Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Ancestors in 19th Century Mortality Schedules

Looking for the deaths of 19th century ancestors in America?

Check the U.S. Census Mortality Schedule, one of the non-population schedules.

In 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880, enumerators asked about people who died in the 12 months before Census Day (which at that time was June 1st).

Not all of these schedules still exist for every state. Where they exist, some mortality schedules are in state archives and state libraries. Many are available via Ancestry and Family Search. Just as one example, it's easy to browse or search the 1850 Mortality Schedules for many states at Family Search and at Ancestry.

The best part is--if you find an ancestor in one of these mortality schedules, you'll learn a lot about that person.

Above, the 1880 Mortality Schedule for Fairfield county, Ohio, where the very first line has my husband's ancestor, Abel Everitt. He was a farmer, born in Pennsylvania, father born in New Jersey and mother born in ... Ireland (no county named, alas). I found out his month of death (April, 1880), cause of death (apoplexy), and even more details from this page.

Knowing the place and date, I soon located the ancestor's burial place and from there, I was able to add a few more names to the family tree.

Dara asks whether Mortality Schedules are usually indexed. I've found most are . . . but still I may browse if I haven't found an ancestor who I suspect should be there. Unfortunately even if an ancestor did die in the 12 months prior to Census Day that person may not always be listed on the Mortality Schedule.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Ancestors Who Served in the Military, Honored on This Memorial Day 2020

Capt. John Daniel Slatter
World War I, Camp Borden
In my husband's family tree, many ancestors served in the military during wartime.

Searching for clues to their service, I've checked enlistment records, pension files, 1910 Census (which asked about Civil War participation), 1930 Census (which asked which war served in), Fold3, obituaries, death certs, newspaper articles, and beyond.

On this Memorial Day 2020, I'm honoring these military veterans and continuing to look for additional clues to other ancestors who served. I'll add names as I locate more veterans in hubby's family tree.

War of 1812
* Isaac M. Larimer - hubby's 4th g-grandfather
* Robert Larimer - hubby's 4th great-uncle
* John Larimer - hubby's 3d g-grandfather
* Daniel Denning - hubby's 3d great-uncle
* Elihu Wood Jr. - hubby's 3d great-uncle

Union Army, Civil War
* James Elmer Larimer - hubby's 1c4r
* John Wright Larimer - hubby's 1c4r
* Isaac Larimer Work - hubby's 1c4r
* John Wright Work - hubby's 1c4r
* Train Caldwell McClure - hubby's 2d great uncle
* Benjamin Franklin Steiner - hubby's 2d great uncle
* Samuel D. Steiner - hubby's 2d great uncle
* Hugh Rinehart - hubby's 2d great uncle
* Ira Caldwell - hubby's 1c3x
* John N. McClure - hubby's 2d great uncle
* George H. Handy - hubby's 1c2r

World War I
* John Daniel Slatter - hubby's great uncle
* Albert William Slatter - hubby's great uncle
* Arthur Albert Slatter - hubby's 1c1r
* Albert James Slatter - hubby's 1c1r
* Ernest Slatter - hubby's 1c1r
* Albert Matthew Slatter - hubby's 1c1r
* Frederick William Slatter - hubby's 1c1r

World War II
* John Hutson Slatter - hubby's 2d cousin
* John Albert Slatter - hubby's 2d cousin
* Albert Henry Harvey - hubby's 2d cousin
* Harold McClure Forde - hubby's 2c1r
* Albert Lloyd Forde - hubby's 2c1r
* Joseph Miles Bradford - hubby's 2c1r

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The WWII Military Service of the Burk Brothers

Pvt. Harold Burk & Sgt. Sidney Burk
For Memorial Day weekend, I'm so happy to have this "new" photo of my father on the left, Harold Burk (1909-1978) and his brother on the right, Sidney Burk (1914-1995).

It was just rediscovered by Harold and Sidney's nephew, my first cousin E, who kindly scanned it for me. He found it with Sidney's papers, and I've never seen it.

Dad was in Europe, Uncle in Hawaii

I know a good deal about Harold's WWII activities with the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Below are his dog tags, his US Army buttons, and his Army Signal Corps patch.

Harold Burk World War II insignia, dog tags

However, I know a lot less about Sidney's WWII activities with the U.S. Army at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Cousin E thinks Sidney worked in the JAG office there.*

A cursory search turned up very little, because the vast majority of U.S. military records from the 20th century burned up in a devastating fire in 1973.

*Update: Sidney Burk was actually in the Army Air Force, a Staff Sgt with the HQ Squadron, 6th Air Svc Area Command, stationed near Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Cousin E found Sidney's DD214 Honorable Discharge document!

Obtaining a WWII Army Vet's Records

During this week's #OurAncestors chat on Twitter, the American Ancestors experts and Jan Murphy suggested I look into alternative record sources that might help me piece together Sidney's military career. On this rainy day, I'll start by watching this video from NARA.

Update: After seeing the informative video, I visited the NARA website to learn more about obtaining official military personnel files. More specifically, I know now I'll need particular details in order to identify the correct veteran, including exact name used in the military, service number, and more.

Honoring Harold and Sidney Burk's World War II military service on Memorial Day weekend, 2020.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

How Lucy Helped Me Name Her Mother

Lucy Emeline Bentley Larimer and
Brice Larimer are buried in Brown Cemetery,
Elkhart County, Indiana
Who was my hubby's 3d great-grandmother? His 3d great-granddaddy was William Tyler Bentley (1795-1873). William was born in Oswego County, New York, and pioneered in Elkhart County, Indiana during the 1830s.

The earliest two Census records I found for William, in 1830 and 1840, named him as head of household and listed how many others were in the household, categorized by age and gender. As was usual in Census records from those years, there were no names for wife and children.

Clues in Lucy's Obit

One break came when I found an obituary for my husband's second great-grandmother, Lucy Emeline Bentley Larimer (1826-1900). At top is Lucy's tombstone, shared with her husband, Brice Larimer (1819-1906). They are buried in Brown Cemetery, Elkhart County, Indiana.

The obit didn't actually name Lucy's mother. But it did say the mother died in 1838 in Elkhart County, Indiana, where they were pioneer settlers. The obit also said Lucy's father had left for California in 1848. Following that trail, I found the exceedingly brief obit for William Tyler Bentley, who died in 1873 in Tulare County, California. This obit said the deceased was the father of "E.M. Bentley of this place [Tulare]." I filled in the family tree with Elisha Morgan Bentley and his family, which led me to even more siblings and descendants.

Names in Death Certs

The next big break came when I received Lucy's Indiana death cert, packed with information supplied by her husband. He said Lucy was born in Oswego County, New York, the daughter of Wm T Bentley (b. in NY) and Olive Morgan (birthplace unknown).

I also obtained the Indiana death cert of Lucy's sister, Lucinda Helen Bentley Shank (1825-1903). This cert, with information by Lucinda's husband, named the mother as Olivia Morgan (b. in New York) and the father as Wm T Bently (b. in New York). It said Lucinda was also born in New York.

Thanks to great-great-grandma Lucy and her sister, Lucinda, my husband's great-great-great grandmother finally had a name: Olivia Morgan (b. ?- d. 1838).


"Tombstone" is the week 21 prompt for Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Chewing Gum from a U.S. Cousin in Uniform

1946 letter from UK cousin to Harold Burk in the Bronx, NY
With heartfelt thanks to my paternal first cousin E, our family now is reading letters written more than 70 years ago by cousins in Manchester, England.

Connections Across the Pond

The letters were written by descendants of Hinda Ann Mitav Chazan (1865-1940) to descendants of my paternal great-great grandma, Necke Gelle [Mitav?] Burk. Hinda and Necke were very possibly sisters, both born in Lithuania.

Hinda married and then went to Manchester with her husband, settling there and raising their family. Necke married and remained in Lithuania--but six of her children left, going to North America. (I strongly suspect one son remained behind in Lithuania, based on photos passed down in multiple lines of the family tree).

The letters rediscovered by my first cousin E came from several cousins across the pond, addressed to my paternal grandma, my uncle, and my Dad. Although these letters are very ordinary and everyday, they reveal a closeness that nobody realized existed between the U.K. branch and the U.S. branch of our family. The Montreal branch of the family, Abraham Burke and his wife Annie, are mentioned in a letter as well.

These letters are also stimulating my overseas cousins to remember tiny but interesting details they didn't even think they could summon up after so long!

May 23rd, 1946: Dear Harold

The earliest letter so far is the one which I've excerpted above, mailed by my father's first cousin, once removed, in Manchester. She is writing to my Dad, Harold Burk (1909-1978) in appreciation for a carton of sweets and other goodies he mailed to the Manchester family.

As shown in the excerpt at top, this cousin writes: "Very, very many thanks indeed from one and all of us. _[My daughter]__ in particular was thrilled beyond words when I told her cousin Harold had sent a parcel from America and when it was opened she turned it inside out and upside down and in all the packing papers looking for a packet of chewing gum that she was certain cousin Harold had sent especially for her! But the other sweets and caramels (I really should learn to say candies) more than made up for the missing packet of chewing gum."

The Cousin in Uniform

After I shared this letter with my cousins, a couple of them reminisced about my Dad's visit. One remembered getting a package of "American chewing gum" from a "cousin in uniform" who visited in 1945. The other had a flash of memory and confirmed that it was Harold, my Dad, visiting in his U.S. Army uniform!

The timing fits with what I know of Harold's Army service during World War II. With the war over, he was discharged from service in October, 1945. It would have been quite conceivable that beforehand, he was moved from Paris, where he was stationed in April of 1945. Probably he was sent to a base in England not far from Liverpool, waiting for a transport ship to bring him home to New York. Liverpool is fairly close to Manchester, and apparently he visited Manchester twice, according to my cousins' best recollections.

Months later, Harold posted the parcel of candies after seeing how much the young cousins in Manchester enjoyed his gift of chewing gum when he visited in person. Little did he know that decades later, those cousins would now be reading a letter written in thanks for the candies and sharing fond memories of the gum and the "cousin in uniform."

How grateful I am that my first cousin E rediscovered the letters and that my U.K. cousins are dredging up new memories of relations between our families!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Photo of Grandpa's "Last Good Day"

Isaac Burk and family in Washington, D.C. on Oct 7, 1943,
one day before Isaac's fatal heart attack
OCTOBER 7, 1943

The handwritten date on the back of this photo has special significance. It was the "last good day" in the life of my paternal Grandpa.

The snapshot shows Isaac Burk (1882-1943) and his wife, paternal grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954), strolling arm and arm (the couple on the left side).

Isaac and Henrietta had arrived a few days earlier to visit with Henrietta's beloved sister, Ida Mahler Volk (1892-1971). Ida is second from the right in the phioto. Her husband, Louis Volk (1890-1952), might have taken this photo, which also shows a Mahler cousin, Hylda Jacobs Wilner (1898-1990) at the far right. But at that time, photographers roamed big-city streets, taking candid photos of people for a reasonable price.

Alas, this particular Thursday was my grandpa's last good day.

Isaac sadly suffered a fatal heart attack on the very next day, Friday, October 8th.

He was buried on Sunday, October 10, 1943, in Riverside Cemetery, Saddle Brook, New Jersey.

When I look at this photo and the date written on the back, I feel comforted that my grandpa Isaac's last good day was spent enjoying the company of family members he knew and loved.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Looking for Grandpa Teddy in the NY Census

My maternal grandfather, Theodore Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965) left Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhhorod, Ukraine) in early 1902. He arrived in New York City when he was only 14 years old.

Teddy's older brother Samuel (Simon) Schwartz (1883-1954) followed, arriving in New York in January of 1904. The manifest indicates that Sam was discharged to his brother Teodor Schwartz, who lived at 941 Second Avenue in Manhattan, near the corner of East 50th Street, according to Google Maps.

This intrigued me because most new immigrants from my family started out living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, an area packed with tenements.

On the Lower East Side: Brother Sam, No Teddy

Previously, I had easily found Teddy's brother Sam Schwartz, a printer, as a boarder with the Grossman family at 82 Avenue D, on the Lower East Side, in the 1905 NY Census.

Again looking at that 1905 NY Census page and the others before and after, no sign of Grandpa Teddy near his brother. Yet in 1911, Grandpa was living at 82 Avenue D, because it's listed on his marriage license.

Also, I looked but have not found Teddy in any Manhattan city directories for that period. Grandpa, you are being elusive!

During today's search, I thought I might find him as a boarder, lodger, or roomer in the household of some other family at 941 Second Avenue. It was the only lead I have to follow up as of right now. The process would be good to figure out for this and future searches of this time.*

First Step: Creative Search of 1905 NY Census

Navigating to the Family Search collection of 1905 New York State Census records, I tried searching for Theodore Schwartz, white, male, boarder, born 1886-1888 in Hungary. No relevant results. Sure, there were Schwartz people in Brooklyn and upstate New York, but nobody vaguely like my Grandpa Teddy in New York County.

So I tried Tivador, Teddy, Ted Schwartz. No relevant results. Tried Russia instead of Hungary. No relevant results. Then I edited the search to eliminate everything except his surname and range of birth years, but still got no relevant results from the transcribed Census. All my creative searches didn't turn up Grandpa Teddy.

Next Step: Steve Morse's AD/ED Finder 

Next, I decided to browse individual records to see who was living at 941 Second Avenue when the 1905 NY State Census was taken. To do that, I had to use Steve Morse's AD/ED Finder from As shown at top, this address would be in one of two AD/ED combinations: AD 22/ED 19 or AD 22/ED 20.

Now I was ready to do what we used to when there were no indexed/transcribed Census results online. I did the equivalent of cranking the ole microfilm reader by hand. Actually, I went to the 1905 NY Census collection at Ancestry, where I can see all images. I clicked through each and every page of both AD/ED combinations, looking for 941 Second Avenue.

Clicking for Teddy, One Census Page After Another

The clicking went quickly because all I had to do was look at the left margin of every page to see the street or avenue covered on that page. I was looking for Second Avenue. There were only 23 double-pages in each AD/ED combination.

Naturally, 941 Second Avenue was not on 22/19. So I kept clicking into 22/20. Would I find Grandpa Teddy?

On p. 13 of 23 in the second AD/ED combo, I finally located 941 Second Avenue. It was a small walk-up apartment building. Every head of household was an immigrant.

Alas, no Grandpa Teddy, not as a boarder/lodger/roomer and not as any kind of relative or in-law. Not on the two pages before or after, either.

Grandpa Teddy, Born and Died in May

Today was not my lucky day to find Grandpa Teddy, but I'm thinking of him because May was an important month in his life: he was born on May 21, 1887 and died on May 12, 1965, just 9 days before his 78th birthday.

Rest in peace, Grandpa, you are remembered and I'm going to keep looking for where you were living in New York City in 1905.

*I followed the same process to try to find Grandpa Teddy in the 1910 US Census, starting with Steve Morse's US Census ED finder, then clicking through each page in the ED that includes the address "82 Avenue D near East 6th Street" on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in NYC. No luck finding Teddy in 1910, either.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Curating Faces for the Family Tree

Yesterday's post was about how personalizing family trees with photos of ancestors can be wonderful cousin bait.

Putting faces on the family tree also preserves those images for future generations to see.

It's a process of curation...and it puts a face to the name.

Which photo to post?

My goal is to have at least one clear face for each ancestor in my husband's direct line and my direct line. If possible, I want that main photo to be of the ancestor as an adult.

Above are the photos I posted on MyHeritage of my father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986), and mother-in-law, Marian Jane McClure Wood (1909-1983).

I chose good, clear photos of my in-laws in their mid-50s, recognizable to anyone who might have known them even in their later years.

Obviously there will be no photos when I get back beyond the mid-1800s, but occasionally I have something else suitable (such as the woodcut portrait of my husband's great-great-granddaddy Benjamin McClure from an 1880s newspaper).

I promise, no images of flags or ships or DNA! Update: Dara asked why no DNA image, since it's a quick way to see who's a match when we look at our own family trees. IMHO, a DNA image isn't good cousin bait and often there are too many DNA images that come up in "hints." I'm posting photos of deceased ancestors, using them specifically as cousin bait.

Captioning on the photo

I cropped each photo to focus on the face. Then I put a caption on the image. As shown above, the captions are:

Edgar James Wood, courtesy Wood family

Marian Jane McClure Wood, courtesy Wood family

No matter where these photos get copied, and no matter how many years have passed since being posted for the first time, the faces will always be identified (along with the source).

Once I have the photos cropped and captioned, I can upload to all of my trees (Ancestry, Family Search, MyHeritage, and Find My Past).

Thanks to the pandemic, I have the time to systematically climb each family tree, adding a photo to key ancestors on multiple genealogy websites.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Personalized Family Trees Are Great Cousin Bait

Family photos as cousin bait on

Ancestor photos are terrific cousin bait on family trees!

Recently, I contacted someone who had posted a photo of a descendant of my husband's great-great-granddaddy, Benjamin McClure. She immediately wrote back to confirm the relationship! We are excited about exchanging other photos and genealogical details. That's why I'm taking the time to personalize all my trees with photos on key ancestors. It's simple, it's easy, so I'm going for it.

Photos Catch the Eye

The handful of photos I've posted on my family trees on Family Search (above), Ancestry, and MyHeritage are designed to attract the eye of anyone researching these ancestors. Instead of a generic silhouette, these ancestors have a face!

I'm in the process of adding some photos to FindMyPast as well, since many of my husband's ancestors (Wood, McClure, Larimer, and more) were from England and Northern Ireland.

The faces personalize family trees and encourage cousins to get in touch. I'm including brief photo captions as well for a bit of added personalization. My photo caption for Marian Jane McClure simply provides her birth/death years and says she is the daughter of Brice Larimer McClure and Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure.

Of course, for privacy reasons, any photos and captions I post do not include faces or names of living people.
Watch Those Ancestors

Click the star to "watch" an ancestor on FamilySearch

On Family Search, I've clicked the star to "watch" key ancestors (see purple oval above). That means I'll get a message if and when anybody else makes any change to these ancestors. Usually I'm notified by email about a message.

But I can also log in and look for a dot above the "messages" link (see purple arrow). If a dot appears there, I'll know there's been a change to a "watched" ancestor OR a possible cousin is getting in touch!

Happy cousin hunting!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Ten Miles of Travel to the Gretna Green

White Pigeon, Michigan - where William Tyler Bentley Larimer
married Elizabeth Stauffer on March 7, 1872
My husband's 2d great uncle, William Tyler Bentley Larimer (1850-1921) lived in Middlebury, Elkhart county, Indiana, at the time of his marriage. His wife, Elizabeth Stauffer (1852-1936), also lived in Middlebury. He was 22, she was 19, both of age to be married without parental consent on the day they were wed.

Yet the couple crossed from Indiana into Michigan to marry. Their wedding day was Thursday, March 7, 1872. On the marriage ledger, he listed his occupation as "rail road," and she said she was an "employee" (no firm or industry indicated).

William and Elizabeth ("Lizzie") were married in White Pigeon, Indiana, by a Minister of the Gospel, whose wife and another local lady were witnesses to the marriage.

Why travel away from their home town to get married?

Sure looks to me like they eloped. Looking at the map and doing a bit of historical research showed me why White Pigeon was their travel destination.

Getting to a Gretna Green

In the Midwest, Crown Point, Indiana was a popular Gretna Green because couples could obtain a marriage license and marry the same day. But Crown Point is 100 miles from Middlebury, where William and Lizzie lived. If they couldn't get married without waiting in Middlebury or anywhere in Elkhart county, it made sense to find another Gretna Green closer to home.

As the map above shows, Middlebury, Indiana, is south of White Pigeon, Michigan but not very far away. In fact, it's only 10 miles. Even if the would-be bride and groom began from Elkhart itself (far left of map), the distance to White Pigeon is just 21 miles.

A rail road runs through it

How did William and Lizzie travel to their chosen Gretna Green? A little research into transportation of the time uncovered that Elkhart, IN was situated along a major railroad line that led to White Pigeon, MI. It would be easy and convenient to hop a train, get married, and take the train home again in one day.

Another clue is the groom's occupation. In the 1870 Census, William was a clerk at the "rail road depot." His father was a "rail road station agent." Obviously William knew the rail lines well.

So my conclusion is that William and Lizzie were planning on getting married when they boarded a train from Elkhart, Indiana to White Pigeon, Michigan. I can't guess whether the newlyweds remained in White Pigeon or returned home the same day. I do know they were married for 49 years, until William died of heart trouble in 1921. Lizzie survived another 15 years.

UPDATE: Interesting family history twist: William and Lizzie's oldest child, born 14 months after the elopement, decided to elope by train to a Gretna Green in Michigan when he married on July 4, 1899.

This is my #52Ancestors post for the prompt "Travel."

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mother's Day: Mom in Context

Context is so important when trying to understand what life was like for ancestors. Where did they live, where did they work or study, and what was the family like, what was the economic and social situation at the time?

On Mother's Day, I'm thinking about Mom and her twin sister, and what it was like for them to graduate high school in January of 1936.

Twins in James Monroe High School

My Mom, Daisy Schwartz Burk (1919-1981) and her sister, my aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001), went to James Monroe High School in the Bronx, New York. It was more than two miles from their home, so they most likely hopped on a bus to go to school.

No longer in operation, the giant high school had been open for only a dozen years. It is shown on page 103 of The Bronx: It Was Only Yesterday, 1935-1965, by Lloyd Ultan and Gary Hermalyn of the Bronx County Historical Society.

Using the MyHeritage in Color tool, I colorized the black-and-white yearbook photos of Daisy and Dorothy, as shown above. Both were good students who earned honors (see the "Arista" designation in their yearbook profiles).

Graduating into the Great Depression

Daisy and Dorothy graduated high school at the end of January, 1936. It was common to have January graduations in those days, not just for high school but for all New York City schools.

The twins, barely 16 years old, were graduating into the depths of the Great Depression.

Still, they soon found secretarial work in Manhattan to help support the family and supplement income from the family grocery store in the Bronx.

Their older brother, Fred, was finishing college, en route to a teaching position. Dorothy was planning to attend Hunter College, with Daisy continuing to work.

The twins worked in midtown skyscraper office buildings, slightly shorter than those in this New York State Archives photo of the city skyline. They commuted by subway from the Bronx to Manhattan, a ride of less than one hour each way. Jobs in Manhattan were more plentiful and certainly higher paying than those in the Bronx!

On Mother's Day, I'm remembering Mom with much love, and colorizing her with her beloved twin sister. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

V-E Day for Harold Burk in Paris

Harold Burk in Paris - April, 1945
My father, Harold Burk (1909-1978) and his younger brother, Sidney Burk (1914-1995) both registered with their local draft New York City board in October of 1940. Harold enlisted in the military early in March, 1942, at the age of 32. Sidney enlisted in July of 1942, at age 28.

For the 75th Anniversary of V-E Day, I'm retelling the story of my Dad, who was in or near Paris on May 8, 1945.

Harold Burk, Personnel Clerk

As a civilian, Harold was a travel agent at a big New York City hotel, a job that required good typing. This skill landed him the assignment of personnel clerk in the 3163d Signal Service Company of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, a unit responsible for communications. His official designation was Administrative NCO 502.

Harold and his unit spent nearly eight months in Europe, participating in two major campaigns: Central Europe and Rhineland. Their role was to develop communication lines in support of Allied military efforts. He and his unit spent late 1944 and early 1945 near Paris.

Harold Burk, Photographed in Paris

Harold and his Signal Corps unit remained near Paris in the spring of 1945. I know that not just from his military records but from photos he mailed home to family.

As shown at top, Harold posed in front of the Arc de Triomphe in April of 1945 (according to the date on the back of that photo).

He posed with eight buddies from his unit in the photo shown here. The back of the photo has a caption, written by Harold, showing the date as April 22, 1945, and listing the names of others in his unit. Dad is in the front row, second from right.

I can only imagine the cheers and celebrations he joined as the war in Europe ended on this day, 75 years ago. Was he in the heart of Paris or just a few miles outside when the news broke? No letters survive to tell the tale.

Still, these photos helped me follow his movements at this momentous time in World War II. Well done, Dad. Thank you and all the men and women of the military for the vital roles they played in winning the war.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

V-E Day for Farkas Family Members in the Service

My 1C1R Robert Farkas in the 303d Medical
Battn of 78th Infantry Division, U.S. Army

The June, 1945 meeting of my Farkas Family Tree was a joyous one, taking place just weeks after Victory in Europe Day on May 8.

This tree group had been formed in 1933 to maintain the close relationships among children and grandchildren of my immigrant ancestors, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Lena Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938).

The "tree" met ten times a year, bringing together dozens of family members from around the New York City area.

During World War II, the highlight of every monthly meeting was when the group listened to the reading of letters written home by Farkas relatives serving in the military. Emotions ran high as the family hoped for the safe return home of all service members.

My aunt, Sgt. Dorothy Schwartz,
served as a WAC in WWII
When the Farkas Family Tree met in June of 1945, it was an especially happy occasion because of the Allied victory and pride in the role of family members who did their part. The minutes singled out the accomplishments of two family members in the service.

I'm highlighting in yellow the quoted excerpts from the minutes of June, 1945 to distinguish them from my explanations.

Sgt. Dorothy Schwartz - Bronze Star Medalist

"Dorothy, now in Belgium, seems to have had quite a riotous time on V-E Day." - This sentence refers to my Auntie, Sgt. Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001), who was a WAC serving in Europe. She was in an important administrative support role for the 9th Air Force, and by the time of V-E Day, had been moved from France to Belgium as battles were fought and won. Alas, I don't have Dorothy's letter describing her "riotous time" but I am so glad to know that she celebrated.

"Dorothy was awarded the Bronze Star Medal." - In fact, my aunt's citation read: For "meritorious service in direct support of operations against the enemy." During 17 months of bombardment leading up to V-E Day, she took shorthand listening in as commanders discussed when and where to bomb the enemy. Her key role was to quickly and accurately transcribe the bombing orders so they could be distributed to flight commanders right away. She was always cognizant that lives were on the line, and she took her responsibilities very seriously, according to her letters home.

Technician 4th Class Robert Farkas - Three Battle Stars 

"Regional censorship being lifted in the ETO [European Theater of Operations], Bob wrote what he could about where he is and it wasn't much even though a 3d party was not reading the letters." - Robert "Bob" Farkas (1924-2014) had enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 18 and was part of the medical corps. After training, he was sent to England, France, Belgium, and Germany to provide care for wounded service members.

"Bob has three battle stars." - He served in B Company, 303d medical battalion of the 78th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, and I believe I spotted him in this photo of the 303d. He's smiling in the next-to-back row, 6th from the right. Bob was one of the most prolific of the letter-writers, sending home frequent descriptions of what he was doing and seeing during training and all over Europe. He wrote that he learned more from the aftermath of the first combat experience in Europe than he did from all of his previous training.

Let me salute all the servicepeople who participated in the Allied war effort leading up to V-E Day.

This is my post for week 19 of Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors genealogy prompts - service.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Where Our Ancestors Lived in America

Using books to learn more
about where our ancestors lived
Some years ago, hubby and I took a memorable daylong tour of the Bronx, New York, with Professor Lloyd Ultan, who is the County Historian.

I bought the two books above not just for nostalgia (being a native Bronxite), but also to look up places where my immigrant ancestors lived. In search of historical context for my genealogy research!

Where My Ancestors Lived in the Bronx

Many immigrant members of my family tree settled in the Bronx after spending time in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and, in some cases, living in Jewish Harlem in Manhattan. I found photos and explanations of the streets where they lived and worked in two Bronx books, The Beautiful Bronx and The Bronx in the Innocent Years.

For instance, my paternal grandma Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) plus one brother and both her parents were born in Eastern Europe. After the parents and two oldest children came to New York City, the rest of the Mahler children were born in the Big Apple.

In 1920, my great aunt Ida Mahler (1892-1971) married immigrant Louis Volk (1890-1952), who was originally from Sukian, Russia. As their family grew, they moved uptown to a series of nice Bronx neighborhoods (Walton Ave., Morris Ave., Rochambeau Ave., Findlay Ave.).

The Bronx books show photos of typical apartment buildings on those streets, explaining that the areas were desirable because they were within walking distance of mass transit like subway, trolley, and bus lines.

It was fascinating to watch the development of the neighborhoods, one historical photo at a time, and imagine my ancestors' daily lives as they shopped in local stores and sent children to local schools. Almost like time travel to when/where my ancestors spent so many years of their lives!

Where Hubby's Ancestors Lived in Upper Sandusky

The small book in the photo is Images of America: Upper Sandusky, a pictorial history of the town in Ohio where my husband's maternal grandma Floyda Steiner (1878-1948) and her family lived before the turn of the 20th century. She and her siblings kept homes there well into the middle of the 1900s.

The book has photos of the very lovely and well-kept Old Mission Cemetery, where Floyda and her siblings are buried. Included was a photo of the infamous gravestone incorrectly inscribed with a death date of February 31. We saw (and photographed) that grave when visiting Steiner graves a few years ago.

The book has lots of photos of churches and schools, some of which were attended by Floyda and her family. In addition, it has some dated photos of local families whose names are familiar from the FAN club of my hubby's family tree.

Some of the homes where Steiners lived in the 1900s are no longer standing, replaced by newer buildings. But my husband and I both enjoyed paging through the history of Upper Sandusky and learning more about the key people and events shaping the town's development over the years--great context for understanding his family history.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Why I Love the 1900 and 1910 US Census

Is it wrong to play favorites? I have two favorite years in the U.S. Census: 1900 and 1910.

As shown above, these are favorites because of the specific questions asked during those two Census years. The answers that ancestors gave were clues to further researching their lives. Here are just two examples.

1900 US Census Clues: Farkas Family

As enumerated in the 1900 Census, my maternal great-grandfather Moritz "Morris" Farkas (1857-1936) was a boarder in the household of a Roth cousin. His birth year is shown as 1857. The month is not indicated (it's omitted from many on this page).

Thanks to this Census hint about birth year, I went looking for Moritz's birth in the Hungarian records a few years ago. At the time, I had to request FHL microfilm #642919 of Jewish records gathered at Fehergyarmat, Hungary. Very exciting to find him there (as "Moses Farkas") after two hours of cranking the microfilm reader at a nearby Family History Center!

1910 US Census Clues: McClure Family

Here's the 1910 Census for my husband's great-great uncle Train Caldwell McClure (1843-1934). Look way over to the right on this record and you'll see "UA" in the column reserved for recording veterans. UA = Union Army!

I searched for and found his Civil War service in Company A of the 89th Indiana Infantry. Train entered the Union Army on August 3, 1862, and was mustered out nearly three years later on July 19, 1865 at Mobile, AL, according to the Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana.

These are only two examples of why I love the 1900 and 1910 U.S. Census. For now, these years are my favorites.

But in April of 2022, I'll have a new favorite: The 1950 U.S. Census, which will be released that year with a lot of detailed information about my ancestors. I can't wait!