Friday, March 16, 2012

Lives Entwined - A Friend of the Family

This picture of my grandmother Anna Pereksta Popp and her dear friend Ann Tanch, arms wrapped around one another, was taken in my aunt and uncle's back yard in Binghamton, NY. They had known one another for forty years and would remain friends until Baba died more than twenty years later.

Ann Tanch was far more than a friend with an infectious smile. She was also godmother to all three of Baba's children. As such she held an important place in the family and a name to match - Krstná (kres-na) or Godmother. She was at every holiday gathering, joining the family for every celebration and many, many other days.

The photo was taken when I was a young girl and is exactly how I remember Krstná - warm, outgoing and delighted to see us. And see her we did - every visit, every time. She was a vibrant and essential element of our time in Binghamton.

And yet, as I began to write about her, I realized how little I knew about Krstná. Her name. That she was a lifelong friend. That she never married. And I remembered that even though she was godmother to all the children, she did not attend Baba's church. She was Roman Catholic. 

I sent the photo to my father, aunt and uncle and started digging into online resources.  Krstná  was born Anna Tancak on 22 May 1901 and died as Anna Tanch on 31 Mar 1989. She appears in the 1910 census in Binghamton as a nine year old girl, Anna Tancak, born in New York. She lived with her parents George and Anna Tancak on Hanchett Avenue, just around the corner from Baba's Sedor cousins. The family was listed as Hun-Ruthenian with both parents born in Hungary. They had been married 25 years and buried 6 children. George worked in a stone yard. Krstná had a 20 year old brother John, born in Pennsylvania, and siblings Mary (16), George (12), Michael (5) and Helen (10 mos.), all born in New York. Two cousins, George and Andrew Macko (14 and 11) lived with the family. 

In October, 1915 her father died. He was buried on 29 October in St. Michael's Cemetery. Krstná's mother moved the family out of the city to a farm but by 1920, Krstná was living on Spring Forest Avenue in Binghamton and working at a shoe factory.

When my father called after speaking with his sister about Krstná, he told me she was born in the United States and was 5 or 6 years younger than Baba. He said she had a sister and four brothers and lived with her sister for many years. Her family had originally been part of their church, but when the church split in the 1940s her family left St. Michael's and joined Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church. Daddy said there was never any tension between Baba and Krstná over the separate churches. He couldn't remember her ever not being part of the family. She worked at Dunn-McCarthy making women's shoes for her entire working life.

I asked him how Baba and Krstná had met, wondering if it had been when Baba first arrived in 1913 or if her parents had been from the same village in Europe. The age difference would have been significant then, Krstná being 12 to Baba's 18. Daddy said no to both. My aunt told him they met later, around 1920 when Baba was living with her sister and brother-in-law near Spring Forest Street where Krstná lived.

One day, when Baba was visiting a Mrs. Koast, a woman she'd known in Prislop, she was struck by some especially lovely needlework and asked Mrs. Koast if she would teach Baba how to make the pattern. Mrs. Koast answered that she hadn't done it; her cousin Anna Tanch had. Baba asked for an introduction and Mrs. Koast waved her arm and said, "Just walk over. She lives one block behind you." So she did. Baba knocked on Ann Tanch's door, introduced herself and asked her to please teach her how to make the needlework Baba had so admired.

Forty years later they posed for the photograph.

Written for Jasia's 116th Carnival of Genealogy and Women's History Month.


Social Security Administration, "Social Security Death Index, Master File," database, ( : accessed 9 Mar 2012), entry for Anna Tanch, 1989, SS no. 070-03-7051.

1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Binghamton, Ward 1, enumeration district (ED) 0005, p. 97, dwelling 15, family 152, George Tancak; digital images, ( : accessed 8 Mar 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 925.

"Obituary George C. Tanch," Binghamton Press, 29 October 1915, Evening edition, p. 1?, col. 2; digital images, Old Fulton New York Post Cards ( : accessed 6 Mar 2012).

1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Colesville, Broome, NY, enumeration district (ED) 69, p. 2A, family 29, Anna Tanch (indexed as Lauch); digital images, ( : accessed 9 Mar 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T625, roll 1086.


  1. What a lovely, lovely remembrance! I, too, had a godmother who never married, never had children to research her roots. With that, you inspire me...

  2. A lovely tribute indeed, Susan. Anna sounds like someone very special. How nice of you to remember her so well. Great picture too. You can really see the affection between these two women. Thanks for sharing their story in the COG!

  3. What a great friendship. We should all be so lucky. And I really loved the picture, it seemed so joyous and unaffected.

  4. I love imagining a time when neighborhoods were small and there was no hesitation about knocking on someone's door and asking them to teach you something. This is a nice remembrance of a lady who was dear to your and your grandmother, Carol. I must do a little research about some of the women in my grandmother's album who were friends.


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