Wednesday, November 30, 2022

NaGenWriMo Family History Writing Wrapup

After an entire 30 days of National Genealogy Writing Month, I've completed and posted 70 bite-sized ancestor bios to document family history.

My methodology: begin with one sibling/spouse cohort in each generation on my tree. Then switch to one sibling/spouse cohort in my hubby's tree, and continue up and down the generations, alternating between my tree and hubby's tree. Switching things up kept me fresh and on my toes! 

By now, I've gotten nearly all bios done back to great-grandparents. Not quite all, because my maternal grandma (Hermina Farkas Schwartz) had a LOT of siblings and most were married with children. Where I haven't yet added spouses/children, I'm naming them in the bios as I write. Their names will be remembered long after NaGenWriMo is finished, because I'm posting on multiple genealogy sites. 

LOCKSS - lots of copies keep stuff safe.

Friday, November 25, 2022

From Immigrant to Head of Thanksgiving Day Parade

Harold the Baseball Player, balloon shown in the 1946 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Courtesy Macy's Event Media.

Leona Zonna "Lee" Wallace was born 99 years ago yesterday, on November 24, 1903, in Lodz, Poland. She was the director of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from the late 1940s until the mid-1950s. Importantly for family history, she was my aunt's life partner starting in that period and continuing for 40+ years.

To honor Lee's memory during this week of Thanksgiving, I've written and posted the following bite-sized bio as part of my NaGenWriMo initiative to document family history online.

Born in Lodz, Poland on 24 Nov 1903, Leona Zonna "Lee" Wallace had two brothers, for whom she cared after their parents (Anthony and Frances Wallace) died. After the family arrived in America, Lee worked during the day and attended high school classes at night while bringing up the boys on her own. In her spare time, she took art lessons, she told a newspaper interviewer in 1952. 

During World War II, Lee worked in labor relations for the Quartermaster Corps, headquartered in Washington, D.C. After the war, she applied to Macy's department store in New York and worked her way up to head of the store's high-profile special events group--including directing the biggest holiday event of the year, the famous Thanksgiving Day Parade. By the 1950s, Lee had earned a national reputation for superbly directing all aspects of the annual parade, from planning to execution. 

In 1952, Lee formed a business partnership with her partner, Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001). The company was called "Lee Wallace Associates, Parade and Special Events, Consultants." Together, they managed not only the Macy's Thanksgiving parade but also the five-day Bridgeport (CT) Barnum Festival on July 4, 1953. Dorothy (twin sister of my Mom) soon left the business and started a career in high school education. 

Lee and Dorothy shared a deep love of art, theater, and culture. They were devoted to their nieces and nephews, visiting often and taking them on outings to the beach, amusement parks, etc. In later years, Lee's health deteriorated as she suffered a series of strokes. Lee Wallace died on 18 Sept, 1989, at the age of 85.

Today, I'm thinking of my aunt with affection as I keep her memory alive for the future. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Thanksgiving Greetings from 1914

According to the postmark, Rachel Ellen "Nellie" Wood Kirby (1862-1954) sent this colorful Thanksgiving postcard from her home in Chicago to her young Wood nephew in Cleveland on Wednesday, November 25, 1914. 

He was nine that year, and he also received penny postal greetings for Thanksgiving from his first cousins in Toledo, Ohio.

Dear readers, I wish you and your families a most happy and very healthy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Thanksgiving Week Weddings in the Big Apple

More than a few ancestors in my family tree celebrated a Thanksgiving week wedding during the first half of the twentieth century. 

All married in New York City, and nearly all of the couples (or their immediate family members) appear in photos from my parents' Thanksgiving weekend wedding.

In 1916, maternal cousin Jennie Mandel married Isidore Hartfield. They had two children, although one was born so prematurely that she sadly lived only two days. This couple was at my parents' wedding!

In 1917, paternal cousin Louis Jacob married Katie Rosenberg on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. They were wed in Brooklyn, New York and never left the borough, where they raised their daughter. 

In 1935, maternal cousin Ernest Roth married Fay Barth on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. They had two children together. Ernest's older sister Margaret was at my parents' wedding!

In 1940, my maternal uncle Fred Shaw married Daisy Ida Katz on Thanksgiving Day. They had two children (my first cousins). Of course this aunt and uncle attended my parents' wedding! 

In 1945, my paternal 1c1r Norma Berg married Allen Mador on Thanksgiving weekend. This couple was at my parents' wedding! 

In 1946, Mom (Daisy Schwartz) and Dad (Harold Burk) were married on Thanksgiving weekend at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City. The photo at top, taken just before the ceremony, shows L to R: mother of the bride Hermina Farkas Schwartz; maid of honor Dorothy Schwartz; and the bride, in her glittery gold lame wedding dress.

Thinking of these ancestral couples with affection and remembering their happy wedding days during this Thanksgiving week! 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Fun Portraits via MyHeritage AI Time Machine

My Heritage has a fun new feature and for a limited time it's free to all. No subscription needed!

Just upload at least 10 personal photos of yourself, and the AI Time Machine turns them into, well, take a look at these examples. 

Above, me as a gentle pirate, not sending anyone across the gangplank. LOL.

Below, I'm some kind of Egyptian queen, then below that, a 1930s English lady ready for a hike across the moors. I'm using some of these as my social media profile photos, they're so much fun.

In the company's words:

With the AI Time Machine™, you can see yourself as an Egyptian pharaoh, a medieval knight or a Viking, a 19th-century lord or lady, and much more, in just a few clicks! Watch this 30-second video to see how it works.

Go ahead and give this a try for free here. It's a hoot! Thank you to My Heritage for this new "time travel" feature.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Two Cenotaphs for Arthur Albert Slatter

Among my husband's ancestors, the men of the Slatter family have a tradition of military service. 

Hubby's Whitechapel-born grandmother, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925), was the youngest sister of three boys who entered the British military as preteens and grew up to become well-respected military bandmasters in Canada: John Daniel Slatter, Henry Arthur Slatter, and Albert William Slatter. In turn, at least one of the sons of each man went into the military, as well.

Henry Arthur Slatter's oldest son, Arthur Albert Slatter, was born on July 2, 1887 in London, England. He enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers in 1902 and served out his enlistment period by 1914. He then moved to Vancouver, Canada, where his parents had moved. As World War I raged on, Arthur signed up in May of 1915 to serve with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Forces. 

Soon Arthur rejoined the Royal Fusiliers and went into battle in Western Europe. Sad to say, he was killed in action on May 20, 1917, before his 30th birthday. 

Now Lance Serjeant Arthur A. Slatter's name is listed among the fallen on the World War I Arras Memorial, including a separate Find a Grave memorial page (see image at top). This is a cenotaph because, as the note on the page indicates, it's not the actual burial site.

Turns out, this is not the only cenotaph where Arthur was memorialized. His parents later put Arthur's name on their joint gravestone in Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver, Canada.

In writing and reviewing bite-sized bios as part of my #NaGenWriMo initiative during November, I discovered a broken link to Arthur's second cenotaph--the gravestone in Mountain View Cemetery. 

Now I've corrected the link on both of Arthur's parents' Find a Grave memorial pages and will put it into their bite-sized bios on WikiTree, MyHeritage, and other sites, to be sure anyone who wants to view the stone can easily do so.

Tombstones is this week's #52Ancestors prompt by Amy Johnson Crow.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Going Beyond Names and Dates with NaGenWriMo

I'm writing and posting ancestor bios from my family tree and my husband's tree to various genealogy sites as I participate in #NaGenWriMo, National Genealogy Writing Month. 

Without my ancestors, I wouldn't be here. I'm thankful in this month of Thanksgiving to be able to honor their memory with bios, so they won't be forgotten in the future.

Already this month, I've posted or revised bios for more than 30 ancestors. Most recently, I enriched the bite-sized bio of my great aunt Dora Lillie Mahler (1894-1950) on WikiTree, posted the bio on MyHeritage, and called the New York cemetery where she's buried to ask for specifics on her plot location--so I could add the details to Dora's Find a Grave memorial page and her Ancestry profile. 

More Mahler and Jacobs bios (relatives and in-laws) are in my plans for the coming week. These ancestors are from my father's side of the family tree. Today I wrote a bio about Flora Jacobs (1890-1923), the third daughter of Joseph Jacobs and Eva Michalovsky to pass away young, unfortunately.

Even bios that are only narratives flowing together data from Census and vital records, with residence and occupation and birth place/death place, birth order, and other details, help bring ancestors alive. If I can add photos (such as this touching gravestone), even better.

More bios to come.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Saluting Veterans with Fold3 Memorial Pages and More

I've been creating or improving memorial pages on, with the goal of information about military veterans in my and my husband's family trees. Above you see the memorials as I bookmarked them on Fold3, for easy access. 

In hubby's tree, I've memorialized Union soldiers from the US Civil War, such as John W. Larimer. Also I've memorialized World War I and World War II veterans in his tree, including Captain John Daniel Slatter.

In my tree, I've memorialized World War I veterans such as Marine Cpl. Frank Maurice Jacobs, who lost a leg in battle. Also World War II veterans such as Sgt. Dorothy H. Schwartz, a WAC who served overseas.

I'm adding to these memorial pages and establishing new pages during NaGenWriMo month in November, just one way of honoring their service and sacrifices with Veteran's Day in mind. 

To learn more about memorial pages on Fold3, take a look at the help pages here. Tip: These memorials can be linked to your Ancestry tree as well.

Also, after reading Diana Bryan Quinn's blog post about the Military Women's Memorial, I registered my aunt, Sgt. Schwartz, so her WAC military service during WWII will be in their records in time for Veteran's Day 2022. 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Go Ahead and Save My Stuff to Your Tree

Yes, I've spent 24 years researching ancestors on my family tree and my husband's family tree. Yes, I've spent thousands of dollars ordering vital records from both sides of the Atlantic. 

Yes, I want you to take anything and everything connected to my public family trees and add that stuff to your own tree if we have mutual ancestors. That's why I shared all those things publicly. 

Genealogical clues and cousin bait on my trees

These items are great genealogical clues, and they're also great cousin bait. So go ahead and save to your tree! 

As shown above, 20 members of Ancestry have saved the unique handwritten version of family history jotted down by my husband's grandfather, Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). These people were his relatives, and his notes have been fantastic clues for further investigation. Some of the members who saved this to their family tree have been in touch with me to exchange additional information, including a few who are DNA matches with my husband. 

Cousin bait, not just genealogical clues. 

LOCKSS vs "my tree"

I share widely because of LOCKSS: lots of copies keep stuff safe for today and tomorrow. 

I recognize that some people are unhappy when their trees are copied and their materials used without attribution. They've done a lot of work and they would at least like to be recognized for that work when someone else copies from a public tree. Although I certainly understand and respect this perspective, it's not my approach.

When I started on my genealogy journey in 1998, many people kindly shared info with me. They gave me a head-start. Now I'm paying it forward and looking ahead with LOCKSS. 

If I don't want something copied (such as personal photos), I don't post that stuff these days. On the family photos I do post online, I've been adding the name of the person, dates if known, and then "Courtesy ___ Family" to clarify the source (as on this photo of my great uncle, which I posted on WikiTree).

The more people who have ancestor names and supporting materials on their trees, the less likely these ancestors will be forgotten in the decades to come. I want my research to be available long after the distant day when I join my ancestors, not just in the hands of my family but more widely. 

This is why I post trees on multiple sites (WikiTree, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and so on) and add to the FamilySearch tree. I also have heirs on both sides of the tree who will become custodians of my genealogy collection in the future.

What will happen to your family history? Are you taking steps now to keep your genealogy, stories, and materials safe in the years to come?


For ideas on how to plan ahead, please see my popular book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from and from Amazon US/Canada/UK/Europe. If you're on Kindle Unltd, you can read the ebook for free!

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Genealogical Corrections Are Good Practice, Not BSOs

As I participate in NaGenWriMo and write family history this month, I have multiple tabs open on my browser: my family trees (Ancestry, MyHeritage, WikiTree, FamilySearch), plus my blog, and Find a Grave.

Ordinarily, I would make a note of any intriguing clues discovered as I write, and keep going with my project, not to be derailed by a bright shiny object (BSO). 

But when I see an error that I can help correct, it's not a bright shiny object but an opportunity to follow good genealogical practice. For the sake of other researchers and family historians, I don't want inaccurate info to be perpetuated. 

Take the Find a Grave memorial page at top. Poor ole George is one of a series of Georges in multiple generations of my husband's Wood family. 

Now I don't know who linked the family members on George's memorial page, but one is incorrect. 

By reading the dates and not just the names, the error jumps out! Was the mother really born two years after the son?? The mother who was linked belongs to another George in another generation, I recognized after a moment.

I immediately sent a correction to the manager of this memorial page, providing the actual mother's memorial number. Within three hours, the correction was online. 

It's only the first week of my NaGenWriMo quest. What other errors will I notice? 

Sunday, November 6, 2022

NaGenWriMo Continues

November is the time for NaGenWriMo--National Genealogy Writing Month. It's not too late to participate! 

Already this month, I've written bite-sized bios of 14 ancestors on my husband's family tree. I'll finish his great aunts and great uncles, then move on to write about my grandparents' siblings--which will keep me busy since they each had many sisters and brothers.

Focusing on one branch at a time allows me to see these people in context and proceed systematically. As I write, I'm making tiny corrections and adding new research to my trees, plus I'm improving or adding Find a Grave memorials. 

Even those who died young can be memorialized with brief bios. I'm writing about the child's position in birth order, names of parents, birth place, any Census or baptism mention, illness, cause of death if known, burial place, any other details.

By posting ancestor bios in multiple places online, I want to keep as much family history as possible from being lost in the decades to come. Anything I write during November is more than was available before this year's NaGenWriMo!

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Friday and Saturday: WikiTree Symposium and WikiTree Day

On November 4 and 5, you're invited to hours and hours of free genealogy talks celebrating WikiTree's 14th anniversary. You can attend any or all sessions and learn from the experts!

Two sessions not to miss are the panel discussions about the future of genealogy with Eowyn Langholf (facilitator), Chris Whitten, Mags Gaulden, Daniel Loftus, Rob Warthen, Roberta Estes and Amy Johnson Crow. Also panel discussion with Eowyn facilitating and panelists Mags Gaulden, Jen Baldwin, LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, Kathryn Lake Hogan, and Thomas MacEntee.

You can join in some fun activities, including Bingo, trivia, and more. 

It's an honor to be speaking during the November 4th Symposium, at 10 am.

Please click here to view my talk, "Genealogical Clues and Cousin Bait on Find a Grave."

See you on Friday and Saturday!

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

November Is NaGenWriMo Time

A few years ago, my husband participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), writing fiction every day during November. The idea was to set goals, and make the time to write consistently throughout the month. He found the structure helpful and motivating. 

This year, I'm participating in NaGenWriMo, which stands for National Genealogy Writing Month. Taralyn Parker Pope (@KeepMovingTara on Twitter) is giving this a social media push and I'm jumping on the bandwagon! 

Today is the kickoff. 

My goal is to write and post bite-sized bios of more ancestors on my family tree and my husband's family tree. I've already completed and posted bios for nearly all of the ancestors in our direct lines: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and some great-greats. 

Now I'm branching out [pun intended] to write bios for aunts, uncles, and cousins in multiple generations--including spouses and partners, including infants who died young. 

I'll be posting the bios on sites like Family Search, Find a Grave, WikiTree, My Heritage, and so on. 

In the process, I'm sure I'll notice gaps in my knowledge of an ancestor and need to do a bit of additional research and attach sources before polishing a bio. That's great! 

But my main focus in November will be writing family history that I haven't written before and sharing widely because LOTS OF COPIES KEEP STUFF SAFE

Tuesday, day #1 of NaGenWriMo, I wrote about my hubby's great aunts and great uncles, including Carrie E. Steiner Traxler (1870-1963) and her husband John Newtown Traxler (1862-1924). 

On day #2, I wrote about two other Steiner ancestors, Etta Blanche Steiner Rhuark (1864-1956) and Minnie Estella Steiner Halbedel (1867-1947), and their husbands. Also I wrote about Lola A. McClure Lower (1877-1948) and her husband, Edward A. Lower (1873-1920).

On day #3, I wrote briefly about milliner Lucille Ethel McClure De Velde (1880-1926) and her husband, John Everett De Velde (1874-1947), a plumber. Also I added a memorial page for him on Find a Grave, based on the burial place listed on his death cert.

On day #4, after participating in the WikiTree Symposium, I wrote about Hugh Benjamin McClure (1882-1960) and his first wife, Olivette Georgianna Van Roe McClure (1885-1905). Next will be Hugh's second wife.

On day #5, while watching WikiTree Day festivities, I wrote about Rebekah V. Wilt McClure (1896-1975), the second of Hugh Benjamin McClure. Now moving on to siblings of hubby's other grandfather, Edgar James Wood.

On day #6, I wrote about Lucy Maria Kize Wood (1851-70) and her brother Alfred Olando Wood (1855-1895), and will continue with more of their Wood siblings. 

Day #7: Wrote about Francis "Frank" Ellery Wood (1857-1933) and his wife, Louisa Mary Schultz Wood (1860-1948), and continued with their descendants, partly based on genealogy researched by a Wood cousin and supplemented with additional details. Also corrected Find a Grave info and located vital records for some of the Wood ancestors. 

Day #8: Wrote and posted sad story of Robert Orrin Wood (1873-1933), who died of myocarditis in the Toledo State Hospital for the Insane. While hospitalized from 1925-1933, one of his children was placed in the Institute for the Feebleminded in Columbus, Ohio, where she remained for the rest of her life. The other two children were taken in by the Lutheran Orphans' Home until they were of age to work. One grew up to be a nurse, the other worked for an oil refinery for his entire career. Also finished other siblings in the Wood line, now ready to begin working on my grandparents' siblings on day #9.

Day #9: Wrote about my great uncle, Lithuanian-born Abraham Berk (1877-1962) and his English wife Anna, who crossed the pond to settle in Montreal and raise their family. Then I wrote about Abraham's sister Jennie Birk and her husband, Paul Salkowitz, who operated a citrus grove in Florida during the late 1940s/early 1950s.

Day #10: Wrote about Matel Max Birk (1892-1953), one of my grandpa's brothers, and about Matel's wife Rebecca. He was a jeweler, she was a bookkeeper, and they eventually left New York to live close to Matel's sister Jennie in Florida.

Day #11: Wrote about Meyer Berg (1883-1981) and his wife Anna Paris Berg (1888-1981). Meyer was my great uncle and lived for a short time as a boarder in the NYC apartment of his brother's in-laws. 

Day #11: Wrote about g-grandpa Meyer Eliyash Mahler's first marriage/divorce in Riga, Latvia and about his oldest son, Riga-born David Mahler (1882-1964), a black sheep of the family. 

Day #12: Revised bio of g-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler, whose exact birth year has long been in doubt. She's my longest-living ancestor, supposedly either 99 or 100 years old when she died in 1952.

Day #13: Revised bio of Tillie's mother, Rachel Shuham Jacobs, who is buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens, NY, where her two children are also buried. 

Day #14: Enriched bio of Flora Jacobs, daughter of Joseph Jacobs & Eva Michalovsky Jacobs, granddaughter of Rachel Shuham Jacobs. She died at age 33, the third daughter of that family to die young. I added a gravestone photo to her bio.

Day #15: Corrected portion of Henry Arthur Slatter's bio on Find a Grave to include current link to photo of his gravestone, which also mentions his wife Alice and their son Arthur A. Slatter, a WWI casualty. Added Alice and Arthur's bios to various sites. The Slatters were part of my husband's family tree.

Day #16: Improving Mahler family bios, including Morris Mahler and his sister Sarah Mahler, who were siblings of my grandmother Henrietta Mahler.

Day #17: Finished Sarah (Sadie) Mahler Smith's biography. Will be documenting the military service of her sons.

Day #18: Wrote about Ida Mahler Volk (1892-1971), who was a favorite sister of my grandma Henrietta, and about Ida's husband Louis.

Day #19: I set up an account at Mastodon where I'll try tooting as so please say hello there! Wrote about my great aunt Mary Mahler Markell and her husband, Joseph A. Markell.

Day #20: More on Mastodon and writing about my uncle and aunt, Fred and Daisy, who were lifelong educators in New York City.

Day #21: Returning to my husband's family, beginning to write bite-sized bio of his Wood uncles.

Day #22: Wrote a blog post about Thanksgiving week weddings in my family tree, saved the info to plan future bite-sized bios. Created a Find a Grave memorial page for a cousin's baby born prematurely in 1924, who sadly died after only two days.

Day #23: Wrote bite-sized bio of Rosalind Ashby Wood, who was married to Theodore William Wood in 1949. 

Day #24: Wrote bite-sized bio of Leona "Lee" Zonna Wallace, my maternal aunt's life partner. Aunt Lee directed the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade for a number of years! Nov 24, 1903 was her birthdate so I wrote her bio on what would have been her 99th birthday.

Day #25: I blogged about Aunt Lee Wallace, an immigrant from Poland who rose through the ranks of Macy's to direct the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Day #26: I posted bite-sized bios of my great-grandparents, Leni Kunstler Farkas and Moritz Farkas. They were the journey-takers who left Hungary in search of a better life in New York City, after Moritz's harvest failed.

Day #27: I posted grandma & grandpa Schwartz's bios on additional genealogy websites and linked to their Find a Grave memorial pages. Here's Grandma Minnie's memorial page, for instance.

Day #28: Working on bios for Hermina Farkas's siblings and in-laws. Today I wrote and posted bios for Alexander Farkas and his wife, Jennie Katz Farkas. They were active in the Kossuth Society, a benevolent group helping Hungarian immigrants, founded in 1904.

Day #29: Wrote bios for Hermina's brother Bertalan Albert Farkas and his wife, Sadie Sari Klein Farkas, also active in the Kossuth Society. 

Day #30: Finished this month's write-ups with Albert & Sari's son George Eugene Farkas.

Wrapup: I wrote 70 bite-sized bios during the 30 days of #NaGenWriMo! 

Which ancestor(s) will you be writing about in November?

This is my blog post for the Genealogy Blog Party, November, 2022.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Black Cat, Hat, Jack O'Lantern, and a Broom, 1913


On Oct 28, 1913, Rachel Ellen "Nellie" Wood Lewis Kirby (1864-1954) mailed this Halloween postcard from her home in Chicago, Illinois to her 8-year-old nephew in East Cleveland, Ohio.

By this point in her life, Nellie had experienced many losses. Her first child (Nellie Lucy Blossom Lewis) sadly lived only two months, passing away in December of 1895. Earlier in that same year, her older brother Alfred Olando Wood died (1855-1895) and her younger brother Charles Augustus Wood died (1862-1895). Just two years later, she lost her husband, Walter Alfred Lewis Sr. (1860-1897).

Nellie remarried in 1907, to Samuel Arthur Kirby (1860-1939), and they soon moved to Chicago. Not too long afterward, she began sending holiday and birthday postcards to her Wood nephew in Cleveland, often signing "Aunt Nellie & Uncle Art." 

Unfortunately, Nellie's son Walter A. Lewis Jr. died in 1915, just shy of his 27th birthday. We have no postcards from Nellie after that date--either the cards didn't survive, or Nellie didn't send more. But her nephew treasured the cards from this favorite aunt, and the cards remain in the family to this day, shared among descendants.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Old, Handwritten, Detailed--But Accurate?

My hubby is lucky to have originals and copies of handwritten notes by ancestors who were documenting a slice of his family history. Above, part of a multipage manuscript written in 1875 by my husband's 1c4r, Dr. James Anderson Work (1845-1928). A descendant used it when writing the genealogy of the Work family and a genealogy of the intermarried Larimer family. 

This handwritten document has a lot of detail, sometimes even specific dates for births, marriages, and deaths. Certain aspects of these ancestors' lives are described particularly vividly, including the shipwreck of Robert Larimer (1719-1803), my husband's immigrant ancestor who came to the American colonies in about 1741 (according to this note).

Hubby's grandfather Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) also left handwritten genealogical notes of his own, including the document shown here. Brice's note begins "I am Brice McClure, son of _________" and goes back to Robert Larimer, the man who left his home in the north of Ireland and came to America "in 1740," and married "1741 or 1742," according to Brice's note. 

The two handwritten family histories concur on many key points but differ on others, including the year Robert Larimer arrived in America, the maiden name of his wife, and the year of his death. 

Since I posted Brice's handwritten note on Ancestry more than a decade ago, 170 other users have saved it to their family trees. Understandably, since solid genealogical documentation is scarce for these ancestors at that time and place. 

Still, I view these notes as clues, only starting points for research. They offer a decent outline of the family tree, but too many details are missing or inconsistent. Remember, Dr. Work wrote in 1875 about ancestors born more than 150 years earlier. Brice McClure wrote in the 1940s about ancestors born more than 200 years earlier. 

If the notes had been contemporaneous with the events (written close to the time when the ancestor arrived in America, for instance, or started a family), I would have more confidence in the content.

Much as I appreciate and enjoy these handwritten notes, I hope my ongoing research will uncover additional sources to verify more names, dates, and stories.

What are your thoughts about handwritten family history notes like these?

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Celebrating WikiTree's 14th Anniversary


WikiTree is throwing an anniversary party and all are invited to learn more about genealogy and family history topics--for free!

The anniversary is on Saturday, November 5 but the celebration begins on Friday, November 4. Lots of well-known speakers are on the schedule, plus trivia, door prizes, exhibitors, and more.

If you can't attend live, the videos will be available for 30 days so mark your calendar for this educational celebration.

Genealogy clues and cousin bait on Find a Grave

I'm honored to participate as a speaker on November 4 at 10 am. My topic is "Genealogy clues and cousin bait on Find a Grave."

Above, a little preview from my talk. Imagine you're researching on Ancestry or Family Search and you find summaries of Find a Grave records much like those shown here (my ancestor on left, hubby's ancestor on the right). 

Notice that both mention a biography on the memorial page. One mentions a photo. Very possibly cousin bait? Definitely worth checking out! I'll discuss these tips and more on November 4. Hope to see you then!

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Share It, Link It, or Lose It!


Although I've blogged often about my maternal Auntie (Dorothy H. Schwartz, 1919-2001), I'm nearly finished with a linking project to share a key element of her life. 

Sgt. Dorothy Schwartz served with the US Women's Army Corps during WWII, earning the Bronze Star for her contributions to the war effort and serving as historian of her WAC unit. She went on to a successful career as a high school teacher of typing and stenography. 

Donating artifacts and ancestor info

Since Dorothy had no descendants, my sister and I donated her WAC memorabilia to the US Army Women's Museum, with a detailed biography and an original copy of the WAC history she wrote. 

The museum is keenly interested in receiving artifacts, oral histories, and biographical information about women who have served in the Army. Sis and I believe this is the best possible home for our aunt's materials, because these things (and her life story) will be preserved and archived for the future.*

Happily, the WAC history has been digitized and is now available at HathiTrust for anyone to read or browse. The front cover is shown above. Want to take a peek inside? Here's the link.

Posting photos and links 

To be sure this important wartime aspect of my aunt's life isn't entirely lost as the years pass, I'm posting the history's cover and a link to the digitized book on multiple genealogy-related sites. 

Above, the cover is now the main photo on my aunt's MyHeritage profile, and the link is on her bio.

At left, I posted the book cover (and other photos) on Find a Grave, with a link. 

Below, the book cover is one of a variety of wartime images I posted on her Fold3 memorial page. 

The Fold3 page is also linked to Dorothy's profile on Ancestry. 

In addition, the cover and a link is on Dorothy's WikiTree profile page. 

Lots of posts and lots of links will help keep alive the memory of Sgt. Schwartz and her WAC service.

This is my week 42 post for #52Ancestors, following Amy Johnson Crow's theme of "lost."

*I explain the why and how of donating family history artifacts in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

"We Were There Too"

Interested in the “Great War” experience of Jewish people in Britain? Let me suggest a virtual visit to “British Jews in the First World War: We Were There Too.” 

This multidisciplinary project is an ongoing educational collaboration between multiple British institutions and the Jewish community, weaving together personal stories, historical background, evocative images, and archival resources that reveal the war’s impact on Jewish people in the military and at home. Participating institutions include the Jewish Museum London, the Imperial War Museum, Manchester Central Archives, and the Liverpool Central Archives, among many others.

Solomon Ash diaries and photos

I first heard about “We Were There Too” from my cousin in Manchester, who lent a digitized copy of a diary kept by her grandfather, Solomon Ash (1899-1955).

Company Quartermaster Sgt. Ash served with the Royal Fusiliers 39th Battalion, and he jotted notes as his unit journeyed home from Palestine more than a year after the war ended. My cousin also submitted photos taken by Ash, along with details about his life before and after World War I. The 1920 diary, scanned and transcribed, can be viewed on the Solomon Ash Diary page (excerpt at top).

In all, the "We Were There Too" database includes more than 50,000 Jewish men and women in Britain who were part of the war effort. Project coordinators created a record page for each individual, then appended supporting documents such as Census and military records (sourced from Find My Past, Forces War Records, and Ancestry).

Search and Navigate 

Free to all, the site is an ever-expanding gateway to diverse collections relevant to the Jewish experience in early 20th century wartime Britain. 

Browse the home page for collection highlights and an illustrated timeline of key dates in the period, from Britain declaring war on Germany in 1914 to Armistice Day in 1918. 


  • To search for individuals, use the Personal Record tab at the top of the home page. Advanced search allows variables beyond name, such as region, gender, place of burial, military rank, and awards. At right, part of the personal record page of Solomon Ash, with family history and photos and other details.
  • The Discover tab leads to fascinating historical vignettes about Jewish nurses, immigration from Russia, Jewish recipients of the Victoria Cross, and much more. These pieces, often with research notes and links, provide background on various aspects of the war that affected Jewish people in Britain.
  • For added social and historical context, use the Collections tab to access a wide array of digitized materials, from stereoscopic images and wartime letters to period maps and old school photos.

I highly recommend “We Were There Too” for fresh, first-hand perspectives into the military and home front experiences of Jewish men and women in Britain during World War I.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Ephemera Passed Down from a Bachelor Uncle

My Uncle Sidney Bernard Burk (1914-1995), was the only member of the Burk family born in Montreal, Canada.

His father, my immigrant grandpa Isaac Burk (1881-1943), was a skilled cabinetmaker. In search of work, Isaac moved the family back and forth from New York City to Montreal during the period of 1910 to 1915, according to family stories and border crossing documents. 

Ephemera passed down = breakthrough

Turns out, my bachelor uncle Sidney was very important to my genealogy efforts. If not for his tendency to hold onto stuff for decades, I wouldn't have been able to research the lives of Isaac Burk and his siblings.

One key piece of ephemera he passed down was a wedding invitation (see excerpt below) mailed from relatives in Manchester, England to Sidney's Aunt Nellie (Isaac Burk's older sister) in New York City during the 1930s. 

That single item, with a specific date, full names, and a street address, enabled me to trace and connect with an entire branch of the family tree in England. 

Now my British cousins and I communicate regularly, exchanging photos and info--all because Uncle Sidney passed down scraps of old family history containing crucial clues.

Keeping his memory alive

Uncle Sidney never married and had no descendants, so I've been documenting his life and posting publicly on a variety of sites such as WikiTree, to be sure he's not forgotten.

Here's part of the free memorial page I created on Fold3, emphasizing Sidney's military service during WWII. I included a photo with name, dates, and attribution. 

Thank you, Uncle Sidney, for passing down ephemera that helped fill major gaps in the Burk family tree!

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

Monday, October 10, 2022

Redoing Research = Fresh Results

During the summer, the Library and Archives Canada website launched a new website, redesigned for accessibility and easier navigation. 

Today, with Canada's Thanksgiving Day on my mind, I retraced my steps to redo my research into hubby's great uncles from the Slatter family tree, all Canadian bandmasters.

Ancestor search

As shown here on the main search page, the choices are "library search" and "ancestor search."

I used "ancestor search" to look for results related to Captain John D. Slatter (1864-1954), the renowned bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders of Toronto. 

He served in that post for 50 years and both wrote and arranged lots of military music. Two musical pieces show up as the first of 65 items in the results. Although I know a lot about the good Captain, I'm always interested in discovering new nuggets of family history, like these.

Look at all results

Interestingly, because of the way the search function operates on this website, I found not John D. Slatter, but his oldest son, Albert Matthew Slatter (1887-1970), on page 3 of the results. 

Clicking to view the result, I found in the Canada Gazette of November 15, 1919, Albert was mentioned in a long list of changes in military status (promotions, demobs, medically unfit, etc) announced via this paper. 

I knew of Albert's military service, because I have his attestation and other documents, but this aspect was a new wrinkle. So I'm happily redoing other searches for the Slatter bandmasters, expecting a few fresh results to turn up!

By the way, my genealogy friend and blogger Linda Stufflebean left a comment that reinforces the idea of redoing research as time goes on: "Today, it always pays to refresh because of all the new records becoming available." So true!

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends up north.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Have You Registered for RootsTech?

Yippee! RootsTech returns in 2023 as a vibrant in-person genealogy conference with a robust virtual component for those who prefer to participate from home.

The conference takes place March 2-4 in Salt Lake City. 

As in the past, virtual presentations will be available on demand even after the event is officially over.

The cost for in-person attendance (180+ sessions and a lot more) is $98 US.

The cost for virtual participation is zero, including a virtual expo hall. 

I just registered for the free virtual event, since I can't get away in March.

Here's the link for more information and to register

Looking forward to another lineup of informative virtual sessions presented by experts from around the world.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Looking Ahead to 1960 US Census Release in 2032

Nine and a half years from now, the 1960 US Census will be released to the public, as the US National Archives kindly pointed out on social media just the other day.

Of course I had to preview the questionnaire (see list of questions here). 

And again, I see that some of the same outdated assumptions from the 1950 US Census were carried over to the 1960 US Census.

Only men in the military?

As shown at top, the 1960 Census questionnaire asks specifically about military service. 

But only men were asked. Just as in the 1950 US Census questionnaire.

Despite the fact that in the Korean War alone, more than 50,000 women served in military roles. 

Despite the fact that in World War II, more than 275,000 women served as WACs, WAVES, and WASPS.

Thousands of women served in military roles during World War I. 

But no women were asked about their military service on the 1950 or 1960 Census form. Sigh.

Never married? Not asked about babies!

In the 1950 Census, only women who reported they were married, widowed, divorced, or separated were asked about how many children they had ever had.

As shown above, the 1960 Census had a question about the number of babies a woman had ever had. 

But women who reported they were never married would not be asked this question

Great genealogical clues

Still, the 1960 US Census will have lots and lots of great genealogical clues. For one thing, more people were asked sample questions in this Census than in the 1950 Census, so there's a better chance one of our ancestors answered in some detail.

As shown in the image above, answers to the question about when the person was married (and, if married more than once, when married for first time) will narrow the window for researching marriage certificates.

As shown at left, we'll get wonderful clues from the question about where each person was born (note that enumerators were told to "use international boundaries as now recognized by the US).

Also an interesting question about what language was spoken in an immigrant's home before arriving in the US.

Really glad to see questions about country of birth for each parent.

And a question about the specific period when a person moved into the house or apartment where he or she is being enumerated.

Lots of clues to follow up on April 1, 2032, when this next Census is released.

Only 3,465 days to go!

Sunday, October 2, 2022

It's October: Have You Found Your 1950 Ancestors?

It's October, Family History Month! And it's been six months since the US National Archives released the mid-century Census taken on April 1, 1950.

If you haven't yet found your ancestors in that Census, this is a good time to try again, because indexing is nearly complete! 

Plus access to the 1950 US Census is free on all the major genealogy sites. 

Below are some links to check out, including search, browsing, and extra info for background.

Tip: If you can't find your ancestor using one site, try a different one. A couple of my ancestors didn't shown up in a search on one site but were indexed and discoverable by a search on another site. (current index review status, background on this US Census) (release details, links to forms, lots more) (search or browse the 1950 Census)  (search this US Census, and background on this Census) (includes link to search this Census) (how and why to use district finder feature, useful for browsing in an Enumeration District for FAN club members)  (tips and search link for 1950 US Census) (index reviewed by people) (indexed by computer) (browse 1950 images by state, county, Enumeration District)

This is my entry for the Genealogy Blog Party for October, 2022.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

World Postcard Day: Spring Valley to the Bronx


In April of 1941, my mother's best friend Sara sent this colorful postcard to Mom in the Bronx.

Sara was on a brief getaway to the green, leafy town of Spring Valley, New York. Today, that town is much more populated and easy to reach via the Tappan Zee Bridge. 

But in 1941, there was no bridge, very little the area was a quiet, bucolic place to escape the bustle of city life.

In fact, my maternal grandparents sometimes rented a bungalow in Spring Valley to get out of the Bronx during the hottest summer weeks.

This was before America entered WWII, well before Sara's husband began to serve in the Navy, well before Mom's sister, brother and first cousins began to serve in the US military.

Notice the one solitary car at far right of the postcard? Fun.


Friday, September 30, 2022

Don't Be in a Hurry! Check the Actual Vital Record

Over time, I've been researching vital records for my husband's Work, Short, McClure, McKibbin, and related ancestors who spent time in Indiana. 

Although the Hoosier State began requiring registration of births in 1882, not every county or municipality complied. Luckily, nearly all of the births after 1920 were registered with the state health department. This informative page on the Family Search wiki explains the details.

Recently, I heard from a descendant of my husband's McKibbin line, who was kind enough to mention new clues that jumpstarted my research.

When I got to hubby's 4c1r, it would have been easy to quickly read the transcribed info and add to my tree without looking at the digitized image of the record.

BUT if I'd hurried on, I would have missed the extra details that Indiana so thoughtfully requested on its birth certs at that time, and which I didn't know about till I looked at the record itself.

Multiple birth?

Note the questions in the hot pink oval: 

  • Is this birth a twin or triplet or other?
  • Number of order of birth of this child
  • Is this child legitimate?
Although this child was not part of a multiple birth, I would have liked answers to such questions on other vital records for twins elsewhere in the family tree.

Researching decades after a twin or triplet has died, it's often difficult or impossible to learn who was born first and who was born next. Because I'm an older twin, and but my mother was a younger twin, I have a special interest in birth order among multiple births!

Learning about legitimacy is also of interest to my research, a nudge to look for marriage documents (or not). 

How many children in all?

I'm familiar with New York City/state birth certs because that's where many in my family tree were from. As shown above, there's a question on the NY cert asking how many previous children were born to this mother and how many are now living, in all. This child was the second for this mother, and both were living in 1908, the year of this cert.

Similarly, in Indiana, as shown at top, the blue oval highlights those questions:

  • Number of children born to this mother, including present birth?
  • Number of children still living, including present birth?
For the McKibbin ancestor born in Indiana in 1921, this cert revealed he was one of 8 but only 7 living at that point.

Now I had a narrower window for researching the other siblings, including the one who sadly was born and died before 1921. This is especially important for children who were lived their entire lives between Census years.

By taking a few moments to look at the actual vital record, and read the fine print, I saved a lot of research time in the end. Slow and steady wins!

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Book Review: "Memories of Newburyport, Massachusetts"

It's too bad my hubby and I have no ancestors who were born, married, died, worked, or sojourned in Newburyport from the 1850s to 1950s. 

Even though we don't know anyone from that place and that period, I really enjoyed reading "Memories of Newburyport, Massachusetts by Henry Bailey Little, 1851-1957," compiled by Margaret Peckham Motes. 

This is a charming recent reprint from Clearfield Company/Genealogical Publishing.

The memories of Henry Bailey Little, originally published in the late 1950s, evoke a fascinating, engaging picture of the changes taking place from the mid-19th century to beyond the turn of the 20th century. 

Little had a front-row seat for changing times in Newburyport, raised on a farm and later serving as president of a major savings bank for more than five decades. 

Of the shipping industry, once a huge economic engine in the area, Little recollects: 

"With the exception of the cotton mills, practically all the business of the town was on the river-bank, the shipyards, and the wharves. The shipyards have disappeared and been forgotten and the wharves are in a state of decay. The last square-rigger was built here in 1884 and while there were a few small vessels built later, after that date shipbuilding was for the most part ended."

The accompanying illustrations shepherd readers through the town's past, including those shipyards, the mills, and even a few gravestones of note. 

Of special interest to anyone with ancestral roots in or near Newburyport: the book has a detailed index of names, places, industries, and businesses. 

In short, check out this book if your ancestors had even a minor connection with the area!

*Note: sent me this book free, for review purposes. The opinions here are entirely my own!

Monday, September 26, 2022

How a Family Heirloom Lives On

My paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk (1882-1943) and his older brother, Abraham Berk (1877-1962), both trained as cabinetmakers before leaving their hometown of Gargzdai, Lithuania, around the turn of the 20th century. They were seeking more economic opportunity in North America...Isaac ultimately settling in New York City, Abraham settling in Montreal.

That lovely piece of furniture in the photo at top, complete with special touches, was handmade by Isaac many decades in the past.

After Isaac died, the night stand was used daily by his widow, my grandmother Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954), and then inherited by her younger son, my uncle Sidney B. Burk (1914-1995). 

Today, this heirloom has a special place in the home of my first cousin, who regularly talks of Isaac and Henrietta to his children and grandchildren.

Even without the actual heirloom, I do the same--telling descendants of Isaac's woodworking virtuosity and showing off the photo to give the next generation a sense of pride about their ancestor's creation. His name and his skills will live on!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

From Training Ship to Bandmaster: Goliath Boys

My husband's Slatter ancestors, who lived in the impoverished London neighborhood of Whitechapel, have quite a back story. I've previously researched and written about the difficult life and sad fate of his great-great grandmother Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889), who ended her days in an insane asylum. Her husband, John Slatter (1838-1901) left his family behind even before Mary died, making his way to Ohio to start over. 

The impressive--and inspiring--part of this family's history, however, is that as adults, the Slatter children broke the cycle of poverty. Both of the daughters (Ada and Mary) followed their father to Ohio, married hard-working men, and raised children in the Buckeye State. 

Amazingly, three Slatter sons--Albert William (1862-1935), Henry Arthur (1866-1942), and John Daniel (1864-1954)--began the journey toward a better future when they were placed on a training ship anchored in the Thames. They became "Goliath boys."

On the Training Ship Goliath

The Slatter children had been sent to Forest Gate School for education while their father was absent and their mother was in an asylum. From 1870 on, this school operated a training ship positioned near Grays, called the Goliath. The goal was to teach young pauper boys necessary skills that would prepare them for military or civilian occupations (and keep them out of poorhouses).

From knots to notes, plus swimming and reading, thousands of boys gained skills especially valuable for the Royal Navy or for serving on merchant vessels. Instructors hoped their students would "follow the sea" after leaving the Goliath, and many did just that.

The training situation was highly disciplined, and conditions often were harsh...but the three Slatter boys apparently had musical talent that was shaped and sharpened by their time on the Goliath. In fact, John was Band Sergeant and solo cornet of the Goliath's Boy's Band at the age of 11, in 1875, according to one of his obituaries.

Tragedy on the Goliath

Teenaged Albert William Slatter left the Goliath in November of 1875, enlisting in the Shropshire Light Infantry--not the Royal Navy

But the other two Slatter boys--not yet teens--were among the hundreds of students remaining on the Goliath when fire broke out on December 22, 1875.

Despite efforts to extinguish the flames, the ship was consumed by fire and the boys were urged to save themselves by diving into the water. John Daniel Slatter and Henry Arthur Slatter survived by jumping into the Thames, but some students and at least one adult died, sad to say.

This horrific fire was covered by newspapers far and wide, I was a bit surprised to learn when I did an online search. In addition to British press, I found coverage stretching into 1876 in the New York Times and even in a New Zealand paper, and the Goliath has multiple online references (not just a brief, sketchy Wikipedia page).

From Goliath to the Exmouth

The Exmouth, another training ship in the Thames, was the next stop for many of the students who escaped the Goliath fire. 

At top is an excerpt from a record book for the Exmouth, showing that John Slatter was a "Goliath boy" moved to the Exmouth from March to August of 1876. The notation states he was discharged to an Army regiment in Colchester--not the Royal Navy!

Above, the record book page for Henry Arthur Slatter, also listed as a "Goliath Boy," living on the Exmouth until September of 1877. Subsequently, Henry joined the Army--not the Royal Navy

Building Better Lives 

In time, all three of these Slatter brothers used their musical skills to advance through the ranks and become highly respected military bandmasters in Canada, as well as devoted family men.

John Daniel Slatter was bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders of Toronto, which popularized the "kiltie band" fad at the turn of the 20th century.

Henry Arthur Slatter was bandmaster of the 72d Seaforth Highlanders of Vancouver.

Albert William Slatter was bandmaster of the 7th London Fusiliers of Ontario.