Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 10 Genealogy Lessons Learned in 2014 - Part 2

More lessons learned from my genealogical adventures in 2014. NOT in priority order:
 
5. Be prepared when visiting or calling cemeteries. With an alphabetical listing of surnames printed from my gen software, I made several cemetery visits this year to eyeball burial sites. Most cemeteries were kind enough to do lookups or give me detailed plot maps, which I compared with my alpha list to be sure I visited as many family graves as possible. Also, I photographed hundreds of stones near my family's graves for two reasons: In case I later learn that they're in-laws or other relatives, and to post on Findagrave for the benefit of others. Not being able to visit certain cemeteries, I've called and asked questions--and found out that, for instance, Rosa Markell (marker at left) was originally buried in one plot but was moved to another when her stone was erected. Lesson: Do my homework before making a cemetery visit, have names/dates in hand, have a camera handy, show appreciation to cemetery staff, and follow-up by posting and/or correcting on Findagrave.

4. Dig deep for resources at the local level. At the start of this year, I followed the URL on the Emmet County Genealogical Society's bookmark (which I received at a FGS conference) and unearthed a goldmine of info about hubby's McClure ancestors--details that don't show up in an ordinary Google or Bing search. A new link on that site leads to online newspaper archives at the Greenwood Cemetery in Petoskey, Michigan, a potential source of obits and other info about the McClures. I also made small donations to county gen societies in exchange for receiving photocopies of surname info in their written files, and will follow up other local resources such as land-office info. Lesson: List the counties or county seats where ancestors lived and search out those genealogical and historical societies.

3. Mine newspapers for every scrap of info. Accessing newspaper databases, I've obtained dozens of obits and marriage announcements this year. I look for each person's obits (or engagement/marriage) on multiple days (often there are two obits, on day of death and on day of burial) and I search multiple news sources (both town and county-seat newspapers, for instance). Some newspapers printed much more detailed obits or wedding announcements, including the full names of out-of-town guests who are relatives! Obits and wedding announcements are also valuable for noticing who is NOT listed. Lesson: Keep plugging in those names, analyze every name/location mentioned, and be flexible about spelling and dates.

2. Context counts. Because I created memory booklets about my maternal and paternal ancestors this year, I did a lot of research to understand why and how they did what they did (leaving the old country, traveling from or to a certain port, settling in a particular area, etc). World history and hyperlocal events definitely influence individuals: My grandparents fled pogroms and persecution in Eastern Europe, along with millions of other immigrants who sought a better life in America. Names, dates, places, and relationships are data points that must be linked by stories of why and how--and that's why context counts. Even the context of a century-old photo makes a difference in telling the story. Lesson: Time-lines and family trees must be analyzed in the context of what was happening at the time.

1. Never give up! This is a lesson reinforced every time a distant cousin finds me via my blog or Facebook or Ancestry or Findagrave and we exchange info. Luck plays an important role in genealogy. We just never know when a vital scrap of knowledge will pop up and solve a mystery that's stumped us for years. Lesson: Life in the "past lane" requires patience and perseverance. Plus good records so when that key item drops into my life, I can put my hands on the rest of the puzzle pieces and figure things out.


HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top 10 Genealogy Lessons Learned in 2014 - Part 1

Everybody loves "top 10" lists. This is the first of two posts about my top 10 list of genealogy lessons learned in 2014, a year of cousin connections as well as ongoing mysteries. In no particular order:

10. Ancestor landing pages work. Several cousins contacted me in 2014 after searching for family names and landing on my ancestor pages. At left, my 23-month readership for each landing page. (Mystery photos, Mayflower page, and 52 Ancestors pages are less than a year old.) Even when I don't blog about a particular family for months, the landing page still attracts views. Lesson: Consider additional ancestor landing pages and be sure to update as needed.**

9. Facebook genealogy pages are fantastic sources of ideas and info. There are more than 4,100 genealogy pages on Facebook, and I've joined a couple of dozen to learn more about genealogy resources in specific areas (like New York City) and to ask questions. That's how I learned where to send for certain naturalization papers, marriage documents, and more. Simply reading the posts by researchers and experts has enriched my family history knowledge. Plus I've actually connected with cousins through the surname lists on some of these county genealogy pages. Lesson: Click to join more Facebook genealogy pages! Scroll through posts for general knowledge, post questions, and give back by posting responses and links where appropriate.

8. Every old photo album reveals a story--beyond the individual photos. Lucky me: Given access to my late father-in-law's early, intact photo albums for scanning purposes, I've uncovered new stories and relationships that he never mentioned. Like the summer his dad bought a 1917 Ford and drove from Ohio to Chicago to see relatives. Between the captions and the number and order of the photos in the album, we confirmed genealogical suspicions about who's who, who was really important to this family, and where people fit on the family tree. Not to mention learning about this family's daily life by taking a magnifying glass to the photos. Lesson: Analyze the sequence and number of photos, as well as the content of each photo and each caption.

7. Try creative online searches. So much new info becomes available online every week (and not just on Ancestry or Family Search) that it's hard to keep up. But when I research "new" relatives, I do a general Web search for "first name last name" AND "last name, first name" at the very least. If too many results pop up, sometimes I add "AND genealogy" to the names or add the city or state or a meaningful year. Also I've had incredible luck with newspaper databases this year, again being creative because "first name last name" doesn't always work. Also try Linkpendium, browse the geographic link pages, and search from there. Lesson: Cast a wide net on searches, since ancestors often moved around or did interesting things (like get married or arrested) in unexpected places. And somebody who has the same surname but isn't familiar may actually be a distant relative or know a distant relative.

6. Spend the money to obtain original documents for key relatives. No, I'm not a billionaire (or even a millionaire), but sometimes there's no other way to find out a female ancestor's maiden name or other vital info on vital records, short of visiting an office or archive in person. This year I've paid for microfilms from Family Search to see NYC death records and purchased nearly a dozen original marriage documents in search of the Roth and Lebowitz family connections, not to mention several UK birth and death records. What I learned illuminated family relationships and helped me sketch out my cousins' family trees. Of course I also wound up with my share of puzzles, too. Lesson: Figure out what I need and what I hope to learn before I write the check, and then if it makes sense, order the documents and cross my fingers that my ancestors told the truth.

More lessons learned in Part 2.

** A few days after writing this, I added a new Farkas & Kunstler landing page :)



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Postcards, Circa 1910

These fun vintage Christmas postcards were all sent to my husband's Wood family in Toledo, Ohio, in the early 1900s. (Not from Grandma--she was a family friend.)

Some were from aunts and uncles, some from cousins, some from friends.

Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Surname Saturday: Sharing the Stories Too

In 2014, I didn't just smash brick walls--I also shared family history stories with the next generation.

At left, the contents page from a 16-page "memory booklet" I created to trace my grandparents' family histories (Teddy Schwartz and Minnie Farkas).

My goal was to tell the family stories I had gathered in the historical, geographical, political, economic, and social context of their lives. In addition, I wanted to present old photos that younger relatives had never seen or had long ago forgotten.

By reading the narrative, looking at the maps, and looking at the photos, future generations will understand what our ancestors were leaving behind and why, where they went and why, and how their courageous journeys turned out. After all, they both came from parts of Eastern Europe that changed hands almost as often as the weather changes in New England. And their travels to the New World were driven by hopes and dreams, not to mention political and economic necessity.

The sections on Grandma and Grandpa's family backgrounds were my chance to present the family tree as far back as I know it on both sides (with connections to the Simonowitz, Gross, and Kunstler families). Also I included maps of where they were born and where they lived on the Lower East Side.

I told the story of teenaged Minnie coming to America with one older brother and two preteen siblings, to be reunited with their parents after two years of separation. And I told the story of teenaged Teddy arriving at Ellis Island on his own, finding work as a runner for the steamship lines, and helping one brother and one sister come to New York from Hungary. I saved the story of how they met and married for a separate section, to build a little drama and keep readers turning the page.

The section titled "What was the world like.....?" was an opportunity to portray just how much the world has changed since these ancestors were born in 1886-7. The United States had only 38 states at that point! President Cleveland dedicated Lady Liberty in 1886. Queen Victoria was celebrating her 50th year on the throne of England; light bulbs were novelties, not yet mainstream; horse-drawn conveyances filled city streets. These facts are eye-openers for relatives who were born digital.

Every page included 2-3 photos or documents (like their marriage cert). I put the captions into a separate "who's who" section to save space. The "where and when" appendix is a timeline of each grandparent's life, in table form. I printed the booklets (I made four) in color so the maps and photos would be eye-catching and invite readers to browse once or twice before filing on a bookshelf.

In 2015, I plan to do similar booklets for hubby's maternal and paternal lines. Crossing my fingers that I can find the time and the skill to make a DVD of at least one family tree's photos!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

52 Ancestors #52: My Schwartz Family from Ungvar


I'm honoring Great-grandpa Herman Yehuda Schwartz and Great-grandma Hana (or Hani) Simonowitz Schwartz in this final post of the "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" series, a wonderful weekly challenge by Amy Johnson Crow that has attracted hundreds of participating blogs.

My Schwartz family was based in the market town of Ungvar, Hungary, which is now known as Uzhorod, Ukraine. It's a busy town at the base of the Carpathian mountains that passed from one empire or nation to another as the map of Eastern Europe was redrawn again and again in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Three of Hani and Herman's grown children left Ungvar before 1906 to make their homes in New York: Sam (originally called Simon), his younger brother Tivadar (hi, Grandpa Teddy!), and their younger sister Mary. I know, from photos and postcards that have been passed down to me, that the Schwartz siblings in America stayed in touch with their family in Ungvar year after year.
The patriarch of the Schwartz family, Herman, died sometime before 1926, when his granddaughter Viola was born. Matriarch Hani died in the 1930s, after teaching her granddaughter Viola the basics of sewing and cooking and baking.

Tragically, the Ungvar-based Schwartz siblings and their spouses and children were all victims of the Holocaust. The only survivor was Viola (my Grandpa Teddy's niece), who returned to her hometown after the war and built a new life in Ukraine and, later, in Israel. This final post in the "52 Ancestors" series is dedicated with love to Viola and her family.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

52 Ancestors #51: Great-Grand Uncle William Steiner, Born in Berks county, PA

Hubby's Steiner ancestors have been my special genealogy focus in 2014 (and 2013). Why? Because we want to determine where the Steiner family originally came from, and when they arrived in the US. Family legend says they were from Switzerland--but there are no supporting stories or documents.

So far, I can't go any further back than Jacob S. Steiner (1802?-1860?) and his wife Elizabeth (1802?-1864, maiden name unknown), hubby's great-great grandparents.

Now, thanks to a genealogy angel on the Crawford County, OH, History and Genealogy Facebook page, I have this detailed obit of William Steiner (1827-1899), a son of Jacob S. Steiner. William is hubby's great-grand uncle (the brother of his great-granddaddy, Edward George Steiner).

The obit states that William "was born in Berks county, Pennsylvania, December 23, 1827. His father and mother were Jacob and Elizabeth Steiner. When quite young, the deceased, with the family, moved to Strasburg, Wayne county, Ohio. During his early life, he worked on a flat boat on the Ohio canal, which ran the tow path that is inseparably connected with the name and fame of the lamented James A. Garfield. After leaving the canal, he was apprenticed to a plasterer which trade he industriously followed ever since.

"On December 5, 1850, he was married to Catherine Coder and 6 children were born to them, four of whom survive him, namely: Rev. Dennis R. Steiner, of Glathe, Kansas; Harry L. Steiner, of Toledo; Mrs. Emma F. Stull, of Veedersburg, Ind; and Mrs. Fred Harter, of Oceola."

A gold mine of info, with places, dates, names, and insight into his working life and his religious beliefs! My next step is to investigate Steiners in Strasburg, Wayne county, Ohio and try to trace them back to Berks county, PA.

This new info came about because of my genealogy alter ego Benjamin McClure, who has a FB account and is active on relevant Facebook genealogy pages. If you're not already using Facebook for genealogy, I encourage you to get started. There are lots of kind folks out there ready to offer advice--and who knows, you might be lucky enough to connect with a cousin or three.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Mrs. John Quincy Steiner Was a Champion - Want to Guess Her Specialty?

Searching through newspaper archives can bring up all kinds of interesting tidbits about our ancestors. Hubby's 1st cousin, 2x removed, was John Quincy Steiner (1862-1941), who married Laura V. Bowland (1860-1931) in 1884.

Searching for their obits, I found the following snippet in the Evening Independent of Massillon, Ohio, from October 16, 1926.

Yes, hubby's Steiner family included a champion hog caller.

"Triumphing over six men, Mrs. John Q. Steiner, 55, of Old Fort won the Seneca county hog-calling contest, hands down. Her "Poo-e-e! Poo-poo-e-e! Oh, Poo-oo-ee-e" has greater appeal to hungry porkers than the similar calls of the men contestants, the judges ruled."


Who knew?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Remembering Mom and Auntie on December 4


Dorothy Schwartz (my Auntie) was born 5 minutes before her sister, Daisy Schwartz (Mom), on December 4th. Here they are in their high school graduation photos. Remembering them with love!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

52 Ancestors #50: Trying to Confirm Ebenezer Larimer, Previously Unknown Fourth Great-Grand Uncle

I often refer to the Larimer Family book (covering ancestors from 1740 to 1959--see it online here) when trying to place Larimer ancestors in the context of hubby's ancestors. But it's possible that the book left out a 4th great grand-uncle!*

Cousin R (hi, probable cousin!) contacted me last week to say that he's descended from the missing great-grand-uncle.

Here's the genealogy, according to the Larimer book: Robert Larimer, who was shipwrecked on his way from Northern Ireland to America, married Mary Gallagher (or O'Gallagher) and had four children, all born in Pennsylvania, according to the book: Isaac, Ebenezer, Phoebe, and Grizella.

Ebenezer Larimer (1773-1827, Findagrave memorial #49880241) married Catherine [maiden name unknown] and, according to the Larimer book, they had 9 children: James Barr Larimer, John W. Larimer, Isaac Larimer, Elizabeth Betsy Larimer, Phoebe Larimer, Rebecca Larimer, Emelia Larimer, Effie Larimer, and Martha Larimer.

The Larimer book is sketchy on the descendants of these 9 children. But it doesn't list any Ebenezer Larimer, Junior.

Cousin R has done his homework and says that Ebenezer had another son, Ebenezer Junior, who had a son, James M. Larimer.

We're going to team up to confirm the connection between the two Ebenezers. The excerpt at top of this post shows James M. Larimer and his family in 1860 in Jackson township, Perry county, Ohio. On the very same page are two other Larimer families, also farmers:
  • Robert Larimore, born in Ireland, with wife Margaret and daughter Susan
  • Obadiah Larimer, born in Ohio, with wife Sarah and children Obadiah, Almira, and James S.
These other Larimers aren't listed in the Larimer book and so now the hunt is on to determine whether James M. Larimer was related to these other Larimer folks or to OUR Larimer ancestors.

*Ooops, I calculated the relationship incorrectly when I originally posted this. So many Larimers, so many possible relationships! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Two of Hubby's Four Mayflower Ancestors Celebrated the First Thanksgiving

Hubby is descended from four Mayflower ancestors: Degory Priest, Mary Norris (wife of Isaac Allerton), Isaac Allerton, and Mary Allerton (daughter of Isaac and Mary).

Sadly, Degory Priest and Mary Norris didn't survive to the first Thanksgiving. Happily, Isaac Allerton and his daughter Mary (plus two other children) celebrated the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth.

Mary Allerton Cushman was hubby's 7th great-grandmother and the longest-lived of the Mayflower immigrants. She died on November 28, 1699--315 years ago this week.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

52 Ancestors #49: Smashing the Brick Wall of Hinda Chazan's Maiden Name

Isaac Chazan and Hinda Chazan, before 1921
This post has been months in the works as I tried to learn more about Hinda Chazan (1865-1940), the aunt who hosted my paternal grandpa Isaac Birk in Manchester, England in 1901. Isaac Birk had left his native Lithuania with his brother, Abraham, and lived with the Chazan family in Manchester for a year or two before continuing on to North America. According to the 1901 UK Census, Isaac and Abraham were living with their "uncle" and "aunt."

My UK Chazan cousins were quite sure that Isaac Chazan wasn't a blood relative of Isaac Birk. That meant Hinda had to be the actual relative, and our link to the Birk family. But we didn't know Hinda's maiden name--it wasn't on her death cert, unfortunately. We only knew Hinda was from Telsiai, the same area where my grandpa was from, and she was married and had her first child there before arriving in Manchester around 1888.
Luckily, there were a few more documents we could consult. One cousin had a UK birth cert from Hinda's second child, showing the parents as Isaac Chazan and Hindy Chazan, "formerly Metow" (see excerpt above). Next, we sent for the UK birth cert of the youngest daughter, and it showed the parents as Isaac Chazan and Hinda Chazan, "formerly Mittaw."
This morning, I posted these two excerpts on Tracing the Tribe's Facebook page and asked for ideas about what the real maiden name might be back in Hinda's native Telsiai. Tracing the Tribe has many smart and helpful Jewish genealogy mavens, and they broke through my brick wall in less than an hour.

The key was knowing that "Metow" and "Mittaw" might be pronounced "Mitav" instead. One of the mavens had noticed "Mitav" in the Lithuanian database listings of JewishGen.org. In fact, once the mavens saw Hinda's headstone (above) and translated her father's name as "Tzvi Hirsh," they suggested I look for the equivalent "Girsh Mitav" in Telsiai.
Amazingly, this search turned up an entire family unit featuring Girsh and siblings in the 1834 Census (living with Girsh's uncle Shpits and his family, by the way). Girsh's Telsiai death record even showed up: He died at 85, on September 10, 1904, and was the son of Shimel Mitav. The dates don't match exactly, but this still sounds quite promising!

Learning about Girsh was a wonderful clue for another reason: My father's Hebrew name was "Tzvi" also, sometimes called "Hirsh" as well. He was born in September, 1909, and it seems not too much of a leap to assume that Isaac Birk--nephew of Hinda Mitav Chazan--named his first son after Girsh (Tzvi Hirsh) Mitav.

This amazing breakthrough has enabled me to leap back two generations from Hinda, to her father Girsh and her probable grandfather Shimel in Telsiai, for which I'm thankful on Thanksgiving week.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend Wedding, Mom & Dad

Above, my mother (Daisy Schwartz) being walked down the aisle at New York's Hotel McAlpin by her father, Teddy Schwartz. She and Dad (Harold Burk) were married on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend in 1946.


Mom wore a gold lame dress, matching shoes, and a simple headdress. At right, she's in her wedding outfit, topped by her stylish new Persian lamb coat.

Dad and all the men wore handsome double-breasted suits, the height of postwar fashion.

After the lunchtime wedding, Daisy's aunt Ella gave a party that included most if not all of the bride's Farkas Family Tree. The tired but happy couple eventually boarded a train for their Atlantic City honeymoon!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Treasure Chest Thurday: Century-Old Postcards to the Wood Family of Ohio


A cousin was kind enough to let me scan dozens of century-old postcards sent to hubby's Wood family by various relatives. What a treasure chest! This family never missed an opportunity to say howdy--on Washington's birthday, Easter, New Year's, birthdays, Halloween, you name it.

Not only did these cards prove how close-knit the family was, they also let me trace the meanderings of James & Mary Wood and family all over Cleveland and Cleveland Heights, as carpenter James built a home, moved his family in, sold the home after finishing the interior, and built a new one near by. Plus the cards allowed me to cross-check cousins' locations with census records, another big help.

Top, Ada Mary Ann Slatter Baker's Easter postcard to one of her Wood nephews, who apparently injured himself in some way in the spring of 1914. Ada lived in Toledo, and the nephews lived in Cleveland, but for penny postage she could stay in touch. Ada was the sister of Mary Slatter Wood, the recipient's mother.


Here, a December, 1909 New Year's card from a 19-year-old first cousin (the son of Francis "Frank" Ellery Wood Sr.) in Toledo, OH to a four-year-old first cousin in Cleveland, OH (the son of Francis "Frank" Wood's younger brother, James Wood).

One more example: A 1913 Halloween card from a favorite and kindly aunt Rachel Ellen (Nellie) Wood Kirby, who lived in Chicago but visited Ohio from time to time. Nellie was the sister of the recipient's father.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

52 Ancestors #48: Wabash Pioneers Mr. & Mrs. Theodore Wilson McClure, Married "Three Score Years"

Thanks to the Wabash Plain Dealer, I got a glimpse into the pioneer lives of hubby's great-grand uncle Theodore Wilson McClure (1834-1927) and great-grand aunt, Louisa Jane Austin McClure (1837-1924). Theodore was the son of Benjamin McClure and Sarah Denning McClure. Jane was the daughter of Thomas and Mary Austin. Both came to Wabash as youngsters, when the area was still heavily wooded and the entire settlement consisted of a handful of wooden cabins.

Ted and Louisa married on April 15, 1858 and all their children were born in Indiana. In April, 1918, the Wabash paper published a front-page story about their "Sixtieth Wedding Anniversary--Mr. & Mrs. Theodore W. McClure of Lagro Married Three Score Years." (The same front page carried WWI news from the European front.) The Wabash newspaper often mentioned how the McClures were from Scotch-Irish roots--and this article was no exception.

According to the newspaper clipping (some of which is illegible):
Mr. McClure is of Scotch-Irish descent and was born in ___ county, Ohio, in 1834, the son of Benjamin McClure. His early life was spent in Wabash, beginning in a pioneer environment. When the Indians still enjoyed the liberty of the woods, wandering through the trails that are now streets of Wabash, he used to climb the hill next to the court house to see the people in the only two cabins there.

Mrs. McClure's parents came here in early days also from the east, reaching Wabash county in 1847. Her parents were Mr. & Mrs. Austin, and they came overland from Clinton county, Ohio, passing through some rough and wild country. Their farm, east of Wabash, became known as the old Austin ___.

A member of the Austin family, who was popular in the school and church circles, and who grew up with the other pioneer children as the village of Wabash grew to a town was Louisa Jane Austin ___ in later years, Mrs. Theodore McClure. The wedding took place April 15th, 1858. The Rev. Cooper of the M.E. [Methodist] Church was the officiating minister, and conducted the service at 5 o'clock. The wedding feast was one of the bountiful ones, read about more often than seen in present times, and included venison, wild turkeys, and ducks.

Mr. & Mrs. McClure are the parents of five children (Charles, Albert, Clara, Theodore Jr., and another daughter, name illegible). 
Louisa McClure died just weeks after celebrating their 64th wedding anniversary. Ted McClure lived seven months past what would have been their 66th wedding anniversary.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sepia Saturday, Photo within a Photo: The 48th Highlanders of Toronto

Edgar James Wood (1903-1986), my late father-in-law, was 14 when he took up photography. He delighted in printing and enlarging his photos on his own.

Scanning the prints in his 1917 album, I came across the above photo of Ed's dad, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). It was taken in Cleveland, at one of the many homes built by James during his construction career.

I didn't need a magnifying glass to recognize the photo on the wall, top left. Here it is, enlarged.

It shows the 48th Highlanders of Toronto, with Captain John D. Slatter, bandmaster. (There's no mistaking the kilts and boots.)

Capt. Jack (as we in the family like to call him) was the photographer's uncle, brother of his mother, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). The families were in touch regularly. Capt. Jack's children crossed the border from Toronto to see their aunt Mary and her family on a number of occasions, we know from postcards (and border crossing documents).

On the eve of Veteran's Day, I want to salute Capt. Jack and all the other veterans in the Wood family.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Those Places Thursday: On the Genealogy Trail, Passing McClure, Ohio

Marian McClure (1909-1983) passed through McClure, Ohio, in the 1930s. She was newly married to Edgar Wood (1903-1986).

Many years later, her son and I drove through. He remembered the photo of his mom and we snapped our own version.

Hubby's Wood family lived in Toledo, and his McClure family lived in Cleveland, so the route was familiar to folks on both sides of the family tree. We followed the route last year, while doing genealogy research, and stumbled on the McClure sign by accident. Watch for it when you're outside Toledo some time.

Monday, November 3, 2014

52 Ancestors #47: Smiles and Tears for Mary Amanda Wood Carsten

When I was scanning the 1917 photo album created by my late dad-in-law, Edgar James Wood, I had no idea I would uncover a previously unknown family story that runs the gamut from smiles to tears.

Above is the photo and caption that started me on the hunt. Tall guy Wallis is Edgar's brother, shown behind two younger kids, Olive and Chester Carsten. Their last name is shown elsewhere in the album. Never having heard the Carsten name in connection with the Wood family, I consulted the 1910 US Census and there, in Toledo, was a household consisting of:
  • August Carsten, a carpenter, age 25
  • Mary Carsten, age 25
  • Edward Carsten, son, age 6
  • Ernest Carsten, son, age 4
But Ancestry also delivered up birth info for Chester Carsten: He was born after the 1910 Census, and "Wood" is additional info in the birth file--a clue! Olive Carsten was born in 1914. By the time dad-in-law Ed took the photo at top, Chester was 7 and Olive was 3.

I asked our Wood family genealogist for help and after a bit of research, he came back with the info that Chester and Olive were grandchildren of William Henry White Wood (1853-1893), who was dad-in-law Ed's uncle. He also figured out that Mary Carsten is actually Mary Amanda Wood Carsten, a first cousin of my dad-in-law and niece of Ed's father, James Edgar Wood.

My dad-in-law Ed had a LOT of first cousins because his father was one of 17 children of Mary Amanda Demarest Wood and Thomas Haskell Wood. Most of the cousins were way older because the oldest and youngest siblings were literally a generation apart.

Chester and Olive's mother, Mary Amanda Wood, was obviously named after her grandmother, Mary Amanda Demarest Wood. (For more about the mystery surrounding this matriarch, the mother of 17, see here.)

The photo at top was taken in the summer of 1917. Alas, Mary Amanda Wood Carsten, mother of Olive and Chester, isn't in the photo--because she died in January, 1917.

Sad to say, her cause of death was extrauterine gestation, tubal, as shown in the death cert (courtesy of Family Search).

Poor Mary was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Toledo, and later moved to a different plot in the same section. (The cemetery is checking on why that happened and will let me know who she's buried next to.)

Meanwhile, widower August Carsten was left with four young children, the oldest barely 13. He remarried in the summer of 1917 to Matilde C. Kohne, with whom he had two children: Warren (born in Toledo) and Bruce (born in Illinois, where the family later moved).

So the photo at top, with smiling children, shows cousins seeing each other months after a family tragedy. Young Mary Amanda Wood Carsten was my hubby's first cousin, once removed.

Friday, October 31, 2014

52 Ancestors #46: Lojos the Tailor from Budafalu, Hungary

Lojos Mandel (1861?-1914) was the father-in-law of my cousin Margaret Roth (1892-1967). I've been tracing him back in the hope of learning more about the Roth family's history before they arrived in New York City.

Soon after Lojos (or Lajos) sailed into New York Harbor in November, 1890, he Americanized his name to Louis. In 1896, he filed his first papers for US citizenship and 10 years later, he took the oath of citizenship.

Lojos was a tailor, according to multiple census records, living on Avenue D in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for years. He and his wife, Rose Moskovitz Mandel, moved to the Bronx sometime after the 1910 Census period.

Lojos and his wife Rose returned to Europe in late 1911 and sailed back to New York in January, 1912 on the same ship that brought Joseph Roth, brother of Margaret Roth. In other words, Lojos's future daughter-in-law's brother was on the same ship from Hamburg to NYC. Coincidence? Hardly.

When Lojos died suddenly of a heart attack in 1914, at about 54 years of age, the family buried him in Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn. But that's not where he's resting today. His gravestone is in Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Queens, inside a large family plot.

Only by looking up his NYC death certificate on microfilm (thank you, Family History Center) did I learn that his hometown was Budafalu, Hungary, which is now Budesti in Romania, not far from Bucharest.

Was his wife Rose born near Budafalu? And did either have siblings who also sailed to America? Did the Mandels meet the Roths in New York or were they acquainted in Hungary before they left?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

52 Ancestors #45: Wally, John, Teddy, Ed, and the 1917 Ford

When my late father-in-law Edgar J. Wood (1903-1986) got his first camera in 1917, he immediately began photographing his brothers (hubby's uncles) and the rest of the family.

1917 Ford owned by James E. Wood
The brothers were Wallis "Wally" Walter Wood (1905-1957), John Andrew Wood (1908-1980), and Theodore "Teddy" W. Wood (1910-1968). Ed was the oldest, Teddy the youngest.

Their father (James Edgar Wood, 1871-1939) had just gotten a brand-new Ford in 1917, when Ed (then 14 years old) began his lifelong hobby of photography.

At top of this page is an excerpt from Ed's first photo album. The inscription reads: "A few 'bum' photos of our big picnic at Salida Beach. July 4th, 1917. Excuse the mistakes. Some of my first attempts." In the "three Musketeers" photo, Ed is holding the shutter release, John is in the middle (I believe), and Wally is at right. Teddy seems to be camera shy for that one photo.

Ed's father, James, and his mother, Mary Slatter (1869-1925), are shown in the couples photo at top, she in a white hat for motoring to Salida Beach and he in a dark jacket.


Salida Beach is at Mentor-on-the-Lake, today an easy half-hour ride from Cleveland, where the Wood family lived. But in the 1917 Ford, which was getting its first photo session courtesy of Ed, the trip by car surely took a lot longer in those pre-highway days.

Later in the summer of 1917, the family drove from Cleveland to Chicago in their new Ford--and the boys pitched in to keep the car going, as shown in the photo just above. "All help when we have trouble," writes Ed in the album. "Wally pumping up a tire. John feeling casing. Near Waterloo, Indiana, on Chicago trip, 1917."


Photographer Ed liked to caption most of his photos, luckily for his descendants, often adding his own humorous comments. At right, his brother John Andrew Wood in some kind of uniform. "The cop! J.A.W.," writes Ed. Brother Teddy was "The tough egg," according to Ed.

The album is a treasure trove for our genealogical investigations, complete with some new faces and names and places. Thank you, Ed!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

52 Ancestors #44: Edgar J. Wood's Jazz-Era Summer of Playing Jazz in Europe

When my father-in-law Edgar J. Wood (1903-1986) was in college at Tufts, he spent two summers during the 1920s playing his way across the Atlantic as part of an All-American college jazz band. At least two dozen college jazz bands toured Europe each summer, following a similar pattern.

Ed and his band buddies would board an ocean-liner in New York, receive free passage by playing for guests during the trans-Atlantic voyage, and then criss-cross Europe, playing at clubs and resorts that had booked their services. They would cruise back to New York in the same way, trading music for passage.

Above, Ed (second from right) with his college buddies on the S.S. Rotterdam, looking natty in their blazers and bow-ties, neat white trousers, and stylish shoes. Ed is the only one without an instrument, because his grand piano was in the ship's grand salon.

The 1926 summer band consisted of: Leo Lyons, Norm Mertelmeyer, Jimmie Rosselli, Joe Rosselli, Gil Gilbert, Ed Wood, Al Egerter, and Jack Conant.

Ed's scrapbook of this summer jazz tour includes a clipping from the Boston Herald of October 10, 1926. So 88 years ago this month, 23-year-old Ed was interviewed about his most recent jazz-era summer job. He told the interviewer about an unforgettable gig they played in a palace in Venice:
One of the things I remember best was when we played at a costume ball given by Count Volki, Italian minister of finance--he was at the head of the Italian debt commission to the United States, you know--at his castle on the Grand Canal, in honor of Prince Umberto, the Crown Prince. It was attended by members of the royal family and a host of Italian dukes and counts. It was one of the things that you see only in the movies, unless you are fortunate enough to be a member of the Italian nobility or a jazz musician.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rosa and Berna's Snowy October Wedding Day in 1895

A light snow fell over Rhode Island on October 21, 1895, the day Rosa Lebowitz and Berna (Banna/Barnhart) Markell were married in Providence.

Now, 119 years later, I'm staring at their marriage certificate, thanks to the advice I was given by members of the FB Rhode Island Genealogy Network. They told me how to obtain this document--and the cost was the princely sum of $2.30.


Rosa said she was 20 (she was actually younger) and Berna said he was 21 (his correct age). His occupation was listed as brush maker, the same occupation he listed on his naturalization papers. Not every detail fits what I know of these ancestors, but there are enough points of agreement (her parents, their birthplaces) for me to conclude that this marriage document is theirs.

Although the couple said they were residents of Providence at the time of their marriage in 1895, Rhode Island was known throughout New England as a Gretna Green.

As this Connecticut newspaper article so eloquently states, couples from nearby states would seek out Rhode Island for "spur-of-the-moment marriages" without the consent of either parent. They "would be man and wife a few minutes after touching Rhode Island soil." Instant marriages continued until late in 1909, when the RI legislature required a five-day wait between license and marriage.

Were my ancestors seeking an instant marriage or were they really living in Providence at the time? The Providence directories for 1895 and years around then weren't arranged alphabetically. No, businesses and residents were listed according to the street where they were located. There was a separate directory listing for businesses ("brush manufacturers," not "brush makers"), but my ancestor was an ordinary worker, not an owner.

I have to be more creative to find Rosa and Berna if they're really in the Providence directory--which I suspect they're not.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

52 Ancestors #43: James Larimer of "Pioneer Stock" and a Democrat

Hubby's 3d great-grand uncle James Larimer, 3d son of Isaac M. Larimer of Pennsylvania, married Asenath Cornwell (1808-1897) in Fairfield county, Ohio (in the 1830s?).

James and another Larimer brother soon bought land in Middlebury, and the families became pioneer farmers in Indiana. James and Asenath had five children: John, James, Nancy, Anderson, and Amos. Later they sold some land to his brother-in-law, Abel E. Work (1815-1898), who married James' sister, Cynthia Hanley Larimer (1814-1882).

James Larimer was tall and known for his strength, which he needed to split rails for farm fences. In fact, he won a local reputation for his speed with an axe.

But James also had a political side: He served as one of Middlebury's delegates to the Democratic convention of Elkhart county in Goshen, Indiana, on May 29, 1840. At left, a snippet from an article in the Goshen Democrat of June, 1840. James's name appears under "Middlebury."

It was a presidential election year, and Martin Van Buren was running for reelection against Whig party nominee William Henry Harrison, an 1812 War hero. Despite the support of loyal Democrats like James Larimer, Van Buren lost the popular vote by a small margin--and lost the Electoral College vote by a wide margin (234 to 60). William Henry Harrison was inaugurated in early 1841, then developed pneumonia and died just weeks later. His vice-president, a former Democrat named John Tyler, succeeded to the Presidency and pushed the "states' rights" view of government.

Back to ancestor James. He died on a cold winter day when his horse stumbled and James was thrown, hitting his head hard. James's grave in Middlebury, Indiana has this inscription:
"Type of Pioneer stock that, for one hundred years, pushed Government, School and Church into the Wilderness."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Watching CNN Roots

I don't miss an episode of Finding Your Roots so when my wonderful Colorado cousin mentioned CNN Roots, sponsored by Ancestry, I clicked to take a look. If you have 10 minutes, I recommend you click to the main site--the link I've highlighted here--and watch the host or anchor of your choice as he or she traces the tree back generations in a brief genealogical adventure.

CNN will broadcast a two-hour CNN Roots special on October 21. But I snuck a peak and watched several of the roughly 10-minute segments today. The Chris Cuomo segment was a lot of fun, partly because of the genealogical mysteries and partly because of the ancestral locations he visited (tiny Italian towns). Plus his family came along, and their delight in walking the streets where ancestors had lived was quite evident.

The Jake Tapper segment is also fascinating, because he dispels family myths. Did one of Jake's ancestors, Englebert Huff, really live beyond 120 years of age? Jake learned that Huff's descendants fought for the British in the American Revolution. But good news: he got to go to Canada to trace that part of his tree, even meeting a distant cousin along the way.

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

52 Ancestors #42: John Larimer Haglind, Cousin and "Useful Citizen"

This week's post continues my look at hubby's Larimer family. His 1st cousin 3x removed was John Larimer Haglind (1852-1918), the first son of Eleanor Larimer and Eric Haglind. Born in Elkhart, IN, where many Larimers lived and worked, John and his family moved to Lagrange, IN when he was a teen.


Using Newspaper Archives (accessed through my membership in the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center), I was able to locate dozens of news snippets about this cousin.

During his life, John served in many civic roles, including as superintendent of a municipal water works, clerk of the town of Lagrange, recorder for the adjutant general in Lagrange county, and on and on.

As his obits show, he was also active in the Masons, Odd Fellows, and Knights of Pythias. Plus he found time to play the violin. As the newspaper says, "Mr. Haglind was a good man and a useful citizen and Lagrange sustains a great loss in his demise."

PS John's son, Harry W. Haglind, became a bandleader in the 23d Engineers during WWI and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This means music runs in the family in the Larimer line as well as the Slatter line.