Friday, August 30, 2019

Honor Roll Project: War Memorial in North East, New York

Veterans Park in Millerton, town of North East, New York
Another beautifully-kept veterans park, another war memorial for Heather Rojo's Honor Roll Project. (BTW, this is my 100th blog post of 2019, with more to come!)

Memorial in town of North East, New York
These memorials are located in Millerton, NY, within the town of North East, New York.

Because blooms and shrubs partially obscure some names at the height of summer, I'll have to go back another time to photo and transcribe names from WWII.

Meanwhile, here are the visible names carved in the memorial stones, remembering those who served in the following conflicts.

War memorial in North East, NY - Thank you for your service!
Serving in Lebanon and Grenada: 

  • Brian A. Roux
  • Edward Watson, Jr.
Serving in Beirut:

  • Daniel Cuddeback, Jr.
  • John Boice, Jr.
  • Craig Furey
Serving in the Persian Gulf:

  • Robert Cuddeback
  • Michael Humbert
  • Thomas H. Garnto
  • Erik Breen
  • Adam H. Zies-Way
  • Joshua Malarchuk
  • Stephen K. Valyou
  • Victor Strickland
  • Clyde Miller
  • Thomas J. Stickles, Jr.
  • Robert Murphy
  • Luke Nelson
  • Louis Simmons

War memorial in North East, NY - thank you for your service!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Honor Roll Project: WWII Memorial in Gaylordsville, CT

World War II Memorial in Charlie Jones Veterans Memorial Park
Gaylordsville, Connecticut

As part of Heather Rojo's Honor Roll Project, I recently photographed this WWII memorial tucked into neat little Charlie Jones Veterans Memorial Park on Route 7 in Gaylordsville, Connecticut. You can see a closeup of the plaque at bottom of this post.

(Tip: Want to know where war memorials are located in Connecticut? Take a look at this website. And you can go to the site's main page to find other state's memorials as well.)

The names inscribed on this World War II memorial are:

Angell, Herbert L.
Atkins, George E.
Collins, Harold C.
Cornwell, Elizabeth
Dahl, Frederick H.
Dodd, Thomas J.
Dolan, Edward A.
Dolan, James R.
Donnelly, Edward M.
Dwy, Robert H.
Edeen, Adolph R.
Eslinger, Joseph D.
Flynn, John D.
Giddings, Henry W.B.
Grisell, Henry T.
Hills, Gordon E.
Hills, Richard C.
Hills, Robert L.
Jennings, Amos E.
Johnson, Robert A.
Parker, Allen R.
Parker, Hugh M.
Parker, Lawrence G.
Rosati, Leo J.
Rosati, Vincent V.
Strid, Burton L.
Thomas, Richard F.
Thomas, Thomas T.
Thomas, Willian E.
Townsend, Henry G.
Travis, Eugene R.
Wyble, Rupert D.

Gaylordsville, CT - Thank you for your service!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Entrepreneurial Dad and His Travel Agency

Harold Burk, travel agent, arriving in Honolulu
My Dad, Harold D. Burk (1909-1978), had a long-time goal to be his own boss and work in the travel business. Entrepreneurship runs in the family--both of my grandfathers owned their own businesses.

During the 1930s, when in his 20s, Dad began working his way up to becoming a travel agent. He started in big New York City hotels, getting bonded so his employers would know they could trust him with money and blank travel tickets, which were negotiable. Soon he was issuing railroad and bus tickets, as well as booking flights for his customers, the old-fashioned way--on paper.

Burk Travel Service

By 1948, Dad had established his own company, the Burk Travel Service, in the lobby of the swanky Savoy Plaza Hotel. This was diagonally across from the famous Plaza Hotel on 59th Street in the heart of Manhattan. In the late 1950s, the Trader Vic's tiki restaurant opened on the ground floor of the Savoy Plaza, adding even more glamour and attracting celebrities to the place.

During the years he was in business, Dad and his younger brother Sidney Burk (1914-1995) worked together to make travel arrangements for all sorts of clients, including big-wigs and celebs who stayed at the Savoy Plaza Hotel. My sisters and I squealed with delight when Dad would bring home signed photos or 45 rpm records from rock groups at the hotel, including Gerry and the Pacemakers, known for Ferry Across the Mersey (among other hits).

Through Dad's work, our family also got free tickets to the New York World's Fair in 1964-5, admission to the Ed Sullivan TV show in New York, the Circle Line boat trip around Manhattan, and even sightseeing flights around LaGuardia Airport.

By 1960, the Savoy Plaza hotel was owned by Hilton and renamed the Savoy Hilton, as shown in the above 1960 Manhattan phone directory listing for Dad's Burk Travel Service. Alas, the hotel was soon torn down to make way for the General Motors Building. Dad never again had his own travel agency, although he worked in parts of the industry for several more years.

Hawaii for the Weekend

With a growing family of three girls, Dad rarely had the opportunity to actually travel despite being in the business. Still, one time he was able to go on a free travel agents' trip to Hawaii, one of his dream destinations.

Dad had barely arrived in Honolulu and gotten a welcome lei (photo at top) when we three girls all became ill. After only a weekend in paradise, Dad flew back home to New York to help out. He never got to Hawaii again, although my sis and I and our families went there in early 2000!

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt of "At Work" for this week.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Happy 11th Blogiversary!

Eleven years ago this week, I began my genealogy blog wondering about my paternal great-grandfather, Meyer Elias Mahler. By now, I've added many twigs and branches to that part of my family tree.

In recent months, I even discovered two sons of Meyer and his wife (great-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler), boys who died very young and weren't remembered by later generations. I put them on my public tree so their names will not be forgotten ever again.

That's one of the main reasons I do genealogy: to keep alive the memory of my ancestors and let future generations know about their roots in the past.

Thank you!

Heart-felt thanks to the cousins, extended family members, and researchers who have contacted me via my blog! I am so grateful to be connected with you, getting to know you, and exploring our ancestors' lives together. Such fun and so rewarding.

To all my dear readers, thank you so much for posting comments, offering advice, and returning to read my blog.

After more than 1,130 posts, I'm looking forward to new discoveries, new technologies, new ancestors, and most of all, new connections with friends and family!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Merger! NGS + FGS

At #FGS2019, two major genealogical societies today announced their plan to merge. The Federation of Genealogical Societies just sent this press release: 
"We are excited to tell you that this morning, at our national conference in Washington D. C., we announced our intent to merge with the National Genealogical Society. The Federation was formed in 1976 in order to provide support to genealogical and historical societies. 
Key objectives during the past four decades have been to: promote the study of genealogy, stimulate the activities of state and local organizations, provide resources that enable genealogical organizations to succeed in pursuing their missions, and advocate for the preservation of records.
The intended merger with NGS will enhance our ability to support societies and offer services that will help strengthen them and help them to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing, technology-driven, volunteer-challenged environment.
The merged organization will be known as NGS, and will host a single, 5-day genealogy conference in 2021, in Richmond, Virginia, during May. That's great news!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Great-Great-Grandma Sarah Averts Tragedy

Sarah Harris Slatter marries John Shuttleworth in Surrey, UK 1862
My husband's 2d great-grandma, Sarah Harris Slatter Shuttleworth, was instrumental in saving at least one grandchild from the tragedy of grinding poverty.

This is my conclusion after reading UK Census data and workhouse records. Here's the story. (Watch out for the various family members named John, Mary, Thomas, and Sarah in successive generations.)

Great-great Grandma Sarah in the UK Census

The first mention I found of Sarah Harris Slatter was in the 1841 UK Census, where she is 25 years old and married to John Slatter, a cook in Oxfordshire. Sarah was born in Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire, around 1813. Sarah and John's children children Fanny, Thomas, and Sarah are in the household, along with Sarah's brother Richard. At this point, Sarah and her husband John had been married for 9 years (according to wedding records at St. Ebbe Church).
John Slatter and Sarah Harris Slatter in 1841 UK Census

By 1851, the UK Census shows her as a widowed hat sewer with four children: Fanny, age 18, b. 1833 in Middlesex, a gaiter maker; John (Jr.), age 14, b. 1837 in Middlesex, a printers' boy; William, age 5, b. 1846 in Christchurch, Surrey; and 14-month-old Daniel, b. abt 1850, in Christchurch, Surrey.

Slatter Family Crisis of Poverty

By 1861, the Census shows Sarah's son, John Slatter, Jr. married to Mary Shehen Slatter, living in notoriously poor Whitechapel. In that Census, they have one child, Thomas Slatter. During the next eight years, John and Mary Slatter have five more children.

Trouble is brewing: He is in and out of work, sometimes abandons the family, and Mary has to cope with children in dire poverty. Soon the records show that she and five children bounce in and out of workhouses and poorhouses.

Ultimately, Mary Shehen Slatter enters an insane asylum (diagnosed with melancholia as a result of extreme poverty and misfortune). She meets with a tragic end, dying of tuberculosis 15 years later. Meanwhile, the children go separate ways, three boys sent to a military training ship and two girls at school. Except for Thomas Slatter, the eldest child, who never appears in the workhouse and poorhouse records. Why? That's where Sarah Harris returns to the story of this family crisis.

Grandchildren Living with Sarah and Second Husband

I kept looking for Thomas Slatter because he was missing from the workhouse admission/discharge records. Finally, a wonderful blog reader located him in the 1871 Census in the household of his grandma Sarah Harris Slatter Shuttleworth and step-grandpa John Shuttleworth. I backtracked to find Sarah's 1862 remarriage to Shuttleworth, who were both widowed, in Christchurch, Surrey. This is the correct Sarah, according to her birthplace and other details.

By 1871, John Shuttleworth and his wife Sarah are living at 32 Gravel Lane in London. And lo and behold, they have several of Sarah's grandchildren living with them.

First listed is Thomas Slatter, age 10, who would otherwise have been in and out of workhouses with the rest of his siblings. Instead, he's here with his paternal grandmother and step-grandfather. Plus some first cousins, other grandchildren of Sarah.

Right under Thomas in the Shuttleworth household listing is grandchild Sarah Gardner, 13 years old. She is the second daughter of Sarah Harris's daughter Fanny Slatter and husband John C. Gardner. Other Gardner grandchildren were living with their parents in 1871 but not Sarah, who on this day was with her grandma and step-gramps. Why? Perhaps an early version of day care? After all, John Gardner was working.

Also in the household is grandchild Sarah Slatter, age 3. I believe this is Elizabeth Sarah Ann Slatter, daughter of Sarah Harris's youngest son William Slatter and wife Mary Anne. Again, was this a day-care situation or was the little girl actually living with the Shuttleworths? I don't know.

Saving Thomas from Possible Tragedy

Here's what I do know: Five children of John Slatter and Mary Shehen Slatter were in and out of workhouses (including hubby's grandma) for a few years after John deserted them. Mary couldn't work steadily or earn enough to maintain a household. She was extremely depressed and unable to cope.

Mary's oldest son, Thomas Slatter, avoided workhouses and poorhouses because his grandma Sarah Harris Slatter Shuttleworth took him in and raised him.

The entire family can be proud of what Sarah, with her husband John, did to keep Thomas safe.

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

What's So Funny About Family History?

Index to my maternal Farkas Family Tree
meeting minutes, 1933-1964
This week's #52Ancestors challenge by Amy Johnson Crow is comedy. Reading through 500 pages of Farkas Family Tree meeting minutes (index shown above), I found a few tidbits that made me smile.

The Farkas Family Tree was founded by descendants of my maternal great-grandparents, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938). It was active from 1933 through 1964. By the time I was old enough to be inducted as a member, the organization was inactive. Some of the incidents I'm going to mention here occurred way before my time, others just within living memory ;0

For instance, the minutes noted that "the twins" (me and my sister) at age four, "went exploring in their pajamas one morning. At 6 am, they walked out of the apartment and were on their way when Mom found them in the hall." Good thing she found us, we lived in a big apartment building in the Bronx! Another report was how one of us decided to scour the kitchen floor with cinnamon. Hoo boy. Funny now, but not funny to Mom at the time!

Serious About Food 

Each and every meeting included some kind of food, serious eating really, but often described with humor. In February, 1934, the minutes reported on a "Pickled Herring Party" that began at 6 pm and continued well past 9 pm. Let me quote: "Boy, oh boy, how those poor herrings suffered, being torn from fin to fin, not to mention the scads of pickled onions also consumed."

Often the snack or meal included quote "stinkin' cheeses" unquote supplied by one of the dairy grocers, most likely the bachelor great uncles, Julius and Peter. I found these mentioned, along with gefilte fish, stuffed cabbage, corned beef, and other delicacies, in the minutes of the 1930s and the 1940s. At a 1945 meeting, the secretary says, "The way we made that most delicious roast beef disappear, one would think we were the descendants of Houdini." In short, the hosts and hostesses seemed to enjoy trying to outdo each other with feasts at monthly meetings.

Funny About Money

From the beginning, paying membership dues involved nagging in a nice way. At one meeting, a trustee said he had audited "last year's swindle sheets" and found $5 missing. What happened? A member said he had paid his dues but the treasurer claimed not have received the cash. To keep the peace, a motion was passed to drop the matter entirely.

Then there were decisions (sometimes loud discussions) about what the family tree would and would not pay for. Regardless of the amount, bills were reported in the minutes. Quoting from the June 1944 minutes: "Bills, now as unwelcome as ever, reared their ugly heads, to the tune of eight dollars."

More than once, when a new treasurer was elected, the minutes observed that the old treasurer happened [wink, wink] to have acquired a new car while being in charge of the tree's money. Since the treasury rarely had more than $100, it's safe to assume coincidence only, right?

Genealogical and Biography Committees--No Kidding

Left unfinished by the tree association were two projects which descendants like myself would dearly love to have, all kidding aside.

Only a few years after the organization began, a "Genealogical Committee" was formed to put the family tree down on paper. After a few months of reporting to the meetings that the committee was "making progress," the idea was dropped during the 1930s. The project was unsuccessfully revived for the tree association's 25th anniversary in 1958. Alas, no written tree was ever given to members or passed down in the family.

Just before WWII, a great uncle had the idea to form a "Biography Committee." He tried for more than a year to collect biographies written by the founding members of the tree. Once again, it was a good idea that never quite worked out, because few members participated. Oh, how I would have enjoyed reading these biographies from the past, a kind of genealogical "mug book" of Farkas ancestors.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Great-Uncle David Mahler, the Wanderer

My great uncle David Mahler (1882-1964) was the black sheep of his family. Oldest son of my great-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler (185?-1952) and great-grandpa Meyer Elias Mahler (1861-1910), David got in trouble with the law as a teenager and then was involved in an incident where he fell asleep and his burning cigarette lit a fire that destroyed his brother-in-law's paint store.

In 1905, David was still living at home with his entire family in a large tenement in Jewish Harlem, New York City. According to the NY Census, his occupation was "driver." Interestingly, crowded in along with David's parents and six siblings were two "boarders," Isidore Burk and Myer Burk. (They were actually Isaac Burk--hi Grandpa!--and Meyer Berg. Isaac married David's sister Henrietta in 1906.)

David Mahler in Toronto?

David and his sister Henrietta were born in Riga, Latvia, according to their father's naturalization papers. (My guess is they were actually from a nearby small town that U.S. officials wouldn't recognize or be able to spell--Riga is both recognized and easy to spell!)

Searching for more immigration records of the Mahler family, I did a fresh search on David. Up popped the index card at top, a summary of a border crossing at Detroit from a Canadian Pacific Railway manifest dated Christmas Day of 1906.

There are a lot of similarities with MY David Mahler. Born in Riga, yes. Spent time in U.S., yes. Age is correct for my great uncle. But could this really be David, formerly of New York City, now leaving Toronto by train for Chicago to be a waiter?

Page 2 of WWII Draft Registration Card

For a physical description of David Mahler, I looked at his WWI and WWII draft registration cards.

Sometimes page 2 of draft registration cards doesn't always show up in the initial image. Be sure to advance one page in the image files to look at the entire card!

Here's page 2 of David's WWII draft card. His height is the same as on the border crossing card shown at top. His hair is black, same as in the border crossing card. Eyes are brown, same. I was surprised to see both describe his complexion as "ruddy" but the match goes a long way toward persuading me that my great uncle David was crossing from Toronto to Chicago via Detroit. (The tattoo must have been done after his WWI registration, since it's not listed on that card.)

Missing Years in David Mahler's Life

In the bigger picture, I'm still looking for what happened to David Mahler between 1907, when he was bound for Chicago, and 1918. That's the year he registered for the WWI draft with an address in Camden, N.J., where he was working as a rigger.

The Chicago city directory for 1914 lists a David Mahler working as a salesman and living at 6135 S. May. Using Google maps, I see that's a home, not an apartment building, way down on the South Side of Chicago. This might not be MY David Mahler.

Also, I haven't yet found him in the 1910 US Census. That's the year his father died. Did he return home for the funeral? Nor have I found him in the 1920 Census. Creative spelling hasn't helped.

According to the 1940 US Census, David was living in High Point, N.C. in 1935. So far, no city directory confirms this.

In 1940, he's living in Los Angeles and working for an in-law at a big movie studio. I've confirmed that employment and that address as being accurate--plus David registered to vote in 1940 at same address and remained there for years.

Wondering About Wandering

SO . . . my research indicates that David Mahler went from his birthplace in Latvia to New York City to Toronto (no border crossing doc yet) to Chicago (border crossing doc at top) to Camden, N.J. (WWI draft card) to High Point (so says 1940 Census) to Los Angeles (lots of solid documentation), where he died in May of 1964. What a wanderer! Wonder why?

David was a bachelor, and by researching and documenting his life, I'm keeping his memory alive for future generations who never met him.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Cousin Bait Leads to Discovery of Another Family History Book

My husband's Larimer family intermarried with members of the Work, Short, and McKibbin families in America.

One reason we know this is from the detailed Larimer family history book researched by John Clarence Work (1875-1962) and his father, Aaron Work (1837-1924). The book suggests that there were ties among the families back in the original home towns, before these ancestors crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

Believing that researching siblings, cousins, and in-laws can lead to more genealogical breakthroughs, I've been looking at the Work family connections with the Larimer family. And, of course, I've been blogging about the Work family.

My cousin bait blog posts have attracted a couple of inquiries--including one distant Work cousin who knew something I didn't about John Clarence Work.

Larimer Family History

A photocopy of the Larimer family history survived in my husband's family, along with my in-laws' hand-written corrections of spelling and dates for some of the people mentioned in the book. I've used the book and the corrections as a starting point for researching my husband's family, grateful for the clues and comments.

John Clarence Work and his father not only traced the Larimer family tree, they also compiled the names and brief bios of descendants of the original Larimer immigrant who left Northern Ireland about 1740 to make a new life in America. Happily for any Larimer descendant, the Larimer Family History is available for free, in its entirety, on FamilySearch (follow this direct link to the book).

As it happens, John Clarence Work was in touch with my late mother- and father-in-law during the 1950s, asking about their lives and the names/dates of their children (including my hubby). So I know how much effort they put into this family history. What I didn't know is that this was not the only family history done by John Clarence Work.

Work Family History

The Work cousin who contacted me via my blog said he was in touch with the Fairfield District Library in Lancaster, Ohio, near where the Work family once lived. The librarian kindly scanned and sent to him several pages from a book about Work family history, cowritten by John Clarence Work with his niece, Rhoda Fisher Work. That gave me an idea...

I searched the Family Search catalog for books by John Clarence Work. And I discovered that the Work Family History, like the Larimer Family History, is also available for free, in its entirety, on FamilySearch (follow this direct link to the book). What a treasure trove of genealogical clues!

One lesson learned from this experience is: If someone in the family wrote a family history, check to see whether that person wrote a second or third family history. Check the local library and historical/genealogical society in the area where these ancestors lived, and check Family Search as well.

Thank you to the Work cousin who contacted me and shared what he'd learned about the Work family history book!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

My Immigrant Ancestors: Isaac Burk's Sisters

This shows Lithuania in 1939-1940,
as Germans and Russians claimed sections.

Orange sliver in west is where my Burk/Birk
ancestors came from. 
Last week's #52Ancestors prompt was "brothers." This week, for the "sisters" prompt, I look at the two sisters of my paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk. The family was originally from northwest Lithuania, as shown on the map above.

I was able to research Jennie, in particular, thanks to the FAN club--friends, associates, neighbors.

Younger sister: Jennie Birk

My first clue that Jennie Birk (1890-1972) was Grandpa's sister came in the 1910 US Census, where I found her as a boarder living in the Manhattan household of newly-widowed Tillie Jacobs Mahler (my paternal great-grandma). Only in the past couple of years did I discover how Jennie was related to me, by comparing my mother's old address book and two letters written by my aunt to her Aunt Jennie. Subsequently, I found Jennie in a passenger manifest of 1909, arriving at Ellis Island on her own.

Jennie married Paul Salkowitz (1889-1957) in 1919. They remained in Manhattan for a time, but by 1940, they were living in the same Bronx apartment building as her older brother Isaac Burk (yes, my Grandpa). There they were, right on the same Census page, as neighbors! Jennie proudly said she was born in Lithuania. (I know because there was an X with a circle next to her name in the Census, indicating she herself gave the info to the enumerator.)

Paul and Jennie were among the Burk family members in attendance at my parents' wedding in New York City in 1946. By 1950, they were in Lakeland, Florida, where her brother Meyer was living. Paul's occupation was shown in the city directory as "citrus grower," the same as Meyer's occupation. Jennie was a devoted aunt, I know from a cousin's memory and letters written by her niece. If only I could have met her!

Older sister: Nellie Neshe Block
Grave of Nellie Block, sister of
my grandpa Isaac Burk

Nellie (1879-1950) seems to have been the first in the Burk family to arrive in America, something that surprised me. The first documentation I have shows her in 1904 in the Jewish Harlem household of Tillie Mahler and husband Meyer Mahler (my great-grandparents). Isaac Burk (my grandpa) said he was going to her when he arrived at Ellis Island that year. The NY Census of 1905 and the US Census of 1910 show Nellie living on Henry Street, in the Lower East Side of New York.

In the 1910 Census, Nellie said she was born in Russia--but, interestingly, the enumerator wrote (Lith) next to that. According to this Census, Nellie arrived in the US in 1899. According to the 1905 Census, she had been in the US for 12 years. Um, a discrepancy...

So far, no sign of her in a passenger manifest, but that could be because of the many variations in the surname. Block, Burk, Birk, Berk, Burke were some of the ways my ancestors spelled their name.
The NYC Death Index says Nellie died in Brooklyn on 22 December 1950. I've found her in the 1949 and 1950 Brooklyn telephone directories (free via Internet Archive, see this page I used) at the address 1654 E. 13 Street. I spent $15 to request a copy of her death cert to see additional info, and hope I don't have to wait too long.

Nellie's gravestone shows her Hebrew name as "Neshi, daughter of Sholom." The relatives who put up the stone thought she was 85 years old at her death, but that's not consistent with what she told the Census, which equates to a birth year of 1878 or 1879--meaning she died at the age of 71 or 72. Again, I wish I had known great aunt Nellie.