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

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.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Kossuth Society, 1909: Part 4, Supporting Suffragettes

This is my 4th in a series of posts about my Farkas and Schwartz ancestors helping to found and lead the Kossuth Ferencz Hungarian Literary Sick and Benevolent Society in New York City early in the 20th century.

Here, my great aunt "Miss M. Schwartz" (Mary Schwartz, 1891-1959) is included in the list of Officers as a "Guide." One of Mary's older brothers, Tivador Schwartz, became my maternal grandfather.

Listed as "Inside Guardian" is "S. Farkas," better known to the family as Sandor (Alex) Farkas (1885-1948). Alex was the older brother of my maternal grandmother, Hermina Farkas.

I'm particularly interested in the welcome statement from Herman Feldman, shown on the left of this page. Bear in mind that this booklet was distributed on December 4, 1909.

The welcome letter addresses "Guests" and goes on to exhort attendees to enjoy the revelry, patronize the program advertisers (see part 2), and continue to support the society's mission of helping the sick.

One of the most interesting parts of the letter comes in the third paragraph. Thanks to a Hungarian genealogy group on Facebook, I found out that the letter talks about "the current suffragette movement" . . . saying that women have the right to come in male dress to the ball and, equally, it would interesting to have men come in women's dress. In a light-hearted way, the Kossuth Society was supporting suffragettes 10 years before the US Congress voted to give women the right to vote!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Happy Blogiversary #10


Hard to believe that this is my 10th blogiversary. Above, the very first post I wrote in 2008, searching for when and where paternal Great-Grandpa Meyer Elias Mahler died. And, as sometimes happens, I had to retrace my steps and look at clues I'd already seen, checking with fresh eyes.

Making progress on family history projects begun since my last blogiversary:
  • Farkas Family Tree index. Thanks to a 2d cousin getting in touch, I have more family-tree association minutes to scan, index, and add to the thick book of minutes and historians' reports dating from 1933-1963. This will be finished before my next blogiversary. Here's a link to my popular post on how to index.
  • Farkas Family Tree letters. My wonderful cousin B has been helping me by proofreading my transcriptions of the WWII letters written by members of the Farkas Family Tree who served in the military. Almost done with that project.
  • Slatter and Shehen families. With the help of the Charles Booth poverty maps, I've been deepening my understanding of hubby's Slatter and Shehen family background in London. Turns out they were even poorer than I had imagined.
  • Wood family. Slowly continuing to scan and crop photos from the Wood family's 1972 trip to Venice for a planned photo book. The adults on that trip (and one or two kids) have shared memories to fill out the narrative. I need to begin arranging the photos and typing the captions, so the photo book will be ready by end of this year.
It was a year of learning and making connections! For the first time, I attended the amazing RootsTech conference and used the giant Family History Center in Salt Lake City. Next month, I will be at the New York State Family History Conference. In between, I've gone to numerous genealogy club meetings and gained new ideas from many expert speakers.

Speaking of speaking, my latest genealogy presentations include Do the "Write" Thing, Using Twitter and Facebook for Genealogy, and Genealogy 101. For next year, I'm prepping another new talk, Find Real Clues in Other People's Family Trees. And I was thrilled that my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, became a #1 Amazon Kindle best-seller this year.

As my 11th year of genealogy blogging begins, I want to say thank you. Thank you, dear cousins, for finding me and getting in touch. Thank you, dear readers, for being along on the journey.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Kossuth Society, 1909: Part 3--Event Committee

My mother's Farkas and Schwartz families were involved in the Kossuth Ferencz Hungarian Literary Sick and Benevolent Society, as I wrote in parts 1 & 2 of this series.

Above, the event leadership for the Mask and Civic Ball held on December 4, 1909, to mark the Kossuth Society's 5th anniversary. Attendees (including my ancestors) danced the night away!

My mother's maternal uncle, Sandor "Alexander" Farkas (1885-1948), was the Treasurer for the arrangement committee of this special event. Sandor was the older brother of my mother's mother, Hermina "Minnie" Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964), who was a member of the Society.

At the time of the 1909 ball, Minnie was not yet married to her future husband, my grandpa Theodore "Ted" Schwartz (1887-1965). But Minnie and Ted knew each other, from the neighborhood and, clearly, from being active in the Kossuth Society.

Minnie's future brother-in-law, Sam Schwartz (1883-1954), was also part of the program, serving on the reception committee. (Minnie's future sister-in-law, Mary Schwartz, was a member of the Kossuth Society, as well.)

Attendees had 24 dances to enjoy at this special event, as shown on the "Order of Dances" printed above, followed by "Home Sweet Home" at the end.

More Kossuth Society posts to come!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Kossuth Society, 1909: Part 2--Advertisers

In Part 1, I told how my Farkas family (including maternal great uncle Sandor Farkas) was instrumental in helping to found the Kossuth Ferencz Hungarian Literary Sick and Benevolent Society in 1904. Family members were present at the society's fifth anniversary celebration in 1909, during which a 22-page souvenir program was distributed to guests.

The society helped members in their time of need, with medical assistance in particular. Raising money was a constant focus, I would imagine. The program doesn't mention any price for the "Mask and Civic Ball" celebration on December 4, 1909, but it does include many pages of paid ads, which I'm going to show here, in page order.

These advertisers were most likely members, neighbors, and friends of the Kossuth Society. Most of the advertisers were located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where many Hungarian immigrants lived and worked.

See the holes and string at left on the page below? I don't know whether that was the original way the program was bound together or added later. Either way, I'm preserving the program as is.

Most of the ads are in English, with some Hungarian included. Businesses included jewelry, laundry, restaurants, cigars, clothiers, dancing, and much more. At bottom right of the page below is someone selling "fine sample shoes"--the original "off-price" style of retailing that has been made so popular today by TJ Maxx and Marshalls!
Although I recognize some of the surnames in a few ads, I don't know how many were actually Farkas relatives or friends.

In the ad below, Gustav Beldegreen's photo studio is featured. He was the "official" photographer for the Kossuth Society.

I especially like the ads with a photo of the business owner, like B. Weiss, below.

The page below includes an ad for a Hungarian gypsy band (at lower right), among other diverse businesses.

The page below shows an ad for an attorney, dance instructors, a phonograph company that also sells fountain pens, tailors, a shoe store, makers of mineral waters, and a "compliments of" small ad placed by a doctor.

Finally, the back page of ads has only 3 advertisers: an undertaker, a restaurant, and the printer that produced this souvenir program.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Farkas Family in Kossuth Society, 1909: Part 1

Five years ago, I scanned, saved, and posted a few pages from a 1909 booklet marking the fifth anniversary of the Kossuth Ferencz Hungarian Literary Sick and Benevolent Society. My Farkas ancestors (my mother's side of the family) helped to found this society in New York City in 1904.



Thanks to wonderful cousin B, I now have the entire booklet to scan and safeguard. Holding a 109-year-old souvenir so important to family history is quite special, let me say!




Today's post is the first of several featuring scans from the Kossuth booklet, which was issued to attendees (and possibly sponsors and supporters) of the society.

At right, the title page showing that this was a "mask and civic ball" held on December 4th, 1909.

At top of the page, the officers featured in the 1909 booklet. My Hungarian-born great uncle Sandor "Alex" Farkas (1885-1948) is shown at far right of the middle row. The oldest of the children born to my Hungarian great-grandparents, Moritz Farkas and Leni Kunstler, Alex was the "inside guardian" of the society.

Here are the names of the society's officers, in alphabetical order:

D. Berman, Recording Secretary
S. Blau, Trustee
F. Braun, Guide
D. Deutsch, President
S. Farkas, Inside Guardian
H. Feldman, Chairman of Arrang. Com.
M. Gellert, Treasurer
Miss B. Greenberger, Vice-President
J. Grossman, Secretary of Entrance Committee
Dr. B. Hohenberg, Physician
J. Klein, Sgt-at-arms
H. Markowitz, Financial Secretary
N. Schwartz, Ex-President

Note that a physician is listed as an officer, key to the health part of the society's mission. I wonder whether the sole female officer, Miss Greenberger, was heading up the "literary" part of the society's mission? Anyway, more posts will have more interesting pages from this souvenir booklet.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Looking for Youngest Brides and Grooms Reveals Gaps

Thanks to the #52Ancestors prompts from Amy Johnson Crow, I'm learning more about the features available in my genealogy software of choice, RootsMagic7. Only with the help of the various reports and lists in this software can I identify the "youngest" of anything, which is this week's prompt.

At top, the "statistics" list I generated for my father's Burk Mahler family tree. Here, I learned that the youngest age at marriage of anyone in that tree was 18 for a female and 19 for a male. This is only for marriages where I know the birth dates/marriage ages of bride and groom, so the software can calculate statistics. As shown at top, there are 184 people with marriage ages included in this tree.
Directly above, the statistics list I generated for my mother's Schwartz - Farkas family tree, showing 117 people with marriage age noted in the tree. The youngest age for a woman at marriage was 15 1/2, compared with 17 for a man. Since some of these marriages took place in Eastern Europe in the mid-1800s, it's not too surprising that a bride would be this young.

Learning to use the reports is going to help me find anomalies and correct mistakes. For instance, a statistics list I generated for my husband's Wood family indicated that the minimum age for a male at marriage was 17.41. That's such a specific number. It could be correct, but I want to double-check. And I need to look more closely at missing marriage ages to see whether I can fill some of the gaps in my records. More research is in my future.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

How Many Generations Did My Ancestors Know?

This week, Randy Seavers' Saturday Night Gen Fun challenge is to count how many generations our parents or grandparents knew. I'm focusing on my great-
grandparents, who were fortunate enough to know more generations.

At top, the 25th anniversary photo of the Farkas Family tree at The Pines, a now-defunct Catskills resort. I'm one of the twins at bottom right. This family tree association was founded by the children of my maternal great-grandparents:
Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938), who knew 4 generations that I can be sure of:
  • Their parents and siblings. His were Ferencz Farkas and Hermina Gross, hers were Shmuel Zanvil Kunstler and Toby Roth. Plus their siblings equals two generations. Not sure whether they ever knew their grandparents, not sure of any birth-marriage-death dates for their parents or grandparents.
  • Their 11 children: Alex, Hermina (hi Grandma!), Albert, Julius, Peter, Irene, Ella, Freda, Rose, Fred, Regina. Another generation, with full BMD info.
  • 16 of their 17 grandchildren. Yet another generation.
My paternal great-grandma probably knew 6 generations, more than anyone else on either side of the family, because she lived to be nearly 100.
Tillie Jacobs (185_-1952) married Meyer Elias Mahler (1861-1910). Meyer died young, but Tillie's long life allowed her to be at the weddings of her grandchildren and to meet her great-grandchildren, as indicated in her obit above:
  • Her grandparents, parents, and siblings. She was the daughter of Rachel Shuham Jacobs (184_-1915) and Jonah (Julius) Jacobs. Did she meet Rachel or Jonah's parents (whose dates I don't know)? Very likely, because both Rachel and Tillie married quite young. Counting her generation and her parents and grandparents, that's 3 generations.
  • Her 8 children: Henrietta (hi Grandma!), David, Morris, Sarah, Wolf (who died very young), Ida, Dora, Mary. Full BMD info on all, another generation.
  • Her grandchildren and great-grandkids. Two more generations. Lucky Tillie to be surrounded by her family.
My husband's maternal grandfather lived into his 90s and met many of his ancestors and descendants.
Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) was married to Floyda Mabel Steiner (1878-1948). Brice knew 6 generations:
  • His grandparents, parents, and siblings. Brice's paternal grandparents were Benjamin McClure (1812-1896) and Sarah Denning (1811-1888). Brice's maternal grandparents were Brice S. Larimer (1819-1906) and Lucy E. Bentley (1826-1900). He knew both sides. His parents were William Madison McClure (1849-1887) and Margaret Jane Larimer (1859-1913). Counting Brice's siblings, this makes 3 generations.
  • His daughter. Brice and Floyda had one child, Marian Jane McClure (1909-1983). One generation.
  • His grandchildren and grandchildren. Brice and Floyda had three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren (all still living). Brice met all the grands and three of these great-grands. Two more generations counted.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Earworm Farkas Family Tree Song

Moritz Farkas, patriarch of Farkas Family Tree,
with twin granddaughters, Dorothy and Daisy 
When the Farkas Family Tree association held monthly meetings, 1930s through 1960s, members would all sing the family song, loud and strong. As a tyke, I quickly learned the melody, which is Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Why use the music from that song? My guess: It was easy for adults of ages to dredge up from memory and easy to teach to the littlest Farkas folks. Like me. It's an earworm to this day.

Here are the first stanza and chorus of the song, written by my great-aunt, Ella Farkas, a daughter of the Farkas patriarch and matriarch:
The Farkas clan has now all gathered
One and all are here
Time for all cares to be scattered
Faces bright and clear,
Jokes and puns and smiles and fun,
Are ready to begin,
The clan has gathered now!
CHORUS:
Farkas, Farkas is the password.
Sing on high that it can be heard
That we all are here and now cheer:
The Farkas Family Tree!
As the children of Moritz Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas married and had children of their own, Aunt Ella expanded the song. Eventually, she wrote two additional stanzas to include the married surnames of her Farkas sisters and the married surnames of the next generation. The final stanza concludes: A proud family tree . . . as the Farkas Clan grows on!

When a group of Farkas descendants got together a decade ago, we sang the song and recalled the fun of joining in the musical tradition during family tree meetings in our youth.

MUSIC - This week's #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Ancestral Travels to America

How much distance did my grandparents and great-grands cover in coming to America from their homelands in Eastern Europe? All apparently sailed in steerage, never telling descendants very much about what must have been a difficult and uncomfortable trip. None lived near a port, so their travels also included a journey by foot or wagon or train to the port where they boarded a ship to cross the Atlantic.
  • 4430 miles. Above, my maternal grandfather's "as the crow flies" route from Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhhorod, Ukraine) to New York City in 1902. Grandpa Theodore Schwartz was a teenager and the first in his family to leave for America. With his encouragement (and probably his financial help), an older brother and a younger sister also came to America. Happily, I'm in touch with their grandchildren, my 2d cousins.
  • 4460 miles. My maternal great-grandparents, Morris Farkas and Leni Kunstler Farkas, left for America as adults, coming separately from where they had married and lived in the area of modern-day Berehovo, Ukraine. Morris arrived first, with Leni arriving later (and their first 8 children joining them afterward in two groups). Morris missed his homeland and longed to return, but Leni wanted a better life and more opportunity for their growing family. 
  • 4200 miles. My paternal Grandma Henrietta Mahler arrived from Riga as a preteen. She sailed past the Statue of Liberty in the year it opened (1886). I'm still following up on the possibility that Henrietta was a cousin of some kind to her husband, Isaac Burk, connected through the Shuham part of their family trees. 
  • 4670 miles. My twenty-something paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk took the journey to North America in two hops. First, he left Gargzdai, Lithuania for Manchester, England. After staying with relatives and learning some English for a year or more, he sailed to Canada but got very seasick. He got off the ship at the first stop in Canada and continued to New York overland. Of all my ancestors, Isaac Burk had the longest journey from his home town to America.
Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's "Travel" prompt in her #52Ancestors series.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

V7a Mitochondrial Results and Next Steps

Finally, this week I received the results of my FamilyTree DNA mitochondrial test purchased at RootsTech 2018.

As shown above, my mother's mother's line is haplogroup V7a and its origins are in Northern/Eastern Europe and beyond to Russia. Apparently, this is not a common haplogroup, and it explains the odd trace of Iberian DNA mentioned in my Ancestry results.

My mitochondrial DNA traces back through my mother, Daisy Schwartz, to her mother, Hermina Farkas, then to Hermina's mother, Leni Kunstler and Leni's mother, Toby Roth. 

Toby is my 2d great-grandma, who was probably born early in the 1800s. She married Shmuel Zanvil Kunstler, who died in 1869 and is buried in a tiny cemetery with other Kunstler ancestors. My wonderful genealogy-minded cousin B ventured to the town (in modern-day Ukraine) to see the headstones 20 years ago. Only because of her trip have we been able to understand our tree's connections with Roth cousins and Kunstler cousins today.

Now what? Here are my MtDNA next steps, which are in progress:

  • Completed FTDNA pedigree to include mother's family tree as far back as I know it. This was a high priority because others who find me in their list of matches will instantly be able to compare surnames and locations. If only every DNA match in my list had a Gedcom or pedigree linked to their results!
  • Updated my Gedmatch profile to show V7a haplogroup and check matches for that haplogroup. So far, no family trees for the very, very few mtDNA matches...and the matches are for small chromosome segments, with most recent common ancestors more than 4 generations back. Also checking for matches in common with my matches. These may offer me clues to focus future searches.
  • To do: Use the MtDNA tools on the International Society of Genetic Genealogy site to learn more about interpreting the data and extending my research.
  • To do: Scrutinize the V7a matches on FTDNA (shown on map above), which are mostly concentrated in Europe with a few in other areas. Compare with matches on other sites (Ancestry and Gedmatch, for instance) to see whether I can get more specific when I do contact solid matches.
  • To do: Formulate a new, brief "query" note to send to DNA matches, mentioning my MtDNA as well as surnames/locations on my tree. The more concise and specific, the easier it is for matches to read and -- hopefully! -- respond with a synopsis of their genealogical backgrounds.
Looking forward to new genealogical adventures in DNA land!


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

More June Weddings - My Side of the Family

Here are some of the June weddings on my side of the family and what I learned about them during my research:
  • June 3, 1934: Above, an invite to the wedding of Rachel Chazan and Solomon Ash in Manchester, England, 84 years ago. The invitee, "N. Block," turned out to be Nellie Block, older sister of my paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk. In 1901, Isaac had lived in Manchester with the parents of the bride, en route from Lithuania to his new home in North America. Once a cousin unearthed this invite, I quickly connected with descendants of this family in Manchester (hi, cousins!). And only last year, I connected with more descendants of Grandpa Isaac's other siblings (hi, cousins!).
  • June 7, 1930: My mother's uncle Fred Farkas married Charlotte Chapman 88 years ago in Chicago. His career and growing family meant he rarely returned to New York City, where the Farkas Family Tree association was based. Staying in touch, Fred and Charlotte wrote letters to be read out loud during these family meetings. WWII letters indicate that some Farkas family members serving in the military were able to visit Fred and Charlotte on leave during the 1940s.
  • June 10, 1906: Happily for me, Isaac Burk married Henrietta Mahler on this day, 112 years ago, in the NYC apartment of the bride's family. (Hi, Grandma and Grandpa!) Interestingly, the 1905 NY Census shows Isaac as a boarder in the Mahler apartment in Manhattan, along with Isaac's brother, Meyer Berg. Could Isaac's family have put him in touch with Henrietta's parents to arrange a place to stay, and then love bloomed within close quarters? 
  • June 14, 1932: Morris Mahler, brother of my grandma Henrietta Mahler,  married Carrie Etschel 86 years ago in New York City. Both bride and groom were in their 40s when they married, against the wishes of my father's Mahler family (because of religious differences). Relatives told me they were happy together, which makes me happy.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saving WWII Letters for the Next Generation

One of my 2d cousins was kind enough to lend me a scrapbook of letters written by my mother's 1st cousins and her sister serving in World War II.

The letter-writers were the American-born grandchildren of Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938) and Moritz Farkas (1857-1936). Leni and Moritz, my great-grandparents, were born in Hungary and came to New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Their children (my grandma and her generation) formed the Farkas Family Tree (the FFT) association during the Depression to keep the family close-knit.

One by one, as these grandchildren of the matriarch and patriarch joined the military in the 1940s, they wrote letters to be read out loud during the family tree's monthly meetings. In all, five men and one woman wrote home about their WWII experiences. They were dedicated, patriotic, and often quite candid about their military experiences.

Above, a letter from my mother's first cousin Harry, who trained as an X-ray technician after enlisting in the Army in 1943. He was stationed at Camp Grant (Rockford, IL), Lawson General Hospital (Atlanta, GA), Fort Lewis (Tacoma, WA), and Fort Jackson (Columbia, SC), among other places.

While being shipped cross-country every few months for additional training, Harry wrote about wanting to finally, finally work with patients, which he eventually did. After the war, he went to medical school, set up a practice in a small town, and was sorely missed when he passed away at age 89.

My aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001) enlisted as a WAAC in 1942. She was keenly aware of what she was and wasn't permitted to say in her letters, describing where she was stationed without actually naming the place or revealing other details. In the letter above, she reassures her family by mentioning the beautiful countryside in England (no town mentioned) and gives the latest news about a WAAC controversy over wearing "overseas hats" when out and about.

At the same time, my aunt didn't mince words when expressing her outrage about German prisoners of war being allowed to stand and watch while U.S. servicewomen handled jobs like cleaning mess halls that could and should have been performed by the POWs. She was also realistic about the dim prospects for an early peace in Europe, from her vantage point of being the administrative support for military officials.

On this Memorial Day weekend, I salute my cousins and all the men and women who have defended our country over the years. This military post is for week 21 of #52Ancestors.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

So Many Ancestors, So Many Languages

For #52Ancestors #20, I'm trying to identify the different languages spoken by key ancestors in my family tree and my husband's tree.

My paternal grandparents (above) probably spoke three languages apiece. Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954) was born in Latvia, and surely spoke Latvian as well as English and, I'm guessing, Yiddish. Possibly she spoke Russian too, although I don't know for sure.

Her husband, Isaac Burk (1882-1943) was born in Lithuania, and spoke that language plus Russian and maybe even Yiddish in addition. Isaac certainly picked up some English when he stopped in Manchester, England, to stay with family in 1901, en route from Lithuania to North America.
My maternal grandparents also spoke multiple languages. Grandpa Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965), shown above escorting my mother down the aisle at her wedding, had a way with languages. His native Hungarian tripped off his tongue, but he could also speak several other languages, including English--which is why the steamship lines employed him in NYC as a runner around Ellis Island in the 1910s.

His wife, Hermina Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964), was fluent in Hungarian, having been born there, and learned Yiddish in the Lower East Side of NYC as an immigrant. Also she learned English in NYC night school.

In my husband's Wood family tree, there are three adult Mayflower ancestors (Degory Priest, Isaac Allerton, Mary Norris Allerton). Therefore, in addition to English, they may have learned some Dutch when the Pilgrims fled to the Netherlands prior to sailing to the New World. Once in Plymouth, perhaps they learned a few words to talk with Native American tribes? Photo above shows my late father-in-law (Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986) at left with two of his Wood brothers.

Also in my husband's McClure line, his ancestor Halbert McClure (1684-1754) was born in County Donegal, and sailed to Philadelphia with his family in the 1740s. Because the McClures were originally from Isle of Skye, hubby's ancestor may have spoken Scottish Gaelic or Gaelic (or both). On arrival in the American colonies, however, the McClures would most likely have learned English, because they walked from Philadelphia to Virginia. They would probably need to speak English to buy provisions along the way. Once in Virginia, they bought land--again, a transaction that probably required English.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Remembering Ancestral Mothers with Love

A tribute to the ancestral mothers in my family . . . 
And in my husband's family . . . 

They are loved and remembered, not just on Mother's Day!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Do the "Write" Thing for Genealogy: Set the Stage

Harold Burk proposed to Daisy Schwartz on the last day of 1945 - a wintery, snowy day!
When writing family history, we can help our readers envision the lives of our ancestors (and what influenced their actions and decisions) by "setting the stage."

This week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge by Amy Johnson Crow, about "storms," is a perfect prompt for setting the stage. I've been researching how weather affected my ancestors, to make the everyday lives of my ancestors more vivid and add drama to my family history.

Setting the Stage for My Parents' Engagement

I wanted to know what the weather was like on the final evening of 1945, when my parents (Harold Burk and Daisy Schwartz) got engaged. They had been dating since mid-October--just a couple weeks after Harold got out of the Army. Daisy hoped and believed that he would pop the question soon, and he chose that special night to propose.

Because both my parents were living in New York City, I researched the weather by clicking on Weather Underground's history tab. I entered the location (you can enter any city) and then the date of December 31, 1945. The result: It was a cold day (low of 28, high of 39 degrees F), but not windy. Just under a quarter-inch of snow fell that day. I can use this info when writing about my father proposing to my mother on a wintery New Year's Eve, with a dusting of snow all around. Sounds like a romantic setting, doesn't it?

Who Lived Through the Blizzard of 1888?

Another way to "set the stage" in family history is to consider who might have been affected by a terrible storm like the Blizzard of 1888. It came on suddenly, and dumped lots of snow on my ancestors who lived in New York City on Sunday, March 11, 1888. In fact, the city was paralyzed. Who in my family's past got caught in this snowstorm?

My paternal great-grandparents, Meyer Elias Mahler and Tillie Jacobs Mahler, were then living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in a tenement on Chrystie Street. Their second son, Morris Mahler, was born on Sunday, February 27, 1888--exactly two weeks before the Blizzard.

Did the heat stay on as the snow piled up? Did the family have enough food? How many days were they forced to stay inside until the city got the streets cleared? I don't know the answers to these questions, but raising them is a good way to show how ancestors were real people coping with real (and very challenging) situations.

The Hail Storm That Brought My Family to New York

Moritz Farkas
My maternal great-grandpa, Moritz Farkas, supervised farmland and vineyards for his family and in-laws in Hungary. One year, he saved money by not buying crop insurance. That was the year a big hail storm destroyed the crops. Financially ruined, Moritz left for America and never returned. His wife followed him to New York City a year later, and they sent for their children to join them.

So a huge hail storm in Hungary set the stage for my family's journey across the ocean. If not for hail, I might not be here today to keep these family memories alive for the next generation.

For more ideas about bringing family history to life and sharing with relatives, please see my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available in paperback and Kindle

Thursday, March 29, 2018

History Gets Personal in Family History

Everyone's family history is influenced by (and can influence) the course of history. That's what makes history so personal in our family's history.

I'm struck by this again and again as I transcribe letters written by Farkas cousins to the family tree association during WWII. These cousins were in the service (some in the US Army, some in Army Air Corps, some in Navy, some in WAC) and their letters home are filled with observations that bring history alive and illuminate how the war experiences affected them personally. The letters also reveal personality and, often, a dry sense of humor.

Above, the letterhead from a cousin's letter written in January, 1943. Notice the words running along the ribbon at bottom of the image--"Prepare for Combat."

Cousin G enlisted to fly but he couldn't land the way the Army Air Force wanted, he wrote home in a 1942 letter. At that point, he chose to train as a navigator/bombardier.

In this 1943 letter, written from an Army Air Field in Monroe, LA, cousin G is "waiting around for shipment to Advanced [training] which will be in Coral Gables, Florida." He mentions that the school is run by Pan-American (Airways) and he has to satisfy a tougher standard. Why does he care which school he attends?
"The main reason I decided upon the Gables was that most of the navigation is over water and from what I hear that is pretty important when you have to pick an island out of the whole Pacific."
Cousin G understands that he has a role to play in history and takes it seriously, even when his letters make the family smile. His role in history affects his family history too, and I'm proud to document what he wrote to the family during these critical years. Plus I'm learning more about historical details as I add explanatory endnotes to the letters, ensuring that future generations will get the full picture of our family's contributions to and experiences in World War II.