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

Monday, November 11, 2019

Family Tree Veterans: The Farkas Brothers

Farkas brothers in World War II
My mother's twin sister and a number of first cousins in her maternal Farkas family served in World War II. My mother and all of her Farkas family descended from Moritz Farkas and Leni Kunstler, the original ancestors who left Hungary and came to America at the turn of the 20th century.

The children of Moritz and Leni created the Farkas Family Tree association to keep family members in close contact. It was active from 1933-1964, meeting up to 10 times a year, not including social events like a Thanksgiving party and fishing trips.

During WWII, service-members wrote home to the family tree about their military experiences. Happily, I have those letters and for Veteran's Day, I am excerpting from the letters to honor the service of two brothers on Veteran's Day: George and Bob, sons of Albert Farkas and Sari Sadie Klein Farkas. George and Bob were among my mother's first cousins.

George Farkas

In 1942, at the age of 19, George Eugene Farkas (1922-1949) enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. His letters home to the Farkas Family Tree traced his movements through training and posts around the country, then his flights around the world. George initially trained at Maxwell, an air base in Alabama. He wrote home:
"This flying game is no cinch and you have to keep on the ball. You need a dozen hands and eyes to see and do everything at once. The first day he [the instructor] showed me some turns and glides and elementary stuff."
However, George wasn't particularly good at landing, so he was shifted from pilot's training to navigator's training, where he did very well. More than a year after enlisting, George graduated as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces.

In January, 1944, he wrote about his first full foreign mission: "twenty-three days travel during which time were in four continents, crossed two oceans, the equator, and changed seasons six or seven times." Their mission was a vital one: over and over, they delivered planes to various bases worldwide and repositioned planes as needed for the war effort.

While in London, George visited with his first cousin, WAC Sgt. Dorothy Schwartz (my Auntie, twin to my Mom) and experienced first-hand the bombing blitz. His letters home were candid, detailed, and vivid, eagerly awaited by everyone in the family tree.

Robert Farkas
Robert A. Farkas received a medal for WWII service
George's younger brother, Robert Arthur Farkas (1924-2014) enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943, at age 18. He was placed in the medical corps, and he wrote home regularly about his rigorous training.

One of Bob's letters is about being drilled in the use of firearms: "...the Garand, .45, carbine, Tommy gun, light and heavy machine guns, and the new anti tank gun, the bazooka. We are quite sure to be armed if we get to the Pacific theatre of operations."

By October of 1943, Bob was on a troop ship to England, then on to France and Belgium. By December, he was in the thick of the fray in Germany. He wrote home:
"I learnt more in the first couple of days of actual combat than I did in all the time that we trained in the States."
Bob was stationed in Germany in 1944 and the early part of 1945. He wrote home to praise the troops he helped to patch up and to tell of the vast destruction the U.S. military had caused as it drove German troops away, town by town.

Bob also impressed his family with descriptions of the high level of care the medical corps provided in the field, including the use of plasma and a powerful new medicine, penicillin. Very conscious of the family's worries, he sought to reassure them with his letters and his positive spirit.

Saluting these and all veterans on this Veteran's Day. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

What's So Funny About Family History?

Index to my maternal Farkas Family Tree
meeting minutes, 1933-1964
This week's #52Ancestors challenge by Amy Johnson Crow is comedy. Reading through 500 pages of Farkas Family Tree meeting minutes (index shown above), I found a few tidbits that made me smile.

The Farkas Family Tree was founded by descendants of my maternal great-grandparents, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938). It was active from 1933 through 1964. By the time I was old enough to be inducted as a member, the organization was inactive. Some of the incidents I'm going to mention here occurred way before my time, others just within living memory ;0

For instance, the minutes noted that "the twins" (me and my sister) at age four, "went exploring in their pajamas one morning. At 6 am, they walked out of the apartment and were on their way when Mom found them in the hall." Good thing she found us, we lived in a big apartment building in the Bronx! Another report was how one of us decided to scour the kitchen floor with cinnamon. Hoo boy. Funny now, but not funny to Mom at the time!

Serious About Food 

Each and every meeting included some kind of food, serious eating really, but often described with humor. In February, 1934, the minutes reported on a "Pickled Herring Party" that began at 6 pm and continued well past 9 pm. Let me quote: "Boy, oh boy, how those poor herrings suffered, being torn from fin to fin, not to mention the scads of pickled onions also consumed."

Often the snack or meal included quote "stinkin' cheeses" unquote supplied by one of the dairy grocers, most likely the bachelor great uncles, Julius and Peter. I found these mentioned, along with gefilte fish, stuffed cabbage, corned beef, and other delicacies, in the minutes of the 1930s and the 1940s. At a 1945 meeting, the secretary says, "The way we made that most delicious roast beef disappear, one would think we were the descendants of Houdini." In short, the hosts and hostesses seemed to enjoy trying to outdo each other with feasts at monthly meetings.

Funny About Money

From the beginning, paying membership dues involved nagging in a nice way. At one meeting, a trustee said he had audited "last year's swindle sheets" and found $5 missing. What happened? A member said he had paid his dues but the treasurer claimed not have received the cash. To keep the peace, a motion was passed to drop the matter entirely.

Then there were decisions (sometimes loud discussions) about what the family tree would and would not pay for. Regardless of the amount, bills were reported in the minutes. Quoting from the June 1944 minutes: "Bills, now as unwelcome as ever, reared their ugly heads, to the tune of eight dollars."

More than once, when a new treasurer was elected, the minutes observed that the old treasurer happened [wink, wink] to have acquired a new car while being in charge of the tree's money. Since the treasury rarely had more than $100, it's safe to assume coincidence only, right?

Genealogical and Biography Committees--No Kidding

Left unfinished by the tree association were two projects which descendants like myself would dearly love to have, all kidding aside.

Only a few years after the organization began, a "Genealogical Committee" was formed to put the family tree down on paper. After a few months of reporting to the meetings that the committee was "making progress," the idea was dropped during the 1930s. The project was unsuccessfully revived for the tree association's 25th anniversary in 1958. Alas, no written tree was ever given to members or passed down in the family.

Just before WWII, a great uncle had the idea to form a "Biography Committee." He tried for more than a year to collect biographies written by the founding members of the tree. Once again, it was a good idea that never quite worked out, because few members participated. Oh, how I would have enjoyed reading these biographies from the past, a kind of genealogical "mug book" of Farkas ancestors.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Could "Cousin Essti" Be "Esther Simonowitz" of Ungvar?

1914 naturalization petition of Edwin Kramer and Esther Simonowitz
This is the latest in the ongoing saga of researching my grandpa Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz and who he was coming to see in 1902 when he arrived at Ellis Island!

Teddy told Ellis Island immigration authorities that he was going to "Cousin Essti S___."

Teddy's mother's maiden name was Simonowitz (spelled and pronounced creatively in different ways). I'm hoping to trace Simonowitz family members who came to the United States. And of course, if those relatives had descendants, perhaps there are living cousins! It's still early in the process, however.

Marriage Certificate: A Potential Clue

As suggested by Lara Diamond, I went to a local Family History Center to view the image of the marriage certificate for Esther Simanowitz and Edwin Kramer. She was one of two Esthers with a last name very similar to the one scribbled on Teddy's immigration form.

Marriage cert for Esther Simanovitz and Edwin Kramer, 1906
I was intrigued by this possibility because the groom's mother's maiden name was Theresa Schwartz. Yes, Schwartz is also Grandpa Teddy's family name.

However, Esther didn't marry Edwin until four years after Teddy arrived, so this connection would not be the reason Teddy listed Essti. It's still a very powerful potential clue, one I'm keeping in mind. But wait, there's more...

Naturalization Petition: Another Clue

At the Family History Center, I was also able to view the Petition for Naturalization filed by Edwin Kramer in December, 1914. As shown at top, he listed his wife, Esther Simonovitz, and her birthplace of Ungvar, Hungary.

Now that's a really key clue, because my Grandpa Teddy was born and lived in Ungvar. More than likely his mother, Hani Simonowitz, was also from Ungvar. The match with Ungvar gives me hope.

Notice that Edwin was born in Nagy Ida, Hungary, which is today Vel'ka Ida, Slovakia. That's about 35 miles west of Ungvar. A bit far but not out of the realm of possibilities for a member of the Schwartz family to live there.

A BIG "But"

I've traced Edwin & Esther and their 3 children up to 1940, when they were living on East 142d Street in the Bronx, NY.

And here is where my knowledge of my family's history makes me wonder whether I have the correct Esther.

Nowhere in the 30 years worth of Farkas Family Tree minutes did I see the name "Kramer" as a guest at a family gathering. What does that mean?

My Grandpa Teddy, being married to Hermina Farkas for decades, would most likely have invited one of his cousins to a family gathering held in the Bronx or Manhattan. After all, he invited his sister Mary and her husband Edward Wirtschafter more than once (their names were in the minutes). I imagine Teddy would ask a cousin to come at least once, especially since the Kramers lived only a subway ride away until at least 1940.

To be sure my memory is correct, my next step is to skim the Farkas family records again in search of "Simonowitz" and "Kramer."

Until and unless I find more evidence, my tentative conclusion is that Esther Simonowitz is not "Cousin Essti."

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.

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.)

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.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

January Genealogy Off to a Strong Start

Happy 2019! 

As the new year begins, I have four projects in the works for completion by January.

Two are for my husband's Wood family and two are for my Farkas family.


Above, project #1: Integrating the index entries for 1940-1944 meetings of the Farkas Family Tree association meeting minutes into the full index for the years 1933-1964.

I had previously created the index for minutes, not able to include most of the WWII years because they were missing from my cousin's collection. Then in 2018, a 2d cousin found the missing minutes and I scanned them and indexed just that collection.

Now I'm adding the 1940s entries from the separate index person by person into the larger index for the entire book (shown here at right). It's not difficult, just takes a bit of time to copy and paste entries. Little by little, it's getting done.

**UPDATE on 1/10: Completed!

Project #2: Assembling the complete Farkas Family Tree index, complete minutes, and updated introductory materials into a digital file and mailing a CD to my cousins. The package is way, way too large for email, and some cousins aren't into cloud storage. CDs are easy to mail and easy for recipients to read, copy, and store.

**UPDATE on 1/118: Final file was 1.5 GB, too large for even 2 CDs, so I bought a multipack of 4GB flash drives to mail. All were received by cousins and this project is OFFICIALLY COMPLETE.


Project #3: Interleaving acid-free buffered tissue paper between pages of the 1917 and 1926 photo albums created by my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986). This will protect the photos for the long term. Tissue paper is in the house, ready to go!

Project #4: Reading carefully through the full divorce file from my husband's paternal grandfather, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939).

As shown at left, James filed to divorce wife #2, Alice Hopperton Unger, in April 1927, just 7 months after their marriage in September, 1926.

She counter-filed a few days later. Back and forth they filed. Now, thanks to the Cuyahoga County Clerk's office, which very kindly mailed me copies of all the paperwork (without charge!), I can finally figure out what happened, 92 years after the fact.

And this is only January, the first month--what a genealogy year it will be.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this #52Ancestors prompt to begin the new year.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Preview of My Year in Genealogy - 2019

2019

I'm looking forward to a busy and rewarding year of #genealogy challenges, fun, breakthroughs, and connections in 2019.

As mentioned in my previous post, I went happily down the rabbit hole of unexpected family history developments in 2018 (including the very welcome surprise of receiving Farkas Family Tree documents, related to my mother's family, to scan, index, and share with cousins).

That's why I didn't accomplish all I'd planned to do when I previewed my 2018 agenda at the end of last December, so these two items are carried over to 2019.
  • I have two new family memory booklets in the planning stages. One will be about my mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Helen Schwartz, 1919-2001). The other will be about my husband's parents (Marian McClure Wood, 1909-1983 and Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986).
  • I was planning more intensive investigations of my DNA matches, beginning with color-coding matches to see who fits where in the family tree. Then I heard about DNA Painter at RootsTech2018. Still, this went to the back burner in 2018. Not sure whether DNA will be a front-burner activity in 2019, but I will follow up the most promising of my DNA matches.
Another "resolution" for 2019 is to continue my genealogy education through attendance at Family Tree Live (London) and the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference (Washington, D.C.). It will be wonderful to meet other genealogy buffs, chat with speakers, and connect with blogging/tweeting friends in person at these conferences. 

Most of all, I am excited about staying in touch with my cousins--perhaps even making contact with cousins I didn't know about. The family tree is alive with leaves representing cousins of all ages, all over the world, connected by our #familyhistory. I am so grateful for you, cousins, sharing what you know about our ancestors and forging new bonds that we hope will endure into the next generation.

--

This "resolutions" post is the final #52Ancestors challenge for 2018. As always, thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for a year of thought-provoking prompts. 

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.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Family Historian: Reach Out for Photo Identification!

As family historian, I want to identify key family photos so relatives and future generations will know who's who (and, ideally, where/when/why each photo was taken).

Usually, I have some idea about the faces and places, maybe even approximate dates. Just to be sure, I like to reach out to cousins for help with photo identification.

Photos with a lot of people require a bit of preparation so everybody is on the same page when making identifications. Above, a small section of the 54-person Farkas Family Tree portrait taken on a family Thanksgiving.

Using the "preview" function on my Mac, I added a number for every face. Then I sent the numbered-faces photo to my wonderful maternal cousin B, who quickly sent me back a list of names, according to number. She was delighted to share what she knew, and I'm grateful that descendants will now know the names of everyone in this big holiday portrait.

Thanks to my cousin's assistance, I'm about to send a three-part .pdf file to more Farkas cousins: (1) numbered-face portrait, (2) numbered listing of names, (3) unnumbered portrait.

Maybe this will provoke comments about the identifications or additional family memories?! UPDATE: After one round of identification, a cousin said he suspected one of the children was misidentified. Sure enough, another cousin agreed and I issued a "corrected" version of the file to all. Otherwise, I'm afraid future generations would have accepted the original misidentification.

PS: Sis and I collaborated on our ID of ourselves. She is the smiling, adorable little hula twin in #7 and I'm the just as cute hula twin in #8. Maybe some cousin will be able to distinguish between the two boy twins in the photo, #1 (in the arms of his smiling Farkas grandma) and his twin brother, who was being held by his father (not visible in this section of the photo).

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Letters Home from My Aunt, the WAAC

My mother's twin sister, Dorothy H. Schwartz (1919-2001), joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on September 11, 1942. Her top-notch steno and typing skills earned her a spot in a cracker-jack admin company that supported Bomber Command. She became Sgt. Schwartz, honed her leadership skills, and won a Bronze Star in 1945.
Sgt. Schwartz

But Auntie Dorothy (as we always called her) never expected to be away from home for nearly three years. As World War II wore on, she felt pangs of separation from her parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, and many first cousins in the Farkas Family Tree.

Transcribing the wartime letters Dorothy wrote to the tree while in the service (see a sample V-Mail above), I learned that she loved her time stationed near London. She wrote home often about the historic places, beautiful landscape, and opportunities to meet people from other nations.

In fact, her January, 1944 letter written to her sister (living in the Bronx apartment building shown at left) states that celebrating the new year in England was a high point!

Yet Dorothy was acutely aware of what she was missing each month when the Farkas Family Tree gathered for its regular meetings and enjoyed holiday meals together.

Her letters mention being homesick a couple of times. Although family members apparently wrote optimistic letters about the war ending soon, Dorothy's answers indicate her realism, saying she didn't expect a quick end (no specifics, the censors were reading along).

Dorothy also made it clear that she felt remarkably "at home" in London, with its big-city atmosphere, subways, and theater--all familiar from her civilian life as an apartment-dweller in New York City.

This citified "Old Homestead" post is #13 of the 2018 #52Ancestors challenge by Amy Johnson Crow.

NOTE: Most of Dorothy's letters were handwritten, but those written at the end of 1943 and during 1944 were microfilmed and shrunk into the V-Mail format. To transcribe, I first had to photograph them and blow them on my screen, then print the enlargements so I could read them as I typed. Totally worth it! More soon on my plans for a Farkas Family Tree World War II letters booklet.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Leni Kunstler Farkas, Immigrant Woman in the Land of Dollars

My great-grandma Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938) was the prototypical strong immigrant woman. Just look at her, posing for a photo in the mid-1930s, and you can see her determination.

Until I read Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars, I didn't realize that Leni's strong-willed matriarchal tactics were typical of immigrant women running households in the Lower East Side of New York City.

Leni (Americanized as Lena) married Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) in Hungary. They raised a family of 8 children while he leased land and supervised farming. When Moritz's crops were destroyed by hail in 1899--the one year he failed to buy insurance--he escaped his creditors by sailing on the S. S. Spaarndam to New York City, leaving wife and children behind with her mother.

After a year, Leni sailed alone to New York to be with Moritz. Four of their children joined them a year later, and the remaining four were finally reunited with their family 18 months after that--having been forced to wait for forged documents so the boys could avoid conscription in Hungary.

In America, Leni and Moritz had three more children, making a grand total of 13 mouths to feed. Finding herself in a dollar economy rather than a farming community where barter was common, Leni had to find a new way forward for the family.

Leni was a strict disciplinarian, giving orders, assigning chores, and tolerating no backtalk. She sent the older children out to find work and made sure they went to night school to learn English; the youngest attended P.S. 188 on Lewis and Houston streets. On payday, she demanded the pay packets from all her working children and handed back some nickels for carfare (bus or subway) plus a bite of lunch. The older boys got some carefare but had to walk home many days.

Leni's husband, Moritz, had weak lungs; he found work intermittently as an apple peddler and a presser. As a result, the children's wages were needed to cover household expenses. Still, there were some years when Leni put aside enough cash to vacation by herself in the Catskills for two or three weeks during the stiflingly hot New York City summers!

The family thrived under Leni's control and as the children grew up, married, and had children of their own, all returned to Leni and Moritz's on a regular basis. The children formed the Farkas Family Tree to continue their close-knit relationships. The patriarch and matriarch were honorary members. Every March after Leni and Moritz died, the family tree would hold a moment of silence in their memory--a tradition started by my grandpa Tivador Schwartz, who married Leni and Moritz's oldest daughter.

This post honors my great-grandma as a strong woman, the focus of week 10 in Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors series. And a big thank you to my Cousin B, who began collecting family stories and cranking microfilmed Census records more than 20 years ago! She saved the memories of her mother's generation and now I'm passing them along to the next generation via my blog and in many other ways.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Found: Farkas Family WWII Letters

In 2013, I first learned about the existence of written records covering most meetings of my mother's Farkas Family Tree stretching from 1933 through 1964. This family-tree association, which met 10 times a year, consisted of all the adult children (and their spouses) of patriarch Moritz FARKAS and matriarch Lena KUNSTLER Farkas. I remember attending meetings when I was a tiny tyke, but of course I had no idea of the elaborate administrative framework created by the family.*

Once a cousin kindly let me borrow the meeting minutes and annual historian's reports, I scanned all 500 pages. Then I indexed and identified each person as a relative/in-law (by relationship) or as a family friend. Indexing helped me solve several family mysteries!

However, the World War II meeting notes were mostly missing, as were letters written by family members who were in the service during the war. Five years I've tried to find these missing documents, with no luck. I feared they were lost forever.

Until a lucky break last month. I reconnected with a 2d cousin, who mentioned his search for some of the minutes and records I'd scanned. And lo and behold, he has in his possession the missing family-tree minutes and letters from the war years!

We swapped. Now I'm scanning (and indexing) all the new-found minutes and letters from the 1940s. At top, the title page of the scrapbook he lent me. At right, a letter written by my Auntie Dorothy Schwartz exactly 75 years ago this month--when she was a WAC in training, prior to being posted overseas for World War II service.

Lucky, lucky me to be able to assemble a complete set of minutes and letters for the Farkas Family Tree and keep them safe for the next generation (and beyond).

Thanks to Elizabeth O'Neal for the Genealogy Blog Party prompt "As luck would have it" for March.

*One of Mom's first cousins had bound books of meeting minutes and documents and when he and I got together for the first time in decades, and I began to ask him about the family, he casually mentioned having those books. I then volunteered to scan and produce a spiral-bound book. He thought it would take me years. It took less than 3 months, including indexing, because another cousin volunteered to retype anything that was illegible. So remember: Always reach out to cousins and let them know of your interest in anything even vaguely related to family history!