I've done a quite of bit of research on my maternal Slovak and Ruthenian ancestors for several years. Currently, I've been delving into one of my hard-to find-2nd great-grandmother Julianna Milyo who was born 1866/7 in Bacsko, Zemplen, Austria-Hungary (Today's Backov, Slovakia). She emigrated to the U.S. sometime between 1885-1887 and ended up marrying my 2nd great grandfather, Joseph Racz, in 1887 in Lackawanna County, PA. Joseph was born 1866 in KisAzar, Zemplen, Austria-Hungary (Today's Male Ozorovce, Slovakia). He also emigrated to the U.S. around 1884-1886.
After many unsuccessful searches, over the years, I finally found and secured an 1887 Marriage License Docket from the Lackawanna County that identifies and who I tend to believe is my 2nd great grandmother, Julianna Milyo based on the information provided in the docket (i.e., age, birthplace, and place of residence) and since there hasn't been too many Julianna Milyos identified in the several places in Pennsylvania that she lived in or the timeframe.
The problem? The name of the groom is identified as, Joseph Obrien. But what is strikingly interesting is that with the exception of the Obrien surname, all other information listed in the docket matches my 2nd great grandfather's confirmed information I found from Slovakia records [age (b. 1866), birthplace (Austria-Hungary), and the first names of the parents (Michael and Anna or Annie).
Coincidental? Maybe. But I've been leading to argue whether this Joseph Obrien is really my 2nd great grandfather, Joseph Racz based on the fact that I find it hard to believe that an Irish/Scottish name like Obrien to have come from Austria Hungary, for which I've done research on that; locating several Joseph Obriens in the Lackawanna, PA area and all of them, being born in America (PA and NY), having different parental first names, and ages that were several years apart from 1866.
All of these findings have led me to come to a couple of possible conclusions or theories: maybe there was a case of mistaken information or identity when applying for marriage either by the clerk or some other individual; or, could it be possible that this Joseph Racz may have, for some unknown reason, changed his surname to appeal to a more friendly, approving name like Obrien to secure employment or survive some other livable factor in a harsh prejudiced society of the times?
Which leads me to ask any researchers out there, has anyone ever heard of such instances when one of some Ruthenian/Slovak/ or maybe Ukrainian surname would change his or her surname in order achieve some unknown purpose back then? I've heard and seen names maybe changing its spelling a bit, but something completely different, not so much. Strangely enough, almost all other records I currently have on my 2nd great grandparents have or were identified with the Racz surname (which was changed to RACE after 1900).
Such a curious case and one that has led me to really think "outside the box" when trying to determine the accuracy or legitimacy of my Slavic ancestors.
Just a thought.