Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Surprise! How Floyda Met Brice

As I work on my latest family history photo book about hubby's maternal grandparents, I'm redoing some research and correlating older and newly-found details to tell the story of these ancestors.

Lo and behold, I believe I have solved a long-standing mystery: How did Floyda Mabel Steiner (1878-1948) meet master mechanic Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1948)? They were married on June 10, 1903, in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, where the Steiner family lived. But Brice was from Wabash, Indiana. Until now, my hypothesis was that his work for the railroad industry took him to Upper Sandusky. Turns out, that hypothesis was only partly correct, according to my latest research.

Newspaper social items 

Using newspaper databases, I found Brice mentioned several times in a Huntington, Indiana paper, in columns about current and previous employees of the Erie Railroad. In 1899, several social notes said Brice (living in Huntington) regularly visited his family in his old hometown of Wabash, Indiana. 

In March of 1902, this Huntington newspaper reported: "Brice McClure and Ott Christain, two former Erie machinists, were in the city today from Kokomo." Okay, Brice was no longer living or working in Huntington but he and his associate visited anyway. Seeing friends? Or . . .

Looking for Floyda, I found a social item from Huntington in September of 1902, with the newspaper reporting: "Miss Floyda Steiner, who has been a guest at the F.W. Rhuark home several weeks, returned to her home in Upper Sandusky, Ohio today."  

Key FAN Club link

This rang a bell about Floyda's sister Etta Blanche, married to Erie railroad mechanic Frank W. Rhuark. I went back to the 1900 US Census for the Rhuarks in Huntington, Indiana. They had a roomer with them: Otto Cristman, a machinist just like Frank Rhuark. Just like Brice. Snippet at top shows the Census, names creatively spelled.

In the past, I had no idea who this roomer was...but it's now clear he was a key member of the FAN club: a work associate of both Frank AND Brice. This man was the missing link, a definite connection between Brice and Floyda's family. 

Matchmaker sister and brother-in-law?!

Knowing that Brice and Ott had earlier worked for Erie RR, where Frank worked, and Ott once roomed with the Rhuarks, I conclude that Rhuarks were almost certainly involved in introducing Brice to Floyda, Blanche's sister.

Another reason for this matchmaker activity to occur away from Floyda's hometown is that she divorced her abusive first husband in 1901. Divorce was still uncommon and Floyda's family probably felt she had a better chance of meeting eligible men elsewhere. Thank you, Blanche and Frank, for setting the stage for Floyda and Brice to meet and marry.

"Surprise" is this week's 52 Ancestors genealogy prompt from Amy Johnson Crow. Never give up, and keep redoing your searches because new info becomes available all the time. I sure was surprised and happy to finally solve this family history mystery! 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Inside My Family History Photo Books

This year I've been making a series of professional photo books as bite-sized family history projects, to be read, spark questions/conversations, and then saved for the future. Above, three from my family...two more are in the works for hubby's family.

Each of my photo books contains 20 pages, plus a glossy front and back cover. The front cover introduces the ancestors and how they are related to our family, plus a sentence or two to intrigue my readers. The covers are colorful and inviting to suggest a lively story inside. 

This is just my approach--yours may be different, depending on your goals and your audience. My goal is to share family history in a conversational way, with affection and an insider's perspective so descendants get to know the people and understand a bit about family dynamics back in the day. 

The interior can be expanded to many more pages but my readers (in the next generation and hopefully generations after that) don't need or want every last detail. If they want, they can take a look at my online trees to get every fact and review every document. 

"Black and white is boring" according to my audience, so every page pops with color, whether it's colorful text, a bright frame surrounding a photo or two-tone hearts or other embellishments. 

Curated content, illustrations and info

I curate the interior content to include basic info, life highlights, family relationships, and interesting stories, liberally illustrated with photos, maps, and snippets of genealogy documents (such as passport photos, ancestor signatures, etc). Inside a typical photo book is:

  • Title page: Eye-catching photo(s) with a brief summary of how my readers are related to these people. I use wording such as..."Minnie and Teddy were the grandparents of X, Y, and Z, the great-grandparents of A, B, C, and D, the great-great grandparents of M, N, and O." Also on the title page, I include a quick overview of the arc of these ancestors' lives, like a story.
  • Pages 2/3: Backstory of one ancestor, such as my grandma Minnie. Usually I begin with when she was born, who her parents were, birth order and siblings, place of birth and what was happening in that place/that family at that time. Any dramatic events are also included (death of a sibling, for instance). This two-page spread covers birth, childhood, and possibly immigration or education. Illustrations may be a map, a childhood photo(s), diploma, passenger manifest, birth record. Not a dry encyclopedia page, but a story.
  • Pages 4/5: Backstory of another ancestor, such as my grandpa Teddy in a two-page spread. If this ancestor's early life intersects with the other ancestor covered in the book, I say where and when. Again, I look for the drama to keep readers turning the pages to find out what happens next. 
  • Pages 6/7/8/9:  Following each ancestor's path from old country to new life in the United States. Occupation, helping family get settled, bringing more relatives along, how the ancestors met and their courtship and wedding. My maternal grandma Minnie and her family rode in a horse-drawn carriage to her wedding, which I noted in one book to bring the scene to life for readers. Minnie's parents were far from rich but they marked the day in style once they accepted her choice of husband (she rejected an arranged marriage). Also I included the bride and groom's signatures from their marriage cert. Not all ancestors could write well, but these two had flowing handwriting.
  • Pages 10 through 15: Adult life/married life of these ancestors. For grandma Minnie and grandpa Teddy, I showed her with her children, described where they lived and the schools where the children were educated (using yearbook photos, autograph books as illustrations). I showed Teddy in his grocery store and told the story of how he was robbed during the Great Depression. Also I explained how the Farkas Family Tree (grandma's side) was founded and what role Teddy and Minnie and their children played in this organization, which lasted from 1933 to 1965. Large photos of big family events, with identification so the names and faces will be remembered. 
  • Pages 16/17: What happened to the siblings/in-laws of these ancestors? In the Minnie/Teddy book, I briefly summarized the lives of their siblings and spouses if any, adding photos with captions so this isn't just a list of names. Each of my books has a couple of pages of "What happened to..." because those folks were part of the family tree, whether they lived close by or far away. 
  • Page 18: My generation: I include photos of me and my Sis with some 1st and 2nd cousins as concrete links between family history of the past and relatives of today. I don't want cousins to be forgotten!
  • Pages 19/20: Timeline of these ancestors' lives, in chronological order, from birth to immigration to marriage to children to later life to death and burial. I include Census years, saying that so-and-so was enumerated as living at ___ with occupation of ___. I might add that "cousin so-and-so was also living here," such as an immigrant cousin enumerated as a boarder. This is where I can mention many events that are "facts" but with a "story" angle. An address with context helps: "Fox Street in the South Bronx, at the time a good neighborhood for raising children." 
Have fun with your family history projects! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Hubby's Ancestors Worked on the Railroad

As I create new family history photo books about my husband's maternal and paternal grandparents/great-grandparents, I'm doing a bit of research to provide historical, social, and economic context for their lives.

Wood carpenters worked for a railroad

Two of my husband's Wood ancestors, father and son carpenters, were employed by a giant railroad in Toledo. In the 1880 city directory, paternal great-grandpa Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890) is listed as "coach builder, LS & MS R'y." His son, hubby's great uncle Alfred O. Wood (1855-1895), is listed as "carpenter, LS & MS R'y." Not everyone's occupation was listed with an employer--clearly this employer was important to the economy in Toledo, Ohio.

At top, you can see that Toledo, Ohio was a major center of the Lake Shore & Michigan South Railway (known as the LS&MS). Look at all the railroad lines feeding into it, at the western edge of Lake Erie (red circle). Lots of employment opportunities in a growth industry! This railway system evolved over the years.

McClure ancestors worked for railroads

Other men in hubby's family tree also worked in the railroad industry. According to the 1880 US Census for Wabash, Indiana, my husband's maternal great-grandpa William Madison McClure (1849-1887) worked for a railroad. In the 1900 Census for Wabash, William's son John N. McClure (1840-1919) was enumerated as an engineer for a railroad. 

Another son of William, Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970), hubby's maternal grandpa, also worked for a railroad, beginning about 1900. Family lore says he was a master mechanic for the Big Four, formed later than LS & MS and focused on travel in Ohio and the midwest.

Brice and his new bride (Floyda Mabel Steiner, 1878-1948), moved to Cleveland, Ohio in the middle of first decade of the 1900s. For at least a decade, they lived fairly close to the railyards there so he could easily commute to work. As a master mechanic with his own tools, he had his pick of jobs and worked in a variety of industries. In fact, he delayed retirement past the age of 65 to work during World War II, when his expertise was important to the war effort.

In my family history photo books, I'm going to summarize this interesting context in a few sentences plus include a map or two to inform descendants of how and where grandparents and great-grandparents made their living back in the day. 

Sunday, September 17, 2023

New Family History Photo Book, New Surname Word Cloud

Working on a new family history photo book for my hubby's side of the family tree, I created this colorful surname word cloud for the back cover. I like to use the free WordClouds site. The bright colors, diverse fonts, and overall shape are intended to catch the attention of my readers, young and old. 

The front cover will have the wedding portraits of my husband's maternal grandparents, Floyda Steiner McClure (1878-1948) and Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970), the main subjects of this book.

The point of making a professional photo book is that it looks polished and attractive, as well as being sturdy enough to last for a long time, so family history will live on and on. I see these books as worthwhile investments in perpetuating the story of our ancestors...buying on sale or with discounts to keep costs down.

This book, like my earlier photo books, will be heavy on captioned family photos and include cropped scans of a few key documents. Not one of my younger readers will have heard of a delayed birth record--something I hope will intrigue them.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Trying Different Archival Photo Albums

This year I've been experimenting with different types of archival photo albums, because I want the next generation to actually browse photos if they get the impulse. Before I join my ancestors, my goal is to caption and store all photos safely and conveniently. 

At top, two albums I'm trying out. At left is the Gaylord Archival Photo Preservation Album, which is actually a binder inside an archival box, easily stacked (it has reinforcing metal corners). At right is the sturdy Pioneer Pocket Photo Album, a tall album designed to stand upright or be stacked flat on a shelf.

I'm a fan of archival boxes in general, because they look neat and keep the contents flat and in good shape. Above, a peek inside the box, showing the three-ring binder and archival sleeves for 3.5" x 5" photos (or smaller sizes). I have dozens of tiny black-and-white photos taken by my late dad-in-law, which will fit in these sleeves and stay put. For caption purposes, I can include notes inside the box. An advantage is that the box will hold many more sleeves to store many more photos, which are doubly safe: inside sleeves and within the archival box. 

Here's a closeup of the Pioneer album, which holds archival sleeves for 4" x 6" photos (or smaller images sizes). I slipped in a few photos as part of my test. The sleeves have space for written captions next to photos, a real plus because I can jot notes as I go. Although these albums are too tall to stand upright on my bookshelf, they can lay flat or be stacked. In my first try, I crammed too many sleeves into the binder and had to order a second binder to hold the overflow (lesson learned). 

My test is a work in progress, and I don't have a clear preference quite yet. Either album format will keep photos in good shape for the future. No matter how you store your family photos, in albums or boxes or binders, I encourage you to think "archival" so the images and captions will be safe for the sake of many generations to come.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Leona Walasyk from Lodz Becomes Lee Wallace in Hackensack

Long, long before I came to know her as "Aunt Lee," Leona Z. Wallace (1903-1989) was working hard to get an education, help bring up her two younger brothers, and create a steady path to prosperity for the entire family. 

As shown in the last line of the above 1950 US Census excerpt, Lee was born in Poland. By the 1930s, possibly earlier, Lee had Americanized her name to Wallace, and until I saw the 1950 Census I wasn't sure what her surname used to be. In 1950, she was enumerated as a "head of household" despite living in the same very nice home in Hackensack, New Jersey with her two brothers, Charles Walasyk and Edward Walasyk, who never changed their names.* Correction: They changed their names later in life.

Charles, also enumerated as a head, was married with two children in the household, working as a salesman. In addition, their brother Edward, a water engineer, was staying with them in Hackensack. He was married and actually lived elsewhere with his family, but was enumerated with his siblings on this Census day in 1950. 

My research shows Edward was not born in Poland but actually in New Jersey, as was Charles, so I'm fairly sure none of the Walasyk/Wallace siblings actually spoke with the enumerator in 1950. Talk about prosperity: The spacious Hackensack home where they all lived in 1950 is now updated and worth a pretty penny

Back in 1950, Lee was doing quite well, which you wouldn't know from simply reading her enumerated occupation: "public relations, department store." 

I've written before that Lee headed up the famous, fabulous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for a number of years, including 1950. Around this time, my mother's twin sister Dorothy went to work for Macy's and met Lee. The two hit it off, personally and professionally.

Not only did they work on the parade together, they were hired to assist with the annual Barnum Festival in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1953. In March of that year, the Bridgeport Telegram reported that Miss Lee Wallace had "built up the Macy parade to the biggest balloon parade in the country." The final sentence of the news item reads: "Accompanying Miss Wallace was Miss Dorothy H. Schwartz, her associate." 

My aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001) soon left the world of parades and publicity to become a high school teacher in the Bronx, driving from New Jersey every work day. I later learned that Lee and Dorothy were savvy with their household finances, being able to afford a brand new car every other year as well as annual summer and winter vacations. Aunt Lee had no trace of an accent, and she never spoke of her past to me, a little girl who appreciated her affection and attention.

This week's #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow is "prosperity."

Friday, September 8, 2023

In Beta at Ancestry: Top Hints Feature

 In beta at Ancestry is a feature called Top Hints, which I'm exploring this week.

The leaf symbol captioned "beta" in the image above is where to click for "top hints for 10 people in your tree." Not every Ancestry member may have this new feature, but it is interesting because it calls attention to people from across the tree, people I may have not worked on recently. I know, I know, hints can be misleading or outright ridiculous. But ya just never know, so I do look now and then. This feature is like a variety-pack of hints from across the tree.

Clicking on the beta leaf brought up the list at right in the image. One name is blank here because it's a living relative. To look at the hints in more detail, click on the down arrow at right of each name. In my first list of hints, all were actual records or indexes, like Census documents, marriage/death indexes, or draft registrations, which I can evaluate individually. No ship illustrations or DNA strands, so far. 

Above, how Ancestry explains and introduces "Top Hints."

For me, Top Hints is something to check first thing in the morning before I dive into an ongoing project, or when I have a spare 10-15 minutes at any point. Take a look and see whether you have this beta feature and how well it works for you.

As you can see from the image at top, I'm also having fun with the new fan feature in Ancestry, which I learned about from a blog post by Diane Henriks. I haven't been able to change the number of generations displayed, so as she says, this feature must still be in beta. I like the suggested ancestors shown in green on the fan, hints that I can review and, mostly, reject unless there's solid evidence to investigate. 

IMHO, I'm the quality assurance person on my family trees, deciding whether to accept or reject any hint after looking at the source's credibility and relevance. Most "possible parent" hints get rejected, but occasionally those with real sources lead me in promising new directions. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Honor Roll: Part 5, Korean War Veterans from Bethlehem, Connecticut

This is my final post transcribing names of military veterans from memorial plaques on the historic green of Bethlehem, Connecticut. The first post in this series explains the purpose of the Honor Roll Project, originated by Heather Wilkinson Rojo and hosted here

Roll of Honor

Dedicated to the men and women of the town of Bethlehem who served their country during the Korean War, June 25, 1950-January 9, 1955 - Erected by the Citizens of Bethlehem, May 30, 1982

Glen C. Adams, Sr.
Richard O. Anderson
Curtiss Bate
Hugh L. Bronson
Raymond W. Brown
Frank Bosko
Robert H. Box
Elbert V. Box
Roger Clark
Frank L. Convard
Dolores A. Dauch
Robert J. Dauch
Edward D. Everitt
Gordon J. Fredsall
Kenneth Harlow
Walter L. Hunt
John T. Knudsen
Sally L. Lorensen
Gerald A. Minor
Patsy Narciso
Marvin Parris
Ralph A. Petruzzi
Vincent J. Skelte
Ernest Sommers
Earle R. Thompson
Calvin C. Wiltshire
Alan J. Woodward

Monday, September 4, 2023

A Family of Tradesmen = My Summer Favorite In-Laws

This summer, my favorite in-laws (in my husband's family tree) are the Cornwell family, a multigenerational family of silversmiths/watchmakers/jewelry store proprietors. 

Asenath Cornwell (1808-1897) married James Larimer (1806-1847), my hubby's 3d great-grand uncle. As I posted a few months ago, Asenath was widowed early and made the bold decision to go to the Gold Rush with her brother, John Cornwell, in 1852. Brother and sister wrote journals of their journey and experiences. The journals are fascinating first-person accounts of that time and place. 

John Cornwell (1812-1883) was a lifelong jeweler, watchmaker, and silversmith. He understood the value of gold and was sorely disappointed not to find very much during his Gold Rush years. No doubt his family was disappointed as well, since his wife and children remained in Athens, Ohio, when he was panning for gold in California. Occasionally John put gold dust into a letter for his wife Ann, but he never struck it rich. 

Returning to Athens in 1856, John opened the jewelry store that successive generations of Cornwell descendants operated until 2019. As shown in the Census lines at top, John's occupation in 1860 was watchmaker, in 1870 it was silver smith, and in 1880 it was jewelry (creatively spelled).

John's son David Coleman Cornwell (1844-1938) served in Company B of the 141st Regt of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the US Civil War. After the war, he followed the family trade, becoming a silversmith and jeweler. Retiring in his 60s, David was already twice widowed. 

Still, he couldn't stop thinking about a young lady he used to know from Athens, Ellen Jane Sams (1855-1938). Somehow David tracked her down in Illinois, according to a news report in May of 1909, discovered she too had been widowed, and quickly proposed. They were happily married for 29 years until Ellen's death in 1938. David died just a few months later. 

With colorful stories like these, you can see why the Cornwell in-laws are my summer favorites.

"Tradesman" is Amy Johnson Crow's genealogy prompt for this week in her #52Ancestors series. 

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Honor Roll: Part 4, Vietnam War Veterans from Bethlehem, Connecticut

In this 4th post about military memorials on the green at Bethlehem, Connecticut, I'm transcribing the wording and names of veterans from this stately plaque as part of the Honor Roll Project. My first post explains the overall project. The goal is to transcribe veterans' names and make them more accessible for descendants and relatives who search online. 

Roll of Honor

Dedicated to the young men and women of the community, who by their patriotism and loyalty served God and country during the Viet-Nam War, December 22, 1961-May 7, 1975

Erected by the citizens of Bethlehem, May 30, 1982

Glen B. Adams
J. Rodney Albert
Arthur Banks
Stewart W. Banks
Scott H. Beardsley
John D. Benjamin
Dwight C. Bennett
Charles C. Bock
John A. Bosco, Jr.
Bonita J. Bouffard
Raymond A. Boulanger, Jr.
Roy L. Boulanger
Ronald W. Box
Thomas E. Box
Raymond W. Brown
Walter W. Brutting
David C. Butkus, Sr.
Philip P. Butkus
Raymond T. Butkus
Charles Clifford
Robert Clifford
Anthony Communale
Thomas S. Doran, Jr.
Thomas C. Fitzgerald
Brenda R. Gallop
Edward P. Goodwin
Ronald S. Graves
George S. Haburey
Scott Huber
William Huber
Wright L. Jimmo, Jr.
Richard O. Johnson
James V. Kacerguis
Matthew J. Kacerguis
Peter A. Kacerguis
Ernest T. Kleinheinz, Jr.
David A. Kmetetz
Leland W. Krake III
Thomas S. Krake
Douglas Krantz
Richard Krantz
Paul Maddox
Philip A. Mansfield
Matthew P. March, Jr.
Thomas C. McEvoy
James B. Melesky
Dustin Merrill
James W. Meskun
Gerald E. Meskun
Gearld A. Minor
Michael Mitchell
Justin F. Moore
Edward M. Nelson
David W. Nurnberger
Daniel P. O'Neil
Stephen J. Palauskas
James T. Patterson
Samuel C. Patterson
Kenneth R. Pearsall
Karl G. Pelzer
Thomas Piazza, Jr.
David A. Pierson
Michael J. Petruzzi
John E. Plungis
Gary A. Rand
John J. Rockwell
Randolph L. Richards
Ricky Russell
Anthony M. Satula
Ward M. Sheehan
James T. Shupenis
Gerald C. Stockwell
Jon F. Stockwell
Albert T. Szubka
Daniel P. Tanuis, Sr.
Charles W. Thompson, Jr.
Stephan Trapper
George C. Turner, Jr.
Arthur F. Thorsen
Porter L. Woodcock
Ronald Woodcock

Friday, September 1, 2023

Honor Roll: Part 3, WWII Veterans from Bethlehem, Connecticut

This is Part 3 in my series, photographing and transcribing names of veterans memorialized on plaques gracing the historic town green in Bethlehem, Connecticut. Part 1 explains more about the Honor Roll Project by Heather Wilkinson Rojo. This WWII plaque, unlike any of the previous Bethlehem plaques I transcribed, includes the name of a servicewoman, Ruth H. Goodrich.

Bethlehem WWII veterans plaque

The plaque intro reads:

Erected by the people of the Town of Bethlehem to commemorate the patriotism and loyalty of those who served their country during World War II. Dedicated 1947.

*Peter S. Sproule [star usually indicates war casualty]

Clifford Adams
Leon W. Banks 
Thomas C. Bate, Jr.
Samuel L. Benedict
Elbert V. Box
Ian Braley
John Butkus
John P. Butterly
Cleland E. Dopp
Terrance F. Dowling
Rev. George G. Finlay
Leon J. Grabow
Milton L. Grabow 
Ruth H. Goodrich
Paul L. Johnson
Bryan T. Keilty
John G. Kelly
Mark G. Kitchin
Robert C. Knudsen
Nicholas Krause
Carl A. Lynn
Mahlon A. Lynn
R. Elwood Lynn
Robert W. Lynn
John A. Majauskas
Wesley C. Meskun
Ames T. Minor
Truman S. Minor
George P. Oren
H. Brainard Risley
Allan S. Root
Joseph R. Sabot
Edward J. Skelte
Vincent J. Skelte
Vincent T. Skeltis
William R. Smith Jr.
Joseph A. Stevens
Waldo M. Swinton
Theodore M. Traub
Arnold S. Waldron
Elmer C. Wiltshire
Anthony F. Winslow
Alan J. Woodward
Charles F. Woodward
Earl L. Wooster Jr.
Joseph R. Shupenis