Thursday, July 2, 2020

For Kids of All Ages: Family History Coloring Book

Family history coloring book created for a young relative
With the pandemic keeping me close to home, I had time this week to follow the easy how-to instructions in Lisa Alzo's excellent article in Family Tree Magazine about creating a genealogy coloring book.

I quickly got hooked and wound up creating not one but two family history coloring books. One is for a preschooler on my side of the family and the other is for a kindergartener on my husband's side.

Each "book" consists of about a dozen pages printed on sturdy paper. Each page features an ancestor, a married couple, or a family from our family's past. The pages are held together in a report binder, easily removed for coloring.

I used the "pencil sketch" tool in my image software, as Lisa suggests, to create a black-and-white version of each old photo (see left).

I captioned each photo in large lettering, using full names and relationships. Moritz Farkas, shown here, is the great-great-great-grandpa of the youngster who gets this coloring book. On the cover is a pencil sketch of myself (aka Auntie M) and my hubby cuddling the cutie-pie who will color these pages.

My hope is that coloring the people, clothing, and backgrounds will make the names and faces more familiar to this youngest generation. And maybe while coloring, the kids will ask a question or listen to a story or two about our family's history.

To encourage the parents to actually let the children scribble (ooops, I mean color) each page, I'm sending the coloring book file electronically as well as mailing a printed version. Then parents can reprint a page or the entire coloring book whenever they wish.

Maybe this will wind up to be a multi-generational arts project?! It's certainly an easy way to make family history fun for all ages.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Census Comments Illuminate Elizabeth Everitt's Life

1850 Census showing Abel Everitt, Elizabeth Everitt, and their children in Fairfield cty, OH
Sometimes I find specific insights about my husband's family in those mid-19th century US Census columns to the right of name, age, sex, occupation. These columns ask questions about reading, writing, and health condition, among other topics.

Prior to 1850, the Census listed the names of only heads of household, not all individuals living in the household. So I pay especially close attention to Census details recorded in 1850 and later, seeking new clues to our ancestors' lives. Also, I like Census records of 1850 and later because these are usually where I can find women listed by name, even if not heads of household.

In this case, I was researching the Everitt/Everett family, which intermarried with my husband's Larimer and Work families in the Pennsylvania and Ohio pioneer towns of the 1800s.

Above, the 1850 US Census for Abel Everitt, his wife Elizabeth Larimer Everitt, and their family, located in Auburn township, Fairfield county, Ohio. They had an 18-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Everitt, born in 1832 (she's the 5th line from top).

I was saddened when I saw the one word at the far right about her condition: INSANE.

In the 1860 Census, I found her in her father's household, at age 28 (her mom died in 1859). This time, the notation about her condition read: IDIOTIC - SCARLET FEVER.

In the 1870 Census, she is still in her father's household, now 38 years old. Here, the notation about her condition reads: IDIOTIC.

Then Elizabeth's father died in 1880, only weeks before that year's Census was taken. Still, I found Elizabeth in the 1880 household of her widowed stepmom, along with a servant (which the household had never before had). Elizabeth was then 47, with a mark in the column for IDIOTIC.

What became of Elizabeth Everitt after 1880? I've been looking for her in local cemeteries (so far, no luck anywhere in the county), and in later households of her siblings (again, no luck yet). Next, I'll check local newspapers.

Elizabeth Everitt was my husband's 1c4r. I hope to discover her fate soon. May she rest in peace.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

From BSO to Family History, Part 2

Thanks to the 1921 Czechoslovakian census (the brightest of bright shiny objects discovered during my genealogy research in 2020), I now know more about my Schwartz family in Uzhhorod (formerly known as Ungvar, Hungary).

The census includes enough information to offer a glimpse of the daily life of these ancestors and allow me to connect photos with the names on this page! In other words, this BSO added significantly to my knowledge of family history...and has led to other research possibilities.

Great-Grandpa Herman Schwartz

Great-grandpa Herman Schwartz was the father of my maternal grandfather, Theodore "Teddy" Schwartz. I know little about Herman, but the census gave me two key pieces of information.

First, Herman was shown as the official homeowner according to the 1921 census aggregation page (see previous post). He was also shown as the homeowner on this detail page listing occupants of the home at 45 Szobranci Street in Uzhhorod. See green oval at top right of the image above. This tells me Herman had enough money to own his home or inherit the home from one of his relatives.

However, Herman is NOT listed as one of the occupants of this home. In fact, his wife Hani is listed as the home owner in column 4, and reported as a widow ("vdova") in column 5.

This is the second piece of information: Now I know Herman died before the census was taken, possibly as late as March, 1921.

Great-Grandma Hani Simonowitz Schwartz

From cousin info, I was aware great-grandma Hani outlived her husband. The census says Hani was born in Tasolo, Uzhhorod, on November 20, 1858. Her nationality was Hungarian (Ungvar was part of Hungary before it became a Czechoslovakian city and much later a Ukrainian city).

She had first registered in Uzhhorod 30 years earlier, according to columns 9/10. Hani said she was "Israelit" (Jewish) and could read and write. Not surprisingly, she said she was not working in July 1914 (column 17), at the outset of World War I, most likely because she was bringing up her family.

As a 63-year-old widow, how did Hani keep the household going financially? A quick look below the green line in the census page above reveals the answer: She rented part of the house. The renters (listed as such in the census) were not Hungarian, not from Uzhhorod, not Jewish, not relatives of the Schwartz family. The rental income must have helped Hani a great deal, especially with grown children still living at home.

Three Schwartz Daughters, a Son-in-Law, and a Granddaughter

This 1921 Census included new info about three daughters of Hani and Herman--siblings of my grandpa Teddy Schwartz. There was also a surprise: Hani had a son-in-law (Ferencz Stark) and a granddaughter (Mici Stark) living in her home.
  • Paula Schwartz was born in Uzhhorod on May 19, 1898. She was unmarried at the time of the Census, of Hungarian nationality, Jewish religion, and able to read and write. She was not working in July of 1914. I'm incredibly fortunate to be in close touch with Paula's lovely granddaughter, who has memories of the Schwartz house in Uzhhorod where she, her mother, and her grandmother grew up.
  • Lenka Schwartz was born in August, 1906 in Uzhhorod. Lenka was unmarried in 1921, of Hungarian nationality, Jewish religion, and able to read and write. Like her sisters and mother, she was not working in July of 1914. Some time after this census, she married Ignatz. Below is a photo of the couple in March of 1924.
  • Lenka Schwartz, who later married Ignatz
  • Etelka Schwartz Stark was born in Uzhorrod on May 3, 1892 in Bereg (then Hungary, now Ukraine). "Etelka" was an affectionate diminutive of her name, Etel. The census shows her married to Ferencz Stark, a tailor who worked just down the street from the Schwartz house on Szobranci Street in Uzhhorod. Etel and her husband could both read and write, were both Jewish, and were the parents of Mici Stark, born in January, 1920. In July of 1914, Etel was working as a seamstress. 
Next Steps

This BSO opened up new avenues of research for my genealogy. Not only has the census enabled me to expand photo captions, it provided Etel's married name and her daughter's name so I can look for more clues.

In addition, discussions of the census triggered my cousin's memories of Blanka, a cousin of Hani, who had a son named Jeno Zeller. I have Jeno's baby picture from 1924. My cousin remembers he grew up to be a baker, came to Israel after WWII, then lived in Brooklyn for a brief time in the 1950s or 1960s before returning to Israel. Of course I'm going to be on the lookout for Jeno as I continue my research!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

From BSO to Family History, Part 1

1921 Czechoslovakian Census page - Ungvar/Uzhhorod
BSO alert! (Bright shiny object--something that attracts attention but might ultimately be a distraction.)

My maternal grandpa Theodore "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965) was born in the bustling little market city that became known as Uzhhorod, Czechoslovakia. I'm always on the lookout for sources that will help illuminate the people and places he left behind.

Learning from Other Genealogy Bloggers

Last week, genealogy blogger Lara Diamond wrote about a newly-available online resource: The 1921 Czechoslovakian Census, which included Transcarpathia, now in Ukraine. According to the Hungarian library's intro, the census took place on 1 November 1920 and 31 March 1921. This was a BSO alert for me.


Great-grandpa Herman Schwartz
Lara helpfully linked to the census, offered suggestions for how to proceed, and listed some of the column translations. In short, she gave me a head-start in diving into the census.

I didn't resist this BSO, and if you have ancestors from the same area, I encourage you to dive in, too.

By investigating this census, taken nearly 20 years after my Grandpa Teddy came to America, I hoped to find out about my great-grandfather Herman (photo at right), great-grandmother Hani, and other relatives who remained behind when Grandpa Teddy left.

Step 1: Browse Aggregation Pages

Because the census pages aren't indexed or transcribed, I needed to browse through sections, page by page, in search of my ancestors' names.

All I had to go on was that the Schwartz family lived in Ungvar/Uzhhorod. I began with the Uzhhorod city census pages aggregating the names of homeowners and the number of people reported in each household.

After an hour of browsing pages individually, I felt my heart leap as I saw a familiar name at the top of a page of homeowners: Schwarz, Herman (see snippet of page at top of this post).

If I didn't have a cousin who was born and raised in Uzhhorod, it would have taken me longer to get to step 2--finding the detailed census pages that correspond to this homeowner. Happily, my cousin could see exactly where the Schwarz family home was located, and directed me to the detailed census pages that showed our ancestors.

Step 2: Browse Census Pages by Area

Under Uzhhorod, I navigated to the files for Szobranci, the street where my Schwarz family was enumerated in the Census. (Thanks to the Hungarian library for neatly organizing the census scans into these easy-to-navigate subfolders.)

By clicking the caret at left of that section, I could browse each homeowner page, one at a time.

On pp. 112-113, there was great-grandpa Herman Schwarz's name as the homeowner of number 45.

Step 3: Translate (Yikes)

The hardest part: translating what was on the census pages to learn more. I needed to know both the printed column headings and the handwritten census entries. I blew up images on my screen, and also printed some out on paper to use a magnifying glass.
1921 Czech census headings translated

For the actual translation, I had two trusty tools. Google Translate helped me translate from Czech to English and occasionally Hungarian to English.

I also used the Family Search Czech genealogical word list for handy reference. At right is my translation of the columns.

Now you can see the wealth of detail in this census! Including the profession of each person enumerated, both in 1921 and in July, 1914, before World War I.

I created a chart to fill in the translated answers for each person enumerated in the Schwartz household. Just in case, I kept my handwritten scribbles for extra backup as I uncovered more about my Schwartz ancestors in 1921 (and before).

Cliff-hanger: What Did I Learn?

Part 2 will explain what I learned about my Schwartz family. Sorry, no spoiler alert.

This BSO was definitely worth investigating! I'm grateful to Lara Diamond for blogging about the 1921 Census.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Mid-Year Review and Preview in Pandemic Year One

Presenting a genealogy webinar from home!
Now that we're nearly halfway through the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, it's time for a mid-year review. I'm reviewing what I've accomplished in family history so far in 2020 and also previewing what I hope to accomplish before year-end.

How Did Life Change? Let Me Count the Ways...


The second quarter of this year was incredibly different from anything that came before the spread of COVID-19. Many of you, dear readers, have been having similar experiences, so you know first-hand about how life has changed.

Eat, sleep, genealogy, repeat!
Wearing a mask outside. Keeping six feet away from others. No in-person family visits and, alas, no in-person family graduations (all virtual only). No in-person genealogy club meetings or presentations (all virtual only). By now, I'm proficient enough to make presentations via GoToWebinar, WebEx, and Zoom (wearing my colorful headset).

I am sincerely grateful that my loved ones, friends, and neighbors remain healthy and that we can help each other through these trying times, one day at a time.


Genealogy Activities, January-June 2020

Staying close to home since mid-March has given me time to learn new tools, follow and post new cousin bait, concentrate on genealogical questions of long standing, and dig deeper into records that are becoming available online. 
  • Cousin connections. Cousins from around the world have found me (and my hubby) through DNA matches, through this blog, and through my family trees. It's wonderful to be in touch with cousins, sharing info and photos to flesh out the lives of our ancestors. Family stories often have at least a kernel of truth that can suggest new research possibilities and ultimately contribute to a better understanding of lives and relationships.
  • Discoveries in photos and letters. I've been going through my old photos and sharing with cousins. Just this month, we confirmed ancestor relationships with photos we pooled and I enhanced. My paternal first cousin has been kind enough to share newly-found letters and photos between our UK cousins and our paternal grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk, sparking fascinating talks about memories and more.
  • Military service. This spring, I dug deeper into ancestors' military service (especially WWI, WWII, and the Union Army). I've been commemorating them on war memorial sites, in cemetery records, on my blog, on family trees, and in written family histories.
  • 1950 and 2020 Census. After studying the enumerator instructions and questionnaire for the 1950 Census, I wrote extensively about the details we'll see when this census is released in April, 2022. Also, I blogged about the "Census doodle" I wrote on the printed 2020 Census. With luck, descendants in 2092 will see my message ;)
  • Documenting heirlooms. I'm photographing heirlooms and writing their stories so future generations will know what has been passed down and why these items are significant. Not every item is an heirloom, but items I want to be remembered are getting this special treatment.
  • Czechoslovakian census. Thanks to Lara Diamond's post, I found my maternal Schwartz great-grandparents in Ungvar, enumerated in the Czechoslovakian Census of 1921! Living in their household were daughters Paula, Lenka, and Etelka, plus relatives of great-grandpa and more. The census has birth month/year, birthplace, and more. I'll be blogging about this exciting discovery very shortly. 
  • Presentations and Twitter chats. From February to June, I made seven genealogy presentations (three in person, four via webinar). I was honored to be the guest expert for two #Genchats in February about "apres vous"--what happens to your family history after you join your ancestors.
 Genealogy Plans, July-December 2020

The second half of 2020 will be as busy as the first. If I'm lucky, there will be BSOs (bright shiny objects) that pop up as a fun genealogical diversion. My plan is to work on the following:
  • "Daisy and Dorothy" booklet. My mother was Daisy Schwartz Burk (1909-1981) and her twin sister was Dorothy Schwartz (1909-2001). It's not easy writing about people that Sis and I knew so well for so long, and this project has dragged on for a LONG time as I add photos and notes to write about their lives. The goal is to give descendants insights and tell stories to bring the Schwartz twins alive as people.
  • DNA and cousin bait. I'm color-coding my known DNA matches according to common ancestor (Farkas matches would be one color, Schwartz matches another color, etc.) This will help me analyze unknown DNA matches and see how we might be related. Also, I'm continuing to post photos of ancestors on multiple genealogy sites as cousin bait, and contacting people who posted photos I've never seen of my ancestors and their extended families.
  • Captioning old photos. Relatives have been kind enough to help with identification and context of many old photos. For instance, my 2d cousin recognized the people standing next to our great aunt Nellie Block in a photo, and the home where they were photographed. Because of who was in the picture and who was missing, she said the photo had to be taken during World War II. Now, with better enhancement to sharpen faces and remove scratches, I expect to identify more people and places in the near future!
  • Improve sources. Some ancestors in my trees have only limited sources attached, because dates and places were "known to the family." Where possible, I want to attach and improve sources, giving my trees added credibility.
  • New presentations. I'm about to begin preparing my new presentation, "Family Tree Secrets: Reveal or Conceal?" about dealing with unexpected genealogy discoveries within the framework of privacy, ethics, and family attitudes. After that, I'll be prepping "Did Your Northeastern Ancestors Catch Ohio Fever?" (historical context to ancestors who moved near the Ohio River after the American Revolution), followed by developing "Get Ready for the 1950 Census Release!" (lots of great info is in our future as of April, 2022, when this release is scheduled--but you need to know how to search and what clues to look for).
--

Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors prompt for week 26 is "middle."

Monday, June 22, 2020

A Tale of Two Sisters

Comparing photos from my cousins' collections with photos from my family
I've been collaborating with cousins on my father's side of the family to compare photos of Hinda Mitav Chazan with Necke Gelle Mitav? Shuham.

This is, we believe, a tale of two sisters.

Hinda and Isaac Left Lithuania

Three of the above photos come from the collection of my UK/South African cousins. They can positively identify their grandma Hinda in the two left-hand photos. Hinda (1864-1940) married Isaac Chazan (1863-1921) in Lithuania and moved with him to Manchester, England, around early 1888. The couple settled in Manchester and there raised their family.

These same cousins, descendants of Hinda, also have the photo of a seated man and woman, at far right above. According to family lore, this shows Hinda's sister who remained in Lithuania, with her husband. My cousins remember hearing this story and seeing the photo in a place of honor.

Necke and Solomon Stayed in Lithuania

The photo in the center features, we think, Necke Gelle, my paternal great-grandma, mother of my paternal grandpa Isaac Burk. Necke's maiden name is shown as Shuham on Isaac's Social Security application.

There are two similar versions of this photo. I have one, and one is owned by another cousin who descends from Isaac's brother, Meyer Berg. No identifications are on any of the Necke photos, but having similar photos inherited by two Burk/Berg cousins strengthens the case that this is the ancestral family in Lithuania.

Another reason to believe this is Necke: The man in the center photo and, older in the right photo, is unquestionably my father's ancestor. Dad's face and this ancestor's face are eerily similar. Dad's first cousins also resembled this man quite closely.

I'm identifying the gentleman as Solomon Elias (or Eliyash) Birck. He and Necke remained in Lithuania when six of their children left for North America around the turn of the 20th century.

Strong Similarities, Strong Family Ties

After studying these four photos, we cousins agree that Hinda (both younger and older) looks uncannily like Necke (both younger and older). Look at the faces circled in the photos and you'll see what my cousins and I saw! Eyes, nose, ears, shape of face, there are lots of similarities between the woman in the orange circle and the woman in the purple circle. Sisters or half-sisters, they are closely related.

Why Necke remained in Lithuania while Hinda left for a new life in England, we'll never know. We do know that Hinda and her husband Isaac welcomed Necke's two sons Isaac and Abraham to stay with them as they journeyed from Lithuania to England and then onward across the Atlantic. My grandpa Isaac ultimately went to New York City, and my great uncle Abraham Berk settled in Montreal.

Happily for us, we have photos, letters, and family stories demonstrating that Hinda and Necke's descendants remained in touch over the years even though the sisters were separated for the rest of their lives.

As a result of this tale of two sisters, I am now describing myself as the second cousin, once removed, of the descendants of Hinda who so kindly shared the photos above.

And yes, there are centimorgans linking our families!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Remembering Fathers in Our Family Trees

Brice Larimer McClure (left), Edgar James Wood (right)
Today is Father's Day! To celebrate, I'm remembering the fathers and grandfathers in my husband's family tree and in my family tree.

Hubby's Father and Grandfathers

James Edgar Wood
At top: Edgar James Wood (1903-1986), my hubby's father, very much enjoyed the company of his father-in-law, Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). They got along well and after Brice was widowed, he was included in Wood family dinners nearly every weekend and for every holiday.

I'm grateful to Brice, my husband's maternal grandfather, because he made notes of names and dates in the family tree--giving me a head-start on my genealogy research.

My husband's paternal grandfather was James Edgar Wood (1871-1939), a carpenter and home builder who came from a long, long line of carpenters. His father had been a carpenter and a coach-builder with the railroad. None of James's sons took up carpentry--all became white-collar professionals.

My Father and Grandfathers


Harold Burk
My Dad was Harold Burk (1909-1978). He was on his way to becoming a travel agent when World War II interrupted his plans.

Enlisting in the US Army, he was stationed in Europe and returned home in October of 1945, after the war ended.

Back in civilian life, Dad settled down with my Mom and pursued his dream of being a travel agent. He quickly opened his own travel agency in the lobby of New York City's swanky Savoy Plaza Hotel, and remained there until the hotel was torn down.

Harold's father, my paternal grandfather, was Isaac Burk (1881-1943). At the very start of the 20th century, Isaac and five of his siblings left their home in Gargzdai, Lithuania, making their way to new lives in North America.

Isaac Burk
Isaac and his older brother Abraham were both trained cabinetmakers. Unfortunately, Isaac died of a heart attack while his two sons were serving abroad in World War II. It was my quest for Isaac's death date, place, and cert that started me in genealogy some 22 years ago. That was my very first blog post in August of 2008.

Theodore Schwartz

My maternal grandfather was Theodore "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965). He left his bustling home town of Ungvar, Hungary to settle in New York City early in the 1900s. He worked as an agent for steamship lines and other jobs before marrying and beginning a family.

At that point, Teddy opened his own dairy store in the South Bronx. That store is one reason the family weathered the Great Depression fairly well (except for the day Teddy's store was robbed).

In the wake of the Depression and WWII, Teddy was a great admirer of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. I recall seeing a newspaper photo of FDR pinned up in the apartment for many years.

Remembering these fathers and grandfathers with love and keeping their memory alive on this Father's Day of 2020.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Who's Hidden in That Tintype?

Mystery tintype, before
and after enhancing
My first adventure in mystery photo land has turned up an unexpected discovery!

This adventure combined the sharpening power of the new MyHeritage.com photo enhancement tool with the cleanup and lightening capabilities of Restore software from Vivid-Pix.

Scanning and Cleaning Up The Tintype

It all started with a dark tintype, which I inherited without any frame or identification. I despaired of getting anything from it, and had never even tried to scan it.

Yesterday, I scanned it at high resolution (with my trusty CanoScan 8400F flatbed). Top right is the result. At this point, I could see the shadow of a seated woman and a standing man in a bowler hat. Of course I had to continue!

My next step was to lighten the scan slightly with my Picasa image management software (alas, no longer offered by or supported by Google). More of the people could be seen. I was feeling encouraged to continue with an even more powerful tool.

Vivid-Pix and My Heritage to the Rescue

The image was still so badly degraded that the faces were not visible. So I put the digital image through Restore by Vivid-Pix.

Restore gave me 9 possible images from which to choose when it fixed the image. I chose the one in which the people were most delineated. After a bit of tinkering with the software's tools, I could definitely see where a frame used to be over the tintype, and more of the faces. That's the bottom image above.

Finally, I imported the fixed image into MyHeritage's photo enhancement tool. The result was much clearer faces and clothing. The tintype had been rescued!

Comparing Known Faces for Identification

Look at the man's face--long and lean, with ears sticking out a bit. The woman's face has distinctive eyes and eyebrows. I had a suspicion now.

I uploaded to MyHeritage two photos of my paternal grandparents, Henrietta Mahler (below left, just before their marriage) and Isaac Burk (below right, 25 years after their marriage).

After sharpening their facial features, and comparing with the super-enhanced scanned tintype, I found myself unexpectedly staring into the younger faces of my grandparents, probably around the time of their marriage, pre-1910. That's my best guess on identification.

Wow. Very unexpected to be able to finally tease out recognizable faces from this degraded tintype, well more than a century old. For me, it's also a great demonstration of how combining new tech tools can help my genealogy efforts.




This week's prompt from #52Ancestors is  "unexpected." We're already at week 25, nearly halfway through the year of Amy Johnson Crow's genealogy prompts.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Sharpening the Focus on Mystery Faces

1915 photo of Schwartz siblings, enhanced via MyHeritage.com


The recent announcement that MyHeritage.com is offering a new photo enhancement tool gave me an idea.

After testing photo enhancement on some century-old family photos, I realized that sharper faces will help me with my mystery photos.

Known Faces in Focus

As shown above, the MyHeritage tool not only sharpens faces, but also provides small vignettes of each person in the photo. The features are much clearer!

These are my Schwartz great aunts and a great uncle in Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhhorod, Ukraine), siblings of my maternal grandpa Theodore "Teddy" Schwartz.

Mystery Faces in Focus

My next step is to dig through the "mystery ancestor" box for my Schwartz line* and upload photos to MyHeritage. After I've used the photo enhancement tool, those mystery faces should be much clearer and distinct!

By comparing enhanced faces of mystery ancestors with enhanced faces of known ancestors, I hope to more confidently identify people as being in a particular branch of my family tree. At the very least, I can write a caption explaining a tentative identification for the sake of future generations.

Let's see what happens as I get some mystery faces in focus!

* I've sorted my mystery photos into "best guess" families, with possible ancestors of my mother's family separate from possible ancestors of my father's family. Also I've separated mystery ancestors from my husband's family tree, to avoid having the mystery photos mixed up in the distant future when I someday join my ancestors. This is a tip from my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Sifting Through Hints for Cousin Bait

Use surname filtering to focus on cousin bait

If you're looking for cousin bait, you have to focus your attention on the most productive possibilities when sifting through family-tree hints on Ancestry.

At left, the hint summary for my husband's family tree on Ancestry. There are 3,200 people on this tree, so it's not surprising that I have so many total hints.

Stories and photos are often very good cousin bait, especially if you filter the hints by surname as you focus on specific ancestral lines. Then you can look at the contributor's profile and tree (if public) to see how he or she fits into your family tree. (I'm not going to talk about DNA or ThruLines in this post--topics for another time!)

Stories as Cousin Bait

In this case, I looked at all 21 of the "stories" to see what they are, who posted them, and how many were personal vs. transcribed documents or records. Most could be seen without downloading any files (which I won't do unless I know the person, just in case).

Many of the stories were summaries of family histories with footnotes leading to county histories or other books. Two were transcriptions of will/probate materials for distant ancestors. All useful in my research, but not specifically cousin bait, although of course I checked to see how the contributors might fit into the family tree.

A good number of these 21 stories were transcriptions of oral history from someone who actually knew one of my husband's ancestors! Great cousin bait. I've now invited that contributor to see my public family tree, and he has invited me to see his public family tree. There is a distant cousin connection here, and the oral history posted as stories served as effective cousin bait to reel me in.

Photos as Cousin Bait

Ineffective as cousin bait
My favorite cousin bait (to leave as bait or to follow as bait) is a personal photo of an ancestor.

With 627 photo hints to sift through, I narrowed the focus by specifying a particular surname for searching photo hints.

Within the photo hints for McClure were dozens of flags, patriotic images, DNA symbols, and other non-personal images.

These are NOT effective cousin bait. Folks like to use such images to tag certain categories of ancestors, but they don't work well for cousin bait.

On the other hand, the photo shown below is top-notch cousin bait I discovered when searching photo hints for Larimer, another of my husband's ancestral surnames.

Effective cousin bait: A personal photo with a title
Not only is it a real photo, it has a title that indicates who and what the photo is about (I masked some info for privacy). I've confirmed that the person who posted the photo is actually a cousin. He has meticulously researched his branch of the tree and we are now guests on each other's family trees, sharing info about the Larimer line.

For all the other record hints, I will filter by surname and work down the list. I don't generally check family tree hints this way, by the way. Instead, I look at them when I'm researching a particular ancestor.

Have fun with #CousinBait! 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Tricking the Search System into Finding Thomas and Mary

Thomas H. Wood and son Alfred, son Charles, son Frank, daughter Jane
in the 1881 city directory for Toledo, Ohio (wife Mary isn't mentioned, grrrrr)
As I continue my Genealogy Go-Over and fill in missing details for ancestors on my husband's tree and my tree, I can't always find what I'm seeking with a simple search.

Case in point: my husband's great-grandpa, Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890), and great-grandma, Mary Amanda Demarest Wood (1831-1897). I have their US Census records for 1850, 1860, and 1870.

But even trying Ancestry, Family Search, and My Heritage, Thomas and Mary couldn't be found in the 1880 US Census via indexed search of transcribed names.

Where Are You, Wood Family?

For many years, great-grandpa Thomas and his family were at 170 South Street in Toledo. That's the address shown in the page from the 1881 Toledo city directory (see image at top). The family lived on South Street in the 1880 city directory and in earlier years.

Thomas didn't die until 1890, and his wife outlived him. They were definitely on South Street at the time of the 1880 Census. I guessed that they were not transcribed and indexed properly by any of the major genealogy sites.

Although I knew I would find Thomas and family if I searched page by page through the 1880 Census, there was a faster way to find them--a favorite search technique I learned from my friend, Toni McKeen.

Search for First Names Only

Searching by first name, birth year/location, residence
Toni suggests searching a specific database by first names, no last name, in a particular location. The key is to search for more than one name in that household. This "tricks" the search system into ignoring the last name, which was mistranscribed, and only focusing on first names.

I went to the Ancestry catalog and selected the database for the 1880 US Census. As shown in this screen shot, I then entered first name "Thomas" (no last name), included his birth year and birth state, and listed his spouse "Mary" with no last name. I inserted "Toledo, Lucas, Ohio" in the "lived in" section.

The very first result for this search showed a "Thomas Ward" born about 1809 in Massachusetts, with wife "Mary A" in Toledo. It's not "Wood" but it is a really close match. Next step, look at the image.

Correct Result, Correct the Transcription 


1880 Census entry for the Wood family, mistranscribed as Ward

As soon as I saw who was in this household, I recognized that it was, in fact, my husband's great-grandpa and family. The first names were correct, the residence on South Street matched, the birth places and occupations and children/ages were as expected in 1880.

Submitting a correction so future researchers
find Thomas and Mary Wood and family

Obviously, "Wood" looked a lot like "Ward" to all the transcribers. I submitted a correction for every member of that household (on all three genealogy websites).

Now I will review the pages before and after Thomas and Mary's Census entry in search of the FAN club, specifically any future spouses of the Wood children who were of marriage age in 1880.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

"Everything Came Intact Except for . . . "

Letter from Manchester, England to Bronx, New York, 30 Dec 1947
In 1901, my paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk (1882-1943) was en route from his hometown of Gargzdai, Lithuania to a new life in North America. He and his brother, Abraham Burk (1877-1962), stayed with their aunt Hinda Anna Mitav Chazan and her husband, Isaac Chazan in Manchester, England for a time. No doubt they were learning English and saving money for the journey across the Atlantic.

The Burk and Chazan families remained close throughout the first half of the 20th century, we know from photos exchanged and family stories, as well as memories of relatives who were youngsters when my father and uncle visited Manchester after World War II. Even after my Grandpa Isaac Burk died in 1943, the families corresponded and occasionally visited for the next decade.

Letters Handed Down for 70+ Years

Some letters written in the late 1940s from the Manchester cousins to my Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954) in the Bronx, New York, were handed down to her son, Sidney Burk (1914-1995). In turn, the letters were later handed down to my first cousin E, who has been scanning and sharing with me and with our Manchester family.

How grateful I am that these letters were actually handed down instead of being tossed. The personalities of the letter-writers really shine through! And the contemporaneous experiences of the families are helpful in understanding ancestors and their lives.

At top, an excerpt from a letter sent from the Manchester family to my Grandma on December 30, 1947. I found this letter particularly interesting because it listed the exact contents of a parcel of food sent by Grandma to the Manchester cousins. This must have been quite a large box.

And I know it was not the first food parcel sent from New York City to Manchester, because other letters mention other parcels. It adds a personal, family history dimension to the continuing food shortages experienced in England even two and a half years after WWII ended.

Reading the letter, I was impressed at how the adults made a show of opening the parcel to heighten the pleasure their young children (cousins I've now met) felt at being able to taste some highly-coveted foods after years of scarcity.

Which Foods Crossed the Pond?

In this excerpt from the letter, note that two important items did not arrive in the parcel, even though they were packed and shipped properly! Hmmm...*
"Well I think this about all the family news up to date and now I must write to you the exciting news that the food parcel sent to Sadie [Grandpa's first cousin] has arrived. It really is a most magnificent parcel and Sadie and Sol and Solly and I [Grandpa's first cousins and their spouses] made a united ceremony of opening it and the excitement and happiness grew greater and greater as we drew package after package of the, to us, most exciting things. 
"Everything came intact, except for 2 cans meat listed on the label, these were missing, but the sugar (4 lbs), cheese, 3 pieces soap, box raisins, box of tea, 2 bars chocolate, box dried milk, box dried soup, packet chewing gum, can butter, can orange juice, can oil, can Spry [vegetable shortening], can lemon juice, box cocoa, 2 boxes crackers, can pineapple were all there." 
Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "handed down."

*Wendy's comment (below) asks whether some foods (like the cans of meat) weren't allowed into the UK from other countries or whether the meat might have been pilfered. I don't know exact details from that time period, but my guess is that canned foods of all sorts would be allowed, simply because they're not fresh and not unwrapped. That leaves the possibility that the two cans of meat were pilfered. My thought is yes.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Great-Great-Grandpa Was Illiterate and Other Insights from 1870 Census

1870 US Census, Salem township, Steuben county, Indiana
Because of incorrect transcription, I had a bit of a time finding my hubby's 2nd great-grandpa Joseph W. Rinehart (1806-1888) and 2d great-grandma Margaret Shank Rinehart (1807-1873) in the 1870 US Census. It was worth the trouble because of what I learned about these ancestors of my husband.

Ohio Fever?

Born in Pennsylvania in October of 1806, Joseph seems to have been part of the "Ohio Fever" movement toward the western frontier. By 1850, he was married to Margaret and he was farming in Tod township, Crawford County, Ohio. How they met, where they married, I don't yet know.

Their oldest child was 16 in the 1850 Census, and he was born in Ohio, which implies that the family had arrived in the Buckeye State by 1834. This time-frame fits with the Ohio fever movement.

Ohio to Indiana

When I finally found Joseph and Margaret in the 1870 Census, they were no longer living in Ohio. They were living in their son Hugh Rinehart's household in Salem township, Steuben county, Indiana. That's 150 miles northwest of their previous home in Ohio.

Joseph was 64, Margaret was 63. He told the Census he was a tailor. He also said his real estate was worth $3,600, while son Hugh (a carpenter) didn't own any real estate.

1870 Insights

Then my eyes moved toward the righthand columns on the 1870 Census page. And I learned a lot more!

Literacy: Joseph Rinehart was the only person in the household unable to read or write. Every other person in the household, his wife included, was able to read and write, according to this Census.

Parents of Foreign Birth: Margaret Shank Rinehart's parents were both born outside the United States. Sadly, the Census didn't ask what country. Margaret herself was born in Delaware, she told enumerators in multiple Census years. I'm still trying to pick up her trail before Ohio.

Constitutional Relations: Not unexpectedly, only Joseph (age 64) and his son Hugh (age 31) had marks in the far-righthand column asking about male citizens over the age of 21. Their right to vote was not denied or abridged. Naturally, none of the women were eligible to vote at that time.

There are small but key insights to be gained by looking at ALL the answers to questions asked in the Census, not just the basics.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Crafting, Heirlooms, and the Pandemic

Crewel embroidery on velvet
by Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1950s
The coronavirus pandemic has people crafting like crazy, me included.

This reminded me to continue documenting handcrafted items in my possession that will be heirlooms for the next generation.

At top, a pretty crewel embroidery picture stitched on velvet by my Mom, Daisy Schwartz Burk (1919-1981). She loved needlework like embroidery, petit point, and crochet.

Her mother, my grandma Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964), was a really expert seamstress and careful embroiderer. I have an embroidered bureau topper made by her that will be passed to the next generation. Grandma was such a perfectionist that the front and back of the topper look nearly identical. (Grandma wouldn't have approved of the messy wrong side of my embroideries!)

 Afghan made for me by my oldest niece. 2000s
The tradition of needlework has continued throughout my family. My sisters and I learned to crochet at an early age and we taught that skill to the kids when they were in kindergarten.

Here's a much-used, very colorful afghan made for me during the early 2000s by my oldest niece.
Afghan I'm stitching for my oldest niece, 2020

With the pandemic keeping me at home, I'm beginning to crochet an afghan for this same wonderful niece.

She picked out the pattern, my Sis bought the tweedy yarn, and I'm stitching while listening to genealogy podcasts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are more heirlooms to be documented and I see more crafting in my future as we play it safe and remain home, for now. 

PS: I wanted to include this lacy knit baby afghan, now in the hands of the little girl who slept under it decades ago and has grown up to love needlework herself!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The 1903 Marriage of Mary Amanda and August Jacob

Marriage record of Mary Amanda Wood and August Jacob Carsten
My husband's first cousin, once removed, married exactly 117 years ago today.

Mary Amanda Wood (1884-1917) married August Jacob Carsten (1884-1975) on June 3, 1903, in Toledo, Ohio. Above, their marriage record, indicating that the groom had his father's consent to marry. (Mary Amanda was named for her grandmother, Mary Amanda Demarest, who was married to Thomas Haskell Wood.)

Mary Amanda was the daughter of a house painter and granddaughter of a carpenter/coach builder. Her intended husband was a carpenter, the son of a carpenter. Both bride and groom were over the age of 18.

Why Did August Jacob Need Consent?

In Ohio at the time of Mary Amanda's marriage, females over 18 were allowed to marry without parents' consent but males needed parents' consent until the age of 21.

That's why August Jacob Carsten's father actually made the marriage application on behalf of the son!

How Many Children Ever Born?

Often I've said how much I love the 1910 US Census, which asks women how many children they have ever had and how many are still living. That year, Census Day was in April.

Interestingly, in the 1910 Census, Mary is shown with her husband (married 7 years, they told the enumerator) and two of their children. However, she didn't answer the question about how many children she's ever had and how many were still living.

Mary's first child had been born in 1904, her second child in 1906. Now, in April of 1910, child number three was on the way (born before Christmas of 1910). 

Were other babies born in between, and did they die young? A search on Ancestry, Family Search, and Find a Grave turned up no infant deaths for Mary Amanda and August Jacob.

Why they didn't answer the "how many children ever born/how many now living" questions, I simply don't know. Everyone else on that page answered in 1910.

Mary Amanda's Death

Sadly, Mary Amanda Wood died while pregnant with her fifth child in January of 1917. Later that year, August Jacob remarried, giving his four young children a step-mother. He and his new bride, Matilda Kohne, had two children together.

Today, I'm remembering my hubby's 1c1r, Mary Amanda Wood Carsten, on her wedding day of 117 years ago.

The #52Ancestors prompt for this week is "wedding."