Sunday, November 28, 2021

Remembering WWI Vet Frank M. Jacobs

My 1c2r, Frank M. Jacobs (1896-1974) enlisted in the US Marines on April 18, 1917, when he was 20 years old. While he was fighting in World War I, he left behind his mother (Eva Michalovsky Jacobs), his father (Joseph Jacobs), and his siblings in Brooklyn, New York. 

Fighting in France

After a brief period of training, Frank was sent to France on June 27, 1917, where he fought in the Toulon Sector, Aisne Defensive, Chateau-Thierry Sector, and Soissons (the Aisne-Marne Offensive). All this detail is on his New York "Abstracts of World War I Military Service" record, shown below. By June of 1918, he had been promoted to Corporal.

Sadly, Frank lost a leg on July 19, 1918 during fierce fighting at the Battle at Soissons. He received medical attention in France and was returned to the States for further treatment. Meanwhile, more tragedy in the family: His father Joseph, a chronic invalid, died in November of 1918, before Frank was formally discharged.

So far as I can determine, Frank never married or had children. He pursued a long career in advertising. On his WWII draft registration card, Frank showed his employer as the big Madison Avenue firm Young & Rubicam.

In Frank's own words

Frank wrote home quite regularly throughout his service in WWI. His family shared some of those letters with local newspapers, a common practice at the time. Thanks to the wonderful (and completely free!) newspaper site Fulton Search, I read a number of letter excerpts and interviews with Frank, supplementing the official records with my ancestor's own words.

Only a week before being wounded, he wrote to his family that "I am glad to be one of the lucky ones to come through without a scratch. Our regiment has been cited five times for conspicuous bravery." On July 19, the newspaper reported that letter along with the news of Frank's injury.

In an interview with the Daily Standard Union newspaper in Brooklyn, New York, Frank described what happened in the Battle of Soissons. He told the reporter that "a high explosive shell broke right beside me. A pebble hit me in the head and I put my hand there. It was then that I noticed that my leg was gone. I didn't lose consciousness then or afterward."

I'm currently writing Frank's bite-sized bio and posting on genealogy websites to keep his memory alive and share his war experiences in his own words.

Plus I'm pleased to post this on the Genealogy Blog Party for November of 2021!

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Penny Postcard Thanksgiving Greetings


More than a century ago, this colorful penny postal greeting was sent to my husband's uncle in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy and very healthy Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Book Review: Learning More About Your Ancestors Online

I've been a big fan of Kenneth R. Marks's website The Ancestor Hunt since I came upon it a few years ago. 

In one easy-to-navigate site, he's assembled 160,000+ links to free genealogy resources in North America, arranged geographically and by type of resource.

Kenneth also offers a series of free, downloadable Quick Reference Guides with useful tips for family-history researchers at all skill levels.

Now I'm a big fan of his new, very affordable reference book, Learning More About Your Ancestors Online: Genealogy Guides for Newbies, Hobbyists, and Old Pros, available in paperback and digitally on Amazon.

A baker's dozen of chapters

In 13 chapters, Kenneth organizes his advice and links according to topic: 

  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Birth and marriage 
  • Chapter 3: Death records and information 
  • Chapter 4: General advice about genealogy research
  • Chapter 5: Immigration, naturalization, travel
  • Chapter 6: Military 
  • Chapter 7: Miscellaneous records (such as secret societies, old-time illnesses)
  • Chapter 8: Newspaper research
  • Chapter 9: Occupations
  • Chapter 10: Photos and physical description
  • Chapter 11: Residences and other locations
  • Chapter 12: Schools and yearbooks
  • Chapter 13: Resources

Every chapter has a ton of useful ideas and time-tested suggestions. The final chapter, not to be missed, is a roundup of links to other websites with additional information about search techniques and genealogical records.

I highly recommend Kenneth's book, which I purchased in paperback as soon as it was published. It's a handy reference book for everyone interested in genealogy research, from beginners to experienced professionals. Happy to have it on my genealogy bookshelf!

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Penny Postcard Craze and Family History

Early in the 20th century, my husband's Wood family stayed in touch frequently via colorful penny postal greetings. 

Any holiday or celebration was a great reason to write to a young relative.

Not just on birthdays but also for Abraham Lincoln's birthday and July 4th and everything in between!

Penny postcard craze

The Wood family was completely caught up in the postcard craze of that era. 

It really took off when the price of mailing a postcard was lowered from two cents to one cent. 

At the time, the highest quality postcards were printed in Germany and shipped across the Atlantic. Most of the postcards sent by Wood ancestors in Ohio and beyond were, in fact, made in Germany. 

Postcards as family history clues 

Wallis Wood (1905-1957), my hubby's uncle living in Cleveland, received dozens of birthday postcards during his preteen years. Happily, the family held onto these postcards over the years.

Thanks to the addresses and postmarks, I was able to track this Cleveland branch of the Wood family as they moved to different houses nearly every year from 1905 to 1917. 

Why? Because Wallis Wood's papa (James Edgar Wood, 1871-1939) was a home builder. 

James constructed a new house roughly every year, moved his family in as he finished the interior, and sold that home. Then he moved the family to another home being completed by his crew. 

James, his wife (Mary Slatter Wood, 1869-1925), and their four sons had lots of different addresses over the years. In between Census years and in between directory listings, the postcards showed me where they were living.

These are just three of the fun birthday postcards sent to Wallis before 1915.

This is my post for week #46 of Amy Johnson Crow's #52 Ancestors challenge.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

1950 US Census: Putting Reported Income In Context

When the 1950 US Census is released in April, it will have detailed information on a surprisingly large sample of the population.

One in five sampled

If I'm lucky, my ancestors will be among the 20% of people sampled, which meant they answered additional questions about 1949 full-year income and more.

My deep dive into the reported statistics about each state will give me good context for interpreting my ancestors' answers. (You can see each state's reported statistics in the publications at HathiTrust. There are so many fascinating tables of statistics, income and much more, on a state-by-state basis.) 

Apples-to-apples comparison 

As shown in the excerpt above, the median income for urban areas of New York state was $3,123*, higher than the median for the state overall. I would expect my Big Apple ancestors and other city-dwellers to report higher incomes than any who lived in rural areas. Common sense, but seeing the statistics in the official reports gives me a sense of how much people might have earned at that time, so I can compare with my father's income. 

In later life, when my mother occasionally talked about those post-war years, she said my father's travel agency was doing well. I won't know how well unless they were among the 20% of the population who answered those sample questions in the 1950 Census. 

Yes, I already have their Enumeration District listed so I can browse for them as soon as the Census is released in April.

*The 2021 equivalent of $3,123 in income would be more than $33,000. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

1950 US Census: "Separated" Added as Marital Status

To be ready when the 1950 Census is released on April 1, 2022 (woo hoo!), I'm reading background information and thinking about what ancestors' responses could reveal about family history. 

If you have ancestors enumerated in the 1950 Census, do check out the summary report(s) for the state(s) where they lived in 1950. The reports are digitized and available at HathiTrust. The excerpt above is from the introduction to the results summary for New York State, where so many of my ancestors lived at the time. 

Separated, divorced, widowed?

"Separated" was a new category for marital status in the 1950 US Census. That's a plus for genealogical researchers, if our ancestors answered truthfully. 

In earlier years, a few of my ancestors said they were "widowed" rather than admit to being separated or divorced. Maybe in 1950, they answered "separated" because it was a little less of a stigma than "divorced" was at the time? 

As shown in the excerpt at top, the Census Bureau noted that this new "separated" category may have lowered the number of people recorded as "divorced." 

But read further, and see how the Census Bureau dealt with situations in which no marital status was recorded by the enumerator.

"Estimated" marital status

The Census Bureau "estimated" marital status in situations where the enumerator, for whatever reason, didn't record an individual's marital status.

The "estimate" was made on the basis of age and presence of spouse or children in the household.

So some individuals who were recorded as "single" under 1940 US Census rules might be recorded in 1950 as "married, spouse absent" or "widowed." Interesting clues.

Who's telling the truth?

What about my great aunt Nellie Block, who previously told enumerators she was single? In the US and NY Census documents I've checked, Nellie lived alone or was a boarder in someone else's apartment. She never had any spouse or children in the household with her, so far as I could see. She consistently said she was single. 

Yet when Nellie died late in 1950, she was supposedly widowed, according to her brother, the informant for her death cert. Who was telling the truth, Nellie or her brother? Looking forward to seeing how her marital status was recorded in the 1950 Census.

Monday, November 15, 2021

1950 US Census: "Errors in Age Statistics"

Before the 1950 US Census is released on April 1, 2022, I'm doing background reading to understand what the population schedule will tell me about my ancestors.

I recommend looking at the state-by-state results published by the US Census Bureau in 1954 and available for free at HathiTrust. Browse the list until you see the state(s) where your ancestors lived. Many of my ancestors lived in New York, so I've been clicking my way through that statewide report of 1950 Census results.

No matter which state report you read, you'll see the same introductory information that will add context to the 1950 Census results. 

Look at reported age, for instance, which we know isn't always accurate on Census forms. Women, in particular, might fudge age downward. In fact, both my grandmas were sensitive about being a year older than their husbands, and lied to enumerators in more than one Census. But there were other reasons for age errors, as well.

The Census Bureau knew about age errors 

As shown in the introduction excerpt above, the Census Bureau was well aware of "errors in age statistics." Young children tended to be undercounted, a situation that was partially fixed by the use of Infant Cards written out by enumerators for kids born in Jan-Feb-March of 1950. Sadly, these info-rich cards were not retained and we won't have access to that valuable data.

In addition, errors were noted among older age groups. The Census Bureau said there were fewer than expected people enumerated in the 55-64 age group, but more than expected enumerated in the 65+ age group. 

Suddenly so many seniors?

Coincidence? Maybe, but my guess is this had to do with post-war retirements and people wanting to collect Social Security at age 65. With an eye toward eligibility, I suspect lots of folks were suddenly willing to admit to a government agency that they were 65 or older. 

This was an actual problem for my hubby's maternal grandpa, Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) He told employers he was younger than he really was so he could work all during World War II. 

Once the war was over, however, Brice was already over 65. At that point, he had difficulty straightening out his age documentation so he could collect Social Security payments. He eventually did manage to collect, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he said about his age on the 1950 US Census!

For more background about preparing for the release of the 1950 US Census, please see my summary page here.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Where Are Your Family's Artifacts?


If, like me, you've donated some of your family's photos, documents, or other artifacts to a museum, a library, or another institution, be sure your relatives (and your heirs) know the details! 

Not all items must remain in my genealogy collection. When the family has no sentimental attachment to an item, and the item is not vital to my genealogical knowledge, my goal is to keep these artifacts safe in institutions where they can be preserved and made available to future researchers.

In the past six years, my husband and I have happily donated nonpersonal items of historical interest (such as theater programs, photographs, WWII memorabilia, specialized magazines, and more) to libraries, archives, historical societies, museums, and other repositories, after asking permission to make these donations. You can read my blog post about the step-by-step process of donating a family artifact and learn more in my newly-updated book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

As shown at top, my genealogy files include a separate folder called "artifact donations" containing all the deeds of gift and notes about what has been donated, when, and where. A deed of gift (or contract of gift) is the legal document used to transfer ownership of a donated item from myself to an institution. 

Now my heirs will be able to see which institution owns each donated artifact. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Remembering WWI Veterans Julius and Peter Farkas

For Veterans Day 2021, I want to honor the World War I service of two great uncles: Julius Farkas (1892-1969) and Peter Farkas (1894-1961). They were among the 11 children born to my maternal great-grandparents, Moritz Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas, ancestors who left Hungary for America at the turn of the 20th century.

Because neither Julius nor Peter married, and they had no direct descendants, writing about them helps keep their memories alive for the future. That's why I'm working on bite-sized bios to post on various genealogy websites. But I'm always open to additional ways of memorializing ancestors. 

The "bachelor brothers" were laid to rest in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens, New York. Turns out, this cemetery welcomes the submission of information about the military service of those who are buried there. I sent service details for both of these great uncles last year.

Now when someone searches that cemetery's database for Peter or Julius, they will see a special veteran line on the interment page. As shown above, the cemetery added a flag, the designation "Veteran," plus their years of service and the war in which they served.

I'm privileged to honor Peter, Julius, and the many other veterans in my family tree who served in the military over the years. Thank you sincerely for your service to country! 

PS: I posted their bite-sized bios on Fold3, Find a Grave, and the Wikitree site.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Public and Private Ancestor Bios

Do you find it more challenging to write a public biography of ancestors you knew--especially those closest to you? I do.

I want key ancestors' bios to be available to distant relatives and future researchers in some form, whether posted on Find a Grave, Family Search, MyHeritage, WikiTree, or other sites where they can be found today and tomorrow. 

But I do make a distinction between public and private bios.

Writing it all down for family

Over the past decade, I've created family histories intended just for family, not for public eyes. 

Whether lengthy or brief, these family history documents include personal photos and candid comments that might not necessarily be appropriate for the wider world. In a private bio, I can reveal unflattering quirks and other dimensions of an ancestor's life known only to the family at this point. 

Secrets aren't necessarily in these private bios, but they're in my genealogy files to be inherited by the next generation and therefore will not be lost to the family.

Private bios can be as long or short as I wish, and include minute details that would bore non-relatives. Only relatives are likely to care that my Dad (Harold D. Burk, 1909-1978) baked apple pies from scratch every autumn, trying for a perfectly golden brown, sky-high crust. 

I've blogged about these kinds of details because they're of interest to me and my generation, but I haven't included them in the bite-sized bio of Dad publicly posted on FindaGrave and other sites (see image above).

Public bios in brief

With a public bite-sized bio, my aim is to focus readers on the essence of who each ancestor was, in a few paragraphs rather than a few pages. For Dad's public bite-sized bio, I went a bit beyond the bare basics: "Growing up, his ambition was to be a travel agent..." is how I described his life goal--which he achieved.

In the final paragraph, I wrote about his disappointment at having to close his business, saying: "He reluctantly retired..." My entrepreneurial father would have kept his travel agency open if the building where it was housed had not been torn down. 

Currently, I'm drafting a bite-sized bio of my father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986), a good family man, a career insurance adjustor, and a professional musician. Not to mention his travel adventures!

Keeping the public bio brief yet adding personality is a real challenge, both because I knew him and because his life was full of interesting twists and turns. Earlier family history booklets went into great detail--now I want to focus his bio for public eyes.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Prepping for the 1950 US Census: NARA ED Maps

I've been researching the street addresses and Enumeration Districts of dozens of ancestors, with the goal of being able to browse for these folks when the 1950 US Census pages are released (unindexed) on April 1. Most of these ancestors lived in urban areas, although a few were in rural areas.

Unified Census ED Finder doesn't cover every street in every town

Researching ancestors in rural Upper Sandusky, Wyandot County, Ohio, I was unable to find the town in Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub's Unified Census ED Finder tool. This is the easy-to-use tool I normally use to transform a street address into an Enumeration District. 

As shown in image at top, Wyandot is one of the few counties where the Steve Morse/Joel Weintraub tool has no provision for town or street address input. See FAQs 302 and 403 for an explanation.**

Because I do have a street address, I've learned to use National Archives's Enumeration District maps to locate the appropriate ED.

NARA Enumeration District maps to the rescue

To reach the ED maps via Steve Morse's site, click on the link titled "Viewing ED Maps in One Step." It's at the very bottom of the page (see brown arrow). Or click to reach that link here

At the Steve Morse link, once you enter the state, county, and town, you'll be taken to a page like the following:

Now you can choose the NARA viewer OR go directly to the images on the NARA server. Both work, just read the advantages and disadvantages to see which you prefer. 

Here is the small version of the NARA map for Upper Sandusky, Wyandot County, OH. I clicked to enlarge the map and looked around each ED until I located the ancestor's street address on West Bigelow.

As a result, I discovered my husband's great aunt Etta Blanche Steiner Rhuark's residence in ED 88-27. Next April, I'll be browsing pages of that ED to find her.

Let me call attention to Beth Finch McCarthy's excellent graphic about preparing to browse the 1950 US Census, including the use of NARA maps.


**Joel Weintraub explains: The National Archives has stated that urban areas of 5 or more EDs should have online 1950 ED maps, although I've seen such maps with less than that. Our One-Step criteria for street indexes are the location should have 5 or more EDs and also have 5,000 or more people. Upper Sandusky according to my information had 4,397 people in 1950 so I didn't include it on my list of areas to be done. We still have a database for searching ED definitions. In your case.... go to the Unified Tool, pick Ohio, pick from the city list "Other (specify)" which opens a box where you can type Upper Sandusky. You should then see 7 EDs with that name on the their ED transcribed description... on the lower left. Click on "more details" and you should see the ED transcribed definitions for each of the seven which also may help determine the exact ED wanted.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Honor Roll Project: Veterans' Memorial in Middlebury, CT

For Heather Wilkinson Rojo's wonderful Honor Roll Project, I visited Middlebury, Connecticut, where a lovely plaque embedded on a boulder honors veterans from pre-Revolutionary War days up to World War I. 

The boulder bearing the plaque is located at the right of steps leading to  Middlebury's stately Town Hall. 

With pride, the Middlebury historic marker below notes: "During the Revolutionary War, French General Rochambeau and his troops established a camp in the Breakneck Hill section on their march to the final campaign at Yorktown, Virginia."

I've transcribed the names of the men and women honored on this memorial plaque, one war at a time, as shown on the plaque.

If any descendants of these veterans conduct an online search, I hope they find the names and realize their ancestors' service to country has not been forgotten.

For Veteran's Day 2021, I'm doing my part to keep alive the memory of these brave men and women from Middlebury, Connecticut, who served in the military. 

Middlebury Honors Those Who Have Served in the Wars of Their Country

French - Indian War

Abner Munson

Revolutionary War

David Abbott, Benjamin Bemont, Aaron Benedict, Enos Benham, Samuel Benham, Edward Blackman, Michael Bowers, Asahel Bronson, Elijah Bronson, Isaac Bronson, Andrew Clark, Daniel Clark, Benjamin Fenn, Samuel Fenn, Israel Frisbie, Stephen Hawley, Reuben Hickox, Timothy Higgins, Benjamin Hine, Justus Johnson, Simeon Manvil, Augustus Peck, Gideon Platt, James Porter, Ebenezer Richardson, Jonathan Sanford, Ebenezer Smith, John Thompson, Aaron Tuttle, Ezekiel Tuttle

War of 1812

Lewis Booth, Eldad Bradley, Jonathan Bradley, Noyes Bradley, Elijah Bronson, Isaac Bronson, Daniel Clark, Asa Fenn, Loammi Fenn, Philo Hamblin, Levit Hawley, Benjamin Hine, Isaac Hodge, Mark W. Mazugan, Abner Munson, Miles Newton Jr., Isaac Nichols, Samuel Porter, Ranson Saxton, Harry Smith, William H. Smith, Mark Stone, Eli Thompson, John Thompson, Peter Van Bogert, Peter Vandereagast

Mexican War

Ranson L. Gaylord

Civil War

Robert J. Abbott, George Anderson, George W. Baldwin, Philetus M. Barnum, James W. Benham, Eli B. Blackman, Maro P. Blackman, Henry Blakeslee, Charles Bradley, James M. Bradley, Eli Bronson, George H. Crook, Adrian Dehm, Church R. Fox, Michael Genter, Guernsey Johnson, Thomas Kenney, Charles King, George S. Manville, John Meier, George B. Meramble, Michael G. Miller, Charles Moshier, Jacob Prime, Emery J. Roswell, John Smith, Asa W. Stone, Charles E. Stone, Edward L. Welton

Mexican - Border War

Arthur M. Foote

World War (World War I)

Stanley Andrews, Walter Beebe, Allan J. Benson, Bernhardt Benson, Edwin H. Benson, Henry J. Benson, Lester J. Benson, Burton F. Bird, Vincent Botta, William Budieser, Antonio Calabrese, Raymond Caligan, Mary J. Campbell, Robert M. Campbell, Rodger W. Cooke, Edward Cronley, Francis Cronley, Cyril Davis, John Delaney, Thomas Dowling, Joseph Feist, Arthur M. Foote, Asahel Gibson, Arthur C. Hallgren, Gustave E. Hallgren, Edmund Janes, Wilfred Jordan, Harvey S. Judd, John Kawickas, George Muller, Clarence A. Nichols, Earl H. Nodine, Alfred Perro, Ellis F. Phelan, Fred H. Robertson, Edwin J. Robin, Emanuel J. Robin, Morris L. Robin, Melville Skiff, Horatio N. Smith, Lyman E. Smith, Frederick W. Speaker, Raymond Stauffer, Royal J. Steele, Raymond F. Tyler, Ralph Vincent, Willis T. Vincent, Frank Wassabach, George Webster, Leon Williams

Note: The memorial plaque from Middlebury, CT, is also listed in the Historical Marker Project.


This post is also part of the November, 2021 Genealogy Blog Party.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Where the Bodies Are Buried, at a Glance


A key aspect of planning a future for my family's past is to be sure relatives know where the bodies are buried. Literally.

Ancestors memorialized on Find a Grave

Over the years, I've been creating and/or improving memorials on FindaGrave for ancestors who are gone but not forgotten. The site is free and easy to access.

Also, I began gathering memorial pages into a virtual cemetery for each line (or intermarried families) on my family tree and my hubby's family tree.

It's quick and not complicated to create a virtual cemetery. FindaGrave has instructions here.

Then, with a virtual cemetery, I can (1) post a link to that page within my online trees, (2) include a link to that page with bite-sized bios I write and distribute or post, and (3) send relatives a link to that page so they can see which ancestors are buried where.

Virtual cemetery tour

A virtual cemetery also shows some key info at a glance.

The image at top is part of a virtual cemetery I created for my husband's intermarried Wood and Slatter families (that's the catchy title of this virtual cemetery).

Each memorial page in the virtual cemetery includes the ancestor's name, dates, and cemetery details.*

For convenience, I sort my virtual cemeteries by surname, alphabetically. But the memorials in a virtual cemetery are also sortable by how recently each was added and by cemetery. 

If any photo is on the memorial, a thumbnail of the main photo appears in this virtual cemetery listing.

Look closely and see, in grey, the FindaGrave memorial ID number. If I want to correspond with another user or with FindaGrave about a particular memorial, I can refer to that ID number.

Another handy feature: A small blue dot indicates whether I'm the manager of a particular memorial. In the image at top, I don't manage the memorial for Adelaide Mary Slatter Baker but I do manage the memorial for Jane Ann Wood Black.

*Remember, this is only the info that has been entered into FindaGrave. If it's incorrect or incomplete, you can submit edits or--if you manage that memorial--you can make the changes yourself. Don't forget to link ancestors to their spouses, children, and parents!

Try a virtual cemetery

FindaGrave is available all over the world, both for adding memorials and for improving memorials with bite-sized biographies, Census data, grave and personal photos, family links, and more. 

Do consider creating a virtual cemetery to organize the final resting places of ancestors, so future generations will know where the bodies are buried.

Monday, November 1, 2021

For Context of 1950 US Census, See Documents at HathiTrust

The release of the 1950 US Census is only 151 days away! 

On April 1, 2022, we will be able to browse the population schedule of the US Census that was taken on April 1, 1950. No indexing will be available on day 1, but we can click our way through 7.8 million pages of handwritten Census data about U.S. households, arranged by Enumeration District.

Preparing for the Census release means (1) listing ancestors we want to find, (2) locating a residential address for each ancestor, and (3) turning the address into an Enumeration District using the powerful Unified Census ED Finder tool from Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub. I describe the three-step process here.

In addition, so we can put our ancestors into context, it's a good idea to read some of the publications summarizing the background and results of the 1950 Census. 

HathiTrust has carefully curated a collection of nearly 200 documents related to the 1950 US Census. Take a look