Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Young Man with the Mustache

Young Man from Gargzdai, Lithuania - probably a Birck relative
Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Challenge on Genea-Musings this week is: Men with Facial Hair.

As soon as I read the challenge, I knew exactly who to feature: The Young Man with the Mustache.
Studio info on back of Young Man's photo

At top, the Young Man in question--probably a younger brother of my paternal grandfather Isaac Burk (1882-1943), born in Gargzdai, Lithuania.

When grandpa Isaac and five other siblings came to North America, they left behind their parents--Solomon Elias Birck and Necke Gelle Shuham Birck--and the Young Man, if we're interpreting the photos, stories, and records correctly.

Alas, I don't know the handsome Young Man's name, but I have his face in two photos. He was a boy in one photo, and a young man here. At right, the studio info on back of the Young Man's portrait.

The Young Man appears as a boy in a photo shared by my 2d cousin, the granddaughter of Isaac's brother, Meyer Berg (1883-1981), who also came to America.

We don't know the fate of the Young Man, I'm sorry to say, but we can see the strong family resemblance to my father and his first cousins. More research is in my future. Perhaps I'll find some clues when I attend #RootsTech as a #FirstTimer and go to the Family History Library?!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Learning from Valentines Sent in the Last Century

In my husband's Wood family, staying in touch was a high priority. Cousins and aunts and uncles sent penny greeting cards to the children for every conceivable occasion. Above, one of the pretty postcards sent to Wallis W. Wood, hubby's uncle, for Valentine's Day in 1912. The sender was Wallis's aunt Nellie (Rachel Ellen) Wood Kirby, who lived in Chicago with her husband, Arthur Kirby. Nellie never spelled her nephew's name correctly on these cards, for some reason.
Thanks to the greeting cards, I can trace the movement of the Wood family from one Cleveland neighborhood to another in between Census years. The head of the family, James Edgar Wood, was a home builder who would construct a house on spec, move his family in, and finish the interior while simultaneously framing another home on spec.

Hubby's father, Edgar James Wood, was a child at the time. He recalled that period in an interview 70 years later, remembering that in one spec house, "the first two floors weren't finished at all, we were living in the attic!" A vivid and not particularly happy memory for him, apparently.

In my family, Mom (Daisy Schwartz) preserved the first Valentine sent to her by Dad (Harold Burk), in February, 1946. It was a traditional, romantic card with ribbon embellishment.

Daisy and Harold had had a whirlwind courtship after he came home from WWII in October, 1945. They were set up on a date by two "matchmaker" aunts, fell in love, and became engaged on the last day of 1945.

Although Daisy and Harold wanted a short engagement, the post-war housing shortage prevented them from finding a convenient, affordable New York City apartment. They had to settle for a wedding date in November, 1946. With so many months to plan, there was enough time for both families to gather in force.

The wedding photos are, 70 years later, a treasure trove of clues to family history. When I asked three of my mother's first cousins to help me identify people in my parents' photos who were unfamiliar to me, they assumed these "unknowns" were "family friends."
They vaguely remembered the names and faces of the "unknowns" but knew nothing else, even though they had been at the wedding in 1946.

When I dug deeper into the names and marriages of the "unknowns," in every case, these wedding guests turned out to be cousins. Cousins of the parents of the bride or groom! These connections led me to finding a lovely group of 2d cousins 1x removed. Now, any time I see a group wedding photo from my family's albums, I don't assume that unfamiliar faces are "family friends." Maybe they're cousins in disguse!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New to Me: New Ancestor Discoveries Feature

It's been a couple of weeks since I last logged into Ancestry DNA and checked on matches for a few kits. Glad I checked, because I like the new new feature in beta: "New Ancestor Discoveries."

As shown above, the feature highlights a few "potential new ancestors or relatives who are not already" in the tree attached to my relative's DNA kit. (Names/trees are blocked here for privacy.)







Click on one potential ancestor, such as Mary Polly Shepherd, and the above screen appears. At left is a narrative bio of this possible ancestor. At right is the explanation of the DNA Circle containing 6 matches to my relative. 


By clicking "Learn about Mary Polly," I can investigate the possible ancestor's facts, including family members and sources like Census. 

By clicking on the DNA Circle, I can see other individuals or family groups whose DNA matches that ancestor. Importantly, Ancestry also tells me there's a "good chance" (in this case, "as much as 70%") that my relative is actually a descendant of (or related to) Mary Polly. I like the number better than a phrase like "high confidence," for instance.

This a promising, convenient way to suggest how DNA connections might lead me to new ancestor discoveries. The cousins in this situation would be really distant, but the ancestor discoveries might help me fill out sparse branches of the tree or even put a crack in a brick wall. 

Take a look to see whether you have this beta feature embedded in your Ancestry DNA pages.

NOTE: One of my genealogy blogging buddies points out that this feature might not appear on my other kits because those trees are very well developed and may already have names of ancestors mentioned in DNA Circles for DNA matches. Good point!

Monday, February 5, 2018

52 Ancestors #6: Train Was the Name--But Why?


This week's #52Ancestors challenge (thank you, Amy Johnson Crow), is "favorite name." My pick is Train. Actually, I'm interested in TWO men named Train. The original Train who caught my eye is Train C. McClure (1843-1934), the third son of Benjamin McClure and Sarah Denning (hubby's 2d great-grandparents). Born in Wabash county, Indiana, Train was my husband's 2d great uncle. Why, I wondered for a long time, was his name "Train," and what did the middle initial stand for?

Train C. McClure served nearly three years in the Civil War. As a teen, he enlisted in Company A, Indiana 89th Infantry Regiment on August 3, 1862 and was mustered out at age 21 on July 19, 1865 at Mobile, Alabama, far from his Indiana home. Two years after his military service, he married Gulia Swain and started a family. They had four children together. After Gulia died, Train remarried to Rebecca Abbott. He outlived all of his siblings and died at the age of 90.

After puzzling over Train's first name and middle initial for a while, I went over the McClure family tree with a finer-tooth comb. Then I discovered that Train's father Benjamin had a younger sister named Jane McClure, who married Train Caldwell on April 5, 1831.

Doesn't it seem reasonable to think that Benjamin named his son Train Caldwell McClure after his brother-in-law, Train Caldwell? In fact, as the 1850 Census at top indicates, the McClure and Caldwell families had a close enough relationship that a Mary A. McClure was living in Posey township, Indiana, with Train, Jane (nee McClure), and their children. Presumably this is one of Jane's relatives. To avoid getting derailed from the Train kinfolk, I haven't yet focused on little Mary McClure, but I will.
In tracking Jane's Train Caldwell, I learned more about his background, as you can see from the excerpt here, part of volume 3 of a book titled History of Northwest Missouri, edited by Walter Williams (1915).

Unfortunately, I don't agree with the book's assertion that Jane McClure, Train's wife, was the daughter of Samuel McClure, who lived in Indiana but was originally from Adams County. I've run into Samuel and the McClure confusion often during my Indiana research, because the Benjamin McClure in hubby's family tree was also from Adams County and later pioneered in Indiana. No connection with Samuel that I can find (yet), and I've actually discussed the possibility with Wabash history experts in the past.

The two Train men have provided endless hours of research and interest. Interestingly, Train was not an uncommon name in Indiana at that time. More research is clearly in my future as I stay on track with my McClure and Caldwell investigations.

Friday, February 2, 2018

My Schwartz Ancestors Married for Love

Mary Schwartz and Teddy Schwartz (circa 1909)
My great aunt, Mary Schwartz (1891-1959) and her older brother, my grandpa Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz (1887-1965), both married for love after they came to New York. There were some bumps in the road to matrimony, but both stories (pieced together from family legends and official documents) ended with love winning the day, despite the family's initial feelings.

Teddy Schwartz met his future bride, Hermina (Minnie) Farkas (1886-1964), in a Hungarian deli on the Lower East Side. Both Teddy and Minnie had been born in Hungary and came to New York as young teens.(1) Although Minnie's family objected to the match (they thought he was a "peasant"), she insisted on seeing Teddy, then a clerk for steamship lines and insurance firms. Minnie used a signal (putting something on the clothesline) to let Teddy know that the "coast was clear" to meet.

Meanwhile, Minnie's parents tried to arrange a "more suitable" marriage. Minnie refused and threw the suitor's engagement ring out the window. After she wore her parents down, the couple was married at the Clinton Street Synagogue on Sunday, October 22, 1911. Teddy and Minnie couldn't afford a honeymoon until the late 1940s, when they retired. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1961.

Teddy's sister Mary Schwartz also married for love. It seems Teddy's Farkas in-laws were arranging a marriage for Mary with one of their cousins. Late in 1913, before any formal engagement, Mary met a handsome furrier, Hungarian-born Edward Wirtschafter (1889-1958). Since he was living on the Lower East Side and she was living in Jewish Harlem but working as a shirtwaist maker, I imagine they met in Manhattan's garment district (or possibly in that Hungarian deli where Teddy and Minnie met?).

Mary and Edward fell in love and within weeks, they decided to elope. On Christmas Eve of 1913, just two days before Mary's 22nd birthday, they went to City Hall and signed all the paperwork. That night, even though they were married, they went back to their own apartments and told no one. At least that's what their daughter told me.

What she didn't tell me (maybe she didn't know) was what happened four days later. On December 28, 1913, Mary and Edward had a second wedding ceremony.(2) This time, they were married by a rabbi. And this time, Mary's older brother Sam Schwartz was one of the witnesses. Possibly my grandfather Teddy was present, as well. But I don't know whether my grandma Minnie was there. She might have been miffed that Mary married a man of her own choosing rather than the Farkas cousin favored by the family. Mary, like Minnie, was determined to marry for love!

This post celebrates the Genealogy Blog Party's February theme of LOVE.

(1) According to City of Dreams by Tyler Anbinder, the Lower East Side neighborhood where Teddy and Minnie lived was a particular enclave of Hungarian Jews in the early 1900s. Teddy was from Ungvar, Hungary, and Minnie from Berehovo, Hungary. No wonder they met in a Hungarian deli.

(2) I only know about the 2d wedding ceremony because I sent for the complete set of marriage documents after learning about their availability through Reclaim the Records. Read all about it here. Well worth the $15 fee to know the full story!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Testing Ancestry's "We Remember" Site

Ancestry has a new site in beta, "We Remember." A few days ago, I gave it a try. First I had to log in (using either Ancestry or Facebook user/password combo). After several aborted tries with Firefox, I switched to Chrome as my browser and was able to proceed. The interface was sluggish in both browsers, but presumably this will change over time.

At top, the memorial after I entered the requested info:

- Name of person (Dorothy Helen Schwartz)
- whether MD, Ph.D., etc. (this info doesn't appear on the memorial, not sure why)
- full birth and death dates (NOTE: only birth year and death year appear on the memorial)
- city and state/country of death (doesn't appear on memorial, not sure why)
- 250 words about her (plus an obit, if available)
- indicate whether she was family, friend, etc.

Next, I was asked to submit an obit if desired and write a "memory" of my aunt, including a photo of my choice. Alas, my first "memory" and related photo disappeared. The next memory was successfully saved and appears on Dorothy's public memorial page.

What do I think of "We Remember" so far? This will be my only attempt unless and until the interface is speedier and more reliable. Also, I believe all the requested info should appear in full on memorials. Why not show full birth and death dates rather than simply truncate to year only? Why not show MD or Ph.D. on the page? My aunt was justifiably proud of her Ph.D., and I had to mention it in the memorial text since it doesn't show after her name in the title.

Why the 250-word limit for the bio on the memorial page? This isn't Twitter--it's supposed to be a memorial, and no meaningful bio can be squeezed into so few words. In some views of the memorial, no middle name or initial appears--which can make it tough to locate just the right person. Again, I can't imagine the reason for this limitation.

I'm not sure that setting up "We Remember" memorials will do anything more meaningful genealogically than my Ancestry trees, my Find a Grave memorials, and my blog posts. But I'm willing to be convinced if the interface improves, the presentation of details is expanded, and a chorus of other genealogy enthusiasts find some value in this site.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

52 Ancestors #5: The Genealogical Bonanza of the 1950 Census

1950 US Census Form
It's hard to believe the bonanza of information waiting for genealogists when the 1950 Census is released in April, 2022. You can download the blank form for yourself here.

And the 1950 Census release is only 50 months away. But if I'm really, really lucky, some of my ancestors were chosen as a "sample" to answer in-depth questions! You'll hope your ancestors were "sampled" too when you realize what's "in the Census" (the title of Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge this week).

One in five people were chosen as a "sample" to answer detailed questions like (1) Where was this person living in 1949 (farm or not, same county/state, same house)? (2) Where were mother and father born (country)? (3) Highest grade of school completed? (4) Individual and household income--separate questions for work income, other income from interest and benefits--number of weeks worked/looking for work? (5) Military service in WWI, WWII, or other time?

And that's just the sample questions. The Census itself required enumerators to list each household with the head first, followed by his wife (I know, I know, it was the 1950s, don't blame me!), and children in age order, followed by non-family members living in the household. And the relationship of non-family members to the head was supposed to be listed too!

Age and state of birth (or country) is listed for each person. Importantly, if age is under one year, month of birth will be listed. Married, divorced, never married, widowed, separated. And wait, there's more. For each person over 14, the enumerator had to describe the kind of work and the industry worked in.

I'm particularly interested in ancestors who died not long after the 1950 Census. For instance, my great aunt Dora Lillie Mahler (1893-1950) died only a couple of months after the Census was taken. Another great aunt, Nellie Block (1878-1950), died that December.

Where were they living? What were they doing? Since NYC has not made 1950 death certs available (a decision being challenged by the wonderful folks at Reclaim the Records), I have only their brief obits for now. As you can see by the details in the 1950 Census, I'll know a LOT more about them in 50 months. Happily, I have a good idea of which Enumeration Districts to check when the Census is released. And I can hardly wait.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: The Schwartz Family of Ungvar

My grandfather (Tivador "Teddy" Schwartz, 1887-1965) was the first in his family to come to America from the family's home in Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhhorod, Ukraine). The next to arrive was my great uncle (Samuel Schwartz, 1883-1954). These two brothers saved their nickels and helped pay for one of their younger sisters to come in 1906 (Mary "Marushka" Schwartz, 1891-1959).

Their parents, Herman Yehuda Schwartz and Hani Simonowitz Schwartz, stayed behind in Ungvar, along with a number of siblings. Separated by thousands of miles, the family stayed in touch with letters and photo cards like the one at top, which shows four Schwartz siblings in Ungvar in 1915.

By the time of World War II, the parents had passed away but the siblings who remained in Hungary all were grown and had families of their own. None but Tivador, Sam, and Mary ever moved to America.

I'm very sad to say that those who remained behind were killed during the Holocaust, with one exception: my grandfather's niece, Viola Schwartz. According to her video testimony, found through the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum among other repositories, she was an eye witness to the tragedy that everyone else from the Schwartz family had been rounded up and sent to concentration camps, where they--like so many Jewish families-- perished.

On this international day of remembrance, my post honors the memory of my Schwartz ancestors and all others who were killed during the Holocaust. I feel a great sense of loss for who they were and who they and their descendants might have become. And I want to pay loving tribute to the Schwartz survivor, my cousin Viola, a strong and courageous woman.

Never forget!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

52 Ancestors #4: Inviting GGM Elizabeth Rinehart Steiner to Tea

In this 4th week of Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge, "Invite to Dinner," I want to invite my husband's maternal great-grandma, Elizabeth Rinehart Steiner, to tea.

This matriarch grew up in a pioneering family, and I'd like to ask about her daily life, her dreams, her happiness, her disappointments, her thoughts of the future, and her view of the past.

Elizabeth was born on 18 February 1834 in an area later organized into Ashland County, Ohio. No official record of her birth can be found. She died on 4 November 1905 in Upper Sandusky, Wyandot County, Ohio. The Probate Court there hasn't located her death record. I do have two obits that offer a lot of clues to Elizabeth's life.

Elizabeth married hubby's maternal great-grandpa Edward George Steiner (1839-1880) on 7 August 1851, at age 17, in Crawford County, Ohio. (The obit has the year incorrect--I have the marriage license from 1851, and it indicates Elizabeth needed her father's permission to marry.)

Together, they had 9 children. Their first two children died young, unfortunately. My husband is a grandson of their ninth child, Floyda Mabel Steiner.

There are so many questions to ask GGM, but I'll limit myself to six since this is, after all, tea time:
  1. What was it like growing up as the daughter of a pioneering family in the 1830s? 
  2. Were the family stories true: Rinehart and Steiner were supposedly from Switzerland? Or were they from Germany or Austria or another area?
  3. How did you meet your future husband, and what kind of life did you envision with him?
  4. Is the family story true: that you chose the name Floyda for your youngest child because you were hoping for a boy after five boys in a row?
  5. What did you think of the Suffrage Movement and the idea of women gaining the right to vote?
  6. Of all the changes you witnessed and experienced in your 71 years of life, which most surprised or astonished you, and why?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Family History Lesson From My Maiden Aunt

My paternal great aunt Nellie never married, had no children. But lately, I've been thinking about her importance in my family's history. She was the older sister of my grandpa Isaac Burk, born in Gargzdai, Lithuania. Nellie, Isaac, and four other siblings came to North America around the turn of the 20th century. Researching them has taken me 20 years, in part because I began with nothing except Isaac's name--and in part because there were so many different spellings of the family's surname.

Five of the six siblings married within a few years after they left Lithuania. Only Nellie never married. Here are the six siblings, listed in birth order.
  • Abraham Burke (1877-1962) (aka Berk) - later married, had children
  • Nellie Block (1878?-1950) - never married, no children
  • Isaac Burk (1882-1943) (aka Birk) - later married, had children
  • Meyer Berg (1883-1981) - later married, had children
  • Jennie Birk (1890-1972) - later married, no children
  • Max (Motel) Birk (1892-1953) - later married, no children

Nellie is the lady in lace, shown in the center of the photo at top with one of her brothers, probably Meyer, and her younger sister, Jennie. Below, Nellie's obit has Grandpa Isaac's name incorrect, but it's definitely hers. (I'm still looking for her burial place.)

Why is Nellie's story important to the family history? She seems to have been the first of the Burk siblings to come to North America, before 1900. (I'm still looking for her name on a passenger list.) I don't know how many unmarried young ladies were the first in their families to cross the Atlantic and live in a big US city. (Nellie was a boarder in other Jewish families' apartments, usually, not living on her own.) Why and when did she leave home?

Nellie was already in Manhattan by 1904. Grandpa Isaac listed her as the relative he was coming to see when crossing from Canada to New York. He had left Lithuania and gone to Manchester, England, then sailed to Canada, and finally entered America, saying he was coming to his sister Nellie. Yes, chain migration.

I believe I've found Nellie in the 1900 Census, 1905 NY Census, and 1910 Census. I have her as the addressee of a 1930s wedding invitation sent by a cousin in England. And I see her face in my parents' wedding photos, circa 1946. She was wearing a corsage and standing next to her brother Meyer and her brother Abraham, an honored guest at the marriage of her nephew--my father.

The lesson I draw from my maiden aunt's life is that every person in the family tree has an influence on the family's history. She was present at family gatherings, she touched the lives of parents/siblings/nieces/nephews/cousins, and she influenced the course of family history in ways I may not even know about.

Was Nellie responsible for blazing the trail out of the old country? I don't know for sure, and it seems a bit of a stretch to assume she left first. But I do know she was part of her brother Isaac's decision to cross from Canada to America--and, ultimately, that decision led to his getting married, raising a family, and my parents getting married. I owe this maiden aunt a great debt of gratitude!

Sometimes people say that since they have no descendants, their family history isn't really important to anyone. I disagree. Nellie (and her brother Max and sister Jennie) prove the importance of every story to the family's history. Each person played a role in family dynamics, each story adds texture, detail, and context to the overall family history.

Because Nellie, Max, and Jennie had no descendants, it's up to me as the self-appointed family historian to keep their memories alive. My second cousins have filled in a lot of the blanks. As the months pass, I hope to discover even more clues to their roles in the immediate family and in other related families.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

52 Ancestors #3: Which Grandparents Lived to Meet Their Grandchildren?

For week 3 of Amy Johnson Crow's latest #52Ancestors challenge, titled "Longevity," I'm looking at which grandparents outlived the other, and who in each couple got to meet their grandchildren.

At right, my maternal grandparents in 1911, the year they married: Hermina Farkas (1886-1964) and Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965). Although Grandma Minnie and Grandpa Teddy both died at the age of 77, Grandpa Teddy had longevity on his side: He passed away just a few days short of his 78th birthday. Minnie and Teddy got to meet all five of their grandchildren.


At left, my paternal grandparents in 1937, at the wedding of their younger daughter. They were Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) and Isaac Burk (1882-1943). Grandma Yetta died at 72, while Grandpa Isaac died at 61 (well before my time). Isaac never met any of his five grandchildren; the first grandchild was born the year after his death, and named in his honor. Yetta knew all but one of their grandchildren, missing the youngest (named in her honor) by only a year.

At right, my husband's maternal grandparents:
Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) and Floyda Mabel Steiner (1878-1948). Granddaddy Brice died just shy of his 92nd birthday, while Grandma Floyda died at 70. Brice's longevity meant that he got to meet all three of his grandchildren but not all of his great-grandchildren.
At left, my husband's paternal grandparents: James Edgar Wood (1871-1939) and Mary Slatter (1869-1925). Sadly, Grandma Mary was only 55 when she passed away, and none of her children had yet married. Grandpa James died at 67, having met two of his three grandchildren--who were then tiny tykes.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Chicken Post or Egg Post?

Genealogy blogging feels like a chicken or egg thing.
  • When I want to write a post, I research someone or try a new research tool. (Chicken post)
  • When I research someone or learn a new research technique, I want to write a blog post. (Egg post)
Which comes first? It depends on what I want to accomplish. Chicken or egg, I always learn something.

During January, I'm participating in Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenges, which will provide blog prompts and ideas every week. Weeks #1 and #2 are crossed off my list already. Only 50 more to go, meaning I'll be doing more research on 50 more ancestors. These are chicken posts ;) And I'm participating in the Genealogy Blog Party, which is hosted by Elizabeth O'Neal--more prompts to give me ideas for chicken posts.

Other bloggers also inspire me. I've been reading Janice Sellers' "Events in my family tree" series. And reading Randy Seaver's occasional posts about using RootsMagic features. These gave me the idea for a chicken post, a post where I start by wanting to write and use that as the impetus to learn something or research someone.

I originally wanted to find something timely in the family tree to write about. To do that, I had to learn how to use my RootsMagic "calendar report" function, which I've never investigated. With multiple family trees, I need multiple calendars.

The software allows me to check a box and get a calendar with only living people, as a reminder to send birthday or anniversary greetings. However, I wish the software would also let me check a box and have no living people on the calendar.

The results: My maternal Schwartz tree calendar for January has a few birthdays and wedding anniversaries. My husband's Wood tree for January is so crowded with names and occasions that the software had to print more than 20 names and dates on a separate piece of paper! This makes sense, since his tree has more than 2,700 names, and my maternal tree has fewer than 1,000 names.

On January 13th, the Wood tree shows the marriage of Thomas Short and Margaret Larimer, 176 years ago. I have Margaret's death date, not her birth date (still can't find it, despite an hour of searching this morning), and I have Thomas's birth date but not his death date (still can't find it, darn it). They're on my list to continue researching.

But as part of my research into these two Wood ancestors, I tried out the search function of Elephind, that wonderful free newspaper website--it's searchable from the home page!

In addition, I forced myself to search using the new Find A Grave interface, which I dislike. Unfortunately, no sign of Thomas and Margaret, but at least I'm getting used to the new interface. A little.

This is what a chicken post looks like. I also like egg posts. Both are fun and keep me excited about #genealogy blogging.

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."



Saturday, January 6, 2018

52 Ancestors #1: Grandpa Got Me Started in Genealogy

I never knew my father's father, Grandpa Isaac Burk (1882-1943). I didn't know what he looked like, didn't know when or where he was born, didn't know when or where he died. But it was Grandpa who got me started on my genealogy journey 20 years ago.

In 1998, the genealogist of my mother's Farkas family wanted to add my father and his parents to her comprehensive family tree. There was little I could tell her other than Grandpa's name. There was no one left to ask. Of course, I couldn't resist trying to find out more. Little did I know how elusive Grandpa's trail was going to be!

As a complete novice, my first stop was the Milstein Division of the New York Public Library. In those days of microfilm research, I figured this was one-stop shopping for info and advice about finding Grandpa Isaac's records. I was sure he lived in New York City after arriving from somewhere in Eastern Europe.


With the help of librarians, I checked NYC directories and newspaper records. Yup, Grandpa Isaac and Grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk did live in NYC. I cranked that microfilm reader until I found a terse obit in the New York Times for October 10, 1943. No mention of burial place. Nothing in death record indexes. Next, I mailed a check to New York City with a search request for Grandpa's death cert. I was hooked and had to know more.

Uh-oh. No NYC death cert was on record. Nor was there a death cert in New York State. And no hint of which cemetery Grandpa might be buried in. Remember, Find a Grave was in its infancy, so I couldn't just click to search for him. The funeral folks couldn't help, either.

I continued my quest for Grandpa Isaac little by little over the next few years, locating his marriage record from 1906 and all the US and NY State Census records available at the time. But--no death cert, even though every document showed him living in NYC. Still, I was determined to solve this seemingly basic family mystery.

In desperation, I actually called New York City's vital records department and threw myself on their mercy, asking for help. A very kind gentleman lowered his voice and told me I should try searching further afield. He offered the unofficial hint that Grandpa Isaac might have died in someplace like, say, Washington, D.C.

Huh? Who would Grandpa Isaac and Grandma Henrietta know in Washington, D.C.? And why would Grandpa have died there?

I immediately wrote to the vital records department in D.C., including a check, and waited.

Two weeks later, I had Grandpa Isaac's death cert in my hand. The details fit, this was definitely him. Later, I found Isaac's naturalization record and saw his face and signature for the very first time.

Why were Isaac and Henrietta in D.C. for four days before he had a heart attack and died--in the home of Louis Volk?

The quest for a connection with Louis Volk eventually brought me into contact with some wonderful 2d cousins! But that's another story for another week in the challenge. 

I only wish Grandpa Isaac could know how he got me started in #genealogy--and that I'm making sure the family knows as much about him and his life story as I can discover.


Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow for this 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge!

#52Ancestors 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

My Genealogy Agenda for 2018

Twins Dorothy & Daisy Schwartz, stars of my new family memory booklet
Building on what I learned in 2017, here's my genealogy agenda for 2018.

1. Keep documenting family history. Throughout the year, I'm going to be writing about ancestors for my relatives and my husband's relatives. I have two specific projects in mind right now (and a third, if I get to it: "Farkas Family in WWII"):
  • "Daisy and Dorothy," a new family memory booklet about my mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk) and her twin sister (Dorothy Helen Schwartz). In the past year, I've located new details about Dorothy's WWII role as a WAC. Also, my niece rediscovered letters from Dorothy written in her 70s, mentioning hobbies such as practicing at the gun range every week with her 9mm Smith & Wesson. Who knew? And this is a great opportunity to share insights about my Mom with the next generation.
  • "Marian and Edgar," a new photo book about my husband's parents (Marian McClure Wood and Edgar James Wood). My sister-in-law would like a hardcover photo book, reviewing their lives, from cradle to grave. I have a LOT of information, thanks to the dozens of photos she's shared with me, plus diaries, interviews, and more. Also, I'm going to draw on 2017 family memory booklets I wrote about Marian and Edgar's ancestors.
2. Continue my genealogy education. For the first time ever, I'm attending RootsTech 2018! So many sessions, so little time. I'm studying the schedule to select my first choice and my second choice session in each time slot. And of course I'll make time to visit the exhibit hall. All part of my planning for learning new research tricks and techniques!

Plus as a member of two local genealogy clubs and the Jewish Genealogy Society of Connecticut, I get to attend so many informative meetings. This year's topics include genetic genealogy, British genealogy, researching online newspapers, genealogy and data security, and so much more.

Another way I'm continuing my genealogy education is by following people and institutions on social media. Currently, my blog reading list stands at 104, including a handful of historical blogs but mainly family history and research blogs. I follow nearly 1,700 Twitter accounts (mostly genealogy but also history and related subjects). And I'm on Pinterest, checking out genealogy posts from time to time. PLUS I'm a member of a couple dozen Facebook groups, groups like GeneaBloggers Tribe, Tracing the Tribe, Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques, and many others, where I learn a great deal by lurking and by asking questions.

3. Genealogy presentations. My 2018 speaking schedule includes a new presentation, "Research Like a Pro!" about how to apply the Genealogical Proof Standard to solve family history mysteries and reconcile conflicting evidence. I'm also presenting "Planning a Future for Your Family's Past" (companion to my book of the same name, available at the NEHGS book store and on Amazon) and the ever-popular, "Genealogy, Free or Fee" about free and low-cost research strategies (and when it pays to pay for documents).

4. Connect with cousins via DNA. More cousins are taking DNA tests, which means I'll have even more DNA matches to figure out. This is the year I'll get down to color-coding my spreadsheet and family tree to understand where the matches belong. And with luck, I'll discover how, exactly, my Mitav/Chazan cousins are related to my Burk/Shuham ancestors! And how my Roth cousins fit with the Farkas family tree.

5. Have fun. For most of my 20 years of genealogy research, the process has been fun and engaging. Meeting "new" cousins brings new joy, and making new genealogy buddies gives me a strong sense of community and shared purpose. The DNA analyses are hard work, I admit. Still, it's deeply satisfying to keep learning new things as I add new leaves to the family tree and bring the family's past alive for future generations. Here's to another great year of genealogy fun in 2018!