Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Wedding Wednesday: Adapting Mom & Dad's Album for Future Generations

When Mom & Dad were married at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City, they had a photographer capture the occasion, in state-of-the-art black and white.

But of course they left only one wedding album, and there are multiple descendants who want to enjoy the photos.

As part of the Genealogy Do-Over, I rescanned all the photos in high resolution.

Now I've uploaded and positioned the photos in a wedding-themed Shutterfly book, along with detailed captions. I want future generations to know who's who in the group shots!

Sis had a great idea: she suggested I continue the romance theme with written descriptions like "Once upon a time..." Thanks, Sis! We'll print one book first, check it over, make any tweaks, and order more.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 7: Digitizing Maps and More

Old maps have dates and memories that add richness and detail to my genealogy research.
In week 7 of the Do-Over, I'm digitizing the maps that have been passed down in my family because they're clues to my ancestors' daily lives and some of the places they lived and visited--places that were meaningful to them and to me.

My grandparents on both sides (Schwartz, Farkas, Mahler, Burk) settled in New York City. They never owned a car but they and their children and grandchildren knew the subway and bus routes very, very well.

My in-laws (Wood, McClure) liked to drive to New York City from their home in Cleveland to visit family, see Broadway shows, etc. My father-in-law also saved state maps that were given away by gas stations, including old maps for Indiana, Ohio, and beyond.

Above, part of the family's collection of New York City transit and street maps. The Hagstrom's maps are the oldest, and the World's Fair maps are the youngest (just 50 years old!). All being photographed and inventoried as part of Week 7 in the Do-Over.
PS: The Do-Over participants explained how to add my blog's name to photographs I post. Thank you!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Surname Saturday: Happy Valentine's Day from Harold to Daisy

My father, Harold Burk (1909-1978) sent this pretty beribboned valentine to my mother, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981).

The date was February 14, 1946, just six weeks after they became engaged. (He wrote the year under his signature.)

They were married later that year, on Thanksgiving weekend, at New York's Hotel McAlpin, with both sides of their families in attendance.

Harold was the older son of Isaac Burk (1882?-1943) of Lithuania and Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954) of Latvia--who met and married in New York City.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thankful Thursday: Hubby's Pioneer Ancestors


Hubby's immigrant ancestors were all pioneers to be proud of--and thankful for:
  • WOOD. Way back on the Wood side, via the Cushman family of Fortune fame, he has four Mayflower ancestors (Degory Priest, Mary Norris Allerton, Isaac Allerton, and Mary Allerton). Their courage in braving the dangerous trip to the New World in 1620 is quite astonishing. John Wood, Sr., called "The Mariner" by Wood genealogists, was a seafaring man who came to America around 1700. His male descendants were mainly ship's captains, ship builders, or ship's carpenters. Hubby's great-grandpa Thomas Haskell Wood left his life on the sea to marry Mary Amanda Demarest and raise a generation of sons who were all carpenters or painters.
  • McCLURE and McFALL. The next set of pioneer ancestors to arrive in America was the McClure clan. Patriarch Halbert McClure and his family--originally from the Isle of Skye--came from Donegal to buy farmland in Virginia in the 1730s. McClures continued pioneering other areas further west in America. Halbert's grandson, John McClure, married Ann McFall in April, 1801, in Rockbridge county, VA. Above, a note scanned from the marriage bonds for that county, and posted by the US GenWeb archives. I'm now in touch with another McFall researcher and we're pursuing that family's connections. More soon!
  • LARIMER. The original Larimer pioneer left from Northern Ireland for America in 1740 with a trunk of Irish linen. Alas, he was shipwrecked but eventually made his way to central Pennsylvania and then the family continued west to Ohio and pioneered even further west over time.
  • RINEHART and STEINER. Hubby's McClure line includes intermarriages with the Rinehart and Steiner families. Both were pioneer farm families who seem to have settled originally in Pennsylvania in the late 1700s, then continued to Ohio (for more land?). Sadly, I still don't know which ancestors were the original immigrants and their original homeland.
  • SLATTER. The Slatter family lived in inner-city London, apparently so poor that the parents put three of their sons into a training program leading to stable careers in the military. This was in the 1870s. These sons grew up to be pioneers in the Canadian music world--specifically, conductors and composers of military band music. Both the Slatter daughters came to America around 1895, and married soon afterward. Mary Slatter married James Edgar Wood, hubby's carpenter grandpa. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 7: Scanning and Happily Chasing BSOs

Nellie Block, circa 1940s, New York City
Yes, I'm skipping ahead to week 7 of Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over series. Why? Because I'm digitizing photos concurrently with my week 1-2-3 activities. I'm from the "touch it once" school of thought--as long as I'm inventorying, I might as well scan photos and documents that aren't already in my database.

The "Burk/Mahler" box I've been inventorying has a number of photos that tantalize me. For instance, this full-length photo, at left, of Nellie Block. She was a sister of my grandpa Isaac Burk (1882?-1943). Nellie and the photo are a bright, shiny object (BSO) I can't let go. When inspiration strikes, I go along for the ride!

The photo is undated but it's from the 1940s, I believe, because Nellie looks much like she did at my parents' wedding in 1946. She's at the door of a private home, possibly a duplex, probably in one of the outer boroughs of New York City.

When Isaac came to New York City in 1904, via Canada, his entry document said (as shown above) he was going "to sister Nellie Block, 1956 3rd Ave., corner 107th St." By the time of the 1905 NY census, however, Nellie was no longer at that apartment building--although Isaac was living there, in the apartment of his future in-laws, Meyer & Tillie Mahler. So far, I haven't found Nellie anywhere in NYC,  nor have I found any historical documents with her name on them.

I know Nellie was alive and well in the 1930s because she received this invitation to a cousin's wedding in 1934.

Most likely Nellie was living not far from her brother Isaac, who was in the Bronx at the time. I'm going to try NYC directories (having already tried the census, marriage/death records, and the other usual official records).

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 3: Who the Heck Is That? (Photos and Labels)

I'm inventorying each box of documents for the Do-Over. That means listing contents, labeling who's who, and putting items into archival sleeves with identification on the outside.

After inventory, I'll know what I have so I can do research in the next phase of the Do-Over.

Yesterday I began on the Burk box, my father's family, and included was this photo of three people and a piglet. Only last year, I connected with my second cousin in Montreal and she quickly identified the mystery man at right as her father, Dad's first cousin.

Colleen of the wonderful Leaves & Branches gen blog asked how I label photos. After investigating and experimenting, I decided to:
  1. Scan (at 300 dpi or higher) and then put each photo (or small group of related photos) in its own sleeve or archival bag. 
  2. Type up a detailed explanation, including names and relationships, date, place, and any other specifics I've learned about the photo.
  3. Put the explanation on the outside of the photo sleeve so the paper doesn't touch the photo. Above, a photo of how I tucked it in and taped it to the reverse of the archival bag holding the actual photo.
  4. Inventory and then file all photos/explanations in an archival box, arranged by surname.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 3: Clues Are Everywhere

This is the week for conducting research and I'm doing a bit of it even as I continue inventorying those 19 archival boxes of family photos and documents sitting in my home office.

Tonight I inventoried one of the boxes holding papers and photos of my father, Harold Burk (1909-1978).

For instance, I picked up this photo of Dad in WWII, given to me a few months ago from my first cousin, who got it from our uncle, Sidney Burk (1914-1995). Research shows that Sidney enlisted in the Army a few months after his older brother Harold enlisted in 1942.

I turned the photo over. No caption, no writing. Dad did write on the backs of some photos, just not this one.

Still, I pulled out my trusty magnifying glass and checked the back more carefully. There, in the upper left corner, was a very faint impression of an old-fashioned postmark. See the photo below. By turning the photo this way and that under strong light, I could make out the year: 1942. The photo had been mailed to someone in the family, and the strength of the postmark penetrated the envelope and left an impression on the photo!

Research shows Dad enlisted at Camp Upton, NY on March 7, 1942. I also have his $10,000 National Service Life Insurance policy, issued on April 1, 1942.

Looking at the uniform and the place, I conclude this is Dad in basic training somewhere in the south.** He must have had the photo taken and mailed it to his brother, either at home in the Bronx or wherever his brother was in basic training.

Clues are everywhere. When I log this photo in my inventory list, my source for dating it will be the official government stamp showing the year :)

** Further inventorying in same archival box turned up a different photo of Dad in same uniform, same time--with a studio name stamped on the back. It was taken in Miami, FL.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

This post is in loving memory of my Farkas, Schwartz, Mahler, and Kunstler ancestors who were Holocaust victims. Many died in Auschwitz, which was liberated 70 years ago today.

Above, my visit to the Zanis Lipke memorial in Riga, Latvia, with the foundation of the destroyed Great Choral Synagogue in the foreground.

At right, another Holocaust memorial in Rumbula.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Albert Ward Cobb, Esq, Goes Home to Sing-Sing

Back in 2011, I wrote about how my father, Harold Burk, held onto stuff from his time working as a travel agent and then a checkroom concession owner at two fancy Manhattan hotels, the Savoy Plaza Hotel (earlier, the Hotel Savoy; later, the Savoy Hilton and, later still, torn down to make way for the GM building) and the Hampshire House Hotel.

Among his boxes, I found two pocket notebooks and a number of letters and documents pertaining to Mr. A. Ward Cobb. According to my research, Albert Ward Cobb (born 27 March 1870) and his sister Emmie (Emily) were among the children of Marcius L. Cobb, a lawyer and banker. M.L. Cobb was Vice-President of the First National Bank in Sing Sing, New York (see document at left).

Next week, the books and documents of Mr. Cobb, Esquire, will be going home to Sing Sing (the village, NOT the prison), better known as Ossining, New York.

The Ossining Historical Society tells me that the Cobb family was prominent in the area and they would be delighted to have this small cache to be catalogued and archived as part of the history of the town's families.

Albert Ward Cobb was 10 years old in 1880, according to the Census, living in Sing Sing with his father, M. L. Cobb, a lawyer of 58 yrs old, and mother, Annie G. Cobb, 50 years old.
Albert grew up and married Fannie McCan and by the time of the 1930 Census, the couple was living at the Hotel Plaza, 1 West 58th Street, Manhattan. Albert was 60 and Fannie was 47. NO children are listed. This was a very prestigious address, actually on the corner of Fifth Avenue, directly across the street from the Savoy Plaza.

It's not much of a leap to see that the Cobb family's few documents were left in care of the hotel and then passed into the hands of my father some 30 years later. Thanks to genealogical research, I can explain the provenance of these records when I pass them into the care of the Ossining Historical Society.**

**Update: The historical society informs me that names shown in the ledger books are familiar to them, and therefore they will have a little deeper insight into the financial dealings among people in the town. How wonderful!