Wednesday, April 16, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #17: Minnie Farkas Tosses Her Engagement Ring

When teenaged Minnie Farkas (1886-1964) crossed the Atlantic from Hungary to join her parents in New York City in 1901, she and her older teenaged brother Sandor were responsible for shepherding their baby sisters, Ilka (age 4) and Frida (age 3).

Imagine boarding the S.S. Amsterdam in Rotterdam at age 15, sailing for an unknown country and in charge of keeping two small children safe and fed and entertained day after day after day as the ship lumbered across the ocean. By the time the ship steamed into New York Harbor, I'm sure she and the other Farkas children were up on deck to see the Statue of Liberty, signalling the end of a long voyage.

At Ellis Island, Minnie and her siblings were collected by their father, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) or their mother, Lena Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938). To help support the family, Minnie got a job in a necktie factory run by Adolf Roth, a cousin of either the Farkas or Kunstler family. Like the rest of her siblings, she would hand her pay packet to her mother Lena at the end of the week, and Lena would dole out a couple of dollars for the following week's subway fare and coffee.

Although her parents picked out a well-situated young man for her to marry, Minnie refused. The family story is that the gentleman came to the apartment with an engagement ring and indignant Minnie threw the ring out the window. (Supposedly, one of her younger brothers ran down the stairs and retrieved it, but no one knows what became of the jewelry...or the young man.)

Minnie insisted on marrying Teddy Schwartz (1887-1965), an immigrant born in Ungvar, Hungary. They met in a Hungarian delicatessen on the Lower East Side and after they were married, Minnie worked alongside him in his grocery store in the Bronx.

Grandma Minnie at right, with three of her five sisters
This 1928 photo shows Minnie at far right, with the two now grown-up "baby" sisters she accompanied to New York and, at far left, one of the Farkas sisters born in America. In all, Minnie had five sisters and five brothers. By the time of this photo, Minnie was a mother three times over, but never (to my knowledge) had or wore an engagement ring.

1 comment:

  1. Minnie sounds like a spirited woman, who didn't fear her parents' disapproval. She must have been fun to be with :-)