Saturday, January 18, 2020

Larimer and McClure Ancestors Worked on the Railroad

Hubby's Great-Great-Grandpa Brice Larimer was a "RR agent" in 1860
As readers know, I married my husband for his ancestors. There is so much to say about them! I wrote last year about my husband's long line of farmers going back many generations, and the year before I wrote about his long line of Wood ancestors stretching back to England in the 1500s (carefully researched by two genealogist cousins).

For 2020, I wanted a fresh take on "long line." As usual, hubby's family tree has a wealth of stories waiting to be told. I remembered that a number of his ancestors worked for railroads over the years. Here I look briefly at four of those ancestors, two in the Larimer family and two in the McClure family.

Larimer on the Railroad

Brice S. Larimer (1819-1906), my husband's 2d great-granddaddy, was a farmer in Elkhart county, Indiana, in 1850. He was appointed an agent for the Lake Shore Railroad in 1859, and reported that as his occupation in the 1860 Census (see excerpt above). He continued working as railroad agent for decades. He faithfully attended Larimer family reunions and was often mentioned in news stories as being the eldest there--by far. His grandson was named Brice in his memory (see below).

Brice's son, William Tyler Bentley Larimer (1849-1921) worked at the railroad depot in 1870, according to that census. After he married Elizabeth Stauffer in 1872, however, he settled down to farming in Millersburg, Elkhart cty, Indiana. William was my husband's 2d great uncle. He was named for William Tyler Bentley, an ancestor who went west during the gold rush era.

McClure on the Railroad

My husband's great-granddaddy William Madison McClure (1849-1887) reported working on the railroad in the 1880 Census, when he was 31 years old. Unfortunately, he fell ill with typhoid fever and died when only 37 years old. Thanks to a news report, I know he had arranged for life insurance, much needed by his widow who had young children to care for.

William's son, Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970), was a machinist working for the "Big Four" railroads in Wabash, Indiana, when he married Floyda Mabel Steiner in 1903. His skill as a machinist meant he was never out of work, working for railroads and later for war industries during WWII. Brice, named for Brice S. Larimer, was my husband's grandfather. Hubby has fond memories of learning to fish while visiting his cabin in the country during summers off from school.

"Long line" is #52Ancestors prompt #3 for 2020.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Comparing Ancestors with 1950 Census Statistics - for Context

When the 1950 US Census is released in April, 2022, I won't just be looking at who and where--I'll be studying all the answers provided by my ancestors and comparing them to national statistics for the period. This puts my ancestors into context. Income is a good example.

National Statistics: Median US Income in 1949

According to the above map, based on results in the 1950 Census, the median income for 1949 reported by respondents to the Census was $2,619.

The map also shows the handful of states where median income was higher than this national average--and the many states where the median income was lower than this national average.

Many of my ancestors lived in New York in 1950, so I expect that if any were asked the supplemental questions about income, they will answer with above-average earnings. My husband's ancestors were in Ohio, which as a state also shows above-average earnings.

Were My Ancestors Above or Below the Median?

Based on my mother's recollections, my father's earnings in 1949 were well above this national median. If I'm lucky, he will have answered the supplemental questions asked of 20% of the US population in 1950, so I can compare with the median figure.

A self-employed travel agent, my father's business was doing very well during the post-war period. In fact, he could barely keep up with demand for train and plane tickets. Then again, his business was based in a luxury hotel across the street from the world-famous Plaza Hotel in New York City. Well-heeled guests sought out his services to arrange itineraries for trips near and far.

Want to read more about the 1950 Census? See the summary of my series on this page.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Census Day Bounced Around, and So Did Some Ancestors

From 1950 Census of Population: Vol. 2 (

In 2020, Census Day will be April 1st. This is not April Fool!

But Census Day hasn't always been April 1st. I try to keep this in mind when looking for my ancestors in earlier Census years.
  • As shown in the excerpt above, Census Day was originally not a fixed date but taken on the first Monday in August.
  • In the mid-19th century, Census Day was changed to June 1.
  • In 1910, Census Day became April 15.
  • In 1920, Census Day became January 1.
  • Only in 1930 was Census Day fixed as April 1, where it remains.
Because my great-grandpa Meyer Mahler died in January of 1910, my great-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler was enumerated as a widow on April 15th--a vital clue I needed to find his death cert. If Census Day had been January 1, however, it would have been more difficult for me to narrow down a possible death date for him.
Focus on 1950 Census

As the excerpt indicates, two-thirds of the US population was counted by mid-April in 1950. By month's end, 90% of the population was counted.

However, "unfavorable weather conditions" in some areas delayed enumeration as late as mid-May. Finally, by the end of June, 99% of the US population was counted. I'll be sure to check the enumeration date on each ancestor's record when the 1950 Census is released in April of 2022.

From a broader perspective, the 1950 Census reflected major post-war trends in population shifts. The map above shows that four states experienced population loss. All others increased population--with the greatest growth on the West Coast, plus Florida, Virginia, and Michigan.

As I chart my ancestors' whereabouts in the 1940s to prep for the 1950 release, I need to consider how many might have moved elsewhere after World War II. There are at least a few who went west to California. Dear ancestors, you can run, but you can't hide. I hope!

For more posts about the 1950 US Census, see my summary page here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Extra Notations and Detailed Answers in 1950 US Census

 Excerpt from 1950
US Census
This is my fourth post about understanding the 1950 US Census, to be released in April, 2022. (You can see other posts on my summary page here.)

Whether enumerators for the 1950 US Census actually followed the rules set forth in the instructions, I don't yet know. But if they did, we genealogists will be glad for their extra notations and detailed answers.

Some examples:
  • If the enumerator can't get a specific, accurate age from a household respondent, he or she was instructed to "enter an estimate as the last resort, and footnote it as an estimate." Wonder whether my Great-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler told the truth about her age? She tended to fudge a year or two in either direction.
  • If the enumerator thinks an answer is not truthful, he or she should footnote it and indicate what the truthful answer might be. Wouldn't that be interesting to see on a page with my ancestors? Looking at Great-grandma Tillie, would the enumerator believe she was, say, 98? I can't wait to find out.
  • Asking about the respondent's occupation, enumerators are not to accept a general term like "agent" or "clerk" or "engineer" but must ask questions to obtain more specifics, such as "purchasing agent" or "aeronautical engineer." This would help me learn a bit more about ancestors whose work lives I know little about.
  • Enumerators were to be specific about the county in which the respondent lived a year before. This will be really valuable to me, because instructions say not to accept merely "New York City" but ask about the specific borough of the city. If my ancestors moved from, say, Brooklyn to the Bronx in 1949-50, this question may reveal the move. I'm talking about you, Great-aunt Nellie Block! 

Monday, January 13, 2020

What Future Genealogists Will Learn from the 2020 US Census

Page 1 of the 2020 Census questionnaire
Attending a presentation by local representatives of the 2020 US Census, I learned that in the year 2092, when the records are publicly released, future genealogists will be able to see some very valuable pieces of information. (You can browse the entire 2020 questionnaire here.)

Page 2 of 2020 Census

One key piece of info is the month, day, and year of birth for each person in the household, to be entered on page 2 of the Census questionnaire.

Future genealogists will be able to look for a birth cert, compare with age shown on other documents, match someone to a marriage license or other vital record, and so on--with more confidence because they will have the complete birth date, not just "age" or birth month and year.

I was surprised but interested to learn that another question (on page 1) is about whether a person in the household (1) owns the residence clear and free of a mortgage, (2) has a mortgage, or (3) is not paying rent. Clues to seeking deeds, taxes, and other records!

2020 Census questions about usual residence
and relationship to head of household
Happily for future genealogists, the 2020 Census asks specific questions about whether each person usually lives in this residence AND about exactly how each person in the household is related to the head of household (Person 1).

Look at the many answer alternatives shown in the excerpt above! 

These two questions will elicit incredibly valuable information for future genealogists. Question #2 will point toward where the person's usual residence is (such as with another relative or in the military). Question #3 will tell, with great precision, how each person is related to the head of the household--clues to filling in gaps in the family tree!

Future genealogists, there may not be many questions on the 2020 Census form, but there will be several top-quality clues to be followed up. Yes, I'm going to answer the Census as fully and completely as possible. You'll be able to find me and my family in 72 years, I promise.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

1950 US Census: "Think Like an Enumerator"

1950 US Census manual
Although the release of the 1950 US Census is more than two years away, I'm getting ready now.

My prep for this Census release includes understanding what the enumerators were instructed to do (and not do).

I'm browsing through the Urban & Rural Enumerator's Reference Manual so I can . . . "Think Like an Enumerator." (You can read the manual here.)

Enumerators were told, for example, that if no one was home at time of their visit and that household was expected to be away for some time, talk with a neighbor and record as much detail as possible. Then add the notation: "Information given by a neighbor."

Now, 72 years later, we should take such information with a grain of salt because it was not first-hand. How many neighbors can recite the proper age or birth year for anyone or everyone in my household? None. Same holds true for 1950, even though neighbors might have been living near each other for many years. But I'm happy that the Census will contain such notations to alert us to be cautious in accepting the information as factual.

Enumerator instructions on p. 10 of 1950 Census manual
Also I will be checking the pages before and after my ancestor's enumeration for members of the FAN club!

P.S.: I'm putting all of my 1950 Census blog posts into one summary page, with header found at top of my blog. The direct link is here. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Two Bracelets, Two Family Heirlooms

Daisy and Dorothy Schwartz, mid-1920s
Shown here in one of my favorite photos is Mom (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Schwartz, 1919-2001), with matching Buster Brown haircuts and lacy dropped-waist dresses.

Look very carefully at the arm of the smiling twin on the right, and you can see a dainty pearl bracelet dangling from her wrist. No doubt both girls had identical bracelets, but only Mom's survives.

It's a tiny heirloom (see the ruler to see how tiny) that will be shared with Mom's descendants, along with the treasured studio photo of the twins.

Worn by Daisy Schwartz Burk

The second bracelet heirloom is this one from the late 1950s, a piece of Mom's costume jewelry with photos on both sides--photos of her twin daughters (Sis and me).

As with the pearl bracelet, this charm bracelet will be shared with Mom's descendants, along with memories of her and her twin sister, my Auntie Dorothy.

One of my 2020 goals is to finish a booklet about Daisy and Dorothy, with lots of photos to bring them alive for future generations who never had the opportunity to know them.

"Favorite photo" is this week's #52Ancestors prompt.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Who We Are and How We're Related

List of Larimer ancestors written by Brice Larimer McClure
"I am Brice McClure, a son of Margaret Larimer McClure and Wm. McClure," begins the scrap of family history above. It was written by my husband's maternal grandfather (Brice Larimer McClure, 1878-1970) in the first half of the twentieth century.

The family treasures this scrap of paper in Brice's handwriting, listing what he was told about his Larimer family's history. It also demonstrates Brice's pride in his family's background and his hope that these ancestors would be remembered for generations to come.

Brice set a wonderful example: He told descendants (1) exactly who he was and (2) exactly how he was related to his ancestors.

I've been putting my name and the date on every family history booklet I write. Now I realize that's not enough information about me.

When I wrote my most recent booklet about my late father-in-law's musical life, I added a longer note to the title page:
"Written by Marian Burk Wood, daughter-in-law of Edgar James Wood, in December, 2019."
In a decade or two, when some descendant pulls this dusty booklet off the shelf, he or she will see both my name and my relationship to this ancestor.

Although I could add even more info to explain how I fit into the family, I want to keep things simple and leave the spotlight on the featured ancestor in my booklet.

Now future generations will at least know my name, my relationship to the ancestor I'm writing about, and when I prepared the booklet.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Fresh Start: New York's Cafe Monopol

The entrepreneurial Roth family, cousins to my Hungarian-born great-grandpa Moritz Farkas, sought a fresh start after leaving Hungary for opportunities in New York City at the turn of the 20th century.

Cafe Monopol on Second Avenue in NYC

Peter Roth (1872-1956) and his brother-in-law Peter Stern, with two other partners, owned and operated the Viennese-style restaurant Cafe Monopol at 145 Second Avenue in Manhattan.
They paid $5 to organize as a corporation in 1913 (shown at left).

Peter and his wife had put in $10,000 in funding during the previous year, according to incorporation documents. The incorporation process probably formalized family shares in the restaurant corporation.

Peter had headed the Cafe Monopol since at least 1910. That's the year he told the US Census he was the "keeper" of this restaurant, which was also listed in the 1910 New York city directory. He learned the business from the ground up, listing "waiter" as his occupation in the 1900 Census (when he lived only a few blocks from his future business).

I just found an ad for Cafe Monopol on November 21, 1908, saying "Hungarian music, Vienna Restaurant" at the 2d Avenue address. And other early ads in New York Evening Telegram for the Cafe Monopol said it featured "a concert every evening." The place must have been hopping at dinnertime!

A Cafe Monopol in Berlin and Another in New York

Reading the 2018 book, A Rich Brew: How Cafes Created Modern Jewish Culture by Shachar M. Pinsker, I was pleased to find the Roths' Cafe Monopol in New York briefly mentioned (p. 228). Much more space was devoted to the far better-known Cafe Monopol in Berlin, then a gathering place for Zionists (see pages 167+ of the book). Surely my Roth ancestors from Hungary would have been aware of the Berlin cafe's fame when naming their New York cafe.

In New York City, the entire Second Avenue neighborhood around Cafe Monopol was home to a rich brew of Jewish culture, including the Yiddish Art Theatre and the National Theatre. In the 1940s, a cousin of my Roth and Farkas ancestors acted in New York's Yiddish theater for a time!

A Star's Fresh Start at the Cafe Monopol

I just found out that a really big star got her fresh start at the Cafe Monopol more than a century ago.

Sonya Kalish, the star's original name, was a baby when her family settled in Hartford, CT after leaving Tulchin, Ukraine. She married Louis Tuck and was known as Sophie Tuck.

But Sophie was eager to sing, and so she took herself off to New York City to break into show business. Her money was running out when she approached the proprietor of Cafe Monopol and offered to (literally) sing for her supper.

When he asked her name, she made up a variation of her married name on the spot: Sophie Tucker. 

That's how Sonya Kalish became Sophie Tucker ("The last of the red-hot mamas"), and got a fresh start at the Cafe Monopol on Second Avenue in New York City!

(My sources: Sophie's biography, "Some of These Days," and the Museum of the City of New York.)


Many thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this first #52Ancestors prompt of 2020.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy Family History New Year 2020

This pretty postal card was sent to my husband's uncle more than a century ago.

Let me wish you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy new year! It's a perfect time of year to share your own memories of holiday traditions as part of family history. (Actually, it's always the right time to share family history.)

I've reached a new blogging milestone: Never have I posted more entries than in 2019. Looking forward to more blogging in 2020, including Amy Johnson Crow's new #52Ancestors prompts.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Thank YOU to My Ancestors and Cousins

Ancestor collage - his & her family tree
In this last #52Ancestors post of 2019, I want to say a big thank YOU to my ancestors and their descendants.

Dear ancestors, if not for your courage, sacrifices, hopes, and dreams, I would not be here. I would not be discovering and saving your stories for future generations to know.

I've come to deeply appreciate the heritage you bequeathed to me, not to mention the strength and determination you showed in the lives you led.

It is my privilege and pleasure to get to know more about you, dear ancestors, through ongoing genealogical research. And to share your history with descendants near and far!

Dear cousins, my life has been truly enriched by being in touch with each and every one of you. Thank you so much!

To all of YOU, ancestors and descendants, I dedicate this post with sincere and heartfelt gratitude.


Amy Johnson Crow, thank you for another fun and rewarding year of #52Ancestors prompts. She just announced the entire year of 2020 prompts!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Holiday Wishes from Last Century

One hundred years ago, my husband's uncles in Cleveland, Ohio received these delightful Christmas postal cards from relatives.

Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season!

Monday, December 23, 2019

What Did Ancestors Say in 1950 US Census?

Question #33 on 1950 Census
I vividly remember the morning of April 2, 2012, when the 1940 US Census was released to the public. Although volunteers were racing to index the names as quickly as possible, no name search was available for several weeks.

To start, the only way to find ancestors in 1940 records was by address. Specifically, by scrolling through page by page of Census records in various Enumeration Districts (EDs). It was slow but also exciting when I finally found the handwritten entries for ancestors in my tree and my husband's tree!

The 1950 Census has lots of questions that will fill in gaps in genealogy for us all. No wonder I can hardly wait for the release of these records in April of 2022. Here are a few specifics I'm really curious about.

What About Women in the Military?

Excerpt from 1950 Enumerator Instructions
I'll be interested to see how the enumerator handled my aunt's WWII military service (she was a WAC). As shown at top, question #33 indicates that males over age 14 are to be asked about their military service. At left, instructions to enumerators reiterates that "each male 14 years old and over" be asked about military service.

I guess the Census officials never heard of WACs, WAVES, or WASPs. Not to mention SPARs, women Marines, female military nurses, and . . . and . . . more than 300,000 women who were actively serving in WWII.

Will there be an answer shown on my aunt's line in the Census? Knowing her pride in having served, she would certainly want to answer. She would even insist on answering! But will the enumerator have put a check mark in one of the boxes for her line? That's a mystery until April of 2022.

How Much Money Did They Make?
Question #31 on 1950 Census

My mother used to say that 1950 was a peak year for my father's income as a self-employed travel agent. She named a dollar figure too.

Well, the 1950 Census asks how much money each person earned in 1949. See the excerpt from the Census questionnaire here.

I can't wait to see what the enumerator was told about how much Dad earned "in his own business," as the question is phrased. BTW, enumerators were instructed to write $10,000+ if the income was above 10 grand per year. That was a good deal of money back in the day!

And I'll see how much money other relatives made during 1949, a year that was, I now understand, not a time of growth but actually a recessionary period. (Genealogy has made me intensely interested in the historical context of my ancestors!)

Prepping for 1950: Addresses and Priorities

Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub have written a primer on prepping for the 1950 Census release, following the same general guidelines as for the 1940 Census.

If you are lucky enough to know the exact street address of an ancestor in 1950, you can easily find the Enumeration District via Morse's One-Step Page. If you don't know the address, Morse recommends checking old city directories, family address books, and other sources. Then use his one-step links to get the ED.

Until the 1950 Census is indexed (I bet it will be done faster than in 2012), my plan is to prioritize who to find first. I'll create a simple list of people and the address where I think or know each is likely to be found.

And of course, I'll use the Census to examine or update the FAN club--friends, associates, neighbors--of my ancestors. This is a great opportunity to look more closely at "family friends" who may turn out to be cousins or closer, in reality.

Back to the future in 2022!

P.S.: I'm gathering all my 1950 US Census posts into one summary page, shown at top of this blog header. Here's a direct link.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Window into Postwar America: 1950 US Census

It's not even 2020, and I can barely contain my excitement for April of 2022. That's when the 1950 U.S. Census will be released--an important window into the demographics of postwar America.

And of course a really important source of information for genealogists!

This is the first Census that will show my mother and father together as a married couple. Three of my four grandparents were still alive, and one of my great-grandparents. Not to mention a plethora of aunts, uncles, cousins and possible cousins that I'll be able to research in greater depth.

What Questions Were Asked?

The 1950 census form was highly detailed. Everyone in the household was listed by name and relationship to head of household. Race, sex, marital status, age, where born, whether naturalized. If I don't already have someone's naturalization papers, this will be a clue to go looking!

Below, a set of questions asked of people aged 14 and older. Working? Looking for Work? Number of hours worked? Type of work and industry? Private worker, government worker, or without pay on family farm/biz?

For all people at each address, there were lots of questions about "where" -- where were they living a year ago, by county and state or foreign country. And what country were his/her mom and dad born in?! A double-check on birthplaces--fabulous clues! Where living a year ago--I'll be able to look for city directories in those places.

Also asked were detailed questions about income and military service--with check boxes to indicate a person's service in WWI, WWII, or another military action. This will give me more clues to follow up for my family's military service.

All About the Census, 1790-2000

Download free from this link 
As part of my research for a new presentation, I downloaded the U.S. government's very useful free booklet explaining all the questions asked in each Census through 2000.

The booklet, Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses from 1790 to 2000, can be downloaded for free in pdf format from this link.

Importantly, this booklet shows the questions/forms plus the instructions given to enumerators for each census.

Now I know why some of my ancestors were listed specifically as "cloakmakers" in the 1900 Census, for instance (see excerpt from enumeration instructions, below). Is it any wonder I'm so excited about the 1950 Census?

Excerpt from 1900 enumerators' instructions
PS: I'm gathering all my 1950 Census posts into a single summary page, shown on the header at top of this blog. You can visit the page via this link.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Looking Back on 2019 and Ahead to 2020

It's time for a look back at this year's genealogical progress and a look ahead at my genealogical FUTURE (#52Ancestors style).

At the start of 2019, my genealogy goals were to connect with more cousins, network with other family-history researchers, continue my genealogy education, develop additional presentations, follow up on DNA clues to ancestors, and write new family-history booklets.

So how much genealogical progress have I made this year? A lot, even as I look ahead to the FUTURE:
  • Through a DNA match, I connected with a paternal 2d cousin in Canada and shared 1940s photos of his grandfather! At least eight other solid DNA matches haven't responded to my outreach efforts, but I'll try again soon (FUTURE). I've also asked several more cousins to consider testing...and I hope they will agree. It's not an easy sell these days, with people concerned about privacy and what happens to their DNA results. 
  • Presenting lectures at the inaugural Family Tree Live in London gave me a chance to meet really lovely genealogy folks I previously knew only through social media. I came home with great tips about UK genealogy research, wonderful memories of a rewarding conference, and new genie friends. 
  • Participating in Twitter chats like #AncestryHour (2 pm EST on Tuesdays) and #GenChat (10 pm EST on alternate Fridays) has been fun as well as highly educational. I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve as a "guest expert" during a #GenChat in 2020 (FUTURE)! 
  • "Attending" the virtual conference of the Virtual Genealogical Association in November triggered lots of new ideas. I've also found their webinars both practical and informative (with great handouts). I'm excited about presenting a webinar for the VGA in November, 2020 (FUTURE)!
  • I created or heavily revised several presentations, including a new "intermediate" talk on cousin bait, a revised "all levels" talk on curating family-history materials, and a new "beginners" talk on US/state censuses (with a 1950 preview). In addition, I'm starting to develop a talk about Northeastern ancestors catching Ohio Fever (FUTURE) and a full talk about prepping for the 1950 Census. My 2020 speaking schedule has several programs booked, with return dates held for other groups (FUTURE).
  • Through more than 135 blog posts, I wrote about ancestors and discussed new-to-me resources and methodologies. Again in 2019, I participated in Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors genealogy prompt challenge, and was truly honored that she highlighted several of my posts in her recap emails. Blogging is fun, a first draft of family history, and excellent cousin bait. More blogging is in my FUTURE!
Not originally planned but done! I completed a booklet about three of my husband's ancestors (Denning, Larimer, McClure) who, caught up in Ohio Fever, became pioneers on the frontier along the Ohio River. This booklet began as a series of blog posts--a rough draft of family history that I  enhanced with more historical context and personal specifics of each ancestor's life.

Not originally planned but done! I also finished an 11-page illustrated booklet about the musical life of my late Dad-in-law, Edgar James Wood. It's going to descendants, along with his "fake book" of musical standards. I wrote the story behind his learning to play piano, playing with college jazz bands in the Roaring Twenties, and playing nights and weekends as a professional musician when his day job was insurance adjustor.

Planned but not done! For the past year, I've been slowly gathering photos, documents, and info to write a booklet about my Mom (Daisy Schwartz Burk) and her twin sister (Dorothy Helen Schwartz). My Sis says she will do this with me in 2020. Thanks, Sis, I really appreciate the help in the FUTURE.

FUTURE: I plan to update and revise my genealogy book, the Kindle best-selling Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. Lots to look forward to in 2020!

Now there's only one more prompt to go in Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors series for 2019.