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.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Blogiversary and Cousin Bait

How time flies--just three years ago, I began writing this genealogy blog. My first entry was about great-grandpa Meyer Mahler.

One of the most exciting genealogical events of the past three years has been meeting my 2d cousin Lois and her family. Lois found me through this blog! 

I'd hoped the blog would serve as cousin bait, and getting to know Lois (who also introduced me to cousin Lil) has been delightful. Lois, Lil, and I are all descended from Meyer Mahler--no wonder I'm thankful.

2022 update: Still blogging after all these years and grateful to be found by so many cousins from multiple family lines.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Go After the Obits

Benjamin McClure, my hubby's great-great-granddad, died in Little Traverse/Conway, Michigan, as noted in my previous post. Wanting to know more--such as, why he was in that area despite having relatives and roots in Wabash--I tried e-mailing the librarians in nearby towns, asking for McClure's obit (he died Feb 21, 1896).

Thanks to the efficient and responsive reference librarian in Petoskey, I now have his obit from the Petoskey Record of Wednesday, Feb. 26, 1896. It's short on relatives but long on background info:

Mr. Benjamin McClure, Mrs. Rev. John J. Cook's father, who has been visiting his daughter since last June [1895], died after a short sickness at Conway, on Friday morning, shortly after one o'clock. Mr. McClure was a resident of Wabash, Ind., for nearly 52 years. He is a member of the first Presbyterian church of Wabash, and has been a ruling elder for over 40 years.

His daughter and her husband accompany the remains to wabash, leaving Conway Monday morning, Feb. 24th, 1896. Mr. McClure was a devout christian, a good man, and will be missed by his children and a large circle of friends. He trusted the Lord Jesus Christ and was prepared to die. During the last week of his life he had intervals of intense suffering, but when the last moment came he passed away as one going to sleep.
Learning that John J. Cook was Benjamin's son-in-law, I found marriage info showing that John married Mary Ann McClure on 19 Oct 1871 in Wabash, service performed by Min. Gos. Archibald S. Reid. (Future census records indicate that John and Mary Ann had no children, so there are no cousins to track down from that branch.)

Benjamin's grandson, Brice Larimer McClure, was born in Little Traverse in 1878 but his parents (William Madison McClure and Margaret Jane Larimer McClure) moved away the following year. They must have been visiting John and Mary Ann.

I'm continuing to try to track down obits for other McClures. Maybe there will be survivors listed, parents listed, some occupational history, birthplace, who knows what? But this is where patience is a real virtue: Librarians are swamped with requests and I'm just plain lucky that Petoskey got to my request so quickly (2 days!). Thank you, Petoskey!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Surname Saturday: McClure in Little Traverse, MI

Emmet Cty, MI death register from 1896

Second page of Emmet Cty, MI death register
Today I've returned to the puzzle of tracing my hubby's great-great-grandfather (Benjamin McClure), trying to learn who his parents were and where they came from.

Both Benjamin and his wife, Sarah McClure, are buried in Wabash Falls Memorial Gardens in Wabash, IN. But that's nowhere near where he, at least, died!

Acting on info received from a knowledgeable Wabash genealogist/historian, I learned that Benjamin actually died in 1896 in Little Traverse, MI, as shown on the second entry of the two pages above (downloaded from Family Search).

This is almost certainly the correct Benjamin, because his grandson, Brice Larimer McClure, was born in Little Traverse, MI, in Dec, 1878. I'd wondered why Brice's son, William Madison McClure and the son's wife, Margaret Jane Larimer, were in Little Traverse at all. Now it seems that family brought them there, although they quickly moved away.

However, the genealogist mentioned that Benjamin's parents were John & Ann McClure, according to the Wabash obit. Above, however, the death register says that his parents were Enos  & Elizabeth McClure. Somebody has the wrong info. 2022 update: John & Ann McFall McClure are correct parents. 

I've written to librarians in Wabash and Petoskey, MI, asking for Benjamin McClure's obits. Those should help me determine who's who in Benjamin's family line. I see more research in my future! Received, later blog post confirms!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: Mail from Staffordshire to the Bronx

My mother's twin sister, Dorothy Schwartz, was a WAC in WWII, serving in England and receiving the Bronze Star for "meritorious service in direct support of operations against the enemy." She was the historian for the WAC detachment, 9th Air Force, having joined the company in spring, 1943 and leaving it in summer, 1945, when the war was winding down.

At 24 years old, Dorothy was far from her parents' apartment in the Bronx, NY, for the very first time. It was a difficult separation for my mother, Daisy Schwartz, because she was so close to her twin. (Frequent letters to and fro helped ease the separation, I know.)

On August 11, 1943, Dorothy's parents (my grandparents), Theodore and Hermina Schwartz, received an unexpected but very welcome letter from Edna S. Griffiths at Mayfield House, Stone, Staffordshire, England. She wrote, in part:

I have had the very great pleasure of meeting your daughter Dorothy and I thought I would like to write and tell you how we enjoyed seeing her. Ours was the first English home she had been to and that makes me very thrilled.

I was taking my little Scottie dog for a walk and met Dorothy and her two friends. I was so anxious to meet them and we finished the evening at my father's home. I really think they enjoyed themselves and they were most interested in all we had to tell them. Since that evening we have met so many of your country women. How we do admire them! We all "fell" for them...
I am sure you all miss Dorothy but she will be happy with the English people, we're to make them feel at home but of course we are not so easy to know, that's what I think. I think we are all beginning to feel the strain of this terrible war...
I hope if Dorothy is ever short of a house during her leaves I hope she will come to us. My home is always hers while she is in England. She is really  a beautiful girl and I am sure you are both proud of her.
 My best wishes to you both and may we soon see the end of this awful war. Yours very sincerely,
Edna S. Griffiths
Edna and my grandparents exchanged letters a few more times until 1945, when Dorothy returned home. How lovely it must have been for my grandparents to know that their daughter had caring people she could visit and talk to during her time in England! Thank you, Edna Griffiths.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Nicknames (or Not)

My mother, Daisy Schwartz Burk, purposely gave her children names that weren't easily shortened or transformed into a popular nickname.

Maybe Mom's aversion to nicknames stemmed from her twin sister's dislike of her nickname: Dorothy Schwartz was often called "Dot" or "Dotty" by family and friends, an affectionate name but not one appreciated by either twin, apparently. When this aunt sent her nieces (me and my sisters) a postcard or greeting card, she signed it "Aunt Dorothy" or "Auntie."

Of course, I yearned for a nickname because "everybody else has one." One summer when my twin and I were in day camp--in different groups--I decided to take the plunge.

When the other campers asked my name, I said Cricket.* The girls accepted this nickname and used it for the few weeks we were at camp together.

Then Mom visited on Parents' Day. Counselors were puzzled when she mentioned her daughters' names. Marian Burk? Oh, you mean Cricket Burk?? Mom gave me an amused/annoyed look but said nothing. That was the one and only summer I had a nickname.

My sister loves her nickname Izzi and collects widgets with Izzi on it... :)

*Who knows why I came up with that nickname? The Shadow knows---bwaa ha ha!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday Time Travel: 1954, When Great-Uncle Sam Schwartz Died

My maternal grandfather Teddy Schwartz had an older brother, Sam Schwartz, who was the immigrant trailblazer. Sam told officials (draft boards and others) that he was born July 4, 1883 and I know he died on June 9, 1954, less than a month before he would have turned 71. Cousin Harriet tells me that Sam died of a heart attack, mowing his lawn on a hot summer day.

Sam spent many years operating his own grocery store in Queens, New York. Coincidentally (or not), my grandpa Teddy operated his own grocery store in the Bronx, NY. Sam's first wife, Anna Gelbman, died in 1940 and Sam remarried Margaret ___ sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

What was happening in 1954, the year that Great-uncle Sam died?

  • The US social and political landscape was changing. Pres. Eisenhower had recently ended the Korean War; Brown vs. the Board of Ed Topeka outlawed racial segregation in schools, a major shift in Southern states that had minimal effect where Sam lived in NYC. Senator Joe McCarthy was making headlines with Commie lists--and was finally discredited. The phrase "under God" was added to the pledge of allegiance. The first US nuclear sub, the Nautilus, was launched, adding to the atomic weaponry race during the Cold War. Rock 'n roll was coming to life. Sam would have been aware of most these shifts (not the rock 'n roll, for sure) and probably had a strong opinion on them (though I don't know what his opinions would have been).
  • The Hungarian revolution was brewing. Sam, a native of Ungvar, certainly would have been unhappy about the Soviet domination of Hungary. Russia's Stalin died in 1953 and Hungary became embroiled in a struggle between the repressive Soviets and a slightly more progressive group of officials who wanted reforms. Sadly, Sam died before the Warsaw Pact tied Hungary even more tightly into the Soviet bloc and before the brief Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which failed in its attempt to tear Hungary away from the Soviet orbit.
  • New York City: Ellis Island closes, Giants win World Series. Sam and his siblings knew all about Ellis Island. In fact, my grandpa Teddy worked as a runner for insurance firms etc., recruiting new arrivals at Ellis Island, because Teddy had a facility for languages. Perhaps immigrants like Sam and Teddy felt nostalgia for the first US building they set foot in, or perhaps they were relieved that the overcrowded place was no more. As a New Yorker, Sam would have been a bit pleased to know that a home team, the Giants (soon to decamp for California), stomped all over the Cleveland Indians in a four-game rout. Not of much consequence, I know, but who could resist mentioning this?
I'm still trying to find out more about Sam's second wife, Margaret, who I believe died in the 1970s and who had a son, William, from her first marriage.*

*2022 update: Her son was Simon, and he was living with Sam Schwartz and Margaret Schwartz in 1950 US Census, taken that April. Still searching!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mystery Monday: Who Would I Choose for WDYTYA?

Susan Peterson of Long Lost Relatives asks the following:

Imagine, just for a moment, that you are the producer of the hit NBC television series,
Who Do You Think You Are? What celebrities would you like to see on your perfect season of the show? And why would you choose them?

Susan, this is such a thought-provoking question that I took the weekend to consider who I'd like to learn about. (In Canada, by the way, a genealogy buff would be watching Ancestors in the Attic. In the UK, you'd be watching Who Do You Think You Are?)

So here are my eight choices:

Dion (of Dion & the Belmonts). Remember his hit The Wanderer? And then, later, Abraham and Martin and John? Being from the Bronx, I'd like to know more about the background of this Bronx-born pop singer of 1960s/70s fame.

Janet Evonavich. Author of One for the Money and other Stephanie Plum mystery novels. What's her family's story? Her heroine comes from an interesting family, genealogy-wise, so I wonder whether she's got interesting stories in her family tree.

Sasha Cohen. I'm a skating fan, what can I say? I bet she has some interesting ancestors from interesting places. Where are her roots?

David Pogue. When he writes about technology for the New York Times, he translates geekdom into plain English. Where do his genes come from??
Reed Hastings. He cofounded Netflix. Do his entrepreneurial smarts come from somewhere deep in his family's history? Inquiring minds want to know!

John Stewart. Who can watch the Daily Show and not wonder about this man's family tree??

John Grisham. Best-seller after best-seller for this author...and what about his family's characters?

Diana Tarausi. WNBA star, former UConn basketball great. (Go Lady Huskies!) I imagine she has a fascinating family background. WDYTYA should help her find out!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Dinnertime = Rotisserie Time

Mom (Daisy Schwartz Burk) loved to roast the main course for many dinners on her countertop rotisserie. Unlike today's gourmet built-ins on top-of-the-line ranges, this was a stainless-steel free-standing rotisserie with a sturdy spit partly enclosed behind a glass door. Nobody else we knew had such a gadget, which took up considerable space in the galley kitchen of our 2-bedroom apartment, but it was a prized possession in our household.

Chickens were rubbed with softened margarine and paprika, trussed, and mounted on the spit. Leg of lamb had slivers of garlic slipped into tiny slits here and there. No-tend cooking with an audience! My two sisters and I would watch and wait as the chicken (or leg of lamb) rotated in front of our eyes, until browned and cooked through. The aroma filled our apartment and spilled out into the hallway, giving us quite an appetite. As an adult, I don't want to think about the cleanup, but it certainly gave Mom a chance to open a can of veggies (peas and carrots, typically, since we were picky eaters) and cut wedges of iceberg lettuce to accompany dinner.

Usually there were 5 of us around the table in the dinette (a small eating area next to the kitchen). Once in a while, we three sisters would sit down to an early weeknight dinner with Mom (maybe at 6 pm or so) and then a little later, when Dad (Harold Burk) came home from his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx from Manhattan, he'd eat while Mom told him about her and our day and he talked about his day.

For variety, Mom would occasionally make a dairy dinner of cheese blintzes, made from a mix of "pot cheese" (whatever that was) and "farmer's cheese" (still available in some smaller supermarkets). Adults piled sour cream on top, we kids ate them as is. This was much more labor-intensive than rotisserie-cooked main courses, however, and so it wasn't often served. Yum!

My twin remembers the Hoffman sodas for special Sunday dinners, a quart bottle (no 2-liter plastic bottles in those days) that was bought the same day. Sarsaparilla was a favorite, and so was cream soda.

Hoffman used to promote a value ticket to the late, great Palisades Amusement Park, a big place once located "just south of G. Washington Bridge" in New Jersey. As teenagers dating boys with cars, my sister and I were there a few times, watching Cousin Brucie's Saturday night live DJ gig, for example.