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 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

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Managing a Growing List of Cousin Connections

Thankfully, genealogy is connecting me with new cousins all the time. Just last week, a distant cousin from the Farkas family got in touch. With so many names from the family tree crowding my memory, I almost didn't remember to connect him with a mutual cousin who had written me months ago (I got her permission first). Once they knew about each other, they had a wonderful discussion about family ties.

This experience made me realize that I need to have all my cousin contacts in one convenient (and completely private) document. So I've set up a personal table of Cousin Connections with three columns, as shown above. I'm listing my cousins in alphabetical order, including the exact relationship along with the name. In the second column, I'm typing as much contact info as I know. The third column is for notes, as the sample shows.

Private means private. When I'm lucky enough to be connected with newfound cousins, I carefully ask permission before handing out any relative's contact info, and I always follow both people's wishes regarding privacy. After all, they're family.

PS: This is my 700th genealogy blog post! So many ancestors, so many cousins, so little time.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ancestor Landing Pages Keep Working

All-time views as of April 15, 2016

My ancestor landing pages (those tabs just below the masthead and above the photos on my home page here) continue to attract viewers! I set up my first ancestor landing pages in January, 2013.

The goal is to summarize what I know about each of these families in my tree or my hubby's tree, and to "land" viewers who use surnames as key words to search the web for genealogical details. If my landing pages show up in their results, they'll hopefully click to read on.

Of course, landing pages make it easy to share ancestor highlights, including photos or documents, with cousins. As I continue blogging about a particular surname or family, I add a bullet point with a link on the ancestor landing page for that family. I want to make it easy for distant relatives or researchers to connect with me!

By far the most popular of my ancestor landing pages is the story of Halbert McClure and family--the folks originally from Isle of Skye, who moved to County Donegal, and then saved their money to sail across the pond and buy land in Virginia.

In terms of audience: The #2 landing page is about my Schwartz family from Ungvar, then Hungary and now Uzhorod in Ukraine, followed by #3, about the Larimer family whose patriarch was shipwrecked in the Atlantic.

Another way to confirm that landing pages are working is by reading the key phrases that people use to search and land on the blog. Those key phrases can be found under the "traffic sources" section of the blog's statistics. Sure enough, this week I see "Halbert McClure" and "Benjamin McClure" and even "Markell family tree." These ancestor landing pages keep on working! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Taped to the Back of a Farkas Wedding Photo

Almost 90 years ago, great-uncle Alex Farkas married Jennie Katz in New York City. On the back of their family wedding photo is this hand-written note by another Farkas relative, showing the birth and death dates of Alex's Papa, Mama, wife, and many of his siblings (plus his brother-in-law Ted Schwartz, my grandpa). Also shown is Alex's nephew's date of passing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tuesday's Tip: Gifting a DNA Test? Gift a Family Tree Chart Too!


My good friend suggested giving relatives a DNA test as a birthday gift. She did it for her children, their spouses, and the grandchildren. The recipients were fascinated. They even asked questions about ancestors! What a wonderful way to get the next generation interested in family history.

I took her suggestion and gifted a niece with a DNA test. To give her a headstart on figuring out which ancestors might have been responsible for which parts of her DNA, I also gave her a colorful family tree showing her mother's and father's lines, going back 3 generations. Sure, she can see our family tree on Ancestry. But for a quick peek, it's to easier to read the printed version.

When the results came in, she was excited about the surprises in her background--but the answers were too far back to be reflected on the family tree I printed for her. So my next recipient will get a DNA test, a family tree, and a pedigree chart (more than one, showing each side's pedigree as far back as I can document).

I downloaded the chart above for free from Misbach (there are more generations on the chart, too many to show here). By the way, I also keep pedigree charts in each of my main surname file folders so I can consult them without having to crank up my software or go online.

Here are a few sources for a number of free family tree charts, pedigree charts, and family group sheets.
For a more complete list of sources, check Cyndi's List. Happy gifting!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mystery Monday: Indexing Your Family's Records to Solve Mysteries

You finished indexing your grandfather's diary, your mother's letters, your grandmother's baby book. Now what?

In my previous post, I outlined how to index letters or other documents or books from your family's past. Before you file your index (a copy with the document you indexed and copies inside the files of the main surnames mentioned), mine it for clues to family mysteries. You’re not indexing simply for the sake of getting organized—the process is important for making progress on your genealogical research.

Here are five ways you can use an index to deepen your knowledge of family history and to solve family mysteries:
  • Check dates against what you know. Does the index help you narrow down possible birth, marriage, death dates? Does it fill in the blanks on where ancestors were during key periods? Who is missing on key dates? During indexing, I noticed that a great-grandfather was suddenly absent from the documents after being mentioned year after year. That was a clue to his approximate death date, which I’d been unable to pinpoint.
  •  Look at relationships. Does the index shed light on whether family members were estranged or close? Does it confirm relationships that you suspected? Who is present at family gatherings, and how often do they show up? One set of family meeting minutes I indexed showed how warmly a widowed in-law was welcomed, along with her second family. The same index reflected the rare attendance of an uncle whose marriage outside the faith was frowned upon.
  • Look at occasions. Who’s visiting on holidays? Which holidays are celebrated? Are weddings, birthdays, funerals mentioned? Who’s giving gifts, who’s receiving gifts, where and when? One baby book I indexed gave me a clue that someone was more than a “family friend” because she gave a surprisingly valuable gift. Sure enough, she turned out to be the ex-spouse of a close relative.  
  • Cross-reference the index against other items. Do you have photos of the people mentioned in the index during the period covered by the documents? See whether the index can help you identify mystery people in your photos or give you more context for when, where, and why the photos were taken.
  • Verify details. If a diary mentions someone’s birth, marriage, or death, compare the dates with official documents. A century ago, official records weren’t always filed on time, so a birth date on the vital records form might be a day or a few days later than the actual birth. Maybe the index will point you to the actual date, or explain why the date differs from the official record. Also, names on Census forms weren’t always accurate, so check your index against what you see on the Census. Use the index to match nicknames with full given names on your tree. You might find a variation via the index that you can use to when you research that person.

Solving a mystery: My sister-in-law remembered a cousin Edith, quite a tall lady, attending her wedding. Now, years later, no one remembered Edith's last name or how she was related. When I indexed my late father-in-law's diaries, I found repeated mentions of Edith in the 1960s and 1970s. This led to a hunch about Edith's parents. 

Putting together clues from Census data, Cleveland directories, and my husband's and sister-in-law's memories, we solved the mystery and figured out where Edith fits on the family tree. Using the dates and approximate ages, we also identified her and her sister in the above photo with my father-in-law. Without the index, this mystery would have taken much longer to solve.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tuesday's Tip: How to Index Your Family's Documents

Whether your relatives left you a small bundle of letters or 25 years' worth of diaries, you'll learn a lot about your ancestors by indexing what's in your family's documents. You'll also be able to tell your relatives details about their ancestors, by referring to your index. And you may uncover clues to family ties you weren't aware of!

Even a baby or wedding book can be indexed if it includes a family tree and/or names of people who visited or gave gifts. This has helped me trace more distant relatives, by the way.

My index for my father-in-law's 25 diaries (shown here) has a few headings. I use the "comments" column to add details referring back to particular documents, a way of reminding myself of the exact source:

Name (alphabetical by surname)
Relationship (as specific as possible)
Date/place (again, be specific if possible)
Comments (details, context, significance; identifying the particular document)

Indexing is not difficult if you take it one step at a time. Remember: Life by the inch is a cinch--life by the yard is hard. So build your index little by little:
  1. Organize the documents into chronological order. That way, you'll be able to follow along as the narrative mentions upcoming events or evolving relationships. I did this with letters to my mother during the time she was dating my father. It was exciting to read what led up to his proposal and their future plans!
  2. Focus on one document at a time. Don't try to index everything at one sitting. Just pick one letter, one month of the diary, one of anything in your collection. Complete one, and if you feel like it, complete another. Keep your place so you can pick up the indexing when you have a few minutes. Use your index to summarize the most critical info from each document before moving on to another.
  3. Identify the people and their relationships. Use a pad and pencil or, if you prefer, a spreadsheet or database. The first time you see a name mentioned, write it down in full and note the relationship, if you know it. Also jot down the date or some other way of going back to that document for the full reference. If you see a name mentioned repeatedly, note it even if you don't know the relationship. 
  4. Compile your list of people, dates, and brief explanations for each. For instance, say the Wood diaries mention a second cousin named Mac McClure for the first time on May 3, 1963. The next time Mac McClure is mentioned is July 4, 1963. My entry in the diary index might read: McClure, Mac (second cousin to E. Wood?). Visit to Wood family in Cleveland on May 3, 1963. Call on July 4, 1963 about birth of Mac's baby Julie. If baby Julie is mentioned later, you can cross-reference by saying something like: McClure, Julie (daughter of Mac McClure).
  5. Watch for groups of people and repeat appearances. Maybe a letter or diary mention of several people getting together is really a mention about a family occasion. If certain names pop up regularly, especially on significant dates (such as a birthday or a holiday), chances are they have some close connection to your family. It won't take long to determine who you should be following closely and who seems to be just a casual friend. 
  6. Watch for disappearances and enigmatic mentions. Sometimes people are mentioned once and never again--did they move away, was there a quarrel, did they pass away, was there a divorce? This is the puzzle part of our genealogy research. Maybe someone else in the family will have some insight if you mention what you're trying to figure out.
  7. Type up your index neatly, date it, and enclose it with the documents and with the main surnames mentioned. That will give you a handy reference when you're looking someone up and will also be available to anyone who takes care of your documents in the future. Return to update your index as you learn more about the relationships and who's who. Also note the "update date" so you can keep track of your most recent copy of the index. Colleen, in her comment below this post, suggests noting the location of the documents--an excellent idea!
  8. Talk up your index! Tell your relatives what you've learned, and offer to copy for them a few relevant sections of the documents. Who doesn't want to know something new about their parents and grandparents, whether just a hint of personality or a particularly surprising anecdote?
One of the most maddening things in my father-in-law's diaries was when he would write something like: "B called with disturbing news." What was the news? I knew who B was (figured it out as I indexed his diaries). But what did B have to say? Ah, the mysteries of family histories.

PS: See my next post here for ideas about how to use the indexes to solve genealogical mysteries.