Sunday, March 18, 2018

Researching "Misfortune" Mary Shehen Slatter

My husband's great-grandma, Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889), was in and out of London workhouses during the early to mid-1870s. She married John Slatter (1838-1901) in 1859. From 1860-1869, they had six children. But John had no steady work as the years went on. He was out of their lives as Mary and the children bounced in and out of workhouses, trying to stay afloat amid their poverty.

At top, Mary's workhouse discharge on January 17, 1874, indicating she had a bad leg, and was being sent to Newington workhouse. This time, she was without her children. Often, her children were also sent to the workhouse with Mary, to be sure they had meals and shelter.

In 1875, as shown above, Mary was still "destitute" and released from this workhouse "to Poplar" workhouse while her children were kept a couple more days (to be fed) and then discharged to Forest Gate School in the notoriously poor area of Whitechapel, London.

Thanks to my cousin Anna, who visited the London Metropolitan Archives last year, I know that Mary Shehen Slatter was diagnosed with "melancholia" when admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum and, later, sent to Banstead Asylum. The asylum's notes indicate that Mary's real problem was poverty and misfortune. She died in Banstead of tuberculosis.

Thanks to the many Rootstech sessions I attended on how to locate parish chest records, my plan is to flesh out the family's backstory by doing more research in their London parish. For background, see this Family Search wiki discussion of parish chest records, and another Fam Search article here. FindMyPast has some parish chest records here (not for "Misfortune Mary," however).

This is my post #12 in Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge for 2018.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Lucky Me, I Married Him For His Ancestors!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I married my wonderful husband for his ancestors! Lucky me.

Actually, for the first decade of our marriage, I paid absolutely no attention to our families' roots. But once I caught the genealogy bug, it was full speed ahead, starting with the bits and pieces in the family's possession.

As shown in the handwritten note passed down from his Granddaddy Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970), there were clear clues to Irish ancestry on hubby's mother's side of the family. Following up on these and other clues, here's what I learned about his Irish ancestors:

John Shehen and his wife, Mary, from somewhere in Ireland (possibly south) - Hubby's 2d great-grandparents. They were born around 1800 in Ireland but were in London by the 1830s. John and Mary’s daughter, Mary Shehen, married John Slatter in England. Their youngest daughter Mary Slatter grew up, married James Edgar Wood, and became hubby's grandma. [Too many Marys and Johns, don't ya think?]

William Smith and his wife, Jean, were from Limerick – His 5th great-grandparents. Their son Brice Smith was the first Brice in the family and was the first son born to these ancestors in America. There have been several other men named Brice since then, including hubby's Granddaddy.

Robert Larimer and his wife, Mary O’Gallagher, both from the North of Ireland - Hubby's 5th great-grandparents. Robert was shipwrecked while sailing from No. Ireland to America and then served as an indentured servant to work off the cost of his rescue. He finally ran away, married Mary, and settled down to farming. McKibbin and Short cousins from the North of Ireland were known to intermarry with the Larimer branch in America.

Halbert McClure and his wife, Agnes, were born in County Donegal, in the North of Ireland (although the McClure family is originally from Isle of Skye in Scotland) - Hubby’s 5th great-grandparents. This family sailed to Philadelphia as a group and then walked 200 miles to Virginia to buy land for farming in the 1730s.

Every year, I write my grandchildren to share the latest info about their Irish roots. There's always something new to investigate, someone new to discover among these branches of the tree. Lucky me, I married him for his ancestors.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the "lucky" prompt in Week 11 of her #52Ancestors series.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Free or Fee Genealogy: Click on Cyndi's List

One of the oldest and most comprehensive free sources of genealogy links is Cyndi's List. As shown above, Cyndi's page organizes U.S. genealogy links both geographically and by categories (such as African-American genealogy, Ellis Island, Mayflower/Pilgrims, etc.). It has international gen links, as well.

Usually, I begin with the geographic category index, browsing all those links in search of a specific region, county, city, or township. Many of the genealogy categories are quite useful for focusing on specific regions or aspects of family history, such as how to use Ancestry or links to research about specific occupations. Since hubby's family includes four Mayflower ancestors, I've also checked out Cyndi's Mayflower category.

Remember that although Cyndi's List is free, it does include links to pay sites as well as free sources. For instance, below is an entry from the Connecticut--maps & geography page, clickable to the Ancestry map collections that would help anyone researching the Nutmeg State. Note the "fee-based subscription" comment.

Cyndi began collecting genealogy links in 1996, and after 22 years, she has a wealth of links ready for researchers to click. Because her site focuses on links, it loads quickly and processes clicks quickly, too. Go ahead, click on Cyndi's List and see what you can find.

This is the latest entry in my ongoing Genealogy: Free or Fee? series. For more, click HERE!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Have You Seen Shamrocks for New Year's?

My husband's Wood family includes a few Irish ancestors (which I'll write about later this week). But his Wood relatives also liked to send New Year's greeting cards with shamrocks*--oooooops, four-leaf clovers for luck on New Year's. The cards had nothing to do with Irish connections, only with warm wishes for luck in the coming year.
Here are four of the colorful postcards sent to hubby's uncle, Wallis Walter Wood, during the 1910s. Isn't the little piglet above adorable? What a pig has to do with clover, I don't know, but the illustration is cute for a young recipient.
One card sent good wishes for luck in finding that pot of gold...a prosperous new year.
Another card featured a new-fangled flying machine (today it would be called "steampunk") equipped with a four-leaf clover propeller. Bet this aviation theme captured the imagination of the young boy who received the card!

*Thanks to Dara for correcting me on shamrocks vs. four-leaf clovers! Much appreciated. I'm horticulturally challenged, it seems.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Leni Kunstler Farkas, Immigrant Woman in the Land of Dollars

My great-grandma Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938) was the prototypical strong immigrant woman. Just look at her, posing for a photo in the mid-1930s, and you can see her determination.

Until I read Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars, I didn't realize that Leni's strong-willed matriarchal tactics were typical of immigrant women running households in the Lower East Side of New York City.

Leni (Americanized as Lena) married Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) in Hungary. They raised a family of 8 children while he leased land and supervised farming. When Moritz's crops were destroyed by hail in 1899--the one year he failed to buy insurance--he escaped his creditors by sailing on the S. S. Spaarndam to New York City, leaving wife and children behind with her mother.

After a year, Leni sailed alone to New York to be with Moritz. Four of their children joined them a year later, and the remaining four were finally reunited with their family 18 months after that--having been forced to wait for forged documents so the boys could avoid conscription in Hungary.

In America, Leni and Moritz had three more children, making a grand total of 13 mouths to feed. Finding herself in a dollar economy rather than a farming community where barter was common, Leni had to find a new way forward for the family.

Leni was a strict disciplinarian, giving orders, assigning chores, and tolerating no backtalk. She sent the older children out to find work and made sure they went to night school to learn English; the youngest attended P.S. 188 on Lewis and Houston streets. On payday, she demanded the pay packets from all her working children and handed back some nickels for carfare (bus or subway) plus a bite of lunch. The older boys got some carefare but had to walk home many days.

Leni's husband, Moritz, had weak lungs; he found work intermittently as an apple peddler and a presser. As a result, the children's wages were needed to cover household expenses. Still, there were some years when Leni put aside enough cash to vacation by herself in the Catskills for two or three weeks during the stiflingly hot New York City summers!

The family thrived under Leni's control and as the children grew up, married, and had children of their own, all returned to Leni and Moritz's on a regular basis. The children formed the Farkas Family Tree to continue their close-knit relationships. The patriarch and matriarch were honorary members. Every March after Leni and Moritz died, the family tree would hold a moment of silence in their memory--a tradition started by my grandpa Tivador Schwartz, who married Leni and Moritz's oldest daughter.

This post honors my great-grandma as a strong woman, the focus of week 10 in Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors series. And a big thank you to my Cousin B, who began collecting family stories and cranking microfilmed Census records more than 20 years ago! She saved the memories of her mother's generation and now I'm passing them along to the next generation via my blog and in many other ways.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Where There's a Will, There's a Family Reunion (in Venice)

Last week's #52Ancestors challenge (#9 in the series by Amy Johnson Crow) was "Where there's a will..." Since I was at RootsTech then, I'm catching up on my regular genealogy blogging now. My husband suggested today's post, about the wonderful way that a will turned into a family reunion.

Hubby's granddaddy, Brice Larimer McCLURE, was born on Dec. 29, 1878 (in Little Traverse, Michigan) and died on Dec. 15, 1970 (in Cleveland, Ohio). He passed away just shy of his 92nd birthday.

Brice's will left his only child, my late mother-in-law, Marian McClure WOOD (1909-1983), a bank account with a modest four-digit balance.

Marian decided to take that money and treat her three children (and spouses) and three grandchildren to a trip to Venice. Her favorite city in the world!

Since the three children were scattered across the country, this trip was both a family reunion and an opportunity to experience Venice together, paid for by Brice's legacy.

Marian and her husband, Edgar James WOOD (1903-1986) were also big fans of trans-Atlantic cruises. The photo above is one of many cruise photos that Marian and Ed took during their yearly travels to Europe after he retired.

For the reunion trip, they booked passage on the S.S. France, Cabin P252, from New York to Southampton. (Ed was a prodigious diarist, writing a few lines every day for more than 30 years--that's how I know who/what/when/where.)

Ed and Marian and their children arrived in Venice starting on September 6, 1972, and did some sightseeing together for a week. Afterward, everyone scattered to visit other European destinations on their own, their flights home also paid for by Brice's legacy.

This year, I'm creating a family memory booklet with photos from that delightful Venice trip and comments from hubby, his siblings, and the youngsters who played with pigeons in Saint Marks Square (now grown with children of their own). That's one of the many ways* I'm helping to keep the family's history alive for future generations to enjoy!


*For more ideas, please check out my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available in paperback or Kindle.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Found: Farkas Family WWII Letters

In 2013, I first learned about the existence of written records covering most meetings of my mother's Farkas Family Tree stretching from 1933 through 1964. This family-tree association, which met 10 times a year, consisted of all the adult children (and their spouses) of patriarch Moritz FARKAS and matriarch Lena KUNSTLER Farkas. I remember attending meetings when I was a tiny tyke, but of course I had no idea of the elaborate administrative framework created by the family.*

Once a cousin kindly let me borrow the meeting minutes and annual historian's reports, I scanned all 500 pages. Then I indexed and identified each person as a relative/in-law (by relationship) or as a family friend. Indexing helped me solve several family mysteries!

However, the World War II meeting notes were mostly missing, as were letters written by family members who were in the service during the war. Five years I've tried to find these missing documents, with no luck. I feared they were lost forever.

Until a lucky break last month. I reconnected with a 2d cousin, who mentioned his search for some of the minutes and records I'd scanned. And lo and behold, he has in his possession the missing family-tree minutes and letters from the war years!

We swapped. Now I'm scanning (and indexing) all the new-found minutes and letters from the 1940s. At top, the title page of the scrapbook he lent me. At right, a letter written by my Auntie Dorothy Schwartz exactly 75 years ago this month--when she was a WAC in training, prior to being posted overseas for World War II service.

Lucky, lucky me to be able to assemble a complete set of minutes and letters for the Farkas Family Tree and keep them safe for the next generation (and beyond).

Thanks to Elizabeth O'Neal for the Genealogy Blog Party prompt "As luck would have it" for March.

*One of Mom's first cousins had bound books of meeting minutes and documents and when he and I got together for the first time in decades, and I began to ask him about the family, he casually mentioned having those books. I then volunteered to scan and produce a spiral-bound book. He thought it would take me years. It took less than 3 months, including indexing, because another cousin volunteered to retype anything that was illegible. So remember: Always reach out to cousins and let them know of your interest in anything even vaguely related to family history!

Friday, March 2, 2018

RootsTech Day 3: Scott Hamilton, British Gen, Jurisdictions, and Blogging Connections

Well, it's a few minutes after my figure skating hero, Scott Hamilton, concluded his emotional talk about family and connections. Here he is with a photo of the parents who adopted him, and a brother and sister. No dry eyes in the audience as he told of his life's journey so far. He received a preview of what genealogical research revealed about his birth parents. Can't wait to learn more later.

Maybe there were a few empty seats in the ballroom but I didn't see 'em. Above, a small part of the massive crowd streaming out after Scott's inspiring talk.

After Scott, my first session was the ever-dapper Myko Clelland, offering tips for finding "Hidden Gems in FindMyPast's British & Irish Collections." Despite a technical glitch with his slides, the talk was practical and informative, of course. He just happened to show a record set that might help me break a brickwall on hubby's Slatter side! Top takeaways: Use the A-Z Catalog to locate records, filter by country, use the unique search screens to find record sets by entering as little as possible and then adding more info (dates, for instance, or address) to narrow.

During the break, I caught up with David Allen Lambert, chief genealogist of American Ancestors.

Then the lunchtime Geneabloggers Tribe group photo was a hoot and a fun opportunity to see so many blogging buddies in one place at one time. Above, with permission, is the "composite" photo with a few Geneabloggers magically added via technology. I'm the small sardine in the middle of the front row, a few shoulders away from Thomas MacEntee.

My afternoon sessions began with Laurie Castillo's "Search All the Jurisdictions" presentation. She knows so much about shifting state/county/township jurisdictions and how to figure out where our ancestors lived when they were alive. That's where we need to look for the records. Her advice: Don't assume anything. Do the research and use maps, gazetteers, whatever it takes to figure out what a place was when our ancestors lived there and then look for the repository holding those records.

Alas, I was crowded out of Amy Johnson Crow & Curt Witcher's talk, as well as shut out of Shannon Christmas's DNA talk. Happily, I squeezed into "What's Next? Turning British Clues into Answers" taught by the terrific Amy Harris.

This was pure methodology at its best. Her case study for finding Mr. Freak (his name, really!) was a perfect way to see the Genealogical Proof Standard in action. Oh, and in the next few days, BYU will be launching its redesigned site for British genealogy.

Try this URL early next week: I can't make it a hotlink because it's not yet live. Just copy and paste into your browser for lots of goodies.

PS If you're at #RootsTech, don't forget to click on the clipboard to rate each speaker and session. They really want our feedback! Bye-bye from SLC. It's been quite a memorable week.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

RootsTech Day 2: DNA Again, Photo Clues, Parish Chest, Expo Encore

On Day two of my very first-ever RootsTech, a real highlight was catching up with Devon Noel Lee and Randy Seaver just before his guest appearance at her Family History Fanatics booth. I read their blogs all the time for ideas and inspiration.
My first breakout session was Tim Janzen's excellent and timely "Update to 3rd Party Autosomal DNA Analysis Tools." Lots of new news. He recommends that we try Gedmatch Genesis for more detailed matching/analysis tools and compatibility with key testing companies. Also he noted DNA Painter won an innovation here at RootsTech (I haven't used it yet but I liked what he showed as a sample). So many good tips, I haven't got room here. Just know that our genetic genealogy toolkits are expanding every week!

Next, I walked out of a session that I won't name, because the speaker spent loads of time on background and didn't get to the point even after 12 minutes. This is something I really don't like doing, but RootsTech time is valuable and scarce. I did use the feedback tool on the app to express my opinion. Enough said.

After lots of fun in the Expo Hall (buying RootsTech sox, a sparkly gen T-shirt and of course DNA kits), my afternoon began with Maureen Taylor's interactive session, "No Language Barrier: Immigrant Clues in Photos." I always like her talks, and this was enjoyable and motivating. She reminds us to look carefully at fashions and hairstyles, also see what ancestors are holding (a photo or a book for instance), see what clues are in the background, think about why the photo was taken, and research the photographer. We had a good time guessing on many photos, and helped Maureen with a few new interpretations/translations, too.

The final session of the day for me was "Finding Your Way Around the Parish Chest" with not one, not two, but three expert speakers: Kirsty Gray, Sylvia Valentine, and Patricia Whatley. Learned a lot at this talk--starting with how much info is available if ancestors were paupers (yes, I'm talking about hubby's Slatter ancestors). Often the parishes would try to hand paupers off to other parishes rather than bear the expense of keeping them going. Will have to look for more paperwork in the parish chests!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

RootsTech Day 1: England, Deeds, Maps, DNA, and More

Day 1 of RootsTech! Photos now, story later (after Expo opening). Above, "Making the Most of English & Welsh Parish Records" featuring the dapper expert Myko Clelland. Myko explained the different types of parish records and the potential info awaiting researchers who can locate and read the records. "Read" is a key word here--the handwriting can be difficult for ordinary mortals like me. But I'm now encouraged to delve deeper into hubby's Slatter and Shehen lines in England!

Next session on my list was Amie Bowser Tennant's practical and entertaining "Deed You Hear About These Underutilized Records?" One of the top takeaways is to be sure to look up "grantor" records as well as "grantee" records, to see who bought and who sold. In many (but not all) cases, the buyer's previous town will be listed. That's just the clue I need for hubby's Steiner and Rinehart ancestors who bought land in OH!

After a fun lunch break with blogging friends, I refreshed my skills with the hands-on lab "Custom Google Maps" taught by Kyle Clements. Created a sample map showing the travel route taken by my Burk/Birk/Berk/Berg ancestors, leaving Lithuania and going first to Manchester, England. From there, one brother went to Montreal and the other went to Canada just long enough to stop feeling seasick and get on a train to NYC. Yes, that means you, Grandpa Isaac Burk.

Next was DNA superstar Diahan Southard's engaging and motivating "Direct Line DNA Testing for Genealogical Research." I asked Diahan whether mtDNA and YDNA would be helpful in endogamous populations like my ancestral Eastern European Jewish roots. She said yes! So you know what kind of tests I'm bringing home from the Expo.

So many top-notch speakers, so little time . . . but now the Expo Hall is opening and bargains await! Hint: If you're a mystery fan, go see Nathan Dylan Goodwin. I bought 4 of his books at the Expo.

RootsTech and the Value of a Research Log

RootsTech opens tomorrow, on Wednesday...300 sessions, many dozens of exhibitors, and lots of opportunities to learn from experts and fellow attendees. In fact, waiting on line for badge and bag (a LONG wait), I enjoyed genea-conversations with those in front and behind me. Tonight, I reviewed the RootsTech Conference Guide (session locations in print, for paper-loving people like me) and used the app to prep for Day One's meetings and appointments.

Today (which Randy Seaver calls "Day Zero" for RootsTech) was the day hubby and I pored over hard-to-find books and microfilms at the Family History Library. You can see my handsome guy at top, blinking into the sun as we left the FHL building after about 5 hours of intense concentration.
And now I have to confess: As much as I dislike research logs, they were absolutely essential to putting our limited time at the FHL to good use. Above, one of the 3 pages of catalog listings for my husband's Steiner and Rinehart ancestor hunt in Crawford county, OH and Berks county, PA. I spent several working days assembling this list of likely sources, reading the descriptions on FamilySearch and determining whether any of these could be accessed from home or only from the library. Why waste time at the library if we can research a source at home?

My goal was to give hubby call numbers and notes to focus his limited research time on the 2d and 3d floors of the library. As he worked through each entry, he checked off that resource or put an X if it turned out not to be applicable (or, in one case, unavailable). He was able to move down the list, item by item, and actually found a few good leads and clues (no breakthroughs yet). He also downloaded one set of files to his USB drive for us to examine more closely at home, rather than spend precious library time on this resource.

I had high hopes for two resources in particular: The book on Crawford County, Ohio, early history/pioneers and the microfilmed Crawford County Pioneers applications. The key to the history book was that there was a printed index, separate from the book, listing all names mentioned. We could quickly identify page numbers to look at, and then skim certain places and time periods for background. No breakthrough from that book, but worth the time.

The Crawford County Pioneers applications would be a treasure trove for anyone with ancestors who were in that spot in 1850 or earlier. To be named the descendant of a pioneer, applicants had to submit various types of proof, all included on this microfilm (such as pedigree charts, marriage certs, birth certs, etc). We checked the digitized index of names in the Pioneers applications and found 5 possible applications to review on microfilm (see above for the title page of one roll). Alas, not one panned out. Still, it was a productive day at the library and an excellent way to transition to RootsTech tomorrow.

Terrific lunch and dinner dates with blogging buddies Linda ("Empty Branches on the Family Tree" blog), Deborah ("Who we are and how we got that way" blog), Yvonne ("Yvonne's genealogy blog"), and friends/family. Bumped into blogger Caitlin Gow, who ran the contest in which I won my free RootsTech registration. And met many more folks who will now be familiar faces at sessions in the coming days. Can't wait.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Ready for RootsTech?!

RootsTech 2018 begins in a few days! And I'm almost ready.

I've just deleted most of the live-streamed sessions from my in-person schedule. If I can watch at home in my jammies after the conference is over, that makes more time at the conference for events available only on-site.

Tuesday priorities: Hubby and I will be at the Family History Library, learning our way around and looking up as many in-person sources as possible to chip away at brick walls. We'll be meeting blogging buddies for lunch and enjoy getting acquainted in person. Woo hoo!
  • His tree goals: Focus on Steiner and Rinehart (both families, on his mother's side, came through PA on their way to OH--but where were these families from before they came to America?)
  • My tree goals: Focus on my father's side: Birk/Burk/Berk/Birck/Berg (I snagged an appointment with an expert in the Coaches' Corner to get some help), with attention to the UK transit and the Shuham connection. Just in case I have more time, I'm carrying my Farkas and Mahler data with me.
Wednesday priorities: British genealogy sessions, deed session, host at Geneabloggers TRIBE food court lunch, attend Custom Google Maps lab for skills brushup, DNA, Fam Search official opening. Expo Hall.

Thursday priorities: Descendancy research, Geneabloggers TRIBE food court lunch, Coaches' Corner, NARA, immigrant clues in photos, Irish or parish research. Expo Hall, again. In between, Fam Fanatics' Meet & Greet with Gen Rock Stars.

Friday priorities: SCOTT HAMILTON! Oh, and also jurisdictions, DNA, Future of Fam Search, bloggers' photo. Expo Hall and Fam Fanatics' Meet & Greet with Gen Rock Stars. Send swag and goodies home via package center.

This is my third major genealogy conference in less than a year (and obviously the largest of all). NERGC was last April and the IAJGS was last July. So many great conferences, so many super speakers, so many opportunities to network with geneafriends.