Monday, February 17, 2014

Mystery Monday: Family Stories + Family Trees = Margaret Roth Mandel

My "unknowns" box of photos includes two of this lady, both with the name "Margaret Mandel" handwritten on the back (not in my parents' or grandparents' handwriting). She was a mystery--until today.

Margaret Roth Mandel and Herman Mandel, 1946
My cousin from Boulder and I have lately been on the trail of the Roth family, trying to connect them with our Farkas or Kunstler lines. We began with a couple of family stories and then . . . here's how we teamed up with a fellow family history enthusiast to solve the mystery of Margaret Mandel AND advance our Roth research.

1. Our Farkas family minutes mention the Roth family twice:
  • Bela Roth sent his condolences and regrets after my great-grandma (Lena Kunstler Farkas) died and her gravestone was unveiled in the 1930s.
  • Alex Roth's death was noted, with sadness, in the minutes of October, 1949.
2. My Boulder cuz remembers--definitely--that the lady above, who attended my parents' 1946 wedding, was named Margaret Roth. She also remembers a number of family stories about the Roths, who were cousins in some undefined way. And she remembers a cousin known affectionately as "Uncle Bela Roth." All of these people lived in the New York area.

3. I began a private family tree on Ancestry to experiment with different family configurations of the Roths I was finding via manifests, Census data, and obituaries. As soon as I had four Roths connected in a stand-alone family tree, Ancestry waved its green "hint" leaf at me. There was exactly one hint: A family tree that included my Roths. BINGO! 

4. I sent the tree's owner, D, a note via Ancestry. He invited me to see his tree. There, I found more clues to my Roths--and the two of us took up the hunt, locating obituaries and adding more details to our Roth trees, day by day.

5. This morning, D sent me a note that solved the mystery of Margaret Mandel. In the obit of "cousin Alex Roth," he saw Margaret Mandel's name listed as a sibling. I added Margaret and her family to my Roth family tree--and up popped the naturalization paper of Herman, whose photo is at left, showing a younger version of the Herman in the photo with Margaret, above. I'm also contacting other relatives to ask for more stories and documents. In addition, another Ancestry hint sent me to someone whose family tree includes Margaret and her husband, Herman Mandel.

If I can connect with Margaret's descendants, I want them to have her portraits to pass down through the generations. March UPDATE: I'm meeting with a descendant in two days and will happily give him the two portraits, which belong in his family! Plus I found another Roth researcher (another D) looking at a related branch of this family. We're all cooperating and having a fun time discovering passenger manifests and more. It takes a village to trace a tree :)


  1. Very fun to see your chain of discoveries! I hope you have luck connecting with a descendant of Margaret.

  2. How awesome Cuz!! What great progress you're making! Soooo happy for you!! I've been off my Ancestry tree for quite a few weeks now, but your success stories always make me want to jump back, Philly Cuz

  3. Thank you both, ladies, for reading and commenting. So many ancestors, so little time, right?