Monday, April 29, 2024

No Arranged Marriages for the Farkas Sisters in America


My maternal grandma, Hermina "Minnie" Farkas (1886-1964), insisted on marrying the man of her choice. She met her future husband (Theodore "Ted" Schwartz, 1887-1965) in a Hungarian delicatessen in New York City's Lower East Side, an immigrant neighborhood packed with tenements and pushcarts. Minnie (born in Hungary) lived on East 6th Street, Ted (also born in Hungary) lived around the corner on Avenue D. Although Minnie's mother thought Ted was a "peasant" and not good enough for her, Minnie found ways to see the man she loved. 

What happened next is legend in my family: Minnie's parents tried to arrange a marriage with a man they considered more suitable. When this man came to the Farkas apartment with an engagement ring, Minnie threw it out the window. Her younger brothers ran downstairs to find the ring. What became of the ring? Nobody knows, but Minnie made her point. Her parents finally accepted her choice. Minnie and Ted were wed at the Clinton Street Synagogue in 1911, a few months after Ted was naturalized.

Where Minnie's sisters met their future husbands

Minnie showed her Farkas sisters that women in America could choose their own husbands. Here's how those young ladies, my great aunts, met their future spouses:

Irene (1896-1988) met farmer's son Milton one summer when she and her mother spent a couple of weeks boarding at his family farm in upstate New York, where they escaped the heat of Manhattan. Irene worked as a bookkeeper and was very much a city girl, but Milton's good looks and charm won her heart. They married in the Bronx and lived for a year or so with Milton's family. They then moved to the Bronx, a greener borough than Manhattan, where their two daughters were born.

Ella (1897-1991) went to college to be a teacher. She met civil engineer Joseph through her friendship with sons of neighbors. The couple married in the Bronx, had a son and a daughter, and the family remained tight-knit and happy until Joe's untimely death. Ella had never stopped working, a rarity among her married sisters, and she taught elementary school until her retirement.

Freda (1898-1989) also was introduced to her future husband Morris through the same neighbor boys who were friends with Ella's fella Joseph. Freda was a librarian when she met and married Morris, an actuary in insurance. They had two sons. During World War II, Freda worked at Grumman Aircraft, the only Rosie the Riveter among the Farkas sisters.

Rose (1901-1993) worked as a stenographer and bookkeeper. She met accountant George at an adult summer camp outside of New York City, and they married in Manhattan. Rose and George had three children. George went back to school for a law degree and opened a successful tax law practice. Rose was one of the matchmaker aunts who later got my mother and my father together on a blind date!

Jeanne (1905-1987) was a bookkeeper for a jeweler in Manhattan and although one of the owners proposed, Jeanne chose Harry, a dentist she met at an adult summer camp. Jeanne and Harry were married at a big wedding during the Depression. The entire family began to have their teeth cared for by Jeanne's hubby.

"Love and marriage" is this week's genealogy prompt from Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors series.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Father and Two Sons in 1812 War: Larimer, Larimore, Larrimore

In my husband's Larimer family, a father and two sons from Ohio defended the nation during the War of 1812. 

Because of the variable spelling of the day, the service records of all three were originally filed under different surnames. 

Isaac Larimer (1771-1823) and son Robert Larimer (1792-1850) both served for a year in the 3d Regiment Ohio Volunteers, while son John Larimer (1794-1843) was a 90-day enlistee in the Ohio Militia.

At top, Robert Larimer's NARA reference card, showing he was originally filed under Larimore and then under Larimer. I was interested to see he was a drummer, enlisted at age 20.  

On the other hand, John Larimer's NARA reference card at right shows he was originally filed under Larrimore and then cross-referenced under Larimore. He was a private in the First Regiment Ohio Militia.

Below, their father Isaac Larimer's NARA reference card shows he was originally filed under Larimer and then referenced under the surname Larimore. Isaac, in his early 40s, was an ensign, a commissioned officer in the army.

After Isaac's death, his widow Elizabeth received a warrant for land bounty of 160 acres in the Larimer name. 

Isaac and Elizabeth were my husband's 4th great-grandparents, moving their family westward from Pennsylvania to Ohio in search of fertile farmland. They were only some of my husband's ancestors who caught Ohio Fever.

This post is for week 17 of Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors genealogy prompt, "war."

PS: You know I married my husband for his ancestors, right?! 😆

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Artifacts + Context = Family History Story


I'm finishing a 20-page photo book about my husband's paternal grandparents, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939) and Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925) and their life together. It's a bite-sized family history project, focused on one couple and their background and children. A page in the book is devoted to postcards...with a photo and context for these artifacts. The caption reads: 

James Edgar Wood's relatives were spread across several states. They stayed in touch via penny postcards and visits. Two of these cards were sent by Dorothy Baker (daughter of Ada) to her first cousin Wally, and one was sent by Aunt Nellie Lewis (sister of James). All are addressed to 12513 Lancelot Ave in Cleveland, a home built by James, where the Wood family lived from 1910 to 1912. The colorized photo shows this house in 1911, with Ed and Wally standing in front.

This page appears late in the book, so readers will already be familiar with the names, but they may not remember the relationships, which I included in parentheses. 

The colorized photo, passed down in black/white in the family, shows the very house where these postcards were delivered more than a century ago. The addressee and his older brother are pictured in front. The house was built by their father, James Edgar Wood, and it's still standing today, as you can see here

By linking these separate artifacts and providing context, I created a story that I hope will stick in the minds of the younger generation, part of my overall plan to keep family history alive for the future.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Colorizing James and Mary and Their Cleveland House


As I prepare a family history photo book about hubby's grandparents, James E. Wood (1871-1939) and Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925), I'm colorizing a few old b/w photos to catch the eye of younger descendants. Of course, I'm noting that the photos are colorized. This book (and others I've created) are helping to keep family history alive for the future.

Above, the photo as colorized by Ancestry. James has more color, the second floor of the home has more color, but Mary appears less colorful. Overall, this photo is more interesting to look at and brings out more details than the original. I tried the sharpen tool but Ancestry couldn't detect the small faces.

Below, the same photo as colorized by MyHeritage. Here, Mary has more color and the sign advertising James's carpentry/building business is red and very visible. Note the tiny palette and magic wand symbols at bottom left of photo, added by MyHeritage to indicate that this image is both colorized and enhanced. I prefer this version and have inserted it into the photo book.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Finding FREE NYC Documents during WikiTree Connect-a-Thon

The April WikiTree ConnectAThon added nearly 89,000 new profiles to the worldwide WikiTree. I was part of Team L'Chaim and mostly added ancestors and ancestors-in-law from my Jewish roots. Along the way, I discovered new documents and worked my way backward to older generations as well as horizontally to siblings and spouses of distant cousins whose lives I'd never researched. 

FREE New York City Vital Records

A huge help: finding FREE vital records from the late 1800s through early 1900s on the New York City Digital Vital Records site. This site has birth, marriage, and death records scanned in color from the originals. No sending away, no paying, no waiting. Immediately view and download if that cert is available. Not all are, yet.

Above, shown on the site, an ancestor marriage license from October 7, 1923 that gave me parents' names to extend my tree further back, and witnesses for my FAN club (friends/associates/neighbors). A pdf is downloadable...and/or users can print. Such valuable info on an original document signed personally by the ancestors I'm researching. Gold mine! You can read more about this excellent and free site here.

I started by obtaining the marriage cert number (not license number) on Ancestry, although it can be obtained by using the database search functions on and other sites. The cert number, borough, and year are needed to get results.

Vital records reveal new facts and relatives

On the NYC Digital Vital Records site, I clicked "Search beta" and selected marriage cert, input the cert number, selected the city borough, and input the year. 

Not all of my searches resulted in finding certs, but about 75% did. I can redo my research later in the year to see whether additional certs become available. Did I mention this is a free search and free download?! 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Ancestry's Ask AI Feature

This week, when looking at a German language Hamburg passenger manifest for one of my ancestors, I noticed that Ancestry was offering me the opportunity to explore this document using its Ask AncestryAI feature. Of course I took a look! I haven't tried any Ancestry AI feature before this.

Above, part of the screen, with the AI interpretation on the right and the transcribed record (plus the original image) on the left. The AI seems to have used the info from the record detail and constructed a narrative that began "Bela Roth, a Hungarian male, departed from N. Bereg, Hungary, at the age of 42 on October 17, 1907..." 

The AI named the ship, the ship's ownership, and said he was a merchant (true) and was accompanied by six other household members (true) including his mother (not true) sons (true), and father (not true). The AI concluded by citing the source of this record.

In actuality, Bela was accompanied by his wife and sons, and he named his mother as the nearest relative in place he left. Bela, himself, was the father of the sons.

Deciphering a handwritten manifest is a challenge, and when I don't know the language, it's an even bigger challenge. Here, I had to compare what the AI said to the actual record AND to my family tree to understand what was true and what was not true. Also, the AI had no way of knowing that N. Bereg = Nagy Bereg. But I knew the full place name from prior research. I tried the AI feature on another German-launguage Hamburg passenger manifest, with similarly mixed results. 

I can imagine situations where the AI assist would be helpful. Still, IMHO, there's no substitute for understanding a document's purpose, timing, format, content, and trying to decipher it independently from what the transcription says and what any AI assistance says. I'll continue to test this feature, hoping to learn a few new details--that I'll confirm for myself.

UPDATE: This AI feature is available for a variety of documents. Here's what it told me about a man's WWII draft registration card. I clicked the thumbs down on this description--the man in question did not serve, and the narrative is rather flowery without much substance, unfortunately. Oh, and let me quote the disclaimer from the bottom of the screen: This feature is powered by an AI language model using only information from this record. Responses may be inaccurate. 

Try this feature if you can, and see what happens!

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

A Bio for Jennie, Two Memorials to Manage

My great aunt Jennie Birk Salkowitz was born on this day 134 years ago--on April 9, 1890 in Gargzdai, Lithuania. She came through Ellis Island on September 7, 1909, just 19 years old, and worked in the New York City garment district until marrying her husband, Paul Salkowitz (1889-1957). They were happily married for 38 years, jointly owning and running a Florida citrus grove after moving South from the Big Apple in the post-WWII period.

To honor her memory, I'm sharing her bite-sized bio on additional websites. When I posted her bio on MyHeritage, I also added a link within the bio to lead to her Find a Grave memorial page. It's easy, once I clicked on the link icon. As shown above: I pasted in the URL for her memorial page, chose the text where this link would be (here, the name of the cemetery), gave the link a title ("Find a Grave for Jennie B Salkowitz") and selected to open the link in a new window.

Then I went to her Find a Grave page to submit the same bite-sized bio as an edit, see image below. 

At the top of the page (see arrow) I noticed that Find a Grave was offering me the opportunity to manage Aunt Jennie's page. I don't necessarily feel the need to manage every memorial of every ancestor, just those of ancestors closest to me. But in this case, if the memorial has no manager, I think it makes sense to step up.

I clicked "Request to Manage" and yes, I'm now taking care of her memorial. Once the bio was in place, I clicked on her husband's link and was offered the opportunity to manage his page, as well. I've already posted his bite-sized bio there. Happy to honor their memories in this way!

Monday, April 8, 2024

Eclipse Day 2017 Revisited on Eclipse Day 2024

Today is Eclipse Day 2024 but I'm revisiting the August day in 2017 when I used a pinhole viewer to watch the solar eclipse from a nearby garden. The eclipse was clearly visible through this home-made contraption, and what I saw looked like a bite being taken out of the sun. 

Not as dramatic as the view will be for today's eclipse, but still exciting to experience. Fun to remember as we look forward to the more visible eclipse this afternoon, depending on cloud cover in my neck of the woods.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Wood and McClure Ancestors with Strong Church Ties

In my husband's family tree are a number of ancestors who made big life changes for their faith...were very involved with their churches, some as cofounders or leaders, some who married church leaders, some whose children led or founded congregations. Here are a few of these ancestors:

  • Hubby's Mayflower ancestors (Isaac Allerton, Mary Norris Allerton, Mary Allerton, Degory Priest, and Francis Cooke) came to America as Separatists, to worship as they chose. These ancestors are in my husband's Wood family line.
  • Hubby's great uncle and great aunt, Marion Elton Wood (1867-1947) and Minnie Miller (1869-1918) helped organize and were the hosts of the very first day of worship for the Bethany English Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1917 in Toledo, Ohio. 
  • Hubby's great-grand aunt Mary Ann McClure (1836-1901) married Reverend John J. Cook (1835-1916), a long-time Presbyterian Minister in Indiana and Michigan. Mary Ann's father Benjamin McClure (1812-1896) was a staunch Presbyterian in Wabash, Indiana, and a ruling church elder for 40 years.
  • Joseph Charles Rinehart (1872-1932) was a pastor of several United Brethren Church congregations in Ohio, and the founder of the Belle Grove Christian Church in Ohio. His sons, H. Stanley Rinehart and Fred A. Rinehart, both became church leaders. Joseph was hubby's 1c2r.

My bite-sized bios for these ancestors, still in progress, will reflect their religious involvement so future generations know of the strength of their beliefs. "Worship" is the #52Ancestors genealogy prompt for week 14 from Amy Johnson Crow.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Put Yourself into Your Family's History

As I write about my husband's paternal family, I've found a few ways to insert ourselves into the narrative and photos. 

For example, this page in my latest photo book is all about hubby's great uncle, Capt. John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954). John was one of three brothers who joined the British Army as young teens or preteens, working their way up through the music ranks. All three served 15-20+ years in the British military before they came to Canada and became bandmasters. All three attained the rank of captain and were well-known in their regions. Capt. John D. Slatter gained worldwide fame for leading one of the original kiltie bands.

Not only did I tell of John's distinguished military career (which began at the age of 11), his WWI service, and his personal life, I also accentuated the theme of military service through the generations by explaining that two of his sons served in WWI and a grandson served in WWII. 

Also, I wrote that hubby and I had been to the 48th Highlanders Museum in Toronto to learn more. My husband was honored to be allowed to hold Capt. Slatter's special sword, and to see the many medals he was awarded, now displayed in the museum. Who knows, maybe descendants will one day visit the museum and be inspired by this ancestor. 

The two color photos on this page put us into the context of family history. It's part of my plan to keep ancestral stories and faces alive for the future, with us in the picture too!