88 Years Ago Today

On April 5, 1925, eighty-eight years ago today, Esther “Esta” (Szabó) Balla (1857-1925), my 3rd great grandmother, died in Monterey Co., California. Following her death, Esther was buried in the I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Hollister, San Benito Co., California.

Esther (Szabó) Balla's Death Record (California Death Index). The record shows her name as "Asta S. Balla" instead of "Esta S. Balla."
Esther (Szabó) Balla’s Death Record (California Death Index). The record shows her name as “Asta S. Balla” instead of “Esta S. Balla.”

Esther was born in 1857 in Eszény, Szabolcs County, Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Eseny, Ukraine) the daughter of Ferenc Szabó (?-?) and Eszter UNKNOWN (?-?). In about 1875, she married István “Stephen” Balla (ca. 1858-1930) in Eszény, with whom she had seven children. In about 1892, István left his family for America, settling first in Pennsylvania and then Cuyahoga Co., Ohio. He did so either to send for his family later or with the intent on abandoning them. The later seemed to be the case, as he remarried and had children soon after arriving. In 1907, Esther arrived in the United States with one of her daughters, joining two sons and another daughter. She did so under the name “Esther Istvanne Balla,” which means “Esther, Mrs. Istvan Balla,” possibly indicating she was somewhat unaware that her husband had moved on. According to oral tradition, she arrived with the intention of finding him. When one of her sons did, István abandoned his second family and went with his first one. My great grandmother, Irene Vera (Balla) Sebok (1913-2006) remembers meeting both Esther and István before they moved to California. She once told me that she remembered the wonderful food her grandmother made, particularly the homemade bread. According to oral history, Esther and István moved to California together, though records are unclear if the two remained married or even in the same household.

7 thoughts on “88 Years Ago Today

  1. Very interesting story. Although it is great that they were united, I also feel sad for the second family that was abandoned. Have you been able to trace them?

    1. Yes it is very sad. Some of my great grandmother’s siblings got in contact with them, but they did not want to have any contact. I do know from my own research that Istvan’s second wife remarried. I imagine it was really hard for them, as it was for his first wife and children. I remember my great grandmother saying that her mom didn’t like Istvan very much. It seems many people had good cause to not like him.

  2. Hi, I’m pretty sure Istvan(Stephen)Balla you mentioned is my great grandfather. My great grandmother, Anna Hegedus was his second wife in Cleveland,Ohio. Her family including my grandfather Paul was the one he left when he reunited with Julia Molnar Balla.

    1. Hi Michael, thank you for the comment. It seems that Steven Balla Sr. was not much of a family man, as he abandoned both of his wives–Esther when he came to America, and Anna when he was found by one of his children from his first marriage. As far as I can tell, he may not have reunited with Esther Szabo Balla, his first wife (Julia was his daughter-in-law), but rather went to the same are of California. He is said to have died in Monterey Co., California under and assumed name around 1930. If you care to share any information or photos you have or that you heard in your family feel free to do so. My email is wlkernan@outlook.com.

      1. I meant Enter not Julia. I’ll have to find some pictures and send them to you. My grandfather Paul resembles Alex Sr. very much. Why would Stephen and Ester go to the same area in California seperatly? I suppose it’s possible but?? It was exciting finding out about Stephen which I thank you again for your research. After the initial thrill I keep thinking.about him abandoning both families and how that may have affected the generations that followed.

      2. I (and others in my family) would be happy to see some of your photos. If you wish to email them, you can send an email to wlkernan@outlook.com. As for Esther and Steven reuniting, oral history is kind of vague about it. The impression I always got was that he changed his name and was working as a rancher. Esther didn’t change her name. I think his abandoning both wives left a lot of hardship and bitterness. I’m not sure what relationship Steven’s children had with him after that. My great grandmother, one of Steven’s granddaughters, recalled meeting him as a child, but never again. She remember Esther as well.

      3. I’ll have to send you some pictures of his second family. My grandfather Paul resembles Alex Sr. his half brother. Thank you again for your research.

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