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!