Sunday, December 16, 2018

Not Naughty, But Not Necessarily Nice

My late father-in-law insinuated, during a family-history interview in the 1980s, that his father was doing something a bit naughty later in life.

Above, the man in question, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). This was my husband's paternal grandfather, a carpenter and builder active in Cleveland Heights at the turn of the 20th century. His oldest son was my father-in-law, and the interview with him inspired me to hunt for more info decades later.

After the death of James's first wife, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925), James still had two teenaged sons at home. So 15 months after Mary's death, 55-year-old James married 35-year-old divorcee Alice Hopperton Unger (1880-1934). Alice listed her occupation as "none" while James's occupation was listed as "builder" on the marriage cert.

Sixty years after this marriage took place, my late father-in-law suggested that James married his housekeeper and there was some hanky-panky involved. The age difference may have been a factor in assessing this relationship. No mention of James's third marriage, by the way.

Well, this was not the whole story. Looking at the documents only, which is all I have, James may very well have married his housekeeper, if that's what Alice was in 1926. But he and Alice divorced some time in the next two years. I'm still trying to get that divorce record from Ohio. It's very likely the key to this family mystery.

In 1928, James married Carolina Foltz Cragg (1871-?), a match arranged by his nephew, Charles Francis Elton Wood. Why? Because Carolina was Charles's widowed mother-in-law and James was in need of a wife to run his household, is the way I heard the story from a Wood cousin in the know. No hanky-panky here, the family was in favor of this marriage so that neither of the older folks would be alone.
Why do I say that James wasn't necessarily nice? I took a closer look at the death of Alice, the second wife for a brief time. She was a "semi-invalid" at the time of her death in April, 1930. Her medical problems included a serious heart ailment and bronchial asthma. Poor Alice died less than a month after her 46th birthday.

Is it possible that James divorced Alice because her health prevented her from being a good housekeeper and step-mother to the two sons who remained at home? That would not have been nice, although I'm trying not to prejudge. Once I locate Alice and James's divorce document, I hope I'll have more insight into their relationship.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt, "naughty."

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

More Winter Weddings in the Wood Family Tree

My husband's Wood family tree has lots of December marriages. Here are three more of the many that popped up when I used RootsMagic's calendar report.
  • December 18: Mary Shehen and John Slatter. Mary (1837-1889) was my hubby's great-grandma, and the saddest figure in his family tree. Born into terrible poverty in London, she married great-grandpa John Slatter (1838-1901) 159 years ago, and had 6 children with him. As the years went on, she and the children were in and out of workhouses, seemingly abandoned. Eventually, Mary was admitted to an insane asylum due to depression. She died there 15 years later, of TB. John, meanwhile, left for Cleveland, Ohio and a new life, with a new wife and a new occupation. He died at his youngest daughter's home in Cleveland, having been widowed again and chronically ill. I'm still trying to get back a generation and learn more about Mary's parents, who were themselves born in Ireland around 1801.  
  • December 19: William Smith and Janet "Jean" UNK. Born in Ireland, Smith (1724-1786) and his wife Janet (?-1805) were hubby's 5th great-grandparents. Alas, I know very little about either of them, although it appears they were married in 1751, which is 267 years ago. A Smith researcher whose work I respect indicates that two of William and Janet's sons were doctors. Not sure I'll be able to learn more about these long-ago ancestors, given the "Smith" name and the dates/places.
  • December 24: Francis "Frank" Ellery Wood and Louisa Mary Schultz. Frank (1857-1933) and his bride Louisa (1860-1948) were married on Christmas Eve, 1883, in Toledo, Ohio, where Frank and most of his brothers were working as carpenters. Frank was my husband's great uncle. The snippet at top from the Lucas county ledger shows their marriage a mere 135 years ago, when he was 26 and she was 23. Frank died after an operation in 1933...then 17 months later, his widow Louisa married his younger brother, Marion Elton Wood. (Unfortunately, Marion had lost two wives by then, as well as one of his two children.) Louisa was again widowed in December, 1947; she lived just 5 months longer.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Family Historian: Reach Out for Photo Identification!

As family historian, I want to identify key family photos so relatives and future generations will know who's who (and, ideally, where/when/why each photo was taken).

Usually, I have some idea about the faces and places, maybe even approximate dates. Just to be sure, I like to reach out to cousins for help with photo identification.

Photos with a lot of people require a bit of preparation so everybody is on the same page when making identifications. Above, a small section of the 54-person Farkas Family Tree portrait taken on a family Thanksgiving.

Using the "preview" function on my Mac, I added a number for every face. Then I sent the numbered-faces photo to my wonderful maternal cousin B, who quickly sent me back a list of names, according to number. She was delighted to share what she knew, and I'm grateful that descendants will now know the names of everyone in this big holiday portrait.

Thanks to my cousin's assistance, I'm about to send a three-part .pdf file to more Farkas cousins: (1) numbered-face portrait, (2) numbered listing of names, (3) unnumbered portrait.

Maybe this will provoke comments about the identifications or additional family memories?!

PS: Sis and I collaborated on our ID of ourselves. She is the smiling, adorable little hula twin in #7 and I'm the just as cute hula twin in #8. Maybe some cousin will be able to distinguish between the two boy twins in the photo, #1 (in the arms of his smiling Farkas grandma) and his twin brother, who was being held by his father (not visible in this section of the photo).

Thursday, December 6, 2018

New Home for A Childhood Stamp Collection

My father, Harold Burk (1909-1978) always hoped that his daughters would come to love collecting postage stamps.

Dad was a travel agent, and often received cards and letters from abroad. Stamps were readily at hand and if not, there were easy ways to fill in the collection. Inexpensive armchair travel!





Dad knew a stamp dealer, and he would bring home colorful pages of stamps in an attempt to intrigue my sisters and me. Sorry, Dad, we never caught the bug, although we enjoyed looking at stamps from far-off places.


Now this childhood stamp collection is going to a new home, to a girl who's expressed a real interest in collecting stamps!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Winter Weddings in the Wood Family

The list of December weddings in my husband's Wood family tree is quite long. Here are just a few of the marriages in the calendar report generated by my RootsMagic software. Marriages from later in December will be shown in another post soon!

  • December 5: William Steiner and Catherine Evans Coder. Steiner (1827-1899) was my husband's 2d great uncle, born on the eve of Christmas Eve and married just weeks before his 22nd birthday. He was one of 6 boys and 3 girls, and worked as a plasterer in Tod, Crawford county, Ohio. The Steiner-Coder wedding took place 168 years ago today. In June of 1863, William registered for the Civil War Draft (see excerpt from ledger above) but did not serve, so far as I can determine.
  • December 11: Edson Larimer Everitt and Maggie Derr. Everitt (1862-1927) was hubby's 2d cousin, 3x removed. He was a farmer and married in Hocking, Ohio, at age 40, 116 years ago. His middle name, Larimer, comes from his great-grandfather, Isaac M. Larimer, a son of the original Larimer immigrant ancestor who was shipwrecked after leaving Northern Ireland.
  • December 18: Isaac Larimer Everitt and Ellen Smith. Isaac Everitt (1827-1892) was my husband's 1st cousin, 4x removed. He was also Edson's father...and he got married in December, as did his son 51 years later. Isaac registered for the Civil War Draft in 1863, listing his occupation as farmer.
  • December 12: Jessie Steiner and John R. Rummel. Jessie Steiner (1880-1947) was my husband's 1st cousin, 1x removed. Her marriage took place 117 years ago today, exactly one week and one day after her 21st birthday. She was a magazine agent, married to a druggist. She died one day after her 67th birthday. 
  • December 16: Emma O. Larimer and James Freeland. Emma (1848-1923) was hubby's 2d great aunt, the oldest daughter of Brice S. Larimer and Lucy E. Bentley. Emma was brought up in the rural town of Goshen, Indiana, married at the age of 21 and later, the family moved to New York City. Their wedding was 149 years ago.
Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "winter."

Friday, November 30, 2018

Remembering the Twins, 99 Years After Birth

My mother (Daisy Ruth Schwartz, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Helen Schwartz, 1919-2001) were born 99 years ago on December 4, 1919. Remembering them with love as their birthday approaches.

Their births were recorded by New York City, by county, as shown above in the index to 1919 births in the Bronx. Mom and Auntie were born in the family's apartment at 651 Fox Street, a walkup directly across the street from the elementary school they later attended.

Auntie Dorothy was always known as the older of the twins. Here's the proof: Above, the certificate numbers for Daisy R. Schwartz and Dorothy Schwartz are marked with arrows. Dorothy's certificate is 14223, and Daisy's is 14224. Clearly, Dorothy was born first!

The twins' older brother, Fred, was born in 1912. Like the twins, he was born at home, this time in the family's previous apartment at 202 Brown Place in the Bronx. That's a five-story walkup building that still stands, in the Mott Haven section.

So my aunt was actually the next-to-last child of her parents, Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964) and Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965). But only by about five minutes!

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors challenge of "next to last."

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Suspenders and Belt Backups to Save Priceless Family Photos

Family photos and documents are so precious! Please consider multiple backup methods (suspenders AND a belt and maybe more) to keep digital versions safe. (I love archival boxes to keep paper-based genealogy safe and organized.)

Eleven years ago, I began backing up my digital images by storing in the cloud and burning and storing CDs every few months. Remember, ordinary built-in hard drives weren't as large as they are today. I worried not only about the size of my storage capacity but also about potential computer failure, which could cause me to lose my precious photos, both old and new.

For cloud storage, I created digital folders clearly marked with family names. For the CDs, I wrote the contents and date on each disc and slipped it into a CD wallet, filed chronologically. When I had an outside service scan 35mm slides, I filed those CDs as well. And I arranged for automatic cloud backups daily at 3:30 pm, in addition to hourly Time Machine backups by my Mac to an external hard drive on my desk. Can't have too many backups, right?
Now I'm backing up my backups with another portable hard drive, this one dedicated exclusively to digitized genealogy photos and documents. I feel more comfortable with a suspenders-and-belt approach. If one backup is inaccessible due to technological changes or hardware glitches or any other reason, I should be able to access one or more of the other backup technologies.

Don't get me wrong. CD storage technology is very good, but it won't last forever, especially if I have to read the CDs a number of times. Storing all those CDs takes more space than the newest portable hard drives like the one pictured at top, which is only a bit larger than a deck of cards. 

The other, more pressing problem with CDs is that new computers don't always come with a built-in CD slot. I bought an external CD read/write unit last year, but it gets balky with newer operating systems. Ouch! I can't risk being unable to read all those CDs when a cousin asks for a certain old family photo (as happened this holiday weekend).

Before 2019 arrives, I'll have all those CDs copied and stored in easily-identified digital files on my new "Marian's photos" hard drive. The new drive was very affordable and with 2 terabytes, there is plenty of room for family photos, old and new. Note: hard drives have a limited life span as well, which is why getting a new one every few years is probably a good idea, especially as prices come down and storage capacity gets bigger but drives become tinier and more portable.

So please make a backup plan for your backups to keep family history safe in multiple ways! As family historians, descendants are counting on us to preserve those old photos and documents for the long term. It's our priceless heritage we're protecting.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Fortune and the Mayflower


EVERYONE knows the name of the first ship from Europe to reach Massachusetts in 1620. But not everyone knows the name of the second ship, the Fortune, which arrived in November of 1621.

The Fortune is vitally important to my husband's family tree: young Thomas Cushman, a passenger on that second ship, later married my husband's Mayflower ancestor, Mary Allerton.

With Mayflower 2020 in mind, I've been doing a bit more research via the NEHGS and via the Hathitrust Digital Library, where there are more than 115,000 results for the phrase "Mayflower descendants" (as shown at top).

The four Pilgrim ancestors in my husband's family tree are:
  • Degory Priest, who planned to send for wife Sarah Allerton Priest later, unfortunately didn't survive the first winter. 
  • Isaac Allerton, whose first wife (out of three) was
  • Mary Norris Allerton...unfortunately, she didn't survive the first winter.
  • Mary Allerton, a daughter of Isaac and Mary, who lived into her 80s. Until she died on Nov. 28, 1699, she was known as the final surviving Mayflower passenger.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving as my #52Ancestors "Thankful" prompt this week.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thankful for My Family's Past and My Family's Future

Family is a precious gift, the gift that keeps giving. Above, the Farkas Family Tree Thanksgiving dinner and costume party held at the Gramercy Park Hotel in 1956. Descendants of patriarch Moritz Farkas and matriarch Leni Kunstler Farkas formed the tree association in 1933. I'm one of the two young hula twins in the top left corner. This large, fun-loving family celebrated together on many occasions, beginning in the Depression years.

On Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for the Farkas cousin who first inspired me to begin my genealogy journey 20 years ago . . . and the many Farkas, Mahler, Burk, Schwartz, and Wood cousins I've met or reconnected with during my family history journey.

As the descendant of immigrants, I'm especially thankful for the courage and determination of ancestors who left everyone and everything they knew to begin again in a new country. Thank you for the forever gift of my family's past and my family's future!

And thank you to Elizabeth O'Neal for the November "thankful" theme of the Genealogy Blog Party.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

For Thanksgiving at Lancelot Avenue in Cleveland

For Thanksgiving in Ohio, 1912: Dorothy Louise Baker (1897-1981) sent this pretty penny postcard to her first cousin in Cleveland, Wallis Walter Wood (1905-1957). Dorothy lived in Toledo with her parents--her mother was the older sister of Wallis's mother.

Dorothy's handwriting was very clear, so it was easy to read the address: 12513 Lancelot Avenue in Cleveland.

I have a photo of Wallis and his older brother, Edgar James Wood* (1903-1986), in front of this very house. Well, actually, I have a few photos of the Wood family homes all over Cleveland. Because the head of the household built homes for a living, he would move his family into a partially-finished home while he began construction on another home nearby. They moved every two years or so.

Following the dates and addresses on penny postcards sent to the Wood family, and checking the US Census, I can follow approximately when they moved from one home to another. In the 1910 Census, they were not living on Lancelot Avenue, and postcards of that year add confirmation. In 1915, postcards were not sent to them on Lancelot Avenue but to Locke Ave. The family was living at Lancelot Avenue from 1911-1913, based on the postcards.

I took a close look at the boys, who were 7 and 9 in 1912. In this photo, they seem a bit younger than that. So I've dated it as 1911.

*Edgar James Wood was my husband's father.

Friday, November 16, 2018

John and Mary Appear HOW Many Times in the Wood Tree?

Do you know exactly how many times certain common names appear in your family tree?

For this week's #52Ancestors challenge, I set out to count the number of males named John and the number of females named Mary in my husband's ancestry.  I knew there were a lot, but I was surprised at the actual number.

Using RootsMagic's Explorer function, I searched my husband's family tree (combining mother's and father's sides), which contains 2,665 people in all.

First, I searched for "Mary" in the given name field. As shown above, the software found "Mary" as either a first given name or a second given name. "Mary Elizabeth" was counted, as were entries like "Margaret Mary," because both have "Mary" in the given name field.

Then I searched for "John, which brought up "John" and "Johnathan" plus entries like "Thomas John" because "John" appeared somewhere in the field for given name.

In all, the software found:
  • 121 Mary entries            and
  • 139 John entries
So there really are a lot of John and Mary names in the tree! (Five "Mary Wood" entries and five "John Larimer" entries show how multiple generations followed this naming tradition.)

Try it for yourself and see how many "John" and "Mary" names are on your tree!

By the way, I noticed some less common given names for females in the Wood tree: Elvea, Perlina, Floyda, Melvina, Zula, Asenath, Ora, Sophronia, Capitola, and Tatsy.

Among the less common given names for males in the Wood tree are: Restcomb, Train, Green, Ormond, Degory, and Glynn.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "random fact."


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Armistice Day: Remembering Slatter Ancestors Who Died in WWI

My husband's Slatter ancestors created a tradition of military service. Two of the Slatter family unfortunately lost their lives in World War I. I'm remembering their service and sacrifice today, the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War.

The three younger sons of Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889) and John Slatter (1838-1901) epitomized this military service tradition. Living in extreme poverty in Whitechapel, the adolescent boys (John Daniel, Albert William, and Henry Arthur) were placed on a training ship in the Thames to gain skills that would help them qualify for the military. Not only did they qualify, they eventually became renowned military bandmasters.

This tradition continued into later generations, with many UK and Canadian descendants of the Slatter family answering the call to military service.

Arthur Albert Slatter, a son of Henry Arthur Slatter, enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers in 1901, at 16 years old. Like his father, he became a military musician.

In 1914, Arthur Albert joined the London Regiment, 20th Battalion, and was sent to the "Western European Theatre" during WWI. I was saddened to learn that he was killed in action on May 20, 1917. His name is inscribed on the memorial at Arras, Departement du Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.

Arthur Henry Slatter, a cousin of Arthur Albert, was married with two children, making a living as a house painter and decorator when he received his military notice to serve in 1915.

Arthur Henry enlisted in the Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex) Regiment, London, at the age of 40. At top, you can see his "attestation."

Two years later, he was wounded in battle and sent to Etchinghill Hospital near Kent, England, where he died on October 2, 1917. Private Arthur Henry Slatter is buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery in Kent, England.

Today we mourn the loss of all the brave men and women who served in WWI and other wars, fighting for democracy and freedom.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Two Beards and a Mystery

This week's challenge in the #52Ancestors series is "bearded." I have two bearded ancestors in old family photos. One is positively identified, one is a bit of a mystery.

Above, my bearded great-grandfather Herman Yehuda Schwartz (b. 1850s?- d. in 1920s). Herman was married to my great-grandma Hani Simonowitz (1860s-1930ish). They raised their family in Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhhorod, Ukraine), a bustling market town back in the day that is now a regional administrative center. Herman and Hani were the parents of my maternal grandfather, Tivador Schwartz (1887-1965).

The wonderful photo of Herman came directly from my 2d cousin on that side of the family. Although I wish I had more specific info, at least Herman has been positively identified by his granddaughter, who treasured this photo as a link to the past.

Now for the mystery man with the beard. The photo shown here and a similar photo have been in the hands of my father's Burk family for decades. It is probably a photo of my great-grandfather Solomon Elias Birck (late 1850?-1900s?), the husband of Nekhe Gelle Shuham (1850s?-1900s?). They lived in Gargzdai, Lithuania, a town known by many names in many languages.

I know the names of these great-grandparents because my grandfather (Isaac Burk, 1882-1943) and his siblings listed their parents and/or hometown on various documents.

This mystery man with a beard bears a very close resemblance to my father and others in his family. That, plus the fact that my 2d cousin has an almost identical photo of this same man passed down in her part of the family, is why I believe it is Solomon Elias (or Elias Solomon, depending on the document).

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt of beards.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Genealogist as Indexer-in-Chief

As genealogists, we should also be indexers-in-chief. Alas, family history rarely comes with a ready-made index, so we have to make our own. Here's a case in point.

My maternal grandmother Hermina Farkas Schwartz was the oldest daughter of the 11 children of Lena Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938) and Moritz Farkas (1857-1936). As the Farkas children grew up, married, and had children of their own, they formed the Farkas Family Tree to keep the family close-knit. Members met up to 10 times a year (taking summers off because relatives scattered to the beach or other cooler places outside the New York City metro area).

Five years ago, my 1st cousin once removed lent me his bound books of family tree minutes from 1933 through 1964 to scan, collate, and index. I included a "who's who" of the 11 Farkas children, their spouses, and their children.

However, the bound books didn't have all the months from 1940 to 1944, a dramatic period in the family's life because of WWII. Earlier this year, my 2d cousin kindly provided the 1940-44 minutes, saved by his mother for decades. Now that we have 600-plus pages of monthly minutes to read and enjoy, a detailed index is even more important. That's my specialty!

As shown at top, I like to start with a legal pad and pen, listing the names by hand along the left as each one appears in the minutes. Then I jot down the month and year when each name is mentioned in the minutes, such as 9/40 or 11/42.

Later, I type up the index alphabetically by surname and expand the dates a bit so they can be read at a glance. A typical entry in the final index would be:

         Farkas, Peter Feb 1940, March 1940, Oct 1940, Dec 1940 . . .

To make it easy for later generations, I list married women by their married surnames AND include an entry for their maiden names, with the notation "see ___[married name]." Here's why: Younger relatives, in particular, may not know an ancestor's maiden name, but they will recognize the ancestor's married name. (I don't list dates twice, only next to the married name). The goal is to make the index as intuitive and reader-friendly as possible.

Also, I think it's very important to indicate when someone is NOT in the immediate Farkas family.

  • If I know the person's exact relationship, I include it. My listing for Roth, Bela indicates that his first wife was Lena Kunstler Farkas's sister. He was known as Bela "Bacsi" or "Uncle Bela" by Lena's children. 
  • If I don't know the exact relationship, I say what I do know. My listing for Hartfield, Jenny notes that her maiden name was Mandel and she was always referred to as a cousin, possibly related through the Kunstler family.
Sometimes the minutes include names known only to one particular family. Good thing one of my cousins clued me in that "Tommy" was a canine, not a kiddie. But if I don't say so in the index, how will future generations know?! That's why a genealogist should also be the indexer-in-chief, with explanatory notes. It doesn't matter what system you use, as long as you index with your readers in mind.

PS: Cousins, the full index will be completed soon!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Genealogy Go-Over: In Search of Mary Amanda Demarest's Parents

During my ongoing Genealogy Go-Over, I've been cleaning up sources and searching for records posted since the last time I researched each key ancestor. Working with Cousin L, the keeper of the Wood ancestry and a crackerjack researcher with 35 years of experience, we've fleshed out the Wood family from the great-grandparents on down.

But there's still a big gap in the family tree: identifying the parents of Mary Amanda Demarest (1831-1897), wife of Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890)--these are hubby's great-grandparents. Cousin L already had some info about GGM Mary Amanda, including her probable birth date of June 1, 1831, which appears on her gravestone, as well as her probable marriage date of May 14, 1845, which appears in the family bible. Despite years of searching, we've turned up no birth record for GGM Mary Amanda Demarest.

This week, doing a new search, I was surprised to find a potential clue: A baptismal record from St. Clements Church in New York City. The excerpt at top shows a Mary Amanda Demarest, along with four siblings, being baptized in March, 1832. Only one parent is listed: Mary Ann Demarest.

The five daughters of Mary Ann Demarest being baptized were:

  • ? Ann, born 13 January 1821 (?)
  • Rachel Jemima, born 3 September 1824
  • Martha Jane, born 29 March 1826
  • Malinda Elizabeth, born 13 January 1829
  • Mary Amanda Demarest, born 1 June 1831
St. Clements was an Episcopal Church located on Amity Street (now West 3rd Street) near Sullivan Street, just below Washington Square in what is currently the Greenwich Village area.

My husband noticed that only one parent was listed on this baptismal record. Could it be that Mary Ann Demarest was a widow? If so, he asked, would she be shown by name in the 1830 Census?

Good question. And sure enough, one Mary Demarest was the head of household on Hudson Street in New York City in the 1830 US Census, as shown above. That Census was taken on June 1, 1830. Hudson Street is a healthy walk from St. Clements Church, but not crazy far away. My hopes were high.

Alas, the demographics of the Demarest household don't exactly match what we're looking for. The census recorded two girls under the age of 10. The household also included a female in her 20s, a female in her 30s, a female in her 40s, and a female in her 60s.

If Mary Demarest, the household head in the Census record, matched Mary Ann Demarest, the mother in the baptismal record, there would be a total of 4 females under the age of 10 in the 1830 Census.* I see only 2 females under 10. Not a close match. Even considering that one or two youngsters might have been elsewhere on Census day, who are the other women in the household?

Another really important point: Mary Amanda Demarest, the object of our search, was born exactly one year after the Census was taken and ten months before the 1832 baptismal record. Would a widow have had another child after the 1830 Census? Would she have kept the Demarest name if remarried, or married another Demarest even? Or not married again, keeping her former married name while having a child? All are possibilities.

Therefore, I reluctantly have to conclude that Mary Ann Demarest (the parent in the baptismal record) is unlikely to be the same Mary Demarest who was head of household on Hudson Street in the 1830 Census.

I've checked the St. Clements records for decades after the 1832 baptisms and found no other mentions of Mary Ann Demarest or her daughters. Yet the baptismal record showing Mary Amanda Demarest's birth date of June 1, 1831 is an exact match for GGM's birth date on her grave stone.

Although the baptismal record is very intriguing and matches the birth date, more evidence is needed to really prove that Mary Ann Demarest is my husband's GGGM. And if she belongs on the family tree, I don't have any clue to this ancestor's maiden name. Yet!

*Cousin L completed an analysis of every Demarest household in the 1830 Census of New York County. He also analyzed every Demarest in the city directory for that year and place. Not one appears to match OUR Demarest family. The search continues. I'm going to follow the possible siblings forward in time to try to find one or more of them in later records. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Save the Dates: Family Tree Live 2019 in London


Have you heard about the new genealogy show--Family Tree Live--coming to London in April?

Friday and Saturday, two days packed full of interesting, informative, and entertaining talks and panels about #Genealogy and #family history.

Please take a look at the lecture program, downloadable and printable by day.

On Friday, April 26, I'll be presenting #Genealogy and #familyhistory: How to use social media for genealogy, at 12:15 pm.

On Saturday, April 27, I'll be presenting Planning a Future for Your Family's Past: Do You Have a Genealogical Will? at 10:00 am.

Then on Saturday at 11:30 am, I'm part of a panel talk: Crash Course in Writing Your Family Story. "Four experts in forty minutes! Get top tips from those who know in one crammed session."

Save the dates. Hope to see you in London in April!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Friendly, Not Frightful, Halloween Cards

In the 1910s, my husband's father and uncles in Cleveland, OH, frequently received penny-postcard holiday greetings from relatives across the miles. These were friendly (not frightful) messages to let the Wood youngsters know they were in the hearts of their family.

Here are two of my favorites. Rachel Ellen "Nellie" Wood (1864-1954) sent these and other colorful greeting cards to the four sons of her younger brother, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). Nellie lived in Chicago, James lived in Cleveland, but they were able to visit each other from time to time.

"Aunt Nellie" Wood was married first to Walter Alfred Lervis (1860-1897) at the age of 20. After his death, she married Samuel Arthur Kirby (1860-1939).

"Aunt Nellie" had a special fondness for these nephews, as revealed through the messages on her holiday cards. She remembered their hobbies, sent get-well wishes when one broke an arm, and urged them to continue their studies.

Some of the penny postcards were signed "Uncle Arthur" (in another handwriting), which made me smile even more. The Wood boys were being treated, not tricked, for Halloween!

Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors prompt for this week is "frightening."

Monday, October 29, 2018

Detailed Captions from Ninety Years Ago

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) was gifted with a camera for his birthday in 1917. He was immediately smitten with photography, which became his lifelong hobby.

Even before Ed became an insurance adjustor (circa 1930 in Cleveland, Ohio), he was careful about recording details. (He kept a pocket diary for decades, and I'm lucky enough to have 30 full years to mine for genealogical gold.)

Sorting through a box of old snaps and negatives shared by my sis-in-law, I found this neat album of individual negatives from Ed's 1928 trip across the Atlantic.

Ed's European trip from 90 years ago was aboard the Berengaria sailing out of New York. He listed dates, places, names (not always full names), and more. This album consisted of more than three dozen negatives!

Ed played his way across the Atlantic several times as the piano player for a "college jazz band." The band sailed for free, in exchange for playing during meals and perhaps at other times.

Someone in Europe arranged additional bookings in France, Italy, and other countries eager to hear the latest American jazz music popular during the Roaring Twenties. At the end of the summer, Ed and his associates would sail back to New York, playing instead of paying for passage.

I already had Ed's passport from 1928. He said he was a college student, but in reality, he dropped out before graduating in mid-1926--because his mother died suddenly, a few weeks earlier.

Thank you, Ed, for preserving your past for future generations. I'm doing my best to follow in your footsteps by captioning photos (old and new) so descendants will know who's who, where, and when.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

RIP, Bela "Bacsi" Roth

Bela Bernard Roth (1860*-1941) was married to my maternal great-grandmother's sister, Zolli/Sali Kunstler. I know Zolli died young because my wonderful cousin B saw her very worn gravestone while visiting the cemetery in NagyBereg (now in Ukraine) twenty years ago.

Bela and Zolli had three children together, Margaret, Alex (Sandor), and Joseph. After Zolli died, Bela married Bertha Batia Weiss (1885-1965) and they had three sons together: Hugo, Theodore, and Ernest.

Bela was affectionately nicknamed "Bela Bacsi" ("Uncle" Bela, in Hungarian) by my Farkas Family. Cousins still remember the family talking about him, and he is mentioned twice in the Farkas Family Tree monthly minutes.

First, he wrote to the tree in 1938, on the occasion of the death of his sister-in-law, Lena Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938--my great-grandma). The other mention was when the Farkas Family Tree sent a condolence gift on the occasion of Bela's death.

Sadly, Bela died on November 3, 1941, when he was hit by a truck on the street near his home in Queens, New York. He died the same day of internal injuries and was buried the following day in Riverside Cemetery, Saddle Brook, New Jersey.

If I could ask Bela one question, I would ask him to tell me how his son Joseph is related to the other Joseph Roths so I can untangle the Weiss and Wajman family branches of the tree! "Cause of Death" is this week's #52Ancestors prompt by Amy Johnson Crow.

*Bela apparently was born on 10 August 1860, according to his very, very delayed birth record documented in Hungary in . . . 1889. His wasn't the only delayed birth record documented on the same page in 1889. I'm wondering whether he recorded his birth so he could get married? His first child, with first wife Zolli Kunstler, was born in 1892, but I don't know their marriage date (yet).

Friday, October 19, 2018

My Farkas Family on December 7, 1941

Last year, I wrote a three-page memory booklet in which I used genealogy research techniques to confirm my husband's memory of being a tyke sitting around the family radio, hearing the news of Pearl Harbor being attacked on December 7, 1941.

Thanks to the kindness of a second cousin, I now have monthly minutes from my mother's Farkas Family Tree meetings during the early 1940s. The tree consisted of adult descendants of Moritz Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas (my maternal great-grandparents) who lived in and around New York City. To have the largest possible attendance, meetings were held on Sunday evenings.

As I was scanning minutes and indexing the names of those present each month, I wondered what happened in the family tree at the time of Pearl Harbor. Sure enough, I found a page of minutes from December 7, 1941 (excerpt above), when the meeting convened in the Bronx.

By dinner time on that Sunday evening, almost certainly tree members would have heard the news of Pearl Harbor. Washington announced the attack in the afternoon, East Coast time, well before the family-tree meeting started at 6:05 pm. News accounts say many New Yorkers were suddenly nervous, feeling the city was a possible future target, due to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and other operations in the five boroughs.

The minutes never mention the December 7th attack as such.  The minutes do say, almost in passing, that a 16-year-old male first cousin of my mother was in the Pershing Rifles Auxiliary, and a 14-year-old female first cousin had joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Minutes from earlier in 1941 say family members were learning Air Raid procedures and making things to donate to the Red Cross for overseas.

Even without the words "Pearl Harbor" or "war" being mentioned, I believe the tree was well aware of what was happening that day. My aunt Dorothy Schwartz was secretary for the evening, because her twin sister, Daisy Schwartz (hi Mom!) was ill. Auntie Dorothy writes later in the minutes that for the January, 1942 meeting, "family members who have uniforms should wear them."

Genealogy research indicates that family members (male and female) quickly began to enlist. My aunt, in fact, enlisted in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on September 11, 1942. Some of her female first cousins held "Rosie the Riveter" jobs while a number of male first cousins joined the Army Air Corps or Army (no Navy or Marine men) in the months after Pearl Harbor.

During Family History Month, I am thankful for the sentence (shown in excerpt above) that says: "It was especially recommended that all surnames be mentioned in future minutes." The minutes are filled with multiple relatives and in-laws having the same given name. My mother was Daisy, and so was her sister-in-law. The tree included multiple Roberts and multiple Georges, among other names. Happily, it is usually clear from context who's who in the minutes. And so the scanning and indexing will go on and on.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Historical Fiction Reveals Real Conflict in Ancestral Town

If you haven't checked out both fiction and nonfiction to understand the lives of your ancestors, give historical fiction a try. Historical fiction is often (but not always) based on historical fact. The characters aren't real, but in many cases, the daily lives and family ups/downs described in a period novel or short story will provide a compelling sense of time and place.

Five years ago, while I was attending FGS 2013, my husband spent time in Wabash, Indiana, where some of his mother's ancestors were pioneering farmers. The local historian recommended we read a young adult book loosely based on a real family that lived in the area at the same time as Benjamin McClure and Sarah Denning McClure, hubby's 2d great-grandparents.

The book is The Wild Donahues by Elisabeth Hamilton Friermood. In an author's note, Friermood says "Years ago my father told me about a house he lived in as a boy, and about the rascally family that had built it long before his time, in pre-Civil War days."

Rascally is an understatement. Friermood read through actual news clippings from the time and learned a lot about the family's "dishonest dealings." She transformed the real family into the "wild Donahues" and wrote about the many conflicts caused by this family in rural Indiana in 1860. The human story (of a young orphaned girl coming of age) plays out against the backdrop of slavery, hostility toward Native Americans, and the rise of Abraham Lincoln. Not to mention the villainy of the Donahue family (murder is just the start).

Author Elisabeth Hamilton Friermood was born in Marion, Indiana, and grew up to be a librarian in the Marion Public Library and, later, in the Dayton, Ohio library. She heard stories from her parents and grandparents about the Indiana of their childhoods--and, with additional research, turned those stories into YA books that bring Indiana's past to life in a dramatic way.

So if you're interested, ask a historian or librarian to recommend historical fiction of the time and place where your ancestors lived. My brother-in-law read and enjoyed The Wild Donahues for the setting and atmosphere of the period as much as (or more than) the twists and turns in the heroine's life. The cover art, at top, suggests the bit of light romance that runs through the book, rather than the day-to-day realities and dastardly deeds depicted in the chapters.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow's #52 Ancestors for this prompt.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sports: Leaping Rooftops, Bronx Bombers, and Skating

Leaping across rooftops, no safety net in sight. That was my big-city-born-and-bred father's childhood "sport."

Harold Burk (1909-1978), my Dad, grew up in New York City's Jewish Harlem, on 109th Street near Fifth Avenue. As a teen, he and his friends would dare each other to leap across the rooftops of the 6 story tenements built close together in the neighborhood. When he told me this story, he seemed a bit amazed that he had survived--me too! No net, and no cape (it was before the invention of Superman).

Dad became a travel agent (at right, in his lobby office at the Savoy Plaza Hotel in New York City) and soon after marrying Mom, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981), they moved to the Bronx. Only a short subway ride away from Yankee Stadium! No wonder Dad loved the Yankees as his spectator sport of choice. Every summer, he'd take his daughters to a few ball games. We were lucky enough to see many of the Yankee greats of the 1960s, stars like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. When not at the stadium, he would listen on those tinny 1960s transistor radios.

Of course, I still root for the Yankees (in vain, recently). But my personal spectator sport of choice is figure skating. Note I said "spectator sport" (meaning I don't actually skate, just attend skating events or watch on TV). Now you know why Winter Olympics, not Summer Olympics, are my favorite. 

#52Ancestors - Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's prompt.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

10 Generations Back: Last Wood Generation Born in England

This week's #52Ancestors challenge is 10 and there is no way I can go back that
far in my mother's or father's family trees.

However, my husband is a Mayflower descendant four times over and we can go back beyond 10 generations on his father's side. The Wood family intermarried with the Cushman family (Cushman of the Fortune married Mary Allerton and that's the basic Mayflower connection). Thank you to cousins Larry and Mike for uncovering new details tracing the Wood tree year after year after year...

The tenth generation back is John Wood Jr. (1620?-1704). This was most likely the last Wood generation of my husband's family to be born in England. I hypothesize* that John Jr. was christened in St. George the Martyr Church, Surrey, England, on March 10, 1621, as shown at top. I was amazed to discover that this church was built in the 12th century.

John Jr.'s exact birth date is a mystery. His cemetery stone is not legible, and 1620 is the "calculated" birth year. We do know he married (for the third time) to Mary Peabody (1639-41?-1719) around 1656 in what is now Newport county, Rhode Island. John Jr. died in the same part of Rhode Island, as did his wife. Both are buried in the John Wood cemetery plot.

On my husband's mother's side, we can go back 9 generations to James Andrew McClure (1660?-?). In checking for anything new on this ancestor, I came across a fairly new (June, 2018) memorial on Find-a-Grave, saying that James died "at sea, on trip to America" in 1732, age 71-2.

Of course I wrote the originator of this memorial to ask about the source and any details. We already knew the McClure family left Donegal and sailed together to Philadelphia, Halbert with his wife Agnes and numerous children. I didn't realize Halbert's father James was with them. Maybe this will open up more research possibilities.

*Updated to reflect cousin Mike's comments about clearly noting hypotheses. Thank you! I don't want to perpetuate unproven info as "fact." And so far, no response from the Find-a-Grave contributor about James Andrew McClure.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Family History Month: Start Writing About Ancestors Now!

Family History Month is a good time to start writing about our ancestors. Genealogy research is never complete, in my humble opinion, but we can make headway on writing about family history if we focus.

This is not about the big picture--it's about sharing one specific aspect of our family's past with relatives and descendants. Not a formal genealogy, but something that conveys both the facts and the human face of our ancestors.

Here are some quick tips to prepare:
  • Choose one of the above to focus on. Maybe you want to write about your maternal grandparents or about a set of siblings in your father's family. Or you have an heirloom, like the ceramic zebras above, created by my late mother-in-law, with a backstory of interest to children and grandchildren.
  • Gather your info (documents, photos, etc.) and your memories.
  • Write bullet points of what you currently know. 
  • Rearrange the bullets into a logical organization (chronological order, for instance).
  • Make notes about each bullet and also jot notes about what you want to double-check or ask other relatives.
  • Create a quick timeline if it will help guide you through the story and help readers understand what happened when. Or use a timeline as the basis for writing about a couple or an event.
Now . . . start anywhere in the story and write. Really, it doesn't matter where you begin to write because you can move sentences and paragraphs around after you get words on paper.

If you like, pick a detail that seems particularly dramatic or interesting, write a few sentences, and then fill in the story around it. Every family had high points, low points, times of happiness and times of sorrow. Try to tell the story to show who these ancestors were, beyond mere facts of birth-marriage-death dates. The important thing is to share what you know now.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Family History Month: Top Priority Is Captioning Old Photos

If you, like me, inherited a batch of family photos without names or dates, you'll understand why my top priority this month is captioning old photos. We may be the only people who still know the names of these people and can tell a few of the stories. This is the time to put names to faces so the info is not lost, and future generations will know something about the family's past!

Above, an example of an old photo I scanned, showing my Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk and three of her four children. My Dad is "Harold," the toddler with curly hair at bottom right. I kept a version of this digital image with no names and a version where I added names and a date. No last names (because no room) but this is in the Burk/Mahler archival box with a more detailed explanation of who's who.

There are many ways to caption, including (but not limited to) these ideas. You can write a caption on plain paper, lay it on a scanner above or below the original photo, and scan or copy both together for a neat, easy-to-read version that can be stored with the original. Or simply photocopy the original and write, in colored ink, each person's name on the copy, then store the copy with the original.

Another way to caption is to put each photo in its own archival sleeve. Then handwrite the caption on an adhesive label and stick it to the outside of the sleeve, as shown at right.

Ideally, explain the relationship between the person in the photo and yourself. Don't just write "Mama" (as on the back of one photo I inherited). Turned out that wasn't a Mama in my direct line, but it was the mother of a cousin in England!

Even after 20 years of research and asking cousins for help, I have some mystery photos. I've stored them in an archival box labeled by side of the family. The box called "Unknown photos, Marian's family" is separate from a similar box for unknown photos of my husband's ancestors.

Happy captioning!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Family History Month: Why I Love Archival Boxes

I really love archival boxes for storing family history materials like photos, original documents, and more. Some of my genealogy buddies love three-ring binders, others love file folders.* All have their strong points, I know because I've tried 'em all.

Twenty years ago when I began my genealogy journey, I created file folders with surname labels. I still use them for photocopies of originals, research notes, and assorted stuff that doesn't need special protection. One half of my file drawer is devoted to folders for "his family" and one half is devoted to folders for "my family."

I organize my folders according to family groupings. This means husband-wife surnames with separate folders are together inside one big accordion hanging file. For instance, my father-in-law Wood and mother-in-law McClure have separate folders inside a single hanging file for that family unit. In the same accordion file I have another file folder for Wood siblings. Yes, this accordion folder holds a lot of folders and papers!

But archival boxes are my preference for everything that's original and precious, important enough to protect for the long term. Why?

First, take a look at the photo at top. Which looks more valuable to the next generation, a bunch of stuff in a torn envelope with a scribbled label or a stack of neat archival boxes with proper labels? This alone might save family artifacts from a fate too horrible to contemplate (after I join my ancestors).

Also:
  • Archival boxes come in various sizes and shapes. I bought one especially for my father-in-law's college photo album, another for the big family wedding portrait from 1925. 
  • My father's WWII dog tags, insignia, etc. are in an archival box because they are odd-sized and enclosed in his old leather pouch, which I wanted to preserve as is.
  • Old movies and CDs can go into one archival box, marked by surname. (Remember to separate negatives from prints and store separately, to avoid deterioration.)
  • Documents and photos lay flat for storage, in individual sleeves for extra protection, inside each box. 
  • Archival boxes with metal corners can be stacked several high without crushing the contents.
  • Boxes are easy to label by surname and number. You can't see in the above photo, but I have a pencil-mark #1 and #2 next to the WOOD label on those two boxes. Other WOOD boxes have more descriptive labels like "WOOD negatives 1940s-1960s" so I can keep track of what's where.
  • Some day, when I join my ancestors, my heirs will know exactly which box has which family's materials. Everything is neat and ready to be transported to a new home. For now, I can easily shift boxes around and find what I need without a lot of fuss.
For more on preservation and storage ideas, see the links at Cyndi's List and the National Archives. And please take a look at my Amazon best-selling genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, with details about keeping your genealogy collection safe for future generations to enjoy. Thank you!
* Whether you love folders, binders, or archival boxes, gotta have a label maker for easy-to-read labels that jump out at a glance!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Remembering Harold Burk, 1909-1978

Elementary school graduation photo of Harold Burk (1909-1978)
My Dad, Harold Burk, was born at home in Manhattan on a Friday, the 29th of September, 1909. He was the son of Isaac Burk, a cabinetmaker from Lithuania and Henrietta Mahler from Latvia. They married in New York City in 1906 and Harold was their second child, first son.

When Dad was born, automobiles were already on the streets of New York. William H. Taft was the 27th President of the United States. The whole world was riveted by the race to reach the North Pole. And the year's top song hit was Shine On, Harvest Moon.

He was a big fan of the New York Botanical Gardens and introduced his children to the joys of smelling the roses at the Bronx Botanical Garden. And he loved the Yankees, taking his girls to see Maris, Mantle, and other superstars at Yankee Stadium every summer. In later life, Dad loved baking traditional apple pies every fall, complete with "sky high" home-made crusts. Always a city dweller, he enjoyed walking in the city and seeing the sights.


Dad's business, Burk Travel Service, is listed in the Manhattan (NYC) directory from 1948-1960. It was located at the ritzy Savoy Plaza Hotel. When the hotel changed owners, it was listed in phone books as being in the Savoy Hilton Hotel (see above).

By the time Dad died on the 18th of August in 1978, technology had revolutionized travel in many ways, including speed and convenience--an important development for him, as a travel agent.

Missing you and remembering you with love, Dad, on your birthday.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Couldn't Keep 'Em Down on the Farm

My husband's maternal McClure family came to America specifically to buy land and farm during the 1730s. Until they couldn't keep 'em down on the farm any longer, about 150 years later.

The patriarch, Halbert McClure (1684-1764) led a group of his sons, a daughter, and several brothers making the journey from Donegal to Philadelphia in the 1730s. Originally from the Isle of Skye before being forced to relocate to Donegal, the McClures had enough money to pay for their Atlantic voyage. After landing in Philadelphia, the family walked to the colony of Virginia and plunked down cash for hundreds of acres of fertile farmland.

In hubby's direct line, Halbert's son Alexander McClure (1717-1790) and grandson John McClure (1781-1834?) both were farmers. John, however, ventured from Virginia into Ohio to be a pioneer farmer. John's son, Benjamin McClure (1812-1896) was born in Adams County, Ohio and he became a pioneer farmer in Wabash county, Indiana. Benjamin was my husband's 2d great-grandpa.

At top is a land ownership map showing where Benjamin's 80 acres were located in Paw Paw township in 1875. Benjamin was a civic leader as well as a farmer, and served as an Elder in the Presbyterian Church in Wabash county. Benjamin was the end of the line as far as career farmers in his branch of the McClure family.

Benjamin's son (hubby's great-grandpa) William Madison McClure (1849-1887) worked for "the railway" (according to 1880 census). Another of Benjamin's sons, John N. McClure, was a farmer and then later went to work for the railroad. A third son, Train Caldwell McClure, was an oil mill operator (1880 census). The oldest son, Theodore Wilson McClure, was a farmer and storekeeper in 1880 but became a day laborer by 1900, according to Census records.

William Madison McClure had four children and none of them had anything to do with farming. In fact, all moved to more urban settings. The oldest daughter, Lola (1877-1948), became a teacher and married a civil engineer.

The oldest son grew up to be hubby's Grandpa Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). He was a master mechanic, first with the railroad and then with industrial firms in Cleveland, Ohio.

The younger daughter, Lucille Ethel McClure (1880-1926) moved to Chicago and married a farmer turned plumber, who worked on new construction in the booming economy of the Windy City.

The younger son, Hugh Benjamin McClure (1882-1960), began as a shipping clerk and then worked as a salesman before owning his own successful manufacturing firm in Peoria, Illinois.

The next generations had nothing to do with farming, either. Just couldn't keep this McClure family down on the farm after 150 years.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt about "on the farm" (or, in this case, "not on the farm").

Sunday, September 23, 2018

"Gershwin Winner Plays for Meals"

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood, died 32 years ago today. He was born on August 13, 1903, and died on September 23, 1986. I remember him with fondness, although I knew him for too short a time.

Ed's day job was as insurance adjuster for an Ohio insurance firm. His real passion, for many decades, was playing piano as a professional musician.

Just a few days ago, the gentleman behind the blog Gershwin 100 found me by doing a search for a song he knew by name: Love Is a Boundless Ocean.

My father-in-law Ed had copyrighted that song in October, 1932. He wrote the music and his friend, George W. Teare, wrote the lyrics. The song was good enough to win Ed the opportunity to play in a Cleveland concert with the famous composer George Gershwin. The family was aware Ed had won a Gershwin contest. But we never saw the newspaper article with the full story until this blogger kindly sent it along.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer of January 21, 1934, Gershwin judged dozens of songs submitted to a contest sponsored by the newspaper. The contestants played their songs, one by one, as Gershwin listened and offered encouraging suggestions. He then announced that one would be played in his concert that evening. "We've chosen 'Love Is a Boundless Ocean' as the one best suited for our purpose," Gershwin explained.

The newspaper article actually adds a lot of color to my husband's family history. The reporter writes that Ed first paled and then flushed when announced as the winner. His comment was: "I'm stunned." Yet he immediately agreed when Gershwin asked him to play the winning song himself that evening at the concert.

Ed later told the reporter that he used to work in insurance, but was unemployed at that moment. He said, and I quote, that he now "plays to eat." Thus, the headline of the newspaper article:

"Gershwin Winner Plays for Meals"


Remember, this was deep in the Depression. Ed had a lot of experience playing piano to make his way through life, having played at Tufts to pay for college expenses and on ocean liners crossing the Atlantic during the Roaring Twenties.

According to the 1930 Census, Ed had worked as an insurance adjuster, and was living at the same Cleveland address (as a boarder) noted in the newspaper article of 1934. Even though he had been born in Cleveland and lived with his parents until going to college, his father had remarried (twice) after his mother died. His father moved to Jackson, Michigan, so Ed was a boarder in Cleveland for a number of years.

Now fast-forward a few weeks later in 1934, when Ed was working and met his future wife (Marian Jane McClure, 1909-1983) in that insurance office. On their first date, he took her to a party where he played piano for the guests. One thing led to another, and Ed and Marian married in 1935. In later years, they celebrated Valentine's Day as the anniversary of their "first date."

Ed never lost his job again, and he never stopped playing piano. He played on the morning of the day he died, we know from reading his diary. Thinking of my father-in-law with great affection on this day. And happy that my genealogy blog attracted the eye of the Gershwin blogger!

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Fidelity Bond "Story" - A Reliable Source?

On December 5, 1931, Harold Burk (my Dad, 1909-1978) applied for a Fidelity Bond. Or at least, his application is in my possession. It's a most unusual source and I only believe some of what he listed on this form. Here's the story.

To work with transportation tickets and ultimately attain his goal of becoming a travel agent, Dad had to be bonded. In those days, a blank train or plane ticket was like a blank, signed check--ready to be filled in (by hand, of course) and used for transportation. Therefore, anyone who sold such tickets needed to be bonded, providing insurance in case of theft or fraud.

As you can see on the right, Dad wrote that he was born on 29 September 1909, which is correct.

Also, he listed his home address as 1580 Crotona Park East (an apartment building in a nice section of the Bronx, NY). I confirmed that with the 1930 US Census. In the Census, and on the form, he's shown as living with his parents. Correct so far.

At the bottom of p. 1, Dad lists three personal references. The instructions say not to list any relatives. In fact, the first name listed is a neighbor of Dad's family, living in the same Bronx apartment building. Believable. And confirmable via the 1930 Census.

Names #2 and #3 are his uncles by marriage. Louis Volk was married to Dad's aunt Ida Mahler. Joseph Markel [should be Markell] was married to Dad's aunt Mary Mahler.

In both cases, Dad says he's known these two references for four years, suggesting around 1927. Uh, no. Dad had known Louis Volk and Joseph Markell since they married into the family during the very early 1920s. Very likely these uncles were happy to be used as references and not mention the family connection. They were living at the same addresses in 1931 as in the 1930 Census, by the way.

Then on the back of the document, Dad listed his parents' net worth, separately. He said his father, (my grandpa) Isaac Burk (1882-1943) was a furniture maker (true) and was worth $250. Maybe...

His mother, (my grandma) Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) supposedly had a financial net worth of $350. Huh? I can't imagine where this figure came from. Maybe the Mahler family would be willing to pool their resources in case Dad had to prove this part of the application. They were known to help each other out with money on many an occasion.

This application was filled out during the Depression, so it's a stretch to think my grandparents had liquid assets of $600 between them. Never did they own a car or a home. Maybe they had a savings account, but it was probably not very fat. Now you know why I needed more than a grain of salt as I looked at this document.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for her #52Ancestors prompt "unusual source", which prompted me to to reexamine this document yet again.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Learning at the New York State Family History Conference

Wow, it was a wonderful conference experience yesterday at the New York State Family History Conference, held for the first time in Tarrytown, New York.

Not only did I get to see friends from multiple genealogy clubs and societies around the Northeast, I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best genealogy experts in the business.


My first session of the day was Cherie Bush's New York Records and Resources at FamilySearch.org.


Cherie demonstrated some of FamilySearch's most valuable features and highlighted several record sets that researchers should check for New York-area ancestors. (One record set that appeared in her list was something I need to investigate: Bronx Probate, 1914-1931.)

She also reminded us of smart ways to use the FamilySearch site, especially the super-valuable wiki. Here is her slide about which record sets to check first when researching birth, death, maiden name, and parents. (Cherie invited the audience to photograph any and all slides. Thank you!)
Next, Diahan Southard and David Nicholson presented The Science of Genetic Genealogy. Blaine Bettinger was in the audience, having just finished his session, "Shared Matches and Genetic Networks."

My top takeaway: The software used for matching people is getting much, much more sophisticated. Living DNA is planning to offer matching that will not just show where we are from and who we match, but also how each match relates to us. In essence, the software would automate the match-analysis process that Blaine Bettinger described in his talk. Sounds promising!
After lunch, I snagged a seat in Thomas Jones's session, Genealogical Documentation: The What, Why, Where, and How. He reviewed, in detail, how to develop citations for sources we use in our genealogy research, saying: "Undocumented genealogy is useless because it can't be checked."

Many of us inherited handwritten family trees with no sources, leading to months or years of research for verification. If we properly cite our sources, those who come after us will be able to retrace our steps and also evaluate the quality of the sources we used. The idea is to allow later researchers to build on our work, rather than having to go back and check it over.

Mid-afternoon, a fun highlight was joining other Virtual Genealogical Association members for a group photo outside the exhibit hall. It was a pleasure to meet them in person--many for the first time!
My final session of the day was Judith Herbert's Ancestors of Meager Means and Even Less Fame in 19th Century NYC. She provided an in-depth explanation of why and how to conduct a surname study, with the case study of an ancestor. Very time-consuming, detailed research and analysis technique that can't be used if the name is Smith or Jones (or, as in my husband's case, Wood) because of the unwieldy number of people who would have to be evaluated.

The entire audience laughed when Judith showed a death cert where the spaces for names of father and mother had a dash. Helpful, Judith noted, only if your ancestor's given name was "dash."