DNA and Big Brother

When my husband was a little baby, his dad filled out the genealogy section in his baby book in his beautiful, distinct handwriting:

Even though most of the pages are blank, my husband has always cherished that book, and it has been extremely helpful in finding many other of his ancestors.

From additional research, we have learned that my husband’s grandfather, Frank Kovach, was born Kovács Ferenc in Szürte, Ung County, Hungary. That little town has had several border changes and is now part of Ukraine, but still only about eight miles from the Hungarian border. You can see a map showing the location of Szürte in a post I wrote a couple of years ago. Ferenc (Frank) was born 13 June 1883 to Kovács Péter and Péntek Mária – that’s their names in Hungarian name order. The baby book gives their names in English name order. My husband remembers his grandfather, Frank, vividly. He died 10 June 1968 in Ontario, San Bernardino, California.

Many years ago when I tried to figure out Frank’s place of birth, I found three other people whose parents had the same names as his parents. Could they be Frank’s siblings? Could the two boys be his big brothers? (You will need to be logged into FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com to see most of the links I’ve included in this post.)

  1. Julia Kovach (Kovács Juliánna) was born 12 Apr 1882 in Hungary (both of her parents were born in Ung County, Hungary!). She died 15 Jun 1940 in Cleveland, Ohio. Maybe Frank was also born in Ung County, I excitedly thought! Several years later I found a death record for one of Frank’s sons that gave the specific town in Ung county where Frank was born. Still years after that I found Frank’s petition for naturalization also confirming it.
  2. Steven Kovach (Kovács István) was born about 1874 in Hungary. He married Julia Csengeri on 22 Sept 1901 in New York.

    He MAY have died seventeen years later on 11 Dec 1918 in Union, Washington, Pennsylvania, but buried in Cleveland, Ohio.  The father on that death certificate was Pete Kovacs and the mother was Mary Pantik. The certificate says he is married, but there was no place to write the wife’s name on it. The informant was Steve Kovach, which just happens to be Julia Kovach’s husband’s name, so her husband might have actually been the informant. Julia and Steve lived in Cleveland, and the deceased, Steve, was buried in Cleveland even though he died in Pennsylvania.
  3. John Kovacs (Kovács János) was born 23 Jan 1870 in Hungary. He died 29 Oct 1943 in Cleveland. To fully appreciate the information for John, we need to look at his and his wife’s death certificates side by side.

Notice that the address for both John and Veronica is 9012 Cumberland, so that helps to establish that they were husband and wife even though the spellings of their last names are not exactly the same. This is important since there were MANY men named John Kovach in Cleveland. The couple’s shared tombstone confirms the dates given above. On Veronica’s death certificate, her father is listed as John Daniels and the informant is Dale Kovats. Further research establishes that Dale is John and Veronica’s son, and the 1940 census shows Dale and his wife, Rose at the bottom of the page, and their daughter and some of Rose’s relatives on the top of the next page. Dale is the key to this puzzle because Dale has a descendant who is a 3rd to 4th cousin DNA match to my husband! That means that John Kovacs is indeed Frank’s big brother, and I am in tears as I am finally able to positively make that statement.

Ancestry.com explains “Our analysis of your DNA predicts that this person you match with is probably your third cousin. The exact relationship however could vary. It could be a second cousin once removed, or perhaps a fourth cousin. While there may be some statistical variation in our prediction, it’s likely to be a third cousin type of relationship—which are separated by eight degrees or eight people. However, the relationship could range from six to ten degrees of separation.” (bold print added)

My husband, Steven, and this DNA match are separated by seven degrees.

Was big brother John also born in Szürte? It seems likely, but he may have also been born about 3 miles away in Kholmetz where a 4th-6th cousin DNA shared match traces her ancestry. If only I could get into the Szürte Reformed Church records and Kholmetz records to look for a Kovács János (John Kovacs) born on 23 Jan 1870 as well as the records for the others and certainly a few more siblings as well!

 

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