Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mystery Marija

All we ever knew about my grandfather George was that he was born in Slovenia and had 2 brothers, Pete and Frank.  I set out on a search to find out more about him but it was very difficult because the brothers never spelled their names the same way twice.

I finally found a ship record for Pete arriving in America.  He listed a sister in Brooklyn as his next of kin.  There was never any mention of them having a sister.  I thought that I had the wrong Pete, but then I found a ship record for Frank dated a few years later.  He also listed a sister in Brooklyn at the same address.

The census records for that address showed a Joseph and Mary.  Eventually, I got their marriage license and Mary's death certificate.  By this time, I had received the church records from Slovenia, so I knew that my grandfather did have an older sister named Marija.  

The problem was, Mary's name on the marriage license was Shutte and that's not our last name.  Her parents were listed as John Shutte and Catherine Maurice.  Those aren't the names of her parents.  She also signed it with a completely different last name!   

Her death certificate also had her maiden name as Shutte, but the names of her parents were listed as John Shutte and Margaret Maurice.  Not even close to the real names of her parents.

I thought that I was on the wrong track and had the wrong Mary, but I entered Mary and Joseph into my tree anyway.  A few months later, I was contacted by another ancestry.com member who said that I had her great-uncle Joseph in my tree!  I couldn't wait to talk to her.

My new friend Elaine explained that her grandmother Margaret Šutej (pronounced Shutte) came to America with her sister Mary.  The girls came to America first, then were followed by their boyfriends who were also brothers.  Elaine's grandfather said that Margaret told him, "If you want to marry me, you'll have to do it in America."  Margaret was boss and he always did as she said!  Both couples married in Brooklyn.

I recognized the name Sutej as being Marija's mother's maiden name, but Mary didn't have a sister named Margaret.  I searched through the church records for Margaret's family.  There I found the connection...Margaret and Mary were cousins, not sisters!  Mary was using Margaret's last name so they could pose as sisters!


There are so many questions that will probably never be answered.  Why did the girls run off to America alone?  Why did they pose as sisters?  One theory is that the girls' parents didn't approve of their boyfriends.  Or maybe the parents of the boys didn't like the girls?  Some say that Mary and Margaret were just rebellious young women. 


The wedding of Marija (Mary) and Joseph.  The couple on the right
is Margaret and her husband Peter.  Photo generously provided by
an ancestry.com member.

Why did Mary list the wrong names of her parents?  I don't believe that she was in hiding from her family because her brothers knew where to find her and the Slovenian records do show her moving to Brooklyn.  Her family definitely knew where she was.

Margaret, her husband, and her children are all long gone now.  On my trip to Slovenia, I did find her nephew, but he didn't know anything about her.  She had already moved to America by the time he was born.

Mary passed away in the 1918 flu epidemic.  Her son (another interesting story) died in 1978.  After Mary's death, Joseph remarried and had 2 daughters.  I'm still searching for them in hopes that they will be able to shed some light on what those girls were up to!

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