110 Years Ago Today

On November 15, 1902, 110 years ago today, Júlia (Molnár) Balla (1885-1962), my 2nd great grandmother, arrived in New York to begin a new life in America. At the age of 17, Julia left Eszény, Hungary, where she was born and raised, for Hamburg, Germany where she boarded the S.S. Pretoria, departing on October 31, 1902.

A photograph of the S.S. Pretoria

The ship manifest for the S.S. Pretoria states that Julia was coming to New York to join her sister, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Molnar. Julia appears on a Record of Detained Alien Passengers from the S.S. Pretoria. She was detained, according to this record, because she was waiting for her sister to pick her up, which took place at 4:25 pm, the time at which Julia was discharged.

A page from the ship manifest for the S.S. Pretoria showing Julia Molnar, who is found on line 13.
S.S. Pretoria Record of Detained Alien Passenger showing Julia Molnar, who is found on line 30 (last entry).

These details from the ship manifest are consistent with family oral history, which states that Julia did come to New York to be with her sister, because her sister found her a job. Lizzie was living in New York and working as a chef in the household of a fairly well-off family. Because Lizzie was such a good employee, they asked her if she had any relatives that could take the position of maid in their home. She told them about her sister Julia, and they paid for her to come to America. The following painted photograph of Julia (left) and Lizzie (right) shows them wearing the uniforms they wore while working for this family.

Julia (left) and her sister Lizzie (right) in their Uniforms

Nearly five years after her arrival, Julia married Alexander Balla (1886-1950), with whom she had ten children, the first five of which were born in New York and the remaining were born in Sabine and Jasper counties in Texas.

Family History Through the Alphabet – W is for Weddings and Wedding Anniversaries

This week’s Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge features the letter W.  Noteworthy W’s I have run across while researching my ancestry are weddings and wedding anniversaries.

W is for Weddings:

Weddings are an important and joyous event in anyone’s life, and no less so for the generations that came before us. Although I have records for marriages throughout my ancestry, I have few photographic, oral, or written accounts of the weddings that took place. The following are some of the ones that I have uncovered in the course of researching my ancestry.

My paternal grandparents, William Kernan (LIVING) and Margaret Ann Lapham (1936-2004), were married on June 28, 1952 in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon. The wedding took place at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, and the service was conducted by Rev. Patrick J. Dooley. The service was reported in The Milwaukie Review, a local paper in Oregon. The following newspaper clippings provide some details, such as a description of my grandmother’s wedding dress, the names of those who attended and the roles they played during the service, in addition to the only surviving photos from their wedding.


My paternal great grandmother, Alice Lucretia (Wellin) Lapham (1916-1985), married Willard Pershing Graber (1918-1988), her second husband, on December 13, 1947 in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon. Although I have few details of their wedding, I do know, from their wedding book that contains their certificate of marriage, that they were married in a Methodist church, and the services was officiated by Rev. Henry E. DuVall. The witnesses were Willard’s brother, Noel Graber, and Alice’s aunt, Althea (Agee) Morgan. Apart from these facts, I have some nice photographs from their wedding.


Perhaps the oldest image I have run across for a wedding in my ancestry is for that of my 9th great grandparents, John Bigelow (or Biglo) (1617-1703) and Mary Warren (1624-1691). John and Mary were married by a Mr. Nowell on August 30, 1642 in Watertown, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. The following painting is said to be of John and Mary dancing at their wedding party (unverified by me).

Although I have no photographs for their wedding, I have an oral family history account regarding the wedding of my 2nd great grandparents, Alexander Balla (1886-1950) and Julia Molnar (1885-1962). According to this account, Alexander and Julia, who were from the same village in Hungary (Eszény) immigrated to the United States separately, with Julia coming to the United States first (1902), as she was offered a job working in the same household as her sister, Elizabeth, in Manhattan, New York. This family, whose name has unfortunately been lost to time, was fairly well off financially—they could afford to have a personal cook (Elizabeth) and at least one maid (Julia). Julia and Alexander were eventually reunited at a Hungarian Church social, which sparked a relationship that resulted in a marriage proposal in 1907. When the family Julia had been working for since her arrival in 1902 learned of this, they offered to pay for the wedding because they had grown very fond of her over the years. Alexander and Julia’s wedding took place on September 9, 1907, at which Julia is said to have been given away by the head of the household she worked in.


W is for Wedding Anniversaries:

Related to weddings are, of course, wedding anniversaries, milestones of which are often important events in the lives of our ancestors, as well for us today.

My 2nd great grandparents, Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977) and Lois Beatrice Agee (1897-1983), were married on December 2, 1914 in Vancouver, Clark Co., Washington. On December 2, 1964, Wilhelm and Lois celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, for which they had a family gathering and open house. This milestone in their marriage is recorded in the newspaper clipping below. By the time their marriage vow of “until death do us part” was realized in 1977, Wilhelm and Lois were married for nearly sixty-three years.

Kit Carson Graber (1875-1962) and Iva Mae McKeehan (1879-1950), the parents of Willard Pershing Graber (1918-1988), the second husband of my great grandmother Alice Lucretia (Wellin) Lapham (1916-1985), were married on February 27, 1893 in Mount Pleasant, Henry Co., Iowa. By the time their marriage parted in death in 1950, Kit and Iva were married for nearly fifty-seven years. The photograph below was taken on the occasion of their fifty-fourth wedding anniversary.


The following is a table of some of those in my ancestry that celebrated the milestone of making it to their 50th wedding anniversary:

Husband Wife Years
Wilhelm Percy Wellin Louis Beatrice Agee 1914-1977
Isaac Agee Cordelia Thornton 1831-1893
Kit Carson Graber Iva Mae McKeehan 1893-1950
Thomas McLaughlin Margaret Wilson 1833-1891
William Phylitis Davis Mary Magdelene Williams 1906-1960
Jesse Beeney Mary An Wys 1803-1857
Jacob Worthington Elmina Couch 1865-1920
Boyd Ferguson Seely Rebecca Allen 1857-1909
William Kernan (LIVING) Margaret Ann Lapham 1952-2004

Click here to learn more about Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge (Clicking this link will take you to another site.)

Family History Through the Alphabet – M is for Military Service, Mistakes, Midwest, Molnar, & McLaughlin

M is for Military Service:

One thing many people find really interesting and take a great deal of pride in when researching their ancestry is discovering the military service of ancestors or relatives. In researching my own ancestry, I have discovered several ancestors and relatives with military service, many of which with service during war. Perhaps the earliest known of these is the service of Mathieu Agé, my 9th great grandfather, in the Glorious Revolution. Mathieu was a Huguenot refugee in the Netherlands and was conscripted in the army of William of Orange (1650-1702) that invaded England in 1688. He was among many Huguenot refugees that served and was granted land in Virginia for his service.

In addition to Mathieu, I also have ancestors and relatives that served in wars in and involving the United States, including eight ancestors that served in the American Revolution, one of which was on the side of the British; some yet unverified claims of service in the War of 1812; four confirmed ancestors that served in the American Civil War, one of which was on the side of the Confederacy; one in the Spanish-American War; one in World War I; no direct ancestors in World War II, but two step-great-grandfathers that served, along with some great uncles; one that served during the Korean War; and a couple of relatives that served during the Vietnam War.

M is for Mistakes:

M is also for mistakes. In researching our ancestries, everyone comes across mistakes, particularly in oral accounts of our ancestry. On my paternal side, it was always claimed that my 3rd great grandfather, Owen Kiernan (1836-1901), and his wife, Harriet, were born in Ireland. Research revealed that Owen was in fact born in Canada to Irish émigrés, and Harriet was born in New York. On my maternal side, many mistakes were collected from the recollections of my great grandmother, Goldie (Worthington) Hamilton (1912-2006). Although she had the names kind of correct for several ancestors, they turned out to be of her own ancestry and not both hers and her husbands, Harry Carl Hamilton (1891-1960).

Although mistakes can take some time to discover and correct, I have found the process in doing so to be rewarding, as you uncover the past for what it really was piece by piece.

M is for Midwest:

M is also for Midwest. As I researched my ancestries, I was amazed by how many of my branches traced back to the American Midwest. The Midwest, also called “the heartland,” is a region in the United States that consists of 12 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. All four of my “cardinal branches” (Kernan, Lapham, Hamilton, and Sebok) discussed on this site/blog trace to the Midwest; and I have connections to all but Kansas (so far). I know (from oral accounts) that many of my Midwestern ancestors left the Midwest because of the cold weather, so I suppose they avoided Kansas because they didn’t want to end up in the Land of Oz.

The following is a listing of which of the 11 states in the Midwest each of my four “cardinal branches” (including related branches) trace to:

  • Kernan: Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois
  • Lapham: Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota
  • Hamilton: Ohio, Missouri, Indiana
  • Sebok: Indiana, Illinois, Ohio

M is for Molnar:

M is also for Molnar (or Molnár), the maiden name of my 2nd great grandmother, Julia (Molnar) Balla (1885-1962), the mother of my great grandmother Irene Vera (Balla) Sebok (1913-2006). The surname is Hungarian in origins and is an occupational name from the Hungarian word “molnár,” meaning “miller.” Some name studies state that it may be a Magyarized form of the Slavic word for a miller, “mlinar.” My Molnar family traces back to a village called Eszény, which was in the Tisza District of Szabolcs County in the former Kingdom of Hungary. Today, although still inhabited by a majority of Hungarians, it is located in the Zakarpattia Oblast of Ukraine.

M is for McLaughlin:

M is also for McLaughlin, the maiden name of my 3rd great grandmother, Eva Flora McLaughlin (1863-1899), who was the biological grandmother of my great grandmother, Maxine Elizabeth Davis (1912-1992), who married Delmar Clair Kernan (1908-1979). According to name studies, the surname is Irish and Scottish in origins, and is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic “Mac Lochlainn” or “Ó Lochlainn,” meaning “son (or descendant) of Lochlainn,” with Lochlainn being a personal name meaning “stranger,” originally denoting Scandinavia (a compound of “loch,” meaning “lake,” and “lann,” meaning “land”). This name may originate in Ireland around the time of the Viking Invasions of Ireland. Irish bearers of the name often claim descent from Lochlann, a 10th century lord of Corcomroe, County Clare.

Click here to learn more about Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge (Clicking this link will take you to another site.)