In search of Elek…
Internet research to find a family member who vanished 140 years ago
In the family records and personal recollections there was no information about Béla Hegedüs’s (1858-1945) brothers and sisters. All we knew about Béla was that he had been born in Körmend, his parents had been killed at a carriage accident and then (at the age of 9) he had been taken to his mother’s (Karolina Margaretha Schricker) family in Sopron.
When I first visited the microfilm collection of the Hungarian National Archives in 2010, the first roll I ordered was that of the Reformed Church records from Körmend. I soon found Béla Hegedüs’s birth record and as I continued to browse the film, other Hegedüs boys turned up one after the other. (Only boys, as the girls followed their mother’s Evangelical faith.) János Hegedüs and Karolina Margaretha Schricker’s first son, Gyula Károly, was born on October 20, 1851, but the first-born son died when he was only seven weeks old. The next boy, Gusztáv János was born on February 1, 1853, but he died three months later. On March 6, 1854 another boy was born, who was baptized as Géza János. This boy died on November 2, 1860, at the age of six. Elek Konrád was born in 1855, and the youngest boy, Ödön Béla in 1858.
The Hegedüs-Schricker couple had five sons, three of whom died in infancy. The youngest boy – my great-grandfather – had a long life, but I didn’t know anything about his elder brother Elek Konrád. And then I came across his maternal grandmother’s funeral notice in the online collection of the National Széchényi Library on the website familysearch.org. Susanna Schricker (née Susanna Josepha Krueg or Krug) lived in Sopron, she was Friedrich Schricker’s widow.
The funeral notice, dated 1875, listed the deceased woman’s grandchildren, including Alexius, Carolina and Béla Hegedüs. I learned that the five boys had at least one sister. As I have not had the opportunity to research the Evangelical church books of Körmend yet, I do not know exactly the year of her birth, but it was 1856, or more probably 1857. Among the family documents there is a letter dated Christmas 1895 with the signature: “Carolina Weiss geb. Hegedüs”. (Geb. = Geboren or ‘born’ in German)
Before finding Susanna Schricker’s funeral notice I did not know who this person was, but now I was certain that she was Béla Hegedüs’s sister. While browsing familysearch.org, I found a funeral notice reporting the death of Karolina’s husband Johann Weiss:
The husband died in Vasas, Baranya county (a former miner town, now part of Pécs), where he worked as a schoolteacher. The document also told that they had two children, Paula and Richard. After her husband’s death the widow probably moved to Sopron with her two children as the letter mentioned above was written in Sopron, and Paula is also mentioned in it.
But let us return to Elek Konrád. All I knew about him at that point was that he had been alive in 1875. I found a person with the same name in an internet database from Alsólendva, but it did not seem probable that he was the same Elek. And then came the help where it had come from so often: the mailing list of the Hungarian family researchers. One of the list members published the link of the searchable database of the cemeteries in Vienna. Guided by some instinct, I typed the name ‘Hegedüs’ in the search box and found an Alexius Hegedüs straightaway. He died on April 13, 1944, at the age of 89, so he had been born in 1855. What is the probability of two Elek Hegedüses being born in the same year? (The name ‘Elek’ is quite rare in Hungary.) Moreover, Vienna and Sopron are fairly close to each other. It did not sound improbable at all that this Elek could be our Béla Hegedüs’s elder brother, but I did not have solid evidence. In the Vienna cemetery Elisabeth Hegedüs (1859-1936), possibly his wife, rests in the same grave together with Hilda (1886-1966) and Hans (1897-1934).
Another online database helped me to prove that this Elek Hegedüs who died in Vienna in 1944 belonged to our family. The library of Vienna published the address books of Vienna, listing all residents in alphabetical order. (It was another mailing list member who drew my attention to this database.) After a brief search I found Alexius Hegedüs, who is mentioned as Alexius Konrad Hegedüs in some of the volumes. He lived at 20 Rasumoffskygasse in 1884, and at 8 Schleifgasse in the 21st district in 1941. Between 1931 and 1933 he is mentioned as a shopkeeper (Geschäftsleiter) at the same address, and he was a pensioner (Rentner) in 1938.
1884 1914 1938
Now it has been proved that Béla Hegedüs’s elder brother moved from Sopron to Vienna where he had a flat and a shop of his own in 1884. He probably established a family there, and died in 1944 at the age of 89, a year before his brother Béla’s death. There’s just one question now: Why didn’t he keep in touch with his family in Sopron???