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 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.