Showing posts with label Burk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Burk. Show all posts

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Twin Birthday Wishes

Happy birthday to my sweet twin sis and many more!

Who's who in this photo? Sis, what do you think?

When we were young, our birthday was a national holiday . . .

No class party at school, but a family celebration with cake and candles. Sometimes we had friends over, put on party hats, and played Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Remember that game?!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Young Man with the Mustache

Young Man from Gargzdai, Lithuania - probably a Birck relative
Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Challenge on Genea-Musings this week is: Men with Facial Hair.

As soon as I read the challenge, I knew exactly who to feature: The Young Man with the Mustache.
Studio info on back of Young Man's photo

At top, the Young Man in question--probably a younger brother of my paternal grandfather Isaac Burk (1882-1943), born in Gargzdai, Lithuania.

When grandpa Isaac and five other siblings came to North America, they left behind their parents--Solomon Elias Birck and Necke Gelle Shuham Birck--and the Young Man, if we're interpreting the photos, stories, and records correctly.

Alas, I don't know the handsome Young Man's name, but I have his face in two photos. He was a boy in one photo, and a young man here. At right, the studio info on back of the Young Man's portrait.

The Young Man appears as a boy in a photo shared by my 2d cousin, the granddaughter of Isaac's brother, Meyer Berg (1883-1981), who also came to America.

We don't know the fate of the Young Man, I'm sorry to say, but we can see the strong family resemblance to my father and his first cousins. More research is in my future. Perhaps I'll find some clues when I attend #RootsTech as a #FirstTimer and go to the Family History Library?!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Learning from Valentines Sent in the Last Century

In my husband's Wood family, staying in touch was a high priority. Cousins and aunts and uncles sent penny greeting cards to the children for every conceivable occasion. Above, one of the pretty postcards sent to Wallis W. Wood, hubby's uncle, for Valentine's Day in 1912. The sender was Wallis's aunt Nellie (Rachel Ellen) Wood Kirby, who lived in Chicago with her husband, Arthur Kirby. Nellie never spelled her nephew's name correctly on these cards, for some reason.
Thanks to the greeting cards, I can trace the movement of the Wood family from one Cleveland neighborhood to another in between Census years. The head of the family, James Edgar Wood, was a home builder who would construct a house on spec, move his family in, and finish the interior while simultaneously framing another home on spec.

Hubby's father, Edgar James Wood, was a child at the time. He recalled that period in an interview 70 years later, remembering that in one spec house, "the first two floors weren't finished at all, we were living in the attic!" A vivid and not particularly happy memory for him, apparently.

In my family, Mom (Daisy Schwartz) preserved the first Valentine sent to her by Dad (Harold Burk), in February, 1946. It was a traditional, romantic card with ribbon embellishment.

Daisy and Harold had had a whirlwind courtship after he came home from WWII in October, 1945. They were set up on a date by two "matchmaker" aunts, fell in love, and became engaged on the last day of 1945.

Although Daisy and Harold wanted a short engagement, the post-war housing shortage prevented them from finding a convenient, affordable New York City apartment. They had to settle for a wedding date in November, 1946. With so many months to plan, there was enough time for both families to gather in force.

The wedding photos are, 70 years later, a treasure trove of clues to family history. When I asked three of my mother's first cousins to help me identify people in my parents' photos who were unfamiliar to me, they assumed these "unknowns" were "family friends."
They vaguely remembered the names and faces of the "unknowns" but knew nothing else, even though they had been at the wedding in 1946.

When I dug deeper into the names and marriages of the "unknowns," in every case, these wedding guests turned out to be cousins. Cousins of the parents of the bride or groom! These connections led me to finding a lovely group of 2d cousins 1x removed. Now, any time I see a group wedding photo from my family's albums, I don't assume that unfamiliar faces are "family friends." Maybe they're cousins in disguse!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Family History Lesson From My Maiden Aunt

My paternal great aunt Nellie never married, had no children. But lately, I've been thinking about her importance in my family's history. She was the older sister of my grandpa Isaac Burk, born in Gargzdai, Lithuania. Nellie, Isaac, and four other siblings came to North America around the turn of the 20th century. Researching them has taken me 20 years, in part because I began with nothing except Isaac's name--and in part because there were so many different spellings of the family's surname.

Five of the six siblings married within a few years after they left Lithuania. Only Nellie never married. Here are the six siblings, listed in birth order.
  • Abraham Burke (1877-1962) (aka Berk) - later married, had children
  • Nellie Block (1878?-1950) - never married, no children
  • Isaac Burk (1882-1943) (aka Birk) - later married, had children
  • Meyer Berg (1883-1981) - later married, had children
  • Jennie Birk (1890-1972) - later married, no children
  • Max (Motel) Birk (1892-1953) - later married, no children

Nellie is the lady in lace, shown in the center of the photo at top with one of her brothers, probably Meyer, and her younger sister, Jennie. Below, Nellie's obit has Grandpa Isaac's name incorrect, but it's definitely hers. (I'm still looking for her burial place.)

Why is Nellie's story important to the family history? She seems to have been the first of the Burk siblings to come to North America, before 1900. (I'm still looking for her name on a passenger list.) I don't know how many unmarried young ladies were the first in their families to cross the Atlantic and live in a big US city. (Nellie was a boarder in other Jewish families' apartments, usually, not living on her own.) Why and when did she leave home?

Nellie was already in Manhattan by 1904. Grandpa Isaac listed her as the relative he was coming to see when crossing from Canada to New York. He had left Lithuania and gone to Manchester, England, then sailed to Canada, and finally entered America, saying he was coming to his sister Nellie. Yes, chain migration.

I believe I've found Nellie in the 1900 Census, 1905 NY Census, and 1910 Census. I have her as the addressee of a 1930s wedding invitation sent by a cousin in England. And I see her face in my parents' wedding photos, circa 1946. She was wearing a corsage and standing next to her brother Meyer and her brother Abraham, an honored guest at the marriage of her nephew--my father.

The lesson I draw from my maiden aunt's life is that every person in the family tree has an influence on the family's history. She was present at family gatherings, she touched the lives of parents/siblings/nieces/nephews/cousins, and she influenced the course of family history in ways I may not even know about.

Was Nellie responsible for blazing the trail out of the old country? I don't know for sure, and it seems a bit of a stretch to assume she left first. But I do know she was part of her brother Isaac's decision to cross from Canada to America--and, ultimately, that decision led to his getting married, raising a family, and my parents getting married. I owe this maiden aunt a great debt of gratitude!

Sometimes people say that since they have no descendants, their family history isn't really important to anyone. I disagree. Nellie (and her brother Max and sister Jennie) prove the importance of every story to the family's history. Each person played a role in family dynamics, each story adds texture, detail, and context to the overall family history.

Because Nellie, Max, and Jennie had no descendants, it's up to me as the self-appointed family historian to keep their memories alive. My second cousins have filled in a lot of the blanks. As the months pass, I hope to discover even more clues to their roles in the immediate family and in other related families.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

52 Ancestors #3: Which Grandparents Lived to Meet Their Grandchildren?

For week 3 of Amy Johnson Crow's latest #52Ancestors challenge, titled "Longevity," I'm looking at which grandparents outlived the other, and who in each couple got to meet their grandchildren.

At right, my maternal grandparents in 1911, the year they married: Hermina Farkas (1886-1964) and Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965). Although Grandma Minnie and Grandpa Teddy both died at the age of 77, Grandpa Teddy had longevity on his side: He passed away just a few days short of his 78th birthday. Minnie and Teddy got to meet all five of their grandchildren.

At left, my paternal grandparents in 1937, at the wedding of their younger daughter. They were Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) and Isaac Burk (1882-1943). Grandma Yetta died at 72, while Grandpa Isaac died at 61 (well before my time). Isaac never met any of his five grandchildren; the first grandchild was born the year after his death, and named in his honor. Yetta knew all but one of their grandchildren, missing the youngest (named in her honor) by only a year.

At right, my husband's maternal grandparents:
Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) and Floyda Mabel Steiner (1878-1948). Granddaddy Brice died just shy of his 92nd birthday, while Grandma Floyda died at 70. Brice's longevity meant that he got to meet all three of his grandchildren but not all of his great-grandchildren.
At left, my husband's paternal grandparents: James Edgar Wood (1871-1939) and Mary Slatter (1869-1925). Sadly, Grandma Mary was only 55 when she passed away, and none of her children had yet married. Grandpa James died at 67, having met two of his three grandchildren--who were then tiny tykes.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

It Was a Busy Genealogy Year in 2017

This has been an incredibly productive and rewarding year for genealogy--and it's not over. A recap of the year to date:
  • Thanks to newly-discovered ephemera, I smashed a long-standing brick wall on my paternal Burk tree, identified my great-aunts and great-uncles, and met lovely new cousins, who were kind enough to share photos and memories.
  • With the in-person help of one of my UK cousins, I learned the sad truth about hubby's ancestor, Mary Shehen Slatter, who died in a notorious insane asylum in 1889.
  • Cousins I found through genealogy have been taking DNA tests to help in the search for more connections with outlying branches of our mutual trees. At the very least, we've proven our family ties and, sometimes, pinpointed the common ancestor.
  • I've made a lot of progress on writing family history. I updated one family history booklet for my side of the family, based on the new Burk information. I wrote two brand new booklets for hubby's side, one based on his Slatter-Wood roots and one based on his McClure-Larimer roots.
  • I'm about to complete a booklet about my husband's Wood family during World War II, based on interviews with relatives, documents and photos saved by the family, and genealogical research to fill in the gaps.
  • Also, I've written detailed captions for key photos, so future generations will know who's who, when, where, and why.
  • I was a speaker at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference and the International Jewish Genealogy Conference. So many wonderful sessions to attend, excellent speakers, friendly audiences, and a chance to meet blogging buddies in person.
Already this year, I've written more posts than at any other time in my 9 1/2 years as a genealogy blogger. At top are the stats showing my most popular posts of 2017. If you missed them, here are the links. Thank you for reading--and stay tuned for more posts before the end of the year.
  • Beyond Google Your Family Tree (practical tips for online genealogy searches using five specific search operators)
  • Tuesday's Tip, Genealogy, Free or Fee (try free sources first, but don't hesitate to pay for a Social Security Application if it will show a maiden name you don't have or otherwise move your research forward a leap)
  • Junk or Joy? Think of Future Generations (downsizing or just simplifying your life, consider the significance of family artifacts before deciding to donate, give away, or keep)
  • The Case Against Paperless Genealogy (Why I print everything, file everything. Technology changes rapidly but paper, stored properly, will live on for future generations)
  • Tuesday's Tip, Free or Free Genealogy (Learn to record strip: check every detail on every document or photo, analyze it in the context of what else you know, wring everything you can from the research you have and what you acquire)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Remembering Twins of an Earlier Generation

Probably Dorothy on left, Daisy on right
My mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Schwartz, 1919-2001) were born in the Bronx on December 4th, 1919.

They were born just months after the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed, granting women the right to vote. This amendment was ratified by the summer of 1920 and in November of that year, women across America were able to vote in the Presidential election. 

Once they came of age, Mom and Auntie were always diligent about voting. The next generation of women in our family has been brought up to know the importance of exercising our right to vote in every election.

Missing Mom and Auntie on their special day and remembering them always, with love.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Connecting with "New" Cousins in 2017

My biggest genealogical breakthrough of 2017 came from ephemera that had been hidden away until May. These two pieces of paper provided the clues that allowed me to connect with a whole new set of cousins on my father's side of the family.

Here's the story, starting with the mystery of the 1910 Census. Some members of my Mahler family were living in New York City along with a "boarder," Jennie Birk. Now the reason this caught my eye is that Henrietta Mahler (my paternal grandma) had married Isaac Burk (my paternal grandpa) only a few years earlier. The year before their marriage, the 1905 Census showed Isaac and his brother Meyer living with the Mahler family in their NYC apartment, as "boarders." So the mystery was--did Jennie Birk have a family connection to my grandparents?

In May, Sis found Mom's old address book, and my paternal cousin found letters to/from his Mom, as shown above. I'd never heard of an "Aunt Jennie" in my Dad's family, and yet Dad's sister was writing to her "Aunt Jenny" in 1962. Mom's address book showed the same people (on the same street in Lakeland, Florida) in the early 1960s.

My next step was to research the NYC marriages on, where I found that Jennie Burk had married Paul Salkofsky. Another few minutes of research revealed that Paul Salkofsky was naturalized as Paul Salkowitz. In other words, the address book and the letters had led me to my grandpa's sister, Jennie Birk Salkowitz.

Remember brother Meyer? He had been a "boarder" with the Mahler family when my grandpa Isaac was also a "boarder," the year before marrying a Mahler daughter. I eventually discovered that Meyer's surname was Berg and, as a result, I was able to trace Meyer's grandchildren.

Sis and I have met one of Meyer Berg's granddaughters and we've been sharing photos and family stories for months. What a great genealogical breakthrough for 2017!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgivings of the Past

Happy Thanksgiving! I looked back in diaries, postcards, meeting minutes, and other bits and pieces of my genealogical collection to get a glimpse of what happened on Thanksgivings of the past in my family and my husband's family.*
  • The strangely-colored postcard at right, from the 1910s, was received in East Cleveland by hubby's uncle, Wallis W. Wood. The sender was "Aunt Nellie" (Rachel Ellen Wood Kirby), who lived in Chicago and never missed an opportunity to send holiday or birthday greetings to her nephews and nieces in the Wood family.
  • On Thanksgiving Day of 1959, my late father-in-law (Edgar J. Wood) received the exciting news that he would be a grandfather for the first time during 1960. How do I know? He wrote about it in his diary!
  • On Thanksgiving Day of 1950, my grandma's Farkas family gathered at the C&L Restaurant in Manhattan for dinner and accordion entertainment, at $6 per person. My parents, Daisy Schwartz and Harry Burk, told the family they were buying a TV set to celebrate their wedding anniversary (they married on November 24, 1946). I read about it in the minutes of the Farkas Family Tree.
  • The Farkas Family Tree and spouses and children pitched in to have a photo taken of everyone who attended the Thanksgiving Day dinner at a Manhattan hotel in 1956. It was a large group! Again, the story of planning this dinner and the photography is straight out of the tree's monthly minutes, which I scanned and indexed a few years ago.
  • My aunt Dorothy Schwartz worked on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade with her long-time friend and partner, Lee Wallace, from 1950-1952. Lee was then the head of public relations for Macy's, and Dorothy was her assistant. Then my aunt got her teaching license and left the world of retail to teach typing and shorthand at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx. Yes, this is the same aunt who was a WAC during WWII.

 *Not including hubby's Mayflower ancestors celebrating Thanksgiving, of course. That's the oldest "Thanksgiving of the Past" story I can tell to my family for the holiday.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saluting the Veterans in Our Family Trees

With gratitude for their service, today I'm saluting some of the many veterans from my family tree and my husband's family tree.

Let me begin with my husband's Slatter family in Canada. Above, second from left is Capt. John Daniel Slatter of the 48th Highlanders in Toronto. He was my hubby's great uncle, an older brother to hubby's Grandma Mary Slatter Wood, and he was a world-famous bandmaster in his time.

At far left of the photo is Capt. Slatter's son, Lt. Frederick William Slatter, who fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge during WWI. Third from left is John Hutson Slatter, grandson of Capt. Slatter, who enlisted in the Canadian military in the spring of 1940 for service in WWII. At far right is another of Capt. Slatter's sons, Lt. Albert Matthew Slatter, who served in Canada's No. 4 Company of 15th Battalion and then in the 48th Highlanders of Toronto. (Albert was the father of John Hutson Slatter.)

Grandma Mary Slatter Wood had two other distinguished bandmaster brothers active in the Canadian military early in the 1900s: Henry Arthur Slatter (who served in the 72d Seaforth Highlanders of Vancouver) and Albert William Slatter (who served in the 7th London Fusiliers of Ontario).

In my family tree, a number of folks served in World War II. Above, 2d from left in front row is my father, Harold D. Burk, who was in the US Army Signal Corps in Europe. His brother, Sidney Burk, also served during WWII, stationed in Hawaii. And I've recently written a lot about my aunt, Dorothy Schwartz, who was a WAC and received the Bronze Star for her service in Europe. My uncle, Dorothy's brother Fred, was in Europe serving with the Army, as well.

Meanwhile, my mother, Daisy Schwartz, was busy selling war bonds in NYC and corresponding with maybe a dozen GIs to keep their spirits up. When Mom wrote the historian's report for the Farkas Family Tree association at the end of 1943, she reflected the entire family's feelings about their relatives fighting for freedom.
For the coming year, the earnest hope of all is that 1944 will find the Axis vanquished and our boys home. All that is unrelated to the war effort must be sublimated to the present struggle to which some in our group have pledged their lives. The rest of us pledge our aid. The Allies will be victorious--God is on our side!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Family History Month: NOPQRS Surnames

Four Steiner sisters in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, late 1930s
This is my next-to-last post with alphabetical surnames being researched on hubby's McClure/Wood tree and my maternal tree (Farkas/Schwartz) and paternal tree (Mahler/Burk).

McClure/Wood tree:
  • N is for Nitchie
  • O is for O'Gallagher (possibly Gallagher)
  • P is for Peabody
  • P is for Piper
  • P is for Post
  • P is for Priest (as in Degory)
  • R is for Rhuark
  • R is for Rinehart
  • R is for Rozelle
  • S is for Shank
  • S is for Shehen
  • S is for Short
  • S is for Slatter
  • S is for Simmons
  • S is for Smith
  • S is for Steiner
Mahler/Burk tree:
  • N is for Nemensinsky
  • O is for Ohayon
  • P is for Paris (or Peris)
  • P for Pompionsky
  • R is for Roth
  • S is for Sacks/Sachs
  • S is for Salkowitz
  • S is for Schlanger
  • S is for Schwartz
  • S is for Segal
  • S is for Shuham
  • S is for Siegel/Siegal
  • S is for Sobel
  • R is for Rethy
  • R is for Roth
  • S is for Schwartz
  • S is for Simonowitz
  • S is for Steinberger/Stanbury

Monday, October 23, 2017

Family History Month: ABC Surnames

Nellie Block (middle), Jennie Birk Salkowitz (right), and a brother (which one?)
Over at Olive Tree Genealogy, Lorine McGinnis Schultze has adapted the ABC surname meme and I'm following her lead with the ABC surnames (spouses included) of hubby's McClure/Wood tree and my Mahler/Burk and Farkas/Schwartz trees. Four more alphabetical listings in the days to come!

McClure/Wood ABC surnames:
  • A is for Adams
  • A is for Allen
  • A is for Allerton
  • A is for Auld
  • A is for Austin
  • B is for Baker
  • B is for Bentley
  • B is for Bradford
  • B is for Brown 
  • C is for Caldwell
  • C is for Carsten
  • C is for Cloud
  • C is for Coble
  • C is for Cook
  • C is for Coombs
  • C is for Cornwell
  • C is for Cragg
  • C is for Curtis
  • C is for Cushman
Mahler/Burk ABC surnames:

  • A is for Ash
  • B is for Berg/Berk/Birk/Burk/Burke/Block/Bloch
  • B is for Berkman
  • B is for Blauman
  • B is for Bourstein
  • B is for Burack
  • C is for Caplan
  • C is for Casson
  • C is for Chazan
  • C is for Cherry
  • C is for Claman
  • C is for Cohn
Farkas/Schwartz ABC surnames:
  • A is for Adelman
  • A is for Agata
  • C is for Cohen

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 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!

Remember, you have to put your instructions into a written "genealogical will" so the next generation knows what you have, where your collection is located, and why it's important to save the family's history.

The NUMBER ONE thing we can all do is to put captions on our old photos. If we do nothing else, this will at least help future generations know who's who and how each person is related. Mystery photos might get tossed out, but not identified photos.

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.

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!

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 6, 2017

Weighing the Evidence on Grandpa's Birthplace

Six of my Burk (aka Berg/Berk/Birk/Burke) ancestors came to North America from Lithuania. The oldest of the siblings, Abraham, settled in Montreal. All the others lived for decades in New York City.

In birth order, they were:
  • Abraham Berk (1877-1962)
  • Nellie Block (1878-1950)
  • Isaac Burk (1882-1943) - Hi, Grandpa!
  • Meyer Berg (1883-1981)
  • Jennie Birk (1890-1972)
  • Max (Matel) Berk (1892-1953)
Where, exactly, were these Litvak ancestors from? I've been weighing the evidence, following the Evidence Explained principles. Fortunately for me, the evidence is quite compelling in favor of one birthplace for all the siblings.

Of course I'm putting the most weight on primary (original) sources created by "someone with first hand knowledge . . . created at or about the time an event occurred." Primary information (from original sources) tends to be more reliable, even though the person who provided the info may not remember correctly or may answer inaccurately for some other reason.

I've assembled the following evidence about the siblings' birthplace.
  1. Abraham Berk's Canadian naturalization petition listed Gordz, Kovno, Russia as his birthplace. When Abraham entered America in 1919 to visit his brother Isaac, he said he was born in Gorst-Kovna-Russia. Abraham provided all this info.
  2. Nellie Block never declared any birthplace that I can find, unfortunately. I don't believe she ever married, nor did she apply for Social Security or naturalization. 
  3. Isaac Burk told US border officials in 1904 that he was born in Gerst, Russia, when he entered America from Canada. His 1939 naturalization papers and WWII draft registration show Lithuania as his birthplace (Isaac provided the info). Grandpa Isaac was buried in a cemetery plot that's part of the Sons of Telsh society. That adds to the indirect evidence in a small way.
  4. Meyer Berg's passenger manifest from 1903 shows Gelsen, Kovno as his most recent residence. His WWI draft record shows Gorsd, Russia as his birthplace; his WWII draft record shows Gorso, Russia as his birthplace. Meyer's naturalization petition from 1920 shows his birthplace as Kovna, Russia. Meyer provided this info.
  5. Jennie Birk's 1966 passport lists Lithuania as her birthplace. Her husband Paul Salkowitz listed Gardzai, Lithuania, as his birthplace on naturalization papers, but didn't show anything for her birthplace. Best of all, Jennie's marriage license from 1919 shows Garsden, Russia as her birthplace, info provided by her.
  6. Max Berk's 1920 naturalization petition shows Kovno, Russia as his birthplace. His 1906 passenger manifest shows Korst as his last residence. Max provided this info.

According to the Jewish Genealogy Communities Database, nearly all of these places are, essentially, other names for one place: Gargzdai, Lithuania (sometimes not spelled correctly or only spelled phonetically).

This evidence leads me to conclude that Grandpa Isaac and his siblings came from Gargzdai. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Plus I'm going to change the family tree so that every one of the siblings shows this as their birthplace.