Showing posts with label Schwartz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Schwartz. Show all posts

Friday, February 1, 2019

Looking for Teddy's Dairy in 1940

Click here to look for NYC building photos in the tax records
Wouldn't it be fun to go back in time and see what the residences and businesses of our ancestors looked like in, say, 1940? My ancestors on both sides were in New York City at the time, mainly in the Bronx, and I'm lucky that at least some photos are available in books (like Lloyd Ultan's The Beautiful Bronx, 1920-1950).

But not every building on every block is in those books. Even the New York Public Library's excellent digital photographic collection doesn't have every building on every street.

It turns out there is a super source of photographs of NYC buildings from 1940. It's free and it's online.

Photos in the NYC Municipal Archives

The NYC Municipal Archives holds these building photos, part of a database of 1940s tax records for all five boroughs. The photos were originally used to support property value assessments for every building in the city.

Now the digitized collection is a wonderful resource for genealogists whose ancestors lived in (or had a business in) New York City at that time. It's like Street View on Google Maps but set in the past of 1940, and only in black-and-white.

Searching For a Building Photo

The main portal to the photos allows visitors to choose a specific borough as the first step. At top, my choice of the Bronx. The next step is to browse or search for a building photo.

To search, you need the specific block and lot number of the property. That's not the same as the address. To find block and lot, click on the link on "NYCityMap" link and enter the street address and borough. Above is the result I got when I searched for 679 Fox Street, the Bronx address of the small grocery store called Teddy's Dairy, operated by Grandpa Teddy Schwartz and Grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz in 1940.

Finding Teddy's Dairy

To see the actual photo, I plugged the block and lot number into the search box of the tax-photo page for the Bronx. Up came a black-and-white image of an apartment building with ground-floor retail space (see below). People are walking along, oblivious to the camera, and cars are parked along the curbs. It's an ordinary day in 1940.

Which storefront is Teddy's Dairy? The signs in the 1940 photo aren't crystal-clear. So I used Street View on Google Maps to confirm that the address is the corner store, with the entrance slightly up the street on the left. Today, that space is occupied by a food store, as it was in 1940, when my grandparents ran the corner store.

High-quality photos are for sale, but anyone can look at any building photo with a few clicks. More photographic time-travel is in my future as I click merrily through the Archives to see the buildings where these and other NYC ancestors lived and worked in 1940.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "At the Library."

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Finding a Home for My WAC Aunt's Materials

My mother's twin sister, Dorothy H. Schwartz (1919-2001), enlisted as a WAC during WWII, just months after graduating from Hunter College in New York City. She had a distinguished military career and was transformed by her wartime experiences.

My family has long held a small collection of Auntie Dorothy's WAC documents and photos, plus a copy of the book she wrote as historian of her WAC unit.

My Sis and I wanted this collection to be in safe hands for the future, in a repository that can archive the documents and put her military service in context for future generations. The search was on.

Finding an Appropriate Repository

An online search of key terms "WAC museum" brought me to the website of the U.S. Army Women's Museum, located south of Richmond in Fort Lee, VA. As shown above, I located the "contact" page and there was specific information about how to proceed with a request to donate materials.

I sent a detailed email describing what my family has to donate, with background about my aunt's military experience. Of course I mentioned her Bronze Star Medal!

Preparing to Donate to the Museum

It didn't take long for the museum to respond. It is not accepting uniforms or medals (we have neither) but it would be delighted to accept documents and photographs in good condition.

The museum sent a four-page document formatted to help Sis and me provide biographical details and military details about my aunt. We filled in her rank, places she was stationed, campaigns supported by her WAC unit, and excerpts from a letter she wrote about having the opportunity to serve her country as the "woman behind the man behind the gun."

Also, we wrote a solid page summarizing Dorothy's life, from her birth date and parents' names to the schools she attended, her doctorate in education, and her post-war career as a New York City school teacher. We also mentioned her emphasis on social justice in her interests and activities after she retired.

Finally, we listed the contents of the collection so the museum can see exactly what is being donated (see above). Of course everything was scanned at high resolution before the donation was made.

Long after Sis and I join our ancestors, Dorothy Schwartz's bio and WAC materials will be available to researchers because they're safely in the museum's archives!

Keeping Dorothy Schwartz's Memory Alive in the Museum

As is usual, the museum requested that we send the collection and a printout of the bio pages via a shipping company that can track every movement of the package. We packed it securely in a padded envelope, including a cover note detailing the contents, and sent it on Monday.

The museum told me it will confirm receipt as soon as the package arrives (just heard the shipment arrived safely). Soon afterward, Sis and I will receive a formal acknowledgement of our donation.

Best of all, we have the satisfaction of knowing we're keeping Dorothy Schwartz's memory alive among the WAC artifacts held by the US Army Women's Museum.
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For more about finding a suitable home for ancestors' materials, please see my best-selling #Genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Genealogy Clues Add Context for Family Photos

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

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

Farkas Family Tree Photo, 1935

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

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

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

Pelham Parkway Photos

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

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

Context Adds to Family History

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 27, 2019

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Paula & Etel Schwartz in Ungvar, Hungary
On this day of remembrance, I want to show photos of some ancestors of blessed memory who died in the Holocaust.

Schwartz Ancestors Died

Above, Etel and Paula Schwartz, two sisters of my maternal Grandpa Tivador (Teddy) Schwartz (1887-1965). Grandpa came to America from Ungvar, Hungary as a teenager and soon brought over one older brother (Sam/Simon Schwartz). Together, the brothers brought over a younger sister (Mary Schwartz).

Alas, their siblings all remained in Hungary, including Etel and Paula, and were killed in the Holocaust. This confirmation comes from Paula's daughter, who lived through the Holocaust and recorded testimony of their early life and harrowing, horrifying wartime experiences.

A Burk ancestor
who lived in Gargzdai, Lithuania

Looking for Birk Ancestors 

Above is a photo of a young man I believe to be the youngest brother of my paternal Grandpa Isaac Burk (1882?-1943). Around 1900, Isaac and his older brother Abraham left for Manchester, England, to stay with relatives and then continue to North America. Their sisters Nellie Block and Jennie Birk, along with brother Motel (Max) Birk, also came to the United States.

It seems this younger brother stayed behind at home in Gargzdai, Lithuania, and most likely he and/or his descendants were killed in the Holocaust. So far, I've found no proof, or even a hint of his whereabouts after his siblings left, but I'll keep looking.

It is my honor to keep their memories alive for future generations. Never forget.

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, January 21, 2019

Clicking, Not Cranking, to Read Unindexed Records

Temperature this morning was minus 3. On a day like this, I'm feeling grateful not to have to leave the house to crank through microfilm as I search through unindexed records.


Happily, the records I'm searching are a click away on FamilySearch.org. Not long ago, I attended a talk about researching in Hungary, where my maternal grandparents were from. The speaker reminded us that we can click through unindexed census records on FamilySearch at our leisure.

Tips from the Family Search Wiki



The FamilySearch wiki pages about Hungary provide a handy key to help researchers interpret what each census column is about (see above). Now I can spot where the family name would be listed, the columns for age, place of birth, and so on. This helps me speed-click through the 600-odd unindexed pages.

At top, the first page in this series that I'm searching, looking for the Schwartz family in Ungvar, in Ung county. Notice that in the page at top, the very first family (not in Ungvar) is Schwartz. I expect to see a lot of Schwartz entries scattered in Hungary. The real trick is to click and locate MY Schwartz family.

One of the good things coming out of this page-by-page search is more familiarity with surnames and given names of that time and place. And I'm getting better at reading different handwritings from that time and place.

In Search of Great-Grandpa Herman Schwartz

A-clicking I will go, in search of my great-grandpa's family, the parents of Herman Schwartz. Herman should be in the census as a child, although his name may be different, perhaps Hershel or Hirsch instead of Herman. It takes a lot more time to look through one page at a time, but it will be worth it if Herman and his family are there. And it's clicking, not cranking, already easier than it would have been just a few years ago.

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.

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.

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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 26, 2018

My Year in Genealogy - 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Monday, December 24, 2018

Genealogy on Christmas Eve

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Remembering the Twins, 99 Years After Birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Two Beards and a Mystery

This week's challenge in the #52Ancestors series is "bearded." I have two bearded ancestors in old family photos. One is positively identified, one is a bit of a mystery.

Above, my bearded great-grandfather Herman Yehuda Schwartz (b. 1850s?- d. in 1920s). Herman was married to my great-grandma Hani Simonowitz (1860s-1930ish). They raised their family in Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhhorod, Ukraine), a bustling market town back in the day that is now a regional administrative center. Herman and Hani were the parents of my maternal grandfather, Tivador Schwartz (1887-1965).

The wonderful photo of Herman came directly from my 2d cousin on that side of the family. Although I wish I had more specific info, at least Herman has been positively identified by his granddaughter, who treasured this photo as a link to the past.

Now for the mystery man with the beard. The photo shown here and a similar photo have been in the hands of my father's Burk family for decades. It is probably a photo of my great-grandfather Solomon Elias Birck (late 1850?-1900s?), the husband of Nekhe Gelle Shuham (1850s?-1900s?). They lived in Gargzdai, Lithuania, a town known by many names in many languages.

I know the names of these great-grandparents because my grandfather (Isaac Burk, 1882-1943) and his siblings listed their parents and/or hometown on various documents.

This mystery man with a beard bears a very close resemblance to my father and others in his family. That, plus the fact that my 2d cousin has an almost identical photo of this same man passed down in her part of the family, is why I believe it is Solomon Elias (or Elias Solomon, depending on the document).

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

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.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sports: Leaping Rooftops, Bronx Bombers, and Skating

Leaping across rooftops, no safety net in sight. That was my big-city-born-and-bred father's childhood "sport."

Harold Burk (1909-1978), my Dad, grew up in New York City's Jewish Harlem, on 109th Street near Fifth Avenue. As a teen, he and his friends would dare each other to leap across the rooftops of the 6 story tenements built close together in the neighborhood. When he told me this story, he seemed a bit amazed that he had survived--me too! No net, and no cape (it was before the invention of Superman).

Dad became a travel agent (at right, in his lobby office at the Savoy Plaza Hotel in New York City) and soon after marrying Mom, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981), they moved to the Bronx. Only a short subway ride away from Yankee Stadium! No wonder Dad loved the Yankees as his spectator sport of choice. Every summer, he'd take his daughters to a few ball games. We were lucky enough to see many of the Yankee greats of the 1960s, stars like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. When not at the stadium, he would listen on those tinny 1960s transistor radios.

Of course, I still root for the Yankees (in vain, recently). But my personal spectator sport of choice is figure skating. Note I said "spectator sport" (meaning I don't actually skate, just attend skating events or watch on TV). Now you know why Winter Olympics, not Summer Olympics, are my favorite. 

#52Ancestors - Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's prompt.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

How Our Grandparents Made a Living (or Not)

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

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



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

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sgt. Schwartz, Teacher and WAC


Back-to-school time makes me think of my auntie, Dorothy H. Schwartz (1919-2001), a long-time teacher of steno, typing, and related business subjects at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx, New York. Not only was her steno speedy and accurate, she was a superb touch-typist and she authored one or two user's manuals for dictating machines.

As a teacher, Dorothy was nicknamed Sgt. Schwartz. Yes, she was demanding. Yes, she expected a lot of her students (and her family). Luckily for me, I didn't have her as my typing teacher, although Sis did.

Dorothy had been a real-life sergeant in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (later shortened to WACs). Enlisting during World War II, she trained for Army administrative duties and was soon sent to England and France. Dorothy and her colleagues would listen in as military leaders outlined plans for bombing raids, then they would quickly type out the orders for distribution to those who carried out the missions.

I know, from reading her letters home, that she felt intense pressure on the job and had a strong sense of personal responsibility as well as a very patriotic spirit. Lives literally depended on the typed orders being correct, complete, and on time. Dorothy really did earn her Bronze Star for "meritorious service" in wartime Europe. Bear in mind that she enlisted at the age of 22 and left the service as a seasoned veteran at the age of 24.

To her high school students, she was "Sgt. Schwartz," but I knew her as "Auntie Dorothy."

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

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Kossuth Society, 1909: Part 4, Supporting Suffragettes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Kossuth Society posts to come!