Saturday, September 28, 2019

Researching Regina's Penmanship Award

Penmanship award earned by Regina Farkas
A cousin kindly sent me this Penmanship Certificate honoring my maternal great aunt Regina Farkas (1905-1987). Cousins know I'm collecting miscellaneous items like this, storing them in archival boxes, and passing them down to the genealogist of the next generation (who has already agreed to be custodian of the family's history!).

Of course I could not resist researching when this might have been been awarded to Jeanne, as she was known in the family. Maybe she was about 10 or so when she won the award? That was my initial starting place for the research.

Finding Regina in 1915 NY Census

In the past, I had not found the family in the 1915 New York State Census. This gave me the motivation to look harder.

Although I had no luck at Ancestry, I redid my search on On both sites, I was looking for the family as a group (Regina/Jeanne with her siblings and her parents).

On the first page of Family Search results, near the bottom, I found the Farkas family in the 1915 NY Census. Not as "Farkas" of course. Too easy!

Sound Out the Name!

1915 New York Census showing the Farkas family as "Forcash"

The enumerator listed Regina and her family under the surname "Forcash" which was how the parents would have pronounced it with their Hungarian accents.

This isn't the first time my Farkas family was elusive because of the way someone heard their surname pronounced. Earlier this year, I wrote about another cousin finding Regina's father Morris Furkosh in the 1900 Census by sounding out his name as he would have spoken it. Furkosh and Forcash probably sounded very similar to Census enumerators. Found you, Farkas family!

Moving to the Bronx

What about Regina and her penmanship award? The Farkas family was still living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan at the time of the 1915 NY Census I just found. Logically, she didn't win the award in 1915 or earlier, since the family wasn't yet living in the Bronx, New York.

That meant I had to examine later records in search of a Bronx ddress.

In 1920, according to the U.S. Census, the Farkas family was living at 843 Whitlock Avenue in the Bronx.

As the map shows, the school was a good 20 minute walk away from Whitlock Avenue, marked on the map with a red star near the Soundview section of the Bronx. At the time, this was a desirable area of the Bronx, where many immigrants moved to escape the crowds of the Lower East Side.

Narrowing the Period for Regina's Award

In the 1925 New York Census, the Farkas family was still living at the same Bronx apartment on Whitlock Avenue. By that time, however, Regina was out of school and working as a bookkeeper.

I'm therefore narrowing down the period when my great aunt won her award as the time between about 1916-1920. After 1920, she would have been older than 15 and very unlikely to be in an elementary school.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Grandparents' Birthplaces: All Over the Map

Birthplaces of McClure, Wood, Steiner ancestors - plus Slatter in London, England
For this week's #52Ancestors challenge (thank you to Amy Johnson Crow), I mapped where in the world my grandparents and my husband's grandparents were born.

They were born all over the map.

Hubby's Grandparents - Larimer, Steiner, Slatter, and Wood

Three of my husband's grandparents were born in the American Midwest, one in England.

  • Maternal grandpa Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) was born in Little Traverse, Michigan, while his parents tried farming there for a short time.
  • Maternal grandma Floyda Mabel Steiner (1878-1948) was born in Nevada, Ohio. Her birth certificate was really "delayed" (only issued in 1944, most likely so she could apply for Social Security).
  • Paternal grandpa James Edgar Wood (1871-1939) was born in Toledo, Ohio. He was one of 17 children, 8 of whom were born in Toledo.
  • Paternal grandma Mary Slatter (1869-1925) was born in London, in the poorest of the poor sections of Whitechapel. (Her birthplace is not on the map at top--just couldn't fit it in!)
My Grandparents - Farkas, Schwartz, Burk, and Mahler

Birthplaces of Farkas, Schwartz, Mahler, and Burk ancestors

None of my grandparents had America roots--all were born in Eastern Europe and settled in New York City soon after the turn of the 20th century.

  • Maternal grandma Hermina Farkas (1886-1964) was born in Berehovo, Hungary, not very far from where her future husband was born.
  • Maternal grandpa Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965) was born in Ungvar, Hungary, but met his future wife in a Hungarian delicatessen in the Lower East Side of New York City, according to family lore.
  • Paternal grandma Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) was born near Riga, Latvia, according to her husband's naturalization paperwork. I hope someday to better pinpoint her birthplace.
  • Paternal grandpa Isaac Burk (1881-1943) was born in Gargzdai, Lithuania and married his wife Henrietta in New York City.

Monday, September 16, 2019

HeritageQuest Off the Connecticut State Library Website--Updated!

Very disappointed to learn that the Connecticut State Library's ongoing budget crunch has caused it to reluctantly axe HeritageQuest Online. **Update: It's back on the CT State Library website and available with a CT state library card, which is completely free!

Heritage Quest is free, and available from home at any hour, with a local library card in many states.

I've been showing CT genealogy clubs how to use HeritageQuest for months. Response has been very positive as more people realize how much of a gold mine it is!

Free Access to City Directories, Census, Wills, and More

In addition to U.S. Census records and special schedules (showing Civil War veterans, industrial and agricultural enterprises, and deaths), this wonderfully useful database has city directories for many areas, Canadian Census, Revolutionary War records, books, wills and probate records, immigration records (limited), and much more.

If You Live in Connecticut...get a CT state library card.

For several months, this wonderful free database was  removed from the Connecticut State Library's listing of databases, victim of budget issues.

All you have to do access this genealogy resource from home at any hour is live in CT and get a free CT state library card. Here are the instructions.

Please use HeritageQuest so that the library recognizes it has real value to genealogy enthusiasts. Thank you!

If you live in the Nutmeg State, please consider contacting your state legislators and the governor to say:

  • Genealogy is more popular than ever before, a fast-growing hobby of interest to all ages and in all parts of the state.
  • Genealogy searches are the most common type of search on the CT State Library's website. 
  • The CT State Library can't just juggle money--it's been cut for too many years and yet it must stretch its shrinking budget to retain legally-required databases for education purposes.
  • Look for ways to increase the State Library's budget so we can afford a database that serves all ages, seniors and other adults as well as students.
  • We like HeritageQuest, we use HeritageQuest, and we really, really, really want it back.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

McClure Cousin Bait on FamilySearch

Cousin Bait on Family Search 
I married my husband for his ancestors!

His many ancestors left photos, genealogical paperwork, diaries, newspaper clippings, and more. Lucky me!

Thanks to cousin L, the Wood family historian, we know a great deal about the Wood side of the family. My late father-in-law Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) had five Mayflower ancestors.

Cousin Bait on Family Search

So far, we don't have connections with too many McClure cousins--those related to ancestors of my late mother-in-law, Marian Jane McClure Wood (1909-1983).

Now I'm adding cousin bait to my husband's McClure ancestors on the Family Search family tree. See the screen shot above of some McClure ancestors and how I've begun personalizing their profiles on Family Search.

Personal Photos = Cousin Bait

Because Family Search has only one collaborative tree, any researcher who comes across these personal photos will see me as the source.

I'm easy to contact via Family Search (my email contact is up to date). And since Family Search is free, I know a lot of people use it for research and documenting family trees.

Sometime soon, I hope McClure cousins will get in touch after noticing the personal photos I posted on ancestor profiles.

Watchlist of Ancestors

Also, I'm "watching" other McClure and Larimer ancestors to see whether other researchers post any personal photos or other personalized details. Then I can check the source and contact those people, offering to share info.

Here's a watchlist of 7 people I'm watching so far on Family Search. I take a look every so often for any changes or photos posted to these ancestors, hoping that I'll connect with a few more McClure cousins.


Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this #52 Ancestors prompt of "cousins" for week 38.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Grandma Minnie's "Mistake"

Daisy & Dorothy Schwartz, mid-1920s
Mom (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981), tried to break into freelance writing during the 1960s, drafting a children's book and several magazine articles that never got printed.

One draft that my twin sis and I recently found was for a magazine article titled, "I'm Proud of My Twins, But . . . " It was about Mom's experience growing up as a twin (her sis was Dorothy Schwartz, 1919-2001), and her experience raising twins.

Mom writes that her mother (Hermina "Minnie" Farkas Schwartz, 1886-1964, my maternal grandma) made a big mistake.

Mom Waits for Her Baby 

Early in the article, Mom thinks back to a remark she herself made late in her own pregnancy. This was in the old, old days, the time before ultrasound. Nobody knew whether a baby would be a boy or a girl, let alone how many.

Mom told a neighbor just days before going to the hospital to give birth:
"If I ever have a set of twins, I'll never make the same mistake my mother did."
Surprise! Twins

It was quite a surprise to the whole family when Mom had two little girls, only two minutes apart, neither weighing 5 lbs.

My father (Harold Burk, 1909-1978) spent an entire roll of dimes making calls to family and friends from the pay phone on the maternity ward. (I did say it was the old, old days.) Happy phone calls, spreading the surprising news about Mom having twins! Even a week later, my Grandma Minnie was quite speechless when asked how it felt to have twin granddaughters.

Grandma Minnie's Mistake

Eleven years after her twins were born, here's what my Mom wrote about Minnie's mistake. The all-caps are from the original typewritten draft.
"What was The Mistake my mother made that I set out to rectify? It was PRIDE . . . dressing twins alike, urging them to follow the same bent, keeping them in each other's company constantly, and sharing everything."
My mother and her twin sister were dressed alike until age 18, and sat together in classrooms throughout their school careers until graduating high school. Mom was the younger twin, and often looked to her sister for emotional support and friendship. During WWII, when Auntie Dorothy joined the WAACs and was away from home for several years, Mom had to learn a new kind of independence, which was challenging but also rewarding, she writes.

Avoiding the Mistake

In the rest of the article, Mom writes about encouraging each twin to be an individual and be independent. She mentions specifics, including separate wardrobes, separate classes, separate friends, and separate interests for each child.

However, as my Sis points out, separating us meant that one twin sometimes had a better teacher while the other twin was in a far less-desirable class situation. Mom and Dad didn't acknowledge or appreciate that separating us in school could have negative consequences for the twin who was not with the better teacher or better class.

As my husband points out, parents try their best, and wind up making different kinds of mistakes than our parents made. That's what happened when Mom tried to avoid her mother's mistake while raising twins.

Yet in the end, Mom accomplished her goal of encouraging Sis and me to choose our own ways of life, with our own friendships, interests, careers, and tastes.


Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the "mistake" prompt for week 37 in her long-running #52Ancestors series.

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Mayflower Left England 399 Years Ago Today

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, by William Halsall.jpg
By William Halsall - Pilgrim Hall Museum, Public Domain, Link

On this day in 1620, the Mayflower sailed away from Plymouth, England, bound for America.

The ship held five of my husband's ancestors:

  • Isaac Allerton
  • Mary Norris Allerton, Isaac's wife
  • Mary Allerton, their daughter
  • Francis Cooke
  • Degory Priest
Alas, of these five, only Mary Allerton and Francis Cooke survived that first winter.

Remembering hubby's Mayflower ancestors on this day and honoring their memory.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

When Did The Schwartz Twins Start Kindergarten?

The Schwartz twins at P.S. 62 on Fox Street in the Bronx, New York
Finally I'm writing a new Family Memory Booklet about my mother (Daisy Schwartz, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Schwartz, 1919-2001). In the process, I've been assembling photos and stories from their childhood. I'm also doing my best to date each photo for the sake of future generations.

Together in Kindergarten 

Above, a photo from the Schwartz twins' kindergarten class at P.S. 62 on Fox Street in the Bronx, New York. The school was directly across the street from their apartment building.

In the photo, I think Daisy is on the left, Dorothy on the right. I'll let my Sis weigh in, perhaps her eyes are keener than mine.

Judging by the jack-o-lanterns, the photo was taken in October--but which year?

Checking the New York Census

As shown above, the twins (Dottie and Daisy) were 5 years old on June 1, 1925, the date that this New York State census was taken. The twins' 5th birthday was December 4, 1924.

In the household with the twins were their parents, Theodore and Hermina Schwartz, and older brother, Fred. Hermina didn't tell the enumerator her correct age, as usual. She was actually a bit older than her husband, but often shaved a year or two or three off her age when answering questions like on this census.

I noticed that in this 1925 NY census, 12-year-old Fred's occupation was "school" but the twins had nothing written in that column.

So I now believe the twins began kindergarten in the fall of 1925, when they were still 5. I'm dating the kindergarten as October, 1925.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this "School Days" #52Ancestors prompt.