Sunday, June 29, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #23: Bachelor Brothers in WWI

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the flashpoint that started WWI. It reminded me that one of my Farkas great uncles had been a very reluctant conscript.

Julius Farkas (1892-1969) signed his WWI draft registration card in June, 1917, with the notation that he had a "conscientious objection" to the war (see below). Julius and his younger brother, Peter Farkas (1894-1961), were close throughout their lives. Peter also registered for WWI but didn't mention any objection.

Both brothers were drafted and served in the war.

Peter (service record, left) quickly rose through the ranks from private first class to corporal to sergeant during his period of service, May 1918 to March 1919. His service in the 152 Depot Brigade was at Camp Upton, NY, processing recruits and then processing newly returned soldiers at the end of WWI.

Julius, the reluctant soldier, became a cook (see his service record, below) and served from March, 1918 to August, 1919. He was also in a depot brigade, after initial training.
After the war, the Bachelor Brothers, as they were known in the family, were a quiet, affable presence, living together, often operating a dairy store together, and then moving in with one of their sisters late in life. Their stinky cigars were a feature at family get-togethers; my cousin B remembers the stinky cheeses they brought to picnics!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday's Faces from the Past: Dad Spent April in Paris (in 1945)

On April 22, 1945, my Dad (Harold Burk) was stationed in Paris with his WWII Army unit. The Allies were advancing on their objectives day by day and the end of the war in Europe was just weeks away.

On this spring day, Dad and his buddies posed for a group photo. Dad wrote the last names of each person on the back, along with the date.

In the top row, left to right:

In the bottom row, left to right:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Those Places Thursday: Isaac Burk, Born in the Pale

Grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943) kept certain photos all his life and now, thanks to my first cousin who lent me the cache for scanning, I'm finding confirming clues to advance my research into that family's background.

Above, the photographic studio where a lady from Isaac's family back home was photographed. Thanks to Tracing the Tribe members, I have the translation: the photo studio was in Telsiai, Kovenskaya Gubernia - In other words, in Kovno (now Kaunas), Lithuania. Other documents from Isaac's immigration records say he was born in Gargzdai, Kovno, Lithuania.  

It appears that Isaac and his siblings were born in the Pale of Settlement and, while in their late teens and early twenties, four of them left to make new lives in the West, away from pogroms and Russian Army conscription.

As I wrote last week, Isaac and his brother Abraham went to Manchester, England, to stay with their uncle and aunt, Isaac and Hinda Chazan. Isaac left after a couple of years, bound for Canada and then the United States. Abraham married Annie Hurwitz and then continued to Canada, where he settled and sent for his family. Their sister Nellie and brother Myer were in New York City during the early 1900s, but I don't have more information than that...yet.

Although I don't know the exact relationship between the Burk/Birk/Berk family and the Chazan family, I plugged a name into my Ancestry tree and up popped a hint--someone else's family tree with the name in question. I wrote the tree owner and he wrote back, putting me in touch with my Chazan cousins. They not only know the Burk name, they remember my Uncle Sidney visiting Manchester and introducing them to bubble gum--and they have photos of him visiting there, as well. Plus they know some of their family visited the Abraham Berk family in Canada. Those brick walls keep crumbling!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wordless (Almost) Wednesday: Still W-a-i-t-i-n-g for Ella Markell's Death Cert

On March 8, I sent for Ella Markell's death cert. Ella's history is part of my research into the Markell/Mahler/Lebowitz family mysteries--two brothers marrying two sisters.

On April 4, Pennsylvania cashed my check. And I waited.

On May 13, Pennsylvania wrote me the above letter, asking for my patience and saying the record would be on its way in four more weeks. I waited. And I waited.

Does Pennsylvania usually take this long to process a simple document request?

I'm still w a i t i n g. I'm going to write them again today. The LONG wait leaves me, well, nearly wordless.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday's Faces from the Past: Isaac, Henrietta, Ida, and Hilda, Arm-in-Arm on October 7, 1943

Handwritten on the back of this photo are the words: "Taken on October 7, 1943." It shows (from left) my Grandpa Isaac Burk and his wife, Henrietta Mahler Burk, strolling along the street in Washington, D.C., with Henrietta's favorite sister (Ida Mahler Volk), arm-in-arm with the sisters' first cousin (Hilda Jacobs Wilner).

Isaac and Henrietta had come from New York City for a brief stay with the Volks. Both of the Burk daughters (Mildred and Miriam) were married, and both of the Burk sons were in the Army but not in combat units (Harold--my Dad--was in Europe, and his brother Sidney was in Hawaii). Just 10 months earlier, Isaac's US naturalization had been finalized and he had taken the oath of citizenship. Now, because Hilda lived in Washington, she joined her first cousins for a day out (thanks to Cuz Lois for identifying Hilda!).

Sadly, tragedy struck the very next day. On October 8, 1943, Grandpa Isaac suffered a heart attack and died in the Rodman Street home of the Volks. This must have been a terrible time for the family, compounded by the fact that neither of Isaac's sons could return from their wartime duties to attend the funeral.

Tracing Isaac's place and date of death was the first genealogical research I undertook in the 1990s. It took years to find out what happened--and once I learned about the close relationship between the Burks and the Volks, I gained a wonderful new constellation of cousins and valuable new insight into my family's background.

The photo at top and the memorial book shown here were both lent by Cousin E, a Burk cousin I saw again this week for the first time in many years. Knowing my interest in family history, he kindly let me scan dozens of photos and documents that had been passed down from Henrietta and Isaac. It was quite a surprise to flip through the photos and suddenly come upon these faces from the past on Isaac's last good day, arm-in-arm with wife Henrietta and her sister and cousin. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday's Tip: Index Your Ancestors' Documents!

If you're lucky enough to have more than a few pages of documents inherited from your ancestors' lives, my number one tip is: Index them!

Otherwise, future generations won't know who's mentioned where--and they might not take the time to read all the way through.

With an index, they can look up individuals quickly and easily. And for family history researchers, the index gives us extra help seeing connections between people, events, dates. See my sample format for indexing here.

I have three sets of documents that have been passed down in the family:
  1. Farkas Family Tree reports and minutes. My mother's family accumulated 500 pages of meeting minutes from the 30 years of the Farkas Family Tree, a family association that began in 1933. I scanned 'em all, read 'em all, and then prepared an index listing every person mentioned. It took a while, but above you can see the results. Mr. & Mrs. B, the first family members listed in the index, were only at one meeting, June 1946. Others in that family were mentioned numerous times, as shown in this index. Who could resist looking up their parents' or grandparents' or first cousins' names? That's the allure and advantage of an index.
  2. Father-in-law Edgar J. Wood's diaries. For decades, Edgar Wood kept a brief diary with 1-3 sentences per day. I indexed every family and friend mentioned in the diaries, including names that were unfamiliar. Eventually, cross-referencing the entries led me and my husband to be able to identify cousins and pinpoint the exact relationships between most of the folks named. Without indexing, we wouldn't have connected the dots between people discussed in multiple entries
  3. Letters to Mom during the 1930s/40s. I have transcribed these dozens of letters and will index these soon. Preparing a time line based on the index will help me follow friends and relatives during the years after Mom (Daisy Schwartz) graduated high school and before she married Dad (Harry Burk).
I know I groan when I see a collection of documents on Family Search or Ancestry that is NOT indexed. With an index, I can do a quick search. It's the same with our family documents. I want those who come after me to dip into these documents, so now they're indexed, with a bit of explanation about who's who. Plus it helps me to be able to quickly look up someone as I research that part of the family.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

52 Ancestors #22: Great-Grandma Lena Kunstler Farkas from NagyBereg, Hungary

My great-grandma Lena (Leni, in Hungarian) Kunstler was 58 when this photo was taken. She was born in 1865 in NagyBereg, Hungary (now Berehi, in Western Ukraine).

Lena's parents Samuel and Toby Kunstler were people of some status: They had money and land, and operated vineyards.

Lena's younger brother Joszef Kunstler (1869-1935) became a very successful businessman in Berehi, virtually owning the entire town, including the grain mill, and employing nearly every resident.

My cousin B from Boulder visited Berehi years ago and found in the tiny cemetery a number of Kunstler graves. In addition to Joszef, Lena's sisters Sarah, Hinde, and Yehudis are buried there.*

Lena married Moritz Farkas around 1884. Moritz was a "gentleman farmer" who leased land and did well enough until one autumn, the harvest failed due to hail storms. Moritz had neglected to insure his crops that year and couldn't pay his creditors, so he decided to seek his fortune in America. Moving to America was also a way of keeping his sons from being conscripted into the Russian army when they were old enough.

Moritz booked passage on a ship to New York City and arrived alone in 1899 to get set up. Lena remained behind with their eight children: Alex, Minnie (hi Grandma), Albert, Julius, Peter, Irene, Ilka, and Freda. A year later, Lena set out for New York to reunite with Moritz. In 1901, four of Lena's children arrived on the S.S. Amsterdam to live with Lena and Moritz in New York City. In 1903, the remaining four arrived on the S.S. Konigin Luise. Lena and Moritz had three more children after they settled in New York City: Rose, Fred, and Regina.
Lena's obituary appeared on March 5, 1938.
Moritz Farkas died in February of 1936 and his wife Lena Kunstler Farkas died just two years later, in March of 1938. It was the end of an era for their eleven children and numerous grandchildren.

*Sarah died in 1893 and we are wondering whether her nickname was Zolli or Sally. If so, she might be the first wife of Bela Roth, one of the cousins I've been researching in recent months.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Those Places Thursday: The Berk Boys in Cheetham--Manchester, England--in 1901

Thanks to an Ancestry hint, I just learned from the 1901 UK Census where grandpa Isaac Berk (aka Burk), age 20, was living with his brother, Abraham Berk (age 23) and the family of their uncle and aunt, Isaac Chazan (age 38) and Ann Hindy Chazan (age 37). Others in the household included: Isaac and Ann's children Sarah, age 14, a cigaret maker; Myer, age 13; Simon, age 8; and Rachel, age 2.

The Chazan's home address was 154 Waterloo Road in Cheetham, Prestwich. This area is just north of Manchester, England.

Isaac Chazan's occupation is "furniture dealer, own account." In other words, we have yet another entrepreneur in the family. He too was from "Russia" (the Berk boys were from Lithuania) and Isaac Chazan was naturalized (I've seen his papers). A furniture dealer with two skilled cabinet makers living in his home!

Now I'll have to determine whether Isaac Chazan or Ann (Meton) Chazan was the actual relative of Abraham and Isaac Berk.*

So happy to be connected with my Chazan cousins!

*update: Most likely, my grandpa was related to Ann (Hinda) Mitav Chazan.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

52 Ancestors #21: 1812 War Veterans Isaac, John, and Robert Larimer

Isaac M. Larimer (1771?-1823), hubby's 4th g-granddaddy, was a pioneer of the Northwest Territory in Ohio--and a captain who served in the 1812 war, along with his sons, Robert Larimer (1792-1850) and John Larimer (1794-1843).

Descendant Aaron Work (who did much of the important genealogy research on the Larimer family), wrote to a Middlebury, Indiana newspaper in 1921 about the Larimers' service during the 1812 war. The article is shown at left. (Aaron was hubby's 1st cousin 4x removed.)

Work noted that Isaac and Robert were in Hull's division of the US Army at Detroit, Michigan and were part of Hull's surrender to the British. Isaac returned to the family farm but Robert kept up the fight with another US Army division. Robert's brother John enlisted at age 18 and served in Northern Ohio.

Isaac Larimer (who married Elizabeth Woods) died in 1823 and was buried in Bremen, Fairfield cty, Ohio.

Robert Larimer (who married Mary La Masters) used his land bounty in Perry, Ohio, but later moved to Elkhart county, Indiana, where he died.

John Larimer apparently earned no land bounty. After marrying Rachel Smith in Fairfield cty, Ohio, John moved his family west to pioneer in Elkhart, Indiana. John and his brother Robert are both buried in the Eldridge Cemetery.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Matrilineal Monday: Where Grandma Minnie and Cousin Margaret Got Married

In 1911, my maternal grandma, Hermina Farkas married my grandpa, Theodore Schwartz, at the 8-10 Clinton Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Here's their marriage cert. Note the name of the top witness: Marcus Aronoff.

This same gentleman witnessed the marriage of Grandma Minnie's first cousin Margaret to husband Herman in 1913, at the same synagogue, with the same rabbi officiating.

How does Marcus Aronoff relate to the family? Or was he a head of the congregation or some other official in the synagogue?

UPDATE: Cousin L noticed a very important detail: My Grandma Minnie lived at 745 E. 6th Street when she married, the same building where his mom (cousin Margaret) lived when she was married by the same rabbi in the same synagogue, just 18 months later. Here's a street view of that building, a 6-story apartment building built in 1900 that still stands today. Yet another indication that the families were close!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Mystery Monday: How Was Gloria Warren Related to the Roth Family?

Visiting with my Cuz J the other day, I learned that actress/singer Gloria Warren is somehow a cousin to Joseph Roth and his father, Bela Bernard Roth. Bela was affectionately known as "Uncle Bela" in my Farkas/Kunstler family, even though he was most definitely a cousin.

So how are we related to Gloria Warren?

According to the Delaware Historical Society, Gloria was born in Delaware in 1926 (IMDB says the date was April 7th, in Wilmington). Her birth name was Gloria M. Weiman. Her father Herman, a jeweler/watchmaker, was from Russia and her mother Julia Weiss Weiman was Hungarian (see the 1930 Census snippet, which includes sister June Violet, 3 years older). Both June and Gloria were very beautiful young ladies.

Other cousins have confirmed that Gloria was a relative to the Roth family (and Cousin L briefly dated her, since the connection was distant!). Actually there are connections to two different Joseph Roths, both in my family.

Gloria's breakout role was in the movie Always in My Heart, and she became a singing phenom with the title song. She married Peter Gold in 1946. Cousin L saw her in the Broadway show What's Up? which also starred the popular comic Jimmy Savo.

Gloria made a few more movies, and then settled down to family life, having a son and a daughter in California, where her husband was a successful businessman.

There are Weiss relatives elsewhere in this side of my family tree. Perhaps they're related to Julia, Gloria's mother?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sentimental Sunday: More Mystery Photos to Puzzle Over

My grandparents and parents saved these photos for decades. Were these cousins or uncles or other relatives? Close friends? Neighbors?

First, a studio portrait of a couple. She's wearing a ring with a stone on her "wedding ring" finger. He has a ring on his right hand. The other photos are guys in uniform. When? Where? And who?

Taken at Spachner & Berger Studio, 12 Ave. B, NYC

Closeup of "possible WWI" photo, shown below.

Is this during or after WWI? Insignias, uniforms, document?
Marked only WWI on the back, in modern handwriting.