Monday, October 23, 2017

Family History Month: ABC Surnames

Nellie Block (middle), Jennie Birk Salkowitz (right), and a brother (which one?)
Over at Olive Tree Genealogy, Lorine McGinnis Schultze has adapted the ABC surname meme and I'm following her lead with the ABC surnames (spouses included) of hubby's McClure/Wood tree and my Mahler/Burk and Farkas/Schwartz trees. Four more alphabetical listings in the days to come!

McClure/Wood ABC surnames:
  • A is for Adams
  • A is for Allen
  • A is for Allerton
  • A is for Auld
  • A is for Austin
  • B is for Baker
  • B is for Bentley
  • B is for Bradford
  • B is for Brown 
  • C is for Caldwell
  • C is for Carsten
  • C is for Cloud
  • C is for Coble
  • C is for Cook
  • C is for Coombs
  • C is for Cornwell
  • C is for Cragg
  • C is for Curtis
  • C is for Cushman
Mahler/Burk ABC surnames:

  • A is for Ash
  • B is for Berg/Berk/Birk/Burk/Burke/Block/Bloch
  • B is for Berkman
  • B is for Blauman
  • B is for Bourstein
  • B is for Burack
  • C is for Caplan
  • C is for Casson
  • C is for Chazan
  • C is for Cherry
  • C is for Claman
  • C is for Cohn
Farkas/Schwartz ABC surnames:
  • A is for Adelman
  • A is for Agata
  • C is for Cohen

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Family History Month: Three Belles in the Bronx

Until I wrote this blog post, I didn't know what to call the technique used in this reverse-glass-painted picture that graced the walls of my childhood bedroom for so long.

This appears to be a modern form of tinsel painting, a 19th-century folk art where people or objects are painted in reverse on glass, then embossed foils from cigar boxes or tea packages are placed behind the glass to add dimension and texture.

My memory is that my parents knew the person who painted this mid-20th-century piece, which features three graceful Southern Belles. Maybe the painter didn't know it would be displayed in the bedroom of three little girls growing up in the Bronx, New York?

The photo above doesn't do justice to this heirloom. Each area of the glass has a different embossed foil behind it. The fashion details are painted just as carefully as the delicate facial features. Now these belles are being passed down to the next generation, along with the family story.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Family History Month: Ancestor Landing Pages as Cousin Bait

Yes, ancestor landing pages really work as cousin bait--attracting people (often real relatives!) whose online search for a particular surname brings them to my blog pages.

To see what I mean, you can click on one or two of the landing pages across the top of this blog page, the tabs with titles like "Wm Tyler Bentley's story" and "Abraham & Annie Berk's story." 

I first put up ancestor landing pages in January, 2013, after reading about the idea on Caroline Pointer's blog.

I use these to summarize what I know about each surname or family in the various family trees that I'm researching. I include not only photos and sometimes documents, but also links to specific blog posts about that person or family.

Six months after first setting up these landing pages, I had views but no cousin connections. In the nearly five years since I first posted these pages, I've gotten thousands of views and have actually connected with a number of cousins as well!

So if you have a blog or are thinking about creating one, consider landing pages or a similar mechanism. As you can see from the current statistics in the table at top, people keep clicking on my pages. Most aren't related to my ancestors or my husband's ancestors, but the few who are related (or researching a particular name) know how to get in touch via my blog now.

By the way, the McClure family from Donegal is by far my most popular landing page. Second-most popular is the page I created with free sample forms and templates from my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Family History Month: Noting My Cousin Connections

Among the sample templates and forms on my blog is a simple table for keeping track of all my cousins. As shown above, I record the names of my cousins, contact info, and notes.

Until last year, I felt I didn't really need a formal listing. Then I nearly forgot to tell one new-found Farkas cousin about a mutual cousin I had located months before. (With the permission of both cousins, I shared their contact info and they have since met in person.)

A reader just asked whether I note all my cousins or only cousins who are interested in our family's genealogy. My answer: I note all my cousins. The notes section indicates when I last spoke with each and whether I requested or received family history info, but that's not as important as compiling a complete listing of who's who among my cousin connections. In the distant future, after I join my ancestors, I want relatives to be aware of the many cousins we have and how to connect with them, should they wish.*

Of course, as my DNA research continues, I hope to be adding more names to my ever-growing list of cousin connections. And by noting names of cousins, it helps the genealogists of the future to understand exactly who's who in my family tree.

*This is one of the many tips in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, so that the next generation doesn't lose touch with their cousins.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Family History Month: Search Google Books for Places, Not Just Names


What was it like living in Wabash, Indiana, as a 19th century pioneer?

I want my grandchildren to know that their ancestors, Benjamin McClure (1812-1896) and Sarah Denning McClure (1811-1888), experienced the challenges and rewards of Indiana's frontier life--and lived long enough to see the city and county thrive.

That's why I looked for history books about Wabash county in Google Books. Up popped a book titled History of Wabash County, Indiana, published in 1914. Full text is available for free, and I read through it.

In addition to recounting the history, this book also names settlers, civic leaders, educators, military leaders, and more. There are also photos and drawings of other well-known buildings, plus descriptions of land, agriculture, school life, and lot of other details that bring Wabash's history alive, allowing me to imagine something of the daily life of my hubby's ancestors.

At top is a page featuring a photo of the new city hall, built in Wabash in 1883. Because Benjamin was involved in the county and the town government for many years, I feel sure he and his wife Sarah would have attended the dedication with great pride.

Have you searched Google Books yet?

*Note: Dana Leeds recently posted a tip about searching newspapers for a specific address. That's a great idea that might also work for searching old books.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Family History Month: Auntie Dorothy in "With Love, Jane"

My aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001) was a WAC in WWII, as I've written before. She enlisted on September 11, 1942, the only female member of the family to serve in the military. She finally returned from overseas postings three years after enlisting.

During my Gen Go-Over, I've been searching newspapers for mentions of my ancestors, including Auntie Dorothy. Eureka!

I discovered my aunt's name at the end of a book review printed in The New York Times on Sunday, November 18, 1945. Her letter home was included in a compilation of letters written by 37 female service members. The volume, edited by Alma Lutz, is titled: "With Love, Jane." I've requested that my local library obtain this via inter-library loan so I can see the letter in its entirety.

The brief quote from Dorothy's letter, as excerpted in this book review, reads:
"There is no advantage in war except what the individual makes for himself. In the army we lose eccentricities, prejudices, pettiness, because they cannot survive in the face of matter-of-fact and non-luxurious living." - Sgt. Dorothy H. Schwartz, WAC

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Family History Month: Grandma's Ship Comes In

My maternal grandma, Hermina "Minnie" Farkas (1886-1964), left Rotterdam on October 31st with an older brother and two younger siblings, aboard the S.S. Amsterdam. Minnie celebrated her 15th birthday at sea, just two days before the ship docked in New York City.

I used to wonder how great-grandpa Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) knew exactly when the S.S. Amsterdam was going to dock in New York, carrying four of his children. No doubt the family in Hungary wrote ahead to let Moritz know when the children, including my future grandma, were leaving port and the name of the ship. Moritz had a general idea of arrival, but since weather was unpredictable, and a trans-Atlantic crossing might take an extra day once in a while, how would he get updated information?

Newspapers to the rescue. Back in the day, newspapers carried listings of ships arriving and leaving--news of interest not just to individuals but also to businesspeople.

I clicked to Chronicling America's free newspapers from New York City and found the New York Tribune for the ship's arrival date of November 12, 1901. On one of the last pages, the paper printed this listing of "incoming steamers" including port of departure, date, and steamship line. And that, I imagine, is how great-grandpa Moritz got an inkling of when grandma's ship came in. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Family History Month: Who Needs an Official Record?

Too often, states only want to sell "official" vital records, charging fees that are more than I really want to pay.

So I applaud the Ohio History Connection for making death certificates available for just $7 each. These are uncertified and not for any official use, but perfect for genealogy! All I want is to  pull every last detail from such records.

Of course, not all of the details are going to be accurate. Case in point is this death cert, obtained through Ohiohistory.org. It's for hubby's grandfather, James Edgar Wood.

The most accurate piece of info on this is the death date. The informant's name is completely incorrect, the widow's name is incorrect, the father's name is completely incorrect. No mother's name is shown, and the birthplace of the mother is entirely incorrect. Note that the handwritten name of deceased had to be corrected from "Woods" to "Wood."

Let me say how glad I am that I only spent $7 on this unofficial copy! I'm collecting and digitizing all BMD and naturalization records for everyone in my direct line and that of my husband, so it's great to be able to save a few bucks. And to help other researchers, I always post purchased records like this on my public family trees.

For more in my Genealogy, Free or Fee series, click here.

 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Family History Month: Top 10 Surnames on the Family Tree


Picking up a great idea from Colleen G. Brown Pasquale at her Leaves & Branches blog, I learned how to use the "surname statistics list" report function on my Roots Magic 7 software. No surprise that for my husband's family tree, Wood was the top surname by frequency, followed by Larimer.

But I also realized, with a pang, how many people appear without surnames in that tree. Uh oh. These are mainly missing maiden names, stretching back to the 1500s. This means I'll have to intensify my Genealogy Go-Over to see how many missing surnames I can identify. Perhaps new information has become available since I added some people to the tree? Turns out that these statistics can also reveal gaps in research...

The top 10 surnames that appear most frequently on the Wood tree are:
  1. Wood (earliest instance: 1551)
  2. Larimer (earliest instance: 1719)
  3. McClure (earliest instance: 1660)
  4. Steiner (earliest instance: 1802)
  5. Slatter (earliest instance: 1811)
  6. McKibbin (earliest instance: 1766)
  7. Hilborn (earliest instance: 1794)
  8. Denning (earliest instance: 1775)
  9. Smith (earliest instance: 1724)
  10. Cushman (earliest instance: 1578)
PS: Randy Seaver made this "top 10 surnames" theme the subject of his Oct. 21 Saturday Night Genea-Fun.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Family History Month: Two Graduates in Dad's Family

For Sepia Saturday, two old photos of graduates. My Aunt Mildred Burk (1907-1993) was the oldest of the four children of my grandparents, Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) and Isaac Burk (1882-1943).

This photo of Millie with her parents, taken between 1920 and 1925, shows a young lady holding what looks like a diploma. By 1925, the NY census shows Millie as a stenographer, and the 1920 US census shows her as a student. Thus, my guess that she's graduating high school in this photo, the first in my paternal family to attain that level of education.

At right, a photo of my father, Harold Burk (1909-1978), third-born child of Henrietta and Isaac. He's holding a diploma for what I believe is his grade-school graduation (since he's in short pants).

I have Dad's diploma put away in an archival box, safely stored flat, along with this photo (in an archival sleeve). Saving my family's past for the future!