Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sorting Saturday: Happy Halloween 1913

That favorite Wood aunt, Rachel Ellen "Nellie" Wood Kirby, sent this adorable Halloween card to her Cleveland nephew, Wallis Walter Wood, in 1913.

Wallis ("Uncle Wally" in the family, 1905-1957) was one of four sons of James Edgar Wood (1871-1939) and Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). His brothers were: Edgar James Wood (1903-1986), John Andrew Wood (1908-1980), and Theodore William Wood (1910-1968).

Although James Edgar Wood was a builder--a carpenter from a long, long line of carpenters in the Wood family tree--none of his sons entered that trade. All pursued careers in business and, in their spare time, tinkered with home-improvement carpentry here and there.

My late father-in-law Edgar James Wood had these colorful greeting cards carefully stored away for many years. How wonderful that they've been passed down in the family for 103 years, and counting.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday: Finding Great-Aunt Nellie's Gravestone

No tombstone photo for Tombstone Tuesday, but instead, a story about a favorite great-aunt in my hubby's family. I found her tombstone only today on Find a Grave, nowhere near where I expected to find her.

Rachel Ellen Wood (1864-1954) was one of 17 children in the Wood family of Toledo, Ohio. When she grew up, married, and moved away to Chicago, she remained an important part of the glue keeping the next generation in touch.

For every holiday, she would send her many nieces and nephews postcards with a loving message. She signed her cards from "Aunt Nellie," as she was affectionately known in the family.

Here's a Halloween greeting she sent to her middle nephew in Cleveland, asking whether he was still taking violin lessons (the answer was yes, at least at that point).

Until today, I hadn't been able to find Aunt Nellie's final resting place. But because I wanted to write about her, I did a bit more searching. I knew she died in Chicago. Turns out she wasn't buried anywhere near there.

I shouldn't have been surprised to discover, after trying a few different searches, that she was buried in the Wood family plot of Forest Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio, where so many of her siblings were laid to rest.

The Find a Grave listing shows her as "Nellie Wood" but the photo shows her name as "Nellie Wood Kirby" and includes the inscription "Sister." RIP, Nellie, a beloved sister, aunt, and great-aunt in the Wood family, and be assured I'll ask for the memorial to be edited on your behalf.  PS: Find a Grave is updated!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sorting Saturday: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Family's Story?

Tillie Jacobs Mahler
Watching the Hamilton documentary on PBS, I couldn't get one of Lin-Manuel Miranda's songs out of my mind: "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?" Who, the characters sang, would keep their stories alive?

As the genealogists of our generation, we're stepping up to tell our family's stories, and keeping the stories alive for future generations.

But we can't always sort out what the true story actually is. And I wonder, what story would our ancestors themselves tell if they could reach across time to us?

My family has two versions of a story about great-grandma Tillie Rose Jacobs (185_?-1952), born in Telsiai and married in Latvia to Meyer Elias Mahler (1861-1910) before coming to America before the turn of the 20th century.

In one version, Tillie lives to the age of 99. In the other, she is actually 100 when she passes away, but hasn't admitted her real age.

Which is the real story? Which way would she want to tell it to her descendants?

Either way, I know Tillie was a strong matriarch who outlived her husband by more than 40 years. The family often gathered at her Bronx apartment for holidays and other occasions.

Tillie had 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren at the time of her death--a large family to remember her and keep her memory alive through the ages.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: Grandma Minnie's Cut Crystal

Grandma Hermina (Minnie) Farkas (1886-1964), born in Hungary, arrived in New York City as a teenager in November, 1901. Minnie was an intelligent young lady who knew her own mind. When her parents tried to arrange a match for her, Minnie threw the suitor's engagement ring out the window and insisted on marrying for love. Her choice was Tivador (Teddy) Schwartz (1887-1965), an immigrant also born in Hungary, who had a flair for languages.

Teddy started a grocery store in the Bronx, running it for many years with Minnie at his side. He was the affable proprietor, she was the business brain. Decades later, after they sold their store and retired, we grandchildren visited their apartment near Tremont Avenue in the Bronx for dinner every other Sunday (if memory serves).

I remember the elegant curio case in the formal living room held several beautiful pieces of cut crystal from their native Hungary. Above is one example, a lovely cut crystal bowl that used to be filled to overflowing with fruit-flavored candies so tempting to adults and children alike. It's a treasured heirloom that will remain in the family, passed down along with stories of Farkas and Schwartz ancestors.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: Edgar Wood Saw "Shuffle Along" in 1922

Ninety-four years ago today, Edgar James Wood (my late Dad-in-law) was sitting in Selwyn's Theatre on Park Square in Boston, viewing what he knew to be a theater sensation.

Shuffle Along had opened on Broadway the previous year, a groundbreaking all-black "musical melange" that ran in New York for hundreds of performances. In 1922, the show and its talented performers were touring America and Boston got its turn in October and November.

Ed absolutely loved the theater, and he played piano with a jazz band to pay for his college tuition. In the fall of 1922, having enrolled at Tufts, he bought a ticket for Shuffle Along. Shown here is the program he received for the October 9th performance (he punched the holes to keep the program in a binder as a keepsake).

Ed would have heard lots of buzz about this musical, with Eubie Blake at the piano. The program also shows Josephine Baker as one of the "Happy Honeysuckles" (a big break that helped launch her international career) and Blance Calloway as one of the "Jazz Jasmines" (she was Cab Calloway's older sister and this was her pro debut).

A few weeks later, I hope Ed was tuned in to another "first"--when WNAC broadcast the show live to Boston-area listeners in November. It was the first time a Broadway show was broadcast over the radio with its original cast. 

Shuffle Along has recently been in the news after a Broadway revival, prompting this Sentimental Sunday entry about Ed seeing the show when he was a college freshman. Music was always an important part of Ed's life. He played piano professionally, working nights and weekends at weddings and other events during his 30-year career as an insurance adjuster.