Saturday, June 25, 2011

Surname Saturday: Seeking Sibs of Tillie Jacobs Mahler

Looking for the Jacobs family! Great-grandma Tillie Rose (Jacobs) Mahler lived to nearly 100 years old, as I've noted in earlier posts. On her death cert, her son Morris Mahler said that Tillie's father was Julius Yaina (which may be his first and middle names). 
Where and when Tillie and her husband Meyer Mahler (my g-grandpa) met and married, I've no idea, but it was somewhere in the area of Latvia. Meyer and Tillie brought their two oldest children (Henrietta and David) to New York with them before 1900. Unfortunately, no one in the family has any idea about Tillie's siblings or her mother's name, but I hope to learn more about this matriarch's ancestors in the future.

Friday, June 24, 2011

52 Weeks of Genealogy: Neighbors--Steiner Sisters in Upper Sandusky, OH

The Steiner sisters (pictured at a Tea Party in an earlier blog post) were neighbors in and around Upper Sandusky, Ohio. My husband Wally remembers going there during post-World War II summers to visit his grandparents, Floyda Steiner McClure and Brice Larimer McClure.

On the same street or around the corner lived great-aunt Carrie Steiner Traxler and great-aunt Etta Blanche Steiner Rhuark (who owned a parrot that Wally remembers quite well because it knew how to say his grandfather's name, "Brice McClure"). Great-aunt Minnie Steiner Halbedel lived in a big house closer to "downtown."

Doors weren't locked, and Wally and his siblings would wander in and out of the neighboring houses visiting relatives all day. The summer visits to Upper Sandusky lasted several years, until Minnie and Floyda died. Then Grandfather Brice Larimer McClure sold the Upper Sandusky house and moved to Willoughby, OH, so his grandchildren could swim in Lake Erie . . . The end of an era by the time 1950 rolled around.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday: Writing Queries for Surname Message Boards

Would you respond to this query on a surname message board? (Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)


Hidden family
  Help! Seeking info on Plain S. Hidden, wife Luellen, daughter Constant. I know the family lived in Crawford Co and also Washington Co.
The good news: Showing the patriarch's first name and middle initial, plus his wife and daughter's names, is a big help. Listing a "who" is the first step.

The bad news: This query has no specific "what," "when," or "where." What, exactly, is the researcher looking for? Looking for Plain's parents, perhaps, or Constant's descendants? When did Mr. Hidden and family live in these places? In what state(s) are Crawford and Washington counties located?

My six top tips for effective queries:

  1. Who. List full names where you know them, and initials if all else fails. List as many of the immediate family (sibs or descendants or parents) as practical so readers can determine whether their family tree connects with the family you're searching for. Where possible, put surnames in CAPS or bold so they stand out.
  2. What. What do you want to know, within reason? If you're hoping to be handed a complete family tree, complete with source citations, you're probably on the wrong planet. But if you want to know parents' names, for example, you just might get lucky.
  3. When. Let readers know the approximate period that you know about or that you're hoping for information about. In this example, the query writer might have written, "Found in 1910 Census for Crawford county, Michigan, missing from later Census years."
  4. Where. County names aren't much good without identifying the states. Even if you're posting to a locality message board where everyone knows you're talking about Michigan, it doesn't hurt to spell it out. After all, many states have a Crawford county (not just Michigan but also Ohio, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Kansas, just to name a few).
  5. Play nice. Always offer to exchange information. Remember, you never know who you'll meet on a surname message board. If you want to take, you should be willing to give.
  6. Include current contact info. Be sure your e-mail address or other contact info is available to someone replying to your query. If you change e-mail addresses, update your queries. You don't want to miss a message from that long-lost cousin!
Cyndi's List has a number of good links about how to write queries. Good luck!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday Time Travel: 1812, When Benjamin McClure Was Born

Benjamin McClure, born in April, 1812 in Ohio, was among the early settlers of Wabash, Indiana (where he died in 1896). According to Wabash County Early Settlers, he and his wife Sarah and their son, Theodore W. McClure, came to Wabash in September, 1844. Benjamin is hubby's great-great-grandpa.
Wabash Cty Historical Museum

In this latest entry of my "time travel" series, I try to imagine a little of what life was like for Benjamin and family in the Ohio of 1812. Sadly, I don't know Benjamin's parents' names, nor his birth place, but finding out is one of the top priorities for this year.

The 1812 War was the big news in Benjamin's birth year, but it was also the year Louisiana became a U.S. state (as Google News Timeline reminded me).
  • Did war touch the McClure family? I don't know for certain. Benjamin was born a few months before America declared war on Britain in 1812. According to Ohio History Central, some former British soldiers were settled in Ohio and gave firearms to native Americans to resist the westward expansion of colonists. Once US forces won the war and the British gave up their claims, this practice ended. But war was in the air around the world: Napoleon was trying to expand France's claims in Europe and in Russia (!). The US was still a young nation and I imagine that the McClure family was uncertain about the country's ability to survive, let alone thrive. Did some McClure family members serve in the Revolution? Were they wounded or killed? Wish I knew.
  • Ohio was a fast-growing farm state. Admitted to the Union in 1803, Ohio had 230,000 residents at the time of the 1810 Census (and more than double that amount by the 1820 Census). Most were farmers, but during Benjamin McClure's lifetime, Ohio's industry developed rapidly because of ore deposits and other natural resources. Having access to water and good roads helped build the business base (steamboats were just being introduced in Ohio when Benjamin was born). Some settlers may have been attracted by the fact that Ohio tolerated diverse religions. I'm almost certain that Benjamin's parents were farmers, not refugees in search of a haven from persecution. Home was probably a simple cabin on the farm property, with no frills, at least in the early days. Later, with prosperity and more land, the family's home was more elaborate.
  • Financial ups and downs. Just a few years after Benjamin was born, the Panic of 1819 prompted bankruptcies and financial turmoil in Ohio and many other states. Farmers were certainly not exempt from the problems, although I imagine that Benjamin's family was fairly self-sufficient because of the farm. That said, weather extremes must have caused the McClures hardships and worries. They also needed to get through the winters financially and weather hot/dry summers that threatened crops. How did they manage their money? The family was large, as most were in that time, and yet Benjamin had enough money to acquire 80 acres in Wabash by at least 1875. Very impressive.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Wendell Washer Makes Me Smile

Have you seen Wendell Washer's GeneToons genealogy cartoons? Just take a peek at the one above and you'll see why he makes me smile. Thanks for the laughs, Wendell. Enough said.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday Time Travel: 1878, when Brice L. McClure Was Born

This is another in my ongoing series of Time Travel posts, looking at what was happening at important points in my ancestors' lives.

Today's ancestor is Brice Larimer McClure, my husband's maternal grandfather, born on December 25, 1878, in Little Traverse, Michigan. Little Traverse is part of Petoskey nowadays, located in Emmet County, not too far (as the crow flies) from famous Mackinac Island. The county was named after Robert Emmet, an Irish nationalist born in Dublin.

And thanks to Mary Elizabeth's "ME and My Ancestors," which mentioned that Google Timelines had been featured on Genealogy Gems, I now know about the wonderful tool Google News Timeline to look up events of the era, as well.

So what was life like for newborn Brice, his 1-yr-old sister Lola, and his parents, William Madison McClure and Margaret Jane Larimer McClure? I have a few clues.
  • Railroad fever and lumber demand fueled growth. A lot of railroads were active in Michigan at this time, as the US economy expanded. The first-ever Statistical Abstract of the US shows that the US treasury held a record $215 million in 1878! (The public debt was just over $2 billion, a direct result of the Civil War.) Petoskey was about to be incorporated, in fact, and lumber was a major industry, here and throughout Michigan. Water access increased the value of this area for industry. Rapid economic development meant work for Brice's father. Did he get his start on the railroad here? By the 1880 Census, Brice's father was listed as "worker on railway" and his home was in Millersburg, Elkhart County, Indiana.
  • Cool summers, clean air = resort community. The area in and around Petoskey, a scenic stop on the railroads from Grand Rapids and beyond, grew into a haven for city-dwellers seeking to escape the heat in summer resort communities. Yellow fever was a problem in Southern states, and crowded cities were already viewed as unhealthy for those with fragile constitutions or chronic conditions. Of course, Brice was born on Christmas, when the weather was REALLY cool, and the family lived no more than 18 months beyond his birth in this resort community, so he never experienced the "resort" atmosphere. But he did live nearly 92 years...perhaps his healthy beginnings helped?!
  • What about culture and education? Brice and family were probably busy trying to survive, so I doubt they were buying books or attending concerts at this point (LOL). Just a few years before Brice was born, however, a landmark court case in Kalamazoo affirmed the concept of tax support for public high schools in Michigan towns. Out in the wider world, Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer had been published in 1876, and Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore debuted, bringing "I'm Called Little Buttercup" and other classics to lips across Europe and into America. Brice's descendants became Mark Twain fans, he might have been pleased to know.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

52 Weeks of Genealogy: Clothes--Double Trouble!

My mother, Daisy Schwartz Burk, was a twin (see the toddlers in the older photo below, in which Mom is probably the smiling girl on the right side, next to her older sister, Dorothy Schwartz). She was often dressed exactly like her fraternal twin, not just for photos. Not surprisingly, Mom wasn't a big fan of matching outfits, because they seemed like a gimmick to show off "twin-ness."

That's why Mom rarely dressed me and my fraternal twin alike. The exception was on special occasions such as when we were going to be photographed by a pro (see the pony-tailed youngsters at right, below). The 99% of our wardrobe that we wore to school and for play did NOT consist of matching outfits--which meant we could share clothing and mix and match from a much larger selection. 

As children, my twin and I would (once in a while) dress like the other and try to fool people, just for the fun of it. Usually we got away with it for an hour or two. Growing up, we valued our separate identities and made separate friends. We remember our mother and aunt talking on the phone every night, so it's no wonder that my twin and I call each other just about every day.
 


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Surname Saturday and Tips for Surname Message Boards

Before I list the surnames I'm researching, let me tell a big success story that came about because of surname message boards--and suggest a few tips for this type of research.

A few months ago, I presented my talk, "Click! Using Boards and Blogs for Genealogy," to the local genealogical society. I highlighted three of the many popular surname message boards available online: Rootsweb/Ancestry, GenForum, and CousinConnect. Thanks to the researchers and distant relatives I've met through Rootsweb/Ancestry and GenForum, I've broken down several brick walls, but I've never had any luck with CousinConnect.

B, one of the audience members, went home after my talk and posted queries to the three boards I mentioned. She knew her father had been married more than once, and she suspected she had half-siblings out there. Once she posted the queries, she forgot about them.

Until this past Tuesday night. Three months after posting to CousinConnect, the site sent her an e-mail that someone had responded to her query. B logged on and found a note from her half-sister! They've now e-mailed and spoken and plans for a get-together are in the works. All because B decided to post queries to surname message boards one evening!

Here are my tips for using surname message boards:
  • Write a specific, detailed query. List WHO you're looking for, WHERE they were, and WHEN they were there. Some good/better/best examples and suggestions for effective queries are on Rootsweb and CousinConnect. Always offer to share information--it sets a positive tone and shows that you're willing to give, not just take.
  • Keep your contact info up to date. If B had changed her e-mail address after posting to CousinConnect, she would never have been notified of her half-sister's response. So be sure you keep your e-mail address current with any surname message boards you use.
  • Search and read the queries before you post. The answer to your question (or a contact for surname research) may already be on the surname message board, so search the queries and read the likeliest ones before you post, either starting a new thread or adding to a thread appropriate to your ancestor.
  • Cast your net wide. Use specialized surname and locality message boards as well as the most popular genealogy boards. (Cyndi's List has a few to try.) I've had responses from smaller boards as well as the mega-boards.
  • Track your queries. Write down where/when you post, so you can go back to update the post or change your e-mail months or years later. If you learn something significant about an ancestor you're trying to trace through a message board, you can always post a new query with the extra info. Don't plaster the same board with query after query, however.
Now for my most-wanted list of surnames being researched at the moment.
  1. Slatter. Mary Slatter (1869-1925), hubby's grandmother, wasn't dropped from Mars. She was born in England, came to America about 1895 (via Canada, I believe), and had siblings who seem to have stayed in Canada: John, Albert, and Harry Slatter, plus Mrs. Baker. How did Mary make her way to Toledo, OH, where she married James Edgar Wood? Then the two moved to Cleveland, OH.
  2. McClure. Benjamin McClure (1812-1896), great-great-grandfather of my husband and father of William Madison McClure, owned 80 acres of farmland in Wabash, Indiana in 1875. William was the father of hubby's grandfather, Brice Larimer McClure. Who were Benjamin McClure's parents and where did they come from?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: Toledo Nuptials for Wood and Slatter

Hubby's grandfather, James Edgar Wood, married hubby's grandmother, Mary Slatter, on September 21, 1898 in Toledo, Ohio (see cert at left).

James Edgar Wood, born in Toledo, was a builder whose carpentry talents I showed off in photos on a Talented Tuesday.

Mary Slatter's family history is a mystery. According to the 1900 Census, she came to the US in 1895. How, where, and when did she meet her future husband?

According to her death cert, Mary was born in London to John Slatter and Mary Sheehan. Her 1925 obit says she had three brothers (Harry, John, and Albert Slatter) and a sister (Mrs. James F. Baker). Her family appears to have come through Canada. Obviously my next step is to check out potential relatives in Canada!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday Time Travel: 1906, When Isaac and Henrietta Wed

In my continuing series of time-travel posts, today I'm looking at the year in which my paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk, married my maternal grandma, Henrietta Mahler. Their wedding date was June 10, 1906, so their anniversary is just a few days from now.

These photos show them in the mid-1930s, when their four children were grown and gone.

What was life like for them in 1906, when they were married in Henrietta's apartment in New York City? Despite their hopes and dreams, all around them were larger forces causing major challenges for immigrants from Eastern Europe:
  • War and peace and pogroms. Teddy Roosevelt was President, and this was the year he won the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering an end to the Russo-Japanese war. But pogroms continued in parts of Eastern Europe controlled by Russia. Isaac and Henrietta's friends and family there would have been affected by these terrible events (which would also have reinforced their decision to make a life in North America).
  • Money troubles. New York was a city of super-rich socialites and struggling immigrants like my grandparents. The financial panic of 1907 was just around the corner, which may have been one reason why Isaac was "commuting" back and forth between Montreal and New York in search of work. One of Isaac and Henrietta's four children was born in Montreal (my uncle Sidney Burk). Cousin Lois told me that her grandma Ida and my grandma Henrietta would help each other out with money during the Depression years in New York, which suggests money was an ongoing problem for my grandparents.
  • Fear of immigrant labor. Waves of immigration swept over the city and country, and with it, increasing fear that immigrants were stealing jobs from Americans (sound familiar?). Perhaps Isaac felt the effects of this fear when he tried to find work in NYC. Immigration laws were changing . . . and the naturalization rules were tightened in 1906 to require English language knowledge. What was it like to arrive in New York after a week or more at sea? Two years ago, Dick Eastman posted a link to footage of Ellis Island immigrants in 1906, and the three-minute snippet is quite poignant.
  • Earthquakes and exposes. San Francisco was devastated by the huge earthquake and fire in April, 1906, news that would have made it to New York before the wedding. Later that same summer, Chile suffered a massive earthquake and fire that killed 20,000. Other news headlines related to exposes such as The Jungle, which prompted new federal regulations that made my grandparents' daily lives safer, such as the Pure Food and Drug Act. When they could afford to buy a newspaper, most likely Isaac and Henrietta read the Jewish Daily Forward published in Yiddish.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

52 Weeks of Genealogy: Books (of Parents and Children)

So many books, so little time! This is a shared posting with my hubby, Wally. First up, the books of my childhood and my memories of what was on my parents' bookshelves.

As a preteen, the first two novels I remember plucking off library shelves were: Sands of Mars, by the legendary sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke; and Landfall the Unknown, a young adult novel by Evelyn Cheesman, an entomologist and prolific writer.



Why these book titles have stuck with me all these years (when so many really important details have disappeared from my brain), I don't know. Both books deal with exploration and survival, one on Mars and the other on an uninhabited Pacific island. Interesting theme for a genealogy buff searching for ancestors who came to America from far-away homelands!

My father preferred newspapers (reading 2-4 a day on his one-hour commute to and from Manhattan) but my mother was an avid reader of books. When I was young, she'd fly through paperback mysteries of Erle Stanley Gardner, among others. After we girls were grown and gone, and she was on her own, she acquired a very eclectic collection of books to read and re-read, including The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and various natural history books. Sometimes she'd dabble in a best-seller to see what the hub-bub was about.

Guest post by my hubby, Wally:

Starting around age 12, I got hooked on the Hardy Boys (see earlier post). In addition, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart impressed me when I read it as a 16-year-old. Earth is being swept by a disease (something like the 1918-9 flu pandemic), which kills 98% of the population. The story is the reestablishment of civilization, seen through the eyes of a man who survived and returns to the now-deserted city of San Francisco. What impressed me was how he and others managed to live among the remains of a society where the people had vanished but many man-made parts of the world still continued (food sits on store shelves, books are in the library, etc).

Rereading this 1949 best-seller as an adult, I was struck by Stewart's basically positive view of human nature. Although most post-apocalyptic novels portray a world where life is nasty, brutish, and short, Earth Abides portrays a world in which humans establish a new, positive civilization and culture on the ruins of the old.

My father didn't read books (just newspapers and magazines). But once a week in the summer, my mother and I (and probably my siblings) would walk to the nearest branch of the public library in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where we'd all borrow a stack of books. The only book I remember my mother buying was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I also read it as a teenager when it first came out, and was dazzled by the hero. Rereading it as an adult, however, I found it preposterous and problematic.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday: Ancestor Hunting on Gen Blogs

When Dan Lynch first released his book Google Your Family Tree, which I highly recommend, he made a presentation to my local genealogical society. The minute I got back from his talk, I turned on my computer and put a few of his ideas to work--and quickly found a blog comment written by my long-lost first cousin, who I hadn't seen in decades!

As time went on, I developed a few useful tricks to supplement Dan's suggestions, tips I've shared in my own presentations to local genealogical societies. For example:


  • Search blogs only. To search only blogs and only on genealogy, start at the Google home page. Enter your surname, add the word "AND," then enter the word "genealogy." Next, move your mouse along the menu at the top of the page until you see the drop down menu under the word "more" (as shown in this screen shot). Click on "blogs" and then click to start your search.
  •  Use quotation marks around full names. When searching for a specific ancestor, search for the full name in "First Middle Last" order (typing "Thomas Haskell Wood" in the search box, with quotation marks as shown) as well as in "Last, First Middle" order (typing "Wood, Thomas Haskell" in the search box, with quotation marks). And don't just try "First Middle Wood"--also search possible variations like "First Middle Woods" and "Woods, First Middle." 
  • Browse for surname genealogy blogs. Look at the lists of blogs on Genealogy Blog Finder and GeneaBloggers. You just might find one or more genealogy blogs devoted to the surnames you're researching.
  • Include a search box on your blog. Make it easy for people to find surnames on your blog by including a search box, as I did at top right, just below the blog name/description.
Happy ancestor hunting!