and mother as Maria Jedlickova. Emilia’s birthdate was recorded as Aug 13, 1929 –

all of which matched what Miloš had copied from the baptism records of the Vysočany Church near Nedašovce during my visit last year. Emilia was 19 when she married Stefan Hancko, who was from Baťovany, Slovakia. Here was a window into the history of my family and I savored the moment, viewing new clues to their lives. All I knew of Emilia was contained in that book.

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11 Responses to Grandpa’s House

  1. Kathy Blair says:

    Such a heart-warming story! I thoroughly enjoyed it! Congratulations on finding some of your roots.

  2. Irmgard Swanson says:

    Loved reading this story! The pull of one’s ancestral land is very tangible, and this article said it so well. Thank you.

    • Marie Coffey says:

      It does! It sheds so much light and life to a man I barely knew. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!


  3. Sue Barrows says:

    I really enjoyed your description of your trip to your ancestor’s homeland and the historical framework in which he lived and the circumstances surrounding the decision he made to migrate to the U.S. I love the fact that sunflowers blanket the country. I too aspire some day to travel back to the places my great grandparents left behind.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sherry Braga says:

    What a wonderful story of how we can all help each other, even with the challenges of speaking different languages. We are all people and inside each person is a heart!
    Reaching out to others often makes it reveal itself. It is a beautifully written journal and very inspirational!

    • Marie Coffey says:

      Thanks, Sherry! It has been an amazing journey – literally and figuratively! The Slovaks have been wonderfully kind to help me. God willing, I will return again!


  5. What a blessed journey! It is a gift to read of your adventure, especially as I had shared your enthusiastic anticipation and planning. Nice narrative, smooth writing. Nicely done!

    • Marie Coffey says:

      Thanks, Bryan! It’s all amazing. A new piece of this puzzle is the representative at the Archives near Nedasovce. She has researched my great grandmother and will be sending me what she’s found. What a treasure hunt! thanks for your encouragement!


  6. Gary & Marcia Christensen says:

    Very nicely written, Marie. What an adventure! Thank you for writing it.

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