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.

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