Saturday, July 27, 2013

Surname Saturday: 500 Pages of Farkas Family Tree History

Earlier this year, I learned for the first time that when my maternal grandmother's family tree group got together, they kept records. Written records (mostly typed)! Meeting minutes and year-by-year historian's reports for most of the period from 1933 to 1964, when meetings were held at least 6 times a year.

The first official meeting of this group took place in March, 1933. As recorded in the Constitution, "Any male or female over the age of 16 who is a member or descendant by blood or marriage of the family of Moritz Farkas and [his wife] Lena [Kunstler] Farkas shall be eligible for membership in this organization." Moritz and Lena were the patriarch and matriarch, honorary members of the Farkas Family Tree.

The idea for the Farkas Family Tree came from my great-aunt Jenny Katz Farkas, who joined the family by marrying great-uncle Alex Farkas. Alex was the oldest of Moritz and Lena's children. My grandma, Hermina Farkas Schwartz, was second-oldest. By the time Jenny suggested a tree association, all the Farkas siblings were married except for Julius and Peter, the bachelor brothers who never married. Moritz and Lena were already grandparents many times over when the tree was started.

The Farkas Family Tree had three specific objectives, according to its Constitution:
  1. To perpetuate the bond of blood relationship.
  2. To promote good will and understanding.
  3. To engage in social activities for the mutual benefit of the organization and the members thereof.
One of my cousins was able to get his hands on a nearly complete set of the bound books holding the minutes and reports of the tree's three decades. After he had the books unbound, I scanned each and every page (more than 500 in total). At right, the first of four original pages from the historian's report for the year 1939, when my Auntie Dorothy Schwartz was the historian. Lots of work to do the scanning, but very rewarding to read (sometimes in TMI detail) what my ancestors were doing month after month!

A copy shop took my printouts of the scans and created spiral bound books for me. Next, I prepared an index of every name mentioned in the minutes and reports. Because other than a family history buff, who's going to read all 500 pages? But everyone will, I'm sure, look up their own names and the names of their parents (or children) in the index, then flip to those pages first.

For handy reference, I also created a "who's who in the family" summary page. In addition to the Constitution (with 1949 and 1954 amendments), I included the three-stanza family tree song with lyrics written by my great-aunt Ella, which we used to sing to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic." And I included a listing of all the officers from 1933 through 1964. (Hint: Women could be elected secretary but not serve as president or vice-president/treasurer.)

One of my other cousins created a diagram showing the names of every member of the tree in the photograph of the 25th Anniversary Weekend in June, 1958 at the Pines resort in upstate New York. I put the photo and the diagram on the cover, as you can see. Yes, I'm in the photo, but of course as a very young child (wink). By the time I came of age to be a full-fledged member, the Farkas Family Tree had sputtered out of existence, simply because members had moved away, changed jobs, or had grandchildren of their own to visit. The minutes and historian's reports will live on as time-capsules of a special period in my family's history.


  1. This is very cool and good for you to take the time to index it!

  2. Another good reason to index: I picked out the names of people who might be relatives or maybe just friends. After asking my cousins what they remember, I'm tracking these "maybe relatives" via the Census, etc. to try to determine how we're connected. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. It's so nice how everyone was working together.

  4. Wher can I find the Farkas tree?

  5. Linda, the tree is called "Farkas/Kunstler Family Trees" on Ancestry. If you send me your email via the "contact" form on my home page of the blog, I'll send you an invite. I would like to find out whether we're cousins in some way!