Friday, November 27, 2009

The Bronx, 100 years ago

The Bronx...my hometown and the place where my immigrant grandparents settled to raise their family and establish a grocery store. Mom went to Morris H.S., the first public high school in the Bronx (decades later, notable Bronxite Colin Powell graduated from the same high school). In fact, the Bronx Historical Society has an entire book about the creation of this high school and what it meant to the borough.

The Bronx Board has a nostalgic series of narratives about life in the Bronx "back in the day." It also has photos, b/w and color, of Bronx people and places of the past. Very helpful as I try to reconstruct the world that my grandparents lived in and what it felt like to be a Bronxite early in the 20th century.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Magic Blue Membership Card

A fellow family researcher, seeking original documents by mail, was told by a certain town that our ancestor's death cert wasn't available, that he didn't die in that town (and the town grabbed the fee for "research").

Fiddlesticks. We know he did die there, because the date and place showed up in a reliable cemetery listing and in a family prayer book, not to mention death notices in his hometown newspaper.

I have other research to pursue, so I joined the state society of genealogists. When the blue membership card arrived, I took myself down to town hall, smiled sweetly, flashed the magic card, and presto! I got into the vault and found the ancestor's name, in black and white, listed in the town's death index (and the only person of that last name to die that year, by the way).

Then I turned to the death cert in the book of bound death certs. Alas, all this effort for very little. No name of father or mother, no town of birth, not even the spouse's name (which we know anyway). Just death date, place, name of doctor, name of undertaker, and name of embalmer (TMI). But now we KNOW for sure where and when, which is something.

Next stop: The main library in the town where this man lived for decades, and the vital records area. So many ancestors, so little time!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

For Veterans' Day

My aunt Dorothy Schwartz was on active duty with the Women's Army Corps starting Sept. 11, 1942. She got her separation papers on August 31, 1945 after having been stationed in Europe.

She was discharged with the rank of Sergeant, having received a Certificate of Merit and a Bronze Star for "meritorious service in direct support of military operations" from 1943 to 1945.

One of her letters is included in the book With love, Jane, a compilation of correspondence from American women on the war front.

In addition, she was the historian of the Woman's Army Corps Detachment, HQ, 9th Air Division in 1944-1945.

In honor of Veterans' Day, I honor her memory and salute all our vets.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Your advice wanted: Queries on message boards

I've had some good luck answering queries at surname message boards and locality message boards on sites like GenForum and Ancestry. What about you?

Do you post genealogy queries? Where? Have you been "found" by distant relatives after you posted a query? What should every query include? Any advice for writing or answering a query? Any advice for which surname or locality message boards are best to use?

I'd like to hear about your experiences. Thanks for sharing!