I started my research with a few pages of notes that my brother shared with me. So I hopped on the Internet and started my searching. After putting Josef Vopat (the name of my great-grandfather) into a few search engines and genealogy sites, I was thrilled to find results pop up on the name. I was sure this genealogy research was going to be a snap.
Until, I did a bit more research. Things were not making sense. As far as I knew, my great-grandfather had always lived in Ellsworth County, but I found a platt (a map of land ownership) showing Josef Vopat in Lincoln County boarding Ellsworth County. Then there was a question of date of birth…it was off by a few years. After several of these oddities, I was confused.
Then I posted this on the Roots-Web message boards. It suddenly became pretty obvious that the information I have found was not all on “my” Josef Vopat. Though names and dates are pretty similar, there were two men named Josef Vopat in Ellsworth County.
My great-grandfather was (if I am correct on the middle initial) Josef F. Vopat. The “other” Josef was Josef A. Vopat. Two men with the same name lived within twenty-five miles of one another that were both immigrants from Bohemia. I suppose that it is not that uncommon, but I had never considered that it would happen to me because Ellsworth County, Kansas is just not that big or populated.
This is what I believe to be true for Josef F. Vopat. He was born in Hadacka, Pilsen, Bohemia on May 31, 1864. He came to the United States through New York somewhere between 1890 and 1892. He worked in a Chicago packing house to earn money before he moved on to Kansas. He sent for his bride Anna Ridl (who was still in Bohemia) and they married at Lincoln, Kansas in January of 1893. Josef F. also had a sister Anna (married name Roubel or Erfruth?) and a brother Jim who lived in Wilson, KS.
He was a laborer and then a farmer in Ellsworth County, KS. As far as I know, my Josef never owned his own farm.
Josef F. had four children Mary Georgia, Annie, Ralph (my grandfather) and Arthur. He passed away July 29, 1938.
Josef A. was born in 1867 and also married an Anna. Like Josef F., he had a brother James/Jim. He also came from around Hadacka in the Pilsen region of Bohemia.
I am pretty sure the Josefs are connected somewhere, but it is hard to tell how. According to an aunt, James (brother of Josef A.) reported that Josef F. and Josef A. had grandfathers who were either brothers or cousins. They refused to acknowledge they were related after there was a feud in the family. That is a mystery for another time, though!
It just goes to show you that you can’t make assumptions about anything without having the documents to back up what you believe! It is easy to chase down the wrong person if you don’t have your facts straight!