Monday, December 14, 2009

The Complexity Of My Heritage

I thought it would be interesting to pick apart my ancestry and analyze all the individual ethnicities of my heritage. The more and more I research my family tree, the more and more I realize that my heritage is far more complex than it appears.

Let's start with my father's family. In the beginning, when I first started my research, all I knew was that he was strictly Hungarian and Polish. And now it appears that he's a mixture of six different ethnicities: Hungarian, Hungarian-Transdanubian, Hungarian-Transylvanian, Kashubian, Polish and Swedish.

The bedrock of our Hungarian ancestry is obvious. Alex Gombás married Eszter Tóth in Hungary and they came to America with their children. But looking more deeper into their ancestry opens up new things. Let's start with the Gombás branch. The Gombás family is obviously Hungarian.. Gombás being a Hungarian word meaning 'mushroom'. Alex's paternal grandmother, Erzsébet Sajti, was more than just Hungarian. Her mother's family, the Ráduly Kovács's, were a family originally from Transylvania. Radu and Radul are a predominately Romanian (past-day Transylvania) male first name meaning 'the happy one'. Erzsébet's maternal grandmother was a Mária Sveda. I only learned this today by translating, but Sveda is a Hungarian surname meaning 'Swede' or 'Swedish'. So it seems that Erzsébet's maternal grandparents were a Hungarian of Transylvania extraction that married a Hungarian of Swedish extraction.

Eszter Tóth's family is a little more.. common.. I guess you can say, for Hungarians coming from North-East Hungary. Eszter's family is predominately Hungarian, although she does have a few Slovakian lines. The Tóth name for example, which is one of the most commonly used surnames in Hungary, means 'slovak' in Hungarian. Eszter descends from 2, possibly 3, entirely un-connected Tóth families. Eszter's paternal great-great-grandmother's family certainly is a very curious case. Her name was Erzsébet Handa. I know very little on the Handa family, other than that there was possibly two Handa families in all of Hungary.. maybe three. My Handa's resided in Szabolcs megye, in North-East Hungary. There were a few other Handa's in North-East Hungary that I have yet to research, but I am positive they are related. There is also a Handa family that lived in the area of Tamási and Kecsegepuszta in Györ megye, in Western Hungary. They were Roman Catholic and mine were Reformed, but they still may be related somewhere down the line. Other researchers have told me that the surname hails from India in Asia. A google search of the surname brings up thousands of results not only for India, but Japan, China and other Asian countries as well. One thing is for sure, it's definitely not a Hungarian or Slovakian surname.

As for my father's Polish family, they came from three different areas in Poland. Two of my branches came from towns in Southern Poland near the borders of Slovakia, but there is no doubt they were Polish. Another branch came from the Poznan area of Poland, which of course is Polish. Then my last branch comes from the Puck (then called Putzig) area of Poland. This town was right on the coast of the Baltic sea, in Northern Poland. My family from this area belonged to an ethnic group within Poland called the Kashubians. They are descended from the Slavic Pomeranian tribes and date as far back as 1238.

My mother's family is quite the mixture as well. My grandfather was from Mississippi and had old colonial roots in America. He's a mixture of English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh.. and possibly Italian, Native American and/or Spanish. My grandmother is three quarters German. Her paternal grandmother, Anna Weishaupt, was Bohemian.

My grandpa Thomas Rodgers descends quite a mixture of old colonial families. The Rodgers had come to America in 1718 from Ireland, and before that they had went from Scotland to Ireland in the 1500's due to religious persecutions. We theorize they were originally Scottish. If not, they were then definitely Irish.. and descendants and relatives of the MacRory family of Ireland. Most of his ancestor's surname were predominately English, like Bennett, Blaylock, Hopkins Scott, and Wilson. But there's also Vance which is probably Irish and then the Howell family, which came from Wales. My grandpa's mother's family were the Martin's and Costilow's. Samuel Martin came from Ireland in the mid-1700's and was a big Revolutionary War captain. The Costilow's are a curious case. We originally thought they came from VA and before that Ireland, but I proved that wrong. From what I've concluded, they could be of Spanish or Italian ancestry. Finding any information on the early Costilow's of Mississippi is proving extremely difficult. The area they lived in at the end of the 1700's was then the Spanish territory of Mississippi. There is of course, the obvious Irish spelling of Costello.. but taking into consideration the area and time they lived in Mississippi we have to consider the Spanish spelling of Castillo. There's also an Italian variation much similiar. Somewhere in the Costilow heritage is believed to be Native American blood as well. It could come through Martha A. Miller, the wife of James A. J. Costilow, whom we know nothing about.. other than her birth and death date.

My grandmother, Elaine Stuempges, has 4 different lines to look at.. three of them being German. Her ancestry is very simple, the majority of it simply being German but coming from different areas in Germany. The Stuempges, or Stümpges as it was spelt in Germany, were from Western Germany in an area called Rhineland very close to the border with France and The Netherlands. Anna Weishaupt, her paternal grandmother, was born in Bohemia, which is the present day Czech Republic. Grandma Elaine's maternal ancestors came from two areas. The Martin's came from Western Prussian and the Brandenburg area of Germany. And then the Summ's came from Baden, deep in the Black Forest.. which was only about an hour from the French border.

So all in all, these are the different ethnicities that comprise my ancestry:

Hungarian - Transdanubian

Costilow (Italian, Native American, Spanish)


  1. Great analysis. I had not thought to do that, your research sounds like it is well organized. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great combination of genes you have, Nick. I'm Hungarian, Croatian and Irish for the most part, but also have clues that indicate I may have Slovakian, German and Welsh ancestry mixed in there somewhere.

    I look forward to reading more about your Eastern European research and, since you have a little Irish in you, I hope you'll consider joining us for the upcoming Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture.

    100 Years in America
    Small-leaved Shamrock
    A light that shines again
    Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture

  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.