Monday, December 18, 2017

Learning about Susan (Bitto) Bertothy (1884-1984): My Sister-in-Law's Great Grandmother

My sister-in-law's great grandmother, Susan (Bitto) Bertothy, was baptized in what is now known as Mera, Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen, Hungary.[1] Mera is a village in northern Hungary, with a rich history in protest and resistance. During the course of Hungarian history, the area became a focal point of resistance to the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg dynasty, and even the Catholic church. Today, the region is known as the "Ruhr Valley of Hungary." During the Communist era it was heavily industrialized and that revolution was led by the mining of brown coal.[2]

Mera, Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen, Hungary; courtesy of Google Maps user
Gez @ batsy

Susan Bitto's parents were Istvan Bitto and Zuzsana Juhasz. They were married about 1878 and both were born in the same town as their daughter. I suspect Istvan was a coal miner but have no proof. By 1899 he and his wife had three children, who were all born in Mera. Two daughters named Maria were deceased.

The turn of the century was a prosperous time for northern Hungary. New factories and rail lines were built and opportunities for work expanded. But for whatever reason, the Bitto family decided to join Zuzsana's brother in Pennsylvania. Father, Istvan, his wife and the children -- Susan, Istvan, and Juliana -- traveled to Bremen, Germany, a trip of nearly 1,300 kilometers and boarded the North German Lloyd's ship SS H. H. Meier in Bremen, Germany, on 16 December 1899. They arrived at Ellis Island on 28 December. The original immigrant station had been completely destroyed by fire in 1897 and the new building did not open until late 1900 so I am unsure exactly how the Bitto family was processed. All were allowed to enter the country and Mr. Bitto arrived with $30.00.

They traveled, likely by train, to Swoyersville, Pennsylvania, which is a few miles from Wilkes-Barre and deep in the heart of the anthracite coal mining country. When the 1900 census was enumerated the family of Stephen, as he was now known, Bitto, lived on Owen Avenue. He worked as a day laborer and his son, also now called Stephen, worked as a breaker boy at a nearby coal mine. His wife had a son they named Andrew earlier that year, completing their family.

Daughter Susan, married Ladislaus "Louis" Stephen Bertothy, who was also from Hungary, on 4 July 1905 at the St. Francis Church in Naugatuck, Connecticut. Louis immigrated about the same time as Susan and was born and raised in Gonc, Hungary, about 20 kilometers north of Susan's home town. Perhaps they knew each other before coming to the United States? Otherwise, I have no idea how the met. But much of Louis' early life is still a mystery to me. By 1910, they had two living children and lived in Naugatuck, Connecticut, in a rented home. Her husband was a core maker at an iron foundry. Living with them was Louis' brother, Stephen, his wife and two children and three boarders.

A malleable iron factory in Naugatuck, Connecticut; courtesy of Dillon
Family History

In 1917 Louis Bertothy became a naturalized citizen of the United States. That same year Connecticut conducted a military census. Louis indicated he could not ride a horse, drive an automobile, understand telegraphy, had no experience with a steam engine or electricity, and could not handle a boat or navigate. A year later registered for the World War I draft. He and his family lived at 82 Spring Street in the Union City community of Naugatuck and he continued working as a core maker at Easter Malleable Iron Company. His appearance was described as tall and slender with blue eyes and dark hair.

Between 1911 and 1919, Susan had three more children:
  • Emma Doris Bertothy (1911-20090
  • Madeline T. Bertothy (1918-1998)
  • Ernest Julius Bertothy (1919-1997)
In 1920 the family continued to live at the Spring Street address and Louis worked at the foundry. That year the census enumerator asked about a person's birthplace and their mother tongue. Both Susan and Louis indicated native language was Magyar, which strongly indicated they were native Hungarians and not of another ethnic group which the Hapsburg dynasty occasionally populated Hungary.

In 1930 the Bertothy family had moved to 112 Spring Street, a duplex, which Louis and Susan owned, valued at $3,000. They rented the other unit for $13 a month. Louis continued to work at the foundry.

By 1940 the family moved to 138 Spring Street, which was a single-home valued at $2,000. Louis worked as a trimmer at the iron foundry. Only their youngest son, Ernest, lived at home and Susan's widowed mother lived with them as well.

Louis, or Ladislaus, and Susan Bertothy remained in Naugatuck until their deaths. Louis died in 1972 and Susan in 1984.  They were buried in St. James Cemetery.

[1] At the time of her birth, the village were Susan Bitto was baptized was known as Felsomera and the county was called Abauj-Torna.

[2] Brown coal is also known as lignite. You may read more about coal here.

No comments:

Post a Comment