Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: The Many Names of Barney Markell

Barney Markell was a man of many names. Above, his gravestone in Riverside Cemetery, New Jersey, showing that he died 73 years ago today.

As part of my Genealogy Go-Over, I'm reexamining the details I've gathered about ancestors. Now it's Barney's turn.
  • The translation of his Hebrew name is: Binyamin Yitzchock Henoch, son of R' Alchonon Avraham. Knowing his father's name helped to connect him with his brothers (by seeing their gravestones and other documents).
  • On his petition for naturalization, his name is shown as "Banna Markell." 
  • On his declaration of intention, his name is shown as "Bena Markell."
  • On his first marriage license, his name is shown as "Berna Markell."
  • On his second marriage license, 19 years after the first marriage, his name is shown as "Barney H. Markell."
  • On his WWI draft card, his name is shown as "Banna Henry Markell." 
  • No WWII draft card found yet...but I've also seen his name as "Barnhart Markell."
I've written before about the Markell branch of my family tree, including here and here (among other posts), and expect more posts as I continue double-checking my research.

RIP, Barney Markell, father-in-law of a matchmaker aunt who brought my parents together for their first date.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Sam, Anna, and the Circus Elephants

From Bridgeport History Center, photo of the circus's winter headquarters in Connecticut
With the news that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is shutting down, I thought about my maternal great-uncle Sam Schwartz (1883-1954) and his bride, Anna Gelbman Schwartz (1886-1940), walking past the elephants in downtown Bridgeport, CT, circa 1909.

Anna's Gelbman family lived at 71 Wordin Avenue for many years, not far from the newly-wed Schwartz couple and a short walk from the field in central Bridgeport where P.T. Barnum housed his circus (see photo above). Today, the area around the former Gelbman house is a highway.

Sam and Anna married on October 24, 1909, in her local synagogue on Cherry Street in Bridgeport (no longer there). After their marriage, they lived at 95 Clinton Ave. in Bridgeport before moving to New York City. They would have seen P.T. Barnum's elephants as they crossed downtown Bridgeport, as usual.

Just a week before he married Anna, Sam had become a naturalized U.S. citizen. (Sam was born in Ungvar, Hungary, while Anna was born in New York City). In fact, Sam and Anna applied for their marriage license on the very day he became a citizen. Anna was born in January, 1886--this month would have been her 131st birthday.

Thanks to my honorary cousin Art (he's related to Anna's family) for partnering with me on this research!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sorting Saturday: Great-Aunt Dora Mahler's Birth Date

I'm still working on my Genealogy Go-Over, and looking more closely at my father's Mahler ancestors.

As shown above in the 1900 Census, my paternal grandmother (Henrietta Mahler Burk) was one of 7 living children of Tillie Jacobs Mahler and Meyer Elias Mahler.

The next-to-youngest girl was my great-aunt Dora Mahler, born in July 1893, according to this 1900 Census. Alas, I never met her, but she is fondly remembered by one of my 2d cousins.

Despite looking in New York City birth indexes and searching in Family Search records, I can't find Dora's actual birth certificate. When was she really born?
  • The June, 1905 New York Census showed Dora as 11 years old.
  • The April, 1910 US Census showed Dora as 15 years old.
  • The June, 1915 NY Census showed Dora as 20 years old.
  • The January, 1920 US Census showed Dora as 24 years old.
  • The June, 1925 NY Census showed Dora as 30 years old.
  • The April, 1930 US Census showed Dora as 35 years old.
  • Still searching for her and her Mom in the 1940 US Census.
  • Social Security's records show Dora's birth as July 11, 1894. But then again, her name is listed as Dorothy Lillian, not a name she was ever called in the family.
After Dora died on June 9, 1950, probably of heart failure, her brother told authorities that Dora was about 44 years old, pegging her birthday as July 11, 1905. Nope, he wasn't even close.

Dora is buried at Beth David Cemetery on Long Island, NY, but I haven't yet ventured out to see her grave (nor is she in Find A Grave or on Beth David's grave locator). So for now, I'm going to say Dora's birth date was July 11, 1893. Until new evidence emerges!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: The McClures, Wabash Pioneers


Benjamin McClure and his wife, Sarah Denning McClure, were named as pioneer settlers of Wabash, Indiana, as noted in this excerpt from History of Wabash County. These are my hubby's 2nd great-grandparents. "Uncle Benji" helped found a church and was a civic leader in Wabash for many years.

A couple of years ago, I put the woodcut of "Uncle Benji" on his Find A Grave memorial page. Sadly, I have no similar image of Sarah (other than her gravestone).

The wonderful folks at the Friends of Falls Cemetery have been posting census data and doing many links to help connect the relationship dots in Find A Grave. They originally created this page for "Uncle Benji" and I want to say thank you!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Don't Touch That Dial!

Recognize this giant piece of furniture?
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Yes, it's a black and white TV/mono record player/AM radio console. Every living room had to have one in the 1950s, the height of furniture fashion and entertainment technology. No, really.

And who are those little double-trouble urchins, reaching out to change the channel?

Guilty as charged: Me and my twin sis. Often we'd get up before the crack of dawn and turn the TV on to watch the crackly test pattern until "Modern Farmer" showed up on the tiny screen at 6 am. A fascinating programming decision for a TV station based in the heart of New York City, don't you think?

Amazingly, I know exactly when this TV arrived in our Bronx living room because of the meticulous minutes taken at the Farkas Family Tree meetings every month. My grandma, Henrietta Farkas Schwartz, was a co-founder of the tree, which held its first meeting in March, 1933 at the apartment of her parents, Moritz Farkas and Lena Kunstler Farkas.

Excerpted from the minutes of one December meeting during the 1950s: "The Burks are getting a television set for their anniversary." (Sis, I'm respecting your privacy and not revealing the year. You're welcome!)

Today's Sentimental Sunday is courtesy of my captioning frenzy while snowbound, going through my archival boxes and coming across this fun snapshot.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Captioning Friday's Faces from the Past

Getting to work on my 2017 resolutions, I found nice, large adhesive labels at my local office supply store to write captions for "faces from the past." Since nearly all of my photos are in archival-quality sleeves, the next step is to write captions and stick the labels to the back of the sleeves.

Above, my hand-printed captions for the two small photos that share one sleeve (shown at right). The subject is my father, Harold Burk (1909-1978), years before he met my mother. The lower photo shows him with my grandma, Henrietta Mahler Burk (1888-1954). 

Someday (in the far future) I hope to replace my hand-written labels with typed labels. For now, the main point is to caption these faces with as much as I know, for the sake of future generations.

In the past, I used the usual small, address-sized labels for captioning, sticking two or three on a sleeve if I had to a lot to say about a photo. But I was happy to find a larger size label in the store, as shown below.

Six to a sheet, plenty of room to write a few sentences or list a number of names. And these are heavy-duty labels, not likely to peel off the sleeves. So go ahead and snow! I'm ready to caption.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Genealogy Resolutions and Results, 2016-2017

Looking back on 2016, I accomplished a lot. At right is a snapshot from my Find A Grave contributor tools page, in which I more than doubled my statistics from this time last year. Every trip I take to a cemetery, I take a hundred or more photos of surrounding graves and add them to the memorials, helping others find their ancestors' final resting places.

Of course, these numbers don't reflect the dozens and dozens of edits I've made or requested to link and correct ancestors' memorials from my tree and my husband's tree. This was my #1 resolution from last year and I feel good about my progress (even if it much of the work was crammed into the past week).

My favorite accomplishment of this year (and every year) has been meeting cousins in person after finding them through genealogical research. In fact, it was quite a year for cousin connections. In January, after I met a Farkas cousin of mine in NYC, Sis and I took a fun field trip to meet more Farkas cousins and reunite with our Burk/Mahler first cousins. Later in the year, I met several more Farkas cousins (including one across the pond). And I spent five days with a handful of Chazan cousins in Manchester, England. More cousin connections are in the works for 2017.

In 2016, I wanted to submit testimony to Yad Vashem about my great aunt, Etel Schwartz (a sister to my maternal grandfather, Tivador Schwartz). She's one of the two ladies in the big-brimmed hats in the photos above, along the banner of my blog. My cousins and I are having trouble determining who's who in the few photos we have of the Schwartz siblings, and we don't know Etel's married name. But I will submit what I know in 2017, even without a photo, to keep Etel's memory alive for future generations.

An ongoing resolution is to "tell the stories" and I'm continuing to do that, formally and informally, during meetings with cousins and at other opportunities. At top is a photo of me all dressed up in a bow tie and shirt with the stern face of Benjamin McClure, my husband's 2d great-granddaddy (he's also my FB genealogy persona).

I wore this shirt on Halloween when making genealogy presentations, and my family got a kick out of it. It's a different way to spread the word about an ancestor's life and times. Also I told some stories and featured ancestor photos in my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. More stories and T-shirts are in the works for 2017, maybe even a new book.

Carried over from 2016, I'm still trying to pierce brick walls about my father's Birk and Mitav ancestors in Lithuania and continue looking for the origins of my husband's Larimer-Short-Work families, originally from somewhere in Ireland (north, most likely). So 2017 will be another busy and productive and exciting year!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sorting Saturday: The 1924 New Year's Day Marriage of Ethel and Clay

Because of my 2016 resolution to continue linking ancestors to spouses, parents, and children on Find A Grave, I've uncovered all kinds of interesting info. Above, last night's find, which probably has a fascinating story behind it. Let me explain.

I was busy linking all the children of my husband's great-grandparents, Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest, including their fifth son, Charles Augustus Wood (1862-1895). After finding Charles on Find A Grave, I researched his wife (Martha Ellen Hale) to link her.

Then I continued down the rabbit hole for another hour and looked for their children on Ancestry, Family Search, and F-A-G. (Lesson learned: Now I always have three windows open when researching to check those three sites simultaneously.)

The only daughter of Charles and Martha was Carrie Ethel Wood (1888-?). She married Clay Harry Focht in December, 1908. After nearly 15 years of married life together (and two children), they divorced on November 10, 1923. Somehow, one of them convinced the other to try again.

Clay and Ethel took out a second marriage license on Christmas Eve, 6 weeks after their divorce, as shown here. They married on New Year's Day in 1924. And a few years later, they had one more child together. Why they divorced, and why they remarried, I don't yet know. (And by 1940, he was living separately and said he was "single" again--his death cert says he was divorced.) It's quite an unexpected find as a direct result of doing research to link people on F-A-G. For which I'm grateful! And now future generations will know more about these ancestors.

Happy new year 2017!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thankful Thursday: Fleshing Out Find-a-Grave Memorials

Find A Grave memorial for my great-grandma in Mt. Hebron, Queens, NY
Over the course of four years, I've sent 93 edits to Find A Grave, for memorials that others were kind enough to establish for people they don't know--my ancestors. Every one of these generous volunteers has made my edits, for which I am truly grateful. And I'm thankful for the many volunteers who have posted or taken photos, especially valuable for Jewish genealogy.

Now I'm continuing my resolution to keep family history alive by fleshing out the Find A Grave memorials. Descendants may someday go searching for these people's burials, so I want to include more detail for the benefit of these genealogists of tomorrow. The more they know, the more they can pass to the next generation and beyond.

This new year's resolution (expanded from my 2016 resolution) is to:
  • Link my ancestors to each other, wherever possible, so their relationships are clear. Above, I finally linked 10 children of Lena Kunstler Farkas* and Moritz Farkas to each other. One of their children is missing from the list because I haven't yet located her final resting place. 
  • I also linked spouses of these adult children to each other and in the next generation, I linked children to their parents. (I'm still working on this step for the main branches of hubby's family tree.)
  • I'm going to be adding or completing birth/death dates and places, as well as correcting spellings.
  • I'm already adding brief bios or excerpts from obits, omitting the names of living people for privacy reasons. Ancestors were more than just names and dates and relationships. If I can mention occupations or other snippets, these memorials become that much more meaningful, IMHO.
Thanks again to Find A Grave volunteers!

*Elizabeth Handler suggested I include the translations on F-A-G. A great idea. Lena's gravestone says she's the daughter of Shmuel Zanvil.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Surname Saturday: Celebrating Family Holiday Traditions


In my husband's Wood family, the tradition was for first cousins to send each other greeting postcards for major holidays.

This Christmas card was sent to my husband's "Uncle Wally" (Wallis Walter Wood), in the 1910s, from first cousin Chester Maxwell Carsten (1910-1967) in Toledo. No postmark, so this was probably mailed with a bundle of cards to the Wood cousins in Cleveland.

My family's holiday traditions were different. Here's a b/w photo of my Mahler/Burk cousins at a Hanukkah party we all attended in the late 1950s. Note the desserts and chocolate milk for kids!

Also, a surprising number of my ancestors and relatives were married on Christmas Eve (including at least one of my 2d cousins). My previous post mentioned my great-uncle Alex Farkas marrying Jenny Katz on Christmas Eve, and here's the only photo I have of that wedding. Alex was my grandma's older brother.

As identified in the photo, my grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz is at right, with long dark hair. Her husband Ted Schwartz is next to her, wearing a funny hat. In front of them is their young son, Fred. Mom and her twin weren't even a gleam in their eyes--yet.

Wishing you all the happiest and healthiest of holidays! Celebrate with your family's traditions.