Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Corned Beef on Rye

Corned Beef and Cabbage on Rye

To the left is a bio my great-grandfather Barney Newmark submitted to the North St. Louis Businessman's Association for their 1925 publication.

Are such bios trustworthy sources? Let's take a look.

Proprietor of a tailor shop, 1520 St. Louis avenue;

Native of Dublin, Ireland;
Attended public schools in Ireland;
Not quite. While we don't have a birth certificate, all evidence suggests he was born in what I like to call a suburb of Dublin, known as Warka, Poland. Google Maps will provide driving directions, and it will only take you 23 hours. (With the help of some ferries.)

Student at Oxford;
Barney doesn't say "Oxford University" or "Oxford College". During the 14 years spent in London, England, he lived within walking distance of Oxford Street, and the Oxford Circus Railway Station. He was a student of life. Perhaps there was even a local school on Oxford Street.

Learned the tailoring trade at the London Polytechnic, London, England;

For a while it was assumed this was also a stretch of his imagination. But research revealed that the London Polytechnic was short for The London Polytechnic Young Men's Christian Institute, and like some branches of its American cousin, they provided skills training to local youth. Certainly, Barney learned the tailoring trade from his father, who was also a tailor. However, he may have had instruction at the local Y as well.


Everything after that is also true. So the only outright fib was his country of origin. There was a large Irish community in St. Louis, and my suspicion is that since "Barney" isn't an uncommon Irish name, many of his customers would ask him if he were Irish, and he finally decided to say "yes." (With his fourteen years in England as an explanation of the absence of the accent.)

He also would say that his birthday was March 17th. His birthday appears as March 25th and April 14th on a few documents. I discussed recently how the Gregorian and Julian calendars might partially account for the different dates.

Eight years ago, after I discussed my great grandfather's 'blarney', a friend sent me a link to an online census document. I had always been interested in my ancestry, but had no clue what was available online. The rest, as they say, is family history.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Past St. Patrick's Day posts

March 16, 2014: Happy St. Patrick's Day 2014
March 16, 2013: Happy St. Patrick's Day
March 17, 2012: Happy 126th Birthday to my Great Grandfather
March 17, 2011: Happy St. Patrick's Day
March 17, 2010: Barney's Birthday and Birthplace
March 17, 2009: On St. Patrick's Day Everyone is Irish
March 17, 2008: My 'Irish' Great Grandfather
March 15, 2007: Corned Beef and Cabbage on Rye

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

National Genealogical Society Family History Conference - Social Media Press

I received an email on Monday from the National Genealogical Society:

It began:
Congratulations! You have been accepted as a member of the official social media for the NGS 2015 Family History Conference. NGS looks forward to working with you to communicate conference news to the genealogical community and beyond.
I look forward to covering the conference. I will be seeing it through the eyes of someone who has never been to a genealogy conference. I have placed the Official Blogger logo in the sidebar to the left.

I've already begun to plan what panels I will go to when.

For those who are coming to the conference who would like to be an official member of the Social Media Press: you can apply here through March 16th.

For those interested in attending, but who haven't registered yet: The 'early bird deadline' for registering for the conference is 30 March 2015. For more information see page 15 of the registration brochure (pdf).

For those who are unable to attend: They are offering a couple different Live Streaming packages.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are - Season Six

"Who Do You Think You Are?" returns to TLC on Sunday with a new season of celebrity genealogies. The eight guests scheduled for this season are:

  • Julie Chen, CBS news anchor, and producer (Big Brother, Early Show, The Talk)
  • Angie Harmon, Actress (Law and Order, Rizzoli and Isles)
  • Sean Hayes, Actor (Will and Grace)
  • Bill Paxton, Actor (Apollo 13, Aliens, Hatfields and McCoys)
  • Melissa Etheridge, Singer-Songwriter
  • America Ferrera, Actress (Ugly Betty, How to Train Your Dragon)
  • Tony Goldwyn, Actor (Ghost, Tarzan)
  • Josh Groban, Singer-Songwriter, Actor

In the past, I've stated that I'd naturally like for them to research a celebrity whose tree intersects with mine. For a brief moment in Season Two, back in 2011, I thought that might happen. Ashley Judd is a distant cousin of mine through Thomas and Katherine Stoughton. However, Judd's episode didn't focus on that branch of hers. So, that hasn't happened yet, and while I could be surprised, I doubt that it will happen for any of these eight. Perhaps next season.

While the shows haven't had a direct impact on my research, over the years I have seen parallels in the ancestries of some of the celebrities. For example, Sarah Jessica Parker's father is of Eastern European Jewish descent, and the show traced her mother back to Salem, Massachusetts. (I am distant kin to Salem's Chief Justice, William Stoughton. Fortunately, not a direct descendant.)

It has also been enjoyable to watch those celebrities who seem to actually conduct some of the research themselves, instead of simply react emotionally to what the researchers present to them.

I look forward to seeing what this season has to present.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Leonard Nimoy and Me

Leonard Nimoy, Actor, Director, and Photographer, passed away yesterday February 27, 2015. He was known best for playing the role of Spock, on Star Trek.

As far as I know, I am not related to him.

His parents were born in Iziaslav, Volhynia [source], which is about 150km from Zhitomir, Volhynia, where I believe some of my Dudelczak ancestors may have lived.

I am a long-time Trekkie. Back in 2007 I posted a photograph of myself from a 1992 or 1993 Jerry Lewis Telethon, wearing a Star Trek uniform.

In 2010 I expressed excitement upon discovering, according to his tombstone, my great grandfather was descended either from Vulcans or Aaron, brother of Moses. (As I noted then, either descent would be equally difficult to trace.)

Nimoy died from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which he blamed on his years of smoking.
Both of my paternal grandparents died from smoking-related causes. I can't echo his sentiments enough.

In November of 2007 I had the opportunity to hear Nimoy speak at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival. He was there to sell and sign copies of two books: The Full Body Project, a collection of photography, and A Lifetime of Love, a collection of poetry. I brought home the latter.

He will be missed, and remembered, by a legion of fans, as well as by his friends, and loved ones.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Research All Names

When a family historian is looking at ancestral documents it is important to give consideration to the other names one finds in the document. Friends, Business Associates, Witnesses - conducting at least minimal research on these individuals is advisable. Not doing so may lead to missing out on some major discoveries.

Examples from my own research:
(Links are to past entries where I discuss these instances in greater detail)

1) Max Wieselman - Selig Feinstein's business partner

My second great grandfather, Selig Feinstein, set up a business with Max Wieselman as horse shoers during the 1890s in St. Louis. (They also filed a patent together.) It wasn't until I conducted some research on Max and his wife that I realized Max was likely born in the same Ukranian town as Selig. This **could** be a coincidence. Coincidences happen. But there could also be a relationship. Unfortunately, the records I need aren't online. Barring localized research in the Ukraine, which may be beyond my abilities, my best shot is to find a descendant of Max and ask them to take a DNA test. If they're related, that wouldn't tell me *how*, but a DNA test should tell me one way or another whether more research is necessary.

2) Michael Flynn, County Clerk for Clifford Cruvant's name correction

The digital copy of Clifford Cruvant's name correction doesn't have a date. (Whoever did the scanning didn't get the whole document.) However, by researching the County Clerk's name, I was able to narrow down the possible years. I could order the document from the current County Clerk, but for now knowing that it was after 1930 is enough information. I haven't been able to find either Clifford or his mother in the 1920 or 1930 census, but I know they were alive, somewhere.

3) Marcus Hast, cantor at the marriage of Sol Newmark and Sarah Nathan

If I hadn't conducted research on Marcus Hast, the cantor who performed the wedding for my great grandfather's brother, Sol Newmark, and his wife Sarah Nathan, I would never have realized he was from Warsaw, Poland, not far from where the Newmark family was living before immigrating to England. I also wouldn't have discovered the scores for the wedding music that he had composed. It's not definite that it is the same music that was played at the Newmark-Nathan wedding, but there is a strong likelihood.

4) Bessie and Iva, friends of Mabel Fulkerson, and fellow heroines

When I discovered the news story about my wife's great grandmother's efforts as a girl of 14 to prevent a train wreck, I was amazed at the presence of mind and the physical effort put forth by her and her two friends. However, if I hadn't researched the names of the other two, I wouldn't have realized they were her nieces. (Due to the age difference between her and her two oldest sisters, she was actually younger than her two nieces.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Error Free Genealogy

I’ve mentioned before that error-free genealogy is impossible, no matter how careful one is. But with care, we can limit our mistakes.

Tracing a family backwards in time through census reports is something almost every genealogist does, but it is very easy to take a wrong turn if one isn’t careful. One problem is census reports only provide a snapshot every ten years, and lots can happen in ten years. Another problem is that census takers didn’t always have great handwriting, so the online indexers can easily garble a name.

Perhaps the easiest way to make a wrong turn is if you find what you’re looking for immediately.

For example:

Let’s say you find someone in the 1920 US census. They are married to the person you expect them to be married to, with the correct young child. You are certain it is the correct person, but you have no idea who his parents are. The 1920 census indicates an approximate birth year, and the place of birth (State or Country)

So you conduct a search for the person in the 1910 census, using their name, state of birth, and year of birth +- 2. And you find exactly one result – a child with two parents. How do you react? It’s very tempting to be relieved that it was so easy, to write down the information on the parents, and see if you can go further back.


What would you do if you found more than one result?
You’d have to conduct some research to see which family is the correct one.

And what would you do if you found no results?
Probably you’d add some wildcards into the search, and see if the person you’re searching for got indexed with a strange spelling.

Back to the one result…Do you see the problem?
If all you are going on is year of birth, state of birth, and name, it is possible, is it not, that this isn’t the correct person? The person you are searching for could be hiding under a poorly written, or poorly transcribed name. Or it is possible they don’t even appear in the census. The census reports are by no means complete. The more common the surname and given name, the more likely this is possible. Additionally, given names frequently change from childhood to adulthood.

I've made my share of research mistakes, and there are likely some I have made which I don't yet know about. What I feel is important is that I always keep an open mind to the possibility that any conclusions that I make from my research have a potential of being wrong.

Monday, February 16, 2015

There is No Federal Holiday Called, "President's Day."

George Washington's Birthday is celebrated as a federal holiday on the third Monday in February. It is one of eleven permanent holidays established by Congress. 

Federal holidays apply only to the federal government and the District of Columbia; Congress has never declared a national holiday binding in all states and each state decides its own legal holidays.
Contrary to popular belief, neither Congress nor the President has ever stipulated that the name of the holiday observed as Washington's Birthday be changed to "President's Day."
 Source: National Archives

Of course...state governments, schools, or the company you work for, can call a holiday whatever they want to call it. They can also declare the holiday celebrates whatever they want it to celebrate.  But the Federal Holiday that is today is only for George Washington.

Ironically...Washington was born on February 11, 1731 (while the Julian calendar was still in use.)  This became February 22nd, 1732 when we switched to the Gregorian Calendar.  The earliest the Third Monday of February can fall is February 15th.  The latest it can fall is February 21.  It is impossible for the Federal Holiday "Washington's Birthday" to be celebrated on Washington's real birthday, according to either the Julian or Gregorian calendar.