Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sibling Saturday: The Twins and Their Matching Pearls

For decades, I've had a three-strand pearl bracelet with silver-backed clasp, too tiny for ordinary human wrists.

I knew it was inherited, but I had no other info. Which side of the family was it from? Who had worn it? No idea.

Until now. Yesterday, my sis "rediscovered" a photo of my mother and her twin sister, dressed in matching 1920s dresses for some occasion, with matching Buster Brown haircuts.

No names are on the back, so we don't know which one is Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981) and which is Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001).

Nor do we know what the occasion was. They were born in winter, so these aren't birthday dresses.

Notice the sisters are wearing matching pearl necklaces and on one of the wrists, a slender three-strand pearl bracelet is visible. (See close-up of the wrist, below.)

Mystery solved: This bracelet must have been inherited from my mother or aunt, whose normal-sized adult wrists were too large for the tiny pearls. Of course the bracelet will be passed down in the family with the photo and the story! 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Surname Saturday: McKibbin/McKibben family of Indiana

I've returned to searching newspaper databases for colorful tidbits about ancestors, inspired by Janeen Bjork.

Fortunately for my research into hubby's McKibbin/McKibben family, there are lots of old Indiana newspapers available to search.

(NOTE: I just posted a new ancestor landing page for McKibbin/Larimer connections.)

At left, one of the more bizarre articles I found in Elkhart newspapers from 1903. Headline: Skeleton Puzzles Farmers Living East of Goshen.

The key man in the action is John Wright McKibben (McKibbin), hubby's 2d cousin 3x removed, son of "Squire" Alexander McKibbin and Harriet Larimer McKibbin.

It seems that farmer McKibben (1850-1911) unearthed a skeleton in a gravel pit.

The newspaper speculated on who the dead person might be. Possibly Bill Swazy who went missing after a night of heavy drinking?

I previously found an article about another of "Squire" McKibbin's children, Phoebe McKibbin Herrold. The headline: Dies in Chair as She Crochets. Can't make this stuff up!

The squire's wife, Harriet Larimer McKibbin, died of "lung fever" according to the sentence in the news I found. The squire himself "dropped dead" at his home, as the news item above shows. 

Any McKibbin-McKibben-Larimer cousins reading this, please feel free to comment!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Saluting Relatives Who Served Our Country

For Veterans' Day 2015, I wrote (again) about my father and uncle, Harold and Sidney Burk, who served in the US Army during WWII. Also my aunt, Dorothy Schwartz, who was a WAC in WWII, and my uncle, Fred Shaw, who was in the US Army in WWII.

Now I want to honor other relatives who served our country during the world wars.

Let me start with my great uncle Louis Volk, whose service seems particularly dangerous because he was in munitions factories during 1918. Louis married my paternal great-aunt Ida Mahler in 1920 and was a close member of the family, helping my father get a leg up on his career before WWI.

My maternal grandma Farkas's cousin, Johnny Weiss, was also in WWI. His service "CAC" stands for US Army's Coast Artillery Corps.

My two Farkas great-uncles, Julius and Morris Farkas, were in WWI, even though Julius registered as a conscientious objector. Julius served as a cook in the war, while Morris processed new recruits and discharged vets for the US Army.

Farkas in-law Milton Grossman (who married great-aunt Irene Farkas) served in the Infantry during WWI. Farkas in-law Morris Pitler (who married great-aunt Freda Farkas) was also in the Army Coast Artillery Corps during WWI, serving as a radio sgt.

Farkas cousins and cousins-in-law who served in WWII included George Farkas and his brother Bob Farkas, Abe Ezrati, and Harry Pitler.

On my maternal grandfather's side, his nephew, Morton M. Schwartz, served in WWII.

Thank you to these relatives who served during wartime.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Genealogy Blog Party: Duh to Wow! Uncle Sidney's Birth Record Leads to New Cousins

The May theme for Elizabeth O'Neal's Genealogy Blog Party is: Duh! What was your genealogy "duh" moment and how did you solve it?

Dad (Harold Burk) and Uncle Sidney in WWII

I knew my father's younger brother, Sidney Burk, was born in Canada in 1914, and brought across the border by his mom a year later when she moved back to NYC as her husband looked for work there.

But since Uncle Sidney died a bachelor, and I knew him well, I never bothered to look for his birth records or even his naturalization, assuming there was one.

This was an anomaly: I'm forever chasing after genealogy documents of ancestors' siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins--because there are often nuggets hidden in their documents that can help me learn more about the family (like maiden names or hometowns). For some reason, I just didn't see my uncle's birth as a research priority, especially since I knew little about searching in Canadian records.

Then I heard an expert in French-Canadian genealogy mention the Drouin collection. I went home, logged on, and entered "S Berk" with "Quebec, Canada" as the place of birth. (Berk was the family's name before Burk.)

The top result of my search was "Samuel B. Berk," a name I never heard of. But with a click, I had on the screen a handwritten record of Uncle Sidney's birth, as the son of Henrietta Mahler Berk and Isaac Berk, my grandparents. Duh. So simple, and quite intriguing to find out he'd been given a different name than the one I knew him by.

Double duh: A few lines down in the results was a "Lily Berr" and below that, "Rose Bert." Click: they were both related to Abraham Berk (not transcribed correctly but worth a click to check). I know that name! It's my great-uncle, the brother of my grandpa Isaac. Never before had I known where Abraham lived or the names of his children, and suddenly that entire line opened up to me. Even better, there were living cousins who I soon traced and now am in contact with.

So my duh led to discovering an entire limb of my father's family tree. From duh to WOW!

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.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Free the Faces on Slides to Unlock Family Stories

Do you, like me, have binders or boxes filled with 35mm slides?

Think of all those faces and stories trapped on those teeny, tiny slides. Some of my big breakthroughs in genealogy have come when a cousin recognized a face in a photo and dredged up an old family story. If those little faces don't escape from the slides, family stories may not come to light.

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood, had a dozen slide trays filled with travel images. Others in the family stored slides in binders (see above). These slides were not only dated, they had a table of contents with each binder and notes about where/why the photos were taken. A great head start for family history research!

However, it's not a good idea to leave slides in these plastic sleeves for decades, unless they're archival quality. Even then, remember that slide technology is old technology.

How many of our descendants will have or want a slide projector? I have one spare projector bulb. In 15 or 50 years, will another bulb be available if a grandchild or great-great-grandkid wants to view slides? Probably not. Will they even know what a projector was??

So it's time to downsize, move to newer technology, and organize.
  • Decide what to save, then toss or give away the rest. With apologies to my dad-in-law, 95% of his slides were of unknown landscapes, well-known world landmarks, grass or sky--we tossed those. We saved the 5% of slides with people and/or recognizable homes/rooms.  
  • Transfer the slides to digital images. We digitized nearly everything and filed them digitally by surname. We printed some images to blow up and share with the family, adding full printed captions to the hard copies. Keep the technology up to date, switching away from CDs to USBs and the cloud, or whatever is the latest.
  • Share the images. Printing allowed us to show photos to relatives who helped figure out who was who. It was fun to blow up a couple of slides of holidays in the old homestead, which would never have been seen again if they were trapped in 35mm slide technology.
  • Caption, caption, caption. While relatives can still remember who's who and when slides or photos were taken, write the captions now. Store captions with printed photos and/or write up the captions and file by surname, referring to digitized images and their location in the cloud or on a DVD or wherever.
Free the faces and unlock those family stories!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Wood's Society Syncopators

This banner, on velvet, dates from hubby's father's career playing jazz piano during and after college in the jazz era of the mid-1920s.

Who were the Society Syncopators? Well, originally, Fate Marable's Society Syncopators popularized jazz on Mississippi riverboats during the 1920s--most likely the inspiration for Edgar James Wood using a similar name for his jazz band or trio.

Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators were the band in 1959's Some Like It Hot, which is set in 1929.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Military Monday: It's a Long Way to Tipperary WWI Handkerchief

Hubby's grandma, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925), kept this handkerchief from World War I. Someone wrote "World War 1914" in pencil at bottom right and then, just in case that wasn't enough, permanently inked "World War 1914" at bottom right. (Mary's Shehen grandparents were born in Ireland but she and her parents were born in England.)

Mary most likely received this from one of her bandmaster brothers in Canada, Captain John Slatter of the 48th Highlanders in Toronto or Henry Arthur Slatter of the 72d Seaforth Highlanders in Vancouver or Albert William Slatter of the 7th London Fusiliers in Ontario.
 It's a Long Way to Tipperary was popular during WWI, and troops were heard singing it all over Europe.

I did a little Web research and discovered this exact handkerchief in the collection of London's Imperial War Museum! And in other museums, including Museum Victoria in Australia and the Canadian War Museum.

The medal is the Victoria Cross.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy Mom's Day to Two Much-Missed Moms

A loving tribute to two loving moms.

At left is my Mom, Daisy, about age 20. She graduated high school at 16 but instead of going directly to college, she worked to help her siblings through college.

At right is hubby's Mom, Marian, about age 48. She was a talented ceramicist and enthusiastically supported all her children's artistic endeavors.

My Mom's parents were from the Farkas and Schwartz families. My mom-in-law's parents were from the McClure and Steiner families. Thinking of these Moms and the Moms in their families on Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

In Loving Memory on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Both of the ladies in this photograph, dear sisters of my grandpa Theodore Schwartz, lost their lives in the Holocaust. On Yom HaShoah, I want to honor their memory and the lives of so many others who were killed by saying:

Never forget. Never again.