Showing posts with label Kunstler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kunstler. Show all posts

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, March 11, 2019

Ancestors Had Large Families, Descendants Had Small Families

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

Wood Family: 17 Kids

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

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

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

McClure Family: 10 Kids

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

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

Mahler Family: 8 Kids

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

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

Farkas Family: 11 Kids

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

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Imagining Breakfast with Bela Roth


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


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

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

Why Breakfast with Bela?

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

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

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

Monday, December 24, 2018

Genealogy on Christmas Eve

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season!

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Genealogist as Indexer-in-Chief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 27, 2018

RIP, Bela "Bacsi" Roth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 19, 2018

My Farkas Family on December 7, 1941

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 3, 2018

Oldest Ancestors with Names and Dates

My husband's family has several good candidates for the "oldest" ancestor with names and dates, because of his four Mayflower ancestors.

The family trees of passengers Isaac Allerton, Mary Norris Allerton, Mary Allerton, and Degory Priest are fairly well documented, and I've added their  parents' names/dates to hubby's family tree. Above, the entry for Isaac Allerton's father Edward and his descendants, dates and all, in a timeline chart created using RootsMagic 7 genealogy software.

Next, I scrolled down the timeline looking for Mayflower ancestors and their parents to see who's earliest. Even though Edward Allerton was born in 1555, he's not the oldest ancestor in hubby's Mayflower branch. Edward Allerton's granddaughter, Mayflower passenger Mary Allerton, later married Thomas Cushman of the Fortune. So the earliest ancestor from that line is actually Thomas Couchman, b. 1538.

Now to my family tree. The oldest ancestor I can name and date on my mother's side is my great-great-great grandfather, Yosef Moshe Kunstler, who died in NagyBereg, Hungary (now known as Berehi, Ukraine) on June 13, 1854. My wonderful cousin B visited the cemetery and photographed the headstone 20 years ago. According to the headstone, Yosef's father's name was Hillel. That's where the trail ends.

On my father's side, the oldest ancestor I can name and date is my great-great grandma Rachel Shuham Jacobs, born about 1845 in Plunge, Lithuania. She married young, was widowed, and came to New York City with her grown daughter and son in the late 1880s. Rachel died in New York City on December 8, 1915. Her death cert shows her parents as Moses Shuham and Sarah Levin, but unfortunately, I have no other info on them.

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt, which is "Oldest."

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.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Ancestral Travels to America

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

Saturday, June 9, 2018

V7a Mitochondrial Results and Next Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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


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!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ancestor Timeline Reveals Gaps (Gasp)

Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun this week was to create a timeline for one ancestor and explain how we created it, along with the image.

Since I'm still a RootsMagic7 newbie (less than 4 months' experience), I was delighted to follow Randy's detailed directions for how he created his ancestor's timeline in RM7. I did the same for my 2d great uncle, Bela Bernard Roth (1865-1941). His first wife was Sali/Zali Kunstler (? - 1895), sister to my great-grandma Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938). Bela's parents were Shlomo/Salomon Roth and Hannah Klein.

After I created the timeline in RM7, I took a screen shot with my "Preview" function for Mac. To do that, I selected just the timeline itself as it appeared on my screen and saved it as a .jpg. There is more info available in the timeline, but I didn't include all in this screen shot.

As Randy indicates, the look is bare-bones but practical. At a glance, I can see how old Bela is during each moment on the timeline. When his children were born, when he came to America the first and second times, at the point of each census, when he died.

This timeline reveals (gasp!) gaps for me to research. For instance, Bela had four more children with his second wife (Bertha Batia Weiss, 1885-1967), including one mentioned in a 1907 passenger manifest and a 1914 passenger manifest.

This son, Imre (or Emery) Roth, vanished before the 1920 U.S. Census. He's a gap that I'd like to fill with more information so I can record him and honor his memory. For now, Bela's timeline will have to state that son Imre/Emery died "before 1920."

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."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Family History Month: Picturing My Maternal Line

As I plan write-ups about the different branches of my family tree and my hubby's tree, I'm organizing my photos. Today, I wanted to picture my maternal grandparents (Hermina Farkas and Tivador/Theodore Schwartz) and their parents.

Top row shows Lena Kunstler and Moritz Farkas, my Grandma Minnie's parents.

Bottom row shows Hani Simonowitz and Herman Schwartz, my Grandpa Teddy's parents.

All six of these maternal ancestors were born in Hungary in the 19th century. Hani and Herman remained in Ungvar. Lena and Moritz came to New York City very early in the 20th century.

Grandma Minnie and Grandpa Teddy were a love match, not an arranged marriage, and they wed on October 22, 1911. Their names were shown on the ketubah as Chaya Sara (bride) and Yechezkel (groom).

According to family lore, the family rode to the wedding at the Clinton Street Synagogue by horse and carriage--but the groom was late because his horse had run away.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday's Faces from the Past: Remembering Mom, Counting Her Cousins

Remembering my dear mother, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981), on the 36th anniversary of her death. This 1946 photo shows her looking radiant on her wedding day, just before the ceremony at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City.

Since I'm still researching siblings of her maternal grandparents Moritz Farkas/Leni Kunstler and paternal grandparents Herman Schwartz/Hani Simonowitz Schwartz, I can't yet name all of Mom's first cousins. Here are the 28 whose names I know:
  • George and Robert, sons of her uncle Albert Farkas and Sari Klein Farkas.
  • Edythe and Jacqui, daughters of her aunt Irene Farkas Grossman and uncle Milton Grossman.
  • Ron and Betty, children of her aunt Ella Farkas Lenney and uncle Joseph Lenney.
  • Harry and Richard, sons of her aunt Freda Farkas Pitler and uncle Morris Pitler.
  • Barbara, Robert, and Peter, children of her aunt Rose Farkas Freedman and uncle George Freedman.
  • Richard and Susan, children of her uncle Fred Farkas and aunt Charlotte Chapman Farkas.
  • Michael and Leonard, sons of her aunt Jeannie Farkas Marks and uncle Harold Marks.
  • Hajnal, Clara, Sandor, Ilona, and Elza, children of her uncle Joszef Kunstler and aunt Helena Schonfeld Kunstler.
  • Margaret, Alexander, and Joseph, children of her aunt Zali Kunstler Roth and uncle Bela Bernard Roth.
  • Burton and Harriet, children of her aunt Mary Schwartz Wirtschafter and uncle Edward Wirtschafter.
  • Morton and Eugene, sons of her uncle Sam Schwartz and aunt Anna Gelbman Schwartz.
  • Viola, daughter of her aunt Paula Schwartz Weiss and uncle [first name unknown] Weiss.
Remembering Mom today, with love.

PS: I can name every one of Dad's first cousins--he had only 20. But until a few months ago, I didn't know about all of them, and then I broke through a brick wall!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: What's Your Genealogy Elevator Pitch?

Do you have a genealogy elevator pitch? You know, a few quick sentences summarizing your family's background, adapted to the situation at hand. Entrepreneurs use elevator pitches to get investors interested in their businesses; we use elevator pitches to connect with relatives and possible relatives in several situations.

With genealogy elevator pitches, the goal is to share information very concisely, spark interest in your family or your research, and--hopefully--motivate action. Especially valuable during Genealogy Go-Overs or Do-Overs!

Here are three situations where I use my genealogy elevator pitches:
  • Following up on a DNA match or a family-tree hint. The right elevator pitch, polite and concise with an upbeat tone, makes a big difference. Mention exactly what the match or hint is, then list family names/places to get the ball rolling on trying to confirm the match. Some people manage more than one DNA kit and are active on more than one DNA site or family-tree site, so I give particulars to save them time. My elevator pitch: "My name is ___, my kit # is ___, and I'm writing about a match with FamilyTreeDNA kit #___, which is listed under the name of ____.  I suspect the connection might be through my Farkas family from Botpalad (Hungary) or my Kunstler family from Nagy Bereg (Hungary). Please let me know if any of these names or places are familiar. Thanks very much, and I'm looking forward to hearing from you." By adding the phrase looking forward to hearing from you, I'm requesting a response, positive or negative. Much of the time, it works.
  • Younger relatives ask a question or appear interested in an old photo. Be ready with a minute or two of explanation--vividly bring that person to life in that moment. Above, a photo my grandsons found interesting. My elevator pitch: "That's your great-great-grandpa James Edgar Wood and his construction crew, building a house in Cleveland Heights more than 100 years ago. Did you know he built so many homes in Cleveland that Wood Road is named for him? And most of those homes are still standing today!" Depending on the reaction, I either dig out more house photos or tell another story about the Wood family--keeping it brief.
  • At a family gathering or on the phone with a relative who asks, "what's new?" Oooh, so glad you asked. My latest elevator pitch: "Hubby and his first cousins took DNA tests, and surprisingly, the results show that the Wood family has some roots outside the British Isles. Would you consider taking a DNA test so we can learn more? [Insert name of DNA testing firm] has a big sale coming up!" The element of surprise in DNA results can be highly intriguing, and the mention of a sale also grabs attention. Three cousins were kind enough to take a DNA test during a sale this summer. My pitch was successful! So many cMs, so little time.
So polish your genealogy elevator pitch. And if you're going to a genealogy conference, polish the "surnames research" part of your pitch and/or have calling cards printed (above, mine and my husband's cards) to exchange with other researchers.

    Wednesday, March 29, 2017

    Wordless Wednesday: Moritz and the Twins

    My wonderful Sis just discovered this photo of my mother Daisy Schwartz and her twin sister Dorothy, holding hands with their grandfather, Moritz Farkas (1857-1936).

    They are on Fox Street in the South Bronx, standing next to the fence of the elementary school that Mom and Auntie attended. Was this their first day of school in the mid-1920s? Or were they just taking a walk?

    Moritz and his wife, Lena Kunstler Farkas, lived at 843 Whitlock Avenue in the Bronx, about a mile from this school. My Mom, Auntie, and Uncle lived with their parents at 651 Fox Street in the Bronx. Thank you, Sis, for sharing this photo.

    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.