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.


  1. What was the point of the family tree association? Just to have reunions and get-togethers?

    1. As little ones grew up, to ensure regular get-togethers and keep the family connected and close-knit. And it worked for 30 years!