Showing posts with label Louis Volk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Louis Volk. Show all posts

Saturday, January 6, 2018

52 Ancestors #1: Grandpa Got Me Started in Genealogy

I never knew my father's father, Grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943). I didn't know what he looked like, didn't know when or where he was born, didn't know when or where he died. But it was Grandpa who got me started on my genealogy journey 20 years ago.

In 1998, the genealogist of my mother's Farkas family wanted to add my father and his parents to her comprehensive family tree. There was little I could tell her other than Grandpa's name. There was no one left to ask. Of course, I couldn't resist trying to find out more. Little did I know how elusive Grandpa's trail was going to be!

As a complete novice, my first stop was the Milstein Division of the New York Public Library. In those days of microfilm research, I figured this was one-stop shopping for info and advice about finding Grandpa Isaac's records. I was sure he lived in New York City after arriving from somewhere in Eastern Europe.


With the help of librarians, I checked NYC directories and newspaper records. Yup, Grandpa Isaac and Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk did live in NYC. I cranked that microfilm reader until I found a terse obit in the New York Times for October 10, 1943. No mention of burial place. Nothing in death record indexes. Next, I mailed a check to New York City with a search request for Grandpa's death cert. I was hooked and had to know more.

Uh-oh. No NYC death cert was on record. Nor was there a death cert in New York State. And no hint of which cemetery Grandpa might be buried in. Remember, Find a Grave was in its infancy, so I couldn't just click to search for him. The funeral folks couldn't help, either.

I continued my quest for Grandpa Isaac little by little over the next few years, locating his marriage record from 1906 and all the US and NY State Census records available at the time. But--no death cert, even though every document showed him living in NYC. Still, I was determined to solve this seemingly basic family mystery.

In desperation, I actually called New York City's vital records department and threw myself on their mercy, asking for help. A very kind gentleman lowered his voice and told me I should try searching further afield. He offered the unofficial hint that Grandpa Isaac might have died in someplace like, say, Washington, D.C.

Huh? Who would Grandpa Isaac and Grandma Henrietta know in Washington, D.C.? And why would Grandpa have died there?

I immediately wrote to the vital records department in D.C., including a check, and waited.

Two weeks later, I had Grandpa Isaac's death cert in my hand. The details fit, this was definitely him. Later, I found Isaac's naturalization record and saw his face and signature for the very first time.

Why were Isaac and Henrietta in D.C. for four days before he had a heart attack and died--in the home of Louis Volk?

The quest for a connection with Louis Volk eventually brought me into contact with some wonderful 2d cousins! But that's another story for another week in the challenge. 

I only wish Grandpa Isaac could know how he got me started in #genealogy--and that I'm making sure the family knows as much about him and his life story as I can discover.


Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge!

#52Ancestors 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: The Salad Scoopers That Returned Home

Fourteen months ago, my 2d cousin Lois found me through this blog. We saw each other twice this year, both times at happy family occasions (one in her immediate family and one in mine). It has been such a joy getting to know her and her family!

Now I'm going through my photos looking for connections between our branches of the family tree, and here are two, along with the story of the salad set that went from my part of the family to hers and back again.

Lois's grandma was Ida Mahler Volk, shown above at far left with my mother, Daisy Schwartz, who was then engaged to marry my father, Harold Burk, Ida's nephew. Ida (my great-aunt) is shown alone in the photo at the right, quite a glamorous lady IMHO.

Both of these photos were taken in July 1946, when Daisy and Harold, then engaged for six months, flew to Washington, D.C. to visit with the Volks. (They flew because Harold was a travel agent and this was one of the perks at the time.*)

Ida was extremely close to her sister Henrietta Mahler, my father's mother, and Lois has several stories about the sisters' love for and generosity toward each other.

Lois also told me that Harold and Daisy brought a house gift to Ida and Louis when they visited: A lucite/stainless steel salad set with a big bowl and a serving scooper, very "mid-century modern" in today's language of style. That set was used and enjoyed for many, many years and Lois inherited it, along with the story.

Now fast-forward to my niece's wedding last month. Lois gifted the happy couple with this very set of salad utensils, a wonderful, sentimental reminder of the ties that connect the generations of our family.

My niece never met her grandparents, Daisy and Harold--they died long before she was born--but now she's the delighted caretaker of this salad set, which has come back to the Burk part of the family after 65 years. Thank you, Lois!

*How do I know they flew? These photos were in a photo album in a series that starts with a photo of Daisy and Harold on the staircase leading off a plane. That photo is marked "July 1946, Washington, D.C." The photos with Ida are only a page or so beyond. Thank you, Daisy, for marking these so clearly!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - "Cousin Bait" Blog

Over on "West in New England," Bill West posted a message he called "What is the worth of a genealogy blog?" Some of the people who commented on Bill's post mentioned genealogy blogs they called "Cousin Bait."

That's my theme for Treasure Chest Thursday--Cousin Bait.

I'm not a professional genealogist nor is my blog intended as a scholarly recitation of my family history. The real reason to maintain my blog is, as my masthead says, "Ongoing adventures in genealogy...finding out who my ancestors were and connecting with cousins today!"

In other words, the true treasure (for me) is in connecting with cousins. Thankfully, I've been blessed with quite a treasure trove of cousins to connect with. Most recently my 2nd cousin Lois "found" me when she Googled her grandfather's name and up popped a blog post I'd written about hoping to find out his story. Her grandfather, Louis Volk, was my great-uncle by marriage to my great-aunt, Ida Mahler, and in trying to learn about them, I've now connected with her.

Cuz Lois has lots of stories to tell about this line of our family! And she's delighted to share her stories with me. Just as important, she's introducing me to my other 2nd cousins--cousins that, thanks to Lois, I'll be meeting in person in just a few months.

So I like the idea of a Cousin Bait blog because it brings me closer to my treasured family connections. Yay for Cousin Bait blogs! And here's hoping that 2011 will bring more cousins together, in your family and in mine.