Showing posts with label Soundex. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Soundex. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

IAJGS Day 4: Litvak, More Litvak, and Search Tips

My Litvak immersion day started with Carol Hoffman's outstanding session, "Your Litvak Roots," followed by Judy Baston's super-valuable session, "Enhancing Your Litvak Research."

Both my paternal grandpa (Isaac Burk) and paternal grandma (Henrietta Mahler) may have clues hiding in the Litvak SIG databases. This morning was my opportunity to get better at finding those clues! Carol also explained about the areas covered by these databases.

One great take-away from Carol's session was: When you use the search box on the home page of the Litvak SIG home page, remember that it does not search the All-Lithuania Database. Another useful tip: If you find an ancestor held an internal passport (issued between the wars), send for it because there will be 7 or more pages filled with personal details.

By the time Judy took the microphone, the room was almost entirely full. Her talk was also specific and practical, describing the databases and search capabilities, and the constant flow of new records being found, translated, and added. Judy reinforced Carol's suggestion to use the interactive map, blow it up to see tiny villages surrounding larger towns, and expand your search to these other villages in case ancestors recorded births or married there, for instance. (Her reminder: Use current spelling of the area, not the old-fashioned name.)

She also explained the various search possibilities, including "fuzzy," "fuzzier," and "fuzziest." (Really! And really good to know how these work!) In addition, Judy urged the audience to check out Miriam Weiner's Routes to Roots Foundation for the existence of records in Eastern Europe.

Then I crossed the foyer to see Banai Lynn Feldstein's "Search as an Art." One key tip: Don't assume that a particular site uses US Soundex for its searches. She reminded the audience that Jewish Gen, for instance, uses Daitch-Mokotoff, as does Ancestry's Jewish Collection. (Read more about D-M and Soundex here.)

Banai echoed what so many other speakers have said, over and over (with good reason): Indexing may be incorrect or incomplete--always read the original image! She showed a few examples of why indexers sometimes get it wrong, urging us to click and read the image for ourselves.

Just for a change, I actually left the hotel and walked around, despite the 95 degree weather. Now I'm taking advantage of the Resource Room (it's ProQuest day).

One final session of the day: C. Ann Staley's "A Gold Mine To Be Discovered," about many overlooked resources--often free--that can provide clues or actual info. Her handout is incredible, and the session was extremely valuable. One resource I've used and wish I could find more of is Brag Books, usually county "histories" with (somewhat inflated, at times) biographies of leading citizens. She reminded us that these were paid bios submitted by the citizens, so use with caution. Another top tip: Look for WPA Historical Records Surveys in state archives. These might have housing surveys, church records, all kinds of detailed surveys done in the 1930s, with clues and actual data for genealogists. One final tip from this session: When using period newspapers, browse/read the entire newspaper to get context for your ancestor's life. Very meaty session!

Thursday will be another exciting day. Can't wait.

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.

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

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.