Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Playing Tag with My Ancestors

When I first saw Ancestry's TreeTags, I was intrigued by the categories. The idea is to indicate the research status of each ancestor.

Tag, You're It!

I like "unverified" and "hypothesis" because they are a great way to tag ancestors who I've either found on some document and been unable to verify further, or ancestors who I suspect (but can't yet prove) are related in a certain way to my tree. Extremely useful.

"Actively researching" and "brick wall" seem less useful tags for my purposes. "Verified" is, however, highly useful for situations where I've got clear, solid evidence for these ancestors and can verify how they are actually related to my family. 

What Does Complete Mean?

But after 21 years of active research, the word "complete" is not in my #genealogy vocabulary and I doubt I'll ever tag any ancestor in this way.

Ancestry defines "complete" as: "I am confident that I have executed thorough searches to help answer my questions."

As thorough as my research may be, new records become available all the time. And that's not all. DNA is also changing the research landscape.

So although I may have answered my current questions, and may even have amassed a huge amount of data through research, I don't view any ancestor as completely researched.

New Records Galore

Just this month, for instance, Family Search posted a database of 34 million U.S. obituaries from GenealogyBank, 1980-2014. Woo-hoo! I'm searching for the names of cousins, aunts, and uncles who died in the past 40 years. Maybe an obit will reveal a previously unknown spouse or challenge my knowledge of that person's life in some other way.

Family Search also posted databases of Cook County, Illinois births-marriages-deaths from the 1870s into the 20th century, as late as 1994 for the deaths. Another woo-hoo, as I search for ancestors who lived or died in Chicago. Found two already.

I may stop researching some ancestors for a while, focusing on others who I know less about or certain ancestors I have a special interest in, but I can't imagine tagging any ancestor (even my parents) as "complete."

What about you?

PS: To see the very latest collections on Family Search, go to the collections page here and sort by "last updated" (on the far right). 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Ancestor with the Best PR--in 1900


Three of my husband's Slatter great uncles were military bandmasters in Canada, often featured in news items of the early and middle 20th century.

Capt. John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954), his brother Capt. Albert William Slatter (1862-1935), and another brother, Capt. Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942) were all born into poverty in Whitechapel, London, England. We found some clues to their early military training on the Training Ship Goliath when researching in the London Metropolitan Archives last month.

At left is a 1901 article from Westfield, Massachusetts, singing the praises of Captain John D. Slatter and his 48th Highlanders of Toronto military band, the original "Kilties." Yes, the same Kilties who kicked off the craze for such bands early in the 20th century! That's part of what made Capt. Slatter so famous.

The article below, "Every Inch a Soldier," points out that the good captain actually earned a combat service medal and is expert with a sword, rifle, bayonet, and other weapons. This is from a Dubuque, Iowa newspaper in 1900.

But the story about Capt. Slatter's military background wasn't based on a personal interview or fresh inside information. In fact, it's from a widely-circulated press release of the time. In 1900! 

I found very similar wording in lots of U.S. newspapers, as the band's publicity people drummed up interest in tickets to Kiltie concerts from coast to coast.

Clearly, my husband's well-known Toronto bandmaster ancestor had a very savvy public relations person paving the way for his Kiltie band's appearances. Lucky me to have all these news clippings of Capt. Slatter's travels and accomplishments.

PS - Any comments won't appear for a few days but I'll catch up very soon!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

In Search of "Cousin Essti"

In March, 1902, my future grandpa Tivador (Theodore) Schwartz (1886-1965) boarded the S.S. Moltke in Hamburg to sail to Ellis Island. Above, his name on the passenger arrival listing (found years ago by cranking through rolls of microfilm, now more easily researched in the Ellis Island records here on Family Search).

Tivador Says He's Going to "Cousin Essti"

Tivador was shown as a "student" (which was probably true in his home town of Ungvar in Hungary) and he told authorities that his father paid his passage to America.

Who was he coming to see in New York? In his heavily accented voice, he somehow conveyed that he was going to see "Essti Shim______." Above, the snippet from this name in the paperwork.

FYI, my Hungarian cousins pronounce this surname name with an initial "Sh" rather than an initial "S" so it may be that when Grandpa told authorities who he was seeing, this written version is what they heard.

Grandpa Theodore's mother (my great-grandma) was Hani Simonowitz Schwartz. Was this cousin Essti a niece of Hani? If so, Essti would be Theodore's first cousin.

Researching Cousin Essti

I found a few "Esther Simonowitz" in New York census records for 1905. I particularly focused on one born in Hungary who was living with her brother, Abraham Simonowitz, at 2058 Second Ave., Manhattan, which was Jewish Harlem. (See snippet above from the NY census for 1905.)

Abraham is 27 years old, head of household, occupation "Delicatessen," and Esther is 20, his sister, occupation "partner" (presumably in the deli). Oh, and they have a live-in servant in this apartment!

They are both aliens, he in the United States for 11 years and she for 8 years.

As a further check, I saw in the New York City directory for 1903, Esther Simonowitz is listed under "Delicatessen" at the Second Avenue address.

But whether these folks are actually relatives of my ancestor Hani Simonowitz Schwartz, I don't yet know. My wonderful Schwartz cousin remembers being visited in Ukraine (before going to Israel) by Simonowitz cousins from America in the 1960s/1970s. These cousins were possibly from the Midwest. Were they related to the Esther and Abraham Simonowitz who are in the 1905 NY Census?

If so, did one of the Simonowitz siblings shown in the 1905 NY census move on, with the other staying in New York? Did Esther get married and change her name, complicating my search for her? There are SO many Esther Simonowitz records in the NYC marriage archives.

More questions than answers at this point! The search continues.

UPDATE: Lara Diamond suggested I investigate the above marriage record, which shows "Esther Simanovitz" marrying Edwin Kramer in 1906. I'll have to get to a Family History Center to see it, but when I do, I'll see the addresses for bride/groom, birthplaces, and more. Very promising lead--especially since the groom's mother was a Schwartz! Thank you, Lara.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Remembering Moms on Mother's Day

Daisy Ruth Schwartz
It's been a very long time since I was able to say "Happy Mother's Day" to my mother, Daisy Ruth Schwartz Burk (1919-1981). She is still much beloved and much missed, not just on Mother's Day. Above, a formal portrait of Mom as a young lady.
Marian Jane McClure
Alas, I never had the opportunity to meet my husband's mother, Marian Jane McClure Wood (1909-1983). An only child lavished with love by doting parents, she's shown above in her 20s. How I wish I could have gotten to know her. She's remembered with great affection on this Mother's Day.

Friday, May 10, 2019

"Very Pretty Home Wedding" Starts off Sam and Anna's Life

Nearly 110 years ago, my great-uncle Samuel Schwartz (1883-1954) married Anna Gelbman (1886-1940). Sam was the older brother of my Grandpa Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz. Interestingly, although Sam was the older brother, he wasn't the first of the Schwartz family to leave their native Hungary and cross the ocean to New York City.

Teddy, three years younger than Sam, came to New York City in 1902. Two years later, Sam joined his brother in New York. Together, they sent money to bring their younger sister, Mary, to New York in 1906.

Sam & Anna's Wedding in Bridgeport

Sam met his future bride, Anna, in Bridgeport, CT, where he was working as a printer. Sam became a naturalized U.S. citizen on October 19, 1909. Days later, he married Anna in a "very pretty home wedding" according to the Bridgeport Evening Farmer newspaper (see above).

Younger sister Mary Schwartz was the maid of honor for her sister-in-law, and Anna's younger brother George Gelbman was the best man.

Two December Marriages for Mary

Fast-forward to late December, 1913, when Samuel Schwartz was a family witness signing the marriage certificate for his younger sister Mary as she married Edward (Avram) Wirtschafter in a religious ceremony.

This was actually Mary and Edward's second marriage within a few days--their first was a civil ceremony at City Hall, where they eloped on Christmas Eve.

Mary and Edward were very happily married for more than four decades, raising a son and a daughter.

Alas, Anna died of breast cancer at the age of 54, leaving behind a bereft husband and two grown sons.

Anna, Sister-in-Law and "Second Mom"

Anna served as a nurturing "second Mom" to her sister-in-law Mary, whose own mother never left Hungary. For a while, Anna and Mary lived in the same Bronx apartment building, and Mary turned to Anna for advice and assistance when she had children.

Not surprisingly, Mary's children became very close to Anna, a strong, loving bond that continued until Anna's untimely death, I was told by Mary's daughter.

Let me honor the memory of Anna and Mary with affection as Mother's Day approaches.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt of "nurture."

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Road Trip: At the London Metro Archives

Checking the catalog at the London Metropolitan Archives
In search of more info about hubby's great-great grandma Mary [maiden name unknown] Shehen (b. abt 1801-d. ?) my husband and I took a road trip to the London Metropolitan Archives two weeks ago.

We preregistered online and when we presented personnel with our two pieces of identification, we were each issued on-site IDs. Then we proceeded to the computers, where we entered requests for relevant materials.

In Search of Physical Documents 

Many of the poorhouse and workhouse books have been digitized and are available on Ancestry, including this ledger of admissions and discharges from the Northumberland Street Workhouse.

"Mary Shehan" is the fourth name down on this page from March, 1871. This is unquestionably the right Mary, because on the facing page is her street address--which exactly matches her residence in previous UK census records. She was in the medical ward, due to chronic rheumatism, where she remained for 30 days.

With limited time for on-site research, we concentrated on printed materials only available in person at the archives. We requested a Visitors Book for the Northumberland Street Workhouse, not sure whether Mary would have have visitors during her monthlong stay. This was a physical book from the period that we would be allowed to page through on our own!

Visitors = Oversight

Well, I have to admit that I didn't understood the terminology. "Visitors" were actually committee people responsible for oversight of these institutions for the poor. They would visit the institutions periodically and look at conditions, also indicating whether the diet was good, etc. They weren't actually individually visiting the poor people, only writing reports about the care being provided.

But the good news is that the Visitors Book listed every person kept in the insane asylum areas during each visit. Most pages showed 8-20 inmates, although there were sometimes no inmates present during a visit.

Mary Shehen was not listed in the book, most likely because she was in the medical ward, not in the asylum itself.

Still, we found it a bit amazing to hold in our hands a workhouse ledger from way back in the 1870s. It made a big impression on both of us.

Records of the T.S. Goliath

Having struck out on Mary, we next huddled with the research staff about records of the Training Ship Goliath, where three of hubby's teenaged great uncles, born poor in London, learned maritime skills and were taught to play musical instruments during the 1870s. These three boys, sons of hubby's great-grandpa John Slatter and great-grandma Mary Shehen Slatter, grew up to be well-known military bandmasters in Canada.

We were given a microfilm showing the names of recruits on the Goliath, arranged by date (not indexed). Cranking through, we found some promising leads on one of the Slatter boys to follow up later, but ran out of time to do more in-person research. Guess that means another visit?!
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Thanks, as always, to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompts. This is my post for "Road Trip."

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Honor Roll Project: Manchester, England War Memorial

Walking through Manchester, England a couple of weeks ago, I passed this war memorial with newly-laid poppy wreaths, across from Manchester City Hall.
Although the memorial is primarily for WWI, other military service was recognized. The above plaque reads: "To the honour and memory of Mancunians who have given their lives in other conflicts since 1945." (Mancunians are people from Manchester.)
Here, the wreath is inscribed: "To our fallen comrades...British Legion, Manchester."

Only a few individual names of World War I veterans were visible, which I'm transcribing for Heather Rojo's Honor Roll Project.

They are:

Lt. Graham Lyall, Central Ontario Regiment, Canadian Expeditionary Force. 27th September and 1st October 1918. (Being honored for valor.)

Lance Corporal John Thomas, Prince of Wales's North Staffordshire Regiment, 30th November 1917. (Being honored for valor.)

Private John Readitt, South Lancashire Regiment, 25th February 1917. (Being honored for valor.)

2d Lt. Henry Kelly, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment), 4th October 1916. (Being honored for valor.)
Private Albert Hill, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 20th July 1916. (Being honored for valor.)

Private George Stringer, Manchester Regiment, 8th March 1916. (Being honored for valor.)

Thank you to these brave military men for their service more than 100 years ago.

Friday, May 3, 2019

More Resources at HeritageQuest

From Library of Congress collection, accessed via HeritageQuest

Photos in the public domain! HeritageQuest, which many U.S. residents can access from home, absolutely free, with a local library card, has so many wonderful databases for genealogy. It's my go-to for city directories and other databases.

I also like its photo and map databases. They are conveniently searched right from the easy-to-use search box, and it's easy to change parameters to expand or restrict my searches.

Locating Photos for a Wood Family History Booklet

In preparation for a family history booklet about my husband's Cleveland parents and grandparents, I wanted to photos of the time and place, for illustration. Public domain photos would be perfect, the price is right--free!



To find a Library of Congress photo using HeritageQuest, I entered a date (1925) and place (Cleveland, Cuyahoga county, Ohio), plus the name of a well-known building, Terminal Tower, and clicked the search button.

The top results (shown here) are exterior and interior photos of Terminal Tower, taken "about 1933" (close enough to 1925 for my purposes). Good quality photos, with extra information on each page, including a written description of what's in the photo.

If you're looking for photos of a particular city, occupation, etc., or maybe a map of where an ancestor once lived, see whether your library offers access to HeritageQuest from home.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Researching at the London Metropolitan Archives


While in London for #FamilyTreeLive, my husband and I went to the London Metropolitan Archives for some genealogy research.

Some UK records can only be accessed in person, and that includes detailed records from London workhouses and poorhouses. We wanted to request documents about two related families in his tree: Shehen and Slatter.

Mary "Unknown Maiden Name" Shehen

Hubby's great-great-grandmother Mary (unknown maiden name) Shehen (1801-??), born somewhere in Ireland, was married to John Shehen (1801-1875).

During the 1871 Census, Mary Unknown was enumerated twice: Once in the medical ward of the Northumberland Workhouse, where she was suffering from chronic rheumatism, and once at home, with her husband, at Gray's Buildings.

We wanted to see any surviving records of Mary's stay in the medical ward and whether she was there before or after for another reason. We hoped to find clues to her death date.

Mary Shehen Slatter & Family

Mary Unknown's daughter, hubby's great-grandma, didn't escape the cycle of poverty, either. She was London-born Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889), who had 6 children with her Oxford-born husband, John Slatter (1838-1901).

Mary and the 5 younger children were in and out of poorhouses and workhouses while the children were growing up. The earliest admission I've found for Mary Shehen Slatter is 1873. In mid-1874, she was sent from a workhouse to the first of two insane asylums, diagnosed with melancholia. Sadly, she died in notorious Banstead Asylum at the age of 51. Cause: Phthisis (tuberculosis).

Although my wonderful cousin Anna has visited the London Metropolitan Archives to see many of this Mary's records, we wondered whether there was anything earlier that we can see--and perhaps something that explains why her husband John Slatter took off for America before his wife died.

More soon about the results of our research visit.
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Any comments won't be posted for a few more days. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Asenath Larimer and Worship on the Wagon Train

Cover of transcribed journal kept by Asenath Cornwell Larimer 
Asenath Cornwell Larimer (1808-1897) was born 211 years ago today.

She was the widow of my husband's 4th great-uncle James Larimer (1806-1847), who sadly died at age 40, thrown from a horse while riding near their farm in Elkhart county, Indiana.

When James died, Asenath was left with five children under the age of 10. Her brothers helped her through this difficult time, but ultimately, Asenath made a bold decision she hoped would secure her children a better life.

Westward Ho

Five years after her husband's untimely death, Asenath sold the farm she had been bequeathed and used the money to join her brother, John Cornwell, in taking two steamboats en route to joining a wagon train at Lexington, Missouri.

Their destination: the Gold Rush country of California.

Asenath wrote in a journal from March 1852-March 1853 about the daily thoughts and events of that time. She notes that her oldest son was against her going west. Despite his opposition, she wrote that "...looking forward to the dangers and trails of the way, I feel very gloomy, but in the Lord put I my trust."

Faith Guides Asenath

Asenath was sustained by her strong Presbyterian faith during the arduous journey west. When possible, she and others on the wagon train would worship together on the Sabbath. In one journal entry, she wrote [sic]:
"...we felt that the Lord was as truly with us here sitting round on the grass, as if we had worshiped in a church, and likely we felt as much love and gratitude even at home." 
Most of the time, however, the wagon train leaders pushed ahead without stopping on the Sabbath, which distressed Asenath, even as she acknowledged the necessity of maintaining a good travel pace.

Asenath recorded not just the details of daily life on the wagon train (births, sickness, deaths, cooking, laundry) but also the natural wonders they viewed, for which she praised the Lord.

Journey's End

After arriving in the mining town of Clinton, California (now a ghost town outside Sacramento), Asenath scraped by on odd jobs such as washing clothes while her brother prospected for gold.

Then she moved to San Francisco, where she launched a bakery and was joined by one of her sons. Later, she moved south to Santa Monica, where she helped found the public library. She died in Santa Monica only a few weeks before her 89th birthday.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt of "At Worship."
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Note: Any comments won't be posted for a few days. Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 26, 2019

At Family Tree Live!

Today and tomorrow I'm presenting at the new genealogy show in London, Family Tree Live. Sponsored by the UK magazine Family Tree, the show has dozens of lectures and workshops for genealogy enthusiasts at every level.

I can't wait to visit the exhibit hall and meet representatives from local family history societies all around the country, as well as top genealogy firms and genealogy buddies like mystery novelist Nathan Dylan Goodwin.

On Friday, my topic is "How to use social media for #genealogy and #familyhistory."

On Saturday, my topic is "Do you have a genealogical will?"

Also on Saturday afternoon, I'm joining Gill Blanchard and Diane Lindsay for a special panel discussion, "Crash course in writing your family story."

I'm planning to tweet (@MarianBWood) during the show, but won't have any recaps here on the blog for a little while.

Any comments left by readers won't appear for a few days. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

"Aunt Ada" Reinvents Herself


"Aunt Ada" living in Toledo, Ohio, sent this penny postcard for Easter, 1914 to her nephew, "Master Wallis Wood," in Cleveland, Ohio.

The recipient was then 9 years old and accustomed to postcards tumbling out of the mailbox from relatives on every conceivable occasion.

Even before he could read, he was receiving greetings from cousins, aunts, and uncles.

The sender this time was Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter Baker (1868-1947). She, unlike nearly every correspondent who sent a card to the young boy in Cleveland, spelled his name correctly!

"Aunt Ada" was the great aunt of my husband, a woman with a very, very difficult childhood.

Census Records Reveal Real Trouble 


Adelaide Mary Ann was the daughter of John Slatter (1838-1901) and Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889), living in the notoriously poor London neighborhood of Whitechapel. I didn't immediately recognize the hint of trouble beyond poverty when I found Ada for the first time in the 1871 UK Census, living at 3 Half Moon Passage in Whitechapel with her parents and 4 siblings.

In the previous Census of 1861, I easily found the parents and their first child, Thomas John Slatter. However, Thomas didn't appear in the 1871 Census with his parents and siblings. For a long time, I believed he had died young, not an unknown phenomenon in this poverty-stricken neighborhood.

One of my wonderful blog readers tipped me off to where Thomas John Slatter was in 1871. The UK Census shows him in Christchurch Southwark, another poor section of London, at the unimaginative address of "32 Gravel Lane." He's 10 years old, living with his grandmother and step-grandfather. Also in the household are 2 other grandchildren! So this grandmother and step-grandpa were apparently rescuing 3 grandchildren from desperately impoverished conditions.

With Thomas in another household, Ada and her siblings were only 5 mouths for their parents to feed. Alas, still too many for a simple laborer who wasn't always with the family. Ada and her Mom and 4 siblings were in and out of poorhouses and workhouses during the 1870s, I learned. Ultimately, Ada's mother entered an insane asylum and died there.

The children were then on their own. The girls were in a school for the poor, the boys went to a "training ship" on the Thames and ultimately joined the Army. During these years, Ada was accustomed to watching over her baby sister Mary (my husband's grandmother).

Ada Reinvents Herself

In spring of 1895, Ada sailed from Liverpool to Montreal, enroute to join her father, who had left London for Ohio a few years earlier. The outbound passenger manifest lists her occupation as "servant." Miraculously, her U.S. border documentation lists her occupation as "lady."

One year after arriving, Ada married James Sills Baker (1866-1937) in Cuyahoga County, Ohio (where Cleveland is located), just 3 weeks after Easter Sunday.

They moved to Toledo, where their first child was born 9 months and 1 day after their marriage. Their second child was born another 4 years after that.

Ada regularly kept in touch with her baby sister Mary and all of her family, in England as well as in Ohio and beyond. She sent penny postcards on many occasions and had her two children write greetings to their first cousins, including Wallis W. Wood, a son of baby sister Mary.

I continue to be impressed that Ada and her siblings grew up, married, and had productive lives after the grinding poverty and appalling workhouse experiences of their childhood.

Note: With my presentations at Family Tree Live coming up, I won't be able to look at any reader comments for a little while. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Easter Greetings from - Elton?!

No, not Elton John. More than a century ago, "Master Wallace Wood" in Cleveland, Ohio received this penny postcard from his relative "Elton" in Toledo, Ohio.

"Master Wallace" was an inaccurate but common misspelling of my husband's uncle Wallis Walter Wood (1905-1957). The correct spelling is in pencil, below the greeting from "Elton," the sender.

Which Elton in the Wood Family?

Originally, when I saw this, I thought the sender might be Marion Elton Wood (1867-1947). He was an uncle. A few of the Wood aunts and uncles wrote to their nephew, I know from reading all those post cards.

But rereading recently, it dawned on me that this had to be a young person writing, the way Wood first cousins were encouraged (possibly strongly encouraged, as in "you will do this") to send postcards to each other for holidays and birthdays.

The handwriting doesn't look like that of a very young person, but probably a teen. So the sender was, I now realize, almost certainly Charles Francis Elton Wood (1891-1951), the son of Marion Elton Wood in Toledo, Ohio.

About the Younger Elton

The younger Elton and Wallis Walter Wood were first cousins. They each had many first cousins because their fathers were among 17 siblings. Imagine a lot of penny postal greetings flying through the mails between all these cousins!

The younger Elton went by the name "Elton" in the 1910 US Census, where he is shown as as "Elton C.F. Wood." His parents, Marion Elton Wood and Minnie C. Miller, told the Census they had had 2 children in all but only 1 was now living--the younger Elton.

By 1918, when the younger Elton filled out his WWI draft registration card, he was a farmer living in Lenawee, Michigan, with a wife and child. By 1920, when the US Census was taken, "C. Elton Wood" and his growing family were living back in Toledo, where he was a "city salesman" for a bakery. His occupation was still "salesman" in the 1928 Toledo city directory and the 1930 US Census (where he was "Elton C.F. Wood.")

By 1940, the younger Elton is listed as "Charles F. Wood" and his occupation in the Census is "shipping foreman." His WWII draft registration card shows him working for a bakery. His name is now listed as "Charles Francis Elton Wood."

Unfortunately, Elton died in a car accident 1951. His death cert calls him "Charles Francis Elton Wood" but his obit in the Toledo Blade newspaper calls him "Wood, Elton."

The name "Elton" did live on in, as the middle name of one the younger Elton's grandsons.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Immigrant Grandparents: City (His) and Country (Mine)

           Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925)
Remember that Sesame Street song, "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other"?

Well, one of our immigrant grandparents is not like the others. One was a city girl, the others were all from rural backgrounds.

This month's Genealogy Blog Party theme is "Immigrant Ancestors." This week's #52Ancestors prompt is "out of place." I've fit both into one post about his and hers immigrant grandparents.

His Big-City Grandma from London

My husband had only one immigrant grandparent. All the others were descended from families that had come to America long ago (some as long ago as the Mayflower). Others arrived in the 1700s.

At top, hubby's immigrant Grandma Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). Born in the poverty-stricken Whitechapel neighborhood of London, she was the youngest of six children. In her youth, she was in and out of notorious poorhouses because her father wasn't always in the household and her mother (Mary Shehen Slatter) couldn't support the family.

Yet Mary not only survived her sad childhood, she became a doting and devoted mother in her 30s after arriving in Ohio and marrying James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). The photo above shows her soon after her marriage, around the turn of the 20th century. From hearing my late father-in-law talk about her, Mary was the bedrock of love for her four sons. Mary was born a city girl and she lived a city life in fast-growing Cleveland, Ohio.

My Eastern European Grandparents
Henrietta Mahler Burk and Isaac Burk
My immigrant grandparents, all four of them, were from the country, unlike my husband's big-city grandma.

Above, my paternal grandma, Henrietta Mahler, from Latvia. Her husband, Isaac Burk, was from Lithuania, and they met in New York City. Both lived fairly rural lives in Eastern European towns, but had to adjust to skyscrapers and concrete when they arrived in the Big Apple. After some years in Jewish Harlem, they moved to the Bronx--then considered almost suburban because of the many parks, not to mention the world-famous zoo and botanical gardens.
Hermina Farkas Schwartz and Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz
My maternal grandparents, shown here, were both from Hungary. Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964) and Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965) met and married in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Before coming to New York City, he lived in Ungvar in Hungary, a bustling market town, and she lived out in the countryside in the small town of Berehovo. They raised their three children in an apartment in the Bronx, nothing at all like where they were originally from.

After the children were grown and gone, Grandma Minnie and Grandpa Teddy tried to spend a week or two each summer away from the city heat in "the country." I dimly remember visiting them in a bungalow in Spring Valley, New York, which is now a hop, skip, and jump across the busy Tappan Zee Bridge but was then quite a rural area, dotted with small summer rentals.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Remember Soundex? Consider Sound AND Spelling!

When I began my genealogy journey 21 years ago, I had to learn new vocabulary, such as Soundex.

Soundex is a method of classifying a surname based on the way it sounds. The National Archives explains it here.

I quickly picked up the basics, and any time I was at the local Family History Center, I could consult the Soundex poster as a refresher.

These days you can go to a converter like this and type in the name. Out pops the Soundex code, which consists of a letter and three digits. As shown here, my great-grandpa Farkas's Soundex code is F-622.

Why care today? Even though indexing and other advances have made genealogy research faster and easier, sometimes the old methodology offers clues to help us find elusive ancestors.

Farkas Sounds Like . . . 

More than 30 years ago, my wonderful Cousin B went looking for our ancestor Moritz Farkas (1857-1936).

There was no such thing as an indexed census with full names for every person in every household. She couldn't log into a database, type in a name, and pull up a listing of possible results.

No, Cousin B began by looking at microfilmed 3x5 index cards filed by Soundex code, listing those in the 1900 Census. Hand-cranking the microfilm reader, she read every card carefully to try and find Moritz.

At top, you can see the index card she eventually found among the F-622 cards for that Census. As soon as she saw it, she said the name "Furkosh" out loud and realized this was the way it would sound in his native Hungarian.

Using the cross-reference at top right of the card, she pulled the microfilm for the correct Enumeration District and cranked to the page and line indicated. There was Moritz (as Morris, the Americanized given name), living as a boarder with a family in Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Sound It Out!

When one of my second cousins* recently asked how Cousin B located Moritz Farkas, she sent the 3x5 card (long ago printed from the microfilm) and told us the story.




Trying to replicate the search with today's technology on Family Search, I entered basic info (name: Moritz Farkas; birth: 1857; residence: New York, New York in 1900).

Sure enough, the Morris Furkosh result appeared in the first 10 results, as shown in the snippet here. Clearly, Family Search does a great job of searching on the basis of how a surname sounds, not just spelling.

Knowing the sound of the name in Hungarian, I didn't overlook this result, which wasn't spelled like my ancestor's name of Farkas.


*This cousin found Moritz Farkas in the census with a different, creative search method. He ignored the surname and searched for Moritz and Morris in the 1900 Manhattan census records, including the birth year, hoping there would not be too many to sort through. When he came to the entry for "Furkosh" he remembered this was the Hungarian sound of the surname and knew he had found our ancestor!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ancestor Landing Pages: Summaries and Cousin Bait

As shown above, my genealogy blog includes tabs for a series of "landing pages," mostly devoted to summarizing what I know about key ancestors in my family tree and hubby's family tree.

I established the first of these ancestor landing pages more than 6 years ago, and expanded until now I have 14 such landing pages. Each tells the story, in brief, of an ancestral couple or family. When I blog about one of those ancestors or families, I update the landing page with a link to the newest post. This enables anyone who searches for that surname to see, at a glance, what I've learned about that family and what I'm still learning or wondering about.

In addition, I have a landing page devoted to hubby's Mayflower ancestors. The remaining 3 landing pages include links to free genealogy resources, sample templates for family history, and my genealogy presentations.

McClure, Larimer, and Schwartz

By page views, the three most popular ancestor landing pages are:

  • Halbert McClure and family from Donegal. This is the Scots-Irish ancestor of my husband who had enough money to sail, with many members of his family, from the north of Ireland to Philadelphia. The family then walked to Virginia to buy farm land. 
  • Robert & Mary Larimer. According to my husband's grandfather, family lore has it that Robert Larimer was sent from the North of Ireland to America to make his way in the world. Alas, he was shipwrecked en route and forced to work off the cost of his rescue. 
  • Schwartz family from Ungvar. This is my maternal grandfather's family. Born and raised in what is now Uzhorod, Ukraine, Grandpa Teddy was the first in his family to leave for America. Soon he sent for an older brother and together, they saved their nickels and sent for a baby sister.
Cousin Bait

My landing pages are attracting thousands of views, so I know people are finding them via online search. Sometimes people even leave me a comment or write me c/o my blog to discuss possible family connections.

More than once, a cousin I didn't know I had (or couldn't find) has landed on my blog and gotten in touch with me. Genealogy blogs are excellent cousin bait, and ancestor landing pages increase the odds of being found via online searches.

Monday, April 8, 2019

DNA Plus Trees Equals Cousin Bait

MyHeritage profile is temporarily empty, soon to be filled!
This week's #52Ancestors prompt is DNA. For years, my main genealogy site has been Ancestry, in part because of the size of its DNA base and because my multiple, ever-growing family trees are all housed there. Thousands of ancestors, counting his and her trees, some with thousands of hints to be examined.

My DNA and hubby's DNA also appear on Gedmatch, because of the tools available for analysis and because we can fish for matches among all people using that site, regardless of where they originally tested.

I created a basic tree for him and for me on Gedmatch, and also listed major surnames so people browsing matches can quickly see how we might match, as cousin bait.

New Site for DNA Cousin Bait

Now I admit, I'm often frustrated by how many Ancestry DNA matches have no family tree, or only a few names, or a private tree only.

So now that I just subscribed to MyHeritage, to more intensively research my husband's British, Irish, and Scottish ancestry, I'm transferring my DNA and hubby's DNA there too.

With the new site, I need to complete my profile (sadly empty, as shown above) and plant my family trees as cousin bait. I began with a photo and basics...

More Hints Too

Since I sync my Ancestry trees with my RootsMagic 7 software, I will be able to upload an updated Gedcom tree for myself and my hubby onto MyHeritage with little effort. Thanks to the RootsMagic Users group on Facebook, I learned how to export a Gedcom with living people marked as private.

Now I can take advantage of both Ancestry and MyHeritage hints through RootsMagic, as shown here.

Make it easy for DNA matches to see the family tree(s), and we just might get better answers to our notes or possibly hear from matches who take the initiative to reach out to us! Cousin bait.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Died on This Date: Mayflower Ancestor Francis Cooke

By William Halsall - Pilgrim Hall Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=308115
My husband is a descendant of Mayflower ancestors Isaac Allerton, his wife Mary Norris Allerton, their daughter Mary Allerton, and Degory Priest.

Through the detailed research of the Wood cousin who's been doing genealogy for more than three decades, we are now getting acquainted with a fifth Mayflower ancestor, Francis Cooke. Little by little, I'm reviewing the names/dates of the begats and adding all the intermediate ancestor links to the Wood family tree.

Francis Cooke died in Plymouth colony 356 years ago today. William Bradford reportedly wrote a decade before Cooke's death: "Francis Cooke is still living, a very old man, and hath seen his children's children have children." By one estimate, Cooke was about 80 when he died on April 7, 1663.

Listing of Begats

Francis married Hester Mahieu in the early 1600s. He and an older son sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, while she and their younger children sailed on the Anne in 1623. Their youngest child, Mary Cooke, was born in Plymouth. She is my husband's ancestor, according to these begats:

Mary Cooke married John Thomson (or Tomson/Thompson). Their daughter Mary Thomson was the second wife of Thomas B. Taber. Their son Joseph Taber married Elizabeth Spooner. Their son William Taber married Mary Wing. Their son Nicholas Taber married Desire Vincent. Their daughter Harriet Taber married Isaiah Wood Sr. Their son Thomas Haskell Wood is my husband's great-granddaddy!

So if my fingers and toes have counted correctly, Francis Cooke is my husband's 8th great-granddaddy.

The Francis Cooke Society keeps his memory alive and helps descendants prove their Mayflower connection to him.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

From Gargzdai to Rotterdam to Ellis Island

My great uncle Meyer Berg (1883-1981), left his home in Gargzdai, Lithuania in the spring of 1903 and sailed from Rotterdam to New York City on the S.S. Ryndam, shown above in 1919.

Also known as the S.S. Rinjdam, this Holland-America ship launched in 1901, equipped to carry a few hundred first-class passengers, a few hundred second-class passengers, and 1,800 third-class passengers.

The S.S. Ryndam had a varied career, serving in trans-Atlantic transport convoys during WWI before returning to mercantile shipping until it was scrapped in 1929.

Two Brothers, Same Port, Same Ship

The May 16, 1903 crossing of the S.S. Ryndam from Rotterdam to New York City included my great uncle Meyer. According to the manifest, his passage to America was paid by his sister, who picked him up at Ellis Island. It has to be his older sister Nellie Block, since she was the only sister in New York at the time.

In 1906, Meyer's younger brother Max (Matel) Berk sailed from the same port, on the same ship, arriving on July 9th. Max was picked up by his brother (my future paternal Grandpa) Isaac Burk, who also paid for his passage, according to the manifest.

It makes me feel good to read these notations showing how family helped family to build a better future by coming to America, one or two siblings at a time.

Port Choices

Rotterdam (circle) and Gargzdai (red marker)
Notice from the map that Gargzdai is close to the Baltic Sea, at the far Western end of Lithuania. Meanwhile, Rotterdam is quite a distance southwest (see circle).

Yet these two immigrant ancestors, both brothers of my paternal Grandpa, choose Rotterdam as their port of departure.

On the other hand, Hamburg was the port of choice for Max and Meyer's brother-in-law.

Their sister, Jennie Birk (1890-1972), married Paul Salkowitz (1889-1957), a man born in Memel, in the KlaipÄ—da Region that has been both Lithuania and Germany. Paul sailed from Hamburg in August, 1911. Hamburg, not Rotterdam.

I keep thinking about these port choices, in the context of the steamship lines' marketing to potential immigrants in Europe, as well as whether these immigrants left their hometowns legally. Always something to think about with #genealogy!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Was John Shehen a Bricklayer?

Marriage record of John Slatter & Mary Shehen in 1859, Parish of Christ Church, Middlesex, London, England
I keep saying I married my husband for his ancestors, an endless source of genealogical challenge and fun.

For this week's #52Ancestors ("brick wall" is the theme), I'm looking at my husband's great-great-grandfather, John Shehen (1801-1875?), who lived much of his adult life in a terribly poor section of London.

When his daughter Mary Shehen (1837-1889) married John Slatter (1838-1901) in London in 1859, she told UK authorities that her father was a bricklayer. You can see that in the marriage document at top. Well...not so fast.

John Shehen and the UK Census

John and his wife Mary were both born in Ireland, they consistently told the UK Census (see this snippet from the 1841 Census, where the "I" stands for Ireland).

John (but not his wife) was consistent about his age in the UK Census, saying he was 40 (in 1841), 50 (in 1851), 60 (in 1861), and 70 (in 1871). He lived in the same impoverished area of Whitechapel, London, all those years.

John was also consistent about telling the UK Census that he was a labourer. His wife was either a laundress or milkwoman, but he said he was a labourer. Although he may very well have worked in construction, even worked with bricks, he didn't call himself a bricklayer even once.

I need to investigate whether there are any guilds or unions that John Shehen might have belonged to in the London area. Meanwhile, I'm inclined to think his daughter Mary was exaggerating his status just a bit on the official marriage record. Alas, marriage records didn't ask for the mother's maiden name, so I'm out of luck at this time.

Shehen, Shehan, Sheen?

Where in Ireland were John Shehen and wife Mary from? I have no idea, since the UK Census only lists "Ireland" as their birthplace. The spelling of his surname varies from time to time, and I make my own life simple by calling him "Shehen" here and on Ancestry, aware that creative spelling is needed when conducting research.

He's gone from the 1881 Census, and I think I found his death from bronchitis in 1875. The name on that form is Shehan. But not enough details to know for sure.

About Mary

What about John's wife, Mary? She was actually counted by the UK census twice in 1871. I found her admitted to Northumberland Workhouse due to "chronic rheumatism" in March, and released exactly one month later. Her age was shown as 70. Despite being in the medical ward of the workhouse at the time of the Census on 2 April 1871, she was also shown as living at home.

I don't know when or where Mary Shehen died, unfortunately. I may have found her in the 1881 Census, but I'm not sure whether to hope it's her or not.

A "Mary Sheen" born in Ireland was enumerated in the District Middlesex Lunatic Insane Asylum in 1881. Shown as age 77, this Mary has the occupation of "charwoman."

Also, Ancestry shows a number of people with Mary's given name but varying spellings of the "Shehen" surname as being imprisoned, acquitted, and/or in London court registers for different offenses such as theft, from the 1830s on.

Was this my husband's great-great-grandma? The dates are in between the Census, so I can't know for sure, but my guess is no. Why? Because Mary and John remained in their same lodgings for so many decades, I suspect they had just enough financial stability for Mary to not resort to theft. Or so I hope.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Whoa, Nellie! Oh, Henry! Researching My Great Aunt

Center, Nellie Block. Right, Jennie Birk. Left: Which brother?
My great aunt Nellie Block was the oldest sister of paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk. She's the lady in the center of this undated photo. From the meager paperwork I've assembled, she may possibly have come to America from their hometown of Gargzdai, Lithuania, before her other siblings made the journey.

I haven't yet found her on a passenger manifest, so I can't confirm exactly when she crossed the Atlantic. She didn't travel with her brother Meyer Berg, who arrived in May, 1903, or her brother Max Birk, who arrived in 1906. She didn't travel with my Grandpa Isaac or his older brother Abraham, who both went to Canada first. She didn't travel with younger sister Jennie, who arrived in 1909. In each case, I found these siblings on the manifest without her, seeming to be alone in their trans-Atlantic crossing.

Here's what I do know. When my Grandpa sailed to Canada and later crossed into America in 1904, he listed "Sister Nella Block" as the nearest relative he was going to meet in New York City. At that time, the address for Nellie was the apartment where the Mahler family lived--their daughter Henrietta Mahler became the bride of Isaac Burk in 1906. So it seems there was a previous family connection between the Burk and Mahler families. (That connection continued, clearly, because Jennie was a boarder in the Mahler apartment in the 1910 census. More about that in a later post.)

Whoa, Nellie! Check That Date

Nellie Block's gravestone shows her Hebrew name as "Neshi, daughter of Solomon." (This tallies with what I know of the father's name.) It also shows her as 85 years of age when she died. Date carved in stone? Not necessarily correct.

Here's what two Census documents say:

  • 1905 New York Census, age 27 (census taken in June)
  • 1910 US Census, age 31 (census taken in April)

I am actively searching for her in the 1915 NY Census, 1920 US Census, 1930 Census, or 1940 Census, using variations on her name, because I am 99% positive she remained in New York City.

Based on what I have in hand, I believe she was born in 1879 and was actually 71 (not 85) when she died on December 22, 1950. Why the family would have her age as 85 is a mystery.

Oh, Henry! Where Nellie Lived

Two Census documents show Nellie lived as a boarder in tenements on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where so many other immigrants began their new lives. Her address in 1905 was 62 Henry Street, a tenement building that no longer exists, where she was a boarder in someone else's apartment. Her address in 1910 was 46 Henry Street, boarding in a tenement just a one-minute walk from her previous address, as shown in the map above.

That area has been going through a resurgence; I found an article here about what Henry Street used to be like a century ago.

Oh Henry! was the name of a popular candy bar introduced about 100 years ago and still on the market today. Whether Nellie ever tasted one, I have no idea. It would be so sweet to learn more about Great Aunt Nellie!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Grandpa's Siblings: Researching Holes in Their Stories

My paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk (1882-1943), was born in Gargzdai, Lithuania, and had at least five siblings. Based on old photos in the family, there was probably a much younger brother who remained in Lithuania when Isaac and his siblings Max, Jennie, Meyer, and Nellie came to America and older brother Abraham came to Canada.

As part of my genealogy go-over, I'm reviewing the holes in their stories and doing more research to fill in. Today, I'm looking at Max (originally Matel) Birk (1892-1953), the youngest of siblings who left Lithuania.

Burke, Berk, Burk, Birk, Berg, Block

Grandpa Isaac (who died long before I was born) spelled his surname Burk. The other siblings went by variations: Abraham went by Burke or Berk, Max went by Birk, Meyer went by Berg, Nellie went by Block, and Jennie went by Birk. No wonder genealogists go a little batty. Yes, I know these fit the Soundex category for Burk, but I also have to spell creatively where Soundex isn't an option.

The Search Is On!

The July, 1906 passenger list for the S.S. Ryndam out of Rotterdam shows Max being met by his brother Isaac Burk (my grandpa) in New York City. That's where the paper trail evaporates for a while.

I already found Max's WWI draft registration form, shown at top. He was a jeweler in Chicago in 1917, living at 3525 W. 12 St. He was naturalized in Chicago in 1923, I know from his naturalization papers, and then living at 3525 Roosevelt Dr.

But when did Max arrive in Chicago? When did he return to New York City, where he was married in 1936? The search is on for the missing years. So far, no luck finding Max in New York City directories, but that's another avenue I'll pursue shortly.

Census and City Directories

After no luck finding Max/Matel in the US Census for 1910 and 1920 (in Family Search and in Ancestry, plus Heritage Quest as well), I struck out looking for Max in the 1905 and 1915 New York State Census. These searches were via indexing, so shortly I'll try browsing the Census near where his siblings lived in NYC during those Census periods. He may have been mis-indexed and only by browsing will I find him, if he's in NY.

Heritage Quest has lots of city directories, but not from Chicago. That's why I used my Connecticut State Library card for remote access to Fold3 for free, from home, to look at Chicago city directories for the early 1900s. 

I found Max in the 1923 Chicago directory, a jeweler, right where he should be in the listings for Birk (see below), at the same address as on his naturalization papers. He's not in the 1915-6-7 Chicago directories, however. I'm still looking in the Chicago directories via Ancestry for a variation on Max's surname.

Max was living in Chicago in 1920, at 2525 W. 12th Street, according to his naturalization papers. My next step is to browse the 1920 census for Chicago in that area, and to look for additional Chicago directories from the 1920s to see when he stops appearing. UPDATE: Browsing Census images on HeritageQuest is going to take time, since the address could be in one of several wards.  I made a note of EDs and wards so I can stop and pick up in the same place along the way.