Showing posts with label #52Ancestors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #52Ancestors. Show all posts

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sports: Leaping Rooftops, Bronx Bombers, and Skating

Leaping across rooftops, no safety net in sight. That was my big-city-born-and-bred father's childhood "sport."

Harold Burk (1909-1978), my Dad, grew up in New York City's Jewish Harlem, on 109th Street near Fifth Avenue. As a teen, he and his friends would dare each other to leap across the rooftops of the 6 story tenements built close together in the neighborhood. When he told me this story, he seemed a bit amazed that he had survived--me too! No net, and no cape (it was before the invention of Superman).

Dad became a travel agent (at right, in his lobby office at the Savoy Plaza Hotel in New York City) and soon after marrying Mom, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981), they moved to the Bronx. Only a short subway ride away from Yankee Stadium! No wonder Dad loved the Yankees as his spectator sport of choice. Every summer, he'd take his daughters to a few ball games. We were lucky enough to see many of the Yankee greats of the 1960s, stars like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. When not at the stadium, he would listen on those tinny 1960s transistor radios.

Of course, I still root for the Yankees (in vain, recently). But my personal spectator sport of choice is figure skating. Note I said "spectator sport" (meaning I don't actually skate, just attend skating events or watch on TV). Now you know why Winter Olympics, not Summer Olympics, are my favorite. 

#52Ancestors - Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's prompt.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

10 Generations Back: Last Wood Generation Born in England

This week's #52Ancestors challenge is 10 and there is no way I can go back that
far in my mother's or father's family trees.

However, my husband is a Mayflower descendant four times over and we can go back beyond 10 generations on his father's side. The Wood family intermarried with the Cushman family (Cushman of the Fortune married Mary Allerton and that's the basic Mayflower connection). Thank you to cousin Larry for uncovering new details as he traces the Wood tree year after year after year...

The tenth generation back is John Wood Jr. (1620-1704). This was the last Wood generation of my husband's family to be born in England. John Jr. was christened in St. George the Martyr Church, Surrey, England, on March 10, 1621, as shown at top. I was amazed to discover that this church was built in the 12th century.

John Jr.'s exact birth date is a mystery. His cemetery stone, not legible, only indicates 1620 as the birth year. We do know he married (for the third time) to Mary Peabody (1639-41?-1719) around 1656 in what is now Newport county, Rhode Island. John Jr. died in the same part of Rhode Island, as did his wife. Both are buried in the John Wood cemetery plot.

On my husband's mother's side, we can go back 9 generations to James Andrew McClure (1660?-?). In checking for anything new on this ancestor, I came across a fairly new (June, 2018) memorial on Find-a-Grave, saying that James died "at sea, on trip to America" in 1732, age 71-2.

Of course I wrote the originator of this memorial to ask about the source and any details. We already knew the McClure family left Donegal and sailed together to Philadelphia, Halbert with his wife Agnes and numerous children. I didn't realize Halbert's father James was with them. Maybe this will open up more research possibilities.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Couldn't Keep 'Em Down on the Farm

My husband's maternal McClure family came to America specifically to buy land and farm during the 1730s. Until they couldn't keep 'em down on the farm any longer, about 150 years later.

The patriarch, Halbert McClure (1684-1764) led a group of his sons, a daughter, and several brothers making the journey from Donegal to Philadelphia in the 1730s. Originally from the Isle of Skye before being forced to relocate to Donegal, the McClures had enough money to pay for their Atlantic voyage. After landing in Philadelphia, the family walked to the colony of Virginia and plunked down cash for hundreds of acres of fertile farmland.

In hubby's direct line, Halbert's son Alexander McClure (1717-1790) and grandson John McClure (1781-1834?) both were farmers. John, however, ventured from Virginia into Ohio to be a pioneer farmer. John's son, Benjamin McClure (1812-1896) was born in Adams County, Ohio and he became a pioneer farmer in Wabash county, Indiana. Benjamin was my husband's 2d great-grandpa.

At top is a land ownership map showing where Benjamin's 80 acres were located in Paw Paw township in 1875. Benjamin was a civic leader as well as a farmer, and served as an Elder in the Presbyterian Church in Wabash county. Benjamin was the end of the line as far as career farmers in his branch of the McClure family.

Benjamin's son (hubby's great-grandpa) William Madison McClure (1849-1887) worked for "the railway" (according to 1880 census). Another of Benjamin's sons, John N. McClure, was a farmer and then later went to work for the railroad. A third son, Train Caldwell McClure, was an oil mill operator (1880 census). The oldest son, Theodore Wilson McClure, was a farmer and storekeeper in 1880 but became a day laborer by 1900, according to Census records.

William Madison McClure had four children and none of them had anything to do with farming. In fact, all moved to more urban settings. The oldest daughter, Lola (1877-1948), became a teacher and married a civil engineer.

The oldest son grew up to be hubby's Grandpa Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). He was a master mechanic, first with the railroad and then with industrial firms in Cleveland, Ohio.

The younger daughter, Lucille Ethel McClure (1880-1926) moved to Chicago and married a farmer turned plumber, who worked on new construction in the booming economy of the Windy City.

The younger son, Hugh Benjamin McClure (1882-1960), began as a shipping clerk and then worked as a salesman before owning his own successful manufacturing firm in Peoria, Illinois.

The next generations had nothing to do with farming, either. Just couldn't keep this McClure family down on the farm after 150 years.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt about "on the farm" (or, in this case, "not on the farm").

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Fidelity Bond "Story" - A Reliable Source?

On December 5, 1931, Harold Burk (my Dad, 1909-1978) applied for a Fidelity Bond. Or at least, his application is in my possession. It's a most unusual source and I only believe some of what he listed on this form. Here's the story.

To work with transportation tickets and ultimately attain his goal of becoming a travel agent, Dad had to be bonded. In those days, a blank train or plane ticket was like a blank, signed check--ready to be filled in (by hand, of course) and used for transportation. Therefore, anyone who sold such tickets needed to be bonded, providing insurance in case of theft or fraud.

As you can see on the right, Dad wrote that he was born on 29 September 1909, which is correct.

Also, he listed his home address as 1580 Crotona Park East (an apartment building in a nice section of the Bronx, NY). I confirmed that with the 1930 US Census. In the Census, and on the form, he's shown as living with his parents. Correct so far.

At the bottom of p. 1, Dad lists three personal references. The instructions say not to list any relatives. In fact, the first name listed is a neighbor of Dad's family, living in the same Bronx apartment building. Believable. And confirmable via the 1930 Census.

Names #2 and #3 are his uncles by marriage. Louis Volk was married to Dad's aunt Ida Mahler. Joseph Markel [should be Markell] was married to Dad's aunt Mary Mahler.

In both cases, Dad says he's known these two references for four years, suggesting around 1927. Uh, no. Dad had known Louis Volk and Joseph Markell since they married into the family during the very early 1920s. Very likely these uncles were happy to be used as references and not mention the family connection. They were living at the same addresses in 1931 as in the 1930 Census, by the way.

Then on the back of the document, Dad listed his parents' net worth, separately. He said his father, (my grandpa) Isaac Burk (1882-1943) was a furniture maker (true) and was worth $250. Maybe...

His mother, (my grandma) Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) supposedly had a financial net worth of $350. Huh? I can't imagine where this figure came from. Maybe the Mahler family would be willing to pool their resources in case Dad had to prove this part of the application. They were known to help each other out with money on many an occasion.

This application was filled out during the Depression, so it's a stretch to think my grandparents had liquid assets of $600 between them. Never did they own a car or a home. Maybe they had a savings account, but it was probably not very fat. Now you know why I needed more than a grain of salt as I looked at this document.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for her #52Ancestors prompt "unusual source", which prompted me to to reexamine this document yet again.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Father and Son Share a Birthday

My Facebook genealogy persona, Benjamin McClure, is my husband's great-great-grandfather.

Benjamin was born on April 30, 1812, only 6 weeks before the start of the War of 1812. He died on February 21, 1896.

Benjamin married Sarah Denning (1811-1888) on July 30, 1831. Both were 19 years old.

Who else in this family tree was born or married in April? Getting an answer was a cinch, using my RootsMagic 7 software.

On the "reports" part of the menu, I selected "calendar" and entered April, as shown in the screen shot at top. I requested both birthdays and anniversaries.

Turns out that Sarah and Benjamin's son, Theodore Wilson McClure (1834-1927) was born on his father's 22nd birthday, which was April 30, 1834.

Theodore was baptized in June of 1835, in West Union, Ohio, I learned from the Presbyterian Church records on Ancestry (snippet above).

And, thanks to the calendar function on my RM7 software, I could see at a glance that Theodore Wilson McClure got married on April 15, 1858, to Louisa Jane Austin (1837-1924). He was 23, she was 21. I imagine his parents both attended the ceremony, which was in Wabash, Indiana, where Benjamin was a well-respected landowner, farmer, and civic leader.

Following the prompts for Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors series has encouraged me to use more functions of my software and to consider so many different aspects of my ancestors' lives. Thank you!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

How Our Grandparents Made a Living (or Not)

For this week's #52Ancestors prompt, "Work," I'm taking a look at how my grandparents and hubby's grandparents made a living. Both of us had one grandfather who worked with wood. That's where the similarities end. And this is another case of "don't believe everything in the census."

His grandparents (one immigrant, three grandparents with families long established in America)
  • Maternal grandpa Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) was a master machinist. When he married maternal grandma Floyda Steiner in June of 1903, Brice was working for the "big four" railway shops in Wabash, Indiana (see newspaper clipping). His skills were in demand--especially during World War II, when he lied about his age to seem young enough to work in a Cleveland, Ohio machine shop vital to the war effort. 
  • Maternal grandma Floyda Mabel Steiner (1878-1948) was a full-time mother, but also supplemented her husband's income during the Depression by working in a Cleveland-area store and stretching the family's income as far as possible. 
  • Paternal grandpa James Edgar Wood (1871-1939) was a carpenter and builder in Toledo, Ohio and, after his marriage, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Alas, this grandpa was a good builder but not as good a businessman, according to his oldest son. In fact, most of the homes he constructed are still standing and solid after more than a century. James was the last of this line of the Wood family to be a carpenter. None of his four sons worked in carpentry or wood, nor his grandsons.
  • Immigrant paternal grandma Mary Slatter (1869-1925) was, according to the London workhouse admission register, a servant at age 19 in 1888. My guess was it was more of a low-level maid's position. She lived in Whitechapel and came from extreme poverty. Her mother had been confined to an insane asylum for years at that point. How Mary supported herself after arriving in America in 1895 and before marrying grandpa Wood in 1898, is a mystery.
My grandparents (all four were immigrants from Eastern Europe)



  • Maternal grandpa Tivador Schwartz (1887-1965) was a "clerk" in 1909-10, working as a runner for the steamship lines and working with immigrants like himself (according to census and his naturalization papers). By 1915, he listed his occupation on the NY census as "steamship agent," technically a correct interpretation of what I suspect was commission-based sales of tickets or insurance or both to immigrants. By 1917, he owned his own grocery store in the Bronx, work he continued until he finally retired in the late 1940s/early 1950s. His grandchildren have exhibited some of his entrepreneurial drive!
  • Maternal grandma Hermina "Minnie" Farkas (1886-1964) used her sewing skills to help support her family after arriving as a teenage immigrant in late 1901. A Roth cousin "did her a favor" (according to my Mom) and found her paid work as a necktie finisher (census backs this up). She continued to work on "gents' neckwear" until she married grandpa in 1911. Once her husband owned his own grocery store, she worked alongside him--long hours on their feet, which hurt their health in later years. Minnie passed her love of needlework, as a hobby, to a daughter and granddaughters.
  • Paternal grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943) left his hometown of Gargzdai, Lithuania with training as a cabinet maker. He and his older brother, Abraham, made their living through carpentry. The UK census of 1901 shows them both living with family in Manchester, England, occ: cabinetmakers, true because I've seen Isaac's work. The 1910 US census lists Isaac as a "storekeeper, candy" but I'm not sure how true or long-lasting that was--maybe a quick stopgap in between his carpentry work. Isaac's 1942 WWII "old man's draft" card says he was a manufacturer of dress forms, but again, I'm not sure this is strictly accurate. One of Isaac's brothers-in-law had a dress-forms business. Isaac might have worked there part-time, especially to qualify for what was then a fairly new Social Security program.
  • Paternal grandma Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) is shown as being employed as a "stenographer," according to the 1900 census. Mind you, she was in the country for 14 years. She was 19 at the time of that census and, I gather, a quick study, but I'm not sure she really took dictation. Probably she worked at some office-type clerical job (typing) to help support the family. Very likely she did some work in the garment trade, because her younger sisters worked in lace, millinery, and garment factories, cousins tell me. After she married grandpa, Henrietta took care of their growing family and transported the kids back and forth between New York City, where her widowed mother and siblings lived, and Montreal, where Isaac sometimes worked with his brother Abraham.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sgt. Schwartz, Teacher and WAC


Back-to-school time makes me think of my auntie, Dorothy H. Schwartz (1919-2001), a long-time teacher of steno, typing, and related business subjects at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx, New York. Not only was her steno speedy and accurate, she was a superb touch-typist and she authored one or two user's manuals for dictating machines.

As a teacher, Dorothy was nicknamed Sgt. Schwartz. Yes, she was demanding. Yes, she expected a lot of her students (and her family). Luckily for me, I didn't have her as my typing teacher, although Sis did.

Dorothy had been a real-life sergeant in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (later shortened to WACs). Enlisting during World War II, she trained for Army administrative duties and was soon sent to England and France. Dorothy and her colleagues would listen in as military leaders outlined plans for bombing raids, then they would quickly type out the orders for distribution to those who carried out the missions.

I know, from reading her letters home, that she felt intense pressure on the job and had a strong sense of personal responsibility as well as a very patriotic spirit. Lives literally depended on the typed orders being correct, complete, and on time. Dorothy really did earn her Bronze Star for "meritorious service" in wartime Europe. Bear in mind that she enlisted at the age of 22 and left the service as a seasoned veteran at the age of 24.

To her high school students, she was "Sgt. Schwartz," but I knew her as "Auntie Dorothy."

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this #52Ancestors prompt.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Case of the Missing Mortality Schedule

Interrupting my ongoing series on the Kossuth Society (starring my side of the family), today's #52Ancestors post is about hubby's great-grandpa, Edward George Steiner (1830-1880).

A carpenter born in Ohio, Steiner died in March, 1880, a few months before his 50th birthday and shortly before the US Census was taken in Nevada township, Wyandot county, OH. His widow, Elizabeth Rinehart Steiner (1834-1905), was listed as a widow in the Census, enumerated in June of 1880, as shown above. Living with her were her five youngest daughters, including hubby's future grandma, "Mabel" (Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure, 1878-1948).

Theoretically, Edward George Steiner should have been in the mortality schedule for 1880. If I could find him, I'd have lots of info, including his birth place, parents' birthplaces, cause of death, and so on (see an actual excerpt from a mortality schedule in Ohio, below).



I began by looking for Steiner using the indexed mortality schedule records on FamilySearch and Ancestry. No luck. Next, I decided to browse the 1880 mortality schedules for Wyandot county, Ohio, where his widow was living. I tried both Ancestry and HeritageQuest (which now uses Ancestry's images and search engine for censuses). Alas, no luck.

By choosing "Browse this collection" of mortality schedules for Ohio in 1880, I learned that no images are available in the alphabetical listing of counties beyond Geauga (as shown at right). I double-checked, and FamilySearch says these records don't exist. No Wyandot county mortality schedule to browse, in other words.

But since the family had also lived in Crawford county, Ohio, not long before, I selected Crawford and began to browse the 20 pages. Doesn't take too long to read the names on 20 pages. No Edward George Steiner or any name resembling his. Dead end.

Next, I searched all mortality schedules (1850-1885) for any Steiner (or Stiner, creative spelling). Out of the three dozen results, none was even a possible match. Dead end. Multiple requests to various Ohio repositories has turned up no death certificate on record.

Luckily, I have the above handwritten note from grandma Floyda, giving me the birth/death dates of her parents and some siblings. Her dates have proven to be correct nearly 100% of the time, and Edward George Steiner's headstone agrees. There are no Bible pages to check, no church records to search. No obit found (on various newspaper sites, including Chronicling America and Elephind, and in FamilySearch database; the one newspaper that might have published an obit in 1880 isn't held by any library collection).

Therefore, I'm going to accept the death date of March 13, 1880 and close the case of the missing mortality schedule.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Questions About the Family Story of Robert Larimer

Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970), my husband's maternal grandfather, left a number of handwritten notes about his ancestry. Above, the note he wrote about being descended from a long line of Larimer ancestors.

My husband's 5th great-grandfather was Robert Larimer.  As shown above, he was supposedly "born in the North of Ireland" in 1719, and "came to U.S. in 1740." [I know there was no U.S. at that time, and so did Brice, who was just jotting notes onto a scrap of paper to record family history as he remembered it.]

Here's more of the family story, as further memorialized in "Our Larimer Family" by cousin John Clarence Work. Robert Larimer's father gave him some Irish linen and money, and sent him from the North of Ireland to seek his fortune in the colonies in 1740. Unfortunately, the ship was wrecked and he had to be rescued by a passing ship. Robert was brought to the colonies, then sold into indentured servitude to pay for his rescue.

The master overworked Robert for years until finally, Robert ran away to the Kishacoquillas Valley in Pennsylvania, where he married Mary Gallagher (or O'Gallagher), originally from the North of Ireland. They had four children that I know of: Phoebe, Isaac (hubby's 4th great-grandpa), Ebenezer, and Guzilla/Grizell. According to the Larimer book, Robert Larimer moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio with his son Isaac, circa 1801-2.

I have 5 specific questions about the family story. 

(1) Is Robert's birth date of 1719 correct? No clues at all. It would help to know where he was born.

(2) Was he born in Northern Ireland (and if so, where exactly)? No clues at all.

(3) Who were his parents? I know it's not easy to obtain info about ordinary (non-nobility, non-wealthy) folks born early in the 18th century, but it sure would be nice to know. Not a clue at this point.

(4) When did Robert die? Note above says 1805, Find A Grave says 1803, and Larimer book says he died "soon" after moving to Ohio, which means after 1802. Mind you, Robert would have been about 80 when he moved to Ohio. That's positively ancient for a man at that time, and for an elderly pioneer, it would not be an easy life.

Meanwhile, the Larimer book also says (and I confirmed) that a taxpayers' list dated 1806 and transcribed in Scott, A Complete History of Fairfield County, Ohio, includes Robert, Isaac, and Ebenezer "Laremore."

Hmmm. Maybe Robert's estate was paying the tax? Seems odd for an estate to not be settled and property not retitled with a new owner by that time. And although Isaac had a son named Robert, presumably to honor Isaac's father, that child was born in 1792 and surely wouldn't have been listed as a taxpayer in 1806. But surely the elder Robert was buried by 1806, given his advanced age.

(5) What was his wife's actual surname, and was she dropped from Mars or hatched from an egg?

There is one source I haven't yet consulted to answer my questions about this family story. It's the Kishocoquillas Valley Historical Society. Maybe they can help?! I'll find out soon.

As always, my thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the weekly #52Ancestors prompt.

PS I haven't even listed my questions about Mary's birth/marriage dates. Would Mary really have been giving birth (twice!) in her 50s? Not likely...

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Looking for Youngest Brides and Grooms Reveals Gaps

Thanks to the #52Ancestors prompts from Amy Johnson Crow, I'm learning more about the features available in my genealogy software of choice, RootsMagic7. Only with the help of the various reports and lists in this software can I identify the "youngest" of anything, which is this week's prompt.

At top, the "statistics" list I generated for my father's Burk Mahler family tree. Here, I learned that the youngest age at marriage of anyone in that tree was 18 for a female and 19 for a male. This is only for marriages where I know the birth dates/marriage ages of bride and groom, so the software can calculate statistics. As shown at top, there are 184 people with marriage ages included in this tree.
Directly above, the statistics list I generated for my mother's Schwartz - Farkas family tree, showing 117 people with marriage age noted in the tree. The youngest age for a woman at marriage was 15 1/2, compared with 17 for a man. Since some of these marriages took place in Eastern Europe in the mid-1800s, it's not too surprising that a bride would be this young.

Learning to use the reports is going to help me find anomalies and correct mistakes. For instance, a statistics list I generated for my husband's Wood family indicated that the minimum age for a male at marriage was 17.41. That's such a specific number. It could be correct, but I want to double-check. And I need to look more closely at missing marriage ages to see whether I can fill some of the gaps in my records. More research is in my future.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Oldest Ancestors with Names and Dates

My husband's family has several good candidates for the "oldest" ancestor with names and dates, because of his four Mayflower ancestors.

The family trees of passengers Isaac Allerton, Mary Norris Allerton, Mary Allerton, and Degory Priest are fairly well documented, and I've added their  parents' names/dates to hubby's family tree. Above, the entry for Isaac Allerton's father Edward and his descendants, dates and all, in a timeline chart created using RootsMagic 7 genealogy software.

Next, I scrolled down the timeline looking for Mayflower ancestors and their parents to see who's earliest. Even though Edward Allerton was born in 1555, he's not the oldest ancestor in hubby's Mayflower branch. Edward Allerton's granddaughter, Mayflower passenger Mary Allerton, later married Thomas Cushman of the Fortune. So the earliest ancestor from that line is actually Thomas Couchman, b. 1538.

Now to my family tree. The oldest ancestor I can name and date on my mother's side is my great-great-great grandfather, Yosef Moshe Kunstler, who died in NagyBereg, Hungary (now known as Berehi, Ukraine) on June 13, 1854. My wonderful cousin B visited the cemetery and photographed the headstone 20 years ago. According to the headstone, Yosef's father's name was Hillel. That's where the trail ends.

On my father's side, the oldest ancestor I can name and date is my great-great grandma Rachel Shuham Jacobs, born about 1845 in Plunge, Lithuania. She married young, was widowed, and came to New York City with her grown daughter and son in the late 1880s. Rachel died in New York City on December 8, 1915. Her death cert shows her parents as Moses Shuham and Sarah Levin, but unfortunately, I have no other info on them.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt, which is "Oldest."

Monday, July 23, 2018

Puzzling Out My Family's Colorful Past

Doesn't genealogy feel like a puzzle? With thousands of pieces and no picture on the box as a guide?!

For this week's #52 Ancestors challenge, I was thinking about all the colorful characters who inhabit my family tree and the branches of my husband's family tree.

Then I looked at the puzzle my family is currently assembling, showing colorful doors of Montreal. Doors of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Just like a family tree, with ancestors of all types.

I never know which clue will enable me to complete a door and, if I'm lucky, get a glimpse into an ancestor's hopes and heartaches, dreams and dreads.

Birth-marriage-death dates are a great start, but I really want to get a sense of the things that make someone unique and individual--colorful in his or her own way.

Even someone whose life seems humdrum on the surface has drama waiting to be discovered. Like my immigrant grandma who threw the engagement ring out the window when she rejected an arranged marriage. Like my husband's great-great-grandpa who became a pioneer. They didn't know they were colorful...but we do!

So many ancestors are waiting to get pieced together as I puzzle out the colorful past behind my family tree and my husband's family tree.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Earworm Farkas Family Tree Song

Moritz Farkas, patriarch of Farkas Family Tree,
with twin granddaughters, Dorothy and Daisy 
When the Farkas Family Tree association held monthly meetings, 1930s through 1960s, members would all sing the family song, loud and strong. As a tyke, I quickly learned the melody, which is Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Why use the music from that song? My guess: It was easy for adults of ages to dredge up from memory and easy to teach to the littlest Farkas folks. Like me. It's an earworm to this day.

Here are the first stanza and chorus of the song, written by my great-aunt, Ella Farkas, a daughter of the Farkas patriarch and matriarch:
The Farkas clan has now all gathered
One and all are here
Time for all cares to be scattered
Faces bright and clear,
Jokes and puns and smiles and fun,
Are ready to begin,
The clan has gathered now!
CHORUS:
Farkas, Farkas is the password.
Sing on high that it can be heard
That we all are here and now cheer:
The Farkas Family Tree!
As the children of Moritz Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas married and had children of their own, Aunt Ella expanded the song. Eventually, she wrote two additional stanzas to include the married surnames of her Farkas sisters and the married surnames of the next generation. The final stanza concludes: A proud family tree . . . as the Farkas Clan grows on!

When a group of Farkas descendants got together a decade ago, we sang the song and recalled the fun of joining in the musical tradition during family tree meetings in our youth.

MUSIC - This week's #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Ancestral Travels to America

How much distance did my grandparents and great-grands cover in coming to America from their homelands in Eastern Europe? All apparently sailed in steerage, never telling descendants very much about what must have been a difficult and uncomfortable trip. None lived near a port, so their travels also included a journey by foot or wagon or train to the port where they boarded a ship to cross the Atlantic.
  • 4430 miles. Above, my maternal grandfather's "as the crow flies" route from Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhhorod, Ukraine) to New York City in 1902. Grandpa Theodore Schwartz was a teenager and the first in his family to leave for America. With his encouragement (and probably his financial help), an older brother and a younger sister also came to America. Happily, I'm in touch with their grandchildren, my 2d cousins.
  • 4460 miles. My maternal great-grandparents, Morris Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas, left for America as adults, coming separately from where they had married and lived in the area of modern-day Berehovo, Ukraine. Morris arrived first, with Leni arriving later (and their first 8 children joining them afterward in two groups). Morris missed his homeland and longed to return, but Leni wanted a better life and more opportunity for their growing family. 
  • 4200 miles. My paternal Grandma Henrietta Mahler arrived from Riga as a preteen. She sailed past the Statue of Liberty in the year it opened (1886). I'm still following up on the possibility that Henrietta was a cousin of some kind to her husband, Isaac Burk, connected through the Shuham part of their family trees. 
  • 4670 miles. My twenty-something paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk took the journey to North America in two hops. First, he left Gargzdai, Lithuania for Manchester, England. After staying with relatives and learning some English for a year or more, he sailed to Canada but got very seasick. He got off the ship at the first stop in Canada and continued to New York overland. Of all my ancestors, Isaac Burk had the longest journey from his home town to America.
Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's "Travel" prompt in her #52Ancestors series.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Mysterious David Mahler

My great uncle David Mahler (1882-1964) was a bit of a mystery in my paternal grandmother's Mahler family. And, I understand, a bit of a black sheep. I never met him in person, but I heard stories and found intriguing records that raised more questions than they answered.

David was born in Latvia, the second child of Tillie Jacobs Mahler and Meyer Elias Mahler. I believe he was named for Meyer's father, David Akiva Mahler (who was my 2d great-grandpa).

As an adult, David had a variety of occupations: paper hanger (age 18, according to 1900 Census); driver (age 23, according to 1905 NY Census); rigger (age 35, according to WWI draft registration); motion picture technician (age 58, according to 1940 Census); utility man, Columbia Studios, motion picture industry (age 82, according to California death certificate). He said he was living in High Point, NC in 1935--why? I haven't found him in the 1930 Census yet, so who knows what he was doing at that time!

There are a few other family mysteries surrounding this great uncle. His WWII draft registration card indicates he had a tattoo, D.M., which I'll bet his mother never saw (and would have disapproved of). When, where, and why did he get it? Maybe while a rigger in New Jersey during WWI?

An even bigger mystery: David told the 1940 Census that he was married, yet he was living in the "Universal Hotel" without his wife, along with dozens and dozens of other unrelated people.

His death cert mentions that he was widowed, the informant being his sister Sarah, who also lived in California. Well, the only David Mahler marriage record in California that seems remotely possible is in September, 1937 to Charlotte Schlyer, but I haven't sent for it at this point.

Although David bounced around during his life, he wasn't really a black sheep until the day he helped out in his brother-in-law Louis's New York City paint store.

The way Louis's granddaughter heard the story and shared it with to me, things were quiet in the store, so Louis decided (uncharacteristically) to leave just a little earlier than usual and take his wife out to dinner. He asked David to watch the store and lock up.

David went into the back room for a smoke (and a drink, if I recall). He fell asleep and the lit cigarette accidentally touched off a roaring fire that destroyed the store and financially ruined his brother-in-law. Not surprisingly, the family got upset with David.

Ne'er-do-well David was lucky to be "offered" a job 3,000 miles away, at Columbia Studios in Hollywood. This was thanks to the kindness of another Mahler in-law, who kept David on the payroll for years. In 1964, David died of cancer at the Motion Picture Country Hospital, his residence listed as the Universal Hotel (the same as during the 1940 census). Rest in peace, great uncle David, and know that you are remembered, warts and all.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's "Black Sheep" prompt in her #52Ancestors series.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Jane: The Name in the Middle

Margaret Jane Larimer McClure at right, with daughter Lucille Ethel McClure
and son-in-law Edward DeVeld
My sis-in-law has always told me that Jane is the traditional middle name for females in her family.

Not in the family tree of my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986). One of Edgar's aunts was Jane Ann Wood Black (1846-1936), the eldest child of my husband's great-grandparents (Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest). None of the earlier Wood family females carry this middle name, so far as I can discover.

We learned that Jane is the most popular middle name in both sides of the family of the mother-in-law I unfortunately never met, Marian Jane McClure (1909-1983). She gave her daughter that middle name, and in turn my sis-in-law gave her daughter that middle name.

Marian's mother Margaret Jane Larimer (1859-1913) and grandmother Elizabeth Jane Rinehart (1834-1905) both had Jane as their middle name. Larimer and McClure ancestors often gave Jane as the middle name of one girl in each generation.

The McKibbin family, which intermarried with Larimer ancestors, included a number of women with Jane as their middle name. Same tradition in the Hilborn family, which intermarried with the Rinehart family.

By the way, I identified all the ancestors with "Jane" as a first or middle name by doing a search with my RootsMagic7 software. Very convenient way to prep for this #52Ancestors post.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Going to the Chapel - His Side of the Family

So many ancestors were married in June, in my husband's family tree and in my tree! I used RootsMagic7's calendar report to see who was married, when, and how long ago, tree by tree. This is a good opportunity to revisit my research, summarize what I know, see what's missing, and take the next step. Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this #52 Ancestors prompt.

Here are some of the early June marriages in my husband's tree:


  • June 3, 1903: Hubby's great-aunt Mary Amanda Wood married August Jacob Carsten 115 years ago in Toledo, Ohio. Sadly, Mary Amanda died at age 32, just months after giving birth to their fourth child. Mary Amanda was named for her mother, Mary Amanda Demarest Wood.
  • June 10, 1903: At top, the license application for hubby's Grandma Floyda Mabel Steiner and Grandpa Brice Larimer McClure, who married 115 years ago in Wyandot county, Ohio. Only through this record did I discover that Floyda had been married before. She was brave enough to divorce the first husband, who called her vile names and threatened her. Plus she won an alimony settlement!
  • June 12, 1856: My husband's 2d great-uncle Samuel D. Steiner married Maria L. Forrest 162 years ago in Crawford county, Ohio. While researching the Steiner family in Wyandot county a few years ago, I discovered that Samuel had been arrested for aiding/abetting burglary and not showing up in court. What happened? Don't know yet, but I did find Samuel at home in the 1880 census. 
  • June 13, 1847: My husband's 3d great-aunt, Elizabeth E. Bentley, married Emanuel Light 171 years ago in Elkhart, Indiana, as shown on the marriage license below. During the 1850s, Elizabeth and Emanuel left their home and traveled west, as her father had done in 1848 early in the Gold Rush. The Light family farmed in California. Despite years of research, the Bentley family's ancestors are still a bit of a mystery, one of my genealogical works in progress.


  • Friday, June 1, 2018

    DNA Results: Not Even Close






























    Dear cousins I don't yet know but hope are out there,

    Up front, I have to say I'm sincerely grateful for all the cousins I've connected with through genealogy! I treasure our kinship, our friendship, and the shared history of our ancestors.

    But I can't help wondering: Do I have more cousins I haven't yet found?

    Of course I'm using conventional methods to trace all the branches of my tree. I've also hopped on the genetic genealogy bandwagon, posting my results to multiple sites. New matches pop up regularly.

    However, as shown above in last week's Ancestry DNA matches (sorted by date, not relationship) most are not even close. At best, if I followed up on this lot, I might find a 5th cousin. And only one of these matches is in the "good confidence" range.

    Even more discouraging, just 4 of this week's crop have bothered to post any kind of family tree. Two of those are private trees, making it difficult to check out potential relationships. The latest matches on other DNA sites are also distant cousins, and therefore not high on my priority list.

    When Family Tree DNA finally delivers my long-awaited mtDNA analysis results (delayed three times already), I want to use that data to focus on my maternal line.

    So, dear cousins I don't yet know, I hope we connect with each other. Don't be a stranger.

    Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt, "so far away," my starting point for this post.

    Saturday, May 26, 2018

    Saving WWII Letters for the Next Generation

    One of my 2d cousins was kind enough to lend me a scrapbook of letters written by my mother's 1st cousins and her sister serving in World War II.

    The letter-writers were the American-born grandchildren of Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938) and Moritz Farkas (1857-1936). Leni and Moritz, my great-grandparents, were born in Hungary and came to New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Their children (my grandma and her generation) formed the Farkas Family Tree (the FFT) association during the Depression to keep the family close-knit.

    One by one, as these grandchildren of the matriarch and patriarch joined the military in the 1940s, they wrote letters to be read out loud during the family tree's monthly meetings. In all, five men and one woman wrote home about their WWII experiences. They were dedicated, patriotic, and often quite candid about their military experiences.

    Above, a letter from my mother's first cousin Harry, who trained as an X-ray technician after enlisting in the Army in 1943. He was stationed at Camp Grant (Rockford, IL), Lawson General Hospital (Atlanta, GA), Fort Lewis (Tacoma, WA), and Fort Jackson (Columbia, SC), among other places.

    While being shipped cross-country every few months for additional training, Harry wrote about wanting to finally, finally work with patients, which he eventually did. After the war, he went to medical school, set up a practice in a small town, and was sorely missed when he passed away at age 89.

    My aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001) enlisted as a WAAC in 1942. She was keenly aware of what she was and wasn't permitted to say in her letters, describing where she was stationed without actually naming the place or revealing other details. In the letter above, she reassures her family by mentioning the beautiful countryside in England (no town mentioned) and gives the latest news about a WAAC controversy over wearing "overseas hats" when out and about.

    At the same time, my aunt didn't mince words when expressing her outrage about German prisoners of war being allowed to stand and watch while U.S. servicewomen handled jobs like cleaning mess halls that could and should have been performed by the POWs. She was also realistic about the dim prospects for an early peace in Europe, from her vantage point of being the administrative support for military officials.

    On this Memorial Day weekend, I salute my cousins and all the men and women who have defended our country over the years. This military post is for week 21 of #52Ancestors.

    Wednesday, May 23, 2018

    So Many Ancestors, So Many Languages

    For #52Ancestors #20, I'm trying to identify the different languages spoken by key ancestors in my family tree and my husband's tree.

    My paternal grandparents (above) probably spoke three languages apiece. Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954) was born in Latvia, and surely spoke Latvian as well as English and, I'm guessing, Yiddish. Possibly she spoke Russian too, although I don't know for sure.

    Her husband, Isaac Burk (1882-1943) was born in Lithuania, and spoke that language plus Russian and maybe even Yiddish in addition. Isaac certainly picked up some English when he stopped in Manchester, England, to stay with family in 1901, en route from Lithuania to North America.
    My maternal grandparents also spoke multiple languages. Grandpa Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965), shown above escorting my mother down the aisle at her wedding, had a way with languages. His native Hungarian tripped off his tongue, but he could also speak several other languages, including English--which is why the steamship lines employed him in NYC as a runner around Ellis Island in the 1910s.

    His wife, Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964), was fluent in Hungarian, having been born there, and learned Yiddish in the Lower East Side of NYC as an immigrant. Also she learned English in NYC night school.

    In my husband's Wood family tree, there are three adult Mayflower ancestors (Degory Priest, Isaac Allerton, Mary Norris Allerton). Therefore, in addition to English, they may have learned some Dutch when the Pilgrims fled to the Netherlands prior to sailing to the New World. Once in Plymouth, perhaps they learned a few words to talk with Native American tribes? Photo above shows my late father-in-law (Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986) at left with two of his Wood brothers.

    Also in my husband's McClure line, his ancestor Halbert McClure (1684-1754) was born in County Donegal, and sailed to Philadelphia with his family in the 1740s. Because the McClures were originally from Isle of Skye, hubby's ancestor may have spoken Scottish Gaelic or Gaelic (or both). On arrival in the American colonies, however, the McClures would most likely have learned English, because they walked from Philadelphia to Virginia. They would probably need to speak English to buy provisions along the way. Once in Virginia, they bought land--again, a transaction that probably required English.