Showing posts with label Genealogy Do-Over. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genealogy Do-Over. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Genealogy, Free or Fee--Ask for Help

Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure
One of the mysteries of my husband's family is when and where his grandma, Floyda Steiner McClure (1878-1948) was divorced from her first husband, Aaron Franklin Gottfried. This first marriage (119 years ago, in 1898) was kept quiet because divorce was so unusual in those days.

In fact, I only learned about the first marriage because Floyda disclosed it on her marriage license for her second marriage, to hubby's grandpa Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). Two years ago, a social media genealogy buddy recommended that I call the Wyandot county courts and ask for help. Without a date, however, I was told it would take time to locate the records, unless I could come in person.

Today I was working on my Genealogy Go-Over and posted again on an Ohio FB gen page, asking for ideas. Folks urged me to call the probate court one more time. I did, giving a succinct description of what I wanted and asked for their help, explaining that I needed the info for genealogy, not for legal purposes.

Probate said they didn't have anything, but Clerk of Courts might have the divorce info. They sent my call over, and I spoke with a lovely lady who took down the names and possible dates and asked me to call back in 15 minutes. I set the timer and tried to be patient until callback time.

Eureka! She found Floyda's entire divorce file, which was settled during the April Term of 1901. At 10 cents per page plus postage, I won't pay more than $3 to solve this long-standing genealogical mystery. That qualifies as almost free, wouldn't you say? UPDATE: RESULTS OF DIVORCE DECREE ARE BELOW!

As part of my Genealogy, Free or Fee series, I urge you to ask for help! Who to ask: Check the Family Search wiki to see what department might have the relevant record. I couldn't find enough detail for locating divorce decrees from 1901ish, so I had to keep looking for someone to ask. Ask in Facebook genealogy groups, or try calling the courthouse or archives directly with your question.

Be polite, be patient, and offer to mail a check or money order with SASE, to keep things simple for the nice people in the records department or wherever. Respect the time of the people on the other end. They don't need to hear our long family history sagas. Most are genuinely happy to help solve mysteries if we come to the point about what we're seeking and give them enough info to find the records or files. Just ask for help.

For more in this series of Genealogy, Free or Fee, check the summary page here.

UPDATE! According to the dozen pages of legal documents sent by the court, Floyda initiated the divorce in early 1901, alleging extreme cruelty by her husband. She requested and was granted $215 in alimony as a lump sum in May, 1901. In today's dollars, that would be worth $5,921. Floyda won back the right to use her maiden name and she ultimately remarried in 1903, to Brice Larimer McClure. Floyda and Brice are my hubby's maternal grandparents.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Genealogy, Free or Fee, Pt 6: Message Boards for Gen Do-Over

Surname and locality message boards for genealogy are free, readily searchable, and easy to use. Back in the day, we all used them for genealogy. Now, if you're doing a genealogy go-over or genealogy do-over, remember to go back and check message boards again.

Sure, they seem so last century compared with Facebook genealogy groups and other social media tools. But they can be helpful, especially if you're trying to connect with a cousin or researcher who posted a query at some point in the past.

During a Do-Over or Go-Over, use message boards to search, not necessarily to post queries. Look for clues and connections that weren't there last time you searched, or were posted since you last searched.

I found my husband's genealogist-second cousin through a message board years ago. He was trying to locate descendants of hubby's great-grandfather, Thomas Haskell Wood. I was looking for Thomas Haskell Wood's ancestors. We had complementary information and I was the lucky beneficiary of his 30 years of research, including ancestors on the Mayflower and even earlier! (Thanks again, Cousin L.) 

This encouraged me to keep searching. As this screen shot taken today indicates, some queries are still being posted on Rootsweb message boards, for example. The vast majority are from years earlier. But keep in mind--even old queries include details like names and dates, which always come in handy, even if the researchers are no longer active on the message board. Or you may get lucky and, like me, connect with cousins through the message board.

Message boards are free and worth searching for surnames and locations. If you've ever posted, be sure to keep your email address current just in case a distant relative answers your query. If you want to post a message-board query, summarize what you already know in the post and be clear about what you want to know (follow the tips on my post here.)

Do-over or go-over, social media is so much quicker for new queries, because this is where most family researchers now flock. Use the search bar on Facebook (or check Katherine Willson's definitive listing of FB genealogy groups) to find genealogy pages and click to join, then post or answer. Good luck!

NOTE: All my Genealogy--Free or Fee posts are listed and linked in the landing page along my header here.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sorting Saturday: Great-Aunt Dora Mahler's Birth Date

I'm still working on my Genealogy Go-Over, and looking more closely at my father's Mahler ancestors.

As shown above in the 1900 Census, my paternal grandmother (Henrietta Mahler Burk) was one of 7 living children of Tillie Jacobs Mahler and Meyer Elias Mahler.

The next-to-youngest girl was my great-aunt Dora Mahler, born in July 1893, according to this 1900 Census. Alas, I never met her, but she is fondly remembered by one of my 2d cousins.

Despite looking in New York City birth indexes and searching in Family Search records, I can't find Dora's actual birth certificate. When was she really born?
  • The June, 1905 New York Census showed Dora as 11 years old.
  • The April, 1910 US Census showed Dora as 15 years old.
  • The June, 1915 NY Census showed Dora as 20 years old.
  • The January, 1920 US Census showed Dora as 24 years old.
  • The June, 1925 NY Census showed Dora as 30 years old.
  • The April, 1930 US Census showed Dora as 35 years old.
  • Still searching for her and her Mom in the 1940 US Census.
  • Social Security's records show Dora's birth as July 11, 1894. But then again, her name is listed as Dorothy Lillian, not a name she was ever called in the family.
After Dora died on June 9, 1950, probably of heart failure, her brother told authorities that Dora was about 44 years old, pegging her birthday as July 11, 1905. Nope, he wasn't even close.

Dora is buried at Beth David Cemetery on Long Island, NY, but I haven't yet ventured out to see her grave (nor is she in Find A Grave or on Beth David's grave locator). So for now, I'm going to say Dora's birth date was July 11, 1893. Until new evidence emerges!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday's Tip: New Page of Sample Templates

Before I become an ancestor, I want to have all my genealogy materials organized and analyzed, ready to pass to the next generation.

Getting organized means figuring out exactly what I have, who's mentioned in which materials, and the significance of those mentions. With Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over in mind, I've been inventorying, indexing, and analyzing diaries, letters, and other materials for my side and my husband's side of the family.

Now I've added a "tab" at the top of this blog to show the various sample templates I've been using. (Please feel free to borrow my templates and adapt them to your own needs!)

Not only do these templates help me keep track of what I have and remember where everything is, they also summarize what I've learned. My goal is to help keep the family's past alive for future generations--so my genealogy heirs won't have to reinvent the wheel.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Gen Go-Over: Eyes on the Prize

Yesterday, my cousin (found through genealogy, of course) said something profound that applies to this year's Genealogy Go-Over. My cousin is a brilliant businesswoman and has keen insight into people. When she talks, I listen.

She was talking about a friend who played golf very, very well. This man was a perfectionist. When he was in a tournament, he would agonize over every swing and analyze every shot afterward, going over and over what he should have done and how he could improve.

While this gentleman was trying to perfect each shot, his competitors were playing golf. And winning. His obsession with perfecting technique derailed his ability to win.

My cousin's point: Keep your eyes on the prize. She was reminding me not to miss seeing the forest by being distracted by all the trees. Every tree is important (just like every ancestor is important) but the big picture is equally important. Stepping back to see the big picture is every bit as vital as checking, sourcing, and documenting every last detail.

One of my goals is to find out about ancestors who are known only by name, like Rachel Shuham and Jonah Jacobs, who were my paternal 2d great-grandparents from Lithuania. We know Jonah died some time before Rachel and their two children and grandchildren came to New York City in the 1880s. Lots more to learn there!

So for me, the Genealogy Go-Over is really about carefully reviewing what I know and using that info, plus new cousin connections, new techniques, and new data, to move ever closer to the prize of understanding who my ancestors were, where (exactly) they were from, and whether we have other cousins out there, still to be found!

I'm awaiting DNA results from Ancestry that I hope will offer a window into a different family story, one about my maternal grandfather's background. The story is about the various tribes that conquered Hungary hundreds of years before grandpa Tivador Schwartz was born in Ungvar. The tribes raped and pillaged their way across the landscape, and supposedly some of that tribal blood found its way into my grandpa's bloodline generations back. Will my DNA results reveal any trace of the conquering tribes? Waiting to see.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Matriarchal Monday: Genealogy Go-Over Yields Old Photos (New to Me)

As part of my Genealogy Go-Over, my sis unearthed a batch of old photos that we didn't remember seeing before, from the 1920s-1950s! Imagine, family photos more than 90 years old and we just "rediscovered" them.

Above, the earliest known photo of my mother and her twin sister, with a date. Below, what was written on the back--finally, we know who's who. Now we can use this to ID the twins in other early photos.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Gen Do-Over: Do You Have a Genealogical "Will"?

Farkas-Marks wedding, 1930s, New York City
The whole point of this year's Genealogical Do-Over is to be sure we have accurate, complete, detailed, and proven family tree information. But what happens to all this marvelous data in the future?

Please think about writing your Genealogical "Will" to be sure all your hard work and carefully-researched materials are preserved for future generations. This may well be the most important step in the entire process, to avoid family historians having to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel when you already have so much to share with your family.

I'm lucky: I have a volunteer from my side of the family and another from hubby's side of the family to take custody of all the archived records, files, photos, and family tree data, both hard copies and electronically. I'm also leaving each of these genealogy heirs a sum of money to help them preserve all my genealogical data so it gets passed down for many years.

So start by identifying your genealogical heirs. Then, with a written document, be sure your genealogical heirs know the location and disposition of:
  • Photographs (all captioned, right?!) Above, a treasured framed photo in my possession of a Farkas family wedding, showing my grandma (seated second from right) at her sister Jeanne's wedding) and grandpa (third from right, standing). I've willed this to my genealogical heir so it will always be in the family.
  • Family histories in bound or printed form
  • Diaries and notebooks from ancestors and relatives
  • Online family trees 
  • Correspondence about genealogy with relatives, historical societies, etc.
  • Original documentation (marriage/death/birth certs for instance)
  • Computer files with family tree data
  • Audio files (I have microcassettes) containing oral histories
  • DVDs, flash drives, and other electronic media containing digitized versions of genealogy data
Please emphasize to your heirs that nothing is to be thrown away. There are ways to distribute things that the family doesn't want to retain. Over the past two years, I've been culling my collection and returning photos of distant relatives and family friends to their families so they can be passed down in those lines.

In addition, I've gifted items (like a WWII war bonds wallet and an 1800s handwritten notebook of debits and credits) to historical societies and museums to be archived and maintained for the future.

To help plan your genealogical "will," check out the following links I found through a quick online search (not an endorsement, just a suggestion for more reading and follow-up). Also consider getting professional advice about your own personal situation!
  • Thomas MacEntee's compact book about how to arrange for your genealogy research to be preserved "after you're gone" (see his YouTube video here).
  • A template for a genealogical "will," from Devon Family History Society.
  • A template from the Northern Neck of Virginia Law Page for a genealogical "will."
  • Guest post on Geneabloggers by Paul Brooks about this topic.
  • Genealogical will file posted to Gen Do-Over's Facebook page by Carol Corbett Ellis-Jones.
UPDATE: Read about how and why to make a genealogical "will" in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Yanpolski Family's Voyage on August 3, 1916

The Yaplonski family: Manchester --> Bangor --> Liverpool --> NYC


This week in the Genealogy Do-Over (actually, I'm in the "go-over" phase), I reexamined the research into my paternal grandfather's Chazan family connections. This is part of the strategy of "researching sideways" -- looking at what siblings and in-laws were doing, as a way to figure out the what and the why of family movements over the years.

1911 UK Census
My Lithuanian-born grandpa Isaac Burk (1882?-1943) lived for a short time with his aunt and uncle Isaac Chazan and Ann Hinda Mitav Chazan in Manchester, England.

Isaac Chazan (also born in Lithuania) had a sister, Miriam Chazan (1880-1959), who married Lazar/Lawrence Yanpolski (1872-1938) in Manchester, England, in 1901. Manchester is at the top right corner of the map.

Lazar Yanpolski had three brothers and four sisters--and it was their life decisions that seem to have influenced Lazar and his wife to make major changes in their lives.

For instance, Lazar and Miriam moved from Manchester to Bangor, Wales (at left of map), in time to be counted there by the 1911 UK Census. I don't know exactly when they moved, but I do know that one of Lazar's younger brothers lived in Wales in 1907, and his sister Rebecca lived there a few years earlier. Another sister, Eva, married in Wales in 1898. It seems reasonable to believe that Yanpolski family connections encouraged the move from Manchester.

In Wales, Lazar's family consisted of his wife Miriam, their 3 daughters (Frances May, Eva, and Nancy Leah), and Lawrence's father, Simon/Shevak Yanpolski. Father and son Yanpolski were shopkeepers, according to the census. They lived at 305 High Street, Bangor, Wales. Mapping the area shows that to be a street filled with shops and residences above the stores. Probably they "lived above the store" as so many shopkeepers did.

S.S. Philadelphia manifest, Liverpool to NYC, 3 August 1916
Then 99 years ago, on August 3rd, 1916, Lazar and Miriam and their children (including one-year-old son Major) set sail from the port of Liverpool on the S.S. Philadelphia, bound for New York (see excerpt from manifest, at right).


The timing of the Yanpolski's voyage is squarely in the middle of England and Wales's involvement in WWI. Was this a dangerous trip across the Atlantic because of the war? Were economic factors a consideration? Lazar's siblings had arrived in Chicago a few years earlier. I don't know for certain, but once again, it seems reasonable to assume that family ties encouraged this move to a new country and a new life.

One last note: The Yanpolski brothers changed their names in America. Lazar took the last name "Lawrence." Another brother took the surname "Young." Yet another took the surname "Pole."

Monday, June 15, 2015

Gen Do-Over, Week 11: How FB Helped Me Research Capitola Steiner and Alfred P. Welburn

With a first name like Capitola, how hard can it be to research one of hubby's 1st cousins, once removed? Turns out it's not so easy.

Capitola Steiner (1883-1942) was the niece of hubby's grandma, Floyda Steiner. I knew she married Alfred P. Welburn (1878-1953), because the names were in Grandma Floyda's will, along with a Massachusetts address from the 1940s. Using Ancestry and Family Search, I was able to locate their marriage cert (above) and learn the names of their children. Using one of the news databases, I learned that Alfred was Treasurer of the Cadillac Co. of Boston in 1920, when he and some other Cadillac execs were treated to a ride in an "aero-marine flying boat" from Boston harbor to Long Island, NY.

But nowhere (not even on Findagrave) could I find their final resting places or dates. Enter Facebook genealogy!

I'm a member of the Massachusetts Genealogy Network on FB. I posted a note asking for ideas and help locating Capitola and Alfred's place of burial and obits. Within hours, several kind members had told me exactly where the two were buried (Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge) and sent me obits and other details.

Thanks to their research, I was able to enter the names, dates, and plot locations in Findagrave. I also have death notices, plus a 1929 article from the Boston Herald with a photo of Alfred.

Now I know that Alfred, whose occupation was "machinist" in 1903 when he married Capitola, was an automotive pioneer who helped to engineer the first Buick car. He was service manager of the Packard Auto Co. in Boston and then became Treasurer and VP/assistant general manager at Cadillac of Boston. In his 60s, Alfred was foreman of a shift at GE's plant in Everett, MA, during WWII.


Capitola and Alfred were married in Crawford county, Ohio, on 17 June 1903. Happy 112th anniversary! 

And many thanks again to the genealogy enthusiasts on social media who are incredibly generous with their ideas and assistance.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sibling Saturday: "Lady" Ada Slatter Arrives with $2.50

One of the ongoing mysteries in the Wood family tree is when/where Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925), hubby's paternal grandma, arrived in America. In the spirit of the Gen Do-Over, I'm reviewing unsolved mysteries and looking at gaps in my research with fresh eyes.

Since the Slatters were from London (albeit a very poor part of the city), I conducted an Ancestry search of passengers from London to Canada in the 1890s. After all, the three musical Slatter brothers were interested in Canada, and Capt. John Daniel Slatter already lived in Toronto by 1884. Previously, I'd tried to trace the Mary Slatter from London to New York or another US port.

Lo and behold, up popped Ada Slatter (formally Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter, sister of hubby's grandma) aboard the S.S. Labrador, from Liverpool to Quebec/Montreal in the spring of 1895.

Her "calling or occupation" was Lady (which I guess sounds better than "spinster" as I've seen on so many other manifests). [SEE BELOW!] She was going to her father in Cleveland. She paid her own passage, had a ticket to her final destination, and held $2.50 in her purse. A $1 in 1895 was worth approximately $28 in today's money, so she carried the equivalent of $70 when she arrived.

Aunt Ada, as she was known to hubby and his siblings, was born on May 20, 1868. She was the 5th of 6 children of Mary Shehen Slatter and John Slatter. Hubby's grandma Mary Slatter Wood was the baby of the family, born a year after Ada in 1869.

Within a year after Ada joined her father in Cleveland, she met and married John Sills Baker, a fellow Englishman. Their two children (hubby's first cousins, once removed) were Dorothy Louise Baker and Edith Eleanor Baker.

Now will I find Mary Slatter's trans-Atlantic passage during the Gen Do-Over?

PS  On the Canadian passenger manifest (above), Ada Slatter said her profession was "sevt" which must mean . . . "servant." Within a few days, as she crossed the border into Vermont en route to Cleveland, she transformed into a "lady."

Monday, March 16, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 11: If Only Floyda Had Been on Facebook

This week's Do-Over topic has to do with social media. I almost titled this post "The Forever Do-Over" because with social media, the do-over process never ends (and that's as it should be).
Floyda Mabel Steiner Gottfried McClure and grandson

You just never know what you'll find out or who you'll meet, and what brick wall you'll smash because of new data or new people on Facebook, a blog, or other social media.

As dedicated as I've been to researching via surname and location message boards, social media queries are more targeted and often get faster responses.

Case in point: Floyda Mabel Steiner, my husband's grandma. Born March 20, 1878 (happy 137th bday) in Nevada, Ohio, Floyda married Aaron Franklin Gottfried (1871-1961) in 1898.

I only learned of Floyda's first marriage when I sent for her marriage documents from June, 1903, when she married Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). So clearly Floyda was divorced after the 1900 Census (where I found her as Mrs. Floyda Gottfried, wife of a farmer) but before her remarriage in June, 1903. I searched but couldn't find Floyda's first marriage documents or her divorce documents back in 2011 when I first uncovered her "hidden" first marriage that no one in the family had ever heard of.

And by the way, Floyda wasn't exactly forthcoming in the 1910 census, when she said this was her 1st marriage when, in fact, it was her 2nd marriage. Wonder whether her 2d husband knew?

Anyway, as part of the Do-Over, I posted a note on the Ohio Genealogy Network's FB page this past weekend, wondering where to look for Floyda's divorce documents--and got answers right away. One member suggested I call the Clerk of the Courts in Wyandot County and even provided the phone number. Another did a lookup on Family Search and discovered that Floyda's first marriage document was posted there! (See it above.)

Update: I called the Clerk of the Courts again two years later and a lovely lady did the lookup for me. She was divorced in April, 1901

If Floyda had been on Facebook, all her friends and relatives would have known when and where she was divorced and I'd know too. Now, thanks to Facebook, I'll soon know when and where and, hopefully, why--the most important question for the family to answer. The answer will be on this blog for future researchers to read all about it.

My Genealogy Do-Over will never be "done" because there are always more questions to ask/answer and more FB groups to be part of. And that's a good thing because I heart genealogy.





Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Honeymooning in Atlantic City (in November)

My parents honeymooned in Atlantic City, NJ during the week after Thanksgiving in 1946. As part of the Genealogy Do-Over, I've been scanning photos from Mom's album.

Here is a photo taken on the boardwalk. Some cousins were enjoying the late November breezes along with my parents, the couple at far right, Harold Burk and Daisy Schwartz Burk!

Cousins, recognize anyone? At far left...my father's first cousin Sylvia with a boyfriend. In the middle, Sylvia's BFF and her future husband. The couple in front is still a mystery.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 9: My Aha Moment While Digitizing Daisy's Album


Sometimes the first time I see a document or photo, I don't understand what I'm seeing. But later, with more info or more context, the fog clears and it becomes clear why that photo or letter is important.

This photo is a case in point. I'm organizing, inventorying, and digitizing old family photos as part of week 9 of the do-over process. And I had an aha! moment just today.

This photo is in an album started by my Mom, Daisy Schwartz, after she became engaged to marry my Dad, Harry Burk. In July, 1947, the newly-married couple took a trip to Montreal, returning with more than a dozen black-and-white photos of people and places.

Years ago, when I originally saw this photo in Mom's album, I didn't know the significance of the caption: "Cuthbert St. - Montreal."

But since I learned last year that Dad had an Uncle Abraham, Aunt Anna, and four first cousins in Montreal, photos from this trip took on new meaning.

In researching Aunt Anna, I recently located her 1948 obituary, which mentions that her oldest son lived on Cuthbert Street in Montreal. Aha! That little detail puts the significance of this photo and its caption in a new light.

Thanks to the do-over, I'm finding more connections between people, places, and events that I didn't originally know were connected!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 7: Digitizing Maps and More

Old maps have dates and memories that add richness and detail to my genealogy research.
In week 7 of the Do-Over, I'm digitizing the maps that have been passed down in my family because they're clues to my ancestors' daily lives and some of the places they lived and visited--places that were meaningful to them and to me.

My grandparents on both sides (Schwartz, Farkas, Mahler, Burk) settled in New York City. They never owned a car but they and their children and grandchildren knew the subway and bus routes very, very well.

My in-laws (Wood, McClure) liked to drive to New York City from their home in Cleveland to visit family, see Broadway shows, etc. My father-in-law also saved state maps that were given away by gas stations, including old maps for Indiana, Ohio, and beyond.

Above, part of the family's collection of New York City transit and street maps. The Hagstrom's maps are the oldest, and the World's Fair maps are the youngest (just 50 years old!). All being photographed and inventoried as part of Week 7 in the Do-Over.
PS: The Do-Over participants explained how to add my blog's name to photographs I post. Thank you!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 7: Scanning and Happily Chasing BSOs

Nellie Block, circa 1940s, New York City
Yes, I'm skipping ahead to week 7 of Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over series. Why? Because I'm digitizing photos concurrently with my week 1-2-3 activities. I'm from the "touch it once" school of thought--as long as I'm inventorying, I might as well scan photos and documents that aren't already in my database.

The "Burk/Mahler" box I've been inventorying has a number of photos that tantalize me. For instance, this full-length photo, at left, of Nellie Block. She was a sister of my grandpa Isaac Burk (1882?-1943). Nellie and the photo are a bright, shiny object (BSO) I can't let go. When inspiration strikes, I go along for the ride!

The photo is undated but it's from the 1940s, I believe, because Nellie looks much like she did at my parents' wedding in 1946. She's at the door of a private home, possibly a duplex, probably in one of the outer boroughs of New York City.

When Isaac came to New York City in 1904, via Canada, his entry document said (as shown above) he was going "to sister Nellie Block, 1956 3rd Ave., corner 107th St." By the time of the 1905 NY census, however, Nellie was no longer at that apartment building--although Isaac was living there, in the apartment of his future in-laws, Meyer & Tillie Mahler. So far, I haven't found Nellie anywhere in NYC,  nor have I found any historical documents with her name on them.

I know Nellie was alive and well in the 1930s because she received this invitation to a cousin's wedding in 1934.

Most likely Nellie was living not far from her brother Isaac, who was in the Bronx at the time. I'm going to try NYC directories (having already tried the census, marriage/death records, and the other usual official records).

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 3: Who the Heck Is That? (Photos and Labels)

I'm inventorying each box of documents for the Do-Over. That means listing contents, labeling who's who, and putting items into archival sleeves with identification on the outside.

After inventory, I'll know what I have so I can do research in the next phase of the Do-Over.

Yesterday I began on the Burk box, my father's family, and included was this photo of three people and a piglet. Only last year, I connected with my second cousin in Montreal and she quickly identified the mystery man at right as her father, Dad's first cousin.

Colleen of the wonderful Leaves & Branches gen blog asked how I label photos. After investigating and experimenting, I decided to:
  1. Scan (at 300 dpi or higher) and then put each photo (or small group of related photos) in its own sleeve or archival bag. 
  2. Type up a detailed explanation, including names and relationships, date, place, and any other specifics I've learned about the photo.
  3. Put the explanation on the outside of the photo sleeve so the paper doesn't touch the photo. Above, a photo of how I tucked it in and taped it to the reverse of the archival bag holding the actual photo.
  4. Inventory and then file all photos/explanations in an archival box, arranged by surname.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 3: Clues Are Everywhere

This is the week for conducting research and I'm doing a bit of it even as I continue inventorying those 19 archival boxes of family photos and documents sitting in my home office.

Tonight I inventoried one of the boxes holding papers and photos of my father, Harold Burk (1909-1978).

For instance, I picked up this photo of Dad in WWII, given to me a few months ago from my first cousin, who got it from our uncle, Sidney Burk (1914-1995). Research shows that Sidney enlisted in the Army a few months after his older brother Harold enlisted in 1942.

I turned the photo over. No caption, no writing. Dad did write on the backs of some photos, just not this one.

Still, I pulled out my trusty magnifying glass and checked the back more carefully. There, in the upper left corner, was a very faint impression of an old-fashioned postmark. See the photo below. By turning the photo this way and that under strong light, I could make out the year: 1942. The photo had been mailed to someone in the family, and the strength of the postmark penetrated the envelope and left an impression on the photo!

Research shows Dad enlisted at Camp Upton, NY on March 7, 1942. I also have his $10,000 National Service Life Insurance policy, issued on April 1, 1942.

Looking at the uniform and the place, I conclude this is Dad in basic training somewhere in the south.** He must have had the photo taken and mailed it to his brother, either at home in the Bronx or wherever his brother was in basic training.

Clues are everywhere. When I log this photo in my inventory list, my source for dating it will be the official government stamp showing the year :)

** Further inventorying in same archival box turned up a different photo of Dad in same uniform, same time--with a studio name stamped on the back. It was taken in Miami, FL.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 2: Interviewing My Family Photos

Family photos CAN talk! We just have to ask the right interview questions. As I was inventorying my genealogy boxes for "Week 1" of the Do-Over, I saved the box with info on my immediate family for "Week 2."

In between school photos and family portraits, I found a long-forgotten set of b/w snapshots with this notation in my mother's handwriting: "Chanukah 19XX - December."

 That answered my first "interview" question--when and why my parents, my sisters, and I were together with all these relatives from my father's side of the family tree.

It was holiday time, so a basement-full of Mahler and Burk and Markell children (and adults) were gathered to celebrate, drinking what looks like a year's supply of chocolate milk and having a fun afternoon.

Second interview question: What do I know about these photos, either from my own memories or from what the images show or suggest? Well, I clearly remember the special party dress I wore (you can't see it in these particular snaps). And I can definitely identify several aunts and uncles (and great-aunts and uncles) and maybe a couple of cousins.

Other folks, however, are a mystery, as is the exact location--I think it's a community room or rec center, judging by the non-residential look of the room. If only Mom had noted the place, that would have been sooooooo helpful.

These relatives must be part of my father's family tree, but who's who?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 1 Recap: What's in the Box? My Inventory Sheet

Out of 19 archival boxes of family history documents and photos, I've inventoried exactly ONE this week. I also have to inventory surname/ancestor file folders, but one thing at a time.

My inventory sheet is a basic MS Word table, with four headings. I plan to place one copy in the box, with names highlighted in yellow (or color coded, if I'm feeling ambitious). Will also place a copy of the inventory in the file of each surname/family represented in the box.

Here's a sample of what I did for the Dorothy & Daisy box, which contains photos of my mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk) and her twin sister (Dorothy Schwartz) as children and teenagers. My entries are more than bare bones--they have to be descriptive enough that a future genealogist can match the item on this list with the actual item in the box. But I've also labeled each item in the box so it can be matched with the list or identified on its own.
MS Word table showing an excerpt of my inventory for the Genealogy Do-Over


While I was inventorying the box, I rescanned a few things in higher resolution. Shown here, photos of Mom around the time of her high school graduation.

This box also contains documents describing Dorothy's military career as a WAAC during WWII, one of several in our family serving in the war effort. Dorothy received the Bronze Star for meritorious service, and I'm happy to have all the documents pertaining to her award in one place and inventoried for posterity.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 1: It's Inventory Time!

Thanks to Geneabloggers' Thomas MacEntee for suggesting this year's Genealogy Do-Over.

The idea is to retrace family trees from scratch . . . using new research . . . fresh eyes . . . the latest techniques . . . and to collect supporting documents that will back up the names/dates and relationships. In other words, don't just do it over, do it right this time.

My first step (throughout January) is to take inventory of everything I've collected in nearly 20 years of family history research. That includes:
  • Original marriage licenses, birth certificates, death certificates, and other vital records.
  • Obituaries, diplomas, commencement booklets, wedding/engagement announcements, birth announcements, and other announcements or invitations.
  • Newspaper and newsletter articles about family members (birth, death, anniversary, business accomplishments, bankruptcies, etc.).
  • Ship manifests.
  • Digital documents.
  • Scraps of paper with phone numbers, addresses, notes about cousins knowing cousins, etc.
Photos are a rich source of genealogical detail, and I plan to inventory mine, family by family. They're already in special sleeves and stored in archival boxes (see above), separated by surname and individual. Now I need a master list of each person, each family, and each box so I can quickly put my hands on a photo of Dad that might be in Burk box #2 (of 3 or more), for example.

After I take inventory, I'll begin the indexing process. It's not enough to know what I have, I need to know who each item relates to. I'm an experienced indexer by this time, having indexed all the names in 500+ pages of Farkas Family Tree documents stretching back 30 years. I've also indexed the names in my late father-in-law's 25 years of diaries. So this is just more of the same, on a larger scale.

Oh, the places I'll go! The people I'll meet! Do-Over, Week 1, here I come.