Saturday, January 31, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 3: Who the Heck Is That? (Photos and Labels)

I'm inventorying each box of documents for the Do-Over. That means listing contents, labeling who's who, and putting items into archival sleeves with identification on the outside.

After inventory, I'll know what I have so I can do research in the next phase of the Do-Over.

Yesterday I began on the Burk box, my father's family, and included was this photo of three people and a piglet. Only last year, I connected with my second cousin in Montreal and she quickly identified the mystery man at right as her father, Dad's first cousin.

Colleen of the wonderful Leaves & Branches gen blog asked how I label photos. After investigating and experimenting, I decided to:
  1. Scan (at 300 dpi or higher) and then put each photo (or small group of related photos) in its own sleeve or archival bag. 
  2. Type up a detailed explanation, including names and relationships, date, place, and any other specifics I've learned about the photo.
  3. Put the explanation on the outside of the photo sleeve so the paper doesn't touch the photo. Above, a photo of how I tucked it in and taped it to the reverse of the archival bag holding the actual photo.
  4. Inventory and then file all photos/explanations in an archival box, arranged by surname.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 3: Clues Are Everywhere

This is the week for conducting research and I'm doing a bit of it even as I continue inventorying those 19 archival boxes of family photos and documents sitting in my home office.

Tonight I inventoried one of the boxes holding papers and photos of my father, Harold Burk (1909-1978).

For instance, I picked up this photo of Dad in WWII, given to me a few months ago from my first cousin, who got it from our uncle, Sidney Burk (1914-1995). Research shows that Sidney enlisted in the Army a few months after his older brother Harold enlisted in 1942.

I turned the photo over. No caption, no writing. Dad did write on the backs of some photos, just not this one.

Still, I pulled out my trusty magnifying glass and checked the back more carefully. There, in the upper left corner, was a very faint impression of an old-fashioned postmark. See the photo below. By turning the photo this way and that under strong light, I could make out the year: 1942. The photo had been mailed to someone in the family, and the strength of the postmark penetrated the envelope and left an impression on the photo!

Research shows Dad enlisted at Camp Upton, NY on March 7, 1942. I also have his $10,000 National Service Life Insurance policy, issued on April 1, 1942.

Looking at the uniform and the place, I conclude this is Dad in basic training somewhere in the south.** He must have had the photo taken and mailed it to his brother, either at home in the Bronx or wherever his brother was in basic training.

Clues are everywhere. When I log this photo in my inventory list, my source for dating it will be the official government stamp showing the year :)

** Further inventorying in same archival box turned up a different photo of Dad in same uniform, same time--with a studio name stamped on the back. It was taken in Miami, FL.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

This post is in loving memory of my Farkas, Schwartz, Mahler, and Kunstler ancestors who were Holocaust victims. Many died in Auschwitz, which was liberated 70 years ago today.

Above, my visit to the Zanis Lipke memorial in Riga, Latvia, with the foundation of the destroyed Great Choral Synagogue in the foreground.

At right, another Holocaust memorial in Rumbula.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Albert Ward Cobb, Esq, Goes Home to Sing-Sing

Back in 2011, I wrote about how my father, Harold Burk, held onto stuff from his time working as a travel agent and then a checkroom concession owner at two fancy Manhattan hotels, the Savoy Plaza Hotel (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.

Among his boxes, I found two pocket notebooks and a number of letters and documents pertaining to Mr. A. Ward Cobb. According to my research, Albert Ward Cobb (born 27 March 1870) and his sister Emmie (Emily) were among the 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).

Next week, the books and documents of Mr. Cobb, Esquire, will be going home to Sing Sing (the village, NOT the prison), better known as Ossining, New York.

The Ossining Historical Society tells me that the Cobb family was prominent in the area and they would be delighted to have this small cache to be catalogued and archived as part of the history of the town's families.

Albert Ward Cobb was 10 years old in 1880, according to the Census, living in Sing Sing with his father, M. L. Cobb, a lawyer of 58 yrs old, and mother, Annie G. Cobb, 50 years old.
Albert grew up and married Fannie McCan and by the time of the 1930 Census, the couple was living at the Hotel Plaza, 1 West 58th Street, Manhattan. Albert was 60 and Fannie was 47. NO children are listed. This was a very prestigious address, actually on the corner of Fifth Avenue, directly across the street from the Savoy Plaza.

It's not much of a leap to see that the Cobb family's few documents were left in care of the hotel and then passed into the hands of my father some 30 years later. Thanks to genealogical research, I can explain the provenance of these records when I pass them into the care of the Ossining Historical Society.**

**Update: The historical society informs me that names shown in the ledger books are familiar to them, and therefore they will have a little deeper insight into the financial dealings among people in the town. How wonderful!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 2: Interviewing My Family Photos

Family photos CAN talk! We just have to ask the right interview questions. As I was inventorying my genealogy boxes for "Week 1" of the Do-Over, I saved the box with info on my immediate family for "Week 2."

In between school photos and family portraits, I found a long-forgotten set of b/w snapshots with this notation in my mother's handwriting: "Chanukah 19XX - December."

 That answered my first "interview" question--when and why my parents, my sisters, and I were together with all these relatives from my father's side of the family tree.

It was holiday time, so a basement-full of Mahler and Burk and Markell children (and adults) were gathered to celebrate, drinking what looks like a year's supply of chocolate milk and having a fun afternoon.

Second interview question: What do I know about these photos, either from my own memories or from what the images show or suggest? Well, I clearly remember the special party dress I wore (you can't see it in these particular snaps). And I can definitely identify several aunts and uncles (and great-aunts and uncles) and maybe a couple of cousins.

Other folks, however, are a mystery, as is the exact location--I think it's a community room or rec center, judging by the non-residential look of the room. If only Mom had noted the place, that would have been sooooooo helpful.

These relatives must be part of my father's family tree, but who's who?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 1 Recap: What's in the Box? My Inventory Sheet

Out of 19 archival boxes of family history documents and photos, I've inventoried exactly ONE this week. I also have to inventory surname/ancestor file folders, but one thing at a time.

My inventory sheet is a basic MS Word table, with four headings. I plan to place one copy in the box, with names highlighted in yellow (or color coded, if I'm feeling ambitious). Will also place a copy of the inventory in the file of each surname/family represented in the box.

Here's a sample of what I did for the Dorothy & Daisy box, which contains photos of my mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk) and her twin sister (Dorothy Schwartz) as children and teenagers. My entries are more than bare bones--they have to be descriptive enough that a future genealogist can match the item on this list with the actual item in the box. But I've also labeled each item in the box so it can be matched with the list or identified on its own.
MS Word table showing an excerpt of my inventory for the Genealogy Do-Over

While I was inventorying the box, I rescanned a few things in higher resolution. Shown here, photos of Mom around the time of her high school graduation.

This box also contains documents describing Dorothy's military career as a WAAC during WWII, one of several in our family serving in the war effort. Dorothy received the Bronze Star for meritorious service, and I'm happy to have all the documents pertaining to her award in one place and inventoried for posterity.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday: Spotting Mr. & Mrs. Work's Tombstone in the Background

Hubby's Larimer ancestors are somehow related to the Work and Short families. I know a few of the connections (from newspaper stories about their reunions a century ago) but not how they originally came together (in Northern Ireland, most likely).
Months ago, when I was working on hubby's Larimer line, I went to the Findagrave page for his 3d great-grand uncle, Wright Larimer, son of Isaac Larimer and Elizabeth Woods Larimer.

In one of the two photos on that page, I happened to notice a tombstone for Samuel M. Work and his wife, Catherine Ray Work. (My red arrow shows what I saw in the photo.) I intended to do more work on the surname Work (pun intended).

In low-tech fashion, I e-mailed the link to myself and tagged the message with the color I use for genealogy. And moved on to other things.

Today I was clearing out old e-mails when I spotted that tag, clicked on the link, and investigated. Clicking to see all "Work" graves in Bethel Cemetery in Bremen, where Wright Larimer is buried, I found 23--including Samuel, who's shown in the background above. There are many names of people who I've listed in the family tree but haven't yet fleshed out or traced back to their birthplaces.

Thanks to this Findagrave photo volunteer (who I thanked), I have lots more leads to explore in Ohio and Pennsylvania as I search for the Larimer/Work/Short families' entry into colonial America and their original homes in Northern Ireland.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 1: It's Inventory Time!

Thanks to Geneabloggers' Thomas MacEntee for suggesting this year's Genealogy Do-Over.

The idea is to retrace family trees from scratch . . . using new research . . . fresh eyes . . . the latest techniques . . . and to collect supporting documents that will back up the names/dates and relationships. In other words, don't just do it over, do it right this time.

My first step (throughout January) is to take inventory of everything I've collected in nearly 20 years of family history research. That includes:
  • Original marriage licenses, birth certificates, death certificates, and other vital records.
  • Obituaries, diplomas, commencement booklets, wedding/engagement announcements, birth announcements, and other announcements or invitations.
  • Newspaper and newsletter articles about family members (birth, death, anniversary, business accomplishments, bankruptcies, etc.).
  • Ship manifests.
  • Digital documents.
  • Scraps of paper with phone numbers, addresses, notes about cousins knowing cousins, etc.
Photos are a rich source of genealogical detail, and I plan to inventory mine, family by family. They're already in special sleeves and stored in archival boxes (see above), separated by surname and individual. Now I need a master list of each person, each family, and each box so I can quickly put my hands on a photo of Dad that might be in Burk box #2 (of 3 or more), for example.

After I take inventory, I'll begin the indexing process. It's not enough to know what I have, I need to know who each item relates to. I'm an experienced indexer by this time, having indexed all the names in 500+ pages of Farkas Family Tree documents stretching back 30 years. I've also indexed the names in my late father-in-law's 25 years of diaries. So this is just more of the same, on a larger scale.

Oh, the places I'll go! The people I'll meet! Do-Over, Week 1, here I come.