Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Treasure Chest Tuesday: Valentines in the Family

For Valentine's Day, a selection of valentines sent to ancestors on both sides of the family.

At right, the inside of the first valentine sent by my Dad (Harold Burk, 1909-1978) to my Mom (Daisy Schwartz, 1919-1981), in 1946.

They were engaged on New Year's Eve and had to wait to set a wedding date because of the housing shortage after WWII, with Dad and so many other GIs returning from the service and settling down.

At left, a holiday postcard from hubby's family. This was sent by Nellie (Rachel Ellen) Wood Kirby (1864-1954) in Chicago to her young nephew, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957) in Cleveland, around 1910ish.

I also have to include a different postcard sent by Aunt Nellie to her nephew Wally, shown at right.

Happy Lincoln's birthday!




Saturday, February 11, 2017

Surname Saturday: Mary Slatter, Melancholy and Demented?

Last month, I wrote about discovering in the Banstead Asylum records a woman named Mary Slatter who was possibly my husband's great-great-grandmother. I was doing a Genealogy Go-Over and learned that more records had become available, so I dove in.

The only way to find out more was to see these records in person, since they're not available in any other format. My wonderful cousin Anna in London was kind enough to visit the London Metropolitan Archives, where she read the admission and discharge registers.

If this was indeed Mary Shehen Slatter, her life was even sadder than the family could have imagined. Get out your hanky. Here's what the records say:
  • Mary was admitted to Banstead Asylum on September 28, 1877, at age 40. (This is within a year or two of the age I would expect her to have been at that point.) She was married, the wife of a laborer, and she was from Whitechapel (these facts fit exactly with the Mary Slatter I'm trying to find).
  • Mary's "previous place of abode" was--oh, dear--Colney Hatch Asylum. In other words, she was institutionalized before she even got to Banstead. Colney was notorious, another place to hold paupers, originally meant to be more humane but then resorting to straight jackets and other restraints. Wait, there's more.
  • Mary's form of mental disorder was characterized as "Melancholy and demented." 
  • Mary's cause of insanity was described as "Misfortune and destitution."
  • The duration of Mary's previous attacks of insanity was 3 years, 4 months.
  • Mary died young of phthisis--meaning tuberculosis--on April 19, 1889, at age 52.
Now my cousin is going to view the Colney Hatch records in person to try to learn more about whether this is indeed our Mary Shehen Slatter.

From what I know about hubby's g-g-grandmother, this could very well be her sad fate. The family was chronically impoverished, I have confirmed from the records and from later comments made by Mary's children as adults.


Mary's first-born child, Thomas John Slatter, didn't live to the age of 11. He was born in 1860 (see him in the 1861 UK census excerpt here, with the Slatter family listed in Whitechapel) and he died sometime before the 1871 UK census. * Was this why Mary was first institutionalized?

I hope the Colney Hatch records will give me more insight into Mary's life. Also, I've sent for Mary Slatter's death cert to see what it says. UPDATE: Mary's death cert is a single line in a ledger. It says "date of death is April 19, 1889; place: "Middlesex Lunatic Asylum, Banstead; female, age 52, wife of a labourer, Whitechapel; cause of death is phthisis." No place of burial mentioned, no maiden name. Since the Mary I'm seeking was the wife of a labourer in Whitechapel, the death cert supports my theory but doesn't prove that Mary Slatter in Banstead was Mary Shehen Slatter, hubby's g-g-grandma.

* Elizabeth, in a comment below, notes that Thomas seems to be alive and living with his grandparents in the 1871 census. Thanks to her help, I have clues to dig deeper!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday: Joseph Rinehart and Margaret Shanklin

Hubby's great-great-grandfather was Joseph W. Rinehart (1806-1888) and his great-great-grandmother was Margaret Shanklin (or Shankland or Shank, 1807-1873).

These Rineharts are buried in Oceola Cemetery #1, a cemetery that isn't the easiest to locate without precise directions for Crawford County, Ohio. Hubby and I went there a few years ago to photograph their graves and research their lives. It turns out they are the only Rineharts in that cemetery, although other Rineharts that belong to the same family are buried not far away.

There are still so many unanswered questions. What was Joseph's middle name? What was Margaret's real maiden name? Most important, where in Europe did the Rinehart and Shanklin families leave to come to America in the 1700s?

Joseph was reportedly born in Pennsylvania--where? His parents' names are a mystery (father's first name, I don't know; mother's first name was Elizabeth but maiden name unknown). Margaret was reportedly born in Delaware--where? And what were her parents' names? Still researching...

By 1834, they were married and living in Ashland county, OH, where the first child was born. Later, they moved to Crawford county, OH. In all, Joseph and Margaret had 6 children that I know of: Elizabeth Jane, Joseph Charles, Hugh, Mary Elizabeth, Sarah, and Nancy.

On Tombstone Tuesday, I'm remembering them by submitting edits to link the family on Find A Grave.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Meet NERGC Speaker Janeen Bjork, Expert on Newspaper Research


Extra! Extra! Janeen Bjork has combined her 30 years of experience as a television researcher and presenter with her love of family history. Her methodology for locating hard-to-find newspaper items was developed as she uncovered 130 widely-varying accounts of the 1894 murder-suicide that left one of her great-great-grandfathers dead in Syracuse, New York. Her popular "Newspapers for Genealogy" classes, workshops, and presentations in CT, NY and MA, have helped many others research their families over the years.

Janeen will share her tips and tricks at NERGC on Saturday, April 29th, from 3:15 – 4:15 pm, during her presentation “Using Newspapers to Track Your Family, Character by Character.” She’ll discuss the technology that allows newspapers to be scanned and indexed, offer her Top 10 Tips for searching digitized newspapers, and share her favorite online newspaper resources. Look for her upcoming classes and presentations at JaneensList.com/Events, https://twitter.com/JaneensList, and
https://www.facebook.com/janeen.bjork.3. You can get to know her notorious great-great-grandfather on the social media accounts she manages in his name (https://twitter.com/WilliamStrutz and https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009395213740).

1.      What first attracted you to genealogy, and what keeps it fresh and fascinating every day?

My sister-in-law sat me down in front of her computer on Thanksgiving Day, 2011 and said, “This is Ancestry.com. You’re doing this for your niece and nephew.” She added that she had been working on her family tree for over four years, and her two children, who share my surname, wanted to know where the Bjorks were. I had a professional background in research (you could say research is in my DNA) and in a matter of days, I found second cousins who had been doing genealogy for two or three decades, and who were looking for me. I’d like to say we’ve been doing “Genealogy on steroids” ever since. And there were many octogenarians and nonagenarians in both my ancestral lines who were happy to let me pick their brains, scan their photos and documents, and swab their cheeks for DNA.

As for fresh and fascinating every day, I am energized by opportunities to pass on what I have learned. It’s gratifying to be told that someone who heard me speak about my online newspaper methodology broke through a brick wall. And it’s a kick when new family items come my way. In late 2016 my sister and my father were both cleaning out old boxes and came up with photos of my maternal grandmother’s parents, WWII ration books and a postcard written during the war. Taking my own advice during the holidays, I looked for family members in newspapers beyond the areas where they lived and  found a photo of my mother's brother Al Quadrini and two other Navy SeaBees on the front page (above the fold!) of the Oxnard Press Courier in 1954 when they dug ditches for a California Boys Club. Stories about my brother Bob Bjork appeared in several distant New York newspapers when his 1978 high school basketball team went to the state championship finals.

2.      Who is your most exotic, challenging, exciting, admirable, despicable, or enigmatic ancestor?
 

That’s easy: My great-great-grandfather William Strutz. He was arrested in June 1893 on a charge of assault in the third degree on his wife. He was the first murder victim in Syracuse in almost a year when his former best friend, Henry Vogler, who believed William had been seeing Henry’s wife, shot William and then killed himself in July 1894. Both the Associated Press and United Press picked up the story, and to date I’ve found 130 accounts of the tragedy. Two German language papers had the story as well, one in Syracuse, where a major German celebration was happening and where there was time for local gossip to embellish the story before the weekly published, and one in Baltimore where an editor changed their names to Wilhelm and Heinrich.

There is a relative who is a close second to William that I could call exciting. It was my father’s Aunt Dorothea, a thrice-married flapper. Her picture appeared in the paper multiple times, for her achievements as a captain and pitcher for a "Girls" softball team sponsored by the Syracuse Journal in the 1930s, as well as for a suicide attempt at 17 and a near drowning in a swim meet at 18. She died at age 86 in San Diego, California.

3.      What are your favorite tools for researching family history?


I am a big booster of newspapers for genealogy. My first eight-week Intermediate Genealogy class spent six weeks looking at online newspaper sites. Obituaries are the most obvious places to start when researching ancestors. But there are often stories leading up to or following the death that are full of details. Obituaries and death certificates will tell you that someone died in a vehicular accident, but a newspaper story may tell you who they were with, where they were going, and what they were doing at the time.

My second favorite tool is DNA testing. I’ve gotten 10 family members to agree to test (only one is a generation behind me, most are my parents’ generation) and to appear in various databases. While we have yet to break through a brick wall, we have found some distant cousins we wouldn’t have met any other way.

4.      What’s the number one thing you want attendees to remember from your NERGC presentation about using newspapers to research family history?


The importance of keyword searches. Names can be misspelled, or altered by a hyphen or by optical character recognition. Fuzzy search and Boolean queries have helped me unearth many hidden items. So go ahead and try different spellings and strategies.

5.      What is your game plan for getting the most out of NERGC?
 

While I always create a game plan for Genealogy conferences, and intend to take advantage of the many sessions and workshops, I also like to improvise. Conferences are fabulous networking opportunities. I made a connection with James M. Beidler at the 2016 New York State Family History Conference. Jim specializes in newspaper research (as well as German and Pennsylvania research) and he has asked me to contribute the William Strutz story to his upcoming book, The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide.

6.      What is your greatest genealogical regret?


My maternal grandmother and I spent three weeks in the ancestral hometown in 1983 and I was introduced to about 55 close Italian relatives. Since then I have been the family ambassador, accompanying other American family members and writing the letters and emails to my many Italian cousins.

In 2014, in preparation for a family reunion, I decided it was time to visit the records office in Arpino, Italy. It was my personal "Under The Tuscan Sun," as I heard "no" (it's the same word in Italian) more times that morning than I had in any morning in my life. With the help of a cousin and someone from My Italian Family (run by Bianca Ottone from New Hope, PA), I spent the afternoon in the two churches of the town and found my family first appeared in the records in the 1500s, with a slightly different name. A church custodian told me there was a man in town who had researched my family and other Arpino families. I left without asking for that man's contact information. Big mistake. I learned last year that he had died and his nephews hadn't valued the work. He had used the church records to track all the early families, recording his trees on the backs of calendar pages. Another genealogy lesson learned the hard way.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday: Pvt. Harvey Heath Larimer

On January 31, 1865, my husband's 1st cousin 4x removed, Harvey Heath Larimer (1848-1893), enlisted as a private in Company C of the 151st Indiana Infantry, signing up in Peru, Indiana, close to his birthplace. He was days away from celebrating his 17th birthday. He enlisted at the same time as his older brother, Jacob Wright Larimer (1846-1876) and they served side by side during the Civil War.

Harvey served in the Union Army for less than 8 months and was discharged in Nashville, TN, in mid-September of 1865 (along with his Brother Jacob). Harvey was in and out of the home for disabled war veterans later in his life and finally died of heart and lung problems in the Indiana Sate Hospital in Lafayette on November 18, 1927.

Harvey has been memorialized with a Find A Grave page detailing his war experience. I am requesting corrections and links to add to the F-A-G information about his life and family. This is my way of honoring Pvt. Harvey Heath Larimer, who enlisted on this day 152 years ago, and preserving the history of the Larimer family. I'm also editing relationship links for his brother Jacob Wright Larimer's F-A-G page.

Friday, January 27, 2017

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Never again. Honoring the memory of the many members of my maternal grandfather's Schwartz family from Ungvar, Hungary who tragically perished at Auschwitz. Above, Grandpa's sisters, Paula and Etel Schwartz. Paula is already listed at Yad Vashem and I'm preparing to submit testimony for Etel.
This little girl was a teenager when the Holocaust began. She is the sole survivor of Auschwitz from all the siblings and in-laws of my Schwartz family who lived in Hungary at the time.






Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday: Jacobs in the Plungianer Unterstutzungs Verein plot

Pauline Jacobs, daughter of Joseph Jacobs and Eva Michalovsky, was buried on the last day of 1907 in the family's plot in Mt. Zion Cemetery in Queens. Joseph Jacobs (1864-1918) was my great-great-uncle, brother of my paternal great-great-grandma Rachel Shuham Jacobs (?-1915). Pauline would have been my 1st cousin, 2x removed.

Both of Pauline's parents and my g-g-grandma Rachel are also buried* in the plot of Plungianer Unterstutzungs Verein (Plungianer Support Club). Others on my father's side of the family were born and brought up in or near Telsiai, Lithuania.

The Plungianer Support Club is listed in the American Jewish Yearbook 1900-1901 as a New York-based organization, and it was incorporated in 1890.

There were two such organizations in Manhattan, listed on the Ackerman & Ziff Family Genealogical Institute pages. More research is in my future to learn about these groups, which may still have records in existence at Jewish genealogical societies.

Name: Plungianer Unterst├╝tzungsverein
Address: 26 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002
Borough: Manhattan
Associated Towns: Plunge (Lithuania)



Name: Plungianer Unterst├╝tzungsverein
Address: 66 Essex Street, New York, NY 10002
Borough: Manhattan
Associated Towns: Plunge (Lithuania)
*PS: I just linked Pauline with her family on Find A Grave. Every time I post for Tombstone Tuesday, I'll make sure I've edited those relationship links. It's a good way to keep up with my resolution to flesh out the Find A Grave memorials for ancestors. I previously linked everyone else in Joe & Eva's family, but Pauline slipped through the cracks.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Surname Saturday: Tracing the Sad Fate of Mary Shehen Slatter

Was my husband's great-grandma, Mary Shehen Slatter, committed to a London insane asylum in 1877 -- and did she die there in 1889?

Thanks to online records, a phone call, and the kindness of a cousin who lives in London, I'll soon know more about this ancestor's sad fate. This is part of my Genealogy Go-Over, filling in the blanks on the family tree.

I am fairly certain of Mary's birth date, thanks to marriage records, but not her death date nor her whereabouts after the 1871 UK Census, shown here. At that time, Mary and her husband John Slatter and their 5 children lived together in Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel, London--an area known for extreme poverty.

In December, I learned that Mary's 5 children had spent time in a notorious London workhouse.

Checking further, I discovered that a woman with the name of Mary Slatter had been committed to Banstead Asylum in September, 1877. Whether this is our Mary Slatter, I couldn't tell, but it was an intriguing and disturbing thought.

Women were committed to such asylums for a variety of reasons, not just in the 19th century but also well into the 20th century. Click to read what one genealogy researcher found out about her great-grandmother's time in Banstead, circa 1930s. But get out your hanky before you click.



Next, I did an online search and landed at the National Archives in Surrey, England, which has an entire page devoted to Banstead Asylum and Hospital, closed for years. At the very bottom is the statement: "...not clear whether these records are now at either London Metropolitan Archives or Surrey History Centre."

Time for a phone call to the Surrey History Centre. The gentleman who answered the phone listened to my question about where the asylum's records might be found and told me they were definitely at the London Metropolitan Archives. He even gave me the archive catalog code so I could quickly locate what I needed.

On the London Metro Archives site, I found lots and lots of files readily available to the public, subject to the 100 year rule that protects patient privacy. Oh, the archive has patients' records, organized by date and by gender. Also visitors' logs and some photos (possibly only of staff, but maybe I'll get lucky?). What a treasure trove. Only one catch: These files must be accessed in person.

I sent an email to my London cousin Anna, asking whether she would be willing to undertake a field trip to the archives on my behalf. Even though she has no relation to poor Mary Shehen Slatter, my wonderful cousin agreed to visit this spring, armed with what I know and what I want to know. Before the snow melts here in New England, I hope to confirm whether this is hubby's great-grandma Mary and clarify her fate.

Why is Mary Shehen Slatter in my thoughts? Because too often, women are much less visible in family history . . .  especially once they marry and their maiden names disappear from public records. I want to honor and respect the lives these women lived, give them dignity and help them be remembered as more than simply "the wife of" or "the mother of" when I share the family tree with their descendants.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: The Many Names of Barney Markell

Barney Markell was a man of many names. Above, his gravestone in Riverside Cemetery, New Jersey, showing that he died 73 years ago today.

As part of my Genealogy Go-Over, I'm reexamining the details I've gathered about ancestors. Now it's Barney's turn.
  • The translation of his Hebrew name is: Binyamin Yitzchock Henoch, son of R' Alchonon Avraham. Knowing his father's name helped to connect him with his brothers (by seeing their gravestones and other documents).
  • On his petition for naturalization, his name is shown as "Banna Markell." 
  • On his declaration of intention, his name is shown as "Bena Markell."
  • On his first marriage license, his name is shown as "Berna Markell."
  • On his second marriage license, 19 years after the first marriage, his name is shown as "Barney H. Markell."
  • On his WWI draft card, his name is shown as "Banna Henry Markell." 
  • No WWII draft card found yet...but I've also seen his name as "Barnhart Markell."
I've written before about the Markell branch of my family tree, including here and here (among other posts), and expect more posts as I continue double-checking my research.

RIP, Barney Markell, father-in-law of a matchmaker aunt who brought my parents together for their first date.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Sam, Anna, and the Circus Elephants

From Bridgeport History Center, photo of the circus's winter headquarters in Connecticut
With the news that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is shutting down, I thought about my maternal great-uncle Sam Schwartz (1883-1954) and his bride, Anna Gelbman Schwartz (1886-1940), walking past the elephants in downtown Bridgeport, CT, circa 1909.

Anna's Gelbman family lived at 71 Wordin Avenue for many years, not far from the newly-wed Schwartz couple and a short walk from the field in central Bridgeport where P.T. Barnum housed his circus (see photo above). Today, the area around the former Gelbman house is a highway.

Sam and Anna married on October 24, 1909, in her local synagogue on Cherry Street in Bridgeport (no longer there). After their marriage, they lived at 95 Clinton Ave. in Bridgeport before moving to New York City. They would have seen P.T. Barnum's elephants as they crossed downtown Bridgeport, as usual.

Just a week before he married Anna, Sam had become a naturalized U.S. citizen. (Sam was born in Ungvar, Hungary, while Anna was born in New York City). In fact, Sam and Anna applied for their marriage license on the very day he became a citizen. Anna was born in January, 1886--this month would have been her 131st birthday.

Thanks to my honorary cousin Art (he's related to Anna's family) for partnering with me on this research!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sorting Saturday: Great-Aunt Dora Mahler's Birth Date

I'm still working on my Genealogy Go-Over, and looking more closely at my father's Mahler ancestors.

As shown above in the 1900 Census, my paternal grandmother (Henrietta Mahler Burk) was one of 7 living children of Tillie Jacobs Mahler and Meyer Elias Mahler.

The next-to-youngest girl was my great-aunt Dora Mahler, born in July 1893, according to this 1900 Census. Alas, I never met her, but she is fondly remembered by one of my 2d cousins.

Despite looking in New York City birth indexes and searching in Family Search records, I can't find Dora's actual birth certificate. When was she really born?
  • The June, 1905 New York Census showed Dora as 11 years old.
  • The April, 1910 US Census showed Dora as 15 years old.
  • The June, 1915 NY Census showed Dora as 20 years old.
  • The January, 1920 US Census showed Dora as 24 years old.
  • The June, 1925 NY Census showed Dora as 30 years old.
  • The April, 1930 US Census showed Dora as 35 years old.
  • Still searching for her and her Mom in the 1940 US Census.
  • Social Security's records show Dora's birth as July 11, 1894. But then again, her name is listed as Dorothy Lillian, not a name she was ever called in the family.
After Dora died on June 9, 1950, probably of heart failure, her brother told authorities that Dora was about 44 years old, pegging her birthday as July 11, 1905. Nope, he wasn't even close.

Dora is buried at Beth David Cemetery on Long Island, NY, but I haven't yet ventured out to see her grave (nor is she in Find A Grave or on Beth David's grave locator). So for now, I'm going to say Dora's birth date was July 11, 1893. Until new evidence emerges!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: The McClures, Wabash Pioneers


Benjamin McClure and his wife, Sarah Denning McClure, were named as pioneer settlers of Wabash, Indiana, as noted in this excerpt from History of Wabash County. These are my hubby's 2nd great-grandparents. "Uncle Benji" helped found a church and was a civic leader in Wabash for many years.

A couple of years ago, I put the woodcut of "Uncle Benji" on his Find A Grave memorial page. Sadly, I have no similar image of Sarah (other than her gravestone).

The wonderful folks at the Friends of Falls Cemetery have been posting census data and doing many links to help connect the relationship dots in Find A Grave. They originally created this page for "Uncle Benji" and I want to say thank you!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Don't Touch That Dial!

Recognize this giant piece of furniture?
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Yes, it's a black and white TV/mono record player/AM radio console. Every living room had to have one in the 1950s, the height of furniture fashion and entertainment technology. No, really.

And who are those little double-trouble urchins, reaching out to change the channel?

Guilty as charged: Me and my twin sis. Often we'd get up before the crack of dawn and turn the TV on to watch the crackly test pattern until "Modern Farmer" showed up on the tiny screen at 6 am. A fascinating programming decision for a TV station based in the heart of New York City, don't you think?

Amazingly, I know exactly when this TV arrived in our Bronx living room because of the meticulous minutes taken at the Farkas Family Tree meetings every month. My grandma, Henrietta Farkas Schwartz, was a co-founder of the tree, which held its first meeting in March, 1933 at the apartment of her parents, Moritz Farkas and Lena Kunstler Farkas.

Excerpted from the minutes of one December meeting during the 1950s: "The Burks are getting a television set for their anniversary." (Sis, I'm respecting your privacy and not revealing the year. You're welcome!)

Today's Sentimental Sunday is courtesy of my captioning frenzy while snowbound, going through my archival boxes and coming across this fun snapshot.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Captioning Friday's Faces from the Past

Getting to work on my 2017 resolutions, I found nice, large adhesive labels at my local office supply store to write captions for "faces from the past." Since nearly all of my photos are in archival-quality sleeves, the next step is to write captions and stick the labels to the back of the sleeves.

Above, my hand-printed captions for the two small photos that share one sleeve (shown at right). The subject is my father, Harold Burk (1909-1978), years before he met my mother. The lower photo shows him with my grandma, Henrietta Mahler Burk (1888-1954). 

Someday (in the far future) I hope to replace my hand-written labels with typed labels. For now, the main point is to caption these faces with as much as I know, for the sake of future generations.

In the past, I used the usual small, address-sized labels for captioning, sticking two or three on a sleeve if I had to a lot to say about a photo. But I was happy to find a larger size label in the store, as shown below.

Six to a sheet, plenty of room to write a few sentences or list a number of names. And these are heavy-duty labels, not likely to peel off the sleeves. So go ahead and snow! I'm ready to caption.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Genealogy Resolutions and Results, 2016-2017

Looking back on 2016, I accomplished a lot. At right is a snapshot from my Find A Grave contributor tools page, in which I more than doubled my statistics from this time last year. Every trip I take to a cemetery, I take a hundred or more photos of surrounding graves and add them to the memorials, helping others find their ancestors' final resting places.

Of course, these numbers don't reflect the dozens and dozens of edits I've made or requested to link and correct ancestors' memorials from my tree and my husband's tree. This was my #1 resolution from last year and I feel good about my progress (even if it much of the work was crammed into the past week).

My favorite accomplishment of this year (and every year) has been meeting cousins in person after finding them through genealogical research. In fact, it was quite a year for cousin connections. In January, after I met a Farkas cousin of mine in NYC, Sis and I took a fun field trip to meet more Farkas cousins and reunite with our Burk/Mahler first cousins. Later in the year, I met several more Farkas cousins (including one across the pond). And I spent five days with a handful of Chazan cousins in Manchester, England. More cousin connections are in the works for 2017.

In 2016, I wanted to submit testimony to Yad Vashem about my great aunt, Etel Schwartz (a sister to my maternal grandfather, Tivador Schwartz). She's one of the two ladies in the big-brimmed hats in the photos above, along the banner of my blog. My cousins and I are having trouble determining who's who in the few photos we have of the Schwartz siblings, and we don't know Etel's married name. But I will submit what I know in 2017, even without a photo, to keep Etel's memory alive for future generations.

An ongoing resolution is to "tell the stories" and I'm continuing to do that, formally and informally, during meetings with cousins and at other opportunities. At top is a photo of me all dressed up in a bow tie and shirt with the stern face of Benjamin McClure, my husband's 2d great-granddaddy (he's also my FB genealogy persona).

I wore this shirt on Halloween when making genealogy presentations, and my family got a kick out of it. It's a different way to spread the word about an ancestor's life and times. Also I told some stories and featured ancestor photos in my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. More stories and T-shirts are in the works for 2017, maybe even a new book.

Carried over from 2016, I'm still trying to pierce brick walls about my father's Birk and Mitav ancestors in Lithuania and continue looking for the origins of my husband's Larimer-Short-Work families, originally from somewhere in Ireland (north, most likely). So 2017 will be another busy and productive and exciting year!