Saturday, September 20, 2008

merrily karliks

Would you be our friend still if our last name were Karlik instead of Karoly? Or would you take our blog off your list of "friends" blogs?

Well don't worry, you don't have to change your friends listings, our last name is still Karoly. But if it weren't for the guy you see above, we'd be Karliks today if we existed at all.

I really believe that God cares about us knowing where we came from, and not just so we can have a family pedigree chart on a piece of paper (or computer screen). There is something special about knowing where you came from and those who got you where you are today.

My great-grandfather Bennett Karoly (the guy looking tough in the picture above) did not like talking about his past. And because of that we didn't know much about it. He was an iron worker in California who told his wife that he was an only child that left home when he was 21 because his parents wanted him to join the ministry and he didn't want to. Any questions about his past he would shrug off or not answer in detail. It was always felt in the family that he was hiding something.

As a family we have been searching for decades to learn more about my great-grandfather. And up until the beginning of last year we still didn't know much more about him than we did when he died.

It started with an FBI report, well at the time the FBI was called the BOI (Bureau of Investigations) so it was a BOI report. We found it on a year and a half ago. Bennett was picked up near Tijuana on 10 Sep 1918 suspected of trying to skip the country to dodge the WWI draft. He told the investigator that he had come down from Watertown, NY to Los Angeles for work and just wanted to check out Mexico since he was so close. The investigator basically just gave him a warning and told him to make sure he registered for the draft on 12 Sep (in two days). The investigator closed his report by saying he thought Bennett was going to "go straight."

On 12 Sep 1918 Bennett registered for the draft. He said he had just turned 21 on 10 Sep 1918 (he told the BOI investigator that he was 34, probably to divert suspicions that he was dodging the draft) and that his mother's name was Mary Karoly. Later though, when he got married in 1922, he said his mother's name was Hermina and gave a maiden name of Haupman. He also said his father's name was Charles Karoly. The maiden name of his mother he gave on his marriage certificate eventually became the key to knowing his past and our family.

We tried to find Bennett's parents in the census and couldn't find a Karoly family that matched. But... we did find a Charles and Hermine Karlik in Syracuse NY. In 1910 they had a son named Bela the same age as Bennett would have been as well as five other children. In June 1918 Bela Karlik registered for the WWI draft while he was working in Watertown, NY for a company that manufactured train parts (iron work). Except for a few newspaper articles that say Bela is supposed to report to military duty we can find no other records for Bela Karlik. When Bela's mother Hermine died in 1926 he was not mentioned in her obituary as one of her children she was leaving behind.

At this point we were getting very hopeful that Bennett Karoly and Bela Karlik were the same person. Last week, in an effort to know what Hermine Karlik's maiden name was, we sent in a request to NY for Hermine Karlik's death certificate hoping it would have her maiden name. On Thursday September 18th we recieved a letter post marked 12 Sep 2008 (90 years to the day that Bennett registered for the draft in Los Angeles). It was Hermine Karlik's death certificate. Her maiden name, Hauptman. The same maiden name as Bennett's mother.

We couldn't believe it, yet everything we had found prior to the death certificate had us almost 100% convinced that Bennett Karoly and Bela Karlik were the same person. Then yesterday my dad and I found a name and phone number of what could have been one of Bela Karlik's nephews. My dad called the number without me knowing and when I suggested that he call him he told me he was on the phone with him and that it was Bela Karlik's nephew.

My dad found out that the Karlik family had always wondered what happened to Bela. His mother was heartbroken. He had also destroyed all pictures of himself the family had before he took off. We sent Bela's nephew the picture above. He said as soon as he and his wife opened the email they knew he was a Karlik; he looked just like his siblings.

Despite the length of this post, I left a lot of info out to try and save you from boredom as much as possible. But during this past year and a half we have had documents basically just fall into our lap that have led us to know who our great-grandfather, Bennett Karoly, was. And now, while my grandfather is in the last years of his life, he gets to know who his father and grandfather were before he passes away.

I really do think God wants us to know our heritage.


merrilykaroly said...

So cool! You've solved a mystery and found out so many things about our heritage! You have been so dedicated with all this, including getting up at 7:00 on a Saturday morning to do family history work :)

Beth said...

This really inspires me Josh! I've been trying to get back into doing my Family History and this just gave me that extra push. Thanks for sharing. And I'm really happy for you and your family!

Dianna said...

What a fantastic story! Thanks so much for sharing that. It really inspires me to want to drum up some Italian mysteries/dramas with my family history!

Katie B said...

He looks like that actor who plays Harry in Spiderman. Oh, James Franco, Sean just told me his name. I remember hearing the beginnings of this story, the draft dodging and such. How neat how much more you found! Especially since it lead you to some extended family.

Adele, what a good memory! Physics is what really brought us together, where we actually got to talking and decided to be lab partners. But our first meeting was in the cafeteria. He sat by me because he was with a friend who knew me. Sean and I mostly talked to that friend and not as much to each other. But it lead to the physics encounter a few days later. I guess I always talk about Physics class when telling our background story because that's what really got the ball rolling. I guess I should get the story straight so my great grandchildren won't have to dig around old documents to find out about me!

Jodi said...

What a cool story! We've got a great(x??)grandfather who was a stow-away on a boat from Italy. We think he was trying to escape from the mob but he changed his name when he got to America so we don't know much beyond that. Maybe someday we'll have a similar experience.

Lori said...

Sam told me about that, how random and cool! If it makes you feel better about having a pseudo last name; our last name should actually be Dilly. Sam's grandpa was a dilly, but his mom remarried and he liked the new guy better and took the last name burkman. So really, we should be Sam and Lori Dilly. Sometimes fate smiles upon the less fortunately named. I think your family and ours received a welcomed upgrade.

Julia said...

Josh that is so great! I remember helping you look in the census to find this guy! So glad you finally found him!

Linda said...

Certainly NO boredom here, Josh.
What a wonderful, fascinating story, and I too feel your family has been led to the truth about your ancestry. How exciting!!

NoSurfGirl said...

That is so interesting. I'm riveted. Let us know what you find out about your family. Seriously, someone should create a TV series about geneology... I'd be glued to it every week.

NoSurfGirl said...

btw, I like the name Karoly. Is Karlik a polish name?

Josh said...

From what I've found the name has Slavic and Czech roots so I don't think it would be uncommon in Poland. The family came from Hungary/Austria and spoke Magyar. We just found out that the dad, Charles Karlik, was Karoly Karlik in Hungary. We found early on that Karoly is the Hungarian form of Charles.

Interesting thing too is that Karlik is the Slavic/Czech name for Charles too.

The Roopes said...

What a neat story.