A Tale of Two Josef Vopats…in Ellsworth County, Kansas

descendants of Josef F VopatI 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!


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Josef Vopat Family, Ellsworth County, Kansas

This is the second post in the introduction to my ancestors. Josef Vopat is my great-grandfather. I  know a little bit more about him than some of my other Czech immigrant ancestors.

Josef Vopat, or Joe as he was known,  arrived in Ellsworth County, Kansas around the summer of 1892 at the age of 29. According to my grandmother, he arrived in New York and then went to Chicago. He worked in the Chicago meat packing houses to earn money before arriving in Wilson, Kansas.

Josef left his love in Bohemia, so as soon as he earned enough money, he sent for her. Josef’s love was Anna Ridl. I am still not sure how to spell Anna’s last name. I have seen the name spelled several different ways: Rydl, Ridel, and Riedl. Until I find her in the Czech Republic parish record books, I really don’t know.

Anna arrived in Baltimore from Bohemia and eventually made her way to Kansas. In January of 1893, she and Josef were married.

The couple both came from near Pilsen in Bohemia. The parish in the town where I thought they came from has no record of either of them. So, that is a mystery I will have to solve later!

Strangely enough, there is another Josef Vopat who settled in Wilson, Kansas as well. He married an Anna, also. He was a few years younger, but the records get very confusing when I try and sort out which Josef is which. If I am correct, my great-grandfather is Josef F. Vopat and the other Josef is Josef A. Vopat.

Josef and Anna had four children. They were: Mary Georgia, Ralph, Annie, and  Art. My grandfather was Ralph. Anna was a petite woman and earned the nickname “Tiny Grandma.” I never met her, but heard many stories of Tiny Grandma and her cooking and crocheting abilities.


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Introducing the Clan…the Vodraska family!

Vodraska Farm in Ellsworth County, KansasIn the next few posts I will give you  a brief introduction to my family. Well, the members of my family who came from Bohemia/Austria and lived in the early days of Ellsworth County.

Today, you get to meet the Vodraska family, at least a few of them!

Joseph Vodraska is my great-great-grandfather. According to census records, he arrived in Kansas somewhere between 1875 and 1880. He came with his wife Anna (Pertl), his  daughter Rose, and his son (wait for it…) Joseph. Their home village in Bohemia is a mystery to me. I have heard it was somewhere in Moravia, but a family member says it was somewhere in the Pilsen region.

I don’t have any information on where they came from or when they arrived in the U.S. I do know the family spent some time in Ohio before moving on to Kansas.

Joseph Vodraska my great-grandfather married Mary Bartunek (0bviously my great-grandmother) around 1893 and had ten children. They farmed in Black Wolf, Kansas.

The Vodraska children included Anton (died in WWI) , Joseph Herman (yep, you guessed it, another Joseph!), Mary, Frank, Anna, Albina, William (died as an infant), Mildred, Alexander, and Alfred.

Mildred Vodraska was my grandmother. She married Ralph Vopat on May 20, 1926.

I will go into more detail on different family members in the future. I just plan on doing quick introductions for now!


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