by Jenne M. – Guest Blogger
My great-grandfather Ferenz Bazsika was born in Kerkatótfalu in Zala County, Hungary, although at the time it was part of the great Austria-Hungarian empire. According to family lore, he was scheduled to cross the Atlantic on the Titanic – but overslept. Instead, he emigrated on the President Lincoln, leaving from Hamburg on April 4, 1912. He was, according to passenger lists, a day laborer and a farmer. He had only $25 in his pocket and was described as 5 foot 6 with blond hair and gray eyes – a description that fits me quite closely, I might add, although my hair has darkened since my move up north, and I’m an inch taller.
His wife Mary and daughters Mary and Erzsebet followed a year later on the Saxonia, leaving from Fiume in Croatia. All had listed their last place of residence as Budapest. Elizabeth, as she was known in Perth Amboy, only lived in her new home for a few years before being struck by a cement truck at the age of 9. I’ve seen her grave, although it’s not listed on the Find A Grave website.
In pictures, Ferenz was tall, burly and fair – perhaps giving a hint as to his mixed heritage. His father, Joseph Bazsika, had married a woman of German/Austrian extraction, Agnes Hermann, a not unlikely scenario in a polyglot empire. They were likely farmers. Kerkatótfalu was itself a merged village, and called Teske in Croatian; it was only a few miles from the intersection of Hungary, Croatia, Austria and Slovenia, although the national borders have changed dramatically through time. Interestingly, Tótfalu means “Slovakville” in Magyar. The residents of the area likely would have been a mix of Slavs, Magyars and Germans.
As their surname implies, the Bazsikas weren’t originally from Kerkatótfalu; they would have been from Bazsi, located some miles above the northern shore of Lake Balaton. Bazsi, in the county of Veszprém, derives its name from the Slavic boža, or “peony.” It’s located in the hills of Bakony, and at the start of the Zala lowlands where the Bazsikas eventually moved – likely to farm. The village itself dates back to the 1700s.
Ferenz Bazsika and his wife, Mary or Maria, ran a candy store; he is listed in census reports as a confectioner. They had many daughters (Mary and Elizabeth, who traveled from Hungary, as well as Matilda and Eleanor) and two sons – the first, who bore an Americanized version of his father’s name, became my ill-starred grandfather.