Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Happy Halloween to the Wood Boys in Cleveland

Penny postcard sent by Rachel Ellen "Nellie" Wood Lewis Kirby
to her nephew, Walter W. Wood, around 1910.
When my late father-in-law Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) and his three brothers were young, they would receive seasonal greeting cards like this from their aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Above, a postcard sent by Aunt Nellie, who lived in Chicago, to her nephew in Cleveland, Ohio, around 1910.

Wishing you only #Genealogy treats, no #FamilyHistory tricks, this Halloween.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

From Blog Posts to Ancestor Booklet

Sample page from "Three Ancestors Who Caught Ohio Fever"
Will the younger generation think the #FamilyHistory booklet I wrote this week is a trick or a treat?

Just in time to mail this for Halloween, I combined and edited three recent blog posts into a colorful seven-page booklet about my husband's pioneer ancestors in Ohio. One of these ancestors was born in the American Colonies, the year before the Revolution began; the other two were born in the newly-independent United States. All caught "Ohio fever" and went west for fresh, fertile farm land. That's my theme for the booklet.

The Pioneer Lives of Denning, McClure, and Larimer

To introduce the booklet, I created a cover page with a large, colorful map of the United States in 1785. It shows descendants where their ancestors Job Denning, John Larimer, and John McClure lived in the East before they moved.

The map also shows their wilderness destination in the Northwest Territory, then the western frontier of the fledgling country. Land beyond that belonged to Spain. Ohio statehood was years in the future when these ancestors began to clear trees for farming. All this is historical context that helps descendants understand and appreciate what their ancestors faced as pioneers.

Two Pages Per Ancestor

After the cover page, each of the ancestors has a two-page spread, including a full-color regional map (where he lived, where he moved). This is followed by a brief biographical sketch, written simply but in vivid terms, tracing each man's life from birth to marriage to children to final resting place.

The women in their lives figure prominently in my narrative because they, too, were pioneers--wives for all but also daughters, in some cases.

Where I had enough details, I mentioned specific pioneering activities, such as helping to found a church or serving in the local militia.

The excerpt at top shows the second page of Job Denning's ancestor sketch. I tried to succinctly sum up his life in context (above, I called Job Denning a "pioneer turned civic leader").

Descendants Want to Know: How Are They Related to ME?

These ancestors lived, like, a l-o-n-g time ago, right? I want my grandkids to see at a glance how, exactly, they're related to each of these ole-timey ancestors. 

So at the end of each sketch, I included a quick pedigree of the ancestor couple and the descendants in the direct line to my grandkids.

This will, I hope, give the youngest a very concrete idea of the family connections between them and their pioneering great-great-great-great-great grandparents!

Maybe the booklet will "trick" them into understanding that their ancestors weren't just old-fashioned characters from family history--they were true pioneers who actually made American history.

It was a treat for me to put this together.

This week's #52Ancestors prompt is "trick or treat" - thanks to Amy Johnson Crow.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

McClure Ancestors Worked on the Railroad

1909 marriage of John A. Logan McClure and Alice Williams
The northern region of Michigan was home to a cluster of my husband's McClure ancestors for several decades, beginning in the late 1800s.

Some tried farming, some worked on the railroad. One did both! One had a succession of transportation-related jobs.

From Farm to Railroad 

My husband's great-great uncle John N. McClure was born in Wabash county, Indiana, the son of a prominent farmer.

He farmed in Indiana for several decades, then uprooted the family to move to the northern tip of Michigan, in Little Traverse (see map).

In the 1900 Census, John said he was a tenant farmer. But by 1910, at age 69, he said he was a railroad engineer. This was a golden age of railroading in the area, where tracks were laid to haul lumber out. 

Two Sons in Transportation 

Not surprisingly, one son, John A. Logan McClure, had an affinity for the railroad.

You can see a snippet of John's marriage record from 1909 at top of this post. He said his occupation was "railroading." He lived and worked in Grand Traverse, Michigan, a hub of railroad activity.

Another son, Edgar Addison McClure, also born in Indiana, became a teamster in Illinois (1900), a driver for Wells Fargo in California (1910), and finally worked as a chauffeur in Los Angeles (1920).

Lots of transportation occupations! Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's transportation prompt in the #52Ancestors series.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Hint, Hint--Ancestor Adventures with Hints

Once upon a time, I wished for hints, hoping for clues that would lead me to learn more about ancestors.

Be careful what you wish for!

My husband's family tree is now overflowing with hints, as you can see from the above summary.

Filtering Hints

Many of these hints are for too-distant ancestors. Many of the photos are of DNA or ships or flags.

To winnow down the avalanche of hints, I sort by last name and filter by last name. Above, an example of an ancestor I am quite interested in. He's the first of many ancestors named Work with hints waiting to be evaluated. I can see, at a glance, hints for all ancestors named Work by sorting and filtering, making my adventures in hint-land easier and more productive.

Hints for Ancestors Near and Far

Some of the hints I'm reviewing turn out to be  helpful, even if they refer to ancestors on the outskirts of the tree.

Here, for instance, is a newspaper clipping about the wife of a 2d cousin 3x removed. It led me to names of other ancestors slightly closer to those I'm actively researching.

More adventures in hint-land are in my future.

Thanks, as always, to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt, "adventure."

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Grandma Minnie in Costume for the Kossuth Society Ball

Hermina Farkas in costume for the Kossuth Society Ball, 1909
My Grandma Hermina "Minnie" Farkas (1886-1964) was a member of the Kossuth Ferencz Hungarian Literary Sick and Benevolent Society.

On December 4, 1909* she dressed in costume for the Kossuth Society's 5th anniversary gala ball. The ball raised money to further the society's aims of helping new immigrants get established in New York City and supporting a library for literacy.

The photo at top, showing Grandma at age 23 in 1909, was taken by the Society's official photographer, Gustav Beldegreen, in his studio on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Earlier this year, a professor in Hungary contacted me after reading about Beldegreen and the Society on this blog. He is researching Hungarian-American photographers and is interested in Beldegreen's involvement with the Society.

I provided him with a high-resolution version of Grandma Minnie's photo, including the dimensions, and high-resolution versions of pages scanned from the Society's special anniversary souvenir booklet.

When the professor's book is published, Grandma Minnie's photo will be included, along with a mini-bio (born in what is now Berehove, Ukraine; arrived at Ellis Island on November 12, 1901, just two days after her 15th birthday; married Theodore "Teddy" Schwartz, in 1911; died in the Bronx, NY on March 20, 1964.)

It makes me feel good that Grandma Minnie will live on in the pages of this book, forever young.
* Exactly 10 years later, Grandma gave birth to twin girls, my mother and aunt, Daisy and Dorothy Schwartz.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Ancestral Home I'd Most Like to Visit: Gargzdai

Grandpa Isaac Burk's hometown of Gargzdai
This week, Randy Seaver's Saturday Night #Genealogy Fun topic is "Which ancestral home would you most like to visit?" (Topic suggested by Linda Stufflebean, thanks!)

My paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943) and his siblings were from Gargzdai (confirmed by numerous documents).

Near a Baltic port, the town changed borders over the years as powerful neighboring empires acquired or relinquished it. To see this hometown as Grandpa and his siblings saw it, I would have to go back in time more than a century.

Gargzdai in Grandpa's Day

When Grandpa Isaac was born, Gargzdai was part of Russia, in the Kovno Gubernia (province), Telsiai Uyezd (district), slightly east of the border with Germany.

The area was then thickly forested, with lumber a significant resource fueling the local economy. No wonder my Grandpa and his brother became skilled cabinetmakers, always able to make a living by working in wood.

Grandpa arrived in North America in 1903. Moving between Montreal and New York City for years, he worked as a carpenter and cabinetmaker to support his growing family. I can find no record of Grandpa ever returning to his hometown after leaving. I really doubt he had the money to go back.

By the time of the 1920 Census, even though Grandpa  listed his birthplace as "Russia," Lithuania was then independent (for the time between the two world wars).

Did Grandpa know that Lithuania allowed women to vote as early as the 1919 elections? That's earlier than American women were allowed to vote!

Gargzdai In and After WWII

During World War II, Grandpa Isaac would have been aware that Lithuania was caught between Germany and Russia. On Grandpa's WWII draft registration card, he proudly listed his birthplace as Lithuania.

Alas, many Jewish residents of Gargzdai were exterminated when Germany occupied Lithuania during WWII. Grandpa died before Russia wrenched control of Lithuania from Germany in 1944. I wish he had lived to see Lithuania declare its independence from what was then the USSR in 1990.

Wikimedia Commons - photo of a Jewish cemetery in Gargzdai
Looking for Grandpa's Ancestors

The place in Gargzdai that would help me learn more about Grandpa Isaac's family is the cemetery where his ancestors are buried. Above, a recent photo of one Jewish cemetery in the area. How many still remain intact, I do not know.

If I could locate the correct cemetery (a BIG "if"), and if the gravestones were still readable (another big "if"), I would probably learn the names of each ancestor's father. Each ancestor's gravestone would show his or her first name and the "son of" or "daughter of" the father's name, in Hebrew.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Larimer Ancestors: Patriots and Pioneers with Ohio Fever

Western migration of pioneer ancestor John Larimer (1794-1843)
Yet another ancestor of my husband's caught "Ohio fever." He was Isaac M. Larimer. His son, John Larimer, continued the Western migration and pioneered in Elkhart county, Indiana, as shown above on the map.

Isaac Larimer, Son of Immigrants, Patriot and Ohio Pioneer

Isaac Larimer (1771-1823) was born in the south-central Pennsylvania county of Cumberland. He was the son of the original journey-takers in my husband's Larimer family, who left Northern Ireland and crossed the Atlantic to start a new life in what was then the American colonies.

Isaac married Elizabeth Wood (or Woods, 1773-1851), in Pennsylvania. Caught up in Ohio fever, they migrated West to Fairfield county, OH, where they brought up their 10 children.

Isaac fought in the 1812 War and lived to see tremendous growth in Ohio as settlers streamed in from the East decade after decade. Two of his sons, John and Robert, decided to move further West when they grew up, perhaps hankering for wide open spaces and additional farmland.

John Larimer, Patriot and Indiana Pioneer

John Larimer, my husband's 3d great-grandfather, was born in Pennsylvania (see #1 on map above). By the time he was a teenager, he was living in Fairfield county, Ohio (#2 on the map above). During the 1812 War, John fought as a 90-day enlistee alongside other Larimer relatives.

In 1818, he married Rachel Smith (1799-1838) in Lancaster, Fairfield county, Ohio. About 1835, John and Rachel left Ohio and moved their growing family to what was then the wilderness of Elkhart county, Indiana (#3 on map). At this point, Indiana had far fewer residents than Ohio, which was increasingly crowded.

Sadly, Rachel took ill and died during what locals called the "sickly season" of 1838. Left with youngsters to care for, John remarried in 1840 to Nancy Orr Smith (1799-1853).

Unfortunately, John Larimer died just three years later, reportedly from an infection in his throat caused by a deer bone splinter, and was buried in Elkhart. His second wife, Nancy, died ten years later, and was buried in Ohio, where her first husband was buried.

Saluting these patriots and pioneers in my husband's family tree!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Pioneer Ancestor John McClure had "Ohio Fever"

Hubby's great-great-grandpa John McClure left Rockbridge County,
Virginia to settle in Ohio by 1810.
Another of my husband's ancestors had "Ohio Fever" as described in David McCollough's excellent book, The Pioneers. (I wrote about my husband's ancestor Job Denning in my previous post about Ohio Fever.)

The McClure Family from Donegal

John McClure was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia. His father, Alexander McClure (1717-1790), was one of the original journey-takers in the McClure family.

Alexander and a number of siblings and his father (Halbert McClure) were born in Donegal and sailed across the Atlantic during the 1730s. Landing in Philadelphia, they walked as a group to Virginia colony, where they purchased farmland for the family. (This detail is from the well-researched book, Following the McClures--Donegal to Botetourt).

Alexander lived about two miles from his father, Halbert, in Virginia, close to his brothers who had come with the family from Donegal. He himself purchased land from the Borden Grant during the 1740s. Like many men of that time and place Alexander served in the militia, from about 1742-1766.

Alexander married Martha Moore and their son John was born in Virginia in 1781, by that time a state, no longer a colony following the American Revolution.

John's "Ohio Fever"

John McClure married Ann McFall (1780-1815?) in Virginia in 1801. The next record I can find mentions the birth of their daughter Jane McClure in 1810 in Ohio. Their son Benjamin McClure was born in Adams county, Ohio, in 1812. This early 1800s-period coincides with "Ohio Fever" in the area.

Given the McClure family's long-standing desire for acquiring fresh, fertile farmland, it's not much of a leap to see John uprooting his growing family to settle more than 300 miles away in Ohio (see map at top). John McClure and Ann McFall McClure settled down in Ohio, but some of their descendants kept moving West to Indiana.

Life in the Land of The Trees

What was life like on the Ohio frontier during the "fever" period? David McCollough mentioned a book he remembers from when he was young, part of a trilogy by Conrad Richter. It's called The Trees and it's historical fiction, following the Luckett family as they leave western Pennsylvania at the end of the 1700s to settle north of the Ohio River.

At one point, the characters look out on what seems to be a veritable sea of trees. No cabins, no trails, no clearings. Just sturdy, majestic trees as far as the eye can see in Ohio. Trees that provided fuel, were good for cabins and furnishings, and needed to be cleared--by hand!--to create space for seedlings.

Daily life was most likely even more challenging than described in the book, but it's a good starting point for thinking about trying to feed and clothe a family on its own in the Ohio wilderness. I'm going to read the next two novels in the trilogy to see what happens to descendants of the Lucketts!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Pioneer Ancestor Job Denning Had "Ohio Fever"

Reading David McCullough's latest book, The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West, I was struck by his description of "Ohio fever."

Several of my husband's ancestral families pioneered in Ohio around the time covered by McCollough's history--after the Revolutionary War, through the War of 1812, and into the 1840s/50s.

Hubby's ancestors weren't famous or well-known, just farmers and families who felt compelled to go West as a result of Ohio fever. Some received bounty land on the frontier as a result of military service to the new nation and eagerly arrived to clear away timber so they could plant crops.

Here's a bit of what McCollough says about the background of this historic movement in which my husband's ancestors participated.

Seeking Fertile Farmland Out West*

As the Revolutionary War ended, financial panic set in and farmers in the fledgling United States were hit hard, sometimes imprisoned due to debts they had no way to repay.

Farmers from New England (and other areas) were increasingly looking west for what they heard was an almost too-good-to-be true area for farming along the Ohio River. Pamphlets and newspapers highly touted Ohio as a place so heavily wooded that the land was obviously very fertile. Many accounts spoke of the great abundance of turkey, deer, bison, and fish.

McCollough shows us how the early settlers left New England late in 1787 and, near Pittsburgh, boarded the galley Mayflower (yes, renamed in homage to the Pilgrims) to float through the Ohio River to a likely landing place. Slowly but steadily, these and later pioneers with Ohio fever cleared woodlands, planted crops, built homes, and founded towns.

McCollough vividly describes their hopes and fears, confrontations with Native American tribes, death from smallpox and other diseases, and the struggle of trying to live through the harsh winters--no doubt what my husband's ancestors experienced in Ohio more than 200 years ago.

Denning Caught Ohio Fever

Job Denning Sr, hubby's 3d great-grandpa, was one of the early "Ohio fever" settlers in what became Adams county, Ohio. He was probably born about 1775, possibly in Massachusetts, and he died in 1836 in Adams county. (His birth year is based on the age transcribed from his gravestone, which is barely legible today.)

"A History of Adams County" - excerpt from page 437, with Job Denning highlighted
as one of the first to build a cabin outside the stockade.
Job Denning's name appears multiple times in A History of Adams County, Ohio by Evans and Stivers (a 1900 publication searchable by name, thanks to the Internet Archive and digitization by Google). It also appears in the Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Ohio, vols. 26 and 29. From these historical sources, I learned:
  • Denning was among the first settlers to build a cabin outside the stockade in Manchester, circa 1795-6. (Excerpt from the book, above, is my source.)
  • When the court met on September 12, 1797, for its first-ever session in Manchester, Denning was named "court cryer."
  • Denning was soon named one of two constables for Manchester.
  • He also applied for and was granted a tavern license by the court. (I don't know whether he actually operated the tavern.)
  • On May 17, 1804, Denning purchased lots in West Union township, Adams County, for $9.
  • Denning was appointed a county commissioner on November 17, 1806, a post he held until he resigned in March, 1814.
  • In 1810, he received the contract to haul stone from the quarry for the building of the new Presbyterian Church in West Union.
  • Denning served as an associate judge for Adams county, with a term expiring in January, 1828.
  • In 1831, he was named a commissioner on road works in Adams county.
Job Denning and his wife Mary had seven sons and three daughters. His oldest son (Daniel Denning) and his youngest (William Henry Harrison Denning) served as executors when their father Job died in 1836, to be remembered as a pioneer settler in what was once a wilderness close by the Ohio River.
Many thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt.

*At the time, Ohio really was the Western frontier. These days, most people would consider it the midwest. Except my husband, who insists that his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, is an Eastern city. Sorry, honey, Ohio is not in the East! ;)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Family Drama: Harvest Destroyed by Hail

Moritz Farkas and his twin granddaughters, Dorothy and Daisy
In his homeland of Hungary, my great-grandpa Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) managed crops for the family of his in-laws and leased land to grow other crops. (I've seen notes in Hungarian records confirming his occupation.)

Moritz's crops did well and he prospered for a long time . . . until the year a hail storm wiped out the harvest. (Family story about the hail and his financial ruin was so consistent and believable that I am relying on it.) 

That was the one year my great-grandpa did not insure his crops. His finances were wiped out along with the harvest.

No Harvest Was a Turning Point

With no harvest and a wife (Leni Kunstler, 1865-1938) and eight children to support, Moritz faced a difficult decision about his family's future.

He ultimately decided to leave Hungary and his debts behind and try to make a new life in New York City. He was the first in the family to make this life-changing journey, but not the last.

Moritz arrived in New York in 1899. Like many new immigrants in my family, he initially lived as a boarder in a crowded apartment in the Lower East Side. (Two families of four each plus Moritz meant a total of 9 people shared that one small apartment.)

Slowly Reuniting the Family

Moritz's wife Leni followed him to New York City a year later, in 1900. Meanwhile, the eight children remained with her mother and father in Hungary.

Finally, Moritz and Leni were established enough to begin sending for their children. My grandma Hermina "Minnie" (1886-1964) came with the first group of four in 1901, leaving Hungary when she was just 14 years old.

The four remaining children arrived in 1902, having not seen their father for three years and having missed their mother for two years. Three more babies were born in New York City as the family reunited.

In New York City, Moritz learned skills to work as a presser in the garment trade. Leni and a number of the children also worked in the clothing business for a time. My grandma Minnie was a finisher of fine silk ties, a job she got because of Leni's connection to the Roth family that manufactured the ties.

No Harvest Led to a New Life--and Descendants Like Me!

If not for hail destroying my great-grandpa's harvest, my ancestors would not have left Hungary...

...my grandma would not have met my future grandpa in a New York City deli...

...my mother (a twin in the photo at top, with her grandpa Moritz) would not have been born...

...and I wouldn't be here to retell their tale!

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