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

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 1/10: Final file is 1.5 GB, too large for even 2 CDs, so am purchasing multipack of 4GB flash drives to mail. Today, first packages are going into the mail for relatives! - NEARLY 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!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgivings of the Past

Happy Thanksgiving! I looked back in diaries, postcards, meeting minutes, and other bits and pieces of my genealogical collection to get a glimpse of what happened on Thanksgivings of the past in my family and my husband's family.*
  • The strangely-colored postcard at right, from the 1910s, was received in East Cleveland by hubby's uncle, Wallis W. Wood. The sender was "Aunt Nellie" (Rachel Ellen Wood Kirby), who lived in Chicago and never missed an opportunity to send holiday or birthday greetings to her nephews and nieces in the Wood family.
  • On Thanksgiving Day of 1959, my late father-in-law (Edgar J. Wood) received the exciting news that he would be a grandfather for the first time during 1960. How do I know? He wrote about it in his diary!
  • On Thanksgiving Day of 1950, my grandma's Farkas family gathered at the C&L Restaurant in Manhattan for dinner and accordion entertainment, at $6 per person. My parents, Daisy Schwartz and Harry Burk, told the family they were buying a TV set to celebrate their wedding anniversary (they married on November 24, 1946). I read about it in the minutes of the Farkas Family Tree.
  • The Farkas Family Tree and spouses and children pitched in to have a photo taken of everyone who attended the Thanksgiving Day dinner at a Manhattan hotel in 1956. It was a large group! Again, the story of planning this dinner and the photography is straight out of the tree's monthly minutes, which I scanned and indexed a few years ago.
  • My aunt Dorothy Schwartz worked on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade with her long-time friend and partner, Lee Wallace, from 1950-1952. Lee was then the head of public relations for Macy's, and Dorothy was her assistant. Then my aunt got her teaching license and left the world of retail to teach typing and shorthand at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx. Yes, this is the same aunt who was a WAC during WWII.

 *Not including hubby's Mayflower ancestors celebrating Thanksgiving, of course. That's the oldest "Thanksgiving of the Past" story I can tell to my family for the holiday.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saluting the Veterans in Our Family Trees

With gratitude for their service, today I'm saluting some of the many veterans from my family tree and my husband's family tree.


Let me begin with my husband's Slatter family in Canada. Above, second from left is Capt. John Daniel Slatter of the 48th Highlanders in Toronto. He was my hubby's great uncle, an older brother to hubby's Grandma Mary Slatter Wood, and he was a world-famous bandmaster in his time.

At far left of the photo is Capt. Slatter's son, Lt. Frederick William Slatter, who fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge during WWI. Third from left is John Hutson Slatter, grandson of Capt. Slatter, who enlisted in the Canadian military in the spring of 1940 for service in WWII. At far right is another of Capt. Slatter's sons, Lt. Albert Matthew Slatter, who served in Canada's No. 4 Company of 15th Battalion and then in the 48th Highlanders of Toronto. (Albert was the father of John Hutson Slatter.)

Grandma Mary Slatter Wood had two other distinguished bandmaster brothers active in the Canadian military early in the 1900s: Henry Arthur Slatter (who served in the 72d Seaforth Highlanders of Vancouver) and Albert William Slatter (who served in the 7th London Fusiliers of Ontario).


In my family tree, a number of folks served in World War II. Above, 2d from left in front row is my father, Harold D. Burk, who was in the US Army Signal Corps in Europe. His brother, Sidney Burk, also served during WWII, stationed in Hawaii. And I've recently written a lot about my aunt, Dorothy Schwartz, who was a WAC and received the Bronze Star for her service in Europe. My uncle, Dorothy's brother Fred, was in Europe serving with the Army, as well.

Meanwhile, my mother, Daisy Schwartz, was busy selling war bonds in NYC and corresponding with maybe a dozen GIs to keep their spirits up. When Mom wrote the historian's report for the Farkas Family Tree association at the end of 1943, she reflected the entire family's feelings about their relatives fighting for freedom.
For the coming year, the earnest hope of all is that 1944 will find the Axis vanquished and our boys home. All that is unrelated to the war effort must be sublimated to the present struggle to which some in our group have pledged their lives. The rest of us pledge our aid. The Allies will be victorious--God is on our side!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Family History Month: The Farkas Family During the Depression

25th anniversary of Farkas Family Tree association
Starting in 1933, the Farkas Family Tree held 10 meetings a year. Charter members were the 10 children of my maternal great-grandparents, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) and Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938).

Moritz and Lena were proclaimed honorary members at the first FFT meeting in March, 1933. Since nearly all of the charter members lived in the New York City area, the meetings were a way of keeping family ties as tight as possible.

Luckily, the FFT kept written minutes at every meeting. Although some of the 1940s minutes haven't survived, I've scanned and indexed the hundreds of existing minutes for in-depth research and to safeguard for the next generation.

Outside the family, there was a Depression. Inside, the focus was on births and birthdays, weddings and anniversaries, get-well wishes for ill members, remembering relatives who died, planning family outings, and--food, food, food!

So what were my Farkas ancestors doing at their October meetings in the 1930s?
  • At meeting #5, in October of 1933, "there was much joy and commotion at getting together again" after the summer break. The Entertainment Committee planned a card party of bridge, hearts, and poker for the November meeting, saying there would be "one prize each for a man and woman who are the biggest losers."
  • At meeting #15, in October of 1934, the discussion centered on securing a restaurant or hotel banquet room for a family Thanksgiving dinner the following month. This was the first of many annual family Thanksgivings celebrated together.
  • Because of scheduling conflicts, there was no October meeting in 1935. The first meeting of the fall was held on Sept. 29th, followed by a poker party. "All were winners," according to the minutes.
  • In October of 1936, my maternal grandparents (Hermina Farkas Schwartz and Tivador Schwartz) were congratulated on their 25th wedding anniversary. The tree created a committee to choose a gift for this occasion. Attendees chowed down on coffee, strudel, cheese, and sardines. Really, this is what the minutes said.
  • In October of 1937, the treasurer reported cash on hand of $241.91 (the equivalent of nearly $4,200 in today's dollars). The tree was planning ahead, buying grave plots in New Montefiore Cemetery on Long Island. And in another forward-thinking move, the tree voted to buy movie film to capture highlights of the family's year.
  • At meeting #51 in October of 1938, members voted to spend 50 cents for cemetery maintenance and $3 for movie film. A special committee was formed to plan the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner, at a per-person price of $1.75.
  • During meeting #61 in October of 1939, $3 was allotted for movie film, leaving a treasury balance of $79.94. Members planned the Thanksgiving dinner, to be held that year in the Hamilton Hotel. But there was one snag: "For our Thanksgiving Dinner, we would not be able to get the magician as planned. Music will be supplied by the victrola which the Freedmans have kindly offered to bring."

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Don't Touch That Dial!

Recognize this giant piece of furniture?
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Yes, it's a black and white TV/mono record player/AM radio console. Every living room had to have one in the 1950s, the height of furniture fashion and entertainment technology. No, really.

And who are those little double-trouble urchins, reaching out to change the channel?

Guilty as charged: Me and my twin sis. Often we'd get up before the crack of dawn and turn the TV on to watch the crackly test pattern until "Modern Farmer" showed up on the tiny screen at 6 am. A fascinating programming decision for a TV station based in the heart of New York City, don't you think?

Amazingly, I know exactly when this TV arrived in our Bronx living room because of the meticulous minutes taken at the Farkas Family Tree meetings every month. My grandma, Henrietta Farkas Schwartz, was a co-founder of the tree, which held its first meeting in March, 1933 at the apartment of her parents, Moritz Farkas and Lena Kunstler Farkas.

Excerpted from the minutes of one December meeting during the 1950s: "The Burks are getting a television set for their anniversary." (Sis, I'm respecting your privacy and not revealing the year. You're welcome!)

Today's Sentimental Sunday is courtesy of my captioning frenzy while snowbound, going through my archival boxes and coming across this fun snapshot.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Talented Tuesday: Auntie Dorothy and the Thanksgiving Day Parade

My mother's twin sister, Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001), became a part of the great Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade through her close relationship with the parade's talented director, Lee Wallace.

Lee Wallace was with Macy's for many years, and insiders must have smiled when they read the store's New Year's ad on January 1, 1948. Look closely, and you'll see it mentions a telegram sent to Lee c/o the store (excerpt is at left).

"Aunt" Lee, as my sisters and I affectionately called her, was in charge of Macy's special events, and she directed the Macy's parade for about a decade. My Auntie Dorothy was her assistant starting in 1950 (as mentioned in the Farkas Family Tree minutes for that year).

During 1951 and 1952, Dorothy and Lee worked on lots of special exhibits for Macy's, including an Italian showcase and--I can't make this stuff up--a puppet exhibit for which my Auntie made the wigs.

In 1952, Dorothy briefly left Macy's but later that year, she and Lee formed a partnership, "Lee Wallace Associates, Parade and Special Events, Consultants." Their first project together was: The 1952 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

In March, 1953, Dorothy and Lee were commissioned to run the Bridgeport Barnum Festival on July 4th. This magazine excerpt from May, 1953 shows that the two were being publicized within the industry. According to the family tree minutes, Dorothy then recuperated from the experience by vacationing on Cape Cod!

Dorothy and Lee remained together personally after their professional relationship ended in the mid-1950s, when Auntie Dorothy became a teacher in the New York City school system.