Monday, January 21, 2019

Clicking, Not Cranking, to Read Unindexed Records

Temperature this morning was minus 3. On a day like this, I'm feeling grateful not to have to leave the house to crank through microfilm as I search through unindexed records.


Happily, the records I'm searching are a click away on FamilySearch.org. Not long ago, I attended a talk about researching in Hungary, where my maternal grandparents were from. The speaker reminded us that we can click through unindexed census records on FamilySearch at our leisure.

Tips from the Family Search Wiki



The FamilySearch wiki pages about Hungary provide a handy key to help researchers interpret what each census column is about (see above). Now I can spot where the family name would be listed, the columns for age, place of birth, and so on. This helps me speed-click through the 600-odd unindexed pages.

At top, the first page in this series that I'm searching, looking for the Schwartz family in Ungvar, in Ung county. Notice that in the page at top, the very first family (not in Ungvar) is Schwartz. I expect to see a lot of Schwartz entries scattered in Hungary. The real trick is to click and locate MY Schwartz family.

One of the good things coming out of this page-by-page search is more familiarity with surnames and given names of that time and place. And I'm getting better at reading different handwritings from that time and place.

In Search of Great-Grandpa Herman Schwartz

A-clicking I will go, in search of my great-grandpa's family, the parents of Herman Schwartz. Herman should be in the census as a child, although his name may be different, perhaps Hershel or Hirsch instead of Herman. It takes a lot more time to look through one page at a time, but it will be worth it if Herman and his family are there. And it's clicking, not cranking, already easier than it would have been just a few years ago.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Traditional and Patriotic Names in the Tree

My husband's family tree has lots and lots of traditional given names plus a few clearly patriotic names.

Among the most popular names on the tree is Thomas (there are 41 in the tree so far). Above, the 1860 Census record from Cabell county, VA (now Huntington, WV) showing Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890) and his son Thomas Jefferson Isaiah Haskell Wood (1848-1861). Sadly, young Thomas drowned before he turned 13 years old.

Young Thomas was born on the 4th of July, 1848. That was 22 years after President Thomas Jefferson died on the 4th of July, 1826. Perhaps that was one reason he was named after this president? The Wood tree contains only one other "Jefferson" given name, and he was born late in the 20th century.

Last year, I wrote about the 139 times John appears in this tree. Other popular male names on the tree are: Robert (43 instances), Charles (39 instances), and Samuel (21 instances).

On the female side, after the ever-popular Mary (121 instances), the most popular are: Elizabeth (54 instances), Ann/Anne/Anna (36 instances), and Margaret (35 instances).

My husband's family has a number of other patriotic-sounding names, including:
Benjamin Franklin Steiner, Benjamin Franklin Smith, and George Washington Howland.

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Targeted Search on HeritageQuest


HeritageQuest, "powered by Ancestry," has a lot to recommend it to genealogy researchers at all levels. Most libraries offer HQ as part of the free ProQuest databases available for access to cardholders, in the library or from home. It is so convenient to fire up my laptop at any hour, log into HQ using my library card number, and search whenever I wish! Did I mention it's FREE?

At top, a brief list of what you can find from the search page on HQ. The site is uncomplicated and easy to navigate. Anyone who's ever used Ancestry will find the search interface familiar. Even if you've never used Ancestry, it will take about five seconds to figure out the HQ search forms. And remember, this is FREE.


What I find especially helpful is that HQ offers quick access to targeted genealogy databases without digging down through catalog listings. This is how I get the most out of Heritage Quest, by searching only one database or set of records at a time to narrow the results to the more likely possibilities.

Here's an example: I wanted to look for one of my husband's ancestors who I believed had served in the Civil War. He died in 1924, so I decided to search in the 1890 Veterans' Schedule. Yes, this special schedule did survive, even if nearly nothing else from that 1890 US Census survived! So not only will I find out whether this guy served in the war, I'll also find out when--and get his 1890 location as an important bonus.


I plugged in his full name (Benjamin Franklin Steiner), date/place of death, and added his wife's name. It wasn't necessary to have all those elements, but it helps narrow my search, at least in the beginning.

In fact, only a few results popped up--but one was exactly what I needed. 

The schedule lists Benjamin F. Steiner, living in Oceola, Ohio, in 1890. He served as a private in Company L, 10th Ohio Cavalry, from 1862 to 1865.

The "remarks" section had nothing about him, although others were noted as being disabled due to various ailments. But now I know he was in Oceola in 1890, and I can look for city directories, newspaper stories, and other sources of additional information from that time and place.

FREE, easy to use, loaded with valuable databases--lots to like on HeritageQuest!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Scan-A-Thon 2019: Photos Tell Family History Stories

During this weekend's big Scan-A-Thon (thank you to #WikiTree and #GeneabloggersTRIBE), I'm continuing my scanning of photos from my childhood and into the recent past.

Each picture tells a story. I'm planning to not only name names, but also identify dates and places, and explain the occasions and possessions that add to #familyhistory.

This photo just scanned is a good case in point. If you recognize that cute-ugly doll being hugged by this little girl, you'll know the approximate year.

Yes, it's the early 1980s.

The actual year is 1983. It's a year I won't forget, because local stores were sold out of Cabbage Patch Dolls, and shipments were few and far between. Yet two young relatives were longing, longing for those dolls. After family members scoured toy stores and added their names to waiting lists, I pursued plan B.

At the time, I worked for a retail industry group with ties to big department stores. I called my contacts to ask whether anyone could help me put my hands on two dolls (regardless of price). Nobody had anything in stock, but they said they'd keep me in mind. So I waited. And waited. And waited.

Eventually, an exec called and told me I could buy two dolls (!) at the regular price ($30 each) if I came to the store at the instant it opened the next morning.

Bright and early, he met me at the cash register with two dolls, already in a bag so other shoppers wouldn't know that I was buying just before the shelves were stocked that day. I happily forked over the cash and thanked him profusely, grateful to have not just one but two dolls. Sis and I wrapped and hid those dolls until holiday time.

You can see by the photo how well loved this Cabbage Patch Doll was! Even after the fad faded, the girls had fond memories of these dolls. Now they can relive the memory whenever they see this photo.

Also in the photo are crewel embroidery projects made by moi and gifted to this family. Although a small part of the story of this photo, crafts are an ongoing theme in my family. My maternal grandma was a master of embroidery and crochet. My Mom loved to crochet, she did petit point, and tried her hand at decoupage.

My sisters and I were all taught to crochet and sew at an early age. Sis was an ace seamstress, making her own stylish clothes. I quilt. We still enjoy crafting, and all members of the next generation enjoy crafts, as well.

By telling the story of these old photos, we can show the younger folks how many connections they have to their ancestors. In this case, it's a love of hand-crafts. And the memory of chasing after the toy of the moment for two much-loved little girls.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Scan-a-Thon 2019 - Making Progress!

Today is the first day of the "official" Scan-a-Thon 2019, held by WikiTree in coordination with GeneabloggersTribe and other #genealogy groups.

It's a fun opportunity to be part of a worldwide community scanning photos (and documents), posting to online trees, and/or sharing with family. You still have time to get in on the fun by scanning Friday through Sunday (and beyond).

I actually began scanning family photos last weekend, sorting and discussing with my sister. We will continue intermittently through 2019. So many photos bring back so many memories, and it's wonderful to have company and conversation while scanning. Making progress!

Today I wanted to describe the process in a little more detail. Even though I'm using a Flip-Pal, which makes it convenient to quickly scan snapshots from the past, there are a few steps needed to go from scan to finished image ready for the family tree or family sharing. (I do not post photos of living people, by the way, so these particular scans are intended for family sharing--a great way to preserve the past for future generations.)

After scanning, I pull the SD card from the Flip-Pal and load the images into my Mac-based photo management program. (Note: I use Picasa3, no longer supported by Google, although it may still be available. I'm not ready to change yet, because Picasa serves my needs quite well, but at least workarounds and alternatives exist if needed in the future.)

Sis and I completed 181 scans, including the full image of a snapshot from this batch shown at top. Note that because the snapshot is smaller than the full Flip-Pal scanning window, white background shows behind the photo. (I added the blue border digitally to clarify where the photo itself ends and the Flip-Pal background begins.)

My next step is to open each scanned image and crop out the white background, as shown just above.

Over time, snapshots fade, some colors can change...and if I can restore them without making material changes, that's what I prefer to do.

So after cropping, I decide whether to alter the colors, contrast, sharpness, etc. Neither of the above photo scans has been altered.

Now compare with the slightly brightened photo at left, where the sand is lighter so the kiddie stands out a bit better. Yes, I altered the sand's coloring a smidge, but I didn't change what the image shows.

Some people prefer to scan and leave the scanned image like the original. Me, I want my image to be more like the original original. In other words, I try to be fairly faithful to what the snapshot was like at the time it was taken. If the snapshot was originally too dark, I lighten it a teensy bit so the person or place is viewable. If things are slightly blurry, I try to sharpen the image. (I don't put people in or take people out. That's where I draw the line!)

Scanning and cropping, plus color or contrast correction, are not the end of the process. Next step is to caption each image. A picture is worth a thousand words, but I'll be much more succinct in my captioning ;)

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Power of Hands-On Family History Experiences

At a family holiday luncheon, my husband and I tried something new: We passed around an unopened MRE ("meal ready to eat") from 1986.

We slit it open to reveal individually wrapped packages of turkey, hash brown potatoes, giant cookie, crackers, hot cocoa mix, instant coffee, sugar, salt, matches, even chewing gum. Then we opened a couple of the individual food packages and tasted a bite of cookie...a bite of cracker...and lived to tell the tale! The youngest relatives were especially captivated by handling and tasting packs of food that are way, way, way older than they are.

This hands-on experience sparked a long and fascinating group discussion about Army life in two different periods. The family member who served in the US Army in the mid-1980s had supplied the MRE, and he reminisced about eating the best (and worst) of these meals. He also told anecdotes about Army life, with just enough detail to keep the younger crowd engaged.

My husband had served in the Army three decades earlier, and he described eating C-rations in the field, adding a couple of his own brief anecdotes. The stark contrast between our 2018 holiday meal and the 1950s/1980s Army meals was an important part of the experience.

Everyone around the table listened intently and asked questions. Several eagerly tried their hand at opening a can using a P-38 opener kept after the 1980s Army days. (Hint: You need to literally "get a grip" to get this right.)

I came away with a real appreciation of the power of hands-on family history experiences. From now on, I'll look for additional opportunities to get relatives involved in handling an heirloom or something else key to a family event or an ancestor memory. With luck, the stories will flow as hands touch the object, and family history will be passed down to more descendants! And isn't that the point?

- - -

For more ideas on safeguarding and sharing genealogy, please see my how-to book (in print or digital form), Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Challenge: Personal Family History Scanfest 2019

Let Personal Family History Scanfest 2019 begin! This is the year my family's "modern history" photos (meaning since I was born, LOL) will be scanned and digitally organized and distributed.

I'm approaching the scanfest challenge as a process, to be accomplished little by little during the year:

  1. Gather albums from multiple sources. [Plenty are on hand, more to be gathered.]
  2. Rough sort photos by family, year, and/or theme (vacation, Christmas, etc). [Started.]
  3. Discard damaged and irrelevant photos and negatives. [One bag tossed today--photos with rips or stains were scanned and will be digitally repaired.]
  4. Separate good dupes to send to family members. [Going into the mail Monday.]
  5. Extract photos carefully from those awful magnetic albums, preserving labels. [In process]
  6. Scan a hundred or more at a time. (I love my Flip-Pal, set at high resolution, for speed and convenience.) Where appropriate, include handwritten label of place/date next to first photo scanned in a series. [One day scanned total: 181 good images!]
  7. Keep scanned snapshots in order in a temporary storage box, ready to be checked and then stored in a safe way. [in process]
  8. Arrange digital images into digital folders (again, by family/year/season/theme, etc.) and make digital dupes on flash drives for family members.
  9. Create a few special photobooks with descriptive captions to send to family members.*
  10. Have fun during the process, reminiscing and double-checking identifications and dates/places with family. 

Doing this little by little makes the scanfest and genealogical organization a lot less overwhelming. I highly recommend scanning with a family member, not just for the conversations but also for the extra hands ready to work with photos. Having my Sis partner with me doubles the fun--the time really flies by!

Have you been scanning your baby photos and other photos from "modern" family history, to preserve them and have digital versions backing up the physical images?

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this second in the 2019 series of #52Ancestors prompts,  "challenge."

Special thanks to WikiTree for the Scan-a-Thon challenge, January 11-14, in coordination with GeneabloggersTribe.

Yes, I'm a bit early, but I'm also spreading my scanfest out over many weeks to share the fun with family!

*For privacy reasons, I will only upload selected photos of ancestors (not living people) to my online family trees.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Heirloom Story: My Parents' Bedroom Set

My parents, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981) and Harold Burk (1909-1978), married on Thanksgiving weekend in 1946. They had gotten engaged on the last day of 1945, following a whirlwind courtship after being set up by his aunt (Mary Mahler Markell) and her aunt (Rose Farkas Freedman). Harold had returned from more than three years in the Army during WWII and wanted to settle down...Daisy wanted to marry and raise a family. Love blossomed!

Due to the post-war housing shortage, however, they had a long wait to find an apartment in New York City. They began married life in a basement apartment of a private home in Queens, more than an hour's subway ride away from their relatives in the Bronx. Daisy was most unhappy in this dark, cramped apartment, and they continued to look for something larger, something closer to family.

The Farkas Family Tree (my mother's family tree association) minutes from the meeting of May 2, 1948, includes a sentence in which my mother is quoted as saying to the "Good & Welfare Committee" that "for her good and welfare, she must find an apartment."

In the family tree minutes from June 13, 1948, the secretary says my parents "got a telephone but now want an apartment to put it into."

In the family tree minutes from October 10, 1948, my father is listed as having won at a "bazaar--a radio, meat slicer, Mixmaster, and several other things." But still not the apartment they truly wanted. By the end of 1948, no luck: "Daisy and Harry Burk are still looking."

Yippee! By March 6, 1949, my parents were reported to be in their new apartment, according to the Farkas Family Tree meeting minutes. This was on Carpenter Avenue in the northeast Bronx, corner of E. 222d Street. Not coincidentally, it was an apartment building in which my father's sister, brother, and mother were living. Surely that's how they heard of the vacancy of the apartment on the fourth floor of this building one block from a big park.

And the Farkas Family Tree minutes of June 5, 1949 crow: "Daisy & Harry Burk finally ordered furniture!!!" Yes, the exclamation points are in the original. It was now 2 1/2 years after their wedding.

At top, a photo of the high-boy bureau from this original mahogany bedroom set. The set was carefully crafted in the Bronx. I had it refinished in 1990, nearly 41 years after it was made, to restore it to its original beauty. The restorers admired the dovetail corners and the fine wood quality.

The high-boy, along with the vanity dresser and bench, hanging mirror, low bureau, and a night stand are in my bedroom, cherished family heirlooms that I use every day. Some lucky descendant will inherit this heirloom set, along with the story of how long Daisy and Harry fell in love, waited to marry, searched high and low for an apartment, ordered furniture, and then started their family.

PS: It's important to share our ancestors' stories now, before we join our ancestors! For more about safeguarding our family's past, please take a look at my affordable book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available in paperback or digital edition.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

January Genealogy Off to a Strong Start

Happy 2019! 

As the new year begins, I have four projects in the works for completion by January.

Two are for my husband's Wood family and two are for my Farkas family.


Above, project #1: Integrating the index entries for 1940-1944 meetings of the Farkas Family Tree association meeting minutes into the full index for the years 1933-1964.

I had previously created the index for minutes, not able to include most of the WWII years because they were missing from my cousin's collection. Then in 2018, a 2d cousin found the missing minutes and I scanned them and indexed just that collection.

Now I'm adding the 1940s entries from the separate index person by person into the larger index for the entire book (shown here at right). It's not difficult, just takes a bit of time to copy and paste entries. Little by little, it's getting done.

**UPDATE on 1/10: Completed!

Project #2: Assembling the complete Farkas Family Tree index, complete minutes, and updated introductory materials into a digital file and mailing a CD to my cousins. The package is way, way too large for email, and some cousins aren't into cloud storage. CDs are easy to mail and easy for recipients to read, copy, and store.

**UPDATE on 1/10: Final file is 1.5 GB, too large for even 2 CDs, so am purchasing multipack of 4GB flash drives to mail. Today, first packages are going into the mail for relatives! - NEARLY COMPLETE


Project #3: Interleaving acid-free buffered tissue paper between pages of the 1917 and 1926 photo albums created by my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986). This will protect the photos for the long term. Tissue paper is in the house, ready to go!

Project #4: Reading carefully through the full divorce file from my husband's paternal grandfather, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939).

As shown at left, James filed to divorce wife #2, Alice Hopperton Unger, in April 1927, just 7 months after their marriage in September, 1926.

She counter-filed a few days later. Back and forth they filed. Now, thanks to the Cuyahoga County Clerk's office, which very kindly mailed me copies of all the paperwork (without charge!), I can finally figure out what happened, 92 years after the fact.

And this is only January, the first month--what a genealogy year it will be.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this #52Ancestors prompt to begin the new year.