Wednesday, June 27, 2018

FAN Club: Larimer, Work, Short Families Go to Church

Once again, keeping the FAN club (Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) in mind when doing #Genealogy research has reinforced close connections in my husband's family tree. True, some of these connections are more than 200 years old, and that's a real plus--it shows how the Larimer, Work, and Short families were intertwined for many generations.

They lived near each other, worshipped with each other, and some married each other. A few clues (such as obits) suggest these families were related as cousins in Northern Ireland, and naturally decided to settle in America near each other. One group began in Pennsylvania and then moved westward to Ohio. Some relatives and descendants continued west to Elkhart county, Indiana. Along the way, church records in particular (plus census records) helped me document their close connections. (I viewed the new Presbyterian records posted on Ancestry, reading every original page rather than relying on the index/transcription--which allowed me to note "creative" spellings and spot instances of all the surnames I'm researching!)

Isaac M. Larimer (1771?-1823) and his wife, Elizabeth Woods Larimer (1773-1851) were my hubby's 4th great-grandparents. They had 10 children that I can account for. Many were baptized in the Rush Creek Presbyterian congregation in Fairfield county, Ohio, during the early 1800s. At top, the church record showing two Larimer children (James and Moses) baptized in June and July of 1806.

The youngest of Isaac and Elizabeth's children, Cynthia Hanley Larimer, was baptized in this church in 1815. She married Abel Everett Work there in 1836. Abel was born in Fairfield county, Ohio, while his father, Aaron Work, was married in Mifflin, PA, the town where hubby's Larimer ancestors lived before the move to Ohio.


Also in 1815, the year that Cynthia was baptized, a few Larimer and Work family members were admitted to that Rush Creek Congregation. Shown above, Aaron Work (Abel Work's father) was admitted "on certificate." John Larimer was admitted "on certificate" in 1816. And the list goes on. Who moved first, encouraging which family to join later? I'm going to find out, because they appear in groups, this FAN club of extended family members.

A granddaughter of Isaac and Elizabeth, Margaret Larimer, married Thomas Short in Middlebury, Elkhart county, Indiana, in 1842. Not long after Thomas's birth, his parents (James Short and Frances Gilbert Short) were admitted to the Rush Creek Congregation "on certificate" in 1822. (Interestingly, Thomas's later bio mentions that his parents were born in Ireland, but no indication of where.) Lots of Short relatives eventually settled in the Elkhart area, as did some Larimer and Work relatives, all members of the FAN club.

PS - Reader Janet asked how I keep track of FAN club names that may be important to my research. First, I have my Ancestry family tree open in one browser window (can do same for a Family Search tree) while I read any online records. Second, I have an alphabetized list of surnames I printed from my RootsMagic software. Then I can compare a name and date in, say, the handwritten church records with the names/dates in my tree or software. I also have notes in my software regarding suspected cousinship relations. Of course so many times the same name is used in multiple generations, which means I have to check closely to avoid making assumptions about the wrong Samuel Work or John Larimer.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Mysterious David Mahler

My great uncle David Mahler (1882-1964) was a bit of a mystery in my paternal grandmother's Mahler family. And, I understand, a bit of a black sheep. I never met him in person, but I heard stories and found intriguing records that raised more questions than they answered.

David was born in Latvia, the second child of Tillie Jacobs Mahler and Meyer Elias Mahler. I believe he was named for Meyer's father, David Akiva Mahler (who was my 2d great-grandpa).

As an adult, David had a variety of occupations: paper hanger (age 18, according to 1900 Census); driver (age 23, according to 1905 NY Census); rigger (age 35, according to WWI draft registration); motion picture technician (age 58, according to 1940 Census); utility man, Columbia Studios, motion picture industry (age 82, according to California death certificate). He said he was living in High Point, NC in 1935--why? I haven't found him in the 1930 Census yet, so who knows what he was doing at that time!

There are a few other family mysteries surrounding this great uncle. His WWII draft registration card indicates he had a tattoo, D.M., which I'll bet his mother never saw (and would have disapproved of). When, where, and why did he get it? Maybe while a rigger in New Jersey during WWI?

An even bigger mystery: David told the 1940 Census that he was married, yet he was living in the "Universal Hotel" without his wife, along with dozens and dozens of other unrelated people.

His death cert mentions that he was widowed, the informant being his sister Sarah, who also lived in California. Well, the only David Mahler marriage record in California that seems remotely possible is in September, 1937 to Charlotte Schlyer, but I haven't sent for it at this point.

Although David bounced around during his life, he wasn't really a black sheep until the day he helped out in his brother-in-law Louis's New York City paint store.

The way Louis's granddaughter heard the story and shared it with to me, things were quiet in the store, so Louis decided (uncharacteristically) to leave just a little earlier than usual and take his wife out to dinner. He asked David to watch the store and lock up.

David went into the back room for a smoke (and a drink, if I recall). He fell asleep and the lit cigarette accidentally touched off a roaring fire that destroyed the store and financially ruined his brother-in-law. Not surprisingly, the family got upset with David.

Ne'er-do-well David was lucky to be "offered" a job 3,000 miles away, at Columbia Studios in Hollywood. This was thanks to the kindness of another Mahler in-law, who kept David on the payroll for years. In 1964, David died of cancer at the Motion Picture Country Hospital, his residence listed as the Universal Hotel (the same as during the 1940 census). Rest in peace, great uncle David, and know that you are remembered, warts and all.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's "Black Sheep" prompt in her #52Ancestors series.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Clues Buried in Sources on Other Family Trees

Good genealogy researchers trust good sources, right?


And that's why, any time I view other people's family trees on Family Search or Ancestry, I go straight to the sources. This allows me to retrace the steps of any family history researcher and examine the evidence for myself. I analyze and weigh the details of every piece of evidence. If the evidence seems solid, I add it to my tree, cite the source(s), and factor it into my genealogical conclusion.

If a tree has no sources, I move on--nothing to see.  Family stories and relatives' memories are only a starting point--we need actual evidence to construct a reliable family tree. Too often, family trees posted online use other family trees as the source (a la the sources titled "Ancestry Family Trees"). Sorry, not good enough for the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Sources for other people's trees, if any, will be hiding in plain sight.* At the top, a family tree on Family Search, with the button "print family with sources" circled in dark green near the bottom of the image. Click, and up pops a pdf of a family group record followed by pages of full sources (like the ones below).
I compared this tree with a tree on Ancestry, where the sources are in the center column for convenient access. Both of these trees had good sources--different sources, in some cases. By viewing the original documents, not the indexed or transcribed versions, my neighbor and I picked up good clues to research as she follows the Crandall branch of her family tree.


* Thanks very much to reader Marian, who pointed out that on the profile page of each person in Family Search, there are sources listed. Clicking on a fact will bring up any linked sources--then click on the sources to see the documents. I print the list so I can check which I have and which I haven't seen before by comparing with my tree.

PS: Yes, my neighbor knows about the Crandall Family Association. She's actually done a ton of research. We were spot-checking dates and spelling by looking at sources connected with other people's trees.

PPS: Above, from a tree that will be nameless (to protect the guilty), one reason why I distrust trees without sources. Jean must have had quite a wedding in 1805, considering she's listed as dead by 1790.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Jane: The Name in the Middle

Margaret Jane Larimer McClure at right, with daughter Lucille Ethel McClure
and son-in-law Edward DeVeld
My sis-in-law has always told me that Jane is the traditional middle name for females in her family.

Not in the family tree of my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986). One of Edgar's aunts was Jane Ann Wood Black (1846-1936), the eldest child of my husband's great-grandparents (Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest). None of the earlier Wood family females carry this middle name, so far as I can discover.

We learned that Jane is the most popular middle name in both sides of the family of the mother-in-law I unfortunately never met, Marian Jane McClure (1909-1983). She gave her daughter that middle name, and in turn my sis-in-law gave her daughter that middle name.

Marian's mother Margaret Jane Larimer (1859-1913) and grandmother Elizabeth Jane Rinehart (1834-1905) both had Jane as their middle name. Larimer and McClure ancestors often gave Jane as the middle name of one girl in each generation.

The McKibbin family, which intermarried with Larimer ancestors, included a number of women with Jane as their middle name. Same tradition in the Hilborn family, which intermarried with the Rinehart family.

By the way, I identified all the ancestors with "Jane" as a first or middle name by doing a search with my RootsMagic7 software. Very convenient way to prep for this #52Ancestors post.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

99-cent Kindle Special Ends at Midnight on June 14

Wow! #1 in Amazon's Kindle Genealogy list from June 13-17.
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But this special price expires on midnight of Thursday, June 14th, New York time, so please click to take a look soon!

UPDATE: More than 260 ebooks sold in 5 days (plus printed copies too), keeping my book at the top of the Amazon Kindle genealogy best-seller list for five days in a row. Thank you! Please, if you own my book, would you take a moment to post a review on Amazon? Your feedback would be most appreciated!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Father's Day: Where Dad Lived (and Why)


For Father's Day, I'm telling stories of where Dad lived, and why, and stories he told me about everyday life. Harold Burk (1909-1978) was born in Jewish Harlem, 77 E. 109th Street in Manhattan. That's the address on his birth certificate and the address where he lived at the time of the 1910 Census. It's just a short walk from the Northern end of Central Park.

Thanks to the images in the New York City Public Library's digital collections, I can see tenements similar to the building where Dad lived and read about conditions there. These East Harlem buildings were not quite as cramped and dank as tenements in the Lower East Side. Another plus: They were "uptown" and therefore more desirable, with less-crowded streets and within reach of greener pastures (literally) in upper Manhattan and lower Bronx.

The reason Dad's family lived uptown, rather than downtown in the Lower East Side where so many immigrants lived, has to do with family connections as much as infrastructure. When my grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943) got to New York City in 1904-5, he boarded with the Mahler family at 1956 Third Avenue in Manhattan. That's where Isaac married my grandma Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) in June, 1906.

The bride and groom may have been cousins, a possibility I'm still researching, because documents show Isaac's mother's maiden name as Shuham and the maiden name of Henrietta's grandmother as Shuham. Both of those families had roots in Lithuania. Strong possibility of family connections, but no proof (yet).

By 1909, when Dad was born, his parents Isaac & Henrietta were living only a seven-minute walk from Henrietta's Mahler family apartment on Third Avenue. By 1915, according to the New York City Census, the two families were living in separate apartments in the same tenement house at 7 East 105th Street in Jewish Harlem. Built-in babysitters for a growing family: Dad was 6, his older sister was 8, and there were two more siblings under the age of 4.

Both the Burk and Mahler families found it convenient and desirable to live uptown in East Harlem because workers could commute by "el" (elevated trains) to jobs located in midtown or downtown. The Third Avenue El, as it was known, was fast and affordable.

This elevated train line stopped running during my lifetime as other mass transit options took its place, and the car culture took hold. In the early 1900s, however, the el and later underground subway lines enabled working people to escape the dirty, noisy, crowded Lower East Side. The NYPL has some atmospheric photos of the "el" at various periods.

Dad told stories of playing stickball in the streets as a youngster (maybe ducking the few cars that passed). He also told of boys daring each other to jump from one tenement rooftop to another. Even though the tenements were often butted up against each other or barely a few inches away, it wasn't at all easy or safe. Dad admitted he was just plain lucky to live through those escapades. Bet his parents never knew what he was doing!

Dad also told stories of taking horse-drawn buses from his Harlem home north to the Bronx for a daylong picnic outing. Sounds like the children would eat and then play while the adults shmoozed and snoozed before returning to their tenements. By the time I was old enough to hear these stories, it was hard to imagine the Bronx as a bucolic collection of farmlands and rural picnic vistas--but entirely true, as photos in the NYPL collection demonstrate.

Happy Father's Day to my Dad and I'm delighted to keep his memory and his stories alive for future generations, in the spirit of #52Ancestors and the #GenealogyBlogParty's Dynamite Dads.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

V7a Mitochondrial Results and Next Steps

Finally, this week I received the results of my FamilyTree DNA mitochondrial test purchased at RootsTech 2018.

As shown above, my mother's mother's line is haplogroup V7a and its origins are in Northern/Eastern Europe and beyond to Russia. Apparently, this is not a common haplogroup, and it explains the odd trace of Iberian DNA mentioned in my Ancestry results.

My mitochondrial DNA traces back through my mother, Daisy Schwartz, to her mother, Hermina Farkas, then to Hermina's mother, Leni Kunstler and Leni's mother, Toby Roth. 

Toby is my 2d great-grandma, who was probably born early in the 1800s. She married Shmuel Zanvil Kunstler, who died in 1869 and is buried in a tiny cemetery with other Kunstler ancestors. My wonderful genealogy-minded cousin B ventured to the town (in modern-day Ukraine) to see the headstones 20 years ago. Only because of her trip have we been able to understand our tree's connections with Roth cousins and Kunstler cousins today.

Now what? Here are my MtDNA next steps, which are in progress:

  • Completed FTDNA pedigree to include mother's family tree as far back as I know it. This was a high priority because others who find me in their list of matches will instantly be able to compare surnames and locations. If only every DNA match in my list had a Gedcom or pedigree linked to their results!
  • Updated my Gedmatch profile to show V7a haplogroup and check matches for that haplogroup. So far, no family trees for the very, very few mtDNA matches...and the matches are for small chromosome segments, with most recent common ancestors more than 4 generations back. Also checking for matches in common with my matches. These may offer me clues to focus future searches.
  • To do: Use the MtDNA tools on the International Society of Genetic Genealogy site to learn more about interpreting the data and extending my research.
  • To do: Scrutinize the V7a matches on FTDNA (shown on map above), which are mostly concentrated in Europe with a few in other areas. Compare with matches on other sites (Ancestry and Gedmatch, for instance) to see whether I can get more specific when I do contact solid matches.
  • To do: Formulate a new, brief "query" note to send to DNA matches, mentioning my MtDNA as well as surnames/locations on my tree. The more concise and specific, the easier it is for matches to read and -- hopefully! -- respond with a synopsis of their genealogical backgrounds.
Looking forward to new genealogical adventures in DNA land!


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

More June Weddings - My Side of the Family

Here are some of the June weddings on my side of the family and what I learned about them during my research:
  • June 3, 1934: Above, an invite to the wedding of Rachel Chazan and Solomon Ash in Manchester, England, 84 years ago. The invitee, "N. Block," turned out to be Nellie Block, older sister of my paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk. In 1901, Isaac had lived in Manchester with the parents of the bride, en route from Lithuania to his new home in North America. Once a cousin unearthed this invite, I quickly connected with descendants of this family in Manchester (hi, cousins!). And only last year, I connected with more descendants of Grandpa Isaac's other siblings (hi, cousins!).
  • June 7, 1930: My mother's uncle Fred Farkas married Charlotte Chapman 88 years ago in Chicago. His career and growing family meant he rarely returned to New York City, where the Farkas Family Tree association was based. Staying in touch, Fred and Charlotte wrote letters to be read out loud during these family meetings. WWII letters indicate that some Farkas family members serving in the military were able to visit Fred and Charlotte on leave during the 1940s.
  • June 10, 1906: Happily for me, Isaac Burk married Henrietta Mahler on this day, 112 years ago, in the NYC apartment of the bride's family. (Hi, Grandma and Grandpa!) Interestingly, the 1905 NY Census shows Isaac as a boarder in the Mahler apartment in Manhattan, along with Isaac's brother, Meyer Berg. Could Isaac's family have put him in touch with Henrietta's parents to arrange a place to stay, and then love bloomed within close quarters? 
  • June 14, 1932: Morris Mahler, brother of my grandma Henrietta Mahler,  married Carrie Etschel 86 years ago in New York City. Both bride and groom were in their 40s when they married, against the wishes of my father's Mahler family (because of religious differences). Relatives told me they were happy together, which makes me happy.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Going to the Chapel - His Side of the Family

So many ancestors were married in June, in my husband's family tree and in my tree! I used RootsMagic7's calendar report to see who was married, when, and how long ago, tree by tree. This is a good opportunity to revisit my research, summarize what I know, see what's missing, and take the next step. Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this #52 Ancestors prompt.

Here are some of the early June marriages in my husband's tree:


  • June 3, 1903: Hubby's great-aunt Mary Amanda Wood married August Jacob Carsten 115 years ago in Toledo, Ohio. Sadly, Mary Amanda died at age 32, just months after giving birth to their fourth child. Mary Amanda was named for her mother, Mary Amanda Demarest Wood.
  • June 10, 1903: At top, the license application for hubby's Grandma Floyda Mabel Steiner and Grandpa Brice Larimer McClure, who married 115 years ago in Wyandot county, Ohio. Only through this record did I discover that Floyda had been married before. She was brave enough to divorce the first husband, who called her vile names and threatened her. Plus she won an alimony settlement!
  • June 12, 1856: My husband's 2d great-uncle Samuel D. Steiner married Maria L. Forrest 162 years ago in Crawford county, Ohio. While researching the Steiner family in Wyandot county a few years ago, I discovered that Samuel had been arrested for aiding/abetting burglary and not showing up in court. What happened? Don't know yet, but I did find Samuel at home in the 1880 census. 
  • June 13, 1847: My husband's 3d great-aunt, Elizabeth E. Bentley, married Emanuel Light 171 years ago in Elkhart, Indiana, as shown on the marriage license below. During the 1850s, Elizabeth and Emanuel left their home and traveled west, as her father had done in 1848 early in the Gold Rush. The Light family farmed in California. Despite years of research, the Bentley family's ancestors are still a bit of a mystery, one of my genealogical works in progress.


  • Friday, June 1, 2018

    DNA Results: Not Even Close






























    Dear cousins I don't yet know but hope are out there,

    Up front, I have to say I'm sincerely grateful for all the cousins I've connected with through genealogy! I treasure our kinship, our friendship, and the shared history of our ancestors.

    But I can't help wondering: Do I have more cousins I haven't yet found?

    Of course I'm using conventional methods to trace all the branches of my tree. I've also hopped on the genetic genealogy bandwagon, posting my results to multiple sites. New matches pop up regularly.

    However, as shown above in last week's Ancestry DNA matches (sorted by date, not relationship) most are not even close. At best, if I followed up on this lot, I might find a 5th cousin. And only one of these matches is in the "good confidence" range.

    Even more discouraging, just 4 of this week's crop have bothered to post any kind of family tree. Two of those are private trees, making it difficult to check out potential relationships. The latest matches on other DNA sites are also distant cousins, and therefore not high on my priority list.

    When Family Tree DNA finally delivers my long-awaited mtDNA analysis results (delayed three times already), I want to use that data to focus on my maternal line.

    So, dear cousins I don't yet know, I hope we connect with each other. Don't be a stranger.

    Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt, "so far away," my starting point for this post.