Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: The House on Rodman Street

Finally, I've seen the house on Rodman Street NW in Washington, D.C., where my great-aunt Ida Mahler Volk and great-uncle Louis Volk lived in the 1940s. It's been a long journey of genealogical discovery getting here!

Before Y2K (remember that?) I was desperately searching for the death cert of my grandfather, Isaac Burk, not knowing where and when he died. Isaac was married to my grandmother, Henrietta Mahler.

Genealogical records weren't as widely available online then as they are now, and it wasn't easy to find out about Isaac. Eventually, I found a terse obit for Isaac in the New York Times, which indicated when he died but not where. It must have been an especially sad time for the Burks because Isaac and Henrietta's two sons (my father Harold and his brother Sidney) were serving overseas in 1943 when Isaac died, and almost certainly couldn't get home for the funeral.

Eventually, an official in NYC suggested that I check with officials in Washington, D.C. That was the hint I needed. Once I sent for and received Isaac's death cert, there were new mysteries to unravel: Louis Volk was the person who gave information to the authorities when Isaac suffered a fatal heart attack at the house on Rodman Street. Why was Isaac, who lived in the Bronx with his wife Henrietta, visiting Washington in the first place? How was Louis Volk involved with my grandfather?

It took many more years to work out who was who and how we were related. Great-aunt Ida and Grandma Henrietta were sisters. Ida and her husband Louis both served as character witnesses when Grandfather Isaac petitioned for citizenship and was naturalized in 1942. Louis served as a character reference when my father, Harold Burk, son of Henrietta and Isaac, applied to be bonded at the beginning of his career as a travel agent.

Here's where the magic of cousin bait comes in: Ida and Louis's granddaughter, Cousin Lois, found me through this blog in 2010. She has filled in much of the missing info, introduced me to Cousin Lil (daughter of another of the Mahler siblings), and welcomed my branch of the family into her life. Sis and I are delighted that she took us to visit the house on Rodman Street, 69 years after Grandfather Isaac and Grandma Henrietta were there to visit Lois's grandparents, the Volks.

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