Slovakia Determining a Place of Origin
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Determining the place of origin is the singlemost important step in researching individuals from Slovakia. Records are organized geographically, by village or county name.
Since the lands of Slovakia changed hands several times over the years, many villages had two, three, four, sometimes many different spellings. Spellings could be slight variations or entirely different. The largest difference occurred between Slovak spelling and Magyar ("Hungarian"), where the names do not even appear similar Click here to read more.
Initially, you may not even be able to ascertain the country. Due to the world wars, the passage of time and tales that get larger with each generation, even the country should be suspect. A good researcher will collect all these data, and square them against each other over research time, as a good detective. Some is right, some is wrong, some is flawed. Indeed, this is a "treasure hunt."
The first and most important step it to identify any places of origin, then begin to test them for accuracy. The best documents are authoritative sources, most especially government documents such as immigration files or Social Security applications.
Do not be discouraged if you find conflicting information for country name or village names. Do not be discouraged if the record is not found - it may be mis-filed or mis-transcribed. Many of the errors in spelling are a result of transcription error, mis-reading or mis-understanding the data.
Never hang your hat on any one village name citation. Look for corroboration from another source. Often, even when you do have the correct name, it may be incorrectly spelled for various reasons.
When searching any file, be it images or database indices, don't expect the spelling to be "correct". Look for "sounds like" or "looks like" variation. "iu" could be "w", "ich" could be "ic".
Do not underestimate the importance of historical context. Learn a little history. If a document was written in 1910, the village name would be rendered in Magyar, in 1910, it would have been rendered in Slovak. In 1944, certain eastern villages reverted to Magyar, and then back to Slovak after WWII. This is regardless of whether the document was prepared in Slovakia or another country.
Click here for a comprehensive list of sources for village identification and research strategy.
Sometimes there are discrepancies even in the gazetteers. For example, modern village of Skrabské in Slovakia is recorded in the Dvorzak gazetteer as Magyaróska (pg. 831) and Mogyoróska (pg. 832).