My Pagersky ancestors were always the most mysterious of those I tried to find, whenever I did genealogy. My mother’s side has a number of Slovaks, and in my childhood days, Slovakia was behind the Iron Curtain of Soviet-era infamy. Many Slovaks left Eastern Europe well before the tribulations of the 20th century, which meant that they did come to a free land. But it also meant that they were “cut off”, in some way, from the Old Country. Additionally, as time passed and geopolitics changed, it meant they were really cut off.
Sometime in the last decade, a woman in Ohio made the effort to find out about the original Pagersky—or, as it’s more commonly spelled, Pajersky. For us, this was Steven Pajersky, who came to America in 1907 and settled outside of Pittsburgh. He was a coal miner and died in a coal mine accident in 1930, at
about the age of 40 42. My great grandmother, whose maiden name was Yakel, died in childbirth in the 1918 Flu pandemic, while she was with child. many years before. So Steven remarried. For the second wife, the first wife’s children were some unspecified hindrance, and so my grandfather ended up in Raritan, New Jersey.
(This is a sad part of the story, too, but had she not had that attitude, my grandfather likely would not have come to Raritan in the 1920’s and I wouldn’t be here telling you in 2011.)
The Ohio Pajersky, from the second wife’s progeny, also always wondered about Steven Pajersky. But she had a passport and a village name. If you have done online genealogy, you recognize the importance of a village name. Somewhere along the line, she took a trip to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and managed to contact–or to be contacted actually–by second and third generation family members! Her story was reported in the Post-Journal of upstate New York in 2003.
To me, this is pretty remarkable, because even though history and politics really separated the Slovak people from the immigrants here of the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was still enough “family knowledge”, carried by the older generations, that enabled people to put family members back together with some mutual understanding. Something along the lines of “hey, you’re actually my second cousin!” Or to meet an elderly person who was actually the aunt or uncle of your grandparent. Slovakia and the eastern European states are one of the few areas of the world where you might see that happening. (North Korea might be another, if it ever opened up.)
My Ohio half-cousin-once-removed did a fantastic thing, you know, by making those personal connections. She created a contemporary story that allows us to see our family’s thread in the immigrant experience from both the tip and the spool.
[Update 12/2/11: Ah, yes, I found the article, which I put here under Fair Use (research), since it tells part of the story of my great-grandfather: