Friday, December 23, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Advice (Can't Do It All!)

This is the final week of the 2011 Personal Genealogy Challenge. It's been my most active--and successful--year of genealogy research ever, because so many brick walls came tumbling down. Of course, now I have more leads to follow and more ancestors to discover, which means 2012 will be another interesting and eventful year of family history detective work!

Based on my experiences, here's some advice to myself and those who follow me:

  1. You can't do it all. There will never be enough time to follow every ancestor back through the decades and across the miles, and also document their connections and movements. I just have to prioritize: My Ancestry family trees will be at the top of the list because I want everything to be in one place for relatives and descendants to see.
  2. You don't have to do it all yourself. Finding new cousins has been very exciting, and new cousins also means new info and more help with the family tree. More relatives are getting the genealogy bug and will do some lookups or look for family photos. Posting on surname and place message boards has put me in touch with genealogy angels who enjoy doing small acts of kindness, such as looking up one of my hubby's ancestors in the UK census. Thank you, one and all, for making this a fun group effort!
  3. You don't have to do it all at once. Genealogy is a journey, and a memorable one at that. Remember the saying "Life by the yard is hard, life by the inch is a cinch"? Genealogy progresses inch by inch, and I'm enjoying the unfolding of each new wrinkle. Every day or two, I try to add to the family trees I'm building on Ancestry or write a note about a family photo. Eventually the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place, if I work on it steadily.
  4. You have to take the long view. This is related to #3. Genealogy is a long-term proposition, not an instant message. One Canadian source I contacted for info about a great-uncle told me that he'd get back to me in 6 months, once the organization's archives have been moved into their new offices and unpacked. Even if I wanted to go there in person, I couldn't see anything until the records are unpacked, so patience is a virtue. Meanwhile, I'll pursue another line of inquiry, as they say in the BBC mysteries.
Happy holidays to my relatives and Geneablogger friends!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Calendar--Christmas Stockings: Made with Love

It all started with the needlepoint stocking I made for my hubby more than 20 years ago. It was time for something new! And this started a new tradition of making stockings for beloved family members.

Over the years, I've made about 12 stockings, mostly needlepoint but also cross-stitch, embroidery, and quilted.

At right, a needlepoint stocking I made for the youngest member of the family, back in 2005.

The small sports items in the "train" and on either side of the name are actually buttons sewed on as 3D embellishments. No 3D glasses needed!

Happy stitching to all.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Family Trivia: Treasures from Early Days

Burk A - how tiny was the wrist that held this bracelet?
Today, a bit of genealogical trivia from my early days. Do you recognize the item in the photo at left? Hint: I'm a twin, and I was the first one born.

It's my ID bracelet from the hospital where I was born. My sis has a Burk B bracelet (photo forthcoming), also with pink beads. This is what I wore during my days in the heated crib where babies under 5 lbs stayed until they weighed enough to be discharged. I've always kept this treasure in my jewelry box.

Next are two photos showing both sides of one object. The front has my initials. The back says:

Farkas Family Tree, Feb 195__

This is the engraved sterling silver napkin ring that my mother's family, the Farkas Family Tree, presented to every new baby. Perhaps the space between the month and the year was left to be filled in later, but it's always looked exactly like this (except that in this photo, I've blurred out the year on purpose). Some babies get spoons, others get mugs, but Farkas Family babies received napkin rings.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: The Salad Scoopers That Returned Home

Fourteen months ago, my 2d cousin Lois found me through this blog. We saw each other twice this year, both times at happy family occasions (one in her immediate family and one in mine). It has been such a joy getting to know her and her family!

Now I'm going through my photos looking for connections between our branches of the family tree, and here are two, along with the story of the salad set that went from my part of the family to hers and back again.

Lois's grandma was Ida Mahler Volk, shown above at far left with my mother, Daisy Schwartz, who was then engaged to marry my father, Harold Burk, Ida's nephew. Ida (my great-aunt) is shown alone in the photo at the right, quite a glamorous lady IMHO.

Both of these photos were taken in July 1946, when Daisy and Harold, then engaged for six months, flew to Washington, D.C. to visit with the Volks. (They flew because Harold was a travel agent and this was one of the perks at the time.*)

Ida was extremely close to her sister Henrietta Mahler, my father's mother, and Lois has several stories about the sisters' love for and generosity toward each other.

Lois also told me that Harold and Daisy brought a house gift to Ida and Louis when they visited: A lucite/stainless steel salad set with a big bowl and a serving scooper, very "mid-century modern" in today's language of style. That set was used and enjoyed for many, many years and Lois inherited it, along with the story.

Now fast-forward to my niece's wedding last month. Lois gifted the happy couple with this very set of salad utensils, a wonderful, sentimental reminder of the ties that connect the generations of our family.

My niece never met her grandparents, Daisy and Harold--they died long before she was born--but now she's the delighted caretaker of this salad set, which has come back to the Burk part of the family after 65 years. Thank you, Lois!

*How do I know they flew? These photos were in a photo album in a series that starts with a photo of Daisy and Harold on the staircase leading off a plane. That photo is marked "July 1946, Washington, D.C." The photos with Ida are only a page or so beyond. Thank you, Daisy, for marking these so clearly!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Those Places Thursday: Whitechapel, London, Middlesex, England

Straight from the General Register Office in England, here's the 1859 marriage document for my husband's great-grandma Mary Shehen [sic] Slatter and her husband, John Slatter.

I have to check the address--here it looks like Heneage Street in London--but I have a suspicion that this is where John and Mary met, since they both live at the same address in the district of Whitechapel.

And thanks to this document, I can see that there were many more Johns in the family than I realized--John Slatter's father is John Slatter, and Mary's father is John as well. Mary's father was born in Ireland, and this says he was a bricklayer. John's father died before this marriage, so I can go looking for his death info.

Maybe the witnesses, Samuel and Elizabeth Gartley, were the landlords? Well, lots to investigate here.

Whitechapel sound familiar? Jack the Ripper worked this area of London from 1888-1891, well after the the Slatters and Shehens were gone, either died or moved to Canada.

PS - Thanks to a genealogy angel in Ireland, I found out that Mary Shehen's parents, John Shehen and Mary [maiden name UNK] Shehen, were born in Ireland in 1801 or so. More research is in my future!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Meyer Mahler, d. 1910

Meyer Mahler, my paternal g-grandpa, was born in Kovno. As his death cert shows, he became ill in Dec 1909 and died of cancer in Jan 1910 in New York City.

I'm still trying to trace his parents, David Mahler (b. Riga, Latvia) and Hinde Luria (b. Kovno), who almost certainly never came to the US.

The names of Meyer's parents were passed down in the family. Meyer had a son, David, and the name Hilda is also among those later in the family tree.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Calendar of Memories: Christmas Past


My late father-in-law, Edgar J. Wood, kept a diary for many years, usually in yearly calendar diaries given as gifts to customers by Edgar's employer, the Buckeye Union Insurance Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Years after Edgar retired, the company kept sending him the diaries at year's end, and he faithfully wrote a few lines every day with his fountain pen.

Here are the entries he wrote for Christmas day in 1959, 1969, and 1979. (My genealogical explanations are in italics within parentheses). In 1959 and 1969, Edgar and his wife Marian McClure Wood, were living in Cleveland, Ohio. By 1979, they had moved to Pittsfield, Mass., to be near Wally and his family.
  • 1959. After breakfast, presents!! R (my hubby Wally's first wife) brought up Brice (hubby's maternal grandfather). Later, Leta, Chip, Jeff & Tim (Leta was Wally's aunt, the three boys are his first cousins) dropped in for buffet supper. Much singing around piano, "Guys & Dolls" getting a big play. Ernie & Gorden Pettit (friends of Wally's) dropped in. All in all, a big day.
  • 1969. Christmas morning, everyone opened presents. In P.M., W (Wally) and R (his wife) had friends in for an open-house "Sing Along." Cold & snow outside. Stayed in all day. Showed the slides of trip (Edgar and Marian took a big European trip in 1969 via ocean liner and train, arriving in England and continuing to Paris, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria before returning by ship to New York City and then by train to Cleveland).
  • 1979. AM: 10:00 o'clock service. To P.O. (post office, presumably, to mail cards). P.M.: Home for lunch. Some practicing (he played piano professionally). Reading. Paperwork. Evening: To W's (Wally's) where R (his wife) prepared one of her very fine dinners. Later, exchange of presents, some from B (Wally's sister). Visiting.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Surname Saturday: Slatter (The Musical Slatter Brothers)

Captain John (Jack) Daniel Slatter (1864-1954), my husband Wally's great-uncle, was not only a well-known bandmaster in Toronto, he had two musical brothers.

Above is Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942), who led the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders, 1911-14 and 1919-1925. Here he is circa 1913, standing on the steps of the Vancouver Courthouse, which is today the Vancouver Art Gallery. This photo was posted by "Bold Highlander" on "X Marks the Scot," where he also posted photos of Captain Jack.

The third musical brother was Albert William Slatter, bandmaster of the 7th London Fusiliers. I'm still researching him!

All the brothers were children of John Slatter Sr. and Mary Shehen/Shehan, married in Whitechapel, London, England, in 1859. Their other children were Mary Slatter (hubby's grandma, married to James Edgar Wood) and Adelaide Mary Slatter (married to James S. Baker), of more in later posts. Mary must have passed the family musical tradition down to her son, Edgar James Wood, who played piano and other instruments professionally for many years.

UPDATE, 2022: For more about the Slatter family, see my ancestor landing page here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Mr & Mrs Harold Burk, 11/24/46

On this day in 1946, my parents, Harold Burk and Daisy Schwartz, were married at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City.

Here they are with Ida Mahler, one of his Mahler aunts, during the summer before they were married.

Although they became engaged on Dec. 31, 1945, after my father closed the deal to become the in-house travel agent of the posh Savoy Plaza Hotel, they soon set their wedding date for November, 1946.

Why wait, especially since they were very anxious to settle down? First, because of the severe shortage of apartments following WWII and second, I suspect, to save up money. In fact, who exactly paid for their wedding is a mystery I hope to solve one day.

On Thanksgiving, I give thanks for their love and for the family ties I've been discovering through genealogy (dear cousins, you know who you are!).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: Future Genealogy circa 2036

For Wedding Wednesday, I'm delighted to post this photo of my lovely youngest niece and her wonderful new husband. May they be as happy and healthy on their 25th and 50th anniversaries as they were on their wedding day just three weeks ago!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday's Obituary: Captain John D. Slatter

This week I connected with the granddaughter of Captain John D. Slatter! As mentioned earlier this month, Capt. Jack was (we now know) my husband's great-uncle. We plan to get acquainted with her and her brother, and exchange photos and info.

Her family knew nothing of my husband's grandmother, Capt. Slatter's sister Mary Slatter, who married James Edgar Wood in 1898 in Toledo, OH, and we knew nothing of her grandfather, an illustrious military bandleader.

A very kind genealogy angel in Canada looked up Capt. Jack's obit in the Globe & Mail of December 9, 1954 (he died on Dec 7). Here it is, complete with the names (not completely correct) of his survivors. For more about the Slatter family, see my ancestor landing page here (2022 update).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Captain John Slatter was a Bandmaster

Thanks to Stan Milne of the Regimental Museum of the 48th Highlanders of Canada, I found out that Captain Slatter (the gentleman in the kilt in last Wednesday's post) had a long and distinguished career in the military. He served with the 48th Highlanders from 1896 through 1946 and was appointed bandmaster in 1916. He was officer-in-charge of training bands and buglers during WWI!

Among his medals are a Member of the British Empire and the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal (for serving 20 yrs).

PS This just in! (also see my ancestor landing page for more on Slatter family.)
  • I just found Captain John Slatter in the Canadian Encyclopedia of Music--he was a well-known military band master and his brother, Henry Arthur Slatter, is mentioned as well. 
  • He was instrumental (pun intended) in establishing the Canadian Band Assn.
  • Capt. Slatter toured the 48th Highlanders band through North America and played at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1934. In 1935 photo above, Capt. Slatter is at center of front row.
  • And he and the band toured all over the world, including at the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo, NY in 1901. Below, Capt. Slatter (center, front) and the brass band from the 48th, which toured around the world.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Day of Remembrance: Captain Slatter of the 48th Highlanders

Captain Slatter, one of my husband's great uncles, lived in Canada and served in WWI (I've written about him here). And once again, I'm posting this photo of the captain in full regalia.
Thanks to Darcy Murray, who posted a comment on my original post about Captain Slatter, I learned that this is the dress uniform of the 48th Highlanders of Canada. This morning, Lt. Kassissia of the 48th Highlanders responded to my inquiry by confirming that yes, Captain Slatter does appear to be wearing the 48th Highlanders' uniform and my inquiry will be forwarded to the Regimental Museum for further study! 

UPDATE in 2022: Hubby and I visited the museum a few years earlier and shared genealogical info with the curators, as well as being privileged to see their collection of Slatter memorabilia! For more, see my ancestor landing page here.

In Canada, November 11 is Remembrance Day, as in America it's Veteran's Day. So this week I want to post a poppy in remembrance of Captain Slatter and all those veterans who have served our nations. Thank you for your service!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Where Would You Go in a Time Machine?

I was lucky enough to sit next to the grandma of the groom at a wedding this weekend...and we started talking about her family's Eastern European roots. She didn't have many specifics, in part because her grandparents disliked talking about the difficult ocean crossing in steerage (like my grandparents, who also brushed aside inquiries).

Then I asked her to think about where/when she would go if she could take one trip in a time machine.*

Suddenly her face lit up, exactly like the bride in the ceremony we'd just attended, and she said without hesitation: June 1, 1943.

That was her wedding day, and the story came pouring out! She was a wartime bride, crossing the country to join her Navy husband for a wedding and a couple of weeks of married life before he shipped out. If only I had my trusty Flip with me to capture all the details and her animated expression. We spent a delightful hour talking about this, and I also learned that her husband had seen the famous flag raising at Iwo Jima.  Oh my, what a time in her family's life.

Of course I'll be doing a bit of research so the groom has more detailed info about his ancestors...and I plan to contact grandma again to learn more and thank her for sharing her special memories with me! It was an honor and a pleasure, truly.

*Personally, I'd go to the future to see who lives happily ever after, but that's not going to help anyone's genealogy research. 2022 update: I'm going to find this lovely lady in the 1950 US Census! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Future Genealogy: Snowtober Surprise 2011

We "lucky" New Englanders have been clobbered by a freak October snowstorm, heavy and wet snow that brought down trees, limbs, and power lines all over the area.

Here's a big limb that crashed down on my deck railing but didn't hurt anything! Missed my roof (new this year, thanks to Hurricane Irene) by a yard or two.

A few hours later, another big limb fell in the front yard, blocking the driveway completely. Happily we weren't under it at the time. And happily, we had electricity and could take out the chain saw and hack it apart.

But then our luck ran out and the power went out. For 49 hours. And we're actually fortunate because as of now, 85% of my town remains without power.

What a year: Blizzard in February, Irene just before Labor Day, and now Snowtober in time for Halloween. Stories for future generations! I hope you're all warm and safe.