Showing posts with label Birk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Birk. Show all posts

Monday, July 17, 2017

Mystery Monday: How Can I Find the Elusive Nellie Block?

Great aunt Nellie Block, late 1940s
Nellie Block (abt 1878-1950) is my elusive great aunt, the older sister of my paternal grandpa, Isaac Burk (1882-1943).

The first time I spotted Nellie was in Isaac's 1904 border crossing from Canada to US, when he said he was going "to sister Nellie Block, 1956 3rd Ave., corner 107th St." The address was familiar, because Isaac's future bride and her family lived in that apartment building!

In the 1905 NY Census, Nellie (a furmaker) is living as a boarder with a family on Henry Street. She's still single, and boarding with a different family on Henry Street in the 1910 US Census (occ: operator, furs).

The paper trail nearly ends there for Nellie. So far, I haven't found her in the 1915 NY census, 1920 US census, 1925 NY census, 1930 US census, or 1940 US census.

I know Nellie received an invitation to a UK cousin's wedding in 1934, because it was passed down in the family. Alas, no envelope with address. Did she go? No one knows.

Nellie is wearing a corsage and a smile at my parent's wedding in 1946. That's how I can date the photo at top, because Nellie looked very much the same at the wedding as she does here.

The final record I found for Nellie is her death notice from the New York Times, paid for by the family. It states: "Block--Nellie, devoted sister of Abraham Birk, Meyer Berg, Max Birk, Jennie Salkowitz, and the late Isidore [sic] Birk. Services Sun, 12:30 pm, Gutterman's, Bway at 66 St."

Nellie Block died on Christmas Eve, 1950. I haven't yet found her burial place, and can't yet get a copy of her death cert from New York (too recent).

Where in the world was Nellie Block hiding between 1910 and 1950? My next steps, part of my Genealogy Go-Over:
  • Use Heritage Quest and Family Search, plugging in different spellings of her name to search US and NY Census records. Each site transcribes and indexes a little differently, so I may have some luck with this approach. Will also look for naturalization papers, if any.
  • Do a more thorough search of Social Security applications. If she was working, and remained single, surely she filed for retirement benefits, right? 
  • Check NY marriage records, just in case she married at some point. By 1934, however, when she received the wedding invitation, her name was still Block and she was about 56 years old. I suspect she didn't ever marry, since her death notice is "Block."
  • Recheck Find a Grave (so far, I haven't found her there) and all the NY/NJ cemeteries where my NY-area paternal ancestors were buried. My really quick first check was unsuccessful, so now I have to do another check to be sure.
  • Any other ideas? 
UPDATE: I searched census and naturalization via Family Search, no luck (yet). Also did a search on the easy-to-search 1940 NYC directories on NY Public Library site, borough by borough, but no luck. In addition, I checked Italiangen.org for naturalizations, but no luck. And I redid my Soc Sec search via Ancestry for claims and application, no luck. Darn.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Max Birk Arrived 111 Years Ago Today

My great uncle Max (Motel) Birk (1891?-1953) arrived at New York City aboard the SS Ryndam exactly 111 years ago, on July 9, 1906. Born in Kovno, Max was one of four brothers and two sisters who came to America.

I just found Max in the passenger manifest, arriving at the Port of New York from Rotterdam via the S.S. Ryndam. It took a bit of creative searching because the transcription showed his surname as "Brik" rather than "Birk." But knowing the date and name of ship was a big help! Also, Soundex is our friend. If possible, try Soundex searching (note the "620" on the naturalization index card above--the Soundex code for the category that "Birk" fits).

Max told authorities that he was 16 (his math was off), he was a butcher (not an occupation he pursued in America), and he had $1.50 in his pocket.

Most important: Max was being met by his brother "I. Burk" (my grandpa Isaac), c/o "M. Mahler" (my great-grandpa Meyer Mahler).

Max arrived only one month after his brother Isaac married Henrietta Mahler on June 10, 1906. Sounds like Isaac Burk and his bride didn't yet have their own place and remained with her father for a little while after the wedding--along with Max, possibly.
 
Years later, Max's naturalization papers from Chicago listed two witnesses, including a "Moses Kite." This was intriguing, because one of my DNA matches on Gedmatch.com is a member of the Kite family. Could this be a clue to a cousin connection?

I checked with this gentleman, who told me that Moses Kite worked at city hall in an administrative capacity and was probably a witness because he was on the spot, not because he was a cousin.

Welcome, great uncle Max.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Saluting Canada, Where Ancestors Landed or Settled

Capt. John Slatter (front and center) with the 48th Highlanders
As Canada approaches its exciting 150th anniversary celebration, I want to highlight ancestors who either settled there or first touched North American soil in Canada.

First, let me mention the illustrious Slatter brothers, my husband's London-born great uncles. They became well-known bandmasters in Canada, putting to good use the musical and military training they had received as children on the Goliath and Exmouth.
  • Albert William Slatter (1862-1935) served as bandmaster with the 7th London Fusiliers in Ontario.
  • John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954) achieved fame as the bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders in Toronto, helping to popularize the craze for kiltie bands.
  • Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942) was the distinguished bandmaster for the 72d Seaforth Highlanders in Vancouver.
At least two of my Berk/Birk/Burk/Block/Berg ancestors left Lithuania, stopped in England with family to learn English and polish their woodworking skills, and then continued on to North America.
Henrietta Mahler Burk & Isaac Burk
  • Isaac Burk (1882-1943) was a cabinetmaker who, at age 19, was residing with an aunt and uncle in Manchester (according to the 1901 census), along with his older brother, Abraham. Isaac sailed for Canada in 1903 but stayed only for a short time, moving on to New York City where his older sister Nellie Block (1878-1950) was living. Isaac married Henrietta Mahler in New York, and moved back and forth between Montreal and New York for nearly 10 years before deciding to remain in New York permanently.
  • Abraham Berk (1877-1962), also a cabinetmaker, was residing with the same family in Manchester as his brother Isaac during 1901. After his brother left, Abraham stayed on to marry Anna Horwich, then sailed to Canada and made a home in Montreal, where he and his wife raised their family.
Oh Canada! Happy anniversary and many more.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Remembering the Dads on Father's Day

For Father's Day, I want to remember, with love, some of the Dads on both sides of the family.

My husband's Dad was Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) and his Mom was Marian McClure (1909-1983). My late father-in-law is shown in the color photo below, arm and arm with my hubby on our wedding day!

Edgar's father was James Edgar Wood (1871-1939), shown below right, who married Mary Slatter (1869-1925). And James's father was Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890), who married Mary Amanda Demarest (1831-1897).


My Dad was Harold Burk (1909-1978)--shown below left with my Mom, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981), on their wedding day.

Researching the life of my paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk (1882-1943), started me on my genealogical journey 19 years ago. Isaac is pictured below right with my grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954), in 1936.

Isaac's father was Elias Solomon Birk, a farmer in Kovno, Lithuania, who married Necke [maiden name still not certain]. I never knew Elias was a farmer until my newly-discovered cousin told me she learned that from her grandfather, my great-uncle.


Happy Father's Day to all the Dads of cousins in all branches of our family trees!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday's Faces from the Past: Cousins Try to Name Names

Now that I'm in touch with more descendants of my paternal Burk family, I'm asking them to help identify who's who in this party photo from the late 1930s or early 1940s. I can't tell when, where, or why this party took place.

At far right in the foreground is my father, Harold Burk (#3). Seated near the center is his mother, Henrietta Mahler Burk (#1) and his father, Isaac Burk (#2).

My grandfather Isaac's family had distinctly different ways of spelling their shared surname when they came to America from Lithuania, reminding me to be flexible when I search and consider Soundex variations:

Berg, Berk, Birk, Burk, Burke

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Mom's Address Book Solves a Burk Mystery

Mom's old address book turned up the other day, quite by accident. When she was alive, I never saw this address book, so I never asked who these people were. As soon as I turned the pages, however, I knew her handwritten entries (from the 1950s) were going to help me solve at least one big family mystery.

Interestingly, the mystery is not in her family tree but in my father's Burk family tree. 

My paternal grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943) had two brothers that I know of: Abraham Berk/Burke (1877-1962) and Myer or Meyer Burke (dates unknown). The brothers have also used Birk as a surname spelling over the years.

In the 1905 NY Census, I found Grandpa Isaac (shown incorrectly as Isidore Burke), a carpenter living as a boarder with his future in-laws. The other boarder in the same apartment was Meyer Burke, a cutter (and Isaac's brother, I presumed). For years, I searched for Meyer, but never could find him again.

Meyer Berg's WWII draft registration
Now take a look at the address book snippet at top. Directly under Abraham Berk in Mom's address book is a couple, Anna & Meyer Berg, living in the Bronx. That's where many of Dad's relatives lived in the 1930s-1950s.

It's not much of a leap to guess that Meyer Berg is the brother of Isaac and Abraham--meaning he's my great uncle, an ancestor I've tried to trace for a decade. Mom knew where he was all along!
Meyer Berg's WWI draft registration

Keeping Mom's address book at hand, I quickly dug deeper and found:
Meyer Berg's marriage info from ItalianGen.org
  • Meyer Berg's WWII draft registration card shows him at 2080 Grand Ave. in the Bronx, with the same phone number as in Mom's address book. An exact match!
  • Meyer Berg's WWI draft registration card shows him as a cutter, born in "Gorsd, Russia." That's an approximate spelling of Isaac & Abraham's home town in Lithuania.
  • Meyer appears to have been born about 1883 and I know he married in 1907. Needless to say, I've just sent for his marriage documents.
  • Meyer was naturalized in about 1920, according to the 1925 NY Census. I'm trying to locate those documents now.
  • Other entries in Mom's address book match exactly the names of Meyer's children and their spouses. 

Lesson #1. Be really flexible about spelling, Soundex style. Burk, Burke, Berk, Birk, Berg. Three brothers with names spelled differently in Census data and other records.

Lesson #2. Ask relatives now about unfamiliar names in old address books. Before it's too late to ask! Maybe the answer will help solve a family mystery. Or if you have a relative's old address books, read them carefully to see who's who and where and when.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Genealogy Resolutions and Results, 2016-2017

Looking back on 2016, I accomplished a lot. At right is a snapshot from my Find A Grave contributor tools page, in which I more than doubled my statistics from this time last year. Every trip I take to a cemetery, I take a hundred or more photos of surrounding graves and add them to the memorials, helping others find their ancestors' final resting places.

Of course, these numbers don't reflect the dozens and dozens of edits I've made or requested to link and correct ancestors' memorials from my tree and my husband's tree. This was my #1 resolution from last year and I feel good about my progress (even if it much of the work was crammed into the past week).

My favorite accomplishment of this year (and every year) has been meeting cousins in person after finding them through genealogical research. In fact, it was quite a year for cousin connections. In January, after I met a Farkas cousin of mine in NYC, Sis and I took a fun field trip to meet more Farkas cousins and reunite with our Burk/Mahler first cousins. Later in the year, I met several more Farkas cousins (including one across the pond). And I spent five days with a handful of Chazan cousins in Manchester, England. More cousin connections are in the works for 2017.

In 2016, I wanted to submit testimony to Yad Vashem about my great aunt, Etel Schwartz (a sister to my maternal grandfather, Tivador Schwartz). She's one of the two ladies in the big-brimmed hats in the photos above, along the banner of my blog. My cousins and I are having trouble determining who's who in the few photos we have of the Schwartz siblings, and we don't know Etel's married name. But I will submit what I know in 2017, even without a photo, to keep Etel's memory alive for future generations.

An ongoing resolution is to "tell the stories" and I'm continuing to do that, formally and informally, during meetings with cousins and at other opportunities. At top is a photo of me all dressed up in a bow tie and shirt with the stern face of Benjamin McClure, my husband's 2d great-granddaddy (he's also my FB genealogy persona).

I wore this shirt on Halloween when making genealogy presentations, and my family got a kick out of it. It's a different way to spread the word about an ancestor's life and times. Also I told some stories and featured ancestor photos in my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. More stories and T-shirts are in the works for 2017, maybe even a new book.

Carried over from 2016, I'm still trying to pierce brick walls about my father's Birk and Mitav ancestors in Lithuania and continue looking for the origins of my husband's Larimer-Short-Work families, originally from somewhere in Ireland (north, most likely). So 2017 will be another busy and productive and exciting year!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tuesday's Tip: Try, Try Again--New Records Are Always Coming Online!

Remember Cyndi's List? I returned to it yesterday to look for any new links to Jewish genealogical resources for my Birk-Chazan-Mitav research.

Isaac Birk was my paternal grandpa from Lithuania and his aunt was, I believe, Anna Hinda Mitav who married Isaac Chazan and settled in Manchester, England in the late 1880s.

Under the Jewish resources on Cyndi's List, one of the categories is "Societies and Groups." I scrolled and clicked until I came to the Jewish Genealogy Society of Great Britain. There I found a link to the search page for United Synagogue Marriage Authorisations--a recently-updated index to rabbinical marriage records from 1880 through 1901.

Interestingly, both my grandpa Isaac and my grand-uncle Isaac had brothers named Abraham. But I never knew the maiden name of Abraham Chazan's wife Betty, and I hadn't checked records again for more than a year.

Then yesterday, I plugged in Abraham's full name, his wife Betty's name, and the year of their marriage (1895, which I knew from BMD records in UK). See the word NEW? Now I have Betty's maiden name, Matz.

So Tuesday's Tip is try, try again, because new records appear online every day.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tracing the Berk/Burk/Burke/Birk Brothers

Grandpa Isaac Burk and Great-uncle Abraham Berk were brothers born in "Gorst, Kovna, Russia" (actually Gargždai in Kovno, Lithuania--inside the Pale of Settlement).

Both trained as carpenters before heading to the West around 1900, probably to escape harsh restrictions on Jews and to avoid extended military service.

The record at right, documenting Abraham's border crossing between Canada and the US, shows that he (and his wife Annie) visited Isaac in New York in February, 1919. Isaac's address of 1642 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan is familiar to me from US and NY census records. Isaac, his wife Henrietta Mahler Burk, and their four children (including my Dad, then only a lad) all lived in this apartment building from about 1918 to 1925.

At left, attached to Abraham's border-crossing record is an "alien certificate" allowing him entry into the US and describing his appearance as 5 ft, 1 inch, 125 lbs, brown eyes, grey hair (bald).

I'm even more excited that Grandpa Isaac's Social Security Application Index record recently appeared on Ancestry. I didn't even know he'd applied, but the index has his correct death date and name, and it includes his SS number. Of course I just mailed off my request for his original application documents, which should show his (and brother Abraham's) parents' names, their place of birth, and more. With luck, I'll have the records before New Year's and be able to trace the brothers in even more detail!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Who Cares About Aunts, Uncles, Distant Cousins, and In-Laws? Me!

When you have an entire pedigree line to research, who cares about aunts and grand aunts, uncles and grand uncles, let alone distant cousins and in-laws?
Ladies in white hat and dark hat turned out to be Farkas cousins!

All those seemingly peripheral ancestors may be fascinating people, in fact, and learning about them is helping me understand and trace my family's history in a deeper and more nuanced way. Just as important, "researching sideways" has led to some wonderful cousin connections and even a few breakthroughs. These folks may not be in my direct line, but they knew people in my direct line and have stories/memories/photos that illuminate my family history.

This topic came up because of my recent post about the Yanpolski family. The patriarch of that family, Lazar Yanpolski, was the husband of my great-grand aunt (by marriage) Miriam Chazan. One of the Yanpolski researchers asked why I was so interested in such a distant connection. Here's why:
  • Many old-world families were quite close-knit--especially those from small towns, where there were many marriages within the town and therefore multiple connections between one family and another. This is the case with my Farkas family, I've discovered several times: a man from family A marries a woman from family B and later, the woman's brother or brother-in-law in family B marries into the husband's family A, etc. Also, there were multiple marriages as widows and widowers paired off to take care of children, as in my husband's Wood and McClure families. Therefore, I'm quite intrigued by both siblings and in-law connections, wondering whether there are more relationships within the extended family than I can see on the surface.
  • After family members left for America, some sent photos and/or letters to their family and friends in the old home town and elsewhere. These and related stories have been passed down in some families, even if the cousins don't know the name or fate of anyone or everyone. Using photos (sometimes with dates and/or inscriptions), it's possible to pin down or at least suggest who's related to whom. This was the case with my Chazan and Burk/Birk/Berk connections. 
  • One more reason: Who doesn't like to watch Who Do You Think You Are? and other genealogy shows? I always learn something I can apply in my own research--a technique, a resource, or a way of turning the situation on its head to find a new angle. Or, a way to understand the WHY of family movements--because the reasons aren't always clear to us many decades later. I want to understand what my ancestors thought and felt, not just what they did, where they moved, and when. 
The photo at top is a good example. I knew half of the people were Farkas aunts and uncles, but believed that the others were "friends of the family." Wrong: after a lot of investigation (and lots of help from a dear cousin with a super memory) it turned out two of the ladies were actually cousins of my Farkas family. I was able to prove the connections by looking at the marriage documents and following the in-law movements, since the women's maiden names weren't readily available or known by descendants today.

The result is that I'm now in touch with a wonderful circle of cousins, including one whose mother had this very photo on her bureau for decades. Distant cousins, maybe, but they played a pivotal role in the family tree--and they have stories and memories that have added to my knowledge of my ancestors.

So who cares about aunts/uncles, cousins, and in-laws?!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Surname Saturday: Happy Valentine's Day from Harold to Daisy

My father, Harold Burk (1909-1978) sent this pretty beribboned valentine to my mother, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981).

The date was February 14, 1946, just six weeks after they became engaged. (He wrote the year under his signature.)

They were married later that year, on Thanksgiving weekend, at New York's Hotel McAlpin, with both sides of their families in attendance.

Harold was the older son of Isaac Burk (1882?-1943) of Lithuania and Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954) of Latvia--who met and married in New York City.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

52 Ancestors #49: Smashing the Brick Wall of Hinda Chazan's Maiden Name

Isaac Chazan and Hinda Chazan, before 1921
This post has been months in the works as I tried to learn more about Hinda Chazan (1865-1940), the aunt who hosted my paternal grandpa Isaac Birk in Manchester, England in 1901. Isaac Birk had left his native Lithuania with his brother, Abraham, and lived with the Chazan family in Manchester for a year or two before continuing on to North America. According to the 1901 UK Census, Isaac and Abraham were living with their "uncle" and "aunt."

My UK Chazan cousins were quite sure that Isaac Chazan wasn't a blood relative of Isaac Birk. That meant Hinda had to be the actual relative, and our link to the Birk family. But we didn't know Hinda's maiden name--it wasn't on her death cert, unfortunately. We only knew Hinda was from Telsiai, the same area where my grandpa was from, and she was married and had her first child there before arriving in Manchester around 1888.
Luckily, there were a few more documents we could consult. One cousin had a UK birth cert from Hinda's second child, showing the parents as Isaac Chazan and Hindy Chazan, "formerly Metow" (see excerpt above). Next, we sent for the UK birth cert of the youngest daughter, and it showed the parents as Isaac Chazan and Hinda Chazan, "formerly Mittaw."
This morning, I posted these two excerpts on Tracing the Tribe's Facebook page and asked for ideas about what the real maiden name might be back in Hinda's native Telsiai. Tracing the Tribe has many smart and helpful Jewish genealogy mavens, and they broke through my brick wall in less than an hour.

The key was knowing that "Metow" and "Mittaw" might be pronounced "Mitav" instead. One of the mavens had noticed "Mitav" in the Lithuanian database listings of JewishGen.org. In fact, once the mavens saw Hinda's headstone (above) and translated her father's name as "Tzvi Hirsh," they suggested I look for the equivalent "Girsh Mitav" in Telsiai.
Amazingly, this search turned up an entire family unit featuring Girsh and siblings in the 1834 Census (living with Girsh's uncle Shpits and his family, by the way). Girsh's Telsiai death record even showed up: He died at 85, on September 10, 1904, and was the son of Shimel Mitav. The dates don't match exactly, but this still sounds quite promising!

Learning about Girsh was a wonderful clue for another reason: My father's Hebrew name was "Tzvi" also, sometimes called "Hirsh" as well. He was born in September, 1909, and it seems not too much of a leap to assume that Isaac Birk--nephew of Hinda Mitav Chazan--named his first son after Girsh (Tzvi Hirsh) Mitav.

This amazing breakthrough has enabled me to leap back two generations from Hinda, to her father Girsh and her probable grandfather Shimel in Telsiai, for which I'm thankful on Thanksgiving week.

Friday, September 12, 2014

52 Ancestors #37: Annie Horwitch, Manchester to Montreal After Marriage


My grand-uncle Abraham Birk/Burke (1878-1962) was born in Telsiai, Lithuania; married in Manchester, England; and died in Montreal, Canada.

Abraham's bride, who became my grand-aunt, was Annie Horwitch (or Horowitz). She's listed in their marriage record as "Annie Hurwitch" of Cheetham, Manchester, England, daughter of a teacher, Moses Hurwitch.

When Annie was 19, her Russian-born father Moses completed the naturalization process and was given UK citizenship. (Happily, the UK documents also give Moses's parents' names!)

Annie's courtship came about because Abraham and his younger brother Isaac (hi grandpa!) Birk had left Lithuania and were living with their uncle and aunt in Manchester for a time. The brothers worked, saved money, learned a little English, and planned for a future in North America.

The uncle in Manchester was Isaac Chazan (one of the witnesses to Annie's marriage). The aunt, who was very probably the blood relative, was Ann Hinda (Hannah) Chazan. Her maiden name was either Meton or Mahler. (The UK records say "Meton" but a handwritten family tree says "Mahler." If it turns out to be Mahler, that means my grandparents Isaac and Henrietta were cousins in some way...maybe it was even an arranged marriage?!)

Anyway, Annie and Abraham married in Cheetham in June, 1903. A little more than a year later, they welcomed their first child--and Abraham soon sailed for Montreal to establish his carpentry business. In 1905, just weeks before Annie's second wedding anniversary, she and her infant daughter were reunited with Abraham in Montreal. They had four children in all and were together for nearly 45 years. Abraham outlived Annie and was a guest, along with his children, at my parents' wedding, standing in for his late brother Isaac who had died a few years earlier.



Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday's Faces from the Past: Why Isaac Berk Landed in New Brunswick

Sometimes ancestors zig-zag to their destinations.

That's the case with my Grandpa Isaac Berk (later Burk), a skilled cabinetmaker who sailed from Liverpool to Canada on November 24, 1903, via the S.S. Lake Erie. 

Isaac got off the ship on December 5th in Saint John, New Brunswick.

 As the map shows, that's a LONG way from Montreal or New York, where he later lived--major metro centers where he could easily find work as a cabinetmaker.

Henrietta Mahler Burk & Isaac Burk, 1937
And, in fact, Isaac's trail next shows up in 1904, when he crossed the border into Vermont, on a train enroute from Montreal to New York City, where his sister Nellie (or Nella) lived.

So why did Grandpa land at Saint John instead of continuing further into Canada?

Thanks to a phone call from my Canadian 2d cousin, the granddaughter of my great-uncle Abraham Burke, I now know the answer.

The family story is that Isaac got badly seasick and when the ship came into New Brunswick, he got off as quickly as he could!

Isaac never again sailed anywhere, as far as I know--he always took the train.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Those Places Thursday: Isaac Burk, Born in the Pale

Grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943) kept certain photos all his life and now, thanks to my first cousin who lent me the cache for scanning, I'm finding confirming clues to advance my research into that family's background.

Above, the photographic studio where a lady from Isaac's family back home was photographed. Thanks to Tracing the Tribe members, I have the translation: the photo studio was in Telsiai, Kovenskaya Gubernia - In other words, in Kovno (now Kaunas), Lithuania. Other documents from Isaac's immigration records say he was born in Gargzdai, Kovno, Lithuania.  

It appears that Isaac and his siblings were born in the Pale of Settlement and, while in their late teens and early twenties, four of them left to make new lives in the West, away from pogroms and Russian Army conscription.

As I wrote last week, Isaac and his brother Abraham went to Manchester, England, to stay with their uncle and aunt, Isaac and Hinda Chazan. Isaac left after a couple of years, bound for Canada and then the United States. Abraham married Annie Hurwitz and then continued to Canada, where he settled and sent for his family. Their sister Nellie and brother Myer were in New York City during the early 1900s, but I don't have more information than that...yet.

Although I don't know the exact relationship between the Burk/Birk/Berk family and the Chazan family, I plugged a name into my Ancestry tree and up popped a hint--someone else's family tree with the name in question. I wrote the tree owner and he wrote back, putting me in touch with my Chazan cousins. They not only know the Burk name, they remember my Uncle Sidney visiting Manchester and introducing them to bubble gum--and they have photos of him visiting there, as well. Plus they know some of their family visited the Abraham Berk family in Canada. Those brick walls keep crumbling!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Those Places Thursday: The Berk Boys in Cheetham--Manchester, England--in 1901

Thanks to an Ancestry hint, I just learned from the 1901 UK Census where grandpa Isaac Berk (aka Burk), age 20, was living with his brother, Abraham Berk (age 23) and the family of their uncle and aunt, Isaac Chazan (age 38) and Ann Hindy Chazan (age 37). Others in the household included: Isaac and Ann's children Sarah, age 14, a cigaret maker; Myer, age 13; Simon, age 8; and Rachel, age 2.


The Chazan's home address was 154 Waterloo Road in Cheetham, Prestwich. This area is just north of Manchester, England.

Isaac Chazan's occupation is "furniture dealer, own account." In other words, we have yet another entrepreneur in the family. He too was from "Russia" (the Berk boys were from Lithuania) and Isaac Chazan was naturalized (I've seen his papers). A furniture dealer with two skilled cabinet makers living in his home!

Now I'll have to determine whether Isaac Chazan or Ann (Meton) Chazan was the actual relative of Abraham and Isaac Berk.*

So happy to be connected with my Chazan cousins!

*update: Most likely, my grandpa was related to Ann (Hinda) Mitav Chazan.

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?

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!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Blogoversary #5 and Going Strong!

Thank you, dear relatives and readers, for following along on the genealogical journey I've been documenting here for the past five years. And thank you to the many dozens of Geneabloggers whose posts and comments have encouraged and inspired me to try new things, like the ancestor landing pages just below my masthead and using Facebook for genealogy.

Some of the high points since Blogoversary #4: 
  • Being "found" by Philly Cuz, a second cousin from my Schwartz side. She's been kind enough to share photos and stories. Quite a trip down memory lane on both sides, and of course, an in-person visit is in our future. Thank you!
  • Finally seeing the all-important McClure book to confirm the Scots-Irish connection. And while at Allen County Public Library, locating more records of the McClure fam in Adams County books on the open shelves. Thank you to ACPL staff and volunteers! 
  • Teaming up with a long-time Bentley researcher to try to fill in the blanks on William Tyler Bentley's life and family. We have a ways to go but have been making progress together. And it's wonderful to have connected with an actual Bentley cousin (hi Elizabeth) who's tracing her tree also. Thank you all!
  • Being "found" by the son of a woman who sailed across the Atlantic with my Auntie Dorothy Schwartz, the WAC, on the oceanliner that defied the German subs. I never would have known about the magazine article describing that tense ocean crossing if not for him. Thank you!
  • Scanning and indexing 31 years of notes and historians' reports from meetings of the Farkas Family Tree, my maternal grandma's family. One fabulous cousin retyped many barely readable documents for this project, and a number of cousins very patiently answered questions about who's who, so we can get this book into shape for the next generation to browse and keep (I hope!). Thank you!
Now for some of the big questions I'm still trying to answer:
  • Are any descendants of Paula Schwartz and her daughter, Viola Weinberger, still alive? And do they want to be in touch with their US cousins?
  • Where oh where in Ireland do hubby's ancestors hail from? Yes, I'm talking about you, SmithShehen, and Larimer ancestors. Stop hiding in plain sight!
  • Where did the Steiners and Rineharts come from in the Old World? Thanks to the kindness of FindaGrave volunteers who've photographed graves and clarified family connections on our behalf, we expect to make progress. 
  • Where in Lithuania did Isaac Burk/Birk come from and who else was in his family (parents and siblings)? Hello, are there any Birk cousins out there?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Ancestor Landing Pages: Views But No Connections Yet

As you can see from this chart, my ancestor landing pages are being viewed. The bottom two pages were posted just a few weeks ago, so the low page views are no surprise.

I started using ancestor landing pages back in January, after reading a post by Caroline Pointer. The Birk and Mahler pages were among the earliest posted, so it makes sense that they're the most viewed. Even though the pages have not yet brought me new genealogical connections...I still have hope they'll lead to breakthroughs!