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Czech Mates

This is a story about a Bohemian rhapsody. Not the anthem made famous by Queen in the 1970s, but a recent discovery in my family history that is music to my ears! I have a strong paternal line composed of two families, The Kroc’s and The Pacovsky’s, both hailing from the ancient kingdom of Bohemia. For geography buffs, Bohemia once occupied the land in what is now the western part of Czech Republic.

The name on my birth certificate is Diane Krutz, but my surname originated as Kroc back in Bohemia. I later learned that Kroc was changed to Krotz and eventually to Krutz by my ancestors once they were settled in western Pennsylvania. Between the research done by family members as well as that discovered more recently online, I can trace the Kroc line back to 1772, at the birth of my 4th great-grandfather, Jan Kroc in Přívětice, Radnice, Bohemia.

On the Pacovsky branch of my family tree, I long believed that my 2nd great-grandparents were Frantisek and Barbara Pacovsky as they were enumerated in the 1880 census. Emigrating from Bohemia around the year 1866 with their young daughter, also named Barbara and possibly a son, Joseph in tow, the census shows them living in Plum Township along with three more daughters born after they arrived in Pennsylvania; Mary (my great-grandmother), Josephine and Anastasia or “Annie” as she was known. I have yet to find a ship’s passenger list announcing their arrival in America.

Talk about butchering a last name! Pacovsky was spelled Busepkey by an 1880 census taker.

For years, my 3rd cousin, Jayne (who I have come to know through her extensive research of the Pacovsky line) and I have tried to uncover the maiden name of our 2nd great-grandmother, Barbara as well as more information about Joseph who was named in the census, but has never shown up anywhere else. Jayne’s great-grandmother was Barbara Pacovsky Wildman, the eldest daughter of Frantisek and Barbara Pacovsky. We assumed that mother Barbara and son Joseph died before May 1897 as neither was mentioned in the Last Will and Testament of our 2nd great-grandfather Frantisek. Thanks to Jayne’s recent inquiry to the Diocese of Pittsburgh, we learned this week that Barbara Pacovsky was not our 2nd great-grandmother after all! She was Frantisek’s 2nd wife!

According to marriage records obtained from the Diocese, our 2nd great-grandmother’s name was Maria Sisték, also from Bohemia. She and Frantisek are listed as parents at the marriages of daughters, Josephine Pacovsky, married to Phillip Corcoran on November 26, 1890 at St. Joseph Parish in Verona, Pennsylvania; and Mary Pacovsky (my great-grandmother) married to Frantisek Kroc (my great-grandfather) on August 18, 1891 at St. Wenceslaus Roman Catholic Church, located on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Records obtained from Diocese of Pittsburgh. Note the Latin spelling of names.

St. Wenceslaus’ Death Register reveals that Maria Sisték Pacovsky died on April 24, 1873 and was buried the next day at St. Mary’s cemetery, now Christ Our Redeemer Cemetery in Pittsburgh.* Only three months later, the Marriage Register confirms that Frantisek married Barbara Rĕřabek, the Barbara in the 1880 census. Furthermore, the church’s baptismal records show that Barbara Rĕřabek is the mother of the youngest Pacovsky daughter, Anastasia, born on April 9, 1874. One can naturally surmise that Frantisek, a widower with three (possibly four) young children in 1873, would want to remarry as quickly as possible. I can only imagine my great-grandmother as a bereft 5-year-old alongside her other young siblings who had just lost their mother.

Interestingly, St. Wenceslaus was the only Bohemian parish in the Pittsburgh region. Founded in 1871 by a group of Bohemian immigrants, the church was replaced in 1900, but closed its doors in 1989. Knowing this makes me wonder if the Pacovsky family attended weekly Mass at this church or did they use the church only for weddings, baptisms and funerals. The family home was approximately 15 miles from St. Wenceslaus, quite a distance to travel to and from church every Sunday in those times. Pictured below are views of St. Wenceslaus today.

Discovering new information about your family history is like listening to your favorite song all these years then one day realizing that the lyrics you’d been singing this whole time were totally wrong, but nonetheless you’re happy and relieved to now know the right ones. And on that note, I have quite a few more lyrics to figure out.


*I’m not contesting the findings of the Diocese of Pittsburgh necessarily, but at this writing and upon further research, I have not yet connected a St. Mary’s cemetery from 1873 that was later renamed Christ Our Redeemer, as the latter appears to have been founded in 1888 as the Redemptorist Fathers and St. Philomena Parish Cemetery in Pittsburgh. As with most family mysteries, once one is solved, another one invites you to begin a new investigation.

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