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! 2022 update: I've gotten much better at recording my discoveries by adding to multiple online trees and writing family histories, as well as bite-sized biographies of ancestors. 
  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.

2022 update: I've been browsing the Bronx County Historical Society website for additional insights and historical context. 

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 CT 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!

*2022 update: The town clerk in Manchester, CT, lists the membership cards that are acceptable as proof that someone is accessing records for a legitimate genealogical purpose. 

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

Queries on message boards and social media

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

2022 update: I've had success connecting with researchers and cousins on social media. FB allows sufficient space in a post for detailed queries on focused genealogical pages such as New York City Genealogy and Tracing the Tribe.

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. Both are noir and very of the time.

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.  

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. 

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.

Updated in 2022 with new links.

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 group 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). 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.

2022 update: Here's one set of rules for Michigan Rummy.

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 Schwartz 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 Gelbman? 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?

2022 update: Link to Cherry Street Synagogue added. And I don't know actual answer to why Sam chose to go to Bridgeport when he arrived in America from his native Ungvar, Hungary--but I suspect it has to do with availability of jobs for men with his skill (he was a printer). 

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.

2022 update: fixed broken link.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Idle Gossip Sinks Ships and Win the War Stamp

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." 2022 update: added image from Smithsonian.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

FamilySearch Labs - Obsolete

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. 

2022 update: This post is obsolete, as the site is no longer in operation.

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.
2022 update: freshened links. 

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. 2022 update: This researcher and I are still in touch and we often share info, as well as updates on our own families!

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.

2022 update: In 2016 I connected with UK cousins and learned that this was Anna Hannah Mitav Chazan. Picasa is, alas, no longer supported by parent company Google but I still have it.

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.

2022 update: Burk Bags continue! We still carry on the tradition and everyone knows what a "Burk Bag" is.

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. Thank you, Burt, for taking the time to answer my query. More genealogy adventures are ahead, I'm sure.

2022 update: I'm still in touch with Gary and Bonnie, and although surname message boards are obsolete, I use other methods to research sideways.

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

This treasure chest post is about the treasures shared by genealogy teacher 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 capturing the Census page 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. 

2022 Update: HeritageQuest is now "powered by Ancestry" which means its Census scans are the same as Ancestry's scans, for instance.

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 I'm careful to protect the privacy of living people, 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 a search engine able to find my blog when someone two generations from now wants to research 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?

2022 update: I'm posting ancestor photos and bios and broader family histories on websites where future genealogists are likely to search, such as Family Search. In some cases, I'm embedding links to my blog. 

*Also I added ancestor landing pages as tabs across the top of my blog, to capture attention and bring visitors to a summary page about each surname or family.

LOCKSS is the theory: Lots of copies keeps stuff safe! 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Surname Message Boards

I've had good luck with surname message boards (Ancestry, Rootsweb, 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. 

2022 update: Brief queries such as these can be effective on Facebook pages devoted to genealogy, as well. I've joined FB groups devoted to specific locations (such as NYC and Adams County, OH) plus FB groups devoted to Jewish genealogy, Hungarian translations, and more. 

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 in 2022: Social media has made it even easier than ever to research and connect with relatives. I'm having more success!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Yearbooks for Nostalgia and Family History

Nostalgia ... I searched for photos of my home town, the Bronx, and came across a number of sites that have class photos scanned from yearbooks. The Bronx Board has many of these. 

2022 update: Don't miss The Ancestor Hunt if you're looking for yearbooks--it has links to high school and college yearbooks from around the United States. Of course Ancestry has a good collection of scanned yearbooks (accessible by subscription).

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. The Niagara was 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 here. Pappy was on back on shore for good, it seems, by 1921 when he married his wife, known in the family as Sweetie. (updated 2022 with image and new link).

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 and I know her maiden name was Jacobs. 

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. 2022 update: This post is linked to the Jacobs ancestral landing page at top of my blog.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Great-Aunt Anna

My cousin had always told me that her aunt Anna Gelbman Schwartz (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. 

2022 Update: This post is now linked to my Schwartz ancestor landing page.

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.

2022 update: I've posted Dad's bite-sized bio on Fold3, WikiTree, My Heritage, Find a Grave, and other genealogy websites to keep his memory alive. 

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.
2022 update: Still researching Abigail Allen, and determining more about Allen lineage. 

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.
UPDATE in 2022: Researching in still did not solve this mystery. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Researching the Bickmore Family from Lincoln County, Maine

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). 

Still researching this in 2022, seeking proof of the relationship between Martha Jane Bickmore Huntsman and her possible father, Samuel David Bickmore. 

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 in Fairfield County, CT supposedly. 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. 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. 2022 update: Still seeking Abigail Allen Foote's final resting place.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Library of Congress Photos and Maps of the Bronx

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.

2022 update: I'm also using the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress collection to look up buildings where my ancestors lived in the Bronx before the middle of the 20th Century. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Backing Up Just in Case

2022 update: Currently using BackBlaze for automated background backups and Apple's Time Machine for local backups to a hard drive on my desk. I have another hard drive for digitized family history photos and other genealogical documents and images. Backing up every day is a way to keep these valuable genealogy materials safe! 

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 - search on Geneabloggers

2022: Geneabloggers maintains a wonderful list of genealogy blogs. I use Feedly to subscribe to favorite genea-blogs and I also joined the Geneabloggers page on Facebook. On Twitter, follow the group here: @GeneaBlogTRIBE. As of 2022

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 2022 update

The Ancestor Hunt has links to obituaries and BMD records--for free! Plus downloadable (free) guides showing how to search. A highly recommended site for 2022 and beyond.

Of course Find A Grave is well-known for grave memorials. I found many of hubby's ancestors in Ohio cemeteries listed on Find a Grave, complete with photos of cemetery and plots. Also I've been linking my ancestors to their relatives with memorial pages, and requesting to be the manager of ancestral memorial pages.

Plus Family Search, Ancestry, and MyHeritage have links to obits and more. I'm using them all to search out info about my ancestors.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Twitter Genealogy

#GenChat, #AncestryHour, and many other organized chats are a fun and informative way to use Twitter to connect with other genealogy folks, ask questions, share info, and more. (2022 update)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Names, names, names

What's in a name? 2022 Update: Here's an excellent guide from the University of Delaware library, discussing how to think about names as we conduct genealogical research.

I also like lists such as this one, showing popular baby names (from Soc Sec, going back decades).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Costumed mystery ladies

Being photographed in a studio wearing fun or impressive getups was a favorite activity of my ancestors in early 1900s New York City. 

No names were on the back of this, although I believe one of the ladies is Margaret Mandel, a cousin on my Farkas side. 2022: Still no identification of two of the three ladies.

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.
UPDATE in 2022: I was never able to find this Foote ancestor's grave, despite searching locally and in the state library. 

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

Old Abbreviations Describing Death

Searching online 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
2022 update: Unfortunately, this blog is no longer active. Instead, I've bookmarked the History Detectives site which has common abbreviations plus many well-known terms defined.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Linkpendium has more than 10 million links?!

UPDATE 2022: One reason I like Linkpendium is its categorization of genealogy links, by state, by worldwide surname, etc. Every month it adds new links. So many links, so little time. There are well over 10,000,000 links to family history resources at this time! 

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Twitter Genealogy

2022 update: For fun and informative Twitter chats about genealogy, try #GenChat (alternate Friday evenings, US time), #AncestryHour (Tuesday afternoons, US time), and several other live chats that take place only on Twitter.

Watch for the tags #Genealogy and #FamilyHistory for tweets about these topics.

I'm on Twitter as @MarianBWood - see you there!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Google Your Family Tree

Dan Lynch's book is now out of print, but Google Your Family Tree was a wonderful reference tool when I was digging deeper into online searches for ancestors, ancestral communities, and specific aspects of family history. UPDATED 2022.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Online Searches for Family History Topics

2022 update: The author of Google Your Family Tree was speaking at a local genealogy club in 2009, and I was in the audience. Last time I heard that talk, his Google tips helped me find my first cousin, living only 100 miles away. 

I learned a lot about using search operators. Here's my 2017 post about that topic, explaining the use of:

"" (quotation marks)
- (minus sign)
* (wild card)
AROUND(insert number here).

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dating Old Photos and More

To learn more about photo dating and identification, I've read some of the books by Maureen Taylor and also seen her talks/webinars. She has lots of great ideas for looking at clothing clues and more.

Also I've seen talks by Sherlock Cohn (aka Ava Cohn), who has an eagle eye for dating photos and helping put them into family, military, and historical context.

Both have given me some hints to follow up as I caption old family photos from the past 100-125 years.

At top, a photo by Gustav Beldegreen, showing some of my FARKAS ancestors serving as officers of the Kossuth Ferencz Literary, Sick & Benevolent Society.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Getting Organized for the New Year

Dear Myrtle has tools and videos to help genealogy enthusiasts get organized. She retires in May of 2022, but her great content will remain.

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. UPDATED in 2022: Now using multiple genealogy websites (WikiTree, MyHeritage, Ancestry, FamSearch) for my public family trees.

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 cousins and members of the FAN club (friends, associates, neighbors).