Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy Family History New Year 2020

This pretty postal card was sent to my husband's uncle more than a century ago.

Let me wish you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy new year! It's a perfect time of year to share your own memories of holiday traditions as part of family history. (Actually, it's always the right time to share family history.)

I've reached a new blogging milestone: Never have I posted more entries than in 2019. Looking forward to more blogging in 2020, including Amy Johnson Crow's new #52Ancestors prompts.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Thank YOU to My Ancestors and Cousins

Ancestor collage - his & her family tree
In this last #52Ancestors post of 2019, I want to say a big thank YOU to my ancestors and their descendants.

Dear ancestors, if not for your courage, sacrifices, hopes, and dreams, I would not be here. I would not be discovering and saving your stories for future generations to know.

I've come to deeply appreciate the heritage you bequeathed to me, not to mention the strength and determination you showed in the lives you led.

It is my privilege and pleasure to get to know more about you, dear ancestors, through ongoing genealogical research. And to share your history with descendants near and far!

Dear cousins, my life has been truly enriched by being in touch with each and every one of you. Thank you so much!

To all of YOU, ancestors and descendants, I dedicate this post with sincere and heartfelt gratitude.


Amy Johnson Crow, thank you for another fun and rewarding year of #52Ancestors prompts. She just announced the entire year of 2020 prompts!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Holiday Wishes from Last Century

One hundred years ago, my husband's uncles in Cleveland, Ohio received these delightful Christmas postal cards from relatives.

Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season!

Monday, December 23, 2019

What Did Ancestors Say in 1950 US Census?

Question #33 on 1950 Census
I vividly remember the morning of April 2, 2012, when the 1940 US Census was released to the public. Although volunteers were racing to index the names as quickly as possible, no name search was available for several weeks.

To start, the only way to find ancestors in 1940 records was by address. Specifically, by scrolling through page by page of Census records in various Enumeration Districts (EDs). It was slow but also exciting when I finally found the handwritten entries for ancestors in my tree and my husband's tree!

The 1950 Census has lots of questions that will fill in gaps in genealogy for us all. No wonder I can hardly wait for the release of these records in April of 2022. Here are a few specifics I'm really curious about.

What About Women in the Military?

Excerpt from 1950 Enumerator Instructions
I'll be interested to see how the enumerator handled my aunt's WWII military service (she was a WAC). As shown at top, question #33 indicates that males over age 14 are to be asked about their military service. At left, instructions to enumerators reiterates that "each male 14 years old and over" be asked about military service.

I guess the Census officials never heard of WACs, WAVES, or WASPs. Not to mention SPARs, women Marines, female military nurses, and . . . and . . . more than 300,000 women who were actively serving in WWII.

Will there be an answer shown on my aunt's line in the Census? Knowing her pride in having served, she would certainly want to answer. She would even insist on answering! But will the enumerator have put a check mark in one of the boxes for her line? That's a mystery until April of 2022.

How Much Money Did They Make?
Question #31 on 1950 Census

My mother used to say that 1950 was a peak year for my father's income as a self-employed travel agent. She named a dollar figure too.

Well, the 1950 Census asks how much money each person earned in 1949. See the excerpt from the Census questionnaire here.

I can't wait to see what the enumerator was told about how much Dad earned "in his own business," as the question is phrased. BTW, enumerators were instructed to write $10,000+ if the income was above 10 grand per year. That was a good deal of money back in the day!

And I'll see how much money other relatives made during 1949, a year that was, I now understand, not a time of growth but actually a recessionary period. (Genealogy has made me intensely interested in the historical context of my ancestors!)

Prepping for 1950: Addresses and Priorities

Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub have written a primer on prepping for the 1950 Census release, following the same general guidelines as for the 1940 Census. Also watch their video here.

If you are lucky enough to know the exact street address of an ancestor in 1950, you can easily find the Enumeration District via Morse's One-Step Page. If you don't know the address, Morse recommends checking old city directories, family address books, and other sources. Then use his one-step links to get the ED.

Until the 1950 Census is indexed (I bet it will be done faster than in 2012), my plan is to prioritize who to find first. I'll create a simple list of people and the address where I think or know each is likely to be found.

And of course, I'll use the Census to examine or update the FAN club--friends, associates, neighbors--of my ancestors. This is a great opportunity to look more closely at "family friends" who may turn out to be cousins or closer, in reality.

Back to the future in 2022!

P.S.: I'm gathering all my 1950 US Census posts into one summary page, shown at top of this blog header. Here's a direct link.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Window into Postwar America: 1950 US Census

It's not even 2020, and I can barely contain my excitement for April of 2022. That's when the 1950 U.S. Census will be released--an important window into the demographics of postwar America.

And of course a really important source of information for genealogists!

This is the first Census that will show my mother and father together as a married couple. Three of my four grandparents were still alive, and one of my great-grandparents. Not to mention a plethora of aunts, uncles, cousins and possible cousins that I'll be able to research in greater depth.

What Questions Were Asked?

The 1950 census form was highly detailed. Everyone in the household was listed by name and relationship to head of household. Race, sex, marital status, age, where born, whether naturalized. If I don't already have someone's naturalization papers, this will be a clue to go looking!

Below, a set of questions asked of people aged 14 and older. Working? Looking for Work? Number of hours worked? Type of work and industry? Private worker, government worker, or without pay on family farm/biz?

For all people at each address, there were lots of questions about "where" -- where were they living a year ago, by county and state or foreign country. And what country were his/her mom and dad born in?! A double-check on birthplaces--fabulous clues! Where living a year ago--I'll be able to look for city directories in those places.

Also asked were detailed questions about income and military service--with check boxes to indicate a person's service in WWI, WWII, or another military action. This will give me more clues to follow up for my family's military service.

All About the Census, 1790-2000

Download free from this link 
As part of my research for a new presentation, I downloaded the U.S. government's very useful free booklet explaining all the questions asked in each Census through 2000.

The booklet, Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses from 1790 to 2000, can be downloaded for free in pdf format from this link.

Importantly, this booklet shows the questions/forms plus the instructions given to enumerators for each census.

Now I know why some of my ancestors were listed specifically as "cloakmakers" in the 1900 Census, for instance (see excerpt from enumeration instructions, below). Is it any wonder I'm so excited about the 1950 Census?

Excerpt from 1900 enumerators' instructions
PS: I'm gathering all my 1950 Census posts into a single summary page, shown on the header at top of this blog. You can visit the page via this link.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Looking Back on 2019 and Ahead to 2020

It's time for a look back at this year's genealogical progress and a look ahead at my genealogical FUTURE (#52Ancestors style).

At the start of 2019, my genealogy goals were to connect with more cousins, network with other family-history researchers, continue my genealogy education, develop additional presentations, follow up on DNA clues to ancestors, and write new family-history booklets.

So how much genealogical progress have I made this year? A lot, even as I look ahead to the FUTURE:
  • Through a DNA match, I connected with a paternal 2d cousin in Canada and shared 1940s photos of his grandfather! At least eight other solid DNA matches haven't responded to my outreach efforts, but I'll try again soon (FUTURE). I've also asked several more cousins to consider testing...and I hope they will agree. It's not an easy sell these days, with people concerned about privacy and what happens to their DNA results. 
  • Presenting lectures at the inaugural Family Tree Live in London gave me a chance to meet really lovely genealogy folks I previously knew only through social media. I came home with great tips about UK genealogy research, wonderful memories of a rewarding conference, and new genie friends. 
  • Participating in Twitter chats like #AncestryHour (2 pm EST on Tuesdays) and #GenChat (10 pm EST on alternate Fridays) has been fun as well as highly educational. I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve as a "guest expert" during a #GenChat in 2020 (FUTURE)! 
  • "Attending" the virtual conference of the Virtual Genealogical Association in November triggered lots of new ideas. I've also found their webinars both practical and informative (with great handouts). I'm excited about presenting a webinar for the VGA in November, 2020 (FUTURE)!
  • I created or heavily revised several presentations, including a new "intermediate" talk on cousin bait, a revised "all levels" talk on curating family-history materials, and a new "beginners" talk on US/state censuses (with a 1950 preview). In addition, I'm starting to develop a talk about Northeastern ancestors catching Ohio Fever (FUTURE) and a full talk about prepping for the 1950 Census. My 2020 speaking schedule has several programs booked, with return dates held for other groups (FUTURE).
  • Through more than 135 blog posts, I wrote about ancestors and discussed new-to-me resources and methodologies. Again in 2019, I participated in Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors genealogy prompt challenge, and was truly honored that she highlighted several of my posts in her recap emails. Blogging is fun, a first draft of family history, and excellent cousin bait. More blogging is in my FUTURE!
Not originally planned but done! I completed a booklet about three of my husband's ancestors (Denning, Larimer, McClure) who, caught up in Ohio Fever, became pioneers on the frontier along the Ohio River. This booklet began as a series of blog posts--a rough draft of family history that I  enhanced with more historical context and personal specifics of each ancestor's life.

Not originally planned but done! I also finished an 11-page illustrated booklet about the musical life of my late Dad-in-law, Edgar James Wood. It's going to descendants, along with his "fake book" of musical standards. I wrote the story behind his learning to play piano, playing with college jazz bands in the Roaring Twenties, and playing nights and weekends as a professional musician when his day job was insurance adjustor.

Planned but not done! For the past year, I've been slowly gathering photos, documents, and info to write a booklet about my Mom (Daisy Schwartz Burk) and her twin sister (Dorothy Helen Schwartz). My Sis says she will do this with me in 2020. Thanks, Sis, I really appreciate the help in the FUTURE.

Lots to look forward to in 2020!

Now there's only one more prompt to go in Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors series for 2019.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Writing Ed's Musical Family History

Page 2 of illustrations to accompany "Music in the Life of Edgar James Wood"
In the previous episode of "obsessed family historian," I said I was going to write a brief biographical booklet introducing the sheet music fake book created by my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986).

Brief? Good grief. My original estimate was a couple of pages. Once I got going, I found more and more to say and show.

To create a narrative about Ed's musical life, as an intro to the fake book being given to his grandchildren this holiday season, here's what I did, step by step.

Start with the Research

What do I know about Ed and his piano-playing? I have a great deal of info on his life. Some of the sources I consulted included:

  • My paper files on Ed (including his copyright documents, passports, etc.)
  • My trees on Ancestry and MyHeritage (to check what happened when and locate passenger lists and other documents) 
  • A new Google search for his songs, which turned up published copyright notices like the one above!
  • My digitized photos of Ed's life (ranging from his Roaring Twenties period to the year before he died)
  • My archival boxes, which held treasures such as Ed's photo album from his 1926 European tour with the Dick Bowers Band and Ed's album of negatives (with captions!!) from his 1928 European tour, again crossing the Atlantic on Cunard's R.M.S. Berengaria.
  • Interviews with Ed conducted by my husband in the mid-1980s and later transcribed (easy to search for key words).
I typed out a few notes from these sources, showed them to my husband to get his recollections and any corrections. Then I arranged my notes in rough chronological order.

Create a Time Line

Next, before I began to write, I put together a simple two-column table of years on the left and events on the right. This timeline kept me on track and forced me to expand my research and add notes when I had little or nothing for a particular period.

Also, the time line revealed a conflict between what Ed remembered when interviewed in 1984/5 and what Ed's passenger lists revealed from my research. How did I resolve this conflict? I opened one of the archival boxes where I store Ed's photo albums. There, in his own handwriting, were captions dated 1926 for the trip I was referencing. It's not surprising that Ed was a year off when trying to recall events from nearly 60 years earlier, is it?

Write and Insert Subheads

I wanted to tell Ed's musical story chronologically, a sneaky way of spoon-feeding some of his family's history. But too much text can be daunting. To break up the pages, I inserted subheads that guide the reader through each stage of the story--and lead to the eventual reason for this musical bio, Ed's fake book:

  • Playing [piano] at home and at school
  • Playing at college
  • Playing all summer
  • Playing after college
  • Playing for Gershwin
  • Playing for his wife and his family
  • Playing from the fake book
Include Lots of Illustrations

Younger relatives, in particular, always enjoy illustrations. I had some they'd never seen! I scanned Ed's photo albums from the 1920s to show him with the band on the Lido in Venice, in Paris, on board the S.S. Rotterdam and the R.M.S. Berengaria.

I also included his passport, some news clippings about his musical exploits, and copyright publications. I arranged the illustrations with captions as shown in the sample page at top. Page one is a title page with a large, full-color photo of Ed playing piano for family caroling on Christmas, 1985. These pages all include a touch of color, and I'll have them color-laser-printed at the local copy shop, to catch the eye of younger descendants.

Present in an Easy-to-Keep Format

All pages (bio and sheet music) will be three-hole punched and inserted into a small loose-leaf binder, ready to be saved for posterity. Of course I'll use my trusty label-maker to add the title "The Musical Life of Edgar James Wood" on the front and "Ed Wood's Fake Book" on the spine. The binder is easy to flip through and easy to store on a bookshelf.

In all, the brief booklet I envisioned as a couple of pages turned out to be eleven pages: four pages of text, two pages of time line, and five pages of illustrations. But because I did this little by little over the course of a couple of weeks, it was fairly easy and very satisfying.

I can't wait for the family to open their fake books this holiday season and peek into their ancestor's musical life!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Edgar Wood's Untraditional Fake Book

Edgar J. Wood's untraditional fake book--created from scratch!
My late dad-in-law Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) played piano to pay for his college education at Tufts.

He also played piano with college jazz bands to pay for summer trips to/from Europe during the Roaring Twenties.

Impressing Gershwin

After leaving college one course short of graduation, Ed tried to break through as a professional musician in New York City.

However, he felt like a little fish in a big musical pond, he told his son 50 years later. So he returned home to Cleveland, Ohio, with the hope of being a bigger fish in a smaller musical pond.

In 1934, Ed won a prestigious songwriting contest judged by George Gershwin. The newspaper headline read: "Gershwin Winner Plays for Meals." Even though he was talented, Ed simply couldn't make a living playing piano during the Depression.

Fortunately, Ed landed a job as an insurance adjustor, and stayed with the same company for 30 years. During that time, he married, had a family, and still got to play piano professionally on weekends and holidays. He liked the extra income--and he really loved to play.

An Untraditional Fake Book

Performing with bands at dances, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other social events, Ed needed a wide-ranging repertoire. That's where his untraditional fake book comes in. ("Fake" because even if the musicians didn't know the song very well, they could fake it by following the basic melody--and fake because the real composers didn't get royalties on these non-officially-published versions.)
Edgar J. Wood (1903-1986) playing Christmas
carols on his Steinway Baby Grand Piano

Fifty years ago, Ed wrote out the musical notes by hand and typed in lyrics for dozens of old-time standards like The Sidewalks of New York, Deep in My Heart, and Silent Night. 

Today, commercial fake books are widely available--but back then, Ed chose the unconventional route of creating his own from scratch. He assembled all the songs he wanted into a loose-leaf binder to take when playing for an audience.

Flipping through the fake book, Ed could quickly read the notes and chords (and cue the guitarist or bassist) for nearly any song the band planned to play or was asked to play. Each song was on one side of the page, for his convenience, with chord changes noted here and there.

Sharing the Story Along with the Heirloom

The fake book has been in the family for a long time, but now it's about to have a new home. The original is being gifted to one of his grandchildren, along with a booklet telling the story of Ed's musical career (with photos, of course). I've scanned every page and created a replica fake book for other descendants to save, complete with the story of Ed's musical training and career.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "Tradition." Only two more prompts left in this year's challenge!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Surname Word-Cloud

Randy Seaver's challenge this week is to make a Surname Christmas Tree. A fun idea--one that I adapted for my own genealogical situation.

There are more than 80 surnames in my Jewish family tree. So I made a word-cloud in the shape of a heart rather than a tree.

Following Randy's how-to explanation, I first listed the names in a Word document and then sorted alphabetically, on the theory that a word-cloud generator would randomly assign names to different places in the shape.

Next, I selected one of the free word-cloud generation sites, chose the color theme, chose the shape (a heart, loosely interpreted as you can see), and set the gap between names at 2 spaces.

Then I uploaded my names, looked at the result, and played with a few of the settings (the font, for instance) until I liked the way the whole thing looked.

Finally, I downloaded the word-cloud as a .jpg and here it is!

Thanks, Randy, for this excellent holiday idea.

P.S.: I'm also listing all the surnames here as cousin bait:



Thursday, December 5, 2019

Artsy-Craftsy Marian Jane McClure Wood

Ceramic sculptures by Marian Jane McClure Wood, 1950s
Aren't these lively little creatures? They were all sculpted by my late mom-in-law, Marian Jane McClure Wood (1909-1983), the beloved only daughter of Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) and Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure (1878-1948). Marian married my dad-in-law Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) in 1935.

When her children were in high school, Marian began studying ceramic art with a world-famous sculptor, Edris Eckhardt, who--like Marian--was born and raised in Cleveland. Edris was in the vanguard of glass sculpture, inventing new processes and making a name with her innovative techniques.

My mom-in-law found joy and satisfaction in learning from Edris how to depict the animal world through careful crafting. She studied proportions and anatomy, trying different sizes, shapes, and colors to create lifelike ceramic animals with a touch of personality.

Marian was so serious about her ceramic art that her husband and father build a kiln in the basement of the Wood family home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. They had to install special wiring to operate the kiln. This enabled Marian to fire pieces at home, at her convenience.

To share the story of these sculptures with descendants, I've written a brief booklet liberally illustrated with photos of Marian's sculptures. Each of Marian's great-grandchildren will inherit one of these sculptures, along with the story, at some future time.

My goal is to write a page or two about every family heirloom, so the next generation understands why these items have been so treasured. This way, they'll inherit the provenance and the backstory along with the heirloom itself.

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Remembering the Twins' Centenary

Dorothy and Daisy Schwartz, circa 1921
One hundred years ago today, my mother and her twin sister were born, at home, at 651 Fox Street in the South Bronx, New York. My aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001) was older than my Mom, Daisy Schwartz Burk (1919-1981), by four minutes.

Their birth on December 4th was exactly six months after the U.S. Senate passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote--a right my mother and her sister exercised regularly once they were old enough to go to the polls. 

1920 Census for 651 Fox St., Bronx, NY - Schwartz family
When the 1920 Census was taken in their neighborhood, as of January 1st but actually enumerated on January 15th, the twins were listed as 0/12 years old (see above excerpt from Census).

Thinking of these beloved family members and missing them, still, on the 100th anniversary of their birth. I've been collecting photos, documents, and memories for a booklet about the twins--a project I'll complete and give to relatives in 2020. I want to tell their stories so future generations have a sense of who they were and what they did!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Chasing the Elusive Nellie Block

Great Aunt Nellie Block's residence in 1950
Nellie Block (?-1950) was the oldest sister of my paternal grandfather Isaac Burk (1882-1943).

I've been chasing her backstory for a long time. Thanks to records I found from 1904, 1905, 1910, and 1950, I know a bit about Nellie. Now I thought I would get some good clues from her death certificate.

At the time of her death, my great aunt was living in this tenement in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York. I searched the NYC Municipal Archives tax photos to see what her building looked like then, and it looks very much the same today.

Unfortunately, this was the most concrete piece of evidence I gleaned from Nellie's death cert.

Ordering Nellie's Death Certificate

Technically, only relatives can see a New York City death certificate from 1950. I therefore explained on the order form that I am Nellie's grand-niece, and included what I know about her. I sent $15 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope (an SASE, remember?).

After waiting six weeks, I got back a note asking for additional info: date of birth, place of birth, name of funeral home, name of cemetery. In other words, I had to tell the NYC Municipal Archives details that would prove I was her great niece--details that would, of course, be on her death cert.

Luckily, I knew enough about her that I was able to convince authorities to send me her death cert after another wait of six weeks. The cert arrived exactly four months after my original request. I ripped it open as soon as it arrived...hoping to learn some new news. I was encouraged to see that the informant was one of her younger brothers, Meyer Berg (1883-1981). Yes!

New News About Nellie 

Meyer told authorities that his sister Nellie was widowed. What? This was news to me. (But I have some ideas I can follow up...)

Nellie's occupation was "house wife." She worked in the fur trade when she first arrived, according to Census records. That was long before Social Security, so I'm not surprised she had no Social Security number. How was she making ends meet so many years later?

Nellie was born in Russia* and was still a citizen of Russia at the time of her death. Supposedly, she was living in New York City for 60 years, as you can see in this excerpt from the cert.

So no naturalization papers to find, no Social Security application to request. Another issue: I doubt she was in America as early as 1890.

The best guess, from info on Census records, is that she arrived between 1893 and 1899. She was the first of her siblings to arrive in North America, based on what I've found out about her brothers and sister.

This early arrival would, in my mind, lend credence to the idea of her being married already when she arrived in New York City. So far, I haven't been able to find her name on a passenger list for either Castle Garden or Ellis Island. Possibly she came through Canada, which is where two of her brothers arrived. I'll have to explore further.

Confusion Instead of Clues

According to Nellie's brother, the informant on this cert, her father was "Sholam Block" and her mother was "Norma Block." I definitely recognize these first names.

However, if Nellie was widowed after being married to a man named BLOCK, why would her parents be shown with the surname of BLOCK?

Or was BLOCK her maiden name, a sound-alike for the surnames used by her siblings--Burk/Berg/Birk/Burke? Why would she be using her maiden name if she was widowed? No wonder I'm confused.

Nellie's brother estimated her age as 85, and that's the age shown on her gravestone. He supplied NO birth date. The physician attending her death, however, estimated her age as 87. Yet Nellie herself claimed to be far younger than that. In the 1905 NY Census, she said she was 27 years old. In the 1910 US Census, she said she was 31 years old. That would mean she was in her 70s when she died in 1950.

Based on Nellie's own statements, her estimated birth year would be 1878 or 1879. If I believe her brother, Nellie's birth year was 1865 (making her 18 years his senior). If I believe the attending physician at Kings County Hospital, her birth year was 1863.

Since Nellie's youngest sibling was born in 1891, and the oldest sibling I can document was born in 1877, I hesitate to fix her birth year as early as 1863-5. Even knowing that ladies often say they are younger than they really are, it seems more reasonable to guesstimate Nellie's birth year as being in the 1870s.

To be continued as I continue my research!

*Actually, she was born in what is now Lithuania, but was then part of Russia.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving - Hubby's 5 Mayflower Ancestors

Penny postal card sent to Wallis W. Wood, circa 1910
Happy Thanksgiving!

As I do every year, I'm honoring the memory of my husband's five Mayflower ancestors. Thank you to cousin Larry, the family genealogist, for uncovering these connections to the Puritans.

  • Francis Cooke 
  • Degory Priest
  • Isaac Allerton
  • Mary Norris Allerton
  • Mary Allerton
Young Mary Allerton later married Thomas Cushman of the Fortune. She was the last of the original Mayflower passengers to die, on November 28, 1699, exactly 320 years ago.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Steal My Family Photos--Please

Woodcut of hubby's ancestor, "stolen" by 13 other people for their family trees!

Dear cousins and possible cousins:

"Steal my family photos--please!"

And post them on your family trees so I can connect with you. Cousin bait!

Family photo of Tillie Rose Jacobs Mahler, "stolen" by others for their family trees!

If you save my publicly-posted family photos to your tree (whether it's hubby's 2d great-grandpa Benjamin McClure or my great-grandma Tillie Rose Jacobs Mahler), I can click on your profile photo, see whether we are a DNA match, look at your tree, and find out whether (and how) we're related.

Sure, some people who are not related have mistakenly claimed my photos of dead ancestors for their trees. Either I'll send a gentle private message questioning the connection or I'll post a politely-worded public comment on the photo on that tree.

You don't need my permission to "steal" a publicly-posted photo for your tree. And I don't expect you to ask permission.*

Please, just go ahead and steal my family photos . . . and lead me to our cousin connection!

This week's #52Ancestors prompt is "Thief."

*John Tew recently wrote that while he agrees with me, he also would like those who "borrow" his photos to give credit to his grandmother who so carefully and thoughtfully preserved these photos for future generations to enjoy. A lovely idea...and I do hope some of his distant relatives will do that. I'm just happy anyone saves any of my photos so I can follow the bread crumbs and find our cousin connection.

#CousinBait #Genealogy #FamilyHistory

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Finding the Dates Outside the Dash

Death record of Sarah Ann Harris Slatter Shuttleworth, 1814-1872
So much of my genealogy research and writing focuses on what happens "in the dash," meaning on the actual life an ancestor led between birth and death.

Many times, I can prove or at least guesstimate birth and death dates, and go on to research an individual's schooling, work and home locations, career, marital status, health, and other details. It's these details that really bring ancestors to life.

In the case of my husband's 2d great-grandma, Sarah Harris, I've dug up some very significant details of her life, thanks to the UK Census, her two marriages, and birth or baptism records for her children. She's the ancestor who, with her second husband, John Shuttleworth, saved one or more grandchildren from the tragedy of being sent to a workhouse or poorhouse.

(This second husband was apparently held in high esteem by the family, because one of his Slatter stepsons named his son "John Shuttleworth Slatter," which made it very easy for me to track this ancestor through records!)

What I didn't have were the dates on either side of the dash for Sarah Harris. This time I had to pay to get the info, but it was worth it!

Clues to the Dash Dates 

Quick recap: Hubby's great-great-grandma Sarah Harris married great-great-grandpa John Slatter in Oxford, England in 1832 (based on records from St. Ebbe in Oxford).

John Slatter presumably died before the 1851 UK Census, because Sarah was then shown as a widow with children, including a child of about one. That's a good clue to John's death date for the right side of his dash, which I'll be following up on shortly.

In 1862, Sarah remarried, to John Shuttleworth (according to St. Mary, Lambeth, church records). On the various UK Census documents, her age suggests a birth year between 1813 and 1816. No sign of Sarah or her second husband in the 1881 UK Census. That sent me looking in UK death indexes for the two of them. Shuttleworth was not an uncommon name, and there were a number of possibilities.

With encouragement from my UK friends during the weekly #AncestryHour genealogy conversation, I first ordered what I believed would be John's death record. In pdf format, it was delivered in a week electronically at the reasonable price of about $9. This proved that the John Shuttleworth I sought died in 1878.

However, Sarah wasn't there--although one of her sons was present at John's death, convincing evidence that I had the correct John, Sarah's 2d husband. When this son, William Slatter, got married in 1867, his mother Sarah and stepfather John Shuttleworth were the witnesses (see record below). Definitely the correct people--the late John Slatter was, in fact, a cook, and all other details agree.

Sarah's Dash Dates

My next step was to look at the most likely "Sarah Shuttleworth" deaths between 1871 and 1878. I focused on Sarah Ann Shuttleworth, who died in the first three months of 1872. I had never seen Sarah's middle name, but the death was in the correct district and county, so I sent for the pdf.

Again, the $9 was well spent IMHO: This cert arrived in less than a week. The record is shown at top of this post.

Sarah Ann Shuttleworth was 58 when she died on February 16, 1872 at 28 Gravel Lane. Her husband, John Shuttleworth, was listed as being "present at the death." Sarah died of chronic bronchitis, which she had had for 3 months.

The address where Sarah and John lived is just a few doors away from where they lived in the 1871 Census. Everything fits. This is hubby's 2d great-grandma.

Because Sarah died early in 1872, and her husband said she was 58, my calculation is that she was born in 1814.

RIP, Sarah Ann Harris Slatter Shuttleworth, 1814-1872. You, your dates, and what happened in your life ("in the dash") are now part of our family's history.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Treasured Heirlooms: Slatter Family

World War I bugle from Slatter family
Hubby's great uncle, Captain John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954) was a renowned military bandmaster with the 48th Highlanders Regiment of Toronto. But before that, he was a very poor boy from the Whitechapel section of London, who was placed on two successive training ships on the Thames to learn military and musical skills.

At age 11, he was on H.M. Training Ship Goliath, listed as band sergeant and solo cornet of the boy's band. A few years later, he was able to enlist in the Army. Then, after a stint in the 7th Fusiliers, he married and went to Toronto, where in 1896 he was the founding director of the 48th Highlanders kiltie band. He and the band toured the world in the early years of the 20th century, popularizing the kiltie band craze and serving as proud ambassadors for the 48th Highlanders.

During World War I, Capt. Slatter was Director of Brass and Bugle Bands for Canadian Military District #2. While stationed at Camp Borden, he trained 1,000 buglers during the war years.

My husband inherited a WWI bugle that we strongly believe was Capt. Slatter's, given to his youngest sister, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). She was hubby's paternal grandmother, and she left several WWI artifacts to the family. This is just one. Another is a Tipperary handkerchief that is quite well preserved, now safely stored in an archival box (inside archival tissue paper) for future generations to enjoy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How Blogging Helps My Genealogy

The movements of an ancestor who caught Ohio fever
Every blog post I research and write helps my genealogy. Even after more than 11 years of blogging, and 21 years of genealogy enthusiasm, there are always new things to learn.

The process of blogging enhances my genealogy because it (1) sharpens my focus, (2) reveals gaps, and (3) serves as a rough draft of written family history.

Sharpening My Focus

Every time I blog, I narrow my focus to one ancestor, one surname, or one occasion. Or I choose one genealogical resource or method to explore. The point is to keep the focus on someone or something I can discuss in one post--a bite-sized piece of my family history.

My recent blog post about my great uncle Julius Farkas is a good example. I'm participating in Amy Johnson Crow's intriguing #52Ancestors series of weekly prompts for genealogy bloggers. For the "soldier" prompt, I decided to focus on Julius, the only conscience objector I've ever found in my family--someone who did not want to be a soldier.

Previously, I had written a few sentences about Julius in the context of others from my family who served in World War I. This time, to flesh out his story, I dug deeper into his military experience, going beyond the usual draft registration card and the summary of military service.

To my surprise, I discovered an Army transport list that had not been available when I last searched. Julius's name was the only one crossed out. The others were sent overseas into combat. With a shiver, I realized Julius would have wound up in the second battle of the Somme, had he not been reassigned at the very last minute as a Stateside Army cook. Sharpening my focus led me to this new aspect of his life.

Revealing Gaps

Gaps--yes, there are still quite a few in my family and my husband's family tree. When I blog about one ancestor or a branch of the tree, I often discover that I'm missing some information.

Take my recent two-part blog post about Mary "unknown maiden name" Shehan, my husband's ancestor who lived in London but was born in Ireland. My original intention was to try to find out where exactly she and her husband were born, and (if possible) to learn her maiden name. I wrote my blog post as I did my research.

First, I reviewed their whereabouts according to the UK census. Nowhere was any county or town listed, only "Ireland" as their birthplace. Sigh. On the other hand, there was nothing at all after 1871--a gap I needed to fill.

That's when I switched my goal to finding where and when these ancestors died. I had to dig deeper to find more documents, but ultimately I learned the sad ending to Mary "unknown" Shehan's life, unfortunately echoed in her daughter Mary Shehan Slatter's life. Blogging about these ancestors led me to discover gaps and conduct research to find out more. And it gave me crucial new insights into these ancestors' lives.

Rough Draft of Family History

Blogging allows me to "think out loud" about an ancestor or family-history situation in a post. Sometimes I write a series of blog posts about a particular topic of family, which I later turn into my first draft of a written family history.

That's what I did with my "Ohio fever" series. After reading David McCullough's well-researched book, The Pioneers, I turned my attention to three of my husband's ancestors who had caught Ohio fever. With the historical background in mind, I could understand "why," not just "when" and "where" they moved to Ohio.

With more detail and some editing, that three-post series became a seven-page booklet for the family, complete with colorful maps like the one at top. I especially wanted to grab the attention of younger relatives and show them how our family actually made history. With my blog posts as a rough draft, it was faster and easier to create the booklet than starting from scratch.

Genealogy blogging has another big benefit: It's absolutely fantastic cousin bait.

Some of my posts are brief, some are lengthy, sometimes I don't post for a week or two, but I always find blogging worthwhile and fun.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Julius Farkas Was a WWI Conscientious Objector

World War I service of great uncle Julius Farkas
My great uncle Julius Farkas (1892-1969) came to New York City from his native Hungary when he was 11 years old. He hadn't seen his father for four years at that point, nor his mother for three years, because they wanted to get settled in America before sending for their children. His dad, Moritz Farkas, and his mom, Leni Kunstler Farkas, sent for the children in two waves--and Julius was in the second wave.

He was one of two "bachelor brothers" in my mother's FARKAS family, never marrying but very close with his siblings. I remember little about him except his smile as he held an unlit but smelly cigar in his hand during family gatherings.

Drafted for World War One

Julius was 25 years old when he was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army during World War I.

When Julius filled out the draft registration card, he wrote his occupation as "Panama hatter" (the craze for those hats had already peaked). He said he was a naturalized citizen, born in Nagy Bereg, Hungary.

But this registration card was different from others I've seen from my family.

At the bottom, Julius claimed exemption from military service on the basis of "conscientious objection." 

Julius in the Army

Like other conscientious objectors in World War I, Julius was given the opportunity to serve in a non-military capacity. He was a confirmed bachelor who lived with his brother or other family members for his entire life. He never cooked professionally, and his cooking skills were almost certainly very limited.

Of course Julius was assigned as an Army cook. However, instead of being shipped overseas with Battery D, 305th Field Artillery, he was transferred to a different unit, as shown above in a transport list from April of 1918. Julius's name is crossed out because he is not going abroad for combat duty. If he had remained with the 305th, he might have been in the second battle of the Somme. Just the thought sent shivers up and down my spine.

In August of 1919, after serving as an Army cook rather than a soldier in the artillery, Julius was honorably discharged and returned home to the Bronx.

Julius after the Army

In the 1920 Census, Julius was living at home with his parents and working as a salesman. By 1925, still living at home, Julius's occupation was grocery salesman.

After that, Julius and his brother Peter opened and operated a small dairy store, specializing in "stinky cheeses" that they often brought with them to family-tree meetings. Julius and Peter both lived with their sister Irene and her family in 1940, listing occupations as grocery owners. They remained nearly inseparable until Peter's death in 1961.

Today I'm remembering great uncle Julius, the conscientious objector who died half a century ago and is buried in Mt. Hebron Cemetery, Flushing, New York.

This is my "soldier" prompt for #52Ancestors by Amy Johnson Crow.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

When did John Slatter, Sarah Harris, and John Shuttleworth Die?

Death record of John Shuttleworth, March, 1878
This week, I had my first experience with ordering a UK death cert to be delivered electronically via pdf. My #AncestryHour* friends said each record contains a good deal of detail--and the pdfs are clear and easy to read. They were absolutely correct.

Sarah Harris and John Slatter

My husband's 2d great-grandma was Sarah Harris, born about 1813 in Stratford, Warwickshire, England. She married 2d great-grandpa John Slatter (b. 1810) at St. Ebbe Church, Oxford, England, on May 1, 1832, according to Oxford parish records. John was a cook at Christ Church College in Oxford, according to church and Census records.

John and Sarah had six children together. Their second son, John (1838-1901), was hubby's great-grandpa.

The elder John Slatter died some time after the 1841 UK Census and before the 1851 UK Census. In 1851, I found Sarah and children not in Oxford but in Christchurch, Surrey, England, where she was working as a "hat sewer."

When did Sarah leave Oxford? The 1851 Census offers clues by showing the birth place and year for the children. The two youngest children were both born in Christ Church, not Oxford. That means John and Sarah left Oxford together, around 1846, when the next-to-youngest was born.

Still, there are many John Slatters in the death indexes for that period! I put my search for his death on hold while I looked for Sarah and her second husband.

Sarah Harris and John Shuttleworth

In July, 1862, widow Sarah Harris Slatter married widower John Shuttleworth in St. Mary, Lambeth, England. I found them in the 1871 UK Census on Gravel Lane in Christ Church, Surrey, London, with three of her grandchildren. I've written in the past about how having these kiddies with them was most likely a way to keep them out of poorhouses or workhouses.

Sarah and John vanished after the 1871 UK Census. I found a Sarah Ann Shuttleworth in the Jan-Feb-Mar 1872 death index, in St. Saviour, Christ Church. But I wasn't sure this was her. She would have been only 58 or 59 years old.

Then I found a John Shuttleworth in St. Saviour, Christ Church, in the death index for Jan-Feb-Mar 1878. He was about 65 years old. I decided to send for his death cert, hoping the details in the record would add insight.

It cost me £7 ($9) for a pdf of John's death, delivered electronically to my General Register Office account within one week.

Son-in-Law = Stepson

Thanks to John Shuttleworth's death record, shown at top, I can definitively connect him with my husband's Slatter family. John was manager of an iron foundry, living on Charlotte Street in Christ Church. Unfortunately, he died of chronic cystitis and an enlarged prostate on March 4, 1878.

The informant was his "son in law" -- a term that, at the time, was frequently used for a stepson as well. This was William Slatter, recorded as "present at the death." Slatter lived at 23 Newby Street in Christ Church. I double-checked the UK Census and the address matches: this is the correct William Slatter, one of Sarah's sons.

Sending for Sarah's Death Record

Because Sarah was not mentioned in John Shuttleworth's death cert, I strongly believe she died before him. That's why I've just sent for the Sarah Ann Shuttleworth death record I found earlier.

For only $9, I hope to solve the mystery of when and where hubby's 2d great-grandma died. Then I'll return to the mystery of her first husband's death date and place. Never a dull moment in family history!


*If you're on Twitter, you can join in the genealogy conversation: #AncestryHour (every Tuesday at 2-3 pm Eastern Standard Time) and #GenChat (every other Friday at 10-11 pm Eastern Standard Time).

Friday, November 15, 2019

What Happens to Photos of Distant Cousins?

Iris Weiss married Albert Mintus in 1964

I never met Iris, my 3d cousin, once removed, but I'm saving her wedding photo and baby photos as part of my family history. Why, since she was such a distant cousin, do I have these photos?

Iris Hope Weiss (1930-2014) was the beloved only child of Fred F. Weiss (1901-1982) and Gladys Berger Weiss (1896-1989). Iris was named after her grandmother, Ida Farkas Weiss (1873-1924), a relative of my maternal great-grandpa, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936).

Iris and Albert

Iris was very devoted to her husband, Albert Mintus (1936-2004), after their marriage on June 21, 1964. They remained happily married for 40 years, until his death. The couple had no children; they loved to travel, often going abroad with cousins and friends. They were also theater buffs. She filled albums with photos and memorabilia from their travels and cultural adventures.

After Albert passed away, Iris became a night owl, staying up late to watch old movies and television programs. Once she and I connected through genealogy research, she sent me several photos of her family and told me what she remembered about her ancestors (and a bit about her life).

Over the course of two years, Iris and I chatted occasionally, not just about family history but also about favorite films and detective shows. I especially enjoyed her good humor and thoughtful comments. Then one day, Iris's first cousin called me with the sad news that Iris had passed away after a brief illness.

Keeping Iris's Photos in the Family

Not too long after that, Sis and I visited Iris's delightful first cousin (who is also our Farkas cousin). This cousin showed us Iris's travel albums and spoke with great emotion of their enduring connection over the years.

Because Iris had no descendants, our mutual cousin entrusted me with some of her childhood photos and her wedding portrait. I'm keeping these in my Farkas family archival box.

Though a distant cousin, Iris was part of our Farkas family. As the family historian, I want her name and face to live on even after I join my ancestors. Carefully captioned photos are the best way to do that!

The photo at top was taken at 55 years ago at Iris's wedding on Staten Island, New York. I also have the wedding announcement from The Miami News of June 24, 1964, listing bride, groom, parents, attendants, and the Algiers Hotel as the venue.

You're not forgotten, my Farkas cousin.

This is my post for the June 2022 Genealogy Blog Party.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Family Recipes: Grandma McClure's Butterscotch Brownies

Recipe from Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure

With the winter holidays fast approaching, I wanted to share my husband's family recipe for butterscotch brownies. They bake up light and dry, taste best with a scoop of ice cream on top and a drizzle of caramel or fudge syrup.

Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure
circa 1903

These brownies were made by his maternal Grandma Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure (1878-1948).

She was married to hubby's maternal Grandpa Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) for 45 years, before she passed away at the age of 70.

Grandpa McClure outlived his loving wife by 22 years, continuing to be active until his late 80s, taking his grandchildren (including my husband) fishing and boating on lakes in Ohio.

Now this recipe is part of #FamilyHistory!