Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day 2021: Hubby's Ancestors Who Served

Sadly, a few members of my husband's family tree died during their wartime military service. I've been memorialized them on my trees and on other genealogy sites. Now, for Memorial Day, let me pay honor to those who died by listing them individually:

  • Isaac Larimer Work (hubby's 1c4r) - died in U.S. Civil War, served in 74th Indiana Volunteer Infantry 
  • John Wright Work (hubby's 1c3r) - died in U.S. Civil War, served in74th Indiana Volunteer Infantry 
  • Arthur Henry Slatter (hubby's 1c2r) - died in WWI, served in Middlesex Regiment and Labour Corps 
  • Arthur Albert Slatter (hubby's 1c1r) - died in WWI, served in Royal Fusiliers, 20th Battalion 

I also want to remember the service of hubby's ancestors who were in the military and then returned to civilian life, with respect and appreciation:

War of 1812, American side

  • Daniel Denning (hubby's 3d great-uncle) - Mounted Infantry, Ohio Militia
  • Isaac M. Larimer (hubby's 4th g-grandfather) - Capt. George Saunderson's Company
  • John Larimer (hubby's 3d great-grandfather) - 90 days service, No. Ohio
  • Robert Larimer (hubby's 4th great-uncle) - Hull's Division
  • Elihu Wood Jr. (hubby's 3d great-uncle) - Sgt. F. Pope's Guard, Mass. Volunteer Militia
Union side, U.S. Civil War

Confederate side, U.S. Civil War
World War I
World War II

It is a privilege to honor these ancestors on Memorial Day weekend, 2021.


This week's #52Ancestors prompt is "military." 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Memorial Day 2021: My Ancestors Who Served

Although Memorial Day is traditionally for honoring military members who died in war, none of my ancestors died during their service in WWI or WWII.

A couple were wounded and many came back profoundly changed, however. 

My maternal and paternal roots stretch back to Eastern Europe, where all four of my immigrant grandparents (and some of their children) were born. 

By the time World War I broke out, a number of my immigrant ancestors and a few of their descendants and in-laws were eligible to serve in the U.S. military. 

During World War II, my Dad, two uncles, one aunt, many cousins, and many in-laws served in the U.S. military. I was surprised that the family was represented in every branch of the armed forces--Army, Navy, Air Corps, and Marines!

Remembering Ancestors' Military Service

For some time, I've been blogging about many of these ancestors and posting a few sentences about their military service (or even longer bios) on genealogy sites--or at least a flag or flower on grave memorials.

With affection and pride, I want to honor the military service of these ancestors in my family tree who served in the U.S. armed forces:

World War I

World War II
  • Harold Burk (my Dad) - U.S. Army Signal Corps
  • Sidney Burk (my uncle) - U.S. Army Air Force
  • Frederick Shaw (my uncle) - U.S. Army
  • Dorothy Schwartz (my aunt) - Women's Army Corps (WAC)
  • George Farkas (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army Air Corps
  • Robert Farkas (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army Medical Corps
  • Myron E. Volk (my 1c1r) - U.S. Navy
  • David Philip Smith (my 1c1r) - National Guard, 8th Regiment
  • Harvey Smith (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army 
  • Jules Smith (my 1c1r) - U.S. Marine Corps
  • Harry S. Pitler (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army
  • Ronald J. Lenney (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army (post-war occupation)
  • Arthur M. Berkman (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army 
  • Murray Berkman (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army 
  • George W. Rosen (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army
  • Abraham Ezrati (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army Air Corps
  • Bill Kobler (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army
  • Arnold D. Rosen (spouse of my 1c1r) - U.S. Army
  • Burton S. Wirtschafter (my 1c1r) - U.S. Army
  • Robert S. Whitelaw (cousin-in-law) - U.S. Marines

Thursday, May 27, 2021

MyHeritage Makes Digital Photo Repair Easy

MyHeritage has a brand-new feature that instantly repairs old family photos with a click (or two if you want to be fussier).

I tried it first with one of my treasured ancestral photos from the Schwartz family. 

"Before" - damage

The original photo, showing siblings of my maternal Grandpa Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965), had some damage after more than a century.

In the upper-left corner, as shown in this "before" screen shot, is the "new" feature, with an icon that looks like a bandage. Clicking on the bandage starts the repair process. (For more details, see MyHeritage's video.)

"After" - damage nearly gone!

Here's what this precious photo looks like after using MyHeritage's repair feature.

The damage has been largely repaired.

If I don't like this "gentle" version of the repair, I can click on the three dots at top right (inside the oval) and try a more extensive repair. And I can always revert back to the unrepaired photo if I choose.

Bring ancestral photos to life

Now take a look at what I did to another special ancestral photo. The original, not in color, was from the 1930s, showing Grandpa Teddy in his dairy store in the Bronx, NY.

Here is the "after" version, with the settings visible on the side. I not only used extensive repair, I also colorized the photo. Again, all changes can be reversed.

Doesn't Grandpa Teddy look lively behind the counter, with colorful products on back shelves and biscuits in glass jars above the egg bins?

I really appreciate these practical and easy-to-use photo features from MyHeritage!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Decoration Day at the Cemetery, 1961

Decoration Day was originally a day set aside in May for putting flowers on the graves of those who died in the U.S. Civil War. 

Then, 50 years ago, in 1971, the U.S. Congress declared Memorial Day as a national holiday for honoring those who died in all wars, fixed on the last Monday in May. 

Decoration Day, 1961

My late father-in-law (Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986) and mother-in-law (Marian McClure Wood, 1909-1983) always observed Decoration Day by driving from their home in Cleveland, Ohio, to bring flowers to cemeteries where their parents and other ancestors were buried. 

For the Wood family, decorating graves on this day was part of honoring and remembering loved ones who had died, not necessarily in war. 

As shown at top, Edgar's diary for May 29, 1961 discussed decorating the joint grave of his parents at Highland Park Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio: "...M [his wife Marian] & I stopped at Highland Park Cemetery & decorated grave, then to Marty's Turfside for dinner." 

His diary for the following day recorded a visit to historic Old Mission Cemetery in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, where Marian's mother and great aunts/uncles were buried. They picked up Marian's father to make the trip together. 

After decorating the grave, they had a picnic lunch at the cemetery and stopped to see nearby relatives before returning home. Marian's father was laid to rest in Old Mission Cemetery in 1970. Hubby and I traveled to Old Mission Cemetery a few years ago to pay our respects to the McClure and Steiner ancestors buried there.

Digital Decoration Day, 2021

This year, we are leaving digital flowers on the Find a Grave memorials for ancestors whose graves were decorated by Edgar and Marian on Decoration Day, 60 years ago. 

Rest in peace, dear ancestors, you are remembered with fondness. 


"At the Cemetery" is this week's theme for #52Ancestors

Sunday, May 23, 2021

My 1950 U.S. Census Release To-Do List: Ready to Browse Adjacent EDs

Looking ahead to the release of the 1950 Census on April 1, 2022, I'm thinking about the residential situation of my ancestors. 

Own or rent?

A few city dwellers could afford to buy, and they also had a telephone. That means I should be able to easily find their address (and then their Enumeration District), and be ready to browse images in that part of the 1950 population schedule.

However, a good number of my big-city ancestors changed addresses every few years as they moved from one rented apartment to another. Family stories told of convincing new landlords to allow a rent-free month in exchange for a new lease, or a fresh coat of paint in exchange for renewing a lease. 

Usually, new addresses were only a few city blocks away. In Census terminology, that might be the same or an adjacent Enumeration District.

City blocks and ancestor proximity

Take the case of my great uncle Morris Mahler (1888-1958). The last definite address I have for him is 739 East 220th Street in the Bronx, New York, listed on his 1942 WWII draft card. This is shown on the map at top. 

It's a private home, but I don't know whether Morris and his wife Carrie Etschel Mahler (1885-1962) owned or rented. I'm going to check phone and city directories in search of a more recent address. 

This address is only a few blocks away from the apartments of his sister, Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954) and three of her grown children (including my Dad). Very possibly, if Morris was a renter, he would continue to rent not far from the rest of the family.

Key Tool: ED Finder

I previously used the convenient Unified Census ED Finder (thank you, Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub) to locate the ED for my Dad's big apartment building (3-1634). Using the same powerful tool, I located the ED for Morris Mahler's home address on 220th Street (3-1616).

I also noted the four streets that form the boundary around Morris's city block (see the ovals on the map). I can use them, with the Unified Census ED Finder, to identify adjacent EDs in case Morris did move before April 1, 1950.

I see a lot of clicking and browsing in my future when the Census is released next year!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Siblings and In-Laws Are Great Cousin Bait on Family Trees


Siblings and in-laws are really good cousin bait on any family tree!

Admittedly, my online family trees sprawl a bit. I include not just my direct line but also siblings/spouses of my direct line and their descendants. And often I go generations back for in-laws, too. After a couple of generations, this makes for a large and rather horizontal tree.

But without those siblings and in-laws, how would cousins know that we belong to the same family tree?

When cousins come across my public trees, they're looking for familiar names. Names in their direct line will be familiar, whereas names in my direct line might not be as familiar. 

So by including the siblings of my great-grandparents, plus spouses/descendants, I'm inviting my cousins to see their ancestors on my tree and get in touch. It's happened more than once!

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

Sunday, May 16, 2021

More Bite-Sized Bios for Veteran Ancestors

With Memorial Day on the way, I'm writing bite-sized bios for ancestors who served in the military. These are focused little projects that I can complete and share in a short time.

Also, I'm thinking creatively about other ways to remember vets in my family tree and show appreciation for their service.

Memorial Page for Louis Volk

At right, part of a Memorial Page I created on to honor the life and military service of my great uncle Louis Volk (1889-1952), who married my grandma's sister Ida Mahler (1892-1971) in 1920. Creating the page was free, because I access Fold3 through my state library system.

I wrote a few sentences about Louis Volk's life, including his Army assignment to an Alabama munitions plant during World War I. Then I uploaded his photo (captioned with name/dates) and a copy of the NY state record summarizing his WWI military experience (a key source). This is a way to thank great uncle Louis for his service and keep his memory alive for future generations.

Veterans Memorialized on Cemetery Sites

Several of my great uncles in the Farkas family tree also served in World War I. They were buried at Mt. Hebron Cemetery in New York, which is creating a database of veterans laid to rest there. 

As shown above, I submitted a few details about great uncle Albert Farkas (1888-1956), including the war, years served, and branch of military. 

In addition, I noted his military service on his Find a Grave memorial page and linked all relatives, making it easier for descendants to learn about his life. More ways to keep his memory alive and highlight his service to country.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Posting Ancestor Bios for Memorial Day

With Memorial Day only weeks away, I'm busy writing and posting brief bios of my ancestors and my husband's ancestors who served in the military.

Some of these bios were previously written for bite-sized family history projects. I'm condensing and repurposing the content to share more widely on genealogy websites, including Family Search, MyHeritage, Find a Grave, WikiTree, Fold3, and more.

Where I have no bio written, I'm doing research as the basis for a short narrative of each ancestor's life, with particular emphasis on military service. This is a plus for my genealogy research, because I'm double-checking my trees, adding people/facts/sources where missing, and getting more familiar with military databases.

At top, excerpt from the three-paragraph "memory" I posted to, honoring my husband's 1c3r Ira Caldwell (1839-1926), a Union Army veteran from the U.S. Civil War. I used the topic tag "US Civil War" to identify the topic of this story beyond the ancestor tag.

Below, part of the bite-sized bio of Train Caldwell McClure (1843-1934) I posted on He was my husband's 2d great uncle, another Union Army veteran. As I compiled facts for this bio, I added family members and research to my tree, and resolved a couple of inconsistencies. 

After I finish documenting the Civil War vets in my hubby's tree, I'm going to write brief bios of veterans of other wars (from his tree and my tree) and post online to honor their memory for Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Coloring The Mom-in-Law I Never Met

Although I never met my mother-in-law, Marian Jane McClure Wood (1909-1983), it has been my honor to keep her memory alive through family trees and bite-sized family history projects. And captioned photos!

At top, a page from the ancestor coloring book I created for the Wood family. Marian is shown with her husband, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986). 

I began with a color portrait of the two, then used photo software to turn the color into black-and-white. Next, I used the "pencil sketch" feature to soften the contrast and allow plenty of white space for coloring. 

This page of the coloring book mentions relationships, for their grandchildren to note when they color. I'll change the relationship info for the youngest generation soon.

Posting Photos and a Bio on Genealogy Sites

Another way I'm memorializing my mom-in-law is to post photos (with attribution "courtesy: Wood family") on Family Search, MyHeritage, Find a Grave, Ancestry, and other genealogy sites. I've also posted her brief bio on these and other sites. 

I feel a bit sad that I never met my mother-in-law...but every day is Mother's Day as I memorialize her for future generations.


Mother's Day is this week's #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Make Moms Memorable By Retelling Stories

For Mother's Day, I'm retelling the stories of generations of moms in my family tree. Not just in writing (here, and on many genealogy websites) but also in person, as I attend the first family gathering since the pandemic began. 

My goal is to have future generations recognize the faces and retain the stories of ancestors who are gone but not forgotten.

My maternal grandma Hermina "Minnie" Farkas (1886-1964) was a talented seamstress who almost certainly made the dress she's wearing in the photo above. The photo was taken in New York City, when Minnie was in her early 20s. This was a few years before she married my grandpa Theodore "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965). Both were immigrants who came through Ellis Island when they were young teens.

I didn't see this photo or hear this story until decades later, when a cousin explained that Minnie's parents wanted her to marry someone they considered more suitable. When this man came to the apartment with an engagement ring, Minnie threw it out the window! Supposedly, her brothers scrambled down the stairs to retrieve the ring, but that part of the story is a bit murky.

Grandma finally convinced her parents to let her marry Grandpa Teddy, who was then working as a runner for steamship lines in lower Manhattan. Family story is that he arrived late to the wedding because his horse had run away. Later, after Grandpa opened a small dairy store in the Bronx, New York, Grandma worked beside him while raising three children.

Retelling stories like these will keep Minnie and Teddy alive as three-dimensional people with hopes and dreams, not just names and dates on faded photos.

Happy Mother's Day to my Grandma, who married Grandpa nearly 110 years ago.


For more ideas about keeping family history alive for future generations, please see my best-selling genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. Available on Amazon and through the bookstore at

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Great Uncle Orville's Bootlegging Charge

Was my husband's great uncle Orville J. Steiner (1856-1936) guilty of bootlegging? Orville was the only brother of hubby's grandma Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure (1878-1948). 

Every year, I rotate newspaper subscriptions and plug in ancestors' names, looking for news stories. Most of the time, I find social items. This time, when I researched Orville, I found a surprising legal charge and a surprising outcome to the case.

Charged with bootlegging, fined $50

The Marion (Ohio) Daily Star newspaper of December 31, 1908 reported that Orville Steiner and two other men were being charged with bootlegging, selling alcohol in violation of temperance laws in the "dry" area. 

The men were arrested after a "prosecuting witness" named Drell Blue filed affidavits about the liquor purchases. Blue appeared in court with a detective from the Law & Order League, a group advocating for decency and enforcement of laws related to liquor, vice, and other activities (see this brief summary from Chicago). The reporter said this was a long, tedious, and "uninteresting" trial.

In January 9, 1909, the paper reported that the mayor had found Orville guilty of "selling intoxicating liquors" and fined him $50 plus court costs. 

What happened to the whisky? 

In the Marion (Ohio) Daily Star issue of January 29, 1909, a longer story explained the background of the case. "Prosecuting witness" Drell Blue said he bought two half-pints of whisky from Orville. However, Blue would not tell what he did with the whisky, fearful of incriminating himself. 

The witness's refusal to say what happened to the whisky put the entire legal proceeding into doubt. As a result, the judge reversed the mayor's guilty finding and threw out the $50 fine levied on Orville.

That was the last newspaper mention of bootlegging for this ancestor. In the eyes of the court, great uncle Orville Steiner was not a bootlegger--at least not in 1908-9.


Crime and punishment is the #52Ancestors blogging prompt for this week.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Memorializing Moms in My Family Tree


Sunday is Mother's Day, and also the 140th anniversary of the birth of my paternal grandmother, Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954). I'm in the process of preparing bite-sized ancestor biographies, and decided to jump Henrietta to the top of the list in honor of her special day.

Using my research notes, I wrote a few paragraphs summarizing Henrietta's life as an immigrant ancestor and mother of four. I'm the manager of her Find a Grave memorial, which makes it fast and easy to update the page with a basic bio (see excerpt above). Previously, I had posted a gravestone photo and a head shot with digital caption showing her name and the photo's date. I used this opportunity to double-check Find a Grave links to other family members and add Henrietta to my virtual cemetery.

Then I posted Henrietta's bio on WikiTree, where her head shot was already in place on her profile. 

This version of the bio includes brief source citations inside square brackets, to be filled out later with more detail. 

Soon I'll be adding more relatives to Grandma's part of the tree, with sources and photos. 

WikiTree asks for an explanation when profiles are changed. I wrote: "enriching biographical sketch."

I've also posted Henrietta's bite-sized bio on MyHeritage. And on Family Search!

Posting bios and photos online keeps Grandma Yetta and other ancestors alive for future generations.

Happy Mother's Day to the Moms in my family tree!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Why I Now Digitally Caption Copies of Ancestor Photos

In the past few months, I've been increasing my use of digital captioning on copies of scanned ancestor photos. 

It's an easy process: First, I create a digital copy of my scanned original photo. Next, I use photo software to write name and date on the copy. Then I save the photo with a "caption" notation in the file name.

If I'm going to post the photo on a public genealogy website, I now add an attribution to the caption (see photo).

Why digitally caption old family photos?

  1. Keeps photo and caption together. Too often, photos and captions are separated. Maybe a relative wrote a note that was (ouch) clipped to a photo or a photo was removed from the album for scanning or storage, leaving the caption behind. With digital captions, descendants and researchers won't wonder who's in the picture (dates and places are a plus).
  2. Convenient digital sharing. Especially when I connect with cousins for the first time, captioned digital photos allow me to easily share ancestor faces, names, and dates. It's convenient because the captioned versions are self-explanatory. I can always share non-captioned photos, if needed, because the original scan is intact.
  3. Give credit where credit is due. I want to make it crystal clear whose photos these are. I don't obscure a big part of the photo in doing this, but I do want to acknowledge which family is kindly sharing the photo.  
Of course I realize that photos on public blogs (like this) and on public trees are visible to the world and easily copied. 

On genealogy sites such as Ancestry, it's quite common (and encouraged) to have photos and documents saved to other members' trees. The Ancestry system automatically includes the notation of who originally uploaded the image and when. 

That little notation makes all the difference. It credits me as the person responsible for submitting the image, and it acts as cousin bait in case someone wants to get in touch to discuss ancestors. 

This isn't the same as copying from my tree or my blog and moving a photo to an entirely different website.

No copying and reposting without permission

Recently, Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, wrote a detailed blog post explaining that copying photos and reposting without permission is illegal. Judy linked to the terms of use for several major genealogy websites. She included an excerpt from Family Search, indicating that users are legally responsible for content they post.

I'd just discovered that someone I don't know had copied some photos from my Ancestry family tree, without my knowledge or permission, and put them on the Family Search tree. Judy's comments encouraged me to take action.

After writing that person to ask whether we are related, with no answer, I tried a more direct approach. I politely and firmly requested that my photos be removed because they violate the Family Search terms of use. I said I would contact officials at Family Search and make them aware of the violation if my photos weren't deleted.

Within one hour, the user answered with a terse note saying the photos were taken down. I confirmed they were gone and responded: "Much appreciated."

My digital attribution ("courtesy: Wood family") is a strong and unambiguous public statement of the source of the photo. If all my public photos had this attribution, I suspect none would have been copied and posted to Family Search.


The Genealogy Blog Party's May theme has to do with photography. This is my entry!

Saturday, May 1, 2021

My 1950 U.S. Census Release To-Do List: May 1 = Moving Day

This year, I'm taking steps to find a street address for each key ancestor enumerated in the 1950 U.S. Census. I want to be ready to find them when the unindexed Census records are made public in 2022.

Even when I do find these ancestors in the Census (browsing images in the Enumeration District where each lives), I have to remember that within a month, some city-dwellers could be living elsewhere.

The Tradition of Moving Day

In the Big Apple, May 1 was when all rental leases expired. The same was true in Chicago for many years, and other big cities as well.

Families that lived in apartments spent the weeks before May 1 talking with new landlords who might be willing to negotiate rents or offer another incentive to move. Renters also signed contracts to have moving companies lug furniture to the new place on Moving Day.

Moving Day is unlikely to change where I look for my urban ancestors in the 1950 Census, since they were probably counted in the early days and weeks of enumeration. But it does remind me that the 1950 Census address might be only one in a long line of address changes for each ancestor.

Look for an address after May 1949

My recently married parents (Harold Burk and Daisy Schwartz) were in their second New York City apartment by the time of the 1950 Census. Their parents and other relatives, however, weren't necessarily living in the same apartment in April of 1950 as they were in April of 1949.

Similarly, in the Chicago branch of my family, many were renters. From one Census to another, I noticed that many of these ancestors changed apartments--and very likely they moved more than once in the decade between each Census Day.

So as I research my New York City and Chicago ancestors who were renters, I'm trying to find addresses after May of 1949. I'm looking at birth records of their post-WWII babies, city directories, phone directories, advertisements, news articles, and social items in the newspaper, among other sources. 


This is part of my series of blog posts about getting ready for the 1950 Census release, which will occur on April 1, 2022.