A few days after uploading my Mom's DNA to the Family Tree DNA website, I received an email from Attila Balogh in Hungary.
Attila's mother's uncle, Dr. Debreczeny András, Hungarians place the surname first, was a respected physician in Mezőtúrra, Hungary. András also had his autosomal DNA tested at Family Tree DNA. He and my Mom share over 34 centimorgans of DNA, which indicates that they are certainly cousins, although distant cousins.
Clearly, with András and my grandmother, Julia, sharing the name of Debreczeny, or Debreceni, that branch of the family tree is a great place to start the search for our common ancestor.
Attila provided his family tree online: his Debreczeny ancestors had lived for almost 3 centuries in the town of Túrkeve, in the county of Jasz-Nagykun-Szolnok, in the Northern Great Plain region of central Hungary. Before then, Attila reports, the Debreczenys had come from Zemplén County, which is today located inside the borders of Slovakia.
According to my grandma's records, her grandfather, József Debreczeni, was born on May 15, 1856 in Karczag, a large town located only 30 kilometers northeast of Túrkeve. Confirming my grandmother's family bible, I found an Hungarian Reformed Church record of a Jósef Debreczeni being baptized in Karczag on May 17, 1856,
The baptismal record provides the names of both Jósef's parents: Jósef Debreczeni and Katalin Erdei. Searching for Jósef and Katalin, I discovered baptismal records for 3 of their other children: Sándor, born 1842, Mária, born 1845, and János, born 1852.
However, tracing the Debreczeni paternal line further back in time was difficult, possibly even requiring a trip to Hungary, as the only Hungarian records on the Internet are baptismal records. Still, it didn't hurt to look.
Searching for Katalin Erdei, I found only a single record with her name in the county. This record indicated that she was baptized in Túrkeve on June 23, 1821, which means she would have been 21 when her eldest recorded son, Sándor, was born. This looked promising but not certain, as it's possible that she was born much further away or that her actual baptismal record didn't survive.
When searching for Jósef, the picture was even more murky. There were at least six Jósef Debreczenis born in the county between 1801 and 1821. Again, it's also possible that he was born out of the county or that his baptismal record was lost. However, since we know DNA doesn't lie, if I could find a connection to the Debreczenys in Túrkeve then perhaps I could finger a possible common ancestor.
Lo and behold, there was a record of Mihály Debreczeni and Rebeka Vas of Túrkeve baptizing their son, Jósef Debreczeni, on June 14, 1813. Coincidentally, Mihály Debreczeni and Rebeka Vas also happen to be in Attila's family tree as the 2nd great grandparents of Dr. András Debreczeny. Could these be our common ancestors?
While this is far from slam dunk proof that András and Grandma were 2nd cousins, it certainly warrants more research. However, I can't afford to hire a professional genealogist to go search church cellars in Hungary so, to pursue the paper trail further, I can only wait for Hungary to digitize more records, if they exist.
The only other avenue, which certainly appeals to the geek in me, is more DNA testing. Happily, András Debreczeny had his YDNA tested as well as his autosomal DNA; he is haplogroup R-YP372, an "old Carpathian" clade. This means I could confirm there is a Debreceni connection by testing the YDNA of one of my Debreceni cousins, of which I know I have a few. This wouldn't prove that Mihály was a common ancestor, it could still be his father or grandfather, but it would definitively take us back to Túrkeve.
Amazingly, Attila reports he knows someone who knows a woman who says that she might be a descendant of my 2nd great grandfather, József (b. 1856). I had originally thought all his children came to Canada with him but it would be incredible if we found one who remained back in Hungary. If she agrees to an autosomal test, we could soon have even more evidence of our connection.