Showing posts with label Slatter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Slatter. Show all posts

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Happy New Year 2019

Sent in 1913 to a cousin in Cleveland, OH, the message on this nostalgic penny postcard was handwritten in cursive by the mother of the sender. The mother was Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter Baker (1868-1947) and the sender was her daughter, Edith Baker (1901-1989).

The recipient was Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957), Adelaide's nephew and Edith's first cousin on the Slatter side of the family. Wallis was my husband's uncle and we are so lucky to have been able to scan many of the colorful postcards he received from family during the early 1900s.

Happy new year 2019 to all!

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!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Not Naughty, But Not Necessarily Nice

My late father-in-law insinuated, during a family-history interview in the 1980s, that his father was doing something a bit naughty later in life.

Above, the man in question, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). This was my husband's paternal grandfather, a carpenter and builder active in Cleveland Heights at the turn of the 20th century. His oldest son was my father-in-law, and the interview with him inspired me to hunt for more info decades later.

After the death of James's first wife, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925), James still had two teenaged sons at home. So 15 months after Mary's death, 55-year-old James married 35-year-old divorcee Alice Hopperton Unger (1880-1934). Alice listed her occupation as "none" while James's occupation was listed as "builder" on the marriage cert.

Sixty years after this marriage took place, my late father-in-law suggested that James married his housekeeper and there was some hanky-panky involved. The age difference may have been a factor in assessing this relationship. No mention of James's third marriage, by the way.

Well, this was not the whole story. Looking at the documents only, which is all I have, James may very well have married his housekeeper, if that's what Alice was in 1926. But he and Alice divorced some time in the next two years. I'm still trying to get that divorce record from Ohio. It's very likely the key to this family mystery.

In 1928, James married Carolina Foltz Cragg (1871-?), a match arranged by his nephew, Charles Francis Elton Wood. Why? Because Carolina was Charles's widowed mother-in-law and James was in need of a wife to run his household, is the way I heard the story from a Wood cousin in the know. No hanky-panky here, the family was in favor of this marriage so that neither of the older folks would be alone.
Why do I say that James wasn't necessarily nice? I took a closer look at the death of Alice, the second wife for a brief time. She was a "semi-invalid" at the time of her death in April, 1930. Her medical problems included a serious heart ailment and bronchial asthma. Poor Alice died less than a month after her 46th birthday.

Is it possible that James divorced Alice because her health prevented her from being a good housekeeper and step-mother to the two sons who remained at home? That would not have been nice, although I'm trying not to prejudge.*

*UPDATE: County Clerk responded and emailed me a poor quality divorce document, saying she would snail-mail a better copy. No charge! And guess what: I was correct--James sued Alice for divorce for (1) being unable to care for him and his two minor children from a previous marriage and (2) not speaking to him for long periods, among other reasons that are not clear on the copy of the copy. But the printed copy coming by mail will be more legible. Now, 90-odd years after the divorce, we will know what both sides said in court.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt, "naughty."

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

More Winter Weddings in the Wood Family Tree

My husband's Wood family tree has lots of December marriages. Here are three more of the many that popped up when I used RootsMagic's calendar report.
  • December 18: Mary Shehen and John Slatter. Mary (1837-1889) was my hubby's great-grandma, and the saddest figure in his family tree. Born into terrible poverty in London, she married great-grandpa John Slatter (1838-1901) 159 years ago, and had 6 children with him. As the years went on, she and the children were in and out of workhouses, seemingly abandoned. Eventually, Mary was admitted to an insane asylum due to depression. She died there 15 years later, of TB. John, meanwhile, left for Cleveland, Ohio and a new life, with a new wife and a new occupation. He died at his youngest daughter's home in Cleveland, having been widowed again and chronically ill. I'm still trying to get back a generation and learn more about Mary's parents, who were themselves born in Ireland around 1801.  
  • December 19: William Smith and Janet "Jean" UNK. Born in Ireland, Smith (1724-1786) and his wife Janet (?-1805) were hubby's 5th great-grandparents. Alas, I know very little about either of them, although it appears they were married in 1751, which is 267 years ago. A Smith researcher whose work I respect indicates that two of William and Janet's sons were doctors. Not sure I'll be able to learn more about these long-ago ancestors, given the "Smith" name and the dates/places.
  • December 24: Francis "Frank" Ellery Wood and Louisa Mary Schultz. Frank (1857-1933) and his bride Louisa (1860-1948) were married on Christmas Eve, 1883, in Toledo, Ohio, where Frank and most of his brothers were working as carpenters. Frank was my husband's great uncle. The snippet at top from the Lucas county ledger shows their marriage a mere 135 years ago, when he was 26 and she was 23. Frank died after an operation in 1933...then 17 months later, his widow Louisa married his younger brother, Marion Elton Wood. (Unfortunately, Marion had lost two wives by then, as well as one of his two children.) Louisa was again widowed in December, 1947; she lived just 5 months longer.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Armistice Day: Remembering Slatter Ancestors Who Died in WWI

My husband's Slatter ancestors created a tradition of military service. Two of the Slatter family unfortunately lost their lives in World War I. I'm remembering their service and sacrifice today, the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War.

The three younger sons of Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889) and John Slatter (1838-1901) epitomized this military service tradition. Living in extreme poverty in Whitechapel, the adolescent boys (John Daniel, Albert William, and Henry Arthur) were placed on a training ship in the Thames to gain skills that would help them qualify for the military. Not only did they qualify, they eventually became renowned military bandmasters.

This tradition continued into later generations, with many UK and Canadian descendants of the Slatter family answering the call to military service.

Arthur Albert Slatter, a son of Henry Arthur Slatter, enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers in 1901, at 16 years old. Like his father, he became a military musician.

In 1914, Arthur Albert joined the London Regiment, 20th Battalion, and was sent to the "Western European Theatre" during WWI. I was saddened to learn that he was killed in action on May 20, 1917. His name is inscribed on the memorial at Arras, Departement du Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.

Arthur Henry Slatter, a cousin of Arthur Albert, was married with two children, making a living as a house painter and decorator when he received his military notice to serve in 1915.

Arthur Henry enlisted in the Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex) Regiment, London, at the age of 40. At top, you can see his "attestation."

Two years later, he was wounded in battle and sent to Etchinghill Hospital near Kent, England, where he died on October 2, 1917. Private Arthur Henry Slatter is buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery in Kent, England.

Today we mourn the loss of all the brave men and women who served in WWI and other wars, fighting for democracy and freedom.

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.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Happy Blogiversary #10


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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mapping the Shehen Family in London (Mary in Two Places at Once)

Today I'm using Charles Booth's London maps and notebooks for context about my husband's 2d great-grandparents. I know very little about John & Mary Shehen (or Shehan or Sheen). But Booth's info indicates that they were truly poor. 

The 1841-1871 UK Census entries for the Shehens consistently say they were born in Ireland around 1801. He is a "labourer," she is usually a "laundress" or "charing." They never left a quadrangle known as Gray's Buildings, shown above on Booth's maps in the Marylebone section of London. Census entries on the same page with the Shehens in 1871 indicate that a good number of the residents were also Irish-born. Given the devastating Irish Famine, it's not surprising to find so many Irish people in London in that period.

Above, a snippet from Booth's notebook entry about Gray's Buildings, in which he writes there are "a great many Irish" and also notes: "most of the doors open but few broken windows." Based on the poverty he observes, Booth considers the area of Gray's Buildings to be "very poor . . . chronic want."


Poor isn't the end of it. Alas, hubby's great-great-grandma Mary Shehen (whose maiden name I don't yet know), was admitted to the medical wing of the crowded Northumberland Street Workhouse on March 15, 1871, due to"chronic rheumatism." One month later, she was discharged (or, as the record shows, "reliesed").

Two places at once? Mary Shehen was enumerated both in Gray's Buildings and in the Northumberland workhouse for the 1871 Census. Interestingly, that Census was supposed to be as of April 2. But even though Mary Shehen is listed as being in the household with her husband John, the workhouse admission record AND the 1871 Census, below, are evidence that she was actually ailing in the workhouse. Probably it was her husband John or someone else who reported her at her usual residence, unsure of how to tell the Census about her temporary stay in the workhouse.

When I started looking for the Shehen family in Booth's records, I hoped they would not be in as dire economic shape as their daughter Mary's family. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, as the maps and then the workhouse documents indicate. (Sadly, their daughter Mary Shehen, who married John Slatter in 1859, was in and out of workhouses and then two asylums for years.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

How Maps Helped Me Understand the Slatter Family

After watching Helen Smith's excellent "Mapping Your Ancestors" VGA webinar, I decided to learn more about my husband's Slatter ancestors by checking their London-area addresses against the Charles Booth maps.

Who was Charles Booth?

His notebooks and maps make up Life and Labour of the People in London, a detailed study of urban poverty at the end of the 19th century. Helen demonstrated this free and informative resource for understanding the social and economic context of London in that period.

I looked at the maps for three London addresses where hubby's great-grandparents lived. John Slatter (1838-1901) and Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889) always lived in and adjacent to Whitechapel, the city's infamous poor district. Even allowing for some turnover in population and changes in local conditions year to year, knowing what Charles Booth observed in the area gave me a better sense of the daily lives of these ancestors.

1859. At top is an excerpt from the Booth map of London's Christ Church section, directly adjacent to Whitechapel. The green arrow shows 2 Heneage Street, where Mary and John were living at the time of their marriage in 1859. Booth says this part of Heneage Street was "very poor," almost as poor as it gets. Not the very bottom of the economic barrel, but close.

1861. Here, above, is an excerpt from the map for 55 Leman Street in the St. Mark area (also adjacent to Whitechapel), a short walk from where the Slatters lived when they married two years earlier. When the UK census was taken in 1861, Mary & John had a young son, Thomas, and they lived in an area that was considered "mixed"--some poor, some comfortably off. She was a cook, he was a porter, so their combined income may have helped them improve economically from their 1859 situation.

1871.  Above, an excerpt from the Charles Booth map for 3 Half Moon Passage in the St. Mary section of Whitechapel, where the Slatter family lived at the time of the UK census. No color coding by Booth, so I suspect the Slatter family was living in "mixed" surroundings, meaning some poor and some comfortable. Since John is now listed as a "labourer," and there are 5 children in the household, money must have been much tighter.

Poverty takes a toll. According to workhouse and poorhouse records (accessed via Ancestry and in person by my cousin, at the London Metropolitan Archives), Mary Shehen Slatter and 5 of her 6 children were in and out of institutions from 1873 on. Above, the discharge for 5 Slatter* children from Newington Workhouse in London to Hanwell School, both notorious places.

Mary was apparently abandoned by John at that time, and she struggled to keep body and soul together. According to UK records, she developed "melancholia" and was committed to two different (and awful) asylums starting in 1874. Her children were then in and out of workhouses**, poorhouses, and slum residential schools like Forest Gate. Mary died in the asylum in 1889. But her children all grew up to have productive lives!

When I tell the story of the Slatter family to their descendants, I marvel at the resiliency of the Slatter children and express admiration for their accomplishments. Three of the boys went from Forest Gate School to the Exmouth and Goliath Training Ships, then grew up to be celebrated military bandmasters and strong family men. The two girls seem to have been fairly close all their lives, even after they married and raised families. The ultimate trajectory of the Slatter children's lives is quite amazing.

*The eldest Slatter son, Thomas, actually lived with his paternal grandmother and step-grandfather (according to census data from 1871 on). As a result, he never seems to have been in a workhouse or a poorhouse.

**NOTE: The Ancestry database I used is called: "London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764-1930."

Friday, July 13, 2018

Lessons Learned in My Virtual Research Trip

Today, when I was clicking my merry way through online records pertaining to my husband's Slatter family, I discovered one shortcut and was reminded, yet again, of the value of checking originals.

Above, the shortcut I found to cut through the clutter of hints. My husband's Slatter family tree on Ancestry has more than 9,000 outstanding hints. Most of those are for ancestors too distant to be a priority. So I clicked on "records" to choose only those hints, then brought up the "filter by name" sorting option. (The default is "most recent" which means when Ancestry added that hint.)

By entering "Slatter" in the surname search box, I was able to view only record hints containing that name. Of course, I could have searched by first and last names, but given the creative spelling in so many records, I wanted to click through all Slatter record hints individually. Focusing on one surname enabled me to make progress, rather than being sidetracked by hints unrelated to my current research.


Now for the reminder about original records vs. transcriptions. The three dates on this record of marriage banns from a London church are 1 Dec, 8 Dec, and 15 Dec. The handwriting is very clear. At top of the page, not shown here, is the handwritten year--1907. Yet the transcription of this record says the year is 1908.

By reading the handwritten record, I was able to enter the correct dates for the marriage banns of Thomas Albert Slatter and Jessie Alice Elms. Also, the marriage license original confirmed the actual wedding day as 28 December 1907.

It's never safe to assume a transcription is accurate, let alone complete. It took only a few more clicks to view the originals and extract every possible data point.

My starting point for today's post was Elizabeth O'Neal's Genealogy Blog Party, July edition: Virtual Research Trippin'.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Independence for Canadian and U.S. Ancestors

My husband's Slatter ancestors and my Burk/Burke/Berk ancestors both have strong ties to Canada and the United States. For Canada Day and the Fourth of July, both days celebrating independence, I'm summarizing their moves to these adopted home nations. And, of course, doing a little extra research in case new records have become available for these treasured ancestors. Note: Long post ahead!

HUBBY'S SLATTER ANCESTORS

Hubby's paternal great-grandfather was John Slatter (1838-1901), who married Mary Shehen (1837-1889) in Christ Church, Southwark, England, in 1859. John left London for Cleveland, Ohio, in 1888. That struck me as unusual, because his wife Mary died in 1889. Then I found out about her being confined in an asylum and...well, the light dawned.

Of the six children that John and Mary had together, three sons settled in Canada after the turn of the 20th century. They were the "Slatter bandmaster brothers" I've written about in the past. Two daughters settled in Ohio before the turn of the 20th century, following their father to that state. New career opportunities and new family lives awaited them as they left the past behind in England.
  • Albert William Slatter (1862-1935) was a distinguished military bandmaster trained in England who married Eleanor Marion Wilkinson (1865-?). He came to Canada in 1906, joined by his wife and six surviving children one year later. Albert long served as bandmaster of the 7th London (Ontario) Fusiliers, rising to the rank of Captain before his retirement.
  • John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954) became a world-renowned bandmaster who popularized the kiltie band. He was the first of his family to settle in Canada, in 1884. A few years after his 1887 marriage to Sophie Elizabeth Marie LeGallais (1862-1943) in Montreal, John moved his damily to Toronto and was the founding bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders Regiment of Toronto. That's Captain John Slatter pictured above, in full bandmaster regalia. He was, by all accounts, both kind and thoughtful.
  • Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942) was trained in  England and served in the military there before going to Vancouver with his wife, Alice Good (1864-1914). He became bandmaster of the 72d Seaforth Highlanders and soon enlisted to serve in WWI, despite being widowed with three children. After the war, he resumed his high-profile bandmaster role with the 72d Seaforth and was lauded for his leadership.
  • Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter (1868-1947) came to America after arriving in Quebec in 1895. She paid her own passage across the pond and told border authorities she was going to see her father, with $2.50 in her pocket. "Aunt Ada" (as she was known in the family) wound up marrying James Sills Baker in Toledo, OH. Her two grown daughters, Dorothy and Edith, later moved to Cleveland and were guests at the wedding of my sis-in-law.
  • Mary Slatter (1869-1926) was the baby of the Slatter family. She went from England to Toledo, Ohio in 1895, the same year as her sister Adelaide, and got married in 1898 to James Edgar Wood (1871-1939). By 1901, she and James had moved to Cleveland, where her father John Slatter was ailing (he died in her home that August). Mary had four sons with James and was a soothing and loving presence. Her unexpected death due to heart problems in 1925 was a terrible blow to her family.
MY BURK/BERK/BURKE/BERG ANCESTORS

My paternal great-grandfather was Solomon Elias Birck and paternal great-grandmother was Nekhe Gelle Shuham. To my knowledge, both were born and died in Lithuania (probably Gargzdai). I think they had seven children, of whom one remained in Lithuania (fate unknown) and the other six came to North America, seeking better lives and fleeing religious persecution.
  • Nellie "Neshi" Block (1865 or 1875?-1950) seems to have been the first in the family to arrive in North America, which surprised me. My grandpa Isaac said, on crossing from Canada to America in 1904, that he was going to see her in NYC. How Nellie got here, and when, I don't yet know. She was a fur operator, according to the Census, and the only Burk who never married.
  • Abraham Berk (1877-1962) and his brother Isaac left Lithuania and stayed in 1901 with an aunt and uncle in Manchester, learning English and earning money for the trans-Atlantic trip. A skilled cabinetmaker, Abraham married Anna Horwitch in Manchester, England, 117 years ago this month. He sailed to Montreal in 1902 while Anna remained behind to give birth to their first child. Abraham stood in as the patriarch of the Burk family when my father (his nephew) was married.
  • Isaac Burk (1882-1943) married Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) in 1906. The photo at right shows them in 1936. I think their relatives in the old world knew each other, since Isaac and his brother Meyer "boarded" in the NYC apartment of Henrietta's family in 1905, and the surname "Shuham" is in both family trees. Isaac first went from Lithuania to Manchester, than to Canada, then crossed the border and took a train to New York. His sister Nellie was living in the same apartment building as the Mahler family. Isaac and family crossed from Canada to US numerous times before settling in the Bronx, NY. My quest to learn when and where my grandpa Isaac died started me in genealogy 20 years ago!
  • Meyer Berg (1883-1981) and his brother Isaac were "boarders" in the Mahler apartment, says the 1905 NY census. I learned more from Meyer's wonderful granddaughter, found via genealogy. In America, Meyer married Anna Peretz (1888-1981, maiden name might be Paris or Peris), and they had five children. One of Meyer's children was named Harold Berg, and he was the first cousin of my Dad, Harold Burk. Two Harolds in one generation, most likely named after the same dead ancestor, following Jewish naming traditions! Meyer died days after his 98th birthday.
  • Jennie "Shayna" Birk (1890-1972) was only a name in the Census, "boarding" in the Mahler apartment in 1910, until Meyer Berg's granddaughter told me more about her life. It looks like Jennie arrived in NYC from Lithuania in 1909 and worked in the garment industry. She married Paul Salkowitz (1889-1957) in 1919. They had no children together but were always loving and generous to their nieces and nephews. 
  • Matel "Max" Birk (1892-1953) was a complete mystery until recently. He arrived at Ellis Island in 1906, saying he was going to his brother Isaac Burk c/o M. Mahler (there's the Mahler family connection again). Tracked via the Census, Max was in the jewelry business, in Chicago and then in New York, where he married Rebecca Simon Chaiken (1897-1984) in 1936. They had no children but, like Jennie and Paul, were an affectionate aunt and uncle to their nieces and nephews.
Thanks, as always, to Amy Johnson Crow for this "independence" #52Ancestors prompt.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Remembering Ancestral Mothers with Love

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

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Do the "Write" Thing for Genealogy, Part 3: Find the Drama

When you think about writing your family's history, look for the drama that may be below the surface (or in plain sight).

Remember: You know more than you think you know! Gather your Census data, vital records, Bible entries, photo albums, news clippings, and whatever else pertains to the person or people in the story you want to tell.

Jot notes about your memories and ask relatives what they remember about a particular ancestor or couple, a family occasion or situation, or a special photo (wedding portrait, for instance).

All of this will help you identify key points and people in your family's history, and uncover the drama that you can play up in your narrative.

If you're lucky enough to have letters, diaries, or interviews, go through and select quotes that add color and personality to your ancestors and reflect the drama in their lives.

Above, a quote from my late father-in-law, Edgar J. Wood, who said this 30+ years ago when my husband interviewed him about his earlier life and his love of playing the piano. The quote hints at the conflict between Ed and his father. It also explains why Ed had to play in so many jazz bands to make money for tuition, room, and board at Tufts, where he was in college during the 1920s.

The conflict came to a boiling point when Ed's mother, Mary Slatter Wood, died unexpectedly near the end of Ed's senior year. After Ed returned home for the funeral, he never lived at home again. He left college a few weeks later, not able to pass a language course needed for graduation. Then he moved to New York City and tried to make a living through his music. More drama!

What dramatic moments or conflicts are in your family's past? Look for them and use them to "hook" your readers.

This is an excerpt from my latest genealogy presentation, "Do the 'Write' Thing for Genealogy."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Researching "Misfortune" Mary Shehen Slatter

My husband's great-grandma, Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889), was in and out of London workhouses during the early to mid-1870s. She married John Slatter (1838-1901) in 1859. From 1860-1869, they had six children. But John had no steady work as the years went on. He was out of their lives as Mary and the children bounced in and out of workhouses, trying to stay afloat amid their poverty.

At top, Mary's workhouse discharge on January 17, 1874, indicating she had a bad leg, and was being sent to Newington workhouse. This time, she was without her children. Often, her children were also sent to the workhouse with Mary, to be sure they had meals and shelter.

In 1875, as shown above, Mary was still "destitute" and released from this workhouse "to Poplar" workhouse while her children were kept a couple more days (to be fed) and then discharged to Forest Gate School in the notoriously poor area of Whitechapel, London.

Thanks to my cousin Anna, who visited the London Metropolitan Archives last year, I know that Mary Shehen Slatter was diagnosed with "melancholia" when admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum and, later, sent to Banstead Asylum. The asylum's notes indicate that Mary's real problem was poverty and misfortune. She died in Banstead of tuberculosis.

Yet every one of her children grew up and had a good life. One was taken in by Grandma Slatter at an early age. The others muddled through the school/workhouse system, and then the boys joined the British military as young teens. Both girls came to America, married, and had families of their own.

Thanks to the many Rootstech sessions I attended on how to locate parish chest records, my plan is to flesh out the family's backstory by doing more research in their London parish. For background, see this Family Search wiki discussion of parish chest records, and another Fam Search article here. FindMyPast has some parish chest records here (not for "Misfortune Mary," however).

This is my post #12 in Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge for 2018.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Lucky Me, I Married Him For His Ancestors!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I married my wonderful husband for his ancestors! Lucky me.

Actually, for the first decade of our marriage, I paid absolutely no attention to our families' roots. But once I caught the genealogy bug, it was full speed ahead, starting with the bits and pieces in the family's possession.

As shown in the handwritten note passed down from his Granddaddy Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970), there were clear clues to Irish ancestry on hubby's mother's side of the family. Following up on these and other clues, here's what I learned about his Irish ancestors:

John Shehen and his wife, Mary, from somewhere in Ireland (possibly south) - Hubby's 2d great-grandparents. They were born around 1800 in Ireland but were in London by the 1830s. John and Mary’s daughter, Mary Shehen, married John Slatter in England. Their youngest daughter Mary Slatter grew up, married James Edgar Wood, and became hubby's grandma. [Too many Marys and Johns, don't ya think?]

William Smith and his wife, Jean, were from Limerick – His 5th great-grandparents. Their son Brice Smith was the first Brice in the family and was the first son born to these ancestors in America. There have been several other men named Brice since then, including hubby's Granddaddy.

Robert Larimer and his wife, Mary O’Gallagher, both from the North of Ireland - Hubby's 5th great-grandparents. Robert was shipwrecked while sailing from No. Ireland to America and then served as an indentured servant to work off the cost of his rescue. He finally ran away, married Mary, and settled down to farming. McKibbin and Short cousins from the North of Ireland were known to intermarry with the Larimer branch in America.

Halbert McClure and his wife, Agnes, were born in County Donegal, in the North of Ireland (although the McClure family is originally from Isle of Skye in Scotland) - Hubby’s 5th great-grandparents. This family sailed to Philadelphia as a group and then walked 200 miles to Virginia to buy land for farming in the 1730s.

Every year, I write my grandchildren to share the latest info about their Irish roots. There's always something new to investigate, someone new to discover among these branches of the tree. Lucky me, I married him for his ancestors.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the "lucky" prompt in Week 11 of her #52Ancestors series.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Chronicling the Ups AND the Downs in Family History

Hani Simonowitz Schwartz, mother of my grandpa, Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz
After reading this article from Time, about why adults shouldn't shield children from sadness, I decided to write about why family historians owe it to future generations to document both the ups and downs of the past.

Of course we love to trumpet the many success stories (like hubby's great uncles, the famous bandmaster Slatter brothers in Canada). And it's fun to tell younger relatives about the family traditions that we ourselves remember so fondly (like singing the Farkas Family Tree anthem at family meetings when I was a tot).

But every family also has sorrow, struggles, and losses in its history. We may have witnessed grief following a loved one's death or we may have learned about sad or despicable family events from relatives or newspaper articles or other sources.

As genealogists, we owe it to our descendants and relatives to honestly chronicle the lives of our ancestors, both good and bad. It's vital to show younger relatives what formed our family, let them begin to learn about the range of life experiences, and reassure them of the shared strength of our family.

Research shows that children actually benefit from understanding the difficulties faced by ancestors and relatives--and come to believe they can overcome obstacles themselves. Stories are a safe way to begin the learning process, portray ancestors as real people with real lives, and put the past into context for younger folks.

I've written about my husband's great-grandma Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889), and her truly heartbreaking tale of being confined in two notorious insane asylums due to a diagnosis of being "melancholy and demented." The cause of her insanity, according to the asylum records, was "misfortune and destitution." She was, it seems, driven insane by poverty and despair. And her children were placed in a workhouse while she was institutionalized.

BUT when I tell their story to my grandchildren, I remind them (with genuine admiration) that Mary's children all went on to live very productive lives. Mary was the mother of the three bandmaster brothers who built brilliant careers and were pillars of their communities, as well as being good family men. If only Mary could have known! Once I found out about Mary's sad life and death (from tuberculosis), I made it my mission to be sure her descendants are aware of the bad and the good in that branch of the family tree.

Another example: In researching my mother's family, no one ever mentioned the many relatives who stayed behind in Hungary when my grandpa Teddy Schwartz (1887-1965) left for America, bringing his brother Sam and sister Mary to New York within a few years after he arrived. All his life, Teddy kept one photo of his mother, Hani Simonowitz Schwartz (see image at top). It must have been painful for him to look back and think about his parents and other relatives he would never see again.

Only through Yad Vashem did I find out that grandpa Teddy actually had many more terrible losses to mourn. I was shocked and dismayed to discover that his other siblings (and their families) were all killed in the Holocaust, his niece being the only survivor. No mention of this tragedy in the family tree minutes, no family stories passed down.

In my mind, I believe the heartache of these losses was why my grandpa Teddy was so insistent that the family observe a moment of silence annually for all the relatives who had passed away in the previous year. That yearly moment of silence--initiated by Teddy and led by him year after year--were recorded regularly in the family tree minutes. Clearly, Teddy believed it was important for the family to at least acknowledge the downs as well as the ups in life.

I agree with my grandpa. Let's make the family aware of the downs, not just the ups. Do we have to publicly disclose everything negative in the tree? No. In fact, there are a couple of stories that I've written for my files only, and mentioned orally but not documented for distribution to the entire family, out of respect for living descendants. (These stories have nothing to do with secrets like "non-parental events," by the way.)

Notice that I'm putting the full stories in my files, to be passed to my heirs after I join my ancestors. The stories won't be lost, and at some point, the historian of the next generation may judge that the time is right to say more to more people.

What do you do with the negative stories you uncover in your tree?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

52 Ancestors #2: Researching the Slatter Portrait

This week's #52Ancestors challenge is to write about my favorite genealogy portrait.

The portrait at left was passed down in my husband's family for 100 years. It's a studio portrait taken in Toronto, showing a military man in full uniform, holding a baton. Who was he? No caption, but my sister-in-law remembered a name like "Captain E. Slatter."


A second photo, at right, had more clues. On the back was written:

Camp Borden, Ont. 1917
Standing outside my tent
I only put my kilt on for special occasions in camp as it is so dusty with sand blowing all day 


After I posted these photos in 2011, a sharp-eyed reader identified the uniform as that of the 48th Highlanders of Toronto. I emailed the 48th Highlanders Museum in Toronto and heard back from one of the volunteers, who identified the man as Captain John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954), a beloved bandmaster who led the 48th Highlanders band for 50 years.

Now I knew Capt. Slatter was my husband's great uncle, brother to Mary Slatter Wood!

I've done a lot of research into Capt. Slatter's background, even visited Toronto to see the 48th Highlanders museum. But there's always more info out there, and I'm always on the lookout.
Today, I found a lengthy mention of Capt. Slatter in the book, Training for Armageddon: Niagara Camp in the Great War, 1914-1917, by Richard D. Merritt.

This book actually confirms that Capt. Slatter had his own tent at Camp Borden, Ontario--the very tent shown in the captioned photo passed down in the family!

Here's an excerpt:

"On the morning of departure [for WWI training], the university soldiers marched through the streets of Toronto with great fanfare down to the dock, led by their newly formed brass band under the direction of the legendary bandmaster Captain John Slatter . . . Slatter was assigned his own canvas tent where he could relax in the evenings while reviewing the next day's music program and perhaps reminisce on his already remarkable career. . . Slatter was appointed Director of Brass and Bugle bands for Military District #2 at Camp Borden, training 63 army bands and over a thousand buglers until the end of the Great War."



Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy Genea-New Year 2018

As 2017 comes to a close, I want to wish all of my genea-buddies a happy and rewarding year of ancestor hunting in 2018!

Here I'm posting the front and back of a new year's card sent before 1915 to my husband's uncle, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957), living in East Cleveland, Ohio. The sender was his first cousin in Toledo, Edith Eleanor Baker (1901-1989), daughter of Wallis's aunt, Ada Mary Ann Slatter Baker (1868-1947).

Happy genea-new year!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

It Was a Busy Genealogy Year in 2017

This has been an incredibly productive and rewarding year for genealogy--and it's not over. A recap of the year to date:
  • Thanks to newly-discovered ephemera, I smashed a long-standing brick wall on my paternal Burk tree, identified my great-aunts and great-uncles, and met lovely new cousins, who were kind enough to share photos and memories.
  • With the in-person help of one of my UK cousins, I learned the sad truth about hubby's ancestor, Mary Shehen Slatter, who died in a notorious insane asylum in 1889.
  • Cousins I found through genealogy have been taking DNA tests to help in the search for more connections with outlying branches of our mutual trees. At the very least, we've proven our family ties and, sometimes, pinpointed the common ancestor.
  • I've made a lot of progress on writing family history. I updated one family history booklet for my side of the family, based on the new Burk information. I wrote two brand new booklets for hubby's side, one based on his Slatter-Wood roots and one based on his McClure-Larimer roots.
  • I'm about to complete a booklet about my husband's Wood family during World War II, based on interviews with relatives, documents and photos saved by the family, and genealogical research to fill in the gaps.
  • Also, I've written detailed captions for key photos, so future generations will know who's who, when, where, and why.
  • I was a speaker at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference and the International Jewish Genealogy Conference. So many wonderful sessions to attend, excellent speakers, friendly audiences, and a chance to meet blogging buddies in person.
Already this year, I've written more posts than at any other time in my 9 1/2 years as a genealogy blogger. At top are the stats showing my most popular posts of 2017. If you missed them, here are the links. Thank you for reading--and stay tuned for more posts before the end of the year.
  • Beyond Google Your Family Tree (practical tips for online genealogy searches using five specific search operators)
  • Tuesday's Tip, Genealogy, Free or Fee (try free sources first, but don't hesitate to pay for a Social Security Application if it will show a maiden name you don't have or otherwise move your research forward a leap)
  • Junk or Joy? Think of Future Generations (downsizing or just simplifying your life, consider the significance of family artifacts before deciding to donate, give away, or keep)
  • The Case Against Paperless Genealogy (Why I print everything, file everything. Technology changes rapidly but paper, stored properly, will live on for future generations)
  • Tuesday's Tip, Free or Free Genealogy (Learn to record strip: check every detail on every document or photo, analyze it in the context of what else you know, wring everything you can from the research you have and what you acquire)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Was Hubby's Memory Correct? How I Did the Research


Earlier this year, I wrote a family history booklet telling the story of my husband's Slatter and Wood families, and a second booklet telling the story of his McClure and Steiner families.

For the holidays, I'm preparing a briefer family history booklet, focused on the Wood family in World War II. I want to show the younger generation how the family's history is intertwined with local, national, and world history. So I'm writing about Edgar James Wood and his wife, Marian Jane McClure Wood, and their children (hubby included), during the 1940s.

First, I asked my husband and his siblings about their memories of that period. Although he was very young, hubby distinctly remembers the family sitting around the console radio on Sunday, the 7th of December, and hearing the news about the bombing of Pearl Harbor.* It's vivid in his mind because his parents were so upset by the news. And he remembers this happening in the living room of the family home at 1142 Cleveland Heights Blvd. in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Was hubby's memory correct? I wondered because I had these facts at hand (and mapped the addresses as shown above):
  • At the time of the 1940 Census, the Wood family lived at 13015 Edmondton Ave. in Cleveland. This was a $45/month rental, several blocks away from where Marian's parents lived.
  • In late November, 1942, the Wood family signed an agreement to purchase the Cleveland Heights Blvd. house. This was a few miles east of the rental where they lived in 1940.
  • Edgar Wood had told his son, during a 1983 interview, about giving up the rental and buying the home--but he never specified any dates.

To find out whether the Wood family actually lived on Cleveland Heights Blvd. in December, 1941, I needed another source--something from after the Census and before the purchase of the house on Cleveland Heights Blvd.

Lucky, lucky me. I dug deep into Ancestry's city directory catalog and found it has the 1941 Cleveland city directory!

Browsing the directory by street address, I checked who was living at the Edmondton Ave. address. The entry for that address showed as "vacant." The Wood family was NOT living there in 1941.

Then I checked who was living at the Cleveland Heights Blvd. address. And as you can see at left, the occupant was "Wood, Edgar J." In other words, my wonderful husband's memory was completely correct. He and his family had moved into their home by the time of Pearl Harbor.

This prompted me to reread the 1983 interview with my late father-in-law. He said he had been notified that his rental on Edmonton Ave. was going to be sold. So he and his wife Marian went shopping for a home, but he didn't mention any dates.

A realtor showed them the Cleveland Heights Blvd home, which had stood empty for a few years due to the Depression. Ed and Marian liked it but could only afford it if they began paying on a "land contract," with monthly payments going toward a downpayment qualifying them for a mortgage.

He stated that within about a year, they had paid in enough to obtain a regular mortgage and register the deed, which is dated late November, 1942. This was more confirmation of what the directory entries indicate: the family moved in before December, 1941.

Writing this family story about WWII forced me to double-check memories against the city directory and another family member's memories. In the process, I gained a better understanding of the family's financial situation during that time. And, of course, hubby's family will have yet another colorful booklet to enjoy, complete with maps and photos and sources, before the new year begins.

*If you want to hear some radio broadcasts from that day, check out the Internet Archive here.