Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday: Where and When Was Second GGF Jacob S. Steiner Buried?

During a genealogy pilgrimage to Ohio and Indiana two years ago, hubby and I photographed the headstones of his ancestors in small rural cemeteries. Above, the stone of hubby's second great-grandma Elizabeth Steiner (1802-1864), maiden name still unknown, who was the wife of second GGP Jacob S. Steiner. She was buried in Oceola Cemetery #2.

Where is her husband's grave? When and where did he die? I can't find him in the death records for Ohio, nor is his grave in Crawford County, Ohio, where Elizabeth was living in 1860 when she told the census she was the head of the household, widowed. Also I can't find an obit for Jacob S. Steiner in Ohio.

When hubby's grandfather wrote down information about his family (see scrap at right), he didn't have any dates for Jacob S. Steiner. His info about Jacob's wife Elizabeth was exactly correct, so it seems Jacob's death was a mystery for decades before I got bit by the genealogy bug.

Sometime soon I hope to have a Tombstone Tuesday photo of Jacob S. Steiner's grave, if I can solve this mystery.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Matriarchal Monday: "Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars"

For Women's History Month, and for insights into the lives of my immigrant grandmothers, I just finished reading Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars by Elizabeth Ewen.

This nonfiction book gave me valuable background for understanding the lives of immigrant women like Minnie Farkas and Henrietta Mahler who came to New York City between 1890 to 1925. Although the book focuses on Jewish and Italian households, some of the observations apply to immigrant households in general.

One insight, from the "Our Daily Bread" chapter, explained why my great-grandma (Lena Kunstler Farkas) insisted that her children (including my grandma Minnie) hand over their pay packets in their entirety. Immigrant families simply couldn't be supported by the wages of the father alone--if he found steady work--and as soon as children were able, they went to work to help pay for food and rent and clothing.

The book observes that mothers had to exert control over the children's pay early (before the children learned to spend) or they wouldn't have enough money to keep the family going. Some immigrant families also needed money to pay for bringing other family members from the home country to America. So teenagers and even children in their 20s gave the pay packet to Mom, who then doled out car fare and maybe a bit for snacks or lunch and kept the rest for the household's expenses. This was the pattern in my Farkas family, for sure.

Another tidbit I learned is why my elderly Schwartz cousin made a point of mentioning that the clothes worn by my female ancestors in Hungary were good quality. Newcomers from Europe came to realize that in New York (and probably throughout America), "greenhorn" ladies needed to wear stylish clothing -- even if inexpensive -- if they wanted to be accepted into the mainstream, as the author points out in her chapter titled "First Encounters."

Quality was very important in the Old Country as a mark of financial achievement, and that's why my cousin emphasized that point. However, being seen in the latest styles was much more important for ladies in the New World. Luckily, my Farkas grandma and great aunts were super with a sewing machine and could whip up fashionable dresses for their daughters.

My immigrant grandfathers both boarded with immigrant families in NYC tenements before marrying. This book says (in the "House and Home" chapter) that boarding with immigrants who were originally from the same area was extremely common, especially among men who arrived alone and needed someone to cook for them, etc. The book also points out that a boarder often got the best bed and/or the only bedroom.

Grandpa Isaac Burk boarded with his future in-laws, the Mahler family, for a short time after arriving in NYC.  Unfortunately, I'll never know whether Grandpa Isaac knew Grandma Henrietta before he was a boarder in her family's apartment, or whether love blossomed once he was part of the household.

PS: Today is the 125th anniversary of the wedding of my great uncle Joseph Jacobs to Eva Michalovsky. They married in Manhattan on this date in 1890, a Sunday. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 9: My Aha Moment While Digitizing Daisy's Album


Sometimes the first time I see a document or photo, I don't understand what I'm seeing. But later, with more info or more context, the fog clears and it becomes clear why that photo or letter is important.

This photo is a case in point. I'm organizing, inventorying, and digitizing old family photos as part of week 9 of the do-over process. And I had an aha! moment just today.

This photo is in an album started by my Mom, Daisy Schwartz, after she became engaged to marry my Dad, Harry Burk. In July, 1947, the newly-married couple took a trip to Montreal, returning with more than a dozen black-and-white photos of people and places.

Years ago, when I originally saw this photo in Mom's album, I didn't know the significance of the caption: "Cuthbert St. - Montreal."

But since I learned last year that Dad had an Uncle Abraham, Aunt Anna, and four first cousins in Montreal, photos from this trip took on new meaning.

In researching Aunt Anna, I recently located her 1948 obituary, which mentions that her oldest son lived on Cuthbert Street in Montreal. Aha! That little detail puts the significance of this photo and its caption in a new light.

Thanks to the do-over, I'm finding more connections between people, places, and events that I didn't originally know were connected!

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.