Friday, August 27, 2010

Speedy NYC Marriage Cert

With unprecedented speed, NYC has sent me my grandparents' marriage license from 1906. It's some help with genealogy but has less detail than I'd hoped.

I didn't know where Isaac Birk/Berk/Burk lived at that time, and now I do. Below is a photo--the tenement is still in existence, although the storefronts have obviously been updated (not necessarily "improved") since Grandpa's time.

Grandpa was 26 and Grandma Henrietta Mahler was 19 when they married, the first time for both. This license may be where some of the confusion about Grandpa's name came about. The official who wrote out the info calls Grandpa "Isaac Burk" but he signs himself "Isaak Berk." He gives his birth place as simply "Russia" and writes that his occupation is "carpenter." His father's name was Elias S. Burk (but the last name has been clearly corrected in some way). His mother's name was Necke Burk (again, both names heavily corrected, suggesting that they didn't translate well?). 2022 update: Necke Gelle Shuham Burk, possibly. 

PS Here's where my Grandma lived at the time, another address I never knew (here we are between the US Census years, so they may have moved every year for all I know). Another tenement still standing but with changed storefronts.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Not MY Rachel Jacobs

Wonder of wonders, the NYC authorities turned my death cert request around in only one week, a new speed record. And now I know that I was wrong about my g-g-grandma Rachel Jacobs being buried in the cemetery plot devoted to patients from the Montefiore Home for Incurables in NYC.

The death cert I received shows a Rachel Jacobs dying in 1904 and being buried in that plot. It can't be my family's Rachel Jacobs because this one was just 56 yrs old, married, and born in US. None of that fits the profile of MY Rachel Jacobs.

I feel sorry for this Rachel Jacobs, however, because she had a cerebral hemorrhage in 1902 and finally died in 1904, having been at the Montefiore Home for 21 months, according to the death cert.

Lessons learned: (1) just because someone with the same name as an ancestor is buried within walking distance in the same cemetery as a known relative, doesn't mean he or she is in my family; (2) if the known relatives have expensive headstones and paid $ for perpetual care, but the mother of one of those relatives has a nearly impossible-to-see, insignificant headstone in a charity plot, chances are that mother is not a relative.

I'm going to have to take a different approach to finding my Rachel.

2022 update: I finally did find Rachel Shuham Jacobs in Mt. Zion Cemetery, Queens, NY. Her Find a Grave memorial is here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Where Great-Great Grandma Is Buried

If I'm correct about where the mother of Tillie JACOBS is buried, I have more clues to my great-great grandma's life in New York. The cemetery shows her in a plot set aside for the Montefiore Home for Incurables, an institution founded in the 1880s (shown below). I was wrong, this is not MY Tillie JACOBS, see later post!

Again, thank you to wonderful, friendly cemetery personnel who are willing to help family researchers like me!

The gravestones were, alas, too worn to be read, and I searched for her a good long time before giving up. Once her death cert arrives (4-6 wks), I'll be able to confirm that this is indeed my great-great grandma. She came to the US in 1886, was shown in the Census of 1900 as living with her daughter and son-in-law and their children. Unfortunately, she died in 1904, apparently of a chronic disease (cancer perhaps?).

The 1900 Census shows great-great grandma as widowed and having 2 children, of whom 2 were living. One was obviously her daughter. The other, I think, was a son who lived in another apartment in the same tenement house. In those days, small families were rare, so my conclusion is that she was widowed early and rather than be left behind when her 2 children moved to the US, she came along. That must have taken courage, IMHO, knowing that she might never see her other relatives and friends again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tracing My Mahler Ancestors

Today I visited the graves of great-grandparents Meyer and Tillie MAHLER--thank you for responsive, caring cemetery staff members! They helped me locate the graves in the middle of very crowded plots and photocopied the cards on file. Although I had their death certs, I never knew the middle names of these ancestors, so this was helpful. Although they died decades apart, their stones were side by side.

Feeling like Peter Falk's Columbo, I turned back to the cemetery office before leaving and said, "Just one more thing..." This cemetery has a searchable online database and I had previously searched for Tillie's mother, Rachel Jacob (or Jacobs). I found a Rachel Jacob, but not in the same cemetery section. Almost didn't ask but as long as I was in the office, I did. All I knew was her name and that she died after 1900 (because of her appearance in the 1900 Census).

The cemetery staff checked a big ledger book and there was Rachel JACOBS, along with her death date which I would never have found otherwise. Sadly, it was impossible to find her grave stone (must have weathered away since her death in 1904) but as soon as I arrived home, I searched out and found her NYC death cert number. Yes! In approximately one month, I'll know her full name, parents, place of birth, and anything else that NYC records on death certs from that era. This was a very good genealogy day for me!

2022 update: This was NOT my Rachel Jacobs, sorry to say. But I did upload headstone photos to Ancestry, Find a Grave, and into my genealogy software.

Friday, July 30, 2010

New Citizen 110 Years Ago Today

Exactly 110 yrs ago today (July 30, 1900), my ancestor Mayer Mahler became a US citizen.

Mayer married his wife, Tillie, and had 2 children in Russia before leaving the Kovno region (see above map, now Kaunus, Lithuania) to arrive in America in 1885. He renounced his citizenship as a subject of the Emperor of Russia, and with Adam Adler as his reference, became a new US citizen in 1900. Tillie and Mayer had 5 more children in America, where he lived for 25 years before his early death. His wife Tillie lived to be 99 years old!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

California slang, circa 1946

I'm once again transcribing letters sent to Mom. One of her friends (temporarily living in California) mentions local slang, circa spring 1946. Lush means luscious, as in "that coat is lush." Icky means, well, icky--but apparently that wasn't slang familiar to a young lady from the Bronx. This was interesting enough to merit a paragraph in a one-page letter. Who knew?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Auntie" and Other Family Honorifics

In our family, calling an aunt "Auntie" was (and is) a mark of respect and affection. My sisters and I had a few aunts, but only one Auntie, our favorite (my mom's twin). No other name was needed--she was just Auntie. Now, as an adult, I'm delighted to be one of the Aunties of my generation.

It's the same with "Cousin" or "Cuz," which in our family are affectionate terms rather than being formal honorifics. I enjoy calling one of my cousins and saying, "Hi Cousin, it's Cousin Marian" or just "Hi, Cuz." And if you get called "Sweet Cuz," you're really the top!

I'm certainly going to note these honorifics in the family story. What are your family's honorifics?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Genealogy Research in Hungary

2022 update: No longer relevant. Thanks to the 100 Years in America blog, I found out about a site for Hungarian genealogy. It doesn't have my ancestors' names as yet, but I'll be submitting data this summer in the hope of connecting with other family researchers. Aren't genealogy bloggers wonderful? I really appreciate the ideas, the inspiration, and the information I get from reading other blogs.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Eastern European Genealogy

Last month, Matt Bielawa presented a talk about Eastern European to the local genealogical society. Matt is extremely knowledgeable about the area, knows his way around family research, and is incredibly enthusiastic--just listening to him makes me want to grab my files and spend the next six hours researching my Hungarian and Lithuanian ancestors! 

I also found out that Matt's an Internet fanatic who constantly updates genealogical links on his web sites. By going to his, and clicking on the links he's assembled, I can instantly access dozens of useful genealogy sites. Which I intend to do as soon as I have a couple of hours to dive into my family research again. Can't wait! 

UPDATE in 2022: hasn't been updated in some time. But the basics on the site are still relevant!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Here's to Cousins

This week I've talked with two of my cousins. One is the genealogist of my maternal grandmother's family, a smart researcher who gets things done through a combination of online resources and helpers at the local FHC. She's recuperating from a broken hip and has had to put genealogy on hold for now, but we've been enjoying our discussions about the process of genealogy, not just the vital information she uncovers. We learn from each other and laugh a lot at the twists and turns in the genealogical road.

The other cousin has been a wonderful source of details that helped me investigate new branches of the family tree. She's not involved in genealogy but she welcomes the opportunity to talk about our common ancestors. Unfortunately, she has no photos to share, but she does remember family stories and has a very keen mind. If not for her, I would know nothing about my grandfather's siblings. And I'm delighted to get to know her and hear about her daily life.

So here's to cousins! Long may we be connected and talk about all kinds of things, not just family history.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Bronx, Then and Now

Today's New York Times has an article (and online slide show) about the Wakefield section of the Bronx, where my family grew up many decades ago.

The caption for this contemporary photo says it's on "Carpenter Street" but I bet it's really on Carpenter Avenue, which runs from 233 Street to 222 Street.

PS 103, mentioned in the article, is on Carpenter Avenue, a residential street (as you can see) with homes and apartment houses. From the school it was possible to watch the construction of Misericordia Hospital, which was built in the late 1950s. In those days, a school field trip to a local dairy was a treat.

At the time, the neighborhood was filled with small businesses such as bakeries, butcher shops, delis, pizza places, dress shops, drug stores, and ice cream parlors, all of which beckoned to commuters walking home from the elevated subway after a long day working in Manhattan, an hour's train ride away. Commuters in the know tried to catch the "through express," subway trains that skipped certain stations during the morning and evening rush hours to cut 10-15 minutes off the ride to and from "the city." Remember?!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Who Holds the Genealogical Treasures?

I know several family researchers who are grappling with the question of who is the "keeper" of original treasures such as birth certs, death certs, photos, etc. More important, who keeps the originals once we, the genealogists of our generation, are no longer willing or able to continue the research? 

Some of the families have given specific items to different family members, knowing that one son might be particularly attached to a certain photo or another daughter might be more interested in her mother's side of the family tree. Some circulate copies and keep all originals in one place (the genealogist's choice). 

At times, the people who want the treasures may not be the best stewards of these often fragile items, even if it's "all in the family." I've also heard about family situations where no one is interested enough to want to safeguard the treasures--they might hold onto the items but not put them in particularly dry or safe places, know what I mean? 

My family's next generation genealogist has already raised her hand. I plan to get things in good shape for her. Ancestor photos are now in plastic sleeves but not yet fully labeled. And those little scraps of papers with scribbles that litter my files will have to be transcribed and put into the database so no one has to reinvent the wheel and start the hunt all over again. Looks like all the treasures will be hers to hold for future generations. What about your treasures?

2022 update: I've written a concise book on this topic, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The California coast by Daylight

Transcribing letters to my Mom, I came across one from Ruby, who was stationed in Shoemaker, California and awaiting his discharge from the Navy. He brought his wife and baby from San Francisco to Los Angeles on January 18, 1946, on this famous train, the Daylight.

Here's what he writes:
We had a very pleasant trip for we traveled on a very good train, the Southern Pacific "Daylight." They've named the train very aptly for the entire trip is made in the daytime. We left San Francisco at 8:15 in the morning, and arrived in L.A. at six that day. The train is entirely air-conditioned and has two dining cars attached. The meals were very reasonable, but not very satisfying. They are just about enough to keep one from starving, but what more could one ask.
Sounds like a long but comfy trip. The food--well, as long as he was with his wife and daughter, who had only arrived in November after months and months of separation, he could tolerate anything.

On February 23, Sarah (Ruby's wife) sent Mom this postcard of the Daylight, raving about the train. Just a day or two earlier, she and the baby had taken the Daylight from L.A. to San Francisco, on their way to Sebastapol to live with cousins on a chicken farm. Quite a change for a girl from the Bronx.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Surname Saturday: McClure and Steiner

Above is Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure, my husband's maternal grandmother. She was born in Nevada on March 30, 1878 (according to her obit) and married Brice Larimer McClure in Upper Sandusky, OH, on June 10, 1903. She died in November, 1948. In this photo from the late 1930s, she's holding her oldest grandson, Wallis (my hubby), on her lap. Floyda had many siblings, including Carrie Steiner Traxler, Blanche Etta Steiner Rhuark, and Minnie Estella Steiner Halbedel. So far as I know, she had only one brother, Orville J. Steiner, 1856-1936. Above is Brice Larimer McClure, born Dec 25, 1878 in Little Traverse, Indiana to William Madison McClure, a farmer, and his wife, Margaret Jane Larimer. I want to trace this branch of the McClure family. Based on Census records, William Madison McClure's father is Benjamin McClure (married to Sarah Denning). Other children of Benjamin (a farmer, born in Ohio) and Sarah Denning McClure were: Mary A. McClure, John N. McClure, Train C. McClure, Elizabeth McClure, and Addison McClure. 

2022 update: For more about the McClure ancestors in my husband's family, see the ancestor landing page here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thanksgiving, Nov 22, 1945 in Shoemaker, CA

Ruby Wasserman, who wrote dozens of letters to Mom while in the US Navy, sent her this menu from the U.S. Naval Training and Distribution Center in Shoemaker, California.

Ruby was a little doubtful before dinner . . . he wrote: "Many a time when we were told that the food was going to be exceptionally good, it turned out to be terrible. I hope that it is not true in this case." Later he continued in this long letter: "It was delicious in all respects. I had some of everything, and right now I am still eating some of the nuts I got. Next year I hope to be eating turkey as a civilian."

For anyone doing genealogical research, the names of the top officers listed in this menu are:

O.M. Forster, Commodore, USN, Commander
J.M. Bloom, Captain, USNR, Chief Staff Officer
H.V. Moon, Lt. Comdr., USNR, Commissary Officer