Showing posts with label Burk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Burk. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

No Longer Forgotten: Searching for Mahler Babies

Searching for "no given name" with surname and parents

My great-grandparents, Tillie Jacobs Mahler (185?-1952) and Meyer Mahler (1861-1910) had 7 children that I knew about, from family photos or Census records or both.

But there were a few gaps between births. One gap (late 1880s) I attributed to Meyer and Tillie arriving in New York City a year apart after leaving Eastern Europe. Were other children born during the gaps?

Checking the 1910 US Census

I returned to the 1910 Census, where Tillie said she was a widow.

As circled on the snippet above, she told the enumerator she had 10 children in all, but only 7 still living. (The 1910 Census is one of my favorites because of this question!)

In the 1900 Census, Tillie said she had 9 children in all, but only 7 still living.

The search was on for these missing Mahler children.

Searching by "no given name"

To look for children that Tillie and Meyer might have had (and lost) in America, I searched the New York City/state birth/death collections of FamilySearch and Ancestry.

These specific databases would be the most likely to have records about babies born/died from the mid-1880s to the early 1900s. The Mahlers lived nowhere other than New York City after arriving from Eastern Europe in the 1880s.

Leaving the "given or first name" field blank, I inserted "Mahler" for the surname and added Meyer Mahler as father, Tillie (no last name) as mother. I also searched for and looked at creative spellings of Mahler (such as "Maler").

The screen shot at top shows the top search results: Two Mahler boys.

Found: Two Mahler boys

The first search result was for a son named Wolf Mahler, born September 10, 1890. Unfortunately, Wolf died at the age of 3 on January 13, 1894, of "acute Bright's" (kidney disease). What makes this particularly poignant is that Wolf's mother Tillie was pregnant with her next child, born in July of 1894.

The second search result was for a baby boy named Sundel Mahler, born sometime early in 1901. He died on April 5, 1901, according to the death index, and was buried (like Wolf) in Mt. Zion Cemetery in New York.

This boy would be #10, born after 1900 (when Tillie told the Census she had 9, 7 still living) and before 1910 (when Tillie told the Census she had 10, 7 still living).

Little Sundel was the last of Tillie and Meyer Mahler's children that I can find. He was born 20 years after their first-born child (that was my Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk).

Both Wolf and Sundel are now included on my Ancestry family tree, never again to be forgotten.

Still Searching for One Mahler Baby

The other "missing" baby is, for now, still missing, nowhere in the first 150 or so results in Ancestry and Family Search.

I've also searched Mt. Zion Cemetery, where Meyer and Tillie and the two baby boys were buried. Only a few Mahler names are long-shot possibilities. I'm going to check these names by searching for their death certs and parents. The rest of the Mahler names in this cemetery I can rule out due to the burial dates.

My guess is that the missing child was born and died in Latvia before the family left for America, but this is only a guess.

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Two Pages of #FamilyHistory for $130

CD with grandpa Isaac Burk's Alien Registration Form
In November, when dramatically higher fees were proposed for requesting genealogy records from U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), the first thing I did was write a strongly-worded protest letter, and copied my legislators.

Then I looked at my family tree and decided to finally obtain USCIS records for my paternal grandfather Isaac Burk (1881?-1943). After all, if the price goes even higher, it will be entirely out of reach. Better to check on Grandpa's records now.

First step: Pay $65 for a Search

I clicked to the USCIS page for genealogy and read the directions. As the page explains, without a case number or other identifier, I needed to pay $65 for the department to search for Grandpa's name in its files. I submitted my request and my credit card number online just before Thanksgiving.

The search was completed in mid-December. USCIS said it had two types of records: C-File (naturalization court records) and AR-2 Form (Alien Registration Form).

Because I've already found Grandpa's naturalization documents (citizenship, petition, and so forth--dating from 1930s through his naturalization in 1942), I decided to send only for his 1940 AR-2 Form.

Second step: Pay another $65 for AR-2--and Wait

After waiting the requisite 24 hours to order documents mentioned in the USCIS letter, I applied online to receive the AR-2, paying another $65 by credit card. The date was December 14, 2019.

Six weeks later, I received two follow-up letters from the USCIS, acknowledging my records request and providing me with a case identification number. One letter said that the results would be mailed to me. The other letter said I would receive the records on a CD.

On March 8, I received an envelope with a CD dated February 26, 2020.

What $130 Buys
AR-2 Form for Isaac Burk

On the CD was a cover note explaining that there were exactly two pages corresponding to my AR-2 Form request.

Also on the CD was an excellent scan of Grandpa's Alien Registration Form, two pages long!

Did I learn anything?
  • Grandpa Isaac said he was born in "Kovna, Russia" which was technically correct--it was within independent Lithuania until 1939, when the area was taken over by the Soviets. Not new news, but confirmation of what he said in some other documents (when he didn't say simply "Russia"). For instance, in one of his naturalization papers, he declared his birthplace as "Kovna, Lithuania."
  • Grandpa Isaac gave his birthday as June 5, 1881. On some other documents, he gave the year as 1882. Maybe I should believe 1881?
  • Grandpa Isaac said he was a "machinist" working for a manufacturer of dress forms. In most older documents, Grandpa's usual occupation was shown as "carpenter, cabinet-maker" with the same or a nearby address for his employer. This dress-forms company was also his employer on his WWII "old man's draft" card...and it was run by an in-law. So this was of interest.
  • Grandpa Isaac said he was a member of the Independent Harlem True Brothers (a benevolent society) since 1916. Grandpa and his wife, Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954), were both buried in this society's plot in Riverside Cemetery, Saddle Brook, NJ. But I hadn't known how long he was with the group, which he obviously joined within a year of settling down in New York City permanently.
This was an expensive experiment that I'm glad I tried but won't repeat. Not enough new information to make two pages worth $130.

IF, however, I didn't know Grandpa's date of immigration, his place of birth, his address at the time, and other details, this could have been more valuable than it turned out to be for me, 22 years after first beginning my search for Grandpa's life story.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Close to Home But Far Enough Away

Draft card for Dad, Harold Burk (1909-1978)
My Dad, Harold Burk (1909-1978), registered for the draft on 16 October 1940. This was only 30 days after the implementation of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. He didn't actually enlist in the US Army until early 1942, a few months after Pearl Harbor.

On the 1940 draft card, Harold listed his home address as 3905 Carpenter Avenue, Bronx, New York. But that's not where he was enumerated in the 1940 Census, just six months earlier.

Moving Out But Staying Close to Home

On April 4, 1940, Harold was listed as living with his parents and younger brother at 3044 Valentine Avenue, Bronx, New York. His Mom told the Census that they all lived in the same place in 1935. (I know she answered the questions because there's a small x inside a circle next to her name on the handwritten forms.) In fact, both parents stayed at this address for several more years.

Sometime in the six months following Census Day, Harold moved out of his parents' apartment and into an apartment on Carpenter Avenue. The two apartment buildings are about three miles from each other--close enough for son and parents to easily visit one another but far enough away for separate lives.

I don't know for sure whether Harold's younger brother Sidney Burk (1914-1995) moved out with him to share the brand-new apartment. My guess is he did--he was in his mid-twenties and both were working at steady jobs.

Another guess is that Harold and Sidney chose this apartment building because their older sister (Mildred Burk Lang, 1907-1993) was moving there with her husband. Millie and family weren't at this address in the 1940 Bronx phone directory--but of course, directories are prepared well in advance, much earlier than October. I'm currently looking for Millie's husband's draft card to see what address he listed, and when.

Built in 1940 or 1941?

In researching 3905 Carpenter Avenue, where Harold said he was living in October, 1940, I checked the New York City Department of Records Tax Photo Archive. I was hoping to find a photo of the building when it was just constructed.

However, according to the tax records, as shown at right, this building was built in 1941. Most likely (I'm guessing) this is a quirk of the tax records and the apartment building was declared built "as of 1941" or "at the start of 1941." In either case, no photo, and another guess at this point.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week 4 prompt in the #52Ancestors series.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Where Were Ancestors in 1950 Census?

Randy Seaver and I are on the same wavelength this week, with the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun focusing on the 1950 US Census! I've been digging into the details of the 1950 Census, so I'll be ready to find ancestors by location when the records are released in April, 2022.

Randy's challenge: Who in your ancestral families will be in the 1950 census?  Where will they be residing,  What occupations will they have?  The official "date" was 1 April 1950.

Maternal Ancestors in 1950 Census

Grandma Hermina Farkas Schwartz and Grandpa Theodore Schwartz will be living on 180th Street in the Bronx, NY, having moved from their long-time apartment on Beck Street soon after World War II ended. He will still be a dairy grocer, but not for long--his retirement came early in the 1950s!

Their twins, Daisy and Dorothy Schwartz, had already left home by this time. Daisy (hi Mom!) married Harold Burk (hi Dad!) and they were living in an apartment building on Carpenter Avenue in the Bronx, NY. The apartment building full of paternal ancestors, as noted below. Daisy was a homemaker and Dad was a travel agent.

Dorothy Schwartz (hi Auntie!) was somewhere in the Bronx, soon to move to Hackensack, NJ, with her partner, Lee Wallace. Dorothy was working for Macy's, I believe, where she met Lee, head of publicity/special events and leader of the Thanksgiving Day Parade for many years.

Daisy and Dorothy's older brother lived in Brooklyn, a high school teacher in 1950. His wife later became head of guidance for all of New York City's public schools. Their two children will both be enumerated in the 1950 Census.

Grandpa's brother, Sam Schwartz, was living in Queens, NY, also a dairy grocer. This is where I'll learn whether he had already married his second wife, Margaret. My guess is yes, they were already married by this time (his first wife, Anna Gelbman, died in 1940).

Grandpa's sister, Mary Schwartz Wirtschafter, was most likely living with her furrier husband, Edward Wirtschafter, in their home in Mount Vernon, NY. There's a small possibility they were elsewhere, since their daughter remembered them taking an apartment in the Bronx at some point.

Many of Grandma's Farkas siblings lived in the New York area and I'll be able to find them easily, thanks to the Farkas Family Tree minutes and letters I've indexed for quick reference.

Paternal Ancestors in 1950 Census

Great-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler was living in the Bronx on Marmion Ave., where I believe she stayed until her death in 1952. This is the ancestor who was either 99 or 100 when she died. The Census might give me a solid clue about her age...

Tillie's daughter Dora lived with her at this time. Dora, tall and thin, had been in millinery sales but retired early due to a chronic health condition (heart?). She died just a few months after this Census was taken.

My paternal grandma was Tillie's daughter Henrietta Mahler Burk (hi Gran!). Henrietta's husband Isaac Burk had died years earlier, so I'm going to be interested to see whether Grandma Henrietta was still on Valentine Avenue in the Bronx, where they were living when Isaac died in the 1940s. More likely she will be found in the same apartment Bronx building as her son Harold (hi Dad) and daughter-in-law Daisy (hi Mom) AND her younger son Sidney Burk and older daughter Mildred Burk Lang. Lots of family in one apartment building, the building where I was brought up.

I'll be able to locate all of Tillie's other living children, I think, because I'm in touch with 2d cousins who are their descendants. One daughter married and went to California. A son worked as a handyman in Hollywood and lived in a small apartment in Los Angeles.

One goal is to trace all of Tillie's nieces and nephews, the children of her brother Joseph Jacobs and his wife, Eva Michalovsky Jacobs. Two of Joseph's and Eva's daughter died young. I know where one of the other daughters lived in 1950, and one of the sons. So I'll be looking for the two other children!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Two Bracelets, Two Family Heirlooms

Daisy and Dorothy Schwartz, mid-1920s
Shown here in one of my favorite photos is Mom (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Schwartz, 1919-2001), with matching Buster Brown haircuts and lacy dropped-waist dresses.

Look very carefully at the arm of the smiling twin on the right, and you can see a dainty pearl bracelet dangling from her wrist. No doubt both girls had identical bracelets, but only Mom's survives.

It's a tiny heirloom (see the ruler to see how tiny) that will be shared with Mom's descendants, along with the treasured studio photo of the twins.

Worn by Daisy Schwartz Burk

The second bracelet heirloom is this one from the late 1950s, a piece of Mom's costume jewelry with photos on both sides--photos of her twin daughters (Sis and me).

As with the pearl bracelet, this charm bracelet will be shared with Mom's descendants, along with memories of her and her twin sister, my Auntie Dorothy.

One of my 2020 goals is to finish a booklet about Daisy and Dorothy, with lots of photos to bring them alive for future generations who never had the opportunity to know them.

"Favorite photo" is this week's #52Ancestors prompt.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Chasing the Elusive Nellie Block

Great Aunt Nellie Block's residence in 1950
Nellie Block (?-1950) was the oldest sister of my paternal grandfather Isaac Burk (1882-1943).

I've been chasing her backstory for a long time. Thanks to records I found from 1904, 1905, 1910, and 1950, I know a bit about Nellie. Now I thought I would get some good clues from her death certificate.

At the time of her death, my great aunt was living in this tenement in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York. I searched the NYC Municipal Archives tax photos to see what her building looked like then, and it looks very much the same today.

Unfortunately, this was the most concrete piece of evidence I gleaned from Nellie's death cert.

Ordering Nellie's Death Certificate

Technically, only relatives can see a New York City death certificate from 1950. I therefore explained on the order form that I am Nellie's grand-niece, and included what I know about her. I sent $15 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope (an SASE, remember?).

After waiting six weeks, I got back a note asking for additional info: date of birth, place of birth, name of funeral home, name of cemetery. In other words, I had to tell the NYC Municipal Archives details that would prove I was her great niece--details that would, of course, be on her death cert.

Luckily, I knew enough about her that I was able to convince authorities to send me her death cert after another wait of six weeks. The cert arrived exactly four months after my original request. I ripped it open as soon as it arrived...hoping to learn some new news. I was encouraged to see that the informant was one of her younger brothers, Meyer Berg (1883-1981). Yes!

New News About Nellie 

Meyer told authorities that his sister Nellie was widowed. What? This was news to me. (But I have some ideas I can follow up...)

Nellie's occupation was "house wife." She worked in the fur trade when she first arrived, according to Census records. That was long before Social Security, so I'm not surprised she had no Social Security number. How was she making ends meet so many years later?

Nellie was born in Russia* and was still a citizen of Russia at the time of her death. Supposedly, she was living in New York City for 60 years, as you can see in this excerpt from the cert.

So no naturalization papers to find, no Social Security application to request. Another issue: I doubt she was in America as early as 1890.

The best guess, from info on Census records, is that she arrived between 1893 and 1899. She was the first of her siblings to arrive in North America, based on what I've found out about her brothers and sister.

This early arrival would, in my mind, lend credence to the idea of her being married already when she arrived in New York City. So far, I haven't been able to find her name on a passenger list for either Castle Garden or Ellis Island. Possibly she came through Canada, which is where two of her brothers arrived. I'll have to explore further.

Confusion Instead of Clues

According to Nellie's brother, the informant on this cert, her father was "Sholam Block" and her mother was "Norma Block." I definitely recognize these first names.

However, if Nellie was widowed after being married to a man named BLOCK, why would her parents be shown with the surname of BLOCK?

Or was BLOCK her maiden name, a sound-alike for the surnames used by her siblings--Burk/Berg/Birk/Burke? Why would she be using her maiden name if she was widowed? No wonder I'm confused.

Nellie's brother estimated her age as 85, and that's the age shown on her gravestone. He supplied NO birth date. The physician attending her death, however, estimated her age as 87. Yet Nellie herself claimed to be far younger than that. In the 1905 NY Census, she said she was 27 years old. In the 1910 US Census, she said she was 31 years old. That would mean she was in her 70s when she died in 1950.

Based on Nellie's own statements, her estimated birth year would be 1878 or 1879. If I believe her brother, Nellie's birth year was 1865 (making her 18 years his senior). If I believe the attending physician at Kings County Hospital, her birth year was 1863.

Since Nellie's youngest sibling was born in 1891, and the oldest sibling I can document was born in 1877, I hesitate to fix her birth year as early as 1863-5. Even knowing that ladies often say they are younger than they really are, it seems more reasonable to guesstimate Nellie's birth year as being in the 1870s.

To be continued as I continue my research!

*Actually, she was born in what is now Lithuania, but was then part of Russia.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Honoring Burk/Mahler Grandparents on Ellis Island

Finding the Moritz Farkas Family inscription on Ellis Island Wall of Honor
Yesterday, I submitted an order to honor my paternal grandparents, both immigrants, by having their names inscribed on the Ellis Island Wall of Honor.

Maternal Ancestors Already on the Wall

This is the second set of immigrant ancestors to be inscribed on the Wall of Honor. Years ago, my mother's first cousin submitted "The Moritz Farkas Family" to be inscribed on Panel 132.

Moritz Farkas and his wife Lena Kunstler Farkas were my maternal great-grandparents. They came from Hungary just at the turn of the 20th century and settled in New York City.

The photo at top shows my Sis, our cousins, and me visiting Ellis Island in 1996 to photograph the Farkas inscription. It was a stunning beautiful day and we were proud to see "The Moritz Farkas Family" on the wall honoring immigrants.

Burk and Mahler Names to Be Added

Now, with only 5 panels remaining on the Wall of Honor, I decided it was time to pay for ancestors on my father's side to have their names inscribed.

I submitted an order to inscribe the name of my paternal grandpa Isaac Burk and his wife, my paternal grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk. The cost would have been one name for $150, but I ordered a husband-and-wife inscription for $225.

Both deserve to be honored for having the courage and initiative to leave their homelands (Isaac was from Lithuania, Henrietta from Latvia) and make a new life in North America.

Because the Ellis Island order form requires a middle initial (for the format I chose), I had to get a little creative. I never heard or found any middle name for Isaac, so I added "I" for his original name in Lithuania, Itzhak. Similarly, Henrietta had no middle name that I know of, so I added "Y" for her nickname, Yetta.

Schwartz and Farkas Names to Be Added Also

Sis was so excited about memorializing our ancestors on the Ellis Island's Wall of Honor that we immediately ordered our maternal grandparents' names for the wall. The format I chose this time is "Theodore and Hermina Farkas Schwartz" from Hungary.

Ordering before the end of 2019 ensures that these inscriptions will be installed by summer of 2020. I'm looking forward to seeing the names on the wall next year!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Ancestral Home I'd Most Like to Visit: Gargzdai

Grandpa Isaac Burk's hometown of Gargzdai
This week, Randy Seaver's Saturday Night #Genealogy Fun topic is "Which ancestral home would you most like to visit?" (Topic suggested by Linda Stufflebean, thanks!)

My paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943) and his siblings were from Gargzdai (confirmed by numerous documents).

Near a Baltic port, the town changed borders over the years as powerful neighboring empires acquired or relinquished it. To see this hometown as Grandpa and his siblings saw it, I would have to go back in time more than a century.

Gargzdai in Grandpa's Day

When Grandpa Isaac was born, Gargzdai was part of Russia, in the Kovno Gubernia (province), Telsiai Uyezd (district), slightly east of the border with Germany.

The area was then thickly forested, with lumber a significant resource fueling the local economy. No wonder my Grandpa and his brother became skilled cabinetmakers, always able to make a living by working in wood.

Grandpa arrived in North America in 1903. Moving between Montreal and New York City for years, he worked as a carpenter and cabinetmaker to support his growing family. I can find no record of Grandpa ever returning to his hometown after leaving. I really doubt he had the money to go back.

By the time of the 1920 Census, even though Grandpa  listed his birthplace as "Russia," Lithuania was then independent (for the time between the two world wars).

Did Grandpa know that Lithuania allowed women to vote as early as the 1919 elections? That's earlier than American women were allowed to vote!

Gargzdai In and After WWII

During World War II, Grandpa Isaac would have been aware that Lithuania was caught between Germany and Russia. On Grandpa's WWII draft registration card, he proudly listed his birthplace as Lithuania.

Alas, many Jewish residents of Gargzdai were exterminated when Germany occupied Lithuania during WWII. Grandpa died before Russia wrenched control of Lithuania from Germany in 1944. I wish he had lived to see Lithuania declare its independence from what was then the USSR in 1990.

Wikimedia Commons - photo of a Jewish cemetery in Gargzdai
Looking for Grandpa's Ancestors

The place in Gargzdai that would help me learn more about Grandpa Isaac's family is the cemetery where his ancestors are buried. Above, a recent photo of one Jewish cemetery in the area. How many still remain intact, I do not know.

If I could locate the correct cemetery (a BIG "if"), and if the gravestones were still readable (another big "if"), I would probably learn the names of each ancestor's father. Each ancestor's gravestone would show his or her first name and the "son of" or "daughter of" the father's name, in Hebrew.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Grandparents' Birthplaces: All Over the Map

Birthplaces of McClure, Wood, Steiner ancestors - plus Slatter in London, England
For this week's #52Ancestors challenge (thank you to Amy Johnson Crow), I mapped where in the world my grandparents and my husband's grandparents were born.

They were born all over the map.

Hubby's Grandparents - Larimer, Steiner, Slatter, and Wood

Three of my husband's grandparents were born in the American Midwest, one in England.

  • Maternal grandpa Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) was born in Little Traverse, Michigan, while his parents tried farming there for a short time.
  • Maternal grandma Floyda Mabel Steiner (1878-1948) was born in Nevada, Ohio. Her birth certificate was really "delayed" (only issued in 1944, most likely so she could apply for Social Security).
  • Paternal grandpa James Edgar Wood (1871-1939) was born in Toledo, Ohio. He was one of 17 children, 8 of whom were born in Toledo.
  • Paternal grandma Mary Slatter (1869-1925) was born in London, in the poorest of the poor sections of Whitechapel. (Her birthplace is not on the map at top--just couldn't fit it in!)
My Grandparents - Farkas, Schwartz, Burk, and Mahler

Birthplaces of Farkas, Schwartz, Mahler, and Burk ancestors

None of my grandparents had America roots--all were born in Eastern Europe and settled in New York City soon after the turn of the 20th century.

  • Maternal grandma Hermina Farkas (1886-1964) was born in Berehovo, Hungary, not very far from where her future husband was born.
  • Maternal grandpa Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965) was born in Ungvar, Hungary, but met his future wife in a Hungarian delicatessen in the Lower East Side of New York City, according to family lore.
  • Paternal grandma Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) was born near Riga, Latvia, according to her husband's naturalization paperwork. I hope someday to better pinpoint her birthplace.
  • Paternal grandpa Isaac Burk (1881-1943) was born in Gargzdai, Lithuania and married his wife Henrietta in New York City.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Grandma Minnie's "Mistake"

Daisy & Dorothy Schwartz, mid-1920s
Mom (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981), tried to break into freelance writing during the 1960s, drafting a children's book and several magazine articles that never got printed.

One draft that my twin sis and I recently found was for a magazine article titled, "I'm Proud of My Twins, But . . . " It was about Mom's experience growing up as a twin (her sis was Dorothy Schwartz, 1919-2001), and her experience raising twins.

Mom writes that her mother (Hermina "Minnie" Farkas Schwartz, 1886-1964, my maternal grandma) made a big mistake.

Mom Waits for Her Baby 

Early in the article, Mom thinks back to a remark she herself made late in her own pregnancy. This was in the old, old days, the time before ultrasound. Nobody knew whether a baby would be a boy or a girl, let alone how many.

Mom told a neighbor just days before going to the hospital to give birth:
"If I ever have a set of twins, I'll never make the same mistake my mother did."
Surprise! Twins

It was quite a surprise to the whole family when Mom had two little girls, only two minutes apart, neither weighing 5 lbs.

My father (Harold Burk, 1909-1978) spent an entire roll of dimes making calls to family and friends from the pay phone on the maternity ward. (I did say it was the old, old days.) Happy phone calls, spreading the surprising news about Mom having twins! Even a week later, my Grandma Minnie was quite speechless when asked how it felt to have twin granddaughters.

Grandma Minnie's Mistake

Eleven years after her twins were born, here's what my Mom wrote about Minnie's mistake. The all-caps are from the original typewritten draft.
"What was The Mistake my mother made that I set out to rectify? It was PRIDE . . . dressing twins alike, urging them to follow the same bent, keeping them in each other's company constantly, and sharing everything."
My mother and her twin sister were dressed alike until age 18, and sat together in classrooms throughout their school careers until graduating high school. Mom was the younger twin, and often looked to her sister for emotional support and friendship. During WWII, when Auntie Dorothy joined the WAACs and was away from home for several years, Mom had to learn a new kind of independence, which was challenging but also rewarding, she writes.

Avoiding the Mistake

In the rest of the article, Mom writes about encouraging each twin to be an individual and be independent. She mentions specifics, including separate wardrobes, separate classes, separate friends, and separate interests for each child.

However, as my Sis points out, separating us meant that one twin sometimes had a better teacher while the other twin was in a far less-desirable class situation. Mom and Dad didn't acknowledge or appreciate that separating us in school could have negative consequences for the twin who was not with the better teacher or better class.

As my husband points out, parents try their best, and wind up making different kinds of mistakes than our parents made. That's what happened when Mom tried to avoid her mother's mistake while raising twins.

Yet in the end, Mom accomplished her goal of encouraging Sis and me to choose our own ways of life, with our own friendships, interests, careers, and tastes.


Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the "mistake" prompt for week 37 in her long-running #52Ancestors series.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Entrepreneurial Dad and His Travel Agency

Harold Burk, travel agent, arriving in Honolulu
My Dad, Harold D. Burk (1909-1978), had a long-time goal to be his own boss and work in the travel business. Entrepreneurship runs in the family--both of my grandfathers owned their own businesses.

During the 1930s, when in his 20s, Dad began working his way up to becoming a travel agent. He started in big New York City hotels, getting bonded so his employers would know they could trust him with money and blank travel tickets, which were negotiable. Soon he was issuing railroad and bus tickets, as well as booking flights for his customers, the old-fashioned way--on paper.

Burk Travel Service

By 1948, Dad had established his own company, the Burk Travel Service, in the lobby of the swanky Savoy Plaza Hotel. This was diagonally across from the famous Plaza Hotel on 59th Street in the heart of Manhattan. In the late 1950s, the Trader Vic's tiki restaurant opened on the ground floor of the Savoy Plaza, adding even more glamour and attracting celebrities to the place.

During the years he was in business, Dad and his younger brother Sidney Burk (1914-1995) worked together to make travel arrangements for all sorts of clients, including big-wigs and celebs who stayed at the Savoy Plaza Hotel. My sisters and I squealed with delight when Dad would bring home signed photos or 45 rpm records from rock groups at the hotel, including Gerry and the Pacemakers, known for Ferry Across the Mersey (among other hits).

Through Dad's work, our family also got free tickets to the New York World's Fair in 1964-5, admission to the Ed Sullivan TV show in New York, the Circle Line boat trip around Manhattan, and even sightseeing flights around LaGuardia Airport.

By 1960, the Savoy Plaza hotel was owned by Hilton and renamed the Savoy Hilton, as shown in the above 1960 Manhattan phone directory listing for Dad's Burk Travel Service. Alas, the hotel was soon torn down to make way for the General Motors Building. Dad never again had his own travel agency, although he worked in parts of the industry for several more years.

Hawaii for the Weekend

With a growing family of three girls, Dad rarely had the opportunity to actually travel despite being in the business. Still, one time he was able to go on a free travel agents' trip to Hawaii, one of his dream destinations.

Dad had barely arrived in Honolulu and gotten a welcome lei (photo at top) when we three girls all became ill. After only a weekend in paradise, Dad flew back home to New York to help out. He never got to Hawaii again, although my sis and I and our families went there in early 2000!

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

Sunday, August 4, 2019

My Immigrant Ancestors: Isaac Burk's Sisters

This shows Lithuania in 1939-1940,
as Germans and Russians claimed sections.

Orange sliver in west is where my Burk/Birk
ancestors came from. 
Last week's #52Ancestors prompt was "brothers." This week, for the "sisters" prompt, I look at the two sisters of my paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk. The family was originally from northwest Lithuania, as shown on the map above.

I was able to research Jennie, in particular, thanks to the FAN club--friends, associates, neighbors.

Younger sister: Jennie Birk

My first clue that Jennie Birk (1890-1972) was Grandpa's sister came in the 1910 US Census, where I found her as a boarder living in the Manhattan household of newly-widowed Tillie Jacobs Mahler (my paternal great-grandma). Only in the past couple of years did I discover how Jennie was related to me, by comparing my mother's old address book and two letters written by my aunt to her Aunt Jennie. Subsequently, I found Jennie in a passenger manifest of 1909, arriving at Ellis Island on her own.

Jennie married Paul Salkowitz (1889-1957) in 1919. They remained in Manhattan for a time, but by 1940, they were living in the same Bronx apartment building as her older brother Isaac Burk (yes, my Grandpa). There they were, right on the same Census page, as neighbors! Jennie proudly said she was born in Lithuania. (I know because there was an X with a circle next to her name in the Census, indicating she herself gave the info to the enumerator.)

Paul and Jennie were among the Burk family members in attendance at my parents' wedding in New York City in 1946. By 1950, they were in Lakeland, Florida, where her brother Meyer was living. Paul's occupation was shown in the city directory as "citrus grower," the same as Meyer's occupation. Jennie was a devoted aunt, I know from a cousin's memory and letters written by her niece. If only I could have met her!

Older sister: Nellie Neshe Block
Grave of Nellie Block, sister of
my grandpa Isaac Burk

Nellie (1879-1950) seems to have been the first in the Burk family to arrive in America, something that surprised me. The first documentation I have shows her in 1904 in the Jewish Harlem household of Tillie Mahler and husband Meyer Mahler (my great-grandparents). Isaac Burk (my grandpa) said he was going to her when he arrived at Ellis Island that year. The NY Census of 1905 and the US Census of 1910 show Nellie living on Henry Street, in the Lower East Side of New York.

In the 1910 Census, Nellie said she was born in Russia--but, interestingly, the enumerator wrote (Lith) next to that. According to this Census, Nellie arrived in the US in 1899. According to the 1905 Census, she had been in the US for 12 years. Um, a discrepancy...

So far, no sign of her in a passenger manifest, but that could be because of the many variations in the surname. Block, Burk, Birk, Berk, Burke were some of the ways my ancestors spelled their name.
The NYC Death Index says Nellie died in Brooklyn on 22 December 1950. I've found her in the 1949 and 1950 Brooklyn telephone directories (free via Internet Archive, see this page I used) at the address 1654 E. 13 Street. I spent $15 to request a copy of her death cert to see additional info, and hope I don't have to wait too long.

Nellie's gravestone shows her Hebrew name as "Neshi, daughter of Sholom." The relatives who put up the stone thought she was 85 years old at her death, but that's not consistent with what she told the Census, which equates to a birth year of 1878 or 1879--meaning she died at the age of 71 or 72. Again, I wish I had known great aunt Nellie.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Immigrant Ancestors in North America: Isaac Burk's Brothers

Gargzdai, hometown of Grandpa Isaac Burk & family
More than a century ago, three brothers and two sisters of my paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943) left Gargzdai, Lithuania for North America.

For this week's  #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow, I want to look at the three immigrant brothers (alert: long post ahead!). Next week, I'll look at the two immigrant sisters.

The five siblings used different variations of their family surname. My Grandpa used Burk, but others used Berk, Burk, Block, Berg, and Birk.

Old Brother: Abraham Berk

The oldest son of Solomon Elias Birck and Necke Gelle Shuham Birck, Abraham (1877-1962) was a trained cabinetmaker.* So was my Grandpa Isaac (but not their younger brothers).

By 1901, Abraham and Isaac had left Lithuania and were living in the household of Annie Hinda (Mitav?) Chazan and Isaac Chazan of Manchester, England. Like so many others who left Eastern Europe during this period, they probably paused their journey in England to learn the language they would speak in North America and earn more money for their passage.

Abraham Burke in 1914 Montreal directory
Abraham stayed longer than Isaac, marrying Anna Horwitch in 1903 and starting a family before sailing to Canada in 1904 on the S.S. Lake Champlain. He settled in Montreal and Annie joined him with oldest daughter Rose. The couple had three more children, Lilly, William, and Irving.

I found Abraham listed in the 1914 Montreal directory as a "carpenter" living at 431 Laval Avenue (see page at right). By this time, his surname had morphed into Burke.

He served as informal patriarch when my father (Abraham's nephew) married my mother in 1946, proudly standing near the bride and groom in the wedding photos. By the time Abraham died in December of 1962, he had 10 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.

Younger Brother: Meyer Berg

The longest-lived of the brothers, Meyer Berg (1883-1981) arrived at Ellis Island on May 16, 1903, age 19, occupation as a "clerk." He lived with his future sister-in-law's family in Jewish Harlem for several years, then married Anna Paris (or Peris or Peretz) in 1907 and went on to have five children.

Sadly, one of these children (Milton) died as a young man of 23, just before World War II. Milton had gone to Los Angeles, working as an insurance agent in Beverly Hills for New England Mutual Life Insurance.

Meyer originally worked as a cutter in the garment district (see draft card above). Soon after Milton's death, however, Meyer and Anna moved to Lakeland, Florida to start a citrus orchard. They loved Florida so much that they convinced Meyer's brother Max and sister Jennie to move to the same town.

Remarkably, Meyer and Anna were married for 73 years, and my cousin says they were very happy together. They died, well into their 90s, within months of each other.

Younger Brother: Max Berk

The youngest in the family, Max (1891-1953) Americanized his original name, which was Matel. (Not just family story, but also shown on his petition for naturalization.)

Max was the last brother to arrive in North America, landing at Ellis Island in 1906. Sometime between then and 1917, he moved to Chicago, where he worked as a jeweler (see above). He became a naturalized citizen in 1923 in Chicago.

The next time I found Max in the records, he was back in New York City, getting married to Rebecca in 1936. The couple settled in Brooklyn for a time, where he worked as a jeweler in Manhattan's diamond district. They also had a home in Florida, where eventually they moved to be near Meyer and Anna. I'm continuing my search to fill in the missing years...

My great uncle Max died at the age of 61 (or possibly 60, if his gravestone is accurate), and his wife Rebecca outlived him by 31 years.

*One of the experts at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain told me that 19th-century Lithuania was dotted with thick forests. Given the limited occupations open to Jewish people at that time and place, training as a carpenter and cabinetmaker would provide sons of the family with practical skills to make a living.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Remembering Dads on Father's Day

Harold Burk and oldest daughter
On this Father's Day, I'm remembering my Dad, Harold D. Burk (1909-1978) with love. Born a city boy, he enjoyed taking his children to parks and botanical gardens (such as the one above). In his later years, he took pleasure in baking sky-high apple pies. Although we kids sometimes helped slice the apples, he was the one with the knack for rich, flaky crusts. Missing you, Dad, and your apple pies, too, on this Father's Day 2019.

Edgar J. Wood and Marian McClure Wood on a cruise
Also, I'm honoring the memory of my father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986). He told very lively stories about being in a 1920s jazz band playing on board ocean liners to pay for passage. Ed played piano all his life, even practicing when taking a cruise vacation with his wife, Marian Jane McClure (1909-1983). Thinking of you with affection on Father's Day 2019, Ed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Great Uncle Abraham Burk Sailed From . . . ?

Unsourced page - BIG rookie mistake!
Years ago, when I was starting out in genealogy, I somehow found the passenger list showing when my paternal grandfather's older brother left England and arrived in Canada.

Great-uncle Abraham Burk (1877-1962) was born in Gargzdai, Lithuania. In his early 20s, he and my Grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943) came to live with an aunt and uncle in Manchester, England. I found them there in the 1901 UK Census, in the household of Isaac Chazan and his wife, Hinde Ann. They were learning English and earning money to pay for their journey to North America.

My great-uncle Abraham married Annie Hurwitch (or Horwich) in Manchester in June, 1903. The next time I spotted a record for Abraham, he was living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in 1904. How did he get there? When did he leave, when did he arrive? I rushed ahead to find out more, leaving no paper trail.

Avoid My Rookie Mistake

My research at that time led me to the page at top. It has no ship's name, and no date, but there is Abraham Burk, age 26, married, a cabinetmaker, "Russian Jew," with $2 in his pocket. He had left "Lancashire," and his destination was "Montreal." Yup, it's Great Uncle Abraham.

I excitedly saved only this image of a single page of the passenger list, with the quick note "April, 1904."

My big rookie mistake was not citing any sources. What ship was this page from? When, exactly, did it sail, where did it leave from, and when/where did it arrive? Where else did I search (with or without success)? Without a source or a research log, I couldn't easily retrace my steps. For years, I didn't even try. I had lots of other ancestors to chase. But this rookie mistake (not an isolated incident) has come back to haunt me during my ongoing Genealogy Go-Over.

Looking for Abraham, Page by Page

Today I spent two hours on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website, researching Abraham's voyage to find out where this passenger list came from so I can note a complete source and get a better picture of my ancestor's travels.

The LAC website has a key database titled Passenger lists, 1865-1922, which includes 26 ship arrivals for the month of April, 1904. Clicking page by page, I examined every ship's passenger list, in search of Abraham.

You can guess that Abraham did NOT arrive early in the month. Of course not. But eventually, after looking at many dozens of pages, I struck gold.

Liverpool to Halifax in 11 Days 

Abraham arrived on April 30th aboard the S.S. Lake Champlain from Liverpool, England, to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Compared with many of my immigrant ancestors' voyages, this was relatively brief--Abraham crossed the Atlantic in only 11 days. Leaving from Liverpool makes a lot of sense, since it is convenient to get there from Manchester, where Abraham was living.

A bit more research revealed that the S.S. Lake Champlain often sailed directly to Quebec. Why Abraham didn't go there, instead of Halifax, I simply don't know.

Genealogy Go-Over

Today, I strive to save two versions of any image I download as a source. The one directly above shows my source, typed onto the image. On my family tree, I include additional details such as web addresses so I can retrace my steps quickly and easily. Little by little, I'm cleaning up these kinds of mistakes and omissions as I go over each ancestor in my tree and hubby's tree.

Don't make my big rookie mistake. Cite your sources and add them to your family tree as you go.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Remembering Moms on Mother's Day

Daisy Ruth Schwartz
It's been a very long time since I was able to say "Happy Mother's Day" to my mother, Daisy Ruth Schwartz Burk (1919-1981). She is still much beloved and much missed, not just on Mother's Day. Above, a formal portrait of Mom as a young lady.
Marian Jane McClure
Alas, I never had the opportunity to meet my husband's mother, Marian Jane McClure Wood (1909-1983). An only child lavished with love by doting parents, she's shown above in her 20s. How I wish I could have gotten to know her. She's remembered with great affection on this Mother's Day.

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.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

From Gargzdai to Rotterdam to Ellis Island

My great uncle Meyer Berg (1883-1981), left his home in Gargzdai, Lithuania in the spring of 1903 and sailed from Rotterdam to New York City on the S.S. Ryndam, shown above in 1919.

Also known as the S.S. Rinjdam, this Holland-America ship launched in 1901, equipped to carry a few hundred first-class passengers, a few hundred second-class passengers, and 1,800 third-class passengers.

The S.S. Ryndam had a varied career, serving in trans-Atlantic transport convoys during WWI before returning to mercantile shipping until it was scrapped in 1929.

Two Brothers, Same Port, Same Ship

The May 16, 1903 crossing of the S.S. Ryndam from Rotterdam to New York City included my great uncle Meyer. According to the manifest, his passage to America was paid by his sister, who picked him up at Ellis Island. It has to be his older sister Nellie Block, since she was the only sister in New York at the time.

In 1906, Meyer's younger brother Max (Matel) Berk sailed from the same port, on the same ship, arriving on July 9th. Max was picked up by his brother (my future paternal Grandpa) Isaac Burk, who also paid for his passage, according to the manifest.

It makes me feel good to read these notations showing how family helped family to build a better future by coming to America, one or two siblings at a time.

Port Choices

Rotterdam (circle) and Gargzdai (red marker)
Notice from the map that Gargzdai is close to the Baltic Sea, at the far Western end of Lithuania. Meanwhile, Rotterdam is quite a distance southwest (see circle).

Yet these two immigrant ancestors, both brothers of my paternal Grandpa, choose Rotterdam as their port of departure.

On the other hand, Hamburg was the port of choice for Max and Meyer's brother-in-law.

Their sister, Jennie Birk (1890-1972), married Paul Salkowitz (1889-1957), a man born in Memel, in the KlaipÄ—da Region that has been both Lithuania and Germany. Paul sailed from Hamburg in August, 1911. Hamburg, not Rotterdam.

I keep thinking about these port choices, in the context of the steamship lines' marketing to potential immigrants in Europe, as well as whether these immigrants left their hometowns legally. Always something to think about with #genealogy!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Whoa, Nellie! Oh, Henry! Researching My Great Aunt

Center, Nellie Block. Right, Jennie Birk. Left: Which brother?
My great aunt Nellie Block was the oldest sister of paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk. She's the lady in the center of this undated photo. From the meager paperwork I've assembled, she may possibly have come to America from their hometown of Gargzdai, Lithuania, before her other siblings made the journey.

I haven't yet found her on a passenger manifest, so I can't confirm exactly when she crossed the Atlantic. She didn't travel with her brother Meyer Berg, who arrived in May, 1903, or her brother Max Birk, who arrived in 1906. She didn't travel with my Grandpa Isaac or his older brother Abraham, who both went to Canada first. She didn't travel with younger sister Jennie, who arrived in 1909. In each case, I found these siblings on the manifest without her, seeming to be alone in their trans-Atlantic crossing.

Here's what I do know. When my Grandpa sailed to Canada and later crossed into America in 1904, he listed "Sister Nella Block" as the nearest relative he was going to meet in New York City. At that time, the address for Nellie was the apartment where the Mahler family lived--their daughter Henrietta Mahler became the bride of Isaac Burk in 1906. So it seems there was a previous family connection between the Burk and Mahler families. (That connection continued, clearly, because Jennie was a boarder in the Mahler apartment in the 1910 census. More about that in a later post.)

Whoa, Nellie! Check That Date

Nellie Block's gravestone shows her Hebrew name as "Neshi, daughter of Solomon." (This tallies with what I know of the father's name.) It also shows her as 85 years of age when she died. Date carved in stone? Not necessarily correct.

Here's what two Census documents say:

  • 1905 New York Census, age 27 (census taken in June)
  • 1910 US Census, age 31 (census taken in April)

I am actively searching for her in the 1915 NY Census, 1920 US Census, 1930 Census, or 1940 Census, using variations on her name, because I am 99% positive she remained in New York City.

Based on what I have in hand, I believe she was born in 1879 and was actually 71 (not 85) when she died on December 22, 1950. Why the family would have her age as 85 is a mystery.

Oh, Henry! Where Nellie Lived

Two Census documents show Nellie lived as a boarder in tenements on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where so many other immigrants began their new lives. Her address in 1905 was 62 Henry Street, a tenement building that no longer exists, where she was a boarder in someone else's apartment. Her address in 1910 was 46 Henry Street, boarding in a tenement just a one-minute walk from her previous address, as shown in the map above.

That area has been going through a resurgence; I found an article here about what Henry Street used to be like a century ago.

Oh Henry! was the name of a popular candy bar introduced about 100 years ago and still on the market today. Whether Nellie ever tasted one, I have no idea. It would be so sweet to learn more about Great Aunt Nellie!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Grandpa's Siblings: Researching Holes in Their Stories

My paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk (1882-1943), was born in Gargzdai, Lithuania, and had at least five siblings. Based on old photos in the family, there was probably a much younger brother who remained in Lithuania when Isaac and his siblings Max, Jennie, Meyer, and Nellie came to America and older brother Abraham came to Canada.

As part of my genealogy go-over, I'm reviewing the holes in their stories and doing more research to fill in. Today, I'm looking at Max (originally Matel) Birk (1892-1953), the youngest of siblings who left Lithuania.

Burke, Berk, Burk, Birk, Berg, Block

Grandpa Isaac (who died long before I was born) spelled his surname Burk. The other siblings went by variations: Abraham went by Burke or Berk, Max went by Birk, Meyer went by Berg, Nellie went by Block, and Jennie went by Birk. No wonder genealogists go a little batty. Yes, I know these fit the Soundex category for Burk, but I also have to spell creatively where Soundex isn't an option.

The Search Is On!

The July, 1906 passenger list for the S.S. Ryndam out of Rotterdam shows Max being met by his brother Isaac Burk (my grandpa) in New York City. That's where the paper trail evaporates for a while.

I already found Max's WWI draft registration form, shown at top. He was a jeweler in Chicago in 1917, living at 3525 W. 12 St. He was naturalized in Chicago in 1923, I know from his naturalization papers, and then living at 3525 Roosevelt Dr.

But when did Max arrive in Chicago? When did he return to New York City, where he was married in 1936? The search is on for the missing years. So far, no luck finding Max in New York City directories, but that's another avenue I'll pursue shortly.

Census and City Directories

After no luck finding Max/Matel in the US Census for 1910 and 1920 (in Family Search and in Ancestry, plus Heritage Quest as well), I struck out looking for Max in the 1905 and 1915 New York State Census. These searches were via indexing, so shortly I'll try browsing the Census near where his siblings lived in NYC during those Census periods. He may have been mis-indexed and only by browsing will I find him, if he's in NY.

Heritage Quest has lots of city directories, but not from Chicago. That's why I used my Connecticut State Library card for remote access to Fold3 for free, from home, to look at Chicago city directories for the early 1900s. 

I found Max in the 1923 Chicago directory, a jeweler, right where he should be in the listings for Birk (see below), at the same address as on his naturalization papers. He's not in the 1915-6-7 Chicago directories, however. I'm still looking in the Chicago directories via Ancestry for a variation on Max's surname.

Max was living in Chicago in 1920, at 2525 W. 12th Street, according to his naturalization papers. My next step is to browse the 1920 census for Chicago in that area, and to look for additional Chicago directories from the 1920s to see when he stops appearing. UPDATE: Browsing Census images on HeritageQuest is going to take time, since the address could be in one of several wards.  I made a note of EDs and wards so I can stop and pick up in the same place along the way.