Friday, June 21, 2024

Revisiting Those Printed Genealogy Books

When I began working on my husband's family tree 26 years ago, I was fortunate to have many clues in hand, including a 1959-era genealogy book about Larimer ancestors. Even better, my late mom-in-law had jotted notes, fixed typos, and corrected dates of folks listed in the book. Today, the Larimer book has been digitized and is available for free download from FamilySearch--including a handy name index. 

Fleshing out "no record" ancestors

Despite the paucity of sources and various omissions and errors, I've revisited this book again and again in search of clues. Of course, now it's easier to research distant ancestors ... even those who the author marked as "no record" 65 years ago when he printed this book. So one of my goals is to flesh out the lives of the "no record" ancestors and add their descendants to my hubby's family tree. 

Nothing in this book is a fact until I confirm with other evidence, but it's been a good starting point for many avenues of genealogical investigation. 

Clues to military ancestors

I've also used the book to identify possible military ancestors in the Larimer family tree. Above, an excerpt from p 30, indicating that Isaac Larimer (1828-1910) and John Larimer (1836-1871) both served in the US Civil War. My research (using Fold3, obits, Census records, and more) confirms that yes, both of those men (1c4r from my hubby) were fighting for the Union.  

Isaac Larimer was in the 35th Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry. As shown above, during his first battle against Confederate forces, Isaac was captured. His obit says he was held for three weeks until he escaped and rejoined his unit. Then he was wounded by a gunshot to the face in 1863. He nearly died but managed to recover and eventually was mustered out, returning to his wife and children on the family farm. 

With more than one John Larimer in the family tree during that period, I had to be sure I had the correct spouse, children, dates, and place. John Larimer's Civil War pension record showed dates when he was declared an invalid, and dates when his widow Anna Mary claimed pension and money for minor dependents. Also this card showed his unit (10th Missouri Cavalry) which helped me reconstruct where he was and what he did during the Civil War. 

Other Larimers in the military?

What about the other two adult Larimer men in this excerpt, the brothers of John and Isaac? James Larimer's obit mentions nothing about military service. He registered for the Civil War draft but was marked as married with children, I saw on the ledger page. Very likely he did not serve, but I'll take a closer look. George Larimer doesn't seem to have been in the military, either, but I'll dig a little deeper just in case.

Interestingly, lower on this same page, J. Wright Larimer and Harvey J. Larimer are listed as younger sons of Moses Larimer and Nancy Blosser Larimer--without mentioning that both enlisted in the 151st Indiana Volunteer Infantry in 1865, ready to fight for the Union. My own research uncovered their stories, which are now in the booklet. Maybe their descendants weren't aware of this military service?

Anyway, go ahead and revisit those printed genealogy books but be sure to double-check names, dates, and everything else!

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

WikiTree Categories Help Highlight Ancestors' Stories

This year, I've done more with categorization to add to the stories of the ancestors posted on my WikiTree. Remember, WikiTree is free and available worldwide. I'm proud to have my ancestors on this wonderful collaborative site. Each has at least a bite-sized bio, now I'm adding to their stories in a different way.

For example, I'm starting to add cemetery categories, as shown above for my husband's ancestors, Carrie Steiner Traxler and Floyda Steiner McClure. This means that the category of Old Mission Cemetery now appears on the bottom of these ancestors' WikiTree pages, and their names appear in the listing of folks in that particular category. 

Old Mission is a historic cemetery and it was important to these ancestors that they were laid to rest in that special place. Now the categorization highlights their final resting place.

Sadly, a number of folks in my maternal grandfather's Schwartz family were killed in the Holocaust. Because survivors submitted testimony to Yad Vashem about these people, their names and lives and deaths won't be forgotten. 

I'm categorizing those ancestors on WikiTree, as well, such as those killed in Auschwitz (category explanation shown above). Many thousands of names appear in this category, I'm sorry to say, but I feel this is one way to "never forget" who these people were and what happened to them.

Other categories tell the story of an ancestor's life from the perspective of occupation, residential location, and so on. Above, the three categories I added for Elfie Asenath Mosse, truly a trailblazing woman as the founding librarian of the first public library in Santa Monica, CA, and a champion of women in the library world at the turn of the 20th century. 

I'm still exploring the full list of categories available to highlight elements of an ancestor's life. More to come!

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Happy Father's Day to Our 20th Century Dads

My husband's Dad, Edgar J. Wood (1903-1986) was born early in the 20th century. He began taking piano lessons at age 9, became an accomplished piano player, and in his 20s, he toured Europe twice with a college jazz band during summers off from his studies at Tufts. Ed never lost his love of music. In fact, for decades, he played professionally on weekends while working as an insurance adjustor during the week.

My Dad, Harold D. Burk (1909-1978), was born just a few years later. His career goal, beginning in the 1930s, was to become a travel agent. He finally established his own travel agency after serving in WWII, working side by side with his younger brother. Initially, passenger train travel was in most demand. As air travel became more accessible, Dad's agency did a booming business selling plane (and later, jet) tickets.

On Father's Day, I'm remembering our 20th century Dads, with love. 

Friday, June 14, 2024

#GenChat Is Going Strong!

If you're on Twitter/X or Mastodon, and want to chat about genealogy and family history, check out #GenChat

Hosted by Christine McCloud, #GenChat has themed chats and free-wheeling "open mic" chats, plus special experts who share their knowledge and ideas. It's a friendly hour of genealogy/family history discussion via social media posts.

Want to participate?

On Twitter/X, #GenChat takes place on the second and fourth Friday of every month. On Mastodon, the chat takes place on the Saturday after the Friday #GenChat. 

At top, the schedule from June through December, 2024. Tonight and tomorrow, the topic will be "genealogy institutes" with guest expert Cyndi Ingles, founder of Cyndi's List. (The pink date indicates Saturday on Mastodon.)

To see the schedule with US and international starting times, check here.

I'll be chatting on Saturday on Mastodon. Hope you'll drop by on Friday or Saturday and join the conversation!

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Farkas Family Tree "Coming Out Party" After Hard Times

The Farkas Family Tree association was founded by the eleven adult children of Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938) in March of 1933, as the Great Depression devastated the global economy. My maternal grandmother, Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964), was one of the charter members.

The tree group was the brainstorm of Jennie Katz Farkas, married to the oldest of the eleven siblings who were the charter members. Despite economic woes, the tree association met at least 10 times a year, usually in the members' homes, which were all in the greater New York City area. (I know all of this history because these ancestors kept monthly meeting notes!)

Tree celebrations and sorrow

For the first anniversary of the tree's founding, in March of 1934, the members held a dinner-dance at the Cecile Restaurant in Manhattan and invited friends and family. An amazing 61 people attended, counting members plus in-laws and friends and neighbors. For the second anniversary, the dinner-dance was at the Hotel Hamilton on West 73d St. in Manhattan. An even more amazing 81 people attended, at a cost of $1.25 per person for dinner plus 50 cents "subscription," in 1935. This was the depth of the Depression, yet the tree turned out in numbers for these special celebrations. The total dinner cost the equivalent of $40 per person today.

For the third anniversary, the Hotel Hamilton was again to be the venue, at $1.25 per person for dinner, plus 25 cents for a "subscription" fee. However, one week before the dinner, Farkas patriarch Moritz died, so the event was postponed indefinitely until after a year's mourning period. No dinner-dance was held in 1937 and when a dinner-dance was planned for 1938, it too was postponed due to the death of the matriarch, Leni. No dinner-dance in 1939, either, as hard times hit the Farkas Family Tree. 

Starting 1940 off with a party!

After the sadness of losing the matriarch and patriarch in the last years of the 1930s, plus money being so tight for all, a party was finally planned for on Sunday, January 7, 1940 at the True Sisters meeting rooms on West 85th St., Manhattan. 

The United Order of True Sisters was a Jewish women's organization founded in 1846 in New York City, which slowly gained chapters across the country. In 1926, the True Sisters laid the cornerstone of its new building in Manhattan, as described in the headline at top of this post. My family tree held its 1939 Thanksgiving dinner at the True Sisters building in one of its meeting rooms, and then the January party in 1940. 

The Family Tree minutes reported: "The 64th meeting of the Farkas Family Tree was held at the True Sisters Building on Jan 7, 1940. It was our coming out party after being 'in' for quite a number of years. Present besides our membership were our friends, in-laws, and youngsters." 

Party begins with a pledge

After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag that was marched in, the group sang America with piano accompaniment by one of the Farkas children. Then the tree president made a speech about the group's "ideals and achievements." 

Next, the tree's historian (my aunt Dorothy, twin sister of my Mom), summarized the previous year's tree activities and family doings. The tree then installed new officers for 1940 and eventually the meeting was adjourned to enjoy refreshments and view home movies of the past year's get-togethers.

Of course no one had any idea that more hard times would be ahead when the US entered World War II. So many of these Farkas folks went into the service (including my aunt Dorothy, the WAC) and those at home did their part to help the Allies win the war. A story for another time.

"Hard times" is the theme for this week's #52Ancestors genealogy prompt from Amy Johnson Crow.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Cousin Lilly's 1931 Shower, Marriage, and Census Entry

My father's paternal first cousin, Lilly Berk (1906-1957) was married to Joseph Goldberg (1903-1981) in Montreal on Sunday, June 7, 1931, as the Depression took hold in Canada. 

Lilly's friends threw her a fun bridal shower that was covered in the Canadian Jewish Chronicle newspaper on March 27, 1931. I found this out by researching her name (with spelling variations) using the feature of MyHeritage. The list of attendees included her sister and many friends who came to play bridge and shower Lilly with gifts of linens. This same group of friends played bridge together regularly, as I could see by mentions in the newspaper's social column. Little tidbits like this bring ancestors to life for me!

What also caught my eye about Lilly's wedding date was the fact that it took place after the June 1, 1931 Census Day in Canada. As shown above, Lilly and her new husband, Joseph, are enumerated as married and seemingly landlord/landlady with others living in the same household. He is 28, she is 22. 

Um, it is possible but very unlikely that in that period, they would live together and call themselves married before the wedding, so I'm assuming the enumerator didn't reach their residence until June 8 at the earliest. Although the enumerator was supposed to indicate where he or she ended each day and put a date in right margin of the Census sheet, I haven't found any dates in this particular section. For now, my estimate is they were enumerated after June 8th ;)

Lilly died not too many months after celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary, mourned by her husband and two grown sons. Today I'm remembering this cousin on the 93d anniversary of her marriage.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Witness to Patent for a New Flag Badge

There is only one man named D'Alva in my husband's family tree: D'Alva Mosse (1839-1874) married hubby's 1c4r Nancy Larimer (1845-1929) in San Francisco, California, in 1865. D'Alva had been in the California Gold Rush as a preteen, helping miners pan for gold. Nancy's mother had also been in the Gold Rush, baking bread and taking in laundry while her brother panned for gold. Neither hit the jackpot, both went  on to settle in San Francisco. 

D'Alva began to work for his father, Daniel H.T. Mosse (1816-1891), who was a San Francisco bookseller and merchant of stationery and imported goods. Even after he married Nancy, D'Alva continued to be part of his father's retailing concern. 

As D'Alva and Nancy's family grew, he went out on his own with a toy store. Their first-born girl, named for D'Alva's mom Mildred, unfortunately died before her first birthday. The couple had two more daughters, Elfie and Alice.

Being part of the downtown San Francisco business community, D'Alva made the acquaintance of Nathan Joseph, who made and sold badges worn by firefighters, police officers, and other groups. (Nathan's place of business was within walking distance of D'Alva's store.) Nathan had a colorful career, involving fractional gold pieces, jewelry, badges, and curios of all types. Read more about him here. Ad above, from 1885, shows Nathan offering his badges for sale in Nevada.

In August of 1871, Nathan Joseph filed a patent for a new design for a flag badge, shown at top, and D'Alva Mosse was one of two witnesses to this patent. Whether Mosse ever purchased such badges from Joseph for sale in his store, I don't know, but it was interesting to see their names together on this patent page.

D'Alva's story has a sad ending. On June 5, 1874, he was home alone, having been quite ill for several weeks. His wife Nancy was tending to the store in his absence. Unfortunately, D'Alva somehow got hold of a pistol and fatally shot himself, leaving behind a grieving widow and two young daughters.

I'm remembering D'Alva Mosse, former Gold Rush miner, businessman, son, husband, and father, on the 150th anniversary of his death.

Monday, June 3, 2024

What Did His Paternal Great-Greats Die Of?

My latest family history photo book, just completed, covers the lives and social/historical context of my hubby's paternal grandparents, great-grandparents, and their siblings, spouses, and ancestors. This is a full-color photo book with bite-sized bios of the men, women, and children in this part of the family tree, part of my plan to keep family history alive for future generations.

In the process, I'm documenting what folks died of, if cause of death is documented in the records. The very youngest in the Wood family tree tended to die from diseases that are treatable today, such as diphtheria and diarrhea. Ancestors who lived to adulthood usually died from a variety of other causes, including typhoid, tuberculosis, pneumonia, stroke, and heart disease, only very occasionally dying of cancer on this branch of the family tree.

Mary: Age and cardiac asthma

My husband's paternal great-grandma, Mary Amanda Demarest Wood (1831-1897) died of "age, cardiac asthma," which ultimately is caused by congestive heart failure. At top, an excerpt from the death records in a ledger in Lucas County, Ohio, showing her cause of death. 

Now consider that Mary was only 65 when she died, not nearly as ancient as her husband. On the other hand, she had 17 children, the first born when Mary was 15 years old (you read that correctly) and the last born when she was 44. This must have taken a toll on her health. Also, she saw the death of 10 children during her life, a handful from childhood diseases like diphtheria but also one drowned, others had health problems as adults. RIP, great-grandma Mary. 

Thomas: General debility from age

My husband's paternal great-grandpa, Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890), died of "general debility from age," as described in the ledger in Lucas County, Ohio. He was 80, and would have been 81 if he had lived just a few more weeks. 

Thomas was born into a family where many of the men were whalers, either owning ships or captaining ships or working on ships out of New Bedford, Mass. He became a carpenter, supporting his family by working on the railroad most of his life. In later years, he built coaches for the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway out of Toledo, Ohio. 

Lots of years of physical labor could have both strengthened Thomas's body and slowly worn it down over the decades. When Thomas died in early 1890, his oldest son went to work as a laborer at age 17 to help support the household. A few unmarried adult children remained at home with the widowed Mary, who sometimes worked part-time as a nurse when her health allowed. RIP, g-g Thomas.

"Health" is Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors prompt for week 23 of her genealogy challenge.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Back Up and Keep Back Ups Current


It's the first of the month, time to back up all your digitized family history files and genealogy data. Think about protecting everything you've digitized or downloaded and filed digitally, in case of computer problems.

This year, I replaced my older external hard drives with a new, tiny but mighty external hard drive that has a lot of storage capacity. I kept the old drives, because they have all my personal and genealogical photos. But external hard drives eventually need to be replaced. It was time to replace BEFORE I needed to access the data due to some glitch or crash.

I use the tiny hard drive in the picture for my Mac "Time Machine" hourly backups. This small external drive is faster and more convenient than the 2020-era drives I used to use. I like that it takes up less space and it completes backups in a shorter time.

For extra protection, I also back up every day in the cloud and regularly duplicate special/important files to a USB, ready to transfer if needed. 

Download online trees and back up, too

In addition, I have family trees on multiple genealogy sites and occasionally download the gedcoms for these so they are on available on my desktop Mac and backed up in the cloud. 

On Ancestry for instance, go to "tree settings" when you're in your family tree, then select "Manage Your Tree...Export Tree" (see image at right) and be prepared to wait if the tree has thousands of individuals. But it's worthwhile as a backup!

On MyHeritage, the process is explained in this screen shot below...and you can query the site's Knowledge Base for more details. 

Backups provide peace of mind that our family trees and genealogy data are safe, current, and available. I wrote about the value of backups in my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Gloria Goes to Hollywood as a Teen

This is the story of beautiful and talented and creative Gloria Mildred Weiman (1926-2021). She was a cousin of my Roth cousins...which means a distant cousin to my Farkas family. She wasn't known by the name Weiman, but she did shoot to fame as a teenager renamed Gloria Warren.

Gloria's parents were Herman Wajman (Americanized to Weiman) and Julia Ida Weiss (she's the Roth cousin). Herman was a jeweler from Poland who came to America in 1921 with his Hungarian-born wife Julia and their baby daughter Magda, settling in Wilmington, Delaware. The baby, sadly, didn't survive but Herman and Julia had two more daughters, Gloria and June, who grew up taking piano, dance, singing lessons and more. 

New starlet, creative new name

Gloria's mini-bio on IMDb notes that when she was a young teen, her mother took her to meet a local radio producer which, in turn, led to a meeting with a Hollywood talent scout. That was her big break: she was signed as an up-and-coming starlet for Warner Brothers, at age 15. 

In mid-1941, the entire family filed petitions to change their surname from Weiman to Warren for purposes of Gloria's career. How do I know? The Wilmington, Delaware newspapers covered Gloria's rise to Hollywood and her creative name change too! The family relocated to California as her career began to blossom under the new name of Gloria Warren.

Newspapers documented Gloria's Hollywood life

The papers mentioned Gloria's successful 1945 South American singing tour (see document at top) where she was accompanied by her sister June. A newspaper even covered Gloria the starlet's trip from Hollywood to Wilmington to see her aunt, Mrs. Max Weiss (maiden name Ethel Weiss)

Despite her talent, her singing compared to Deanna Durbin, the movies in which Gloria appeared were not hits, even though her personal star shined. The movie Always in My Heart was written with a part specifically for Gloria, who sang the title song. Of course the Wilmington newspaper raved about Gloria's performance but most critics complained that the plot was hackneyed. Gifted and gorgeous, Gloria appeared in only a handful of movies after that.

Blind date changes Gloria's life

Gloria met Peter Gold (1924-2010) on a blind date in spring of 1946. They fell for each other and were engaged within 10 days, and married in early September. My speculation is that the blind date could have been arranged by Peter's brother, Lee B. Gold, a Hollywood screenwriter. Sis speculates that Peter saw Gloria in a movie and asked for an introduction. 

Press accounts covering the marriage differ about Peter's occupation...he was an agent or a whisky salesman, depending on which newspaper covered the Hollywood gossip. Gloria was in one more movie released after their marriage, and then she retired forever from the Hollywood scene.

By 1950, Peter was a shower door salesman and he had a very bright business future ahead: He worked his way up to the top of the big Price-Pfister plumbing manufacturing firm and ultimately retired from the position of CEO and Chairman. Gloria and Peter had two children and were married for 60+ years. 

One paper interviewed Gloria in the 1960s, when she looked back on her career, spoke lovingly of her children, said how she enjoyed being a mother. This was the last press coverage I can find of Gloria's movie career, as she chose to protect her privacy more and more in later years. Rest in peace, cousin. 

"Creativity" is the week 22 prompt from Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors genealogy challenge.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Saluting Father and Son Military Vets in My Family Tree

On this Memorial Day weekend, I'm continuing to focus on the military vets in my family tree, with pride. This post is to honor the military service of Morris Pitler and his two sons, George and Richard.

My maternal great aunt Freda Farkas (1898-1989) married Morris Pitler (1895-1976) on New Year's Eve of 1922, nearly four years after he had been honorably discharged from serving in World War I. As shown in the service record at top, Morris was inducted into the US Army at Ft. Monroe, Virginia. He served in the 40th Artillery from July of 1918 to January of 1919, rising to the rank of Radio Sergeant in November, 1918. After his military service, Morris built a successful career in the insurance business.

Morris's older son, Harry S. Pitler (1925-2014) finished high school in 1943 and was working at Grumman Aircraft on Long Island, NY when at age 18, he enlisted in the US Army to serve during World War II. Harry was trained as an X-ray technician and sent to the European battlefront, where he worked with medics treating wounded Allied soldiers. His letters to family described the extended educational and training period. Once home from the war, Harry got married, went to Yale Medical School, and became a caring doctor in general practice.

Morris's younger son, Richard K. Pitler (1928-2023) was an 18-year-old student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he filled out his draft registration card in March of 1946. He finished his college degree and then Dick became a lieutenant in the US Army, stationed at the Watertown Arsenal in Watertown, Massachusetts. He left the Army in 1950, married, went on for a master's degree at RPI, and became a high-ranking expert specializing in metallurgy with Allegheny Ludlum Steel. 

Thank you to Morris, Dick, Harry, and all the vets who have served our country over the years. 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Korean War Veterans in Booklet About Hubby's Military Ancestors

Throughout May, I've been updating the bite-sized bios of veterans in my husband's family tree, as I add them to an expanded family history booklet about ancestors who served in the military. I'm proud of their service and looking ahead, I want the rest of my family to know of their service in the years to come.

Originally, I focused on his Civil War ancestors (both Union and Confederate). Then I expanded my research and documentation to include his ancestors who served in WWI and WWII, and a handful who served in the War of 1812. Plus there is one, just one, direct-line ancestor who served in the American Revolution, on the side of the Colonies.

Now I'm adding hubby's second cousins who served in the Korean War. As I do that, I'm also checking that their "veteran" status is indicated on their Find a Grave memorial pages. 

In the case of cousin James "Jim" Simmons (1930-2009), there was no Find a Grave memorial. He had been cremated, no burial listed, according to the death record. So I created a page for him, and before it was finalized, Find a Grave asked me to check that it wasn't a dupe of a page for someone with a similar name who had been cremated. Not a dupe, so I went ahead.

On Jim's page, I indicated a "V" for veteran (top red arrow), and wrote the dates of his service in the bio section (lower red arrow). Then I linked his memorial to the pages of his younger brother (also a Korean War veteran) and to his parents.

On Memorial Day weekend, thank you to all the veterans who have served their country. For those in my family tree and my husband's family tree, I'm doing everything I can to keep their memories alive for future generations--so our valuable family history doesn't get lost to the mists of time. See my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, for more ideas about preserving genealogy for the sake of those who come after us.

PS: I've submitted a suggestion to to request that it provide a "V" designation we can use to designate someone as a military veteran in our family trees. The company is giving it consideration. After all, if Ancestry-owned Find a Grave can do this, it would be great to be consistent and have a "V" designation available on the family tree side as well, IMHO.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Six Degrees or Meatball of Edgar James Wood

WikiTree recently conducted a challenge to see how many ancestors could be added to the family tree of genealogist Randy Seaver, who's been researching and documenting his own family history for many a year. Randy summed up this amazing experience in his blog post here, including a potential brick-wall buster discovered by one of the participants.  

Randy included in his post a wonderful chart showing how people connect to him in his family tree, made using one of the apps offered to WikiTree users. Randy called it a "meatball" chart, WikiTree calls it a "six degree" chart. Here's a link to the app by Greg Clarke to create this type of chart starting from a particular person on your Wikitree, always free.

Since I'm currently putting the finishing touches on a photobook about my husband's paternal grandparents on the Wood and Steiner side, I created the meatball at top showing Edgar James Wood and his ancestors. Colorful and interesting! The royal blue circle is my husband, son of the man in the middle of the meatball. 

Thank you to WikiTree for providing free, useful, and eye-catching tools like this to visualize the family tree.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Julia Wood and the Business of Claiming a Widow's Pension

In this month of Memorial Day, I've been looking closely at the military ancestors in my husband's family tree, both their lives and their families.

Lemuel Wood, master mariner

Hubby's great-granduncle Lemuel C. Wood (1792-1870) was a master mariner with controlling or partnership interest in whaling ships out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. After his first two wives died, he married Julia A. L. Sampson, widow of a whaling man who died at sea. Julia was 52 and Lemuel was 68 when they were wed in 1860. 

When the US Civil War broke out, Lemuel used his considerable knowledge and skill by serving in the Union Navy. He commanded the USS Daylight as part of the blockade against the Confederate states in late 1861 to early 1862. His military service ended about the time he turned 70 years old. Lemuel recorded his occupation as "mariner" on the 1865 Mass. Census and the 1870 US Census. He died on Sept. 16, 1870 at the age of 78. According to the Census, his real estate was then worth $8,000 and his personal estate was worth $12,000 (in all, the equivalent of $340,000 in today's dollars).

Julia A. Wood, widow seeking pension

Julia had no obvious source of income other than her late husband's land and personal property. She outlived him by many years and even living frugally, could eventually find herself short of money. In 1880, she was enumerated as a widow alone on Martha's Vineyard, not a fancy vacation area as it is today but quite a rural area and  not an expensive place to live. In 1890, she was living in New Bedford ... which I was able to find out because she was named in the Veterans' and Widows' Schedule! 

At top, two excerpts from the 1890 schedule, showing her as Lemuel's widow, his 8 months' service commanding the USS Daylight, and Julia's listing of her late husband's US military service. She said Lemuel served in the War of 1812 (I haven't yet found evidence of this), the Mexican War (again, not yet found evidence) and the Union side of the US Civil War (lots of evidence). More military research is in my future.

Importantly, in June of 1890, Congress passed and the President signed the Dependent and Disability Pensions Act, which made Lemuel eligible for a pension based on his Union Navy service. In his stead, Julia filed for his pension. She was nearly 83 at the time and she hired a Washington, D.C. lawyer to manage the multi-step process, I know from the lengthy file I found on 

Prove marriages, prove deaths, prove need

To claim the pension, Julia had to produce numerous documents that would prove that her first husband died, that she married Lemuel (where and when), that he died (where and when), and finally proof of her desperate need for expediting this pension application. 
Her lawyer provided not one but two affidavits attesting to Julia's lack of income except help from her son "on whom she has no legal claim" meaning he had no legal obligation to continue his financial assistance. The goal of these affidavits was to provoke "special" status so Julia's claim would be reviewed more quickly, taking care of business when most needed.

Claim approved, eventually dropped

Finally, in early 1891, Julia was approved for $8 per month in a widow's pension. She collected the pension until September of 1891, fell ill, and died in November, 1891, at age 84. 

After all that time and trouble and expense to prove eligibility, Julia collected the pension for less than seven months. No one seems to have notified the pension authorities about Julia's death because the file remained open until 1895. Then, as shown below, she was "dropped from rolls" due to "failure to claim pension."

"Taking care of business" is the week 20 genealogy prompt for Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Ancestor Bios of Military Veterans Make World History More Personal

In writing bite-sized bios of my husband's ancestors who were in the military, I've researched their units or militias and also tried to put their service into historical and familial context. This is especially important when I know fairly little about individuals who lived and died more than 150 years in the past. In the process, I hope to show my readers the personal side of world history, and the connection with family history.

In the above page about Elihu Wood Jr., I named his parents and said he was one of eight children, for family context. Also I pointed out that he was born only 20 years after the American Revolution, during which his father served for the Colonies.

In the War of 1812, Elihu became a private in the Massachusetts Militia, and I included an image from one of the state adjutant general books, showing his name and unit. 

Then I explained the historical background that prompted his two tours of two weeks each in the militia in 1814. Elihu's service, short though it might be, was an important element in the Colonial defense of the New England coastline. 

The final paragraph of this bite-sized bio provided some personal details about Elihu's wife (Sarah Howland) and their family. I ended with the observation that Sarah died just days after the 100th anniversary of the American Revolution. So even though I know only a bit about these people as individuals, adding the connection with world history puts them into a larger context and highlights the tradition of military service, both father and son being US veterans.