How we found living relatives

A family we did not know existed … (sequel story)
What can be found in family research?

During genealogy research we encounter barriers that do not allow us to continue in the direction of research, however, there are cases where we discover new findings that we did not expect to find at all. Each of us is waiting for these moments of new findings and surprises. I will tell you here how I found living relatives that we did not know about each other and were discovered during extensive genealogy research.

Archive of the Hungarian National Railway Company

Few years ago I saw a post in one of the genealogy search groups on one of the social networks. The announcement concerned the Hungarian National Railway Company. Hungary’s National Railway Company has opened its document archive to the general public. The archive included, among other things, and in particular what interests the genealogist, original records of the company’s employees – employee files. No further details were given about the material itself, but it seems very interesting to check what is in the archive regarding the people themselves, especially if those people are relatives of the subject of their family research.

My mother’s grandfather, VARGA Vilmos, was a locomotive driver until his death in 1915. In those days a locomotive driver was a very respectable profession and allowed its owners decent salaries. A few pictures of Vilmos and his wife, dressed in fancy and neat clothes, will testify their wealth.

VARGA Vilmos Budapest 1902

According to various documents, the lady even received a pension after her husband, VARGA Vilmos passed away. This is also something that was not common at that time. I asked a relative living in Budapest to check and go to the archives of the Hungarian National Railway Company and see what can be obtained there. I sent him with the name of the locomotive driver, my mother’s grandfather, and other details that were known. The relative checked and updated me after two days that he can indeed reach the archive that has just opened and that the archive is a few blocks from his place of work and will let me know later…

What did we find in the archives of the Hungarian National Railway Company?

At the end of the first part of the story of finding living relatives I described a search to be done by my Hungarian relative who would access the archives of the Hungarian National Railway Company in a short time.

At this point I had no particular expectation of interesting or surprising discoveries, just an expectation of getting some relevant information that would advance the family genealogy research. Another two or three days passed and I received an e-mail from my Hungarian relative who had actually visited the archives of the railway company.

VARGA Vilmos Emp ID

My relative updated that during his visit to the archives of the Hungarian National Railway Company, the archivists managed to find for us not only the personal file of the locomotive driver Vilmos, but also the personal file of his brother, who also works for the railway company. It turns out that Vilmos had a brother, Jozsef, who was also at one time an employees of the railway company. So in one search we got two files…

What did we find in the files? What new and surprising details? In the next chapter…

How can I get help from other family members in family research?

My relative who lives in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, is actually quite distant relative. But, the physical and family distance does not prevent him from helping me a lot in everything related to my genealogy research. Sometimes the study concerns the family branches of the relative, but due to the family distance, help is usually given for family members who are not close relatives at all.

Close quite far

My relative in question is a researcher by profession, and for him my requests for help are answered relatively easily. This was the case when I asked for help regarding the genealogy research of our extended family, or of my family farther which is not related to him. he had also helped me while I was asking for his help in various volunteer assignments in which I took part for various genealogical bodies.

The family connection

The connection between us begins about 6 generations back from us. Why is the number of generations not absolute? Because for me it is about 6 generations and for him only 5 generations. The age differences between our branches have created a difference in years large enough to as a generation gap between us even though our age difference is not particularly large, only about 10 years.


Our common family tree begins in the city of Kalocsa. There Mr. FRIEDMANN Emmanuel married Mrs. FLESCH Hanni.
The marriage was registered in 1863. Mrs. Hanni, gave birth to several children and died at the age of only 46 in 1883.
One of the girls born was given the name Julia.
Mr. Emmanuel was not left alone for long and remarried another young lady named SZEKULESZ Julia.
The new couple had more children.

And from here, descendants of the first woman, Hanni, reached to my mother, when my mother’s grandmother was named Julia.
And from the descendants of the second woman, also Julia, reached to my relative living in Budapest.
This is also how the generation gap between us is explained, despite the relatively small age difference between us.

And what about the employee files of the Hungarian National Railway Company?

In the next chapter…

How did the Hungarian Navy enter the genealogy research picture?

We returned to Budapest in the current century, we returned to a relative who had made a short trip from the place
of his work and came to the archives of the Hungarian National Railway Company. The search in the archive resulted
Unexpected results: not just one employee portfolio, but two!
More than double what I expected…

The two employee files contained a number of sheets of paper describing various details of the employee.
Among other things: date of commencement of work, date of termination of employment in the company, days of vacation and sick days. But in terms of genealogy research, other personal details were much more important. This could already be found on the first page. The first page of the employee’s file stated: the date and place of the employee’s birth and even a brief description of the employee in his handwriting, a kind of handwritten resume.

VARGA Jozsef MEZEI Laura Budapest

The brief description of the resume is of great significance as it may contain details that are difficult to obtain from another source.
For example, Brother Vilmos, before joining the railway company, held a position in the Hungarian Navy…

Navy? Hungarian? Where does Hungary have a sea?

Apart from Lake Balaton which the Hungarians are very proud of, they also have the Danube. But a way out to sea?
The answer to the perplexity lies in the political situation and the borders of Hungary at the time. Within the borders we know Hungary today there is indeed no way out to sea. But in the past Hungary controlled other areas and was in its territory an outlet to the Mediterranean.

Hungary in particular and other countries in Europe in general, changed their borders due to the political changes that took place in the 20th century:
World War I (called the Great War until the Second Great War), World War II and the periods between.
In addition to a significant number of splits of countries that led to the birth of new and other countries: the dissolution of the Soviet Union And the creation of new states in the Balkans.

Hungary before the First World War was spread over large areas that today we know as different countries. At that time Hungary did indeed have an outlet on the coast that is today under the political control of Croatia and Serbia. The Trianon Agreements, established after the First World War, leaving Hungary as we know it today, Hungary has lost about two-thirds of its territory, population and natural resources.

Let’s go back to the employee files…

Other pages of the employee’s file indicate positions he acquired and did during his work for the company and places where he served the company. Although the indication of the employee’s marital status is limited, in the registration part of the employee’s file, to the period of the person’s being an employee of the railway company, the data are still of great value. Thus Vilmos was found to have a wife and four children, one of the girls died at the age of 1 year and the oldest child written as adopted.

This is where the search takes a turn and ends with a great surprise !! In the next chapter…

Genealogy realities

In the previous chapter we scanned the employee files and found a new relative family.
I have taken the new names and started running various searches. The names of the new brother and wife are not so common so there was a good chance of finding data for them. That’s how I found their wedding plus a note that they converted that year. Next I did another search that contained the three new names: brother, wife and daughter.

VARGA Vilmos Emp File

Bingo !! Matched the three names together !!

This match means that there will be a connection between my tree and someone else’s tree. It is now necessary to find the tree manager, where the three names appear, contact that tree manager and understand how he/she is related to the names. There may be a surprise of living relatives here…
But the reality is not so simple… Absolutely not.

I sent an email to the tree manager. Took one day and the lady from America answered me. The answer was that the lady is not related to these names, which are in the tree she manages, but, she will refer to people she thinks are related… too much maybes… After few days I received an email from someone else asking me and also asking the tree manager (the one who answered me two days ago) to delete . Delete all mentions of any names associated with it !!

What now? Americans are known to be sensitive to their privacy and there are clear and well-known agreed rules on how and what to record even in family tree and genealogy research, but, delete all information? And another matter, my new relatives, do they know that they have Jewish roots? Are they aware that the couple in question has converted? How will they accept this fact?

A lot of questions. Answers in the next chapter…

Have we reached the end of the family study?
Last chapter of this story.

Last chapter of this story only, since the connection with the relatives continues even today.
I waited a few days and began to ask them gently what their connection was to the names I was looking for and found in their tree. The lady answered me and I kept asking if they were aware of their Jewish roots. Although their great-grandfather was already born a Christian, his mother was born a Jew. It turned out that they were aware of the fact and even more than that. One of the younger girls immigrated to Israel, studied for a degree at the Technion and lived on the kibbutz for several years. After this period she returned to Hungary and there her parents live to this day.

Correspondence continued and now the mother also entered into correspondence. The mother is fluent with English and she send very long mails with family stories, such and such experiences, and more and more. The mother tells about what she knows about the family tree, about her experiences from the meetings of the family and life with them and about life today in Hungary and away from her children and grandchildren. A real pleasure!

Freinds of VARGA Erzsebet

The additional details given by emails concerning the new found family branch added to my research lists and the family tree. One of the basics things that the lady said was that after the war her mother made sure to destroy every trace of any official document so that it would not be possible – to racism as it was – to repeat itself. Everyone and his ways…

Today we continue to greet each other on different holidays and the lady sends more long email with such and such details. Even if repeated sometimes, still full of content and interest. And that’s it!
So it’s not… Continued genealogy research in collaboration with the newly found branch will be published in a separate article…

Zvika Oren, Genealogy specialist –
Research and Build Family Trees

Over the years I have gained knowledge and experience in various areas of genealogy research: searching records, deciphering documents and tombstones, conducting personal interviews, discovering genealogies, contacting relatives and people with relevant knowledge, collecting findings and organizing them, transferring documents and photos to digital media (including making backup copies) , As well as the production of a family book (Hebrew or English) based on the material collected.

As part of the genealogy research and family tree building, I collect data and search for more data and information in digital information sources: Yad Vashem databases, search engines, locating tombstones, various archives, immigration records, documents regarding name changes and more. I have conversations and interviews with people for the purpose of genealogical research. At the end of the data collection I process information related to the relevant root research. And everything – to discover the genealogies and to collect the documents and photos, to document the preservation and construction of the family tree.

Feel free to contact me, Zvika Oren – Expert Genealogist +972-525696309

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