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

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.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Beyond "Google Your Family Tree"

I was lucky enough to be in the audience yesterday when Dan Lynch talked about the 6 most important search commands needed to "Google Your Family Tree." Having seen Dan speak a number of years ago, and having read his book cover to cover (it's now out of print), it was very educational to hear him update this important topic.

One of the Google "operators" (commands for searching) was new to me, not even mentioned in his book. (BTW, a command he used to advocate using, the tilde, is no longer a Google operator, so he suggested we not bother using it.)

Dan showed how to filter the millions of search results to focus on the most relevant genealogy results by using these key search commands, alone or in combination:
AND
OR
"" (quotation marks)
- (minus sign)
* (wild card)
AROUND(insert number here).

Here's what was new to me: AROUND(#) instructs Google to search for a word or phrase in proximity to another word or phrase by defining the number of words between them. 

To try this kind of search yourself, first do a search for "Google" and go to the Google search home page of your choice. I usually use the US home page, but if you want to search in another country or language, start on that home page (such as Google Canada).

The point is to go fishing in the Google ocean closest to where you would like Google results. Of course, Google often presents results from many countries and in many languages. But by starting on the home page of the nation you particularly want to search, it's more likely that results from that nation will be closer to the top of the list.


Next, choose two phrases (such as names or a name and a place) and choose how many words should separate those names or phrases. Above, my search executed on the Google Canada home page. I'm looking for hubby's great uncle, Captain John Daniel Slatter, who was the long-serving bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders regiment of Toronto.

This search is very restrictive because I'm telling Google to look for highly specific results--only results that have the exact phrase "John D. Slatter" within 4 words (no more than that) of the exact phrase "48th Highlanders." If the words or phrases are 5 words apart, they won't appear in my results. If the words or phrases are 3 or 2 words apart, they will be in my results.

Doing this search, Google tells me I have "around 2,150 results" which sounds more reasonable to check out than, say, 150,000 results or 1,500,000 results. Of course, I already know enough about Capt. Slatter to know he was part of the 48th Highlanders. In this search, I'm trying to locate new material about his role in that regiment.

In reality, Google filtered my actual results even further, omitting results that were very similar to the ones presented on the two pages of results I actually saw. This is typical, and I'm sure you often see that as well. We always have the option to click and repeat with duplicate or similar entries included in the results. Dan hammered home the point that we should always, always click beyond the first page of results. You just never know when an important nugget will be at the bottom of page 2 or even page 5.

In my example, the entire first page of results consisted of entries in my own blog, plus two "we found John Slatter" entries trying to get me to click for his phone number, etc.
However, the second page of results had an entry I'd never seen! It was for the Toronto Conservatory of Music year book of 1914-15, posted for free on the Internet Archive (https://archive.org).

I clicked and then, to save time scrolling and scrolling for the highlighted text, I searched within the book. Capt. Slatter appeared twice. The first appearance was in a listing of lessons being offered to students. Here it is, in the wording and typeface as it appeared in the year book:

         TUBA— John D. Slatter, Bandmaster 48th Highlanders 15.00 

This is how AROUND(#) works. It found me something I hadn't found in the past. I'm going to experiment with different versions of Capt. Slatter's name and different number of words for proximity with his regiment, his wife's name, and other family members.

Have you tried searching the Internet for your ancestors using the AROUND(#) operator? If not, go ahead and give it a try!

PS: Don't forget to look at image results. Maybe you'll get really lucky and find an ancestor's photo.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Family Greetings for Thanksgiving, 1910

Here's another postcard among the several dozen sent to my husband's uncle, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957), by his aunts, uncles, and first cousins. The year this colorful card was sent was 1910, when Wallis was only five years old. It gives me insight into understanding the Wood family and their connections a century ago.

The cousin sending the card was, I believe, Dorothy Louise Baker (1897-1981), daughter of Adelaide "Ada" Mary Ann Slatter Baker (1868-1947) and James Sills Baker (1866-1937). "Ada" was the sister of little Wallis's mother, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). So this is one first cousin writing to another first cousin.

The card says: "Do not eat too much dinner tomorrow, Dorothy & Brother Garrett are going to have dinner with us tomorrow. From cousin Dorothy." 

Was 13-year-old Dorothy Baker talking about cousins on her mother's side or her father's side? Either way, she knew this card would be read not by the recipient, who was barely in kindergarten, but by an adult. I'm sure the adult(s) knew exactly who Dorothy meant. Dorothy was a common name in the family, but not Garrett. I'm still investigating various possibilities.

I especially noticed the address, 12513 Lancelot Avenue in Cleveland. I took a virtual field trip to this address a few years ago and the house there still stands, looking much as it did when first built by James Edgar Wood (1871-1939), the father of the little boy who received this card 107 years ago.

Postcards like this show how valuable ephemera can be in understanding family dynamics from generations past. In the Wood and Slatter families, holiday greetings were sent for every possible occasion, from Easter and Christmas to New Year's and Halloween. Birthday cards were exchanged, too. The adults clearly wanted to be sure that youngsters in the next generation knew each other and stayed in touch!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saluting the Veterans in Our Family Trees

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


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

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

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


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

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Family History Month: Top 10 Surnames on the Family Tree


Picking up a great idea from Colleen G. Brown Pasquale at her Leaves & Branches blog, I learned how to use the "surname statistics list" report function on my Roots Magic 7 software. No surprise that for my husband's family tree, Wood was the top surname by frequency, followed by Larimer.

But I also realized, with a pang, how many people appear without surnames in that tree. Uh oh. These are mainly missing maiden names, stretching back to the 1500s. This means I'll have to intensify my Genealogy Go-Over to see how many missing surnames I can identify. Perhaps new information has become available since I added some people to the tree? Turns out that these statistics can also reveal gaps in research...

The top 10 surnames that appear most frequently on the Wood tree are:
  1. Wood (earliest instance: 1551)
  2. Larimer (earliest instance: 1719)
  3. McClure (earliest instance: 1660)
  4. Steiner (earliest instance: 1802)
  5. Slatter (earliest instance: 1811)
  6. McKibbin (earliest instance: 1766)
  7. Hilborn (earliest instance: 1794)
  8. Denning (earliest instance: 1775)
  9. Smith (earliest instance: 1724)
  10. Cushman (earliest instance: 1578)
PS: Randy Seaver made this "top 10 surnames" theme the subject of his Oct. 21 Saturday Night Genea-Fun.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Military Monday: Ask the Archivist About Ancestors in the Military

Earlier this year, as part of my Genealogy Go-Over, I contacted the Archivist of the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders museum in Vancouver, asking for information about the military career of hubby's great uncle, Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942). This strategy--ask a historian or an archivist--is one of my Genealogy, Free or Fee tips that has paid off several times, yielding details and clues to further my family history research.

Bandmaster H.A. Slatter served with the 72nd on and off from 1911 through 1925. By the way, this was after his earlier service with the British military, including the Grenadier Guards. (All three Slatter brothers were military bandmasters and served both in England and in Canada.)

The archivist provided a few details about this bandmaster's career in Vancouver, and he has been keeping his eyes open for photos. Today, he sent me a link to the Vancouver Archives, where the above photo is stored. The caption says that the unnamed military band is playing during a 1918 wartime parade in downtown Vancouver (specifically, the 100 block of East Hastings).

Although neither the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders nor Bandmaster H.A. Slatter are identified or referenced, the eagle-eyed archivist recognized the unit's uniforms and caps right away. He says that the band's conductor (sitting with his back to the camera at the front of the vehicle) could very well be the great uncle we are researching. And I agree, given the physical similarity between the conductor in this photo and other photos I've seen of his bandmaster brothers.

Without the help of the archivist, I never would have found this photo, because the 72nd Seaforth is not mentioned in any of the captioning data.

So go ahead, ask a historian or archivist--these professionals really know their way around the archives and can help us learn more about our ancestors!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Blogiversary #9: Fewer Brickwalls, More DNA and Facebook Connections

What a year 2017 has been (and it's not over)! Nine years ago, when I first began blogging about my genealogy adventures, I knew the names of only four of the eleven people in this photo from my parents' wedding album. Earlier this year, thanks to Mom's address book and Cousin Ira's cache of letters, I smashed a brickwall blocking me from researching Grandpa Isaac Burk. Now I have a new set of friendly cousins and the names of all the people in this photo. And more info about my father's father's father, Elias Solomon Birk

This was DNA year for me. Thanks to "known" cousins on both sides of the family who kindly agreed to test, I have a lot more "probable" cousins (we're still investigating our connections). It was especially helpful and motivating to meet DNA experts at the IAJGS, where I gave my talk on Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. I also attended DNA sessions at NERGC, where I spoke on the same "planning a future" topic. (For a calendar of my upcoming presentations, please see the masthead tab above.)
Future genealogy: Using a pinhole viewer on Eclipse Day

This year will go down in American history for the unique solar eclipse that swept the nation . . . for my genealogical journey, it will be remembered as the year I created detailed family memory booklets for my husband's Wood-Slatter tree and his McClure-Steiner tree. (For sample pages, see my blog post here.)

My Facebook genealogy persona Benjamin McClure (memorialized on family T-shirts) has had a wonderful time making new genealogy friends and both posting questions and answering queries. Benji is also active on Pinterest. I really appreciate how many people are very generous with their knowledge and take the time to help solve family history mysteries via social media!

Plus I got to meet many genealogy bloggers in person at conferences this year. It was wonderful to say hello and get acquainted without a keyboard for a change.

Thank you to my relatives and readers for checking out my posts, leaving comments, and sharing ideas. Looking forward to Blogiversary #10 next year!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Saturday Night Genea-Fun: How Many in My Genea-Database?

Randy Seaver's latest Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge this week is: How many people are in your gen software database or online tree(s)?

Since I'm a new user of RootsMagic 7, I tried this challenge using the largest tree in my database: Hubby's Wood/Larimer/Slatter/McClure/Steiner tree.

As shown above, this tree has 2665 people and--I'm happy to see--19,084 citations. I'm going to organize my citations and format them correctly, without being too slavish. Sure, I want other people to be able to replicate my research and locate specific records or details. But I agree with the philosophy of Nancy Messier's "My Ancestors and Me" blog: "Done is better than perfect."

Shown at right, my Ancestry tree overview for the same family tree. Number of people is identical, because the synch is up-to-date. I try not to add people until I've investigated the relationship and sources to be reasonably certain these ancestors really belong on the tree.

Note that the number of hints is three times the number of people! When I have a moment, I'll whittle that down by clicking to "ignore" hints for ancestors like "wife of brother-in-law of third cousin once removed of husband's uncle." Then I can concentrate on vetting the hints of people more closely aligned with the tree.