Thursday, June 10, 2021

Family Search Remote Access Services Solves a Mystery

More than a few of my ancestors didn't know their actual birth dates. Sound familiar?

This week, I was able to solve the mystery of an uncle's birth date in New York City, thanks to the new Family Search Remote Services team.

When no image available or document is not viewable from home, this new team accesses the image or document (if available) via the Family History Library and sends it to the requester, for free. See the form at right, with the web address highlighted in yellow. 

For more about this service, see the announcement here.

Pandemic PLAs 

During the pandemic, I would have posted an image request on the New York City Genealogy Facebook page.

Wonderful volunteers known as "parking lot angels" (PLAs) would go outside a Family History Center, tap its Wi-Fi, and look up images for folks like me. 

For the next 90 days, however, no images are available--except by request to the Family Search Remote Access Services team.

One uncle, two birth dates

I knew my uncle, Charles Lang (1906-1968), was born in New York City. On his World War II draft registration card, he said his birth date was September 10, 1906. On a document from his teenage years, the birth date was March 15, 1906.

What I needed was his actual birth certificate. The transcribed birth document is on Family Search, showing his parents and a birth date of March 2, 1906. But to be absolutely sure there were no transcription errors, I wanted to view the actual certificate with my own eyes. 

So late last week, I submitted a request to the Family Search Remote Access Services team, providing all the details requested on the form. 

Four days later, the terrific Remote Access Services team sent along the image of my uncle's birth certificate. And now the mystery is solved: his correct birth date is March 2, 1906, shown clearly. Because this document was filed only days after my uncle was born, I am very confident in its accuracy.

Thank you to the Remote Access Services team!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Looking Back at the 1950 Census in the News

Prepping for the public release of the 1950 U.S. Census in April, 2022, I'm searching newspapers that cover the areas where my ancestors lived during the spring of 1950. 

Not only am I researching my ancestors, I'm putting the Census into context and learning more about how people thought about the Census back then.

Names and Faces in the News

First, I do a name search (creative spelling of surname, nicknames, maiden names, and so on). Maybe one of my ancestors or a FAN club person was mentioned as a Census taker? 

Here's another angle to consider: Was an ancestor quoted in a story about the Census, perhaps talking about being enumerated or expressing an opinion about the process? 

On March 26, 1950, The Brooklyn Eagle (New York City) interviewed eight local residents who were outraged at the personal questions about income. The article included photos, names, and addresses of those interviewed! 

Other news items (including a January, 1950 story from the Los Angeles Times) also quoted people who were unhappy about the income question. None were my ancestors, but you might be luckier.

Fido in the News (in the Census?)

According to multiple newspaper articles (Brooklyn Eagle, L.A. Times, and others), enumerators were requested by some households to list dogs as family members. 

In fact, household heads could be rather insistent on the matter! "Rather than argue, the census taker wrote down the dog's name, age and residence," one news item reported.

I don't know whether those names were left as is or deleted during later steps of review and coding. But be aware, as you browse the 1950 U.S. Census after its public release next April, you may just see Fido, Spot, Mittens, or other dogs listed as a member of a household.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Instructions for 1950 US Census Enumerators: Who to Count

In my series on preparing for the release of the 1950 U.S. Census on April 1, 2022, I've been examining the instructions to enumerators who knocked on every door and interviewed the head of every household.

By understanding the nuances of these instructions, I'll be better able to interpret what I see when the scans of the population schedules are made public next year.

Don't count certain people

As shown at top, the enumerators were trained to enumerate only certain people and omit enumeration of other people. This excerpt is from the informative publication The 1950 Census: Procedural Studies, available to view and download from the U.S. Census Bureau site here.

Enumerators were not to count members of the military who were temporarily away from home serving in the Coast Guard or a U.S. Navy vessel, for instance. The reason: These vessels were provided with Census forms to be completed separately.

Similarly, armed-forces personnel who lived in a military facility in the enumerator's assigned district were not to be counted. Again, other plans were in place to enumerate people living on military bases, in a separate count from the residential and institutional buildings in those enumeration districts.

In April of 1950, I had one ancestor in the military. These instructions are a reminder that I won't find him at home, but should look for him on the military base where he was stationed at that time.

How many apartments to count

Another interesting quirk of the 1950 Census was the way the Census Bureau prepared to enumerate residents of apartment buildings in large cities.

The various district offices in major cities (with 100,000+ population) prepared a preliminary list of large apartment complexes. Then these offices wrote to the owner or manager of each building to find out how many apartments were there, how the apartments were numbered, and so forth. As a result, enumerators who were assigned to count residents of those buildings would have advance information about how many apartments they could expect to visit. 

Because the majority of my New York City ancestors lived in big apartment buildings, these instructions would have affected how they were enumerated. I will be very interested to see whether the population schedules indicate the apartment numbers for my parents and for his mother, who had apartments on the same floor in the same big building in the Bronx, New York.


For more posts about prepping for the release of the 1950 Census, please see my special page here.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Instructions for 1950 US Census Enumerators: The Fine Print

In previous posts, I've highlighted elements of the Enumerator's Reference Manual that was the training guide for how the 1950 U.S. Census was conducted. You can read or download the main manual here.

Supplemental Manual

Today, I'm looking at the supplement to the main manual. You can read and download it here.

This supplemental manual includes detailed instructions for how enumerators should list people in five specific areas, as shown in the excerpt here. 

If you suspect you have ancestors who might be enumerated in one of these five types of areas, it's worth checking the instructions in this brief, 16-page supplement.

Reading the Fine Print

The fine print explains who should be enumerated as living at one of these areas, versus who should be enumerated at their regular residence. For instance, staff members who have living quarters at a hospital, mental institution, or prison would be enumerated there. Staff members who don't regularly live on-site would be enumerated at their usual residence, according to the fine print.

Knowing that enumeration of large institutions might require many hours, enumerators were instructed to determine which inmates might be leaving on April 1, and count them before they depart. Also, when new inmates entered an institution on April 1, enumerators had to determine whether they were enumerated at a different residence--and if not, count them as living at the institution. My guess is that there will be some overlap or omissions or both.

Patient, orphan, prisoner?

The supplemental manual tells enumerators what to label each person who lives in an institution, as shown here. The idea is to show the relationship of each person to the institution.

"Inmate" is only to be used if the other descriptions aren't descriptive enough.

Glance at the supplement if you think an ancestor might be enumerated in one of the five special areas, because the instructions will help you interpret what you see in the 1950 Census.

PS: For more about preparing for the 1950 US Census release in 2022, please see my special page here.

SUBSCRIBERS: Please Watch for New Follow.It Emails

This is my first post to be delivered by to subscribers who have provided their email addresses in the past. I switched to because of the demise of FeedBurner, which previously delivered my blog posts to your email inbox. 

If you don't subscribe but would like to receive my posts automatically, please enter your email in the subscription box just below the header of my blog, in the righthand column. Thank you for reading! 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Alas, Google Won't Send My Posts Beginning in July

Dear regular readers,

Alas! If you've been subscribing to my blog and regularly receive my latest post by email, I'm sorry to say that Google is dumping this function at the end of June. 

Here is the notice I received about Google's FeedBurner, the subscription widget that sends my blog posts to your email after you've signed up. It's been a great way to stay in touch for all these years! 

I'm still investigating alternatives to try to have blog posts delivered to your email automatically, but in the meantime...

If you follow a number of blogs, you may already be using a blog reader like, which I use. It's free when reading up to 100 blogs, and there's an app as well as a web-based version. 

Please be sure to add my blog ( to the list of blogs you follow.

I'll update this situation toward the end of June...meanwhile, thank you so much for reading my blog! UPDATE on June 10: I now use but not sure this is my "final answer" because emails are delivered with ads along the bottom, which I don't like. Still a work in progress! 

Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day 2021: Hubby's Ancestors Who Served

Sadly, a few members of my husband's family tree died during their wartime military service. I've been memorialized them on my trees and on other genealogy sites. Now, for Memorial Day, let me pay honor to those who died by listing them individually:

  • Isaac Larimer Work (hubby's 1c4r) - died in U.S. Civil War, served in 74th Indiana Volunteer Infantry 
  • John Wright Work (hubby's 1c3r) - died in U.S. Civil War, served in74th Indiana Volunteer Infantry 
  • Arthur Henry Slatter (hubby's 1c2r) - died in WWI, served in Middlesex Regiment and Labour Corps 
  • Arthur Albert Slatter (hubby's 1c1r) - died in WWI, served in Royal Fusiliers, 20th Battalion 

I also want to remember the service of hubby's ancestors who were in the military and then returned to civilian life, with respect and appreciation:

War of 1812, American side

  • Daniel Denning (hubby's 3d great-uncle) - Mounted Infantry, Ohio Militia
  • Isaac M. Larimer (hubby's 4th g-grandfather) - Capt. George Saunderson's Company
  • John Larimer (hubby's 3d great-grandfather) - 90 days service, No. Ohio
  • Robert Larimer (hubby's 4th great-uncle) - Hull's Division
  • Elihu Wood Jr. (hubby's 3d great-uncle) - Sgt. F. Pope's Guard, Mass. Volunteer Militia
Union side, U.S. Civil War

Confederate side, U.S. Civil War
World War I
World War II

It is a privilege to honor these ancestors on Memorial Day weekend, 2021.


This week's #52Ancestors prompt is "military." 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Memorial Day 2021: My Ancestors Who Served

Although Memorial Day is traditionally for honoring military members who died in war, none of my ancestors died during their service in WWI or WWII.

A couple were wounded and many came back profoundly changed, however. 

My maternal and paternal roots stretch back to Eastern Europe, where all four of my immigrant grandparents (and some of their children) were born. 

By the time World War I broke out, a number of my immigrant ancestors and a few of their descendants and in-laws were eligible to serve in the U.S. military. 

During World War II, my Dad, two uncles, one aunt, many cousins, and many in-laws served in the U.S. military. I was surprised that the family was represented in every branch of the armed forces--Army, Navy, Air Corps, and Marines!

Remembering Ancestors' Military Service

For some time, I've been blogging about many of these ancestors and posting a few sentences about their military service (or even longer bios) on genealogy sites--or at least a flag or flower on grave memorials.

With affection and pride, I want to honor the military service of these ancestors in my family tree who served in the U.S. armed forces:

World War I

World War II
  • Harold Burk (my Dad) - U.S. Army Signal Corps
  • Sidney Burk (my uncle) - U.S. Army Air Force
  • Frederick Shaw (my uncle) - U.S. Army
  • Dorothy Schwartz (my aunt) - Women's Army Corps (WAC)
  • George Farkas (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army Air Corps
  • Robert Farkas (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army Medical Corps
  • Myron E. Volk (my 1c1r) - U.S. Navy
  • David Philip Smith (my 1c1r) - National Guard, 8th Regiment
  • Harvey Smith (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army 
  • Jules Smith (my 1c1r) - U.S. Marine Corps
  • Harry S. Pitler (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army
  • Ronald J. Lenney (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army (post-war occupation)
  • Arthur M. Berkman (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army 
  • Murray Berkman (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army 
  • George W. Rosen (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army
  • Abraham Ezrati (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army Air Corps
  • Bill Kobler (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army
  • Arnold D. Rosen (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army
  • Burton S. Wirtschafter (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army

Thursday, May 27, 2021

MyHeritage Makes Digital Photo Repair Easy

MyHeritage has a brand-new feature that instantly repairs old family photos with a click (or two if you want to be fussier).

I tried it first with one of my treasured ancestral photos from the Schwartz family. 

"Before" - damage

The original photo, showing siblings of my maternal Grandpa Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965), had some damage after more than a century.

In the upper-left corner, as shown in this "before" screen shot, is the "new" feature, with an icon that looks like a bandage. Clicking on the bandage starts the repair process. (For more details, see MyHeritage's video.)

"After" - damage nearly gone!

Here's what this precious photo looks like after using MyHeritage's repair feature.

The damage has been largely repaired.

If I don't like this "gentle" version of the repair, I can click on the three dots at top right (inside the oval) and try a more extensive repair. And I can always revert back to the unrepaired photo if I choose.

Bring ancestral photos to life

Now take a look at what I did to another special ancestral photo. The original, not in color, was from the 1930s, showing Grandpa Teddy in his dairy store in the Bronx, NY.

Here is the "after" version, with the settings visible on the side. I not only used extensive repair, I also colorized the photo. Again, all changes can be reversed.

Doesn't Grandpa Teddy look lively behind the counter, with colorful products on back shelves and biscuits in glass jars above the egg bins?

I really appreciate these practical and easy-to-use photo features from MyHeritage!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Decoration Day at the Cemetery, 1961

Decoration Day was originally a day set aside in May for putting flowers on the graves of those who died in the U.S. Civil War. 

Then, 50 years ago, in 1971, the U.S. Congress declared Memorial Day as a national holiday for honoring those who died in all wars, fixed on the last Monday in May. 

Decoration Day, 1961

My late father-in-law (Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986) and mother-in-law (Marian McClure Wood, 1909-1983) always observed Decoration Day by driving from their home in Cleveland, Ohio, to bring flowers to cemeteries where their parents and other ancestors were buried. 

For the Wood family, decorating graves on this day was part of honoring and remembering loved ones who had died, not necessarily in war. 

As shown at top, Edgar's diary for May 29, 1961 discussed decorating the joint grave of his parents at Highland Park Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio: "...M [his wife Marian] & I stopped at Highland Park Cemetery & decorated grave, then to Marty's Turfside for dinner." 

His diary for the following day recorded a visit to historic Old Mission Cemetery in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, where Marian's mother and great aunts/uncles were buried. They picked up Marian's father to make the trip together. 

After decorating the grave, they had a picnic lunch at the cemetery and stopped to see nearby relatives before returning home. Marian's father was laid to rest in Old Mission Cemetery in 1970. Hubby and I traveled to Old Mission Cemetery a few years ago to pay our respects to the McClure and Steiner ancestors buried there.

Digital Decoration Day, 2021

This year, we are leaving digital flowers on the Find a Grave memorials for ancestors whose graves were decorated by Edgar and Marian on Decoration Day, 60 years ago. 

Rest in peace, dear ancestors, you are remembered with fondness. 


"At the Cemetery" is this week's theme for #52Ancestors

Sunday, May 23, 2021

My 1950 U.S. Census Release To-Do List: Ready to Browse Adjacent EDs

Looking ahead to the release of the 1950 Census on April 1, 2022, I'm thinking about the residential situation of my ancestors. 

Own or rent?

A few city dwellers could afford to buy, and they also had a telephone. That means I should be able to easily find their address (and then their Enumeration District), and be ready to browse images in that part of the 1950 population schedule.

However, a good number of my big-city ancestors changed addresses every few years as they moved from one rented apartment to another. Family stories told of convincing new landlords to allow a rent-free month in exchange for a new lease, or a fresh coat of paint in exchange for renewing a lease. 

Usually, new addresses were only a few city blocks away. In Census terminology, that might be the same or an adjacent Enumeration District.

City blocks and ancestor proximity

Take the case of my great uncle Morris Mahler (1888-1958). The last definite address I have for him is 739 East 220th Street in the Bronx, New York, listed on his 1942 WWII draft card. This is shown on the map at top. 

It's a private home, but I don't know whether Morris and his wife Carrie Etschel Mahler (1885-1962) owned or rented. I'm going to check phone and city directories in search of a more recent address. 

This address is only a few blocks away from the apartments of his sister, Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954) and three of her grown children (including my Dad). Very possibly, if Morris was a renter, he would continue to rent not far from the rest of the family.

Key Tool: ED Finder

I previously used the convenient Unified Census ED Finder (thank you, Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub) to locate the ED for my Dad's big apartment building (3-1634). Using the same powerful tool, I located the ED for Morris Mahler's home address on 220th Street (3-1616).

I also noted the four streets that form the boundary around Morris's city block (see the ovals on the map). I can use them, with the Unified Census ED Finder, to identify adjacent EDs in case Morris did move before April 1, 1950.

I see a lot of clicking and browsing in my future when the Census is released next year!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Siblings and In-Laws Are Great Cousin Bait on Family Trees


Siblings and in-laws are really good cousin bait on any family tree!

Admittedly, my online family trees sprawl a bit. I include not just my direct line but also siblings/spouses of my direct line and their descendants. And often I go generations back for in-laws, too. After a couple of generations, this makes for a large and rather horizontal tree.

But without those siblings and in-laws, how would cousins know that we belong to the same family tree?

When cousins come across my public trees, they're looking for familiar names. Names in their direct line will be familiar, whereas names in my direct line might not be as familiar. 

So by including the siblings of my great-grandparents, plus spouses/descendants, I'm inviting my cousins to see their ancestors on my tree and get in touch. It's happened more than once!

#CousinBait is this week's #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

More Bite-Sized Bios for Veteran Ancestors

With Memorial Day on the way, I'm writing bite-sized bios for ancestors who served in the military. These are focused little projects that I can complete and share in a short time.

Also, I'm thinking creatively about other ways to remember vets in my family tree and show appreciation for their service.

Memorial Page for Louis Volk

At right, part of a Memorial Page I created on to honor the life and military service of my great uncle Louis Volk (1889-1952), who married my grandma's sister Ida Mahler (1892-1971) in 1920. Creating the page was free, because I access Fold3 through my state library system.

I wrote a few sentences about Louis Volk's life, including his Army assignment to an Alabama munitions plant during World War I. Then I uploaded his photo (captioned with name/dates) and a copy of the NY state record summarizing his WWI military experience (a key source). This is a way to thank great uncle Louis for his service and keep his memory alive for future generations.

Veterans Memorialized on Cemetery Sites

Several of my great uncles in the Farkas family tree also served in World War I. They were buried at Mt. Hebron Cemetery in New York, which is creating a database of veterans laid to rest there. 

As shown above, I submitted a few details about great uncle Albert Farkas (1888-1956), including the war, years served, and branch of military. 

In addition, I noted his military service on his Find a Grave memorial page and linked all relatives, making it easier for descendants to learn about his life. More ways to keep his memory alive and highlight his service to country.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Posting Ancestor Bios for Memorial Day

With Memorial Day only weeks away, I'm busy writing and posting brief bios of my ancestors and my husband's ancestors who served in the military.

Some of these bios were previously written for bite-sized family history projects. I'm condensing and repurposing the content to share more widely on genealogy websites, including Family Search, MyHeritage, Find a Grave, WikiTree, Fold3, and more.

Where I have no bio written, I'm doing research as the basis for a short narrative of each ancestor's life, with particular emphasis on military service. This is a plus for my genealogy research, because I'm double-checking my trees, adding people/facts/sources where missing, and getting more familiar with military databases.

At top, excerpt from the three-paragraph "memory" I posted to, honoring my husband's 1c3r Ira Caldwell (1839-1926), a Union Army veteran from the U.S. Civil War. I used the topic tag "US Civil War" to identify the topic of this story beyond the ancestor tag.

Below, part of the bite-sized bio of Train Caldwell McClure (1843-1934) I posted on He was my husband's 2d great uncle, another Union Army veteran. As I compiled facts for this bio, I added family members and research to my tree, and resolved a couple of inconsistencies. 

After I finish documenting the Civil War vets in my hubby's tree, I'm going to write brief bios of veterans of other wars (from his tree and my tree) and post online to honor their memory for Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Coloring The Mom-in-Law I Never Met

Although I never met my mother-in-law, Marian Jane McClure Wood (1909-1983), it has been my honor to keep her memory alive through family trees and bite-sized family history projects. And captioned photos!

At top, a page from the ancestor coloring book I created for the Wood family. Marian is shown with her husband, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986). 

I began with a color portrait of the two, then used photo software to turn the color into black-and-white. Next, I used the "pencil sketch" feature to soften the contrast and allow plenty of white space for coloring. 

This page of the coloring book mentions relationships, for their grandchildren to note when they color. I'll change the relationship info for the youngest generation soon.

Posting Photos and a Bio on Genealogy Sites

Another way I'm memorializing my mom-in-law is to post photos (with attribution "courtesy: Wood family") on Family Search, MyHeritage, Find a Grave, Ancestry, and other genealogy sites. I've also posted her brief bio on these and other sites. 

I feel a bit sad that I never met my mother-in-law...but every day is Mother's Day as I memorialize her for future generations.


Mother's Day is this week's #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Make Moms Memorable By Retelling Stories

For Mother's Day, I'm retelling the stories of generations of moms in my family tree. Not just in writing (here, and on many genealogy websites) but also in person, as I attend the first family gathering since the pandemic began. 

My goal is to have future generations recognize the faces and retain the stories of ancestors who are gone but not forgotten.

My maternal grandma Hermina "Minnie" Farkas (1886-1964) was a talented seamstress who almost certainly made the dress she's wearing in the photo above. The photo was taken in New York City, when Minnie was in her early 20s. This was a few years before she married my grandpa Theodore "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965). Both were immigrants who came through Ellis Island when they were young teens.

I didn't see this photo or hear this story until decades later, when a cousin explained that Minnie's parents wanted her to marry someone they considered more suitable. When this man came to the apartment with an engagement ring, Minnie threw it out the window! Supposedly, her brothers scrambled down the stairs to retrieve the ring, but that part of the story is a bit murky.

Grandma finally convinced her parents to let her marry Grandpa Teddy, who was then working as a runner for steamship lines in lower Manhattan. Family story is that he arrived late to the wedding because his horse had run away. Later, after Grandpa opened a small dairy store in the Bronx, New York, Grandma worked beside him while raising three children.

Retelling stories like these will keep Minnie and Teddy alive as three-dimensional people with hopes and dreams, not just names and dates on faded photos.

Happy Mother's Day to my Grandma, who married Grandpa nearly 110 years ago.


For more ideas about keeping family history alive for future generations, please see my best-selling genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. Available on Amazon and through the bookstore at