Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sentimental Sunday: "Take Good Care of the Little Brothers"

"Aunt Nellie" (Rachel Ellen Wood Lervis Kirby, 1864-1954) mailed this colorful New Year's postcard to her nephew, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957) on December 29, 1910. Aunt Nellie was my hubby's great-aunt.

By the time this postcard was written at the end of 1910, Wally had two younger brothers in addition to his older brother. That's why Aunt Nellie wrote to him (misspelling his name, as she often did):

"Wallace, Please tell mama for me that I received the scarf and am much pleased with it for it is pretty and I wanted one. I hope you will be a good boy for mama and papa and take good care of the little brothers. With love from Aunt Nellie"

Wallis's family was living on Lancelot Avenue in Cleveland, in a home built by Nellie's brother--Wally's father, James Edgar Wood. He was a builder who would construct a home on spec, move his family into it, finish it, and sell it while building the shell of the next spec home. The family moved many times in this manner.

Nellie was a beloved aunt and a devoted sister to her 16 siblings. She lived in Chicago and sent postcards to members of this large family on many occasions. There were also visits to and fro, and gifts on occasions like the birth of a baby (I know from my husband's baby book).

Nellie was a caring person, literally: Her occupation in the 1930 census was "caretaker, nursery" and included in her household, along with her husband, was a "boarder" who was 2 8/12 years old, presumably an infant being cared for by Nellie. In other censuses, she was listed as a seamstress.

Nellie was widowed twice, having married Walter Alfred Lervis Sr. in 1884 and, later, Samuel A. Kirby, a barber. She outlived all of her sisters and brothers, even though she was far from the youngest of the 17 children of Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Family Weddings on Christmas Eve

Here are two stories of Christmas Eve weddings among members of my grandparents' families.


My grandfather's sister, great-aunt Mary Schwartz (1891-1959), eloped with handsome furrier Edward Wirtschafter (1889-1958) mid-day on December 24, 1913.

They were married at City Hall and kept their marriage secret from the family for a number of weeks.

Mary quickly became close to her sister-in-law Anna Gelbman Schwartz (1886-1940), wife of Sam Schwartz (1883-1954), a brother of Teddy and Mary.

The photo at right, courtesy of my 2d cousin, shows Mary and Edward in middle age, still a devoted couple.


My grandmother's brother, great-uncle Alex "Sandor" Farkas (1885-1948), married beautiful, talented Jennie Katz (1886-1974) on December 24, 1916.

Both Alex and Jennie worked in the garment industry. It was said that Jennie could sew a copy of any fashion after seeing it once, without a pattern. In fact, she sewed dresses for the bridal parties of many Farkas relatives.

Alex was one of the prime movers of the Kossuth Society in New York, which helped take care of sick members. This is where he met his future bride.

The photo at left shows Jennie with her husband Alex (at right) and her brother-in-law Teddy Schwartz (at left, hi Grandpa!). Teddy was married to Alex's older sister, Minnie Farkas (hi Grandma!). 

Wood Family Christmas Card, 1909

In 1909, Wallis W. Wood (hubby's uncle) received this pretty postcard from one of his aunts, addressed to his parents' home in Cleveland, Ohio. As usual, she (like everyone else) didn't spell his first name correctly, but the sentiment was there, 106 years ago this week.
She wrote: "Dear Wallace, I suppose this Christmas sees you bigger than ever. I think I will have to come and see you soon or you all will be men before I know it. Mary."

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday: Josef and Julia Roth, Buried in Mt Moriah Cemetery

Earlier this month, I visited Mount Moriah Cemetery in New Jersey to pay my respects to cousin Josef Roth (abt 1858-1945) and his wife, Julia Gutfried Roth (1862-1937).

Josef was probably an older half-brother of my Farkas cousin Bela Roth (1865-1941).

Josef's inscription confirms he was the son of Shlomo (Solomon).

Julia's inscription says she was the daughter of Menacham Dov, the Cohain (priestly tribe).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Found: Grandpa James Wood's Elusive 3d Marriage License

Hubby's Grandpa, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939), was married three times.

His first wife was Mary Slatter (1869-1925). Mary was the mother of four boys (Edgar, Theodore, Wallis, and John Wood).

Then Mary died in 1925 at age 55. James remarried almost exactly a year later, in 1926, to Alice Hopperton Unger (1884-1930), who was very possibly the housekeeper for the Wood family (according to family stories).

But some time in the next two years, James and Alice divorced and James married for a third time.

I knew to look for this third marriage because cousin Larry, the Wood genealogist, said that the family put James together with a relative's widowed mother-in-law named Caroline Cragg (1871-19??).

For the past few years, there's been no sign of this Wood-Cragg marriage license. Until yesterday.

A brand-new shaky leaf led me to this newly-posted Michigan document showing that James Edgar Wood, son of Thomas H. Wood and "Mary De Merest" [aka Mary Amanda Demarest] married Caroline Cragg, daughter of Anthony Foltz of Germany and Johanna ___?___ of Germany.

The document confirms James's previous two marriages and Carrie's previous one marriage. The witnesses: Carrie's son Ralph Paul Cragg (1889-1969) and his wife, Lilly E. Hodgeson Cragg (1889-1962). Everybody resided in Napoleon, Michigan except the bride, who came from Toledo, Ohio for the wedding.

James and Carrie remained in Jackson, MI according to the 1930 Census. By 1939, however, they weren't together for some reason, because James was living with his oldest son, Edgar, at the time of his death. I still don't know when/where Carrie died, but I'm looking.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: 1915 Christmas Postcard from a Wood Cousin

On December 20, 1915, cousin Dorothy Louise Baker (1897-1981) sent this pretty postcard to one of her first cousins, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957). It has remained in the family for 100 years! So what if Wallis's name wasn't spelled correctly?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Was Cousin Alex Roth's Wife Blanche a Cousin of Tony Curtis?

Tony Curtis (Bernard Schwartz) was born in Mateszalka; my Roth cousins were born in Vasarosnameny.
Maybe one glamorous star of stage and screen isn't enough for the Roth branch of my family tree. We know that the 1940s Broadway and Hollywood star Gloria Warren  (original name: Gloria M. Weiman, daughter of Herman Weiman and Julia Weiss Weiman) was a cousin. She was related through the Farkas-Kunstler cousin Bela Roth (1865-1941), who frequently visited the Farkas Family Tree meetings--my mother's side of the family.

Cousin Alex "Sandor" Roth (1892-1949) was the oldest son of Bela Roth, born in Vasarosnameny, Hungary. The Roths came to New York in the early 1900s. While living in the Boston area and working in a car dealership (a family occupation in the Roth line), Alex married Blanche "Blanka" Schwartz (1897-1986). I've sent for Alex's Social Security application, and hope to have it before the calendar clicks over to 2016.

Meanwhile, I'd heard a whisper that Blanche Schwartz was some kind of cousin of Tony Curtis, whose original name was Bernard Hershel Schwartz. So I've been trying to find out more.

Parents of Blanche Schwartz
An experienced researcher interested in the Schwartz connection to Tony Curtis shared with me the following information:
  • Blanche Schwartz was very likely the daughter of Frank (Ferencz) Schwartz and Frieda Frimet Klein. We will know for sure once I get a copy of Blanche's Social Security application in January.
  • Blanche was born in Mateszalka, Hungary, which is close to Vasarosnameny, the home town of the Roth family (see map at top).
  • Blanche had 3 sisters who lived to adulthood: Elaine (married name was Stern), Violet (married name was Winton and then Fidel, and she was an actress), and Elizabeth
Because this researcher suspected that Blanche's parents were buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery in New Jersey, I took a field trip and photographed their stone, shown above. Translating, Frank is the son of Shalom, Frieda is the daughter of Dov Ber.

The researcher also discovered that Frank Schwartz's mother's maiden name is Weiss. Remember Weiss? That's the maiden name of Gloria Warren's mother. Coincidence? Very possible, given how many Weiss families lived in that area of Hungary. But then again, there were a number of intermarriages with the Weiss family on my mother's side.

To discover the connection between Blanche Schwartz and Bernard Hershel Schwartz will require investigating older ancestors in the Mateszalka records. This is going to be quite a challenge!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday's Faces from the Past: The Schwartz Twins in Summer

Today would have been the birthday of the Schwartz twins, Daisy (Mom) and Dorothy (Auntie).

I think Daisy is at left in the front row and Dorothy is at right in the front row, on their knees for the photo. Their mother, Hermina Farkas Schwartz, is standing, 3d from left.

They were in a summer colony in upstate New York for a week or two of vacation, as was the custom for my family's New York City dwellers who wanted to temporarily escape the heat, noise, and dirt.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tuesday's Tip: Try, Try Again--New Records Are Always Coming Online!

Remember Cyndi's List? I returned to it yesterday to look for any new links to Jewish genealogical resources for my Birk-Chazan-Mitav research.

Isaac Birk was my paternal grandpa from Lithuania and his aunt was, I believe, Anna Hinda Mitav who married Isaac Chazan and settled in Manchester, England in the late 1880s.

Under the Jewish resources on Cyndi's List, one of the categories is "Societies and Groups." I scrolled and clicked until I came to the Jewish Genealogy Society of Great Britain. There I found a link to the search page for United Synagogue Marriage Authorisations--a recently-updated index to rabbinical marriage records from 1880 through 1901.

Interestingly, both my grandpa Isaac and my grand-uncle Isaac had brothers named Abraham. But I never knew the maiden name of Abraham Chazan's wife Betty, and I hadn't checked records again for more than a year.

Then yesterday, I plugged in Abraham's full name, his wife Betty's name, and the year of their marriage (1895, which I knew from BMD records in UK). See the word NEW? Now I have Betty's maiden name, Matz.

So Tuesday's Tip is try, try again, because new records appear online every day.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving 1909, 5 Slatter Siblings, and 24 First Cousins

Hubby's Wood family had four Mayflower ancestors. I'm in awe of the courage of these Pilgrims in undertaking the dangerous and demanding voyage from Plymouth, England to the New World in 1620.

Sadly, only two of these Wood ancestors (Isaac Allerton and his daughter, Mary Allerton) survived to celebrate the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

Happily, more recent ancestors from the Wood line left some trace of their Thanksgiving celebrations in colorful postcard greetings.

This is the front and back of a 1909 holiday greeting sent from Dorothy Louise Baker (1897-1981), a daughter of Adelaide (Ada) Mary Ann Slatter and James Sills Baker, to her 1st cousin, Wallis Walter Wood (1905-1957). Wallis was a son of Ada's sister, Mary Slatter and James Edgar Wood.
 


Dorothy and Wallis were among the 24 first cousins who were related through the 5 Slatter siblings: Ada, Mary, Albert, John Daniel, and Henry Arthur.

Happy and healthy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tracing the Berk/Burk/Burke/Birk Brothers

Grandpa Isaac Burk and Great-uncle Abraham Berk were brothers born in "Gorst, Kovna, Russia" (actually Gargždai in Kovno, Lithuania--inside the Pale of Settlement).

Both trained as carpenters before heading to the West around 1900, probably to escape harsh restrictions on Jews and to avoid extended military service.

The record at right, documenting Abraham's border crossing between Canada and the US, shows that he (and his wife Annie) visited Isaac in New York in February, 1919. Isaac's address of 1642 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan is familiar to me from US and NY census records. Isaac, his wife Henrietta Mahler Burk, and their four children (including my Dad, then only a lad) all lived in this apartment building from about 1918 to 1925.

At left, attached to Abraham's border-crossing record is an "alien certificate" allowing him entry into the US and describing his appearance as 5 ft, 1 inch, 125 lbs, brown eyes, grey hair (bald).

I'm even more excited that Grandpa Isaac's Social Security Application Index record recently appeared on Ancestry. I didn't even know he'd applied, but the index has his correct death date and name, and it includes his SS number. Of course I just mailed off my request for his original application documents, which should show his (and brother Abraham's) parents' names, their place of birth, and more. With luck, I'll have the records before New Year's and be able to trace the brothers in even more detail!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Train McClure's Civil War Reunion in Wabash, Indiana

Since today is the day in history that President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863, I want to say a few words about hubby's Civil War veteran, 1st great-grand uncle Train Caldwell McClure (1843-1934).

Train enlisted on August 3, 1862 in the Union Indiana Volunteers, 89th Regiment, Infantry. He served as a private and remained with his regiment until he was mustered out on July 19, 1865 at Mobile, Alabama. In three years of service, Train marched through Tennesee and other Southern states as his regiment fought in the Battle of Nashville, Battle of Arkansas Post, Battle of Fort Blakely, Battle of Munfordville, and Battle of Pleasant Hill.

Two years after Train was mustered out, he married Guilia Swain (1847-1920) and they settled down in Train's hometown of Wabash, Indiana for the rest of their lives. Their four children were: Frank, Harry, Jesse, and Bessie.

Above is a photo of Train McClure (standing, 2d from left) at a reunion of Civil War veterans in Wabash in September, 1922.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Saluting My Family's WWII Veterans

During World War II, a number of family members served in the military. I'm proud and grateful for their service!

Above left, my father Harold Burk (1909-1978) was a personnel clerk and Technician 5th grade in the 3163d Army Signal Service Corps, supporting combat troops in Central Europe and Germany.

Above right, Harold's brother, my uncle Sidney Burk (1914-1995), was (I believe) serving on staff for the Judge Advocate General in Hawaii during WWII.

My aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001), shown in the news clipping at right, was a sergeant in the Women's Army Corps and received the Bronze Star for supporting bombardment forces in Belgium, France, England, and elsewhere in Europe. The story of her harrowing wartime voyage across the Atlantic with hundreds of WACs and British military is here.

Her brother, my uncle Frederick Shaw (1912-1991), was an Army staff sergeant who trained troops in a number of Southern installations from 1943 to 1945.

In addition, cousins on both sides of the family were in the military. Thank you!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Gen Do-Over: Do You Have a Genealogical "Will"?

Farkas-Marks wedding, 1930s, New York City
The whole point of this year's Genealogical Do-Over is to be sure we have accurate, complete, detailed, and proven family tree information. But what happens to all this marvelous data in the future?

Please think about writing your Genealogical "Will" to be sure all your hard work and carefully-researched materials are preserved for future generations. This may well be the most important step in the entire process, to avoid family historians having to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel when you already have so much to share with your family.

I'm lucky: I have a volunteer from my side of the family and another from hubby's side of the family to take custody of all the archived records, files, photos, and family tree data, both hard copies and electronically. I'm also leaving each of these genealogy heirs a sum of money to help them preserve all my genealogical data so it gets passed down for many years.

So start by identifying your genealogical heirs. Then, with a written document, be sure your genealogical heirs know the location and disposition of:
  • Photographs (all captioned, right?!) Above, a treasured framed photo in my possession of a Farkas family wedding, showing my grandma (seated second from right) at her sister Jeanne's wedding) and grandpa (third from right, standing). I've willed this to my genealogical heir so it will always be in the family.
  • Family histories in bound or printed form
  • Diaries and notebooks from ancestors and relatives
  • Online family trees 
  • Correspondence about genealogy with relatives, historical societies, etc.
  • Original documentation (marriage/death/birth certs for instance)
  • Computer files with family tree data
  • Audio files (I have microcassettes) containing oral histories
  • DVDs, flash drives, and other electronic media containing digitized versions of genealogy data
Please emphasize to your heirs that nothing is to be thrown away. There are ways to distribute things that the family doesn't want to retain. Over the past two years, I've been culling my collection and returning photos of distant relatives and family friends to their families so they can be passed down in those lines.

In addition, I've gifted items (like a WWII war bonds wallet and an 1800s handwritten notebook of debits and credits) to historical societies and museums to be archived and maintained for the future.

To help plan your genealogical "will," check out the following links I found through a quick online search (not an endorsement, just a suggestion for more reading and follow-up). Also consider getting professional advice about your own personal situation!
  • Thomas MacEntee's compact book about how to arrange for your genealogy research to be preserved "after you're gone" (see his YouTube video here).
  • A template for a genealogical "will," from Devon Family History Society.
  • A template from the Northern Neck of Virginia Law Page for a genealogical "will."
  • Guest post on Geneabloggers by Paul Brooks about this topic.
  • Genealogical will file posted to Gen Do-Over's Facebook page by Carol Corbett Ellis-Jones.
UPDATE: Read about how and why to make a genealogical "will" in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Those Places Thursday: In Search of Farkas Connections in Botpalad

My maternal great-grandpa, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936), was born in Botpalad, Hungary (shown circled in red with a black arrow, above). This is an area still considered part of Hungary but very close to the borders of modern-day Ukraine and Romania (two red arrows at far right).

Moritz's parents were Ferencz Farkas and Hermina Gross. Farkas is a common name in Hungary, but we know we're definitely connected in some cousiny way with another branch of the Farkas family.

The young granddaughter of Ida Farkas Weiss (1873-1924) was at my parents' wedding in New York City and she vividly remembers attending Farkas Family Tree meetings in NYC during the 1940s and into the 1950s. She and her parents were known to be cousins, but nobody told the younger generation exactly how we were related.
Today I want to look at Ida Farkas's niece, Gizella Steinberger, who was the daughter of Josephine "Pepi" Farkas and Noe Steinberger and the granddaughter of Elek and Roszi Farkas. I'm guessing that Elek Farkas was the brother of Ferencz Farkas. That would make Gizella my 2d cousin, 2x removed.

Born in Botpalad on November 6, 1898, Gizella Steinberger arrived at Ellis Island in December, 1923, and applied for U.S. citizenship in 1926.

In 1929, Gizella married Irving Huppert (1900-1982). They were living at 1821 Davidson Ave. in the Bronx when she became a naturalized U.S. citizen, as shown on this index card.

Gizella and Irving had two children and lived into their late 80s. They are buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens. I'm going to "edit" the relationships of each on Find A Grave to show husband and wife, and include their dates and places of birth.

Still searching for more Farkas connections from Botpalad, Hungary!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gen Do-Over 2015: Finding Dr. Bartlett Larimer's Will from 1892

Dr. Bartlett Larimer (1833-1892) -- hubby's 2nd great-grand uncle -- had a thriving medical practice and had a major influence on the lives of his extended family, inspiring 2 nephews to become dentists and 2 nephews to become doctors. He died in January of 1892 and his will, made about a week before he died, was probated soon afterward.

As part of the Genealogy Do-Over, I was able to find the contents of Dr. Larimer's will among the newly-posted probate records on Ancestry!

The will begins: "In the name of the Benevolent Father of All." The good doctor's beneficiaries included his children, relatives of his late wife, Sarah E. Miller Larimer (1843-1881), and several children of his siblings, plus family friends (?).
  • To his oldest son, Edson F. Larimer, 80 acres of land in Millersburg county, IN where the doctor was living when he made his will.
  • To his second son, Bartlett Larimer Jr., 80 acres in Millersburg plus 40 acres in Perry township, Noble County, IN.
  • To his third son, John S. Larimer, 35 acres of land in Perry township, plus more land in a different section of Perry township.
  • To his niece, Margaret Anna Haglind (daughter of his sister Eleanor Larimer), 20 acres in Eden township, Lagrange county, IN, and $200.
  • To his nephew, William Tyler Bentley Larimer (son of his brother Brice S. Larimer), a note held by the doctor for the sum of $350 plus interest. In other words, the note was forgiven by the will.
  • To his nieces Emma O. Freeland and Margaret Jane McClure (daughters of Brice S. Larimer), $200 each.
  • To his mother-in-law Elizabeth Miller and his sister-in-law Hester Miller Coy, interest on $2,000 on mortgage notes held by the doctor against William Haller and Lorenzo D. Haller. Also forgiveness of a note held against Hester by her brother-in-law for $40 and interest.
  • To friends (?) Luella Widner, wife of Charles Widner, $200 and Leoter? Blanche Hard, wife of Hale Hard, $200.
Son Edson Franklin Larimer was the executor, and the witnesses were Charles F. Widner and Brice Larimer, who were also beneficiaries.

The will may also be a clue to what I've long suspected, that three of Dr. Larimer's children didn't live long enough to be named as beneficiaries: Ulysses Larimer, born about 1865 (of course), Alice Larimer, born about 1866, and William Larimer, born in 1868. RIP to these 1st cousins, 3x removed, of my hubby

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Surname Saturday: Georgiana Olivette McCLURE

Hubby's 1st cousin, 1x removed was Georgiana Olivette McClure (1903-1973), the daughter of Hugh Benjamin McClure (1882-1960) and Olivette van Roe (1885-1905).

Georgianna was born in Wabash, Indiana, where many of the McClure family lived.

Sadly, Georgiana's mother Olivette died at age 20, when the baby was only 2.

When Georgiana was 15, her father remarried to Rebekah V. Wilt (1896-1975), and that's how Georgiana met her future husband--through the Wilt family.

Georgiana married William Evert Gillespie in 1925. His mother was a Wilt!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Participating in Find A Grave Meetup Day from Home

Tomorrow is the day Find A Grave has asked volunteers to photograph headstones at local cemeteries or fulfill photo requests from its site.

Since I can't be out in the field photographing, I'm going to be participating from home in my own way: By going through my family tree, person by person, and adding everyone to Find A Grave--as well as by linking family members according to relationships. I want to honor their memories and also make it easier for cousins and family researchers to figure out who's who.

Here, for example, is the memorial page I set up for my mother, showing relationship links to her parents on Find A Grave.

The more links, the more opportunities to be found by genealogists and cousins!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ancestor Landing Pages Update

So my ancestor landing pages--those tabs at the top of my blog, each for a different surname branch of my family tree--have been part of my blog since January 2013.

The purpose is to have a special page devoted to each surname group, so when a distant relative or researcher does an online search for a name like "McClure" or "Slatter," they will "land" on my ancestor's page and see what I've discovered about those ancestors.

Over the months, these ancestor landing pages have been attracting views and, on occasion, comments from cousins and regular readers!

As of October 9, here are the statistics for the TOP 10. (The dates indicate the most recent time that I updated or added to each of the pages.)

Most popular is my page about the Herman & Hana Schwartz family from Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhorod, Ukraine). This was my grandpa Tivador Schwartz's family.

Next most popular is my page about hubby's McClure family, originally from the Isle of Skye, then Donegal. This family sailed en masse to Philadelphia and then walked to Virginia to buy land.

Unquestionably, ancestor landing pages are an effective way to showcase genealogical breakthroughs, family information, photos, stories, and connections. For me, the best part is when I get a comment or an e-mail from a cousin who found the page, recognized some of the names, and got in touch!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sympathy Saturday: Leander Elkanah Wood, Cholera Infantum Victim

Leander Elkanah Wood was the last of 17 children born to Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest. Alas, little Leander fell victim to "cholera infantum" at the age of only 4 months.

He was born at home in Toledo on March 10, 1875, and he died on August 11, 1875. Thanks to a kind genealogy person on the Ohio Genealogy FB page, I learned that "cholera infantum" was often the term listed on death certs of young children who actually died of diarrhea or dysentery.

Why did hubby's great-granddaddy and great-grandma name their child after a young man in an ancient tragedy?

Leander was a mythological figure who fell in love with Hero and swam across the straights every night to be with her, his way lit by a lantern she set up to guide him. One stormy night, the lantern light was blown out and heavy waves took Leander further and further, sweeping him away, to Hero's great sorrow. In despair, she threw herself after him and perished as well.

Even allowing for the fact that Thomas and Mary had named 16 other children by that time (their first was born in 1846!), Leander doesn't seem an obvious choice as a given name. Especially since one of their other children, Thomas Jefferson Isaiah Haskell Wood, drowned in May, 1861, before his 13th birthday.

Nor does Elkanah, Leander's middle name, have any family significance that anyone knows of (he was a figure in the Bible). UPDATE: Elkanah turns out to be a significant given name in the Wood family, as I learned by examining the family tree of a distant, very distant relative who's related by virtue of the Mayflower/Fortune connection. Thomas Cushman, who arrived on the Fortune, married Mary Allerton (a Mayflower ancestor of the Wood family), and they had 8 children, including Elkanah Cushman. The Elkanah name continued in that branch of the tree for some time. So perhaps Thomas Haskell Wood was aware of his Mayflower ancestors after all?!

RIP, little Leander Elkanah Wood.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday: Larimer & McKibbin Cousins in Elkhart, Indiana

More than once, hubby's Larimer cousins married their distant McKibbin (or McKibben) cousins in Indiana. Above, yet another Larimer/McKibbin headstone from Eldridge Cemetery, photographed for me by the very kind genealogy buffs at the Elkhart County Historical Society. (If you're looking for someone buried in Elkhart, click to the society's listing of cemeteries in the county.)

Hallie Richard Larimer (1899-1960) was my husband's 4th cousin, 1x removed, descended from my husband's 5th great-grandpa, Robert Larimer (who was shipwrecked on his way from Northern Ireland to the New World). His WWI draft registration listed him as stout, medium build, grey eyes, and light brown hair. 

Although Hallie grew up in Elkhart county, Indiana, living next door to McKibbin and Showalter relatives, he married Mary Magdalene McKibbin in Benton Harbor, Michigan in 1920. He was not quite 21 and she was a month shy of her 17th birthday. Hallie was a mason--the son of a mason--and he continued in that trade after he and his wife raised a family and moved from Elkhart county to South Bend, Indiana, where he died in 1960.

Mary Magdalen McKibbin (1903-1976) was the daughter of John Henry McKibbin and Susan Henrietta Phelps--and a descendant of Alexander McKibbin and Harriet Larimer. So the tradition of intermarriage between McKibbins and Larimers goes way back into the 1800s.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Military Monday: David Mahler Had a Tattoo?! Yes, I Learned with a Click


David Mahler was the older of two brothers of my paternal grandma, Henrietta Mahler Burk.

Born in New York City, he worked in Hollywood for Columbia Pictures for many years, through the kindness of a Mahler in-law who was part of the studio's founding Cohn family.
I've researched David's background and I knew he was a "rigger" in Camden, NJ in 1918 when he registered for the WWI military. But I hadn't ever seen his WWII registration card--until today, when it turned up in a shaky leaf on Ancestry.

Page 1 of the document was quite informative: It confirmed that David was born in Riga, Latvia, and confirms his birthdate of March 15, 1882. Interestingly, David gave the name/address of a neighbor (or possibly a work colleague) for "someone who will always know your address."

If I had relied only on Ancestry's transcription, or simply stopped at page 1 of the registration card, I would never have learned what David looked like. Luckily, I can't resist reviewing the actual image of every document, and clicking to the image before and after to be sure that I've seen everything there is to see on my ancestors.

Sure enough, there was a page 2 image (not transcribed by Ancestry, of course), and it contained a physical description of my great uncle. He was 5' 4", 153 lbs, with salt-and-pepper hair and brown eyes.

Most interestingly, he had "DM" tattooed on his right arm, which might have been left over from his days as a "rigger." I can only imagine what his mother Tillie Jacobs Mahler would have thought of his tattoo, if she knew (I strongly suspect she didn't).

So always click to see the actual image and click to either side of it just in case there's more! Not to mention that seeing an ancestor's handwriting or printing can tell a story all on its own.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Friday's Faces from the Past: My Family Photo Detective Experience

Who is this little girl, holding a tambourine and standing next to an ornate piano? I posted her photo in my "mystery" gallery last year. Alas, no one in the family recognizes her.

Following the process described by Maureen A. Taylor in her excellent Family Photo Detective, I wanted to look for clues to identifying this mystery girl from the photo itself.

My conclusion (supported by the steps I followed below) is that for a mystery photo such as this little girl, the location of the photographer and the costume are two vital clues to when, where, and why the photo was taken.

Step by step, here's how I analyzed the photo:


Photographer's location in 1925 - most likely AFTER the photo was taken
  1. Maureen recommends analyzing the type of photo print as a first step. This is not a daguerreotype, meaning it's newer. It's a photo (silver print?) glued to a matte board with the photographer's name and address, which seems to suggest the date is later than 1900. 
  2. Second, Maureen looks at the paper and board. The card stock for the little girl seems to be thick, and the edges are beveled, suggesting it's relatively new (early 20th century, rather than late 19th century). By the way, Maureen gives a hint for identifying relatives among a collection of portrait photos: If the number on the back of one photo is, say, 105, then portraits numbered 104 or 106 may be siblings or parents or children of the person in 105.
  3. The next step is to identify the photographer, which is easy in this case. "F. Krichefsky" is the name imprinted on the card stock, with a studio at 496 Claremont Parkway, Bronx, N.Y. Maureen suggests an online search for the photographer to find out more. No luck using Google, but I used Ancestry and immediately found the 1925 New York City directory listing for Mr. Krichefsky, photographer--at a different address, half a mile away from the address on my mystery photo. Then I used the mapping function to see where the studio was located (see map below). Off-hand, I don't know of ancestors who lived within walking distance--but I still don't know when the photo was taken.
    Photographer's studio location in 1915-17
  4. Still researching the photographer, I searched for his name plus "Bronx 1910" and came up with an image he had produced that is dated 1905-10, in the collection of the Museum of Jewish History. This is helping me narrow down the period of the photo. Also I found "Faivel Krichevsky" in the 1912 NYC Business Directory, a photographer at 496 Wendover Ave. In the 1915-16-17 NYC directories, I finally found "Feibel Krichefsky" at the Claremont Parkway address! So most likely this is more in the approximate time-frame of my little girl's photograph.
    Spelling slowed me down but here's the photographer in the NYC directory, at the address on my photo!
  5. Maureen suggests thinking about when in the person's life the image might have been taken--for a special event, as an example. This mystery girl looks too young for school but perhaps this was taken for a holiday or because the rest of the family was in the studio for a portrait? Music is clearly a major theme, but I don't know why. I have to return to my mystery photo archive box to see whether others were from this studio...perhaps there was a special event for the whole family, and they used that opportunity for individual portraits.
  6. Next would be facial recognition, which I would tackle using Picasa, free from Google. I'm saving this for another time.
  7. Maureen puts a lot of emphasis on "identifying costume" (chapter 9). Because of the big bow in the hair, and the shoes, the date is early in the 20th century. Her loose dress also seems to be from the pre-1920 era.
MY CONCLUSION: The photo is probably from 1905-1915. My next step: Look up the 1905/1915 NY Censuses and the 1910 US Census addresses for my ancestors in the Bronx and see whether any were within walking distance of this studio on Claremont Parkway. Also, I'll search my other mystery photos to find more, if any, from the Krichefsky studio.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Matrilineal Monday: Where Train Got His Name

Ever wonder about some of those given names in your family tree?

I puzzled over Train C. McClure for a long time. He was the third son of Benjamin McClure and Sarah Denning, and he was born in 1843 in Wabash county, Indiana. Train was my hubby's first great-grand uncle on his mother's McClure side.

Train McClure served nearly three years in the Civil War, enlisting in Company A, Indiana 89th Infantry Regiment on Aug 3, 1862 and being mustered out on Jul 19, 1865 at Mobile, Alabama.

Two years after his military service, he married Gulia Swain and started a family. Train C. McClure died in 1934.


But why did Benjamin and Sarah name this son Train? And what does his middle initial C stand for?

Now I believe I know.

Benjamin had a younger sister named Jane McClure, who married Train Caldwell on April 5, 1831 (above is their marriage document, thanks to Family Search).

So it seems reasonable to think that Benjamin named his third son Train Caldwell McClure after his brother-in-law Train Caldwell.

Just to make it interesting, notice that the clerk of the court on Train's marriage document is William Caldwell and the justice of the peace is (I'm not making this up) Manlove Caldwell.

And even more interesting, Jane McClure's husband Train Caldwell isn't the only man with that name in Indiana during the time period. I'm currently trying to sort out which Train is which without derailing my research :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Celebrating Blogiversary #7 - Some Mysteries Solved, New Opportunities Ahead



Since blogiversary #6, I've been thrilled to hear from cousins from the Mahler, Larimer, Steiner, Kunstler, and Wood families. And I've located a couple of Farkas cousins. Along the way, I returned family photos to people outside my direct line, solved some mysteries, donated historic artifacts to museums for posterity, and--of course--uncovered more opportunities to increase my knowledge of the family's history.

My top lesson from the past year: Don't assume that old photos captioned with unfamiliar names are of family friends. Just because cousins don't recognize or remember the people, doesn't mean they're not relatives. The Waldman family turned out to be part of my extended Farkas tree. There's a reason our ancestors saved these photos for so many years!

Interpreting "identified" photos can be a real challenge. Thanks to a Mahler 2d cousin in California, I learned that photos of "Madcap Dora, grandma's friend" were not my great-aunt Dora Mahler (so who was she?). This cousin was kind enough to help me identify the real Dora Mahler (shown above, seated 2d from left in a 1946 photo).

My other key lesson from the past year: Facebook is an incredible tool for genealogy. Simply reading the posts on genealogy pages has proved to be a real education, day after day. Plus, kind folks on many FB gen pages (like Tracing the Tribe, Adams County/Ohio genealogy, and Rhode Island genealogy) have offered advice and dug up records or recommended resources to further my research.

For instance, in my quest to link Grandpa Isaac Burk and his brother Abraham to either the Chazan or Mitav families, a friendly gen enthusiast in England suggested I contact the Manchester Beth Din and request the synagogue's 1903 marriage records for Abraham's marriage to Annie Hurwitch, which could show his father's name and his birth place. I never even knew such records might exist!

With luck, I'll have more brick walls smashed by the time blogiversary #8 rolls around. Meanwhile, dear relatives and readers, thank you for reading and commenting!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday: The Larimers Buried in Brown Cemetery, Elkhart, Indiana

Buried in Brown Cemetery, Elkhart, Indiana
Two years ago, the kind folks at Elkhart County Genealogical Society sent me documents and photos to help in researching hubby's Larimer family. Although I was specifically interested in Brice S. Larimer and his wife, Lucy E. Bentley, the wonderful lady who photographed the burial places sent me every Larimer headstone she could find in Brown Cemetery, Elkhart, with the comment that they were probably related to my Larimers in one way or another.

It took two years to track down the connections, but yes, she was entirely correct, of course. I've now accounted for almost every person whose headstone is in those dozens of photos, and I'm grateful to have the names/dates shown. I'll be writing her another thank you note to say how much I appreciated her wisdom in anticipating that I would eventually figure out how these Larimers were related to each other and to my hubby.

Above, the photo of the final resting place of Cora Emma Leslie and Edson Franklin Larimer. Buried in the midst of many other Larimer relatives, Edson was hubby's 1st cousin, 3x removed, the son of Bartlett Larimer and Sarah Miller.

Although buried in Elkhart, Edson actually died in Dawson county, Montana. Because Edson's daughter Velma Ruth Larimer married Ralph James Thomas in Dawson county, Montana, I imagine that Edson was visiting Velma at the time of his death. But until I could track down Velma and her marriage cert from Dawson county, proving that Velma was Edson & Cora's daughter, I couldn't just assume a connection.

Genealogy is really a long-term hobby, isn't it? 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday: Edgar James Wood's WWII Newspapers

My late dad-in-law, Edgar James Wood, held onto several newspapers with historic WWII headlines. Above is one of my favorites: On August 15, 1945, the Philadelphia Inquirer announced PEACE across its entire front page.

Another issue he saved is from the Chicago Sunday Tribune of August 26, 1945, as U.S. forces prepared for the occupation of Japan.

As we prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, I'm glad Ed saved these papers in such good condition for decades and decades.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Workday Wednesday: Francis Earle Wood, Carpenter to Decorator

Francis Earle Wood, Sr., was hubby's 1st cousin 1x removed--born in 1890 in Toledo, OH, he worked in wood just like so many of the children and grandchildren of carpenter Thomas Haskell Wood (his paternal grandpa) and Mary Amanda Demarest. His birth would have been a joy to the family because the grandfather had died just a few months earlier.

Francis (known as Frank) showed his occupation as carpenter when he married Lottie Best in Toledo on June 25, 1913 (marriage cert is above). Frank and Lottie had three children (Francis Earl Wood Jr., Roy A. Wood, and Charlotte Alice Wood) from 1915 to 1919.

The Toledo directory of 1923 (at left) shows him as a decorator, while his father is shown as a carpenter.

Sadly, Frank contracted pulmonary tuberculosis and died at age 37 the end of July, 1927, barely 14 years after his marriage. I've requested his obit from the Toledo public library, which generously offers to e-mail scans for free.

His death cert shows his occupation as interior decorator for Geo Roux, his employer. He and Lottie and their children were still living at home at 816 Clay Ave. in Toledo.

Cousin Frank is buried in Forest Cemetery in Toledo (Findagrave #132727886).


Friday, August 7, 2015

Who Cares About Aunts, Uncles, Distant Cousins, and In-Laws? Me!

When you have an entire pedigree line to research, who cares about aunts and grand aunts, uncles and grand uncles, let alone distant cousins and in-laws?
Ladies in white hat and dark hat turned out to be Farkas cousins!

All those seemingly peripheral ancestors may be fascinating people, in fact, and learning about them is helping me understand and trace my family's history in a deeper and more nuanced way. Just as important, "researching sideways" has led to some wonderful cousin connections and even a few breakthroughs. These folks may not be in my direct line, but they knew people in my direct line and have stories/memories/photos that illuminate my family history.

This topic came up because of my recent post about the Yanpolski family. The patriarch of that family, Lazar Yanpolski, was the husband of my great-grand aunt (by marriage) Miriam Chazan. One of the Yanpolski researchers asked why I was so interested in such a distant connection. Here's why:
  • Many old-world families were quite close-knit--especially those from small towns, where there were many marriages within the town and therefore multiple connections between one family and another. This is the case with my Farkas family, I've discovered several times: a man from family A marries a woman from family B and later, the woman's brother or brother-in-law in family B marries into the husband's family A, etc. Also, there were multiple marriages as widows and widowers paired off to take care of children, as in my husband's Wood and McClure families. Therefore, I'm quite intrigued by both siblings and in-law connections, wondering whether there are more relationships within the extended family than I can see on the surface.
  • After family members left for America, some sent photos and/or letters to their family and friends in the old home town and elsewhere. These and related stories have been passed down in some families, even if the cousins don't know the name or fate of anyone or everyone. Using photos (sometimes with dates and/or inscriptions), it's possible to pin down or at least suggest who's related to whom. This was the case with my Chazan and Burk/Birk/Berk connections. 
  • One more reason: Who doesn't like to watch Who Do You Think You Are? and other genealogy shows? I always learn something I can apply in my own research--a technique, a resource, or a way of turning the situation on its head to find a new angle. Or, a way to understand the WHY of family movements--because the reasons aren't always clear to us many decades later. I want to understand what my ancestors thought and felt, not just what they did, where they moved, and when. 
The photo at top is a good example. I knew half of the people were Farkas aunts and uncles, but believed that the others were "friends of the family." Wrong: after a lot of investigation (and lots of help from a dear cousin with a super memory) it turned out two of the ladies were actually cousins of my Farkas family. I was able to prove the connections by looking at the marriage documents and following the in-law movements, since the women's maiden names weren't readily available or known by descendants today.

The result is that I'm now in touch with a wonderful circle of cousins, including one whose mother had this very photo on her bureau for decades. Distant cousins, maybe, but they played a pivotal role in the family tree--and they have stories and memories that have added to my knowledge of my ancestors.

So who cares about aunts/uncles, cousins, and in-laws?!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Yanpolski Family's Voyage on August 3, 1916

The Yaplonski family: Manchester --> Bangor --> Liverpool --> NYC


This week in the Genealogy Do-Over (actually, I'm in the "go-over" phase), I reexamined the research into my paternal grandfather's Chazan family connections. This is part of the strategy of "researching sideways" -- looking at what siblings and in-laws were doing, as a way to figure out the what and the why of family movements over the years.

1911 UK Census
My Lithuanian-born grandpa Isaac Burk (1882?-1943) lived for a short time with his aunt and uncle Isaac Chazan and Ann Hinda Mitav Chazan in Manchester, England.

Isaac Chazan (also born in Lithuania) had a sister, Miriam Chazan (1880-1959), who married Lazar/Lawrence Yanpolski (1872-1938) in Manchester, England, in 1901. Manchester is at the top right corner of the map.

Lazar Yanpolski had three brothers and four sisters--and it was their life decisions that seem to have influenced Lazar and his wife to make major changes in their lives.

For instance, Lazar and Miriam moved from Manchester to Bangor, Wales (at left of map), in time to be counted there by the 1911 UK Census. I don't know exactly when they moved, but I do know that one of Lazar's younger brothers lived in Wales in 1907, and his sister Rebecca lived there a few years earlier. Another sister, Eva, married in Wales in 1898. It seems reasonable to believe that Yanpolski family connections encouraged the move from Manchester.

In Wales, Lazar's family consisted of his wife Miriam, their 3 daughters (Frances May, Eva, and Nancy Leah), and Lawrence's father, Simon/Shevak Yanpolski. Father and son Yanpolski were shopkeepers, according to the census. They lived at 305 High Street, Bangor, Wales. Mapping the area shows that to be a street filled with shops and residences above the stores. Probably they "lived above the store" as so many shopkeepers did.

S.S. Philadelphia manifest, Liverpool to NYC, 3 August 1916
Then 99 years ago, on August 3rd, 1916, Lazar and Miriam and their children (including one-year-old son Major) set sail from the port of Liverpool on the S.S. Philadelphia, bound for New York (see excerpt from manifest, at right).


The timing of the Yanpolski's voyage is squarely in the middle of England and Wales's involvement in WWI. Was this a dangerous trip across the Atlantic because of the war? Were economic factors a consideration? Lazar's siblings had arrived in Chicago a few years earlier. I don't know for certain, but once again, it seems reasonable to assume that family ties encouraged this move to a new country and a new life.

One last note: The Yanpolski brothers changed their names in America. Lazar took the last name "Lawrence." Another brother took the surname "Young." Yet another took the surname "Pole."