Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Thanks to our ancestors who made Thanksgiving 2013 possible

On Thanksgiving, I'm giving thanks to the courageous journey-takers who came to America and made it possible for me and my family to be here today.

My side:
  • Farkas ancestors: Above, a Thanksgiving dinner with the Farkas Family Tree, descendants of Moritz Farkas and Lena Kunstler, who arrived in New York City in 1899 and 1900, respectively, bringing their children from Hungary just a little later. I'm one of the "hula girls" near the back at far left.
  • Schwartz ancestors: Tivadar (Teddy) Schwartz left Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhorod, Ukraine) in 1902. He encouraged two siblings to join him in New York City, Sam (who arrived in 1904) and Mary (who arrived in 1906). Teddy married Hermina Farkas (daughter of Moritz and Lena) and settled in the Bronx.
  • Burk and Mahler ancestors: Isaac Burk, a skilled cabinet maker, arrived in New York City from Lithuania in 1904. His bride-to-be, Henrietta Mahler, was a small child when she came to New York City from Latvia in 1885 or 1886, with her parents Meyer Mahler and Tillie Rose Jacobs
Hubby's side:
  • Mayflower ancestors: My hubby has four Mayflower ancestors, but only two survived to give thanks on the first Thanksgiving in 1621: Isaac Allerton and his young daughter, Mary Allerton. The Allerton line connected with the Cushman line and eventually married into the Wood family.
  • Wood ancestors: John "The Mariner" Wood, Sr., was the journey-taker in the Wood family. Born in England about 1590, he died in Portsmouth, RI in 1655, leaving a tradition of carpentry and sea-faring occupations throughout the Wood family for many generations. 
  • McClure ancestors: Halbert McClure and his family journeyed from Raphoe Parish, County Donegal, to Philadelphia and then walked to Virginia to settle down. I'll be researching these ancestors more thoroughly at next year's NGS Conference, which takes place in Richmond on May 7-10.
  • Larimer ancestors: Robert Larimer took the perilous voyage from the North of Ireland to Philadelphia--but was shipwrecked along the way. I've told his story before.
  • Slatter ancestors: John Slatter Sr. was probably the first journey-taker in this English family, arriving in Ohio around 1889. I haven't yet located the ship records for his daughter Mary Slatter, who married James Edgar Wood in 1898.
  • Steiner and Rinehart ancestors: Still on my to-do list is the task of identifying the first ancestors of Jacob S. Steiner to arrive in America. Jake himself was born in Pennsylvania about 1802. Joseph W. Rinehart wasn't the first journey-taker, either. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1806, but I can't find much on his parents (yet).
Thank you, journey-takers. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Motivation Monday: Those Brickwalls Are Crumbling

When I began this blog in 2008, I put the following sentence at the top: Adventures in genealogy . . . finding out who my ancestors were and connecting with cousins today!  What adventures I've had, and what joy in finding cousins all over the map. 

Botpalad, hometown of Moritz Farkas
Nothing is as motivating as a breakthrough, right? November is possibly my best-ever month for bringing down brickwalls, which only makes me want to dig deeper. It's been so exciting that it's hard to know where to begin...remember, all of this happened in the past 25 days, and the month isn't over yet :)
  • "Hello Cousin" was the subject line on a much-anticipated e-mail from Israel. After many months of searching, I've finally connected with long-lost Schwartz cousins on my maternal grandfather's side! My 2d cousin confirmed our relationship and sent me wonderful photos of herself and the rest of our family in Israel. Next up: A Skype session! All in the same month that Sis and I met "Philly Cuz" for the first time in person--she's also a 2d cousin on the Schwartz side. And in the same month, I saw my 1st cuz from Queens (Hi, Ira!)
  • "James Elmer Larimer" was the subject line on an e-mail that arrived out of the blue. As I wrote just recently, this gentleman is trying to find the connection between hubby's Larimer line and his family (still working on that). He was kind enough to share the wagon-train journal kept by James Elmer Larimer's widow, Asenath Larimer, who went with her brother John Cornwell and three of his neighbors to join the Gold Rush in 1852. The journal is an incredible first-person account of what it was like to walk day after day through an unknown landscape, battle illness and accidents, and--hardest of all, in some ways--to leave loved ones behind, never knowing if the family would see one another again. Spoiler alert: Asenath is reunited with her young children after all!
  • "I'm the grandson of ... " read the Ancestry message I received from a first cousin, 1x removed of my hubby's! He's just beginning to trace his family tree and I'm delighted to share what I know about Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest, our common ancestors. Can't wait to hear from him again.
  • Remember microfilm? Last week I located the handwritten birth entry of my great-grandpa Moritz Farkas in the records of Botpalad, Hungary, contained on a Family History Library microfilm titled "Anyakönyvek Izraelita Hitközseg, Fehérgyarmat." Now I can search the same records for any siblings, knowing I'm in the correct part of the world at the correct time. I'm very motivated to keep cranking through this microfilm, even though part is in Hungarian and part is in German :( 
  • Cousin JW, who was thought to be a family friend but turns out to be a cousin of the Farkas family, sent naturalization records and other documents from her parents and grandparents so I can connect her line to our line. I'm almost there. This is an immense breakthrough because we believe it will show we're actually related to a large group of Farkas descendants in Europe and the U.S.
  • "Captain Slatter" was the subject line from a lady whose father trained under Captain Jack Slatter in 1941. Captain Jack (actually John Daniel Slatter) was hubby's great-uncle and a renowned bandmaster for 50 years. Replying to this inquiry, I sent a photo of Capt. Jack and a request to hear her father's memories of the good Captain. It's a small world after all!
So many ancestors, so many cousins, so little time. I'm motivated! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Military Monday: Major James Elmer Larimer

This morning I heard from a gentleman who found me through this blog.* His family has some wonderful historic treasures: A cache of Civil War letters written by James Elmer Larimer to his mother, Asenath Cornwell Larimer, and Asenath's journal chronicling her trip to California in the Gold Rush era. Are these Larimers related to hubby's Larimers?

Yes! And they're listed in the book Our Larimer Family by John Clarence Work, which traces this branch of the Larimers, starting with Robert Larimer's shipwreck enroute from North Ireland to America in the early 1700s.

Of course I dropped everything to check out James Elmer Larimer and his parents, James Larimer and Asenath Cornwell Larimer...and quickly discovered that James Elmer Larimer had quite a distinguished career in the military and afterward.

Above is the first of several pages about Major James Elmer Larimer from the 1915 book History of Dearborn County, Indiana (read or download it here). He enlisted in Company A, 17th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, on April 16, 1861. He rose through the ranks, serving bravely, and eventually became a first lieutenant in command of four companies of the 23rd Missouri Volunteer Infantry. He was in the first battle of Bull Run, and in many other famous battles (Hoover's Gap, Stone's River, siege of Atlanta, and on).

After the war, President Grant appointed him U.S. gauger and in that capacity, Major Larimer foiled a number of frauds (but not all--see this Wikipedia entry). Next he became publisher and editor of the Lawrenceburg Press in Indiana. The Dearborn history sums him up this way:
"His favorite sport is baseball. His church--all of them. His bible--"The Book" and Emerson. His reading--everything, but preferably scientific. His friends--every good man or woman. His hopes--the best of what he has been. He hates--a human skunk or fox. His pride--that he has lived through 75 years of more valuable achievement by man than all the race had previously accomplished."
James Elmer Larimer was my hubby's first cousin, four times removed, and that makes us proud. 

* Larimer ancestor landing page, a big plus!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Amanuensis Monday: My Family in WWII, for Veteran's Day

Moritz Farkas and his wife, Lena Kunstler Farkas, had 18 grandchildren. When WWII started, some of Moritz and Lena's grandchildren were of age to serve in the military. My Uncle Fred and Auntie Dorothy (at left) served, along with their first cousins Harry, George, and Robert and cousin-in-law Abe.

For Veteran's Day, I looked back at what the records of the Farkas Family Tree had to say about our relatives in WWII. This family association, formed in 1933 and active for 31 years, was a key element in keeping up the morale of our service members and supporting the parents, siblings, and children who missed them and worried about them. Often the relatives in the service would write one long letter to "the tree" and have it read at the monthly meetings. And tree members would write to relatives in the service to pass along family news and keep up their spirits.

Luckily for me, the tree secretary took minutes at every meeting and prepared a yearend summary of who did what every year in a historian's report, mixing real news with a hefty dose of humor to dispel the worry.

Excerpts from Farkas Family Tree historian's reports from the WWII years:
  • From December, 1942: "George, who volunteered for the Army Air Corps early in the year, began his training in April. He is now studying at the Bombardier-Navigator School in Louisiana and, according to his letters is making an intensive survey of the southern accent. For excellence in the art of peeling potatoes, he was promoted to the rank of corporal...Abe is now enjoying a vacation at an exclusive hotel in Florida, managed by US Army. Not to be outdone by the boys, Dorothy decided to become a WAAC. She writes that life in the Army is simply thrilling and that she is having many interesting (?) new experiences."
  • From December, 1943: "Uncle Sam decided he needed Fred more than we do, sent him 'Greetings,' and carried him off...This was not the only change which Uncle Sam caused to be made. Earlier in the year, Harry had been inducted...The war has brought a myriad of changes in our lives. Due to gas and tire shortages, we no longer go on our annual picnics and outings...Those are the events of the past year. For the coming year, the earnest hope of all is that 1944 will find the Axis vanquished and our boys home."
  • From December, 1944: "Fred was in basic training at Camp Shelby, Dorothy studied at Oxford, Harry trained at Lawson General Hospital to become an X-Ray technician...George served in Africa and Italy...Dorothy received the Europe-Middle East-Africa Theatre ribbon with combat star...Abe arrived in New Guinea...Robert went overseas with the 78th Division to England, France, and Germany...Fred became an MP and later went to the Separation Classification School at Ft. Dix." 
  • From December, 1945: "Dorothy was discharged on August 31st, having moved with the 9th Air Force from France to Belgium, returning home with the Bronze Star and 6 battle stars...Harry was stationed at Camp Upton, also Tacoma, Ft. Jackson, S.C., and France...Abe crossed the waters to New Guinea, described by him in vivid colors. When he was moved to Manila, he became a s/sgt... Fred was in Camp Shelby, Camp Blanding, and was promoted to s/sgt... Bob was in England and France, where he had a tough life liberating champagne and women. His last stop was Germany, returning with 3 battle stars."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: Elroy Post, Painter

Quick, what occupation do you think hubby's great-uncle Elroy pursued?

Well, you're partly right.

Hubby's great-aunt Margaret Mary Steiner (1861-1913) married Elroy D. Post (1858-1929) in 1883.

They soon moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was a sign painter in his own business for more than 30 years.

Although Maggie died in Knoxville, she was buried in her home town of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, in the Old Mission Cemetery. Above, the family plot marker. At right, Maggie's gravestone.

Elroy remarried a few years later, to Merida, and the couple named their only child after Elroy's first wife. When Elroy died, he, too, was buried in Old Mission Cemetery, right next to his first wife, Maggie. They're the only two in the Post plot. Hmmm.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday's Faces from the Past Go Home with a Granddaughter

Edward and Mary (left) with friend at Coney Island
My grandfather Teddy Schwartz and his older brother Samuel Schwartz scraped up money to bring their younger sister Mary Schwartz to New York City from their hometown of Ungvar, Hungary in November, 1906.

In 1913, Mary married Edward Wirtschafter, who founded a furrier business in the Big Apple.

More than 80 years after the photo below was taken, my cousin Harriet still remembered sitting beside her brother Burton in the studio and wearing a lovely pink chiffon dress made by her mother. They're Ed and Mary's children.

Now all these wonderful faces from the past are going home with Mary and Ed's granddaughter.