Wednesday, April 16, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #17: Minnie Farkas Tosses Her Engagement Ring

When teenaged Minnie Farkas (1886-1964) crossed the Atlantic from Hungary to join her parents in New York City in 1901, she and her older teenaged brother Sandor were responsible for shepherding their baby sisters, Ilka (age 4) and Frida (age 3).

Imagine boarding the S.S. Amsterdam in Rotterdam at age 15, sailing for an unknown country and in charge of keeping two small children safe and fed and entertained day after day after day as the ship lumbered across the ocean. By the time the ship steamed into New York Harbor, I'm sure she and the other Farkas children were up on deck to see the Statue of Liberty, signalling the end of a long voyage.

At Ellis Island, Minnie and her siblings were collected by their father, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) or their mother, Lena Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938). To help support the family, Minnie got a job in a necktie factory run by Adolf Roth, a cousin of either the Farkas or Kunstler family. Like the rest of her siblings, she would hand her pay packet to her mother Lena at the end of the week, and Lena would dole out a couple of dollars for the following week's subway fare and coffee.

Although her parents picked out a well-situated young man for her to marry, Minnie refused. The family story is that the gentleman came to the apartment with an engagement ring and indignant Minnie threw the ring out the window. (Supposedly, one of her younger brothers ran down the stairs and retrieved it, but no one knows what became of the jewelry...or the young man.)

Minnie insisted on marrying Teddy Schwartz (1887-1965), an immigrant born in Ungvar, Hungary. They met in a Hungarian delicatessen on the Lower East Side and after they were married, Minnie worked alongside him in his grocery store in the Bronx.

Grandma Minnie at right, with three of her five sisters
This 1928 photo shows Minnie at far right, with the two now grown-up "baby" sisters she accompanied to New York and, at far left, one of the Farkas sisters born in America. In all, Minnie had five sisters and five brothers. By the time of this photo, Minnie was a mother three times over, but never (to my knowledge) had or wore an engagement ring.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Quebec Area Ancestors? Use the Drouin Collection!

Last night's local genealogy club program was all about researching ancestors in Quebec province. My Uncle Sidney Burk was born in Montreal and lived there for less than a year--that's the entire extent of my Quebec-area ancestry, or so I thought.

On the recommendation of the speaker, I clicked to the Drouin Collection of Quebec vital records to find Sidney's actual birth record. Here's the direct link to the Drouin Collection's gateway on Ancestry. I clicked on "Quebec Vital & Church Records," then typed "S. Berk," "1914," and "Montreal." In an instant, the search put somebody named "Samuel B. Berk" at the top of the results. 

Samuel B. Berk's 1914 birth record (Sidney Burk in New York)
Even though I'd never heard of Samuel Berk, I clicked anyway--and there was my uncle, with the name given to him at birth, as registered with Congregation Tifereth Israel in Montreal. Parents shown are Isaac Berk (changed to Burk in NY) and his wife, Hereitta Maller (really Henrietta Mahler). Isn't it lucky that maiden names are shown in these handwritten records!

Lily Berk marriage record from June 7, 1931
On Isaac Burk's border crossing record from 1915, he listed his brother as the nearest relative in Canada: Abraham Berk of 431 Mt. Royal Ave., Montreal. To date, I've found nothing else about Abraham.

BUT: There was a marriage entry for "Lily Berk" in the Drouin search results, so I clicked. As you can see here, she's the Montreal-born daughter of Abraham Berk and Annie Horovitz, marrying Polish-born Joseph Goldberg Farber. Both bride and groom lived at 66 Bagg Ave. in Montreal in 1931, when they were married. This address is less than one mile away from Mt. Royal Ave.

More Drouin research is in my future!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #16: Olivia Morgan, Pioneer Mom

Olivia (or Olive) Morgan (1799?-1838) was born somewhere in New York state and married William Tyler Bentley (1795-1873) there, about 1820. I was able to learn her name because it's shown on her daughter Lucinda's transcribed death cert, at right, and on her daughter Lucy's transcribed death cert.

Before their pioneering move to Elkhart county, Indiana, Olivia and William had seven children in New York:
  • Elizabeth E. Bentley (1821-98) - married Emanuel Light
  • Elisha Morgan Bentley (1824-84) - married Charlotte Raymond
  • Lucinda Helen Bentley (1825-1903) - married Jonas Shank
  • Lucy E. Bentley (1826-1900) - Hubby's great-great-grandma, married Brice S. Larimer
  • Simon Bentley (1828-1894) - didn't marry
  • Jane L. Bentley (1831-?) - went to California, no info after age 20
  • Abbie Eliza Bentley (1832-1893) - married Leonard Lucien Curtis
The Bentleys may have had one more child in 1835, after arriving in the wilderness of Elkhart, but I can't find a trace of that baby, who is mentioned on p. 1071 of The History of Elkhart County (below).

After pioneer mom Olivia died, her husband moved to California in 1848, followed by five of their seven children in 1851.

Only Lucinda and Lucy remained in Indiana, marrying and raising their own families.

I'm in touch with several Bentley researchers, and a Morgan researcher. We're continuing to try to learn more about Indiana pioneer mom Olivia Morgan, California land rush pioneer William Tyler Bentley, and their parents/children.



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Do Ancestor Landing Pages Work?

Ancestor landing pages have been part of my blog since January, 2013. I set them up after reading about them on Caroline Pointer's Blogging Genealogy. But are they an effective way of communicating with other family researchers--and attracting possible cousins?

Yes! Here's why:
  • Readership for the past 14 months has been solid, as the snapshot at left shows. Traffic was especially good on my Schwartz and Birk landing pages. The Mayflower page is only a few months old, which is why its stats are low.
  • Contacts from several readers who found my landing pages have led to exchanges of family info and a number of intriguing leads that I'm still following up. Happily, a Wood cousin found my Demarest page just a few months ago!
  • Landing pages summarize what I know about a family in one convenient place. When researchers find me through one of my Ancestry family trees, or I discover a new cousin, I mention the landing page for that family as an introduction or a supplement to the tree. A Bentley 4th cousin (Hi Barbara!) enjoyed following the links to learn more about William Tyler Bentley's family and their Gold Rush-era migration to California.
To keep these pages relevant, I periodically update them with bullet points for the latest posts about a particular surname. Also, I add new photos or documents to freshen up the content from time to time. Who knows when a cousin will land on one of these pages, recognize a photo or a signature, and get in touch?

Friday, March 28, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #15: The Roth Family, Entrepreneurs

The Roth family from Vasarosnameny, Hungary--cousins on my mother's side--had an entrepreneurial streak. Adolf Roth, one of several sons of Salomon Roth, arrived in 1897, established himself, and then helped two of his brothers come to New York. Adolf owned a necktie factory in Manhattan (he said he was a "neckwear contractor"). That factory provided work for many of the Roths and relatives as they arrived from Hungary. My grandma sewed fine silk ties for Adolf, for instance. Bela Roth, another of Salomon's sons, arrived in 1907 and he seems to have worked in his brother Adolf's factory.

Josef Roth, a brother or cousin of Bela and Adolf, had two sons, Emil and Peter Roth, who both went into the restaurant business.
From the New York Call, January 6, 1914
  • Peter Roth (1872?-1956) co-owned the Viennese-style restaurant Cafe Monopol at 145 Second Avenue in Manhattan, with his brother-in-law Peter Stern and others (see incorporation note, above, from 1915 publication Polk's New York Copartnership and Corporation Directory, p. 730). The little restaurant ad, directly above, shows my Roth cousin in business 100 years ago!
  • Emil Roth (1887-1965) worked at the Rossoff Restaurant at 152 West 44th Street in Manhattan.
Now all of the above was probably common knowledge in the family, but not passed down to later generations. It took days to piece the info together from passport applications, Census data, obituaries, and--most fun of all--working with two (probable) cousins, one in NY and one in Maryland, who were way ahead of me in tracing our Roth family tree. Plus I've just connected with another delightful cousin from the Roth family!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday: The Solomon & Adolph Roth Social Society

Yesterday's visit to Riverside Cemetery in New Jersey yielded more names and relationships to check out in my quest to uncover how the Roth family is related to my Farkas or Kunstler or Schwartz families.

Like many cemeteries, Riverside used to have a grave locator function on its website, with an easy e-mail request for more info.

Sadly for family history researchers like me, Riverside removed the online function earlier this year, because it was generating too many inquiries. But luckily, I had already located enough of my Roth cousins to know it was worth a visit.

I did see the burial places of my Roth cousins and check on their next of kin. Just as interesting as the graves were the gates to the Solomon & Adolph Roth Social Society plot, located at the corner of Jesse Walk and Israel Avenue in the cemetery's upper-left quadrant. Among the donors to the cemetery gates were Mr. & Mrs. Bela Roth (my family) and Mr. & Mrs. Peter Roth (son of the other Joseph Roth, not directly related to my Bela Roth).

Thanks to another Roth researcher, who kindly posted the incorporation papers for the Sol & Roth Social Society, I know who founded it (see below), when (incorporated in 1935), and where (NYC). The interim directors appointed until the first annual meeting were: Joseph Roth (not my Joseph Roth); George Rehberger; and Max Roth (possibly Joseph's brother). The officials who signed the certificate of incorporation were: Leon D. Miller, Joseph Roth, Margaret Stern Festinger, Louis Weiss, Louis Spielberger, and Abe Kramer. Leon D. Miller was the attorney who filed the incorporation papers, by the way, on 20 Sept 1935.

The society purchased the plot in Riverside Cemetery for its members and offered other benefits, including access to doctors. My newfound Cousin L (whose grandfather was in this society) says that especially during the Depression, it was a plum position to be the "official" doctor of such organizations.

And who are Sol & Adolph Roth, for whom the society is named? They must be related to the Joseph (not my family) Roth who is on the incorporation papers. Maybe relatives back in the hometown of Püspökladány, Hajdu-Bihar, Hungary?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #14: Lt. Theodore W. McClure

One of hubby's great-grand uncles on his mother's side was Lieut. Theodore W. McClure, a son of Benjamin McClure (aka Uncle Benny) and Sarah Denning. He got his rank of Second Lieutenant while serving with the 11th Indiana Regiment Reserve. His name is the last on this page from the June, 1863 sign-up sheet.


McClure (1835-1927), a farmer, married Louisa Jane Donaldson (1837-1924) in 1858. By the time he listed himself with the 11th Indiana, he was a father. Louisa and Ted had six children in all: Ida (who died in infancy), Charles, Anna (died as a teenager), Albert, Clara, and (of course) Theodore.

Lt. McClure's family is also listed on an informative Find a Grave site, kindly researched and posted by the Friends of Falls Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Wabash, Indiana. Thank you to all the volunteers who preserve the memories of our ancestors in this way!