Our Romanian & Transylvanian Family Roots

The Corvin Castle (also known as Hunyad Castle) in Transylvania

Updates At The End

This is a follow-up to a previous post extending our family lineage deep into Romania. This post explores more about our ancestral homeland and what events drew our family to America early in the 20th century, specifically to Cleveland, Ohio. So let’s begin with where the last post left off – the locations in Romania our family lines come from.

There are three family names which we traced through Romanian marriage records to specific cities or towns in modern Romania:

  • Herczog: From Tirol (Romanian), also known as Kiralye-Kegye (Hungarian) and Koenigsgnad (German). The family used the Hungarian variant in their marriage certificate, possibly indicating Hungarian roots.
  • Naszt: From Lugoj (Romania), also known as Lugos (Hungarian) and Lugosch (German). The family used the Hungarian variant in their marriage certificate, possibly indicating Hungarian roots
  • Hollendschwandner: From Valiug (Romanian), also known as Ferencalva (Hungarian) and Franzdorf (German). The family used the German variant in their marriage certificate, possibly indicating Germanic roots.

Lugoj Tirol is located in the Romanian County of Timis, while the others are located in the Romanian County of Caras-Severin. All three lines converge in Rescita, Romania where all the marriages took place from which we traced back the family “origins”.

The following map lays out these four locations in modern day Romania (click to enlarge):


Rescita is the capitol of Caras-Severin:

In 1718 the county was part of the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria, part of the province of Banat. The county seat, Reșița, was founded in 1771 and became a modern industrial center under Austrian rule. The area received considerable attention due to its mining industry.

The Province of Banat has been around for centuries, under various rulers, and encompasses both the counties of Timis and Caras-Severin:

The Banat is a geographical and historical region in Central Europe that is currently divided among three countries: the eastern part lies in western Romania (the counties of Timiș, Caraș-Severin, Arad south of the Mureș, and the western part of Mehedinți); the western part in northeastern Serbia (mostly included in Vojvodina, except for a small part included in the Belgrade Region); and a small northern part lies within southeastern Hungary (Csongrád county).

The region of Banat is populated by ethnic Romanians, Serbs, Hungarians, Romani, Germans, Krashovani, Ukrainians, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Czechs, Croats, Jews and other ethnicities.

During the Middle Ages, the term “banate” was designating a frontier province led by a military governor who was called ban. Such provinces existed mainly in South Slavic, Hungarian and Romanian lands.

In the early modern period, there were two banates that partially or entirely included the territory of what is referred to in the current era as Banat: the Banate of Lugoj and Caransebeș in 16th and 17th century and the Banat of Temeswar or Banat of Temes in 18th and 19 th century.

The banate which encompassed our family’s ancestors was the “Banate of Lugoj and Caransebeș“:

The Banate of Lugos and Karánsebes was formed gradually between 1526–1536, after the battle of Mohács, when the Banate of Severin was divided. Its eastern side, from Orșova, came under the jurisdiction of the Wallachian ruler. In the western part, it was formed this new political and military border entity.

In 1658, the new prince of Transylvania, Ákos (Acațiu) Barcsay, ceded the region to the Ottoman Empire.


** Known locations for our family’s ancestors

If everyone is wondering why I have a picture of a castle in Transylvania at the top of this post, it is because our family roots extend back to that infamous region. As the above  reference notes (in bold), Caras-Severin and Timis counties were once part of Transylvania.  This region of Europe changed hands and rulers constantly.  The following is a snapshot of the “Principality of Transylvania” circa 1570:

As can be seen in the lower left, we find the cities of of “Lugos” and “Karansebes” (for which “The Banate of Lugos and Karánsebes” was named) . Karansebes is 26.5 miles east of Resicita, which would be due south of Lugos and due west of Karansebes on this map.

So in 1570 the counties from which our ancestor’s came were clearly part of Transylvania – the question is whether the families were in these locations during the time of The Princedom. At this time we do not know.

But the history of Transylvania is interesting and worth a quick review:

15th Century- János Hunyadi was born in Kolozsvár, the unofficial capital of Transylvania. Hunyadi, a Hungarian nobleman and soldier, went on to become Voivode of Transylvania and Governor of Hungary. Known throughout Europe as the “scourge of the Turks”, Hunyadi defeated a massive Turkish force at Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade). Pope Calixtus III called Hungary, “The shield of Christianity” and issued a papal Bull decreeing that the Church bells be rung daily at noon for a Christian victory. The noon ringing of the bells continues to this day in commemoration of his victory.

Emphasis mine: note that the castle shown at the top of this post is known as “Hunyad” Castle.

This was also the era of Vlad Tepes, or Vlad Dracul, the Wallachian Voivode who impaled 20,000 thousand Turkish prisoners of war. Far from being the nationalist hero Romanians make him out to be, Dracul betrayed a multi-ethnic Christian force led by Hunyadi during the 1448 battle of Kossovo, going over to the side of the Turks, and costing the Christians the battle. Bram Stoker’s Dracula would be based in part on the memory of Vlad Dracul, whose blood-thirsty exploits were shocking even to his contemporaries in the middle ages.

Hunyadi’s son, Mátyás Hunyadi, (also known as Matthias Corvinus), became one of Hungary’s greatest Kings. Responsible for spreading Renaissance ideas throughout his kingdom, Matthias issued a Code of laws, founded a university in Pozsony (Bratislava) and a library in Buda, the Corvina. He was known to the general population as “Matthias the Just”.

Emphasis mine: note that the castle shown at the top of this post is also known as “Corvin” Castle.

Just to be clear, I have not made any connections between our family and any of these historic people (Vlad Drac, Hunyadi or Corvinus) –  but it is interesting that our family did come from this region. Maybe as we discover our lineage in more depth there will be a connection.

Anyway, recall that two of the family origins used in the marriage certificates in Romania  implied Hungarian ancestry (Herczog and Naszt). Therefore these lines are most likely to be native to this region of Transylvania: Banat Province.

The Hollendschwander family line is Germanic given the citing of their origins at Franzdorf (i.e.,Valiug). Franzdorf is a known German enclave (reference, but you need to use Google Translator):

Văliug (dt. Franzdorf, ung. Ferenczfalva) is a municipality in Caraş-Severin County, Banat, Romania. It is located in the valley of the river Bârzava in 550 meters above sea level, in the Banat Mountains, at the foot of the Semenic Mountains.

Franzdorf was founded in 1753 by the establishment of 71 German families from the Salzkammergut in Austria, who had been called by the Territorial Administration management to be active in the carbon [editor: charcoal] production. The coal was for the steelworks needed in Resita. The settlers were consequently mostly Köhler [charcoal makers] by profession. They gave the place the name Franzdorf by [in honor of] Francis I, Emperor of Austria and 1792-1835 King of Bohemia, Croatia and Hungary. [In] 1795 arrived Romanians from Oltenia that [who] before the Turks had fled, and settled in the village. They built their houses on the mountainside above and below the German settlement.

The rapid development of industry in Resita necessitated the construction of a paved road for the wood or charcoal transport. So the road [between] Văliug-Resita in 1802 [was] built. [In] 1803, in the district Hommerschupfen, the first blast furnace [was] in operation. [In] 1855 [a] street [between] Văliug- was Wolfsberg [was] built, this [was extended in] 1899-1903 to Slatina about Brebu Nou (dt. Weidenthal) extended, which access by Caransebeş and Băile Herculane (dt. Herkulesbad) enabled. All this meant that new workers were employed. Between 1858 and 1859 a further 40 German families from Austria were settled.

The records of “Hollenschwandners” in Valiug/Franzdorf stretch back to a marriage record from 1834 (Mathias Holleschvandner to Rosalia Per). Mathias appears to be from Valiug/Franzdorf and born in 1811. There may be other family members with even earlier connections. This line looks like it goes back to Austria –  I will try and explore that more in later posts.

Hopefully this provides a more detailed and deeper description of where the family of my Grandfather (Anthony Herzcog Fleger) came from.

But why did our family leave Romania to come to America? Why Cleveland?

Thankfully there are some good sources on the migration of people from this region of Europe to Cleveland. From this source we find out a lot about the time period when our family migrated from Romania:

Among the new Southern and East European immigrants coming to Cleveland in the late 1800s were an increasing number of ethnic Romanians, most from the province of Transylvania, at that time part of Austria-Hungary.

The first Romanians in any significant numbers came to Cleveland as solitary immigrants, usually at the urging of Hungarian, Saxon, Swabian, and Jewish acquaintances from back home, who had emigrated earlier. The flow of Romanian immigrants grew steadily and continued unabated until the outbreak of World War I. By that time, there were about 12,000 ethnic Romanians in Cleveland, overwhelmingly of peasant stock who found immigration an alternative to the restrictive social, political, and economic possibilities in their homeland.

It seems that the political event that caused the migration was called Magyarization – or the conversion of this region to a Hungarian-centric society at the expense of the minorities such as Germans and Romanians:

The Hungarian Nationalities Law (1868) guaranteed that all citizens of the Kingdom of Hungary (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), whatever their nationality, constituted politically “a single nation, the indivisible, unitary Hungarian nation“, and there could be no differentiation between them except in respect of the official usage of the current languages and then only insofar as necessitated by practical considerations.[3] In spite of the law, the use of minority languages was banished almost entirely from administration and even justice.

More than 1.5 million economic migrants moved to the United States from Kingdom of Hungary between the 1900-1914 period. This mass migration also had huge effect on the ratios of ethnic minorities in Kingdom of Hungary, because more than 2/3 part of these immigrants in the USA belonged to the ethnic minorities.

As noted in another post on the Fleger/Herzcog line, my grandfather, his mother and his grandmother all immigrated in the early 1900’s – clearly as part of this wave of migration from Transylvania. Back to the prior source:

Romanians settled near their places of employment, so they could walk to and from work. The largest concentration was on the west side, between W. 45th and W. 65th streets, immediately north and south of Detroit Ave., where they gradually replaced the Irish and Germans.

In the early years of Romanian immigration, fraternal, cultural, and social clubs, small businesses, and other organizations were established in each neighborhood. None of the neighborhoods, except that on the west side, was large, stable, or strong enough to become self-sufficient and maintain such enterprises for any length of time. Many isolated Romanians traveled to the larger and better-organized neighborhoods on the west side to attend church services and other important Romanian functions. Many eventually moved to the west side, and their former neighborhood communities gradually died out.

Here is another source on the Romanian migration to Cleveland:

In 1914, nearly twenty thousand Romanian immigrants resided in Ohio. Most of these Romanians settled along Lake Erie, especially in Cleveland, where they found low-paying jobs in factories or worked as day laborers. Most Romanian immigrants came to the United States to improve their financial situation, to escape political turmoil in their native country, or to escape from Austria-Hungary, which controlled several sections of Romania at this time. Most of these immigrants were illiterate and, thus, were forced to accept low-paying positions. Immigrants who were more successful established businesses that supplied their fellow migrants with traditional Romanian products. To help maintain their traditional culture, Cleveland’s Romanians eventually established their own newspapers, the Romanul, the Solia, the America, the Foia Poporului, and the Unirea. In 1904, they also established St. Mary’s, the first Romanian Orthodox church in the United States. Romanian migrants also formed the Carpatina Society, a social and mutual-benefit society. In Cleveland and other communities, the Romanian immigrants tended to settle in their own communities, preferring to live among people who shared similar cultural beliefs and spoke the same language as they did.

My grandfather’s mother (Hermine ‘the middle”) came to America with one Joseph Fleger in in the fall of 1903, whom she married in 1904. Joseph Fleger and his brother Wenzel established a saloon at 1270 W. 58th street, right in the center of the Romanian area of Cleveland.  He ran the saloon until his death in late 1917.

This brings in a new twist to our ancestor’s ethnicity. It may be that the people recording the marriages in Romania selected the Hungarian version of the cities and towns due the edict that everything be “Hungarian”. It may be that Joseph Fleger at least, was not Hungarian.  He identifies his father and mother as German in the one US  Census he is in (1910). Maybe the Naszt’s were Romanian – who knows! It is interesting, though, that they end up in the heart of the Romanian enclave of Cleveland, which tells me they connected more with the Romanians of Cleveland than the Germans or Hungarians (who had their own enclaves).

The location of this Saloon is known from both city directories of the time and from Joseph Fleger’s Will, probated in 1917. The map below shows the location of the saloon.

1270 w 58th Cleveland

This is interesting because the Saloon was a primary element of these immigrant enclaves:

Since Cleveland’s earliest days, restaurants, taverns, and saloons have generally served as social centers for communities or neighborhoods.

It seems the Fleger Brothers (and later the widow Hermine Fleger herself) were among those who serviced their community as saloon (and later bowling alley) proprietors.

So from all of this we can surmise that the Magyarization of Romania created a wave of immigration which caught up our family.  The first family member to immigrate to Cleveland on my grandfather’s side was his Uncle Bela (later Albert) Naszt. He was the younger brother of Hermine [Nazst] Herczog, my great grandmother. Bela came over in the spring of 1903, and was soon followed by Hermine Herzcog and Joseph Fleger.

The following screen capture is from the 1903 passenger list of the SS Bremen sailing out of Bremen, Germany and arriving in New York City on September 22, 1903. It shows Josef Fleger (age 22) traveling with Hermine Herczog (age 22) [click to enlarge].


Hermine Herczog and Josef Fleger were married on May 16, 1904 in Cleveland, Ohio (per state records on-line).

It is amazing to think of the young widow Hermine, with two very young children, talking to her younger brother and (his likely friend) Joseph Fleger circa 1902 about packing it all up and moving to America. They clearly had the backing of her mother “Hermine-the elder”, who took care of the two young children at her father’s place as Hermine and Joseph sailed for America and laid down some roots. Her father, Albert Hollendschwander, probably lived in Valiug (i.e, Franzdorf), Caras-Severin, Translyvania . “Hermine-the elder” was also a widow – twice over. So America probably seemed like a magical land of promise for all three generations.

“Hermine-the elder” finally arrived in America in the fall of 1904, with her two grandchildren. In October 1904 Hermine (Hollenschwantner) Naszt brings Anthony Fleger (now 4) and his sister Hermine (3rd generation of “Hermine”) to America aboard the SS Zeelander. Here is the record of that arrival on October 31, 1904 at New York City:


This record shows at line “25” Hermine Nast (age 47)  “+grch” = meaning grandchildren.  Hermine Herzog is listed, while young Anthony is just “+bro” = brother.

And thus our Transylvanian and Romanian roots were firmly planted in America – in a place called “Cleveland”. That 4 year old boy would go on to become Mayor of Parma and a Member of the US House of Representatives – a clear example of the American dream.  So it looks like the trip from Transylvania to Cleveland payed off in the end – after a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

Here are the ancestors of my grandfather on my mother’s side – Anthony Fleger (a.k.a. Antonin Herczog). All Romanian. [click to enlarge]

Anthony Fleger Tree

Update 1:  I decided to look at the US Census records to see what language the Naszt line claimed – and from 1910 – 1930 they all claimed “German” as their native tongue. So it looks like the Naszts and Hollenschwandner lines were actually German immigrants to the Romanian region.

Update 2:  I meant to add a link and citation to the Wikipedia entry for Transylvania and forgot to do so. So here it is:

Transylvania has been dominated by several different peoples and countries throughout its history. It was once the nucleus of the Kingdom of Dacia (82 BC–106 AD). In 106 AD the Roman Empire conquered the territory, systematically exploiting its resources. After the Roman legions withdrew in 271 AD, it was overrun by a succession of various tribes, bringing it under the control of the Carpi, Visigoths, Huns, Gepids, Avars and Slavs. From 9th to 11th century Bulgarians ruled Transylvania. It is a subject of dispute whether elements of the mixed Daco–Roman population survived in Transylvania through the Dark Ages (becoming the ancestors of modern Romanians) or the first Vlachs/Romanians appeared in the area in the 13th century after a northward migration from the Balkan Peninsula.[6][7] There is an ongoing scholarly debate over the ethnicity of Transylvania’s population before the Hungarian conquest (see Origin of the Romanians).

The Magyars conquered much of Central Europe at the end of the 9th century. According to Gesta Hungarorum, Transylvania was ruled by Vlach voivode Gelou before the Hungarians arrived. The Kingdom of Hungary established a partial control over Transylvania in 1003, when king Stephen I, according to legend, defeated the prince named Gyula.[8][9][10][11] Some historians assert Transylvania was settled by Hungarians in several stages between the 10th and 13th centuries,[12][13] while others claim that it was already settled,[14] since the earliest Hungarian artifacts found in the region are dated to the first half of the 10th century.[15]

Between 1003[dubious ] and 1526, Transylvania was a voivodeship in the Kingdom of Hungary, led by a voivode appointed by the King of Hungary.[citation needed] After the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Transylvania became part of the Kingdom of János Szapolyai. Later, in 1570 the kingdom was transformed into the Principality of Transylvania – which was ruled primarily by Calvinist Hungarian princes. These times the ethnic composition of Transylvania transformed from an estimated near equal number[16] of the ethnic groups to a Romanian majority …

After the Ausgleich of 1867, the Principality of Transylvania was once again abolished. The territory was then turned into Transleithania,[9][11] an addition to the newly established Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Transleithania is what existed at the time our ancestors began to leave for America:

After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, Transleithania consisted of the Kingdom of Hungary including Hungary proper (which also included territories of the former Principality of Transylvania

The Nationalities Law enacted in 1868 defined Hungary as a single Hungarian nation[9] comprising different nationalities whose members enjoyed equal rights in all areas except language. Although non-Hungarian languages could be used in local government, churches, and schools, Hungarian became the official language of the central government and universities. Many Hungarians thought the act too generous, while minority-group leaders rejected it as inadequate. Slovaks in northern Hungary, Romanians in Transylvania, and Serbs in Vojvodina all wanted more autonomy, and unrest followed the act’s passage. The government took no further action concerning nationalities, and discontent fermented.

The plight of the peasantry worsened drastically during the depression at the end of the 19th century. The rural population grew, and the size of the peasants’ farm plots shrank as land was divided up by successive generations. By 1900 almost half of the country’s landowners were scratching out a living from plots too small to meet basic needs, and many farm workers had no land at all. Many peasants chose to emigrate, and their departure rate reached approximately 50,000 annually in the 1870s and about 200,000 annually by 1907. The peasantry’s share of the population dropped from 72.5 percent in 1890 to 68.4 percent in 1900.

The “Romanian” language is actually a derivative of the Roman (High Latin) language, a variant called “Vulgar Latin” due to the changes by the indigenous people of Dacia to the pure Roman version.

As noted above, the effort to convert Romanian Transylvania into “one Hungary” or “one Magyar” did not sit well with the indigenous Romanians (or Germans). Along with the economic depression of the 1890’s it is obvious these are the forces that drove this branch of our family came to America.

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