Thursday, April 30, 2020

Where There's a Will, There Are Cousins

My husband's great-aunt Etta Blanche Steiner Rhuark (1864-1956) outlived all of her siblings except one.

My hubby inherited a copy of her 1952 will inside a box of family paperwork.

Blanche named her sister and other beneficiaries, and also described their relationship to her. A sister, nieces and nephews--giving me a more complete picture of my husband's cousins.

The Steiner Siblings

Etta was one of nine children of Edward George Steiner (1830-1880) and Elizabeth Jane Rinehart (1834-1905).

Sadly, neither of the first two babies lived very long. Then Edward and Elizabeth had a healthy son, followed by six daughters. The last of the girls (born 26 years after the first baby) was expected to be a boy. That's the family story about why my husband's grandmother was named Floyda.

The handwritten list of Steiner siblings shown above was jotted by Floyda's husband, Brice Larimer McClure (hubby's granddaddy), on the back of one of his business cards from the 1940s. Thank you, Granddaddy Brice!

Blanche's Will Names Names

By the time Blanche died in 1956, at the age of 92, she had outlived her husband and all of her siblings except one, Carrie Eilleen Steiner Traxler (1870-1963). In Blanche's will, she named "my sister Carrie E. Traxler" to inherit a home and property. She also named her sister-in-law to inherit property.

Blanche left money to Floyda's grandchildren (including my hubby), naming them in full in her will and identifying them by relationship ("children of ...").

She left money to another sister's grandchildren, also naming them in full and by relationship ("children of ...").

Because Blanche identified each person by relationship, I was able to trace these cousins and add them and their descendants to the family tree. In addition, I connected with one cousin to share genealogy info. Where there's a will, there are cousins!
Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors prompt for week 18 is "where there's a will."

Remembering Little Sis in Color

At age 12, my "Little Sis" was a Girl Scout. Here she is at a scouting event, holding a big plate of brownies.

When I uploaded the original black-and-white photo to MyHeritage, its auto-colorizing tool did a good job with her skin color and her hair color.

Even though the scout uniforms and berets aren't as green as they should be in the colorized version, it's still a treat to see my younger sister in color at age 12.

Remembering my Little Sis with love, and missing her, on what would have been her birthday.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

His and Her Heirlooms from When We Were Born

With the Covid-19 pandemic keeping us inside since mid-March, I've been documenting family history by writing about heirlooms that will be passed to the next generation.
Wally's baby book and silver porringer

Today is a look at keepsakes from when my husband and I were born.

His: Baby Book and Silver Porringer

My late mother-in-law (Marian Jane McClure
Wood) was given a small baby book to record milestones in the life of her first-born child, my wonderful hubby.

Shown here is the baby book alongside a silver porringer, engraved with baby's initials (WEW). Although the book contains the names of several dozen well-wishers who gave baby gifts, this silver porringer isn't listed. Nor is it listed as a gift for "baby's first Christmas." Although we don't know who presented it to my husband, it's still a treasured heirloom.

The baby book turned out to be a bonanza for my family-history research. In it are the names of many people identified by family relationship, such as "Aunt Nellie Kirby" and "Grandparents McClure." Over the years, as I've fleshed out the family tree, I've recognized other gift-givers as great aunts/uncles and cousins.

By correlating the book with other sources (such as Census records and the diaries of my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood), I've confirmed who's who in the family's inner circle, and also narrowed down dates for the death of people who don't appear.

Hers: Silver Napkin Ring
Marian's silver napkin ring from the Farkas Family Tree

In my mother's Farkas Family Tree association, the traditional baby gift was a silver napkin ring.

On one side was engraved the baby's initials (mine is shown here).

The other side was engraved with the birth date and "Farkas Family Tree."

No matter whether a baby was a boy or a girl, the Farkas Family Tree bestowed this napkin ring, personalized for each child.

Because I have the Farkas Family Tree meeting minutes from 1933-1964, I know that controversy erupted when the mother of a baby boy asked whether the gift might be something other than a napkin ring. After heated discussion during a family meeting, the mother was out-voted.

According to the minutes, this aunt asked for reconsideration several times at meetings over the years, only to be voted down every time.

Tradition won out, and all babies in the family continued to receive silver napkin rings. That's part of the legacy I'm sharing with my heirs along with this keepsake.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Cousin Bait on Find a Grave

Find a Grave memorial for Grandma Henrietta
Free and easy cousin bait: post photos and link family members on Find a Grave, the giant gravestone memorial website now owned by

Here's an example from my father's family tree. This is the Find a Grave memorial for my Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954).

Look for Family Links

See the arrow pointing to "Family Members" in the middle of this image?

That shows extensive linking of Henrietta to her parents' memorials on Find a Grave, to her spouse (hi, Grandpa Isaac), and to her siblings and one child (hi, Dad).

Most often, only a family member will take the time to link so many family members. And that's a clue to possibly connecting with a cousin. You can "view source" next to the memorial ID number, then write a nice note to the person who manages the memorial, explaining how you believe you're related to the person in the memorial and asking for more info or offering to share more genealogy info.

Look for Personal Photos 

See the two ovals around the words "Added by M Wood" under the grave photo and the person photo?

That tells you who posted the photos. (In this case, me!)

Although volunteers frequently post gravestone photos, they rarely have personal photos of the person who's passed away.

That's why it's a good idea to click on personal photos, read any captions, and then write a nice note to the person who posted them.

Register on Find a Grave to Participate

To send/receive messages, post photos, and link family members' memorials on Find a Grave, you'll need to register, which is free.

Once you've signed in, you can participate in setting bait for cousins and following bait to find possible cousins.

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Ancestor Landing Pages as Genealogical Cousin Bait

Ancestor landing pages on my genealogy blog

Cousin bait! 

Genealogy blogs are excellent cousin bait.

I use the ancestor landing pages that stretch along the top of my genealogy blog to summarize what I know about key ancestors in my family tree and my husband's family tree.

When a cousin searches online for a family name, my blog (and my landing pages) will show up in the results.

Over the years, as I add to these landing pages, I've also attracted more views and connected with more cousins.

Posting photos and other images makes these pages inviting and easy to read.

This table shows the number of views for each landing page, as of this morning.

Most Popular: McClure Landing Page

McClure/Donegal is by far the most popular landing page. My husband's mother was a McClure, descended from one of the branches traced in the well-researched book Following the McClures--Donegal to Botetourt, which follows the McClure family across the Atlantic Ocean and through Philadelphia, Virginia, and beyond.

When I blog about an ancestor or family, I put a link on the corresponding ancestor landing page. That keeps the landing pages current.

Welcome, cousins! Hope your next online search lands you on my genealogy blog.
Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors theme of "land."

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Family History: On the Air in Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland Heights OH Youth Theater TV show 

In his younger days, my husband was "on the air," performing in weekly radio and television shows produced by Children's Theater on the Heights in Cleveland, Ohio. The director was Jerry Leonard

Not long ago, I did an online search and found a brief piece about Jerry Leonard in Case Western Reserve University's online Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. The entry had no illustrations. And that's where Wood family history comes in.

Safely stored in my archival boxes are a few black-and-white photos of dress rehearsals from local TV shows in which my husband appeared. He loved to act, and his talented sister painted the scenery. Their classmate Larry Gorjup took the photos during dress rehearsals. 

At top, Larry's photo of "The Emperor's New Clothes," which aired live on Cleveland TV station WEWS in February, 1955. My hubby played the part of a tailor selling new clothes to the emperor.

I contacted the Encyclopedia editors and offered to scan and send the photos, along with informative captions, to flesh out the Jerry Leonard entry. They immediately accepted. 

Now a small part of my husband's family history is part of Cleveland's history as presented in the online Encyclopedia. (The Encyclopedia is looking for new contributors to get involved in writing the entries, by the way!)

If you have photos or stories with a connection to history, please consider sharing with a museum, historical society, university, or other repository. You'll be adding a human dimension to history while keeping your family's history alive for new generations.

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

Friday, April 17, 2020

Grandma Minnie's Lavalier Pendant

Minnie Farkas Schwartz's pendant
My immigrant maternal grandma Hermina (Minnie) Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964) lived a modest life, with not a lot to spare for frills like jewelry. She and her husband worked long hours, standing on their feet in the Bronx grocery store they owned.

They took one "honeymoon" trip to Florida during retirement, decades after they were married. Otherwise, their big retirement extravagance(!) was renting an inexpensive bungalow outside New York City for a few weeks each summer.

Yet Minnie left each of her granddaughters a couple of fine jewelry pieces. I received the delicate gold pendant shown here, plus a diamond ring. Sis's inherited earrings have lovely European-cut diamonds. I'm documenting these heirlooms for future generations, and telling Grandma's stories to go along with the jewelry.

The question that Sis and I want to answer is . . . where did Grandma Minnie get this jewelry, and when?

Minnie's Immigrant Background 

Minnie was the second-oldest child of Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938). The family lived in Beregszasz, Hungary, where Moritz managed agricultural land and leased some land for his own crops.

According to family legend, Moritz was so successful for so long that one year, he didn't bother insuring his crops. That year, a big hailstorm wiped out his plantings, leaving him financially ruined.

In 1899, Moritz sailed for America to make a new life, leaving his wife and children in Hungary. In 1900, Leni's mother sent her to America to reunite with Moritz, while the children remained behind. Finally, Minnie (age 14) and her older brother brought two of their younger siblings with them to New York to reunite with the parents. It wasn't until 1903 that the entire family was together in one small apartment on East 3rd Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Minnie and Teddy in the Grocery Business

Minnie immediately went to work to help support the family. She met her future husband, Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965) in a Hungarian deli in the Lower East Side. Initially, her family was against the match, but she eventually persuaded them to give their consent. Minnie and Teddy married in 1911, both 24 years old.

Teddy had to give up being an agent for steamship lines when World War I erupted. Instead, he opened a grocery store in the Bronx. For nearly 40 years, Teddy ran a store and Minnie worked alongside him, often relying on her younger sisters to care for her son and twin daughters.

The grocery business helped Minnie and Teddy to weather the Depression with sufficient food, but the stress of long hours standing on their feet hurt their health. Teddy moved his store several times as the population of the Bronx moved northward to more suburban-like neighborhoods. They took their first out-of-state vacation only after selling the store during the 1950s, when they were already in their late 60s.

Who Had Money for Jewelry?

Sis and I wonder how Minnie (or possibly Teddy) acquired the pieces of jewelry that we girls inherited. We agree there was little extra money until possibly after the sale of the grocery store. Maybe Teddy splurged for Minnie's special birthday or their 25th or 50th wedding anniversary? Or Sis wonders whether customers may have paid for groceries with jewelry during the Depression?

Next step: Asking an older cousin whether Minnie's mother might have brought some good jewelry with her from Hungary or inherited jewelry heirlooms from her ancestors. UPDATE: Cousin doesn't know of any inherited jewelry that came from Hungary, so the origin of the lavalier pendant remains a mystery.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Turn on Your GPS and Look at the Actual Image

Oh, it's tempting to accept the transcription here, and not look further.

After all, Aaron Work (1837-1924) is only a roomer in somebody else's household. He's a 1c4r, not a major figure in my husband's family tree.

But maybe he's rooming with a member of the FAN club (friends, associates, neighbors) possibly meaningful to family history?

Time to turn on the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard). Don't settle for somebody else's transcription.

Always look at the image of the actual record. 

Here's what happened when I went looking for Aaron Work with the GPS in mind.

Transcription says household of King family

I was researching Aaron Work for last week's #52Ancestors prompt, because he was a fire insurance agent and the prompt was fire.

In the 1920 US Census, Aaron was widowed and a roomer, as the transcription shows. Following the Genealogical Proof Standard of referring to the original record rather than relying on a transcription, I clicked to view the Census page.

And that's when I saw something that I've heard about but not yet experienced in 23 years of genealogical research.

"Supplemental" entry

Aaron's entry was added later by a supervisor, long after the enumerator had completed that page. It was marked as "supplemental" and added on April 1st, whereas the rest of that page was dated January 22.

The official Census Day in 1920 was January 1st, but officials continued to follow up and look for people who had not been counted in the first round. Apparently Aaron was one of those people missing when the enumerator came to his door.

Look at the red arrow on the supplemental entry above. The note shows where Aaron really belongs in the Census: "See 4A, line 37." Also note that Aaron has many blank lines above his name. The entry directly above him, with blank lines in between, is of the King household, and therefore the transcription seems to have lumped him into that household. Wrongly, as it turns out.

Page 4A, line 37 

I clicked backward on the Census images from page 8A, where the supplemental entry was listed, to page 4A. Above is a snippet showing number 37 at far left of the Census page. The date of this page was January 13, 1920.

The two people in this household are brother and sister, names that I don't recognize but will have to research to determine if they're at all related to the Work family.

Where Aaron Work was on the day the Census enumerator originally came around, I can't guess. I only know that he was later tracked down and added as a supplemental entry.

If I had accepted the transcription without checking further, I could have been chasing King as a potential FAN club member--and gone down an entirely incorrect path.

Thanks to the GPS, I didn't take a wrong turn. I looked at the image and saw the household where Aaron Work would have been enumerated if he had been home.

In citing my source, I need to mention both the 8A Census page of the supplemental entry and the 4A Census page of the household where the supervisor said he resided in 1920.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter and Passover, Past and Present

Marian McClure, age 4
Here's a delightful 1913 Easter photo of my late mother-in-law, Marian Jane McClure Wood (1909-1983), taken in Cleveland, Ohio, when she was four years old. Marian was an adored only child and the family is fortunate to have good photos from her early years.

Also, here is a pretty Easter greeting sent to my husband's uncle Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957) in 1914, in Cleveland, Ohio.

It was mailed from his "Aunt Ada" (Adelaide Mary Ann) Slatter Baker) in Toledo, Ohio.

Relatives sent the Wood children colorful penny postal greetings like this for nearly every occasion. Luckily, we have dozens from the first two decades of the 1900s, excellent sources of info such as home addresses.

Since my husband's grandfather moved his family from address to address during that period, as he built and sold each home, we can track where they were by looking at the addresses on these post cards.

Passover and Easter Today

During the coronavirus pandemic, we are staying at home for safety and aren't able to celebrate Passover or Easter with traditional family get-togethers.

For Passover this year, we participated in a small video-conferenced family gathering and sang some favorite Passover songs--with wine and matzo, of course.

For Easter, my husband and I are cooking a special dinner for two. Dessert: brownies brought by the Easter bunny!

It's a challenging time, and we really miss seeing family and friends, but better safe than sorry. Next year, we'll celebrate with loved ones in person.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Story of the Burk A Bracelet

Hospital bracelet for "Baby Girl Burk A" - firstborn twin (that's me)
A recent #genchat discussion of birth traditions and records triggered my memory of this tiny beaded bracelet, which I used to keep in my jewelry box with other precious keepsakes. It is now in an archival sleeve inside a family history box along with a printout of this, the story of the Burk A Bracelet. I'm using the time spent at home during the pandemic to write more about heirlooms I will bequeath to the next generation.

After I was born, the hospital tied this tiny identification bracelet on one arm. It has pink beads (that's what they used for girls back in the day), plus my surname Burk and the letter A, indicating I was the firstborn. My Sis was Burk B, also with pink beads. We were tiny little babes, neither weighing 5 pounds, and the bracelets were teeny as well.

In our early years, Sis and I would gather around Mom (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) as she was cooking or ironing, and ask her to tell "The Hospital Story," about what happened after Dad (Harold Burk, 1909-1978) brought her to Bronx Lebanon Hospital in New York City for their baby to be born.

Here's approximately what she'd say:
"We had no idea that twins were on the way. At the hospital, Dad sat in the waiting room, holding rolls of dimes for phone calls to tell the family whether the baby was a boy or a girl. After the first girl was born, the staff was about to give Dad the news when the doctor began delivering the surprise second girl, just two minutes later. As soon as Dad found out, he pumped dime after dime into the pay phone calling relatives to tell them about the twins! You girls had to stay in heated cribs at the hospital for a few days until you weighed 5 lbs each; only then you were allowed to go home with us."
Footnotes for future generations: Decades ago, Dads usually weren't allowed into delivery rooms, so they waited in designated waiting rooms, until a hospital staff member informed them about the condition of the mother and child/children.

Rolls of dimes - from the old days when banks rolled coins and would sell to individuals or businesses. A roll of dimes had 50, total value $5.00. Since a typical local three-minute phone call cost 10 cents, this would enable Dad to make 50 phone calls...except he had lots of explaining to do, and some long-distance calls, so likely he needed more than a dime per call.

Waiting rooms had one or more pay phones--public phones that anyone could use by inserting nickels, dimes, or quarters into the slots and dialing (rotary dial) a phone number, one at a time.

Heated cribs were used when the babies were small but weren't ill and didn't need incubators, just a bit of warmth.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Cousin Aaron Work, Fire Insurance Agent

RootsMagic 7 "find everywhere" search box
For this week's #52Ancestors challenge, I used RootsMagic7 to identify anything in the Wood family tree related to the word "fire."

Find fire everywhere

Under the search menu, I typed the word fire (no quote marks) in the "find everywhere" search box (see purple arrow).

After I clicked OK, the software needed about a minute to present a brief results list showing where the word fire appeared in any data field (name, address, occupation, detailed notes, etc.).

Results from any data field

RootsMagic 7 "find everywhere" results

The first result was an ancestor involved in a lawsuit with the Calif. Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Assn. Not the kind of thing I was looking for this week, but something to follow up in local newspapers of the time.

The second result was an ancestor who flew spitfires in WWII. Not what I wanted for this week's challenge, but an interesting topic for a future blog post.

The third result was my husband's distant cousin, Aaron Work, who was a fire insurance agent. The closest I can get to fire--and an interesting cousin I wanted to know more about.

Aaron Work and Aaron Work

Aaron Work (1837-1924) was my husband's first cousin, four times removed, the son of blacksmith Abel Everett Work and Cynthia Hanley Larimer (she was hubby's 4th great aunt). He was born in Rush Creek, Ohio, named for his grandfather Aaron Work (1778-1858). When only a tyke, Aaron's pioneering parents moved the family to Elkhart county, Indiana.

First cousins Aaron Work and Aaron Work 
As a young man, Aaron and his first cousin, Aaron Work, went to Florence township in St. Joseph county, Michigan, to find work. As shown in the 1863 Civil War registration ledger directly above, both Aaron Works told the authorities that they were "citizens of Indiana."

So far as I can determine, Aaron never served in the Civil War. His obit refers to health problems plaguing Aaron much of his life. Two of his younger brothers fought for the Union, and both died while in the service during the Civil War.

Aaron Work, fire insurance agent

A few years after working in Michigan, Aaron returned to Elkhart county, Indiana, and married Amanda Elizabeth Walmer (1845-1910). According to Aaron's obituary, and confirmed by 1870 US Census records, Aaron was originally a grocer. In the 1880 US Census records, he was a coal dealer, and then served in town government for a time.

Later in life, according to city directories of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Aaron became a fire insurance agent. His 1900 and 1910 US Census entries show his occupation as "insurance agent, fire."

By the time of the 1920 US Census, Aaron was 83, widowed, and living as a roomer with an ironworker and his sister, not related to the Work family. Aaron continued to suffer from health problems, including mitral regurgitation. He died of lobar pneumonia in 1924, at the age of 87.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Face Masks and Family History

This weekend I began stitching up simple yet colorful (and washable) face masks with shoelaces as ties. (I'm using the New York Times directions.)

On the few occasions when I have to go out into the world, I'm protecting myself and my loved ones from coronavirus contamination by covering up. This is what future family history looks like!

Cousins Are Connecting

My first cousin called to say he came across a small cache of notes and photos with names from the 1940s/1950s. He didn't recognize the people--but I did! These are more clues to the exact cousin connection with our family in England and Canada. I'm waiting for him to scan and send so I can study what he found.

Distant cousins are apparently using the time at home to look at family trees and search online, judging by the higher number of inquiries via my genealogy blog and via Ancestry. Maybe I'll get better responses from my DNA matches, too?

Spelunking in My Genealogy Files and Folders

This is my second week of diving into the depths of every genealogy folder and file, one by one. I've shredded an entire bag of unneeded duplicates and scribbled notes after transcribing and adding the data to my digital and online family trees. It's a good start on downsizing!

In the process, I've found more than a few interesting tidbits for followup and will be blogging about these new genealogy adventures very soon.

I also came across color photocopies of handwritten recipes shared with me by a much older cousin who has long since passed away. I decided to mail them to her niece. I hope she'll be surprised and pleased when she sees her aunt's handwriting and remembers the happy occasions when her aunt made those dishes.