Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Halloween: Postcard from Aunt Nellie


Happy Halloween from my husband's Wood family! This colorful holiday postcard was sent to hubby's uncle in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 28, 1913. 

The sender was Aunt Rachel Ellen "Nellie" Wood Lewis Kirby (1864-1954). Nellie was an older sister of James Edgar Wood (1871-1939), my hubby's grandfather. James and Nellie were close and Nellie was very fond of his four boys. 

During the early 1900s, Nellie sent postcards to her beloved Wood nephews for every conceivable occasion. The recipients really enjoyed hearing from this favorite aunt -- so much so that the Wood family kept these postcards for more than a century!

Nellie's Story

Nellie married her first husband, Walter Alfred Lewis Sr. (1860-1897), when she was 20 and he was 24. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 37, leaving Nellie with a son to raise alone. She moved to Detroit to find work. In Detroit she also met the man who would become her second husband, Arthur Kirby (1860-1939).

Not long afterward, Nellie and Arthur moved to Chicago...and eloped to the "Gretna Green" town of Crown Point, Indiana, in 1907, where they could be married and return home that same day to the Windy City. According to the 1910 US Census, he worked as a barber and she worked as a seamstress. In 1920, he was still a barber but she was running a nursery from home. In 1930, he continued working as a barber but she had no occupation. 

The year 1939 was sad for Nellie. Her brother James (my husband's grandfather) died in January in Cleveland, Ohio, and then her husband Arthur in Chicago died in March. From then on, Nellie lived by herself in Chicago, but remained in touch with her Wood family back in Ohio until her death in 1954.

Remembering Nellie on Halloween with this postcard she sent to the Wood family 107 years ago today.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Happy Birthday Lady Liberty, From My Immigrant Ancestors


"The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" was dedicated on this day in 1886. A gift from France to the United States, Lady Liberty is situated on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. She doesn't look a day over 134, does she?

My maternal great-grandparents (Moritz Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas) passed the iconic statue when arriving in New York City from Hungary. Moritz sailed in 1899 and Leni sailed in 1900. Four of their children (including my maternal grandma, Hermina Farkas), followed them to New York in 1901. I remember folks in the Farkas family expressing a fondness for Lady Liberty, a symbol of freedom and opportunity for our immigrant ancestors.

My widowed paternal great-great-grandmother (Rachel Shuham Jacobs) and her daughter (my great-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler) both arrived in 1886. Along with Tillie came her two children, my grandma (Henrietta Mahler) and great uncle (David Mahler). All of these immigrant ancestors saw the Statue of Liberty on their way into New York City. 

My paternal great-grandfather Meyer Elias Mahler (husband of Tillie Jacobs Mahler) arrived earlier, in May of 1885, so he definitely did NOT see the statue, which was brought to America in June of 1885. 

On behalf of my immigrant ancestors, I wish Lady Liberty a happy birthday--and I salute the courage and determination of my ancestors who sought a better life in America! To celebrate, I enjoyed a breath-taking virtual tour of the State of Liberty, seen here

A Is for Alfred or Alford

Is it likely that a sibling would know how to spell his brother's name?

The reason I wonder is that one of my husband's Wood ancestors appears as Alfred O. Wood in some documents and Alford O. Wood in other documents. It's definitely the same man, but with a slightly different given name.

Alfred/Alford O. WOOD was born on October 17, 1855 in Cabell County, Virginia (now Huntington, West Virginia). His parents were carpenter/coach builder Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest. He died on March 26, 1895 in Toledo, Ohio, at the age of 39. According to funeral home records, the cause of death was consumption.

I've found info about Alfred/Alford in the following sources. Keep in mind that Census enumerators weren't required to ask about correct spelling; the way this ancestor's name was inconsistent in Census records.

Sources showing name as ALFRED:

  • 1860 US Census - As shown at top of this post, Alfred was listed as 5 years old when the enumerator came around to the household of his parents. NOTE: This enumerator used creative spelling. The 1-year-old girl in this household was listed as Levacia, but her real name was Levatia.
  • 1870 US Census - Alfred was listed as 14 years old during this Census, occupation as chairmaker. No creative spelling for rest of siblings.
  • 1874 Toledo City Directory - Alfred is shown as a carpenter with Jonathan N. Williams.
  • 1879 Toledo City Directory - Alfred O. Wood is shown as a carpenter with the Wabash Railway.
  • 1880 Toledo City Directory - Alfred O. Wood is shown as a carpenter with LS & MS Railway.
  • 1881 Toledo City Directory - Alfred O. Wood is shown as a carpenter.
  • 1891 Toledo City Directory - Alfred O. Wood is shown as a carpenter with Wood Bros.
  • 1894 Toledo City Directory - Alfred O. Wood is shown as a carpenter.
  • 1930s listing of Wood siblings - Alfred O. Wood is included in this list, handwritten by his younger brother on "Wood Brothers, Builders" letterhead. This page was kept in the Wood family bible for decades.
Sources showing name as ALFORD:
  • 1880 US Census - Shown here is the Wood household in 1880. Alford O. Wood (fourth name from top of list) is recorded as a 25-year-old carpenter. 
  • 1895 Toledo City Directory - Alford O. Wood is shown as having died on March 26, 1895, at the age of 39.
  • 1895 Funeral Home record from Toledo, Ohio - Alford O. Wood is shown as the deceased, death date of March 26th, with burial on March 28th in Lima, Ohio, which is 80 miles away from Toledo. 

Given that the vast majority of sources show the name as Alfred O. Wood, and his brother also used that name on the sibling list, I'm going with ALFRED O. WOOD unless and until more definitive, reliable evidence turns up for the Alford version.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Book Review: "Genealogical Research in Ohio, 2nd Edition"

Note: The Genealogical Publishing Company provided me with a free review copy of this book, but the candid opinions in this review are entirely my own.

Because so many of my husband's ancestors had "Ohio Fever" and moved to the Buckeye State after the Revolutionary War, I was interested in learning more about the state's genealogical sources. 

Kip Sperry's Genealogical Research in Ohio is a handy guide to Ohio and its robust family history resources. The second edition has lots of web addresses but its real strength is in covering the many resources that aren't available with a click, such as:

  • Substitutes for missing or incomplete civil vital records - Sperry fills 4 pages with good ideas for finding birth, marriage, and death info when official records aren't available. For instance, the Ohio Genealogical Society has on file ancestor cards and charts, First Families roster, and Bible records; the Ohio Historical Society has grave registrations of soldiers buried in Ohio. Not everything is online, and the book encourages researching off-line sources.
  • Historical maps - Sperry includes 21 maps that are useful in understanding when counties came into existence, when borders changed, how early bounty lands shaped Ohio's development, county seats, regional history research centers, and much more. Sometimes I needed a magnifying glass but the maps were fascinating and informative.
  • Chronology of Ohio's history - Shows years (sometimes specific dates) of the state's settlement milestones, wars, land development, population growth, and more. This is invaluable as background and context for researching Ohio ancestors. Having it in handy book format is a plus. 
Ideally, a 3rd edition would update with the latest info (the 1940 US Census wasn't yet available when Sperry wrote the 2nd edition--and in 2022, the 1950 US Census will be available, a good target date for a new edition, IMHO!). A new edition should also delete mention of databases on CDs and update URLs for resources mentioned in the book. 

Meanwhile, I'll be reaching for this book regularly as I continue researching hubby's Ohio ancestors. I found much to recommend in Kip Sperry's expert review of Ohio genealogical resources!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

One Ancestor at a Time on Four Sites (Plus Software)

One of my 2020 goals has been to improve the details and sources for ancestors on the family tree, part of my Genealogy Go-Over.

To keep the project manageable, I'm focusing on only one branch of the family tree at a time. Currently, my focus is on my husband's Wood side, starting with his paternal great-grandparents.

As shown here from Family Search, these great-grandparents were Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890) and Mary Amanda Demarest (1831-1897). They had 17 children, including hubby's grandfather, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). You can spot him in the list of children: he's the guy with a face instead of a generic profile oval.

Add in the children's children and spouses and ex-spouses, and my Go-Over is not a rainy-day quick fix, but it is achievable if I go through the list systematically, one ancestor at a time.

I'm simultaneously checking each ancestor on my Ancestry and My Heritage trees, the Family Search collaborative tree, and on Find a Grave. Of course I am updating each ancestor in my RootsMagic software as I go along.

At a minimum, I'd like to have all ancestral names and dates/places complete and correct on all four sites. Ideally, I'd like to include a bit of a bio where possible, partly for cousin bait and partly to share what I've learned with other genealogists.

Just this month, I submitted an edit to fix the name on James Edgar Wood's Find a Grave memorial, a key correction. I had already added the photo (same as on Family Search) and a brief bio. UPDATE: For infants whose burial places are unknown, I'm mentioning their names/dates in the bios of their parents on Find a Grave, to keep their memories alive and keep families "together."

With the pandemic keeping me close to home, I expect to nearly finish this part of my Go-Over by the end of 2020. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Free Genealogy Websites -- But Sometimes It Pays to Pay!

Randy Seavers issued a Saturday Night Genealogy Challenge this weekend: "Your Top 10 Free Genealogy Sites."

My summary page for "Genealogy--Free or Fee?" shows many top picks for free genealogy.

The Ancestor Hunt by Kenneth Marks

One free website I'm adding to my list is The Ancestor Hunt, a very useful website by Kenneth Marks (on Twitter at @marksology). 

As shown at top, the site links to free genealogy resources (arranged by U.S. state and Canadian province) such as newspapers, birth-marriage-death records, photos, school yearbooks, directories, immigration, divorce, and lots of other categories!

Here's a sample of what these state-by-state links look like. Definitely worth taking a look and clicking for the state where our ancestors lived! Be sure to look at all the headings. There's a lot here, thanks to Kenneth Marks.

When It Pays to Pay

Sometimes I need information that I just can't find for free. Direct line ancestors (parents, grandparents, great-grannies, etc) are a key priority. If those key vital records aren't available for free, I order and have them in hand for careful scrutiny. More than once, I've noticed tiny details that changed my understanding of an ancestor's life! And, as my friend Linda Stufflebean points out, the free version of a record may not have all the info that is available on the original version ordered for a fee.

I also pay for birth, marriage, death, and other records when I need to find out (or confirm) a maiden name, get an exact date, or see info that my ancestor actually wrote. This includes original photocopies of my ancestors' Social Security applications (SS-5). 

In general, vital records tend to get more expensive as the years go by--if they are available at all. Some states are restricting access, unfortunately. If I want that record and it's not available for free, I'm going to buy it now and keep it.

Before I send money, I always look at a blank copy of the record to be sure I understand what will (and won't) be on it. If I'm hoping to learn an exact birth date but early marriage records show just an age or state whether bride/groom are over 21, I may look for a different record to obtain the birth date.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A Genealogy Record Actually Got Cheaper!

Prepping for my "Free and Almost Free Genealogy" talk this week, I double-checked the cost of sending for an ancestor's Social Security (SS-5) application. 

Although there is a fee for obtaining SS-5 documents, they are filled with detail. Don't bother with the "computer extract" which usually doesn't have all the details on the actual application. Go straight for the "photocopy of original application" even though it costs a little more. You want to see the original with your own eyes!

When I couldn't find my great-grandma's maiden name any other way, I paid to get my grandpa Isaac's Social Security application. 

As shown directly above, Isaac applied for a Social Security card on December 1, 1936, giving the following info on his application:

  • First name and surname
  • Home address
  • Employer name and address
  • Current age AND birthdate AND birthplace (including country)
  • Father's full name
  • Mother's given and maiden name
  • Sex, color
  • Date of application and signature 
The price of obtaining this SS-5 has varied over the years. Two years ago, it was $24 for the photocopy. 

Today, as shown at top of this post, the cost of a photocopy is only $21. Rarely does a genealogy record get cheaper. If you, like me, want to get more info about an ancestor who had a Social Security account, I encourage you to spend the money to see the photocopy. IMHO, the investment can be quite worthwhile. Here's the link to get started.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Why I Love Bite-Sized Family History Projects

Bite-sized family history projects are more like a sprint than a marathon--and that's what makes them so practical and doable.

Here's why I love bite-sized family history projects:

  • They don't drag on and on forever. Researching and writing an entire family history can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Rather than spending many months or even years on one big project, I ease my way into family history by planning, researching, and creating each bite-sized story in a matter of weeks. 
  • My enthusiasm remains high when I limit my focus. Focusing on only one or two ancestors, one event (like a wedding,) or one heirloom motivates me to stay engaged for the limited time needed to complete the project.
  • Focusing sets the direction and scope. I have a clearer idea of what I'm looking for when conducting genealogical research on just one ancestor or a couple. I also know the time-frame when exploring background issues to put their lives into context for my audience, the next generation (and beyond).
  • Smaller projects allow for flexibility and creativity. Do I want to tell the story through a colorful illustrated booklet? A slick photo book? A video featuring family photos and narration by an older cousin? Whatever the final result is, bite-sized projects can be assembled into larger blocks later on.
  • The audience will have something now. It's never too soon to get relatives interested in the family's past. A bite-sized project eases them into learning about ancestors little by little, just as it eases me into telling the stories little by little. 

My newest bite-sized family history project is approaching the finish line: A photo-studded booklet about my mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Schwartz, 1919-2001). 

The excerpt at top shows part of a page telling about my Auntie Dorothy's experiences in the Women's Army Corps during World War II. She was on board the RMS Aquitania as the oceanliner-turned-troop ship made its way from New York City to Scotland, with the constant fear of German submarine attack anywhere in the Atlantic. Now that's a story the next generation doesn't know and will be astonished to hear!

"Newest" is the #52Ancestors prompt for week 41. Only 11 more weekly prompts in 2020. This is one of my Genealogy Blog Party links for December, 2020!

NOTE: My newest presentation, "Bring Family History Alive in Bite-Sized Projects," will debut at the all-virtual New England Regional Genealogical Conference in April. More event details available soon!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Jane Ann Wood, Oldest and Longest-Lived Child

My husband's grandfather was one of 17 children of Mary Amanda Demarest and Thomas Haskell Wood. The oldest of their children was Jane Ann Wood (1846-1936). She was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana, and came along as her parents moved first to West Virginia and then, as the Civil War began, moving with the family  to Toledo, Ohio.

In 1880, when she was 33 years old, Jane still lived with the family on South Street in Toledo, Ohio. Her occupation on the Census was listed as "at home." Two of her brothers were already working while four of her siblings were listed as "at school." The youngest two siblings--including hubby's grandfather--were also attending school but that was not their listed occupation.

Jane in City Directories

Tracking Jane after 1880 would have been difficult if not for the many Toledo, Ohio city directories available on Ancestry. When Jane's father died in February of 1890, she was still living at home with her mother. 

In the 1893 Toledo city directory excerpt at top, she is listed as "Jennie A. Wood" boarding at the address where her mother lives, 414 South Street. Her brother James E. Wood was also boarding at that address--this is hubby's grandpa, not yet married.

In the city directories, Jane appears at 414 South Street in 1894, 1895, and 1896. However, she's missing from the 1897 Toledo directory. 

Jane in Census Years

After a gap of years, I finally found Jane at age 63 in the 1910 Census. She was married to 60-year-old George A. Black, who was listed as blind. They told the enumerator that they had been married for 12 years (approximate marriage year would be 1898). This was his 2d marriage and her 1st. One more person was in this household: A boarder named George Sader, also blind, also in his 2d marriage. 

At age 74 in 1920, Jane was listed as head of household in the Census. She and husband George were still living in Toledo, Ohio, again no occupation for either. 

In the 1930 Census, Jane was 83 and her husband George was 80, and they have not left Toledo. Neither showed an occupation, but now they had a roomer. She was Anna Rosebecker, married and age 67.

Jane Outlived George

In February of 1934, Jane's husband George died in Toledo. After an inquest, his death was recorded as being caused by heart problems. 

Jane "Jennie" Wood Black lived on two more years, dying in Toledo of liver problems at the age of 89, leaving no descendants. She was not just the oldest but also the longest-lived of all 17 children of Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest. I'm honoring her memory with this post for week 40 of #52Ancestors.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Fact List Reveals Gaps in My Genealogy Research

This week's "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" challenge from Randy Seaver is to create a fact list using genealogy software and share the results.

Since I use the same software that Randy uses -- RootsMagic7 -- I simply followed his instructions. I prepared a fact list of marriage facts in my Wood family tree. Above is an excerpt from this 38-page report. (I didn't print it--to save trees, I saved it in digital format.)

As I'm still learning to use my RM7 after 3 years, Randy's challenge was an opportunity to identify gaps in my research. Above, I have no marriage date for one ancestor but I do have a place. For another ancestor, I have a year but no marriage place. And for two ancestors, I have only a city or county name without the state.

I ran this fact list for I'll run one for births and one for deaths. Those are the very bare basics, but I can drill down further when I'm ready. Thanks to Randy, I'm be able to see at a glance where I need to focus my research to fill in the gaps!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Family History Month Starts with Backup Day

The first of every month is backup day--time to make backups of whatever you've digitized as a way of keeping precious genealogy data safe. 

Family History Month is an especially good time to remember to back up all of these files: scanned photos, digitized documents, electronic reports, and gedcoms.

Ideally, have a backup of your genealogy files on an external drive you can access quickly, also backing up onto a second external drive you keep off-site, and a backup in the cloud as well. 

Backups help protect our family's history for the next generation and preserve what we've learned in our years of genealogy research!