Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Loser Socks (Again)

Future genealogy trivia: Which contestant has an unbroken record of losing the annual Christmas Day "silly" (or "surprising") sock contest?

Before I reveal the answer, take a look at the above silly, surprising crocodile sock devouring my leg.

Now the answer: I'm the perennial loser. My crock didn't even come close in this field of silly sox, which also included an alligator sock, whale socks, and other assorted silliness. The winner: the blue fuzzy snowman slipper socks at center. (The judge's arm and leg are barely visible in this sock portrait.)

Next year's sock contest will have two rules: Embellishments allowed, and fuzziness required. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: My Merry Gen Gadget Christmas

Thank you, Santa, for the gift of a portable wand scanner! And batteries of course...not to mention the mini SD card. UPDATE: My cell phone is more my choice these days, 2022 style.

Now I can scan documents that won't easily fit in my flatbed, such as these two curled-up diplomas earned by my father, Harold Burk.

The top one shows my father's graduation from PS 171, an elementary school in Manhattan, NYC, in June, 1923. He was 14 at the time. The bottom one shows his graduation from Junior High School 171 in Manhattan, NYC, in January, 1925. He was 15 at this point and went to work right after graduation, which (if I recall his stories correctly) meant he ended his educational career after eighth grade. Note that this was a "commercial" diploma, indicating that Harold wasn't expecting to continue to high school but always intended to go to work.

Here's what PS 171 looks like today: Its "name" is Patrick Henry and, as in my father's time, it serves grades K-8. The school is within walking distance of where Harold and his family lived at the time of the 1920 census, at 1642-44 Lexington Avenue near 104th Street.

Santa is so smart and even sentimental! He knows that this genealogy gadget will help me capture so many documents and photos for the future. Ho ho ho!

Friday, December 23, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Advice (Can't Do It All!)

This is the final week of the 2011 Personal Genealogy Challenge. It's been my most active--and successful--year of genealogy research ever, because so many brick walls came tumbling down. Of course, now I have more leads to follow and more ancestors to discover, which means 2012 will be another interesting and eventful year of family history detective work!

Based on my experiences, here's some advice to myself and those who follow me:

  1. You can't do it all. There will never be enough time to follow every ancestor back through the decades and across the miles, and also document their connections and movements. I just have to prioritize: My Ancestry family trees will be at the top of the list because I want everything to be in one place for relatives and descendants to see.
  2. You don't have to do it all yourself. Finding new cousins has been very exciting, and new cousins also means new info and more help with the family tree. More relatives are getting the genealogy bug and will do some lookups or look for family photos. Posting on surname and place message boards has put me in touch with genealogy angels who enjoy doing small acts of kindness, such as looking up one of my hubby's ancestors in the UK census. Thank you, one and all, for making this a fun group effort!
  3. You don't have to do it all at once. Genealogy is a journey, and a memorable one at that. Remember the saying "Life by the yard is hard, life by the inch is a cinch"? Genealogy progresses inch by inch, and I'm enjoying the unfolding of each new wrinkle. Every day or two, I try to add to the family trees I'm building on Ancestry or write a note about a family photo. Eventually the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place, if I work on it steadily.
  4. You have to take the long view. This is related to #3. Genealogy is a long-term proposition, not an instant message. One Canadian source I contacted for info about a great-uncle told me that he'd get back to me in 6 months, once the organization's archives have been moved into their new offices and unpacked. Even if I wanted to go there in person, I couldn't see anything until the records are unpacked, so patience is a virtue. Meanwhile, I'll pursue another line of inquiry, as they say in the BBC mysteries.
Happy holidays to my relatives and Geneablogger friends!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Calendar--Christmas Stockings: Made with Love

It all started with the needlepoint stocking I made for my hubby more than 20 years ago. It was time for something new! And this started a new tradition of making stockings for beloved family members.

Over the years, I've made about 12 stockings, mostly needlepoint but also cross-stitch, embroidery, and quilted.

At right, a needlepoint stocking I made for the youngest member of the family, back in 2005.

The small sports items in the "train" and on either side of the name are actually buttons sewed on as 3D embellishments. No 3D glasses needed!

Happy stitching to all.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Family Trivia: Treasures from Early Days

Burk A - how tiny was the wrist that held this bracelet?
Today, a bit of genealogical trivia from my early days. Do you recognize the item in the photo at left? Hint: I'm a twin, and I was the first one born.

It's my ID bracelet from the hospital where I was born. My sis has a Burk B bracelet (photo forthcoming), also with pink beads. This is what I wore during my days in the heated crib where babies under 5 lbs stayed until they weighed enough to be discharged. I've always kept this treasure in my jewelry box.

Next are two photos showing both sides of one object. The front has my initials. The back says:

Farkas Family Tree, Feb 195__

This is the engraved sterling silver napkin ring that my mother's family, the Farkas Family Tree, presented to every new baby. Perhaps the space between the month and the year was left to be filled in later, but it's always looked exactly like this (except that in this photo, I've blurred out the year on purpose). Some babies get spoons, others get mugs, but Farkas Family babies received napkin rings.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: The Salad Scoopers That Returned Home

Fourteen months ago, my 2d cousin Lois found me through this blog. We saw each other twice this year, both times at happy family occasions (one in her immediate family and one in mine). It has been such a joy getting to know her and her family!

Now I'm going through my photos looking for connections between our branches of the family tree, and here are two, along with the story of the salad set that went from my part of the family to hers and back again.

Lois's grandma was Ida Mahler Volk, shown above at far left with my mother, Daisy Schwartz, who was then engaged to marry my father, Harold Burk, Ida's nephew. Ida (my great-aunt) is shown alone in the photo at the right, quite a glamorous lady IMHO.

Both of these photos were taken in July 1946, when Daisy and Harold, then engaged for six months, flew to Washington, D.C. to visit with the Volks. (They flew because Harold was a travel agent and this was one of the perks at the time.*)

Ida was extremely close to her sister Henrietta Mahler, my father's mother, and Lois has several stories about the sisters' love for and generosity toward each other.

Lois also told me that Harold and Daisy brought a house gift to Ida and Louis when they visited: A lucite/stainless steel salad set with a big bowl and a serving scooper, very "mid-century modern" in today's language of style. That set was used and enjoyed for many, many years and Lois inherited it, along with the story.

Now fast-forward to my niece's wedding last month. Lois gifted the happy couple with this very set of salad utensils, a wonderful, sentimental reminder of the ties that connect the generations of our family.

My niece never met her grandparents, Daisy and Harold--they died long before she was born--but now she's the delighted caretaker of this salad set, which has come back to the Burk part of the family after 65 years. Thank you, Lois!

*How do I know they flew? These photos were in a photo album in a series that starts with a photo of Daisy and Harold on the staircase leading off a plane. That photo is marked "July 1946, Washington, D.C." The photos with Ida are only a page or so beyond. Thank you, Daisy, for marking these so clearly!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Those Places Thursday: Whitechapel, London, Middlesex, England

Straight from the General Register Office in England, here's the 1859 marriage document for my husband's great-grandma Mary Shehen [sic] Slatter and her husband, John Slatter.

I have to check the address--here it looks like Heneage Street in London--but I have a suspicion that this is where John and Mary met, since they both live at the same address in the district of Whitechapel.

And thanks to this document, I can see that there were many more Johns in the family than I realized--John Slatter's father is John Slatter, and Mary's father is John as well. Mary's father was born in Ireland, and this says he was a bricklayer. John's father died before this marriage, so I can go looking for his death info.

Maybe the witnesses, Samuel and Elizabeth Gartley, were the landlords? Well, lots to investigate here.

Whitechapel sound familiar? Jack the Ripper worked this area of London from 1888-1891, well after the the Slatters and Shehens were gone, either died or moved to Canada.

PS - Thanks to a genealogy angel in Ireland, I found out that Mary Shehen's parents, John Shehen and Mary [maiden name UNK] Shehen, were born in Ireland in 1801 or so. More research is in my future!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Meyer Mahler, d. 1910

Meyer Mahler, my paternal g-grandpa, was born in Kovno. As his death cert shows, he became ill in Dec 1909 and died of cancer in Jan 1910 in New York City.

I'm still trying to trace his parents, David Mahler (b. Riga, Latvia) and Hinde Luria (b. Kovno), who almost certainly never came to the US.

The names of Meyer's parents were passed down in the family. Meyer had a son, David, and the name Hilda is also among those later in the family tree.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Calendar of Memories: Christmas Past


My late father-in-law, Edgar J. Wood, kept a diary for many years, usually in yearly calendar diaries given as gifts to customers by Edgar's employer, the Buckeye Union Insurance Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Years after Edgar retired, the company kept sending him the diaries at year's end, and he faithfully wrote a few lines every day with his fountain pen.

Here are the entries he wrote for Christmas day in 1959, 1969, and 1979. (My genealogical explanations are in italics within parentheses). In 1959 and 1969, Edgar and his wife Marian McClure Wood, were living in Cleveland, Ohio. By 1979, they had moved to Pittsfield, Mass., to be near Wally and his family.
  • 1959. After breakfast, presents!! R (my hubby Wally's first wife) brought up Brice (hubby's maternal grandfather). Later, Leta, Chip, Jeff & Tim (Leta was Wally's aunt, the three boys are his first cousins) dropped in for buffet supper. Much singing around piano, "Guys & Dolls" getting a big play. Ernie & Gorden Pettit (friends of Wally's) dropped in. All in all, a big day.
  • 1969. Christmas morning, everyone opened presents. In P.M., W (Wally) and R (his wife) had friends in for an open-house "Sing Along." Cold & snow outside. Stayed in all day. Showed the slides of trip (Edgar and Marian took a big European trip in 1969 via ocean liner and train, arriving in England and continuing to Paris, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria before returning by ship to New York City and then by train to Cleveland).
  • 1979. AM: 10:00 o'clock service. To P.O. (post office, presumably, to mail cards). P.M.: Home for lunch. Some practicing (he played piano professionally). Reading. Paperwork. Evening: To W's (Wally's) where R (his wife) prepared one of her very fine dinners. Later, exchange of presents, some from B (Wally's sister). Visiting.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Surname Saturday: Slatter (The Musical Slatter Brothers)

Captain John (Jack) Daniel Slatter (1864-1954), my husband Wally's great-uncle, was not only a well-known bandmaster in Toronto, he had two musical brothers.

Above is Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942), who led the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders, 1911-14 and 1919-1925. Here he is circa 1913, standing on the steps of the Vancouver Courthouse, which is today the Vancouver Art Gallery. This photo was posted by "Bold Highlander" on "X Marks the Scot," where he also posted photos of Captain Jack.

The third musical brother was Albert William Slatter, bandmaster of the 7th London Fusiliers. I'm still researching him!

All the brothers were children of John Slatter Sr. and Mary Shehen/Shehan, married in Whitechapel, London, England, in 1859. Their other children were Mary Slatter (hubby's grandma, married to James Edgar Wood) and Adelaide Mary Slatter (married to James S. Baker), of more in later posts. Mary must have passed the family musical tradition down to her son, Edgar James Wood, who played piano and other instruments professionally for many years.

UPDATE, 2022: For more about the Slatter family, see my ancestor landing page here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Mr & Mrs Harold Burk, 11/24/46

On this day in 1946, my parents, Harold Burk and Daisy Schwartz, were married at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City.

Here they are with Ida Mahler, one of his Mahler aunts, during the summer before they were married.

Although they became engaged on Dec. 31, 1945, after my father closed the deal to become the in-house travel agent of the posh Savoy Plaza Hotel, they soon set their wedding date for November, 1946.

Why wait, especially since they were very anxious to settle down? First, because of the severe shortage of apartments following WWII and second, I suspect, to save up money. In fact, who exactly paid for their wedding is a mystery I hope to solve one day.

On Thanksgiving, I give thanks for their love and for the family ties I've been discovering through genealogy (dear cousins, you know who you are!).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: Future Genealogy circa 2036

For Wedding Wednesday, I'm delighted to post this photo of my lovely youngest niece and her wonderful new husband. May they be as happy and healthy on their 25th and 50th anniversaries as they were on their wedding day just three weeks ago!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday's Obituary: Captain John D. Slatter

This week I connected with the granddaughter of Captain John D. Slatter! As mentioned earlier this month, Capt. Jack was (we now know) my husband's great-uncle. We plan to get acquainted with her and her brother, and exchange photos and info.

Her family knew nothing of my husband's grandmother, Capt. Slatter's sister Mary Slatter, who married James Edgar Wood in 1898 in Toledo, OH, and we knew nothing of her grandfather, an illustrious military bandleader.

A very kind genealogy angel in Canada looked up Capt. Jack's obit in the Globe & Mail of December 9, 1954 (he died on Dec 7). Here it is, complete with the names (not completely correct) of his survivors. For more about the Slatter family, see my ancestor landing page here (2022 update).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Captain John Slatter was a Bandmaster

Thanks to Stan Milne of the Regimental Museum of the 48th Highlanders of Canada, I found out that Captain Slatter (the gentleman in the kilt in last Wednesday's post) had a long and distinguished career in the military. He served with the 48th Highlanders from 1896 through 1946 and was appointed bandmaster in 1916. He was officer-in-charge of training bands and buglers during WWI!

Among his medals are a Member of the British Empire and the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal (for serving 20 yrs).

PS This just in! (also see my ancestor landing page for more on Slatter family.)
  • I just found Captain John Slatter in the Canadian Encyclopedia of Music--he was a well-known military band master and his brother, Henry Arthur Slatter, is mentioned as well. 
  • He was instrumental (pun intended) in establishing the Canadian Band Assn.
  • Capt. Slatter toured the 48th Highlanders band through North America and played at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1934. In 1935 photo above, Capt. Slatter is at center of front row.
  • And he and the band toured all over the world, including at the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo, NY in 1901. Below, Capt. Slatter (center, front) and the brass band from the 48th, which toured around the world.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Day of Remembrance: Captain Slatter of the 48th Highlanders

Captain Slatter, one of my husband's great uncles, lived in Canada and served in WWI (I've written about him here). And once again, I'm posting this photo of the captain in full regalia.
Thanks to Darcy Murray, who posted a comment on my original post about Captain Slatter, I learned that this is the dress uniform of the 48th Highlanders of Canada. This morning, Lt. Kassissia of the 48th Highlanders responded to my inquiry by confirming that yes, Captain Slatter does appear to be wearing the 48th Highlanders' uniform and my inquiry will be forwarded to the Regimental Museum for further study! 

UPDATE in 2022: Hubby and I visited the museum a few years earlier and shared genealogical info with the curators, as well as being privileged to see their collection of Slatter memorabilia! For more, see my ancestor landing page here.

In Canada, November 11 is Remembrance Day, as in America it's Veteran's Day. So this week I want to post a poppy in remembrance of Captain Slatter and all those veterans who have served our nations. Thank you for your service!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Where Would You Go in a Time Machine?

I was lucky enough to sit next to the grandma of the groom at a wedding this weekend...and we started talking about her family's Eastern European roots. She didn't have many specifics, in part because her grandparents disliked talking about the difficult ocean crossing in steerage (like my grandparents, who also brushed aside inquiries).

Then I asked her to think about where/when she would go if she could take one trip in a time machine.*

Suddenly her face lit up, exactly like the bride in the ceremony we'd just attended, and she said without hesitation: June 1, 1943.

That was her wedding day, and the story came pouring out! She was a wartime bride, crossing the country to join her Navy husband for a wedding and a couple of weeks of married life before he shipped out. If only I had my trusty Flip with me to capture all the details and her animated expression. We spent a delightful hour talking about this, and I also learned that her husband had seen the famous flag raising at Iwo Jima.  Oh my, what a time in her family's life.

Of course I'll be doing a bit of research so the groom has more detailed info about his ancestors...and I plan to contact grandma again to learn more and thank her for sharing her special memories with me! It was an honor and a pleasure, truly.

*Personally, I'd go to the future to see who lives happily ever after, but that's not going to help anyone's genealogy research. 2022 update: I'm going to find this lovely lady in the 1950 US Census! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Future Genealogy: Snowtober Surprise 2011

We "lucky" New Englanders have been clobbered by a freak October snowstorm, heavy and wet snow that brought down trees, limbs, and power lines all over the area.

Here's a big limb that crashed down on my deck railing but didn't hurt anything! Missed my roof (new this year, thanks to Hurricane Irene) by a yard or two.

A few hours later, another big limb fell in the front yard, blocking the driveway completely. Happily we weren't under it at the time. And happily, we had electricity and could take out the chain saw and hack it apart.

But then our luck ran out and the power went out. For 49 hours. And we're actually fortunate because as of now, 85% of my town remains without power.

What a year: Blizzard in February, Irene just before Labor Day, and now Snowtober in time for Halloween. Stories for future generations! I hope you're all warm and safe.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: The Internet Archive

I just stumbled across genealogy records available (for free) on the Internet Archive, a repository of Internet info that chronicles changes on the Web and stores all kinds of historical and cultural data. Want to see a video of old Commodore 64 video games? You can find 'em on the Internet Archive.

The link to the genealogy holdings takes you to holdings shared by the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Robarts Library at the University of Toronto; the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library; the National Library of Scotland; and the Boston Public Library. 

Info ranges from publications about Mayflower descendants to Passenger and Crew Vessel Lists for NYC, 1910 and 1940 and other years.
Check it out! Maybe you'll find something you were looking for. 

2022 Update: I've had great luck using the Internet Archive to access phone directories and find home addresses for ancestors who are in the 1950 US Census.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: PS 103 in the Bronx

My elementary school, Public School 103 in the Bronx, NY, thoughtfully provided this b/w photo at the front of the official autograph album I bought for my 6th grade graduation.

You can guess the approximate year by looking at the vehicles parked near my school!

Thankfully, I saved the album and can now list my teachers from kindergarten through 6th grade. See the photo of my teachers' names, above, written in my favorite turquoise ink. Yes, I had the same teacher in 4th and 5th grade, and no, she was no relation because my marriage into the Wood family was decades in the future!

Mr. Zantell, my 6th grade teacher, was a jovial, easy-going, smart guy and a favorite teacher too. Sis and I were in that class together, one of the rare times in our school careers when we shared a classroom. Because Mom was a twin, she understood first-hand the need to develop separate personalities and avoid too-intense rivalry over school achievements. That's why she put Sis and me in separate classes most of the time. That didn't always work out well, but in 6th grade, we had a good time (and occasionally fooled teacher and classmates).

PS 103, located at 4125 Carpenter Avenue, was a 10-block walk from the apartment building where my family lived. We (and later our younger sister) walked to and from school twice a day: In the morning, we walked there; for lunch, we walked home; after lunch, we walked back to school; and after school, we walked home again. Only when my twin took guitar lessons and I took accordion (!) lessons did we get a ride to school from a kind neighbor. Otherwise, we crossed streets ourselves, sauntered home past the candy store, and got a lot of fresh air and exercise using our feet as transportation.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Open Thread Thursday: The Genealogy Experience

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers poses this question today:

When you “do genealogy” – be it research, heritage travel, publishing a family history book – what do you want to come away with? Is the concept of an experience even important? Should we be concerned with what genealogists and family historians experience when they interact with the genealogy industry? What do you see as the components of a meaningful genealogy experience? Education? Product creation? Research? Travel?

One part of the experience, for me, is the goal of preparing a family tree so future generations know where they came from (location and people) and get a sense of what our ancestors were like. I'm delighted I have such a wide range of products available for this purpose (software for generating trees, Web sites for publishing books, etc).

Research is vital, and I really value sources that are clear and accessible. It's great to be able to use both HeritageQuest and Ancestry, for instance, to look at old Census records, because images on one are sometimes more readable than the images on another. Of course  something scanned 10 years ago might look much better if scanned with today's technology, but there are so many sources to digitize. However do sites in the genealogy industry prioritize?

Another, more urgent part of the experience is my hope of connecting with cousins. Just this month I uncovered a previously unknown cousin of my husband, only to immediately learn that she had died 10 months ago. We've written her daughter (no answer yet, but it's only 2 weeks since the letter was sent). If only we had found the cousin earlier, maybe we could have shared family stories and even photos. That's why I think, on balance, that it's good for sites to push ahead with digitizing materials never before available or searchable online.

So many ancestors and relatives, so little time. My blog successfully served as cousin bait when my 2d cousin Lois found me one year ago. We've really enjoyed getting to know each other's families and sharing long-forgotten family stories.

Maybe other relatives will go looking for my family or my husband's family and, in doing an online search, will land on this blog and make the connection. Fingers crossed!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Motivation Monday: Hooray for Gen Listservs (Dated)

A few years ago, I joined the RootsWeb listserv for Wyandot County, Ohio. Hubby's grandmother and great-aunts are from there, and I'm always looking for more about those Steiner sisters--I've mentioned their names in this blog from time to time. (2022 note: Listservs aren't used much any more and this one hasn't been updated.)

Today's listserv digest of post activities for Wyandot Rootsweb brought me a very welcome bit of news: Timothy Fisher has a Web site with links to genealogical and historical info for Wyandot County.

Following the links, I was led to a few free online directories/histories of Wyandot.
In the 1877 directory, I found E.G. Steiner, carpenter, who I know (from other research) married Elizabeth Rinehart. They're hubby's maternal g-grandparents. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Surname Saturday: Cleveland Cousins Edith Wise and Dorothy Nicholas

My late father-in-law (Edgar James Wood) kept diaries every year for many, many years. His diary entry for Feb 23, 1966 says: "Evening, went to Ash Wednesday service at church, meeting cousins Edith Wise & Dorothy Nicholas there." A diary entry from 1963 speaks of dinner with "Edith & Janice Wise."

Edgar and his wife, Marian McClure Wood, lived in Cleveland Heights, OH, and were members of the St. Paul's East Cleveland Episcopal Church (shown above as it looks to Google Maps street view, these days). This is where they went to Ash Wednesday service when they met cousins Edith and Dorothy.

I can't find any other references to Wise or Nicholas in family records, although my sis-in-law remembers a "cousin Edith" attending her wedding (1970s) in Cleveland.

Of course, I haven't finished reading his maybe Edith and Dorothy will show up again in an entry later.**

**24 hours later, I'm still reading diaries and have found more entries about Edith & Janice Wise indicating they were Edgar Wood's cousins, living somewhere not far from him in Cleveland area. Dorothy Nicholas is in town one day in 1968 for her granddaughter's wedding, and that prompts Edgar & his wife Marian to visit with Edith & Janice Wise and Dorothy, who's there. Now to track down exactly which branch of the family the Wises are from...

2022 update: Dorothy and Edith were Edgar's 1st cousins. They were the daughters of his aunt Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter and her husband, James Sills Baker. I connected with folks from those families last year!

Friday, October 7, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Trouble--Backyard Rocket Science

A guest post from my hubby, Wally, about troubles as a teen in Cleveland, Ohio:

One summer when I was14 or 15, I taught myself how to make gunpowder (!) out of the ingredients that came in my trusty A.C. Gilbert Chemistry Set (similar to the one above)...and quickly realized that the compound would work as a rocket fuel.

So I took apart a bicycle horn that had a trumpet-shaped bell and soldered it to a small tin can loaded with my homemade gunpowder (doing this with tools readily available in my family's basement workshop).

Outside, I suspended my makeshift rocket from a wire that I ran the length of the backyard--only a foot off the ground. Then I crouched beside it and used an eyedropper full of sulfuric acid to set off the gunpowder inside the can.

The gunpowder caught fire, burned, smoke and fire came out the nozzle of the "rocket," and it zoomed across the wire!

My parents had no problems with backyard rocketry until the first time I put my dirty jeans in the laundry chute. My mother pulled my jeans out of the washing machine and noticed they were polka-dotted with dozens of holes, some as big as a dime. Hmmmm....

The sulfuric acid had weakened the denim and in the wash, the threads disintegrated, leaving neat little holes. Lots and lots of them.

"No more sulfuric acid." So I then had to devise another way to ignite the gunpowder from a distance. To be continued!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Workday Wednesday: James Edgar Wood, Cleveland Builder

Hubby's grandfather, James Edgar Wood, was a builder in Cleveland. He married Mary Slatter, one of my brick walls (I can't find her city/town of birth in England or what became of her siblings in Canada, but that's an old story by now).

James Edgar Wood's simple but effective plan was to build a home, move his growing family into it, and finish the details while framing another home, which he then moved into...wash, rinse, repeat.

Recently, my sis-in-law sent me a series of addresses in and around Cleveland, Ohio where James and Mary lived from 1907 to 1918, taken from correspondence. He was clearly expanding his business during this period!

1907-8:  7203 Duluth St (Ave?), Cleveland
1909:  1401 E. 112 Street, Cleveland
1909-10:  1405 E. 112 Street, Cleveland (they lived here during the 1910 Census)
1910:  12600 Penobsot Ave (?), Cleveland
1911-12:  12513 Lancelot Ave., Cleveland
1913:  637 Hayden Ave., East Cleveland
1914:  456 E. 124 Street, Cleveland
1914-6:  12310 Locke Ave, Cleveland
1918:  2556 Idlewood Rd, Cleveland Heights

Because of this list, I was able to match a previously unidentified photo of one of James Wood's homes to a specific address and year. Here's the photo, followed by the Google maps photo of today.

This is clearly 12513 Lancelot Avenue in Cleveland, where the family lived from 1911-2. Hot dog! A small victory. Undoubtedly the two boys in the older photo are my hubby's Dad, Edgar James Wood, who at about 8 was the oldest of four sons at the time of this photo, and Wally, second-oldest at about 6 years old. (The other two Wood children were younger: John was about 3 at the time of this photo, and Ted was an infant.)

Grandfather James would be delighted to know that his well-built home is still standing and quite recognizable.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: New Life for Old Slides--Going Digital

If I'm ever going to get my family histories into shape--illustrations and all--I have to admit that I can't always do everything myself. Up until now, I've been scanning my own slides, four at a time, then cleaning up the results with Picasa. It's slow and the results are, well, literally spotty. 

UPDATE: There are newer and faster methods for scanning slides, in 2022. This post is a bit outdated, but I did scan the very best of the family slides professionally.

Of course pros can scan slides at a higher dpi, much faster, and wind up with a higher-quality image full of detail and color. But with a bookshelf full of slides, I feared emptying my wallet over this.

Turns out my local Costco will scan 35 mm slides at high resolution for less than 30 cents each, including automated cleaning (especially important with old dusty slides) and other nitty-gritty services that make a big difference in the quality of the .jpg output. I bet other places have similarly reasonable prices for scanning slides, with good results.

Here's a slide taken more than 30 years ago, showing my oldest niece with my parakeet Tyrone. (Aren't they both the cutest things?!)

This professionally-scanned slide is obviously squeaky clean! And the image is really sharp. You can count almost the eyelashes on my niece's face and the feathers on Tyrone's wings.

I can't afford to scan every slide, but I'm picking and choosing the ones that matter. This is a worthwhile investment in documenting my family history.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: September 1993 in London

Sorting through family slides from bygone years, I came across a handful of slides with a two-page description titled "What I did on my fall vacation (1993)" written by my twin and me!

Having entirely forgotten about this write-up (but not the vacation), it was wonderful to stumble across enough verbiage to bring back minute details of this fun time.

Herewith, some excerpts from the twins' whirlwind vacation, made possible by my wonderful hubby, who stayed with my school-age niece while we sisters flew across the pond:

Monday, September 20: Slept late (a habit) and had lunch next door at the L'Ambiance, which had none. Quiche and salad were surprisingly good. Tube to Leicester Square to buy 1/2 price tickets to "Hair." Then on to British Museum where saw the Rosetta Stone. Dinner in Knightsbrige at Pasta Prego (yum) and tube to Old Vic Theatre, where we danced live on the London stage.*

Tuesday, September 21: Up at 9:30 am for an early start to Westminster and to change money. Saw the Imperial War Rooms....then back to Westminster Abbey for a fascinating tour...Full afternoon tea, then off to see "Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."**

* Anybody who's ever seen "Hair" has had the opportunity to dance on Broadway or the West End or wherever, since the audience is invited on stage during the finale. Sis and I took advantage in London! (Earlier this year, I chronicled my brush with fame on Broadway in this post.) Too bad that sis and I, New Yorkers, were among the few audience members who understood and laughed at the show's dated song references to such non-events as: "LBJ took the IRT..."

** Joseph became a family favorite after this--we and our kin saw it a couple of times on Broadway and numerous times elsewhere; my theatrical niece played in at least one camp production; and just last December, some of us went to an off-off-off B'way production to keep the tradition alive into the next generation of our family. The young 'uns still sing "Go, go, go Joseph!"

Saturday, September 24, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Unfave Foods (a la Jack Sprat)

Being a twin, it was usually easy to get rid of food I didn't like as a kid: I shared with my sis. Like the old Jack Sprat nursery rhyme, I ate stuff she wouldn't touch, and she ate stuff I wouldn't touch.

When Mom served hard-boiled eggs, I'd eat the white and sis would eat the yolk. Mixed veggies from a can? She ate the lima beans (ugh) and I ate everything else. Neither of us liked fat, by the way, we were both like Jack Sprat's wife--lean fans.

Of course, there were lots of foods we both liked during our childhood in the Bronx: fresh rye bread from Victor's Bakery, the Hungarian bakery on White Plains Road near 224th Street; buttery cookies from the Cookie Jar near Pelham Parkway; and the Kitchen Sink ice cream extravaganza from Jahn's, just off Fordham Road.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History by Amy Coffin is a series of weekly blogging prompts (one for each week of 2011) that invite genealogists and others to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants.

Friday, September 23, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Childhood Hobbies--Hollywood Cerise and Bead Looms

Although there are no really good Web images of Venus Paradise color-by-number sets, they were a favorite hobby of my sisters and me. Remember Hollywood Cerise, one of the low-numbered pencils? Sure, the color looks garish to adult eyes, but to young ladies, it was perky and impossible to resist. We wore that pencil out again and again!

Then there was my college hobby, beading necklaces and belts on a loom slightly larger and sturdier than this one. My favorite was the necklace I made with red seed beads accented by a yellow beaded lightening bolt. I say "was" because alas, the necklace is long gone.

My bead period came during the height of the Age of Aquarius, when handmade adornments were in vogue. It amused my mother to see me picking up tiny beads one by one with my needle, hour after hour after hour. Maybe I'll revisit this hobby one day!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Sam Schwartz Arrived as Simon

Almost wordless! For years I tried to find my great-uncle Samuel Schwartz's name on a manifest, knowing he arrived in NYC before 1906, but no luck.

After receiving his naturalization papers last week, however, I now had a month and year: January, 1904, plus a departure point (supposedly Hamburg) and the name of a ship (the Pretoria).

Finally I found Sam--except he arrived here as Simon Schwartz, on a ship from Cuxhaven. It's definitely him, because in the far-right column, my grandpa Teodor (Theodore) Schwartz is listed as Simon's brother in New York City. A small step forward and a new mystery, never to be solved: How did Simon get from his hometown of Ungvar, Hungary, to the dock at Cuxhaven? That's quite a journey.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Those Places Thursday: NOT Ireland--Check the original!

Where oh where did my husband's branch of the McClure family come from before they turned up in America?

I've been trying to track down the parents and living descendants of his g-g-grandpa Benjamin McClure, who died in Emmet County, Michigan in 1896 and was buried with many other members of his family in Wabash, Indiana.

One of Benjamin's children was John N. McClure, who married Rebecca Jane Coble and were the parents of Fanny (Fannie) Fay McClure. Thanks to, I found Fanny's birth record in a ledger book. Her b-day is October 4, 1882.

More important, I thought I had an interesting clue to the McClures' origins: The transcription of this birth record shows that John and Rebecca were both from Ireland.

Of course I didn't take their word for it. I clicked through and looked at the original document. An excerpt is below. Do you think they're from Ireland? Take a close look.

No. He's from Fayette County, Indiana, and she's from what looks like Greenbrier, Indiana.

So Indiana is my place of the day (sorry, Ireland, but you may get your turn in a later post).

Monday, September 12, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Earliest Memories--No Shells in Eggy Bread

About the time this photo was taken of my hubby Wally, at age 2 or 3, his first memory was of sitting in a high-chair in the kitchen of his Cleveland home. Wally's parents, Edgar James Wood and Marian Jane McClure Wood, would have been in the kitchen or nearby.

Wally may have been feeding himself or being fed by the au pair, Dorothy, but he remembers announcing:

"I don't like shells in my eggy bread."

He remembers that he was eating a piece of bread with an egg on top, and he'd found shells in the egg. No wonder he complained. I don't like shells in my eggy bread either, do you?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11: Memories of the Twin Towers

As a New Yorker, my long-time impression of the World Trade Center towers was that they were modern, sterile, steel-and-glass boxes that happened to be the tallest skyscrapers on Earth when built. I was living in the Bronx when the twin towers opened in Manhattan, within a healthy walking distance of the high-rise apartment building where my mother (Daisy Burk) lived.

We would visit the towers, look up, and shake our heads at the contrast between these architecturally unremarkable buildings and the ornate Manhattan skyscrapers we admired, like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building (where I later worked in a branch of Sam Goody), and Radio City.

My former sister-in-law was married at Windows on the World atop 1 World Trade Center, a small family celebration with the best view of any wedding I've ever been to. This famous restaurant was a destination on its own within the twin towers complex, with great food, impeccable service, and an incomparable vista stretching out for miles and miles.

On September 11, 2001, hubby and I were in Rome when the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists. We saw the shocking news on TV and later went to the Internet cafe to be in touch with our New York family and friends, reassuring ourselves that they were safe and letting them know that Italy was holding candlelight vigils to show sympathy.

So many lives lost, so much gone in such a short time.

In the decade since, I've never had the heart to return to that downtown site, although I've seen photos and videos. Too many memories.

As undistinguished-looking as those twin towers seemed when they were constructed--known for their historic height rather than their beauty--I miss them in the NYC skyline, the gap as gaping as if the two front teeth were kicked out of the city's smile.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sympathy Saturday: Mary Ann McClure Cook

My ongoing quest for info about the McClures of Wabash, Indiana and Little Traverse, Michigan, has led me to the obit for Mrs. Mary Ann McClure Cook. She died on January 5, 1901 and her obit, published on January 9, 1901 in the Petoskey Record, mentions friends but NO family members other than her husband:
Mrs. Mary A. Cook, the wife of Rev. John J. Cook, of Conway, died at her home on Saturday last. Mrs. Cook was one of the best-known women about there, having lived in this country for more than twenty-five years. She was much loved and highly respected by old and young, and her death will be felt by all. The funeral was held Monday morning. Rev. John Redpath and Rev. Mr. Snawhan going from here to attend the services.
I already knew, checking Census records, that Mary Ann and John had no children (and never did, according to the Census). Now that I know something about Mary Ann, it's back to researching her siblings!
2022 update: For more about the McClure family, descended from ancestors in Donegal, see my ancestor landing page here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Boston Post Road History (Read a Book Day)

Don't overlook local and regional history books as sources of background info about the places your ancestors lived and the daily routines they might have followed. Browsing in my local library's "New Books" section, I picked up The King's Best Highway, by Eric Jaffe, a highly readable book about the history and development of the Boston Post Road, a road I thought I knew.
During college, I drove my Yamaha 50 motorcycle down the Boston Post Road (Route 1) from Boston to Bridgeport (CT) and then on to New York City. It only (!) took 10 hours, door to door, not including the overnight stay in Bridgeport with my dorm buddy and her family. In many spots, Route 1 coincided with Route 95, meaning I was riding a few short inches away from gigantic 18-wheelers that weren't at all impressed by my bike's 50 mph top speed.

Not only did the author trace BPR's surprising history from the 1600s to the present, he also described the economic, social, political, and cultural changes that the road brought about in New England and through New York City and its northern suburbs.

I didn't realize, for example, that "Colonel" Albert A. Pope, a bicycle entrepreneur in Hartford, was largely responsible for the movement to upgrade roads between Bean Town and the Big Apple, seeing them as bike paths! I also didn't know that bicycling clubs were the first to print foldout road maps for members. And I wasn't aware that the BPR went through Hartford, not just along the shoreline.

One of my great-uncles worked in Bridgeport, a hub of industrial activity that expanded thanks to P.T. Barnum's never-ending civic promotions plus, of course, the availability of rail, trolley, and road travel along the Boston Post Road.

This book would be a fun read for any genealogist researching the lives of ancestors who worked or lived in or near the Boston-to-New York corridor.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Road Trips--Northward Ho with My High School

In high school, I was lucky enough to go on two memorable school trips to Canada.

In 1966, my class went on a LONG bus ride from the Bronx to Quebec, staying at the famed Chateau Frontenac overlooking the harbor. (Photo at left is 40 years later, with hubby in foreground and the Chateau in background.)

We were housed 3-4 to a hotel room, mostly on two floors, away from the regular guests. These were rooms in need of renovation, just right for high schoolers, BTW. We teenagers barely slept, and our teacher chaperones were driven crazy by surprise bed-checks as they tried to enforce a stay-in-your-own-room policy (fat chance).

The views from the upper city were magnificent, and I particularly remember a horse-drawn carriage ride through the old city, then walking for miles over cobble-stone streets (which seemed exactly the same 40 years later, of course). We students had a wonderful fall trip!

In 1967, my class went on another LONG bus ride to Montreal for Expo 67 (left, the main Expo symbol). This trip was unforgettable because of what didn't happen.

The teacher-organizers had contracted to house us in a new motel just being built for the influx of Expo visitors. Alas, the trip organizers didn't contact the motel before our buses pulled up at the address we were given. Only then did we find out that it hadn't been completed in time. No rooms!

Confusion was the order of the day till one of the adults found us other places to stay, squished onto cots in tiny rooms scattered among several motels further away from Expo. Being teens, we weren't that concerned with our digs as long as we had our Twiggy-style makeup and mini-skirts.

But the Expo itself was lots of fun, and we especially enjoyed riding the monorail. Somewhere I still have my map of the Expo, a reminder of this long-ago road trip to our friendly neighbor to the north, eh?!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Census 1940: How Much Did Grandpa Make in 1939?

On April 2, 2012, I'll be able to find out how much money my Grandpa Theodore Schwartz made in 1939. Why do I care? Because Grandpa ran a grocery store and, according to family stories, he was too soft-hearted to take money from customers who were hungry but couldn't pay for their purchases. In eight months, I'll know whether Grandpa's income was suffering or whether he and Grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz had enough money to get by.

Yearly income in 1939 is only one of the important questions that any beginning genealogist should be thrilled to see on the 1940 Census form.

Another key question is "Residence, April 1, 1935." If you've already checked your ancestors' whereabouts in the 1930 Census, you'll now know where they were at the beginning, middle, and end of the Depression.

There's only one catch, and that's the biggest tip of all for using the 1940 Census: The names won't be indexed, at least not at first. You should start now to assemble a list of the exact addresses of all the relatives you're looking for in the 1940 Census. Second task: Locate the exact Enumeration District for each, which can be harder than it sounds (alas).** But if you start soon, you'll be ready.

When the Census records are opened in 2012, my fingers will be poised over the keyboard, ready to find out about Grandpa's income and his housing situation in the 1930s. How about you?

For more info, see the Census page at

UPDATE in 2022: My grandparents dodged this 1940 Census question! They said they were working on "own account" and "not paid" so didn't tell the enumerator about any income as a result of being a "salesman" and a "saleslady" in retail-grocery. Hah.

** JoelWeintraub's comment, below, has this excellent idea: "I suggest your readers start by taking our tutorial at:" Thanks, Joel!

ALSO: Same procedure for 2022 release of the 1950 US Census. See my 1950 Census landing page for more.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: 2 Weddings and a Reception

Wally wanted to get married on his birthday, which worked well because two days later, we were to leave for Europe. He had an assignment to cover a symposium in Salzburg, so it made sense to turn that into a honeymoon (and go to Paris and London too). Wouldn't you??


So on a Thursday night, we and our siblings and their spouses met at the Intercontinental Hotel in Manhattan, walked to Chez Vong (trendy Chinese/French restaurant), had Peking Duck to our heart's content, and came back for a small ceremony in the hotel. Despite some light rain, the whole evening was wonderful. That was wedding #1. On Friday, I went to work to finish getting things ready and Wally returned home to pack. Saturday morning we flew to Salzburg...

Wedding #2 took place 3 weeks later. We were back from Europe and had arranged a reception at a Westchester country club with a distant view of the river (alas, the club is now defunct). On a beautiful fall day, with 120 friends and family, Wally and I said "I do" once again.

The photo at top shows Wally with his father, Edgar James Wood, who sat in on piano for a few minutes during the dance period, being a professional musician by night when he was an insurance adjuster by day throughout his working years. At right, hubby and I are taking a break from our 2 weddings and a reception. Great memories!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sorting Saturday: Albert Ward Cobb of Sing Sing, NY

My father, Harold Burk, held onto a motley assortment of stuff from his time working as a travel agent and then a checkroom concession owner at two fancy Manhattan hotels, the Savoy Plaza (earlier, the Hotel Savoy; later, the Savoy Hilton and, later still, torn down to make way for the GM building) and the Hampshire House Hotel. Some of these things have been passed down to me and my sisters.

In one of the boxes of genealogy stuff I'm sorting today, I found two pocket notebooks and a few letters and documents pertaining to Mr. A. Ward Cobb. I assumed that these were some of "treasures" my father acquired during his years in travel and hotels. (The next generation wouldn't have any idea where the items came from, not knowing about what my father brought home from the hotels in his time!)

And that's correct!

Albert Ward Cobb (born 27 March 1870) and his sister Emmie (Emily) were children of Marcius L. Cobb, a lawyer and banker. M.L. Cobb was Vice-President of the First National Bank in Sing Sing, New York (see document at left).

Looking at the documents I'm sorting, I learned that:

1. Albert Ward Cobb applied to the Supreme Court of New York to be admitted to the bar in 1894, after clerking for Smith Lent in Sing Sing (Ossining), Westchester, New York. I have his official request for admission to the bar.
2. Albert graduated from the College of New Jersey at Princeton in 1890 with an A.B. degree, later an A.M. degree.
3. M.L. Cobb, Albert's father, had accounts (shown in brown notebooks) with Mrs. Jane M. Vail, showing receipts from transactions such as interest on bank mortgages and payments from mortgages. At one point, the balance is over $18,000. This appears to be a legal situation such as investing her husband's estate in trust, for instance, but again, I'm guessing.
4. The note above, dated Dec 3, 1877, shows that M.L. Cobb paid $404.23 which was received by C. F. Maurice, President, if I read the handwriting correctly. Here, M.L. Cobb is the VP of the bank, on the letterhead.

Now the genealogist in me had to do a bit of Census research. Albert Ward Cobb was 10 years old in 1880, according to the Census, living with his father, M. L. Cobb, a lawyer of 58 yrs old, and mother, Annie G. Cobb, 50 years old. He had other siblings besides Emily (who was then 12). They lived in Sing Sing in Westchester, NY (the village, NOT the famous prison).

Cobb grew up and married Fannie McCan (born in New Orleans) and they traveled a lot, judging by their passport application and other documents found via Ancestry. Cobb became a lawyer, I know from his Census details.

I skipped down to the 1930 Census, and there was Albert W. Cobb and his wife, Fannie, living at the Hotel Plaza, 1 West 58th Street, Manhattan. A.W. was 60 and Fannie was 47. NO children are listed. This was a very prestigious address, actually on the corner of Fifth Avenue, across the plaza from the Savoy Plaza.

So somehow, sometime, Albert W. Cobb's notebooks and some papers came into the possession of my father, and I'd like to repatriate them to some member of the Cobb family. I've posted notes in the Cobb surname boards on Ancestry and GenForum, looking for Cobb descendants.

And I confirmed something I've long suspected: Just as not all of the photos in a genealogy box are of MY family, not all of the artifacts have to relate to MY family. The Cobbs never rubbed elbows with the Burks, but a bit of their history is in my hands, waiting to go to the right person.

2022 update: Years ago, I donated these artifacts to the local historical society where the Cobb family lived. It was delighted to have more items pertaining to a family that was prominent in that area.

Friday, August 26, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Smells--Mom's Cedar Chest

Remember hope chests? My mother had one by Lane, I think, once the best-known manufacturer of such furniture. Hers, like so many, was lined with cedar. (Lane still makes cedar chests, I was surprised to learn; see a sedate example at left.)

I still remember the cedar aroma that wafted out of the chest whenever we opened it to remove a wool blanket or an afghan. In my memory, special seasonal treasures were kept in the cedar chest, brought out only a few times a year when needed and kept safe from moths in the chest when unused.

My twin sister inherited the chest and kept her afghans and blankets there, too. Afghans especially are prized in our family because they're one of a kind, handmade by someone with love and care. So that's what the cedar smell dredges up from my memory when winter rolls around and we need an afghan from the chest!


This is week #34 in Amy Coffin's yearlong series, 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History.