Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Questions About the Family Story of Robert Larimer

Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970), my husband's maternal grandfather, left a number of handwritten notes about his ancestry. Above, the note he wrote about being descended from a long line of Larimer ancestors.

My husband's 5th great-grandfather was Robert Larimer.  As shown above, he was supposedly "born in the North of Ireland" in 1719, and "came to U.S. in 1740." [I know there was no U.S. at that time, and so did Brice, who was just jotting notes onto a scrap of paper to record family history as he remembered it.]

Here's more of the family story, as further memorialized in "Our Larimer Family" by cousin John Clarence Work. Robert Larimer's father gave him some Irish linen and money, and sent him from the North of Ireland to seek his fortune in the colonies in 1740. Unfortunately, the ship was wrecked and he had to be rescued by a passing ship. Robert was brought to the colonies, then sold into indentured servitude to pay for his rescue.

The master overworked Robert for years until finally, Robert ran away to the Kishacoquillas Valley in Pennsylvania, where he married Mary Gallagher (or O'Gallagher), originally from the North of Ireland. They had four children that I know of: Phoebe, Isaac (hubby's 4th great-grandpa), Ebenezer, and Guzilla/Grizell. According to the Larimer book, Robert Larimer moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio with his son Isaac, circa 1801-2.

I have 5 specific questions about the family story. 

(1) Is Robert's birth date of 1719 correct? No clues at all. It would help to know where he was born.

(2) Was he born in Northern Ireland (and if so, where exactly)? No clues at all.

(3) Who were his parents? I know it's not easy to obtain info about ordinary (non-nobility, non-wealthy) folks born early in the 18th century, but it sure would be nice to know. Not a clue at this point.

(4) When did Robert die? Note above says 1805, Find A Grave says 1803, and Larimer book says he died "soon" after moving to Ohio, which means after 1802. Mind you, Robert would have been about 80 when he moved to Ohio. That's positively ancient for a man at that time, and for an elderly pioneer, it would not be an easy life.

Meanwhile, the Larimer book also says (and I confirmed) that a taxpayers' list dated 1806 and transcribed in Scott, A Complete History of Fairfield County, Ohio, includes Robert, Isaac, and Ebenezer "Laremore."

Hmmm. Maybe Robert's estate was paying the tax? Seems odd for an estate to not be settled and property not retitled with a new owner by that time. And although Isaac had a son named Robert, presumably to honor Isaac's father, that child was born in 1792 and surely wouldn't have been listed as a taxpayer in 1806. But surely the elder Robert was buried by 1806, given his advanced age.

(5) What was his wife's actual surname, and was she dropped from Mars or hatched from an egg?

There is one source I haven't yet consulted to answer my questions about this family story. It's the Kishocoquillas Valley Historical Society. Maybe they can help?! I'll find out soon.

As always, my thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the weekly #52Ancestors prompt.

PS I haven't even listed my questions about Mary's birth/marriage dates. Would Mary really have been giving birth (twice!) in her 50s? Not likely...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

I Heart My Genealogy Groups

Do you 💜 your genealogy groups? And I don't just mean clicking "like" on Facebook or paying for membership.

Genealogy groups of all sizes, shapes, and flavors need active members. We are the lifeblood of these groups. No members, no groups. No groups? No way!

How can we show we 💜 our genealogy groups?
  • Show up. You don't have to be an officer or speaker, although that kind of help is always appreciated. Simply attending meetings (when you can) is an easy and important way to show support for groups we 💜. Check on the group's Facebook page once in a while. If nobody shows up, in person or online, how long can that group continue?
  • Engage. Chat up other members, ask questions, answer surveys, clap for the speaker. If you're at a webinar, ask a question or say "thank you." If you're participating in a Twitter chat, also say "thank you" or post a comment if you like. Engaging adds to the conversation and enables us to get the most from groups we 💜.
  • Network. Go ahead, ask about the surnames and countries others are researching--and mention the names and nations you're interested in. I've gotten some great ideas by networking with the members of genealogy groups I 💜. You never know when a connection might lead to smashing a brick wall or adding a name/date to your family tree. 
  • Talk up the group. Let other people know about the genealogy clubs and associations you 💜. Bring a neighbor or friend to the next meeting; post on social media about an upcoming event or recap a recent event. 
Sometimes I bring my camera and, with permission, photograph the speaker at the meeting. At top, Janeen Bjork presenting "Find Your Family in Online Newspapers," a talk she's given to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and other groups to which I belong. Janeen was happy to have this photo to post on social media. I also posted it, along with a couple of key takeaways. In recent weeks, I've posted about watching some webinars hosted by the fast-growing VGA, which I joined as soon as it was organized.

Can't keep it to myself . . . I really 💜 my genealogy groups!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Looking for Youngest Brides and Grooms Reveals Gaps

Thanks to the #52Ancestors prompts from Amy Johnson Crow, I'm learning more about the features available in my genealogy software of choice, RootsMagic7. Only with the help of the various reports and lists in this software can I identify the "youngest" of anything, which is this week's prompt.

At top, the "statistics" list I generated for my father's Burk Mahler family tree. Here, I learned that the youngest age at marriage of anyone in that tree was 18 for a female and 19 for a male. This is only for marriages where I know the birth dates/marriage ages of bride and groom, so the software can calculate statistics. As shown at top, there are 184 people with marriage ages included in this tree.
Directly above, the statistics list I generated for my mother's Schwartz - Farkas family tree, showing 117 people with marriage age noted in the tree. The youngest age for a woman at marriage was 15 1/2, compared with 17 for a man. Since some of these marriages took place in Eastern Europe in the mid-1800s, it's not too surprising that a bride would be this young.

Learning to use the reports is going to help me find anomalies and correct mistakes. For instance, a statistics list I generated for my husband's Wood family indicated that the minimum age for a male at marriage was 17.41. That's such a specific number. It could be correct, but I want to double-check. And I need to look more closely at missing marriage ages to see whether I can fill some of the gaps in my records. More research is in my future.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Oldest Ancestors with Names and Dates

My husband's family has several good candidates for the "oldest" ancestor with names and dates, because of his four Mayflower ancestors.

The family trees of passengers Isaac Allerton, Mary Norris Allerton, Mary Allerton, and Degory Priest are fairly well documented, and I've added their  parents' names/dates to hubby's family tree. Above, the entry for Isaac Allerton's father Edward and his descendants, dates and all, in a timeline chart created using RootsMagic 7 genealogy software.

Next, I scrolled down the timeline looking for Mayflower ancestors and their parents to see who's earliest. Even though Edward Allerton was born in 1555, he's not the oldest ancestor in hubby's Mayflower branch. Edward Allerton's granddaughter, Mayflower passenger Mary Allerton, later married Thomas Cushman of the Fortune. So the earliest ancestor from that line is actually Thomas Couchman, b. 1538.

Now to my family tree. The oldest ancestor I can name and date on my mother's side is my great-great-great grandfather, Yosef Moshe Kunstler, who died in NagyBereg, Hungary (now known as Berehi, Ukraine) on June 13, 1854. My wonderful cousin B visited the cemetery and photographed the headstone 20 years ago. According to the headstone, Yosef's father's name was Hillel. That's where the trail ends.

On my father's side, the oldest ancestor I can name and date is my great-great grandma Rachel Shuham Jacobs, born about 1845 in Plunge, Lithuania. She married young, was widowed, and came to New York City with her grown daughter and son in the late 1880s. Rachel died in New York City on December 8, 1915. Her death cert shows her parents as Moses Shuham and Sarah Levin, but unfortunately, I have no other info on them.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt, which is "Oldest."

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mapping the Shehen Family in London (Mary in Two Places at Once)

Today I'm using Charles Booth's London maps and notebooks for context about my husband's 2d great-grandparents. I know very little about John & Mary Shehen (or Shehan or Sheen). But Booth's info indicates that they were truly poor. 

The 1841-1871 UK Census entries for the Shehens consistently say they were born in Ireland around 1801. He is a "labourer," she is usually a "laundress" or "charing." They never left a quadrangle known as Gray's Buildings, shown above on Booth's maps in the Marylebone section of London. Census entries on the same page with the Shehens in 1871 indicate that a good number of the residents were also Irish-born. Given the devastating Irish Famine, it's not surprising to find so many Irish people in London in that period.

Above, a snippet from Booth's notebook entry about Gray's Buildings, in which he writes there are "a great many Irish" and also notes: "most of the doors open but few broken windows." Based on the poverty he observes, Booth considers the area of Gray's Buildings to be "very poor . . . chronic want."


Poor isn't the end of it. Alas, hubby's great-great-grandma Mary Shehen (whose maiden name I don't yet know), was admitted to the medical wing of the crowded Northumberland Street Workhouse on March 15, 1871, due to"chronic rheumatism." One month later, she was discharged (or, as the record shows, "reliesed").

Two places at once? Mary Shehen was enumerated both in Gray's Buildings and in the Northumberland workhouse for the 1871 Census. Interestingly, that Census was supposed to be as of April 2. But even though Mary Shehen is listed as being in the household with her husband John, the workhouse admission record AND the 1871 Census, below, are evidence that she was actually ailing in the workhouse. Probably it was her husband John or someone else who reported her at her usual residence, unsure of how to tell the Census about her temporary stay in the workhouse.

When I started looking for the Shehen family in Booth's records, I hoped they would not be in as dire economic shape as their daughter Mary's family. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, as the maps and then the workhouse documents indicate. (Sadly, their daughter Mary Shehen, who married John Slatter in 1859, was in and out of workhouses and then two asylums for years.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

How Maps Helped Me Understand the Slatter Family

After watching Helen Smith's excellent "Mapping Your Ancestors" VGA webinar, I decided to learn more about my husband's Slatter ancestors by checking their London-area addresses against the Charles Booth maps.

Who was Charles Booth?

His notebooks and maps make up Life and Labour of the People in London, a detailed study of urban poverty at the end of the 19th century. Helen demonstrated this free and informative resource for understanding the social and economic context of London in that period.

I looked at the maps for three London addresses where hubby's great-grandparents lived. John Slatter (1838-1901) and Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889) always lived in and adjacent to Whitechapel, the city's infamous poor district. Even allowing for some turnover in population and changes in local conditions year to year, knowing what Charles Booth observed in the area gave me a better sense of the daily lives of these ancestors.

1859. At top is an excerpt from the Booth map of London's Christ Church section, directly adjacent to Whitechapel. The green arrow shows 2 Heneage Street, where Mary and John were living at the time of their marriage in 1859. Booth says this part of Heneage Street was "very poor," almost as poor as it gets. Not the very bottom of the economic barrel, but close.

1861. Here, above, is an excerpt from the map for 55 Leman Street in the St. Mark area (also adjacent to Whitechapel), a short walk from where the Slatters lived when they married two years earlier. When the UK census was taken in 1861, Mary & John had a young son, Thomas, and they lived in an area that was considered "mixed"--some poor, some comfortably off. She was a cook, he was a porter, so their combined income may have helped them improve economically from their 1859 situation.

1871.  Above, an excerpt from the Charles Booth map for 3 Half Moon Passage in the St. Mary section of Whitechapel, where the Slatter family lived at the time of the UK census. No color coding by Booth, so I suspect the Slatter family was living in "mixed" surroundings, meaning some poor and some comfortable. Since John is now listed as a "labourer," and there are 5 children in the household, money must have been much tighter.

Poverty takes a toll. According to workhouse and poorhouse records (accessed via Ancestry and in person by my cousin, at the London Metropolitan Archives), Mary Shehen Slatter and 5 of her 6 children were in and out of institutions from 1873 on. Above, the discharge for 5 Slatter* children from Newington Workhouse in London to Hanwell School, both notorious places.

Mary was apparently abandoned by John at that time, and she struggled to keep body and soul together. According to UK records, she developed "melancholia" and was committed to two different (and awful) asylums starting in 1874. Her children were then in and out of workhouses**, poorhouses, and slum residential schools like Forest Gate. Mary died in the asylum in 1889. But her children all grew up to have productive lives!

When I tell the story of the Slatter family to their descendants, I marvel at the resiliency of the Slatter children and express admiration for their accomplishments. Three of the boys went from Forest Gate School to the Exmouth and Goliath Training Ships, then grew up to be celebrated military bandmasters and strong family men. The two girls seem to have been fairly close all their lives, even after they married and raised families. The ultimate trajectory of the Slatter children's lives is quite amazing.

*The eldest Slatter son, Thomas, actually lived with his paternal grandmother and step-grandfather (according to census data from 1871 on). As a result, he never seems to have been in a workhouse or a poorhouse.

**NOTE: The Ancestry database I used is called: "London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764-1930."

Sunday, July 29, 2018

How Many Generations Did My Ancestors Know?

This week, Randy Seavers' Saturday Night Gen Fun challenge is to count how many generations our parents or grandparents knew. I'm focusing on my great-
grandparents, who were fortunate enough to know more generations.

At top, the 25th anniversary photo of the Farkas Family tree at The Pines, a now-defunct Catskills resort. I'm one of the twins at bottom right. This family tree association was founded by the children of my maternal great-grandparents:
Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938), who knew 4 generations that I can be sure of:
  • Their parents and siblings. His were Ferencz Farkas and Hermina Gross, hers were Shmuel Zanvil Kunstler and Toby Roth. Plus their siblings equals two generations. Not sure whether they ever knew their grandparents, not sure of any birth-marriage-death dates for their parents or grandparents.
  • Their 11 children: Alex, Hermina (hi Grandma!), Albert, Julius, Peter, Irene, Ella, Freda, Rose, Fred, Regina. Another generation, with full BMD info.
  • 16 of their 17 grandchildren. Yet another generation.
My paternal great-grandma probably knew 6 generations, more than anyone else on either side of the family, because she lived to be nearly 100.
Tillie Jacobs (185_-1952) married Meyer Elias Mahler (1861-1910). Meyer died young, but Tillie's long life allowed her to be at the weddings of her grandchildren and to meet her great-grandchildren, as indicated in her obit above:
  • Her grandparents, parents, and siblings. She was the daughter of Rachel Shuham Jacobs (184_-1915) and Jonah (Julius) Jacobs. Did she meet Rachel or Jonah's parents (whose dates I don't know)? Very likely, because both Rachel and Tillie married quite young. Counting her generation and her parents and grandparents, that's 3 generations.
  • Her 8 children: Henrietta (hi Grandma!), David, Morris, Sarah, Wolf (who died very young), Ida, Dora, Mary. Full BMD info on all, another generation.
  • Her grandchildren and great-grandkids. Two more generations. Lucky Tillie to be surrounded by her family.
My husband's maternal grandfather lived into his 90s and met many of his ancestors and descendants.
Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) was married to Floyda Mabel Steiner (1878-1948). Brice knew 6 generations:
  • His grandparents, parents, and siblings. Brice's paternal grandparents were Benjamin McClure (1812-1896) and Sarah Denning (1811-1888). Brice's maternal grandparents were Brice S. Larimer (1819-1906) and Lucy E. Bentley (1826-1900). He knew both sides. His parents were William Madison McClure (1849-1887) and Margaret Jane Larimer (1859-1913). Counting Brice's siblings, this makes 3 generations.
  • His daughter. Brice and Floyda had one child, Marian Jane McClure (1909-1983). One generation.
  • His grandchildren and grandchildren. Brice and Floyda had three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren (all still living). Brice met all the grands and three of these great-grands. Two more generations counted.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

My Close-Knit Mahler Family in the 1920s

My maternal grandmother's Mahler family was incredibly close-knit. They helped each other out and they lived near each other, often in the same apartment building.

At left, the 1924 New York City Voter's List* showing voters in a now-gone apartment building, 2347 Morris Avenue in the Bronx. Seven of my Mahler family and in-laws were then living in that apartment building.

Joseph A. Markell is on top in this excerpt of the 1924 voter's list, with his wife Mary Mahler Markell shown about halfway down the list. (Mary was the youngest of my Grandma Henrietta's sisters.)

Directly below Joseph's name is Morris Mahler, the brother of Mary and Henrietta. A handful of names below Morris is his brother-in-law, Louis Volk. Louis was married to another Mahler sibling--Ida Mahler Volk, whose name appears on the voters' list a little further down from her husband Louis.

Finally, Dora L. Mahler is at bottom of this excerpt from the list. She's another sister of Morris, Mary, Ida, and Henrietta. Four siblings plus two spouses in one apartment building.

Not shown on this voter list is Tillie Jacobs Mahler, the matriarch of the family, who also lived at 2347 Morris Avenue at the time. Widowed in 1910 when Meyer Elias Mahler died, she stayed with one or more of her children from then on--living with Morris in 1925. But apparently she didn't register to vote, even though women now had the right! (This was a Presidential election year...Calvin Coolidge easily won.)

In the 1925 NY Census, however, the Markell family had moved to a different apartment building. But not very far. The map shows 2347 Morris Ave. at left, and the dotted line shows the quarter-mile walk to 2400 Valentine Ave.

My Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk lived with her husband and children in an apartment in Jewish Harlem at the time of the 1925 NY Census. A few buildings away lived her sister Sarah Mahler Smith and Sarah's husband, Samuel, and their family. So although these two sisters lived about 8 miles away from the other siblings, they could hop a subway and be together within an hour.

Nowhere in the area: The oldest Mahler sibling, David Mahler, was a bit of a black sheep and had left New York before 1920.

*Thank you to Reclaim the Records for obtaining and posting the 1924 New York Voters' List! UPDATE: The Reclaim folks, on Twitter, reminded me that I can go ahead and request a copy of an original 1924 voter's registration form for anyone on this list. Scroll down on the Reclaim page in this link to find out more about requesting these forms, which will cost about $15 each. If I need to know the year/court of naturalization for any immigrant ancestors who registered to vote in NY, the form will very likely tell me that.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Puzzling Out My Family's Colorful Past

Doesn't genealogy feel like a puzzle? With thousands of pieces and no picture on the box as a guide?!

For this week's #52 Ancestors challenge, I was thinking about all the colorful characters who inhabit my family tree and the branches of my husband's family tree.

Then I looked at the puzzle my family is currently assembling, showing colorful doors of Montreal. Doors of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Just like a family tree, with ancestors of all types.

I never know which clue will enable me to complete a door and, if I'm lucky, get a glimpse into an ancestor's hopes and heartaches, dreams and dreads.

Birth-marriage-death dates are a great start, but I really want to get a sense of the things that make someone unique and individual--colorful in his or her own way.

Even someone whose life seems humdrum on the surface has drama waiting to be discovered. Like my immigrant grandma who threw the engagement ring out the window when she rejected an arranged marriage. Like my husband's great-great-grandpa who became a pioneer. They didn't know they were colorful...but we do!

So many ancestors are waiting to get pieced together as I puzzle out the colorful past behind my family tree and my husband's family tree.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Earworm Farkas Family Tree Song

Moritz Farkas, patriarch of Farkas Family Tree,
with twin granddaughters, Dorothy and Daisy 
When the Farkas Family Tree association held monthly meetings, 1930s through 1960s, members would all sing the family song, loud and strong. As a tyke, I quickly learned the melody, which is Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Why use the music from that song? My guess: It was easy for adults of ages to dredge up from memory and easy to teach to the littlest Farkas folks. Like me. It's an earworm to this day.

Here are the first stanza and chorus of the song, written by my great-aunt, Ella Farkas, a daughter of the Farkas patriarch and matriarch:
The Farkas clan has now all gathered
One and all are here
Time for all cares to be scattered
Faces bright and clear,
Jokes and puns and smiles and fun,
Are ready to begin,
The clan has gathered now!
CHORUS:
Farkas, Farkas is the password.
Sing on high that it can be heard
That we all are here and now cheer:
The Farkas Family Tree!
As the children of Moritz Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas married and had children of their own, Aunt Ella expanded the song. Eventually, she wrote two additional stanzas to include the married surnames of her Farkas sisters and the married surnames of the next generation. The final stanza concludes: A proud family tree . . . as the Farkas Clan grows on!

When a group of Farkas descendants got together a decade ago, we sang the song and recalled the fun of joining in the musical tradition during family tree meetings in our youth.

MUSIC - This week's #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Binge-Watching VGA Genealogy Webinars

During this weekend's heatwave, I binge-watched several webinars hosted by the Virtual Genealogical Association.

And truly, it was like attending a genealogy conference to see expert speakers, but without the costly travel and crowded auditoriums. (Plus I could sip homemade lemonade while I watched.)

There was a lot of wisdom on offer, and the programs were well worth the modest membership fee. Although I only had time to watch 3 of the webinars, I'll return again to view some I missed and more that are scheduled in the coming months.

  • Thomas MacEntee's "Future Trends" talk provided much food for thought about what's coming in the near and far future. A great way to consider what might be in store for the genealogy community as tech trends evolve (such as: is blockchaining for genealogy on the way?).
  • Randy Whited's DNA introduction was illustrated with excellent and informative slides. A thorough and easy-to-digest overview of genetic genealogy, with useful "third-party tools" listed in the handout. Inspired me to check out more of my DNA matches, after a brief summer hiatus.
  • Katherine R. Willson's "Voyage to America" talk reinforced my admiration for the hardships faced by my ancestors crossing the Atlantic. It also encouraged me to do a better job of analyzing which ports were used by specific individuals and families--and why they chose these particular ports.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Ancestral Travels to America

How much distance did my grandparents and great-grands cover in coming to America from their homelands in Eastern Europe? All apparently sailed in steerage, never telling descendants very much about what must have been a difficult and uncomfortable trip. None lived near a port, so their travels also included a journey by foot or wagon or train to the port where they boarded a ship to cross the Atlantic.
  • 4430 miles. Above, my maternal grandfather's "as the crow flies" route from Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhhorod, Ukraine) to New York City in 1902. Grandpa Theodore Schwartz was a teenager and the first in his family to leave for America. With his encouragement (and probably his financial help), an older brother and a younger sister also came to America. Happily, I'm in touch with their grandchildren, my 2d cousins.
  • 4460 miles. My maternal great-grandparents, Morris Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas, left for America as adults, coming separately from where they had married and lived in the area of modern-day Berehovo, Ukraine. Morris arrived first, with Leni arriving later (and their first 8 children joining them afterward in two groups). Morris missed his homeland and longed to return, but Leni wanted a better life and more opportunity for their growing family. 
  • 4200 miles. My paternal Grandma Henrietta Mahler arrived from Riga as a preteen. She sailed past the Statue of Liberty in the year it opened (1886). I'm still following up on the possibility that Henrietta was a cousin of some kind to her husband, Isaac Burk, connected through the Shuham part of their family trees. 
  • 4670 miles. My twenty-something paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk took the journey to North America in two hops. First, he left Gargzdai, Lithuania for Manchester, England. After staying with relatives and learning some English for a year or more, he sailed to Canada but got very seasick. He got off the ship at the first stop in Canada and continued to New York overland. Of all my ancestors, Isaac Burk had the longest journey from his home town to America.
Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's "Travel" prompt in her #52Ancestors series.