Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Family History Month: Auntie Dorothy in "With Love, Jane"

My aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001) was a WAC in WWII, as I've written before. She enlisted on September 11, 1942, the only female member of the family to serve in the military. She finally returned from overseas postings three years after enlisting.

During my Gen Go-Over, I've been searching newspapers for mentions of my ancestors, including Auntie Dorothy. Eureka!

I discovered my aunt's name at the end of a book review printed in The New York Times on Sunday, November 18, 1945. Her letter home was included in a compilation of letters written by 37 female service members. The volume, edited by Alma Lutz, is titled: "With Love, Jane." I've requested that my local library obtain this via inter-library loan so I can see the letter in its entirety.

The brief quote from Dorothy's letter, as excerpted in this book review, reads:
"There is no advantage in war except what the individual makes for himself. In the army we lose eccentricities, prejudices, pettiness, because they cannot survive in the face of matter-of-fact and non-luxurious living." - Sgt. Dorothy H. Schwartz, WAC

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Family History Month: Grandma's Ship Comes In

My maternal grandma, Hermina "Minnie" Farkas (1886-1964), left Rotterdam on October 31st with an older brother and two younger siblings, aboard the S.S. Amsterdam. Minnie celebrated her 15th birthday at sea, just two days before the ship docked in New York City.

I used to wonder how great-grandpa Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) knew exactly when the S.S. Amsterdam was going to dock in New York, carrying four of his children. No doubt the family in Hungary wrote ahead to let Moritz know when the children, including my future grandma, were leaving port and the name of the ship. Moritz had a general idea of arrival, but since weather was unpredictable, and a trans-Atlantic crossing might take an extra day once in a while, how would he get updated information?

Newspapers to the rescue. Back in the day, newspapers carried listings of ships arriving and leaving--news of interest not just to individuals but also to businesspeople.

I clicked to Chronicling America's free newspapers from New York City and found the New York Tribune for the ship's arrival date of November 12, 1901. On one of the last pages, the paper printed this listing of "incoming steamers" including port of departure, date, and steamship line. And that, I imagine, is how great-grandpa Moritz got an inkling of when grandma's ship came in. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Family History Month: Who Needs an Official Record?

Too often, states only want to sell "official" vital records, charging fees that are more than I really want to pay.

So I applaud the Ohio History Connection for making death certificates available for just $7 each. These are uncertified and not for any official use, but perfect for genealogy! All I want is to  pull every last detail from such records.

Of course, not all of the details are going to be accurate. Case in point is this death cert, obtained through Ohiohistory.org. It's for hubby's grandfather, James Edgar Wood.

The most accurate piece of info on this is the death date. The informant's name is completely incorrect, the widow's name is incorrect, the father's name is completely incorrect. No mother's name is shown, and the birthplace of the mother is entirely incorrect. Note that the handwritten name of deceased had to be corrected from "Woods" to "Wood."

Let me say how glad I am that I only spent $7 on this unofficial copy! I'm collecting and digitizing all BMD and naturalization records for everyone in my direct line and that of my husband, so it's great to be able to save a few bucks. And to help other researchers, I always post purchased records like this on my public family trees.

For more in my Genealogy, Free or Fee series, click here.

 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Family History Month: Top 10 Surnames on the Family Tree


Picking up a great idea from Colleen G. Brown Pasquale at her Leaves & Branches blog, I learned how to use the "surname statistics list" report function on my Roots Magic 7 software. No surprise that for my husband's family tree, Wood was the top surname by frequency, followed by Larimer.

But I also realized, with a pang, how many people appear without surnames in that tree. Uh oh. These are mainly missing maiden names, stretching back to the 1500s. This means I'll have to intensify my Genealogy Go-Over to see how many missing surnames I can identify. Perhaps new information has become available since I added some people to the tree? Turns out that these statistics can also reveal gaps in research...

The top 10 surnames that appear most frequently on the Wood tree are:
  1. Wood (earliest instance: 1551)
  2. Larimer (earliest instance: 1719)
  3. McClure (earliest instance: 1660)
  4. Steiner (earliest instance: 1802)
  5. Slatter (earliest instance: 1811)
  6. McKibbin (earliest instance: 1766)
  7. Hilborn (earliest instance: 1794)
  8. Denning (earliest instance: 1775)
  9. Smith (earliest instance: 1724)
  10. Cushman (earliest instance: 1578)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Family History Month: Two Graduates in Dad's Family

For Sepia Saturday, two old photos of graduates. My Aunt Mildred Burk (1907-1993) was the oldest of the four children of my grandparents, Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) and Isaac Burk (1882-1943).

This photo of Millie with her parents, taken between 1920 and 1925, shows a young lady holding what looks like a diploma. By 1925, the NY census shows Millie as a stenographer, and the 1920 US census shows her as a student. Thus, my guess that she's graduating high school in this photo, the first in my paternal family to attain that level of education.

At right, a photo of my father, Harold Burk (1909-1978), third-born child of Henrietta and Isaac. He's holding a diploma for what I believe is his grade-school graduation (since he's in short pants).

I have Dad's diploma put away in an archival box, safely stored flat, along with this photo (in an archival sleeve). Saving my family's past for the future!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Family History Month: Hyper-Local Research on Linkpendium

Another of my favorite free genealogy research sites is Linkpendium. This is the place to look for hyper-local family information, accessed via the millions of links listed on this site. I've clicked on this site a lot during my Genealogy Go-Over.

For best results, don't search using the box at top of the page. Instead, browse by locality (state, county, city/town) where your ancestor lived (or worked) and click to see what records or information are available.

The locality links will lead you to other sources, including Family Search, Ancestry, libraries, local genealogical societies, etc.. Dig deep enough, and you'll get all kinds of ideas and clues.


For example, the links at left were found deep in the Bronx, New York listings. These lead to photos and postcards of Bronx people and places. Wonderful background to help me imagine the area where my parents and grandparents lived decades ago.

Some links do lead to fee-based sites, as indicated by the green dollar sign. Everything else is free unless noted!

Go ahead, click to Linkpendium and see where its hyper-local links lead you during Family History Month.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Family History Month: Take a Virtual Field Trip to Ancestors' Homes

During Family History Month, I'm captioning old photos and writing a paragraph or two about who, what, where, when, and why.

Above left is a family photo showing my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) and a younger brother in front of a home built by their father, master carpenter James Edgar Wood (1871-1939).

I knew the address in Cleveland Heights, thanks to postcards mailed to the family and saved for more than a century. So I did an online search for the house and presto! Up popped this street view of the very same home, still intact and recognizable.

The carpenter's descendants were very happy to see that his home was handsome enough and sturdy enough to survive for more than 100 years. I've done a similar search for other addresses where the Wood family lived and found nearly all are still standing today.

Alas, the virtual field trip doesn't work for every old address. A number of the Manhattan tenements where my immigrant ancestors lived a century ago are long gone. But at least I can click around the neighborhood, looking at schools and parks and other highlights without actually going in person.

Have you taken a virtual field trip to see where your ancestors lived?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Family History Month: Picturing My Maternal Line

As I plan write-ups about the different branches of my family tree and my hubby's tree, I'm organizing my photos. Today, I wanted to picture my maternal grandparents (Hermina Farkas and Tivador/Theodore Schwartz) and their parents.

Top row shows Lena Kunstler and Moritz Farkas, my Grandma Minnie's parents.

Bottom row shows Hani Simonowitz and Herman Schwartz, my Grandpa Teddy's parents.

All six of these maternal ancestors were born in Hungary in the 19th century. Hani and Herman remained in Ungvar. Lena and Moritz came to New York City very early in the 20th century.

Grandma Minnie and Grandpa Teddy were a love match, not an arranged marriage, and they wed on October 22, 1911. Their names were shown on the ketubah as Chaya Sara (bride) and Yechezkel (groom).

According to family lore, the family rode to the wedding at the Clinton Street Synagogue by horse and carriage--but the groom was late because his horse had run away.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Family History Month: A Pony on the Sidewalk in the Bronx?

Telling the story behind old family photos will help the next generation understand not only who but where, when, and why. That's my goal during Family History Month. The story doesn't have to be elaborate or even formal. Here, for example, I put the photo into an acid-free archival sleeve, wrote a quick caption on an adhesive label, and stuck it to the outside of the sleeve. Story told!

Someone had written "Fred" in faint handwriting on the frame, identifying the child as my uncle Fred Schwartz, older brother of my Mom. Once I researched my uncle Fred's birth date, I was able to estimate when the photo was taken--a winter in the very early 1920s. Now I knew who and when, but not where or why.

Then I began asking my older cousins about the photo. One cousin explained that ponies were used as photo opps, something she remembered from her childhood:
Entrepreneurs would bring ponies around to residential neighborhoods in New York City and offer to photograph children in the saddle, for a small fee. 
Next, using street-view images on Google, I compared the brick background of the apartment building behind the pony with the brick on the building where the Schwartz family was listed in the 1920 Census. That building still stands, visible online. And it turns out my uncle Fred was photographed right outside his tenement on Fox Street in the South Bronx. Mystery solved, story recorded for future generations.

By the way, doing a search for images showing "children posed on ponies in New York City 1920" returns a handful of similar photos. And when I show this photo to New York-area audiences and ask about the pony, usually a couple of people remember seeing similar photos in their family's possession!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Family History Month: A Century-Old October Postcard


About 100 years ago this month, this colorful postcard landed in the mailbox of my husband's uncle, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957). It was sent by Wallis's Aunt Nellie (Rachel Ellen) Wood (1864-1954) and Uncle Art (Samuel Arthur) Kirby (1860-1939), who frequently spelled this nephew's name incorrectly.

The Wood family lived in Cleveland, aunt and uncle Kirby lived in Chicago, and all kept in touch via postcards for every holiday (and in between). Nellie had two children from her first marriage to Walter Alfred Lervis Sr. (1860-1897). Sadly, her daughter lived just 10 years and her son's only child didn't make it to her 8th birthday. Perhaps that's why Nellie and her second husband doted on their Wood nieces and nephews. I'm honoring their affection and memory during Family History Month.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Family History Month: My Favorite FREE Genealogy Sites

I admit to playing favorites! My three favorite free genealogy sites are Family Search, Heritage Quest, and Find a Grave. I use all three nearly every day. Especially if I'm researching someone new to my tree, I'll check all three to see what I can find. 
  • FamilySearch.org - Not only does this comprehensive site have an incredible amount of information available for free (registration is required to view some images), the scanned images are also different quality than on other sites. If I look at the scanned Census on some other genealogy site and it's too light to be read, for instance, I can click to Family Search and see a different scan of that same Census. Even vital records scanned and posted on Family Search are often of different quality than from other sources. Case in point is the marriage license of hubby's maternal grandparents, Floyda Mabel Steiner (1878-1948) and Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). I paid for a copy nearly four years ago--then it turned up, for free, on Family Search three years ago. And the free copy was better quality than the paid copy! Plus Family Search's indexers may transcribe a name or place differently than the indexers used by other sites. This means I might find someone on this site after striking out on another site.
  • Heritage Quest - Many libraries offer cardholders free access to Heritage Quest from home. And it's a gold mine, not just for US Census data (including special schedules like the veterans schedule) but also for Revolutionary War pension and bounty-land records, Freedman's Bank Records, some immigration and naturalization records (newly added), Social Security Death Index, and much more. Ancestry "powers" Heritage Quest, so I suspect we'll see even more content available in the future. Remember, the scanned images and indexing is not the same as on other sites. No wonder I check here when I can't find someone or an image elsewhere isn't clear enough for me to decipher all the details.
  • Find a Grave - So many volunteers who create memorials and post grave photos on this site go above and beyond. It's always worth checking for an ancestor on Find a Grave because we may get lucky enough to see a death cert along with a memorial, or a transcribed census record, or a photo. I've been on a mission to indicate relationships on all of my ancestors on Find a Grave, linking parents to their children, for instance, as well as spouses to each other. Although I always double-check anything I find on this site, it's very helpful to see the relationship links and any additional details posted by volunteers. Gives me clues when I begin researching someone I don't know!
For more posts in my Genealogy, Free or Fee series, see here.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Family History Month: Using My Library Card for Genealogy


Whether I visit in person or log in at midnight from home, my library card has been an "open sesame" for family history research. I can't count how many times a library database or librarian has come to the rescue to help solve a genealogical mystery during my Genealogy Go-Over.

For everyday research, I love the convenience of accessing Heritage Quest from home with my local library's card, and I know many libraries also offer local or national newspaper databases for remote access. But I also have to look beyond my local library, because my research stretches across the country and across national borders.

Above, the Connecticut State Library allows in-state residents who have a state library card (separate from a local library card) to access the New York Times historical database stretching back to the 1800s, among other newspaper databases available for free, from home. This is handy because local libraries don't always have access to these databases. Thanks to this New York Times database, I've found birth, marriage, and death notices for ancestors, as well as mentions of ancestors' business dealings.

Looking for more info to understand my Ellis Island immigrant ancestors, I've browsed the New York Public Library's Digital Collections for old photos and old maps. Non-residents can apply for a NYPL card (for a fee) and access databases in their jammies, whether they're in Portland, Maine or Portland, Oregon. The Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne also offers non-resident library cards.

So see what your local and state libraries have to offer, and think about other library cards to expand your research access.

For more "free or fee" genealogy tips, see my posts here.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Family History Month: Will You Bequeath a Mess or a Collection?

During Family History Month, I'm continuing to organize my genealogy materials for two main reasons: (1) so I can put my hands on exactly the records or photos I want when needed, and (2) so my heirs will receive a well-preserved genealogy collection, not a mess.

Above left, a photo of part of the mess I inherited. My parents left cardboard boxes of papers jumbled together with photos and movies and other stuff. On the right, what I'm bequeathing to my genealogy heirs: Photos and original documents organized by surname and family, in archival boxes for safekeeping.

I especially wanted to protect certain artifacts in archival boxes, including:
  • The college scrapbook of my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986), which is 90 years old but still in good shape;
  • The 1946 wedding album of my parents, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981) and Harold Burk (1909-1978), which was deteriorating;
  • The 1916 wedding portrait from my great uncle Alex Farkas (1885-1948) and Jennie Katz (1886-1974), which includes my maternal grandparents among the family members pictured.
Not only does organizing make my research easier, it also jogs my memory to put the pieces of the puzzle together as I categorize items and look at them more carefully. In the process, I'm getting my collection into good order for the sake of future generations (as explained in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past). I don't want to leave a genealogical mess for future generations to untangle and decode!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Family History Month: Write It Down!


So many ancestors, so much to say . . . it's time to write it down for future generations to remember!

During Family History Month, I'm choosing specific family photos and writing a few paragraphs about the background. Above, an excerpt from my page about hubby's grandmother, Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure (1878-1948). [NOTE: Her name and dates are shown at top of page, not visible in this excerpt.]

My write-up explained that Floyda was the youngest of nine Steiner children, listed in birth order at left of the photo. I wrote about how Floyda got her unusual name, and about the photo itself, a staged studio photo taken around the turn of the 20th century. Although the photo isn't dated, I guesstimated by the fashions and hairstyles, as well as the presence of the oldest sister, who died in 1913.

To bring these ladies to life, I asked hubby and his siblings what they remembered about these sisters, and included their memories in the write-up. They told me that the sisters shown here really were as close as the photo suggests, a key detail for descendants to know! That's why I'm taking the time to write it down.  A write-up doesn't have to be fancy, elaborate, or lengthy. It just has to tell the story for the sake of future generations.



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Family History Month: Bequeath the Story with the Heirloom


During Family History Month, I'm continuing to write down the stories of the family heirlooms that will pass to the next generation.

This is an excerpt from two pages I wrote about my late mother-in-law's artistic ceramic sculptures. Hubby and I have three animal sculptures to bequeath. We want to be sure  descendants know more about Marian McClure Wood (1909-1983) and how she developed her interest and skill in creating these sculptures.

Between checking with family members and researching the teacher's name, I learned a lot about Marian and her artistry. On more than one occasion, she entered her sculptures in the prestigious juried May Show at the Cleveland Museum of Art--and her works were accepted for display several times! It only took a few clicks to find the records buried in the museum's digital archives.

Now Marian's grandchildren will not only have these sculptures, they'll know about Marian's artistic talent and take pride in her accomplishments. We're doing the same with other heirlooms so the stories get bequeathed along with the heirlooms for future generations to appreciate, including photos on the write-ups to be sure everyone knows which heirloom is which.

If you're writing down the story of an heirloom, start with what you were told or what you observed. Include details about the heirloom (what, when, where, why) and talk about the person who created it or treasured it. Explain why it's something for the family to keep. Even just a paragraph or two will give the next generation a better understanding of the history of that heirloom and the family.

This is part of the PASS process discussed in my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Family History Month: So Many Hints, So Little Time

After reading Amy Johnson Crow's thoughtful post, "Should You Take Ancestry's Suggestions?" I thought about my own approach to the hints on my trees. As of this morning, my husband's tree has an incredible 7,406 total hints! So many hints, so little time.

My triage plan goes like this:
  • Sort by people, not by when the hint was generated. That way, I can choose who I want to research, rather than reviewing hints based on when the system presents them to me ("within last 7 days" etc.).
  • Look at relationships to avoid wasting a lot of time on people who are really remote on the tree. Say, for instance, Jane McKibbin, whose hint is shown here--she's a sister-in-law of my husband's 1st cousin 4x. Not someone I need to research with any particular urgency, unless I have a specific goal in mind.
  • Review photos quickly, because often they are ship images or flags or something else rather than an ancestor's image. I usually click to ignore 95% of photos, reviewing only actual faces or family groups.
  • Review stories to see whether there's anything personal or historical. Sometimes these turn out to be interesting! A letter that my mother-in-law wrote to a genealogist in the 1970s turned up as a story hint on the Wood tree not long ago.
  • Review records for ancestors I'm actively researching. Depending on my focus, I might look at all record hints for one particular ancestor or a family or a surname, in search of new avenues to explore.
  • Review member trees as a low priority unless I'm trying to connect with a cousin or someone else who is researching an ancestor of particular interest. Why? Because way too many member trees have no sources attached or have inaccurate details. But if I'm looking for a cousin, I make it a point to look at these trees and contact individual members with a note explaining who I am and asking about any possible relationship--always offering to exchange genealogy info.
Very likely I'll never get around to reviewing every hint on this tree. At the same time, I regularly click on ancestors of interest, noting that new hints tend to show up after I explore these people individually. Then the triage continues.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Family History Month: Color Me Blonde and Rouge My Cheeks


During Family History Month, I'm continuing to organize my genealogy collection and store items safely for future generations to enjoy (taking my own advice!).

Above, one of my baby photos from a 10 x 12 montage. I removed it from its frame and stored it in an archival box for safekeeping.

When I turned this portrait over, I found instructions to the person who was going to hand-tint the black-and-white print.

Not only did the tinter give me pink cheeks, ruby lips, and eyeliner, I also acquired a unique golden hair color, with an extra sweep of blonde waving over my head.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Family History Month: It's Backup Day

Happy Family History Month! A great time to think about backups. The first day of every month is backup day--in reality, every day is my backup day. To avoid losing any tiny bit of my precious genealogy research, I use a "suspenders and belt" system.

Let me suggest not just suspenders, not just a belt, but both and more to keep those pants up! Multiple backup methods can do a good job of protecting your valuable files: (1) back up your genealogy software, (2) backup your hard drive daily, (3) do intraday backups of your hard drive if possible, and (4) backup your backups once a month.

One of the things I like about RootsMagic 7 (shown above) is that I can open it, open Ancestry, synch all of my trees, and then back up all my RM7 trees with a couple of clicks. So not only is Ancestry always up to date, my RM7 trees are up to date and safe in multiple places. No matter what software you use, please check on how to back up your trees.

For extra safety, I back up my entire hard drive into the cloud once every day, automatically, using Mozy.

Not to mention my hourly Time Machine backups, as a Mac user, also automatic so I just set it and forget it. If something goes wrong during the day, I can return to the version of my file an hour earlier and go from there.

Being super-duper cautious, I have an extra hard drive for once-monthly backup of my backups. Today is that day. I have nearly 20 years' worth of details on my trees. Keeping all those details safe is a high priority.

Are your files safe? Are your backups safe? For peace of mind, consider suspenders and belt backups.



Friday, September 29, 2017

Reading the PS 103 PTA Newsletter

It was 56 years ago that my mother (Daisy Burk, 1919-1981) wrote a letter to the PTA newsletter of my elementary school, P.S. 103 in Bronx, New York.

She was urging teachers to check homework, because if they don't, students will be "indifferent to the need for doing it" (and of course, that means a harder job for parents trying to instill good study habits).

The newsletter is also a time capsule of what was happening in that school (and in education) at that time. In addition to "open school week" in November, there was a December PTA meeting to discuss science education and the "new S.R.A. reading kits."






I remember those S.R.A. (Science Research Associates) kits--self-contained units with a page or two of a reading excerpt, followed by multiple-choice questions to test comprehension. All self-paced, and different cards for different reading levels to encourage students to challenge themselves. It was a new idea at the time, being tested in 6th grade classes, thanks to a PTA donation.

Other articles talked about outstanding students, open enrollment, Trick or Treat for Unicef, community improvement, and other issues. Also of interest: ads from local northeast Bronx businesses, including: Varce Pastry, Elbee TV/Radio Service, the "Tape Recorder Specialist," North Side Savings Bank, Twin Pharmacy, Edenwald Hardware, Joseph's Beauty Salon, Arrow Cycle & Hobby Shop, Fusfield Decorators.








Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Check the Map!

Where did that ancestor live? Sometimes it's not enough to simply record the street address straight from the official document--map it and you'll often get extra insight, or at least confirmation that the address was accurate.*

Take my experience with Gussie and Michael, both living in the Bronx in 1919 when they married. I wanted to see where their residences were in relation to each other, having discovered more than once that my ancestors met or were introduced as a result of being in the neighborhood.

It was easy to find Clay Avenue on the map (see "Michael 1919" above). But no Linton Avenue seemed to exist in the Bronx. So I mapped where Gussie was living in 1915, according to the NY Census--on St. Paul's Place, a street only a few blocks long and within walking distance of Michael in 1919.

Checking the area more carefully, I noticed Clinton Avenue just a few streets away from St. Paul's Place. Nothing else even sounds like Linton Avenue. So Clinton Avenue is my best guess about where Gussie was living at the time of her marriage.

Would this couple have been introduced by family or friends? Or did they meet at a workplace or a local deli? I don't know the answer, but I do feel certain that Gussie made her home on Clinton Avenue, not Linton Avenue as recorded on her marriage license.

* As a Facebook comment pointed out, address numbers can change over the years, and streets may also go away or be renamed. Very good points! My goal in mapping addresses is to see whether the street or avenue is there--and if not, some online searching will usually turn up either evidence of its history or nothing at all (if nothing, good chance the street was not accurately spelled or listed).

Many of the tenements where my NYC ancestors lived have been torn down, but the streets or avenues are usually still to be found on the maps. Not always, but if not, I can often find them in other records (a newspaper report or a census page) to confirm the existence of that street or road in that place. And CHECK city directories, as the first comment below this blog post notes! Thanks again for the great comments.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Surname Saturday: Researching Sarah Denning's Origins

It was 173 years ago this month that hubby's 2d great-grandmother, Sarah Denning (1811-1888), settled in Wabash county, Indiana, with her husband, Benjamin McClure (1811-1896). This is according to the History of Wabash County, which also notes that the county wasn't formally formed until 1835. Other McClures had arrived in the Wabash area years earlier, including Samuel McClure, Sr. (apparently not a relative or at least, not a close relative).

Sarah's parents were Job Denning and Mary E. [maiden name unknown]. Proving Job's birth place and date is another challenge. His gravestone only says he died in 1836, aged 61, which implies a birth year of 1775. It's probable that Job Denning was from way back east--possibly Massachusetts--but so far, I have no hard evidence.

Sarah had at least 7 older siblings but just 1 younger brother. She told the US Census (in 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880) that she was born in Ohio. Possibly she was born in Adams County, Ohio, where her younger brother William Henry Harrison* Denning was born. Records are scarce for the early 1800s, haven't found her yet.

Sarah and her husband Benjamin were married in Ohio, according to their obits, and their two elder children were born in Ohio. Their other children were born in Indiana (according to Census data), beginning with third child Martha Jane McClure (1841-1916).

In the 1840 Census, Sarah and Benjamin were living in Harrison township, Fayette county, Indiana, with a total of "3 white persons under 20" years old. Most intriguing, they were living on a land division "allotted to Benjamin Caldwell." In other words, land allotted to Benjamin's brother-in-law's family, since his sister Jane McClure married Train Caldwell. Within four years, they were living about 100 miles northwest, in Noble township, Wabash county, Indiana.

Sarah, I'm on the lookout for more info about your origins!

*Yes, the family seems to taken inspiration for some given names from U.S. presidents. Benjamin McClure and his wife Sarah named one of their sons William Madison McClure, possibly honoring James Madison.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

So Many Janes in One Tree

My husband's Wood family tree includes a number of women with the first or middle name of Jane. The tradition has continued, with hubby's sister and niece having Jane as their middle name.

Here are only a few of the many Janes in the family:
  • The earliest "Jane" I can identify is Jane Stephenson, hubby's 5th great-grandma (abt 1756-1823), who married Moses Wood (1741-1823). 
  • Jane L. Bentley (abt 1831-?) was hubby's 3d great aunt, who left Indiana at age 20 to travel to California with family in 1851, during the gold-rush era.
  • Jane Ann Wood (1846-1936) was hubby's great aunt. She was born in Louisiana, lived with her family in West Virginia and Toledo, Ohio, and married for the first time about 1898, at age 52.
  • Jane McClure (abt 1802-?) was another of hubby's 3rd great aunts. Her marriage license is shown above, documenting her marriage in Fayette, Indiana, on April 5, 1831 to Train Caldwell (1800?-?). Of course, Jane named one of her daughters Jane.
  • Jane Smith (abt 1794-?) was a daughter of Brice Smith and Eleanor Kenney. This Brice is the earliest instance of Brice in the family, incidentally, and of interest because his mom and dad were born in Ireland.
Happy to keep these many Janes in the family's memory (not just on the family tree).


Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday's Faces from the Past: Remembering Mom, Counting Her Cousins

Remembering my dear mother, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981), on the 36th anniversary of her death. This 1946 photo shows her looking radiant on her wedding day, just before the ceremony at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City.

Since I'm still researching siblings of her maternal grandparents Moritz Farkas/Leni Kunstler and paternal grandparents Herman Schwartz/Hani Simonowitz Schwartz, I can't yet name all of Mom's first cousins. Here are the 28 whose names I know:
  • George and Robert, sons of her uncle Albert Farkas and Sari Klein Farkas.
  • Edythe and Jacqui, daughters of her aunt Irene Farkas Grossman and uncle Milton Grossman.
  • Ron and Betty, children of her aunt Ella Farkas Lenney and uncle Joseph Lenney.
  • Harry and Richard, sons of her aunt Freda Farkas Pitler and uncle Morris Pitler.
  • Barbara, Robert, and Peter, children of her aunt Rose Farkas Freedman and uncle George Freedman.
  • Richard and Susan, children of her uncle Fred Farkas and aunt Charlotte Chapman Farkas.
  • Michael and Leonard, sons of her aunt Jeannie Farkas Marks and uncle Harold Marks.
  • Hajnal, Clara, Sandor, Ilona, and Elza, children of her uncle Joszef Kunstler and aunt Helena Schonfeld Kunstler.
  • Margaret, Alexander, and Joseph, children of her aunt Zali Kunstler Roth and uncle Bela Bernard Roth.
  • Burton and Harriet, children of her aunt Mary Schwartz Wirtschafter and uncle Edward Wirtschafter.
  • Morton and Eugene, sons of her uncle Sam Schwartz and aunt Anna Gelbman Schwartz.
  • Viola, daughter of her aunt Paula Schwartz Weiss and uncle [first name unknown] Weiss.
Remembering Mom today, with love.

PS: I can name every one of Dad's first cousins--he had only 20. But until a few months ago, I didn't know about all of them, and then I broke through a brick wall!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: What's Your Genealogy Elevator Pitch?

Do you have a genealogy elevator pitch? You know, a few quick sentences summarizing your family's background, adapted to the situation at hand. Entrepreneurs use elevator pitches to get investors interested in their businesses; we use elevator pitches to connect with relatives and possible relatives in several situations.

With genealogy elevator pitches, the goal is to share information very concisely, spark interest in your family or your research, and--hopefully--motivate action. Especially valuable during Genealogy Go-Overs or Do-Overs!

Here are three situations where I use my genealogy elevator pitches:
  • Following up on a DNA match or a family-tree hint. The right elevator pitch, polite and concise with an upbeat tone, makes a big difference. Mention exactly what the match or hint is, then list family names/places to get the ball rolling on trying to confirm the match. Some people manage more than one DNA kit and are active on more than one DNA site or family-tree site, so I give particulars to save them time. My elevator pitch: "My name is ___, my kit # is ___, and I'm writing about a match with FamilyTreeDNA kit #___, which is listed under the name of ____.  I suspect the connection might be through my Farkas family from Botpalad (Hungary) or my Kunstler family from Nagy Bereg (Hungary). Please let me know if any of these names or places are familiar. Thanks very much, and I'm looking forward to hearing from you." By adding the phrase looking forward to hearing from you, I'm requesting a response, positive or negative. Much of the time, it works.
  • Younger relatives ask a question or appear interested in an old photo. Be ready with a minute or two of explanation--vividly bring that person to life in that moment. Above, a photo my grandsons found interesting. My elevator pitch: "That's your great-great-grandpa James Edgar Wood and his construction crew, building a house in Cleveland Heights more than 100 years ago. Did you know he built so many homes in Cleveland that Wood Road is named for him? And most of those homes are still standing today!" Depending on the reaction, I either dig out more house photos or tell another story about the Wood family--keeping it brief.
  • At a family gathering or on the phone with a relative who asks, "what's new?" Oooh, so glad you asked. My latest elevator pitch: "Hubby and his first cousins took DNA tests, and surprisingly, the results show that the Wood family has some roots outside the British Isles. Would you consider taking a DNA test so we can learn more? [Insert name of DNA testing firm] has a big sale coming up!" The element of surprise in DNA results can be highly intriguing, and the mention of a sale also grabs attention. Three cousins were kind enough to take a DNA test during a sale this summer. My pitch was successful! So many cMs, so little time.
So polish your genealogy elevator pitch. And if you're going to a genealogy conference, polish the "surnames research" part of your pitch and/or have calling cards printed (above, mine and my husband's cards) to exchange with other researchers.

    Friday, September 8, 2017

    Grandparents Day Challenge: What Surprised Me

    Thank you to Dianne Nolin (author of the Beyond the BMD blog) for suggesting the Grandparents Day Challenge for September 10th. My interpretation of this challenge is to write one surprising thing I discovered about each grandparent through genealogical research.
    Henrietta Mahler Berk (later Burk) and children listed on 1915 border crossing, Canada to US
    • Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954), my paternal grandma, crossed the border to and from Canada several times with her children as her husband sought carpentry work. The last time was in March, 1915, when she shepherded her four young children back to New York City (ranging in age from 8 years old to 10 months). I was surprised by all this travel while the kids (including my father) were so young. This constant travel helps explain why the family was so close that in later years, three of the four adult children lived in the same apartment building as Henrietta after she was widowed. Saying hello to my Mahler cousins!
    • Isaac Burk (1882-1943), my paternal grandpa, was a bit of a mystery. It took me a long time to learn where and when he died--and then I was surprised to learn the sad news that he had a fatal heart attack in Washington, D.C., while visiting his sister and brother-in-law. That wasn't the only surprise I uncovered through research. Although I knew Isaac was born in Lithuania, I discovered that he stayed with an aunt and uncle in Manchester, England before continuing his journey to North America. I visited my British cousins last year, and DNA testing confirms the connection--greetings, cousins!
    • Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964) was my maternal grandma. I wasn't aware that her father and then her mother came to America first, leaving Minnie and the other children behind with family in Hungary. Minnie sailed to NYC at age 11 on the S.S. Amsterdam, with her older brother (age 13) and two younger siblings (aged 8 and 5). Imagine being so young and responsible for a lengthy trans-Atlantic voyage with two youngsters. Luckily, the Farkas Family Tree had regular meetings, so as I grew up, I got to know Minnie's siblings and their children and grandchildren. Hi to my Farkas cousins!
    • Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965) was my maternal grandpa. It was a surprise finding out that Grandpa Teddy, who ran a dairy store, was robbed of $50 at gunpoint during the Depression. Also, I didn't know that Teddy was a mover and shaker in the Kossuth Ferencz Hungarian Literary Sick and Benevolent Society, which raised money for charity and helped its members pay medical and funeral bills. Now I'm in touch with several cousins from the Schwartz family--saying hello to you, cousins!


    Monday, September 4, 2017

    Military Monday: Ask the Archivist About Ancestors in the Military

    Earlier this year, as part of my Genealogy Go-Over, I contacted the Archivist of the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders museum in Vancouver, asking for information about the military career of hubby's great uncle, Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942). This strategy--ask a historian or an archivist--is one of my Genealogy, Free or Fee tips that has paid off several times, yielding details and clues to further my family history research.

    Bandmaster H.A. Slatter served with the 72nd on and off from 1911 through 1925. By the way, this was after his earlier service with the British military, including the Grenadier Guards. (All three Slatter brothers were military bandmasters and served both in England and in Canada.)

    The archivist provided a few details about this bandmaster's career in Vancouver, and he has been keeping his eyes open for photos. Today, he sent me a link to the Vancouver Archives, where the above photo is stored. The caption says that the unnamed military band is playing during a 1918 wartime parade in downtown Vancouver (specifically, the 100 block of East Hastings).

    Although neither the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders nor Bandmaster H.A. Slatter are identified or referenced, the eagle-eyed archivist recognized the unit's uniforms and caps right away. He says that the band's conductor (sitting with his back to the camera at the front of the vehicle) could very well be the great uncle we are researching. And I agree, given the physical similarity between the conductor in this photo and other photos I've seen of his bandmaster brothers.

    Without the help of the archivist, I never would have found this photo, because the 72nd Seaforth is not mentioned in any of the captioning data.

    So go ahead, ask a historian or archivist--these professionals really know their way around the archives and can help us learn more about our ancestors!

    Saturday, September 2, 2017

    School's in Session: Ancestors in Education

    School days are here again, a good reason to remember some ancestors who were teachers or otherwise involved in education:
    • SCHWARTZ/FARKAS FAMILY: Above, my aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001), who was a high school teacher of typing, stenography, and business subjects. This is her faculty picture from a yearbook dated nearly 40 years ago. My uncle Fred Shaw (1912-1991) was a high school history teacher who wrote civics textbooks; his wife, Daisy Katz Shaw (1913-1985), was an educational guidance counselor who became Director of the Bureau of Vocational and Occupational Guidance in New York City. My great aunt, Ella Farkas Lenney (1897-1991) taught in the New York school system for years. 
    • McCLURE FAMILY: Hubby's great aunt, Lola McClure Lower (1877-1948) was a truant officer in Wabash, Indiana public schools in 1920. By 1930, her occupation had changed to "attendance officer, public schools" in Wabash (see Census excerpt above). Hubby's great aunt, Anna Adaline McClure  (1854-1928) was a teacher when she married Samuel Cook, a mason, in Petoskey, Michigan, in 1897.

    Friday, August 25, 2017

    Blogiversary #9: Fewer Brickwalls, More DNA and Facebook Connections

    What a year 2017 has been (and it's not over)! Nine years ago, when I first began blogging about my genealogy adventures, I knew the names of only four of the eleven people in this photo from my parents' wedding album. Earlier this year, thanks to Mom's address book and Cousin Ira's cache of letters, I smashed a brickwall blocking me from researching Grandpa Isaac Burk. Now I have a new set of friendly cousins and the names of all the people in this photo. And more info about my father's father's father, Elias Solomon Birk

    This was DNA year for me. Thanks to "known" cousins on both sides of the family who kindly agreed to test, I have a lot more "probable" cousins (we're still investigating our connections). It was especially helpful and motivating to meet DNA experts at the IAJGS, where I gave my talk on Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. I also attended DNA sessions at NERGC, where I spoke on the same "planning a future" topic. (For a calendar of my upcoming presentations, please see the masthead tab above.)
    Future genealogy: Using a pinhole viewer on Eclipse Day

    This year will go down in American history for the unique solar eclipse that swept the nation . . . for my genealogical journey, it will be remembered as the year I created detailed family memory booklets for my husband's Wood-Slatter tree and his McClure-Steiner tree. (For sample pages, see my blog post here.)

    My Facebook genealogy persona Benjamin McClure (memorialized on family T-shirts) has had a wonderful time making new genealogy friends and both posting questions and answering queries. Benji is also active on Pinterest. I really appreciate how many people are very generous with their knowledge and take the time to help solve family history mysteries via social media!

    Plus I got to meet many genealogy bloggers in person at conferences this year. It was wonderful to say hello and get acquainted without a keyboard for a change.

    Thank you to my relatives and readers for checking out my posts, leaving comments, and sharing ideas. Looking forward to Blogiversary #10 next year!

    Saturday, August 19, 2017

    Junk or Joy? Think of Future Generations!

    Lots of wisdom in a recent Washington Post article titled: "Just because an item doesn't spark joy, doesn't mean you should toss it."

    So many people are following the fad for saving only possessions that spark "joy" (based on best-selling author Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). But this doesn't mean throwing out family history along with the family china that none of the kids or grandkids wants right now. UPDATE: Today's New York Times has a similar article, focusing on how many downsizers are coping with younger relatives' disinterest in having the family china, furniture, etc.

    The author of the Washington Post article says that "passing down at least some of those possessions creates an important connection between generations and has a vital part in a family’s history." Her advice: save a few select things rather than everything. "Choose things that have special meaning — a serving dish that you used every Thanksgiving, old family photos . . . "

    That's why the "chickie pitcher" shown at top is still in the family, while the magazine shown at right is not.

    This pitcher, passed down in the Wood family, was part of holiday meals for as my hubby can remember (and that's a long way back). His mother, Marian McClure Wood, would put it out along with coffee and dessert on Thanksgiving and other occasions. We've continued the tradition in our family!

    The Workbasket magazine, however, is a different kind of keepsake. My mother, Daisy Schwartz Burk, was an avid needleworker and subscribed to this magazine for at least a decade. But as part of my Genealogy Go-Over and in the pantheon of heirlooms, the four issues held by the family for 50 years have a very low priority.

    Rather than relegate these good condition magazines to the flea market or recycle bin, I found them a new home: the Missouri History Museum, which collects magazines issued by Missouri-based publishers. The museum lacked the particular issues I was offering, and was especially pleased that the address labels were still attached.

    I signed a deed of gift (similar to the one shown here) and donated all four issues, along with a brief paragraph describing my mother and her love of needlework. It gives me joy to know that Mom's name will forever be attached to magazines preserved and held in the museum archives. (May I suggest: For more ideas about how to sort your genealogical collection and the possibilities of donating artifacts, please see my book Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.)

    Friday, August 18, 2017

    Friday's Faces from the Past: Remembering Dad and Counting His Cousins

    Remembering Dad--Harold D. Burk (1909-1978) on the 39th anniversary of his death. This happy photo shows him arriving in Hawaii on a special tour for travel agents (a career he began before being drafted for WWII and resumed when he returned from serving in Europe and married Mom).

    Having smashed a major brick wall on Dad's side of the family, I can finally name all twenty of his far-flung first cousins.
    • Rose, Lilly, Bill, and "Punky," the four children of Abraham Berk (1877-1962)
    • Sylvia, Harold, Milton, Norma, and Larry, the five children of Meyer Berg (1883-1981)
    • Miriam, "Buddy," Harvey, Jules, and Hilda, the five children of Sarah Mahler Smith (1889-1974)
    • Mike and Sylvia, the two children of Ida Mahler Volk (1892-1971)
    • Myron, Daniel, Robert, and Ruth, the four children of Mary Mahler Markell (1896-1979)
    Miss you, Dad.

    Sunday, August 13, 2017

    Saturday Night Genea-Fun: How Many in My Genea-Database?

    Randy Seaver's latest Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge this week is: How many people are in your gen software database or online tree(s)?

    Since I'm a new user of RootsMagic 7, I tried this challenge using the largest tree in my database: Hubby's Wood/Larimer/Slatter/McClure/Steiner tree.

    As shown above, this tree has 2665 people and--I'm happy to see--19,084 citations. I'm going to organize my citations and format them correctly, without being too slavish. Sure, I want other people to be able to replicate my research and locate specific records or details. But I agree with the philosophy of Nancy Messier's "My Ancestors and Me" blog: "Done is better than perfect."

    Shown at right, my Ancestry tree overview for the same family tree. Number of people is identical, because the synch is up-to-date. I try not to add people until I've investigated the relationship and sources to be reasonably certain these ancestors really belong on the tree.

    Note that the number of hints is three times the number of people! When I have a moment, I'll whittle that down by clicking to "ignore" hints for ancestors like "wife of brother-in-law of third cousin once removed of husband's uncle." Then I can concentrate on vetting the hints of people more closely aligned with the tree.