Showing posts with label Farkas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Farkas. Show all posts

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.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Remember Soundex? Consider Sound AND Spelling!

When I began my genealogy journey 21 years ago, I had to learn new vocabulary, such as Soundex.

Soundex is a method of classifying a surname based on the way it sounds. The National Archives explains it here.

I quickly picked up the basics, and any time I was at the local Family History Center, I could consult the Soundex poster as a refresher.

These days you can go to a converter like this and type in the name. Out pops the Soundex code, which consists of a letter and three digits. As shown here, my great-grandpa Farkas's Soundex code is F-622.

Why care today? Even though indexing and other advances have made genealogy research faster and easier, sometimes the old methodology offers clues to help us find elusive ancestors.

Farkas Sounds Like . . . 

More than 30 years ago, my wonderful Cousin B went looking for our ancestor Moritz Farkas (1857-1936).

There was no such thing as an indexed census with full names for every person in every household. She couldn't log into a database, type in a name, and pull up a listing of possible results.

No, Cousin B began by looking at microfilmed 3x5 index cards filed by Soundex code, listing those in the 1900 Census. Hand-cranking the microfilm reader, she read every card carefully to try and find Moritz.

At top, you can see the index card she eventually found among the F-622 cards for that Census. As soon as she saw it, she said the name "Furkosh" out loud and realized this was the way it would sound in his native Hungarian.

Using the cross-reference at top right of the card, she pulled the microfilm for the correct Enumeration District and cranked to the page and line indicated. There was Moritz (as Morris, the Americanized given name), living as a boarder with a family in Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Sound It Out!

When one of my second cousins* recently asked how Cousin B located Moritz Farkas, she sent the 3x5 card (long ago printed from the microfilm) and told us the story.




Trying to replicate the search with today's technology on Family Search, I entered basic info (name: Moritz Farkas; birth: 1857; residence: New York, New York in 1900).

Sure enough, the Morris Furkosh result appeared in the first 10 results, as shown in the snippet here. Clearly, Family Search does a great job of searching on the basis of how a surname sounds, not just spelling.

Knowing the sound of the name in Hungarian, I didn't overlook this result, which wasn't spelled like my ancestor's name of Farkas.


*This cousin found Moritz Farkas in the census with a different, creative search method. He ignored the surname and searched for Moritz and Morris in the 1900 Manhattan census records, including the birth year, hoping there would not be too many to sort through. When he came to the entry for "Furkosh" he remembered this was the Hungarian sound of the surname and knew he had found our ancestor!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

Searching for Free with My Library Card

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

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

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

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

Reading for More than Family Names

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

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

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

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Farkas Family Tree Says: Go Fish!

My mother's Farkas Family Tree loved planning outings for the whole family.

I know this because I am lucky enough to have 30+ years of monthly minutes from their meetings. Also, even though I was just a tyke, I have memories of going on a number of these outings years after the traditions began.

Something's Fishy: A New Tradition

Formed in 1933 to keep the bonds strong between the eleven adult children (and many grandchildren) of Moritz Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas, the Farkas Family Tree began a new tradition in 1938 when one of the members suggested that a fishing trip be held on June 19th.

Faster than you can say flounder, the boat was chartered, to carry 50 passengers for a grand total of $50. The next set of minutes, on September 12, 1938, reported: "Our June fishing trip had been a huge success and all who attended requested an encore."

Encore Fishing Trips

Building on the momentum from the first year, the Family Tree decided to hold a second fishing trip on June 4, 1939. The minutes from one week later say it was "a wet success. A number of people disappointed us, owing to weather and illnesses. We were indebted for $50. The expenses came to $68, and collections amounted to $56." The tree association made up the difference.

During World War II, gas shortages and tire shortages forced the tree to suspend many of its annual outings, not just the fishing trip but also some summer picnics and/or summer beach trips.

The Entertainment Committee, charged with arranging fishing trips, reported in May, 1946, that no fishing was possible that year because boats were not available. A summer picnic was arranged, however.

Skipping ahead to 1949, the minutes of June 5th report "on a most successful fishing trip...Many fish and many kinds of fish were caught" not to mention all the eating and drinking on the boat. Dozens of fish were fried at a member's house that evening and "those who didn't realize how tired they were played gin [rummy] until midnight." The minutes even note who caught the first fish, who caught the most fish, who caught the largest fish, and who caught the first flounder.

Remember the Flounder

Sis and I went on several family fishing trips during the late 1950s and early 1960s. My father (Harold Burk) was brought up in the heart of New York City, and he loved these outings for the opportunity to feel the wind on the water. He was delighted to introduce his little girls to fishing, using a hook knotted onto a nylon line.

I remember catching a flounder using one of these hand-held fishing lines and being so excited I could hardly wait for Dad to pull it up for me. Sis actually caught more fish than I did, but we both had a fun time. Being a picky eater, I wouldn't even taste the flounder we caught when they were cooked up later. Some kids just don't know what's good!

As the tree meetings became fewer and farther between, so did the fishing trips. The last report of a fishing trip was in the Historian's Report of 1964, which was "successful both in the number of people who attended and the number of fish so skillfully wrested from the deep." That was the end of a popular tradition.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Hennery Brown Eggs" Cost 73 Cents in 1934

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

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

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

"Hennery Brown Eggs" at Teddy's Dairy Store 

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

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

Selling the "Gold Mine"

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

Ancestors Had Large Families, Descendants Had Small Families

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

Wood Family: 17 Kids

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

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

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

McClure Family: 10 Kids

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

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

Mahler Family: 8 Kids

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

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

Farkas Family: 11 Kids

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

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Family Photos: The Man Who Wasn't There

Excerpt from 1916 wedding photo of Alex Farkas and Jennie Katz in New York City
Earlier this month, I wrote about using city directories to track ancestors through the years, noting not only who was where and when but who was missing in a given year.

Same goes for family photos. I have several group photos taken at family weddings. But sometimes a key ancestor is missing, as in the 1916 wedding photo shown above (with an excerpt of the caption page superimposed). This is my #52Ancestors story of the man who wasn't there.

Name that Farkas ancestor

If you squint, you can see someone long ago wrote numbers in white ink on people's hats or lapels. At one time, there was surely an identification key. But 103 years later, no one has it or remembers ever seeing it.

Interestingly, the bride and groom weren't numbered. So when I added the numbers (following the numbering system used on the original), I called the bride A and the groom B. The groom is my great uncle Alex Farkas, the bride is my great aunt Jennie Katz. I also recorded the occasion, date, and geographic location on this numbered photo for future generations to know.

One of my favorite cousins had already identified all the Farkas siblings in this photo. I typed up the list by number (see excerpt above, superimposed on photo). My Grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz is #19 and Grandpa Teddy Schwartz is #20.

We had a question about one of the Farkas siblings, and another cousin chimed in to confirm who it was. The many blanks on the caption page are, we suspect, members of the bride's side and some friends, whose names and faces none of us know. No one is left on the bride's side to ask, and they had no children.

The man who wasn't there

Stepping back from the identifications, it was clear one Farkas sibling was not in the photo: Albert Farkas (1888-1956). Why was he not at his older brother's wedding?
I searched his time-line again and noticed that he was inducted into the US Army in August, 1918, to serve in WWI (see above). But that didn't explain his absence from a photo in December, 1916.

Clicking to search for more, I found a registration form (above) from the U.S. Consulate in Canada, indicating that Albert Farkas had registered as an American citizen living in Vancouver in November, 1912. He was still there in October, 1916, but this certificate was to expire within months.

Write it down or risk losing it

Asking around, I found one cousin who remembered the story: Albert left Vancouver in 1917 because, with Canada already at war, he was going to be called to serve in their military. So Albert came home to New York City and wound up drafted when America entered the war soon afterward.

I added this explanation to the bottom of my page of identifications because someday, when I join my ancestors, someone might notice Albert's absence from this family photo. If I don't write it down, it could be forgotten and fall into the category of one of those family history mysteries we all puzzle over.

It would be a shame to have the identifications lost for a second time. That's why I've sent my first and second cousins a three-page .pdf file of this photo with numbers, a page of captioned names, and an unnumbered version of the photo, asking them to share with their descendants. I want to keep the names and faces alive into the future.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Genealogy Clues Add Context for Family Photos

Daisy Schwartz (#1) and some of her Farkas first cousins, 1935
Continuing my scanfest in 2019, I recently teamed up with Cousin A, a Farkas 2d cousin, for a wonderful few hours of identifying genealogy photos and sharing stories. (FYI, Farkas was my mother's mother's maiden name. We had a family tree association from 1933-1964, with monthly minutes in print!)

Cousin A and I showed each other our mystery photos, and we made a bit of headway. I was impressed that he so carefully preserved the photos he inherited by moving them from those old black crumbling albums to new archival albums. He also wrote captions on the album pages, based on what was on the back of each photo or what he had learned from other family members. What a treasure trove!

Farkas Family Tree Photo, 1935

Among the photos he allowed me to scan was the one at top, marked "Summer, 1935." It was a Farkas Family Tree summer outing, one of two mentioned in the meeting minutes from 1935. Cousin A's aunt had already identified everyone in the photo, so I simply numbered the people, created a name key, and put it all into a .pdf file to distribute to more cousins.

My mother (Daisy Schwartz, 1919-1981) is #1 in the photo, which was taken the summer before her high school graduation. The rest of the folks in this photo are her Farkas first cousins. All except #9, who is not a Farkas cousin but a girl named Carol, a cousin of a cousin.

After five minutes on Ancestry, I was able to add her to the tree with the correct parents. There she was in the 1930 Census, age shown as 1/12 months. That corresponds to her actual birth date in March, 1930. I confirmed with a family member that this is indeed his cousin Carol. (The exact location of the outing remains a small mystery.)

Pelham Parkway Photos

What's interesting is that my few minutes of research into Carol's past solved another small photo mystery. Cousin A has a couple of 1930s/1940s photos marked "Pelham Parkway," which is a lovely area of the Bronx, New York. Nobody from my Farkas family lived there at the time, I know from Census and personal records. The photo shows a very rural area, as it was so many decades ago, not built up as it was when I lived in the area as a teenager.

When I looked up little Carol from the "Summer 1935" photo, I learned that her address in the Census of 1930 and the Census 1940 was--you guessed it!--on Pelham Parkway. Seems her cousins most likely visited her family and the photos memorialized that visit.

Context Adds to Family History

For me, the lesson is that the more we find out about every photo, the more clues we have to a well-rounded family history. "Who?" is not the only question. "Where? When? Why?" are also questions I try to answer. Answering more than one question adds valuable overall context for the photos and the family tree.

Decades ago, when these family photos were taken, a caption like "Pelham Parkway" instantly identified the significance of the place to the folks in the picture. But from our vantage point in the 21st century, the significance isn't apparent without a bit of added research.

Now you also know why my scanfest won't be complete when I've digitized my childhood photos. I also need to add the context that will make each photo understandable to future generations.

A tall order, to be sure, but if I start now, I can finish well before the release of the 1950 Census puts me into a new frenzy of genealogy research! (Hopefully before then.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Imagining Breakfast with Bela Roth


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


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

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

Why Breakfast with Bela?

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

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

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

Friday, January 11, 2019

Scan-a-Thon 2019 - Making Progress!

Today is the first day of the "official" Scan-a-Thon 2019, held by WikiTree in coordination with GeneabloggersTribe and other #genealogy groups.

It's a fun opportunity to be part of a worldwide community scanning photos (and documents), posting to online trees, and/or sharing with family. You still have time to get in on the fun by scanning Friday through Sunday (and beyond).

I actually began scanning family photos last weekend, sorting and discussing with my sister. We will continue intermittently through 2019. So many photos bring back so many memories, and it's wonderful to have company and conversation while scanning. Making progress!

Today I wanted to describe the process in a little more detail. Even though I'm using a Flip-Pal, which makes it convenient to quickly scan snapshots from the past, there are a few steps needed to go from scan to finished image ready for the family tree or family sharing. (I do not post photos of living people, by the way, so these particular scans are intended for family sharing--a great way to preserve the past for future generations.)

After scanning, I pull the SD card from the Flip-Pal and load the images into my Mac-based photo management program. (Note: I use Picasa3, no longer supported by Google, although it may still be available. I'm not ready to change yet, because Picasa serves my needs quite well, but at least workarounds and alternatives exist if needed in the future.)

Sis and I completed 181 scans, including the full image of a snapshot from this batch shown at top. Note that because the snapshot is smaller than the full Flip-Pal scanning window, white background shows behind the photo. (I added the blue border digitally to clarify where the photo itself ends and the Flip-Pal background begins.)

My next step is to open each scanned image and crop out the white background, as shown just above.

Over time, snapshots fade, some colors can change...and if I can restore them without making material changes, that's what I prefer to do.

So after cropping, I decide whether to alter the colors, contrast, sharpness, etc. Neither of the above photo scans has been altered.

Now compare with the slightly brightened photo at left, where the sand is lighter so the kiddie stands out a bit better. Yes, I altered the sand's coloring a smidge, but I didn't change what the image shows.

Some people prefer to scan and leave the scanned image like the original. Me, I want my image to be more like the original original. In other words, I try to be fairly faithful to what the snapshot was like at the time it was taken. If the snapshot was originally too dark, I lighten it a teensy bit so the person or place is viewable. If things are slightly blurry, I try to sharpen the image. (I don't put people in or take people out. That's where I draw the line!)

Scanning and cropping, plus color or contrast correction, are not the end of the process. Next step is to caption each image. A picture is worth a thousand words, but I'll be much more succinct in my captioning ;)

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Heirloom Story: My Parents' Bedroom Set

My parents, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981) and Harold Burk (1909-1978), married on Thanksgiving weekend in 1946. They had gotten engaged on the last day of 1945, following a whirlwind courtship after being set up by his aunt (Mary Mahler Markell) and her aunt (Rose Farkas Freedman). Harold had returned from more than three years in the Army during WWII and wanted to settle down...Daisy wanted to marry and raise a family. Love blossomed!

Due to the post-war housing shortage, however, they had a long wait to find an apartment in New York City. They began married life in a basement apartment of a private home in Queens, more than an hour's subway ride away from their relatives in the Bronx. Daisy was most unhappy in this dark, cramped apartment, and they continued to look for something larger, something closer to family.

The Farkas Family Tree (my mother's family tree association) minutes from the meeting of May 2, 1948, includes a sentence in which my mother is quoted as saying to the "Good & Welfare Committee" that "for her good and welfare, she must find an apartment."

In the family tree minutes from June 13, 1948, the secretary says my parents "got a telephone but now want an apartment to put it into."

In the family tree minutes from October 10, 1948, my father is listed as having won at a "bazaar--a radio, meat slicer, Mixmaster, and several other things." But still not the apartment they truly wanted. By the end of 1948, no luck: "Daisy and Harry Burk are still looking."

Yippee! By March 6, 1949, my parents were reported to be in their new apartment, according to the Farkas Family Tree meeting minutes. This was on Carpenter Avenue in the northeast Bronx, corner of E. 222d Street. Not coincidentally, it was an apartment building in which my father's sister, brother, and mother were living. Surely that's how they heard of the vacancy of the apartment on the fourth floor of this building one block from a big park.

And the Farkas Family Tree minutes of June 5, 1949 crow: "Daisy & Harry Burk finally ordered furniture!!!" Yes, the exclamation points are in the original. It was now 2 1/2 years after their wedding.

At top, a photo of the high-boy bureau from this original mahogany bedroom set. The set was carefully crafted in the Bronx. I had it refinished in 1990, nearly 41 years after it was made, to restore it to its original beauty. The restorers admired the dovetail corners and the fine wood quality.

The high-boy, along with the vanity dresser and bench, hanging mirror, low bureau, and a night stand are in my bedroom, cherished family heirlooms that I use every day. Some lucky descendant will inherit this heirloom set, along with the story of how long Daisy and Harry fell in love, waited to marry, searched high and low for an apartment, ordered furniture, and then started their family.

PS: It's important to share our ancestors' stories now, before we join our ancestors! For more about safeguarding our family's past, please take a look at my affordable book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available in paperback or digital edition.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

My Year in Genealogy - 2018

Time to look back at 2018, an exciting and also a satisfying year for genealogy.

One of the high points was attending RootsTech 2018 and meeting so many of my genealogy blogging friends in person! (I'm in the center of the front row in this photo, wearing a white sweater.) It was a joy to say hello and chat with you, genea-folks. Also I attended the New York State Family History Conference, learning from experts and enjoying the company of genealogy friends from around the northeast.

I came away from both conferences with new ideas and new techniques to add to my momentum. Leaving RootsTech, I crammed into my suitcase specially-priced DNA kits, a new genealogy T-shirt and socks, and several of Nathan Dylan Goodwin's genealogy mysteries. Joining VGA, I learned a lot from watching webinars and lurking in VGA discussions.

Alas, not a single family history breakthrough during a day's research at the fabulous Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Still, ruling things out counts as some progress in the Wood, Steiner, Rinehart, and Burk/Birk trees.

Another high point was hearing from a second cousin who had a set of "missing" monthly minutes and letters related to my mother's Farkas Family Tree. These were all from the WWII period, and were long thought to be gone. Receiving these to scan and index was a gift beyond measure.

Now my Farkas cousins and I have documents spanning the entire life of the family tree association, 1933-1964. I'm still integrating the index from the 1940s into the index for the complete set of minutes, with completion scheduled for very early 2019. Work on the Farkas family tree (including collaborating with cousins who helped identify all ancestors/relatives in large family portraits) was a very satisfying way to end the year.

During 2018, a sad discovery: the early death of a boy born into my Mahler family, a child who was previously not known to me or any of my cousins. And a happy gift: the full anniversary booklet of the Kossuth Society, a group in which my Farkas and Schwartz ancestors were active. Their photos are in the booklet!

In my husband's family, I finally learned the truth about the long-standing mystery surrounding his grandfather Wood's divorce from wife #2. Also I gained a deeper understanding of the poverty endured by his Slatter and Shehen ancestors, using the Charles Booth maps of poor areas in London. Through contact with a Gershwin expert, I received a detailed news clipping that explained the background behind a prize-winning song written by my late father-in-law Wood.



Another exciting moment was when my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Pastwent to number one on the Kindle genealogy best-seller list in the middle of June!

This year, I made 15 genealogy presentations and led two hands-on workshops, with my husband, about writing family history.

Next year, I'm thrilled to be leading two sessions and participating in a panel discussion at Family Tree Live in London, April 26-27.

Quite a year in genealogy. Yet I didn't actually accomplish all I planned to do when 2018 began. More in my next post!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Genealogy on Christmas Eve

December is a busy month in my family tree and that of my husband. Weddings! Birthdays! Holiday cheer!

Here are two of many penny post cards sent to my husband's uncle in Cleveland, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957), from 1905 through 1917. Happily, these and other holiday greeting cards remain in the Wood family all these decades later.


In my family, great-uncle Alex Farkas (1885-1948) married Jennie Katz (1886-1974--the "nicest" aunt I recently wrote about here) in what looks like quite a fun Christmas Eve wedding in 1916.

Alex was the oldest of the Farkas siblings, born in Botpalad, Hungary, on Christmas day in 1885 to my great-grandparents, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Lena Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938).

The second-oldest was my grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964), who is shown in the wedding portrait with her husband Ted Schwartz (1887-1965) and their toddler son, my uncle Fred.

On the Schwartz side of the family, my great-aunt Mary Schwartz (1891-1959) eloped with handsome furrier Edward Wirtschafter (1889-1958) on Christmas Eve of 1913.

They went to City Hall in Manhattan, got married, and then returned to their separate apartments without saying a word to family and friends. Why? Because Mary's in-laws, the Farkas family, had "picked out" a suitable young man for her to marry, but she chose Edward. Mary's daughter told me this created a bit of a stir at first among the Farkas folks.

But then Mary and Edward were married a second time, just four days later on December 28, in a religious ceremony, with Mary's oldest brother Sam Schwartz signing the marriage license as a witness, representing the Schwartz family. Mary had just turned 22 on December 26.

Mary and Edward were happily married for more than 40 years. Above, my grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz with her husband Teddy Schwartz and his sister Mary Schwartz Wirtschafter, at a family celebration.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Remembering Aunt Jennie Farkas, the Nicest Aunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 30, 2018

Remembering the Twins, 99 Years After Birth

My mother (Daisy Ruth Schwartz, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Helen Schwartz, 1919-2001) were born 99 years ago on December 4, 1919. Remembering them with love as their birthday approaches.

Their births were recorded by New York City, by county, as shown above in the index to 1919 births in the Bronx. Mom and Auntie were born in the family's apartment at 651 Fox Street, a walkup directly across the street from the elementary school they later attended.

Auntie Dorothy was always known as the older of the twins. Here's the proof: Above, the certificate numbers for Daisy R. Schwartz and Dorothy Schwartz are marked with arrows. Dorothy's certificate is 14223, and Daisy's is 14224. Clearly, Dorothy was born first!

The twins' older brother, Fred, was born in 1912. Like the twins, he was born at home, this time in the family's previous apartment at 202 Brown Place in the Bronx. That's a five-story walkup building that still stands, in the Mott Haven section.

So my aunt was actually the next-to-last child of her parents, Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964) and Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965). But only by about five minutes!

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors challenge of "next to last."

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thankful for My Family's Past and My Family's Future

Family is a precious gift, the gift that keeps giving. Above, the Farkas Family Tree Thanksgiving dinner and costume party held at the Gramercy Park Hotel in 1956. Descendants of patriarch Moritz Farkas and matriarch Leni Kunstler Farkas formed the tree association in 1933. I'm one of the two young hula twins in the top left corner. This large, fun-loving family celebrated together on many occasions, beginning in the Depression years.

On Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for the Farkas cousin who first inspired me to begin my genealogy journey 20 years ago . . . and the many Farkas, Mahler, Burk, Schwartz, and Wood cousins I've met or reconnected with during my family history journey.

As the descendant of immigrants, I'm especially thankful for the courage and determination of ancestors who left everyone and everything they knew to begin again in a new country. Thank you for the forever gift of my family's past and my family's future!

And thank you to Elizabeth O'Neal for the November "thankful" theme of the Genealogy Blog Party.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Genealogist as Indexer-in-Chief

As genealogists, we should also be indexers-in-chief. Alas, family history rarely comes with a ready-made index, so we have to make our own. Here's a case in point.

My maternal grandmother Hermina Farkas Schwartz was the oldest daughter of the 11 children of Lena Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938) and Moritz Farkas (1857-1936). As the Farkas children grew up, married, and had children of their own, they formed the Farkas Family Tree to keep the family close-knit. Members met up to 10 times a year (taking summers off because relatives scattered to the beach or other cooler places outside the New York City metro area).

Five years ago, my 1st cousin once removed lent me his bound books of family tree minutes from 1933 through 1964 to scan, collate, and index. I included a "who's who" of the 11 Farkas children, their spouses, and their children.

However, the bound books didn't have all the months from 1940 to 1944, a dramatic period in the family's life because of WWII. Earlier this year, my 2d cousin kindly provided the 1940-44 minutes, saved by his mother for decades. Now that we have 600-plus pages of monthly minutes to read and enjoy, a detailed index is even more important. That's my specialty!

As shown at top, I like to start with a legal pad and pen, listing the names by hand along the left as each one appears in the minutes. Then I jot down the month and year when each name is mentioned in the minutes, such as 9/40 or 11/42.

Later, I type up the index alphabetically by surname and expand the dates a bit so they can be read at a glance. A typical entry in the final index would be:

         Farkas, Peter Feb 1940, March 1940, Oct 1940, Dec 1940 . . .

To make it easy for later generations, I list married women by their married surnames AND include an entry for their maiden names, with the notation "see ___[married name]." Here's why: Younger relatives, in particular, may not know an ancestor's maiden name, but they will recognize the ancestor's married name. (I don't list dates twice, only next to the married name). The goal is to make the index as intuitive and reader-friendly as possible.

Also, I think it's very important to indicate when someone is NOT in the immediate Farkas family.

  • If I know the person's exact relationship, I include it. My listing for Roth, Bela indicates that his first wife was Lena Kunstler Farkas's sister. He was known as Bela "Bacsi" or "Uncle Bela" by Lena's children. 
  • If I don't know the exact relationship, I say what I do know. My listing for Hartfield, Jenny notes that her maiden name was Mandel and she was always referred to as a cousin, possibly related through the Kunstler family.
Sometimes the minutes include names known only to one particular family. Good thing one of my cousins clued me in that "Tommy" was a canine, not a kiddie. But if I don't say so in the index, how will future generations know?! That's why a genealogist should also be the indexer-in-chief, with explanatory notes. It doesn't matter what system you use, as long as you index with your readers in mind.

PS: Cousins, the full index will be completed soon!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

RIP, Bela "Bacsi" Roth

Bela Bernard Roth (1860*-1941) was married to my maternal great-grandmother's sister, Zolli/Sali Kunstler. I know Zolli died young because my wonderful cousin B saw her very worn gravestone while visiting the cemetery in NagyBereg (now in Ukraine) twenty years ago.

Bela and Zolli had three children together, Margaret, Alex (Sandor), and Joseph. After Zolli died, Bela married Bertha Batia Weiss (1885-1965) and they had three sons together: Hugo, Theodore, and Ernest.

Bela was affectionately nicknamed "Bela Bacsi" ("Uncle" Bela, in Hungarian) by my Farkas Family. Cousins still remember the family talking about him, and he is mentioned twice in the Farkas Family Tree monthly minutes.

First, he wrote to the tree in 1938, on the occasion of the death of his sister-in-law, Lena Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938--my great-grandma). The other mention was when the Farkas Family Tree sent a condolence gift on the occasion of Bela's death.

Sadly, Bela died on November 3, 1941, when he was hit by a truck on the street near his home in Queens, New York. He died the same day of internal injuries and was buried the following day in Riverside Cemetery, Saddle Brook, New Jersey.

If I could ask Bela one question, I would ask him to tell me how his son Joseph is related to the other Joseph Roths so I can untangle the Weiss and Wajman family branches of the tree! "Cause of Death" is this week's #52Ancestors prompt by Amy Johnson Crow.

*Bela apparently was born on 10 August 1860, according to his very, very delayed birth record documented in Hungary in . . . 1889. His wasn't the only delayed birth record documented on the same page in 1889. I'm wondering whether he recorded his birth so he could get married? His first child, with first wife Zolli Kunstler, was born in 1892, but I don't know their marriage date (yet).

Friday, October 19, 2018

My Farkas Family on December 7, 1941

Last year, I wrote a three-page memory booklet in which I used genealogy research techniques to confirm my husband's memory of being a tyke sitting around the family radio, hearing the news of Pearl Harbor being attacked on December 7, 1941.

Thanks to the kindness of a second cousin, I now have monthly minutes from my mother's Farkas Family Tree meetings during the early 1940s. The tree consisted of adult descendants of Moritz Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas (my maternal great-grandparents) who lived in and around New York City. To have the largest possible attendance, meetings were held on Sunday evenings.

As I was scanning minutes and indexing the names of those present each month, I wondered what happened in the family tree at the time of Pearl Harbor. Sure enough, I found a page of minutes from December 7, 1941 (excerpt above), when the meeting convened in the Bronx.

By dinner time on that Sunday evening, almost certainly tree members would have heard the news of Pearl Harbor. Washington announced the attack in the afternoon, East Coast time, well before the family-tree meeting started at 6:05 pm. News accounts say many New Yorkers were suddenly nervous, feeling the city was a possible future target, due to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and other operations in the five boroughs.

The minutes never mention the December 7th attack as such.  The minutes do say, almost in passing, that a 16-year-old male first cousin of my mother was in the Pershing Rifles Auxiliary, and a 14-year-old female first cousin had joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Minutes from earlier in 1941 say family members were learning Air Raid procedures and making things to donate to the Red Cross for overseas.

Even without the words "Pearl Harbor" or "war" being mentioned, I believe the tree was well aware of what was happening that day. My aunt Dorothy Schwartz was secretary for the evening, because her twin sister, Daisy Schwartz (hi Mom!) was ill. Auntie Dorothy writes later in the minutes that for the January, 1942 meeting, "family members who have uniforms should wear them."

Genealogy research indicates that family members (male and female) quickly began to enlist. My aunt, in fact, enlisted in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on September 11, 1942. Some of her female first cousins held "Rosie the Riveter" jobs while a number of male first cousins joined the Army Air Corps or Army (no Navy or Marine men) in the months after Pearl Harbor.

During Family History Month, I am thankful for the sentence (shown in excerpt above) that says: "It was especially recommended that all surnames be mentioned in future minutes." The minutes are filled with multiple relatives and in-laws having the same given name. My mother was Daisy, and so was her sister-in-law. The tree included multiple Roberts and multiple Georges, among other names. Happily, it is usually clear from context who's who in the minutes. And so the scanning and indexing will go on and on.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

How Our Grandparents Made a Living (or Not)

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

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



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