Showing posts with label Census. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Census. Show all posts

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.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Who Can See Your Family History Media?

 Facts on Great-Grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler's family tree, with attached media
Genealogy record sets disappear from websites from time to time! And if one of my family history "facts" is linked to a source that disappears, I'll be sorry. Several highly experienced genealogy folks have suggested capturing the source image (original, not transcription or index) for download to my computer. I'm starting to do that.

This way, the digital media will be in my genealogy file folders (arranged by surname and/or family) and in my genealogy software.

Just as important, I'm making sure these media images (Census, vital records, and more) will be visible to anyone who finds my public family trees. I welcome cousins browsing my trees and would love to imagine them clicking to see the media image for themselves. In reality, this is a long shot, but at least the media are visible because the trees are public.

Download, then upload family history media

After I download an image related to a source (such as a Census page), I rename it and save it in the proper digital folder. I also add it to my genealogy software.

The next step is to upload that source as an image to support the related fact on my online tree. You can see what that looks like on my paternal great-grandma's Ancestry tree, shown above in excerpted form. You can see a thumbnail preview of the uploaded media next to the related facts.

Census pages are unlikely to be totally withdrawn from public view, IMHO, because they are so widely available. Especially when the transcription or indexing is squirrelly, I will occasionally attach a blowup of the relevant section as the media rather than the entire page to support a fact. I did this for the 1900 US Census and 1905 NY Census in my tree, above.

Media for possible cousins and future genealogists

OK, I'm late to this party. I was delighted at the distant cousin who not only attached actual Census pages and other media but summarized the contents in the comments area--especially full street addresses or other details. I know he's a careful researcher and I can see at a glance where he says our common ancestors lived or died. Thank you!

When researching common surnames like WOOD, having the ability to quickly check an original source is a big plus. I like to think I'm helping my husband's cousins and future genealogists by attaching the media and not relying solely on links to source citations.

I'm approaching this as a long series of bite-sized projects. One ancestor at a time, I'm capturing, downloading, uploading, and attaching source media. One at a time, not all at once. No tree ever grew in a day.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Clicking, Not Cranking, to Read Unindexed Records

Temperature this morning was minus 3. On a day like this, I'm feeling grateful not to have to leave the house to crank through microfilm as I search through unindexed records.


Happily, the records I'm searching are a click away on FamilySearch.org. Not long ago, I attended a talk about researching in Hungary, where my maternal grandparents were from. The speaker reminded us that we can click through unindexed census records on FamilySearch at our leisure.

Tips from the Family Search Wiki



The FamilySearch wiki pages about Hungary provide a handy key to help researchers interpret what each census column is about (see above). Now I can spot where the family name would be listed, the columns for age, place of birth, and so on. This helps me speed-click through the 600-odd unindexed pages.

At top, the first page in this series that I'm searching, looking for the Schwartz family in Ungvar, in Ung county. Notice that in the page at top, the very first family (not in Ungvar) is Schwartz. I expect to see a lot of Schwartz entries scattered in Hungary. The real trick is to click and locate MY Schwartz family.

One of the good things coming out of this page-by-page search is more familiarity with surnames and given names of that time and place. And I'm getting better at reading different handwritings from that time and place.

In Search of Great-Grandpa Herman Schwartz

A-clicking I will go, in search of my great-grandpa's family, the parents of Herman Schwartz. Herman should be in the census as a child, although his name may be different, perhaps Hershel or Hirsch instead of Herman. It takes a lot more time to look through one page at a time, but it will be worth it if Herman and his family are there. And it's clicking, not cranking, already easier than it would have been just a few years ago.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Genealogy Go-Over: In Search of Mary Amanda Demarest's Parents

During my ongoing Genealogy Go-Over, I've been cleaning up sources and searching for records posted since the last time I researched each key ancestor. Working with Cousin L, the keeper of the Wood ancestry and a crackerjack researcher with 35 years of experience, we've fleshed out the Wood family from the great-grandparents on down.

But there's still a big gap in the family tree: identifying the parents of Mary Amanda Demarest (1831-1897), wife of Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890)--these are hubby's great-grandparents. Cousin L already had some info about GGM Mary Amanda, including her probable birth date of June 1, 1831, which appears on her gravestone, as well as her probable marriage date of May 14, 1845, which appears in the family bible. Despite years of searching, we've turned up no birth record for GGM Mary Amanda Demarest.

This week, doing a new search, I was surprised to find a potential clue: A baptismal record from St. Clements Church in New York City. The excerpt at top shows a Mary Amanda Demarest, along with four siblings, being baptized in March, 1832. Only one parent is listed: Mary Ann Demarest.

The five daughters of Mary Ann Demarest being baptized were:

  • ? Ann, born 13 January 1821 (?)
  • Rachel Jemima, born 3 September 1824
  • Martha Jane, born 29 March 1826
  • Malinda Elizabeth, born 13 January 1829
  • Mary Amanda Demarest, born 1 June 1831
St. Clements was an Episcopal Church located on Amity Street (now West 3rd Street) near Sullivan Street, just below Washington Square in what is currently the Greenwich Village area.

My husband noticed that only one parent was listed on this baptismal record. Could it be that Mary Ann Demarest was a widow? If so, he asked, would she be shown by name in the 1830 Census?

Good question. And sure enough, one Mary Demarest was the head of household on Hudson Street in New York City in the 1830 US Census, as shown above. That Census was taken on June 1, 1830. Hudson Street is a healthy walk from St. Clements Church, but not crazy far away. My hopes were high.

Alas, the demographics of the Demarest household don't exactly match what we're looking for. The census recorded two girls under the age of 10. The household also included a female in her 20s, a female in her 30s, a female in her 40s, and a female in her 60s.

If Mary Demarest, the household head in the Census record, matched Mary Ann Demarest, the mother in the baptismal record, there would be a total of 4 females under the age of 10 in the 1830 Census.* I see only 2 females under 10. Not a close match. Even considering that one or two youngsters might have been elsewhere on Census day, who are the other women in the household?

Another really important point: Mary Amanda Demarest, the object of our search, was born exactly one year after the Census was taken and ten months before the 1832 baptismal record. Would a widow have had another child after the 1830 Census? Would she have kept the Demarest name if remarried, or married another Demarest even? Or not married again, keeping her former married name while having a child? All are possibilities.

Therefore, I reluctantly have to conclude that Mary Ann Demarest (the parent in the baptismal record) is unlikely to be the same Mary Demarest who was head of household on Hudson Street in the 1830 Census.

I've checked the St. Clements records for decades after the 1832 baptisms and found no other mentions of Mary Ann Demarest or her daughters. Yet the baptismal record showing Mary Amanda Demarest's birth date of June 1, 1831 is an exact match for GGM's birth date on her grave stone.

Although the baptismal record is very intriguing and matches the birth date, more evidence is needed to really prove that Mary Ann Demarest is my husband's GGGM. And if she belongs on the family tree, I don't have any clue to this ancestor's maiden name. Yet!

*Cousin L completed an analysis of every Demarest household in the 1830 Census of New York County. He also analyzed every Demarest in the city directory for that year and place. Not one appears to match OUR Demarest family. The search continues. I'm going to follow the possible siblings forward in time to try to find one or more of them in later records. Fingers crossed.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Three Sites Are Better Than One: Finding Uncle Joe in the Census?

Family Search, Heritage Quest, Ancestry each indexes federal and state Census records independently. If one site doesn't seem to turn up an ancestor in a Census, always--always!--try the other two. Between the three sites, I've learned where most of my ancestors were during a Census period.

This week, I was looking at the timeline gaps in my research into the early life of Uncle Joseph A. Markell (1895?-1975). For some reason, he didn't show up in Ancestry when searching the 1905 New York State Census, so I tried Family Search. Immediately, a Joseph Markell popped up. In a very unlikely setting, I might add. The name and the age are what I expected, not the place. Is this the right person?


As shown in the NY Census excerpt at top, a Joseph Markell was age 12 and living at boarding school in 1905, at the Weingart Institute.

What was this school all about? I located several references. Here's a reference from an 1893 handbook to NYC, explaining that this school was K-12, including college prep.



Another mention of this school was in a NY Times ad from 1908. In both of the references, the Weingart Institute's gymnasium was a selling point. One more online search turned up a piece about this school's summer camp in Highmount, NY--a camp attended by young Oscar Hammerstein, among other luminaries.

Where exactly the money came from to send Joseph to a posh private school is quite a mystery, which is why I have to dig deeper to be sure this is MY family's Joseph. So far, I haven't located the whereabouts of Joseph's parents in 1905. Very possibly they weren't living together; she could have been in PA while he was in NYC. I say this because I know Joseph's mother, Rosa Lebowitz Markell, died young in 1909 in Allegheny county, PA. I have her death cert and this is definitely the right Rosa.

That left his father, "Barney" Benjamin Isaac Enoch Markell (1874-1944), who was working as a "driver" in 1902 in NYC, according to his citizenship papers, responsible for Joseph. Both Barney and son Joseph were living in Rosa's mother's NYC apartment, according to the 1910 Census (found on all three sites).

Once Barney remarried in 1914, however, Joe didn't get along with his new step-mom and left as soon as he could. By the time of the US Census in 1920, Joe was in the Navy, a yeoman serving on the U.S.S. Niagara off Tampico, Mexico. In 1921, he was out of the service and married to Mary Mahler (1896-1979). The newlyweds first settled in New York City, later moving to New Rochelle, just north of the city.

Their neighbors around the corner in New Rochelle were Rose Farkas Freedman (1901-1993) and her husband, George M. Freedman (1900-1989). Rose, my mother's aunt, and her neighbor Mary Markell (my father's aunt) were BFFs . . . and they introduced my parents to each other. The rest is #familyhistory! Now to round out the stories, I'll be looking more closely at Uncle Joe and the possibility that he went to private school in 1905. And where his parents were at the time....?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

52 Ancestors #5: The Genealogical Bonanza of the 1950 Census

1950 US Census Form
It's hard to believe the bonanza of information waiting for genealogists when the 1950 Census is released in April, 2022. You can download the blank form for yourself here.

And the 1950 Census release is only 50 months away. But if I'm really, really lucky, some of my ancestors were chosen as a "sample" to answer in-depth questions! You'll hope your ancestors were "sampled" too when you realize what's "in the Census" (the title of Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge this week).

One in five people were chosen as a "sample" to answer detailed questions like (1) Where was this person living in 1949 (farm or not, same county/state, same house)? (2) Where were mother and father born (country)? (3) Highest grade of school completed? (4) Individual and household income--separate questions for work income, other income from interest and benefits--number of weeks worked/looking for work? (5) Military service in WWI, WWII, or other time?

And that's just the sample questions. The Census itself required enumerators to list each household with the head first, followed by his wife (I know, I know, it was the 1950s, don't blame me!), and children in age order, followed by non-family members living in the household. And the relationship of non-family members to the head was supposed to be listed too!

Age and state of birth (or country) is listed for each person. Importantly, if age is under one year, month of birth will be listed. Married, divorced, never married, widowed, separated. And wait, there's more. For each person over 14, the enumerator had to describe the kind of work and the industry worked in.

I'm particularly interested in ancestors who died not long after the 1950 Census. For instance, my great aunt Dora Lillie Mahler (1893-1950) died only a couple of months after the Census was taken. Another great aunt, Nellie Block (1878-1950), died that December.

Where were they living? What were they doing? Since NYC has not made 1950 death certs available (a decision being challenged by the wonderful folks at Reclaim the Records), I have only their brief obits for now. As you can see by the details in the 1950 Census, I'll know a LOT more about them in 50 months. Happily, I have a good idea of which Enumeration Districts to check when the Census is released. And I can hardly wait.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Census 1940: How Much Did Grandpa Make in 1939?

On April 2, 2012, I'll be able to find out how much money my Grandpa Theodore Schwartz made in 1939. Why do I care? Because Grandpa ran a grocery store and, according to family stories, he was too soft-hearted to take money from customers who were hungry but couldn't pay for their purchases. In eight months, I'll know whether Grandpa's income was suffering or whether he and Grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz had enough money to get by.

Yearly income in 1939 is only one of the important questions that any beginning genealogist should be thrilled to see on the 1940 Census form.

Another key question is "Residence, April 1, 1935." If you've already checked your ancestors' whereabouts in the 1930 Census, you'll now know where they were at the beginning, middle, and end of the Depression.

There's only one catch, and that's the biggest tip of all for using the 1940 Census: The names won't be indexed, at least not at first. You should start now to assemble a list of the exact addresses of all the relatives you're looking for in the 1940 Census. Second task: Locate the exact Enumeration District for each, which can be harder than it sounds (alas).** But if you start soon, you'll be ready.

When the Census records are opened in 2012, my fingers will be poised over the keyboard, ready to find out about Grandpa's income and his housing situation in the 1930s. How about you?

For more info, see the Census page at Archives.com.

** JoelWeintraub's comment, below, has this excellent idea: "I suggest your readers start by taking our tutorial at: http://stevemorse.org/census/quiz.php." Thanks, Joel!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Genealogy Time Capsules

Ever think about the Census as a time capsule? Each one is waiting to be discovered 72 years later when genealogists and researchers can look back and see ancestors were living or working at a certain time and place, see who was living and near with those people, learn about their educational situation, the language they spoke, and so on.

We know where these Census time capsules are, we know when they're about to be opened, and we know how to peek inside and find data treasures that will help us piece together details of our family from years past.

I've come to think of a genealogy blog as another kind of family time capsule. I post names, photos, queries, comments about my family tree and--if Google never removes the blog or the links--they'll be here for decades or longer, waiting for some future researcher or distant relative to search out and read. As long as search engines can locate my blog's entries in the ever-expanding galaxy of web stuff, future members of my family will be able to see what I've posted.

My blog isn't as well organized as the Census, and it's admittedly somewhat obscure--partly for privacy reasons--but still it can be viewed as a kind of time capsule about my family.

Here's my concern: not all time capsules are found.

From time to time, I read in news reports about time capsules that come to light accidentally--maybe buried at the start of some monument's construction and then found 52 or 78 years later during renovation. Or a school asks children to bring everyday items and notes to class for a time capsule burial set into a new building's cornerstone or at a new sports field's dedication. Too often the markers fade or aren't even set up to let future generations know of the treasures buried in the time capsule.

I deliberately include the surnames of ancestors and relatives I'm researching in the hope that these serve as markers to guide people to my blog. But will my blog and the thousands like it be gone some day? If there are no new entries for 25 years, will Google or Yahoo or Bing be able to find my blog when someone two generations from now wants to search out the same surnames?

How can we, as family researchers, ensure that our genealogy blogs--the ones we use to describe family trees, discuss our ancestors, display old photos, and reach out to long-lost cousins--live on? How can we be sure that our genealogy blogs will be treated as family time capsules that can be found many years in the future?