Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: The Steiner Sisters' Tea Party

Elizabeth Rinehart Steiner and her husband, Edward G. Steiner, had an all-girl family except for their only son (Orville, my Sympathy Saturday subject).

Here, four of the six sisters pose for a "tea party" photo. My sis-in-law thinks that Carrie, Floyda, Blanche (Etta), and Minnie are in this photo. This photo was probably taken after Addy (Addline) Steiner died in 1879, so the fifth sister shown must be the oldest, Margaret (Mary) Steiner (later Margaret Post).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Floyda's Hidden Past Proves the Power of Please and Patience

Above is the marriage license application and cert for Floyda Mabel Steiner and Brice Larimer McClure, married 10 June 1903 in Wyandot County, Ohio (Upper Sandusky, to be exact). They're my hubby's maternal grandparents. There's been some question about the exact names of the great-grandparents, so I wanted their marriage info just to be sure. I found out where and when they were married via Ancestry's Ohio marriage database. The next step was to get a copy of the documentation.

First tip: Ask nicely. I called the probate court, explained that I was doing genealogical research, and asked (pretty please) whether the marriage documents for 1903 were available. The answer was yes. Next, I asked how to apply for a copy and what the cost would be. Answer: Write a detailed letter, include a SASE, and include a dime for each copy. However, I was told to be patient, because genealogical requests have to wait their turn while more pressing business is attended to. I thanked the clerk for her time, hung up, and immediately wrote out my request.

Second tip: Be generous. I put two bucks into a small envelope and wrote "payment for processing" on the outside, and included that with my letter and SASE. It's a bargain, IMHO, when you consider the convenience.

The bottom line: One month later, my SASE showed up in the mail, with a certified copy (well, photocopy) of the log book where Floyda and Brice's marriage info is kept. Not only did it show their parents' names (spelling is still a question mark), it revealed that Floyda had been married before, to Mr. Gottfried. That's an intriguing development I'm going to investigate.* Thank you, Wyandot County!

PS - Crawford County, Ohio, is just as friendly as Wyandot. I called to ask about Floyda's parents' marriage documents (from 1851) and they said to go ahead and send a SASE and 50 cents for a copy. Of course I sent more--what a bargain!

*2022 update: I learned more about Floyda's ill-fated first marriage from divorce documents obtained later. She filed suit against him, alleging her first husband was mentally and emotionally abusive, threatened and belittled her. Eventually she actually won her case and was awarded alimony. She took back her maiden name until remarrying two years later. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

52 Weeks: Pets--Mittens the Mongrol Terrier

This is a guest post from hubby, Wally, about Mittens, his family's dog, who lived to the ripe old age of 17.

"When I was 6, my sister was 4, and my brother was an infant, my family picked Mittens from a litter of mongrol terriers that a neighbor's dog had. He was named Mittens (Mitty for short) because he had four white paws.

"Mittens was fearless--except for thunder. During a thunderstorm, he would come tearing into the kitchen, slipping on the linoleum, to crawl under the old-fashioned electric stove and hide.

"In the summers, when I'd ride off on my bicycle, Mittens would run alongside. When the family rode in the car, Mittens would sit on the back shelf of the Plymouth, his nose out the rear window.

"One time, after we had been out in the car with him (getting ice cream?), we all got back in the car and my father started to drive away. Several blocks later, when we stopped at a red light, a car pulled up beside us. The driver called out, "You know there's a dog chasing you?!" We'd forgotten Mittens and driven off without him, but he wouldn't let us get away!

"One Sunday, my mother opened the vegetable bin under the old-fashioned refrigerator, screamed, and slammed it shut. She'd seen a rat in it. We looked for the rat but found no sign of him. That evening, Mittens came down to the basement where I was playing, and began sniffing around. He kept trying to get behind a door that was leaning up against the wall. When I pulled it away from the wall to take a look, there was the rat.

"I immediately pushed one end of the door tight against the wall to trap the rat and Mittens went crazy at the other end until my father rushed downstairs to kill it. Mittens was barking, I was shouting, even the rat was making a racket. Looking back, I think Mittens was disappointed that he hadn't been able to get at the rat. Mongrol terriers were used as "ratters" in the old days, and Mitty certainly had those genes!"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

52 Weeks of Genealogy: The Automat and More

The quintessential New York City "casual dining" experience during the 1950s was at one of the Horn & Hardart Automats. The last one in Manhattan was near the Daily News building on Third Avenue and 42nd Street, and I remember going there to enjoy the Art Deco ambiance, not just the food.

As discussed in a Smithsonian article and in a book called The Automat, the Automat was cavernous and self-serve, with reasonably-priced hot and cold meals as well as prepared food ready for takeout by hungry commuters on their way home.

Eat-in customers would get a handful of nickels from the change lady and pump a few nickels into the slots to buy . . . well, my friend Rich's favorite was applesauce cake. My absolute favorite was sticky buns. My twin sis remembers great mac 'n cheese (the recipe, cut to family proportions by food maven Arthur Schwartz, can be found here).

My first restaurant experience on my own was a trip to the local Chinese restaurant at the corner of 225th Street and White Plains Road in the Bronx, at the foot of the steps leading to the elevated subway stop. I was 11 when I met my classmate Linda Kelly at the restaurant one weekend afternoon (we were in 6th grade at PS 103 together). We read the menu and ordered "one from column A and one from column B" plus wonton soup and spare ribs. When the bill came, we each had just enough money to pay our half.

I went home feeling very grown up because my friend and I had dined out all on our own. Only later did my parents think to mention that people usually leave a tip after a meal. Oooooops. I'm certain that my father stopped into the restaurant and slipped a couple of dollars to the owner or waiter, along with his thanks for treating two young girls with dignity during their first "grown up" restaurant meal.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sympathy Saturday - Orville J. Steiner of Ohio

Hubby's granduncle Orville J. Steiner died in August, 1936. Thanks to the Ohio History Store, I have his death cert, as you can see. So why is this a Sympathy Saturday item?

There's almost no personal info on this death cert, even though the informant is one of Orville's younger sisters, Carrie Steiner Traxler. For some reason, "unknown" is the father and "unknown" is mother's maiden name. 

And the info that appears on the death cert makes no sense. Orville was apparently married, but the name of his wife is "unknown." Poor Orville died of uremic poisoning, on top of chronic myocarditis. He was 80 and living in Marion, Ohio, not far from Carrie and other sisters, who lived in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

I'm remembering him on Sympathy Saturday. **

** Update: I've just discovered more about Orville by tracking him back through the Census. In 1930, he was an "inmate" at an almshouse. My assumption (not proven) is that he was in the almshouse when he died, and the officials listed his next of kin as the "informant" without actually consulting her about details such as Orville's parents' names. He really has my sympathy now. 

2022 update: I've been in touch with Orville's descendants, who say he had some kind of chronic illness that required long-term care. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Talented Tuesday: James Edgar Wood, Cleveland Builder

James Edgar Wood, hubby's paternal grandfather, was a builder in Cleveland, Ohio. He would often build a home, move his family in as he finished the inside, and start on another home.

Once the next home was built, he'd sell the one he was living in and move to the newer home. My late father-in-law remembers living in a succession of homes as a child.

James built homes on Wood Road in Cleveland, named after him.

In photo at top left, you can just make out the sign that says "James E. Wood, Carpenter and Builder." That's him at the front gate, next to his wife, Mary Slatter Wood. I'm tracing the Slatters right now, as noted in yesterday's Military Monday posting.

Photo at bottom left probably shows two of James Edgar Wood's four sons standing in front of a house their father built, but since it's undated, we're not sure which two.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Military Monday: Capt. Slatter at Camp Borden, Ontario

This is Captain Slatter*, who is related (somehow) to my husband's grandmother Mary Slatter Wood. The reverse of this photo, handed down in the family, has a handwritten notation:
Camp Borden, Ont. 1917
Standing outside my tent
I only put my kilt on for special occasions in camp as it is so dusty with sand blowing all day.

Capt. Slatter's hat is the same as he's wearing in the earlier photo below, taken in Toronto, where he has on a dress kilt and is holding a baton. (A bandmaster?) 

Camp Borden was the WWI training grounds of Canada's Royal Flying Corps. Mary and her brothers John, Albert, and Harry Slatter (and sister Mrs. James F. Baker) came from England to Winnipeg, and the rest stayed in Canada. Exactly who Captain Slatter is, I can't tell (yet). Mary died in 1925 and her obit mentions her sister and three brothers.*

Thanks to Darcy, whose comment is below, the mystery of the uniform is solved: This appears to be of the 48th Highlanders of Toronto. I've written the 48th, with the photos, to ask for confirmation. A very good start! Darcy, your help is much appreciated.

*Update: This is most definitely renowned bandmaster Captain John Daniel Slatter. The 48th Highlanders identified him for me! See my later post here. For more, including the answers to my questions in this early post, go to the Slatter family landing page at top of this blog.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday's Obit: John Andrew Wood, b. Cleveland, d. Michigan City, IN

John Andrew Wood was one of my hubby's paternal uncles (the others were Theodore "Ted" Wood and Wallis Walter Wood). When John died in 1980, the only surviving sibling was Edgar James Wood, my hubby's father.

After the funeral, John's widow sent this obit and memorial card to her brother-in-law Edgar and his wife Marian (my hubby's parents) along with a note: "Thank you so much for the flowers-but especially for your lovely note. The funeral was very simple and plain, just as Jack requested. I'm sorry you couldn't be three but as we agreed, it would have been a little too much." 

2022 update: I'm looking for John Andrew Wood in the 1950 US Census. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Surname Saturday: Steiner in Wyandot County, Ohio

My husband's grandmother was Floyda Mabel Steiner, born 20 March 1878 in Nevada, Ohio. Floyda married Brice Larimer McClure and had one child, Marian Jane McClure, my mother-in-law (who I never met, sad to say).

She had no birth cert, apparently, and went to court in 1944 to have her birth registered through the testimony of her older sisters, Carrie Steiner Traxler and Etta Blanche Steiner Rhuark of Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

Thanks to the Ohio History Store, operated by the Ohio Historical Society, I ordered Floyda's brother Orville Steiner's death cert. This will help me with their parents' names, which are variously shown as Edward George Steiner (or George Edward Steiner) and Elizabeth Jane Rinehart Steiner.

I talked about the Steiners in my earlier post about the handwritten names/dates on the back of the McClure Shade Shop business card. Now it's time to pin down more specifics!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday: 5 Things to Do Before I Become an Ancestor (Update)

Last year I wrote about the 5 genealogy things I have to do before I (gulp) become an ancestor. Now it's time to update the list with a slightly different take on the 5 "must do" genealogy tasks:
  1. Document the most important things (and don't count on technology). The genealogist(s) of the next generation may not be able to figure out who's who and what's what, even with the Census photocopies and other notes in my files. Whoever comes after me may not know (or care) how to use my genealogy software and they sure won't be able to access my Mozy backups. That's why I'm creating and printing pedigree charts and family info NOW, this week. Each major family has a file folder in my cabinet and some major figures in each family have their own folders within folders. But if there are no pedigree charts, a system that makes sense to me may not make sense to the next genealogist. So I'm putting the basics into print and sending a copy to interested family members, with extra copies in my files.
  2. Keep putting labels on photos. I've made a good start. Nearly all my photos are in archival plastic sleeves. But I feel strongly about telling the stories that go with the photos (see #3 below) and that's slowing me down. I've been scanning each photo and writing up a couple of paragraphs about it. After all, that's the only way that the little girl who was 18 months old in a family photo will know that we were gathered for a certain holiday, that her dress was hand-made by her mother, that great-uncle Joe had just died, and her grandmother was too ill to be present. Small details, I know, but they bring family history alive and they put the basic facts into a context. And, because others may not know how to use my Picasa photo software, where I've carefully named each scanned photo, I need to print out the photo with the story and file it where it can be found.
  3. Tell the stories. What did my ancestors value? What did they aspire to? What made them cry or laugh? Why did they leave their hometowns and move across the state or around the world? What else was happening around them that affected their lives? I know some (not all) of the answers...and I'm compelled to tell the stories. Maybe my nieces have a vague understanding of WWII, but they don't know much about what their grandpa did in the war and why he was busted to private more than once. The stories show what kind of guy grandpa was! And when I tell a story to a family member, it's possible that that relative may know another part of the story or have a different take on the situation. So keep telling the stories.
  4. Reopen the search for key ancestors. Three years ago, I conducted an intensive search to determine whether William Madison McClure and his father Benjamin McClure are definitely my husband's ancestors. With the help of a genealogy angel who had some key local history books, I concluded that they were "very probably" family members. It's time to reopen the search, write away for more info if necessary and available, and either put them on the pedigree charts or find out who belongs there. The McClures are high on my "to do" list for 2011. And I have other holes in the family tree to plug, of course.
  5. Stay in touch. It was on my previous list and it's still on my list this time around. Last fall, my 2d cousin Lois found me through this blog and we've met and corresponded. Plus she introduced me to our 2d cousin Lil! The joy of genealogy is in meeting cousins and widening the family circle, IMHO. Blogging is wonderful cousin bait--and I mean that in the best way possible. If a cousin I haven't found does an online search for our family name and lands on my blog, I'll be thrilled, and I'll stay in touch.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy--Sports: Rooftops, Subways, and Skating

How about this as a sport: Leaping from rooftop to rooftop without a safety net.

My Dad, Harold Burk, grew up in Manhattan at a time when cars were becoming more common. In addition to dodging traffic to play stick ball (a kind of street softball), he and his friends would dare each other to leap across the rooftops of the 6 or 8 story tenements in their neighborhood. Luckily, he was sure-footed. (When he told me this story, he seemed a bit amazed that he had survived--me too!)

Dad (shown at left, graduating from elementary school) grew up, served in WWII, came home, married Mom (Daisy Schwartz), and had a family. As long as I can remember, he was a rabid Yankees fan. Since we lived in the Bronx, a subway ride away from Yankee Stadium, he'd take my twin and me and our little sister to games several times each summer.

Sometimes the tickets would come from his travel agent connections, and we'd wind up in the box seats behind home plate, with a great view of catcher Elston Howard's back and a chance to hear Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris's bat sock the ball out of the park. We saw many of the Yankee greats of the 1950s and 1960s, way too many to name.

We savvy local fans knew what to do when the ball game got down to the middle of the 9th inning. If the score wasn't close, we would scamper out of our seats, exit the stadium, and run up the stairs to the elevated subway alongside the stadium, subway token in hand. Standing on the subway platform overlooking the ball field gave us a perfect place to watch the final out. Sometimes the subway train would idle there for a moment, waiting for the out (conductors and motormen were fans too) and then we'd jump inside the train as the doors closed, whisked away before the other fans were even out of their seats.

Today my spectator sport of choice is figure skating. It's a great sport to watch on TV when your hubby is out skiing. And it's even better to see live, at a rink where Olympic champs train (Alexei Yagudin has startingly blue eyes up close!) or at an international competition. My most memorable skate world moment was in 2003, watching Shen and Zhao win pairs gold at the World Figure Skating Championships in Washington, D.C., skating to Turandot. Below, I'm at SkateAmerica in 2006, next to Ina and Zimmerman's poster, with a stuffed toy in my jacket to throw onto the ice as a tribute to the skater I like the best.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Surname Saturday - Pietroniro of Casacalenda, Italy

Piacentino (Peter) Pietroniro, my step-children's grandfather, came from Casacalenda, Campobasso, Italy. But that's as far as we could go with his genealogy. Until now, thanks to Susan, a very kind genealogy angel, and the efficient Casacalenda officials.

After attending a talk by Toni McKeen about obtaining genealogical records from Italy, I wrote to the town officials of Casacalenda, requesting Peter's birth record and his family status record, if possible.

Today I received this extract of Peter's birth record. We already knew his birthday was February 27, 1901. What we had to determine was his parents' names. And now I know for sure that he's the son of Giovanni Antonio Pietroniro and Maria Teresa Mansi!

Susan looked up many Casacalenda records for me and found Peter's siblings plus his family four generations back in Italy. She also explained a bit about the area and why young men would leave in the 1920s (to find work). Thank you, Susan! And thank you, Casacalenda officials, for speeding this birth extract to me in only three weeks. Here's a sketch of Casacalenda from its site:

Knowing Peter's parents allowed me to prepare detailed pedigree charts (downloaded for free from Misbach!) and show my step-children much more about their genealogical background on both sides of the family.

Now there are more Pietroniro mysteries to unravel: Peter came over with his brother, Paolo (Paul) Pietroniro. Paul settled in Canada with his wife Filomena and their children. Possibly there are Pietroniro cousins out there?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Those Places Thursday: James Monroe HS, Bronx, NY

My mother, Daisy (Schwartz) Burk, and her twin sister, Dorothy, attended James Monroe High School in the Bronx, at the northern tip of the Soundview section. Wikipedia says the school opened in 1924, so my guess is the first school year ended in 1925 (according to the year on the school's seal, at left).

Today the building houses a number of small, specialized public schools, but it was originally one huge high school, drawing from many Bronx neighborhoods. It awarded academic diplomas, general diplomas, practical arts diplomas, and commercial diplomas.

Mom and Auntie graduated in January, 1936 (see bottom, where their names are listed in the graduation program she saved). They were just 16. Mom immediately looked for work. Her older brother Fred had gone to college (one of the free City University of NY colleges) but there was only enough money for one more to go to college, so Auntie went (to another free City University of NY college) and Mom didn't. Both Fred and Dorothy went on to earn a  doctorate degree. To see Mom and Auntie's yearbook photos, click:
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Mom, who could have done the course work in her teens, only finished a couple of years of college by the time she went at night as a working mom in her 50s. The math and science courses were, by that time, beyond her. She loved the literature courses most of all!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Matrilineal Monday: Mary Amanda Demarest, Where Were You Born?

Mary Amanda Demarest married Thomas Haskell Wood in New Orleans in 1845, when she was 14 years old. Cousin Larry, our Wood family genealogist, has records of her marriage, her children, and her burial, but Mary Amanda's exact birthplace and date -- and her parents -- remain a mystery. She seems to have been born in New York City in 1831 (according to death cert, etc).

Last month, at cousin Larry's suggestion, I checked the records of the Reformed Dutch Church of Greenwich, New York City, where many Demarests were members. Alas, no Mary Amanda. But there were these three records of children adopted by Mary Van Orden Demarest, as you can see from the above excerpts from transcribed church ledgers.

This discovery has led to a new line of thinking: Maybe Mary Amanda was adopted into the Demarest family? Her birth record wouldn't show up as Mary Amanda Demarest. Of course this is only a theory. More research is in our future!

2022 update: No progress after all these years. The parents of Mary Amanda Demarest are still not proven. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

52 Weeks - Spring: Playgrounds, Blue Grass, and Earrings

The Bronx was like suburbia in the 1950s, believe it or not. We lived in an apartment building 1 block from Bronx Park adjacent to the Bronx River in the Northeast Bronx. This park district is now known as "Shoelace Park." By the 1980s, it had become known informally as "Needle Park" and wasn't safe day or night, I understand. (I had moved away long before.)

But back in my day, it was pretty and green and a world apart from the bustle of the city that was a subway ride away.

My mom, Daisy Burk, would pull out the baby buggy every spring, tuck my baby sister Harriet in with a hand-crocheted afghan, and take my twin Isabel and me for a stroll in the park. She wore the fragrance Blue Grass, by Arden, her favorite. (My sister  especially loved that fragrance and the childhood memories it evoked.)

First stop on our Bronx Park spring stroll was "The Circle" aka "The Horse Shoe," a group of benches arranged inside a horse-shoe-shaped stone fence within the park. The moms would sit on benches under the trees while we kids played. Sometimes we'd ride our bikes round and round the circle. Sometimes we'd explore the "woods" outside the bench area.

Another favorite stop was the playground, at E. 227th Street in Bronx Park. In the summer, this playground had free arts 'n' crafts activities for kids and bug-juice (colored sugar water, it tasted like) for a snack. Here's a pair of earrings that one of we twins made for our mom. Unfortunately, these were for pierced ears and hers weren't pierced, but she kept them forever and now I have them in my jewelry box, a treasured memento of Mom and those crafty days.

My twin Izzi just reminded me of one more favorite activity in the playground above--playing King/Queen (a kind of street handball) against one of the retaining walls. Each box was a lower rank, starting from the left. I remember our personal twist on this game. King, Queen, Jack, 10, and then . . . Toilet Bowl, the lowest rank :)