Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Save Family History with LOCKSS

To keep family history alive, start to share now within the family and, if you choose, outside the family.

The idea is LOCKSS

Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe

Genealogy guru Amy Johnson Crow writes about LOCKSS as a way to prevent genealogy from being lost due to disasters, etc.

Multiple copies within the family

Inside the family, I've been sharing bite-sized (and longer) writeups of family history for a few years. At top of this page are just a few pages from the many booklets I've created, focusing on Civil War ancestors and their spouses, special heirlooms created by ancestors, and an ancestor's military career. Even an ancestor coloring book is a simple way to keep key genealogy details from being lost.

Every descendant receives a colorful printed copy because, well, copies keep ancestors alive for the future. Recipients may flip through the booklet only once and put it on the shelf, but they have it. Some day, when they're more interested, they can take a closer look.

Also, I've digitized 500+ pages of minutes taken at family tree meetings from my mother's Farkas family, 1933-1964. Some cousins received a spiral-bound hard copy, at their request. Younger cousins requested a flash drive OR a PDF file to download. Perhaps the digital format will need upgrading in the future, but having multiple copies (digital/print) circulating in the family gives me more confidence that these documents will survive well into the future. 

Also, I've been experimenting with video-based family history. (I offer a few ideas in the new edition of my book.) Relatives do say they watch, and enjoy...but whether they will ever watch again, I truly don't know. The format is MP4 video and perhaps will be upgradable in the future, as needed. Meantime, multiple copies circulating = better chance the stories will survive, the ancestors will be remembered.

Multiple copies outside the family

Friends and cousins have already shared family history booklets with a variety of institutions that invite submissions, including the Family History Library and the Library of Congress, among others. One couple I know wrote family histories and had them professionally printed and bound for donation to history societies and libraries where their ancestors lived and worked. 

Consider whether a genealogy library, museum, archive, or another institution would be interested in having copies of some or all of your collection, and/or whether you can digitize your collection for yourself and possibly for others.

For instance, the Kentucky Genealogical Society offers special grants to help local museums, libraries, and archives digitize genealogical materials, such as old family letters and other documents of interest to Kentucky researchers. If you have Kentucky-related materials, do check this out--the clock is ticking on this year's grants.

DIY digitizing: The Dallas Genealogical Society highlights how family historians can digitize their own materials for free by going to the Heritage Lab at the Dallas Central Public Library. The Heritage Lab has an impressive array of equipment for use by the public. If you're in the area, this would be one way to transfer those old Super 8 home movies to MP4 video, and share widely within your own family.

However you decide to share, LOCKSS can help keep family history safe for the future. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Family History: Don't Keep It to Yourself!

Don't wait to share what you know about your family's history. 

Maybe you're just beginning your research or, like me, you've invested years in your ancestor search. Either way, share now to get the info to relatives and (if you choose) make it available to other researchers.

Some clues are better than NO clues

Consider this list of Steiner siblings, jotted on the back of a 1930s business card by my hubby's grandfather, Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). The list included his wife, Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure (1878-1948), and her eight older siblings, with birth years as remembered. 

How lucky that Brice wrote down this information--not wanting it to be lost--and my sister-in-law shared it with me, clues to be followed up. Not every detail in Brice's handwritten notes was correct, but the clues were much better than beginning with nothing. I'm so grateful he didn't keep it to himself.

Thanks to this listing, I had a head start in locating vital records, burial places, and other facts to flesh out and verify the family tree. Brice left other handwritten clues, too, steering me in the right direction to identify members of older generations. In turn, I've shared this list and similar genealogical clues about deceased people on my public family trees, to allow other researchers to make use of them. 

Share works in progress?

Even if your family tree information is incomplete or hasn't yet been verified, I encourage you to discuss with your relatives with the warning that your research is a "work in progress." 

Hearing what you've learned may help your relatives recall something from the past. I still have relatives casually mention key details previously unknown to me--leading to interesting breakthroughs! When something I write on a pedigree chart or family tree chart has not been confirmed, I include a question mark or "circa" or "about" or some other indicator that this is a "work in progress."

In addition to public family trees on multiple genealogy sites, I have a couple of private family trees on Ancestry. I use these for experimentation and I fully recognize they're not ready for prime time. Still, private trees can be helpful to other researchers. 

Recently, someone asked to see a private tree, listing his ancestors with that surname. Unfortunately, there was no connection. My ancestor had changed to that surname as an adult, and no one else on the tree carried that surname. Although disappointed, the other researcher was able to move on, investigating different possibilities in trying to locate more of his ancestors. 

To be continued . . . with a post about LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe).

For more ideas about keeping family history safe for future generations and researchers, please check out my newly-revised book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, 2d edition.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Reorganizing Family History, Part 2


I'm beginning to reorganize family history by moving some old photos from archival boxes (which I love) into archival albums (to encourage browsing). My handsome new archival photo album just arrived (made by Pioneer Photo Album). As the photo above shows, each page has room for 5 photos, each up to 4 inches by 6 inches in size, two vertical and three horizontal. 

The pages are bound. They can't be added, removed, or moved. Of course, photos can be moved out of individual sleeves. But once captions are written, they stay where they are. This means I have to be sure of my organization before I write captions.

Still, the new album is good-looking and sturdy...with a total capacity of 500 photos. I think I can make it work without having to redo the flow of photos more than once (or twice).

Still experimenting, open to changes

Clearly, I'm still experimenting as I transition to archival albums for most photos. I'm willing to try a different album or format. My goal is to save these photos and organize them so they make sense to people who never knew these faces or names. If I have to make a change, I'll do it. In fact...

Next time, I'll buy albums with pages that can be moved. As I develop my organizational strategy, it would be more convenient to move an entire page (photos with captions) instead of having to unload photos from a page that isn't in my preferred order and load them onto an entirely different page. 

Many old family photos/postcards fit 4x6

As shown above, I tested sleeve size by inserting two photos of my hubby's uncle, one at the wheel of a toy car and one in the saddle of a pony. They are the typical size/shape of US postcard photos produced a century ago, and they fit perfectly in the album's archival sleeves. 

Unlike the postcard photos, many photos left by my late dad-in-law are quite small (2 inches by 3.5 inches). I'll try putting two side-by-side in a single sleeve.

Photos larger than 4 inches by 6 inches will have to go in a separate album. That's a project for later in the year.

Inside the album

This particular archival album has room for writing captions in between the photo sleeves. My usual preference is to type instead of writing by hand, but this format will encourage me to be especially neat and careful in captioning.

Looking ahead, I'll clearly hand print captions, guessing future generations may not be able to read cursive.

The sleeves aren't see-through on both sides, so backs of photos won't be visible. So I'll either transcribe captions or indicate that a caption is on back if viewers are really interested.

Also, the album is quite tall and wide. Most likely I'll stack albums on a bookshelf, rather than having them upright on the shelf with the spine out. Or I'll try a different album format for my next purchase. 

Organize chronologically or ... ?

Because many of the old photos have no dates, but are interleaved with photos that have dates, I may begin by sorting according to decade (1900-1910, 1911-1920, etc.). This is only one possibility, but it seems most logical to try chronological order first.

After sorting chronologically and scanning, I would slip photos into the album and judge how things look. Wherever possible, I'll keep photos grouped together if they are clearly from the same day or occasion. 

In some cases, I may choose to group photos according to (1) ancestor (baby/child/adult photos of a paternal grandfather on consecutive pages) or (2) occasion (wedding or vacation) or (3) place (Cleveland, Toledo, etc.). If I use one of these groupings, I'll guesstimate a decade or date to put these pages in an approximate order.

My plan is to wait to write captions until the photos are in sleeves and my husband and I like the flow from first page to last. 

More adventures in reorganization await. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Reorganizing Family History, Part 1


The longer I'm involved in family history, the more I appreciate practical organization.

Not just for myself...but for those who come after me.

Genealogical materials for my husband's family tree are in one set of archival boxes, while my family tree items are in a different set of archival boxes. All are clearly marked by name or surname. 

These boxes are being passed down to different heirs, one on each side of the family.

Too many archival boxes?

Lately, I've been the happy recipient of genealogy materials from relatives and FAN club members. Not just photos and negatives from my late father-in-law, but  photos and documents from other ancestors. All need to be stored safely, which is why I just received a fresh shipment of archival boxes, above. And I'm keeping my label maker handy!

My bookshelves now hold 36 boxes in all. They are neat, they are safe, they stack well, they keep contents intact. They are my favorite way to safeguard genealogical materials like photos, original documents, etc. This organizational method has worked well for the past decade. And boxes are easy for my heirs to move and store.

Yet just yesterday, I began to wonder if I have too many boxes. This led me to Part 1 of my reorganization experiment.

Album experiment

Now and in the future, family members might actually prefer to view old photos in a more traditional album format. This could encourage them to open the album once in a while, instead of leaving boxes unopened on a shelf. 

Hoping my hubby will be part of my experiment, I asked whether he would prefer to put corners on photos or slide photos into the sleeves of an album. He was squarely in favor of an album with sleeves. So I browsed good quality archival photo albums and purchased one that holds 500 photos, up to 4" x 6" size, with space for captions alongside the sleeves. 

How to arrange the photos was another big concern. A number of friendly folks at #AncestryHour on Twitter suggested arranging photos chronologically. This approach will guide descendants through the Wood family's history, visually and with brief captions. 

When the album arrives and I begin this reorganization, I'll post about the process and lessons learned. 

Reorganization issues

I have to consider safe storage for the negatives that accompany many of my late father-in-law's century-old photos. Because negatives can't be safely stored in the same sleeve as the photos, I'm thinking about separate storage and a numbering system that indicates which negative corresponds with which photo in the album...which adds another layer of complexity to the reorganization process.

Another issue: How to accommodate photos with notes on the back. An  #AncestryHour friend lets the notes show by not putting two photos back to back in the album. It's something to try if my new album (currently in transit) has clear sleeves that work in this way. 

Reorganizing family history will be a long-term process, best accomplished little by little. But then again, genealogy is a long-term process. If I tackle the photos in one archival box and get them situated (in order) in the album, I can return to caption them at a later date. It's a learning process...

One photo at a time, one box at a time, one album at a time, I'm learning more about how to reorganize family history and plan a future for my family's past.

-- This is my entry for the Sept 2021 Genealogy Blog Party.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Finding a Farmer in the 1950 US Census

None of my immigrant ancestors lived on a farm after arriving in the United States. Several in-laws were born on farms, but by 1950, they lived in cities. 

Still, I wanted to experiment with the super-useful "Unified Census ED Finder" on Steve Morse's One-Step page to locate someone living on a farm in 1950. 

Remember, we need the Enumeration District Finder before the 1950 US Census is indexed. Not being able to "search" by name, we're going to be browsing the Census by address, one page of one ED at a time, in search of ancestors. 

With cities and suburbs, that's not so difficult because we can narrow things down by including cross streets and back streets (see my earlier post here). Then we only have to browse pages of one ED (or perhaps two).

What about farm addresses? In the past, farms might get their mail via RFD, not listing a street address. Without an address or at least a specific street, the ED Finder can't help us narrow down the number of enumeration districts we'll have to browse. Time to experiment!

First step: Try to find the 1950 address

For my experiment, I chose Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, CT, which has been in the Lyman family since 1741. (I've visited the orchard in the past and enjoyed the sunflower maze, by the way.)

My reasoning: If the family's name is on the farm, I can more easily find the owner in a Census or other document. Luckily, the website has a timeline and indicates names of owners through the years. 

Checking for a 1940 US Census or WWII draft registration or a local phone or farm directory with the farm owner's name will help me guesstimate a 1950 address.

Very quickly, I found WWII draft registration cards for one of the owners, John Lyman, and his son. But no street address, only the town and county names.

In the 1940 US Census, the Lyman family was living on Center Street, no house number. John Lyman told the enumerator he had his own business, managing Lyman Farm. Also, the Census asked whether the address is a farm and the enumerator has written "yes." So now I'll try Center Street as a starting point for the ED Finder.

Next: Use ED Finder to narrow down browsing possibilities

In the Unified Census ED Finder (be sure it's set for 1950), I entered Connecticut as the state and Middlesex as the county. Middlefield wasn't listed as a town, so I chose "Other" and typed in Middlefield.

The result is shown at top. No streets available, but three possible EDs to browse.

But wait. See the words "More details" on a link to the right of the three ED numbers?

When I clicked, I saw this table of street boundaries. Helpful hints!

Looking for a better street address

Before I can narrow down the EDs, I still need to know where Center Street is in Middlefield. Consulting maps, I found it's no longer a street in that town, even though it may have been a street in 1950. 

NOTE: You may find this situation if your ancestors lived in rural areas. Some towns made an effort to provide both street names and house numbers so emergency services could find anyone if necessary. Having a street address also meant the tax collector could locate a particular property. Not all areas have street addresses, to this day. Also, street names do change from time to time, especially as areas become more developed.

I conducted an online search for "list of streets in Middlefield, CT" and came across this contemporary listing:

No Center Street listed. But there is a Lyman Road! Hmm.

I reread the history of Lyman Orchards and learned that the huge farmhouse was converted to a wedding venue 20+ years ago. The address today is: 5 Lyman Road. 

Evaluating ED details to narrow the focus

With that in mind, I'm evaluating the details of the three possible EDs for farmer John Lyman. Two seem to be focused on Middletown, which is adjacent to Middlefield. I pulled up a listing of contemporary streets in Middletown for comparison purposes.

Looking at the ED 4-41 details, Westfield and Camp are in the listing of streets I found in Middletown. So I'm not making 4-41 a priority. Butternut, Wadsworth, and Cross are also in the listing of streets in Middletown, this time for ED 4-42. Not making 4-42 a priority. Both of these EDs appear to be more focused on Middletown than Middlefield.

Therefore, my educated guess is that I'll find John Lyman and family in ED 4-31. That's the main ED for Middlefield town. Let's see what happens in April of 2022!

-- "On the farm" is Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge for week 37.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

In Rome on September 11th

On September 11, 2001, hubby and I were vacationing in Rome. After learning of the deadly attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, we rushed to an Internet cafe to check on the safety of New York City family and friends--all OK, but in shock and mourning.

During the next few days, as we walked through the streets of Rome, we were approached by locals and tourists alike, who asked if were American and then offered condolences and comfort. 

We were visiting the Vatican Museum on Friday, September 15, when a solemn, multinational three-minute silence was observed. Everything and everyone paused throughout the Vatican and all of Rome and beyond, heads bowed as we held in our hearts the many lives lost and the many lives changed forever. Still remembered in our hearts, two decades later.

Friday, September 10, 2021

1950 US Census: Which Ancestors Were Working?

One of the key questions I hope will be answered by the release of 1950 US Census in April of 2022 is which of my ancestors were working, and their occupations.

Overall trends in 1950 employment

Shown in the above table from a US Census special report issued in 1953 is a comparison of how many men and women in each age group (14 and older) were working in 1950, compared with 1940. These aggregate statistics provide context for understanding the situations of my ancestors who were enumerated in 1950.

Notice that in the lower bar chart, significantly more women were working in 1950 (solid black bar) compared with the number working in 1940. The big exception is women aged 20-30ish. 

Given the unprecedented Baby Boom that took place from 1946 on, I suspect these women were taking care of children and homes, not working outside the home in 1950. That was the general pattern in my family tree, although some women were in the work force in addition to being wives and mothers. In most cases, my female ancestors were working as teachers, I understand from family documents and stories.

Occupations and "not working"

I'll be interested to see not just who's working, but what occupations they were pursuing. For the teachers, enumerators were supposed to note the subject being taught--a bonus detail for me as the family historian.

The Census also noted when people over age 14 were not working, and why. Enumerators the reason why someone was not in the labor force, classified as (1) keeping house, (2) unable to work, (3) in an institution, or (4) "other" - meaning students, retired, seasonal workers, etc. 

I expect a number of my ancestors to be in the "other" category of reasons for not working, due to retirement or being full-time students. 

Can't wait to find out when the 1950 Census is released next year.

-- "Work" is Amy Johnson Crow's theme for this week in the #52Ancestors challenge.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Looking for Free, Downloadable Genealogy Forms?

I really appreciate free, blank genealogy forms I can download and use in analyzing research sources and recording my family tree. 

Forms help me stay organized and record data in a standardized format. 

They're also great for sharing information with relatives and researchers.

Here are just four of the many sites that offer downloadable genealogy forms for free:

  • FamilySearch. A great source of downloads for everything from blank Census forms (Canada, UK, US) to blank forms for pedigree charts and research logs. Scroll down for links to lots of other excellent sources of free downloadable sources (via Cyndi's List, and more).
  • Misbach. Not all forms are free on this site, but there are good selections that cost nothing. I especially like the free pedigree charts and free 6-generation fan chart.
  • National Genealogical Society. A bit of color adds to the readability and appeal of these free, downloadable charts. Just type in your info and these are ready to share. 
  • Kentucky Genealogical Society. Whether or not you have Kentucky ancestors, these free downloadable charts are pretty and add a touch of color to your family tree details.

Although it's easy to electronically share these forms after I've entered data, I also like to print and put into my files (and send to relatives), as backup! Check whether your local genealogical society has forms for free download, or use one of these sources. Write it down so you and later generations will have the information you need.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Try Indexing Your Family History Materials

Have you tried indexing diaries, letters, and other family history materials inherited from your ancestors? There are four great reasons to index:

  1. You can trace the movements and activities of ancestors through a period of time and notice gaps or changes that may reveal turning points in their lives.
  2. You can compare details in these family documents with official government records and other formal records, to identify discrepancies or confirm info.
  3. You and your relatives (and future researchers) can use the index to look up specific ancestors and turn to the proper place in any set of documents, instead of paging through to search.
  4. You may discover new clues as you index, or by comparing the index with what you already know about your ancestors. Thanks to indexing my father-in-law's diaries, I was able to identify his first cousins in an old family photo! 

In the new edition of my best-selling genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, I include the sample index form shown at top, along with instructions for how to create an index. 

If created digitally, the index can be sorted and searched electronically. Entering the year first in the "date" column allows me to sort by year, handy when I'm comparing and contrasting multiple documents or events in family history. Similarly, entering names with surnames first allows sorting in that manner.

Remember to note who created the index and when. Also note where the original materials are located, especially important if you are designating an heir for your genealogy.

Please feel free to adapt my sample form to your own indexing projects. Who knows what you'll find as you read through family history again!


Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, 2d edition is now available in paperback from (US, UK, Canada, and other nations). Or preorder the ebook edition for delivery to your digital device on September 15th. Thank you!

Thursday, September 2, 2021

John Wood Had a First Wife? Turn on the GPS!

Genealogy is never finished! There's always someone or something to research on the family tree. 

But in the 23 years I've been looking for ancestors, nobody ever mentioned that hubby's uncle John A. Wood (1908-1980) was married twice. 

Until this week. 

An older relative in the Wood family remarked, in passing, that John was once married to "Louise" or a lady with a similar name. A new clue.

I already knew about his wife Rita, named in my father-in-law's diaries and letters, as well as in John's obit and as the informant on his death cert.

John and Rita married in 1951. Their marriage cert has no information about previous marriages. I turned on the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard) as I dug deeper into John's life before Rita.

Which John Wood is which?

Finding the correct John Wood in a veritable forest of men with similar names would not be easy. 

Luckily, John's obit (and several Census records) showed his middle initial and other details not shown on other documents, including the fact that he worked for DuPont for many years.

Looking for "John A. Wood" and "Louise" together in a Census in Indiana (where he was when he remarried) led me to two records on Ancestry. Both showed John married to "Elsie," and working in the chemical industry. That could very well be DuPont, but I had no real proof as yet.

Next, I redid my search with "Elsie" as the wife and immediately found John's World War II draft registration card. This seemed to be the correct John A. Wood--it had the correct birth date and birth city, and it listed his middle name as "Arthur," the only place it ever appears. Arthur is a family name on John's mother's side. 

I really felt on firm ground when I read that John's employer was...DuPont! His wife, "Mrs. Elsie Wood," is listed as the person who will always know John's address. So John's first wife was clearly a lady named Elsie (not Louise). Numerous clues led me to this conclusion (GPS).

When and where did John and Elsie marry?

Next, I searched for John and Elsie's marriage on FamilySearch, and found a record of their marriage in Porter, Indiana, on November 19, 1928.

My timing was good, because (as the citation at left shows), this Indiana database is only available online as of April, 2021. 

Even without the image (which I'll see soon), this transcription indicates I have the correct John A. Wood. My evidence, a la GPS: he is most definitely the son of James E. Wood and Mary Slatter, exactly as shown on the transcription. I need to see the image with my own eyes to suit GPS standards, but all the details in the transcriptions are a perfect match with existing evidence.

Now, with Elsie's maiden name and birthplace/birth date, I've been researching her background, adding her parents and other relatives to my husband's family tree.

If not for (1) a relative's casual mention of John's previous marriage, (2) his consistent use of a middle initial, and (3) a record of his employer/industry, I might never have been able to track down this ancestor's first wife. TY to the GPS for guiding me in the right direction.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Coming Soon: Second Edition of Planning a Future for Your Family's Past

September 1 is publication day! 

I'm releasing a new, thoroughly updated edition of my popular genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

The new table of contents is:

  • Chapter 1: Organized storage for your genealogy collection
  • Chapter 2: Organize your photos, images, and movies
  • Chapter 3: Organizing digital files and emails
  • Chapter 4: Inventory and index your genealogy collection
  • Chapter 5: Record your family tree
  • Chapter 6: Family artifacts: keep or give away?
  • Chapter 7: Find outside homes for artifacts
  • Chapter 8: Who wants your genealogy collection?
  • Chapter 9: Write your genealogical "will"
  • Chapter 10: No obvious heirs? Try these ideas
  • Chapter 11: Keep family history alive for the future
The paperback version is now available through (US, UK, Canada). Later in September, the paperback will be available at

As of September 1, Amazon is accepting preorders for the digital book, to be released on September 15.

Please watch for more details to come. Thank you!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

How a FAN Club Member Identified an Ancestor for Me

I've been scanning old photos and negatives left by my father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986). 

At left, a 1919 image I blogged about just recently, remarking on the fashions.

This came from a set of negatives that Ed had marked as "Baker family, 1919."

I know the names of these two sisters, who were Ed's first cousins, but not which is which in the photo.

At right, a photo that my hubby and I believe shows Ed with these same two cousins, 50 years later. No caption, but a family story gave us confidence that these were the Baker sisters. Which is which? We had no idea. Until now.

Hearing from a FAN club descendant

This week, I received a message from a gentleman (Pat) who noticed the Baker names on my public family tree.

Pat is not related to the Bakers or to my husband. 

Here's where it gets a little convoluted. Pat is the executor of the estate for a lady who was the executor for the estate of one of the Baker sisters. In other words, he's the descendant of a FAN club member.

Connecting through my public family tree

When Pat's mom died, he inherited her boxes of stuff, including boxes from her  dear friend, Edith, who died a few years earlier. Pat's Mom wanted her friend's photos and letters to survive, so she bequeathed them to her son. (She wisely planned ahead before she joined her ancestors.)

Now Pat is sorting the bequest and looking for descendants who would like to have some of the items he inherited.

Pat noticed Edith and her sister on my Ancestry public family tree and sent me a message. I confirmed how Edith was related to my father-in-law and thus to my husband. 

Then we exchanged photos. He shared a photo of Edith in her later years. We are so grateful he did.

Eureka! Thanks to the FAN club, I now know exactly which of the ladies in both of these photos is Edith and which is her sister. Edith is on the right in the later photo, on the left in the younger photo. And Pat can see how lovely Edith was in her youth.

A good reason to have a public tree...even without photos, it serves as cousin bait and FAN club bait, with ancestor names/dates/locations visible and the option to send a message. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Celebrating My 13th Blogiversary

Today is the 13th anniversary of!

On August 25, 2008, I wrote my first genealogy blog post, about searching for my great-grandpa's death date and place. 

Now, 13 years later, I'm still discovering new things about the life and times of great-grandpa Mayer Elias Mahler (1855?-1910), with even more research in my future. Between my ancestors and those of my husband, plus new techniques and experiments, I never run out of genealogical activities to blog about.

There are still plenty of family history projects in my future as I work to keep ancestors' names, faces, and stories alive for the next generation. These days, many projects (such as 10-minute videos) are bite-sized, but I do have other ongoing projects, such as photo and slide digitization, preservation, and storage.

The ancestor landing pages across the top of my blog summarize what I know about the main surname groups...and serve as cousin bait for distant relatives who "land" on my blog after doing an online search for someone in their family tree. 

A heartfelt thank you to the many cousins worldwide who have been part of this ongoing journey and generously share what they know about our family tree.

Also, special thanks to my genealogy buddies all over the planet, who continue to inspire me. It has been fun to participate in #AncestryHour, #GenChat, #OurAncestors, and GeneaBloggers Tribe, plus be a member of (and sometimes a speaker at) virtual and in-person genealogy groups and conferences.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Emotion and Family History

The latest in a series of bite-sized family history videos are in progress. As I wrote recently, we're using old photos and headlines as visual cues in a slide show while my husband or another family member narrates the story for a brief video. 

The stories are family history for the younger generation, but we, the narrators, actually lived through these experiences. Then and now, the experiences evoked emotions that we want to share.

The first story my Sis and I are going to video is about going to dancing school and performing in recitals. The story was inspired by one of our favorite family photos--this adorable little dancing tomato girl.

Narrating the video combines facts and memories, sometimes with a bit of research to support (or disprove) parts of the story. I was able to research the location of the dancing school, among other facts. I also remembered how my parents complained about the extra cost for costumes, at a time when the household budget was increasingly stretched.

Adding emotion to family history

Emotion plays a role in our choice of topics for these videos, and in our enthusiasm for telling the stories we want future generations to hear. Enhanced by our positive or negative feelings, if the overall story can touch the heart in some way, it will be remembered. 

If we merely recited names, dates, places, and relationships as old photos appear on the screen, our audience members would probably not respond as strongly. Not every story will be "fun" but we hope that the next generation will remember at least one or two points from each video.

Family history foundation beyond emotion

There has to be a solid family history foundation to any story, beyond nostalgia or reminiscences. For instance, the "history" part of the dancing school story is that it was a tradition in my mother's family to send children for lessons, often music or dance (or both). 

Our first cousins all took lessons of some sort, I know from family tree letters and documents (and from personal memories of the past). The athletic cousins took up sports. Some cousins had piano teachers come to the house or went to photography camp, etc. 

Other "history" elements in the dancing school story: how our parents managed to pay for these lessons...and their pride in our performances and sharing our (fairly slow) progress with the wider family. 

We didn't grow up to be dancers or musicians, but our parents gave us an opportunity to widen our horizons. And we have photos that remind us of that history and of how we felt about it, photos that help tell a family history story for future generations.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Experiment: Bite-Sized Family History Video


This week, my hubby and I experimented with videoing a bite-sized family history story from his childhood. Every Sunday, his Dad would take the kids (pre-school age) to church while Mom stayed home and cooked a big dinner. 

After church, it was still too early to bring the kids home. Mom needed another 30 or 60 minutes to finish cooking and set the table. So Dad took the kids to a nearby railroad yard, where they all watched trains being made up. When they returned home, Sunday dinner was on the table. 

Here's the three-step process we followed to get from "story" to "bite-sized video."

Step 1: Find visuals

Visuals are, of course, a big part of any video. We had a couple of good photos of the kids at the rail yard and in the car.

To add more to the story, I found (via free, somewhat generic photos of a railroad yard and a church. These would be good enough to convey the sense of childhood Sundays.

Step 2: Create a slide show

Next, I created a slide show (I use PowerPoint) with a simple colored background, making the photos the center of attention. 

I added headlines at the top of each slide, partly to guide the narration and partly for viewers to read. I used present tense for these headlines, to make the story feel "in the moment" rather than "in the past." Example: "After church, Dad drives to..."

Not visible in this illustration are the names superimposed on one of the photos, to clearly caption who's who even though one of the children is narrating the story. Also, I included an approximate date on one of the slides.

Step 3: Record the videoconference

Once my husband was happy with the four slides and had thought about what he would say as a voice-over, we began a videoconference (in this case, Zoom). He shared his screen with the slide show, and then I began the recording. He narrated the four slides in about eight minutes. I stopped recording, waited for it to be converted to mp4 video, and then we played the video. 

Our first try was pretty good. We did a second take, and that one was better, with my husband adding a few specific details he had not mentioned the first time. 

More ideas to try

Because the video was short, we were able to email it to recipients. (A longer video, too large for email, would have to be sent a different way.) Although we're still waiting for reaction, hubby and I enjoyed the process so much that we're already thinking about our next bite-sized video of family history.

Next time, we'll figure out how to have the narrator (my husband) visible on screen as he tells the story and advances the slides. Or we might include a recent photo of him next to a photo of him at the time of the family-history story he's telling.

Another plan is to have a sibling reminisce with him, via videoconference, with slides on the screen. The headlines could be a starting point for discussion as the photos stimulate memories from the past.

Also, I need to add my husband's name and the date of recording to one of these slides, so future viewers know who is narrating and when.

Have you tried videoing a family history story? How did it work? What did your family think?

--Post is part of the August Genealogy Blog Party

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

No Captions - A Loss for Future Generations

Now that I'm scanning, inverting, and enhancing negatives from the collection left by my late father-in-law, James Edgar Wood (1903-1986), I'm finding clues to family history--and so many mysteries.

A few (but not many) of the negatives had dates scratched into the edges, sometimes very specific dates. Most of the negatives were in small paper folders with titles such as "Summer, 1919" or "1917-1918-1919."

Help from genealogy folks on social media

With a bit of help from the wonderful genealogy folks on social media, I'm getting ideas about where some of these photos were taken, the groups, the clothing, etc. 

Genealogical folks identified the uniform worn by a young man in several 1919 photos as Royal Air Force. I know from previous research that one of my husband's ancestors from Canada served in the RAF during WWI. Very quickly, I found a US/Canadian border crossing card for him during the same month as that 1919 photo. As a result, I've been able to caption a series of photos with names and dates. Thank you, genie friends!

More research is in my future

The group parading in the image at top holds a banner indicating it's a lodge from London, Canada. Thanks to a Canadian genealogy social media group, I now have some leads to follow up.

Also, I'm interested in the group shown in this parade (date uncertain, sometime between 1917 and 1919). This is not necessarily from the same parade as the previous photo, not from the same batch.

Most of the men are holding what looks like a ceremonial staff, perhaps from a lodge? More research is in my future.

Not having captions for my father-in-law's photos would be a real loss--a family history tragedy for future generations. 

--"Tragedy" is the theme for week 33 of Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Decoding Why Ancestors Died

Thanks to the Summer 2021 issue of American Ancestors from the New England Historic Genealogical Society, I have a new tool for analyzing death certificates  filed in the 20th century.

Genealogist Hallie Borstel wrote about the International Classification of Diseases code, either three or four numbers added to a death cert to categorize the cause of death.

Look at the Wood ancestor's death cert above. See the three digit code 131 in the red circle? That's the ICD.

I looked up 131 in the 1929 ICD listing for causes of death, and see the classification is chronic nephritis.

The doctor's written cause of death on this particular cert is: "cardio-vascular renal disease."

Not exactly the same as code 131, but very closely related. If the doctor's handwriting had been illegible, the ICD code would have given me insight into cause of death.

To use the ICD, look for the most recent version adopted before the ancestor's death. In this example, the ancestor died in 1936, so I used the 1929 version (excerpt shown above). If she had died in 1939, I would have used the 1938 version. 

Another tool in my genealogical tool kit! 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

"Big City" Cleveland Ancestors in 1950

As I continue to prep for finding ancestors when the 1950 U.S. Census is released in April, I'm using my RootsMagic7 genealogy software's reporting functions.

When Census documents are initially made public on April 1, the only way to find ancestors will be to browse the proper Enumeration District. If I wait a few months, the Census will be indexed and I can search by name. But I really want to learn more about my ancestors sooner than that, which means preparing to browse by finding specific addresses and turning those into individual Enumeration Districts.

Who was there?

Above, an excerpt from one of the "Who Was There" lists I created with RootsMagic 7. This list covers ancestors who were in Cleveland in 1950. The report lists ancestors by surname in alphabetical order, shows birth and death dates, age in 1950, and a chronological listing of places for each ancestor (based on my research). As the image shows, the listing includes street addresses from my sources.

Interestingly, the software allows me to indicate an average life span to be considered when compiling the report. Sometimes I don't yet know an ancestor's death date, so this parameter helps me cast a wider net and include people who might be still alive and in that area, based on their last-known address in my database. I like this flexibility.

Edgar James Wood, my father-in-law, was one of many ancestors in my husband's tree who lived in metro Cleveland in 1950. By grouping these ancestors according to where they lived, it's more efficient for me to look up and browse their 1950 Enumeration Districts (see step-by-step process here). 

Context: Cleveland vs the Bronx

In 1950, Cleveland had 914,800 residents. It was truly a major city, the seventh largest in the United States, thanks to the influx of industrial workers during and after World War II. That year was a population peak for Cleveland, which had only 318,000 residents in 2019. 

My husband, a Cleveland native, often says he was born in an "Eastern" city. Because I'm a Bronx native, I respectfully refer to his home town as being solidly in the Midwest!

In 1950, the Bronx had 1.45 million residents. This will be the first Census where my parents are enumerated as a married couple, living in the Bronx, New York. If counted as a standalone city instead of a Big Apple borough, the Bronx would have been the sixth largest U.S. city in 1950. In other words, well ahead of Cleveland, where hubby's parents were living in 1950.

Just mentioning this factoid to put the 1950 Census in context for both sides of my family. Ahem.

-- "In the city" is Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors prompt for week 32.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Researching Ancestors in Photos from 1918

My late dad-in-law (Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986) took thousands of photos in his life, beginning in 1917. 

We've inherited many of the negatives, which I'm steadily scanning, inverting, and enhancing, one batch at a time.

Family and more from 1918

I just finished working on 20 negatives in a batch titled "Negatives, 1918...prints in album." Although the album itself doesn't seem to have survived, I can identify some of the people now that I've turned the negatives into positives.

From earlier negatives and photos, I recognize members of my dad-in-law's immediate family. Here is one of Edgar's younger brothers, in an outdoorsy outfit (note buttons on belt). Also in this batch were negatives showing other brothers and, of course, Edgar's beloved mom, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925).

Mystery photos

At right, a nurse whose portrait appears in two negatives. Who is she? 

Other "unknowns" are two brothers, who appear to be about 6 and 12, and a 20ish guy in a uniform (no military insignia visible).

There are no place clues visible in the photos, and no inscriptions other than dates scratched into the negatives by my dad-in-law. But the Wood family tended to motor around the countryside in their 1917 Ford and visit relatives, so more than likely, these mystery people are folks on the family tree whose faces I don't recognize (yet).

So many ancestors to research

James Edgar Wood (1871-1939), Edgar's dad, came from a large family. To try to identify mystery people in these photos, I'm looking closely at children of his six siblings who were still alive in 1918. The younger generation would be around the age of the folks in these negatives.

It's possible some of the mystery people might be from the family of Edgar's Mom, Mary, of course. Most of her nieces and nephews lived in Canada. I have to consider that possibility, as well.

Without a doubt, more research is in my future. If I can connect with descendants and get identifications, I'll gladly share photos privately with them and, I hope, swap family history stories.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Should You Rely on a Website to Perpetuate Your Family History?


There are many pros and cons of posting family trees online--and many choices of where to post. Family Search, Ancestry, My Heritage, Geni, WikiTree, FindMyPast, and more. Parts of my family tree are on all of these sites, because I want to share with other researchers and I hope to connect with cousins worldwide. 

Such sites reach many thousands of people who otherwise would not know of my ancestors, and enable folks to connect with me when we discover ancestors in common. These sites are and will remain an important part of my everyday genealogy activities.

Library or storage?

Yet Cousin Russ and Dear Myrtle make a very good point in their recent video. (You can view it here.) These genealogy websites are more like libraries than storage facilities. The safest place to "store" family trees and family history is at home, even if we want to have trees on various websites. They demonstrate ways to have online trees without personal photos, if that's what you want to do. 

Any website can, of course, change its terms and conditions at any time. The recent change by Ancestry is a wake-up call to understand the terms and conditions when deciding about sharing all or part of our genealogy materials online. In fact, as Dr. Leah Larkin, "the DNA Geek," points out, all of the genealogy websites have some terms and conditions that affect user-submitted content like photos. Caveat emptor.

Plan for your trees and materials

Most of us have more than just a tree. This is the time to consider what will happen to our genealogy materials, research and photos, in the distant future when we join our ancestors.

My trees will remain on the many websites where I've planted them. However, I'm deleting nearly all personal photos, except perhaps those of ancestors who are long, long gone. But I'm also giving passwords to my genealogy heirs so in the future, they are able to access trees and decide whether to leave them online, add to them, or delete them.

Please consider who will have access to your online trees, your physical photos, and original documents in your possession. Even if you have no obvious heirs, there are still ways to keep your family's history alive for future researchers. Physical materials need good homes, not always in the family but in appropriate institutions that will preserve and study them. 

For the sake of future generations, I encourage you not to rely only on a website (or even two) to perpetuate your family's history. Start now to make a plan!

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Deleting Photos Instead of Adding to My Family Trees


For the next few days, instead of adding to my trees, I'm deleting personal photos from my Ancestry trees (but leaving gravestone photos and other selected items). Why?

Objections to Ancestry's new terms of service

On August 3, Ancestry emailed a notice to all subscribers, announcing a change in its terms of service. An excerpt from that notice is shown below. 

The headline is: "Your privacy is important to us." The next sentence states: "...being good stewards of your data is our highest priority." 

However, the Legal Genealogist (Judy G. Russell) warns that the change actually gives Ancestry a "perpetual, sublicensable, worldwide, irrevocable, royalty-free license" to do whatever it wishes with user-submitted content, forever. -- UPDATE from Aug 6: Judy discusses Ancestry's updated terms here.

If I upload a personal photo (or a story or other content) to my Ancestry trees, I still own the copyright

But by uploading, I agree to the new terms allowing Ancestry to use that photo in any way it chooses. The company can use my photo on any of its Ancestry sites, including Fold3 and FindaGrave, or perhaps use my photo in its advertising, without further permissions or notifications.

In the past, I've created bite-sized ancestor bios and uploaded them, with photos, to Fold3 (a subscription site) and FindaGrave (free), among other sites. This was my individual choice, for specific ancestors. It was not my intention to have this content shared across any and all Ancestry platforms (paid and free) without my permission. 

I strongly object to Ancestry's changes and I have some small individual power to act by removing selected content that I originally uploaded. (Note: Randy Seaver has submitted so much content to his trees over the years that he is leaving it there, as he explains in his blog post--while calling this a "major unforced error" by Ancestry.) (Another note: Roberta Estes is deleting her photos before Sept. 2; she also confirmed with MyHeritage that they do not handle user-submitted content in the same way as Ancestry.)

NOTE: If you have uploaded photos of living people to your Ancestry tree, please consider carefully whether those should remain or be removed. I deleted all of mine. Even though the person should not be visible to any public viewer of my tree, the photo would now be "licensed" to Ancestry under the new terms of service. I do not want that to happen, so deleted to protect privacy.

Sync (or download) first

The clock is ticking--the terms apparently will go into effect 30 days from notification.

My first step was to sync my Ancestry trees with my RootsMagic genealogy software, including media items connected to those trees. Before I do another sync, I'll make changes so that I don't overwrite my media-rich trees with non-media trees.

If you can't sync, be sure to download anything you are going to delete. Yes, you put it on Ancestry originally. If you can't find it easily in your digital files, download again just to be sure. Better safe than sorry.

Decide what to delete and what to leave

I've decided to leave on Ancestry any gravestone photos I've taken, as well as vital records I paid for and uploaded on my own. Also, I'm leaving any obits, photos from nonpersonal sources, and selected genealogy content such as an ancestor's handwritten notes about his ancestors (see above). 

None of this content is particularly personal and it may be valuable to others researching the same ancestors, so I want to keep it available to other Ancestry users.

However, I draw the line at personal family photos. Those I am deleting. Amy Johnson Crow created a video explaining why and how to remove photos from your Ancestry tree. You can view her video here. After I watched, I followed the instructions for viewing all media in a tree's media gallery, and selected those I want to remove from the tree (not just the gallery).

At top is a screen shot showing part of the media gallery for one of my trees. I decided to remove the photo of Chester Carsten (see red rectangle). I can always share it privately with any relatives who are interested, by my own choice. My f-i-l took this photo and I object to Ancestry having the right to do whatever it wishes with Chester's image.

Ancestry-based photos for profiles

I do want ancestors in my trees to be represented by photos or images wherever possible. Not flags or ships, not DNA strands, but photos. Luckily, Ancestry has helped me do just that. 

Remember a few years back, when Ancestry began digitizing school yearbooks? 

I had fun searching for ancestors in the yearbook files and attaching those to their profiles.

Now I'm using yearbook photos as ancestor profiles, as shown at right from the media gallery of one of my trees. There will be photos from other collections, I'm sure, but these are the most accessible for 20th century ancestors.

If not photos, I'll use part of a pertinent document (vital record, city directory, etc.) to add visual interest to that ancestor on my tree.

Amy's suggestion: add web link as a source

Amy Johnson Crow also suggested that we add a web link as a source for selected ancestors. If you have a blog or a website for genealogy, this is a good idea. The blog or website is yours, not Ancestry's, and you control that content.

To follow Amy's suggestion, go to the ancestor's Ancestry profile page, look at the bottom of the column of sources for facts, and see "Add web link" area. Click and paste in the web address, with a title you choose.

I'm currently adding my blog's ancestor landing page for the Wood family of Ohio as a source for ancestors who are part of that family. This allows me to send users to a page that I control on my own blog, with photos I post and other content that is mine. 

Should you delete content? Or add content?

There are many choices of places to plant a family tree online. I have trees on multiple websites, not just on Ancestry. Although I value Ancestry's research tools, and will continue as a subscriber, I do not appreciate the company changing the terms of use in the way it has.

My decision to delete personal family photos (or anything else) doesn't mean you should do the same. I won't be adding any more personal photos, even though I'm currently scanning dozens from the early 1900s. Please, take a look at the situation for yourself and decide whether you are okay with what Ancestry wants to do. 

If you have no major objections, just leave your content. On the other hand, some users are angry enough to download their trees (not just photos) and then delete them from Ancestry. 

This is a decision only you can make.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Mystery Man in Uniform, July of 1919

My late father-in-law (Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986) received a camera for his 14th birthday, the start of a lifelong love of photography. 

In addition to snapping photos of his family in their Cleveland, Ohio home, he photographed their driving vacations to see family in other areas. 

Ed didn't always print his photos, but he usually saved the negatives. Now I'm scanning, inverting, and enhancing the negatives to reveal faces and places not seen for many decades. 

One packet of negatives was marked "Neg. Summer of 1919." 

Inside were photos of Ed's parents and brother, and some other people, including a mystery man in uniform. 

Also in the packet were a couple of photos of airplanes (see bottom).

Who was that man in uniform?

During the summer of 1919, World War I was finally over and those who had served were returning home.

Ed snapped a number of photos of this young man in uniform and dated the negatives as July 27, 1919.

My genealogy friends on Twitter were kind enough to identify this is a Royal Air Force or a Royal Canadian Air Force uniform (note the wings over the pocket and the design of the cap, as well as the general look of the uniform).

After looking at the Wood family tree, I suspect this young man is Ernest Slatter, one of my f-i-l's first cousins. 

I think Ernest was the only close relative who flew in World War I. 

He was a nephew of Ed's mother and the son of a military man born in London but transplanted to London, Ontario.

Ernest Slatter of the RAF

Research uncovered some paperwork about Ernest's World War I military career. He was in the RNRT (Royal Navy), 1657 D.A. before being discharged to join the RAF. He "attested" in March, 1918 and became a flight cadet in the Royal Air Force Canada in September, 1918.

By June of 1919, Ernest had been issued a protection certificate for "soldiers repatriated overseas"--meaning he was going home to Canada, with the rank of 2/LT (EXC). 

In fact, I found a record of Ernest crossing the border from Canada to the US in July, 1919 and again in August, 1919. The officials noted: "Came to Buffalo in uniform to visit relative and has decided to remain and work for brother-in-law." (That bro-in-law was the husband of Ernest's oldest sister, Maud.) 

So did Ed and the Wood family travel to Buffalo to see Ernest and Maud? Or did Ernest travel to Ohio or elsewhere to visit with the Wood family? Perhaps I'll find some answers as I continue to scan, invert, and enhance more of Ed's negatives.

Airplane, August 23, 1919

Here's one of two photos Ed took of an airplane on August 23, 1919, part of the "summer of 1919" packet of negatives. 

No notes, no captions, unfortunately. But a delightful photo to enjoy.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Prep for Browsing the 1950 US Census in Three Steps

If you haven't started prepping for the release of the 1950 US Census (scheduled for April 1, 2022), you still have time. But do plan ahead.

Browse 7.8 million pages?

When the Census documents are released on that first day, there will be no index and no transcriptions. The public will be able to click through images of every page of the population schedule, with names and details handwritten by enumerators. This genealogical gold mine will be browse-only, in other words.

Who has time to browse all 7,800,000 pages of the population schedule in search of our ancestors?

Three steps to prep for browsing

Getting ready to find ancestors in the unindexed 1950 Census is a three-step process, shown at the top. In recent months, I've posted blog entries about all three steps. Here are the links.

  1. List key ancestors (post is here). This is how you set priorities for who you want to find when the Census is initially released.
  2. Find each ancestor's 1950 residence (post is here). You'll need this to locate your ancestor in the correct Enumeration District.   
  3. Find each ancestor's 1950 Enumeration District (post is here). Turn the address into an ED, thanks to Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub's powerful ED-finder tool.
More about the 1950 US Census

For more about the 1950 US Census, please see my summary page here.

If your genealogy group is seeking a speaker to discuss the 1950 Census release and demonstrate how to look for ancestors, please keep me in mind!


Monday, July 26, 2021

1950 US Census: How Do My Ancestors Compare?


When the 1950 U.S. Census is released on April 1, 2022, I'll have to browse for my ancestors by Enumeration District. No index, no transcriptions, just page-by-page browsing when the Census is initially made public.

After I find ancestors, I'll want to interpret their answers to Census questions in the context of the time and place.

Census number-crunching

The government has already crunched many numbers from the 1950 Census and released analyses (now online).

For instance, one of the Census questions is about 1949 income. I expect my middle-class ancestors will be above the national average of $3,100 in annual family income. The Census Bureau table at top right summarizes the number of families in each income bracket during 1949.

The Census Bureau also released reports about general population characteristics, based on analyses of 1950 Census data. 

As shown at left, the number of college graduates increased dramatically from 1940 to 1950, according to Census data.

Many in my mother's and father's generation were the first in the family to attend or graduate college, being the children of immigrants. A good number of these ancestors served during World War II and went to college on the G.I. Bill.

In my husband's family, ancestors were long-established in their communities and some represented the third generation to go to college. Being aware of these trends and each family's history will help me understand the answers I see in the 1950 Census.

Census by region

For comparison purposes, the Census Bureau also reported statistics by region. Many of my hubby's ancestors lived in the North Central region, while many of my ancestors lived in the Northeast region. As I interpret the answers of our ancestors, I'll try to compare them with their counterparts in the same region, as well as with national trends for that era. 

Read up in advance and be ready for the 1950 U.S. Census release in 2022.

For more about the 1950 US Census release in 2022, see my summary page here.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Surprise: Great-Grandpa Had a First Wife!

Who knew? My great-grandfather, Meyer Elias Mahler (1855?-1910) was married and divorced before he married my great-grandmother, Tillie Rose Jacobs (185x?-1952). I was really surprised to learn about the first marriage when my kind gen friend Lara Diamond discovered this 1877 divorce document in the unindexed but browsable Riga records on Family Search.

The records are in Russian and Hebrew, and not yet transcribed. In the red rectangle above is my great-grandfather's name in Russian handwriting: Meer Eliyash, son of Dovid Akiva Mahler. The record indicates he was 21 at the time of the divorce, and his first wife Gita was 26. They were granted a divorce on the grounds of quarreling.

I'm not the only descendant who never heard this story. It only whetted my appetite to learn more about this branch of my family tree.

Siauliai or Sabile?

Meyer's town is shown as "Shavlin" on the Hebrew side of the document and "Shavel" on the Russian side, Lara told me. Using the "Town Finder" database, I found two possibilities. One is Sabile, Latvia and the other is Siauliai, Lithuania. 

Looking through the records for these two towns, I found entries for a David Mahler (or a surname variation like Meller) in both towns. The various entries didn't mention Meyer, only David, but there may be additional names and details on the documents that aren't listed in the extracts. I need both names on one document to determine whether any of these entries is my family and to confirm a hometown.

This research will focus on Lithuania and Latvia, so naturally I'm studying Lara Diamond's strategies for finding genealogical records in Eastern Europe.

In search of Meyer, David, Hinde, and more

I'll be on the lookout for Meyer's mother (Hinde Luria) on a birth record or on a document describing her marriage to David Akiva Mahler. This would be a real long-shot, but it's a possibility.

Meanwhile, I'm also going to browse the unindexed Riga records in search of entries that mention Meyer and/or his second wife and/or his two Latvian-born children. I have a rough idea of which years to search. Although Hebrew and Russian are definitely not my strength, I'm lucky enough to have some help!

My good friend "Is" enlarged the Russian handwriting on Meyer's divorce document and suggested hints for spotting names on these Riga documents. Also, I'm consulting the Family Search Russian genealogical word list as I search. And, given that I could be looking at Lithuanian records on Family Search, I'm reading the LitvakSIG guide to Family History Library films. 

Another important item on my to-do list is to find Meyer Elias Mahler on a ship manifest with an arrival in New York City on or around May 27, 1885. That's the date and port listed on his naturalization index and paperwork, but no ship is named. I've previously browsed passenger manifests for that date and the days before and after, with no success. Time for another look with fresh eyes.

Meyer and family won't be found in a day, but they're on my research list now, with sources to examine. A good start.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Negatives are time capsule of 1919 fashion

My late father-in-law Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) was a photo buff. After receiving a camera for his 14th birthday, he took it on family road trips with his father, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939) and his mother, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). 

Ed saved hundreds of negatives (and a few prints) from 1917 through the 1940s, marking dates on the negatives and notes on the envelopes. I used the "scan, invert, enhance" process to turn the old negatives into clearer positives.

Visit to the Baker family in Toledo, Ohio

Thanks to Ed's notation that these negatives are of the Baker family of Toledo, I can identify the two young ladies shown at left as Dorothy L. Baker (1897-1981) and Edith E. Baker (1901-1989). I don't which young lady is which, unfortunately. The photographer didn't write an exact date on the negatives, but others in the envelope were taken in 1919.

These two ladies were Ed's first cousins, and he was in touch with them for the next 50 years. How fashionable they were, fur collar, hats, and all!

Fashion of the time

I did an online search for "ladies coat fashion 1919" and found similar outfits for that year. As a result, I do think the negatives were from late that year or perhaps the following year.

At right is Mary Slatter Wood, Ed's mother, in the warm coat and hat she wore during that same trip. 

Her husband James drove the family from their home in Cleveland, Ohio to Toledo, Ohio, stopping along the way to picnic and to fix flat tires. Mary and everyone else in the car were smart to bundle up against the elements, because their 1917 Ford probably had no built-in heater!


"Fashion" is this week's #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow.