Sunday, November 29, 2020

Review of "Genealogy At a Glance: War of 1812 Research"

My husband had two War of 1812 veteran ancestors, Isaac Larimer (1771-1823) and his son, Robert Larimer (1792-1850). 

Despite conducting research in the past, I found fresh leads and documents thanks to the newly-updated War of 1812 Research "Genealogy at a Glance" booklet* - which I'm reviewing today. 

I really like these types of four-page summary booklets. Laminated, colorful, and easy to read, they cover well-known sources (such as the National Archives) and lesser-known sources (such as POW and preservation societies) as resources for finding ancestors. 

In this 1812 booklet, a handy section titled "Finding a War of 1812 Soldier" serves as the jumping-off point, followed by concise explanations and lists of research resources to explore by category. 

Lineage Society Link Leads to a Find

This updated booklet mentions four lineage societies to check for info about ancestors who fought in the War of 1812. Clicking to the top site on the list, the General Society War of 1812, I looked at the membership menu and found a lengthy set of links to state-by-state research data. 

Hubby's ancestors lived in Ohio when they enlisted. Alongside several printed research sources was a link to the Internet Archive's digitized Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War of 1812, published by the Adjutant General of Ohio in 1916.

When I searched this digitized roster for "Larimer," two results showed up on the same page. My husband's two Larimer ancestors served in Capt. George Sanderson's Company (from Fairfield County, Ohio), as shown here. 

For quick "at a glance" reference and detailed ideas for how to research 1812 veterans, I highly recommend this updated edition.

*The Genealogical Publishing Company provided me with a free review copy of War of 1812 Research--Updated Edition but the candid opinions in this post are entirely my own.  

UPDATE: On Fold3, I discovered that Pvt Robert Larimer was a drummer with this company! 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving Greetings from 1912

My husband's uncle received this colorful Thanksgiving postcard in November of 1912. 

The sender, a first cousin, wrote on the back:

"Are you going to have a turkey for Thanksgiving? If you do, I hope he will be like the one on this card. Love from Cousin Dorothy."

Wishing you and everyone you love a safe, healthy and hopeful Thanksgiving -- and many more!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Now I'm My Great Aunt's Keeper


I've been updating the Find a Grave memorial pages for ancestors in my direct line and their siblings/spouses. Above is the photo I posted on my great aunt's memorial a few years ago. This week, I decided to ask to be manager of this and other memorial pages so I can edit without waiting for the current manager to approve my suggestions. I already managed my great uncle's memorial, but had not yet asked to be my great aunt's keeper.

Ask for the Transfer

As shown above, when I asked for my great aunt's memorial to be transferred to me, I received an automated response. It turns out that Find a Grave was the current manager of the memorial created for Anna Gelbman Schwartz (1886-1940). I can be the memorial's manager if I agree to (1) respond respectfully to edit requests and (2) transfer the memorial to another relative if asked. 

Most memorials aren't managed by Find a Grave, and usually I have to wait for a response. Some managers ask me how I'm related to the person being memorialized, which is why my standard request begins by saying..."Please be kind enough to transfer the ownership of memorial #___ to me, because [___insert name___] is my [insert relationship here]." 

In this case, however, Find a Grave immediately and automatically implemented the transfer when I clicked to accept the terms of the agreement.

Great Aunt Anna Was Much Loved

Born in Bridgeport, CT, my great aunt Anna married at the age of 23 to my great uncle Samuel (Simon) Schwartz (1883-1954). The photo in the memorial shown above was taken in 1909, the year of their marriage. Anna and Sam and their two sons moved from Bridgeport to New York City, where she was a beloved part of the Schwartz family from the very start. She was a warm, loving presence, I've been told by an older relative who knew her well.

Unfortunately, Anna was struck down by cancer at the age of 54. She was buried in Riverside Cemetery in Saddle Brook, NJ, where I've visited her grave alongside that of her husband, Sam.

Now that I'm my great aunt's keeper, I posted a brief bio, added specific day/month/year birth and death dates, and linked her to her parents as well as her husband. I'm about to link the couple's two sons and draft brief bios for them, too.

Do You Want to Become a Keeper?

Are you the manager of your ancestors' memorials? Are they already on Find a Grave? If you don't already manage the memorials of key ancestors, you can easily request a transfer under the "suggest edits" menu. You might not want to manage every ancestor under the sun, but do consider managing those in your direct line.

If your key ancestors are not currently listed on Find a Grave, please consider adding them and posting a few details about their lives. This is great cousin bait, by the way, especially if you post a portrait of an ancestor to catch the viewer's eye.

By becoming the keeper of ancestral memorials, you can individualize each one and honor their memory in your own way. I'm proud to be my great aunt's keeper!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Not All of the 1890 US Census Burned!

Nearly a century ago, a devastating fire at the U.S. Department of Commerce Building burned up nearly all of the 1890 U.S. Census records. Read all about the fire here.

Sadly, many damaged records sat around for years after the 1921 fire, while the government dithered over what to do. 

Some Records Survived

As shown at top, some fragments of the population schedules are actually still available to be searched. For a complete list of which localities can be searched, take a look at the U.S. Census Bureau's page here.

Better news: Many of the Veteran's schedules (which enumerated Civil War vets) survived the fire. Read more here

Veterans Enumerated!

Happily for me, my husband's Civil War ancestors who were still alive in 1890 were enumerated on the special Veteran's schedules that survived. 

This page from 1890 shows Benjamin Franklin Steiner (1840-1924)'s service in the 10th Ohio Cavalry during the Civil War. 

Lots of detail, including exact dates of service and his current town of residence at the time of the enumeration. This was one of the sources I consulted when I wrote a brief biography of Steiner for a booklet on my husband's Civil War ancestors. 

So now, nearly 100 years after the fire that burned up most of the 1890 Census, I can still research Civil War veterans in hubby's family tree.

- I just added this post to the November Genealogy Blog Party, which focuses on veterans and military ancestors. Lots of good blog posts to read there.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Ancestral Traditions: Occupation and Middle Name

Many of my husband's English ancestors went into the same line of work as their fathers, generation after generation. That's definitely true of the WOOD family woodworkers (going back to the 1400s and lasting through the mid-1900s). In addition, naming traditions were often handed down from father to son, even continuing into the 21st century.

Recently, I researched ancestral traditions of occupations and names in the WHITE family, united by marriage in England with my husband's SLATTER family. I examined two specific aspects of the White line: the distinctive middle name of Hoxland carried by one male in nearly every generation, and the similar/related occupations of these male ancestors over the years.

Three Generations of Thomas White, Stone Workers

Thomas Hoxland White, born in Devon, England, in 1800, was a stone sawyer, according to UK Census records. He and wife Mary named their son Thomas Hoxland White, and he grew up to be a stone sawyer like his dad (see marriage document at top). This Thomas married Caroline Corbett, the daughter of a waiter.

Thomas and Caroline's son Thomas John White, born in Westminster, Middlesex, England, was not given that distinctive middle name of Hoxland. Perhaps a different son (one who died young?) received that middle name, but so far I haven't found him in the records. 

Thomas John White was yet another stone sawyer in this family, according to his marriage document. He changed careers later--more about that in a moment. Thomas married Fanny Gardner, the daughter of Fanny Slatter who was hubby's 2d great aunt. That's the connection point between the White and Slatter families.

Stone Sawyer vs Stone Mason

In the 1901 UK Census, Thomas John White's occupation was shown as stone mason, not stone sawyer, as was his father's occupation. What's the difference between stone mason and stone sawyer?

My gen friend Dr. Sophie Kay helped me out by consulting an early 20th century UK dictionary of occupations. She says stone sawyers did less skilled stone cutting. In contrast, stone masons did more skilled work, dressing and and shaping stone. This tells me that in less than three generations, the White family's men progressed in their skills from sawyer to mason. 

Hoxland Middle Name Lives On, Tradition of Stone Work Does Not

Back to Thomas John White, who did not have the Hoxland middle name but did begin his work life as a stone mason. He left the United Kingdom in 1905, marrying and settling in the bustling manufacturing city of Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1910, he told the US Census that his occupation was draftsman in a cemetery. Finally, an ancestor who worked in a cemetery!

Thomas married Florence Elliott and their son, John Hoxland White, carried that distinctive middle name but had nothing to do with stone work. According to US Census records, he was a bookkeeper in a Cincinnati, Ohio machine shop, and rose to become assistant treasurer, he said in a later Census. 

Although there is no longer a tradition of working with stone, the White family has carried on the tradition of Hoxland as a middle name for 200 years and counting.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

How To Donate an Item to a Repository


Is there an item in your family-history collection that you might consider donating to a historical society, a museum, an archive, a library, or a genealogical group? 

A great example is something not directly related to your family tree, such as this air raid poster that my late father-in-law (Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986) saved following World War II. He kept it with other wartime memorabilia and many decades later, my husband inherited it.

Posters like this were so commonplace that many folks just tossed them at the end of the war, but not Ed. 

Describe the Item and Take a Photo

This poster is in very good condition, with a few slight creases but nothing torn or illegible. It even has the name/address/phone number of the local air raid warden in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, which adds to its historical significance.

When my husband and I decided to donate, we approached the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland. Having visited its museum in the past, we had an idea of what the collection contains. The website explains, in detail, exactly what types of donated materials this repository accepts and how the process works.

I emailed one of the curators and described the air raid poster's size, summarized what it says, and described its condition, sending along a digital photo. She replied that it would fit nicely into the current collection. She asked for background on how it came into our family's possession...and ultimately accepted our donation.

Do the Paperwork!

After signing legal paperwork that transfers ownership of this item to the society, we carefully packed it flat and mailed it. Our letter included two paragraphs about my father-in-law and mother-in-law and their life in Cleveland Heights during World War II. This info will be in the archives, along with the air raid poster, as a result of our donation.

We alerted our family about the donation and let them know the society would welcome the donation of similar items if we unearth something else in the future. Meanwhile, this air raid poster -- of no personal significance for our family tree but of interest from a historical perspective -- has a fitting new home where it will be safe and ready for scholars and historians in years to come.

NOTE: As Amanda says in her comment below, sometimes an item will not be accepted, because it doesn't fit with the repository's collecting goals, for instance. If that happens, ask the institution to suggest where you might offer the item.


This is only one of the topics I'll cover in my members-only webinar, "Curate Your Genealogy Collection - Before Joining Your Ancestors," for the Virtual Genealogical Association on Tuesday, November 24th, at 8 pm Eastern time. Hope to see you then!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Discrepancies Disprove a Genealogy Theory


Recently, I wrote about the perils of researching my young 1c2r Pauline Jacobs (abt 1901-1907).

When Was Pauline Born?

I didn't know exactly when this little girl was born, although I knew she was born in New York City. 

Several possibilities turned up when I initially searched Ancestry and the Italian Genealogical Group (see results excerpt below). 

After seeing this list, I theorized that my Pauline Jacobs was born on June 26, 1901. The birth date fit quite well with what I knew from her death cert. Still, the bare-bones index or even a quick transcription wouldn't be enough to prove or disprove this theory. I needed more details, available on the full/original birth certificate, to more definitively prove a match--such as the parents' names and birthplaces, their home address, etc. 

Not my Pauline Jacobs

When I obtained the actual cert (excerpt is shown at top), I noticed that the parents' names do not match what I know about MY Pauline. Here the mother's name is Pauline Uhle, but MY Pauline's mom was Eva Micalovsky. Same goes for the father's name on this birth cert, not a match for MY Pauline. Father's occupation is not what I know of Pauline's father, either. Parents' birthplace differs from what I know.

Moreover, my Jacobs ancestors didn't live on West End Avenue in Manhattan (the address on this cert) and probably didn't even know anyone there; West End Avenue is quite far from the Lower East Side where the Jacobs family lived in this period. Looking at all the discrepancies, I'm confident this is NOT my cousin Pauline. The details don't match what is already known from other documents.

Theory disproved, next steps

After ruling out June 26, 1901 as Pauline's birth date, I redid my search to see whether there were other possibilities. This time I used the Germany Genealogy Group's database page, which checks volunteer-transcribed birth indexes from New York City.

The results shown here include a Pauline E. Jacobs born in May of 1899, but I'm not even tempted to look at her cert. Why? Because my Pauline was NOT in the Jacobs household according to the 1900 Census. That year's Census was taken on June 1. The Pauline E. Jacobs in the search results was born in 1899 and I strongly believe my cousin Pauline was born after the 1900 Census.

One big reason I think Pauline was born after mid-1900 is because Eva Jacobs told the enumerator she had 5 children in all but only 4 were living. All four were named in the Census listing and I know them all. So far, no good possibilities for a birth cert, but I'll keep looking.

Who's in the plot?

Knowing that Eva and Joseph Jacobs had lost a child before the 1900 Census, I took a little side trip looking for a child's death cert from before 1900. 

I clicked to the "interment search" on the website for Mount Zion Cemetery in Maspeth, NY, where the Jacobs family is buried in the Plungianer Society plot. Doing a search for any "Jacobs" in that plot I found Annie Jacobs, who was buried in that plot on February 1, 1896 according to the cemetery's website. 

Family Search shows a death index record of a one-year-old girl named Annie Jacobs on February 15, 1896, with burial on February 16, 1896 in Mount Zion Cemetery. Parents are Joseph and Eva Jacobs. With the theory that Annie Jacobs was the missing baby lost before 1900, I asked a kind parking lot angel to pull Annie's death cert image for me to examine more carefully. So grateful to these volunteers for their assistance!

Not all details fit . . .

Sadly, I saw on the death cert that this Annie was only 13 months old when she died of bronchitis, with contributing causes of rubella and "brain congestion." 

The cert says her parents were Joseph Jacobs and Eva (no maiden name, darn it!), both born in Germany (supposedly). Address was a tenement on West Third Street, close to the Lower East Side. 

Doctor Oscar Smith, who signed the death cert, lived around the corner. Since he wasn't at Annie's side when she died at 1 a.m. on February 15, according to his own statement, he might not have really known where the baby's parents were born, but made a guess based on their foreign accents. (I'm guessing about his guess now.)

Until I can locate a birth cert and get more info, I'm going to put Annie down as "very possibly" the daughter of Joseph Jacobs and Eva Micalovsky Jacobs--the child who passed away before the 1900 Census. I still need a bit more evidence, but most of the details fit AND she is buried close to her parents in the cemetery, which helps to support but not prove my theory. Yet.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

4 Reasons to Keep Conference Syllabus Files

Do you have old syllabus files from conferences you attended in past years? Here are 4 very good reasons to hold onto them and keep them handy. Note: Mine are all digital, taking up no room on my bookshelf and yet easy to find and review in a matter of moments.

Refresh Your Memory 

Sometimes I can't absorb all the key points from a session even with the handout in front of me. This is especially true for topics that are new to me or techniques I use only very occasionally. 

For instance, Pamela J. Cooper's "Railroad Trilogy" session at the 2013 FGS conference got me started researching my husband's ancestors who worked on the railroad. She had so many great ideas! I've returned to her handout in the syllabus more than once to remind myself of occupational words (like gandy dancer) that suggest a railroad background, and for how to obtain employee and pension records.

In 2014, I attended Maureen Taylor's NGS session about "Photo Detecting 101" and got educated on the basics of photo identification. Her handy chart comparing the daguerreotype, the ambrotype, the tintype, and cartes des visite has been such a treasure as I sort my family's old photos for dating and captioning. I refresh my memory on the differences as often as needed.
Less Relevant Then, More Relevant Now 

In 2013, I had no idea I would find so many ancestors in my husband's family tree who worked for railroads. Back then, I was thinking primarily about the background of my husband's grandfather (Brice Larimer McClure), who worked as a machinist for the "Big Four" railroads in Wabash, Indiana at the turn of the 20th century. 

Since that conference, I've discovered some of hubby's ancestors were station agents ... some were railroad machinists ... and on and on. Having the syllabus available with a few clicks allows me to return to Pam's handout and see it with fresh eyes, getting more out of it because I know more about family history than I did back then. In short, the session is even more relevant to my genealogy research today than in the past.

Sources, Techniques, and Tips Are Timeless 

Nearly all of the info in my syllabus files (even the oldest, from 2013 and 2014) has stood the test of time, particularly methodology and tips. The basics are sound and remain valuable. The syllabus files provide quite an education and allow me to expand my knowledge well beyond the sessions I attended.

Some speakers included web addresses in their handouts. A few led to "404 Not Found" but the vast majority are still working and still helpful. In fact, some of the links led to pages that are being updated on a regular basis. I was delighted to see that Pam's link to Jim Sponholz's page on "Locations of Railroad Genealogical Materials" was very much alive--Jim updated it just a few weeks ago!

Talk about timeless: I should put Maureen Taylor's "Photo Detecting 101" handout from NGS 2014 on speed dial. Having connected with more cousins in recent years, I refer to her tips and techniques often as I investigate each new family photo.

Ideas and Inspiration from Old Syllabus Files

Like browsing a library's shelves in search of a good book to read, clicking through old syllabus files can lead to fresh ideas and inspiration. Just now, I was clicking through the 2014 NGS syllabus and stopped at the handout for Elizabeth Shown Mills's session "War Is Hell." She not only suggested a strategy for researching military claims made by ancestors, she included a detailed list of sources to check for claims related to each war or conflict. This is an angle I didn't even consider when examining hubby's Civil War ancestors, but now will try to investigate.

Old syllabus files are the gift that keeps on giving, year after year. If you haven't opened one lately, find a quiet moment to take another look. You're sure to notice something you can use in your current genealogical situation!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Reading Frederick William Slatter's WWI Military Records

My husband's Slatter family had a multi-generational tradition of military service. This post honors the memory of his 1c1r Frederick William Slatter (1890-1958) who was severely wounded while serving with Canadian forces in World War I. Frederick was the second son of Capt. John Daniel Slatter (renowned military bandmaster in the 48th Highlanders of Toronto) and Sophie Marie Elizabeth Le Gallais (1861-1943).

Beyond Attestation

According to Frederick's Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Forces attestation paper, he joined the 75th Battalion on August 11, 1915. It had just been formed as an infantry unit for World War I service. 

Frederick, a bank clerk, was just weeks shy of his 25th birthday. He told officials he was unmarried, had been a member of a Canadian militia, and had previously served in the 2d Queen's Own unit. 

The complete military record covers 62 pages (including envelopes and blank pages) in the Library and Archives of Canada. This comprehensive file tells the story of his journey from the time he signed the attestation (and resigned and signed a new attestation) to his period of service in the European theatre and then to hospitals and finally to leaving the military. Unexpectedly, the file even included his date of death, decades after the war.

From Private to Acting Sergeant

After Frederick was medically cleared to serve in the 75th Battalion (formerly the 180th Battalion), he went into training. He was ranked as a private when he resigned from the 75th Battalion on February 8, 1916 to accept a commission as an acting sergeant with the 109th Regiment and then absorbed into the180th Battalion.  

Before being deployed overseas, Frederick trained at Camp Borden, the same Canadian training camp where his father (Capt. John Daniel Slatter) was training hundreds of buglers for World War I service. Then, 104 years ago this week, Frederick sailed from Halifax to Europe with other Canadian troops on H.M.T. Olympic

"GSW Chest Sev" Before Battle of Vimy Ridge

By early 1917, he was one of the thousands of soldiers massing in France to prepare for the notorious battle of Vimy Ridge. Many were wounded or lost their lives before the major offensive. On March 28, only days before the big battle began, Frederick was shot and subsequently admitted to the Duchess of Westminster Hospital in Le Touquet, France.

His medical condition was noted as: GSW chest sev - meaning a severe gun shot wound to the chest. He was moved to two other hospitals for treatment before being discharged from medical care on May 6, 1917. He was promoted to become Lt. Frederick William Slatter in September, 1917, and appears with that rank in the history of the 180th Battalion booklet. Ultimately, he was reevaluated by medical boards, declared medically unfit for service in early 1918, and returned to Canada for discharge.

Unexpected Find: Death Date

As I scrolled through Frederick's lengthy file, I found several pages that revealed his death date. Above, the card noting that Frederick was considered active in the theatre of war (France) from November 13, 1916 (the date of his sailing from Canada). Typed above his name at top left is the date he died, July 15, 1958.

Rest in peace, Lt. Frederick William Slatter, being honored for Remembrance Day and Veterans Day in 2020.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

For Remembrance Day, Honoring Lance Sgt Arthur Albert Slatter

My husband's 1c1r, Arthur Albert Slatter (1887-1917), was among the second generation of Slatters to choose military service as a career. 

Born in London, England, on July 2, 1887, he was the son of hubby's great uncle, Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942) and Alice Good Slatter (1864-1914). Great uncle Henry was a military bandmaster and not surprisingly, his son Arthur was musically inclined.  

With Remembrance Day approaching, I thought this post would be a straightforward bio of Arthur and his death while serving in World War I. To my surprise, there was more to the story, as I learned by digging deeper into his military service.

Serving with the Royal Fusiliers, 1902-1914

In 1902, supposedly at the age of 16 years and 11 months, Arthur enlisted for a dozen years of service in the Royal Fusiliers. He said he was a musician (see paperwork at right). 

In reality, Arthur was not yet 16, if his baptismal record and second record of military service are both correct--and I do believe them!

Thanks to Fold3 and Ancestry, I could read all pages of Arthur's paperwork documenting his initial time in the Royal Fusiliers. He trained as a stretcher bearer and ambulance driver, passed a swimming test, and qualified in chiropody (treating feet) at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight. By 1913, he had been promoted to a corporal. This was one year before he was due to complete his 12 years of service.

From London to Vancouver, 1914-1915

In the ordinary course of events, Arthur would have gone on to the next stage of his life after earning a pension for a dozen years of service with the Royal Fusiliers. 

He was, in fact, honorably discharged on July 17, 1914, "on the termination of his first period of engagement." This was only a few weeks before the United Kingdom became embroiled in World War I. 

After leaving the Royal Fusiliers, Arthur journeyed to Vancouver, Canada, where his parents had moved in 1911. Arthur's father Henry was bandmaster of the 72d Seaforth Highlanders, and Arthur joined up as well. But tragedy struck on Christmas Day of 1914, when Arthur's mother Alice died at the age of 50. 

On May 20, 1915, after six months with the 72d, Arthur signed papers to serve with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Forces. He was single, in his late 20s, and he stated his occupation as "musician." (See excerpt above.)

The Plot Thickens

Upon enlisting, Arthur was made acting sergeant of the 11th Canadian Mounted Rifles and then promoted to provisional band sergeant by June, 1915 (see document directly above). By November of 1915, however, the red ink tells the story of an unexpected event: Arthur was discharged as a deserter, having apparently gone away in October of 1915. 

Yet Arthur somehow made it across the Atlantic and rejoined the Royal Fusiliers. That's clear from the index card at right. He was officially listed as wounded and missing in action in France as of May 20, 1917. At the time, he was serving in Company C of the 20th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. 

In addition, I found documentation that Arthur was awarded a Victory medal posthumously for WWI service in the 1st and 20th Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. 

Somehow, Arthur unofficially left the Canadian forces and rejoined the Royal Fusiliers, but so far I haven't located the exact paperwork to indicate how he managed to do this in wartime.

Memorializing Arthur Albert Slatter and the Royal Fusiliers

More than 20,000 servicemen of the Royal Fusiliers, including Arthur Albert Slatter, lost their lives in World War I. The graceful Royal Fusiliers Memorial in London is a fitting way to honor their memories and service. 

Arthur's name isn't actually on the London memorial, but it is on the hauntingly stately Arras Memorial which serves to commemorate the passing of the many thousands of soldiers who died in the area during World War I.

Lance Sgt. Arthur Albert Slatter's name on the Arras Memorial has been transcribed and photographed on Find A Grave by volunteers. He has his own memorial page (shown at top of this post) that I've now linked to the memorials of his parents.

There is one more memorial to Arthur Albert Slatter: His parents, Henry and Alice, chose to add their son's name to their joint gravestone in Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver, Canada. Arthur's name is not in the cemetery's database because he's not actually buried in Vancouver. But looking at the photo of Henry and Alice's gravestone, I noticed his name/date below theirs. 

When Henry Arthur Slatter died in 1942, his obit stated that his son Arthur Albert Slatter had been killed in action during World War I, a final bit of evidence that I am honoring the memory of the correct Slatter ancestor on my husband's family tree.

This is my Genealogy Blog Party post for November, 2020.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Continuing to Curate My Genealogy Collection

As I curate my genealogy collection, I'm finding new homes for items with historical value but no real family-history value.

Case in point: The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper from Monday, December 8, 1941. Shown at top, it is intact and in good condition, despite being folded neatly for nearly 80 years.

My Cleveland-born father-in-law (Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986) and his entire family had gathered around the radio on the night of December 7th, listening to the terrible news about Pearl Harbor. When the next day's newspaper arrived, he wrapped it and put it away in a dry, safe place.

Because many families did the same thing, this newspaper is anything but rare. In fact, other historical societies and museums I contacted already had one or more copies of this day's newspaper and didn't want another. 

But after exchanging emails with a senior library official at Cleveland State University in Ohio about donating Cleveland theater programs from the 1950s, I brought up the subject of donating this 1941 newspaper. I explained my worry that the paper would inevitably deteriorate little by little unless kept under the proper archival conditions.

Understanding my concern, the official agreed to accept this issue of the Plain Dealer. My husband signed a deed of gift agreement, legally transferring ownership to the university library, found protective packaging to keep the newspaper safe during its journey to Cleveland, and sent it on its way. 

The acknowledgement of this donation arrived the other day. It feels good to know this item is in an appropriate repository, and will NOT be tossed in the rubbish or sold for pennies at a flea market after I join my ancestors!


Want to learn how to curate your genealogy collection? I'm giving a members-only virtual presentation to the Virtual Genealogical Association on Tuesday, November 24, starting at 8 pm. The VGA's membership fee is extremely affordable ($20/year), and includes benefits like webinars and discounts and more. Please check it out if you're not yet a member! 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Perils of Researching Pauline


It took a village to overcome a number of perils in researching Pauline Jacobs, who sadly died at a very young age.

Pauline, my 1c2r, was a daughter of paternal g-g-uncle Joseph Jacobs (1864-1918) and g-g-aunt Eva Micalovsky Jacobs (1869-1941). She was a younger sister of Flora Jacobs, whose life I wrote about yesterday.

My first actual document recording Pauline's death (see above) came from the cemetery where she's buried, Mount Zion in Maspeth, New York. The cemetery has a handy "interment search" where I located Pauline, her sister Flora, and her parents and grandmother, all buried in the Plungianer Unterstutzungs Verein plot. They copied and sent me Pauline's interment record, shown at top of this post.

Even with this information in hand, I still faced four perils in researching Pauline!

Peril One: Details Count 

If I had not seen the cemetery record card with my own eyes, I might have believed the incorrect death index for Pauline, shown at right, which indicates 1908 as her year of death. There is no access to images of the actual index, just this transcription. In general, I prefer to see for myself, not blindly trust transcriptions.

My guess is that the actual death info was received by New York City in 1908, since Pauline died just two days before the end of 1907. But I believe the cemetery got the year correct and the index/transcription was incorrect. Therefore I searched for Pauline's official death cert with the assumption she died in 1907.

Peril Two: Limited Access to Images

Searching on, I could see that Pauline's death cert was in fact in the database. However, images of many vital records are accessible only at a Family History Center. The pandemic has mostly closed these down for the time being. 

Happily, I knew from social media that a few volunteers regularly visit FHC parking lots and access the database wirelessly to pull images by request. It's impossible to say enough good things about these volunteers, who are incredibly generous with their time and energy.** 

A kind parking lot angel saw my FB request for Pauline's death cert (I provided full details, including the cert number from the index and my belief that the year was 1907). Within a few minutes, she had accessed and sent me the image, for which I am truly grateful. 

The cert says Pauline had been treated for 3 weeks at Willard Parker Hospital in New York City (specializing in communicable diseases). The cert also solved the medical mystery of Pauline's untimely death at the age of 7. Well, it would have if I could have deciphered the cause of death. 

** During 2021, Family Search is offering a remote lookup service that takes the place of parking lot angels. I've had very good luck using this service! Try it.

Peril Three: Handwriting and Medical Jargon

The cause of death was handwritten...and I couldn't decipher what it said, let alone what it meant. More eyes were needed. I took a screen shot of the cause of death and posted on Twitter with a request for #Genealogy help. And I got out my tissue box, ready to cry.

Within moments, answers began pouring in. Not only did these savvy folks know that the cause of death was scarlatina (scarlet fever), but they read the rest of the details: 24 days, sepsis. Scarlet fever can be treated today but it was quite perilous in the early days of the 20th century, well before antibiotics, making me tear up. 

Thanks to the helpful Twitter community of genies, I knew a lot more about Pauline's fate. But I still needed one more piece of the puzzle for a better picture of Pauline's life.

Peril Four: Finding the Right Jacobs

My next quest was to obtain little Pauline's birth certificate. I clicked to the Italian Genealogical Group's New York City vital records databases and searched for births of "Jacobs, Pauline" after 1899 and before 1902. Jacobs is a fairly common name, of course. I began with her name as recorded on the cemetery and death documents. I would have tried "Jacob, Pauline" if no decent possibilities showed up--because different official records showed "Jacob" OR "Jacobs" for this family's surname at different times. 

I was able to narrow down the list of possibilities, as shown above, from the ItalianGen database results. In my opinion, the most likely is the second on the list, Pauline Jacobs, born on June 26, 1901. I decided it was worth paying $15 for this record and I ordered online from New York City, saving a week or more in the long waiting time for a response. 

Having overcome four perils of researching Pauline, I'll hope to see this birth certificate before the end of 2020. Meanwhile, I'm remembering this cousin who unfortunately died way too young, keeping her memory alive for future generations. 

-- This post is part of the Genealogy Blog Party "Virtual Research Trip" for July, 2021. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Remembering Thoroughly Modern Flora

The 1c2r cousin in this picture is Flora "Florence" Jacobs (1890-1923), the first child born to my paternal great-great uncle Joseph Jacobs (1864-1918) and his wife, great-great aunt Eva Micalovsky Jacobs (1869-1941). 

Until this week, Flora was just a name from the past on my father's side of the family tree. 

Flora Jacobs in the Roaring 20s

Now I can see from the photo that my cousin Flora was thoroughly modern for the 1900s, a young woman of the Roaring Twenties with cropped hair and a fashionable frock. 

What an emotional experience it was to see Flora's face for the very first time. I am very grateful to the exceptionally kind photo angel who visited the cemetery and sent this closeup of Flora's gravestone. She also was thoughtful enough to post the gravestone photos on Find a Grave.

From US and NY Census records, I learned that Flora worked as a bookkeeper for a neckwear company in 1910, as a "forelady" in a garment factory in 1915, and as an operator on knitted goods in 1920. Working in New York City's garment district, she would have seen and wanted to wear the latest styles, I'm sure, gazing at her fashionable dress.

Flora Laid to Rest in Mount Zion Cemetery

Sad to say, Flora died of rheumatic endocarditis on September 26, 1923, only weeks before her 33rd birthday. She was buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens, New York, near her father (who died 5 years earlier) and sister Pauline (who died 16 years earlier).

Flora's headstone, translated by the nice folks on Tracing the Tribe/FB, indicates that her Hebrew name was Bluma--"flower." She was named for her maternal grandmother,  Blume Manes Micalovsky - I found Blume's name on Eva's marriage license!

Notice the unusual wording "My beloved daughter" just above Flora's name? If I hadn't been aware of the father's death, this wording would be a hint that only one parent was alive when Flora died. The surviving siblings at the time were Louis, Hylda, and Frank Morris. 

In 2020, I'm remembering thoroughly modern Flora of the last century's Roaring Twenties and honoring her memory by keeping her story alive.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Remembering Great-Great Uncle Joseph, the Cap-Maker

On this day 102 years ago, my great-great uncle Joseph Jacobs died. Born in what was then Russia (but today is Lithuania), Joseph came to New York City via Castle Garden in the 1880s. He was a single young man, the first wave of immigration in his family, paving the way for his mother and his sister (and her family) to find more opportunity in America.

Joseph and his mother (my paternal great-great-grandma Rachel Shuham Jacobs) and sister (my great-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler) initially lived in the Lower East Side of Manhattan where so many immigrants crowded into small apartments. At the time he was naturalized in 1888, Joseph's occupation was "cap-maker" (see naturalization index card at top). This was a period when well-dressed men wore hats and boys of all ages wore caps, so his skill was in demand.

He married Eva Micalovsky in March of 1890. In December of that year, the couple welcomed their first-born child, daughter Flora. I'll be remembering Flora in tomorrow's post.

Why Joseph's Occupation Changed

In the 1900 US Census, Joseph was listed with his wife Eva and four children, still living on the Lower East Side. Now his occupation was peddler. Then in the 1905 NY Census, he was a janitor, supporting his wife and five children. I wondered about this change in occupation, because peddler and janitor jobs probably meant he earned far less than as a cap-maker. 

I got a hint of why he changed occupations when I found Joseph in the 1910 US Census. Joseph was no longer living with his wife and children. Instead, he was listed by the Census as being in the Montefiore Home & Hospital for Chronic Invalids. 

The enumerator wrote that Joseph was in his first marriage (correct), was married for 19 years (actually 20 but close enough), was 55 years old (sort of close), could read but not write (likely true), had petitioned for naturalization but was not yet a citizen (nope, he was naturalized years earlier). 

When Joseph died on November 3, 1918, the death certificate revealed the sad reason why Joseph had been hospitalized for so many years: his cause of death was "paralysis agitans" or Parkinson's disease. He is buried in Mount Zion Cemetery, Maspeth, New York, where others in his family were laid to rest.

On the anniversary of Joseph's death, I'm reminded of his courage as the journey-taker who left Eastern Europe so the rest of his family could have a better life in America.