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.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"Uncle Joseph Roth" Links the Wajman and Weiss Families

For two years, I've been searching for the link between the Weiman family, Roth family, and Weiss family. My Roth cousins knew they were related to the Weiman family, and vice versa. But how? And we all wondered how my Roth cousins are related to me!

Part of the answer was on page 2 of a passenger manifest showing Hersch Wajman, wife Ida, and daughter Magda, sailing from Liverpool on the "Carmania" on 18 February 1921 and arriving in New York City on 28 February 1921.

On line 6, shown above, Hersch (Herman) Wajman (later Weiman) said the family was going to "Uncle Joseph Roth" at an address in New York City--an address that appears on Joseph Roth's passport application. This is an exact match for the Joseph Roth who was the brother-in-law of my great-grandma, Lena Kunstler Farkas.

It's complicated--Joseph Roth's brother was Bela Roth, and Bela's first wife was Zalli Kunstler (sister of Lena, my ggm). Gets even more complicated: Bela's second wife was Batia Bertha Weiss.

If you're still with me, the maiden name of Hersch/Herman Wajman/Weiman's wife was Ida Julia Weiss, known as Julia. We have other Weiss in-laws in my Farkas family, some who are married to Roths.





I did a search for Herman and Julia's young daughter Magda, who arrived at Ellis Island as a one-year-old, and this turned up a second manifest. The family was originally booked to sail from London to Boston on the "Saxonia" on 17 February 1921, arriving on 2 March 1921. They were crossed off that passenger list, as shown above. How and why the Weiman family switched from the port of London to the port of Liverpool and chose to land in New York instead of Boston, I just don't know.

The manifest is readable enough to be sure this is the correct Wajman/Weiman family. Hersh named his mother, "K Wajmann" as the nearest relative in Opatow, Poland, where he was from. Hersh was a watchmaker who spoke Polish, Russian, Yiddish, and Hungarian.

On page 2 of the "Saxonia" manifest, not shown here, the family says they're going to join--"Uncle Joseph Roth," a manufacturer, at his business address in New York City. MY Joseph Roth!

Wait, there's more: Julia Weiss Weiman's Soc Sec application lists her parents as Isador Weiss and Fany Roth. So "Uncle Joseph Roth" appears to be Julia's uncle. Therefore: Joseph Roth's children are first cousins of Julia Weiss Weiman, and Joseph Roth's grandchildren are second cousins of Julia's children. Now we know!

Next, I'm going to look for Julia's siblings/parents and also try to learn more about Batia Bertha Weiss's siblings. If there's any overlap, then as they say in Britain, "Bob's your uncle." Or, in this case, "Joseph's your uncle."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Genealogy Blog Party: Time Travel Adventure with Rachel and Mary

Elizabeth O'Neal over at Little Bytes of Life is throwing a Genealogy Blog Party. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the opportunity to blog about April's theme, Time Travel to an Ancestor. I asked hubby who he would like to meet in a time travel adventure, and his answer was his paternal grandma, Mary. My answer is my paternal 2d great-grandma, Rachel.
MEETING RACHEL

My time travel adventure would be with Rachel Shuham Jacobs, shown at right. She was married to Jonah Jacobs and had two children, Tillie Jacobs Mahler and Joseph Jacobs.

As I always do when reaching out to a relative (or someone I think is a relative), I'm going to start by writing Rachel a letter. Of course I'll tell her exactly who I am--what great-great-grandma wouldn't want to know that she's remembered fondly by her family?

Dear GGG Rachel,

Greetings from the future from your great-great-granddaughter! The little girl you're holding in this photo from New York City grew up, got married, and became close friends with a young woman from the Farkas family. Set up on a blind date by these "matchmaker aunts," my parents fell in love, married, and had children--including me. 

So GGG Rachel, I would really like to bring you on a time travel adventure to meet my parents on their wedding day in 1946. Then you can hug your daughter Tillie, who as matriarch was in an honored position at the wedding. Also meet your grandchildren, including my grandma Henrietta and my great-aunt Mary, the little girl who became the matchmaker aunt. 

First, a few questions, please. Where in Lithuania were you born, and who were your parents? What was life like in your home town? How did you meet and marry your husband, Jonah? And how did you feel about leaving Lithuania to live in New York with your two children? 

When I come to pick you up, please wear something a little fancy to the wedding of your great-grandson Harold. Love, Your great-great-granddaughter

MEETING MARY

Hubby would like to meet his father's mother, Mary Slatter Wood, one of two daughters of John Slatter and Mary Shehen Slatter. Mary was born in a poor (really, really poor) area of London but left in the late 1800s for America, where she married James Edgar Wood and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Sadly, Mary died before her sons were fully grown.

Dear Grandma Mary,

Greetings from the future. I'm the oldest son of your oldest son. I want you to know that the musical ability you brought into the Wood family has come down through the generations. Thank you!

Grandma Mary, there are some questions I wish I could ask you. What was life like growing up in London? Do you remember your mother and father? Did you have an older brother Thomas, who died young? Was your mother's death the reason your father left for America? How did you meet and marry my granddaddy? 

It would be wonderful to meet you, Grandma Mary. My plan is to travel back in time to the summer of 1917, when you and Granddaddy James and your four sons took a road trip in your new Ford auto. It looked like quite an adventure. Let me join you and see my ancestors through your eyes. Love, Your grandson

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Managing a Growing List of Cousin Connections

Thankfully, genealogy is connecting me with new cousins all the time. Just last week, a distant cousin from the Farkas family got in touch. With so many names from the family tree crowding my memory, I almost didn't remember to connect him with a mutual cousin who had written me months ago (I got her permission first). Once they knew about each other, they had a wonderful discussion about family ties.

This experience made me realize that I need to have all my cousin contacts in one convenient (and completely private) document. So I've set up a personal table of Cousin Connections with three columns, as shown above. I'm listing my cousins in alphabetical order, including the exact relationship along with the name. In the second column, I'm typing as much contact info as I know. The third column is for notes, as the sample shows.

Private means private. When I'm lucky enough to be connected with newfound cousins, I carefully ask permission before handing out any relative's contact info, and I always follow both people's wishes regarding privacy. After all, they're family.

PS: This is my 700th genealogy blog post! So many ancestors, so many cousins, so little time.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ancestor Landing Pages Keep Working

All-time views as of April 15, 2016

My ancestor landing pages (those tabs just below the masthead and above the photos on my home page here) continue to attract viewers! I set up my first ancestor landing pages in January, 2013.

The goal is to summarize what I know about each of these families in my tree or my hubby's tree, and to "land" viewers who use surnames as key words to search the web for genealogical details. If my landing pages show up in their results, they'll hopefully click to read on.

Of course, landing pages make it easy to share ancestor highlights, including photos or documents, with cousins. As I continue blogging about a particular surname or family, I add a bullet point with a link on the ancestor landing page for that family. I want to make it easy for distant relatives or researchers to connect with me!

By far the most popular of my ancestor landing pages is the story of Halbert McClure and family--the folks originally from Isle of Skye, who moved to County Donegal, and then saved their money to sail across the pond and buy land in Virginia.

In terms of audience: The #2 landing page is about my Schwartz family from Ungvar, then Hungary and now Uzhorod in Ukraine, followed by #3, about the Larimer family whose patriarch was shipwrecked in the Atlantic.

Another way to confirm that landing pages are working is by reading the key phrases that people use to search and land on the blog. Those key phrases can be found under the "traffic sources" section of the blog's statistics. Sure enough, this week I see "Halbert McClure" and "Benjamin McClure" and even "Markell family tree." These ancestor landing pages keep on working! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Taped to the Back of a Farkas Wedding Photo

Almost 90 years ago, great-uncle Alex Farkas married Jennie Katz in New York City. On the back of their family wedding photo is this hand-written note by another Farkas relative, showing the birth and death dates of Alex's Papa, Mama, wife, and many of his siblings (plus his brother-in-law Ted Schwartz, my grandpa). Also shown is Alex's nephew's date of passing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tuesday's Tip: Gifting a DNA Test? Gift a Family Tree Chart Too!


My good friend suggested giving relatives a DNA test as a birthday gift. She did it for her children, their spouses, and the grandchildren. The recipients were fascinated. They even asked questions about ancestors! What a wonderful way to get the next generation interested in family history.

I took her suggestion and gifted a niece with a DNA test. To give her a headstart on figuring out which ancestors might have been responsible for which parts of her DNA, I also gave her a colorful family tree showing her mother's and father's lines, going back 3 generations. Sure, she can see our family tree on Ancestry. But for a quick peek, it's to easier to read the printed version.

When the results came in, she was excited about the surprises in her background--but the answers were too far back to be reflected on the family tree I printed for her. So my next recipient will get a DNA test, a family tree, and a pedigree chart (more than one, showing each side's pedigree as far back as I can document).

I downloaded the chart above for free from Misbach (there are more generations on the chart, too many to show here). By the way, I also keep pedigree charts in each of my main surname file folders so I can consult them without having to crank up my software or go online.

Here are a few sources for a number of free family tree charts, pedigree charts, and family group sheets.
For a more complete list of sources, check Cyndi's List. Happy gifting!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mystery Monday: Indexing Your Family's Records to Solve Mysteries

You finished indexing your grandfather's diary, your mother's letters, your grandmother's baby book. Now what?

In my previous post, I outlined how to index letters or other documents or books from your family's past. Before you file your index (a copy with the document you indexed and copies inside the files of the main surnames mentioned), mine it for clues to family mysteries. You’re not indexing simply for the sake of getting organized—the process is important for making progress on your genealogical research.

Here are five ways you can use an index to deepen your knowledge of family history and to solve family mysteries:
  • Check dates against what you know. Does the index help you narrow down possible birth, marriage, death dates? Does it fill in the blanks on where ancestors were during key periods? Who is missing on key dates? During indexing, I noticed that a great-grandfather was suddenly absent from the documents after being mentioned year after year. That was a clue to his approximate death date, which I’d been unable to pinpoint.
  •  Look at relationships. Does the index shed light on whether family members were estranged or close? Does it confirm relationships that you suspected? Who is present at family gatherings, and how often do they show up? One set of family meeting minutes I indexed showed how warmly a widowed in-law was welcomed, along with her second family. The same index reflected the rare attendance of an uncle whose marriage outside the faith was frowned upon.
  • Look at occasions. Who’s visiting on holidays? Which holidays are celebrated? Are weddings, birthdays, funerals mentioned? Who’s giving gifts, who’s receiving gifts, where and when? One baby book I indexed gave me a clue that someone was more than a “family friend” because she gave a surprisingly valuable gift. Sure enough, she turned out to be the ex-spouse of a close relative.  
  • Cross-reference the index against other items. Do you have photos of the people mentioned in the index during the period covered by the documents? See whether the index can help you identify mystery people in your photos or give you more context for when, where, and why the photos were taken.
  • Verify details. If a diary mentions someone’s birth, marriage, or death, compare the dates with official documents. A century ago, official records weren’t always filed on time, so a birth date on the vital records form might be a day or a few days later than the actual birth. Maybe the index will point you to the actual date, or explain why the date differs from the official record. Also, names on Census forms weren’t always accurate, so check your index against what you see on the Census. Use the index to match nicknames with full given names on your tree. You might find a variation via the index that you can use to when you research that person.

Solving a mystery: My sister-in-law remembered a cousin Edith, quite a tall lady, attending her wedding. Now, years later, no one remembered Edith's last name or how she was related. When I indexed my late father-in-law's diaries, I found repeated mentions of Edith in the 1960s and 1970s. This led to a hunch about Edith's parents. 

Putting together clues from Census data, Cleveland directories, and my husband's and sister-in-law's memories, we solved the mystery and figured out where Edith fits on the family tree. Using the dates and approximate ages, we also identified her and her sister in the above photo with my father-in-law. Without the index, this mystery would have taken much longer to solve.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tuesday's Tip: How to Index Your Family's Documents

Whether your relatives left you a small bundle of letters or 25 years' worth of diaries, you'll learn a lot about your ancestors by indexing what's in your family's documents. You'll also be able to tell your relatives details about their ancestors, by referring to your index. And you may uncover clues to family ties you weren't aware of!

Even a baby or wedding book can be indexed if it includes a family tree and/or names of people who visited or gave gifts. This has helped me trace more distant relatives, by the way.

My index for my father-in-law's 25 diaries (shown here) has a few headings. I use the "comments" column to add details referring back to particular documents, a way of reminding myself of the exact source:

Name (alphabetical by surname)
Relationship (as specific as possible)
Date/place (again, be specific if possible)
Comments (details, context, significance; identifying the particular document)

Indexing is not difficult if you take it one step at a time. Remember: Life by the inch is a cinch--life by the yard is hard. So build your index little by little:
  1. Organize the documents into chronological order. That way, you'll be able to follow along as the narrative mentions upcoming events or evolving relationships. I did this with letters to my mother during the time she was dating my father. It was exciting to read what led up to his proposal and their future plans!
  2. Focus on one document at a time. Don't try to index everything at one sitting. Just pick one letter, one month of the diary, one of anything in your collection. Complete one, and if you feel like it, complete another. Keep your place so you can pick up the indexing when you have a few minutes. Use your index to summarize the most critical info from each document before moving on to another.
  3. Identify the people and their relationships. Use a pad and pencil or, if you prefer, a spreadsheet or database. The first time you see a name mentioned, write it down in full and note the relationship, if you know it. Also jot down the date or some other way of going back to that document for the full reference. If you see a name mentioned repeatedly, note it even if you don't know the relationship. 
  4. Compile your list of people, dates, and brief explanations for each. For instance, say the Wood diaries mention a second cousin named Mac McClure for the first time on May 3, 1963. The next time Mac McClure is mentioned is July 4, 1963. My entry in the diary index might read: McClure, Mac (second cousin to E. Wood?). Visit to Wood family in Cleveland on May 3, 1963. Call on July 4, 1963 about birth of Mac's baby Julie. If baby Julie is mentioned later, you can cross-reference by saying something like: McClure, Julie (daughter of Mac McClure).
  5. Watch for groups of people and repeat appearances. Maybe a letter or diary mention of several people getting together is really a mention about a family occasion. If certain names pop up regularly, especially on significant dates (such as a birthday or a holiday), chances are they have some close connection to your family. It won't take long to determine who you should be following closely and who seems to be just a casual friend. 
  6. Watch for disappearances and enigmatic mentions. Sometimes people are mentioned once and never again--did they move away, was there a quarrel, did they pass away, was there a divorce? This is the puzzle part of our genealogy research. Maybe someone else in the family will have some insight if you mention what you're trying to figure out.
  7. Type up your index neatly, date it, and enclose it with the documents and with the main surnames mentioned. That will give you a handy reference when you're looking someone up and will also be available to anyone who takes care of your documents in the future. Return to update your index as you learn more about the relationships and who's who. Also note the "update date" so you can keep track of your most recent copy of the index. Colleen, in her comment below this post, suggests noting the location of the documents--an excellent idea!
  8. Talk up your index! Tell your relatives what you've learned, and offer to copy for them a few relevant sections of the documents. Who doesn't want to know something new about their parents and grandparents, whether just a hint of personality or a particularly surprising anecdote?
One of the most maddening things in my father-in-law's diaries was when he would write something like: "B called with disturbing news." What was the news? I knew who B was (figured it out as I indexed his diaries). But what did B have to say? Ah, the mysteries of family histories.

PS: See my next post here for ideas about how to use the indexes to solve genealogical mysteries.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fearless Females: Emma Jane McKibbin Shoup, Administratrix

Hubby's 3d cousin, 2x removed, was Emma Jane McKibbin Shoup, married to Russell B. Shoup. I'm researching the McKibbin line to trace the origins of Emma's grandfather, Alexander "Squire" McKibbin (1817-1888), who married Harriet Larimer (1819-1887), the first of several marriages I've seen between Larimer and McKibbin ancestors.

The wonderful folks at the Elkhart County Genealogical Society have been helping me, by sending me images of McKibbin documents from their records. Above, one page from the probate file for Emma's father, James Harvey McKibbin (1846-1914), hubby's 2d cousin, 3x removed (so says Ancestry). Below, James Harvey McKibbin's obituary. After reading it, I understood why James Harvey McKibbin and his son John McKibbin are living with James's daughter Emma and her husband Russell (and their baby), according to the 1900 Census.

Before Emma could serve as administratrix for her father's estate, she had to have her husband's permission, as shown above. [Reader, you can imagine how I felt seeing that!] She also had to post a $100 bond with the court, to be returned after probate was complete.

Emma and her brother, John Henry McKibbin, were the only heirs, and the father died without a will. Emma was supposed to liquidate her father's property and pay his debts before splitting the proceeds, 50-50, with her brother.

John, the father, owned lots #170 and 171 in "Wilden's Walnut Hill addition" in Goshen, Elkhart county, with an estimated value of $1,000. To liquidate the estate and share with her brother, Emma had to sell the lots.

Now here's something interesting: Emma filed paperwork with the probate court saying she tried to sell the property, but the only private buyer backed out, so she asked for a public auction. The court agreed and the result is that one bidder stepped forward and paid $1,040 for the real estate. The bidder? A gentleman named Russell B. Shoup, whose signature appears in the image above as his permission for his wife to be administratrix.

After paying court costs, funeral costs, legal costs, and so on, Emma and her brother split $826.95, mainly from the sale of the two lots to Emma's husband.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: Cousins Send Easter Greetings in 1909


In April, 1909, teenaged Charles Francis Elton Wood (1891-1951), always called Elton by the family, sent this Easter postcard to his young first cousin, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957).


On the back is Wallis's name (not spelled correctly, as usual) and his current address, in one of the many homes built by hubby's granddaddy, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). The pencil notes at left are from a later generation, correcting the name of the recipient.

All of these greeting postcards I've posted were exchanged among descendants of Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest Wood. Thomas and Mary had 17 children. Aunts, uncles, and cousins were encouraged to write to each other to keep the family connections close. Whether in Toledo, Cleveland, Chicago, or beyond, it's impressive that the family stayed in touch!

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.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sepia Saturday: Tracing Steiner and Rinehart Roots Geographically

Hubby's 3d great-grandparents were probably the journey-takers who left Europe for what was then either the American colonies or the brand-new United States of America.

On the Steiner side, these were almost certainly the parents of Jacob S. Steiner, who was born just before or after 1802 in Pennsylvania and died between 1850 and 1860 in Crawford county, Ohio. Hubby's "Old Gentleman" granddaddy left notes about these ancestors, as shown above.

On the Rinehart side, the journey-takers were likely the parents of Joseph W. Rinehart, who was born in 1806 in Pennsylvania and died in 1888 in Nevada, Ohio.

So part of my quest is to reconcile family stories about where the Steiner and Rinehart families were originally from. The way hubby's father heard it, these ancestors were from Switzerland, but others in the family wondered whether Germany was the original homeland.

For context, I turned to the Family Tree Historical Maps Book--Europe, which shows maps and historical milestones from the 1700s to after WWII.

In 1736, Germany and Switzerland had different borders than they do today. Only by 1815 did Switzerland's borders settle into their current location. So it's very possible that the journey-taker ancestors left from an area in Germany during the late 1700s and by the time they told their story to descendants, that region had become part of Switzerland. Or vice versa!

To complicate the situation, the Family Search wiki warns that civil registration records for pre-1800 Switzerland are generally unavailable because they weren't required by law. Similarly, German civil registration records weren't required prior to 1792. And remember, these ancestors probably arrived in America around the time of the Revolution, give or take a decade, even before the first US census.

Bottom line: My best hope for tracing hubby's Steiner and Rhinehart roots is by finding these ancestors in Pennsylvania records (not an easy task, since I need given names and a town) and then looking for any clues there (field trip!).

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Those Places Thursday: From Ireland with Love, Hubby's Ancestors

Happy St. Paddy's Day! Hubby has Irish (and Scots-Irish) ancestry that we can trace to the 17th century as they prepared for their journeys to America.
  1. His 5th great-grandparents, Robert Larimer (1719-1803) and Mary Gallagher Larimer (1721-1803) were from the North of Ireland. Robert is the ancestor who was shipwrecked while enroute to the New World, and was brought to Pennsylvania to work off the cost of his rescue. Above, Robert Larimore's land grant for 200 acres in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, where he eventually owned 300 acres.
  2. His 5th great-grandparents, William Smith (1724-1786) and Janet (1724?-1805), were from Limerick. Their first son born in America was Brice Smith (1756-1828), who later settled in Fairfield County, Ohio. The name Brice has come down through the family, but this is the first instance documented so far.
  3. His 2nd great-grandparents, John Shehen (1801?-1875) and Mary (1801?-?) were born in "Ireland" (that's all the info they told UK Census officials in 1841). Their children were born in Marylebone, London during the 1830s. Daughter Mary Shehen married John Slatter Sr., they had a family in Oxfordshire, and he ultimately followed five of those children to North America in the late 1800s.
  4. His 5th great-grandparents, Halbert McClure (1684-1754) and Agnes (1690-1750?) were born in County Donegal, but the McClure clan was originally from Isle of Skye in Scotland. The McClures were the journey-takers who sailed to Philadelphia and then walked, as a family, all the way to Virginia so they could buy fertile land in a sparsely settled area.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday: The Old Gentleman's Family

A number of hubby's ancestors are buried in historic Old Mission Cemetery, Upper Sandusky, Ohio. One is his granddad, known affectionately as "the Old Gentleman," Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970).

The son of William Madison McClure and Margaret Jane Larimer McClure, Brice was a master machinist who worked on railroads. Some of his tools remain in the family.

Brice married Floyda Mabel Steiner (1878-1948) in June, 1903, and they were the parents of one daughter, Marian Jane McClure (1909-1983).

My genealogy research owes a lot to the Old Gentleman, because he wrote down details about his parents, siblings, and grandparents.

Thankfully, his daughter saved these scraps of paper and they proved to be valuable in tracing the family tree.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Those Places Thursday: Ungvar's Changing National Borders

My family gifted me with a wonderful reference book for anyone with European ancestry: The Family Tree Historical Maps Book, Europe.

Magnifying glass in hand, I used it to trace the changing national borders surrounding UNGVAR, the hometown of my Grandpa Teddy Schwartz (1887-1965).

Ungvar wasn't always spelled that way on the maps, and today it is known by an entirely different name bestowed upon it by the Russians after WWII. Knowing the names and location on the maps helps me plan my research!

To locate Ungvar, I simply looked for the Carpathian Mountains, and checked cities just south of it along the river Ung. Ungvar was a market town and therefore was always visible on the maps.

Here's what I learned from the book about Ungvar's changing national borders:

1836: Unghvar is part of the Austrian Empire, in the northeast of Hungary, not too far from Galicia (which is over the Carpathian Mountains).

1856: Unghoar is in the northeast of Hungary, part of Austria.

1873: Unghvar is within the borders of Hungary, part of Austria.

1891: Unghvar is within the borders of Hungary, part of Austria-Hungary.

1901: Unghvar is within the borders of Hungary. 

1925: Ungvar is within the borders of Czechoslovakia.

1948: Uzhgorod is renamed (from previous name of Ungvar) by Russians and moved to USSR map.

TODAY: Uzhhorod (Uzhgorod/Uzhorod) is in Ukraine.






Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Statistics

Feeling good about my contributions to Find-A-Grave over the past nearly four years. I still have 25-30 more photos to add from my most recent cemetery visit.

Of course there are still dozens of my own ancestors to link together as parents/children or spouses on Find-A-Grave, so that future generations will see the relationships at a glance. I've started this process but won't be finished for some time.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Matrilineal Monday: Another Twin Birthday

Happy birthday to sis and me! Here we are, on the lap of our grandma Minnie, reading the funny papers.
And here's a photo of our mother and her twin sister, taken at about the same age.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Surname Saturday: Another Shuham Connection?

Today I received my paternal grandpa Isaac Burk's Soc Sec application, shown above. Since he was a carpenter, and usually self-employed, I was surprised to see him say he was working for the Better Model Form Company. Then again, since the company was owned by a relative, it's not really that surprising.

The real surprise was seeing that Isaac's mother's full name was Neche Gelle Shuham.

Why is this surprising? Because Shuham is the surname of Isaac's grandma-in-law.

Isaac married Henrietta Mahler, granddaughter of Rachel Shuham, in 1906. Rachel was born in Lithuania and came to New York City with her son and daughter and grandchildren in 1886. Above, the Mahler family around the turn of the century, with matriarch Rachel sitting in the center, holding a granddaughter.

According to the NYC census of 1905, Isaac and his brother Meyer Burk were "boarders" in the NYC apartment of the Mahler family, which is how Isaac met his future bride, Henrietta. Or so I suspected. Now I wonder whether it was actually a cousin connection that brought them together.

In the 1901 UK census, Isaac and his brother Abraham were living with Isaac Chazan and Isaac's wife, Hinda Ann Mitav Chazan, in Manchester. The census-taker wrote that Isaac and Abraham were nephews of the head of the household. Whose nephews? No sign of them in the Chazan family. I thought possibly they were Hinda's nephews, but maybe not, if Isaac's mother's maiden name was Shuham.

More research is in my future. And more Social Security applications for ancestors!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Day Greetings from 1912

Rachel Ellen "Nellie" Wood Lervis Kirby (1864-1954) sent this sentimental valentine postcard to her nephew, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957), mailing it 104 years ago today, as the postmark indicates.


Little Wally was just 7 years old at the time, living in Cleveland in one of the many homes built by his father, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). Nellie lived in Chicago with her second husband, a barber. They often kept in touch with their many nieces and nephews via postcards for holidays and birthdays.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: 107-year-old Washington's B-Day Postcard

Here's another of the delightful, colorful holiday postcards sent to hubby's uncle Wallis W. Wood. This one is from February 22, 1909 and was mailed to Wallis in Cleveland Heights by his aunt, Nellie (Rachel Ellen Wood) Kirby, who lived in Chicago. This time, no stamp or postmark, no signature or sentiment, only Wallis's name (not spelled correctly, as is usual on these postcards). So I imagine the card was enclosed in a letter from Nellie to the Wood family.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Surname Saturday: John Slatter Sr.'s Probate Page Lists Lots

Literally, hubby's great-grandpa John Slatter Sr's probate records listed lots, that is--vacant lots.

Great-grandpa Slatter was born in Oxfordshire on 31 January, 1838 and died in Cleveland, OH on 12 August, 1901, at the home of his daughter, Mary Slatter Wood.

Here's the probate page I found (thank you, Ancestry). Not only does it identify each of his children and their 1901 whereabouts, it details his so-called estate.

His personal estate consisted of "nothing" according to this document.

But he also owned "2 vacant lots in Warrensville, Ohio" with a value of $100, according to his daughter.

Since Great-grandpa Slatter's son-in-law James Edgar Wood was a home builder, and Warrensville was a convenient drive from the Wood home in Cleveland, did Slatter purchase the lots for his son-in-law to build on?

That's how the Wood family lived year in and year out, building one house after another on spec, and then moving in to finish the details while starting to frame a new house. They moved every year or every other year for quite a long time.

Sometimes documents raise more questions than they answer. In this case, hubby and I are convinced that Great-grandpa bought those lots for his son-in-law as a way to contribute to the welfare of the Wood household, where he was living during his last illness.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday: Two of the Four Markell Brothers

In the ongoing saga of locating members of the Markell family (who married into my Mahler family), I finally checked out the headstone of Philip Louis Markell (1880-1955) to learn who his father was.

Thanks to the friendly folks at Tracing the Tribe, I confirmed that Philip's father's name translates as Yochanan Avraham, as shown on his stone at left. 
 
Philip's older brother is Barney H. Markell (1874-1944) and his stone (in a cemetery hundreds of miles away) says the father's name is Elchonon or Alchanon Avraham. Barney was the father of Joseph Markell, who married my great-aunt Mary Mahler.

One younger brother is Samuel Markell (1885-1971), who died--I believe--in Massachusetts. He's not in Find A Grave or the Jewish Online Burial records, so I don't yet know his final resting place. 

The other younger brother is Julius Markell (1882-1966), who died in Brooklyn, NY. So far, I don't know where he's buried and can't yet compare his father's name with that of Philip, Barney, and Samuel. The saga continues!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sibling Saturday: The Kunstler Family from NagyBereg

Great-grandma Leni KUNSTLER Farkas (1865-1938), born in NagyBereg, Hungary (now Velyki Berehy, Ukraine) had at least four siblings.
  • Sally/Sarah/Zalli KUNSTLER married Bela Bernard Roth and had three children with him: Alexander (Sandor), whose Social Security application is shown above--Alex married Blanche Schwartz, a cousin of Tony Curtis; Margaret, who married Herman Mandel; and Joseph/Joszef, who married Evelyn Goldman. When my sweet cuz B visited Ukraine, she located Zalli's gravestone and also that of the Kunstler patriarch, Samuel Zanvil Kunstler (died in 1869), plus other Kunstlers.
  • Hinde KUNSTLER died in 1881, according to her gravestone. I wish I knew more about this sister of Leni and Zalli.
  • Yehudit KUNSTLER died in 1879, according to her gravestone, and I know nothing more about her.
  • Joszef Moshe KUNSTLER (1869-1935) married Helena Schonfeld and was a successful businessman in his time, employing many in his town.
Because Great-grandma Leni's mother's name was Toby Roth, and her sister Zalli married a Roth, I've been interested in learning more about the connections between the Kunstler and Roth families. Some of the descendants have names that echo the names of the Kunstler siblings, following Jewish tradition, and that gives me clues to the past.

Now that Ancestry is posting many SSA index files and transcriptions, I'm finding more clues and sending for original applications (like the above) to confirm parentage and relationships. On Alex Roth's SSA, as you can see, his birth place is Hungary, N.B. (meaning NagyBereg).

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - Operation: Picture Me Finds Capt. Slatter's Resting Place

Hubby's great uncle, Capt. John Daniel Slatter, died in Toronto in February, 1954. I have numerous obits of his illustrious life as the beloved bandmaster of Toronto's 48th Highlanders Regiment for 50 years.


But none of the tributes mentioned where the good Captain is buried. So as part of my Genealogy Do-Over/Go-Over, I reached out to my friendly contacts at the 48th Highlanders Museum in Toronto, which hubby and I visited in 2014.

Dave, the wonderful museum volunteer and prolific Find A Grave contributor behind Operation: Picture Me, dedicates himself to locating and posting photos of Canadian military personnel who died during wartime, as a way to honor their memory.


 Not only did Dave immediately search for a funeral notice for Capt. Slatter--stating that the burial would be in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto--he also posted it on Capt. Slatter's Find A Grave page.

Then Dave went to the cemetery and photographed the Slatter family's headstone, front and back.

 Thanks to Dave's kindness and dedication, the family now can see the final resting place of Capt. Slatter and his wife Sophie Marie Le Gallais Slatter, plus two daughters (Edith Sophie Slatter and Bessie Louise Slatter), along with son Albert Matthew Slatter and Albert's wife, Maude Mary Hutson.

To Dave and Operation: Picture Me--please know how much your efforts are appreciated!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Genealogy Resolutions for 2016 and Genealogy Connections from 2015

Sent to Wallis W. Wood from Aunt Rachel Ellen Wood Kirby, 1914
Thank you, dear cousins, for making 2015 another year of genealogy connections. I am grateful to so many cousins and family friends for their friendship and help in tracing our Birk/Burk, Chazan, Farkas, Kunstler, Jacobs, Larimer, Mahler, Mandel, Markell, McClure, McKibbin, Mitav, Roth, Schwartz, Slatter, Steiner, Waldman, Weiss, and Wood ancestry. Sharing memories, photos, and documents brings our families closer together and brings the past into focus for all of us!

As of 1/1/15, my activity on Find a Grave
My genealogy resolutions for 2016:
  • Continue posting grave photos to Find A Grave. Whenever I visit a cemetery, I photograph as many graves as I can on my way to and from the sections I'm seeking, and around the graves I visit. So far, I've posted just over 800 grave photos. 
  • Continue linking family members and posting brief bios on Find A Grave. Not only will this help cousins to understand the relationships, it will also provide hints to other researchers who are looking for members of these family trees. Admittedly, it's a bit of cousin bait that I hope will connect me to more cousins.
  • "Tell the stories" and identify more ancestors so that future generations in my family and hubby's family will know the names and places they come from. Every St. Patrick's Day, hubby's family gets a card from me listing their Irish ancestral names. Every year, I remind them of their Mayflower roots--which were once known in the family, I'm sure, but forgotten over the generations. 
  • In 2014-5, I created several brief "memory books" about my Schwartz, Burk, Wirtschafter, and Mahler families. Also, I created a photo book of my parents' wedding, so all descendants would know who's who in each photo and have the story of their courtship, which started with a matchmaker aunt from each side of the family. Next, I'm continuing to digitize family photos and organize them, along with names and dates or occasions, so these details will be available to future generations.
  • I will memorialize great-aunt Etel Schwartz by adding her to Yad Vashem's list of Holocaust victims. I have her photo, I know a little about her, and I don't want her name and face to be forgotten. Ever. 

In the never-ending ancestor hunt, there are--as always--a number of specific genealogy mysteries I want to solve in 2016:
  • For the umpteenth year, I'm looking for the origins of hubby's Steiner and Reinhart families. They came to Ohio in the early 1800s from Pennsylvania. Where was their ancestral home, Austria or Germany or Switzerland or another part of Europe?
  • I'm still tracing the Roth family's connections to my Farkas family, and looking for the link to my Waldman and Weiss cousins. Getting closer!
  • Still searching for the exact relationships in the Mitav and Birk families from Lithuania that led my grandpa Isaac and his siblings Abraham, Nellie, and Myer to  New York City. Getting closer!
  • This year I'm focusing on hubby's Larimer/McKibbin connections because these will help me zero in on the part of Northern Ireland where they originated.
  • Still looking for the ships that brought my Mahler great-grandparents (separately) to America in 1885-6.
  • When and where did hubby's grandpa James Edgar Wood divorce his 2d wife Alice? And what happened to his 3d wife, Caroline?
Happy new year to all.