Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday's Obituary: James Freeland, Deputy Sheriff (and Life-Long Democrat)

James Freeland (1838-1920) married hubby's great-grand aunt Emma O. Larimer (1848-1923) in Millersburg, Indiana, in December, 1869. They moved next door to Emma's aunt Lucinda Helen Bentley Shank (1825-1903) who was married to a carpenter, Jonas C. Shank (1815-1907). (Jonas Shank was newsworthy as the aged man who took a long walk in my previous blog post.)

Great-grand uncle James had a varied career, serving as deputy sheriff in Goshen, Indiana and then as manager of a furniture company. He was also street commissioner for a time. He began to suffer from "nervous disorders and general decline" and he and his family moved to New York City in 1903, and I found them in 1905 in the NY census. Why exactly did they move? Not known.

James died in 1920, and his obit in the Indiana hometown newspaper says: "All his life Mr. Freeland had been a democrat." Maybe it's not a coincidence that the obit was published in the Goshen Daily Democrat (on September 15, 1920)?

Although I'd love to see Great-grand aunt Emma Larimer Freeland's obit from February 23, 1923, as published in Indiana's Middlebury Independent, Newspaper Archive.com says I can't see it right now because of "a delay with our data backup provider, Amazon Web Services Glacier team." Grrrr.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Amanuensis Monday: "Aged Man's Long Walk"

I just love finding newspaper snippets that paint a picture of an ancestor's personality or daily life.

Case in point: Jonas C. Shank (1815-1907) who married hubby's second great grand aunt Lucinda Helen Bentley (1825-1903) in 1845. Tomorrow is the 108th anniversary of Jonas's passing and I was looking for his obit when I ran across this paragraph in the Goshen Democrat of February 7, 1903.

"Aged Man's Long Walk" is the headline. Seems great-grand uncle Jonas lived in Lagrange county and was visiting his daughter Jane (Jennie) Shank Short (who married Oscar David Short). He walked home--covering nine miles in 90 minutes. "Mr. Shank is hale and hearty and has comparatively few gray hairs for a man of his age." Winter in Indiana can be chilly, to say the least, so this feat is all the more impressive. In fact, it was so impressive that this snippet was picked up and summarized in the Fort Wayne Sentinel!

Let me say again how much I appreciate being able to access Newspaper Archive via my membership in the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. Many of hubby's ancestors lived in Indiana and environs, areas represented in the archive's newspaper collection.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sympathy Saturday: Sad Times for My Jacobs Family, 1915-1923

A few weeks ago, I was able to locate the final resting place of my 70-year-old great-great-grandma Rachel Shuham Jacobs plus her 65-year-old son Joseph Jacobs, his 70-year-old wife Eva Michalovsky Jacobs, and Eva & Joseph's 30-year-old daughter Flora Jacobs. All were buried at Mt. Zion cemetery in Queens, NY.

Rather than go to NYC or send to the Municipal Archives for their death certificates, I ordered the microfilms from the Family History Library--half the price and much faster than going the official route.

Now I know that my Jacobs family had a stretch of sad times from 1915 to 1923. First, in 1915, the matriarch (Rachel Shuham Jacobs) died of liver problems. (Her death cert, above, also tells me her parents' names were Moses ___ and Sarah Levin, new info.)

In November, 1918, Rachel's son Joseph, a tailor by trade but later a janitor, died of paralysis agitans (Parkinson's disease) at Montefiore Home & Hospital in the Bronx.

Meanwhile, Rachel's grandson (Joseph's son) Frank Maurice/Moritz Jacobs had been serving in WWI since he enlisted on April 18, 1917. He participated in a number of fierce battle engagements in France, including Toulon, the Aisne Defensive and Aisne-Marne Offensive, and the Battle of Chateau-Thierry (under the overall command of "Black Jack" Pershing, see map at right). Corporal Jacobs was wounded in France on July 19, 1918 and brought to New York for treatment on August 20, 1918. Probably Frank was able to attend his father's funeral that November because he wasn't sent to Virginia for additional recuperation and treatment until 1919. 

According to the 1920 Census, Frank Jacobs was at home with his widowed mother Eva and his two sisters, Hilda and Flora. Frank's "occupation" was "wounded soldier" (see excerpt above). His sisters, both in their 20s, were breadwinners for the family, Flora working as an operator on knitted goods and Hilda as a stenographer in insurance.

Sadly, in 1923, Flora (aka Florence) died of rheumatic endocarditis (infection of the heart after rheumatic fever). She was buried in the same plot as her father Joseph and her grandmother Rachel. Eva Michalovsky Jacobs lived on until 1941, and is also buried in the same plot.


So 1915-1923 was quite a difficult period for the Jacobs family.

With all this new info, I decided to create a new ancestor landing page for Rachel and Jonah Jacobs. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Erin Go Bragh for Tombstone Tuesday: Smith, Larimer, Gallagher, McClure, Shehen

Hubby's family has at least four branches stretching back to Ireland.
  1. His 5th great-grandparents, William Smith (1724-1786) and Janet Smith (1724?-1805), were from Limerick. Their first son born in America was Brice Smith (1756-1828), whose tombstone is shown above, from Fairfield County, Ohio. The name Brice has shown up elsewhere in this branch of the family, including in a member of the current generation.
  2. His 5th great-grandparents, Robert Larimer (1719-1803) and Mary Gallagher Larimer (1721-1803) were from the North of Ireland. He's the ancestor who was shipwrecked while enroute to the New World.
  3. His 5th great-grandparents, Halbert McClure (1684-1754) and Agnes (Steel?) McClure (1690-1750) were born in County Donegal. They were the journey-takers who brought the family to Philadelphia and then walked to Virginia for land.
  4. His 2nd great-grandparents, John Shehen (1801?-1875) and his wife Mary (1801?-?) were born in "Ireland" (that's all the info they told UK Census officials in 1841). Their three children were born in Marylebone, London during the 1830s. Perhaps they came to London because of the famine in Ireland?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 11: If Only Floyda Had Been on Facebook

This week's Do-Over topic has to do with social media. I almost titled this post "The Forever Do-Over" because with social media, the do-over process never ends (and that's as it should be).
Floyda Mabel Steiner Gottfried McClure and grandson

You just never know what you'll find out or who you'll meet, and what brick wall you'll smash because of new data or new people on Facebook, a blog, or other social media.

As dedicated as I've been to researching via surname and location message boards, social media queries are more targeted and often get faster responses.

Case in point: Floyda Mabel Steiner, my husband's grandma. Born March 20, 1878 (happy 137th bday) in Nevada, Ohio, Floyda married Aaron Franklin Gottfried (1871-1961) in 1898.

I only learned of Floyda's first marriage when I sent for her marriage documents from June, 1903, when she married Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). So clearly Floyda was divorced after the 1900 Census (where I found her as Mrs. Floyda Gottfried, wife of a farmer) but before her remarriage in June, 1903. I searched but couldn't find Floyda's first marriage documents or her divorce documents back in 2011 when I first uncovered her "hidden" first marriage that no one in the family had ever heard of.

And by the way, Floyda wasn't exactly forthcoming in the 1910 census, when she said this was her 1st marriage when, in fact, it was her 2nd marriage. Wonder whether her 2d husband knew?

Anyway, as part of the Do-Over, I posted a note on the Ohio Genealogy Network's FB page this past weekend, wondering where to look for Floyda's divorce documents--and got answers right away. One member suggested I call the Clerk of the Courts in Wyandot County and even provided the phone number. Another did a lookup on Family Search and discovered that Floyda's first marriage document was posted there! (See it above.) Yet another kind member even offered to go to the courthouse on my behalf to copy the divorce info if it's there.

If Floyda had been on Facebook, all her friends and relatives would have known when and where she was divorced and I'd know too. Now, thanks to Facebook, I'll soon know when and where and, hopefully, why--the most important question for the family to answer. The answer will be on this blog for future researchers to read all about it.

My Genealogy Do-Over will never be "done" because there are always more questions to ask/answer and more FB groups to be part of. And that's a good thing because I heart genealogy.





Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Honeymooning in Atlantic City (in November)

My parents honeymooned in Atlantic City, NJ during the week after Thanksgiving in 1946. As part of the Genealogy Do-Over, I've been scanning photos from Mom's album.

Here is a photo taken on the boardwalk. Some cousins were enjoying the late November breezes along with my parents, the couple at far right, Harold Burk and Daisy Schwartz Burk!

Cousins, recognize anyone? At far left...my father's first cousin Sylvia with a boyfriend. In the middle, Sylvia's BFF and her future husband. The couple in front is still a mystery.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Surname Saturday: GGGM Rachel Jacobs and the Plungianer Unterstutzungs Verein

Finally, I've located where in Lithuania my great-great-grandma Rachel Shuham Jacobs (1840s-1915) came from and where in NYC she spent her last days.

Both Rachel's early years and her whereabouts after the 1905 NY Census have been mostly a mystery. In 1905, Rachel was living at 88 Chrystie Street with her daughter, Tillie Jacobs Mahler (and her son Joseph lived in the same tenement).

The only clues to her death (and those of her son) were dates listed in my great aunt's notebook. Alas, those dates weren't exactly correct, as I learned by plugging them into various sites (including the usual suspects like Ancestry, ItalianGen.org, Family Search, and Findagrave).

As part of the Genealogy Do-Over, I tried not only different spellings (Jacob/Jacobs, Rachel/Rachael, etc.) but also different years of death, sometimes using the same month as my great aunt listed.
Rachel Shuham Jacobs with a Mahler granddaughter

Findagrave came up with a hit for Rachel Jacobs in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens, NY, with a burial date that was only one year off from the family notebook

Happily for me and other genealogy researchers, the cemetery has a handy-dandy interment search linked from its home page. And that's where I located GGGM Rachel, buried in the Plungianer Unterstutzungs Verein [translation: Plungianer Support Club] plot. She's there along with her son Joseph Jacobs (d. 1918), daughter-in-law Eva Michalovsky Jacobs (d. 1941), and granddaughter Flora Jacobs (aka Florence, d. 1923).

Now it seems clear that GGGM Rachel was born or  brought up in the Plungian district of Telz, Lithuania, close to the border with Poland. That area had a Jewish population of nearly 2,200 when she was born in the 1840s, according to the informative Lithuanian Jewish Communities. We have other evidence linking Rachel and family to Lithuania, just nothing that gives us a specific town.

Of course I called the cemetery and received scans of the burial cards, which gave me exact dates and, in some cases, death cert numbers for the Jacobs family. Rachel's card says that her last address was 47 Allen Street in Manhattan, a now-gone tenement on the Lower East Side (see map at top). This is only 3 blocks from her Chrystie Street address in 1905, also on the Lower East Side.

Next, I ordered the death certs on microfilms from the Family History Center. Before the month of March is over, I should know more about my Jacobs ancestors, thanks to New York's vital records. And when the snow finally melts, I'll have photos of the Jacobs headstones!

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!