- June 3, 1934: Above, an invite to the wedding of Rachel Chazan and Solomon Ash in Manchester, England, 84 years ago. The invitee, "N. Block," turned out to be Nellie Block, older sister of my paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk. In 1901, Isaac had lived in Manchester with the parents of the bride, en route from Lithuania to his new home in North America. Once a cousin unearthed this invite, I quickly connected with descendants of this family in Manchester (hi, cousins!). And only last year, I connected with more descendants of Grandpa Isaac's other siblings (hi, cousins!).
- June 7, 1930: My mother's uncle Fred Farkas married Charlotte Chapman 88 years ago in Chicago. His career and growing family meant he rarely returned to New York City, where the Farkas Family Tree association was based. Staying in touch, Fred and Charlotte wrote letters to be read out loud during these family meetings. WWII letters indicate that some Farkas family members serving in the military were able to visit Fred and Charlotte on leave during the 1940s.
- June 10, 1906: Happily for me, Isaac Burk married Henrietta Mahler on this day, 112 years ago, in the NYC apartment of the bride's family. (Hi, Grandma and Grandpa!) Interestingly, the 1905 NY Census shows Isaac as a boarder in the Mahler apartment in Manhattan, along with Isaac's brother, Meyer Berg. Could Isaac's family have put him in touch with Henrietta's parents to arrange a place to stay, and then love bloomed within close quarters?
- June 14, 1932: Morris Mahler, brother of my grandma Henrietta Mahler, married Carrie Etschel 86 years ago in New York City. Both bride and groom were in their 40s when they married, against the wishes of my father's Mahler family (because of religious differences). Relatives told me they were happy together, which makes me happy.
- Wm Tyler Bentley's story
- Abraham & Annie Berk's Story
- Isaac & Henrietta Birk's story
- Mary A. Demarest's story
- Farkas & Kunstler Families
- Rachel & Jonah Jacobs' story
- Robert & Mary Larimer's story
- Meyer & Tillie Mahler's story
- Halbert McClure from Donegal
- Wood family of Ohio
- McKibbin & Larimer
- Schwartz family, Ungvar
- John & Mary Slatter's story
- Steiner & Rinehart story
- Genealogy--Free or Fee?
- Sample Templates
- My Genealogy Presentations
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Sunday, February 11, 2018
|Young Man from Gargzdai, Lithuania - probably a Birck relative|
As soon as I read the challenge, I knew exactly who to feature: The Young Man with the Mustache.
|Studio info on back of Young Man's photo|
At top, the Young Man in question--probably a younger brother of my paternal grandfather Isaac Burk (1882-1943), born in Gargzdai, Lithuania.
When grandpa Isaac and five other siblings came to North America, they left behind their parents--Solomon Elias Birck and Necke Gelle Shuham Birck--and the Young Man, if we're interpreting the photos, stories, and records correctly.
Alas, I don't know the handsome Young Man's name, but I have his face in two photos. He was a boy in one photo, and a young man here. At right, the studio info on back of the Young Man's portrait.
The Young Man appears as a boy in a photo shared by my 2d cousin, the granddaughter of Isaac's brother, Meyer Berg (1883-1981), who also came to America.
We don't know the fate of the Young Man, I'm sorry to say, but we can see the strong family resemblance to my father and his first cousins. More research is in my future. Perhaps I'll find some clues when I attend #RootsTech as a #FirstTimer and go to the Family History Library?!
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Five of the six siblings married within a few years after they left Lithuania. Only Nellie never married. Here are the six siblings, listed in birth order.
- Abraham Burke (1877-1962) (aka Berk) - later married, had children
- Nellie Block (1878?-1950) - never married, no children
- Isaac Burk (1882-1943) (aka Birk) - later married, had children
- Meyer Berg (1883-1981) - later married, had children
- Jennie Birk (1890-1972) - later married, no children
- Max (Motel) Birk (1892-1953) - later married, no children
Nellie is the lady in lace, shown in the center of the photo at top with one of her brothers, probably Meyer, and her younger sister, Jennie. Below, Nellie's obit has Grandpa Isaac's name incorrect, but it's definitely hers. (I'm still looking for her burial place.)
Why is Nellie's story important to the family history? She seems to have been the first of the Burk siblings to come to North America, before 1900. (I'm still looking for her name on a passenger list.) I don't know how many unmarried young ladies were the first in their families to cross the Atlantic and live in a big US city. (Nellie was a boarder in other Jewish families' apartments, usually, not living on her own.) Why and when did she leave home?
Nellie was already in Manhattan by 1904. Grandpa Isaac listed her as the relative he was coming to see when crossing from Canada to New York. He had left Lithuania and gone to Manchester, England, then sailed to Canada, and finally entered America, saying he was coming to his sister Nellie. Yes, chain migration.
I believe I've found Nellie in the 1900 Census, 1905 NY Census, and 1910 Census. I have her as the addressee of a 1930s wedding invitation sent by a cousin in England. And I see her face in my parents' wedding photos, circa 1946. She was wearing a corsage and standing next to her brother Meyer and her brother Abraham, an honored guest at the marriage of her nephew--my father.
The lesson I draw from my maiden aunt's life is that every person in the family tree has an influence on the family's history. She was present at family gatherings, she touched the lives of parents/siblings/nieces/nephews/cousins, and she influenced the course of family history in ways I may not even know about.
Was Nellie responsible for blazing the trail out of the old country? I don't know for sure, and it seems a bit of a stretch to assume she left first. But I do know she was part of her brother Isaac's decision to cross from Canada to America--and, ultimately, that decision led to his getting married, raising a family, and my parents getting married. I owe this maiden aunt a great debt of gratitude!
Sometimes people say that since they have no descendants, their family history isn't really important to anyone. I disagree. Nellie (and her brother Max and sister Jennie) prove the importance of every story to the family's history. Each person played a role in family dynamics, each story adds texture, detail, and context to the overall family history.
Because Nellie, Max, and Jennie had no descendants, it's up to me as the self-appointed family historian to keep their memories alive. My second cousins have filled in a lot of the blanks. As the months pass, I hope to discover even more clues to their roles in the immediate family and in other related families.
Saturday, December 23, 2017
- Thanks to newly-discovered ephemera, I smashed a long-standing brick wall on my paternal Burk tree, identified my great-aunts and great-uncles, and met lovely new cousins, who were kind enough to share photos and memories.
- With the in-person help of one of my UK cousins, I learned the sad truth about hubby's ancestor, Mary Shehen Slatter, who died in a notorious insane asylum in 1889.
- Cousins I found through genealogy have been taking DNA tests to help in the search for more connections with outlying branches of our mutual trees. At the very least, we've proven our family ties and, sometimes, pinpointed the common ancestor.
- I've made a lot of progress on writing family history. I updated one family history booklet for my side of the family, based on the new Burk information. I wrote two brand new booklets for hubby's side, one based on his Slatter-Wood roots and one based on his McClure-Larimer roots.
- I'm about to complete a booklet about my husband's Wood family during World War II, based on interviews with relatives, documents and photos saved by the family, and genealogical research to fill in the gaps.
- Also, I've written detailed captions for key photos, so future generations will know who's who, when, where, and why.
- I was a speaker at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference and the International Jewish Genealogy Conference. So many wonderful sessions to attend, excellent speakers, friendly audiences, and a chance to meet blogging buddies in person.
- Beyond Google Your Family Tree (practical tips for online genealogy searches using five specific search operators)
- Tuesday's Tip, Genealogy, Free or Fee (try free sources first, but don't hesitate to pay for a Social Security Application if it will show a maiden name you don't have or otherwise move your research forward a leap)
- Junk or Joy? Think of Future Generations (downsizing or just simplifying your life, consider the significance of family artifacts before deciding to donate, give away, or keep)
- The Case Against Paperless Genealogy (Why I print everything, file everything. Technology changes rapidly but paper, stored properly, will live on for future generations)
- Tuesday's Tip, Free or Free Genealogy (Learn to record strip: check every detail on every document or photo, analyze it in the context of what else you know, wring everything you can from the research you have and what you acquire)
Sunday, December 3, 2017
Here's the story, starting with the mystery of the 1910 Census. Some members of my Mahler family were living in New York City along with a "boarder," Jennie Birk. Now the reason this caught my eye is that Henrietta Mahler (my paternal grandma) had married Isaac Burk (my paternal grandpa) only a few years earlier. The year before their marriage, the 1905 Census showed Isaac and his brother Meyer living with the Mahler family in their NYC apartment, as "boarders." So the mystery was--did Jennie Birk have a family connection to my grandparents?
In May, Sis found Mom's old address book, and my paternal cousin found letters to/from his Mom, as shown above. I'd never heard of an "Aunt Jennie" in my Dad's family, and yet Dad's sister was writing to her "Aunt Jenny" in 1962. Mom's address book showed the same people (on the same street in Lakeland, Florida) in the early 1960s.
My next step was to research the NYC marriages on Italiangen.org, where I found that Jennie Burk had married Paul Salkofsky. Another few minutes of research revealed that Paul Salkofsky was naturalized as Paul Salkowitz. In other words, the address book and the letters had led me to my grandpa's sister, Jennie Birk Salkowitz.
Remember brother Meyer? He had been a "boarder" with the Mahler family when my grandpa Isaac was also a "boarder," the year before marrying a Mahler daughter. I eventually discovered that Meyer's surname was Berg and, as a result, I was able to trace Meyer's grandchildren.
Sis and I have met one of Meyer Berg's granddaughters and we've been sharing photos and family stories for months. What a great genealogical breakthrough for 2017!
Friday, August 18, 2017
Having smashed a major brick wall on Dad's side of the family, I can finally name all twenty of his far-flung first cousins.
- Rose, Lilly, Bill, and "Punky," the four children of Abraham Berk (1877-1962)
- Sylvia, Harold, Milton, Norma, and Larry, the five children of Meyer Berg (1883-1981)
- Miriam, "Buddy," Harvey, Jules, and Hilda, the five children of Sarah Mahler Smith (1889-1974)
- Mike and Sylvia, the two children of Ida Mahler Volk (1892-1971)
- Myron, Daniel, Robert, and Ruth, the four children of Mary Mahler Markell (1896-1979)
Sunday, August 6, 2017
In birth order, they were:
- Abraham Berk (1877-1962)
- Nellie Block (1878-1950)
- Isaac Burk (1882-1943) - Hi, Grandpa!
- Meyer Berg (1883-1981)
- Jennie Birk (1890-1972)
- Max (Matel) Berk (1892-1953)
Of course I'm putting the most weight on primary (original) sources created by "someone with first hand knowledge . . . created at or about the time an event occurred." Primary information (from original sources) tends to be more reliable, even though the person who provided the info may not remember correctly or may answer inaccurately for some other reason.
I've assembled the following evidence about the siblings' birthplace.
- Abraham Berk's Canadian naturalization petition listed Gordz, Kovno, Russia as his birthplace. When Abraham entered America in 1919 to visit his brother Isaac, he said he was born in Gorst-Kovna-Russia. Abraham provided all this info.
- Nellie Block never declared any birthplace that I can find, unfortunately. I don't believe she ever married, nor did she apply for Social Security or naturalization.
- Isaac Burk told US border officials in 1904 that he was born in Gerst, Russia, when he entered America from Canada. His 1939 naturalization papers and WWII draft registration show Lithuania as his birthplace (Isaac provided the info). Grandpa Isaac was buried in a cemetery plot that's part of the Sons of Telsh society. That adds to the indirect evidence in a small way.
- Meyer Berg's passenger manifest from 1903 shows Gelsen, Kovno as his most recent residence. His WWI draft record shows Gorsd, Russia as his birthplace; his WWII draft record shows Gorso, Russia as his birthplace. Meyer's naturalization petition from 1920 shows his birthplace as Kovna, Russia. Meyer provided this info.
- Jennie Birk's 1966 passport lists Lithuania as her birthplace. Her husband Paul Salkowitz listed Gardzai, Lithuania, as his birthplace on naturalization papers, but didn't show anything for her birthplace. Best of all, Jennie's marriage license from 1919 shows Garsden, Russia as her birthplace, info provided by her.
- Max Berk's 1920 naturalization petition shows Kovno, Russia as his birthplace. His 1906 passenger manifest shows Korst as his last residence. Max provided this info.
According to the Jewish Genealogy Communities Database, nearly all of these places are, essentially, other names for one place: Gargzdai, Lithuania (sometimes not spelled correctly or only spelled phonetically).
This evidence leads me to conclude that Grandpa Isaac and his siblings came from Gargzdai. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Plus I'm going to change the family tree so that every one of the siblings shows this as their birthplace.
Monday, July 17, 2017
|Great aunt Nellie Block, late 1940s|
The first time I spotted Nellie was in Isaac's 1904 border crossing from Canada to US, when he said he was going "to sister Nellie Block, 1956 3rd Ave., corner 107th St." The address was familiar, because Isaac's future bride and her family lived in that apartment building!
In the 1905 NY Census, Nellie (a furmaker) is living as a boarder with a family on Henry Street. She's still single, and boarding with a different family on Henry Street in the 1910 US Census (occ: operator, furs).
The paper trail nearly ends there for Nellie. So far, I haven't found her in the 1915 NY census, 1920 US census, 1925 NY census, 1930 US census, or 1940 US census.
I know Nellie received an invitation to a UK cousin's wedding in 1934, because it was passed down in the family. Alas, no envelope with address. Did she go? No one knows.
Nellie is wearing a corsage and a smile at my parent's wedding in 1946. That's how I can date the photo at top, because Nellie looked very much the same at the wedding as she does here.
The final record I found for Nellie is her death notice from the New York Times, paid for by the family. It states: "Block--Nellie, devoted sister of Abraham Birk, Meyer Berg, Max Birk, Jennie Salkowitz, and the late Isidore [sic] Birk. Services Sun, 12:30 pm, Gutterman's, Bway at 66 St."
Nellie Block died on Christmas Eve, 1950. I haven't yet found her burial place, and can't yet get a copy of her death cert from New York (too recent).
Where in the world was Nellie Block hiding between 1910 and 1950? My next steps, part of my Genealogy Go-Over:
- Use Heritage Quest and Family Search, plugging in different spellings of her name to search US and NY Census records. Each site transcribes and indexes a little differently, so I may have some luck with this approach. Will also look for naturalization papers, if any.
- Do a more thorough search of Social Security applications. If she was working, and remained single, surely she filed for retirement benefits, right?
- Check NY marriage records, just in case she married at some point. By 1934, however, when she received the wedding invitation, her name was still Block and she was about 56 years old. I suspect she didn't ever marry, since her death notice is "Block."
- Recheck Find a Grave (so far, I haven't found her there) and all the NY/NJ cemeteries where my NY-area paternal ancestors were buried. My really quick first check was unsuccessful, so now I have to do another check to be sure.
- Any other ideas?
Thursday, June 29, 2017
|Capt. John Slatter (front and center) with the 48th Highlanders|
First, let me mention the illustrious Slatter brothers, my husband's London-born great uncles. They became well-known bandmasters in Canada, putting to good use the musical and military training they had received as children on the Goliath and Exmouth.
- Albert William Slatter (1862-1935) served as bandmaster with the 7th London Fusiliers in Ontario.
- John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954) achieved fame as the bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders in Toronto, helping to popularize the craze for kiltie bands.
- Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942) was the distinguished bandmaster for the 72d Seaforth Highlanders in Vancouver.
|Henrietta Mahler Burk & Isaac Burk|
- Isaac Burk (1882-1943) was a cabinetmaker who, at age 19, was residing with an aunt and uncle in Manchester (according to the 1901 census), along with his older brother, Abraham. Isaac sailed for Canada in 1903 but stayed only for a short time, moving on to New York City where his older sister Nellie Block (1878-1950) was living. Isaac married Henrietta Mahler in New York, and moved back and forth between Montreal and New York for nearly 10 years before deciding to remain in New York permanently.
- Abraham Berk (1877-1962), also a cabinetmaker, was residing with the same family in Manchester as his brother Isaac during 1901. After his brother left, Abraham stayed on to marry Anna Horwich, then sailed to Canada and made a home in Montreal, where he and his wife raised their family.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
|Declaration of Intention dated 6 June 1918|
One lesson learned is: NARA doesn't have everybody's naturalization documents. A day after I submitted an online request and payment for Mayer Berg's naturalization papers, the archivists emailed me. They did not have Mayer's paperwork, but the Bronx authorities probably did. Thanks for the tip!
Another lesson learned: Pick up the phone before mailing a check. I called the Bronx County Clerk's office, and the officials kindly confirmed that they held Mayer's documents. I got a "package deal" because the petition and declaration were in a single file, so I didn't have to send for them separately (which would have cost more).
Snail mail was faster than usual: I received Mayer's naturalization documents in barely a week. It's dated June 6, 1918.
Just think, this great uncle was standing in a Bronx courthouse 99 years ago, filling out his final paperwork, declaration of intention for US citizenship. Mayer took his Oath of Allegiance on November 23, 1920. I'm going to give these documents to Mayer's granddaughter when we meet this week!
Friday, June 2, 2017
At far right in the foreground is my father, Harold Burk (#3). Seated near the center is his mother, Henrietta Mahler Burk (#1) and his father, Isaac Burk (#2).
My grandfather Isaac's family had distinctly different ways of spelling their shared surname when they came to America from Lithuania, reminding me to be flexible when I search and consider Soundex variations:
Berg, Berk, Birk, Burk, Burke
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Interestingly, the mystery is not in her family tree but in my father's Burk family tree.
My paternal grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943) had two brothers that I know of: Abraham Berk/Burke (1877-1962) and Myer or Meyer Burke (dates unknown). The brothers have also used Birk as a surname spelling over the years.
In the 1905 NY Census, I found Grandpa Isaac (shown incorrectly as Isidore Burke), a carpenter living as a boarder with his future in-laws. The other boarder in the same apartment was Meyer Burke, a cutter (and Isaac's brother, I presumed). For years, I searched for Meyer, but never could find him again.
|Meyer Berg's WWII draft registration|
It's not much of a leap to guess that Meyer Berg is the brother of Isaac and Abraham--meaning he's my great uncle, an ancestor I've tried to trace for a decade. Mom knew where he was all along!
|Meyer Berg's WWI draft registration|
Keeping Mom's address book at hand, I quickly dug deeper and found:
|Meyer Berg's marriage info from ItalianGen.org|
- Meyer Berg's WWII draft registration card shows him at 2080 Grand Ave. in the Bronx, with the same phone number as in Mom's address book. An exact match!
- Meyer Berg's WWI draft registration card shows him as a cutter, born in "Gorsd, Russia." That's an approximate spelling of Isaac & Abraham's home town in Lithuania.
- Meyer appears to have been born about 1883 and I know he married in 1907. Needless to say, I've just sent for his marriage documents.
- Meyer was naturalized in about 1920, according to the 1925 NY Census. I'm trying to locate those documents now.
- Other entries in Mom's address book match exactly the names of Meyer's children and their spouses.
Lesson #1. Be really flexible about spelling, Soundex style. Burk, Burke, Berk, Birk, Berg. Three brothers with names spelled differently in Census data and other records.
Lesson #2. Ask relatives now about unfamiliar names in old address books. Before it's too late to ask! Maybe the answer will help solve a family mystery. Or if you have a relative's old address books, read them carefully to see who's who and where and when.