Tuesday, September 19, 2017

So Many Janes in One Tree

My husband's Wood family tree includes a number of women with the first or middle name of Jane. The tradition has continued, with hubby's sister and niece having Jane as their middle name.

Here are only a few of the many Janes in the family:
  • The earliest "Jane" I can identify is Jane Stephenson, hubby's 5th great-grandma (abt 1756-1823), who married Moses Wood (1741-1823). 
  • Jane L. Bentley (abt 1831-?) was hubby's 3d great aunt, who left Indiana at age 20 to travel to California with family in 1851, during the gold-rush era.
  • Jane Ann Wood (1846-1936) was hubby's great aunt. She was born in Louisiana, lived with her family in West Virginia and Toledo, Ohio, and married for the first time about 1898, at age 52.
  • Jane McClure (abt 1802-?) was another of hubby's 3rd great aunts. Her marriage license is shown above, documenting her marriage in Fayette, Indiana, on April 5, 1831 to Train Caldwell (1800?-?). Of course, Jane named one of her daughters Jane.
  • Jane Smith (abt 1794-?) was a daughter of Brice Smith and Eleanor Kenney. This Brice is the earliest instance of Brice in the family, incidentally, and of interest because his mom and dad were born in Ireland.
Happy to keep these many Janes in the family's memory (not just on the family tree).


Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday's Faces from the Past: Remembering Mom, Counting Her Cousins

Remembering my dear mother, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981), on the 36th anniversary of her death. This 1946 photo shows her looking radiant on her wedding day, just before the ceremony at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City.

Since I'm still researching siblings of her maternal grandparents Moritz Farkas/Leni Kunstler and paternal grandparents Herman Schwartz/Hani Simonowitz Schwartz, I can't yet name all of Mom's first cousins. Here are the 28 whose names I know:
  • George and Robert, sons of her uncle Albert Farkas and Sari Klein Farkas.
  • Edythe and Jacqui, daughters of her aunt Irene Farkas Grossman and uncle Milton Grossman.
  • Ron and Betty, children of her aunt Ella Farkas Lenney and uncle Joseph Lenney.
  • Harry and Richard, sons of her aunt Freda Farkas Pitler and uncle Morris Pitler.
  • Barbara, Robert, and Peter, children of her aunt Rose Farkas Freedman and uncle George Freedman.
  • Richard and Susan, children of her uncle Fred Farkas and aunt Charlotte Chapman Farkas.
  • Michael and Leonard, sons of her aunt Jeannie Farkas Marks and uncle Harold Marks.
  • Hajnal, Clara, Sandor, Ilona, and Elza, children of her uncle Joszef Kunstler and aunt Helena Schonfeld Kunstler.
  • Margaret, Alexander, and Joseph, children of her aunt Zali Kunstler Roth and uncle Bela Bernard Roth.
  • Burton and Harriet, children of her aunt Mary Schwartz Wirtschafter and uncle Edward Wirtschafter.
  • Morton and Eugene, sons of her uncle Sam Schwartz and aunt Anna Gelbman Schwartz.
  • Viola, daughter of her aunt Paula Schwartz Weiss and uncle [first name unknown] Weiss.
Remembering Mom today, with love.

PS: I can name every one of Dad's first cousins--he had only 20. But until a few months ago, I didn't know about all of them, and then I broke through a brick wall!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: What's Your Genealogy Elevator Pitch?

Do you have a genealogy elevator pitch? You know, a few quick sentences summarizing your family's background, adapted to the situation at hand. Entrepreneurs use elevator pitches to get investors interested in their businesses; we use elevator pitches to connect with relatives and possible relatives in several situations.

With genealogy elevator pitches, the goal is to share information very concisely, spark interest in your family or your research, and--hopefully--motivate action. Especially valuable during Genealogy Go-Overs or Do-Overs!

Here are three situations where I use my genealogy elevator pitches:
  • Following up on a DNA match or a family-tree hint. The right elevator pitch, polite and concise with an upbeat tone, makes a big difference. Mention exactly what the match or hint is, then list family names/places to get the ball rolling on trying to confirm the match. Some people manage more than one DNA kit and are active on more than one DNA site or family-tree site, so I give particulars to save them time. My elevator pitch: "My name is ___, my kit # is ___, and I'm writing about a match with FamilyTreeDNA kit #___, which is listed under the name of ____.  I suspect the connection might be through my Farkas family from Botpalad (Hungary) or my Kunstler family from Nagy Bereg (Hungary). Please let me know if any of these names or places are familiar. Thanks very much, and I'm looking forward to hearing from you." By adding the phrase looking forward to hearing from you, I'm requesting a response, positive or negative. Much of the time, it works.
  • Younger relatives ask a question or appear interested in an old photo. Be ready with a minute or two of explanation--vividly bring that person to life in that moment. Above, a photo my grandsons found interesting. My elevator pitch: "That's your great-great-grandpa James Edgar Wood and his construction crew, building a house in Cleveland Heights more than 100 years ago. Did you know he built so many homes in Cleveland that Wood Road is named for him? And most of those homes are still standing today!" Depending on the reaction, I either dig out more house photos or tell another story about the Wood family--keeping it brief.
  • At a family gathering or on the phone with a relative who asks, "what's new?" Oooh, so glad you asked. My latest elevator pitch: "Hubby and his first cousins took DNA tests, and surprisingly, the results show that the Wood family has some roots outside the British Isles. Would you consider taking a DNA test so we can learn more? [Insert name of DNA testing firm] has a big sale coming up!" The element of surprise in DNA results can be highly intriguing, and the mention of a sale also grabs attention. Three cousins were kind enough to take a DNA test during a sale this summer. My pitch was successful! So many cMs, so little time.
So polish your genealogy elevator pitch. And if you're going to a genealogy conference, polish the "surnames research" part of your pitch and/or have calling cards printed (above, mine and my husband's cards) to exchange with other researchers.

    Friday, September 8, 2017

    Grandparents Day Challenge: What Surprised Me

    Thank you to Dianne Nolin (author of the Beyond the BMD blog) for suggesting the Grandparents Day Challenge for September 10th. My interpretation of this challenge is to write one surprising thing I discovered about each grandparent through genealogical research.
    Henrietta Mahler Berk (later Burk) and children listed on 1915 border crossing, Canada to US
    • Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954), my paternal grandma, crossed the border to and from Canada several times with her children as her husband sought carpentry work. The last time was in March, 1915, when she shepherded her four young children back to New York City (ranging in age from 8 years old to 10 months). I was surprised by all this travel while the kids (including my father) were so young. This constant travel helps explain why the family was so close that in later years, three of the four adult children lived in the same apartment building as Henrietta after she was widowed. Saying hello to my Mahler cousins!
    • Isaac Burk (1882-1943), my paternal grandpa, was a bit of a mystery. It took me a long time to learn where and when he died--and then I was surprised to learn the sad news that he had a fatal heart attack in Washington, D.C., while visiting his sister and brother-in-law. That wasn't the only surprise I uncovered through research. Although I knew Isaac was born in Lithuania, I discovered that he stayed with an aunt and uncle in Manchester, England before continuing his journey to North America. I visited my British cousins last year, and DNA testing confirms the connection--greetings, cousins!
    • Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964) was my maternal grandma. I wasn't aware that her father and then her mother came to America first, leaving Minnie and the other children behind with family in Hungary. Minnie sailed to NYC at age 11 on the S.S. Amsterdam, with her older brother (age 13) and two younger siblings (aged 8 and 5). Imagine being so young and responsible for a lengthy trans-Atlantic voyage with two youngsters. Luckily, the Farkas Family Tree had regular meetings, so as I grew up, I got to know Minnie's siblings and their children and grandchildren. Hi to my Farkas cousins!
    • Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965) was my maternal grandpa. It was a surprise finding out that Grandpa Teddy, who ran a dairy store, was robbed of $50 at gunpoint during the Depression. Also, I didn't know that Teddy was a mover and shaker in the Kossuth Ferencz Hungarian Literary Sick and Benevolent Society, which raised money for charity and helped its members pay medical and funeral bills. Now I'm in touch with several cousins from the Schwartz family--saying hello to you, cousins!


    Monday, September 4, 2017

    Military Monday: Ask the Archivist About Ancestors in the Military

    Earlier this year, as part of my Genealogy Go-Over, I contacted the Archivist of the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders museum in Vancouver, asking for information about the military career of hubby's great uncle, Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942). This strategy--ask a historian or an archivist--is one of my Genealogy, Free or Fee tips that has paid off several times, yielding details and clues to further my family history research.

    Bandmaster H.A. Slatter served with the 72nd on and off from 1911 through 1925. By the way, this was after his earlier service with the British military, including the Grenadier Guards. (All three Slatter brothers were military bandmasters and served both in England and in Canada.)

    The archivist provided a few details about this bandmaster's career in Vancouver, and he has been keeping his eyes open for photos. Today, he sent me a link to the Vancouver Archives, where the above photo is stored. The caption says that the unnamed military band is playing during a 1918 wartime parade in downtown Vancouver (specifically, the 100 block of East Hastings).

    Although neither the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders nor Bandmaster H.A. Slatter are identified or referenced, the eagle-eyed archivist recognized the unit's uniforms and caps right away. He says that the band's conductor (sitting with his back to the camera at the front of the vehicle) could very well be the great uncle we are researching. And I agree, given the physical similarity between the conductor in this photo and other photos I've seen of his bandmaster brothers.

    Without the help of the archivist, I never would have found this photo, because the 72nd Seaforth is not mentioned in any of the captioning data.

    So go ahead, ask a historian or archivist--these professionals really know their way around the archives and can help us learn more about our ancestors!

    Saturday, September 2, 2017

    School's in Session: Ancestors in Education

    School days are here again, a good reason to remember some ancestors who were teachers or otherwise involved in education:
    • SCHWARTZ/FARKAS FAMILY: Above, my aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001), who was a high school teacher of typing, stenography, and business subjects. This is her faculty picture from a yearbook dated nearly 40 years ago. My uncle Fred Shaw (1912-1991) was a high school history teacher who wrote civics textbooks; his wife, Daisy Katz Shaw (1913-1985), was an educational guidance counselor who became Director of the Bureau of Vocational and Occupational Guidance in New York City. My great aunt, Ella Farkas Lenney (1897-1991) taught in the New York school system for years. 
    • McCLURE FAMILY: Hubby's great aunt, Lola McClure Lower (1877-1948) was a truant officer in Wabash, Indiana public schools in 1920. By 1930, her occupation had changed to "attendance officer, public schools" in Wabash (see Census excerpt above). Hubby's great aunt, Anna Adaline McClure  (1854-1928) was a teacher when she married Samuel Cook, a mason, in Petoskey, Michigan, in 1897.

    Friday, August 25, 2017

    Blogiversary #9: Fewer Brickwalls, More DNA and Facebook Connections

    What a year 2017 has been (and it's not over)! Nine years ago, when I first began blogging about my genealogy adventures, I knew the names of only four of the eleven people in this photo from my parents' wedding album. Earlier this year, thanks to Mom's address book and Cousin Ira's cache of letters, I smashed a brickwall blocking me from researching Grandpa Isaac Burk. Now I have a new set of friendly cousins and the names of all the people in this photo. And more info about my father's father's father, Elias Solomon Birk

    This was DNA year for me. Thanks to "known" cousins on both sides of the family who kindly agreed to test, I have a lot more "probable" cousins (we're still investigating our connections). It was especially helpful and motivating to meet DNA experts at the IAJGS, where I gave my talk on Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. I also attended DNA sessions at NERGC, where I spoke on the same "planning a future" topic. (For a calendar of my upcoming presentations, please see the masthead tab above.)
    Future genealogy: Using a pinhole viewer on Eclipse Day

    This year will go down in American history for the unique solar eclipse that swept the nation . . . for my genealogical journey, it will be remembered as the year I created detailed family memory booklets for my husband's Wood-Slatter tree and his McClure-Steiner tree. (For sample pages, see my blog post here.)

    My Facebook genealogy persona Benjamin McClure (memorialized on family T-shirts) has had a wonderful time making new genealogy friends and both posting questions and answering queries. Benji is also active on Pinterest. I really appreciate how many people are very generous with their knowledge and take the time to help solve family history mysteries via social media!

    Plus I got to meet many genealogy bloggers in person at conferences this year. It was wonderful to say hello and get acquainted without a keyboard for a change.

    Thank you to my relatives and readers for checking out my posts, leaving comments, and sharing ideas. Looking forward to Blogiversary #10 next year!

    Saturday, August 19, 2017

    Junk or Joy? Think of Future Generations!

    Lots of wisdom in a recent Washington Post article titled: "Just because an item doesn't spark joy, doesn't mean you should toss it."

    So many people are following the fad for saving only possessions that spark "joy" (based on best-selling author Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). But this doesn't mean throwing out family history along with the family china that none of the kids or grandkids wants right now. UPDATE: Today's New York Times has a similar article, focusing on how many downsizers are coping with younger relatives' disinterest in having the family china, furniture, etc.

    The author of the Washington Post article says that "passing down at least some of those possessions creates an important connection between generations and has a vital part in a family’s history." Her advice: save a few select things rather than everything. "Choose things that have special meaning — a serving dish that you used every Thanksgiving, old family photos . . . "

    That's why the "chickie pitcher" shown at top is still in the family, while the magazine shown at right is not.

    This pitcher, passed down in the Wood family, was part of holiday meals for as my hubby can remember (and that's a long way back). His mother, Marian McClure Wood, would put it out along with coffee and dessert on Thanksgiving and other occasions. We've continued the tradition in our family!

    The Workbasket magazine, however, is a different kind of keepsake. My mother, Daisy Schwartz Burk, was an avid needleworker and subscribed to this magazine for at least a decade. But as part of my Genealogy Go-Over and in the pantheon of heirlooms, the four issues held by the family for 50 years have a very low priority.

    Rather than relegate these good condition magazines to the flea market or recycle bin, I found them a new home: the Missouri History Museum, which collects magazines issued by Missouri-based publishers. The museum lacked the particular issues I was offering, and was especially pleased that the address labels were still attached.

    I signed a deed of gift (similar to the one shown here) and donated all four issues, along with a brief paragraph describing my mother and her love of needlework. It gives me joy to know that Mom's name will forever be attached to magazines preserved and held in the museum archives. (May I suggest: For more ideas about how to sort your genealogical collection and the possibilities of donating artifacts, please see my book Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.)

    Friday, August 18, 2017

    Friday's Faces from the Past: Remembering Dad and Counting His Cousins

    Remembering Dad--Harold D. Burk (1909-1978) on the 39th anniversary of his death. This happy photo shows him arriving in Hawaii on a special tour for travel agents (a career he began before being drafted for WWII and resumed when he returned from serving in Europe and married Mom).

    Having smashed a major brick wall on Dad's side of the family, I can finally name all twenty of his far-flung first cousins.
    • Rose, Lilly, Bill, and "Punky," the four children of Abraham Berk (1877-1962)
    • Sylvia, Harold, Milton, Norma, and Larry, the five children of Meyer Berg (1883-1981)
    • Miriam, "Buddy," Harvey, Jules, and Hilda, the five children of Sarah Mahler Smith (1889-1974)
    • Mike and Sylvia, the two children of Ida Mahler Volk (1892-1971)
    • Myron, Daniel, Robert, and Ruth, the four children of Mary Mahler Markell (1896-1979)
    Miss you, Dad.

    Sunday, August 13, 2017

    Saturday Night Genea-Fun: How Many in My Genea-Database?

    Randy Seaver's latest Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge this week is: How many people are in your gen software database or online tree(s)?

    Since I'm a new user of RootsMagic 7, I tried this challenge using the largest tree in my database: Hubby's Wood/Larimer/Slatter/McClure/Steiner tree.

    As shown above, this tree has 2665 people and--I'm happy to see--19,084 citations. I'm going to organize my citations and format them correctly, without being too slavish. Sure, I want other people to be able to replicate my research and locate specific records or details. But I agree with the philosophy of Nancy Messier's "My Ancestors and Me" blog: "Done is better than perfect."

    Shown at right, my Ancestry tree overview for the same family tree. Number of people is identical, because the synch is up-to-date. I try not to add people until I've investigated the relationship and sources to be reasonably certain these ancestors really belong on the tree.

    Note that the number of hints is three times the number of people! When I have a moment, I'll whittle that down by clicking to "ignore" hints for ancestors like "wife of brother-in-law of third cousin once removed of husband's uncle." Then I can concentrate on vetting the hints of people more closely aligned with the tree.

    Friday, August 11, 2017

    Friday's Faces from the Past: Did Uncle Benji Smile?

    It's up to us, before we join our ancestors, to keep the stories, photos, and memories of past generations alive for the benefit of future generations.

    Here are just a few methods I've tried.
    • Tell ancestor stories with dramatic flair. Our ancestors really did lead lives that were courageous (pioneers), happy (family or success), sad (early death), challenging (bankruptcy), or something in between. Find the drama and accentuate it to bring these ancestors to life. My maternal grandma threw a suitor's engagement ring out the window when she refused an arranged marriage. Isn't that dramatic? Hubby's grandpa was a master mechanic who worked on an early automobile model, making his mark on history in a small but significant way. Telling dramatic stories over and over does, I'm happy to say, make an impression.
    • Put an ancestor's face on a T-shirt. I think Benjamin McClure looks ancestral (and characteristically resolute) on this T-shirt worn by his great-great-grandson. Did "Uncle Benji" ever smile? I can ask every younger relative who sees this shirt. In private, I bet he did. But this was his public face, as a civic leader. 
    • Make copies of ancestor photos and give them to siblings, cousins, grandkids. Include a note explaining who's who. Pick a special date--for instance, St. Paddy's Day, for Irish ancestors--and make inexpensive photos to send inside a greeting card. The more relatives who come to recognize ancestors by face and name, the better. Okay, I'm still the only person who can identify most older ancestors in photos, but I'm hoping that someday relatives will be able to pick out at least one or two individuals they didn't know before. Plus I'm glad to know that these photo copies are widely dispersed within the family, not simply stuck inside my files.
    • Tell stories about what ancestors didn't talk about. My immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents never spoke of the trip from their home towns in Hungary, Latvia, and Lithuania to New York City. But knowing the name of the ships, the time of year, and length of the voyages, and the distance between the home towns and the ports of departure, I can weave together a pretty decent narrative for each one. No, they didn't come "cabin class." So this kind of story illustrates determination and perseverance (occasionally desperation).  
    • Remind young relatives who and what ancestors left behind. None of my immigrant grandparents or great-grandparents ever returned to their home towns after arriving in New York. Younger relatives are taken aback when reminded that these ancestors often left home at an early age (Grandpa Teddy Schwartz was 14), knowing that the journey would be one-way only. Imagine. 
    I've seen examples of even more creative ideas, including ancestor playing cards, that are future possibilities. What ideas have you tried for getting the younger generation interested in the lives of their ancestors?

    Sunday, August 6, 2017

    Weighing the Evidence on Grandpa's Birthplace

    Six of my Burk (aka Berg/Berk/Birk/Burke) ancestors came to North America from Lithuania. The oldest of the siblings, Abraham, settled in Montreal. All the others lived for decades in New York City.

    In birth order, they were:
    • Abraham Berk (1877-1962)
    • Nellie Block (1878-1950)
    • Isaac Burk (1882-1943) - Hi, Grandpa!
    • Meyer Berg (1883-1981)
    • Jennie Birk (1890-1972)
    • Max (Matel) Berk (1892-1953)
    Where, exactly, were these Litvak ancestors from? I've been weighing the evidence, following the Evidence Explained principles. Fortunately for me, the evidence is quite compelling in favor of one birthplace for all the siblings.

    Of course I'm putting the most weight on primary (original) sources created by "someone with first hand knowledge . . . created at or about the time an event occurred." Primary information (from original sources) tends to be more reliable, even though the person who provided the info may not remember correctly or may answer inaccurately for some other reason.

    I've assembled the following evidence about the siblings' birthplace.
    1. Abraham Berk's Canadian naturalization petition listed Gordz, Kovno, Russia as his birthplace. When Abraham entered America in 1919 to visit his brother Isaac, he said he was born in Gorst-Kovna-Russia. Abraham provided all this info.
    2. Nellie Block never declared any birthplace that I can find, unfortunately. I don't believe she ever married, nor did she apply for Social Security or naturalization. 
    3. Isaac Burk told US border officials in 1904 that he was born in Gerst, Russia, when he entered America from Canada. His 1939 naturalization papers and WWII draft registration show Lithuania as his birthplace (Isaac provided the info). Grandpa Isaac was buried in a cemetery plot that's part of the Sons of Telsh society. That adds to the indirect evidence in a small way.
    4. Meyer Berg's passenger manifest from 1903 shows Gelsen, Kovno as his most recent residence. His WWI draft record shows Gorsd, Russia as his birthplace; his WWII draft record shows Gorso, Russia as his birthplace. Meyer's naturalization petition from 1920 shows his birthplace as Kovna, Russia. Meyer provided this info.
    5. Jennie Birk's 1966 passport lists Lithuania as her birthplace. Her husband Paul Salkowitz listed Gardzai, Lithuania, as his birthplace on naturalization papers, but didn't show anything for her birthplace. Best of all, Jennie's marriage license from 1919 shows Garsden, Russia as her birthplace, info provided by her.
    6. Max Berk's 1920 naturalization petition shows Kovno, Russia as his birthplace. His 1906 passenger manifest shows Korst as his last residence. Max provided this info.

    According to the Jewish Genealogy Communities Database, nearly all of these places are, essentially, other names for one place: Gargzdai, Lithuania (sometimes not spelled correctly or only spelled phonetically).

    This evidence leads me to conclude that Grandpa Isaac and his siblings came from Gargzdai. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Plus I'm going to change the family tree so that every one of the siblings shows this as their birthplace.

    Saturday, August 5, 2017

    Sorting Saturday: Happily Testing RootsMagic

    During the IAJGS Conference last week, I had the opportunity to learn more about gen software that actually, for real, synchs with Ancestry, including downloading media (such as photos and documents attached to individuals).

    Yes, I do have an existing gen program, but it's got every bell and whistle on the planet except synching, which wasn't available four years ago when I bought that old software.

    Meanwhile, during my Genealogy Go-Over, I've been building my Ancestry trees and "sharing trees" with close cousins, so I have access to their names/photos/documents. I like the convenience of adding somebody else's photo of great uncle Moe to my Ancestry tree with one click. I'm accustomed to the Ancestry interface and navigating the site in search of more clues.

    Now I wanted to be able to download all of that to my Mac with no rigamarole. So I plunked down cash to buy RootsMagic 7 at the conference special price last week.

    Success! Granted, the interface doesn't look at all fancy (see an excerpt, above). Still, it gets the job done, has useful features that help me manage my people and trees, and it's fairly user-friendly.

    Best of all, my attachments were easily downloaded along with every tree (see the purple oval marking the "media" tab). I can browse them, open, do whatever I want. Yay!

    By the way, trees that were "shared" with me by other Ancestry users could also be downloaded by RootsMagic. That was a bonus I didn't expect.

    I'm still testing all the features, and I'm very happy so far with the experience. Simply being able to vacuum up all my Ancestry trees to have on my home Mac forever was worth the money, no matter what else I use the software for.

    Going forward, I'll continue to build my trees using Ancestry, and then synch using RootsMagic. It's just easier for me, it allows cousins to immediately see the latest info I've gathered, and I gain peace of mind that my Ancestry data will be duplicated on my own Mac.

    Of course, I've also backed up the RootsMagic trees on an external hard drive for extra security. Can't have too many backups!

    Update: After nearly 3 weeks of use, I'm still delighted at the ability to quickly and conveniently synch with Ancestry trees. After each synch I can view all changes to each tree in RootsMagic if I choose, a handy feature. Still need to test reporting mechanisms. More on that soon.

    Thursday, July 27, 2017

    IAJGS Day 5: Resources and Queries

    My last day at #IAJGS2017 began with another L-O-N-G visit to the Resource Room. Thank you to all the volunteers and vendors who made this possible! I found a newspaper mention of an ancestor's divorce in 1915 (a clue I'm going to follow up by contacting the courthouse for more details). Also found news items about an ancestor active in the early motion picture distribution business, as well as a sad obit for a young child in my husband's family tree. What a productive research session it was.

    Next, I attended Judy Baston and Renee Steinig's session, "It's All in How You Ask: Discussion Group Queries." Sure, we've all been posting and answering queries for years, right? But Judy and Renee had some good pointers, based on their years of experience moderating discussion lists.

    Takeaway #1: Just because Facebook is the new thing in town, keep your subscriptions to discussion groups on Jewish Gen and the SIGs. Having access to both FB groups and traditional discussion groups means you can tap the knowledge and advice of a large pool of people.

    Takeaway #2: The message police (AKA Judy and Renee) say--Don't quote at length from print or online publications, don't "flame" others, and "go easy on the alphabet soup" in queries and posts.

    Why?

    Not every participant in every country will know abbreviations like SSDI (Social Security Death Index) or ALD (All Lithuania Database). For clarity, spell it out!

    Wednesday, July 26, 2017

    IAJGS Day 4: Litvak, More Litvak, and Search Tips

    My Litvak immersion day started with Carol Hoffman's outstanding session, "Your Litvak Roots," followed by Judy Baston's super-valuable session, "Enhancing Your Litvak Research."

    Both my paternal grandpa (Isaac Burk) and paternal grandma (Henrietta Mahler) may have clues hiding in the Litvak SIG databases. This morning was my opportunity to get better at finding those clues! Carol also explained about the areas covered by these databases.

    One great take-away from Carol's session was: When you use the search box on the home page of the Litvak SIG home page, remember that it does not search the All-Lithuania Database. Another useful tip: If you find an ancestor held an internal passport (issued between the wars), send for it because there will be 7 or more pages filled with personal details.

    By the time Judy took the microphone, the room was almost entirely full. Her talk was also specific and practical, describing the databases and search capabilities, and the constant flow of new records being found, translated, and added. Judy reinforced Carol's suggestion to use the interactive map, blow it up to see tiny villages surrounding larger towns, and expand your search to these other villages in case ancestors recorded births or married there, for instance. (Her reminder: Use current spelling of the area, not the old-fashioned name.)

    She also explained the various search possibilities, including "fuzzy," "fuzzier," and "fuzziest." (Really! And really good to know how these work!) In addition, Judy urged the audience to check out Miriam Weiner's Routes to Roots Foundation for the existence of records in Eastern Europe.

    Then I crossed the foyer to see Banai Lynn Feldstein's "Search as an Art." One key tip: Don't assume that a particular site uses US Soundex for its searches. She reminded the audience that Jewish Gen, for instance, uses Daitch-Mokotoff, as does Ancestry's Jewish Collection. (Read more about D-M and Soundex here.)

    Banai echoed what so many other speakers have said, over and over (with good reason): Indexing may be incorrect or incomplete--always read the original image! She showed a few examples of why indexers sometimes get it wrong, urging us to click and read the image for ourselves.

    Just for a change, I actually left the hotel and walked around, despite the 95 degree weather. Now I'm taking advantage of the Resource Room (it's ProQuest day).

    One final session of the day: C. Ann Staley's "A Gold Mine To Be Discovered," about many overlooked resources--often free--that can provide clues or actual info. Her handout is incredible, and the session was extremely valuable. One resource I've used and wish I could find more of is Brag Books, usually county "histories" with (somewhat inflated, at times) biographies of leading citizens. She reminded us that these were paid bios submitted by the citizens, so use with caution. Another top tip: Look for WPA Historical Records Surveys in state archives. These might have housing surveys, church records, all kinds of detailed surveys done in the 1930s, with clues and actual data for genealogists. One final tip from this session: When using period newspapers, browse/read the entire newspaper to get context for your ancestor's life. Very meaty session!

    Thursday will be another exciting day. Can't wait.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2017

    IAJGS Day 3 - Blogging Breakfast and Much More

    Day 3 began with a bloggers' breakfast, sharing ideas and chatting about the blogging experience. Lots of conversation and friendly tips. Thank you!

    After breakfast, my first stop was Hal Bookbinder's "Why Would Our Ancestors Leave a Nice Place Like the Pale?" He reviewed the history of the Pale (including why it's called 'pale,' from the Latin 'palus,' a stake marking boundary). Why leave? Pogroms (into the 20th century), lack of opportunity, travel more possible, and other immigrants beckoned relatives and neighbors to the new world.

    Mid-morning was my scheduled mentoring time, and I chatted with several attendees about their brick walls.

    Then I scampered off to Emily Garber's "Beyond the Manifest." She took the audience along on a really interesting journey through the Genealogical Proof Standard and how she was able to determine (via research and up to proof standards) where her family came from. Lubin or Labun? I won't spoil the ending. Let me quote what she told the audience: "Trust no one! Records lie!"



    Next, I visited with Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist, in the midst of the Exhibit Hall. Got a question about an old family photo? Sherlock can help! Although she didn't have a deerstalker hat or a pipe today, she did have ideas and suggestions for wringing as much info as possible from an old family photo. Her talk is tomorrow at 9:45 am.

    And the day's not over yet! I admit, the Resource Room tempted me to spend time using all the databases that I don't have at home. Found a few records and newspaper articles.

    And then it was time to see my distant cousin Mark Strauss's talk, "The DNA of Family: The Strauss Experience." He told the moving story of visiting ancestral towns in Slovakia, finding clues to possible Strauss relatives, and then a couple of years later, discovering the actual links via DNA matches.

    One take-away: Check vital records in the surrounding towns, because sometimes births and other events were recorded in the next town, not the home town. A second key take-away: Never give up. Mark said that when he finds good DNA matches, he writes an email with specific details, requesting a response. If he doesn't hear from the match, he writes again in a couple of months. And persistence pays off.

    Monday, July 24, 2017

    IAJGS Day 2: Research Tricks and Preservation Tips

    Day 2 of the Intl Jewish Genealogy Conference has been as busy and productive as Day 1. Bright and early, Mindie Kaplan spoke about researching common surnames...like Kaplan (or Kaplin or Caplan--you get the idea). Alternative spellings can help us find the right person in the haystack.

    One top take-away: Find one ancestor in a city directory then use that address to search for who else lives there! Great idea.
    Next was Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer, "For Future Generations," a nuts-and-bolts session about preserving photos and documents for the future. She had some fabulous suggestions, including making sure that all media is readable. Who has a projector to view 35 mm slides any more?

    So move media to the most recent technology and keep upgrading to avoid being unable to see something just a few years in the future. And do keep trying to view technology, just to be sure it's there.

    Then I wedged myself into the audience of Marion Werle's "You Found the Records, Now What?" No wonder it was so crowded. Records analysis is a hot topic and Marion showed us, step by step, how to pick a record apart and figure out what type of source, how reliable the content might be, and how to reconcile conflicting info. Of course, look at the original record whenever possible.

    Another take-away: Formulate a specific research question you want to answer, to guide and focus your efforts.

    My session, "Planning a Future for Your Family's Past," drew well and included some good questions and comments from the audience. One question that came up: What if none of the descendants wants to continue to research the family's history? My answer: As long as a descendant is interested enough to agree to be custodian of the genealogy collection that you've put together over the years, that's a start. Even if that descendant isn't passionate about genealogy now, he or she may become more intrigued later (a decade or more from now). We want our research and photos and artifacts to survive for future generations, no matter whether the research goes on after we join our ancestors.

    More posts soon!

    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.