By Helene Kenvin
Great-great-granddaughter of Jacob Weiss

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Celia Weiss Balajti

My Hungarian great-grandmother Celia Schwartz was born around 1838 and died in New York on December 12, 1898. Her death certificate (usually not reliable for much more than the fact that the subject has died) states that she was 55 years old; but her gravestone in Mt. Nebo Cemetery in Glendale [Queens], New York gives her age at her death as five years older.

According to her death certificate, Celia’s father’s name was Jacob Weiss. That his first name was Jacob is confirmed by her gravestone, on which is chiseled her Hebrew name: Tsipah bat Ya’akov (Tsipah daughter of Jacob). The six extant Miskolc records of the births of Celia’s children and the death record of her second husband confirm that her birth-surname was Weiss [or Weisz, as it was spelled in Hungarian], as does her gravestone which says "Celia Schwartz [the surname of her second husband] nee Weiss."


Gravestone of Celia Weiss Balajti Schwartz

Celia’s death record lists her mother’s name as Pauline Weiss, but that probably was her mother’s surname after her marriage. Moreover, it is likely that her mother’s given name was not the Americanized Pauline, but was Pepi, a common name in 19th century Hungary. There are two reasons for this surmise. First, Celia named one of her daughters Pepi (see below) and this probably was in memory of her mother. Second, there is a record in the Miskolc death register for 1874 of the death on November 10th of Jacob Weiss, husband of Pepi. Because the name Jacob Weiss occurs with such frequency in Miskolc vital records, it is impossible to say with certainty that this is my great-great-grandfather; however, the fact that there is evidence of a Jacob Weiss in Miskolc who had a wife named Pepi is a happy conjunction.

By 1865, the date of the birth of her first recorded child, Celia was married to a man named Balajti. In the Miskolc birth records of their children and the New York marriage certificate of one of their sons, the given name of Celia’s husband is said to have been Israel. The death certificates of this same son and his sister say that their father’s name was Joseph. Moreover, no descendant of Israel Balajti has the given name Israel; but a grandson was named Joseph, perhaps in his grandfather’s memory. Mr. Balajti, Celia’s first husband, may have had a Hebrew double-name (Israel Josef or Josef Israel) or he may have used the less ethnic Josef as his everyday name in Miskolc.

Miskolc vital records attest that the Balajtis had at least five children, all of whom were born in Miskolc: