Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Translating Letters From Hungary

Did you know that it is a fairly common practice among the Mormon faith to send out their young men and women at the age of 18 and 19 respectively, to serve a full time mission?  Yep.  And did you know that those missionaries are sent all over the world?  In fact, in my own family we have a French speaker, a Tagalog (a Filipino dialect) speaker, a Japanese speaker and three Spanish speakers!!
So what does this have to do with “Translating Letters From Hungary” you ask??
About a year ago, my cousin contacted me to do some genealogy work for her father’s Hungarian line.  At that time, she knew only that her father’s parents were Joe and Lillie (Eldridge) Nimety of Lee County, Virginia.  She had been told that Joe had had a family before marring Lillie and that there were other children.  She hoped to connect with these children and introduce her father to his half siblings. 
We started in the censuses and were fortunate to find Joe and Lillie listed in 1930 living in Lee County, VA.  On that census, Joe is listed as having arrived in America in 1903 and was naturalized.  From there, we went to to the database entitled “US Naturalization Records – Original Documents, 1795-1972” to see if we could find his naturalization papers.  Sure enough, Joe had first filed a Declaration of Intention on 18 Dec 1920 and listed his first wife’s name!  What a find!  On this Declaration of Intention, we found other important information.  Joe listed his birthdate as 21 Sept 1886 and his birthplace as Kormend, Hungary.  He also stated that his wife, Mary Super, was born in Kormend, Hungary.
The next set of paperwork we located was the Petition for Naturalization dated 1 Nov 1927.  This time Joe listed his wife as Lillie Eldridge.  Uh oh…what happened to Mary!   Well, according to family tradition, Mary and Joe had divorced and Mary had gone back with the children to Hungary.  Using this paperwork and the marriage record I found for Joe and Lillie, the divorce seems to have occurred sometime between the year 1920 when the Declaration of Intention was filed and 1923 when Joe married Lillie Eldridge.  But how could I find the children born to that first union?  I searched the 1920 census high and low and found nothing.  I searched birth records in Lee County, I searched death records in Lee County, I searched everywhere I could think of!!   And just as I was about to give in, my cousin called.  She had in her possession 2 letters written to Joe in the years 1946 and 1947.  Perhaps these letters held some much needed information, but they were written in Hungarian and who could we find to translate them here in the small town of Piqua, Ohio?
Off to Facebook (a wonderful social networking site that has been a wiz at finding treasure troves of genealogy information and connecting with long, lost cousins)!   I posted, “Attention all my Mormon returned missionaries!!  Does anyone speak Hungarian?”  Sure enough, in just a couple of days I had a response!  A friend-of- a- friend served his mission in Hungary and would be happy to translate them for us…for free!  I emailed the scanned letters and in no time, we had our translations.  Following are the letters.  I will let you judge for yourself if it was a real “find” or not!
So remember, even though you many not live in a big city, you can always find a translator among your friendly, neighborhood Mormon returned missionaries!!

Letter 1
8 Mar 1946
My dear father,
I give thanks to God that I am well now.  From the bottom of my heart I wish good health and lots of luck to you and to my stepmother and siblings.
I am happy to tell you that we have endured this difficult war with the exception of poor Liysa. God rest her ashes.  She was killed in a bombing.
Please don’t be upset that I haven’t written much but the winds of fate have again separated us from each other and I didn’t know your address.
I found my little sisters.  Thank God they are also well.  They have both married.  Vilma has a small family; one boy, one girl.  Iren has a little girl.  My little girl is five years old.  You have four beautiful granddaughters here in Hungary who all send kisses to their grandfather, who they may not see in this life.
Dad, I don’t want to beg because I understand your situation as well.  I know that it is difficult to provide food for a family even in America.  But I am finally able to search for work if there were any.  I am a [something similar to a central heating and or plumbing] contractor’s assistant.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to get along here in Hungary.  I don’t say this to complain.  To this point in my life I have not starved, even now with no work.  I ask just one thing of you; that you find my birth certificate and send it to me.  I believe you can find it in Mount Morris, Michigan as that’s where I was born.  I hope that will enable me to travel to America for work.  I would not be a burden on you for a single minute.  I am able to find my own place and work.  Thank God I am healthy and I wish the same for you, dear father.
Again, I ask just this one thing.  Find my file and send it to me.  And, if you are in excellent material standing, help me to collect the money to come there, God willing, I’ll make it to America and give back what you’ve given me.  If you cannot do without, even a few dollars would help.  The dollar is very valuable here.
Dear father, I must end my letter.  Lots of kisses to my whole family.  To you, to mom, to my siblings.
Jozsef Joska, Monci, my wife and Ersik, my little girl

Letter 2
25 Jun 1947
(Iren speaking)
Dear Dad, I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and strength.  I write these few lines with tear-filled eyes.  I, rather we, live in a world without mother and without father.  These rows don’t allow me to express the joy and happiness I feel at exchanging words with my dear dad, if only in letters.
Of course, I would be happier if we could see each other and speak with one another.  But I am so happy to be able to write to you.   After all, not even this was possible until now.  Dad, I would have written much sooner but, unfortunately, I did not know your address. My elder brother, Jozsi, finally sent it to me in mid-June.
I am your youngest daughter, Iren.  I have been married since 1940 and now have two children.  We have a 3.5 year old daughter and a 3.5 month old son.  Our daughter is named Irenka and our son is Imre.  We thank God they are healthy.  We had one son die who would now be 2 years old.
Dad, how is your health?  Write more about your life.  Are you alone or do you have someone?  I hope things are better for you there than they are for us here.  Besides our health we don’t have much to be happy about.
My husband, Jani, is a machinist with a few jobs going.  It is very difficult to be happy in our current situation.  He is overcome with bills that need to be paid.  We hope the situation will someday be better.
(Janos, husband of Iren, now speaking)
Dear Dad,
First off, I need to ask your forgiveness for calling you Dad so confidently despite our not being familiar with one another.  Getting to know each other gives me endless joy, even if it is only through letters.  We could do it better in person but that seems nearly impossible.  I’m happy to have this much.  I write these few lines in silent faith and with eager hopes that my father-in-law is in America and when this is over we will live in milk and butter.  But it feels good to be able to write these few sincere lines.
I have undertaken the role of a spouse in your lovely daughter’s life.  I express my complete satisfaction with her as a good wife and mother.  Charitable children come from charitable families and so I ask you to accept my sincere appreciation and respect.
We are going to prepare a family portrait and will send it in the next letter so that you can see your grandchildren as well.  I would also ask, if it is within your power, please obtain and send my wife’s birth certificate.  This isn’t urgent and please don’t postpone your next letter for it.  In case you need the information, Iren was born 24 Mar, 1920 in Virginia.  For now we bid farewell and send out kisses with love.  We await your reply.
Iren and Jani
Irenka sends kisses to her grandfather


  1. Oh my goodness, what a wonderful "find" these letters are! This is genealogy gold for sure.

  2. How sad and how beautiful at the same time. One would only hope that the broken relationships were mended and many more letters were exchanged over time.


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