Thursday, June 30, 2022

Posting Bite-Sized Bios For Canada Day

In honor of Canada Day on July 1, I'm focusing on my husband's great uncles who rose from grinding poverty in London's notorious Whitechapel district to become career military men and renowned bandmasters in Canada. 

Currently, I'm widening my reach to post brief bios of each man on multiple sites. This week, I'm adding bios of Albert William Slatter and Henry Arthur Slatter to WikiTree, Fold3, and MyHeritage. 

All three of my husband's Slatter great uncles served Canada with distinction. I want to help keep their memories alive for future generations, not just within the family but far beyond.

Monday, June 27, 2022

My 2022 Genealogy Paper Chase

Here we are, halfway through 2022, and already it's been quite a year for family history! 

Thanks to the big Census releases, my genealogy paper chase has been extremely productive in the first half of this year. 

In fact, I'm making good progress on all my projects and plans:

  • Find ancestors and the FAN club in the 1950 US Census (results: yay, lots and lots of info and really interesting clues).
  • Look for hubby's ancestors in the 1921 Census of England (results: found some, will look for a couple more).
  • Write and post bite-sized bios for aunts, uncles, and great-grandparents on genealogy websites (results: some completed, a few in draft stage)
  • Reorganize family photos into archival albums (results: hundreds of 20th century snapshots reorganized, but oldest photos and negatives still to be reorganized--a big project to accomplished in small chunks). 
  • Follow up on genealogy clues from Burk/Birk branch of my father's side and Schwartz/Winkler/Preisz branch of my mother's side (results: yay, made new cousin connections!).
  • Continue making presentations on genealogy topics (results: talks scheduled July through autumn of this year).

Next steps

One top priority is to write more bite-sized bios, with the goal of keeping these ancestors' names alive for future generations. Currently, I'm finalizing details for bios of my hubby's great-grandparents and my great-grandparents (actually just posted hubby's great-grandpa's bio). Even when I know very little about these people, I can still write about milestones in their lives (BMD), number of children and/or siblings, where/when they lived, and the social/historical context of of their lifetimes.

Another priority for the second half of 2022 is reorganizing older photos, captioning, and maybe even writing brief narratives about a few of the series photos. I did this with one of my late dad-in-law's albums chronicling the summer of 1917, when his father drove the family from Cleveland to Chicago in a new 1917 Ford. 

I'll also be testing additional archival photo storage possibilities during the summer, to see which are best suited to the small and odd-shaped old photos and negatives inherited from my late dad-in-law. As I wrote in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, life by the inch is a cinch--life by the yard is hard. I'm stretching out my photo reorganization and taking small steps to keep this project from becoming overwhelming. Digitizing these photos is only part of the process. It's just as important to keep the originals safe for decades to come.

Paper chase in my future

I'm still busy following the paper trail to trace more of my Eastern European ancestors. DNA has less helpful than I'd hoped. Yet there are documents and family tree clues about a few branches that came to America, some around the time of World War I and some after World War II.

In recent months, I found a couple of distant cousins I never knew about. Together, we're pooling information and coordinating research to try to connect with more descendants while documenting those who came before. 

The second half of 2022 promises to be as productive as the first half! And of course I'll be blogging about challenges, breakthroughs, techniques, issues, and more. More than 13 years of genealogy blogging, with more to come.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Never Give Up! My Great Aunt Nellie Breakthrough

Photo of three Burk and Block ancestors

My heart holds a special place for ancestors who had no descendants. I try to research and memorialize them so their names and lives aren't forgotten.

This is the case with my paternal great aunt Nellie Block, born in Gargzdai, Lithuania (?-1950). She was the oldest sister of my grandfather Isaac Burk (1882-1943). It wasn't until I connected with second cousins a few years ago that I could even put a name to the face I found in my parents' wedding album and elsewhere. 

Cousins said they remember great aunt Nellie as kind and attentive, someone who enjoyed family gatherings. In the photo above, she is the elegantly-attired lady in lace, standing between a younger brother on one side and a younger sister on the other.  

Single or widowed?

For a long time, I thought Nellie was a maiden aunt. More than a decade of research had only turned up a Census where she was recorded as S (single). In fact, she wasn't coming up in my repeated searches of US Census documents from 1920, 1930, and 1940, even when I searched on multiple sites (because each indexes the Census in its own way).

A couple of years ago, I was able to obtain Nellie's death certificate. The informant was her brother, who said Nellie was widowed. That was news.

In April of this year, I found Nellie enumerated in the 1950 US Census, where she was shown as...widowed! Two sources said she was widowed. Hmm.

Curiously, Nellie Block's 1950 US Census entry and her death cert both refer to her surname as Block, with no married name ever mentioned. Even in the 1930s, when an English cousin invited Nellie to a wedding, she addressed the invite to "Nellie Block." 

But searching for years, I found no indication of any marriage. 

My secret weapon

Just the other day, one of my cousins asked about Nellie. We compare notes about brick walls from time to time, and he remembered Nellie as one of mine.

Because of his gentle nudge, I redid my search for Nellie. Lo and behold, up came a record transcription for a 1916 marriage to Samuel Kaplan in Manhattan, NY, in April of 1916, along with the cert number. There are a LOT of Nellie Block marriages in search results, but now I have a secret weapon to dig deeper into Big Apple records.

Since early this year, the New York City Municipal Archives has offered FREE access to digitized vital records from roughly the late 19th century to the Depression era. You should first try to find the cert number, borough, and year, otherwise you'll be browsing till the cows come home.

Because the actual digitized records are free to view, I had nothing to lose by searching for the Block-Kaplan marriage cert. I input the details and up came a pdf. I wanted to view the cert with my own eyes, not rely on the transcribed info.

My Nellie?

Reading the cert, I saw Nellie listed as single, 30 years old, born in Russia, her first marriage. Samuel Kaplan was 38, widowed, a jeweler born in Russia, son of Isaac Kaplan and Sarah Freedman, being married for the second time. 

I never heard of Samuel Kaplan, but it only took a moment to determine this was my Nellie's marriage cert. First, the mother's name was very close to what she said on other documents. Second, the father's name was a family surname I know. 

The clincher was the place where the ceremony took place: 7 East 105th Street in Manhattan. That's the apartment building where Nellie's sister-in-law lived. My Nellie!

Next step

I've just sent $18 to the NYC Municipal Archives to obtain the three documents related to Nellie's wedding: the marriage license application, affidavit executed by bride and groom, and actual marriage license original. You can learn more about how this works via the FAQs here.

Although I may have to wait a few weeks, I'll get lots more info on Nellie and her husband, especially from the affidavit. I hope to trace the life of Samuel Kaplan, who seems to have died before the 1950 US Census was taken.

So never give up! New records become available all the time and database indexing improves all the time. In this case, the bonus secret weapon of free NYC vital records helped me across the finish line for this breakthrough, confirming that my great aunt Nellie Block had, indeed, been married.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Genealogy Blogs: Read, Comment, Repeat!

Recently, blogger Mish Holman posted a poll on Twitter, asking "Do you think people actually read your #Genealogy blog posts?

The final results from 83 participants: 

  • YES - 50.6%
  • NO   - 32.5%

I answered yes, people actually do read my blog. How do I know? Because some folks leave comments...and some get in touch via my "contact me" gadget on the blog's home page. Plus site statistics show me the number of views per post and page, another indicator that people are stopping by. 

Why I 💜 blogs 

Personally, I love reading genealogy blogs! Many bloggers post about new developments in the genealogy community...the latest database improvements by big genealogy sites...tricks and tips for technology...using specific resource sites/repositories. I learn a lot from these bloggers, and I leave a comment of thanks now and then. 

Blog entries about personal family history adventures are also fun and informative. Posts about creatively sharing genealogy with the next generation...finding ancestors in the most unexpected places...connecting with a long-lost cousin, all can teach me something. Again, I comment every so often to let the blogger know I've stopped by.

Finding genealogy blogs

One good place to find interesting blogs is at the GeneaBloggers site. You can also see bloggers in action on the Generations Cafe Facebook page where Amy Johnson Crow posts weekly blog prompts. Then there's the Genealogy Blog Party, which has a different theme every month. That's just for starters. 

A few bloggers list their picks for "best of the week" blog posts with links for easy access. To name just two: Linda Stufflebean posts her weekly roundup on Fridays on her blog, and Randy Seaver posts his weekly roundup on his blog

Of course, there's not enough time in the day to read every blog or every post, let alone comment every time. Just dip in and out, and have fun.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Finding Dads and Grandfathers in 1950 US Census


Happy Father's Day! Researching in the 1950 US Census, I enjoyed finding fathers and grandfathers in my direct line and my husband's direct line.

  • My maternal grandfather Teddy Schwartz was living in the Bronx, New York, with my grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz (given name written incorrectly). The Census correctly shows that Grandpa Teddy ran a small grocery store, working 70 hours per week. My paternal grandpa Isaac Burk was no longer alive.
  • My Dad (Harold Burk) and Mom (Daisy Schwartz Burk) were enumerated a few miles away in the Bronx, in their first Census as a married couple. Dad was a travel agent in his own agency, as shown in the Census.
  • Hubby's maternal grandfather  Brice L. Wood, by then widowed, was living in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. He was retired ("ot" stands for "other" because he's not working and not looking for work). My husband's paternal grandfather James Edgar Wood was no longer alive.
  • Hubby's Dad (Edgar J. Wood) and Mom (Marian McClure Wood) were at home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Ed worked as a claims adjustor for a casualty insurance company, as shown on the questionnaire.

Now I'm remembering these fathers and grandfathers with love on Father's Day 2022. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

One Signature Changed My View of an Immigrant Ancestor

A single signature on a document I purchased this week has changed my view of the immigrant experience of one of my Schwartz ancestors. 

My grandpa Theodore Schwartz was from a large family in Ungvar, Hungary, a region that later was in Czechoslovakia and is now in Ukraine. 

Some documents from this region are available for free from and Family, while others documents are available (some free, some at a fee) from the Sub-Carpathia Genealogy website

Grandpa's sister married a Winkler 

A quick recap: Last week, I bought a document from the Sub-Carpathia site that showed me the correct birth year of a 1c1r, Albert Bela "Voytech" Winkler (1912-1993). He was the son of Grandpa's oldest sister Rezi Schwartz and her husband, Moritz Winkler. Very sorry to say, Rezi was killed in the Holocaust--I found her son Albert's Yad Vashem testimony about her death, which led me to do more research. 

Following up on Albert, the birth document I purchased last week gave me sufficient clues to research his refugee status during World War II, find the passenger list showing his arrival, and locate his US naturalization papers. 

Connecting Winkler to Price

When Albert Winkler sailed into New York City in 1948, the passenger list showed a contact in New York City: Price, 182 E. 19th Street, in Brooklyn, New York (see excerpt here). New names I don't know.

Using the 1950 US Census, I discovered who was living at that Brooklyn address. It was Eugene Price, born in Czechoslovakia, and his wife Louise, also born in Czechoslovakia, with their 18-year-old daughter Edith Price, born in Belgium. 

Next, I opened my wallet and paid for another document from Sub-Carpathia, based on what I could see in a transcribed excerpt. The document was about the marriage of Leni Winklerova and Eugene Preisz in August of 1929. I suspected Louise Price's maiden name might be Leni Winkler, and her husband Eugene Price had been Eugene Preisz.

One document with so much significance

Once I received the document, I found the parents' names and the dates match what I already know. This proves the link between the Winkler and Price families, with Leni married to Eugene. 

The document is significant for two more reasons. One, I've found yet another branch of my family tree that survived the Holocaust, emotional in itself. Two, the document revealed a surprise witness to the marriage, a name I never expected to see.

As shown at the top, one of the two witnesses on the marriage document was Samuel Schwartz of New York in "Amerika." Maybe this was my grandpa's brother Samuel Schwartz (1883-1954), who left Hungary in 1904 to come to New York City? 

I compared the signature from the 1929 marriage document with Samuel Schwartz's signature on his own marriage document from 1909. They are nearly identical! My great uncle Samuel was at the wedding in Ungvar in 1929.

Changing my view 

Up till now, I envisioned all of my Schwartz ancestors making a one-way, one-time trip to America, seeking better economic opportunity. This was not a "birds of passage" family, with men leaving home to make money and sailing back to the homeland periodically. My Schwartz ancestors who left Ungvar settled permanently in America, became US citizens, and raised families.

My Grandpa (Theodore Schwartz, 1887-1965) ran a small grocery store in the Bronx, New York. There was little money to spare; everyone in the household worked hard to send two of the three children to college. Based on family documents and cousin recollections, it's highly unlikely Grandpa ever returned to his birthplace. He never again saw his parents or the siblings who stayed behind. His immigrant experience was a one-time trip, one-way to America.

Then I think about Grandpa's older brother, Samuel Schwartz. He also ran a small grocery store in Queens, New York, also put a son through college, became a citizen. Samuel definitely was not a bird of passage.

Yet his signature proves that he did, indeed, visit his hometown of Ungvar. (I've also found his passenger list for the return voyage.)

As a result, I now realize his immigration experience was different from that of my Grandpa. Before this, I never dreamed any Schwartz immigrant ancestors would be able to return to Ungvar after they left. Clearly, Samuel would have seen his mother, siblings, and nieces/nephews at this family wedding in 1929. A joyous reunion, I'm sure.

I'm continuing to trace the Price/Preisz family and also to try to match photo dates to these new documents! More soon.

Monday, June 13, 2022

1950 US Census: 9V Income Code

Did you have an ancestor or friend/associate/neighbor (FAN club) of an ancestor who was chosen to answer the sample questions on the 1950 US Census? I've been paying attention to the income questions, in particular, as I put my ancestors into context.

Above $10k? 

According to the 1950 US Census Enumerator's Training Manual, if someone reported income above $10,000, the answer would be listed as $10,000+ on the population schedule--regardless of how much higher their actual income might have been.

Income answers from the 1950 US Census were coded for data entry and analysis, as were a few other questions (such as birthplaces and occupations).

Decoding the code

As you can see from the code circled in image at top, the income listed was $10,000+. and the code was 9V.

Huh? Turns out, 9V is the code for more than $10,000, as I read on the History Hub page about decoding 1950 US Census answers for Column 31.

In this case, I'm willing to bet that the actual income was far above $10k. Why? Because this is the 1950 US Census entry for Jack Cohn, VP of the film giant Columbia Pictures. One of Jack's nieces married a first cousin of my father. Of course I'm looking at the answers given by these and other in-laws in the 1950 US Census 😉

Saturday, June 11, 2022

1950 US Census Offers Sad Clue to John's Life

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) was the oldest of four boys born to James Edgar Wood (1871-1939) and Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). After Ed came Wally, John, and Ted. I have family stories and research about Wally and Ted, but not much about John Arthur Wood (1908-1980).

Who remembers Uncle John?

My husband remembers his Uncle Wally and Uncle Ted coming to holiday dinners, but not Uncle John. Yet there was definitely contact over the years, because John and his wife Marguerite were mentioned several times in my father-in-law's diaries (written 1958-1986). 

Still, I had little to go on when trying to research this man. Then last year, my sister-in-law mentioned John might have been married twice. Her memory led me to confirming that he did have a first wife

John was just 20 in 1928 when he married Elsie Harder, who was 23. According to the news account of their wedding, John was working for Grasselli Chemical Company, which was soon merged into the chemical giant E.I. du Pont. (John remained with du Pont for his entire professional life.)

Through WWII draft card info and city directories, I can trace John Wood and his first wife, Elsie, up to 1945, when they're living together in Hammond, Indiana. 

New info from 1950

Now the 1950 US Census has given me a new clue about John and Elsie's married life. As shown in the image at top, Elsie was enumerated as a patient in Longcliff Logansport State Mental Hospital in Logansport, Indiana. This was unexpected and sad.

Of course medical records are sealed, so I don't know exactly why Elsie was in the hospital. When she passed away in 1960, her death cert said she was divorced and died of a cerebral hemorrhage, having had cerebral arteriosclerosis for some years. I wonder whether her health problems were part of the reason she and John divorced?

In April of 1951, John married Marguerite Goodin (1918-1988). She's in the 1950 US Census, enumerated as divorced, and working as a telephone operator in East Chicago, Indiana. When John had heart problems and died in 1980, Marguerite was the one who kept my father-in-law informed, according to the diaries. 

Where was John Wood in 1950?

One possibility is in Cleveland, Ohio, the city of his birth, living in a two-family home. It's not easy to tell one "John Wood" from another when the Census enumerator only notes that this John Wood is separated (probably correct), born in Ohio (correct), and is 43 years old (close enough). No occupation, no industry. Not a strong possibility, but maybe.

A better possibility is in East Chicago, Indiana (the same city where his soon-to-be second wife was living). This man was enumerated as "John Woods," a roomer, married (correct), 44 years old (about right), born in Ohio (correct), with occupation "engineer, planning and schedule, chemical lab" (close).  

I've put both of these Census records on John's family-tree profile until I can sort them out. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

1950 US Census: Indexed by Computers, Reviewed by People

Released on April 1, the 1950 US Census is available to browse and search for free on Ancestry and Family Search (among other sites, including the US National Archives). For more about this mid-century American Census, see the informative Family Search page here. Also take a peek at the Family Search YouTube Channel playlist of 1950 Census videos.

Indexed by computers, reviewed by people

Family Search describes the 1950 Census as "indexed by computers, reviewed by people." 

Ancestry used artificial intelligence to create an "early index," already available on that site. Still, computers invariably make mistakes, which is where the "reviewed by people" part comes in. 

Ancestry turned the index over to Family Search, which has recruited thousands of volunteers to review the names, checking that the digital index actually reflects what the handwritten name says on the Census page.

Volunteers are also reviewing households to see whether all people in that household have been grouped properly by the AI indexing system, and be sure the main details are correct.  

Progress! See the webinar on June 10

By the end of June, every name in the 1950 US Census index on Family Search will have been reviewed by human eyes! That's a real plus for finding our ancestors through a name search, rather than the browsing method of looking at one page at a time.

For the latest from Family Search, you can watch a webinar update on Friday, June 10, at 4 pm Mountain Time. 

Here's the link--and you don't need to be a Facebook member to watch! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Fixing a Mistaken Assumption by Buying a Record

Albert Winkler was my first cousin, once removed, the nephew of my maternal grandfather, Theodore Schwartz. His mother, Rezi Schwartz Winkler (1881-1944) was my grandpa's oldest sister.

I know Albert's name because he submitted Yad Vashem testimony about the Holocaust killings of his mother and other close relatives. But I knew almost nothing else about him, other than he died in May of 1993. 

Don't assume anything!

Without any proof, I made the assumption that Albert was born in the early 1900s, given that his parents Rezi and Moritz Winkler were married in 1898 and their children began arriving in 1899. At this point, the youngest child I'd found was Lili Winkler, who was born on March 20, 1912

Traditional sources didn't help me much in my research for Albert. Then I took a look at summaries of birth records available for purchase from the specialized site Sub-Carpathia Genealogy

Doing a record search on this site for "Winkler" birth records from Ungvar (now Uzhhorod, Ukraine), I found TWO Winkler children born in March, 1912. 

Father of both: Mor Winkler. Mother's maiden name of both: Schwartz. One baby Winkler was named Lili, the other baby Winkler was named Bela. A Winkler cousin confirmed that Bela was almost certainly Albert.

Paying to fix my mistake

Of course I quickly clicked to buy the records for Bela Winkler. Within an hour I had proof that he was born on March 20, 1912, the same day as his twin sister, Lili Winkler! (Twins run in the Schwartz family, by the way. Bela and Lili had twin first cousins, my Mom and her twin sister.)

As soon as I plugged in this birth date for Albert Bela Winkler (using Ancestry, MyHeritage, and FamilySearch), I had multiple results.

Never, in a million years, would I have been able to find out so much without paying for this unique record to get Bela's original name and exact birth date. Why? Because Bela had yet another name!

Bela, Albert, Voytech

As shown at the top of this post, Albert entered the United States under the name of Voytech Winkler. Not a name I've ever seen before. It only turned up once I searched for Bela Winkler with the exact birth date and residence city.

This single index card, for Albert's naturalization, gave me a wealth of information. I tracked down the passenger list, his naturalization petition, and his naturalization papers. I learned that Albert married in 1962, and his Hungarian-born wife was naturalized around the same time as Albert. There's more to discover, but already I have many more facts than I had before.

UPDATE: "Voytech" on the passenger list was phonetic...I found "Wojtek Winkler" (born in Uzhhorod) on a list of Vilna Refugees in 1940, "Polish Jewish Refugees" who had been helped out of Krakow. Now to investigate further! 

All because I invested in a unique genealogical record to fix my mistaken assumption. Now my trees show Albert Bela Winkler, 1912-1993.


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

Friday, June 3, 2022

One Ulysses in the Family Tree

My husband's family tree has a number of ancestors apparently named after famous people in American history. Only one person in the tree was named for a general well known for his role in winning the bloodiest conflict ever on American soil. Little historical tid-bits like this help get the younger generation interested in our family's history!

Benjamin Franklin (inventor and statesman)

Two men with this name: 

    - Benjamin Franklin Steiner, 1840-1924

    - Benjamin Franklin Smith, 1794-1835

George Washington (first US President)

One man with this name:

    - George Washington Howland, 1855-before 1884

John Quincy (Adams - sixth US President)

Two men with this name:

    - John Quincy Steiner, 1862-1941 (a son of Benjamin Franklin Steiner)

    - John Quincy Steiner, 1894-1909

Thomas Jefferson (third US President)

One young man with this name:

    - Thomas Jefferson Isaiah Haskell Wood, 1848-1861

John Marshall (early Chief Justice of US Supreme Court)

One young man with this name:

    - John Marshall Taber Wood, 1850-1859

Ulysses (Grant - Union General, then US President)

The only boy in the Wood family tree named Ulysses was born just a few months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S Grant in 1865. Grant was later elected as the 18th US President, serving two terms from 1869 to 1877.

    - Ulysses Larimer, born on September 1st, 1865, died on August 18th, 1870. 

Little Ulysses Larimer was buried in Brown Cemetery, Millersburg, Elkhart, Indiana, with other members of his family.


This is my post for Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge, this week with the theme of "conflict."