Sunday, July 23, 2017

IAJGS Day 1: From Railways to DNA

Day 1 of the Intl Jewish Genealogy Conference has been exciting, informative, and friendly. My morning began on a high note with Phyllis Kramer, "The Immigrant Voyage." In addition to discussing the reasons for immigrating out of Eastern Europe, she showed a fascinating slide "Ironways and Ports of Euope" which helped explain how my ancestors actually got to the ports where they boarded steamships for America. Top take-away was that after 1911, arrivals had to be verified with a Certificate of Arrival before an ancestor could be naturalized.

Next was Hal Bookbinder, "Ships of Our Ancestors," continuing the theme of the travails of travels from ancestral homelands to America. He confirmed that after 1874, all immigrants arrived from Europe on steamships, making the voyage much, much shorter than earlier. My top take-away was to search immigrant banks for a sign of ancestors putting away money to pay for tickets to bring those still in the homeland to America.

After lunch, Hal Bookbinder's session "The Changing Borders" gave me a solid appreciation of how often and how drastically borders in Eastern Europe/Russia changed over the last 1000 years. No wonder my maternal grandfather sometimes said he was born in Hungary and sometimes said he was born in Czechoslovakia. The maps were fascinating and Hal's historical knowledge made this a really interesting session. Take-away: Don't confine searches to "Russia" or an area we think we know as the homeland--look at historical maps and keep an open mind.

Next was a great session listening to Lara Diamond show "Real-World Examples of Endogamy." As she says, all is not doom and gloom, even if it seems we all have thousands of close cousins. She gave a lot of excellent tips for closely examining DNA matches and trying to find out how these people might be related to me. My take-away: Look at the large shared segments, not just overall cM numbers.

Final session for me was Phyllis Kramer again, "Found the Town, Now What?" Phyllis is such an engaging speaker that I had to see her again! Of all the excellent sessions on Sunday, this had it all--great advice, insider tips, and specific search techniques to try, plus lots of links. Thanks to Phyllis, now I know that JRI-Poland has Lithuania and Ukraine info too, which I need for my research! More genealogy adventures tomorrow.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sorting Saturday: Benjamin's Woodcut Portrait Lives On

Always looking for ways to keep ancestors alive for future generations, I consulted with my sis-in-law, a savvy sewer. We wanted to put the 1890s woodcut portrait of her 2d great-grandpa, Benjamin McClure (1812-1896), onto a T-shirt for the youngest relatives.

Her solution was to use iron-on fabric transfer paper. The process is fairly easy, and you'll find many types of iron-on transfer papers in craft stores.

At right, two types of transfers I've used (among many other good brands). Some transfers are actually fabric with a paper backing to go through the printer, be cut to size, and then be stitched onto a T-shirt or other fabric item. Others are paper with special coating that adheres to fabric when ironed on.

Before you buy, read the package to decide which transfer paper is right for the fabric or T-shirt you'll be using. Check whether the transfer requires a laser copier/printer or inkjet printer. And find out whether the final product can be washed.

The directions vary slightly from brand to brand. Some transfers require you to create a mirror image of your image (via software, printer, or copier) if text is involved or you want the fabric version to look exactly as the original. This is important! Unless you begin with a mirror image, any text on the image will be reversed and unreadable (see photo above for "mirror image" version of Benjamin McClure and his name/dates, before he was ironed onto the T-shirt shown at top).

I'm sorting other portraits to see which we want to put on T-shirts, aprons, or other fabric items as holiday gifts for the family--keeping the memory of our ancestors alive into the next generation and beyond.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Photo Captions with Context

Identifying the people (and their relationship) in old family photos is a must. But often that's not enough to convey the what, when, where, and why of the photo. That's why it's important to include some context when captioning photos, with future generations in mind. I often write a page of explanation to file with the photo, and when digitizing, I add info right on the image.

For example: When I captioned the photos from my parents' wedding, I included not only their names, but the hotel/city, date, and a description of what was happening in the photo. (In my printed version, I explained more about their ages, occupations, my mother's gold lame dress, and everything else I know about the wedding.)

In this photo, Mom and Dad were reading congratulatory telegrams they received during their wedding luncheon. Telegrams? Yup, I labeled the activity, because with ever-changing technology, younger relatives don't ordinarily encounter telegrams in daily life. How could they know what's happening in this photo? So I added that context.

Now future generations will have an idea of what a telegram looks like, and the light bulb will go on (an LED light bulb these days).

Monday, July 17, 2017

Mystery Monday: How Can I Find the Elusive Nellie Block?

Great aunt Nellie Block, late 1940s
Nellie Block (abt 1878-1950) is my elusive great aunt, the older sister of my paternal grandpa, Isaac Burk (1882-1943).

The first time I spotted Nellie was in Isaac's 1904 border crossing from Canada to US, when he said he was going "to sister Nellie Block, 1956 3rd Ave., corner 107th St." The address was familiar, because Isaac's future bride and her family lived in that apartment building!

In the 1905 NY Census, Nellie (a furmaker) is living as a boarder with a family on Henry Street. She's still single, and boarding with a different family on Henry Street in the 1910 US Census (occ: operator, furs).

The paper trail nearly ends there for Nellie. So far, I haven't found her in the 1915 NY census, 1920 US census, 1925 NY census, 1930 US census, or 1940 US census.

I know Nellie received an invitation to a UK cousin's wedding in 1934, because it was passed down in the family. Alas, no envelope with address. Did she go? No one knows.

Nellie is wearing a corsage and a smile at my parent's wedding in 1946. That's how I can date the photo at top, because Nellie looked very much the same at the wedding as she does here.

The final record I found for Nellie is her death notice from the New York Times, paid for by the family. It states: "Block--Nellie, devoted sister of Abraham Birk, Meyer Berg, Max Birk, Jennie Salkowitz, and the late Isidore [sic] Birk. Services Sun, 12:30 pm, Gutterman's, Bway at 66 St."

Nellie Block died on Christmas Eve, 1950. I haven't yet found her burial place, and can't yet get a copy of her death cert from New York (too recent).

Where in the world was Nellie Block hiding between 1910 and 1950? My next steps, part of my Genealogy Go-Over:
  • Use Heritage Quest and Family Search, plugging in different spellings of her name to search US and NY Census records. Each site transcribes and indexes a little differently, so I may have some luck with this approach. Will also look for naturalization papers, if any.
  • Do a more thorough search of Social Security applications. If she was working, and remained single, surely she filed for retirement benefits, right? 
  • Check NY marriage records, just in case she married at some point. By 1934, however, when she received the wedding invitation, her name was still Block and she was about 56 years old. I suspect she didn't ever marry, since her death notice is "Block."
  • Recheck Find a Grave (so far, I haven't found her there) and all the NY/NJ cemeteries where my NY-area paternal ancestors were buried. My really quick first check was unsuccessful, so now I have to do another check to be sure.
  • Any other ideas? 
UPDATE: I searched census and naturalization via Family Search, no luck (yet). Also did a search on the easy-to-search 1940 NYC directories on NY Public Library site, borough by borough, but no luck. In addition, I checked Italiangen.org for naturalizations, but no luck. And I redid my Soc Sec search via Ancestry for claims and application, no luck. Darn.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sympathy Saturday: Linking Farkas Siblings on Find a Grave

It's taken a bit of clicking to link my maternal grandma (Hermina "Minnie" Farkas Schwartz) to her family on Find a Grave, because she had so many brothers and sisters.

Now, thanks to the other contributors who accepted my edits, Grandma Minnie shows up with her parents, spouse, children, and siblings.

So many people use Find a Grave for genealogy research that I wanted to be sure my Farkas family was not only completely represented on this free site, but also linked to each other.

It's one way I honor my ancestors and share a bit about them with future generations.

For more ideas about sharing family history, please see my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wishful Wednesday: More DNA Adventures Ahead

My mom, about 1939
Yesterday I checked for new DNA matches on Ancestry, and happily, a new match appeared. One I wished for and waited for. Finally!

My cousin L's DNA results confirm the paper trail and photo evidence linking us. He's my 2d cousin, 1x removed. His parents were at my parents' wedding (the photo shows them sitting at a table with other cousins from the Farkas family).

Just as important, he is also a close match with other relatives who I know are from my mother's side of the family.

Next step: Ask cousin L to upload the results to Gedmatch.com so I can analyze in more detail and look for additional matches. By the time I speak at the International Jewish Genealogy Conference later in the month, I should have a number of kit numbers to compare with other attendees.

More DNA adventures are ahead as I dig deeper into cM values and chromosome details.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Max Birk Arrived 111 Years Ago Today

My great uncle Max (Motel) Birk (1891?-1953) arrived at New York City aboard the SS Ryndam exactly 111 years ago, on July 9, 1906. Born in Kovno, Max was one of four brothers and two sisters who came to America.

I just found Max in the passenger manifest, arriving at the Port of New York from Rotterdam via the S.S. Ryndam. It took a bit of creative searching because the transcription showed his surname as "Brik" rather than "Birk." But knowing the date and name of ship was a big help! Also, Soundex is our friend. If possible, try Soundex searching (note the "620" on the naturalization index card above--the Soundex code for the category that "Birk" fits).

Max told authorities that he was 16 (his math was off), he was a butcher (not an occupation he pursued in America), and he had $1.50 in his pocket.

Most important: Max was being met by his brother "I. Burk" (my grandpa Isaac), c/o "M. Mahler" (my great-grandpa Meyer Mahler).

Max arrived only one month after his brother Isaac married Henrietta Mahler on June 10, 1906. Sounds like Isaac Burk and his bride didn't yet have their own place and remained with her father for a little while after the wedding--along with Max, possibly.
 
Years later, Max's naturalization papers from Chicago listed two witnesses, including a "Moses Kite." This was intriguing, because one of my DNA matches on Gedmatch.com is a member of the Kite family. Could this be a clue to a cousin connection?

I checked with this gentleman, who told me that Moses Kite worked at city hall in an administrative capacity and was probably a witness because he was on the spot, not because he was a cousin.

Welcome, great uncle Max.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday: 7 Steiner Ancestors in Old Mission Cemetery

A number of hubby's Steiner ancestors are buried in historic Old Mission Cemetery, Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Among them are 7 of the 9 children of Edward George Steiner (1830-1880) and Elizabeth Rinehart (1834-1905), my husband's maternal great-grandparents.

Above, the headstones for hubby's grandmother and five of her siblings:

  • Orville J. Steiner (1856-1936) 
  • Adaline "Addie" Steiner (1859-1879)
  • Etta Blanche Steiner Rhuark (1864-1956) 
  • Minnie Estella Steiner Halbedel (1868-1947)
  • Carrie Eileen Steiner Traxler (1870-1963)
  • Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure (1878-1948) - Grandma Floyda
Below, the unusual footstone in Mission Cemetery for the seventh Steiner buried in Old Mission, hubby's great aunt, Margaret Mary Steiner Post (1861-1913), who married a painter.


The two eldest children of Edward & Elizabeth Steiner are buried elsewhere. Their first-born's stone, marked "Infant son of Steiner, October 23, 1852," is in Oceola Cemetery #2, Crawford County, Ohio.

Their first daughter, Elveretta (1854-1855), is also buried in Oceola Cemetery #2, a small cemetery that hubby and I were able to visit and photograph only because a kind Find A Grave volunteer provided very detailed directions. Thank you!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Memories of Expo 67 on Canada Day

The first time I visited Montreal was as a student taking a school trip to Expo 67 during Canada's centennial. Here's the guide book, saved all these years and in good shape!

By 1967, I was a young veteran of giant expositions like this, having visited the New York World's Fair in 1964 and 1965 at least a dozen times. My father, a travel agent, received complimentary entrance tickets. All we had to do was hop the subway from the Bronx to Queens with family or friends, carrying pocket money for sodas and snacks. Lots of fond memories!

So when the Expo 67 trip was announced, I was ready for the adventure. And it was an adventure, starting with the first day. After a long, long bus ride from the Bronx to Montreal, we arrived at what was supposed to be a brand new motel, built to accommodate Expo visitors.

I'll never forget teetering off one of the two buses and staring at the motel building, which had walls and a roof, but not much else. It was dusk, and our group was standing at what was clearly a construction site. The motel simply didn't get finished in time, and we had no place to sleep for four nights.

Somebody scrambled to make other arrangements, and after a delay, we wound up in a different, newly-built motel far, far away from the expo itself. But at least we were in Montreal! The Expo exhibits were fascinating and sometimes futuristic, the fair food was fun, and we had stories to tell when we returned home. Plus souvenirs like this guide book.

Happy Canada Day, and happy 150th to a special country.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Saluting Canada, Where Ancestors Landed or Settled

Capt. John Slatter (front and center) with the 48th Highlanders
As Canada approaches its exciting 150th anniversary celebration, I want to highlight ancestors who either settled there or first touched North American soil in Canada.

First, let me mention the illustrious Slatter brothers, my husband's London-born great uncles. They became well-known bandmasters in Canada, putting to good use the musical and military training they had received as children on the Goliath and Exmouth.
  • Albert William Slatter (1862-1935) served as bandmaster with the 7th London Fusiliers in Ontario.
  • John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954) achieved fame as the bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders in Toronto, helping to popularize the craze for kiltie bands.
  • Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942) was the distinguished bandmaster for the 72d Seaforth Highlanders in Vancouver.
At least two of my Berk/Birk/Burk/Block/Berg ancestors left Lithuania, stopped in England with family to learn English and polish their woodworking skills, and then continued on to North America.
Henrietta Mahler Burk & Isaac Burk
  • Isaac Burk (1882-1943) was a cabinetmaker who, at age 19, was residing with an aunt and uncle in Manchester (according to the 1901 census), along with his older brother, Abraham. Isaac sailed for Canada in 1903 but stayed only for a short time, moving on to New York City where his older sister Nellie Block (1878-1950) was living. Isaac married Henrietta Mahler in New York, and moved back and forth between Montreal and New York for nearly 10 years before deciding to remain in New York permanently.
  • Abraham Berk (1877-1962), also a cabinetmaker, was residing with the same family in Manchester as his brother Isaac during 1901. After his brother left, Abraham stayed on to marry Anna Horwich, then sailed to Canada and made a home in Montreal, where he and his wife raised their family.
Oh Canada! Happy anniversary and many more.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Genealogy--Free or Fee: Detailed NYC Marriage Records Worth Paying For

If you have ancestors who were married in New York City starting in 1908, I recommend that you click on the index records obtained by Reclaim the Records and crack open your piggy bank. Yes, there's a $15 fee--but you'll get first-hand info provided by your ancestors, invaluable for a Genealogy Do-Over or Go-Over. (NOTE: These index books are now on Ancestry. You still have to mail away for the actual records.)

Thanks to Reclaim the Records, you'll know to request all three documents in the file: (1) marriage license, (2) application for license, and (3) affidavit. I showed step-by-step how to do the research in my original post about obtaining these documents for my parents' marriage. These days, there's a much longer wait--up to 8 weeks--because so many people are submitting requests. But eventually your SASE will land in your mailbox. Then the fun begins.

Yesterday, I received the documents for great-aunt Mary Schwartz and her husband, Edward Wirtschafter. Their daughter told me that the couple eloped on Christmas Eve of 1913, getting married at City Hall without first telling the family.

Here's their affidavit, which must be completed to receive a marriage license. Edward and Mary signed this themselves (my cousin and I have seen their signatures before).

Also, judging by Edward's handwriting, he may have filled out the form for both bride and groom. (I know from the handwriting on my parents' form that my father filled out both sides of the form, so Edward could very well have done the same.)



Note the faint stamp "Duplicate" at top and bottom of the affidavit? A clue as to why I got the unexpected bonus of one extra document: A paper signed by the rabbi who married Mary and Edward on December 28. One of the witnesses was the bride's oldest brother in America, Sam Schwartz.

So the couple married in a civil ceremony and then married again four days later in a religious ceremony, with at least one family member present. This adds a new dimension to the "elopement" story, a new dimension that wasn't in the original family story.

In all, my $15 investment either revealed or confirmed places of birth, parents' names for bride and groom, home addresses, occupations, etc. Plus I now know that Mary's brother stood up for her at the religious ceremony. I got my money's worth on this set of records!

For more posts in my series Genealogy, Free or Fee, see this summary.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Remembering the Dads on Father's Day

For Father's Day, I want to remember, with love, some of the Dads on both sides of the family.

My husband's Dad was Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) and his Mom was Marian McClure (1909-1983). My late father-in-law is shown in the color photo below, arm and arm with my hubby on our wedding day!

Edgar's father was James Edgar Wood (1871-1939), shown below right, who married Mary Slatter (1869-1925). And James's father was Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890), who married Mary Amanda Demarest (1831-1897).


My Dad was Harold Burk (1909-1978)--shown below left with my Mom, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981), on their wedding day.

Researching the life of my paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk (1882-1943), started me on my genealogical journey 19 years ago. Isaac is pictured below right with my grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954), in 1936.

Isaac's father was Elias Solomon Birk, a farmer in Kovno, Lithuania, who married Necke [maiden name still not certain]. I never knew Elias was a farmer until my newly-discovered cousin told me she learned that from her grandfather, my great-uncle.


Happy Father's Day to all the Dads of cousins in all branches of our family trees!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Great Uncle Mayer Petitioned for Naturalization 99 Years Ago

Declaration of Intention dated 6 June 1918
Now that my mother's address book has helped me trace several "elusive" siblings of my paternal grandpa Isaac Burk, I've sent for documents to fill out their life stories. I began with my great uncle Mayer Berg (1883-1981), who was a year younger than my grandpa.

One lesson learned is: NARA doesn't have everybody's naturalization documents. A day after I submitted an online request and payment for Mayer Berg's naturalization papers, the archivists emailed me. They did not have Mayer's paperwork, but the Bronx authorities probably did. Thanks for the tip!

Another lesson learned: Pick up the phone before mailing a check. I called the Bronx County Clerk's office, and the officials kindly confirmed that they held Mayer's documents. I got a "package deal" because the petition and declaration were in a single file, so I didn't have to send for them separately (which would have cost more).

Snail mail was faster than usual: I received Mayer's naturalization documents in barely a week. It's dated June 6, 1918.

Just think, this great uncle was standing in a Bronx courthouse 99 years ago, filling out his final paperwork, declaration of intention for US citizenship. Mayer took his Oath of Allegiance on November 23, 1920. I'm going to give these documents to Mayer's granddaughter when we meet this week!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Sorting Saturday: Daisy's Decoupage

My mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) loved to crochet and embroider, and even did a bit of needlepoint and petit-point in her twenties.

But she never did any decoupage. Nope, even though I remember her showing off this unusual, personalized metal lunch box made into a special purse.

My Sis read my original post (in italics, below) and corrected my faulty memory. It seems back in the early 1970s or so, one of Mom's bosses had this one-of-a-kind decoupage purse made especially for her as a Christmas gift. While Mom admired it, the darn thing was heavy and a bit clunky. Maybe Mom never even used it, Sis says. My guess is she used it a couple of times when going to work, just so the boss could see that she appreciated his thoughtfulness.

My lesson learned: Always ask family before recording the history of a so-called heirloom.

Which brings up a question for Sis: If Mom never made this decoupage piece, why the heck do we still have it in our possession after all these decades?

MY ORIGINAL STORY, now debunked by Sis:

In her late 40s, she (Mom) became interested in the craze for decoupage and decided to create a purse from a black metal lunch box (the kind with a domed lid for a thermos).

Here's the result, featuring magazine pictures she liked, cut out, and added in painstaking layers. Mom would be happy to know how much her descendants treasure these hand-crafted items, now family heirlooms!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Pages from the Story of Wood and Slatter

The Story of James Edgar Wood and Mary Slatter Wood is written, photos and maps are in place, and I'm going to bring the .pdf to be color-laser-printed in the local copy shop. In all, I needed 21 pages to tell the story of hubby's paternal grandparents James, Mary, their family backgrounds, along with a brief overview of what happened to their four sons (including my late father-in-law, who took these photos of the 1917 Ford).

Just in time for the June Genealogy Blog Party, here are two pages from this newest family memory booklet, and a few lessons learned along the way toward preserving this family history:
  • Maps help readers follow along as ancestors migrate or take a trip (as in the page at top, a 1917 trip from Cleveland to Chicago).
  • Photos personalize the story and bring readers face to face with faces and places from the family's past. I included lots of photos!
  • Include quotes from ancestors to keep their voices alive for descendants who never met them. I had quotes from interviews, letters, a diary.
  • Include a timeline to give descendants a better sense of what happened, where, and when. I constructed this last, after I pieced together the entire story.
  • Include sources for that rare reader who asks: "How do we know that?" The actual booklet has a few document excerpts but full documents are sitting in my files.
  • Caption all photos. I have 2 pages of captions at the end of the booklet, with lots of details, including a reminder of the relationships between people in the photo and the readers ("Mary Slatter's older sister" is an example, plus an explanation that Mary Slatter was my husband's paternal grandmother). 
Don't forget to include a family tree! I included one in the back of the booklet, showing this branch and how it extends back three generations on James's side and on Mary's side.

This is only one way I'm sharing my family's history with the next generation. More ideas are in my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday's Faces from the Past: Cousins Try to Name Names

Now that I'm in touch with more descendants of my paternal Burk family, I'm asking them to help identify who's who in this party photo from the late 1930s or early 1940s. I can't tell when, where, or why this party took place.

At far right in the foreground is my father, Harold Burk (#3). Seated near the center is his mother, Henrietta Mahler Burk (#1) and his father, Isaac Burk (#2).

My grandfather Isaac's family had distinctly different ways of spelling their shared surname when they came to America from Lithuania, reminding me to be flexible when I search and consider Soundex variations:

Berg, Berk, Birk, Burk, Burke