Using Ancestry: Surprises in Great-grandpa’s Naturalization, by Juliana Smith

Janos Szucs, declaration of intention, 1912This week I’m doing a little jig, and it’s not just in honor of St. Patty’s Day! I finally got a copy of my great-grandfather’s naturalization record and found some pretty cool stuff. (Click on the image to see his declaration of intention.)

Last week I mentioned closing up some holes in my Szucs family timeline. The family had been bouncing back and forth between Cleveland and the southeastern Ohio counties of Jeffersonville and Belmont so I wasn’t quite sure where to look for his naturalization record. I found the birth date and place of my grandfather’s sister in the Ohio Death Indexes at Ancestry and that spurred me into action. The death index gave Irene Szucs’s birth in Belmont County in 1913–just one year before her father had been naturalized, according to the 1920 U.S. Federal Census. It was time to focus the search for his naturalization on Belmont and nearby Jefferson counties.

Finding His Naturalization Record
So what were my options? According to They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins,

“From 1790 until very recently, any individual could be naturalized in a federal court, although most people went to local courts. After 1906, the vast majority of naturalizations took place in federal courts, although some local courts continued to naturalize long after that date.”

Years ago, my mother had searched unsuccessfully for John’s naturalization in federal court records for Cuyahoga County, Ohio that are held in the National Archives-Great Lakes Region in Chicago.

This time I would look at local courts. I checked the Family History Library Catalog for both Belmont and Jefferson counties and found that the library had films of naturalizations for both counties for that time period. Mom and I decided that with neither of us planning a trip to Utah for a while, we would hire a researcher to check those films for us. The researcher from quickly found the record and soon I was looking at John Szucs’s declaration of intention, petition, and naturalization record. Yeah!

John’s Place of Birth
So what goodies did I find? One of the first things I noticed was that this record listed his place of birth as Ozoreny, Hungary. All of the family stories and his passenger arrival records from New York in 1902 had told me that he was from Horka.

A search for Ozoreny led me to several sites that explained that around 1910 some village names in the area in which my Szucs ancestors originated–Gomor Megye, which is now in Slovakia–reverted from Hungarian (Magyar) to their Slovak names. A tourism site gave a list of both the Slovak and Hungarian versions of town names. When I searched for Ozoreny on this site, that name was given as the Slovak version, and the Hungarian name was Gemerska Horka. It seemed likely that this was the same place, and that John had just given different ethnic names for the same location. I pulled up maps for that area and sure enough, that was the case. The 1880 map at for that county shows Horka, and a 1910 map on a Hungarian site gives the same town name as Ozoreny.

Arrived Where?
Another item that jumped out at me from the naturalization record was his arrival. As I mentioned, I had previously found his arrival record from 24 October 1902 at the Port of New York on board the Cassel. However, his naturalization record didn’t match up. His 1914 petition for naturalization stated that he arrived on 11 July 1902 at the Port of Baltimore on board the Cassel. Was he mistaken? The ship name matched up, but I found it hard to believe he would have mistaken Baltimore for New York.

Thankfully this was easy to check out. Ancestry has Baltimore Passenger Arrivals, 1820-1948 online as part of its Immigration Collection.  A search for Janos Szucs turned up several possibilities. Sure enough, I found him on 12 July arriving on the Cassel, again giving Horka as his last residence.

As with his October arrival, he was traveling with two other men from Horka, and I immediately recognized the name below his as his future brother-in-law. Another man with him gave his last residence as Pelsocz, which is very near Horka. All four of the men have similarities in their entries. They all gave their final destination as Dillonvale, Ohio–a small mining town. In addition, in the column that asks “Whether going to join a relative, and if so, what relative, their name and address,” they all list different names, but all have an address in Connorsville. Janos Szucs’s marriage record to Teresia Szkokan in 1903 gives their residence as Connorsville.

I was having a hard time making out the “family member” name on Janos Szucs’s entry. The name looked like “Ambruss” and there was somewhat illegible writing after that entry. The Baltimore passenger arrival lists have a unique search feature that is not available on the New York lists–the ability to search by last residence. After searching for all of the people in the Baltimore arrivals that listed “Horka” as last residence, I believe I have found my answer. The first name listed is Lajos Ambruss, arriving in 1900. When I look at the manifest, his entry too gives his final destination as Dillonvale.

Why the Mass Migration?
When Janos returned in October through New York, he had also arrived with several other men from Horka, all destined for “Connellsville” which was perhaps a distortion of Connorsville.

Whether the names listed for each individual are really relatives isn’t apparent, but it appears to be a migration of men to work in the mines in that area. Coincidentally, on Monday as I was working on another project, I ran across a timeline that included a strike of the United Mine Workers in 1902. The mine operators may have been importing workers to take the place of the striking union workers. At any rate, I’ll be investigating the other gentlemen to see if there are any familial ties between them. Seems like this new find will be keeping me busy for a while!

~ Try searches for ethnic versions of given names, especially in immigration records.
~ Check out various ports of entry. Many immigrants made several trips before finally settling in the U.S., and you may find that, like Janos, your ancestor came in through different ports on different trips.
~ Browse or search lists by village name in databases that allow for it.
~ Familiarize yourself with geography, both back in the “old country” and in the U.S. You’ll find that sometimes inconsistencies like the ones I found aren’t really inconsistent at all.
~ Read about the time period. Most people didn’t pick up and leave their homes on a whim. Many times the reasons can be found by understanding history.

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Juliana Smith has been an editor of Ancestry newsletters for more than nine years and is author of “The Ancestry Family Historian’s Address Book.” She has written for “Ancestry” Magazine and wrote the Computers and Technology chapter in “The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy,” rev. 3rd edition. Juliana can be reached by e-mail at, but she regrets that her schedule does not allow her to assist with personal research.

8 thoughts on “Using Ancestry: Surprises in Great-grandpa’s Naturalization, by Juliana Smith

  1. Thank you so much for your article. I too have been having a difficult time finding anything about my grandparents from Hungary. My grandmother’s arrival on the Carpathia was the only definite information I could find. I still have no idea who the male with the same name was. He was too old to be a brother, much too young to have been married to her mother who came later with her sister (and family) and sister-in-law (and family). I’s so encouraging to I’m not the only one with so little information about such close relatives. My father would not let my grandparents talk to me about their history( I was 20 when my grandmother died, and when I asked his sister who was in her 80’s about it she said ” Oh, they weren’t from Hungary.”
    The history of the migration was interesting also. My great-uncle and my grandfather came to work in the foundries in Pittsburg and then moved to Elyria, Ohio.
    Thank you again for your article, it gave me new avenues to try and certainly made me determined not to give up.
    Linda Easterday

  2. Just a thought ….
    When Janos came back in through NYC with “others destined for ‘Connellsville,'” did the manifest say Ohio, along with Connellsville? There is Connellsville, PA in Fayette county, SW corner of state, only 3 counties away from Jefferson County, OH. Connellsville, PA was also a big coal mining area.
    Congratulations on your wonderful find!
    I find your articles most useful and enjoyable.

  3. Thanks for the article! Was just going to point out – do you know you don’t have to go to Utah to access their microfilm? I lived in Indiana and just went to a local Family History center ( has the localities) – for a small fee you can have it shipped to the center closest you. Very convenient 🙂 Don’t know how much a pro genealogist costs, but this may be another option for you.

    I look forward to your next issue.

  4. Thank you so much for this article. I am searching in Ohio for my Jopko-Yapko-Yepko-Yopko families. Now I know where to look for the naturalizations.
    Helen Gagyo Ruatti

  5. I really enjoyed the article concerning your ancestor and my part of Eastern Ohio. I grew up in Belmont County about 10 miles south of Dillonvale in a small town named Shadyside which was full of coal miners from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland etc. The ethnic festivals in Dillonvale were always fun to visit.

    Thanks for the tips and references.

    Rick Precek

  6. Have you decided which ethnic group your ancestor belongs? Were they Slovak/Hungarian or other?
    Great article highlighting the issues of history and changing geographies in Europe.

  7. Let me get this straight– Your mother wrote the book _They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records & Ethnic Origins_ and she couldn’t find your great-grandfather’s naturalization *because she never bothered to check local court records*?

  8. I am looking for my great great grandfathers naturalization papers and started to look on your site. But first I thought I would try it with one that I actually have. I put in my grandfathers name, birthdate, and date of naturalization and state, taken directly off the papers. He was not listed on this website. Neither were his brothers or sisters. Can someone tell me why? I have all of the information and put in in correctly. Twice.

    Whats the problem?

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