Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Resolutions for 2010

My top 3 genealogy resolutions for 2010 are below. What are your resolutions? Whatever they are, happy new year!
  1. Document my relatives and their movements. I'm about 12 mos behind in writing down what I've learned. Instead of throwing slips of paper into the files for each family in my tree, I need to slow down and document details promptly.
  2. Recheck. New info and reinterpreted details are coming online all the time. One cousin has found new info (in Hungarian, from 1909) that was never before available, info that might shed new light on our ancestors' lives and motivations. So this resolution is to review what I think I know, look for more details, and keep looking for info on distant relatives and ancestors I know very little about.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. In the past two years, I've been lucky enough to connect (or reconnect) with a lot of cousins. I want to keep those family connections alive in 2010, not just for genealogy but because I want my cousins to be part of my life.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Bronx, 100 years ago

The hometown and the place where my immigrant grandparents settled to raise their family and establish a grocery store. Mom went to James Monroe High School in the Bronx, NY.

The Bronx Board has a nostalgic series of narratives about life in the Bronx "back in the day." It also has photos, b/w and color, of Bronx people and places of the past. Very helpful as I try to reconstruct the world that my grandparents lived in and what it felt like to be a Bronxite early in the 20th century.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Magic Blue Membership Card

A fellow family researcher, seeking original documents by mail, was told by a certain town that our ancestor's death cert wasn't available, that he didn't die in that town (and the town grabbed the fee for "research").

Fiddlesticks. We know he did die there, because the date and place showed up in a reliable cemetery listing and in a family prayer book, not to mention death notices in his hometown newspaper.

I have other research to pursue, so I joined the state society of genealogists. When the blue membership card arrived, I took myself down to town hall, smiled sweetly, flashed the magic card, and presto! I got into the vault and found the ancestor's name, in black and white, listed in the town's death index (and the only person of that last name to die that year, by the way).

Then I turned to the death cert in the book of bound death certs. Alas, all this effort for very little. No name of father or mother, no town of birth, not even the spouse's name (which we know anyway). Just death date, place, name of doctor, name of undertaker, and name of embalmer (TMI). But now we KNOW for sure where and when, which is something.

Next stop: The main library in the town where this man lived for decades, and the vital records area. So many ancestors, so little time!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

For Veterans' Day

My aunt Dorothy Schwartz was on active duty with the Women's Army Corps starting Sept. 11, 1942. She got her separation papers on August 31, 1945 after having been stationed in Europe.

She was discharged with the rank of Sergeant, having received a Certificate of Merit and a Bronze Star for "meritorious service in direct support of military operations" from 1943 to 1945.

One of her letters is included in the book With love, Jane, a compilation of correspondence from American women on the war front.

In addition, she was the historian of the Woman's Army Corps Detachment, HQ, 9th Air Division in 1944-1945.

In honor of Veterans' Day, I honor her memory and salute all our vets.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Your advice wanted: Queries on message boards

I've had some good luck answering queries at surname message boards and locality message boards on sites like GenForum and Ancestry. What about you?

Do you post genealogy queries? Where? Have you been "found" by distant relatives after you posted a query? What should every query include? Any advice for writing or answering a query? Any advice for which surname or locality message boards are best to use?

I'd like to hear about your experiences. Thanks for sharing!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Going to the Movies, 1945 style

Same letter to Mom, written on October 9, 1945 from Oakland, Calif, says the writer saw two movies: Three Strangers and Love Letters. He recommended Love Letters: "I enjoyed it, and I think that you will too when it finally gets to New York" (where Mom lived).

I looked both movies up. Good thing movie plots have changed. Three Strangers strains credulity. Peter Lorre is the rogue/romantic lead, but that's not the weird part of the story. He and two friends, Jerome (played by Sidney Greenstreet!) and Crystal, buy a sweepstakes ticket together just before the Chinese New Year and make a pact to share any winnings. Of course the ticket is a winner but Crystal refuses to give money to Jerome, so he bops her over the head and kills her. Somehow Peter Lorre winds up with the winning ticket but he wants to go straight so instead of cashing in the ticket, which he fears would reveal his previous life of crime and connection with the other two in the pact, he burns it. Alas, this isn't available on Netflix as yet so I can't judge it for myself.

Love Letters is also preposterous. Two soldiers are serving in Italy during WWII. Soldier #1 asks #2 to write love letters to his girl, Cyrano de Bergerac style. Of course the girl (Jennifer Jones) falls in love with #1 on the strength of letters written by #2. Back home, girl and solider #1 get married but #1 is boozy and abusive. One day when he's beating up his wife, the wife's stepmom stabs him. Stepmom has a stroke...wife gets amnesia from the shock of the death...pretty convenient, wouldn't you say? The Jennifer Jones character is convicted and serves a year in jail. Soldier #2 hears the story, visits with her, and they fall in love. Again, this isn't on Netflix, but I'm not sure I'd want to sit through it in any case.

Letter of October 18, 1945 mentions "A Song to Remember" which is a biopic of Frederic Chopin, starring Cornel Wilde as Chopin. Ruby, writing to Mom, says "I was favorably impressed with Cornel Wilde. I think that he will go places, and very soon at that." And that's exactly what happened. Too bad so many of Wilde's early films aren't available on DVD as yet.

Letter of October 29, 1945 says: "I saw Rhapsody in Blue and enjoyed it, if only because of the Gershwin tunes. I like them very much, altho I too think that the picture was a little too long. Cab Calloway is too noise for me. I don't like him at all." The movie was 135 min long, and since the main movie was accompanied by a short, a B movie, a newsreel, and who knows what else, it made for a long night in the auditorium.

Michigan Rummy

One of the letters written to my mother in 1945 says: "Poker may not be your strong point, but then I don't think that Michigan Rummy is either." Not a very cut-throat gambling game, but lots of fun and not demanding, either.

Mom and Dad taught us Michigan Rummy as we grew up and it was a favorite rainy-day family activity, using pennies for the jackpot and pot for each "money card" we hoped we could play from our hands. We had an official set with a tray to hold the pennies for each pot and money card, so we needed only a deck of cards and we were ready to play.

Today the Gorgeous Game Girls in my town play Michigan Rummy when we want to laugh and talk. No official set, just little bowls to hold the piles of pennies for each money card (especially the 9 and 10 of spades). The money cards we use differ from the Pressman Toy and Brikker & Brett versions, however. There was no real rummy angle to this game when I played as a child, and we don't play it as "rummy" today either.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ancestors Hidden in Plain Sight

If my ancestors in the old country never owned land or held an important job, their ordinary everyday lives might be invisible to my present-day genealogical researcher's eyes. Hidden in plain sight, just farmers or peasants or peddlers--who knows? But their lives are important to me and I hope I'll come across some tiny clue to their existence, other than cemetery inscriptions.

Being unimportant might have been an asset during the years when villages were sometimes considered part of one nation or empire and then became part of another nation or empire later as a result of war or political shenanigans. Religious beliefs played a role as well. Then there was the matter of not being eager to lose sons to military service. I can understand why my ancestors might not have wanted to be very visible. But I still hope I'll get a glimpse of their lives and aspirations through my research.

Even ancestors who lived in this country in this century are sometimes partially hidden because they weren't "anybodies." This week I got the marriage certificate of a relative who came to the US just after the turn of the 20th century and got married in the Cherry Street Synagogue in Bridgeport, CT, a place that no longer exists.

According to the certificate, Sam worked in a factory at the time of his marriage. Wonder whether the factory is still there? Wonder how Sam met his future wife, Anna? I know he later opened a grocery store with another relative in Astoria, NY. But how and why did he get to Bridgeport? What did Anna think of moving away from her family? I'm still trying to puzzle out these ancestors' movements, let alone their motivations. Hidden in plain sight?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

September 1945: Big Strikes in Big Apple

One of the letters written to my Mom comments on her apparent mention, in her letter, of the big elevator operator strike of September, 1945. According to the book Working-Class New York, this was a huge strike of elevator operators, maintenance people, doormen and others, a strike that brought business in the Big Apple to a virtual halt. Time also covered the strike, quoting both NYC Mayor LaGuardia and New York Governor Tom Dewey on their successful efforts to get labor and management back to the bargaining table.

In those days, self-service elevators were practically non-existent, so having the operators go on strike meant no elevator access to offices and showrooms on high floors in tall NYC skyscrapers. On the other hand, because of mandatory wage freezes during WWII, many workers were anxious for raises, and the strikes reflected this pent-up frustration.

The Empire State Building, having been accidentally hit at the 78th floor by an airplane in July, 1945, was just getting back to normal when the strike posed new problems for commercial tenants and their visitors (not to mention mail carriers). I wonder how many office workers climbed 20 or 80 or even 90 sets of stairs to go to work every day? One story tells of a big group of stockbrokers (on the 31st floor of the Empire State Bldg) ordering sandwiches and giving the delivery person a $75 tip for walking up all those stairs!

Interestingly, my Mom's friend in the Navy writes that there are plenty of strikes in San Francisco, the big city closest to where he is stationed. He also mentions major fires in the area, the result of prolonged drought. "You will probably see pictures of the fires soon in the newsreels" he writes, since at this time the major news outlets were newspapers, radio and newsreels shown in movie theaters.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Idle Gossip Sinks Ships

Over the years, Mom saved dozens and dozens of letters from a few close friends and relatives. I'm still transcribing a few every day. Just looking at the envelopes is an education in history. The envelopes of letters sent by one friend, writing from an Air Corps training camp in Goldsboro, NC, are stamped "IDLE GOSSIP SINKS SHIPS." The dates are late 1942 through mid-1943. The stamps are purple with an eagle holding its wings high and the phrase "WIN THE WAR."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

FamilySearch Labs

Wow! Tom Kemp of gave a wonderful talk to my local genealogy group last night. Lots of great tips and ideas to get us back to our keyboards for more research.

Among the many online gems he mentioned was FamilySearch Labs, a site with lots of almost-ready-for-prime-time tools and resources.

Try Record Search, where you can search by location and name to find ancestors in specific places or go broader by not narrowing the search. This goes beyond Census data to include death certificates and other original documents. Yes, you can click to see an image of an original document, not just the indexed data. I'm going to get busy typing in the names of some hard-to-find ancestors and take a look using this interesting tool. Will report back!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Letters to my Mom

I'm transcribing letters written to my mother in the late 1930s and into the 1940s, by one of her closest friends and, later, by the friend's husband as well and a few other folks. What an incredible way to learn about my Bronx-born mother's thoughts, feelings, dreams, hopes, disappointments, and fears.

Thank goodness for Google--I can look at the streets where Mom once lived, where her correspondents lived, and find out about places where they vacationed, such as Scaroon Manor on Schroon Lake, NY. That was pretty far from the Bronx, in distance and in other ways as well.

Mom's alma mater was JHS 60 in Bronx, NY and James Monroe HS in Bronx, NY. The JHS is no longer there, apparently, and James Monroe isn't a high school any longer. Back in the 1930s and 1940s, this was a busy and crowded area of the Bronx; it wasn't the "South Bronx" that today is so notorious for high crime, etc.

One letter, dated August 1941, refers to the good men already being "with Uncle Sam"--an eye-opener because I was under the impression that the movement to join the armed services didn't happen till after Pearl Harbor, not before.

How lucky I am that Mom saved this treasure trove of letters for decades.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Staying in touch with newfound cousins

When it comes to staying in touch with newly-found cousins, how often is too often? I'm connected to a couple of cousins via Facebook and post or send a FB note every other month to say hello if I haven't heard from them. I exchange e-mails with a couple of other cousins about 3-4 times a year or so. One cousin I call every few months to say hello and update her on my genealogical adventures. And of course I send ("e" or snail mail) season's greetings and new year's wishes to all my cousins. I've even met some cousins face to face!

One cousin on my husband's side, an avid genealogy researcher, is in touch every couple of weeks; it's a real pleasure to hear that family's news, or share in the latest family-tree expansion, or at least get a "hello." Even if I receive only a forwarded joke now and then, I'm glad to be thought of and considered part of the family circle.

Probably few relatives remain as excited about renewing long-lost family connections as I am, although most are delighted at the outset. Everybody's busy these days, with work or family or hobbies or just the details of everyday life. How often is TOO often to be in touch? I'm not just looking to fill out the boxes on the family tree. I'm genuinely interested in staying in touch and learning more about my family members, sharing memories of our mutual ancestors and enjoying the genealogical adventure together.

What are your thoughts on staying in touch with relatives you've recently discovered in your family research?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Whose Mama? Who's Mama?

Going through a family photo album created in the 1990s, which just turned up, I found this small photo. On the reverse, in what looks to my eyes like a European hand, is one word: Mama.

Whose mama is this? And who is Mama? No other clues are available on the photo and no other photos in the album are similar (nor was it near any old photos). Sadly, it could have been from either side of my family. The face doesn't look familiar at all. I'm going to ask a few cousins to take a look but I don't have much hope.

This is one reason why I'm interested in Picasa 3.5's new face recognition feature. I haven't tried it yet, but Picasa claims that once I've started tagging photos on my hard drive, it will tag new photos automatically and allow me to filter searches by person. I'm going to give it a try soon to see whether it works just as well with old photos as it does with new photos.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Burk Bag Tradition

Thank goodness, my mother always clipped from newspapers and magazines and sent the clips to family members. Remember this neighborhood icon that's being torn down? Remember when we were talking about the NYC school system? She'd put the clipping into her latest letter and send it along. When our family got together, she'd hand magazines or something else to each of us girls, in a shopping bag or some such.

That tradition became known as The Burk Bag. And it's lasted well into this generation and the next, with tote bags always being exchanged when one family member visits with another. It happened yesterday when my sis and I exchanged Burk Bags. My nieces bring Burk Bags when they visit and of course leave with Burk Bags as well.

I received lots of books (to read or donate to the local library's fabulous book sale) and some mag and newspaper clippings. Remember Frederik Pohl (I'm a sci-fi fan)? Here's the August 22nd NYT story about his receiving an honorary degree from Brooklyn Tech. Did I know that Brian Boitano has a new cooking show (I'm a skating fan)? Here's a mag clipping about it.

In exchange, my sis got a tiny Burk Bag I filled with two magazines, a book, and a black frog for her new jacket.

We went through some old family letters yesterday and found them filled with clippings too. Apparently my family went for this kind of thing during the 1940s (long before my time) and the spirit of The Burk Bag is alive and well even today. Sometimes the Burk Bags are filled to the brim, sometimes they're pretty slender, but all are reminders of our family's tradition and how we think of each other even when we're miles apart.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Researching sideways

Researching sideways (as Toni McKeen calls it)--looking for all siblings in each generation and their spouses/in-laws and even extended family members--takes time but it can be very productive. It led me to finding 2d cousins I never knew about!

Here's what happened: my first-cousin once removed really loved her favorite aunt Anna, who married my grand-uncle Sam. I decided to research Anna's family and found that there was no surname message board devoted to her family's last name, so I got permission from Ancestry to start one. That was in June.

Just two weeks ago, I got a note on that surname board from Burt, who told me he's related to Anna's family. He and I exchanged e-mails, I sent him a photo of Sam and Anna, and lo and behold, he gave me the e-mail of my second cousin Gary. Gary and I exchanged e-mails and the next thing I know, Gary's sister Bonnie called me to say how much she enjoyed seeing the photo of Sam and Anna--her grandparents! Plus Bonnie has some family tree info she got from a favorite aunt.

It's wonderful to get acquainted with these long-lost cousins and hear their stories. And it's all because of researching sideways. Gotta do more of that! Thank you, Burt, for taking the time to answer my query. More genealogy adventures are ahead, I'm sure.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering Sept 11, 2001

On a 2-wk tour of Italy, I was sitting in the public room of a small hotel in Rome during afternoon siesta hours on September 11th. The TV was on in the corner, showing an Italian soap opera, and I was stitching a needlepoint stocking for Michael's first Christmas.

Suddenly the TV picture switched to a jet slamming into one of the Twin Towers, and the station replayed that clip several times as Italian newscasters discussed what was happening. The crawl at bottom of the screen credited CNN for the footage, and I quickly realized that any English-language commentary was being replaced by Italian commentary. But I did notice the word "live" and it became clear that the picture of the damaged Twin Towers was being broadcast in real time.

I found my husband and we found one of the tour guides, who joined the group gathered by the small TV. As we watched in shock, the second jet rammed the Twin Towers and our guide translated what the news anchors were saying. We sat numb and horrified as the first Tower collapsed.

By now many tour members were already on the phone trying to call friends and relatives in NYC, even though we'd already heard that the lines were jammed and calls weren't getting through. Instead many of us went to the nearest Internet point to check online news sites and send e-mails to our NY connections.

The rest of that day is a blur, although I know the guides suggested a quiet walking tour of one of the seven hills. For the next few days, whenever our group was in public, Italians would come up to us, ask if we were American, and express their shock over the attack and their support for us and our nation.

We were visiting the Vatican that Friday during the time when the worldwide period of silence was observed. Everyone in the Vatican stopped what they were doing and stood up, respectfully standing in place for three minutes with heads bowed, in silent prayer or contemplation or sorrow. Those few minutes brought a brief sense of peace, comfort and solidarity. Today, 8 years later, still sadness and sorrow, never to be forgotten.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday: Thank you, Toni McKeen

This treasure chest post is about the treasures shared by Toni McKeen last night. She has a treasure trove of tips and tricks for getting the most out of HeritageQuest and Ancestry, which she explained during a meeting of the Genealogy Club of Newtown, CT.

I wrote down a few ideas to try with HeritageQuest, including using the advanced search to sort by age or other categories, searching by first name (that's an interesting thought), and using a screen-grab utility to capture the Census as shown on the screen for downloading and printing later.

Toni brought some treasures from her family's chest, such as photos, birth and marriage certificates, and other goodies that she's used to climb her family tree over the years.

Toni teaches genealogy at Founder's Hall in Ridgefield, CT and she also gives presentations around CT and NY. In October she'll be speaking to the Westchester NY County Genealogical Society.

If you see her listed as a speaker at your local genealogy club, mark your calendar and GO! She really knows what she's doing and is an inspiring speaker, as well.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Genealogy Time Capsules

Ever think about the Census as a time capsule? Each one is waiting to be discovered 72 years later when genealogists and researchers can look back and see ancestors were living or working at a certain time and place, see who was living and near with those people, learn about their educational situation, the language they spoke, and so on.

We know where these Census time capsules are, we know when they're about to be opened, and we know how to peek inside and find data treasures that will help us piece together details of our family from years past.

I've come to think of a genealogy blog as another kind of family time capsule. I post names, photos, queries, comments about my family tree and--if Google never removes the blog or the links--they'll be here for decades or longer, waiting for some future researcher or distant relative to search out and read. As long as search engines can locate my blog's entries in the ever-expanding galaxy of web stuff, future members of my family will be able to see what I've posted.

My blog isn't as well organized as the Census, and it's admittedly somewhat obscure--partly for privacy reasons--but still it can be viewed as a kind of time capsule about my family.

Here's my concern: not all time capsules are found.

From time to time, I read in news reports about time capsules that come to light accidentally--maybe buried at the start of some monument's construction and then found 52 or 78 years later during renovation. Or a school asks children to bring everyday items and notes to class for a time capsule burial set into a new building's cornerstone or at a new sports field's dedication. Too often the markers fade or aren't even set up to let future generations know of the treasures buried in the time capsule.

I deliberately include the surnames of ancestors and relatives I'm researching in the hope that these serve as markers to guide people to my blog. But will my blog and the thousands like it be gone some day? If there are no new entries for 25 years, will Google or Yahoo or Bing be able to find my blog when someone two generations from now wants to search out the same surnames?

How can we, as family researchers, ensure that our genealogy blogs--the ones we use to describe family trees, discuss our ancestors, display old photos, and reach out to long-lost cousins--live on? How can we be sure that our genealogy blogs will be treated as family time capsules that can be found many years in the future?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Surname Message Boards

I've had good luck with surname message boards (Ancestry, Rootsweb, Cousin Connect, etc.) over the past few years. When I connect with someone on a surname board, it's usually a productive exchange, although many responses only serve to clarify that the responder and I are NOT from the same family tree.

Yesterday, after only 3 months, someone contacted me about a very unique surname posting. I'm hopeful that this will give us both more insight into our family backgrounds.

Here's what I've learned about using surname message boards:
  1. The initial message must include sufficient information for readers to determine whether they should follow up with me. Thanks to a couple of anonymous readers of surname posts who gave me advice after my first few postings, I got better at this fairly quickly. Now I'm careful to include not just the surname and the given name of the person/family I'm tracing but also dates for the period in question, places (birthplace, immigration path, and/or residence), plus any special details that would jump out at the reader.
  2. Be sure to tag the surnames mentioned in the message. Otherwise someone who's searching for the same surname may not connect with me. But I also have to avoid the temptation to include every surname I'm trying to research. Targeted is better.
  3. Offer to share info. Why would someone answer my post if I don't plan to exchange info? They're searching for their ancestors, just as I'm searching for mine. Fair is fair.
  4. It's a good idea to post new inquiries or requests later, especially when I find more information that helps me narrow the surname search. Although many boards allow revision of old posts, I prefer to post a new message to catch the eye of someone who's browsing or readers who've read all the older posts and only want to see the newer ones.
  5. I have to check the message boards from time to time even if I've signed up for "automatic notification" when responders answer my message. Sometimes "automatic" isn't so automatic, so it's up to me to check for anything new.
  6. When I get a response, I need to answer promptly and offer a few more details to keep the conversation going. If I'm lucky, the message-board connection will help me and the responder fill in spots in our family tree and maybe even allow us to do research together.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Do Distant Relatives Want to Hear from Us?

A few weeks ago I found the obit of a descendant of my grand-aunt Anna, and wrote a letter to one of the surviving relatives. I also sent a Facebook message to her son (he was listed in the obit, as well).

Both of my notes were polite and enthusiastic, explaining that I'm researching my family tree, found what I think is a connection to their family, and would like to ask a couple of questions about where Anna came from in the Old World. Also I offered a photo of Anna if they'd like to see what she looked like. No answer.

Does no answer mean "no" or does it mean "too busy to respond" or "don't want to think about the old days" or "don't want to talk to strangers" or "moved, no forwarding address" or what? I've never received a letter like the ones I'm sending, so I can't say how I'd react. Most likely I'd at least contact the writer to confirm that we are, in fact, related, and then go from there.

My 2d cousin Harriet was delighted when my letter found her two years ago. She and I got together for a wonderful visit and we call each other now and then. But I never heard from my husband's distant cousins (presumably related) when we found them in NJ and wrote them last summer.

On the other hand, when the Wood family genealogist and I located a long-lost cousin of theirs after doing a lot of pretty interesting research, we started an ongoing e-mail dialogue with photos and family details flying back and forth. It's been fun getting to know all these folks.

So my question is: Do distant relatives want to hear from us? Update: Via Twitter, found this good discussion thread about online contacts. Check it out!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seeking Classmates?

Nostalgia ... I searched for photos of my home town, the Bronx, and came across a number of sites that have, of all things, class photos scanned from yearbooks. The Bronx Board has a photo of me from my Jr High days (back when that's what middle school was called). Most photos come with names of those pictured, so if you're searching for class mates whose full names have become fuzzy in your mind over the years, this kind of search might help.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pappy sailed on the USS Niagara in 1920

Looking at US Census data for 1920, I believe my great-uncle "Pappy" Markell (the nickname used by some of my cousins) served on the USS Niagara, anchored in Mexico during the Census period of Feb. 1920. Thanks to the Naval Historical Center, and a friend with a great grasp of Google, I can post the following image of the Niagara, a yacht purchased by the Navy from Howard Gould of NYC.

Following WWI, the Niagara stayed in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean waters during early 1920s . . . when Pappy was on board. More about the USS Niagara on this informative Naval Warfare blog. Pappy was on back on shore for good, it seems, by 1921 when he married Sweetie.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Great-Grandma Tillie

Great-Grandma Tillie Mahler died in June, 1952 at 99 yrs old, if her death cert can be believed (informant was her son Morris, but still...). Morris says Tillie's father was Julius Yaina but in other records, her maiden name is shown as Jacobs. Who to believe? Cuz Ira had this full-length photo of her. She lived to see many grandchildren married--I know because her face is in their wedding photos. Wish I could hear her stories.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Great-Aunt Anna

My cousin had always told me that her aunt Anna (my great-aunt) died in 1940, but I had no exact date and didn't follow up--until last month, when I used the excellent Italian Genealogical Group web site's databases to find her among the NYC records the volunteers have painstakingly cross-indexed and made available. I sent for the death cert, thinking it would be months before it arrived. NYC surprised me and processed the request in less than 2 weeks. Now I have Anna's parents' full names and birth countries! And using that, I've already found them in, of all places, Connecticut. More research ahead.

Alas, without at home. The price was just too dear and I've let my subscription lapse, effective this week. At least my library subscribes so I can always go there to do my research. And I can use Heritage Quest from home, thanks to my state library's site. Too bad about Ancestry but it's priced too high for ordinary folks--Ancestry, are you listening?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day and Dad

As a salute to all the brave members of our armed services, a bit of my Dad's military history. Harold Burk enlisted in Mar 1942 at Camp Upton, Yaphank, New York, "branch immaterial," as a private. He was assigned to the Army Signal Service Corps and was in "Central Europe" and "Rhineland" battles. He's at right in photo taken in Europe, probably 1945.

Discharged in Oct 1945 in Ft. Monmouth, NJ, he went back to civilian life as a self-employed travel agent. Here's to you, Dad, on Memorial Day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dr. Hull Allen

Following up on Allen line, Cousin Larry found the following ancestor info in the 1880 census:

Hull ALLEN, Male W 80 CT Physician CT CT

Susan ALLEN Wife M Female W 75 NY At Home NY NY

Sarah C. ALLEN Dau S Female W 48 CT At Home CT CT

Maria E. STREET GDau [granddaughter] S Female W 17 CT At School CT CT

[via Milford Public Library "Hull Allen Fund"]

Common ancestor on Wood branch of family tree: George ALLEN and Katherine WATTS.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Abigail Allen

Abigail Allen is a 10th cousin of my hubby who first married John Shepherd/Shephard (in 1707) and then, after his death, married Daniel Foote (or Foot), exact date unknown but around 1723.

Vol. 1 of Vital Records of Newtown CT shows the children of Abigail and her second husband Daniel Foote, including Sarah Foote who married James Fairchild. But where did Abigail's second marriage (to Daniel Foote) take place--and when? When and where did Abigail die, and where is her grave located? Next stop on this genealogical quest: CT State Library to check Stratford and Milford records.

Monday, April 27, 2009

John Bickmore

So many John Bickmores! Who's the John in my niece's family tree who resisted the British in 1770s and who, with his wife, signed a petition against the king? That's the Bickmore I want to find so I can verify his Revolutionary War activities, confirm the genealogy line, and Katie can qualify for the DAR.

Here's the limb of this family tree I'm seeking to verify:

George Bickmore (b. 1705? in Norfolk Cty, MA) --> John Bickmore (b. 1731? in Suffolk Cty, MA) -->David Bickmore (b. 1764? in Meduncook, Lincoln county, Maine) -->Samuel David Bickmore (b. 1806, Friendship, ME) --> Martha Jane Bickmore (b. 1842, Nauvoo, IL).

If you've got Bickmore info, happy to exchange. Thanks!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Abigail Allen Foote

Neither my family nor my hubby's family had any connection to CT when we moved here but recently we learned, through his genealogy cousin, that Abigail Allen Foote, a distant cousin, died in 1755 and is buried here. But where? Records about grave stones, collected during WPA era, don't list her name, nor do local church records. Her son-in-law was from a major local family and I can trace him and that line, but not Abigail.

Today I'll go back to the local genealogy room at the library and try to find some trace of Abigail. She's listed in the Foote family genealogy but because she married into the Foote family (in fact, Foote was her 2d husband), nothing other than her parents' names and her children's names are mentioned.

Where are you buried, Abigail Allen Foote?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lib of Congress 1930s photos

Found this image of Bronx apartment, taken in 1936, not far from where my mother was brought up. Thank you, American Memory project from Library of Congress. Wonderful way to see old furniture and rooms from era.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Backing Up Just in Case

Geneabloggers sent a reminder to back up research just in case a laptop sizzles or fizzles or some other disaster occurs. I like (seen here) for automated background backups and also like burning CDs for each family tree once in a while.

One long-term goal is to scan family photos so I can back them up digitally just in case (sigh). It's on the list but hasn't reached the top yet. At least backups are taken care of.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Typealyzer Says DOER

Just put my blog through the Typealyzer test, to see how the system classifies the blog's writing persona (similar to Myers-Briggs personality model). The result: A Doer, which is fairly accurate except that I follow through with great persistence (illustration from Typealyzer Doer, above, is NOT accurate for me). Try it and see what your blog's persona turns out to be.

DOERS: The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities. The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Genealogy Blogs - from Geneabloggers

Thanks to joining the Geneabloggers' Twitter stream, I learned about this wonderful list of genealogy blogs. Also learned about Tombstone Tuesday and Wordless Wednesday. Lots of info for casual and serous genealogy fans alike. Much appreciated, Geneabloggers.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

More mystery photos

Today the mystery is: Who are these two handsome men in uniform, circa WWII, related to Wood family of Cleveland? Anybody recognize them?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Graves and Obits Online

Joe Beine just tweeted that his online searchable death indexes are up. Although some are fee-based, these links are very helpful. Find A Grave is another site that has helped me locate hubby's relatives in Ohio, complete with photos of cemetery and plots. So grateful for these online resources that allow research from anywhere.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Twitter Genealogy

So many genealogy experts and businesses are tweeting these days. Here are a few I'm following:

More are popping up every day. So many leads, so little time.

And I continue to blog to keep my names in the search results in case somebody is researching a distant branch of my family tree and notices my site while on Google.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Names, names, names

Mousing around, I came across this brief note about Celebrate Your Name Week, with links to sites about given names and surnames. Here are a few links:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Costumed mystery ladies

Apparently getting photographed in a studio wearing fun or impressive getups was a favorite activity of my ancestors in early 1900s NYC. No names were on the back of this, although I believe one of the ladies is Margaret Mandel. Anybody recognize a relative or costume or year? Thanks for any leads.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cousin Larry and the Wood family

Thanks to Cousin Larry, we know a lot about my hubby's Wood ancestors. He's a meticulous researcher and doesn't let up even when the going gets tough. Surprisingly, he found out that a distant cousin of his and hubby's (who married into the huge Foote family of Wethersfield) lived and died in my town. So now I can do some local research the old fashioned way--in my local library--instead of mousing around the web.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

National Archives and Family Historians

Browsing the National Archives site, I found "Resources for Genealogists and Family Historians." Lots of "how to" links explaining use of the archives, plus genealogy tips, info on upcoming events, new data and old-reliable collections often searched by people climbing their family trees (like me). Just bookmarked this for fast future reference.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Life of Riley Genealogy

Googling for genealogy blogs, I ran across Life of Riley, which has a very useful post today about old abbreviations. A sample, copied from today's post:
  • d.s.p.l. - died without legitimate issue
  • d.s.p.m.s. - died without surviving male issue
  • d.s.p.s - died without surviving issue
  • d.unm - died unmarried
I'll be checking regularly for tips. Thanks, Riley.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Linkpendium has nearly 7 million links?!

One reason I like Linkpendium is its categorization of genealogy links, by state, by worldwide surname, etc. Every day it adds new links. So many links, so little time.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Twitter Genealogy

I'm following some Twitterers who are unearthing interesting databases, tips, etc.:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Google Your Family Tree

If you can't get to one of Dan Lynch's talks about how to use Google to research your roots, the next best thing is to buy his Google Your Family Tree. It's an excellent reference book for finding ancestors and family information using the search engine we all use every day (and thought we knew how to use). I bought it after his talk last night and will leave it on my desk for handy reference after I finish reading.

His book's web site has preformatted search queries where you can plug in family names, places, dates, etc. and, with a click, put the power of Google to work for you. Try them here. I didn't know about using ~ or * for genealogical searches but now--look out!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dan Lynch

Dan Lynch is speaking at a local genealogy club and I'll be in the audience. He recently published a book, "Google Your Family Tree," which he'll be discussing at the meeting. Last time I heard Dan speak, his Google tips helped me find my first cousin, living only 100 miles away. Thanks, Dan!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dating Old Photos and More

Family Tree Magazine has a number of valuable blogs, including this Photo Detective blog that I've just started reading, and this Genealogy Insider blog. Not all posts are relevant to my searches but if I get one good idea I'm well ahead. Have to get back to searching soon .

Friday, January 2, 2009

Getting Organized for the New Year

Dear Myrtle has a wonderful (and detailed) checklist to help genealogy enthusiasts get organized. Plus it comes with links to useful sites!

One of my 2009 resolutions is to record my family tree information in a more timely manner instead of filing things away to record later. By the time I get back to these documents and notes, I can't remember what I've recorded or where.

With any luck, some of my distant cousins will find me in 2009 because of the forums, family sites, and blogs where I've mentioned the surnames and places I'm researching. Happy new year and looking forward to hearing from YOU:

Schwartz family from Ungvar (parents: Herman Schwartz and wife Hanna or Hani Simonowitz)
Birk family from Russia (Isaac Birk, possibly Lithuania)
Mahler family from Latvia (Meyer Mahler)
Luria family from Kovno (Hinde Luria)
clipped from
S0... the long-awaited January 2009 Organization Checklist is now available for free download at: