Saturday, May 21, 2016

Genealogy Blog Party: Duh to Wow! Uncle Sidney's Birth Record Leads to New Cousins

The May theme for Elizabeth O'Neal's Genealogy Blog Party is: Duh! What was your genealogy "duh" moment and how did you solve it?

Dad (Harold Burk) and Uncle Sidney in WWII

I knew my father's younger brother, Sidney Burk, was born in Canada in 1914, and brought across the border by his mom a year later when she moved back to NYC as her husband looked for work there.

But since Uncle Sidney died a bachelor, and I knew him well, I never bothered to look for his birth records or even his naturalization, assuming there was one.

This was an anomaly: I'm forever chasing after genealogy documents of ancestors' siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins--because there are often nuggets hidden in their documents that can help me learn more about the family (like maiden names or hometowns). For some reason, I just didn't see my uncle's birth as a research priority, especially since I knew little about searching in Canadian records.

Then I heard an expert in French-Canadian genealogy mention the Drouin collection. I went home, logged on, and entered "S Berk" with "Quebec, Canada" as the place of birth. (Berk was the family's name before Burk.)

The top result of my search was "Samuel B. Berk," a name I never heard of. But with a click, I had on the screen a handwritten record of Uncle Sidney's birth, as the son of Henrietta Mahler Berk and Isaac Berk, my grandparents. Duh. So simple, and quite intriguing to find out he'd been given a different name than the one I knew him by.

Double duh: A few lines down in the results was a "Lily Berr" and below that, "Rose Bert." Click: they were both related to Abraham Berk (not transcribed correctly but worth a click to check). I know that name! It's my great-uncle, the brother of my grandpa Isaac. Never before had I known where Abraham lived or the names of his children, and suddenly that entire line opened up to me. Even better, there were living cousins who I soon traced and now am in contact with.

So my duh led to discovering an entire limb of my father's family tree. From duh to WOW!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Gen Go-Over: Eyes on the Prize

Yesterday, my cousin (found through genealogy, of course) said something profound that applies to this year's Genealogy Go-Over. My cousin is a brilliant businesswoman and has keen insight into people. When she talks, I listen.

She was talking about a friend who played golf very, very well. This man was a perfectionist. When he was in a tournament, he would agonize over every swing and analyze every shot afterward, going over and over what he should have done and how he could improve.

While this gentleman was trying to perfect each shot, his competitors were playing golf. And winning. His obsession with perfecting technique derailed his ability to win.

My cousin's point: Keep your eyes on the prize. She was reminding me not to miss seeing the forest by being distracted by all the trees. Every tree is important (just like every ancestor is important) but the big picture is equally important. Stepping back to see the big picture is every bit as vital as checking, sourcing, and documenting every last detail.

One of my goals is to find out about ancestors who are known only by name, like Rachel Shuham and Jonah Jacobs, who were my paternal 2d great-grandparents from Lithuania. We know Jonah died some time before Rachel and their two children and grandchildren came to New York City in the 1880s. Lots more to learn there!

So for me, the Genealogy Go-Over is really about carefully reviewing what I know and using that info, plus new cousin connections, new techniques, and new data, to move ever closer to the prize of understanding who my ancestors were, where (exactly) they were from, and whether we have other cousins out there, still to be found!

I'm awaiting DNA results from Ancestry that I hope will offer a window into a different family story, one about my maternal grandfather's background. The story is about the various tribes that conquered Hungary hundreds of years before grandpa Tivador Schwartz was born in Ungvar. The tribes raped and pillaged their way across the landscape, and supposedly some of that tribal blood found its way into my grandpa's bloodline generations back. Will my DNA results reveal any trace of the conquering tribes? Waiting to see.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Free the Faces on Slides to Unlock Family Stories

Do you, like me, have binders or boxes filled with 35mm slides?

Think of all those faces and stories trapped on those teeny, tiny slides. Some of my big breakthroughs in genealogy have come when a cousin recognized a face in a photo and dredged up an old family story. If those little faces don't escape from the slides, family stories may not come to light.

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood, had a dozen slide trays filled with travel images. Others in the family stored slides in binders (see above). These slides were not only dated, they had a table of contents with each binder and notes about where/why the photos were taken. A great head start for family history research!

However, it's not a good idea to leave slides in these plastic sleeves for decades, unless they're archival quality. Even then, remember that slide technology is old technology.

How many of our descendants will have or want a slide projector? I have one spare projector bulb. In 15 or 50 years, will another bulb be available if a grandchild or great-great-grandkid wants to view slides? Probably not. Will they even know what a projector was??

So it's time to downsize, move to newer technology, and organize.
  • Decide what to save, then toss or give away the rest. With apologies to my dad-in-law, 95% of his slides were of unknown landscapes, well-known world landmarks, grass or sky--we tossed those. We saved the 5% of slides with people and/or recognizable homes/rooms.  
  • Transfer the slides to digital images. We digitized nearly everything and filed them digitally by surname. We printed some images to blow up and share with the family, adding full printed captions to the hard copies. Keep the technology up to date, switching away from CDs to USBs and the cloud, or whatever is the latest.
  • Share the images. Printing allowed us to show photos to relatives who helped figure out who was who. It was fun to blow up a couple of slides of holidays in the old homestead, which would never have been seen again if they were trapped in 35mm slide technology.
  • Caption, caption, caption. While relatives can still remember who's who and when slides or photos were taken, write the captions now. Store captions with printed photos and/or write up the captions and file by surname, referring to digitized images and their location in the cloud or on a DVD or wherever.
Free the faces and unlock those family stories!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Wood's Society Syncopators

This banner, on velvet, dates from hubby's father's career playing jazz piano during and after college in the jazz era of the mid-1920s.

Who were the Society Syncopators? Well, originally, Fate Marable's Society Syncopators popularized jazz on Mississippi riverboats during the 1920s--most likely the inspiration for Edgar James Wood using a similar name for his jazz band or trio.

Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators were the band in 1959's Some Like It Hot, which is set in 1929.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Military Monday: It's a Long Way to Tipperary WWI Handkerchief

Hubby's grandma, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925), kept this handkerchief from World War I. Someone wrote "World War 1914" in pencil at bottom right and then, just in case that wasn't enough, permanently inked "World War 1914" at bottom right. (Mary's Shehen grandparents were born in Ireland but she and her parents were born in England.)

Mary most likely received this from one of her bandmaster brothers in Canada, Captain John Slatter of the 48th Highlanders in Toronto or Henry Arthur Slatter of the 72d Seaforth Highlanders in Vancouver or Albert William Slatter of the 7th London Fusiliers in Ontario.
 It's a Long Way to Tipperary was popular during WWI, and troops were heard singing it all over Europe.

I did a little Web research and discovered this exact handkerchief in the collection of London's Imperial War Museum! And in other museums, including Museum Victoria in Australia and the Canadian War Museum.

The medal is the Victoria Cross.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy Mom's Day to Two Much-Missed Moms

A loving tribute to two loving moms.

At left is my Mom, Daisy, about age 20. She graduated high school at 16 but instead of going directly to college, she worked to help her siblings through college.

At right is hubby's Mom, Marian, about age 48. She was a talented ceramicist and enthusiastically supported all her children's artistic endeavors.

My Mom's parents were from the Farkas and Schwartz families. My mom-in-law's parents were from the McClure and Steiner families. Thinking of these Moms and the Moms in their families on Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

In Loving Memory on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Both of the ladies in this photograph, dear sisters of my grandpa Theodore Schwartz, lost their lives in the Holocaust. On Yom HaShoah, I want to honor their memory and the lives of so many others who were killed by saying:

Never forget. Never again.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"Uncle Joseph Roth" Links the Wajman and Weiss Families

For two years, I've been searching for the link between the Weiman family, Roth family, and Weiss family. My Roth cousins knew they were related to the Weiman family, and vice versa. But how? And we all wondered how my Roth cousins are related to me!

Part of the answer was on page 2 of a passenger manifest showing Hersch Wajman, wife Ida, and daughter Magda, sailing from Liverpool on the "Carmania" on 18 February 1921 and arriving in New York City on 28 February 1921.

On line 6, shown above, Hersch (Herman) Wajman (later Weiman) said the family was going to "Uncle Joseph Roth" at an address in New York City--an address that appears on Joseph Roth's passport application. This is an exact match for the Joseph Roth who was the brother-in-law of my great-grandma, Lena Kunstler Farkas.

It's complicated--Joseph Roth's brother was Bela Roth, and Bela's first wife was Zalli Kunstler (sister of Lena, my ggm). Gets even more complicated: Bela's second wife was Batia Bertha Weiss.

If you're still with me, the maiden name of Hersch/Herman Wajman/Weiman's wife was Ida Julia Weiss, known as Julia. We have other Weiss in-laws in my Farkas family, some who are married to Roths.





I did a search for Herman and Julia's young daughter Magda, who arrived at Ellis Island as a one-year-old, and this turned up a second manifest. The family was originally booked to sail from London to Boston on the "Saxonia" on 17 February 1921, arriving on 2 March 1921. They were crossed off that passenger list, as shown above. How and why the Weiman family switched from the port of London to the port of Liverpool and chose to land in New York instead of Boston, I just don't know.


The manifest is readable enough to be sure this is the correct Wajman/Weiman family. Hersh named his mother, "K Wajmann" as the nearest relative in Opatow, Poland, where he was from. Hersh was a watchmaker who spoke Polish, Russian, Yiddish, and Hungarian.


On page 2 of the "Saxonia" manifest, not shown here, the family says they're going to join--"Uncle Joseph Roth," a manufacturer, at his business address in New York City. MY Joseph Roth!

Wait, there's more: Julia Weiss Weiman's Soc Sec application lists her parents as Isador Weiss and Fany Roth. So "Uncle Joseph Roth" appears to be Julia's uncle. Therefore: Joseph Roth's children are first cousins of Julia Weiss Weiman, and Joseph Roth's grandchildren are second cousins of Julia's children. Now we know!

Next, I'm going to look for Julia's siblings/parents and also try to learn more about Batia Bertha Weiss's siblings. If there's any overlap, then as they say in Britain, "Bob's your uncle." Or, in this case, "Joseph's your uncle."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Genealogy Blog Party: Time Travel Adventure with Rachel and Mary

Elizabeth O'Neal over at Little Bytes of Life is throwing a Genealogy Blog Party. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the opportunity to blog about April's theme, Time Travel to an Ancestor. I asked hubby who he would like to meet in a time travel adventure, and his answer was his paternal grandma, Mary. My answer is my paternal 2d great-grandma, Rachel.
MEETING RACHEL

My time travel adventure would be with Rachel Shuham Jacobs, shown at right. She was married to Jonah Jacobs and had two children, Tillie Jacobs Mahler and Joseph Jacobs.

As I always do when reaching out to a relative (or someone I think is a relative), I'm going to start by writing Rachel a letter. Of course I'll tell her exactly who I am--what great-great-grandma wouldn't want to know that she's remembered fondly by her family?

Dear GGG Rachel,

Greetings from the future from your great-great-granddaughter! The little girl you're holding in this photo from New York City grew up, got married, and became close friends with a young woman from the Farkas family. Set up on a blind date by these "matchmaker aunts," my parents fell in love, married, and had children--including me. 

So GGG Rachel, I would really like to bring you on a time travel adventure to meet my parents on their wedding day in 1946. Then you can hug your daughter Tillie, who as matriarch was in an honored position at the wedding. Also meet your grandchildren, including my grandma Henrietta and my great-aunt Mary, the little girl who became the matchmaker aunt. 

First, a few questions, please. Where in Lithuania were you born, and who were your parents? What was life like in your home town? How did you meet and marry your husband, Jonah? And how did you feel about leaving Lithuania to live in New York with your two children? 

When I come to pick you up, please wear something a little fancy to the wedding of your great-grandson Harold. Love, Your great-great-granddaughter

MEETING MARY

Hubby would like to meet his father's mother, Mary Slatter Wood, one of two daughters of John Slatter and Mary Shehen Slatter. Mary was born in a poor (really, really poor) area of London but left in the late 1800s for America, where she married James Edgar Wood and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Sadly, Mary died before her sons were fully grown.

Dear Grandma Mary,

Greetings from the future. I'm the oldest son of your oldest son. I want you to know that the musical ability you brought into the Wood family has come down through the generations. Thank you!

Grandma Mary, there are some questions I wish I could ask you. What was life like growing up in London? Do you remember your mother and father? Did you have an older brother Thomas, who died young? Was your mother's death the reason your father left for America? How did you meet and marry my granddaddy? 

It would be wonderful to meet you, Grandma Mary. My plan is to travel back in time to the summer of 1917, when you and Granddaddy James and your four sons took a road trip in your new Ford auto. It looked like quite an adventure. Let me join you and see my ancestors through your eyes. Love, Your grandson