Sunday, August 18, 2019

Great-Great-Grandma Sarah Averts Tragedy

Sarah Harris Slatter marries John Shuttleworth in Surrey, UK 1862
My husband's 2d great-grandma, Sarah Harris Slatter Shuttleworth, was instrumental in saving at least one grandchild from the tragedy of grinding poverty.

This is my conclusion after reading UK Census data and workhouse records. Here's the story. (Watch out for the various family members named John, Mary, Thomas, and Sarah in successive generations.)

Great-great Grandma Sarah in the UK Census

The first mention I found of Sarah Harris Slatter was in the 1841 UK Census, where she is 25 years old and married to John Slatter, a cook in Oxfordshire. Sarah was born in Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire, around 1813. Sarah and John's children children Fanny, Thomas, and Sarah are in the household, along with Sarah's brother Richard. At this point, Sarah and her husband John had been married for 9 years (according to wedding records at St. Ebbe Church).
John Slatter and Sarah Harris Slatter in 1841 UK Census

By 1851, the UK Census shows her as a widowed hat sewer with four children: Fanny, age 18, b. 1833 in Middlesex, a gaiter maker; John (Jr.), age 14, b. 1837 in Middlesex, a printers' boy; William, age 5, b. 1846 in Christchurch, Surrey; and 14-month-old Daniel, b. abt 1850, in Christchurch, Surrey.

Slatter Family Crisis of Poverty

By 1861, the Census shows Sarah's son, John Slatter, Jr. married to Mary Shehen Slatter, living in notoriously poor Whitechapel. In that Census, they have one child, Thomas Slatter. During the next eight years, John and Mary Slatter have five more children.

Trouble is brewing: He is in and out of work, sometimes abandons the family, and Mary has to cope with children in dire poverty. Soon the records show that she and five children bounce in and out of workhouses and poorhouses.

Ultimately, Mary Shehen Slatter enters an insane asylum (diagnosed with melancholia as a result of extreme poverty and misfortune). She meets with a tragic end, dying of tuberculosis 15 years later. Meanwhile, the children go separate ways, three boys sent to a military training ship and two girls at school. Except for Thomas Slatter, the eldest child, who never appears in the workhouse and poorhouse records. Why? That's where Sarah Harris returns to the story of this family crisis.

Grandchildren Living with Sarah and Second Husband

I kept looking for Thomas Slatter because he was missing from the workhouse admission/discharge records. Finally, a wonderful blog reader located him in the 1871 Census in the household of his grandma Sarah Harris Slatter Shuttleworth and step-grandpa John Shuttleworth. I backtracked to find Sarah's 1862 remarriage to Shuttleworth, who were both widowed, in Christchurch, Surrey. This is the correct Sarah, according to her birthplace and other details.

By 1871, John Shuttleworth and his wife Sarah are living at 32 Gravel Lane in London. And lo and behold, they have several of Sarah's grandchildren living with them.

First listed is Thomas Slatter, age 10, who would otherwise have been in and out of workhouses with the rest of his siblings. Instead, he's here with his paternal grandmother and step-grandfather. Plus some first cousins, other grandchildren of Sarah.

Right under Thomas in the Shuttleworth household listing is grandchild Sarah Gardner, 13 years old. She is the second daughter of Sarah Harris's daughter Fanny Slatter and husband John C. Gardner. Other Gardner grandchildren were living with their parents in 1871 but not Sarah, who on this day was with her grandma and step-gramps. Why? Perhaps an early version of day care? After all, John Gardner was working.

Also in the household is grandchild Sarah Slatter, age 3. I believe this is Elizabeth Sarah Ann Slatter, daughter of Sarah Harris's youngest son William Slatter and wife Mary Anne. Again, was this a day-care situation or was the little girl actually living with the Shuttleworths? I don't know.

Saving Thomas from Possible Tragedy

Here's what I do know: Five children of John Slatter and Mary Shehen Slatter were in and out of workhouses (including hubby's grandma) for a few years after John deserted them. Mary couldn't work steadily or earn enough to maintain a household. She was extremely depressed and unable to cope.

Mary's oldest son, Thomas Slatter, avoided workhouses and poorhouses because his grandma Sarah Harris Slatter Shuttleworth took him in and raised him.

The entire family can be proud of what Sarah, with her husband John, did to keep Thomas safe.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of tragedy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

What's So Funny About Family History?

Index to my maternal Farkas Family Tree
meeting minutes, 1933-1964
This week's #52Ancestors challenge by Amy Johnson Crow is comedy. Reading through 500 pages of Farkas Family Tree meeting minutes (index shown above), I found a few tidbits that made me smile.

The Farkas Family Tree was founded by descendants of my maternal great-grandparents, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938). It was active from 1933 through 1964. By the time I was old enough to be inducted as a member, the organization was inactive. Some of the incidents I'm going to mention here occurred way before my time, others just within living memory ;0

For instance, the minutes noted that "the twins" (me and my sister) at age four, "went exploring in their pajamas one morning. At 6 am, they walked out of the apartment and were on their way when Mom found them in the hall." Good thing she found us, we lived in a big apartment building in the Bronx! Another report was how one of us decided to scour the kitchen floor with cinnamon. Hoo boy. Funny now, but not funny to Mom at the time!

Serious About Food 

Each and every meeting included some kind of food, serious eating really, but often described with humor. In February, 1934, the minutes reported on a "Pickled Herring Party" that began at 6 pm and continued well past 9 pm. Let me quote: "Boy, oh boy, how those poor herrings suffered, being torn from fin to fin, not to mention the scads of pickled onions also consumed."

Often the snack or meal included quote "stinkin' cheeses" unquote supplied by one of the dairy grocers, most likely the bachelor great uncles, Julius and Peter. I found these mentioned, along with gefilte fish, stuffed cabbage, corned beef, and other delicacies, in the minutes of the 1930s and the 1940s. At a 1945 meeting, the secretary says, "The way we made that most delicious roast beef disappear, one would think we were the descendants of Houdini." In short, the hosts and hostesses seemed to enjoy trying to outdo each other with feasts at monthly meetings.

Funny About Money

From the beginning, paying membership dues involved nagging in a nice way. At one meeting, a trustee said he had audited "last year's swindle sheets" and found $5 missing. What happened? A member said he had paid his dues but the treasurer claimed not have received the cash. To keep the peace, a motion was passed to drop the matter entirely.

Then there were decisions (sometimes loud discussions) about what the family tree would and would not pay for. Regardless of the amount, bills were reported in the minutes. Quoting from the June 1944 minutes: "Bills, now as unwelcome as ever, reared their ugly heads, to the tune of eight dollars."

More than once, when a new treasurer was elected, the minutes observed that the old treasurer happened [wink, wink] to have acquired a new car while being in charge of the tree's money. Since the treasury rarely had more than $100, it's safe to assume coincidence only, right?

Genealogical and Biography Committees--No Kidding

Left unfinished by the tree association were two projects which descendants like myself would dearly love to have, all kidding aside.

Only a few years after the organization began, a "Genealogical Committee" was formed to put the family tree down on paper. After a few months of reporting to the meetings that the committee was "making progress," the idea was dropped during the 1930s. The project was unsuccessfully revived for the tree association's 25th anniversary in 1958. Alas, no written tree was ever given to members or passed down in the family.

Just before WWII, a great uncle had the idea to form a "Biography Committee." He tried for more than a year to collect biographies written by the founding members of the tree. Once again, it was a good idea that never quite worked out, because few members participated. Oh, how I would have enjoyed reading these biographies from the past, a kind of genealogical "mug book" of Farkas ancestors.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Great-Uncle David Mahler, the Wanderer

My great uncle David Mahler (1882-1964) was the black sheep of his family. Oldest son of my great-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler (185?-1952) and great-grandpa Meyer Elias Mahler (1861-1910), David got in trouble with the law as a teenager and then was involved in an incident where he fell asleep and his burning cigarette lit a fire that destroyed his brother-in-law's paint store.

In 1905, David was still living at home with his entire family in a large tenement in Jewish Harlem, New York City. According to the NY Census, his occupation was "driver." Interestingly, crowded in along with David's parents and six siblings were two "boarders," Isidore Burk and Myer Burk. (They were actually Isaac Burk--hi Grandpa!--and Meyer Berg. Isaac married David's sister Henrietta in 1906.)

David Mahler in Toronto?

David and his sister Henrietta were born in Riga, Latvia, according to their father's naturalization papers. (My guess is they were actually from a nearby small town that U.S. officials wouldn't recognize or be able to spell--Riga is both recognized and easy to spell!)

Searching for more immigration records of the Mahler family, I did a fresh search on David. Up popped the index card at top, a summary of a border crossing at Detroit from a Canadian Pacific Railway manifest dated Christmas Day of 1906.

There are a lot of similarities with MY David Mahler. Born in Riga, yes. Spent time in U.S., yes. Age is correct for my great uncle. But could this really be David, formerly of New York City, now leaving Toronto by train for Chicago to be a waiter?

Page 2 of WWII Draft Registration Card

For a physical description of David Mahler, I looked at his WWI and WWII draft registration cards.

Sometimes page 2 of draft registration cards doesn't always show up in the initial image. Be sure to advance one page in the image files to look at the entire card!

Here's page 2 of David's WWII draft card. His height is the same as on the border crossing card shown at top. His hair is black, same as in the border crossing card. Eyes are brown, same. I was surprised to see both describe his complexion as "ruddy" but the match goes a long way toward persuading me that my great uncle David was crossing from Toronto to Chicago via Detroit. (The tattoo must have been done after his WWI registration, since it's not listed on that card.)

Missing Years in David Mahler's Life

In the bigger picture, I'm still looking for what happened to David Mahler between 1907, when he was bound for Chicago, and 1918. That's the year he registered for the WWI draft with an address in Camden, N.J., where he was working as a rigger.

The Chicago city directory for 1914 lists a David Mahler working as a salesman and living at 6135 S. May. Using Google maps, I see that's a home, not an apartment building, way down on the South Side of Chicago. This might not be MY David Mahler.

Also, I haven't yet found him in the 1910 US Census. That's the year his father died. Did he return home for the funeral? Nor have I found him in the 1920 Census. Creative spelling hasn't helped.

According to the 1940 US Census, David was living in High Point, N.C. in 1935. So far, no city directory confirms this.

In 1940, he's living in Los Angeles and working for an in-law at a big movie studio. I've confirmed that employment and that address as being accurate--plus David registered to vote in 1940 at same address and remained there for years.

Wondering About Wandering

SO . . . my research indicates that David Mahler went from his birthplace in Latvia to New York City to Toronto (no border crossing doc yet) to Chicago (border crossing doc at top) to Camden, N.J. (WWI draft card) to High Point (so says 1940 Census) to Los Angeles (lots of solid documentation), where he died in May of 1964. What a wanderer! Wonder why?

David was a bachelor, and by researching and documenting his life, I'm keeping his memory alive for future generations who never met him.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Cousin Bait Leads to Discovery of Another Family History Book

My husband's Larimer family intermarried with members of the Work, Short, and McKibbin families in America.

One reason we know this is from the detailed Larimer family history book researched by John Clarence Work (1875-1962) and his father, Aaron Work (1837-1924). The book suggests that there were ties among the families back in the original home towns, before these ancestors crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

Believing that researching siblings, cousins, and in-laws can lead to more genealogical breakthroughs, I've been looking at the Work family connections with the Larimer family. And, of course, I've been blogging about the Work family.

My cousin bait blog posts have attracted a couple of inquiries--including one distant Work cousin who knew something I didn't about John Clarence Work.

Larimer Family History

A photocopy of the Larimer family history survived in my husband's family, along with my in-laws' hand-written corrections of spelling and dates for some of the people mentioned in the book. I've used the book and the corrections as a starting point for researching my husband's family, grateful for the clues and comments.

John Clarence Work and his father not only traced the Larimer family tree, they also compiled the names and brief bios of descendants of the original Larimer immigrant who left Northern Ireland about 1740 to make a new life in America. Happily for any Larimer descendant, the Larimer Family History is available for free, in its entirety, on FamilySearch (follow this direct link to the book).

As it happens, John Clarence Work was in touch with my late mother- and father-in-law during the 1950s, asking about their lives and the names/dates of their children (including my hubby). So I know how much effort they put into this family history. What I didn't know is that this was not the only family history done by John Clarence Work.

Work Family History

The Work cousin who contacted me via my blog said he was in touch with the Fairfield District Library in Lancaster, Ohio, near where the Work family once lived. The librarian kindly scanned and sent to him several pages from a book about Work family history, cowritten by John Clarence Work with his niece, Rhoda Fisher Work. That gave me an idea...

I searched the Family Search catalog for books by John Clarence Work. And I discovered that the Work Family History, like the Larimer Family History, is also available for free, in its entirety, on FamilySearch (follow this direct link to the book). What a treasure trove of genealogical clues!

One lesson learned from this experience is: If someone in the family wrote a family history, check to see whether that person wrote a second or third family history. Check the local library and historical/genealogical society in the area where these ancestors lived, and check Family Search as well.

Thank you to the Work cousin who contacted me and shared what he'd learned about the Work family history book!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

My Immigrant Ancestors: Isaac Burk's Sisters

This shows Lithuania in 1939-1940,
as Germans and Russians claimed sections.

Orange sliver in west is where my Burk/Birk
ancestors came from. 
Last week's #52Ancestors prompt was "brothers." This week, for the "sisters" prompt, I look at the two sisters of my paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk. The family was originally from northwest Lithuania, as shown on the map above.

I was able to research Jennie, in particular, thanks to the FAN club--friends, associates, neighbors.

Younger sister: Jennie Birk

My first clue that Jennie Birk (1890-1972) was Grandpa's sister came in the 1910 US Census, where I found her as a boarder living in the Manhattan household of newly-widowed Tillie Jacobs Mahler (my paternal great-grandma). Only in the past couple of years did I discover how Jennie was related to me, by comparing my mother's old address book and two letters written by my aunt to her Aunt Jennie. Subsequently, I found Jennie in a passenger manifest of 1909, arriving at Ellis Island on her own.

Jennie married Paul Salkowitz (1889-1957) in 1919. They remained in Manhattan for a time, but by 1940, they were living in the same Bronx apartment building as her older brother Isaac Burk (yes, my Grandpa). There they were, right on the same Census page, as neighbors! Jennie proudly said she was born in Lithuania. (I know because there was an X with a circle next to her name in the Census, indicating she herself gave the info to the enumerator.)

Paul and Jennie were among the Burk family members in attendance at my parents' wedding in New York City in 1946. By 1950, they were in Lakeland, Florida, where her brother Meyer was living. Paul's occupation was shown in the city directory as "citrus grower," the same as Meyer's occupation. Jennie was a devoted aunt, I know from a cousin's memory and letters written by her niece. If only I could have met her!

Older sister: Nellie Neshe Block
Grave of Nellie Block, sister of
my grandpa Isaac Burk

Nellie (1879-1950) seems to have been the first in the Burk family to arrive in America, something that surprised me. The first documentation I have shows her in 1904 in the Jewish Harlem household of Tillie Mahler and husband Meyer Mahler (my great-grandparents). Isaac Burk (my grandpa) said he was going to her when he arrived at Ellis Island that year. The NY Census of 1905 and the US Census of 1910 show Nellie living on Henry Street, in the Lower East Side of New York.

In the 1910 Census, Nellie said she was born in Russia--but, interestingly, the enumerator wrote (Lith) next to that. According to this Census, Nellie arrived in the US in 1899. According to the 1905 Census, she had been in the US for 12 years. Um, a discrepancy...

So far, no sign of her in a passenger manifest, but that could be because of the many variations in the surname. Block, Burk, Birk, Berk, Burke were some of the ways my ancestors spelled their name.
The NYC Death Index says Nellie died in Brooklyn on 22 December 1950. I've found her in the 1949 and 1950 Brooklyn telephone directories (free via Internet Archive, see this page I used) at the address 1654 E. 13 Street. I spent $15 to request a copy of her death cert to see additional info, and hope I don't have to wait too long.

Nellie's gravestone shows her Hebrew name as "Neshi, daughter of Sholom." The relatives who put up the stone thought she was 85 years old at her death, but that's not consistent with what she told the Census, which equates to a birth year of 1878 or 1879--meaning she died at the age of 71 or 72. Again, I wish I had known great aunt Nellie.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Immigrant Ancestors in North America: Isaac Burk's Brothers

Gargzdai, hometown of Grandpa Isaac Burk & family
More than a century ago, three brothers and two sisters of my paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943) left Gargzdai, Lithuania for North America.

For this week's  #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow, I want to look at the three immigrant brothers (alert: long post ahead!). Next week, I'll look at the two immigrant sisters.

The five siblings used different variations of their family surname. My Grandpa used Burk, but others used Berk, Burk, Block, Berg, and Birk.

Old Brother: Abraham Berk

The oldest son of Solomon Elias Birck and Necke Gelle Shuham Birck, Abraham (1877-1962) was a trained cabinetmaker.* So was my Grandpa Isaac (but not their younger brothers).

By 1901, Abraham and Isaac had left Lithuania and were living in the household of Annie Hinda (Mitav?) Chazan and Isaac Chazan of Manchester, England. Like so many others who left Eastern Europe during this period, they probably paused their journey in England to learn the language they would speak in North America and earn more money for their passage.

Abraham Burke in 1914 Montreal directory
Abraham stayed longer than Isaac, marrying Anna Horwitch in 1903 and starting a family before sailing to Canada in 1904 on the S.S. Lake Champlain. He settled in Montreal and Annie joined him with oldest daughter Rose. The couple had three more children, Lilly, William, and Irving.

I found Abraham listed in the 1914 Montreal directory as a "carpenter" living at 431 Laval Avenue (see page at right). By this time, his surname had morphed into Burke.

He served as informal patriarch when my father (Abraham's nephew) married my mother in 1946, proudly standing near the bride and groom in the wedding photos. By the time Abraham died in December of 1962, he had 10 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.

Younger Brother: Meyer Berg

The longest-lived of the brothers, Meyer Berg (1883-1981) arrived at Ellis Island on May 16, 1903, age 19, occupation as a "clerk." He lived with his future sister-in-law's family in Jewish Harlem for several years, then married Anna Paris (or Peris or Peretz) in 1907 and went on to have five children.

Sadly, one of these children (Milton) died as a young man of 23, just before World War II. Milton had gone to Los Angeles, working as an insurance agent in Beverly Hills for New England Mutual Life Insurance.

Meyer originally worked as a cutter in the garment district (see draft card above). Soon after Milton's death, however, Meyer and Anna moved to Lakeland, Florida to start a citrus orchard. They loved Florida so much that they convinced Meyer's brother Max and sister Jennie to move to the same town.

Remarkably, Meyer and Anna were married for 73 years, and my cousin says they were very happy together. They died, well into their 90s, within months of each other.

Younger Brother: Max Berk

The youngest in the family, Max (1891-1953) Americanized his original name, which was Matel. (Not just family story, but also shown on his petition for naturalization.)

Max was the last brother to arrive in North America, landing at Ellis Island in 1906. Sometime between then and 1917, he moved to Chicago, where he worked as a jeweler (see above). He became a naturalized citizen in 1923 in Chicago.

The next time I found Max in the records, he was back in New York City, getting married to Rebecca in 1936. The couple settled in Brooklyn for a time, where he worked as a jeweler in Manhattan's diamond district. They also had a home in Florida, where eventually they moved to be near Meyer and Anna. I'm continuing my search to fill in the missing years...

My great uncle Max died at the age of 61 (or possibly 60, if his gravestone is accurate), and his wife Rebecca outlived him by 31 years.
---

*One of the experts at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain told me that 19th-century Lithuania was dotted with thick forests. Given the limited occupations open to Jewish people at that time and place, training as a carpenter and cabinetmaker would provide sons of the family with practical skills to make a living.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

It Should Have Been Easy: Finding an Ancestor in the 1870 Census

Although I'm a long-time user of Ancestry, I subscribed to MyHeritage earlier in the year and added Genealogy Bank after finishing a year's subscription to newspapers.com. Of course I've been using FamilySearch.org regularly for years, and also Find a Grave. Plus HeritageQuest Online.

Why?

Because one website is simply not enough. Even for something that should be easy, such as searching for a particular ancestor in a specific year of the U.S. Census.

It takes a village of genealogy websites to dig deep, find ancestors, and learn more about their lives.

For me, the most effective village consists of both free and paid websites (accessed individually from home or, at times, accessed for free from a Family History Center or local library).

Focus on Rinehart Family

Here's a mini-case history of how I found two of hubby's ancestors in the 1870 Census, part of my ongoing Genealogy Go-Over to fill in holes and verify information. This should have been straightforward and easy, but it wasn't.

Joseph W. Rinehart (1806-1888) was my husband's 2d great-grandpa, married to 2d great-grandma Margaret Shank (1807-1873).

In constructing the family timeline, I noticed that in 1850 and 1860, the Rinehart family was intact, farming in Tod township, Crawford county, Ohio. In 1880, Joseph was a widower, living with a married daughter in Tod township, Crawford county, Ohio.

What about 1870? That was missing from my timeline for husband and wife and some children. Clicking to search the indexed Census in Ancestry, HeritageQuest Online (yes, I know, same database as Ancestry), and FamilySearch didn't reveal their whereabouts. Nor did it find their youngest child, Nancy.

I then browsed every page of the US Census for Tod township, and for Nevada township in neighboring Wyandot county, where a few children and extended family were living at the time. No sign of Joseph, Margaret, or Nancy. Not as straightforward as I'd hoped.

They Went Where?



Next, I clicked to search the Census on MyHeritage, where I have been building a tree to support my DNA outreach. Up popped a Joseph Rinehart and wife Margaret living with Hugh Rinehart and family in 1870 in . . . Angola, Steuben county, Indiana. (Snippet from the Census is shown here.)

All the details fit, right down to Joseph and Margaret's youngest daughter, Nancy (age 19 in 1870) living there. The head of household was her brother Hugh. Joseph isn't listed as "Joseph W." but it is a clear match. Interestingly, Joseph--the former farmer--is shown in 1870 as a tailor, with real estate worth $3600 and personal estate worth $200.

A big clue is Margaret's birth state of Delaware, which she listed in 1850 and 1860 also. Another clue is the final name, Catherine Ransburg, whose daughter married a Shank (Margaret's maiden name)...they lived in Steuben county, IN, also. Catherine's personal estate was valued at $1500 on the Census.

It's a bit amazing to think of Joseph Rinehart and his wife Margaret making a home with a son 140 miles away from where they used to farm. Especially since I see by the 1880 Census that Joseph was back in Tod, Ohio after his wife died.

I'm currently using my village of websites to look for any news items, obits, social items, etc. hoping to find clues to when/why these ancestors went to Indiana. Again, not an easy search because of the many ways to spell "Rinehart" but I'm still trying. If there's a clue out there, my village of genealogy websites is likely to find it.

Many thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the "easy" prompt this week in her #52Ancestors series.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Am I Making Genealogical Progress?

Panelist at Family Tree Live! "Crash Course in Writing Your Family's Story"
Summer's here. With half a year gone and half a year to go, am I making progress toward my genealogical goals? Yes and no.

Yes!

  • Continuing my genealogy education. I've been to Family Tree Live, learned from speakers at local genealogy meetings, and watched top-notch  webinars hosted by the Virtual Genealogical Association. Also, I've watched videos by Ancestry, Family Search, and MyHeritage, learning to use those sites more effectively for family-history research. Not to mention the many books I've read for historical background to put ancestors into context, and books I've read to learn more about genealogy in general. 
  • Connecting with other family history researchers. I'm now following 2300 Twitter accounts that focus on genealogy, history, archives, and related topics (compared with 1700 in January, 2018). Learning lots from participating in #AncestryHour and #GenChat also! Happy that this genealogy blog rose to #10 in the Feedspot list of family tree websites earlier this year. In August I'll celebrate my 11th blogiversary.
  • Building my portfolio of presentations. I spoke twice (and was on the family history writing panel shown at top) at the big new Family Tree Live conference in London. Also, I have scheduled many presentations at genealogy clubs and libraries throughout this year. Topics include social media for genealogy, writing family history, Genealogy 101, using Heritage Quest, and planning a genealogical "will." 
  • Connecting with cousins. I completed the big Farkas family indexing project and sent a flash drive to cousins with family letters and meeting minutes covering decades. A real accomplishment, in that it keeps family history alive for future generations. In addition, this blog continues to be cousin bait, as do my public trees on Ancestry and MyHeritage. DNA matches on these and other sites have enabled me to identify other definite and prospective cousins. "Almost" cousins (in-law relations) have also been in touch, and we've exchanged info about people we are both researching, which means more progress.

No!

  • Do more with DNA. On back burner for first half of the year. Just this month, new DNA matches gave me enough info to finally begin color-coding for specific parts of the family tree. In the second half of 2019, I plan to proactively use tools on Ancestry, DNA Painter, MyHeritage, Gedmatch to get more insights as I organize my DNA matches.
  • Delayed new family history booklets. I started collecting photos and document images for a booklet on my Mom and Auntie, Daisy and Dorothy Schwartz, but haven't organized or written anything. With my Sis, I donated Dorothy's WAC memorabilia to the U.S. Army Women's Museum early in 2019, so that's progress. Haven't yet begun organizing and writing the long-promised photo book of Edgar James Wood and his wife, Marian McClure Wood. I've written shorter booklets but the family is interested in something longer and filled with lots of photos. Keeping this on my 2019 to-do list.
  • Following fewer genealogy blogs. The number of active genealogy blogs I'm following has fallen to only 66. It was 104 at the start of 2018, which means 38 have gone inactive since then. It's time to search out blogs to follow by checking Geneabloggers Tribe and other sources.
And of course, I'm still promoting my best-selling genealogy book/ebook, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, with ideas for organizing, analyzing, preserving, and passing family history to next generation.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

New Clues in Genetic Genealogy Challenge

My maternal haplogroup is V7A
Genetic genealogy is by far my biggest challenge (challenge is this week's #52Ancestors prompt).

Despite 21 years of tracing the paper trail of family history, I haven't fully exploited the clues provided by DNA testing. But breakthroughs may be on the horizon.

Multiple DNA Tests and Sites

I am SO lucky. Having a twin sister really comes in handy!*

Between us, we've taken 4 different tests and uploaded results to the spectrum of popular genealogy DNA sites. (Neither she nor I use our full names on DNA test sites, for privacy reasons.)

Her results confirm that our maternal haplogroup is V7A and, as we already know from traditional genealogy evidence, our origins are Eastern European. Our ancestors came from Hungary (including parts that are currently in Ukraine), Lithuania, and Latvia.

More Cousins, More Colors

To make full use of DNA Painter and other tools, I need to be able to identify matches from specific parts of my family tree.

Recently I recognized names on Sis's list of close DNA matches that are not on any other site where our results are posted. These matches fill key gaps in my genetic genealogy knowledge. Now I can color-code more ancestors more accurately as I use DNA to determine who fits where in the family tree.

Just as important, Sis's matches are giving me an incredible opportunity to reach out personally to paternal 2d cousins I knew we had but wasn't able to locate using conventional means. They only tested on one site--a site Sis used, happily for us.

DNA is good cousin bait--and I'm taking their bait. Can't have too many cousins!

*Fish in Different DNA Ponds

You can always "fish for DNA matches in different ponds" if you wish (whether you have a twin or not). Take DNA tests from different sites and/or upload your results to multiple sites. So many excellent DNA guides are available that I won't even attempt to say more, since I'm far from an expert on genetic genealogy.

It's a good idea to list surnames and origins on each site (and/or upload at least a basic family tree) so potential matches can get a sense of where the match might be. To protect privacy, I don't ever show living people on my trees.

Remember that as of now, 23AndMe and Ancestry don't allow uploads from other testing sites. That's why Sis and I tested with multiple sites, to fish in as many ponds as possible even when uploads aren't an option.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Short Family Reunion in 1900 in LaGrange Cty, Indiana


In my husband's family tree, the Short and Larimer families reportedly had a cousin relationship in Northern Ireland, along with the Work family. Some of their descendants settled in Pennsylvania, and then went west toward Ohio and Indiana. The American-born descendants and cousins continued to feel close kinship, evidenced by the reunions they held for more than 20 years.

Thomas Short, LaGrange County Pioneer

Thomas Short (1820-188?) married my husband's great-great-great aunt Margaret Larimer (1826-1877) in January, 1842 in Middlebury, Elkhart, Indiana, where her family lived. The newlyweds soon settled in LaGrange county, where he cleared land, built a house, and farmed.

From 1843-1866, they had 10 children, including 4 who became physicians. There were physicians in the next generation of the Short family, as well.

A Short Family Reunion

Having found news reports of many reunions held by the Larimer and Work families, I was delighted to find this news item in the Elkhart Weekly Review of July 11, 1900. The descendants of Thomas Short were getting together on their own for a reunion, 119 years ago this month:
A reunion of the Short family was held last week on the old Short homestead in LaGrange county, where Thomas Short settled 58 years ago, clearing the timber off the land on which he built. Those present were Dr. W.H. Short & family, and Dr. J.L. Short, of LaGrange. Dr. I.W. Short & family and Dr. S.B. Short & family, from Elkhart, and J.E. Short & family, of Goshen.
As shown in the map at top and mentioned in the news snippet, some of the Short descendants had to travel about 20 miles from Elkhart county to arrive in LaGrange county for the reunion. Notice that the only person without a "Dr." in front of his name is J.E. (James Edson) Short, a farmer like his father, the LaGrange pioneer.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for the prompt of "reunion" for this week in the #52Ancestors series.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

David Mahler and the Essex Market Police Court

Essex Market Police Court (from NY Historical Society Digital Collection)
Old newspapers hold a treasure trove of family-history possibilities.

Here's a fascinating story I found while systematically searching for each of my Mahler ancestors in newspaper databases.

David Mahler, Charged with "Malicious Mischief"

In November, 1897, it appears that my great uncle David Mahler (1882-1964) was hauled into the Essex Market Police Court, located at the corner of Essex Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, NY. (I wasn't aware of this court until reading about David's predicament.)

According to a report in the Sun and New York Press dated November 22, 1897, "David Mahler, 13 years old, of 58 Chrystie Street, answered to a charge of malicious mischief." He was accused of throwing a brick through a plate-glass window of the store at 69 Chrystie Street.

The news reporter quoted David Mahler as saying: "Dat's all right, me father is going to pay for the window." The storekeeper objected, saying that the court should hold David in jail until the father actually paid the money.

The judge was outraged at the storekeeper--and sets David's pre-trial bail at $500. In today's dollars, that would be nearly $3,000. Where would David's parents, my great-grandpa Meyer Mahler and his wife Tillie Jacobs Mahler, get that kind of cash?

Although I thoroughly searched two newspaper databases and did a general online search, I've found no follow-up. My guess is that the Mahler family settled out of court with the storekeeper and that was that.

Is This My Great Uncle? 

The 1897 news account of teenage mischief is almost certainly about MY great uncle, who in 1900 was living with his family at 88 Chrystie Street in the Lower East Side. Allowing for typos and mistakes, the newspaper said he lived at 58 Chrystie Street. Today, 69 Chrystie Street is a small storefront set into a tenement building. And the age is about right for my David Mahler.

Born in Latvia, David was the second child of my great-grandparents and the oldest son. He came to New York with the family when he was about 4 years old. As an adult, David had a checkered history, and I'm told by a cousin who heard the stories that he was a bit of a black sheep.

During WWI, David worked as a rigger in Camden, NJ (according to his draft registration card). After that, he bounced around and finally was given a job as a utility man at Columbia Studios in Hollywood by an influential executive who was a Mahler in-law. He was working there at the time of the 1940 Census and well into in the 1950s, I can see from California voter registration cards (he was a Democrat).

During the last years of his life, David battled metastatic bladder cancer. He was operated on during January of 1964 and died in the Motion Picture Country Hospital, less than five months later. His sister, Sarah Mahler Smith, was the informant on David's death cert.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Long Tradition of Independent Family Farming

For this week's "Independent" prompt from Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors series, I wanted to look at the long tradition of independent family farming in my husband's Larimer and McClure families.

Larimer Family Farmers

Several Larimer ancestors fought in the War of 1812 and received land grants in later years, based on their military service. One was hubby's 4th great-granddaddy, Isaac M. Larimer (1771-1823), who was born on the family farm in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania and died on his farm in Fairfield county, Ohio.

Isaac was the son of immigrant ancestor Robert Larimer (1719?-1803), the 5th great-granddaddy who came from Northern Ireland in the 1740s who began the family's farming tradition in America. Isaac's mother was Mary O'Gallagher (or Gallagher, 1721-1803).

Isaac and Mary's son Robert Larimer (my hubby's 4th great uncle) also fought in 1812 and earned the land grant shown in the document at top.

Isaac and his wife Elizabeth Wood Larimer's son John (1794-1843) was my hubby's 3rd great-granddaddy and a 90-day enlistee in the War of 1812. Like so many others in the Larimer family, John Larimer eventually moved from Ohio to Elkhart county, Indiana, to obtain more land for farming.

My husband's 2d great-granddaddy, Brice S. Larimer (1819-1906) continued the tradition of family farming in Elkhart county, Indiana. By 1853, he had been appointed postmaster. Brice later served as a railroad agent, and his son William Tyler Bentley Larimer (1849-1921) also worked at the railroad depot. Later in life, William T.B. Larimer returned to farming, but none of his children or grandchildren were family farmers.

McClure Family Farmers

The McClure family tradition of farming in America began with my husband's earliest McClure immigrant ancestors. Hubby's 5th great-granddaddy Halbert McClure (1684-1754) and his wife Agnes (?-1750) led a large group of McClure family members from County Donegal across the Atlantic to Philadelphia, where they walked all the way to Virginia to buy farmland.

Halbert's son Alexander McClure (1717-1790) bought land in Mill Creek, Augusta, Virginia in 1751. Alexander was hubby's 4th great-granddaddy. His son John McClure (1781?-1834), hubby's 3d great-granddaddy, was most likely a farmer after moving to Adams county, Ohio.

John and his wife, Ann McFall (1780-1823) had one son, Benjamin McClure (1812-1896) who most definitely a farmer in Noble township, Elkhart, Indiana. Benjamin was my husband's 2d great-granddaddy.

In the generation after Benjamin McClure, not everyone was a full-time farmer. Oldest son Theodore Wilson McClure told the Census in 1880 that his occupation was "farming and storekeeping." Second son John McClure was a farmer, first in Indiana and then as a tenant farmer in Little Traverse, Michigan. Third son Train Caldwell McClure operated an oil mill in Wabash county, Indiana.

Benjamin McClure's youngest son was William Madison McClure (1849-1887), my husband's great-granddaddy. He grew up on the family farm in Indiana but after marrying Margaret Jane Larimer (1859-1913), William worked on the railroad. That was the end of family farming in this line of the McClure family: None of Margaret and William's three children married a farmer or worked in farming.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Family Tree Fourth of July


HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!

This vintage Independence Day greeting card was sent to my husband's uncle Wallis Walter Wood in Cleveland more than a century ago. The Fourth of July has significance for our family trees in two instances.

Larimer Elopement


George Ainsworth Larimer (1873-1922), hubby's 1st cousin 2x removed, married Cora Lutz (1875-1945) in a Gretna Green elopement on July 4, 1899. They didn't announce the marriage until November, as shown in this news snippet.

Over the years, St. Joseph was a Gretna Green for several of my husband's family members who eloped. On that particular July 4th in 1899, St. Joseph recorded 21 marriages, including that of George and Cora!

George retired early from a career in civil engineering and bridge construction, due to a heart condition. His death cert mentions the contributing factor of "dropsy" (related to his heart problem). He died in Memphis, TN, on Halloween of 1922 at the age of only 49.

Schwartz Birth

My great uncle Samuel Schwartz (1883-1954) was born on July 4, 1883, in Ungvar, Hungary. He was an older brother of my immigrant grandfather Theodore "Teddy" Schwartz.

Teddy came to America in 1902, followed by brother Sam two years later. According to the 1904 passenger manifest, his given name was Simon but somehow once he arrived in America, he became Samuel. Sam and Teddy teamed up to pool their hard-earned money and bring their younger sister Mary to America in 1906.

Like his brother Teddy, Sam married only days after he attained U.S. citizenship. Sam settled down and raised a family in New York City, where--like his brother Teddy--he ran a small dairy store. Sam died on a hot June afternoon, just weeks before his 71st birthday.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Keep Redoing Searches--New Ancestors May Pop Up!

Transcribed death record for Sundel Mahler
Knowing that new info is constantly being transcribed, indexed, and posted on genealogy websites, I regularly redo searches on my ancestors. Not every name, of course, but definitely those in my direct line and sometimes aunts or uncles or cousins or even in-laws whose lives I'm trying to flesh out.

Finding New Members of the Mahler Family 

Last year I was redoing searches for my great-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler and great-grandpa Meyer Elias Mahler, and their children. That led me to find on FamilySearch.org a death record for their three-year-old son, Wolf, who died of "acute Bright's disease" (liver problems). Neither I nor any of my Mahler cousins had ever heard of Wolf. But the death cert (visible only at a Family History Center) was quite clear and proved that Wolf was, indeed, a son of my great-grandparents.

Today, I redid that search for Tillie and Meyer--and found yet another death record for a previously-unknown son who died at an even younger age. The transcription is shown above. I have to get to the FHC to view the death cert in person, but based on the transcribed info, not just names but also the street address, little baby Sundel* Mahler would have been my great uncle if he had grown up.

Sadly, the baby died within weeks of his birth. He's buried in Mount Zion Cemetery, with a burial date of April 7, 1901, in the Sons of Telsh plot. That's where my great-grandparents were laid to rest. Another strong piece of evidence in favor of Sundel being part of my Mahler family.

Baby Is Buried in Telsh Plot--Somewhere


Search of Mahler interments in Sons of Telsh plot, Mt. Zion Cemetery, NY
I've visited Meyer and Tillie Mahler's graves in Mt. Zion Cemetery. The headstones are very crowded and it's not at all easy to navigate to and between plots. So it's not surprising that I never noticed baby Sundel somewhere in that plot.

As shown above in the interment search results, he is in the plot but he is not in a designated grave. Sometimes infants were buried with either a tiny marker or in a part of the plot where other babies are buried. This is very likely what happened in the case of Sundel Mahler.

More Evidence: Census Data 

In the 1900 U.S. Census, Meyer and Tillie said they had 9 children in all, but only 7 were living at the time of that Census. Wolf was one of the two who died. The other child who died may have been born in the old country, during the multi-year gap I noticed between the births of early children and the time the family arrived in America. That's my working hypothesis.

In the 1910 U.S. Census, Meyer Mahler had died a few days before the enumerator came around. Widow Tillie told the Census that she had 10 children in all, but only 7 were living at the time of the Census. Now I can account for that one more child--baby Sundel Mahler, born and died after the 1900 Census but before the 1910 Census.

Never Give Up! 

Keep redoing searches--new ancestors can and do pop up as more records are added to online collections, transcribed, and indexed! That's how I found baby Sundel and baby Wolf. More ancestors are certainly waiting to be found if I continue to redo my searches. Never give up.

* I'm told "Zundel" in Yiddish means "small boy."

Monday, July 1, 2019

Remembering Great Uncles on Canada Day


Happy Canada Day!

Both my husband and I have immigrant ancestors who settled in Canada . . . and by coincidence, these men were our great uncles.

About Great Uncle Abraham Berk (Burk/Burke)

Above, a snippet from the 1945 publication of Canadian citizenship for my great uncle Abraham Berk (1877-1962) and his wife, Annie Hurwitch Berk (1880-1948). A native of Gargzdai, Lithuania, Abraham was my paternal grandfather Isaac's older brother.

Abraham and Isaac left Lithuania in 1900 or 1901 and stopped in Manchester, England, presumably to learn the language and make some money. I found the Burk/Berk brothers in the 1901 UK Census in Manchester with "Uncle" Isaac Chazan (1863-1921) and his wife, Anna Hinda Hannah Mitav Chazan (1865-1940). After consulting with my Chazan cousins, we've come to the conclusion that Anna (not Isaac) was actually the relative.

Abraham got married in Manchester in 1903 and in 1904, he continued on to Montreal, Canada, his final destination, establishing his business in cabinetmaking. Wife Annie followed in 1905, bringing their baby Rose.

According to the Canadian Census, Abraham was originally naturalized in 1910. Still, he and Annie went through another naturalization process during 1944, results published in 1945, in accordance with the Canadian "Naturalization Act." When my father and mother married, his uncle Abraham served as patriarch of the Burk family and had pride of place in the wedding photos.

About the Slatter Brothers, Hubby's Great Uncles 

Three of the four sons of John Slatter and Mary Shehen Slatter grew up and left London, where they were born and raised, to become well-known military bandmasters in Canada. They were the brothers of my husband's maternal grandma, Mary Slatter Wood.

Albert William Slatter (1862-1935) was the older of the three sons who came to Canada. After a career in the Army, he married, came to Canada, and became part of the Ontario Band in 1906. By 1911, he was living in London, Ontario, with his family and listed his occupation as "bandmaster." By 1921, he was the bandmaster of the Western Ontario Regiment. After a long career in music, Albert retired in 1932 and passed away in November, 1935. Researching Albert again today, I found that he was a member of the United Grand Lodge of England Freemason from 1905 to 1907. Also found a document saying he was with the Shropshire Light Infantry, serving as "Color Sergt & Acting Sergt Major of Volrs" in 1906.

John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954) - at left - was the most famous of the Slatter brothers. At the age of 11, he served as "band sergeant" of the Boy's Band on the Training Ship Goliath, anchored in the Thames River in London. John left London for Toronto in 1884, married in 1887, and was appointed as the first-ever bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders of Toronto in 1896. Captain Slatter toured North America early in the 20th century with his renowned "Kiltie Band" and trained 1,000 buglers for WWI while at Camp Borden in Ontario. Capt. Slatter died in December, 1954.

Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942) enlisted at age 11
as a musician in the British Army! At top, a copy of his attestation, joining the Army in Dublin in 1877. He lied and said he was 14 years, 2 months." Later, he became part of the Grenadier Guards. By 1912, he had gone to Canada to become bandmaster of the 72d Highlanders of Vancouver. After his wife died, he remarried, and then went back to Vancouver as reappointed bandmaster of the reorganized 72nd Highlanders in 1920. Henry died in Vancouver on July 15, 1942. I'm still searching for "Jackie Slatter," born in England about 1915 to Henry and his second wife, Kathleen. Come out, come out, wherever you are, Jackie!