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.