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

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Asenath Larimer and Worship on the Wagon Train

Cover of transcribed journal kept by Asenath Cornwell Larimer 
Asenath Cornwell Larimer (1808-1897) was born 211 years ago today.

She was the widow of my husband's 4th great-uncle James Larimer (1806-1847), who sadly died at age 40, thrown from a horse while riding near their farm in Elkhart county, Indiana.

When James died, Asenath was left with five children under the age of 10. Her brothers helped her through this difficult time, but ultimately, Asenath made a bold decision she hoped would secure her children a better life.

Westward Ho

Five years after her husband's untimely death, Asenath sold the farm she had been bequeathed and used the money to join her brother, John Cornwell, in taking two steamboats en route to joining a wagon train at Lexington, Missouri.

Their destination: the Gold Rush country of California.

Asenath wrote in a journal from March 1852-March 1853 about the daily thoughts and events of that time. She notes that her oldest son was against her going west. Despite his opposition, she wrote that "...looking forward to the dangers and trails of the way, I feel very gloomy, but in the Lord put I my trust."

Faith Guides Asenath

Asenath was sustained by her strong Presbyterian faith during the arduous journey west. When possible, she and others on the wagon train would worship together on the Sabbath. In one journal entry, she wrote [sic]:
"...we felt that the Lord was as truly with us here sitting round on the grass, as if we had worshiped in a church, and likely we felt as much love and gratitude even at home." 
Most of the time, however, the wagon train leaders pushed ahead without stopping on the Sabbath, which distressed Asenath, even as she acknowledged the necessity of maintaining a good travel pace.

Asenath recorded not just the details of daily life on the wagon train (births, sickness, deaths, cooking, laundry) but also the natural wonders they viewed, for which she praised the Lord.

Journey's End

After arriving in the mining town of Clinton, California (now a ghost town outside Sacramento), Asenath scraped by on odd jobs such as washing clothes while her brother prospected for gold.

Then she moved to San Francisco, where she launched a bakery and was joined by one of her sons. Later, she moved south to Santa Monica, where she helped found the public library. She died in Santa Monica only a few weeks before her 89th birthday.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt of "At Worship."
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Note: Any comments won't be posted for a few days. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Immigrant Grandparents: City (His) and Country (Mine)

           Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925)
Remember that Sesame Street song, "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other"?

Well, one of our immigrant grandparents is not like the others. One was a city girl, the others were all from rural backgrounds.

This month's Genealogy Blog Party theme is "Immigrant Ancestors." This week's #52Ancestors prompt is "out of place." I've fit both into one post about his and hers immigrant grandparents.

His Big-City Grandma from London

My husband had only one immigrant grandparent. All the others were descended from families that had come to America long ago (some as long ago as the Mayflower). Others arrived in the 1700s.

At top, hubby's immigrant Grandma Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). Born in the poverty-stricken Whitechapel neighborhood of London, she was the youngest of six children. In her youth, she was in and out of notorious poorhouses because her father wasn't always in the household and her mother (Mary Shehen Slatter) couldn't support the family.

Yet Mary not only survived her sad childhood, she became a doting and devoted mother in her 30s after arriving in Ohio and marrying James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). The photo above shows her soon after her marriage, around the turn of the 20th century. From hearing my late father-in-law talk about her, Mary was the bedrock of love for her four sons. Mary was born a city girl and she lived a city life in fast-growing Cleveland, Ohio.

My Eastern European Grandparents
Henrietta Mahler Burk and Isaac Burk
My immigrant grandparents, all four of them, were from the country, unlike my husband's big-city grandma.

Above, my paternal grandma, Henrietta Mahler, from Latvia. Her husband, Isaac Burk, was from Lithuania, and they met in New York City. Both lived fairly rural lives in Eastern European towns, but had to adjust to skyscrapers and concrete when they arrived in the Big Apple. After some years in Jewish Harlem, they moved to the Bronx--then considered almost suburban because of the many parks, not to mention the world-famous zoo and botanical gardens.
Hermina Farkas Schwartz and Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz
My maternal grandparents, shown here, were both from Hungary. Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964) and Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965) met and married in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Before coming to New York City, he lived in Ungvar in Hungary, a bustling market town, and she lived out in the countryside in the small town of Berehovo. They raised their three children in an apartment in the Bronx, nothing at all like where they were originally from.

After the children were grown and gone, Grandma Minnie and Grandpa Teddy tried to spend a week or two each summer away from the city heat in "the country." I dimly remember visiting them in a bungalow in Spring Valley, New York, which is now a hop, skip, and jump across the busy Tappan Zee Bridge but was then quite a rural area, dotted with small summer rentals.

Monday, April 8, 2019

DNA Plus Trees Equals Cousin Bait

MyHeritage profile is temporarily empty, soon to be filled!
This week's #52Ancestors prompt is DNA. For years, my main genealogy site has been Ancestry, in part because of the size of its DNA base and because my multiple, ever-growing family trees are all housed there. Thousands of ancestors, counting his and her trees, some with thousands of hints to be examined.

My DNA and hubby's DNA also appear on Gedmatch, because of the tools available for analysis and because we can fish for matches among all people using that site, regardless of where they originally tested.

I created a basic tree for him and for me on Gedmatch, and also listed major surnames so people browsing matches can quickly see how we might match, as cousin bait.

New Site for DNA Cousin Bait

Now I admit, I'm often frustrated by how many Ancestry DNA matches have no family tree, or only a few names, or a private tree only.

So now that I just subscribed to MyHeritage, to more intensively research my husband's British, Irish, and Scottish ancestry, I'm transferring my DNA and hubby's DNA there too.

With the new site, I need to complete my profile (sadly empty, as shown above) and plant my family trees as cousin bait. I began with a photo and basics...

More Hints Too

Since I sync my Ancestry trees with my RootsMagic 7 software, I will be able to upload an updated Gedcom tree for myself and my hubby onto MyHeritage with little effort. Thanks to the RootsMagic Users group on Facebook, I learned how to export a Gedcom with living people marked as private.

Now I can take advantage of both Ancestry and MyHeritage hints through RootsMagic, as shown here.

Make it easy for DNA matches to see the family tree(s), and we just might get better answers to our notes or possibly hear from matches who take the initiative to reach out to us! Cousin bait.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Was John Shehen a Bricklayer?

Marriage record of John Slatter & Mary Shehen in 1859, Parish of Christ Church, Middlesex, London, England
I keep saying I married my husband for his ancestors, an endless source of genealogical challenge and fun.

For this week's #52Ancestors ("brick wall" is the theme), I'm looking at my husband's great-great-grandfather, John Shehen (1801-1875?), who lived much of his adult life in a terribly poor section of London.

When his daughter Mary Shehen (1837-1889) married John Slatter (1838-1901) in London in 1859, she told UK authorities that her father was a bricklayer. You can see that in the marriage document at top. Well...not so fast.

John Shehen and the UK Census

John and his wife Mary were both born in Ireland, they consistently told the UK Census (see this snippet from the 1841 Census, where the "I" stands for Ireland).

John (but not his wife) was consistent about his age in the UK Census, saying he was 40 (in 1841), 50 (in 1851), 60 (in 1861), and 70 (in 1871). He lived in the same impoverished area of Whitechapel, London, all those years.

John was also consistent about telling the UK Census that he was a labourer. His wife was either a laundress or milkwoman, but he said he was a labourer. Although he may very well have worked in construction, even worked with bricks, he didn't call himself a bricklayer even once.

I need to investigate whether there are any guilds or unions that John Shehen might have belonged to in the London area. Meanwhile, I'm inclined to think his daughter Mary was exaggerating his status just a bit on the official marriage record. Alas, marriage records didn't ask for the mother's maiden name, so I'm out of luck at this time.

Shehen, Shehan, Sheen?

Where in Ireland were John Shehen and wife Mary from? I have no idea, since the UK Census only lists "Ireland" as their birthplace. The spelling of his surname varies from time to time, and I make my own life simple by calling him "Shehen" here and on Ancestry, aware that creative spelling is needed when conducting research.

He's gone from the 1881 Census, and I think I found his death from bronchitis in 1875. The name on that form is Shehan. But not enough details to know for sure.

About Mary

What about John's wife, Mary? She was actually counted by the UK census twice in 1871. I found her admitted to Northumberland Workhouse due to "chronic rheumatism" in March, and released exactly one month later. Her age was shown as 70. Despite being in the medical ward of the workhouse at the time of the Census on 2 April 1871, she was also shown as living at home.

I don't know when or where Mary Shehen died, unfortunately. I may have found her in the 1881 Census, but I'm not sure whether to hope it's her or not.

A "Mary Sheen" born in Ireland was enumerated in the District Middlesex Lunatic Insane Asylum in 1881. Shown as age 77, this Mary has the occupation of "charwoman."

Also, Ancestry shows a number of people with Mary's given name but varying spellings of the "Shehen" surname as being imprisoned, acquitted, and/or in London court registers for different offenses such as theft, from the 1830s on.

Was this my husband's great-great-grandma? The dates are in between the Census, so I can't know for sure, but my guess is no. Why? Because Mary and John remained in their same lodgings for so many decades, I suspect they had just enough financial stability for Mary to not resort to theft. Or so I hope.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

With My Library Card, Finding Out "Who's in the Paper"

Most of my mother's Farkas family lived in and around New York City from the early 1900s to the 1980s (and for some, beyond). For them, the New York Times was the "paper of record" for key family events announced via paid notices. In particular, it was a way to let relatives and friends know when and where a funeral would be held, via a paid death notice.

This week's #52Ancestors prompt by Amy Johnson Crow motivated me to finish searching for the death notices of my Farkas great aunts and great uncles. As it happened, none of the family deaths occurred during the big multi-paper New York City strike, December 1962-March 1963, or the later Times strike of 1965.

My parents were accustomed to buying at least two papers a day (morning and evening) and a third on Sunday for the color comics (remember Dondi?), so they really felt the loss of printed news and paid notices.

Searching for Free with My Library Card

Happily for me, I can search the New York Times for free, from home, with my local library card, to gather those paid notices. How? Here in Connecticut, a local library card allows me to access databases, like ProQuest newspapers and HeritageQuest, through the Connecticut State Library. And no more microfilm!

As shown above, I entered the name of my ancestor in the search box and narrowed the period to be searched to the 1940s. Even though I know his exact death date, death notices might be printed on that day or a day or two later. I didn't want to restrict my search too much.

Then I selected the sort for "most recent" articles to be presented first, since he died in the late 1940s.

After only a few clicks, I had his paid death notice. Repeating the process, I quickly found the paid death notices of a handful of his other siblings. I used these to verify the date of burial, as well.

Reading for More than Family Names

As shown at right, in some cases the paid death notices included a tribute from an employer or a trade association.

Here, my great uncle Albert was being remembered by the American Cloak and Suit Manufacturers Assn, which he had served as President and as an executive board member.

Although I was aware of Albert's occupation, from family stories and from documents like Census records and draft cards, I would never have known about his work for the industry without this extra notice in the newspaper.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Hennery Brown Eggs" Cost 73 Cents in 1934

Tivador Theodore Schwartz (1886-1965) in the Bronx, New York
From about 1917 until the late 1940s, my maternal Grandpa Tivador Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965) and maternal Grandma Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964) owned one small dairy grocery store after another in the Bronx, New York.

They would operate a store for a number of years, sell it, and buy or open another in a busier or more convenient neighborhood. It was not an easy way to make a living, keeping the store open early and late, even on weekends, to accommodate local shoppers.

The first record I have is of their 1917 grocery store at 985 Avenue St. John, near Southern Boulevard in the Bronx (thanks to Grandpa's WWI draft registration card). The store shown at top, with Grandpa Teddy at the counter, is a later store. This one was located at 679 Fox Street, just a few steps from the apartment building where my Schwartz grandparents lived. (The address was written on the back of the photo, and another copy of the photo included a 1934 date.)

"Hennery Brown Eggs" at Teddy's Dairy Store 

Teddy's Dairy sold at least five different types of eggs in 1934, ranging in price from 63 cents for "good using eggs" to 79 cents for "brown eggs." Apparently "hennery brown eggs" at 73 cents were different from and less desirable (meaning cheaper) than the more generic-sounding "brown eggs."

Assuming eggs were priced by the dozen, the "hennery brown eggs" that sold for 73 cents in 1934 (85 years ago) would cost $13.89 in 2019! Try the inflation calculator for yourself here.

Selling the "Gold Mine"

At right, the outside of Teddy's Dairy, circa 1934. Grandpa is standing at the right, near his name on the window, "Notary: T. Schwartz." The store was still in this location in 1940.

Standing on the other side of the display window is Grandpa's long-time assistant, John. According to family legend, John called the store "a gold mine" and eventually bought the business from my grandparents.

Once they retired from retailing, Grandpa and Grandma went on a much-delayed honeymoon. Married in 1911, parents by 1912, parents again in 1919, they finally got to Florida to relax and recuperate from selling eggs more than 35 years after their small family wedding.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt of "12."

Monday, March 11, 2019

Ancestors Had Large Families, Descendants Had Small Families

My pre-1900 ancestors and those of my husband usually had large families. Their late 19th/early 20th century descendants had markedly smaller families. It's a familiar pattern, repeated over and over again, with fewer children in each succeeding generation.

Wood Family: 17 Kids

Hubby's paternal great-grandfather Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890) and great-grandmother Mary Amanda Demarest (1831-1897) had 17 children together.

Unfortunately, 7 of the children didn't survive to adulthood. Of their grown children, one had 10 children but most had only a handful of kids. Rachel "Nellie" Wood had 2 children with her first husband, Walter A. Lewis, for instance. Families were smaller still in the following generation.

Descendants tell me that when the oldest of Thomas's and Mary Amanda's children were grown, married, and raising families, their much younger siblings were still in school.

McClure Family: 10 Kids

Hubby's maternal great-great-grandfather Benjamin McClure (1812-1896) and his wife Sarah Denning (1811-1888) had 10 children together. Two didn't survive to adulthood (still checking on the fate of one of them).

None of their grown children had as many children. One married but had no children. By the next generation, the largest number of kids was six; one in this next generation married but had no children.

Mahler Family: 8 Kids

On my father's side of the family, great-grandfather Meyer Mahler (1861-1910) and great-grandma Tillie Rose Jacobs (185?-1952) had 8 children together. All but one survived to adulthood.

Three of the adults had no children, the rest had 5 or fewer children, the usual pattern. By the time Meyer & Tillie's grandchildren were marrying, the families were even smaller.

Farkas Family: 11 Kids

On my mother's side of the family, great-grandpa Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and great-grandma Leni Kunstler (1865-1938) had 11 children together. Two of the sons never married (and were "bachelor brothers"), one son married but had no children, and the other 8 married and had either 2 or 3 children apiece.

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

Friday, March 8, 2019

Uncle Sidney, the Bachelor Burk

Uncle Sidney Bernard Burk (1914-1995) wasn't born with that name, nor was he born in New York City like his three siblings. No wonder it took me a little time to find his birth record.

The breakthrough came when a local genealogy club hosted an expert on French-Canadian genealogy, who explained how to search the Drouin collection through Ancestry. I have no French-Canadian family, but I hoped to pick up some general tips. Then I remembered that my father's brother Sidney was born in Montreal. Maybe his birth is in the Drouin collection?

Samuel B. Berk in the Drouin Collection

When I got home, I searched the Drouin collection for "S. Berk" because that was the way the family's surname was spelled at the time. (Of course, being flexible with spelling helps in any search.)

Up popped a record for "Samuel B. Berk" born on April 26, 1914, recorded by a rabbi from a Montreal synagogue. Who was Samuel?

The parents were listed as Isaac Berk and Henrietta Mahler (allowing for a little of that creative spelling thing). Those are my father's parents, so Samuel must have been the name of my Dad's little brother. Most likely the name Samuel was chosen to honor Isaac Berk's father, Solomon Elias.

Naturalization Confirms Birth
Next, I looked for Uncle Sidney's naturalization. As shown above, his birthday is April 26, 1914, and all the other facts match what I know about him. Now I was sure that Samuel B. Berk was Sidney Bernard Burk.

My guess is that my uncle's Hebrew name was Samuel, honoring some ancestor of his parents, and so the rabbi used that name in recording the birth. Still, his English name was always Sidney. All Census documents, all border crossing documents, all official documents other than his birth cert show him as Sidney (or Sydney, that creative spelling thing again).

Travel Agent Who Loved to Travel

My uncle served in WWII and later became a travel agent. For years, he worked with my father in the Burk Travel Service based in New York's swanky Savoy Plaza Hotel, later known as the Savoy Hilton Hotel. After the hotel was torn down and the agency closed, Uncle Sidney worked for a commercial travel agency.

A lifelong bachelor, Uncle Sidney enjoyed visiting his paternal cousins in England and going on agent junkets near and far. At top is his postcard to Dad from Rome, part of a fast-paced agents' trip to encourage tourism to key cities.

Sidney was always close to his brother Harold (my Dad) and his sisters Millie and Miriam, who all married and had children. He outlived his siblings and died in Florida at the age of 81.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this #52Ancestors prompt of "Bachelor Uncle."

Friday, March 1, 2019

At the Wyandot County Courthouse

Many of my husband's ancestors are buried in the Old Mission Cemetery in Upper Sandusky, Wyandot County, Ohio (shown above). Yes, this is the cemetery with the famously incorrect gravestone for Christiana Haag, showing a death date of February 31, 1869.

Wyandot County Courthouse

We visited a few years ago and also went to the nearby Wyandot County Courthouse, which has a place in movie history: It was featured in  the 1993 feature film The Shawshank Redemption.

While at the courthouse, my hubby and I searched for records of the STEINER family. We quickly found records showing his great-great grandpa Edward George Steiner and great-grand uncle Samuel D. Steiner had been been charged with aiding and abetting the felony burglary of a store-house. We never found proof of conviction, or any other resolution. End of that story.

Probate at the Courthouse

Great-grandpa Edward George Steiner and his wife Elizabeth Jane Rinehart had eight children in all. The five siblings who survived to adulthood were close throughout their lives. All are, in fact, buried at Old Mission Cemetery, near their parents.

Using Family Search to browse the unindexed, image-only book of files at the Wyandot County Probate Court, we found hubby's grandpa Brice Larimer McClure and grandma Floyda Steiner McClure named as fiduciaries for the estate of Minnie Steiner Halbedel. (See image above.)

Floyda and Minnie were born 10 years apart but still maintained close bonds. I wasn't at all surprised that Minnie's estate records show so many family members in her bequests.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "At the Courthouse."

Monday, February 18, 2019

Taking Care of 102 Year Old Photos

Yesterday was the day. I slit open the package of special archival acid-free buffered tissue paper I purchased at the end of last year, intended for interleaving within photo albums. This was on my genealogy to-do list for 2019, and now it is checked off!

Above, a photo of my late father-in-law's 1917 photo album, with the archival box in which I store it (note identifying label on the box).

This 1917 album is the oldest I've been entrusted with, as the genealogist of this generation. I've also been entrusted with my late father-in-law's 1926 Tufts College album.

It's up to me to safeguard these old photo albums so they survive for future descendants to enjoy. Each album has its own archival box, so it doesn't get jostled or damaged. But without interleaving between the pages, items on the pages might deteriorate or rub off on each other. That's why I needed to work on interleaving.

Along the way, I learned a couple of lessons about how to carefully place interleaving paper between pages of albums. Of course, begin by washing/drying hands and putting all materials on a clean, dry surface, far from liquids, foods, perfumes, etc. Then:
  1. Start from the back of the album and work your way forward. That way, the paper doesn't slip out or shift as easily. 
  2. Turn pages gently so they don't rip or flake as you slip in the archival paper.
  3. If pages have multiple overlapping items glued down, place a small piece of interleaving paper between these so they don't rub off on each other or discolor each other. Then place one piece of paper over all.
  4. Don't overstuff between album pages! 
  5. If archival papers hang off too much, carefully cut off the edges (leaving a small margin all around the album) at the end of the project. I used the extra paper cut off to "stuff" next to one album so it doesn't rattle in the box.
Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "family photo."

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Valentine Leads Me to Relearn Two Lessons

My husband's uncle, Wallis Wood (1905-1957), received a lot of penny postal greeting cards from "Aunt Nellie."

Most, like the Valentine's Day card at left, included the name and/or signature of "Uncle Arthur" (as shown below).

"Aunt Nellie" was Ellen Rachel "Nellie" Wood (1864-1954).

Nellie was a younger sister of Wallis's father. I know a lot about her. I've even written about her here, at least a dozen times over the years.

But this post is not really about the valentine. It's about how I had to relearn two key lessons.
Aunt Nellie married twice

For this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "love," I thought it would be fun to write a bit more about Nellie's two marriages: Her first to Walter and her second to Arthur.

Not long after Y2K, I added Nellie and her two husbands to my Wood family tree. So I clicked on the tree to check on what I know. Uh-oh.

Sources? What sources?

I found their names on the tree. I even had a marriage date and place for her Nellie's first wedding. But no sources.

Not good. I had put Nellie, Walter, and Arthur on my tree before I was consistent about citing my sources.

Now I'm forced to retrace my steps to demonstrate how I "know" what I think I know about Nellie, Walter, and Arthur. But that's not my only lesson.

Always read the original!

Nellie's first marriage, at the age of 20, was to Walter Alfred Lervis Sr. (1860-1897). Or so I had recorded all those years ago. I even had a specific date. But alas, no certificate attached.

After well more than an hour of finding nothing on the usual sites, I decided to look for Walter's son, whose existence I had noted on my tree, along with his wife's name.

Yay! I found his marriage cert. Gulp.

His father's surname is clearly shown, on the original cert, as Walter Lewis. Plugging that in, I immediately came up with Nellie and Walter's marriage cert. It showed LEWIS. Not Lervis. For all these years, I've had this man listed with an incorrect surname. Until now. Shame on me!

Capture the source as an image

Why blog about my mistakes? This re-do has one big advantage: Now that I've found the documentation, I'm doing screen shots and adding the media to my tree as genealogical proof.

This way, if the certs or other sources are ever withdrawn from public view or are otherwise unavailable, the images proving my sources will be on the tree. As images, not just links to online sources.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

"He Said, She Said" in Grandpa's Divorce

This is a photo of my husband's grandpa, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). At the time of this photo, he was married to grandma Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925), and they made their home in Cleveland, Ohio. After Mary died, James married his nephew's mother-in-law: Carolina "Carrie" Foltz Cragg (1871-?). The marriage was arranged to put a widow and a widower together, so neither would be alone, I was told by my husband's genealogist cousin.

Surprise! Wife #2 Before Wife #3

Several years ago, I unexpectedly discovered that James was married to wife #2 before he married Carrie. Wife #2 was Alice Hopperton Unger (1884-1930), who married James in Cleveland in September, 1926.

My late father-in-law (James's oldest son) said--in a 1980s interview--he believed his father married his housekeeper and there was some "hanky-panky" involved. With hindsight, it sounds like he was thinking of Alice, not Carrie, but he never named the woman and didn't have much to say about the whole thing.

Not so long ago, I found Alice's death cert and learned that she died in 1930 of heart problems. James married wife #3 in October, 1928. Obviously, James's marriage #2 was somehow dissolved before Alice's death and his marriage to wife #3. I narrowed the time frame to 1927-8 and began searching for divorce papers. I really wanted to know more to help round out our understanding of James as a person, and his relationships to people around him.

Surprise! James vs Alice AND Alice vs James 

Don't hesitate to look for divorce records. I called the clerk of the court at Cuyahoga County's to ask about divorce records from 1927-8. I was told to send an email with specific details. A few weeks later, the county clerk called me to say they had located the divorce records! They popped a photocopy in the mail to me for free. Twenty-five pages of divorce records! Surprisingly, not only did James try to divorce Alice, Alice filed her own petition for divorce soon afterward.

According to the paperwork, James filed for divorce on March 12, 1927. He complained that he and Alice had been separated since February, 1927. He charged she was "guilty of gross neglect of duty and extreme cruelty" toward him, saying she "refused to provide this plaintiff with his meals, laundry and care and neglected her household duties." He further complained that Alice "refused to bear children for him."

Bear in mind that James was 57 years old at the time he filed for divorce, and Alice was 43. James's youngest child was already 17. Hard for me to believe that James really wanted children with Alice,  or that Alice was eager to have children, but this is only speculation. I believe James's complaint relates to the "hanky-panky" my father-in-law remembered (his words, not mine).

For her part, Alice sued James for divorce in April, 1927. She said James hit her, causing her to leave their home the very next day; he was "quarrelsome" and was "penurious," not wanting to spend "for the necessities of life." Leading up to the separation, Alice had been ill and unable to perform household duties, yet James "refused and neglected to provide any help or assistance in the care of his household and was abusive in his talk."

Unfortunately, in this "he said, she said" situation, we can't really know the truth of what happened between James and Alice. All we have is the dueling divorce petitions.

James Wins Divorce, Alice Wins Alimony

By spring of 1928, the two divorce petitions were consolidated into one. James prevailed, winning his divorce and holding onto all the property he had brought into their brief marriage. Alice won a lump-sum alimony payment of $300 (the equivalent of $4,100 today). The payment was reduced to $250 if James paid within 30 days. Alice was most likely even sicker by this point and needed the money right away. .

Six months after the divorce from wife #2, James married wife #3, Carrie Cragg, and they moved to Jackson, MI. What happened to Carrie? I'm still searching for her death, because Carrie did not apparently accompany James when he returned to Cleveland and died in the home of his older son in 1939.

What About Carrie?

Were James and Carrie divorced? Not that I can find. Was he too ill for Carrie to care for? Or did Carrie not want to go to Cleveland with James at the end of his life? Where and when did Carrie die?

Turns out, she went back to Toledo, where she died (informant for death cert was one of her children). Why she and James split up, I don't know.

Thanks, as always, to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors challenge.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Looking for Teddy's Dairy in 1940

Click here to look for NYC building photos in the tax records
Wouldn't it be fun to go back in time and see what the residences and businesses of our ancestors looked like in, say, 1940? My ancestors on both sides were in New York City at the time, mainly in the Bronx, and I'm lucky that at least some photos are available in books (like Lloyd Ultan's The Beautiful Bronx, 1920-1950).

But not every building on every block is in those books. Even the New York Public Library's excellent digital photographic collection doesn't have every building on every street.

It turns out there is a super source of photographs of NYC buildings from 1940. It's free and it's online.

Photos in the NYC Municipal Archives

The NYC Municipal Archives holds these building photos, part of a database of 1940s tax records for all five boroughs. The photos were originally used to support property value assessments for every building in the city.

Now the digitized collection is a wonderful resource for genealogists whose ancestors lived in (or had a business in) New York City at that time. It's like Street View on Google Maps but set in the past of 1940, and only in black-and-white.

Searching For a Building Photo

The main portal to the photos allows visitors to choose a specific borough as the first step. At top, my choice of the Bronx. The next step is to browse or search for a building photo.

To search, you need the specific block and lot number of the property. That's not the same as the address. To find block and lot, click on the link on "NYCityMap" link and enter the street address and borough. Above is the result I got when I searched for 679 Fox Street, the Bronx address of the small grocery store called Teddy's Dairy, operated by Grandpa Teddy Schwartz and Grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz in 1940.

Finding Teddy's Dairy

To see the actual photo, I plugged the block and lot number into the search box of the tax-photo page for the Bronx. Up came a black-and-white image of an apartment building with ground-floor retail space (see below). People are walking along, oblivious to the camera, and cars are parked along the curbs. It's an ordinary day in 1940.

Which storefront is Teddy's Dairy? The signs in the 1940 photo aren't crystal-clear. So I used Street View on Google Maps to confirm that the address is the corner store, with the entrance slightly up the street on the left. Today, that space is occupied by a food store, as it was in 1940, when my grandparents ran the corner store.

High-quality photos are for sale, but anyone can look at any building photo with a few clicks. More photographic time-travel is in my future as I click merrily through the Archives to see the buildings where these and other NYC ancestors lived and worked in 1940.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "At the Library."

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Imagining Breakfast with Bela Roth


Imagine if I could enjoy a delicious bagel for breakfast with Bela Bernath Roth (1860-1941). Bela is an in-law ancestor whose first wife was Zolli Sarah Kunstler Roth (d. 1893). Zolli was my great-grandma's sister.


Bela was born in Vasarosnameny, Szabolcs-Szatmar-Bereg, Hungary. Interestingly, due to clerical delays, his birth wasn't officially recorded until oh, well, actually 1889. There he is in the Hungarian records, above. Perhaps this was the year he married Zolli Kunstler?

They had three children together (Margaret, Alexander, and Joseph). Zolli died young in the 1890s. By 1901 or so, Bela had remarried, to a teenaged Bertha Batia Weiss (1885-1967). Bela and Bertha had three sons together and raised the other three children from Bela's first marriage.

Why Breakfast with Bela?

Why not wish to meet one of Bela's wives or children? Bela is a very important link between the Farkas family of my maternal Grandma Hermina Farkas Schwartz and the Kunstler, Roth, Weiss, and Wajman cousins I've found through genealogy. He was present in the Old World where the Farkas family lived and also in New York City, where he was definitely in touch with Grandma and her family. Bela died long before I was born, but he knew several generations of my family tree.

In fact, Bela was affectionately known as "Bela Basci" ("Uncle Bela") because he was the uncle, by marriage, of my Grandma Hermina and her siblings. Given his long life, residence on two continents, and the many branches of the family he knew personally, I have three questions I want to ask as we breakfast together.

Questions for Bela About Roth, Kunstler, Weiss, Wajman, and Farkas
  1. How did you meet your first wife, Zolli? I know that Zolli's mother's name was "Toby Roth" so I wondered whether she was related to you in some way?
  2. Why did was one of your sons named Joseph Roth, knowing that there were other Josephs in the Roth family?? Obviously, you and Zolli were honoring an ancestor by choosing this name. But I want you to know this created a mess of trouble for future genealogists. So now you have to explain how each of the three Joseph Roths is related to each other and to you and me. Please. I'll order us both a second cup of decaf while you explain.
  3. Was your second wife, Batia Bertha Weiss, a cousin? If so, please tell me how she was related to you (and to me)! Better yet, let's draw a tree together, showing how Farkas, Kunstler, Roth, Weiss, and Wajman relatives were related. Thanks, Bela Basci.
Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Traditional and Patriotic Names in the Tree

My husband's family tree has lots and lots of traditional given names plus a few clearly patriotic names.

Among the most popular names on the tree is Thomas (there are 41 in the tree so far). Above, the 1860 Census record from Cabell county, VA (now Huntington, WV) showing Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890) and his son Thomas Jefferson Isaiah Haskell Wood (1848-1861). Sadly, young Thomas drowned before he turned 13 years old.

Young Thomas was born on the 4th of July, 1848. That was 22 years after President Thomas Jefferson died on the 4th of July, 1826. Perhaps that was one reason he was named after this president? The Wood tree contains only one other "Jefferson" given name, and he was born late in the 20th century.

Last year, I wrote about the 139 times John appears in this tree. Other popular male names on the tree are: Robert (43 instances), Charles (39 instances), and Samuel (21 instances).

On the female side, after the ever-popular Mary (121 instances), the most popular are: Elizabeth (54 instances), Ann/Anne/Anna (36 instances), and Margaret (35 instances).

My husband's family has a number of other patriotic-sounding names, including:
Benjamin Franklin Steiner, Benjamin Franklin Smith, and George Washington Howland.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "unusual names."

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Challenge: Personal Family History Scanfest 2019

Let Personal Family History Scanfest 2019 begin! This is the year my family's "modern history" photos (meaning since I was born, LOL) will be scanned and digitally organized and distributed.

I'm approaching the scanfest challenge as a process, to be accomplished little by little during the year:

  1. Gather albums from multiple sources. [Plenty are on hand, more to be gathered.]
  2. Rough sort photos by family, year, and/or theme (vacation, Christmas, etc). [Started.]
  3. Discard damaged and irrelevant photos and negatives. [One bag tossed today--photos with rips or stains were scanned and will be digitally repaired.]
  4. Separate good dupes to send to family members. [Going into the mail Monday.]
  5. Extract photos carefully from those awful magnetic albums, preserving labels. [In process]
  6. Scan a hundred or more at a time. (I love my Flip-Pal, set at high resolution, for speed and convenience.) Where appropriate, include handwritten label of place/date next to first photo scanned in a series. [One day scanned total: 181 good images!]
  7. Keep scanned snapshots in order in a temporary storage box, ready to be checked and then stored in a safe way. [in process]
  8. Arrange digital images into digital folders (again, by family/year/season/theme, etc.) and make digital dupes on flash drives for family members.
  9. Create a few special photobooks with descriptive captions to send to family members.*
  10. Have fun during the process, reminiscing and double-checking identifications and dates/places with family. 

Doing this little by little makes the scanfest and genealogical organization a lot less overwhelming. I highly recommend scanning with a family member, not just for the conversations but also for the extra hands ready to work with photos. Having my Sis partner with me doubles the fun--the time really flies by!

Have you been scanning your baby photos and other photos from "modern" family history, to preserve them and have digital versions backing up the physical images?

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this second in the 2019 series of #52Ancestors prompts,  "challenge."

Special thanks to WikiTree for the Scan-a-Thon challenge, January 11-14, in coordination with GeneabloggersTribe.

Yes, I'm a bit early, but I'm also spreading my scanfest out over many weeks to share the fun with family!

*For privacy reasons, I will only upload selected photos of ancestors (not living people) to my online family trees.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

January Genealogy Off to a Strong Start

Happy 2019! 

As the new year begins, I have four projects in the works for completion by January.

Two are for my husband's Wood family and two are for my Farkas family.


Above, project #1: Integrating the index entries for 1940-1944 meetings of the Farkas Family Tree association meeting minutes into the full index for the years 1933-1964.

I had previously created the index for minutes, not able to include most of the WWII years because they were missing from my cousin's collection. Then in 2018, a 2d cousin found the missing minutes and I scanned them and indexed just that collection.

Now I'm adding the 1940s entries from the separate index person by person into the larger index for the entire book (shown here at right). It's not difficult, just takes a bit of time to copy and paste entries. Little by little, it's getting done.

**UPDATE on 1/10: Completed!

Project #2: Assembling the complete Farkas Family Tree index, complete minutes, and updated introductory materials into a digital file and mailing a CD to my cousins. The package is way, way too large for email, and some cousins aren't into cloud storage. CDs are easy to mail and easy for recipients to read, copy, and store.

**UPDATE on 1/118: Final file was 1.5 GB, too large for even 2 CDs, so I bought a multipack of 4GB flash drives to mail. All were received by cousins and this project is OFFICIALLY COMPLETE.


Project #3: Interleaving acid-free buffered tissue paper between pages of the 1917 and 1926 photo albums created by my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986). This will protect the photos for the long term. Tissue paper is in the house, ready to go!

Project #4: Reading carefully through the full divorce file from my husband's paternal grandfather, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939).

As shown at left, James filed to divorce wife #2, Alice Hopperton Unger, in April 1927, just 7 months after their marriage in September, 1926.

She counter-filed a few days later. Back and forth they filed. Now, thanks to the Cuyahoga County Clerk's office, which very kindly mailed me copies of all the paperwork (without charge!), I can finally figure out what happened, 92 years after the fact.

And this is only January, the first month--what a genealogy year it will be.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this #52Ancestors prompt to begin the new year.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Preview of My Year in Genealogy - 2019

2019

I'm looking forward to a busy and rewarding year of #genealogy challenges, fun, breakthroughs, and connections in 2019.

As mentioned in my previous post, I went happily down the rabbit hole of unexpected family history developments in 2018 (including the very welcome surprise of receiving Farkas Family Tree documents, related to my mother's family, to scan, index, and share with cousins).

That's why I didn't accomplish all I'd planned to do when I previewed my 2018 agenda at the end of last December, so these two items are carried over to 2019.
  • I have two new family memory booklets in the planning stages. One will be about my mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Helen Schwartz, 1919-2001). The other will be about my husband's parents (Marian McClure Wood, 1909-1983 and Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986).
  • I was planning more intensive investigations of my DNA matches, beginning with color-coding matches to see who fits where in the family tree. Then I heard about DNA Painter at RootsTech2018. Still, this went to the back burner in 2018. Not sure whether DNA will be a front-burner activity in 2019, but I will follow up the most promising of my DNA matches.
Another "resolution" for 2019 is to continue my genealogy education through attendance at Family Tree Live (London) and the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference (Washington, D.C.). It will be wonderful to meet other genealogy buffs, chat with speakers, and connect with blogging/tweeting friends in person at these conferences. 

Most of all, I am excited about staying in touch with my cousins--perhaps even making contact with cousins I didn't know about. The family tree is alive with leaves representing cousins of all ages, all over the world, connected by our #familyhistory. I am so grateful for you, cousins, sharing what you know about our ancestors and forging new bonds that we hope will endure into the next generation.

--

This "resolutions" post is the final #52Ancestors challenge for 2018. As always, thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for a year of thought-provoking prompts. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Remembering Aunt Jennie Farkas, the Nicest Aunt

Several of my cousins have shared fond memories of my great-aunt, Jennie (or Jenny) Katz Farkas (1886-1974).  She married Alex (Sandor) Farkas (1885-1948) on Christmas Eve, 1916, in New York City.

I remember Aunt Jennie as a constant, affectionate presence at Farkas Family Tree meetings. With no children of her own, she doted on her nieces, nephews, and their children.

I want to honor her as the "nicest aunt" for several reasons. Jennie was a top-notch professional dressmaker (not just family story, she also listed "dressmaker" as her occupation in 1920 Census).

Family legend is that she could look at a magazine photo or sketch of couture clothing and recreate it for herself or relatives. In fact, she made the bridal gown and all the ladies' dresses in the photo above, a family wedding celebrated in 1932. Jennie really went the extra mile to make the family look extra special, IMHO.

Another reason to honor and remember her is that the Farkas Family Tree organization was her idea in 1933. In the historian's report for 1959, her nephew Bob wrote: "Since the inception of the Tree, I would venture to say that she has been just about the most ardent supporter of our organization, and just about the most regular attender of meetings. With great respect and much love I dedicate this report to Jenny Farkas--AUNT JENNY."

Bob, I have to agree. Let me dedicate this week's #52Ancestors post to Aunt Jennie Katz Farkas, the nicest aunt and an ancestor to be remembered for her dedication to family.
PS: My great aunt's Hebrew name was "Sheindel" but never did I hear her called anything but Jennie.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Not Naughty, But Not Necessarily Nice

My late father-in-law insinuated, during a family-history interview in the 1980s, that his father was doing something a bit naughty later in life.

Above, the man in question, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). This was my husband's paternal grandfather, a carpenter and builder active in Cleveland Heights at the turn of the 20th century. His oldest son was my father-in-law, and the interview with him inspired me to hunt for more info decades later.

After the death of James's first wife, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925), James still had two teenaged sons at home. So 15 months after Mary's death, 55-year-old James married 35-year-old divorcee Alice Hopperton Unger (1880-1934). Alice listed her occupation as "none" while James's occupation was listed as "builder" on the marriage cert.

Sixty years after this marriage took place, my late father-in-law suggested that James married his housekeeper and there was some hanky-panky involved. The age difference may have been a factor in assessing this relationship. No mention of James's third marriage, by the way.

Well, this was not the whole story. Looking at the documents only, which is all I have, James may very well have married his housekeeper, if that's what Alice was in 1926. But he and Alice divorced some time in the next two years. I'm still trying to get that divorce record from Ohio. It's very likely the key to this family mystery.

In 1928, James married Carolina Foltz Cragg (1871-?), a match arranged by his nephew, Charles Francis Elton Wood. Why? Because Carolina was Charles's widowed mother-in-law and James was in need of a wife to run his household, is the way I heard the story from a Wood cousin in the know. No hanky-panky here, the family was in favor of this marriage so that neither of the older folks would be alone.
Why do I say that James wasn't necessarily nice? I took a closer look at the death of Alice, the second wife for a brief time. She was a "semi-invalid" at the time of her death in April, 1930. Her medical problems included a serious heart ailment and bronchial asthma. Poor Alice died less than a month after her 46th birthday.

Is it possible that James divorced Alice because her health prevented her from being a good housekeeper and step-mother to the two sons who remained at home? That would not have been nice, although I'm trying not to prejudge.*

*UPDATE: County Clerk responded and emailed me a poor quality divorce document, saying she would snail-mail a better copy. No charge! And guess what: I was correct--James sued Alice for divorce for (1) being unable to care for him and his two minor children from a previous marriage and (2) not speaking to him for long periods, among other reasons that are not clear on the copy of the copy. But the printed copy coming by mail will be more legible. Now, 90-odd years after the divorce, we will know what both sides said in court.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt, "naughty."