Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy Genea-New Year 2018

As 2017 comes to a close, I want to wish all of my genea-buddies a happy and rewarding year of ancestor hunting in 2018!

Here I'm posting the front and back of a new year's card sent before 1915 to my husband's uncle, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957), living in East Cleveland, Ohio. The sender was his first cousin in Toledo, Edith Eleanor Baker (1901-1989), daughter of Wallis's aunt, Ada Mary Ann Slatter Baker (1868-1947).

Happy genea-new year!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

YOU Are Part of Your Family's History

Remember that YOU, the family's historian, are an integral part of your family's history. As much fun and as rewarding as it is to research the family's past, it's also important to record the family's present-day doings for yourself and for future generations. There are so many ways to do this. Let me share two of my favorites.

Every year, I create one or more photo books showing family gatherings, travels, and other adventures that my hubby Wally and I have had. This has been my tradition for more than a decade. I also make individual photo books for special events like a big birthday or a wedding in the family.

My preference is to capture each year in photos chronologically. I explain where we are and who we're with, including detailed captions so that our descendants will be able to identify family members and friends.

One more tradition, for the past dozen years, is slotting old and new family photos into a calendar to give to close relatives. We designate each person's birthdate on the calendar with a head shot, as well as marking anniversaries with couples' photos. We also remember loved ones who are no longer with us, by including their faces among the calendar photos.

This calendar is so eagerly awaited and treasured that someone from the next generation volunteered to take over the creative duties last year. She decided there wasn't enough room for photos so she chose a larger format for the 2018 calendar and included even more photos of ancestors! Lucky me to have so many hands helping to share the family's past and present.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Most Popular Genealogy Blog Pages in 2017

In 2017, the most popular page on my blog was the "ancestor landing page" devoted to hubby's 5th great-grandfather, Halbert McClure from Donegal. Also popular were the landing pages about the Larimer family, Schwartz family, Birk family, Bentley family, and Wood family of Ohio.

These landing pages summarize what I know about each main surname or family on my tree and my husband's tree, including links to my blog posts about those names/families written in more than 9 years of blogging. And yes, these pages are cousin bait that have brought me new connections over the years!

One other popular page was my Genealogy--Free or Fee page, with links to 17 posts I wrote about frugal research strategies and when it pays to pay for a document.

The other popular page features Sample Templates (for inventory, indexing, cousin connections, and genealogy sources) I invite you to try or adapt for your own genealogy purposes.

Happy ancestor hunting in 2018! More to come.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Wood Family Christmas Greetings

My husband's Wood ancestors sent penny greeting cards for any and every occasion.
Here are two pretty Christmas cards sent to a young Wallis Walter Wood in the 1910s.

Dear readers, wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a new year filled with genealogy fun and adventures!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

It Was a Busy Genealogy Year in 2017

This has been an incredibly productive and rewarding year for genealogy--and it's not over. A recap of the year to date:
  • Thanks to newly-discovered ephemera, I smashed a long-standing brick wall on my paternal Burk tree, identified my great-aunts and great-uncles, and met lovely new cousins, who were kind enough to share photos and memories.
  • With the in-person help of one of my UK cousins, I learned the sad truth about hubby's ancestor, Mary Shehen Slatter, who died in a notorious insane asylum in 1889.
  • Cousins I found through genealogy have been taking DNA tests to help in the search for more connections with outlying branches of our mutual trees. At the very least, we've proven our family ties and, sometimes, pinpointed the common ancestor.
  • I've made a lot of progress on writing family history. I updated one family history booklet for my side of the family, based on the new Burk information. I wrote two brand new booklets for hubby's side, one based on his Slatter-Wood roots and one based on his McClure-Larimer roots.
  • I'm about to complete a booklet about my husband's Wood family during World War II, based on interviews with relatives, documents and photos saved by the family, and genealogical research to fill in the gaps.
  • Also, I've written detailed captions for key photos, so future generations will know who's who, when, where, and why.
  • I was a speaker at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference and the International Jewish Genealogy Conference. So many wonderful sessions to attend, excellent speakers, friendly audiences, and a chance to meet blogging buddies in person.
Already this year, I've written more posts than at any other time in my 9 1/2 years as a genealogy blogger. At top are the stats showing my most popular posts of 2017. If you missed them, here are the links. Thank you for reading--and stay tuned for more posts before the end of the year.
  • Beyond Google Your Family Tree (practical tips for online genealogy searches using five specific search operators)
  • Tuesday's Tip, Genealogy, Free or Fee (try free sources first, but don't hesitate to pay for a Social Security Application if it will show a maiden name you don't have or otherwise move your research forward a leap)
  • Junk or Joy? Think of Future Generations (downsizing or just simplifying your life, consider the significance of family artifacts before deciding to donate, give away, or keep)
  • The Case Against Paperless Genealogy (Why I print everything, file everything. Technology changes rapidly but paper, stored properly, will live on for future generations)
  • Tuesday's Tip, Free or Free Genealogy (Learn to record strip: check every detail on every document or photo, analyze it in the context of what else you know, wring everything you can from the research you have and what you acquire)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Writing About the Wood Family in WWII

A page from my new family history booklet, showing some printed items saved by the WOOD family



This holiday season, I'm giving yet another gift of family history to hubby's siblings and to our grandchildren.

This time, it's a booklet about the WOOD family in World War II, focusing on Edgar James Wood, his wife Marian Jane McClure Wood, and their three children. For this booklet, I collected memories from hubby and his siblings, reread interviews with my late father-in-law, and picked through the boxes of artifacts, photos, and documents retained in the Wood family.

One goal is to show the younger generation how family history was actually affected by world history. Above, a page from my booklet, showing some ephemera saved by my late father-in-law. These everyday items (gas ration coupons, a gas ration identification folder, and a thank-you postcard from the Stage Door Canteen) add color and visual interest to the booklet. These items were kept by the family for more than 70 years, and will remain intact for future generations.*

How often do youngsters see gas ration coupons? Never. And did they know their ancestor entertained servicemen and servicewomen at the Stage Door Canteen on Playhouse Square in Cleveland? Nope.

Now, when grandkids leaf through this booklet, the colorful ephemera will hopefully grab their attention and draw them into the story. If they read a few paragraphs, they'll suddenly understand that during wartime, the Wood family's life changed in lots of ways.


*Looking for ways to safeguard family documents/photos and share family history with younger relatives? Please take a look at my affordable book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. Thanks!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Toledo to Cleveland, Cousins Stayed in Touch at Christmas

My husband's Wood family always made sure cousins stayed in touch with each other at holiday time and for birthdays, whether they lived across the street or across the state.
At top, a Christmas postcard sent by Ernest Jacob Carsten (1906-1982) in Toledo, Ohio to his cousin, Wallis Walter Wood (1905-1957) in Cleveland, before 1917.

Ernest's mother, Mary Amanda Wood Carsten (1884-1917), was a 1st cousin, once removed of Wallis's father, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). These cousins saw each other on a regular basis, especially after Wallis's father bought a 1917 Ford and drove his family to Toledo to see the Carsten cousins in the summer of 1917.

Mary Amanda Wood Carsten had died tragically in January of that year, at the age of 32, leaving Ernest and three other siblings--all under the age of 13. The visit of the Wood cousins was a happy reunion, as photos from that trip show.

Maybe it's a little odd that a cousin would write his surname on a cousin's card, but there were multiple cousins named Ernest. For the family genealogist, however, this is a particularly valuable piece of ephemera because Ernest's surname was frequently spelled incorrectly in the Census and other documents. This card is firsthand proof that his name was "Carsten," not "Carstens" as shown in other records. Thank you, Ernest!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Planning My FHL Visit During RootsTech

Salt Lake City, here I come for RootsTech 2018. Even though the conference is more than two months away, I have to start planning right now for my visit to the Family History Center.
I remember scrambling to prepare for my visit to the Allen County Public Library during FGS in the summer of 2013. Thanks to a bit of advance planning, sketching out priorities, and defining specific questions to research, I was able to find new info about my husband's McClure family, in particular.

So my first step is to research how to research in the FHL of SLC. Cyndi's List has some links I'm going to explore. Janine Adams recently mentioned a post from early 2017 about preparing for her visit, and the reader comments were really helpful too. Thanks so much, Linda Stufflebean, for reminding me that you wrote a useful post about the library, which is here.

One of the key things I need to do is determine what I can research online from home or a nearby FHL and what can be done in SLC most efficiently and effectively.

Also, I'm going to formulate specific questions to research and summarize what I already know in research notes, to avoid reinventing the wheel. Two questions I'm prepping right now are about my husband's family tree:

  • His 2d great-grandfather was Jacob S. Steiner (1802?-1860?). I found him in the 1850 Census in Tod, Crawford county, Ohio, but not in the 1860 Census. He's also named as an ancestor on a precious scrap of paper written by my husband's grandfather, and on documents pertaining to his children. But finding the right Jacob S. Steiner born somewhere in PA, somewhere around 1802, has been a big challenge. Ultimately, I really want to know whether the Steiner family was from Switzerland (as family lore suggests--but it could have been Germany or Alsace-Lorraine or Austria). And of course, I'd dearly love to identify his wife's maiden name and trace her family!
  • Hubby's 3d great-grandfather was Job Denning (1775?-1836). He died in Adams County, OH. Where was he born and who were his parents? Possibly he was born in Massachusetts, but I need actual evidence to make the leap one generation back. Thanks to Adams County records, I have background about his activities there. But where did he come from before arriving in Ohio?
Oh, I can't wait to be dazzled by the FHL's treasure trove. But there's more homework first: I have to formulate specific questions concerning my own family tree. So many ancestors, so little time in the library, meaning I have to set priorities and goals...with a few minutes to spare in case of BSOs, right?

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Was Hubby's Memory Correct? How I Did the Research


Earlier this year, I wrote a family history booklet telling the story of my husband's Slatter and Wood families, and a second booklet telling the story of his McClure and Steiner families.

For the holidays, I'm preparing a briefer family history booklet, focused on the Wood family in World War II. I want to show the younger generation how the family's history is intertwined with local, national, and world history. So I'm writing about Edgar James Wood and his wife, Marian Jane McClure Wood, and their children (hubby included), during the 1940s.

First, I asked my husband and his siblings about their memories of that period. Although he was very young, hubby distinctly remembers the family sitting around the console radio on Sunday, the 7th of December, and hearing the news about the bombing of Pearl Harbor.* It's vivid in his mind because his parents were so upset by the news. And he remembers this happening in the living room of the family home at 1142 Cleveland Heights Blvd. in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Was hubby's memory correct? I wondered because I had these facts at hand (and mapped the addresses as shown above):
  • At the time of the 1940 Census, the Wood family lived at 13015 Edmondton Ave. in Cleveland. This was a $45/month rental, several blocks away from where Marian's parents lived.
  • In late November, 1942, the Wood family signed an agreement to purchase the Cleveland Heights Blvd. house. This was a few miles east of the rental where they lived in 1940.
  • Edgar Wood had told his son, during a 1983 interview, about giving up the rental and buying the home--but he never specified any dates.

To find out whether the Wood family actually lived on Cleveland Heights Blvd. in December, 1941, I needed another source--something from after the Census and before the purchase of the house on Cleveland Heights Blvd.

Lucky, lucky me. I dug deep into Ancestry's city directory catalog and found it has the 1941 Cleveland city directory!

Browsing the directory by street address, I checked who was living at the Edmondton Ave. address. The entry for that address showed as "vacant." The Wood family was NOT living there in 1941.

Then I checked who was living at the Cleveland Heights Blvd. address. And as you can see at left, the occupant was "Wood, Edgar J." In other words, my wonderful husband's memory was completely correct. He and his family had moved into their home by the time of Pearl Harbor.

This prompted me to reread the 1983 interview with my late father-in-law. He said he had been notified that his rental on Edmonton Ave. was going to be sold. So he and his wife Marian went shopping for a home, but he didn't mention any dates.

A realtor showed them the Cleveland Heights Blvd home, which had stood empty for a few years due to the Depression. Ed and Marian liked it but could only afford it if they began paying on a "land contract," with monthly payments going toward a downpayment qualifying them for a mortgage.

He stated that within about a year, they had paid in enough to obtain a regular mortgage and register the deed, which is dated late November, 1942. This was more confirmation of what the directory entries indicate: the family moved in before December, 1941.

Writing this family story about WWII forced me to double-check memories against the city directory and another family member's memories. In the process, I gained a better understanding of the family's financial situation during that time. And, of course, hubby's family will have yet another colorful booklet to enjoy, complete with maps and photos and sources, before the new year begins.

*If you want to hear some radio broadcasts from that day, check out the Internet Archive here.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Searching for Marian Jane McClure's Birth Record

Marian Jane McClure Wood (my late mother-in-law) was born on April 29, 1909, the only child of Brice Larimer McClure and Floyda Mabel Steiner.

Recently, my sis-in-law unearthed this earliest photo of Marian. Given the fancy white dress, was this possibly Marian's christening day? I don't know, but it seems to be a special occasion.

Since the photo was curled, I flattened it very gently to scan. After digitizing the photo, I saved a version as is and then created another copy.

On this second copy, I digitally added her name, birth/death years, and the notation shown on the back: "Photo taken 4 months after birth." This way, future generations will have some extra details along with the digitized copy. 

Following the discovery of this photo, I again went looking for a copy of Marian McClure's birth record. Alas, no luck, even though new records are being indexed, transcribed, and put online every day. It's not on "the usual sites" (Ancestry, Family Search) nor on the Ohio Vital Records, where I received the above "no exact match found" notice.

More research is in my future to locate her birth record! After all, having all the vital records of people in my direct line and my husband's direct line is a top priority.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Remembering Twins of an Earlier Generation

Probably Dorothy on left, Daisy on right
My mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Schwartz, 1919-2001) were born in the Bronx on December 4th, 1919.

They were born just months after the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed, granting women the right to vote. This amendment was ratified by the summer of 1920 and in November of that year, women across America were able to vote in the Presidential election. 

Once they came of age, Mom and Auntie were always diligent about voting. The next generation of women in our family has been brought up to know the importance of exercising our right to vote in every election.

Missing Mom and Auntie on their special day and remembering them always, with love.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Connecting with "New" Cousins in 2017

My biggest genealogical breakthrough of 2017 came from ephemera that had been hidden away until May. These two pieces of paper provided the clues that allowed me to connect with a whole new set of cousins on my father's side of the family.

Here's the story, starting with the mystery of the 1910 Census. Some members of my Mahler family were living in New York City along with a "boarder," Jennie Birk. Now the reason this caught my eye is that Henrietta Mahler (my paternal grandma) had married Isaac Burk (my paternal grandpa) only a few years earlier. The year before their marriage, the 1905 Census showed Isaac and his brother Meyer living with the Mahler family in their NYC apartment, as "boarders." So the mystery was--did Jennie Birk have a family connection to my grandparents?

In May, Sis found Mom's old address book, and my paternal cousin found letters to/from his Mom, as shown above. I'd never heard of an "Aunt Jennie" in my Dad's family, and yet Dad's sister was writing to her "Aunt Jenny" in 1962. Mom's address book showed the same people (on the same street in Lakeland, Florida) in the early 1960s.

My next step was to research the NYC marriages on Italiangen.org, where I found that Jennie Burk had married Paul Salkofsky. Another few minutes of research revealed that Paul Salkofsky was naturalized as Paul Salkowitz. In other words, the address book and the letters had led me to my grandpa's sister, Jennie Birk Salkowitz.

Remember brother Meyer? He had been a "boarder" with the Mahler family when my grandpa Isaac was also a "boarder," the year before marrying a Mahler daughter. I eventually discovered that Meyer's surname was Berg and, as a result, I was able to trace Meyer's grandchildren.

Sis and I have met one of Meyer Berg's granddaughters and we've been sharing photos and family stories for months. What a great genealogical breakthrough for 2017!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review: "The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy"


Disclosure: The Genealogical Publishing Company sent me a free copy of this book to review; I received no other consideration, and my comments are entirely my own.

This is the 4th edition of Val Greenwood's encyclopedic guide, and it's the first update since the 3rd edition of The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy was published in 2000. As an experienced family-history researcher, I was particularly impressed by Part 1 (chapters 1-11), "Background to Research." This section lays out the many detailed steps in the process of conducting traditional genealogical research. Always on the lookout for ways to tune-up my process and structure my research, I came away with some new ideas for logical thinking and a renewed spirit of motivation after reading these chapters.

I liked Greenwood's careful explanations of how, exactly, to begin or continue researching a family's past. He reminds the reader why certain steps are important, as well as providing thoughtful examples to show how concepts are applied. For instance, in the chapter on surveying, analyzing, and planning, Greenwood provides a basic "T" chart for writing the research question, listing information known, and analyzing the implications. Then he follows up with a specific example showing how to put each piece of information into context during the planning stages of research. It was a refresher course for me, but I think beginners will especially appreciate the nitty-gritty techniques and tips for doing solid research in a logical manner.

Greenwood's writing is clear and reader-friendly, and he weaves in his opinions to let the reader decide how to proceed, adding a personal touch here and there. I came to this book with fresh eyes, having never seen the classic, older editions. Being fluent in computerese, I skipped the material about technology (Chapters 9 and 10, for example). I was much more interested in the author's approach to the overall topic. And I do wish this new edition could have been kept under 700 pages, with slightly larger type, for reasons of readability.


The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy is strong on traditional research, and it's a useful addition to my reference shelf. Any time I want to check my logic or brush up on U.S. sources of genealogical information, this book will be within reach.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Surprise! I'm a RootsTech 2018 Winner

Just 10 days ago, I entered Caitlin Gow's contest to win a free #RootsTech 2018 pass. (I'd already registered for the conference a month earlier, as a #FirstTimer.)

And this morning, I woke up to the surprise news that my entry was the winner. Wow!

Caitlin's qualifying question was: If you could have been born in any other year, what would it be and why?

My answer was: If the genealogy genie could grant me this wish, I would choose to be born in 1886, the year that the Statue of Liberty was unveiled in New York harbor. She made her official debut on Oct 28, 1886, so my wish is to have that be my birthday, too. Imagine being born in the same year, as this icon of freedom and hope was presented to the country, with a million people watching.

I thought of Lady Liberty because so many of my immigrant ancestors passed her on their way into New York. It must have been a thrill and a relief to see her standing tall in the harbor and know that their ocean crossing was at an end--and a new life was about to start.

A big thank you to Caitlin, the RootsTech Ambassador who ran this contest. Check out her "Genealogically Speaking" blog here.

And a big thank you to the folks at RootsTech for providing this free pass, for which I'm truly grateful.

Salt Lake City, here I come in 2018. So many ancestors, so little time.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Kindle Countdown Deal: Buy My Book for Only 99 Cents

Black Friday is almost here! And that means the start of my first-ever Kindle Countdown Deal. From 1 am on Friday to 11 pm on Sunday, buy the Kindle version of Planning a Future for Your Family's Past for only 99 cents. Please click here for my Kindle edition.

For you or as a gift for a genealogy-obsessed friend, only 99 cents for 98 pages of practical, hands-on ideas:
  • Learn how to organize and analyze your genealogical materials, getting your collection ready for tomorrow while you uncover clues to solve family history mysteries today. My book includes specific suggestions for sorting materials, safely storing them, captioning photos, inventorying what you have, and indexing for new insights.
  • Decide what to keep and what to give away. You'll get ideas for winnowing down your collection by giving duplicate items to other family members and, if you choose, donating artifacts to institutions that will preserve them for the future.
  • See how to set up a genealogical "will," by identifying heirs to receive your photos and documents and writing down your instructions to clarify your wishes. Don't let your precious research end up in a flea market or garbage bin.
  • Share with heirs--now. Tell the stories, show the photos, explain DNA results, and get relatives excited about your family's history. It's their heritage too!
  • Kindle book includes dozens of hotlinks to online resources accessible with just a click while you read. Plus sample forms in the back of the book will help you get organized and stay organized.
Thanks for passing the word about this special deal. And please do me the favor of reviewing on Amazon! Your feedback would mean a lot to me. Thank you again.

PS: If you have Kindle Unlimited on Amazon, don't forget that you can read my book for free, anytime. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgivings of the Past

Happy Thanksgiving! I looked back in diaries, postcards, meeting minutes, and other bits and pieces of my genealogical collection to get a glimpse of what happened on Thanksgivings of the past in my family and my husband's family.*
  • The strangely-colored postcard at right, from the 1910s, was received in East Cleveland by hubby's uncle, Wallis W. Wood. The sender was "Aunt Nellie" (Rachel Ellen Wood Kirby), who lived in Chicago and never missed an opportunity to send holiday or birthday greetings to her nephews and nieces in the Wood family.
  • On Thanksgiving Day of 1959, my late father-in-law (Edgar J. Wood) received the exciting news that he would be a grandfather for the first time during 1960. How do I know? He wrote about it in his diary!
  • On Thanksgiving Day of 1950, my grandma's Farkas family gathered at the C&L Restaurant in Manhattan for dinner and accordion entertainment, at $6 per person. My parents, Daisy Schwartz and Harry Burk, told the family they were buying a TV set to celebrate their wedding anniversary (they married on November 24, 1946). I read about it in the minutes of the Farkas Family Tree.
  • The Farkas Family Tree and spouses and children pitched in to have a photo taken of everyone who attended the Thanksgiving Day dinner at a Manhattan hotel in 1956. It was a large group! Again, the story of planning this dinner and the photography is straight out of the tree's monthly minutes, which I scanned and indexed a few years ago.
  • My aunt Dorothy Schwartz worked on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade with her long-time friend and partner, Lee Wallace, from 1950-1952. Lee was then the head of public relations for Macy's, and Dorothy was her assistant. Then my aunt got her teaching license and left the world of retail to teach typing and shorthand at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx. Yes, this is the same aunt who was a WAC during WWII.

 *Not including hubby's Mayflower ancestors celebrating Thanksgiving, of course. That's the oldest "Thanksgiving of the Past" story I can tell to my family for the holiday.