Monday, April 18, 2016

In the Heart of the Balkans

As anyone with Eastern European ethnicity appreciates, genealogy research about my husband's ancestors has been difficult.

My husband's ethnicity estimate based on DNA; image courtesy of

Pete's mother gave me the names of her Adametz grandparents and great grandparents not long after we were married 28 years ago. I was able to add the parents of Pete's great grandfather, Leopold Fishtahler, when added death certificates a few years ago. I also learned the maiden name of Leopold's wife, which was Elizabeth Grotohville. We photographed their headstones in September during our last trip to Michigan. I knew Elizabeth died in 1922 but could not find her death certificate. Just last week I was able to discover the names of Elizabeth's parents and complete the list of Pete's maternal great great grandparents on his pedigree chart.

Pete's pedigree chart; image courtesy of

Sometime recently, added or updated their database of Michigan death certificates and I was able to find the certificate for Elizabeth (Grotohville) Fishtahler. She died on 2 January 1922 at home of cancer of the uterus and was buried three days later at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Detroit. She and her husband lived at 6115 Cadillac Avenue.

Elizabeth's husband immigrated to the United States in 1899. He boarded the S/S Willehad on 7 September in Bremen, Germany, and arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, on 20 September. His destination was the home of a daughter and son-in-law in Philadelphia. He left his wife, a son and four daughters in Banaiste, Serbia.

A daughter, who I believe to be theirs, immigrated about 1903 to Pittsburgh where an uncle lived. In August 1905 the rest of the family booked passage on the S/S Noordland, which left for the United States from Liverpool, England. However, they were not on the ship when it sailed. Son, Jacob, and my husband's maternal grandfather, left Europe a few months later on 14 December 1905 aboard the S/S Cassel. He and his mother and sisters lived in Novi Sad, Serbia, when he left home.

Elizabeth and her three youngest daughters did not leave Europe until 25 July 1907. They arrived in Baltimore aboard the S/S Breslau and made their way to Detroit where her husband and son lived. Leopold and Elizabeth were enumerated in two census before their deaths. According to the 1910 record, they married about 1876, had 6 children who were still living, and considered their nationality and that of their parents to be German even though they were not born in Germany. Leopold's death certificate simply listed Hungary as his place of birth. Elizabeth's death certificate listed Kobien, Jugo Slavia, as her place of birth. Trying to find Kobien on a map took hours but I believe it to be Kovin, Serbia, which is about 55 kilometers east of Belgrade on the north side of the Danube.

Kovin, Vojvodina, Serbia; image courtesy of Google Maps

It was an eventful time in Serbian history. The country had attained its independence in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin, which ended the Russo-Turkish War. In 1903 there was a coup d'etat and the King Alexander I and Queen Draga were assassinated. Peter I was declared king by the coup leaders and elected by the Serbian Parliament. His reign was known as the "Golden Age of Serbia," due to unprecedented political and press freedoms. Luckily for the Fishtahler family, they had all emigrated before the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 and World War I.

As mentioned previously, Leopold and Elizabeth had six children who lived to adulthood. I believe they are:
  • Daughter Fishtahler, married Franz Dreaker and immigrated to Philadelphia before 1899. (The only reference I have found to this daughter is her father's passenger record, which listed his son-in-law as his contact in the United States.)
  • Julia Fishtahler born about 1881; immigrated about 1903; married Milan Dragomirovich
  • Jacob Karl Fishtahler, born 29 October 1883; immigrated 1905; married Elise "Elsie" Adametz; died 29 November 1933
  • Rosa Marie Fishtahler, born 4 April 1890; immigrated 1907; married Rade D Majstorovich; divorced 1949; died 30 May 1981
  • Johanna "Joan" M Fishtahler, born about 1895; immigrated 1907; married Phillip Thomas Brode 1919
  • Theresia M Fishtahler, born about 1897; immigrated 1907; married Elmer Edward Marvin 1916
As you will note there are still several mysteries regarding this family group. One that is especially bothersome is where Elizabeth (Grotohville) lived when she immigrated in 1907. I have not yet been able to decipher the passenger ship record.

Passenger manifest for Elizabeth (Grotohville) Fishtahler which listed her
last residence before immigrating to the United States; image courtesy of

Passenger manifest for Jacob Fishtahler which lists last residence before
immigrating to the United States; image courtesy of

I believe mother and son listed the same last place of residence on their respective passenger ship manifests. Any thoughts on what it could be?

Knowing the spelling of the place names in this area of Europe is only half the battle. For example. At the time Elizabeth emigrated, her mother lived in Berzaszka, Hungary. That is now Berzasca, Romania, about 120 kilometers further east of Kovin along the Danube.

Distance between Kovin, Serbia, birthplace of Elizabeth (Grotohville)
Fishtahler and Berzasca, Romania, where her mother lived in 1907;
image courtesy of Google Maps


  1. I believe the city is Ujvidek, now called Novi Sad, a city of northern Serbia on the Danube River northwest of Belgrade.

    1. Thank you SO much! I never would have figured that out. I can see it now. It's quire a fancy U.