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 $3to 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.
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.
For Sepia Saturday, a photo that my niece found, showing her mother with our Grandpa Teddy (Theodore Schwartz, 1887-1965). This was taken on Carpenter Avenue in the Bronx, a block west of White Plains Road, where the elevated subway ran. Teddy loved playing checkers with his youngest granddaughter, in particular. The look of love on Teddy's face makes me smile!
This month is the 130th anniversary of Teddy's birth (and the 52nd anniversary of his death). Even though I have lots of info on Teddy, I recently searched Reclaim the Record's index of marriages from NYC and sent for the three-page marriage document for my grandparents from the Municipal Archives. The check has been cashed and I hope the papers are on the way.
In addition, Reclaim the Records has posted printed (unindexed) lists of NYC voters from 1924. Of the 8 Bronx districts covered by the lists made available, Teddy lived in one. I found him at 651 Fox Street, registered along with several of his neighbors.
Interestingly, Grandma Hermina Farkas (1886-1964) was eligible to vote by this time, but she wasn't yet registered.
Another colorful postcard sent to my hubby's uncle, Wallis W. Wood. The date is March 27, 1912, and the Wood family was living in the Lancelot Avenue home in Cleveland built by James Edgar Wood, which still stands today. Wallis was 7 when this postcard arrived. His older brother Edgar (my late dad-in-law) was 9, younger brother John was 4, and youngest brother Ted was 2.
This postcard was sent from Columbus Ohio and signed from "Uncle Jim," James Sills Baker (1866-1937), the husband of "Aunt Ada," meaning Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter (1868-1947). Jim and Ada lived in Toledo for years, but moved to the Cleveland area sometime between 1910 and 1920. "Aunt Ada" was the sister of Wallis's mother, and as usual, this postcard indicates that the family was focused on remaining in touch despite living miles apart.
My last day of #NERGC2017 featured a New York City double-header. First: Susan Miller's 8:30 session on "NYC Municipal Archives." Susan offered a virtual tour of the many valuable records available at the archives, including some (like the Almshouse Records) not well-known but useful.
I scribbled lots of notes on my syllabus page! Top tip: Remember that NYC became a five-borough city only in 1898, and Bronx County wasn't formed till 1914 (before, it was part of NY County, meaning lumped with Manhattan).
Next, Jane Wilcox's session on "New York Gateway," all about immigration, emigration, and migration to and through New York, city and state. Not records, but really interesting historical context about who came when and where, also why.
Top tip: consider how ancestors got from point A to point B. Hubby's Bentley ancestors, for instance, were in Oswego in the 1800s but wound up in Indiana. How? I need to look at waterways, which many used to go to the midwest.
Thank you to the NERGC volunteers and committee and speakers! And a safe trip home to my gen blogger friends, whose company I enjoyed.
Well what a wonderful day 2 here at NERGC. My first session was Maureen Taylor's talk about dating photos using fashion tips.
Wonderful 8:30 talk and lots of fun guessing "why" as well as "when" the fashions were from. Top tip: remember that older folks (ladies in particular) may be wearing clothes from a few years earlier, not the more daring fashions of contemporary time. Motivated me to look more closely at my "mystery" photos!
Next session I attended was Michael Strauss's fascinating session on 1930s-1940s records that aren't well known but are available (usually via NARA).
Top tip from that session was--check the finding aids and try to conceive of where/when your ancestor would have come in contact with one of the government programs of that time, whether unemployment or CCC or even as a business hiring unemployed folks vis NRA. Really intriguing session!
Lunch: Table topics were fascinating, and after deliberating, I sat at a DNA discussion table. We chatted about Gedmatch.com, DNA testing older relatives, considering more indepth testing, and everyone's pet peeve--people who test but post no trees and answer no emails about matching.
The afternoon began with Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer's "Grandma Married Whom?!" all about evaluating gen info on the Internet. She showed some great examples illustrating why it's important to question stuff posted online. You mean I'm not really descended from Charlemagne? Bummer.
I had just a few minutes to skip over to Warren Bittner's talk, "Writing to Engage," which was still going on, lucky me! He had some great suggestions for vivid and active writing. Our choice of words can really bring our ancestors alive, in a literary sense, for future generations.
Next was Pam Stone Eagleson's interesting presentation about resolving conflicting evidence. Rarely does every source agree on every point. So how do we decide which name is correct or which date is correct? Consider the quality of the evidence (original/derivative source, direct/indirect source, etc). Think about when the document was created and why. Excellent advice.
Finally, I enjoyed Juliana Szucs' talk about Ancestry's arrival records. Very practical, "how to" review of what records are available, how to search (wildcards and all), and the human dimension of immigration. Top tip: Search in the specific record collection and vary spellings and dates to find elusive immigrant ancestors.
Stay tuned for day 3. Can't believe the conference is nearing its end.
My Day 1 of #NERGC2017 began by meeting some blogging buddies (in person!) and then Mary Tedesco's inspirational opening talk. Genealogy is more popular than ever and we have so many more tools than when I began 19 years ago.
Mary pointed out that microfilm technology revolutionized genealogy by unlocking documents that were once only available in person.
Now DNA is revolutionizing our way of thinking about building family trees as well as expanding our knowledge of ancestors. The conference was buzzing about DNA!
I attended Carol McCoy's excellent talk on finding elusive ancestors who seem to be missing from the census. She showed that some ancestors are really there, simply misindexed or not on the correct page. Top tip: Compare the census images and indexes from multiple sources (Family Search and Ancestry and Heritage Quest, for example).
My wonderful friends Mary and Ray helped me set up the projector in room 3 for my talk Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. Lots of good questions from the audience about protecting photos, in particular, and how to resolve potential fights over family artifacts when more than one person wants them. My top tip: Start now to caption your photos so the next generation will know who's who!
Next, I attended Kathryn Smith Black's presentation, "Lawyer or Sawyer? Using the British Census." Good techniques for finding my hubby's UK ancestors. Especially liked audience participation guessing what the handwriting says on these old census forms!
Then my conference day ended with the blogging SIG, led by Heather Rojo. Great fun to visit with bloggers from around New England and swap stories, tips, plans. And the conference is in full swing...more posts to come as the sessions continue.
NERGC 2017 is about to begin! Before leaving home, I created a game plan of which sessions I want to attend (#1 and #2 pick per time period). Also I printed out syllabus materials only for those sessions, ready to make notes as the speakers talk. The full syllabus is on my laptop if I want to review during the conference.
Easy-breezy ride to the hotel and a short walk to the conference center. At right is the view from the center.
Registration is open so I picked up my name tag and tote bag and tickets. I was especially grateful for the handy day-by-day pages created by the organizers, each listing the events of one day with a meeting room map on the back. Very convenient!
Can't wait to see old gen buddies and meet new gen buddies. See you at "Bloggers' Central" in the exhibit hall.
The persistent folks over at Reclaim the Records have opened the flood gates on records that most mortals don't know about and can't easily access. Thanks to them, I have a new insight into family history during my Genealogy Go-Over. And yes, I decided to pay.
In planning family research strategy, I think certain documents must be in my possession. I have a few documents proving my parents' marriage, plus their wedding album. What I didn't have was three pages of documents that all New York City brides and grooms had to fill out in applying for a license to marry. Those documents are covered by the indexes obtained, with a lot of effort, by Reclaim the Records and now posted on Archive.org.
Although I didn't know exactly what the three pages would look like, I knew one key fact: Both bride and groom personally provided the information--meaning it's all first-hand data. That was the clincher: I decided that the$15fee was worthwhile.
Which county in NYC? I chose Bronx, because that's where the bride lived (I didn't know for sure where the groom lived at that point--needed a clue!).
Clicked on the Bronx index.
Checked the left-hand column, grooms in alphabetical order, and looked for the correct month.
My father's surname, Burk, was listed on a page marked "Aug-Dec" (see image).
Hi, Dad! Found his name, copied the number and date.
Followed the easy instructions on the bottom of the index intro, such as this one.
Happily wrote a check for $15 plus included SASE. And in my letter describing what I was requesting, I included a sentence that Reclaim the Records suggested: "I was made aware of this information through the not-for-profit
group Reclaim The Records, and their work to put genealogical data
online for free public use."
Less than two weeks later, I had my parents' affadavit (see at right), license, and certificate. Now I was looking at my father's very own handwriting. He listed his address as the same apartment building where his mother, brother, and sister lived. I had suspected but couldn't prove till now that Dad moved in with his mother and brother after he returned from WWII. More proof of the close-knit nature of the Burk family!
Money well spent, IMHO, to confirm with first-hand data what my parents said about their occupations, their parents, place of birth of parents, etc. Plus both Mom & Dad signed their names, a poignant touch for me.
Now I'm waiting for my maternal grandparents' documents to arrive. Maybe there will be some surprises! If not, the money is a good investment in getting first-hand data from key documents in my direct line.
On April 10, 1914, Ada (Adelaide Mary Ann) Slatter Sills in Toledo mailed this pretty Easter postcard to her nephew, Wallis W. Wood, in Cleveland. (Wallis was a younger brother of my late father-in-law. Ada was the older sister of Wallis's mother, Mary Slatter.)
Thanks to postcards like these, I have compiled a listing of addresses for Wally and the Wood family from 1907-1918. The address for 1914 was 456 E. 124 Street in Cleveland.
The color photo (left) shows what the house looked like in 2016. Now see the b/w photo of two young Wood brothers standing in front of their house on Lancelot Avenue (at right) in 1911.
The homes were literally around the corner from each other in Cleveland. Apparently my husband's great-grandpa, James Edgar Wood, built the same style home many times during his long career as a carpenter and home builder in Cleveland.
Taking relatives on virtual field trips like this helps keep family history alive and relevant for the next generation!