After years of wondering why we seemed to be the only family in America with the Puschauver surname, I decided to do some serious research on our family history. Other than our family, I was coming up empty handed.
I started with a baptism certificate for my grandfather, Franciscus Puschauver, which was supplied by St. Joseph's Slovak Catholic Church in Hazleton, PA. I also had accumulated a variety of notes - stories told to and by my sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins.
The "facts" were - Franciscus Puschauver was born in Svabbuter, the German name for Solivar, in the Presov Region of Slovakia on December 22, 1867. His parents were Anton Puschauer & Maria Schikker. He was the only son, and brother to six sisters. Five of the sisters remained in Slovakia and one sister, Caroline, married a "Kessler" and moved to Allentown, PA. Later, Caroline married a man named Mahlichi, although no one was sure of this spelling. Franciscus's grandmother's name was Raoul or something similar.
In June 0f 1997, Mike and I vacationed in Prague, Czech Republic. While there and on a moments noticewe pulled out a map to find out how close we were to Slovakia. A short one hour flight convinced us to go over for two days and drive around the Presov area.
We arrived at the Kosice airport, rented a car though Hertz and requested an English speaking driver, whose name was Peter. We drove all around the area, then spotted a large cemetery, overgrown with weeds, and I was sure I was going to find my deceased ancestors! No luck.
After telling Peter of our hopes of finding relatives, he took the initiative to stop on the outskirts of Presvo to ask some people on the street if they knew the name Puschauver. One woman mentioned that there was a doctor in town with that name, and that years ago there were many Puschauer's in the area.
My excitement mounted, so we drove into Presov and found a tourist shop. The gentleman who ran the place was very helpful. He pulled out a phone directory and jotted down the address of the doctor. We drove off in search of my ancestors!
As we neared the medical building, we saw on its outside wall, a plaque with the name MUDR. Medical Human Doctor,Rudolf Puschauer! With encouragement from Peter, we went inside the building. The hallways of his clinic were dimly lit and filled with patients - mostly women - dressed in their full black skirts, heavy stockings and babushka's on their heads. I'm sure we caused quite a stir, looking totally foreign in this office!
Our driver took it upon himself to inform the nurse that there were Americans visiting that may be related to the doctor. Would he possibly be able to spare a minute? Ten minutes later, Dr. Puschauer stuck his head out the doorway, then asked his nurse to show us into the office. Both of us, I'm sure, were looking for signs of familiarity, although we couldn't see any.
We spent about 30 minutes with Dr.Rudolf Puschauer and our conversation was interpreted through Peter, as Rudolf only spoke Slovak. He told me that his family was from the small village of Solivar, in the Saris Region. His wife Marie, is also a doctor, head of the genetics department in Presov, Slovakia. Daughter Martina , who was at that time in medical school, completed her studies in June 2001 and is practicing Internal Medicine in the town of Karlovy Vary, outside of Prague, Czech Republic. Rudolf's father's name was Artur, his grandfather's name was Anton. The only thing he could recollect was that his father had two half or step brothers in the Pittsburgh, PA area.
I inquired about his family religion and Peter hesitated, not wanting to ask the doctor that question. He said it isn't appropriate to ask about religion in Slovakia. It then occurred to me that up until 1993 Slovakia had been under Communism, and religious practices were prohibited. Rudolf answered anyway, saying that the male members of the family were Catholic and many of the females were Anglican. When asked about the Puschauer line, Rudolf said he was the only one left in the area. Although there were many Puschauers in Presov at one time, after World War II, they migrated to Germany and the Netherlands.
Thus ended one of the most rewarding trips of my life. We have continued to communicate, and in the summer of 1999 Rudolf and Marie's daughter, Martina, came to visit us for the summer.
After moving back to the states I put my research into full swing. I contacted the Archives in Presov, Slovakia and asked them to research the Puschauer's. I gave them a copy of grandfather Frank's birth certificate and the information on his sister Carolina.
Two months later, the report arrived. They provided me with a Puschauer direct line back to 1792. There were also some surprises in the report. It stated that it was impossible for our grandfather to have been born in 1867. The Frank who was born on this date died in 1868. A second Frank was born in 1871 and died in 1873. The third Frank, who is our grandfather, was born December 5, 1873. The discrepancy on grandfather Frank's birth date may be attributed to his coming to the USA at the age of 16. To make himself older, he may have used his dead brother Frank's birth certificate.
Additionally, Carolina was not his sister, but his cousin. Her father, Michael, and Frank's father, Anton, were brothers. Michael married Maria Anna Rall in 1850 - thus, she was a grandmother to Carolina, not Frank.
Regarding his grandmother's name as Raoul - it may be possible that because his father died when he was eight, he was raised by his uncle, Michael, whose wife was Rall.
With the report in hand, I had new names to research - Schicker, Hut, Fridrich, Charpentier and so on. On the WWW Slovak site; iarelative.com., I found Bob Pollack, who was researching the names Schicker, Fridrich & Karpenci. Through his own research, he provided me with the history of Svab-Solivar. iarelative.com also connected me with MaryAnn Barrow, the great grand-daughter of Janos & Carolina Kessler of Allentown, PA.
What my research has confirmed - Our families were German Catholic Peasants who married within their own German community, from the late 1700's to the late 1800,S with a few exceptions. The demise of the Puschauer family in Slovakia after World War II is attributable to the mass deportation by the Slovak Government of ethnic Germans towards the end and immediately after WW II . The practice of deporting ethnic Germans is broadly reviewed in the book by Alfred de Zaya called "A Terrible Revenge - The Ethnic Cleansing of East Germans , 1944-1950". Whether or not Slovak Germans supported Hitler during the war was immaterial. Unless the person could show through marriage records that they were Slovak, all ethnic Germans were deported, with loss of their land, homes and most of their belongings.
My sister-in-law's father, Bill Fabray, is German, and lived in Czechoslovakia during this time. He told me, ""when the Russians occupied Czechoslovakia, his family and other German inhabitants were put on trains and sent to Austria. At the end of the war, they boarded trains back to Czechoslovakia. Assuming that they would go back to their homes, they dismounted from the trains and were taken immediately to concentration camps. After agreements were made with various countries as to the number ethnic Germans each would accept, families were assigned a Zone location. One day, officials arrived at the concentration camp and they took he and his family to the rail station. There, a train was being loaded for a destination unknown to them." Their final destination was the USA.
I am continuing my research, reviewing the Latter Day Saints microfilmed records of the Catholic Church in Solivar for the period 1785 - 1899. Additional names are being added - Albrecht, Badian, Cron, Degro, Eberhard, Fait, Fuchs, Priester, Kepler Lei and more. A more laborious task will be to connect these families to unknown parts of Germany.