Thursday, June 27, 2024

Halfway Through 2024: Genealogy Progress and Plans

Six months ago, I made a list of genealogy priorities for 2024. Now, halfway through the year, how am I doing?

  • Create a family history photo book about my husband's paternal grandparents. 💙 Done! Family really liked this final grandparent photo book, which included dramatic episodes from the lives of Wood and Slatter ancestors. Now I'm working on a booklet about the 50+ military ancestors in my husband's family tree, with the goal of finishing by end of 2024.
  • Continue writing and posting bite-sized bios of ancestors. 👍 Never-ending, but making excellent progress, still posting brief ancestor bios on WikiTree, Find a Grave, and more. Remember, LOCKSS (lots of copies keeps stuff safe)--including family history--so I'm spreading my ancestors around.
  • Switch old photos from archival sleeves to safe, convenient photo albums, a project that fell to the back burner in 2023. 😟 Uh-oh, still on back burner. No progress at all, even though all materials are in the house. Maybe later this summer?! 
  • Continue redoing research on focus ancestors, as new info becomes available and as I try different sites. 👍 Huge progress. This is partly why the photos are on the back burner: So many different sites to use for research and so much new info found! Plus I've gone down the in-law rabbit hole many times, especially for those who had no descendants so I want to be sure they're documented and remembered. More fun than a barrel of rabbits 🐰 LOL.
  • Slim down and reorganize surname file folders. 👍 Real progress. Just last week as I was recycling redundant printed Census documents, I "rediscovered" photos of graves in the same file folder. Some I had never posted on Find a Grave and other sites, so I took care of that pronto. As I did, I became the "manager" of a few Find a Grave memorials that were up for grabs because original managers were no longer active. And of course I had to fill in with bite-sized bios so...🐰
One priority I hadn't listed was participating in multiple WikiTree Connect-a-Thons. The two so far have spurred me to add even more ancestors to WikiTree, as I was on Team L'Chaim, and got me deeper into categorization. The next Connect-a-Thon is in July, and I plan to participate once again. It's a fun way to focus my genealogy efforts on specific people for a specific time. 

In between, I'm adding to my WikiTree and adopting occasional ancestors' FindaGrave memorial pages that are "up for grabs." Finally, my plan for the second half of 2024 is to continue my genealogy education with webinars and genealogy meetings. 

How has your genealogy been going in 2024? 

Friday, June 21, 2024

Revisiting Those Printed Genealogy Books

When I began working on my husband's family tree 26 years ago, I was fortunate to have many clues in hand, including a 1959-era genealogy book about Larimer ancestors. Even better, my late mom-in-law had jotted notes, fixed typos, and corrected dates of folks listed in the book. Today, the Larimer book has been digitized and is available for free download from FamilySearch--including a handy name index. 

Fleshing out "no record" ancestors

Despite the paucity of sources and various omissions and errors, I've revisited this book again and again in search of clues. Of course, now it's easier to research distant ancestors ... even those who the author marked as "no record" 65 years ago when he printed this book. So one of my goals is to flesh out the lives of the "no record" ancestors and add their descendants to my hubby's family tree. 

Nothing in this book is a fact until I confirm with other evidence, but it's been a good starting point for many avenues of genealogical investigation. 

Clues to military ancestors

I've also used the book to identify possible military ancestors in the Larimer family tree. Above, an excerpt from p 30, indicating that Isaac Larimer (1828-1910) and John Larimer (1836-1871) both served in the US Civil War. My research (using Fold3, obits, Census records, and more) confirms that yes, both of those men (1c4r from my hubby) were fighting for the Union.  

Isaac Larimer was in the 35th Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry. As shown above, during his first battle against Confederate forces, Isaac was captured. His obit says he was held for three weeks until he escaped and rejoined his unit. Then he was wounded by a gunshot to the face in 1863. He nearly died but managed to recover and eventually was mustered out, returning to his wife and children on the family farm. 

With more than one John Larimer in the family tree during that period, I had to be sure I had the correct spouse, children, dates, and place. John Larimer's Civil War pension record showed dates when he was declared an invalid, and dates when his widow Anna Mary claimed pension and money for minor dependents. Also this card showed his unit (10th Missouri Cavalry) which helped me reconstruct where he was and what he did during the Civil War. 

Other Larimers in the military?

What about the other two adult Larimer men in this excerpt, the brothers of John and Isaac? James Larimer's obit mentions nothing about military service. He registered for the Civil War draft but was marked as married with children, I saw on the ledger page. Very likely he did not serve, but I'll take a closer look. George Larimer doesn't seem to have been in the military, either, but I'll dig a little deeper just in case.

Interestingly, lower on this same page, J. Wright Larimer and Harvey J. Larimer are listed as younger sons of Moses Larimer and Nancy Blosser Larimer--without mentioning that both enlisted in the 151st Indiana Volunteer Infantry in 1865, ready to fight for the Union. My own research uncovered their stories, which are now in the booklet. Maybe their descendants weren't aware of this military service?

Anyway, go ahead and revisit those printed genealogy books but be sure to double-check names, dates, and everything else!

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

WikiTree Categories Help Highlight Ancestors' Stories

This year, I've done more with categorization to add to the stories of the ancestors posted on my WikiTree. Remember, WikiTree is free and available worldwide. I'm proud to have my ancestors on this wonderful collaborative site. Each has at least a bite-sized bio, now I'm adding to their stories in a different way.

For example, I'm starting to add cemetery categories, as shown above for my husband's ancestors, Carrie Steiner Traxler and Floyda Steiner McClure. This means that the category of Old Mission Cemetery now appears on the bottom of these ancestors' WikiTree pages, and their names appear in the listing of folks in that particular category. 

Old Mission is a historic cemetery and it was important to these ancestors that they were laid to rest in that special place. Now the categorization highlights their final resting place.

Sadly, a number of folks in my maternal grandfather's Schwartz family were killed in the Holocaust. Because survivors submitted testimony to Yad Vashem about these people, their names and lives and deaths won't be forgotten. 

I'm categorizing those ancestors on WikiTree, as well, such as those killed in Auschwitz (category explanation shown above). Many thousands of names appear in this category, I'm sorry to say, but I feel this is one way to "never forget" who these people were and what happened to them.

Other categories tell the story of an ancestor's life from the perspective of occupation, residential location, and so on. Above, the three categories I added for Elfie Asenath Mosse, truly a trailblazing woman as the founding librarian of the first public library in Santa Monica, CA, and a champion of women in the library world at the turn of the 20th century. 

I'm still exploring the full list of categories available to highlight elements of an ancestor's life. More to come!

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Happy Father's Day to Our 20th Century Dads

My husband's Dad, Edgar J. Wood (1903-1986) was born early in the 20th century. He began taking piano lessons at age 9, became an accomplished piano player, and in his 20s, he toured Europe twice with a college jazz band during summers off from his studies at Tufts. Ed never lost his love of music. In fact, for decades, he played professionally on weekends while working as an insurance adjustor during the week.

My Dad, Harold D. Burk (1909-1978), was born just a few years later. His career goal, beginning in the 1930s, was to become a travel agent. He finally established his own travel agency after serving in WWII, working side by side with his younger brother. Initially, passenger train travel was in most demand. As air travel became more accessible, Dad's agency did a booming business selling plane (and later, jet) tickets.

On Father's Day, I'm remembering our 20th century Dads, with love. 

Friday, June 14, 2024

#GenChat Is Going Strong!

If you're on Twitter/X or Mastodon, and want to chat about genealogy and family history, check out #GenChat

Hosted by Christine McCloud, #GenChat has themed chats and free-wheeling "open mic" chats, plus special experts who share their knowledge and ideas. It's a friendly hour of genealogy/family history discussion via social media posts.

Want to participate?

On Twitter/X, #GenChat takes place on the second and fourth Friday of every month. On Mastodon, the chat takes place on the Saturday after the Friday #GenChat. 

At top, the schedule from June through December, 2024. Tonight and tomorrow, the topic will be "genealogy institutes" with guest expert Cyndi Ingles, founder of Cyndi's List. (The pink date indicates Saturday on Mastodon.)

To see the schedule with US and international starting times, check here.

I'll be chatting on Saturday on Mastodon. Hope you'll drop by on Friday or Saturday and join the conversation!

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Farkas Family Tree "Coming Out Party" After Hard Times

The Farkas Family Tree association was founded by the eleven adult children of Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938) in March of 1933, as the Great Depression devastated the global economy. My maternal grandmother, Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964), was one of the charter members.

The tree group was the brainstorm of Jennie Katz Farkas, married to the oldest of the eleven siblings who were the charter members. Despite economic woes, the tree association met at least 10 times a year, usually in the members' homes, which were all in the greater New York City area. (I know all of this history because these ancestors kept monthly meeting notes!)

Tree celebrations and sorrow

For the first anniversary of the tree's founding, in March of 1934, the members held a dinner-dance at the Cecile Restaurant in Manhattan and invited friends and family. An amazing 61 people attended, counting members plus in-laws and friends and neighbors. For the second anniversary, the dinner-dance was at the Hotel Hamilton on West 73d St. in Manhattan. An even more amazing 81 people attended, at a cost of $1.25 per person for dinner plus 50 cents "subscription," in 1935. This was the depth of the Depression, yet the tree turned out in numbers for these special celebrations. The total dinner cost the equivalent of $40 per person today.

For the third anniversary, the Hotel Hamilton was again to be the venue, at $1.25 per person for dinner, plus 25 cents for a "subscription" fee. However, one week before the dinner, Farkas patriarch Moritz died, so the event was postponed indefinitely until after a year's mourning period. No dinner-dance was held in 1937 and when a dinner-dance was planned for 1938, it too was postponed due to the death of the matriarch, Leni. No dinner-dance in 1939, either, as hard times hit the Farkas Family Tree. 

Starting 1940 off with a party!

After the sadness of losing the matriarch and patriarch in the last years of the 1930s, plus money being so tight for all, a party was finally planned for on Sunday, January 7, 1940 at the True Sisters meeting rooms on West 85th St., Manhattan. 

The United Order of True Sisters was a Jewish women's organization founded in 1846 in New York City, which slowly gained chapters across the country. In 1926, the True Sisters laid the cornerstone of its new building in Manhattan, as described in the headline at top of this post. My family tree held its 1939 Thanksgiving dinner at the True Sisters building in one of its meeting rooms, and then the January party in 1940. 

The Family Tree minutes reported: "The 64th meeting of the Farkas Family Tree was held at the True Sisters Building on Jan 7, 1940. It was our coming out party after being 'in' for quite a number of years. Present besides our membership were our friends, in-laws, and youngsters." 

Party begins with a pledge

After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag that was marched in, the group sang America with piano accompaniment by one of the Farkas children. Then the tree president made a speech about the group's "ideals and achievements." 

Next, the tree's historian (my aunt Dorothy, twin sister of my Mom), summarized the previous year's tree activities and family doings. The tree then installed new officers for 1940 and eventually the meeting was adjourned to enjoy refreshments and view home movies of the past year's get-togethers.

Of course no one had any idea that more hard times would be ahead when the US entered World War II. So many of these Farkas folks went into the service (including my aunt Dorothy, the WAC) and those at home did their part to help the Allies win the war. A story for another time.

"Hard times" is the theme for this week's #52Ancestors genealogy prompt from Amy Johnson Crow.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Cousin Lilly's 1931 Shower, Marriage, and Census Entry

My father's paternal first cousin, Lilly Berk (1906-1957) was married to Joseph Goldberg (1903-1981) in Montreal on Sunday, June 7, 1931, as the Depression took hold in Canada. 

Lilly's friends threw her a fun bridal shower that was covered in the Canadian Jewish Chronicle newspaper on March 27, 1931. I found this out by researching her name (with spelling variations) using the feature of MyHeritage. The list of attendees included her sister and many friends who came to play bridge and shower Lilly with gifts of linens. This same group of friends played bridge together regularly, as I could see by mentions in the newspaper's social column. Little tidbits like this bring ancestors to life for me!

What also caught my eye about Lilly's wedding date was the fact that it took place after the June 1, 1931 Census Day in Canada. As shown above, Lilly and her new husband, Joseph, are enumerated as married and seemingly landlord/landlady with others living in the same household. He is 28, she is 22. 

Um, it is possible but very unlikely that in that period, they would live together and call themselves married before the wedding, so I'm assuming the enumerator didn't reach their residence until June 8 at the earliest. Although the enumerator was supposed to indicate where he or she ended each day and put a date in right margin of the Census sheet, I haven't found any dates in this particular section. For now, my estimate is they were enumerated after June 8th ;)

Lilly died not too many months after celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary, mourned by her husband and two grown sons. Today I'm remembering this cousin on the 93d anniversary of her marriage.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Witness to Patent for a New Flag Badge

There is only one man named D'Alva in my husband's family tree: D'Alva Mosse (1839-1874) married hubby's 1c4r Nancy Larimer (1845-1929) in San Francisco, California, in 1865. D'Alva had been in the California Gold Rush as a preteen, helping miners pan for gold. Nancy's mother had also been in the Gold Rush, baking bread and taking in laundry while her brother panned for gold. Neither hit the jackpot, both went  on to settle in San Francisco. 

D'Alva began to work for his father, Daniel H.T. Mosse (1816-1891), who was a San Francisco bookseller and merchant of stationery and imported goods. Even after he married Nancy, D'Alva continued to be part of his father's retailing concern. 

As D'Alva and Nancy's family grew, he went out on his own with a toy store. Their first-born girl, named for D'Alva's mom Mildred, unfortunately died before her first birthday. The couple had two more daughters, Elfie and Alice.

Being part of the downtown San Francisco business community, D'Alva made the acquaintance of Nathan Joseph, who made and sold badges worn by firefighters, police officers, and other groups. (Nathan's place of business was within walking distance of D'Alva's store.) Nathan had a colorful career, involving fractional gold pieces, jewelry, badges, and curios of all types. Read more about him here. Ad above, from 1885, shows Nathan offering his badges for sale in Nevada.

In August of 1871, Nathan Joseph filed a patent for a new design for a flag badge, shown at top, and D'Alva Mosse was one of two witnesses to this patent. Whether Mosse ever purchased such badges from Joseph for sale in his store, I don't know, but it was interesting to see their names together on this patent page.

D'Alva's story has a sad ending. On June 5, 1874, he was home alone, having been quite ill for several weeks. His wife Nancy was tending to the store in his absence. Unfortunately, D'Alva somehow got hold of a pistol and fatally shot himself, leaving behind a grieving widow and two young daughters.

I'm remembering D'Alva Mosse, former Gold Rush miner, businessman, son, husband, and father, on the 150th anniversary of his death.

Monday, June 3, 2024

What Did His Paternal Great-Greats Die Of?

My latest family history photo book, just completed, covers the lives and social/historical context of my hubby's paternal grandparents, great-grandparents, and their siblings, spouses, and ancestors. This is a full-color photo book with bite-sized bios of the men, women, and children in this part of the family tree, part of my plan to keep family history alive for future generations.

In the process, I'm documenting what folks died of, if cause of death is documented in the records. The very youngest in the Wood family tree tended to die from diseases that are treatable today, such as diphtheria and diarrhea. Ancestors who lived to adulthood usually died from a variety of other causes, including typhoid, tuberculosis, pneumonia, stroke, and heart disease, only very occasionally dying of cancer on this branch of the family tree.

Mary: Age and cardiac asthma

My husband's paternal great-grandma, Mary Amanda Demarest Wood (1831-1897) died of "age, cardiac asthma," which ultimately is caused by congestive heart failure. At top, an excerpt from the death records in a ledger in Lucas County, Ohio, showing her cause of death. 

Now consider that Mary was only 65 when she died, not nearly as ancient as her husband. On the other hand, she had 17 children, the first born when Mary was 15 years old (you read that correctly) and the last born when she was 44. This must have taken a toll on her health. Also, she saw the death of 10 children during her life, a handful from childhood diseases like diphtheria but also one drowned, others had health problems as adults. RIP, great-grandma Mary. 

Thomas: General debility from age

My husband's paternal great-grandpa, Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890), died of "general debility from age," as described in the ledger in Lucas County, Ohio. He was 80, and would have been 81 if he had lived just a few more weeks. 

Thomas was born into a family where many of the men were whalers, either owning ships or captaining ships or working on ships out of New Bedford, Mass. He became a carpenter, supporting his family by working on the railroad most of his life. In later years, he built coaches for the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway out of Toledo, Ohio. 

Lots of years of physical labor could have both strengthened Thomas's body and slowly worn it down over the decades. When Thomas died in early 1890, his oldest son went to work as a laborer at age 17 to help support the household. A few unmarried adult children remained at home with the widowed Mary, who sometimes worked part-time as a nurse when her health allowed. RIP, g-g Thomas.

"Health" is Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors prompt for week 23 of her genealogy challenge.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Back Up and Keep Back Ups Current


It's the first of the month, time to back up all your digitized family history files and genealogy data. Think about protecting everything you've digitized or downloaded and filed digitally, in case of computer problems.

This year, I replaced my older external hard drives with a new, tiny but mighty external hard drive that has a lot of storage capacity. I kept the old drives, because they have all my personal and genealogical photos. But external hard drives eventually need to be replaced. It was time to replace BEFORE I needed to access the data due to some glitch or crash.

I use the tiny hard drive in the picture for my Mac "Time Machine" hourly backups. This small external drive is faster and more convenient than the 2020-era drives I used to use. I like that it takes up less space and it completes backups in a shorter time.

For extra protection, I also back up every day in the cloud and regularly duplicate special/important files to a USB, ready to transfer if needed. 

Download online trees and back up, too

In addition, I have family trees on multiple genealogy sites and occasionally download the gedcoms for these so they are on available on my desktop Mac and backed up in the cloud. 

On Ancestry for instance, go to "tree settings" when you're in your family tree, then select "Manage Your Tree...Export Tree" (see image at right) and be prepared to wait if the tree has thousands of individuals. But it's worthwhile as a backup!

On MyHeritage, the process is explained in this screen shot below...and you can query the site's Knowledge Base for more details. 

Backups provide peace of mind that our family trees and genealogy data are safe, current, and available. I wrote about the value of backups in my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.