Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Loser Socks (Again)

Future genealogy trivia: Which contestant has an unbroken record of losing the annual Christmas Day "silly" (or "surprising") sock contest?

Before I reveal the answer, take a look at the above silly, surprising crocodile sock devouring my leg.

Now the answer: I'm the perennial loser. My crock didn't even come close in this field of silly sox, which also included an alligator sock, whale socks, and other assorted silliness. The winner: the blue fuzzy snowman slipper socks at center. (The judge's arm and leg are barely visible in this sock portrait.)

Next year's sock contest will have two rules: Embellishments allowed, and fuzziness required. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: My Merry Gen Gadget Christmas


Thank you, Santa, for the gift of a portable wand scanner! And batteries of course...not to mention the mini SD card.

Now I can scan documents that won't easily fit in my flatbed, such as these two curled-up diplomas earned by my father, Harold Burk.

The top one shows my father's graduation from PS 171, an elementary school in Manhattan, NYC, in June, 1923. He was 14 at the time. The bottom one shows his graduation from Junior High School 171 in Manhattan, NYC, in January, 1925. He was 15 at this point and went to work right after graduation, which (if I recall his stories correctly) meant he ended his educational career after eighth grade. Note that this was a "commercial" diploma, indicating that Harold wasn't expecting to continue to high school but always intended to go to work.

Here's what PS 171 looks like today: Its "name" is Patrick Henry and, as in my father's time, it serves grades K-8. The school is within walking distance of where Harold and his family lived at the time of the 1920 census, at 1642-44 Lexington Avenue near 104th Street.

Santa is so smart and even sentimental! He knows that this genealogy gadget will help me capture so many documents and photos for the future. Ho ho ho!

Friday, December 23, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Advice (Can't Do It All!)

This is the final week of the 2011 Personal Genealogy Challenge. It's been my most active--and successful--year of genealogy research ever, because so many brick walls came tumbling down. Of course, now I have more leads to follow and more ancestors to discover, which means 2012 will be another interesting and eventful year of family history detective work!

Based on my experiences, here's some advice to myself and those who follow me:

  1. You can't do it all. There will never be enough time to follow every ancestor back through the decades and across the miles, and also document their connections and movements. I just have to prioritize: My Ancestry family trees will be at the top of the list because I want everything to be in one place for relatives and descendants to see.
  2. You don't have to do it all yourself. Finding new cousins has been very exciting, and new cousins also means new info and more help with the family tree. More relatives are getting the genealogy bug and will do some lookups or look for family photos. Posting on surname and place message boards has put me in touch with genealogy angels who enjoy doing small acts of kindness, such as looking up one of my hubby's ancestors in the UK census. Thank you, one and all, for making this a fun group effort!
  3. You don't have to do it all at once. Genealogy is a journey, and a memorable one at that. Remember the saying "Life by the yard is hard, life by the inch is a cinch"? Genealogy progresses inch by inch, and I'm enjoying the unfolding of each new wrinkle. Every day or two, I try to add to the family trees I'm building on Ancestry or write a note about a family photo. Eventually the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place, if I work on it steadily.
  4. You have to take the long view. This is related to #3. Genealogy is a long-term proposition, not an instant message. One Canadian source I contacted for info about a great-uncle told me that he'd get back to me in 6 months, once the organization's archives have been moved into their new offices and unpacked. Even if I wanted to go there in person, I couldn't see anything until the records are unpacked, so patience is a virtue. Meanwhile, I'll pursue another line of inquiry, as they say in the BBC mysteries.
Happy holidays to my relatives and Geneablogger friends!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Calendar--Christmas Stockings: Made with Love

It all started with the needlepoint stocking I made for my hubby more than 20 years ago. It was time for something new! And this started a new tradition of making stockings for beloved family members.

Over the years, I've made about 12 stockings, mostly needlepoint but also cross-stitch, embroidery, and quilted.

At right, a needlepoint stocking I made for the youngest member of the family, back in 2005.

The small sports items in the "train" and on either side of the name are actually buttons sewed on as 3D embellishments. No 3D glasses needed!

Happy stitching to all.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Family Trivia: Treasures from Early Days

Burk A - how tiny was the wrist that held this bracelet?
Today, a bit of genealogical trivia from my early days. Do you recognize the item in the photo at left? Hint: I'm a twin, and I was the first one born.

It's my ID bracelet from the hospital where I was born. My sis has a Burk B bracelet (photo forthcoming), also with pink beads. This is what I wore during my days in the heated crib where babies under 5 lbs stayed until they weighed enough to be discharged. I've always kept this treasure in my jewelry box.

Next are two photos showing both sides of one object. The front has my initials. The back says:

Farkas Family Tree, Feb 195__

This is the engraved sterling silver napkin ring that my mother's family, the Farkas Family Tree, presented to every new baby. Perhaps the space between the month and the year was left to be filled in later, but it's always looked exactly like this (except that in this photo, I've blurred out the year on purpose). Some babies get spoons, others get mugs, but Farkas Family babies received napkin rings.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: The Salad Scoopers That Returned Home

Fourteen months ago, my 2d cousin Lois found me through this blog. We saw each other twice this year, both times at happy family occasions (one in her immediate family and one in mine). It has been such a joy getting to know her and her family!

Now I'm going through my photos looking for connections between our branches of the family tree, and here are two, along with the story of the salad set that went from my part of the family to hers and back again.

Lois's grandma was Ida Mahler Volk, shown above at far left with my mother, Daisy Schwartz, who was then engaged to marry my father, Harold Burk, Ida's nephew. Ida (my great-aunt) is shown alone in the photo at the right, quite a glamorous lady IMHO.

Both of these photos were taken in July 1946, when Daisy and Harold, then engaged for six months, flew to Washington, D.C. to visit with the Volks. (They flew because Harold was a travel agent and this was one of the perks at the time.*)

Ida was extremely close to her sister Henrietta Mahler, my father's mother, and Lois has several stories about the sisters' love for and generosity toward each other.

Lois also told me that Harold and Daisy brought a house gift to Ida and Louis when they visited: A lucite/stainless steel salad set with a big bowl and a serving scooper, very "mid-century modern" in today's language of style. That set was used and enjoyed for many, many years and Lois inherited it, along with the story.

Now fast-forward to my niece's wedding last month. Lois gifted the happy couple with this very set of salad utensils, a wonderful, sentimental reminder of the ties that connect the generations of our family.

My niece never met her grandparents, Daisy and Harold--they died long before she was born--but now she's the delighted caretaker of this salad set, which has come back to the Burk part of the family after 65 years. Thank you, Lois!

*How do I know they flew? These photos were in a photo album in a series that starts with a photo of Daisy and Harold on the staircase leading off a plane. That photo is marked "July 1946, Washington, D.C." The photos with Ida are only a page or so beyond. Thank you, Daisy, for marking these so clearly!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Those Places Thursday: Whitechapel, London, Middlesex, England

Straight from the General Register Office in England, here's the 1859 marriage document for my husband's great-grandma Mary Shehen [sic] Slatter and her husband, John Slatter.

I have to check the address--here it looks like Heneage Street in London--but I have a suspicion that this is where John and Mary met, since they both live at the same address in the district of Whitechapel.

And thanks to this document, I can see that there were many more Johns in the family than I realized--John Slatter's father is John Slatter, and Mary's father is John as well. Mary's father was born in Ireland, and this says he was a bricklayer. John's father died before this marriage, so I can go looking for his death info.

Maybe the witnesses, Samuel and Elizabeth Gartley, were the landlords? Well, lots to investigate here.

Whitechapel sound familiar? Jack the Ripper worked this area of London from 1888-1891, well after the the Slatters and Shehens were gone, either died or moved to Canada.

PS - Thanks to a genealogy angel in Ireland, I found out that Mary Shehen's parents, John Shehen and Mary [maiden name UNK] Shehen, were born in Ireland in 1801 or so. More research is in my future!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Meyer Mahler, d. 1910

Meyer Mahler, my paternal g-grandpa, was born in Kovno. As his death cert shows, he became ill in Dec 1909 and died of cancer in Jan 1910 in New York City.

I'm still trying to trace his parents, David Mahler (b. Riga, Latvia) and Hinde Luria (b. Kovno), who almost certainly never came to the US.

The names of Meyer's parents were passed down in the family. Meyer had a son, David, and the name Hilda is also among those later in the family tree.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Calendar of Memories: Christmas Past

My late father-in-law, Edgar J. Wood, kept a diary for many years, usually in yearly calendar diaries given as gifts to customers by Edgar's employer, the Buckeye Union Insurance Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Years after Edgar retired, the company kept sending him the diaries at year's end, and he faithfully wrote a few lines every day with his fountain pen.

Here are the entries he wrote for Christmas day in 1959, 1969, and 1979. (My genealogical explanations are in italics within parentheses). In 1959 and 1969, Edgar and his wife Marian McClure Wood, were living in Cleveland, Ohio. By 1979, they had moved to Pittsfield, Mass., to be near Wally and his family.
  • 1959. After breakfast, presents!! R (my hubby Wally's first wife) brought up Brice (hubby's maternal grandfather). Later, Leta, Chip, Jeff & Tim (Leta was Wally's aunt, the three boys are his first cousins) dropped in for buffet supper. Much singing around piano, "Guys & Dolls" getting a big play. Ernie & Gorden Pettit (friends of Wally's) dropped in. All in all, a big day.
  • 1969. Christmas morning, everyone opened presents. In P.M., W (Wally) and R (his wife) had friends in for an open-house "Sing Along." Cold & snow outside. Stayed in all day. Showed the slides of trip (Edgar and Marian took a big European trip in 1969 via ocean liner and train, arriving in England and continuing to Paris, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria before returning by ship to New York City and then by train to Cleveland).
  • 1979. AM: 10:00 o'clock service. To P.O. (post office, presumably, to mail cards). P.M.: Home for lunch. Some practicing (he played piano professionally). Reading. Paperwork. Evening: To W's (Wally's) where R (his wife) prepared one of her very fine dinners. Later, exchange of presents, some from B (Wally's sister). Visiting.