Monday, May 27, 2024

Gloria Goes to Hollywood as a Teen

This is the story of beautiful and talented and creative Gloria Mildred Weiman (1926-2021). She was a cousin of my Roth cousins...which means a distant cousin to my Farkas family. She wasn't known by the name Weiman, but she did shoot to fame as a teenager renamed Gloria Warren.

Gloria's parents were Herman Wajman (Americanized to Weiman) and Julia Ida Weiss (she's the Roth cousin). Herman was a jeweler from Poland who came to America in 1921 with his Hungarian-born wife Julia and their baby daughter Magda, settling in Wilmington, Delaware. The baby, sadly, didn't survive but Herman and Julia had two more daughters, Gloria and June, who grew up taking piano, dance, singing lessons and more. 

New starlet, creative new name

Gloria's mini-bio on IMDb notes that when she was a young teen, her mother took her to meet a local radio producer which, in turn, led to a meeting with a Hollywood talent scout. That was her big break: she was signed as an up-and-coming starlet for Warner Brothers, at age 15. 

In mid-1941, the entire family filed petitions to change their surname from Weiman to Warren for purposes of Gloria's career. How do I know? The Wilmington, Delaware newspapers covered Gloria's rise to Hollywood and her creative name change too! The family relocated to California as her career began to blossom under the new name of Gloria Warren.

Newspapers documented Gloria's Hollywood life

The papers mentioned Gloria's successful 1945 South American singing tour (see document at top) where she was accompanied by her sister June. A newspaper even covered Gloria the starlet's trip from Hollywood to Wilmington to see her aunt, Mrs. Max Weiss (maiden name Ethel Weiss)

Despite her talent, her singing compared to Deanna Durbin, the movies in which Gloria appeared were not hits, even though her personal star shined. The movie Always in My Heart was written with a part specifically for Gloria, who sang the title song. Of course the Wilmington newspaper raved about Gloria's performance but most critics complained that the plot was hackneyed. Gifted and gorgeous, Gloria appeared in only a handful of movies after that.

Blind date changes Gloria's life

Gloria met Peter Gold (1924-2010) on a blind date in spring of 1946. They fell for each other and were engaged within 10 days, and married in early September. My speculation is that the blind date could have been arranged by Peter's brother, Lee B. Gold, a Hollywood screenwriter. Sis speculates that Peter saw Gloria in a movie and asked for an introduction. 

Press accounts covering the marriage differ about Peter's occupation...he was an agent or a whisky salesman, depending on which newspaper covered the Hollywood gossip. Gloria was in one more movie released after their marriage, and then she retired forever from the Hollywood scene.

By 1950, Peter was a shower door salesman and he had a very bright business future ahead: He worked his way up to the top of the big Price-Pfister plumbing manufacturing firm and ultimately retired from the position of CEO and Chairman. Gloria and Peter had two children and were married for 60+ years. 

One paper interviewed Gloria in the 1960s, when she looked back on her career, spoke lovingly of her children, said how she enjoyed being a mother. This was the last press coverage I can find of Gloria's movie career, as she chose to protect her privacy more and more in later years. Rest in peace, cousin. 

"Creativity" is the week 22 prompt from Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors genealogy challenge.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Saluting Father and Son Military Vets in My Family Tree

On this Memorial Day weekend, I'm continuing to focus on the military vets in my family tree, with pride. This post is to honor the military service of Morris Pitler and his two sons, George and Richard.

My maternal great aunt Freda Farkas (1898-1989) married Morris Pitler (1895-1976) on New Year's Eve of 1922, nearly four years after he had been honorably discharged from serving in World War I. As shown in the service record at top, Morris was inducted into the US Army at Ft. Monroe, Virginia. He served in the 40th Artillery from July of 1918 to January of 1919, rising to the rank of Radio Sergeant in November, 1918. After his military service, Morris built a successful career in the insurance business.

Morris's older son, Harry S. Pitler (1925-2014) finished high school in 1943 and was working at Grumman Aircraft on Long Island, NY when at age 18, he enlisted in the US Army to serve during World War II. Harry was trained as an X-ray technician and sent to the European battlefront, where he worked with medics treating wounded Allied soldiers. His letters to family described the extended educational and training period. Once home from the war, Harry got married, went to Yale Medical School, and became a caring doctor in general practice.

Morris's younger son, Richard K. Pitler (1928-2023) was an 18-year-old student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he filled out his draft registration card in March of 1946. He finished his college degree and then Dick became a lieutenant in the US Army, stationed at the Watertown Arsenal in Watertown, Massachusetts. He left the Army in 1950, married, went on for a master's degree at RPI, and became a high-ranking expert specializing in metallurgy with Allegheny Ludlum Steel. 

Thank you to Morris, Dick, Harry, and all the vets who have served our country over the years. 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Korean War Veterans in Booklet About Hubby's Military Ancestors

Throughout May, I've been updating the bite-sized bios of veterans in my husband's family tree, as I add them to an expanded family history booklet about ancestors who served in the military. I'm proud of their service and looking ahead, I want the rest of my family to know of their service in the years to come.

Originally, I focused on his Civil War ancestors (both Union and Confederate). Then I expanded my research and documentation to include his ancestors who served in WWI and WWII, and a handful who served in the War of 1812. Plus there is one, just one, direct-line ancestor who served in the American Revolution, on the side of the Colonies.

Now I'm adding hubby's second cousins who served in the Korean War. As I do that, I'm also checking that their "veteran" status is indicated on their Find a Grave memorial pages. 

In the case of cousin James "Jim" Simmons (1930-2009), there was no Find a Grave memorial. He had been cremated, no burial listed, according to the death record. So I created a page for him, and before it was finalized, Find a Grave asked me to check that it wasn't a dupe of a page for someone with a similar name who had been cremated. Not a dupe, so I went ahead.

On Jim's page, I indicated a "V" for veteran (top red arrow), and wrote the dates of his service in the bio section (lower red arrow). Then I linked his memorial to the pages of his younger brother (also a Korean War veteran) and to his parents.

On Memorial Day weekend, thank you to all the veterans who have served their country. For those in my family tree and my husband's family tree, I'm doing everything I can to keep their memories alive for future generations--so our valuable family history doesn't get lost to the mists of time. See my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, for more ideas about preserving genealogy for the sake of those who come after us.

PS: I've submitted a suggestion to to request that it provide a "V" designation we can use to designate someone as a military veteran in our family trees. The company is giving it consideration. After all, if Ancestry-owned Find a Grave can do this, it would be great to be consistent and have a "V" designation available on the family tree side as well, IMHO.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Six Degrees or Meatball of Edgar James Wood

WikiTree recently conducted a challenge to see how many ancestors could be added to the family tree of genealogist Randy Seaver, who's been researching and documenting his own family history for many a year. Randy summed up this amazing experience in his blog post here, including a potential brick-wall buster discovered by one of the participants.  

Randy included in his post a wonderful chart showing how people connect to him in his family tree, made using one of the apps offered to WikiTree users. Randy called it a "meatball" chart, WikiTree calls it a "six degree" chart. Here's a link to the app by Greg Clarke to create this type of chart starting from a particular person on your Wikitree, always free.

Since I'm currently putting the finishing touches on a photobook about my husband's paternal grandparents on the Wood and Steiner side, I created the meatball at top showing Edgar James Wood and his ancestors. Colorful and interesting! The royal blue circle is my husband, son of the man in the middle of the meatball. 

Thank you to WikiTree for providing free, useful, and eye-catching tools like this to visualize the family tree.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Julia Wood and the Business of Claiming a Widow's Pension

In this month of Memorial Day, I've been looking closely at the military ancestors in my husband's family tree, both their lives and their families.

Lemuel Wood, master mariner

Hubby's great-granduncle Lemuel C. Wood (1792-1870) was a master mariner with controlling or partnership interest in whaling ships out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. After his first two wives died, he married Julia A. L. Sampson, widow of a whaling man who died at sea. Julia was 52 and Lemuel was 68 when they were wed in 1860. 

When the US Civil War broke out, Lemuel used his considerable knowledge and skill by serving in the Union Navy. He commanded the USS Daylight as part of the blockade against the Confederate states in late 1861 to early 1862. His military service ended about the time he turned 70 years old. Lemuel recorded his occupation as "mariner" on the 1865 Mass. Census and the 1870 US Census. He died on Sept. 16, 1870 at the age of 78. According to the Census, his real estate was then worth $8,000 and his personal estate was worth $12,000 (in all, the equivalent of $340,000 in today's dollars).

Julia A. Wood, widow seeking pension

Julia had no obvious source of income other than her late husband's land and personal property. She outlived him by many years and even living frugally, could eventually find herself short of money. In 1880, she was enumerated as a widow alone on Martha's Vineyard, not a fancy vacation area as it is today but quite a rural area and  not an expensive place to live. In 1890, she was living in New Bedford ... which I was able to find out because she was named in the Veterans' and Widows' Schedule! 

At top, two excerpts from the 1890 schedule, showing her as Lemuel's widow, his 8 months' service commanding the USS Daylight, and Julia's listing of her late husband's US military service. She said Lemuel served in the War of 1812 (I haven't yet found evidence of this), the Mexican War (again, not yet found evidence) and the Union side of the US Civil War (lots of evidence). More military research is in my future.

Importantly, in June of 1890, Congress passed and the President signed the Dependent and Disability Pensions Act, which made Lemuel eligible for a pension based on his Union Navy service. In his stead, Julia filed for his pension. She was nearly 83 at the time and she hired a Washington, D.C. lawyer to manage the multi-step process, I know from the lengthy file I found on 

Prove marriages, prove deaths, prove need

To claim the pension, Julia had to produce numerous documents that would prove that her first husband died, that she married Lemuel (where and when), that he died (where and when), and finally proof of her desperate need for expediting this pension application. 
Her lawyer provided not one but two affidavits attesting to Julia's lack of income except help from her son "on whom she has no legal claim" meaning he had no legal obligation to continue his financial assistance. The goal of these affidavits was to provoke "special" status so Julia's claim would be reviewed more quickly, taking care of business when most needed.

Claim approved, eventually dropped

Finally, in early 1891, Julia was approved for $8 per month in a widow's pension. She collected the pension until September of 1891, fell ill, and died in November, 1891, at age 84. 

After all that time and trouble and expense to prove eligibility, Julia collected the pension for less than seven months. No one seems to have notified the pension authorities about Julia's death because the file remained open until 1895. Then, as shown below, she was "dropped from rolls" due to "failure to claim pension."

"Taking care of business" is the week 20 genealogy prompt for Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Ancestor Bios of Military Veterans Make World History More Personal

In writing bite-sized bios of my husband's ancestors who were in the military, I've researched their units or militias and also tried to put their service into historical and familial context. This is especially important when I know fairly little about individuals who lived and died more than 150 years in the past. In the process, I hope to show my readers the personal side of world history, and the connection with family history.

In the above page about Elihu Wood Jr., I named his parents and said he was one of eight children, for family context. Also I pointed out that he was born only 20 years after the American Revolution, during which his father served for the Colonies.

In the War of 1812, Elihu became a private in the Massachusetts Militia, and I included an image from one of the state adjutant general books, showing his name and unit. 

Then I explained the historical background that prompted his two tours of two weeks each in the militia in 1814. Elihu's service, short though it might be, was an important element in the Colonial defense of the New England coastline. 

The final paragraph of this bite-sized bio provided some personal details about Elihu's wife (Sarah Howland) and their family. I ended with the observation that Sarah died just days after the 100th anniversary of the American Revolution. So even though I know only a bit about these people as individuals, adding the connection with world history puts them into a larger context and highlights the tradition of military service, both father and son being US veterans.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Happy Mother's Day


Remembering my Mom and my two grandmothers on Mother's Day weekend:

Grandma Hermina "Minnie" Farkas (1886-1966) - Married Theodore Schwartz in 1911, mother of my Mom

Grandma Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) - Married Isaac Burk in 1906, mother of my Dad

Mom Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981) - Married Harold Burk in 1946. Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Finding All of Grandma Henrietta's Children in the 1920 US Census

Happy 143d birthday, Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk, born on May 9, 1881 in Latvia. 

In January of 1920, the US Census taker listed you, Grandma, with your husband and one of four children in a big apartment building in New York City. I found you there when I was cranking microfilm to look at this Census maybe 20 years ago, before digitization and indexing made it faster and easier to locate ancestors. Neither you nor Grandpa Isaac had been naturalized at the time, as indicated by the "al" status in the column at right. 

Look at surrounding Census pages

Creative spelling for these names, but recognizable as you and Grandpa and your older daughter at the bottom of a page. Wait, what? The other three children were not on the next page nor on the previous page!? Puzzling, but I was certain the rest of the family couldn't be very far away. Luckily, I had already learned to check a page or two back and a page or two forward, so I kept cranking the microfilm.

Whew, your two sons and younger daughter were two pages away, at the top of the sheet. Here they are, shown as son, daughter, son. Harold D Berk [sic] is my Dad, so I figured out very quickly who these people were and who they belonged to, even though they were NOT the children of the last person on the previous page.

What did the enumerator do?

Today, with 26 years of experience in genealogy research, I can understand why Grandma Henrietta was not enumerated with all of her children. Here's the story as I pieced it together.

That enumerator stopped work early on Sunday, the 4th of January, 1920, before counting all the households at 1642/1644 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. He finished the bottom of your page and left. You and your husband and older daughter were listed as "number of family in order of visitation #62." Remember that number 62, which is shown before the surname on the Census sheet.

On Monday, the 5th of January, the enumerator returned to the area but didn't start with your apartment or even your building, I can see by looking at the page after you. Then, two pages after you, I found your other three children finally enumerated on the 5th of January. It's a good thing I recognized the names. 

But the enumerator did leave an important clue: #62, number of family in order of visitation. With that number, he was linking Harold, Miriam, and Sidney to #62 family in order of visitation, the household of Henrietta & Isaac, which he had enumerated two pages before at this address. I just didn't have enough experience and knowledge decades ago to decode his Census entry indicating these three names were actually the children of the parents at family #62.

Thinking of you, Grandma Henrietta, on this anniversary of your birth.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Preserving Bite-Sized Bios of Military Ancestors

During the 2020 summer of pandemic lockdown, I had lots of time to create a research-based but very readable booklet about the 18 Wood ancestors in my husband's family tree who served in the US Civil War. I sent the booklet to descendants, knowing several were keenly interested in that war and had visited battlefields in the past. Over time, I discovered additional ancestors who served for the Union, but I never updated the booklet. Until now.

With Memorial Day on my mind, I'm currently expanding this booklet to include Wood ancestors who served in:

  • The American Revolution (1 militia man in Massachusetts)
  • The War of 1812 (4 men in Ohio, 1 man in Massachusetts--son of the Revolutionary War patriot)
  • The US Civil War (20 serving for the Union, 3 serving for the Confederacy)
  • World War I, Allied side (8 US/Canadian/British ancestors)
  • World War II, Allied side (7 US/Canadian ancestors)
  • Korean War (2 US ancestors)
My goal is to honor the military service of these 40 ancestors and briefly tell their family stories in context. For instance, I was surprised to learn not long ago that my husband's uncle enlisted as World War II was ending, becoming a Staff Sgt with 1958th Service Command Unit of U.S. Army, which escorted military prisoners. Even though this man was 35 years old, married with two children at home, he chose to serve in the military for a year. I want his story to be remembered, along with the stories of all the other veterans in the family tree. Every story matters, and I will continue to post these bite-sized bios on genealogy websites to share what I know now--part of my plan to ensure a future for my family's history so these names and lives aren't forgotten.

As shown at top, I'm using two royalty-free color images to illustrate the title page. Color catches the eye and attracts readers to my short paragraphs. I'm updating the index to include all names, all military branches, all units, any honors and awards, and adding a special listing of the few who were unfortunately killed in action.

Just as important, I'm explaining the exact relationship of each ancestor to my readers, such as: John N. McClure, Union Army, 2d great uncle of my husband, 3d great uncle to the following generation. This helps my readers understand the family relationship to people they never met but will come to know through my bite-sized bios featuring their military service.

"Preserve" is Amy Johnson Crow's prompt for week 19 of her #52Ancestors  genealogy challenge.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Newly Indexed Records Reveal Surname of Sam's Second Wife

MyHeritage just announced a major, newly indexed collection of New York City vital records from 1866 on. Read about it here! In fact, if you're researching a NYC marriage from 1908 on, you may be lucky enough to discover not just the marriage certificate but also the affidavit for license to marry--which includes extra info such as bride/groom occupation. First-hand info from our ancestors, often in their own handwriting!

My Farkas, Schwartz and Mahler families all came to the Big Apple from Eastern Europe, so I headed over to search the NYC marriage database to try to break through a brick wall in my Schwartz tree. 

I never could find the maiden name of my great uncle Samuel Schwartz's second wife. I entered Sam's first and last name, indicated to "match name exactly" because this was how he spelled his name, entered his year of birth, place of birth, and the marriage place as Queens, NY. Then I clicked to search. If no decent results had been returned, I would have unclicked "match name" and tried variations. But no need in this case.

Above, the very first result in MyHeritage's listing. Amazingly, this is MY great uncle Sam, born on the 4th of July in 1883 in Hungary. And now I know a lot more about his second wife Margaret, because the bride and groom filled out pages of paperwork for their January, 1945 marriage. Let me show you their affidavit for license to marry:

Margaret's maiden name was Lazar, and her first husband was David Simon, who died in 1940. This document shows Margaret's current address, birth place, parents' names, all in her own writing. Same for my great uncle Sam, but nothing new since I already had his details and his signature from other documents--except the license date and wedding date!

Now, thanks to MyHeritage, I'm able to flesh out Margaret's branch of the family tree to document her full name and family relationships for future generations. 

Bottom line: New documents become available online all the time...different genealogy websites index differently...never give up!

Thursday, May 2, 2024

The Markell Brothers Make News

The Markell brothers were Barney, Philip, Julius, and Samuel, born in Vilnius, Lithuania. Barney (1874-1944) was the oldest and the first to come to America, in 1891. He was the original focus of my research because his son Joseph A. Markell married Mary Mahler - one of two matchmaker aunts who put my parents together on a blind date. I did a bit of research and found interesting news items about the Markell brothers, using GenealogyBank,, Internet Archive, and

Barney in the news

At top, an 1897 newspaper item from the court column of the Pittsburgh Press (Pennsylvania). A man named H. Cline testified he was insulted when Barney Markell "called me a Hungarian." The judge asked, "Was that all?" The witness answered, "Yes; isn't that plenty?" Judge: "Markell, you are discharged." Years later, Barney was in the news with his brother as well...

Philip in the news

Philip Markell (1880-1955) was in the Boston news in 1921 when he and brother Barney and another partner, Maurice Wolf, put together $15,000 to incorporate and finance their purchase of the Atlas Theater in Adams, Massachusetts. They showed motion pictures and hosted shows until divesting in 1935. Philip was also mentioned in the Motion Picture News, when he and partner(s) bought, improved, and sold theaters in Massachusetts during the 1920s. 

Julius in the news

Julius Markell (1882-1966) appeared in legal notices from 1915-1917 as he and his wife Ella Lebowitz Markell worked through a difficult divorce that she initiated. Yet Julius named his wife Ella on his 1918 WWI draft registration as his nearest relative, saying they both lived at same Brooklyn residence. Doubtful. She was almost certainly living in Pittsburgh where the rest of her family lived, having separated from Julius years earlier. Interestingly, when Ella applied for US citizenship in 1939, she said she was divorced from Julius in 1914. Nope, the divorce was definitely not yet final at that time.

Samuel in the news

The youngest brother, Samuel Markell (1885-1971), made the news in 1910 and 1911 when he became engaged and then married his fiancee, Marion Goldstein. I found that the name "Samuel Markell" appears in the Boston papers hundreds of times in early and mid 1900s, but that was a prominent attorney appearing in court or making philanthropic news. Not my Samuel Markell!