Surname LISKA

from Szarvas, Békés county
Hungary / Magyarország

DNA testing

A project is underway to discover whether the three groups of the LISKA family from the village of Szarvas in Békés county, Hungary are all really from the same family. A possible further goal would be to discover where in modern Slovakia our particular Liska family in Szarvas came from before they moved south into the village of Szarvas in the early 18th century.


In about 1990, I became interested in the ancestry of my Hungarian born grandmother, Irene Liska, who married in New York to my grandfather Emil Otto Specht. For me, it was the mystery of this exotic country called Hungary that was my initial drive. I went to Salt Lake City where the Mormons have their Family History Library and for the next month I spent every hour the library was open from about 8 or 9AM until closing at 9PM cranking through the microfilmed records of the churches in Hungary.

Thanks to my uncle, I knew the city was called Békéscsaba and so it wasn't so long before I started finding my first documents on this family. But I discovered that my Liska grandmother was actually born nearby in the village called Mezöberény, both in the county of Békés which lies on the southern border with Romania. As I traced back one further generation, I discovered that my grandmother Liska had a father born in another nearby village called Szarvas and his name was Liska János, following the way they write names in Hungary (surname is stated first).

Once I found the baptism in the Evangelical Lutheran church in Szarvas for Liska János, my great-grandfather, all the rest of the Liska ancestors were found in the same church in Szarvas.

The exact paternal line of my Liska ancestors is this:

Liska János, born 27 Dec 1855 in Szarvas, Békés county, Hungary. His parents are:

Liska György, born in 1829 in Szarvas, and his wife Pecznik Julianna, baptized on 31 Dec 1835 in the above village of Mezöberény. The parents of Liska György are another:

Liska György, born in 1804 in Szarvas, and his wife Brauner Erzsébet, born in 1809, also in Szarvas. The parents of this Liska György were:

Liska Pál, born in 1775 in Szarvas, and his wife Lomjanszki Judit, also born in the same year and village as her husband. Liska Pál is the son of:

Liska Ondris (must be a form of András), born in about the year 1728, but not really sure where, and his wife Varga Dorothea born about 1737, also in an unknown village. The parents of Liska Ondris were:

Liska Márton and wife Katalin. They are the end of the line as we currently know. I would estimate they were born maybe between 1690-1700.

The records of the Evangelical Lutheran church in Szarvas run out at this point and it might mean that Liska Márton and wife Katalin brought their family to Szarvas. Or perhaps, Liska Ondris came with brothers to Szarvas while Liska Márton and wife Katalin remained behind. But chances are best that if the parents of Liska Ondris were living, they also emigrated, even if elderly by then.

Szarvas History

To learn more, we must also learn about the history of the village of Szarvas.

Szarvas and the whole of Békés county (and other counties) were wiped out by the Turkish armies and then occupied from the middle 1500s until the late 1600s, only finally taken back by the Hungarian crown in the 1690s. The county of Békés, was occupied from 1566 to 1694. The noble families of the time were given properties by the king for the purpose of resettlement and so they looked to the northern counties that are now part of the country of Slovakia to find willing families to resettle these vacant lands. It was not as simple as that, because this was the era of serfs and landowners, so these families were under the authority of these landowners. They couldn't come and go as they pleased. Someone who tried that might be eventually tracked down and severely punished as a criminal, if not put to death.

The families they eventually got to emigrate south were from many places, including, but not limited to the counties of Gömör (modern Gemer in Slovakia), Zólyom (now Zvolen), Hont, and surrounding areas in south central Slovakia.

Some of these families used a toponymic name meaning that based on the village where they were living, they created a name that means "from ___" such as the above surname in my family tree called "Lomjanszki" which comes from the village called Dacov Lom. The problem with a surname like that is once you know where they came from, you still don't know what their original name was at the time they were living there. There are a few hints in the earliest church records, but it is an ideal reason to use DNA testing and to find matches to families from these former village homes before they emigrated south.

Luckily, our name Liska was not such a name, but we are then left with not knowing where they originated, except for the assumption they were one of these families from central Slovakia which used to be known as Upper Hungary when the entire Hungarian kingdom included so many more counties than it was reduced to after World War I and the Treaty of Trianon.

Back in about 1992 I took my first trip to Hungary to see and walk the lands of my ancestors. Having done research for one or two years by then, I came well-prepared to find and meet living cousins and I was very successful in doing that. My best contact was Liska András, a young and energetic native of Szarvas, maybe in his early 20s who knew enough English to help me out. And by that time, I knew enough Hungarian to make my way on my own.

Liska András represents one of the three Liska families I had discovered during my research through the church records. He helped me locate some fourth cousins that are my Liska cousins still living in Szarvas, or at least were back in 1995 on my second or third trip there. In fact, I recently received a letter from one member of this family who was learning English and so I know they are still there as of maybe 2012 or 2013.

And with the help of Liska András, I also met more named Liska in Szarvas who represented the third and final Liska group in Szarvas, but I have not made any subsequent contact with them since then.

Liska András eventually became an archeologist and moved to the nearby village of Gyula in Békés county. Maybe you have heard of the famous Gyulai sausage. He is also into antiques and has a page on my website for that purpose:

My question becomes whether these three Liska families are all really connected one generation further back. It seems the records were not so diligently kept in the first years of resettlement in Szarvas, so maybe the marriage records which could have allowed us to see the connections are simply missing or never recorded. It is my theory that maybe Liska Márton was one of three or more Liska brothers who resettled in Szarvas in the early 1700s.

The Plan

So this leads me to this project I have to discover more about these ancestors with the modern help of DNA testing. There are two major ways to test for DNA that can lead us to the answers we seek.

First of all, there is Y-DNA testing which is identifying the DNA on the direct paternal line. Just the father to son, to grandson link going back forever with no maternal branches mixed in there.

The theory is that by testing any male with the surname Liska from any of the three family groups, we can see if they are related, even if it's over 1,000 or 2,000 years ago, and more. So I want to test at least one member from each group to see if we can determine how closely related they are. DNA testing will shed some light on that.

I have described more about this Y-DNA test and another one called Family Finder on another page on my website, as applies also to my Portuguese ancestry. It is worth reading:

The first test will always be the Family Finder test to confirm if we are really related closely enough to show up there. It shows the DNA going back about 200 years from the date the person tested was born. That test is $99 plus about $7 postage. The postage is a little more if the test kit is sent to another country like Hungary. Once that test is submitted to Family Tree DNA, it takes about 6-8 weeks to get the results. Based on the Family Finder results, we can order a second test which currently costs $169 for their 37 marker Y-DNA test. The great thing is that once you get one test, you don't need to send in another saliva sample. They keep your test kit for 25 years in storage and at any time you can upgrade to another test or level. My father got his Y-DNA test first at the 37 marker level, then two years later upgraded to the highest which is the 111 marker level.


Nobody in our group of cousins is eligible to take the Y-DNA test because there are no males with the surname Liska. In order to help find willing subjects to get this test, I will begin to contact people named Liska still living in Szarvas. If I can enlist the help of Liska András, who himself might be willing to get the test, that would be great. And I want to contact some of the male Liskas who are our proven cousins and with whom we have already established contact, thus leaving us to find at least one final candidate for the third Liska group and get them tested.

If you have the name Liska and suspect or know you have ancestors from Szarvas, you can send me your family tree and I will confirm that you are a member of one of these three Liska groups there. If you do qualify using the above criteria, you can either pay for this testing yourself or if you can't afford it and if we can gather up the finances through my cousins who are the descendants of these above named Liska ancestors, you can get this Family Finder test done at no charge, free to you. Of course, anyone else interested in helping finance this research is also quite welcome.

The way it will work is that I will keep a list of anyone willing to contribute money for this testing. And when I find some candidate who needs help to pay for the test, I will alert my cousin or other volunteer and place an order for the test kit to be sent to the candidate from Family Tree DNA. The candidate will have instructions for how to take the sample. It's a simple process of using a tiny brush to scrape the inside of the cheek and then putting it into a sealed vial and into the mail. When results are back, we will see where that leads us. Any candidate for whom we pay for the test will have me as the administrator so I can do the analysis and work to see how it helps us in this search. Of course, all these results will also be revealed to the person tested and I will personally help them by answering questions and in learning more about their ancestors.

Test results will be compiled and made available to others named Liska and to my cousins so we can see how it's all progressing. Any break through will be quickly broadcast to all interested parties.

One of my ideas is to post an article in the local newspaper for Szarvas, and also maybe in Békéscsaba, which mentions this project. In doing so, we might attract others who are our cousins and want to participate in testing. We might be able to attract other male candidates to do a similar search for the origins of our other surnames in Szarvas, such as the above surnames of Peczik, Brauner, Lomjanszki, and others not already named, like Zahorecz, Skorka, Hlivár, Král, and Tomka. We have others but there might not be any direct male descendants left anywhere.. We will just see what happens and decide what to do then.

So are you interested? I can't wait to start getting some feedback from people after reading about this project.

Please send email to me here:

Thank you,
Doug Holmes
Sacramento, California

To see where my other genealogical interests lie, please visit my home page and click your way through my website:

We also have a similar project going for the surname Balla, which you can read about here: