Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Remembering "Little" Sister

My younger sister Harriet was named for Henrietta Mahler Burk, our paternal grandma.
Here's Harriet's grade-school graduation photo, freckles and all. Thinking of her on the eve of her birthday...tomorrow she would have been 57. RIP.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday (almost): Identifying the Twins

Most of the time, my mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk) didn't bother to mark photos to identify which of her twin daughters was which, since she could tell us apart. Luckily there are a few photos where we're identified.

Here, I'm on the left and my sis is on the right. We're sitting on the uncomfortable empire-style couch in the Bronx apartment of our Grandma, Daisy's mother, Hermina Farkas Schwartz.

Grandma had long hair rolled into a bun, pinned at the back of her neck. I believe she crocheted the antimaccassar shown here. (Don't see those any more, huh?!)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Surname Saturday: Birk or Birck from Lithuania (later: Burk)

Isaac Burk, my grandfather, was a carpenter/machinist who left Lithuania to live and work first in Canada and then in New York. According to his petition for naturalization, his original name was Itzchok Birck but I've also seen it listed as Birk or Berk on some documents. His declaration of intention (1939) included the above photo and signature. The two witnesses listed on Isaac's 1942 petition for naturalization were Ida Mahler Volk, his sister-in-law, and Ida's husband Louis Volk.

Exactly when and where Isaac was born is a mystery. He listed his birth date on the naturalization documents as June 5, 1881, but he told the WWI draft board that he was born on April 10, 1881 and he told the WWII draft board that he was born on June 5, 1882. On his marriage record, Isaac lists his father as Elias Burk and his mother as Necke Burk--but both names have been written over with some corrections, so the exact spelling isn't known.

When Isaac entered the United States in May 1904, he said his last permanent residence had been Gerst. My guess is this was a mangled version of Gorsk, known in Lithuanian as Gargzdai. This is 11 miles east of the Baltic port of Klaipeda, Lithuania. Before World War I, Gorsk was in Russia, Kovno province, Telsiai district.

Isaac and his wife Henrietta Mahler went back and forth between New York City (where they were married in 1906) and Montreal until about 1915, when they settled in the Bronx to raise their four children: Mildred, Harold (my Dad!), Miriam, and Sidney.

PS: I found Isaac and Henrietta in the 1940 Census, right where they should have been: 3044 Valentine Avenue in the Bronx.  Both of their sons, Harold (age 30) and Sidney (age 25), were living with them. Isaac's occupation was "manufacturer, dress forms" and son Harold's occupation was "clerk, baggage room." Now here's an interesting detail: Isaac's 1939 income had been ZERO but Harold's had been $1,000 and Sidney's had been $600. I have a suspicion that when Harold and Sidney went into the Army for WWII, they had their pay sent home to Isaac and Henrietta, who had no other income that I know of.

2022 update: Isaac was no longer alive for 1950 US Census but Henrietta, his widow, was alive and living with one of her sons, Sidney, in the Bronx. She died in 1954.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday's Obituary: Sarah McClure, July 28, 1888

Hubby's g-grandma, Sarah Deming (or Denning) McClure, died on July 28, 1888, at age 76. She had been one of the earliest settlers of Wabash County, Indiana, and was the mother of 13 (according to her husband's obit). Her grave is in Wabash, Indiana's Falls Memorial Gardens. The obituary that appeared in the Wabash Times on August 3, 1888 (at left) was brief and focused on Sarah's religious life:

Mrs. Sarah McClure, wife of Benjamin McClure, died at her home four miles north of this city [Wabash] at an early hour last Saturday, July 28, of a spinal trouble of which she has been ill for several weeks. The funeral services were held at the late home of the deceased on Sunday afternoon at one o’clock and were very largely attended. The services were conducted by her pastor, Rev. Charles Little, who chose for his text the words, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” which was the text preached from when Mrs. McClure was converted at the age of eleven years. The burial took place at Falls Cemetery. 

Mrs. McClure was seventy years old [actually, she was 76] and leaves a husband, three sons and four daughters. She was noted for her devotion to the church and the cause of her Master. She was a firm believer in the Bible, and very fond of reading the good book. Consistent, sympathetic, and tender-hearted, she won the admiration of a wide circle of friends, and was to them a most worthy example. 

Mr. and Mrs. McClure were pioneers in Presbyterianism here in Wabash. They were among the little band which organized the old school church here, the edifice standing on the site of the present magnificent church building.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Society Saturday: Speaking to the Westchester County Genealogical Society

Photos by my sis :)
Today I spoke to the Westchester (NY) County Genealogical Society on the topic of Using Boards and Blogs for Genealogy. 

This society maintains a surname database with more than 1,000 member queries, publishes a monthly newsletter, and has a very active meeting schedule featuring all kinds of speakers. Last month, I attended the society's Irish-American genealogy meeting and heard an excellent presentation by Joe Buggy.

During today's presentation, I listed the following resources for genealogical message boards and blogs. How many do you use? (updated 2022 to remove links that no longer function--and note I spoke to this group a couple of weeks ago, almost exactly a decade after first speaking to them.)

·     RootsWeb/Ancestry message boards      

·     GenForum message boards on
 ·    Cyndi’s List links to surname message board info

Friday, April 13, 2012

No Titanic for My Ancestors

The anniversary of the Titanic tragedy got me thinking about the ships my ancestors sailed from the Old World to the New World.

SS Moltke of Hamburg America Line
In my Schwartz family, my grandfather Theodore (Tivador) was the first to arrive in New York, aboard the S.S. Moltke from Hamburg in 1902 (above). He was listed as 14 years old, a student, hometown of Ungvar, Hungary, and supposedly he was going to be with a cousin in New York. Interestingly, Teddy became a runner for some of the steamship lines during his early years in New York City.

Teddy's older brother, Samuel Schwartz, arrived in New York aboard the S.S. Pretoria from Cuxhaven in 1904 (below). The manifest indicates he was a 20-year-old printer (an occupation he continued in Connecticut) and he was joining his brother Teodor (Theodore), living at 941 Second Avenue in New York City.
SS Pretoria of Hamburg America Line
Together, Teddy and Sam pooled their money to bring their youngest sister Mary Schwartz to New York in 1906 aboard the S.S. Statendam.

Sadly, their two other sisters, Etel and Paula, remained in Hungary, along with their mother, Hana Simonowitz Schwartz. Etel and Paula (2022 update), with other siblings, were killed in the Holocaust. Herman Schwartz, Teddy's dad, had died in Hungary sometime earlier.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Motivation Monday: Today Is the Yesterday of Tomorrow

You know how much time we spend trying to track down ancestors and figure out what motivated them? 

Tomorrow's genealogists will be asking the same questions about our generation! Today is the yesterday of tomorrow.

I consider myself the Chief Family Historian, chronicling what the family does each year--the memories of tomorrow. Sure, some relatives chuckle when out come the camera and tripod on Christmas or Thanksgiving for a group photo, but they're also glad to see everyone in the shot, pooches and kittens and all.

Every few months, I gather the best family photos taken on vacation and at get-togethers like birthdays and holidays, and upload them to create a photo book (my fave site is Shutterfly, but I've also used Snapfish and others). I include dates and at least first names; sometimes I show full names of everyone in at least one group shot. My hubby has gotten the bug as well, assembling photo books of special memories (such as a brotherly rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon).

And I've written before about putting together a photo-heavy family calendar every year, with shots from the previous year plus photos of close friends and ancestors (on their birthdays for example). When we turn the page for a new month, we remember what we were doing last year at this time, see the faces of loved ones, and smile at the occasional surprise such as a high school photo I scan in just for fun.

Today will be yesterday by the time tomorrow arrives, and memories are short. Sure, being Chief Family Historian is work, but it's also pleasure. I'm making sure that the next generation will know about us and about the generations that came before. Quite motivating!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Finding 13015 Edmonton, Cleveland

13015 Edmonton, Cleveland, Ohio
In the continuing saga of 1940 Census adventures, my husband has become very intrigued by the idea of finding ancestors and relatives.

He had to get creative when thinking about where in Cleveland his father and mother (Edgar James Wood and Marian Jane McClure Wood) were living in 1940, since we don't have documentation of that year's address.

So he thought about the elementary school he attended a little later, searched for it, found a photo of it (in terrible shape), and learned from a news item that it was razed. That gave him a street address to plot on Google Maps.

Next, he traced the route he would have taken in walking to and from school, looking on the map for a railroad underpass that was vivid in his memory. He found it, but just couldn't remember exactly which block or side of the street the house was on.  

I plugged the street name into Steve Morse's ED Finder, added two cross streets that hubby said were nearby intersections, and learned that the street straddled two EDs. That's not bad, considering that my Bronx ancestors lived on streets that straddled three or more EDs.

Then I downloaded all the images for both of the Cleveland EDs in the area of the railroad underpass, and began looking. Of course his family wasn't in the first ED. Halfway through the second ED, an hour after we began the search, we found the family at 13015 Edmonton. It was a neat little home in a quiet residential neighborhood in 1940, with broad treelawns and kids playing in the yard after school.

We went back to Google Maps and located the address (as you can see, above) and it was only one block from where hubby originally thought it might be located. The key was the railroad underpass, which is so clearly marked on Google Maps even now.

You could have rented this house for $45 in 1940, by the way :)

2022: 1950 US Census update, his family didn't live here because in 1941, they moved to their own home, where I found them easily.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: April 5, 1940 (Census Day in the Bronx)

NY ED 3-390 for Beck St, Fox St in Bronx, NY
Yes, I was one of the millions of people who looked for ancestors in the 1940 Census. Here's the first page where my grandparents, Theodore & Hermina Schwartz, are listed at 672 Beck Street in Bronx, NY.

Their household begins at the bottom of this page and continues at the top of the next, where my Mom and Auntie, Daisy & Dorothy Schwartz, are listed.

To get started, I used Steve Morse's One-Step 1940 Census ED Finder, then checked a map to be sure I was looking at the ED with the correct boundaries. Time-consuming? Yes, but what a wonderful feeling to find the family just where I expected it to be!