Sunday, March 30, 2014

Do Ancestor Landing Pages Work?

Ancestor landing pages have been part of my blog since January, 2013. I set them up after reading about them on Caroline Pointer's Blogging Genealogy. But are they an effective way of communicating with other family researchers--and attracting possible cousins?

Yes! Here's why:
  • Readership for the past 14 months has been solid, as the snapshot at left shows. Traffic was especially good on my Schwartz and Birk landing pages. The Mayflower page is only a few months old, which is why its stats are low.
  • Contacts from several readers who found my landing pages have led to exchanges of family info and a number of intriguing leads that I'm still following up. Happily, a Wood cousin found my Demarest page just a few months ago!
  • Landing pages summarize what I know about a family in one convenient place. When researchers find me through one of my Ancestry family trees, or I discover a new cousin, I mention the landing page for that family as an introduction or a supplement to the tree. A Bentley 4th cousin (Hi Barbara!) enjoyed following the links to learn more about William Tyler Bentley's family and their Gold Rush-era migration to California.
To keep these pages relevant, I periodically update them with bullet points for the latest posts about a particular surname. Also, I add new photos or documents to freshen up the content from time to time. Who knows when a cousin will land on one of these pages, recognize a photo or a signature, and get in touch?

Friday, March 28, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #15: The Roth Family, Entrepreneurs

The Roth family from Vasarosnameny, Hungary--cousins on my mother's side--had an entrepreneurial streak. Adolf Roth, one of several sons of Salomon Roth, arrived in 1897, established himself, and then helped two of his brothers come to New York. Adolf owned a necktie factory in Manhattan (he said he was a "neckwear contractor"). That factory provided work for many of the Roths and relatives as they arrived from Hungary. My grandma sewed fine silk ties for Adolf, for instance. Bela Roth, another of Salomon's sons, arrived in 1907 and he seems to have worked in his brother Adolf's factory.

Josef Roth, a brother or cousin of Bela and Adolf, had two sons, Emil and Peter Roth, who both went into the restaurant business.
From the New York Call, January 6, 1914
  • Peter Roth (1872?-1956) co-owned the Viennese-style restaurant Cafe Monopol at 145 Second Avenue in Manhattan, with his brother-in-law Peter Stern and others (see incorporation note, above, from 1915 publication Polk's New York Copartnership and Corporation Directory, p. 730). The little restaurant ad, directly above, shows my Roth cousin in business 100 years ago!
  • Emil Roth (1887-1965) worked at the Rossoff Restaurant at 152 West 44th Street in Manhattan.
Now all of the above was probably common knowledge in the family, but not passed down to later generations. It took days to piece the info together from passport applications, Census data, obituaries, and--most fun of all--working with two (probable) cousins, one in NY and one in Maryland, who were way ahead of me in tracing our Roth family tree.

Plus I've just connected with another delightful cousin from the Roth family! She tells me that her father (a son of Bela Roth) was highly entrepreneurial. During the summer, he and a brother would drive city dwellers from New York to vacation spots in the Catskills. At the end of the summer, they sold their "cab" and made good money from the sale. Eventually, that led to her father going into the used car business and, ultimately, owning a new car franchise that remains in the family today.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday: The Solomon & Adolph Roth Social Society

Yesterday's visit to Riverside Cemetery in New Jersey yielded more names and relationships to check out in my quest to uncover how the Roth family is related to my Farkas or Kunstler or Schwartz families.

Like many cemeteries, Riverside used to have a grave locator function on its website, with an easy e-mail request for more info.

Sadly for family history researchers like me, Riverside removed the online function earlier this year, because it was generating too many inquiries. But luckily, I had already located enough of my Roth cousins to know it was worth a visit.

I did see the burial places of my Roth cousins and check on their next of kin. Just as interesting as the graves were the gates to the Solomon & Adolph Roth Social Society plot, located at the corner of Jesse Walk and Israel Avenue in the cemetery's upper-left quadrant. Among the donors to the cemetery gates were Mr. & Mrs. Bela Roth (my family) and Mr. & Mrs. Peter Roth (son of the other Joseph Roth, not directly related to my Bela Roth).

Thanks to another Roth researcher, who kindly posted the incorporation papers for the Sol & Roth Social Society, I know who founded it (see below), when (incorporated in 1935), and where (NYC). The interim directors appointed until the first annual meeting were: Joseph Roth (not my Joseph Roth); George Rehberger; and Max Roth (possibly Joseph's brother). The officials who signed the certificate of incorporation were: Leon D. Miller, Joseph Roth, Margaret Stern Festinger, Louis Weiss, Louis Spielberger, and Abe Kramer. Leon D. Miller was the attorney who filed the incorporation papers, by the way, on 20 Sept 1935.

The society purchased the plot in Riverside Cemetery for its members and offered other benefits, including access to doctors. My newfound Cousin L (whose grandfather was in this society) says that especially during the Depression, it was a plum position to be the "official" doctor of such organizations.

And who are Sol & Adolph Roth, for whom the society is named? They must be related to the Joseph (not my family) Roth who is on the incorporation papers. Maybe relatives back in the hometown of Püspökladány, Hajdu-Bihar, Hungary?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #14: Lt. Theodore W. McClure

One of hubby's great-grand uncles on his mother's side was Lieut. Theodore W. McClure, a son of Benjamin McClure (aka Uncle Benny) and Sarah Denning. He got his rank of Second Lieutenant while serving with the 11th Indiana Regiment Reserve. His name is the last on this page from the June, 1863 sign-up sheet.

McClure (1835-1927), a farmer, married Louisa Jane Donaldson (1837-1924) in 1858. By the time he listed himself with the 11th Indiana, he was a father. Louisa and Ted had six children in all: Ida (who died in infancy), Charles, Anna (died as a teenager), Albert, Clara, and (of course) Theodore.

Lt. McClure's family is also listed on an informative Find a Grave site, kindly researched and posted by the Friends of Falls Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Wabash, Indiana. Thank you to all the volunteers who preserve the memories of our ancestors in this way!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Workday Wednesday: The Woods Worked in Wood

Hubby's great-granddaddy, Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890), was a railroad carpenter, a joiner, and a coach builder during his long career working in wood.

Most of his children also worked in wood. The above excerpt from the Toledo, Ohio directory shows his children Frank E., Charles A., and Marion E. in businesses as the Wood Bros, carpenters. Also listed in the excerpt is James E. Wood, apprentice--that's hubby's granddaddy.

Jane A. Wood (1846-1936), the oldest daughter of Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest, is shown as "bds 414 South," the same address where her mother Mary A. Wood resides, the widow of Thomas Haskell Wood. Jane married George Black around 1898, just about a year after her mother Mary Amanda died.

The Wood brothers continued in business together for a while. James E. Wood went on to build homes in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where a street (Wood Road) is named for him. Not one of James's four sons worked in wood, although one of his great-grandsons works in wood.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sibling Saturday: Big Brother and Little Brother in Cleveland Heights

Big brother and little brother, side by side in the living room of their home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Thanks to their sis for sending this nostalgic photo from the Wood branch of the family tree!

Friday, March 14, 2014

'Tis a Wee Mystery: The Short, Work, and Larimer Families in Ireland

My hubby has a number of Irish ancestors:

·    William Smith and his wife, Jean, from Limerick - 5th great-grandparents

·    Rober Larimer and his wife, Mary O’Gallagher, both from the North of Ireland - 5th great-grandparents

·    John Shehen and his wife, Mary, from somewhere in Ireland - 2d great-grandparents

·    Halbert McClure and his wife, Agnes, were born in County Donegal and moved to Virginia in the late 1700s (although the McClure family is originally from Isle of Skye) - 5th great-grandparents

Now, just in time for St. Patty's Day, a wee mystery: According to the Goshen (Ind.) Midweek News of September 1, 1903, which reported on a reunion of the Larimer-Short-Work families, these folks were cousins and all were originally of Scotch-Irish descent. That's the mystery.

The article says the Larimers originally settled in Maryland and then went to Pennsylvania. Actually, the first to set foot in America was Robert Larimer, who was shipwrecked on his way from Ireland and then spent years as an indentured servant to repay his rescuer. Maybe this Larimer ancestor was serving his master in Maryland, maybe not, but he then got to Pennsylvania on foot to continue his saga.

According to Sons of the American Revolution documents, Samuel Work--the original Work ancestor to arrive in America--was born in County Antrim, Ireland and died in Fairfield county, Ohio. 

As for the Short family, the patriarch was James Short and matriarch was Francis Gilbert. Both were born in Ireland (where?) and came to Ohio, according to a biography of their grandsons, Dr. W.H. Short and Dr. J.L. Short. 

The Short and Work families intermarried with the Larimer family over the years. So were they cousins in Ireland? All were Presbyterian, one clue to a possible Scots-Irish connection.

'Tis a wee mystery! Happy St. Patty's Day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #13: The Bentley Family, Oswego to Elkhart

My challenge is to discover the origins of the Bentley family in Oswego county, New York.

William Tyler Bentley (1795?-1873) and his equally elusive wife, Olivia Morgan Bentley (1790s?-1838), are hubby's 3d great-grandparents. They were born in New York state, married there, and had seven children there. They might be the family shown in the 1830 Sandy Creek, NY census records under William T. Bentley's name.

In 1835, the Bentley family moved from Oswego to Elkhart, Indiana, where William bought a farm. With William and Olivia were their seven children:

Elizabeth E. Bentley (1821-1898)
Elisha Morgan Bentley (1824-1884)
Lucinda Helen Bentley (1825-1903), see left
Lucy E. Bentley (1826-1900)
Simon Bentley (1828-1894)
Jane L. Bentley (1831 - ??)
Abbie Eliza Bentley (1832-1893)

In 1848, ten years after Olivia died, widower William took off for California, perhaps for the Gold Rush. Three years later, five of his seven children followed him to California.

Elizabeth Bentley married Emanuel Light; Elisha Morgan Bentley married Charlotte Raymond; Lucinda Bentley married Jonas Shank; Lucy Bentley married Brice Larimer (they were hubby's 2d great-gradparents); Simon Bentley married but was widowed by 1880 and drowned in 1894; Jane Bentley--well, she probably went to California; and Abbie Bentley definitely went to California, with her husband, Leonard L. Curtis.

PS: A small mystery: In the Goshen Democrat of May 4, 1898, the above obit appeared for William Tyler Bentley, who did indeed die at South Tule River, California. And he was the father of Lucy E. Bentley Larimer. But he died in 1873. So who died in 1898??

Monday, March 10, 2014

Military Monday: Training Ships Exmouth and Goliath--for Poor Boys

Why did the three London-born Slatter brothers (John, Albert, and Henry) serve together on the Training Ship Goliath, and then the Training Ship Exmouth, starting as preteens

The answer, after a bit of research, seems to be that the Slatter family was poor. They lived in London's Whitechapel area, which is part of the Forest Gate School District. According to the Poor Law Act, boys from Forest Gate could be sent to the Goliath (and her successor, the Exmouth) to be prepared for military careers. In addition to learning to swim, tie knots, and shoot rifles, the boys were involved in band activities.

In the late 1800s, the Royal Navy had an "ever-increasing demand for seamen," according to Poor Law Conferences, 1903-4, and--no small consideration--boys who were trained on these ships and joined any branch of the military would eventually earn pensions. Later in life, they would not become financial burdens for the authorities to support. Meanwhile, as they matured, the boys graduated from the training ships and added to the ranks of the Royal Navy, or the British Army, or the Mercantile Marine.

The Goliath, the first training ship where the Slatter brothers served, was anchored in the Thames near Essex. It suffered a terrible fire on December 22, 1875, with more than a dozen boys losing their lives. All three Slatter brothers were subsequently moved to the Exmouth, another training ship. A lengthy article in the Strand magazine from 1899 describes life on board the Exmouth and includes the above photo of a musical drill. A slightly different perspective, from, suggests the boys' lives on Exmouth and Goliath could be quite harsh.

The Slatter brothers must have had some latent musical talent, since all became accomplished musicians and later emigrated to Canada and served as military bandmasters.

Friday, March 7, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #12: Barney, Esther, and Rose Markell -- and the Atlas Theatre

This week, more on the saga of Barney H. Markell, his second wife Esther, and his first wife, Rose Lebowitz. In the last episode, I was pondering how Barney Markell and Julius Markell are related. The Markells were important to my family history because Barney's daughter-in-law got together with her good friend Rose and set my parents up on a date that ultimately led to . . . well, me. The Markells have led me on quite a genealogy chase in the past few years.

Barney (aka Barnhart and Banna, although his Hebrew name is Benjamin Isaac Enoch) was born in either Lithuania or Russia in 1874. His naturalization papers say he arrived in Boston in 1891. There he met and married Rose Lebowitz and they had their only child, Joseph A. Markell, in 1894.

The story turns tragic when Rose dies young, before 1910. (I'm still looking for her death info.)

Barney brings his young son to New York to stay with Rose's mother, Fran Lebowitz, and family, where I found them in the 1910 census. In 1914, Barney meets and marries Esther Mary (Mitzie) Kodritck or Kodrick (marriage license above, one of my genealogy splurges). Even though the license says this is Mitzie's first marriage, she already had a daughter from an earlier marriage. Together, Mitzie and Barney have another daughter, Rose Markell. Joseph doesn't get along with step-mom Mitzie, so he runs away and joins the service. Then he meets Mary Mahler and settles down to married life in New York.

Meanwhile, the story of Barney and Esther gets more convoluted. Barney dies in 1944, and Esther dies in 1957. According to the North Adams Transcript of 28 October 1957, Esther and Barney lived in Adams, Massachusetts from about 1920 to 1935, because Barney and his brother Philip co-owned the Atlas Theatre there. At least that's what Esther's obit says. The census says otherwise, but it's easy to imagine that the Markells were in the Bronx some of the year and in the Berkshires during the busy summer months.

Read Esther's obit below, and you'll wonder whether the writer needed a spell-checker or fact-checker or both. Plus the writer (or informant) was geographically challenged, saying that Budapest was in Austria and that Esther was buried in the Bronx, when in reality her grave is in New Jersey, alongside that of Barney and Esther's first daughter and her husband.
PS: The Atlas Theatre is no longer standing. Two years after the Markells sold it, it was replaced by another theatre that is now being renovated.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Josef Yurko: from Czechoslovakia to Cleveland

A relative in my hubby's in-law family, Josef Yurko (1873-1954) was born in Hasalin, Czechoslovakia and marred Mary Gavalek (1879-1943) shortly before leaving for America. Their oldest son was born in Czechoslovakia and the other 4 sons and 2 daughters were born in Ohio, where they settled. Josef was a laborer, working in a foundry and later in a housing project. His oldest daughter, Anna C. Yurko (1910-1989), married Peter Pietroniro in 1929.

This photo is from one of Josef's naturalization documents, where he was sometimes called "Josef Yurkov."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tuesday's Tip: Local Genealogy via Long Distance

In my recent presentation to the Genealogy Club of Newtown, I highlighted ways to do local genealogy research from far away. The key is to think local--about where documents might be stored or who might know something about your ancestors and their lives.

NOTE that you may not find the actual documents with a click, but you just might connect with a person who can help you put your hands on the documents.

Here are five ideas for finding local genealogy resources and links without leaving your keyboard:
  1. Use the Family Search wiki to locate local genealogy resources by country/state/county. This link leads to research and info about family history research in localities around the United States, for example. I can't say enough good things about this comprehensive source of info and links, organized by location.
  2. Linkpendium is nothing but millions of links to pages organized by country (mainly the US) and state. The site also has links to surname pages worldwide. Often the locality links take you to official government sites (for vital records, as an example) or to unofficial sites loaded with volunteer-provided genealogy info. Unofficial sites can be excellent sources of details not available in the official records, so go ahead and click to see what you can find. Worth a look!
  3. Message boards that relate to specific countries, states or regions, counties, and cities are tremendously valuable. Don't just search for your name, also post if you have a specific question. The photo shows a message I posted several years ago, and within days, the wonderful historian in Wabash responded with clues about where to find the obituaries of Benjamin and Sarah McClure. That broke down a long-standing brick wall, all because I posted on a local message board. Try it on Rootsweb, Ancestry, GenForum, and other sites.
  4. Genealogy/historical clubs and societies have documents and books that may mention your ancestors. Some will even, for a small fee, go out and photograph local graves for you. Well worth it, and you'll often learn some details that aren't in the official records. Try doing an online search for "genealogical society" or "historical society" and the name of the county where ancestors lived. (Tip: Be sure to click on the correct state!) The Genealogical Club of Newtown CT, for instance, has several databases that substitute for the missing 1890 Census. What will you find in a local club's records elsewhere?
  5. Local historians know a lot about their towns or counties and can answer questions, sometimes by e-mail, sometimes by phone. Do an online search for "historian" and the name of the town or county. One historian kindly sent me three pages of surname info that another researcher had submitted to her--along with the researcher's name and e-mail for me to follow up. I left this historian my contact info just in case someone else comes looking for the same surname. Ask nicely, be polite, and respect the historian's time.
Remember, double-check and verify anything you find online. Unverified information is just gossip, not gospel.

Good luck and happy ancestor hunting!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #11: Uncle Sidney Crosses the Border

My father's younger brother, Sidney, was born Sidney Berk in Montreal on April 26, 1914. Update: He was named Samuel B. Berk in the official Montreal birth records.

Sidney's father, Isaac (originally Itzack Birck, 1882-1943), changed the family name to Burk in America. Isaac (hi Grandpa!) was a cabinet maker who left Lithuania in 1907 to seek his fortune in North America. A highly skilled woodworker, Isaac crossed the border between Canada and the US several times as he found work to support his growing family.

Back and forth went Isaac's wife, Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954), traveling between New York City and Montreal with their children (three out of four are pictured below): Mildred (1907-1993), Harold (1909-1978--my Dad!), Miriam (1911-1987), and, finally, baby Sidney (1914-1995). 

Uncle Sidney initially crossed the border before his first birthday, arriving in New York City with his mother and siblings in March, 1915.

Isaac followed at the end of May, 1915, and the entire family was living in the apartment building at 7 East 102nd Street in NYC at the time of the New York State census on June 1, 1915.

Uncle Sidney became a US citizen in 1939. His witnesses were his maternal uncle and aunt, Morris Mahler and Carrie Etschel Mahler.

He enlisted in the US Army (along with my dad, his brother) in July, 1942. The photo above shows him before he shipped overseas, crossing more borders. Sidney and Harold were still in the service when their father died suddenly of a heart attack in 1943.

Sidney returned from the war and within a couple of years, partnered with his brother in the Burk Travel Service, located inside the swank Savoy Plaza Hotel. They worked well together until the hotel was torn down to make way for the General Motors Building.

PS: Rereading Sidney's documentation reminded me to reread his father Isaac Burk's documentation, putting me on the trail of possible new Burk ancestors I hadn't pursued in the past--Abraham Berk of Montreal. Stay tuned!