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

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!

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.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Photo Captions with Context

Identifying the people (and their relationship) in old family photos is a must. But often that's not enough to convey the what, when, where, and why of the photo. That's why it's important to include some context when captioning photos, with future generations in mind. I often write a page of explanation to file with the photo, and when digitizing, I add info right on the image.

For example: When I captioned the photos from my parents' wedding, I included not only their names, but the hotel/city, date, and a description of what was happening in the photo. (In my printed version, I explained more about their ages, occupations, my mother's gold lame dress, and everything else I know about the wedding.)

In this photo, Mom and Dad were reading congratulatory telegrams they received during their wedding luncheon. Telegrams? Yup, I labeled the activity, because with ever-changing technology, younger relatives don't ordinarily encounter telegrams in daily life. How could they know what's happening in this photo? So I added that context.

Now future generations will have an idea of what a telegram looks like, and the light bulb will go on (an LED light bulb these days).

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!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Great Uncle Mayer Petitioned for Naturalization 99 Years Ago

Declaration of Intention dated 6 June 1918
Now that my mother's address book has helped me trace several "elusive" siblings of my paternal grandpa Isaac Burk, I've sent for documents to fill out their life stories. I began with my great uncle Mayer Berg (1883-1981), who was a year younger than my grandpa.

One lesson learned is: NARA doesn't have everybody's naturalization documents. A day after I submitted an online request and payment for Mayer Berg's naturalization papers, the archivists emailed me. They did not have Mayer's paperwork, but the Bronx authorities probably did. Thanks for the tip!

Another lesson learned: Pick up the phone before mailing a check. I called the Bronx County Clerk's office, and the officials kindly confirmed that they held Mayer's documents. I got a "package deal" because the petition and declaration were in a single file, so I didn't have to send for them separately (which would have cost more).

Snail mail was faster than usual: I received Mayer's naturalization documents in barely a week. It's dated June 6, 1918.

Just think, this great uncle was standing in a Bronx courthouse 99 years ago, filling out his final paperwork, declaration of intention for US citizenship. Mayer took his Oath of Allegiance on November 23, 1920. I'm going to give these documents to Mayer's granddaughter when we meet this week!

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Genealogy, Free or Fee: Search for Clues in Family Hands

Some of the best free sources of clues to elusive ancestors are in the hands of your family. Several times during my Genealogy Go-Over, I've smashed brick walls because of something that was in the possession of a cousin--a letter/envelope, an address book, a photo, a funeral notice--that pointed me in the direction of solving the mystery.

Today's "free or fee" tip is a reminder to ask siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles (plus, of course, grandparents, if they're alive!) to look for photos and documents. Something as seemingly insignificant as an address book or a letter in an envelope can be an incredible source of information to confirm a name or reveal a relationship. Even if we've asked before, we should ask again.

For example, Mom's address book (unearthed barely a week ago) has proven to be an absolute gold mine of clues to elusive ancestors. It turned up in a box in the attic of a relative, filed with lots of other things from decades ago. This address book was one of two clues I used yesterday to demolish yet another brick wall in my father's Burk family.

A Burk cousin very kindly let me see a handwritten letter to his mother from "Aunt Jenny Salkowitz" in Lakeland, Florida. Wait, the name and return address looked familiar. Yes, they matched a name and address in Mom's address book. So who, exactly, were Aunt Jenny and her husband Paul?

Five years ago, I noticed a "Jenny Birk" living with Grandpa Isaac Burk's in-laws in the 1910 Census. After that, no trace of her. Now I suspected that "Aunt Jenny" was actually Jenny Burk or Birk, sister to my Grandpa Isaac Burk. How to prove it?

Using the Census, I found Jenny and Paul Salkowitz in New York City from 1920 through 1940. At one point, this couple was living in the same apartment building as Isaac Burk's in-laws--the same building where "Jenny Birk" lived as a boarder in 1910! So far, so good.

What about Jenny Salkowitz's maiden name? I tried the free ItalianGen.org site, and there I found "Jenie Burk" in the bride's index for 1919. Clicking to see the groom's name, I found "Paul Salkofsky." Names were close enough, and the marriage year fit what they told the Census takers. (Remember, we have to be creative and flexible about names and dates when searching.)

I plugged this info into Family Search, and up popped a transcribed summary of their marriage record, showing that Jennie Burk's father was Elias Burk (the name of Isaac Burk's father). Quicker than you can say, "Jackpot," I sent $15 to the NYC Municipal Archives to request the three-page marriage application, affidavit, and license with much more detail.

So the proof will cost me $15 but the rest of the research was free--and it all began with Mom's address book and a letter held by my cousin for more than 50 years. The clues were in family hands all along! I just needed to get the clues into my hands.

This is part of my ongoing series, Genealogy, Free or Fee. Links to other entries are here.

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, May 14, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Remembering Moms

On Mother's Day and every day

Remembering hubby's Mom, Marian McClure Wood (left).

Remembering my Mom, Daisy Schwartz Burk (right).

With love!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Motivation Monday: Genealogy, Free or Fee--Part 8, Why I Paid

The persistent folks over at Reclaim the Records have opened the flood gates on records that most mortals don't know about and can't easily access. Thanks to them, I have a new insight into family history during my Genealogy Go-Over. And yes, I decided to pay.

In planning family research strategy, I think certain documents must be in my possession. I have a few documents proving my parents' marriage, plus their wedding album. What I didn't have was three pages of documents that all New York City brides and grooms had to fill out in applying for a license to marry. Those documents are covered by the indexes obtained, with a lot of effort, by Reclaim the Records and now posted on Archive.org.

Although I didn't know exactly what the three pages would look like, I knew one key fact: Both bride and groom personally provided the information--meaning it's all first-hand data. That was the clincher: I decided that the $15 fee was worthwhile.

So I browsed the links to year-by-year NYC marriage indexes on Archive.org. Once I found the right year (1946), here's how I proceeded:
  • Which county in NYC? I chose Bronx, because that's where the bride lived (I didn't know for sure where the groom lived at that point--needed a clue!).
  • Clicked on the Bronx index.
  • Checked the left-hand column, grooms in alphabetical order, and looked for the correct month.
  • My father's surname, Burk, was listed on a page marked "Aug-Dec" (see image).
  • Hi, Dad! Found his name, copied the number and date.
  • Followed the easy instructions on the bottom of the index intro, such as this one
  • Happily wrote a check for $15 plus included SASE. And in my letter describing what I was requesting, I included a sentence that Reclaim the Records suggested: "I was made aware of this information through the not-for-profit group Reclaim The Records, and their work to put genealogical data online for free public use."
Less than two weeks later, I had my parents' affadavit (see at right), license, and certificate. Now I was looking at my father's very own handwriting. He listed his address as the same apartment building where his mother, brother, and sister lived. I had suspected but couldn't prove till now that Dad moved in with his mother and brother after he returned from WWII. More proof of the close-knit nature of the Burk family!

Money well spent, IMHO, to confirm with first-hand data what my parents said about their occupations, their parents, place of birth of parents, etc. Plus both Mom & Dad signed their names, a poignant touch for me.

Now I'm waiting for my maternal grandparents' documents to arrive. Maybe there will be some surprises! If not, the money is a good investment in getting first-hand data from key documents in my direct line.

For more Genealogy, Free or Fee posts, see my summary page.