Monday, November 20, 2017

Saluting Pilgrim Ancestors

As Thanksgiving approaches, I want to salute my husband's four Pilgrim ancestors who arrived on the Mayflower: Isaac Allerton, his wife Mary Norris Allerton, their daughter Mary Allerton, and Degory Priest.

Sadly, neither Degory Priest nor Mary Norris Allerton survived the first year at Plymouth.

Reading the Mayflower Society's listing of notable descendants, I see that hubby's connection to Isaac Allerton means he's distantly related to: Louis Comfort Tiffany, Joanne Woodward, Franklin D. Roosevelt (also descended from Degory Priest), and Zachary Taylor. Thanks to the Degory Priest connection, hubby is also distantly related to Richard Gere.

In just a few years, we'll be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's arrival.

Feeling thankful this Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Beyond "Google Your Family Tree"

I was lucky enough to be in the audience yesterday when Dan Lynch talked about the 6 most important search commands needed to "Google Your Family Tree." Having seen Dan speak a number of years ago, and having read his book cover to cover (it's now out of print), it was very educational to hear him update this important topic.

One of the Google "operators" (commands for searching) was new to me, not even mentioned in his book. (BTW, a command he used to advocate using, the tilde, is no longer a Google operator, so he suggested we not bother using it.)

Dan showed how to filter the millions of search results to focus on the most relevant genealogy results by using these key search commands, alone or in combination:
AND
OR
"" (quotation marks)
- (minus sign)
* (wild card)
AROUND(insert number here).

Here's what was new to me: AROUND(#) instructs Google to search for a word or phrase in proximity to another word or phrase by defining the number of words between them. 

To try this kind of search yourself, first do a search for "Google" and go to the Google search home page of your choice. I usually use the US home page, but if you want to search in another country or language, start on that home page (such as Google Canada).

The point is to go fishing in the Google ocean closest to where you would like Google results. Of course, Google often presents results from many countries and in many languages. But by starting on the home page of the nation you particularly want to search, it's more likely that results from that nation will be closer to the top of the list.


Next, choose two phrases (such as names or a name and a place) and choose how many words should separate those names or phrases. Above, my search executed on the Google Canada home page. I'm looking for hubby's great uncle, Captain John Daniel Slatter, who was the long-serving bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders regiment of Toronto.

This search is very restrictive because I'm telling Google to look for highly specific results--only results that have the exact phrase "John D. Slatter" within 4 words (no more than that) of the exact phrase "48th Highlanders." If the words or phrases are 5 words apart, they won't appear in my results. If the words or phrases are 3 or 2 words apart, they will be in my results.

Doing this search, Google tells me I have "around 2,150 results" which sounds more reasonable to check out than, say, 150,000 results or 1,500,000 results. Of course, I already know enough about Capt. Slatter to know he was part of the 48th Highlanders. In this search, I'm trying to locate new material about his role in that regiment.

In reality, Google filtered my actual results even further, omitting results that were very similar to the ones presented on the two pages of results I actually saw. This is typical, and I'm sure you often see that as well. We always have the option to click and repeat with duplicate or similar entries included in the results. Dan hammered home the point that we should always, always click beyond the first page of results. You just never know when an important nugget will be at the bottom of page 2 or even page 5.

In my example, the entire first page of results consisted of entries in my own blog, plus two "we found John Slatter" entries trying to get me to click for his phone number, etc.
However, the second page of results had an entry I'd never seen! It was for the Toronto Conservatory of Music year book of 1914-15, posted for free on the Internet Archive (https://archive.org).

I clicked and then, to save time scrolling and scrolling for the highlighted text, I searched within the book. Capt. Slatter appeared twice. The first appearance was in a listing of lessons being offered to students. Here it is, in the wording and typeface as it appeared in the year book:

         TUBA— John D. Slatter, Bandmaster 48th Highlanders 15.00 

This is how AROUND(#) works. It found me something I hadn't found in the past. I'm going to experiment with different versions of Capt. Slatter's name and different number of words for proximity with his regiment, his wife's name, and other family members.

Have you tried searching the Internet for your ancestors using the AROUND(#) operator? If not, go ahead and give it a try!

PS: Don't forget to look at image results. Maybe you'll get really lucky and find an ancestor's photo.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Family Greetings for Thanksgiving, 1910

Here's another postcard among the several dozen sent to my husband's uncle, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957), by his aunts, uncles, and first cousins. The year this colorful card was sent was 1910, when Wallis was only five years old. It gives me insight into understanding the Wood family and their connections a century ago.

The cousin sending the card was, I believe, Dorothy Louise Baker (1897-1981), daughter of Adelaide "Ada" Mary Ann Slatter Baker (1868-1947) and James Sills Baker (1866-1937). "Ada" was the sister of little Wallis's mother, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). So this is one first cousin writing to another first cousin.

The card says: "Do not eat too much dinner tomorrow, Dorothy & Brother Garrett are going to have dinner with us tomorrow. From cousin Dorothy." 

Was 13-year-old Dorothy Baker talking about cousins on her mother's side or her father's side? Either way, she knew this card would be read not by the recipient, who was barely in kindergarten, but by an adult. I'm sure the adult(s) knew exactly who Dorothy meant. Dorothy was a common name in the family, but not Garrett. I'm still investigating various possibilities.

I especially noticed the address, 12513 Lancelot Avenue in Cleveland. I took a virtual field trip to this address a few years ago and the house there still stands, looking much as it did when first built by James Edgar Wood (1871-1939), the father of the little boy who received this card 107 years ago.

Postcards like this show how valuable ephemera can be in understanding family dynamics from generations past. In the Wood and Slatter families, holiday greetings were sent for every possible occasion, from Easter and Christmas to New Year's and Halloween. Birthday cards were exchanged, too. The adults clearly wanted to be sure that youngsters in the next generation knew each other and stayed in touch!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Genealogy Word of the Day: Ramage

Have you ever heard of the word ramage, which means a group of people descended from a single individual? Me neither.

Until November 3d, when it was the calendar word of the day, shown above.

Go ahead, use it in a sentence. Here's my first try:
I'm researching the ramage of Thomas Haskell Wood, including five daughters and 12 sons.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ancestor Timeline Reveals Gaps (Gasp)

Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun this week was to create a timeline for one ancestor and explain how we created it, along with the image.

Since I'm still a RootsMagic7 newbie (less than 4 months' experience), I was delighted to follow Randy's detailed directions for how he created his ancestor's timeline in RM7. I did the same for my 2d great uncle, Bela Bernard Roth (1865-1941). His first wife was Sali/Zali Kunstler (? - 1895), sister to my great-grandma Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938). Bela's parents were Shlomo/Salomon Roth and Hannah Klein.

After I created the timeline in RM7, I took a screen shot with my "Preview" function for Mac. To do that, I selected just the timeline itself as it appeared on my screen and saved it as a .jpg. There is more info available in the timeline, but I didn't include all in this screen shot.

As Randy indicates, the look is bare-bones but practical. At a glance, I can see how old Bela is during each moment on the timeline. When his children were born, when he came to America the first and second times, at the point of each census, when he died.

This timeline reveals (gasp!) gaps for me to research. For instance, Bela had four more children with his second wife (Bertha Batia Weiss, 1885-1967), including one mentioned in a 1907 passenger manifest and a 1914 passenger manifest.

This son, Imre (or Emery) Roth, vanished before the 1920 U.S. Census. He's a gap that I'd like to fill with more information so I can record him and honor his memory. For now, Bela's timeline will have to state that son Imre/Emery died "before 1920."

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saluting the Veterans in Our Family Trees

With gratitude for their service, today I'm saluting some of the many veterans from my family tree and my husband's family tree.


Let me begin with my husband's Slatter family in Canada. Above, second from left is Capt. John Daniel Slatter of the 48th Highlanders in Toronto. He was my hubby's great uncle, an older brother to hubby's Grandma Mary Slatter Wood, and he was a world-famous bandmaster in his time.

At far left of the photo is Capt. Slatter's son, Lt. Frederick William Slatter, who fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge during WWI. Third from left is John Hutson Slatter, grandson of Capt. Slatter, who enlisted in the Canadian military in the spring of 1940 for service in WWII. At far right is another of Capt. Slatter's sons, Lt. Albert Matthew Slatter, who served in Canada's No. 4 Company of 15th Battalion and then in the 48th Highlanders of Toronto. (Albert was the father of John Hutson Slatter.)

Grandma Mary Slatter Wood had two other distinguished bandmaster brothers active in the Canadian military early in the 1900s: Henry Arthur Slatter (who served in the 72d Seaforth Highlanders of Vancouver) and Albert William Slatter (who served in the 7th London Fusiliers of Ontario).


In my family tree, a number of folks served in World War II. Above, 2d from left in front row is my father, Harold D. Burk, who was in the US Army Signal Corps in Europe. His brother, Sidney Burk, also served during WWII, stationed in Hawaii. And I've recently written a lot about my aunt, Dorothy Schwartz, who was a WAC and received the Bronze Star for her service in Europe. My uncle, Dorothy's brother Fred, was in Europe serving with the Army, as well.

Meanwhile, my mother, Daisy Schwartz, was busy selling war bonds in NYC and corresponding with maybe a dozen GIs to keep their spirits up. When Mom wrote the historian's report for the Farkas Family Tree association at the end of 1943, she reflected the entire family's feelings about their relatives fighting for freedom.
For the coming year, the earnest hope of all is that 1944 will find the Axis vanquished and our boys home. All that is unrelated to the war effort must be sublimated to the present struggle to which some in our group have pledged their lives. The rest of us pledge our aid. The Allies will be victorious--God is on our side!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Genealogy, Free or Fee: Ask an Archivist!






































In a recent entry, I told how I discovered that a letter written by my Aunt Dorothy H. Schwartz (1919-2001) was included in With Love, Jane, a compilation of correspondence from WWII servicewomen edited by Alma Lutz.

As shown in the table of contents at right, Sgt. Schwartz's letter was on p. 104, one of more than a dozen contributed by "Indispensable WACS."

My aunt's letter began with the salutation: "Dear ____" and had a vague date ("1943").

Who, I wondered, was my Auntie writing to? And when did she actually write the letter that wound up being printed?

I did an online search to find out more about Alma Lutz, and learned that her literary notes and other papers were in the archives of her alma mater, Vassar.

You know what I did next, right? I picked up the phone and called the archives, leaving word about my request for more information about the author's contact with my aunt.

An hour later, I had a return call from the archives! They were delighted to do a quick search for materials from my aunt. And an hour after that, I received an email from the archivist, attaching the pdfs of two V-mail letters from my aunt to Alma Lutz. (Thank you, wonderful archivist! No lengthy wait, no fee.)

You can see the second of the letters to Alma Lutz at top, in which my aunt claims not to remember who she was writing to, not even the approximate date of that letter.

As the archivist said in his email to me: "So, while I can't solve the mystery of 'Dear Blank,' I hope that I can at least provide a little context for its inclusion in the final volume."

The V-mails did indeed give me more background about my aunt and her wartime activities. Now you know why I suggest that researchers go ahead and "ask an archivist."

NOTE: For more "Free or Fee" tips for genealogy, please see my special page here.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Honor Roll Project: WWI Veterans from Southbury, Connecticut


For Veteran's Day, I'm pleased to participate in the Honor Roll Project by photographing and transcribing the names of veterans as shown on monuments in Southbury, Connecticut.

Above, the WWI plaque honoring those who served from 1917 to 1919. In alphabetical order as shown on the plaque, they are:

Joseph Alseph
Jesse M. Bailey
Thomas Bale
William C. Ballard
Edward Bayon
Ernest H. Beardsley
Harold A. Benedict
Joseph Birtkus
Edward L. Bradley
Howard G. Brewer
J. Edward Coer
Milton B. Coer
Arthur Colepaugh
Edward Coon
Harold Davis (in memoriam)
Thomas Derry
John T. Fleming
William J. Furby
George J. Grisgraber
Grover C. Harrison
William H. Harrison
Bly B. Hicock
Harold Hicock
George F. Hine
Edward Hinman, Jr.
Herbert G. Hoefler
Daniel J. Hogan
Louis Hoyt
Herbert A. Ingram
Robert H. Johnson
Harvey S. Judd
Louis Jullott
James F. Keefe
Augustus M. Kelly
Joel Carl Klang
John J. Malane
David Marshall
Leroy E. Mitchell
Daniel J. Moriarty
George Newton (in memoriam)
Charles E. Norton
Alfred N. Platt
Christopher W. Platt
John Le Roy Pierce
Samuel I. Pierce
John Rogers
William Rooney
Charles M. Seeley
George F. Shelton
Joseph Sinkavach
Henry T. Skelding
Marjorie Skelding
Paul Skelding
Edward Smith
George H. Smith
Le Roy B. Smith
Wesley Smith
Alexander Volage
John P. Volage
Edwin J. Walston
H. Earl Wentsch
Roger P. Williams
Howard W. Wordin
Frederick Yaeger

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Case Against Paperless Genealogy

Sorry, paperless genealogy is NOT for me. Some avid genealogists advocate digitizing everything, not downloading any paper copies, and/or not printing images/documents found during research. Not me. I print everything. I file everything. Under more than one surname, if applicable.

Why print in the digital age?

Walter Isaacson--the author of the best-selling bio of Steve Jobs and, now, the best-selling book about Leonardo da Vinci--sums up my main reason in one sentence. Let me quote him (you can read the entire interview here):
Paper turns out to be a superb information-storage technology, still readable after 500 years, which our own tweets likely (and fortunately) won't be.
Isaacson was privileged to read more than 7,000 pages of da Vinci's own notebooks. And he found more than just words: the man's personality shines through in the scribbles and sketches that adorn the pages. So not only can paper survive, it also can reveal clues to ancestors' inner thoughts and feelings. 

Technology comes and goes, as anyone who's ever had to unlearn WordPerfect and learn MS Word can attest. Anyone who began storing data on those big floppy discs and migrated to mini-discs and migrated to CDs and migrated to flash drives. And to the cloud, then to whatever overtakes the cloud.

Meanwhile, paper lives on and on. My goal is to ensure that the next generation inherits family history. Will they learn my technology? No. Will they open my files and archival boxes and leaf through photos and certificates and memorabilia? Yes!

At top, the back of a 1930s business card from hubby's grandpa, Brice Larimer McClure. Sometime before his death in 1970, he took cards and scraps of paper and recorded facts about his ancestors and the ancestors of his wife, Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure.

This card shows the birth years of Floyda and her siblings, including the infant who died young (I eventually found proof to confirm Brice's recollection).

Being able to pick out this card from Brice's effects gave us a headstart on piecing together the entire generation of Steiners. And some grandkids think it's a bit amazing to hold in their hands a business card that's now more than 80 years old, while they hear stories of how the family made ends meet during the Depression.

All in all, I plan to keep up the paper chase and leave a paper trail for future generations. AND I'm also digitizing everything, by the way, and doing daily/hourly backups to keep the data safe, filed by family and surname on my hard drives, flash drives, and cloud backups. But paper is my secret strategy for passing what I've learned to the younger generation. It worked for older generations--and it will work for mine.

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For ideas about storing documents and paper in archival boxes, please check out my concise genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions).

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Delving into Edgar James Wood's Diaries

Exactly 48 years ago, my late father- and mother-in-law were on the final leg of a two-month European trip. At that point, Edgar James Wood and Marian Jane McClure Wood were both retired and enjoyed touring Italy in particular, for the art as much as for the architecture and the food ;)

I know all this because Ed kept a diary every day for more than 30 years, and I'm lucky enough to have them (and have already indexed them, searching for clues to genealogical mysteries).

Above, the entry for November 3-6, 1969. Ed and Marian had gone to Europe this time with Ed's British-born sister-in-law, Rosalind Ashby Wood. Ed took Italian lessons on board ship and when the ship docked, the three went sightseeing together.

One of the reasons I enjoy Ed's diaries is because of his comments. He usually noted the weather and such ("sea got rough, safety ropes put up"). And he had an opinion on all the entertainment, such as these quotes excerpted from above:
  • Movie: "The Love Bug," in P.M. Very good, about a V.W.
  • Movie: "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie." Adult. Good.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Use Photos to Sharpen Family Memories



My husband remembers that his father (Edgar James Wood) would take all the children out for a drive on Sunday afternoons while his mother (Marian Jane McClure Wood) cooked a special dinner.

They lived in Cleveland Heights, and his father would drive around to various spots, entertaining three kids under 8 for a couple of hours every week.

As the self-appointed family historian, my question was, of course: Where did he take you?

Well, there are some rather general family stories about these drives. But when my sister-in-law recently rediscovered a cache of old family photos taken by their father, more specific memories flooded back.

Here is a very atmospheric photo that my late father-in-law took of his two oldest children staring at a steam locomotive. Hubby immediately remembered going to Collinwood Yards. Actually, his memory was Collingwood, but a quick online search confirmed Collinwood was a thriving railroad center in East Cleveland, serving the New York Central RR.

We found photos and maps and other details about Collinwood Yards online. Such as the Cleveland Memory Project and the Rails & Trails maps, to name just two.

Old photos really help to sharpen family memories! I'm writing everything down, captions to go along with photos, for the sake of the next generation and beyond.

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For ideas about storing family photos and captioning them safely via labels on the outside of archival sleeves, please check out my concise genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions).


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Confessions of a Downsizing Genealogist


As a downsizing genealogist, I have to confess: I've decided there's no reason for me to have to keep every photo or artifact that once belonged to my ancestors. In fact, because I no longer have as much storage room as I once did, I've been actively giving things away for the past few years. Finding good homes for every item, I might add. Of course, before anything leaves my possession, I photograph it and document it for my files, a way to preserve my family's past for the future even after an artifact passes to someone else.

How to decide what to keep and what to part with? I sort items into three categories and consult with my family before making final decisions.
  • Category 1: Items of personal and family significance that should remain in my immediate family (me, my siblings, or our direct descendants)
  • Category 2: Items that should remain in the family, more generally (hand off to cousins if possible)
  • Category 3: Items that have no particular family history importance but have some significance outside the family (donate if possible)
In category 1, I put items like my parents' wedding album, their original mahogany bedroom set, and needlepoint done by my mother. These I'm keeping and bequeathing to the next generation, along with the stories of who, what, when, where, and why. In a future post, I'll talk about how to handle situations where there's one original but multiple heirs.

In category 2, I put items like photos from family gatherings--especially if I have duplicates. My first cousins now have original photos of their parents and photos of our families taken for special occasions, for example. And I have digital copies, annotated, of everything, for my research records. Whenever possible, I give away originals not in my direct line, so these will be inherited by the next generation.

In category 3, I put items like air-raid posters, bank ledgers from non-relatives, and the 30 years of Playbills shown in the picture at top (collected by going to Broadway or off-Broadway shows). The family isn't really attached to these, and they don't add to research about ancestors. Still, they are worthy of being saved somewhere for their historical or cultural meaning. So I asked a cousin in college whether her theater teacher might be interested, and the answer was yes!

With permission, I donated hundreds of Playbills to the university's theater library, knowing that they will serve as valuable source material when students research a play or an actor. As the teacher pointed out, seeing ads of the time and reading interviews with the stars provides important context for each play. My family and I felt good that these items are not only in a new home, but have a new purpose.

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For more tips like this, please take a look at my 98-page genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions). And if you already have my book, please would you take a moment and write a review on Amazon? Thank you so much!