Ancestral Journeys

Genealogical research and thoughts

One Man – Many Names?

Posted by dwsuddarth on 24 October 2014

In researching my second great grandfather, Vojtech Cerny, I have discovered that it pays to be creative. I had found him in the 1880 Chicago census living at 75 Meagher St. In addition, I had found him in City Directories for 1884 through 1896, the year of his death, and also in 1875. I had not been able to find him in the directories for other years, though. Until now.

Vojtech Cerny can be found in the Chicago City Directories residing at 75 Meagher with the following names:

  • Vojtech Cerny
  • Albert Cerny
  • Albert Churney
  • Albert Jurney
  • Albert China
  • Albert Sergen
  • Albert Black

Albert is the English equivalent for Vojtech, so it is easy to see why he would be found with a first name of Albert. Also, it is easy to see how the name Cerny could be listed as Churney or Jurney, as the phonetic pronunciation of Cerny is Chernee.

China and Sergen are stretching it a little, but I am confident this is him, as the address and first name are correct. But what about Albert Black? Is this really my Vojtech Cerny?

It turns out that, yes, it most definitely is. In Czech, the name Cerny is equivalent to the English name of Black. Therefore, the name Vojtech Cerny is equivalent to Albert Black. Again, the address matches up – 75 Meagher. We know he lived at 75 Meagher in 1880 from the census. He is listed in the city directory in 1882 as Albert Sergen, again living at 75 Meagher. In fact, he lived at 75 Meagher until 1885, when he is found at 250 Maxwell, where both he and his wife, Katerina, died, she in 1893 and Vojtech in 1896.

Here are the listings found in the directory for 1878 through 1884, with the exception of 1880. I have not found him in the directory in 1880 yet, but do have him in the census, so I can match up the address.

  • 1878 – Albert Jurney, lab. house 75 Meagher
  • 1879 – Albert Churney, lab. house 75 Meagher
  • 1880 – Vojtech Cerny, 75 Meagher (from census)
  • 1881 – Albert Black, lab. house 75 Meagher
  • 1882 – Albert Sergen, lab. house 75 Meagher
  • 1883 – Albert China, lab. house 75 Meagher
  • 1884 – Albert Cerny, lab. house 75 Meagher

I am confident that this is the same man – Vojtech Cerny, my great-great grandfather.

Now, this is the only record I have found him in where the name is listed as Albert Black. However, it may not be the only one. Whenever we are looking for someone, we all know that we need to keep in mind alternative spellings and the different ways different people may pronounce a name, especially one that is foreign. However, we also need to be aware of the fact that the name may be ‘translated’ and given in some records as its English equivalent.

In this case Albert Black.

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