Showing posts with label Farkas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Farkas. Show all posts

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saving WWII Letters for the Next Generation

One of my 2d cousins was kind enough to lend me a scrapbook of letters written by my mother's 1st cousins and her sister serving in World War II.

The letter-writers were the American-born grandchildren of Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938) and Moritz Farkas (1857-1936). Leni and Moritz, my great-grandparents, were born in Hungary and came to New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Their children (my grandma and her generation) formed the Farkas Family Tree (the FFT) association during the Depression to keep the family close-knit.

One by one, as these grandchildren of the matriarch and patriarch joined the military in the 1940s, they wrote letters to be read out loud during the family tree's monthly meetings. In all, five men and one woman wrote home about their WWII experiences. They were dedicated, patriotic, and often quite candid about their military experiences.

Above, a letter from my mother's first cousin Harry, who trained as an X-ray technician after enlisting in the Army in 1943. He was stationed at Camp Grant (Rockford, IL), Lawson General Hospital (Atlanta, GA), Fort Lewis (Tacoma, WA), and Fort Jackson (Columbia, SC), among other places.

While being shipped cross-country every few months for additional training, Harry wrote about wanting to finally, finally work with patients, which he eventually did. After the war, he went to medical school, set up a practice in a small town, and was sorely missed when he passed away at age 89.

My aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001) enlisted as a WAAC in 1942. She was keenly aware of what she was and wasn't permitted to say in her letters, describing where she was stationed without actually naming the place or revealing other details. In the letter above, she reassures her family by mentioning the beautiful countryside in England (no town mentioned) and gives the latest news about a WAAC controversy over wearing "overseas hats" when out and about.

At the same time, my aunt didn't mince words when expressing her outrage about German prisoners of war being allowed to stand and watch while U.S. servicewomen handled jobs like cleaning mess halls that could and should have been performed by the POWs. She was also realistic about the dim prospects for an early peace in Europe, from her vantage point of being the administrative support for military officials.

On this Memorial Day weekend, I salute my cousins and all the men and women who have defended our country over the years. This military post is for week 21 of #52Ancestors.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

So Many Ancestors, So Many Languages

For #52Ancestors #20, I'm trying to identify the different languages spoken by key ancestors in my family tree and my husband's tree.

My paternal grandparents (above) probably spoke three languages apiece. Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954) was born in Latvia, and surely spoke Latvian as well as English and, I'm guessing, Yiddish. Possibly she spoke Russian too, although I don't know for sure.

Her husband, Isaac Burk (1882-1943) was born in Lithuania, and spoke that language plus Russian and maybe even Yiddish in addition. Isaac certainly picked up some English when he stopped in Manchester, England, to stay with family in 1901, en route from Lithuania to North America.
My maternal grandparents also spoke multiple languages. Grandpa Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965), shown above escorting my mother down the aisle at her wedding, had a way with languages. His native Hungarian tripped off his tongue, but he could also speak several other languages, including English--which is why the steamship lines employed him in NYC as a runner around Ellis Island in the 1910s.

His wife, Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964), was fluent in Hungarian, having been born there, and learned Yiddish in the Lower East Side of NYC as an immigrant. Also she learned English in NYC night school.

In my husband's Wood family tree, there are three adult Mayflower ancestors (Degory Priest, Isaac Allerton, Mary Norris Allerton). Therefore, in addition to English, they may have learned some Dutch when the Pilgrims fled to the Netherlands prior to sailing to the New World. Once in Plymouth, perhaps they learned a few words to talk with Native American tribes? Photo above shows my late father-in-law (Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986) at left with two of his Wood brothers.

Also in my husband's McClure line, his ancestor Halbert McClure (1684-1754) was born in County Donegal, and sailed to Philadelphia with his family in the 1740s. Because the McClures were originally from Isle of Skye, hubby's ancestor may have spoken Scottish Gaelic or Gaelic (or both). On arrival in the American colonies, however, the McClures would most likely have learned English, because they walked from Philadelphia to Virginia. They would probably need to speak English to buy provisions along the way. Once in Virginia, they bought land--again, a transaction that probably required English.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Remembering Ancestral Mothers with Love

A tribute to the ancestral mothers in my family . . . 
And in my husband's family . . . 

They are loved and remembered, not just on Mother's Day!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Do the "Write" Thing for Genealogy: Set the Stage

Harold Burk proposed to Daisy Schwartz on the last day of 1945 - a wintery, snowy day!
When writing family history, we can help our readers envision the lives of our ancestors (and what influenced their actions and decisions) by "setting the stage."

This week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge by Amy Johnson Crow, about "storms," is a perfect prompt for setting the stage. I've been researching how weather affected my ancestors, to make the everyday lives of my ancestors more vivid and add drama to my family history.

Setting the Stage for My Parents' Engagement

I wanted to know what the weather was like on the final evening of 1945, when my parents (Harold Burk and Daisy Schwartz) got engaged. They had been dating since mid-October--just a couple weeks after Harold got out of the Army. Daisy hoped and believed that he would pop the question soon, and he chose that special night to propose.

Because both my parents were living in New York City, I researched the weather by clicking on Weather Underground's history tab. I entered the location (you can enter any city) and then the date of December 31, 1945. The result: It was a cold day (low of 28, high of 39 degrees F), but not windy. Just under a quarter-inch of snow fell that day. I can use this info when writing about my father proposing to my mother on a wintery New Year's Eve, with a dusting of snow all around. Sounds like a romantic setting, doesn't it?

Who Lived Through the Blizzard of 1888?

Another way to "set the stage" in family history is to consider who might have been affected by a terrible storm like the Blizzard of 1888. It came on suddenly, and dumped lots of snow on my ancestors who lived in New York City on Sunday, March 11, 1888. In fact, the city was paralyzed. Who in my family's past got caught in this snowstorm?

My paternal great-grandparents, Meyer Elias Mahler and Tillie Jacobs Mahler, were then living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in a tenement on Chrystie Street. Their second son, Morris Mahler, was born on Sunday, February 27, 1888--exactly two weeks before the Blizzard.

Did the heat stay on as the snow piled up? Did the family have enough food? How many days were they forced to stay inside until the city got the streets cleared? I don't know the answers to these questions, but raising them is a good way to show how ancestors were real people coping with real (and very challenging) situations.

The Hail Storm That Brought My Family to New York

Moritz Farkas
My maternal great-grandpa, Moritz Farkas, supervised farmland and vineyards for his family and in-laws in Hungary. One year, he saved money by not buying crop insurance. That was the year a big hail storm destroyed the crops. Financially ruined, Moritz left for America and never returned. His wife followed him to New York City a year later, and they sent for their children to join them.

So a huge hail storm in Hungary set the stage for my family's journey across the ocean. If not for hail, I might not be here today to keep these family memories alive for the next generation.

For more ideas about bringing family history to life and sharing with relatives, please see my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available in paperback and Kindle

Thursday, March 29, 2018

History Gets Personal in Family History

Everyone's family history is influenced by (and can influence) the course of history. That's what makes history so personal in our family's history.

I'm struck by this again and again as I transcribe letters written by Farkas cousins to the family tree association during WWII. These cousins were in the service (some in the US Army, some in Army Air Corps, some in Navy, some in WAC) and their letters home are filled with observations that bring history alive and illuminate how the war experiences affected them personally. The letters also reveal personality and, often, a dry sense of humor.

Above, the letterhead from a cousin's letter written in January, 1943. Notice the words running along the ribbon at bottom of the image--"Prepare for Combat."

Cousin G enlisted to fly but he couldn't land the way the Army Air Force wanted, he wrote home in a 1942 letter. At that point, he chose to train as a navigator/bombardier.

In this 1943 letter, written from an Army Air Field in Monroe, LA, cousin G is "waiting around for shipment to Advanced [training] which will be in Coral Gables, Florida." He mentions that the school is run by Pan-American (Airways) and he has to satisfy a tougher standard. Why does he care which school he attends?
"The main reason I decided upon the Gables was that most of the navigation is over water and from what I hear that is pretty important when you have to pick an island out of the whole Pacific."
Cousin G understands that he has a role to play in history and takes it seriously, even when his letters make the family smile. His role in history affects his family history too, and I'm proud to document what he wrote to the family during these critical years. Plus I'm learning more about historical details as I add explanatory endnotes to the letters, ensuring that future generations will get the full picture of our family's contributions to and experiences in World War II.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Three Sites Are Better Than One: Finding Uncle Joe in the Census?

Family Search, Heritage Quest, Ancestry each indexes federal and state Census records independently. If one site doesn't seem to turn up an ancestor in a Census, always--always!--try the other two. Between the three sites, I've learned where most of my ancestors were during a Census period.

This week, I was looking at the timeline gaps in my research into the early life of Uncle Joseph A. Markell (1895?-1975). For some reason, he didn't show up in Ancestry when searching the 1905 New York State Census, so I tried Family Search. Immediately, a Joseph Markell popped up. In a very unlikely setting, I might add. The name and the age are what I expected, not the place. Is this the right person?


As shown in the NY Census excerpt at top, a Joseph Markell was age 12 and living at boarding school in 1905, at the Weingart Institute.

What was this school all about? I located several references. Here's a reference from an 1893 handbook to NYC, explaining that this school was K-12, including college prep.



Another mention of this school was in a NY Times ad from 1908. In both of the references, the Weingart Institute's gymnasium was a selling point. One more online search turned up a piece about this school's summer camp in Highmount, NY--a camp attended by young Oscar Hammerstein, among other luminaries.

Where exactly the money came from to send Joseph to a posh private school is quite a mystery, which is why I have to dig deeper to be sure this is MY family's Joseph. So far, I haven't located the whereabouts of Joseph's parents in 1905. Very possibly they weren't living together; she could have been in PA while he was in NYC. I say this because I know Joseph's mother, Rosa Lebowitz Markell, died young in 1909 in Allegheny county, PA. I have her death cert and this is definitely the right Rosa.

That left his father, "Barney" Benjamin Isaac Enoch Markell (1874-1944), who was working as a "driver" in 1902 in NYC, according to his citizenship papers, responsible for Joseph. Both Barney and son Joseph were living in Rosa's mother's NYC apartment, according to the 1910 Census (found on all three sites).

Once Barney remarried in 1914, however, Joe didn't get along with his new step-mom and left as soon as he could. By the time of the US Census in 1920, Joe was in the Navy, a yeoman serving on the U.S.S. Niagara off Tampico, Mexico. In 1921, he was out of the service and married to Mary Mahler (1896-1979). The newlyweds first settled in New York City, later moving to New Rochelle, just north of the city.

Their neighbors around the corner in New Rochelle were Rose Farkas Freedman (1901-1993) and her husband, George M. Freedman (1900-1989). Rose, my mother's aunt, and her neighbor Mary Markell (my father's aunt) were BFFs . . . and they introduced my parents to each other. The rest is #familyhistory! Now to round out the stories, I'll be looking more closely at Uncle Joe and the possibility that he went to private school in 1905. And where his parents were at the time....?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Found: Farkas Family WWII Letters

In 2013, I first learned about the existence of written records covering most meetings of my mother's Farkas Family Tree stretching from 1933 through 1964. This family-tree association, which met 10 times a year, consisted of all the adult children (and their spouses) of patriarch Moritz FARKAS and matriarch Lena KUNSTLER Farkas. I remember attending meetings when I was a tiny tyke, but of course I had no idea of the elaborate administrative framework created by the family.*

Once a cousin kindly let me borrow the meeting minutes and annual historian's reports, I scanned all 500 pages. Then I indexed and identified each person as a relative/in-law (by relationship) or as a family friend. Indexing helped me solve several family mysteries!

However, the World War II meeting notes were mostly missing, as were letters written by family members who were in the service during the war. Five years I've tried to find these missing documents, with no luck. I feared they were lost forever.

Until a lucky break last month. I reconnected with a 2d cousin, who mentioned his search for some of the minutes and records I'd scanned. And lo and behold, he has in his possession the missing family-tree minutes and letters from the war years!

We swapped. Now I'm scanning (and indexing) all the new-found minutes and letters from the 1940s. At top, the title page of the scrapbook he lent me. At right, a letter written by my Auntie Dorothy Schwartz exactly 75 years ago this month--when she was a WAC in training, prior to being posted overseas for World War II service.

Lucky, lucky me to be able to assemble a complete set of minutes and letters for the Farkas Family Tree and keep them safe for the next generation (and beyond).

Thanks to Elizabeth O'Neal for the Genealogy Blog Party prompt "As luck would have it" for March.

*One of Mom's first cousins had bound books of meeting minutes and documents and when he and I got together for the first time in decades, and I began to ask him about the family, he casually mentioned having those books. I then volunteered to scan and produce a spiral-bound book. He thought it would take me years. It took less than 3 months, including indexing, because another cousin volunteered to retype anything that was illegible. So remember: Always reach out to cousins and let them know of your interest in anything even vaguely related to family history!

Friday, February 23, 2018

52 Ancestors #8: Did They Ever Think These Would Be Heirlooms?

Over time, so many of the items left to me or given to me by relatives and ancestors have become treasured heirlooms, valued not for financial value but for emotional and sentimental reasons. This week's #52Ancestors challenge by Amy Johnson Crow is a great opportunity to think about accidental heirlooms, not just those intended to be special.

Above, the silver napkin ring awarded by my mother's Farkas Family Tree association to each newborn child, male or female. For years--seriously, years!--one of my aunts tried to get the tree to give a different gift to baby boys (like her son, my 1st cousin R). She was voted down every time. This napkin ring was an honored gift tradition for decades.
Above, another item that was an heirloom even in its own time. My grandma Hermina Farkas Schwartz kept this cut glass bowl close to her heart because, if I got the story straight, it came with the family from Hungary to America in the early 1900s. My mother inherited it and now I'm the lucky custodian, keeping it safe for the next generation.

But other heirlooms were surely not intended or appreciated as such. At right, a velvet banner used by my late father-in-law Edgar James Wood to promote his piano trio during 1950s/60s gigs in Cleveland. Did Ed ever imagine this would be an heirloom in the 21st century? I bet the answer is no.

We can never predict exactly what future generations will consider to be heirlooms. So we need to take good care of all these family items, just in case. And--most important--we need to tell the stories of why these are (or should be) heirlooms, so that information is passed down along with the items themselves.

For more about sharing family history with future generations, please check out my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available in paperback and Kindle.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

So Many Ancestors, So Little Time in the FHL


So many ancestors, so little time in the wonderful, world-famous Family History Library . . . With RootsTech less than three weeks away, I'm doing some serious planning for my limited time at the library in Salt Lake City.

How to decide which brick wall ancestors to spend my time on? I'm triaging my family tree and my husband's tree with these specifications in mind.
  • Do I have enough info to do more research? I won't consider researching any brick wall ancestor in Salt Lake City unless I have (1) a name I'm reasonably sure of, (2) approximate dates, (3) a birth, marriage, or death place. Otherwise, it's needle-in-haystack time. RESULT: I crossed hubby's 2d great-grandpa Jacob S. Steiner off my initial list because I have insufficient info to distinguish between him and the dozens of other men named Jacob Steiner born in Pennsylvania around 1800 who died in Ohio sometime after 1850. Instead, I'm going to look at his life in Tod township, Crawford cty, OH, in case there are additional records available AND ask a "coach" at the conference or the library for creative ideas about researching Jacob into Pennsylvania.
  • Can I research from home or use other resources? I'm taking the time now to see what's actually available at Family Search (and I'm doing another Ancestry search). RESULT: I got lucky with one set of Farkas ancestors on my tree--FHL microfilms are now digitized and I can check the index and browse images at home! But if I locate microfilms for a brick wall ancestor, I'll add the details to my to-do list for Salt Lake City.
  • Can I identify appropriate resources available in the Salt Lake City FHL?  As I narrow my focus on certain ancestors, I'll formulate a specific question to answer for each (such as "Who were Jacob S. Steiner's parents?" OR "What was Elizabeth Steiner's maiden name?"). Next, I need to review the FHL's resources to determine whether it has info available to help me address each question. RESULT: At top, a sample of my investigation into Crawford cty, Ohio resources at the FHL to answer my question about Jacob S. Steiner's parents and Elizabeth Steiner's maiden name. Since they lived in Crawford cty for at least a decade, I may find clues in documents, maps, Bibles, etc. One by one, I'll check each resource in the FHL catalog for Crawford cty to see where it is (online or FHL only) and what it is. Then I'll list which ones I need to consult at the FHL. That becomes my to-do list.
Blogging about my preparations helps me think through the situation and develop the first draft of my action plan. 

Suggestions are, of course, most welcome! 

Friday, February 2, 2018

My Schwartz Ancestors Married for Love

Mary Schwartz and Teddy Schwartz (circa 1909)
My great aunt, Mary Schwartz (1891-1959) and her older brother, my grandpa Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965), both married for love after they came to New York. There were some bumps in the road to matrimony, but both stories (pieced together from family legends and official documents) ended with love winning the day, despite the family's initial feelings.

Teddy Schwartz met his future bride, Hermina (Minnie) Farkas (1886-1964), in a Hungarian deli on the Lower East Side. Both Teddy and Minnie had been born in Hungary and came to New York as young teens.(1) Although Minnie's family objected to the match (they thought he was a "peasant"), she insisted on seeing Teddy, then a clerk for steamship lines and insurance firms. Minnie used a signal (putting something on the clothesline) to let Teddy know that the "coast was clear" to meet.

Meanwhile, Minnie's parents tried to arrange a "more suitable" marriage. Minnie refused and threw the suitor's engagement ring out the window. After she wore her parents down, the couple was married at the Clinton Street Synagogue on Sunday, October 22, 1911. Teddy and Minnie couldn't afford a honeymoon until the late 1940s, when they retired. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1961.

Teddy's sister Mary Schwartz also married for love. It seems Teddy's Farkas in-laws were arranging a marriage for Mary with one of their cousins. Late in 1913, before any formal engagement, Mary met a handsome furrier, Hungarian-born Edward Wirtschafter (1889-1958). Since he was living on the Lower East Side and she was living in Jewish Harlem but working as a shirtwaist maker, I imagine they met in Manhattan's garment district (or possibly in that Hungarian deli where Teddy and Minnie met?).

Mary and Edward fell in love and within weeks, they decided to elope. On Christmas Eve of 1913, just two days before Mary's 22nd birthday, they went to City Hall and signed all the paperwork. That night, even though they were married, they went back to their own apartments and told no one. At least that's what their daughter told me.

What she didn't tell me (maybe she didn't know) was what happened four days later. On December 28, 1913, Mary and Edward had a second wedding ceremony.(2) This time, they were married by a rabbi. And this time, Mary's older brother Sam Schwartz was one of the witnesses. Possibly my grandfather Teddy was present, as well. But I don't know whether my grandma Minnie was there. She might have been miffed that Mary married a man of her own choosing rather than the Farkas cousin favored by the family. Mary, like Minnie, was determined to marry for love!

This post celebrates the Genealogy Blog Party's February theme of LOVE.

(1) According to City of Dreams by Tyler Anbinder, the Lower East Side neighborhood where Teddy and Minnie lived was a particular enclave of Hungarian Jews in the early 1900s. Teddy was from Ungvar, Hungary, and Minnie from Berehovo, Hungary. No wonder they met in a Hungarian deli.

(2) I only know about the 2d wedding ceremony because I sent for the complete set of marriage documents after learning about their availability through Reclaim the Records. Read all about it here. Well worth the $15 fee to know the full story!

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.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ancestor Timeline Reveals Gaps (Gasp)

Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun this week was to create a timeline for one ancestor and explain how we created it, along with the image.

Since I'm still a RootsMagic7 newbie (less than 4 months' experience), I was delighted to follow Randy's detailed directions for how he created his ancestor's timeline in RM7. I did the same for my 2d great uncle, Bela Bernard Roth (1865-1941). His first wife was Sali/Zali Kunstler (? - 1895), sister to my great-grandma Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938). Bela's parents were Shlomo/Salomon Roth and Hannah Klein.

After I created the timeline in RM7, I took a screen shot with my "Preview" function for Mac. To do that, I selected just the timeline itself as it appeared on my screen and saved it as a .jpg. There is more info available in the timeline, but I didn't include all in this screen shot.

As Randy indicates, the look is bare-bones but practical. At a glance, I can see how old Bela is during each moment on the timeline. When his children were born, when he came to America the first and second times, at the point of each census, when he died.

This timeline reveals (gasp!) gaps for me to research. For instance, Bela had four more children with his second wife (Bertha Batia Weiss, 1885-1967), including one mentioned in a 1907 passenger manifest and a 1914 passenger manifest.

This son, Imre (or Emery) Roth, vanished before the 1920 U.S. Census. He's a gap that I'd like to fill with more information so I can record him and honor his memory. For now, Bela's timeline will have to state that son Imre/Emery died "before 1920."

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!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Family History Month: The Farkas Family During the Depression

25th anniversary of Farkas Family Tree association
Starting in 1933, the Farkas Family Tree held 10 meetings a year. Charter members were the 10 children of my maternal great-grandparents, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938).

Moritz and Lena were proclaimed honorary members at the first FFT meeting in March, 1933. Since nearly all of the charter members lived in the New York City area, the meetings were a way of keeping family ties as tight as possible.

Luckily, the FFT kept written minutes at every meeting. Although some of the 1940s minutes haven't survived, I've scanned and indexed the hundreds of existing minutes for in-depth research and to safeguard for the next generation.

Outside the family, there was a Depression. Inside, the focus was on births and birthdays, weddings and anniversaries, get-well wishes for ill members, remembering relatives who died, planning family outings, and--food, food, food!

So what were my Farkas ancestors doing at their October meetings in the 1930s?
  • At meeting #5, in October of 1933, "there was much joy and commotion at getting together again" after the summer break. The Entertainment Committee planned a card party of bridge, hearts, and poker for the November meeting, saying there would be "one prize each for a man and woman who are the biggest losers."
  • At meeting #15, in October of 1934, the discussion centered on securing a restaurant or hotel banquet room for a family Thanksgiving dinner the following month. This was the first of many annual family Thanksgivings celebrated together.
  • Because of scheduling conflicts, there was no October meeting in 1935. The first meeting of the fall was held on Sept. 29th, followed by a poker party. "All were winners," according to the minutes.
  • In October of 1936, my maternal grandparents (Hermina Farkas Schwartz and Tivador Schwartz) were congratulated on their 25th wedding anniversary. The tree created a committee to choose a gift for this occasion. Attendees chowed down on coffee, strudel, cheese, and sardines. Really, this is what the minutes said.
  • In October of 1937, the treasurer reported cash on hand of $241.91 (the equivalent of nearly $4,200 in today's dollars). The tree was planning ahead, buying grave plots in New Montefiore Cemetery on Long Island. And in another forward-thinking move, the tree voted to buy movie film to capture highlights of the family's year.
  • At meeting #51 in October of 1938, members voted to spend 50 cents for cemetery maintenance and $3 for movie film. A special committee was formed to plan the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner, at a per-person price of $1.75.
  • During meeting #61 in October of 1939, $3 was allotted for movie film, leaving a treasury balance of $79.94. Members planned the Thanksgiving dinner, to be held that year in the Hamilton Hotel. But there was one snag: "For our Thanksgiving Dinner, we would not be able to get the magician as planned. Music will be supplied by the victrola which the Freedmans have kindly offered to bring."

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
Farkas/Schwartz
  • R is for Rethy
  • R is for Roth
  • S is for Schwartz
  • S is for Simonowitz
  • S is for Steinberger/Stanbury

Friday, October 20, 2017

Family History Month: Noting My Cousin Connections

Among the sample templates and forms on my blog is a simple table for keeping track of all my cousins. As shown above, I record the names of my cousins, contact info, and notes.

Until last year, I felt I didn't really need a formal listing. Then I nearly forgot to tell one new-found Farkas cousin about a mutual cousin I had located months before. (With the permission of both cousins, I shared their contact info and they have since met in person.)

A reader just asked whether I note all my cousins or only cousins who are interested in our family's genealogy. My answer: I note all my cousins. The notes section indicates when I last spoke with each and whether I requested or received family history info, but that's not as important as compiling a complete listing of who's who among my cousin connections. In the distant future, after I join my ancestors, I want relatives to be aware of the many cousins we have and how to connect with them, should they wish.*

Of course, as my DNA research continues, I hope to be adding more names to my ever-growing list of cousin connections. And by noting names of cousins, it helps the genealogists of the future to understand exactly who's who in my family tree.

*This is one of the many tips in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, so that the next generation doesn't lose touch with their cousins.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Family History Month: Grandma's Ship Comes In

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Family History Month: Picturing My Maternal Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 15, 2017

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

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

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

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