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I am working on tracing my girlfriend's family tree. Her last name is Paul, however her great-great grandfather immigrated from either Hungary or Czechoslovakia depending on who you ask.

They say the name was changed from its original form to "Paul" but only the pronunciation is known and not he original spelling. Her family beleives it was pronounced as "Paul of Check" but knowing little about the language I am lost as to how to spell that in Hungarian or Czech.

Unfortunately, the only record I have for him is word of mouth from my girlfriend's grandmother and father. Her Great Grandfather's name was John Paul so it is hard to even find reliable records for him with such a common name.

I believe John was born in Pennsylvania in about 1905 and his father was born in Czech or Hungary. I found John as an adult in census records but not as a child which would lead me to his father's name and possibly immigration year.

  • Are you perhaps able to include the first record you have of the 2nd great grandfather after immigration into your question? That could help to try and find his immigration record. – PolyGeo Aug 15 '15 at 21:58
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    Opening bid - try : Poláček (Czech, but also Slovakia). See: forebears.io/surnames/pol%C3%A1%C4%8Dek. Of course there may be spelling variants. – user3310902 Aug 15 '15 at 22:00
  • Sorry for the delay in response. @PolyGeo unfortunately the only record I have for him is word of mouth from my girlfriend's grandmother and father. Her Great Grandfather's name was John Paul so it is hard to even find reliable records for him with such a common name. – Troy Aug 23 '15 at 21:32
  • What country, state, etc do you have for where (and when) he may have lived? I'm assuming that he would have been born more than 100 years ago so that there are no privacy issues surrounding his details (see help/on-topic). – PolyGeo Aug 23 '15 at 21:40
  • I believe John was born in Pennsylvania in about 1905 and his father was born in Czech or Hungary. I found John as an adult in census records but not as a child which would lead me to his father's name and possibly immigration year. – Troy Aug 23 '15 at 23:40
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The sounds [polɑvt͡ʃɛk] would be written Polavcsek in modern Hungarian; [pɑlovt͡ʃɛk] would be Palovcsek. However, surnames often preserve archaic spellings, and in any case nobody paid much attention to exact spellings of names before the 20th century. (In a world where illiteracy was normal, it was only the sound of a surname that mattered.)

Focusing on the unknown surname like this is unlikely to lead to useful results. Instead, start with U.S. records. Documents that sometimes include parents and exact birthplaces include draft registrations, naturalization records, Social Security card applications, and of course birth, marriage, and death records (church or civil).

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