Monday, January 27, 2020

"The Masked Singer" Brings Memories of My Mother

On the Hebrew calendar, today (January 27, 2020) is 1 Shevat (in the year 5780), my mother's yahrzeit, commemorating the date of her death.  It's the day I've chosen to share stories about her on my blog.  On the Christian calendar she died January 2, 1995.  Because the Hebrew calendar is a combination solar-lunar one, its dates change in relationship to the solar Christian calendar, and the dates don't match up the same year to year.

I thought about my mother a lot while I was watching the last few episodes of the recent season of The Masked Singer.  I heard about the show when it premiered but hadn't bothered to watch it, because it looked too oriented to the competition, which is a trend I have not enjoyed in a lot of current programming.

On November 13, however, Week 6 of the second season, I somehow ended up in front of the television watching the new episode.  I had to play a little bit of catch-up, figuring out what the format was and trying to understand the altered voices of the singers (extremely difficult!) as they talked about themselves and parceled out clues to their identities.  But I realized that not only was this an interesting program, it's something my mother would have enjoyed, and it's something I could see myself watching with her, or at least talking with her about it.

My mother is the person who got me hooked on recognizing voices, both of actors and singers.  She could recognize so many voices and accents, and I'm nowhere near as good as she was.  (I still haven't figured out what a Chicago accent is, but she knew one right away.)  I think she would have been really good at picking through the clues and recognizing the singing voices of the celebrity contestants, particularly those with longer careers.

I have to admit, I did much better with the people from my and my mother's generations.  I figured out Patti LaBelle and Seal and was most of the way there with Michelle Williams.  And I did guess Wayne Brady correctly.  (And I still can't understand why everyone was so surprised to learn he's a great singer; apparently none of those people remember the awesome extemp songs he did regularly on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, with or without Brad Sherwood.  I think he's brilliant!)  I haven't heard of the others who were still competing by the time I began watching, so I don't feel bad about not figuring them out (I was particularly impressed with Ken Jeong's amazing correct ID of Victor Oladipo, though!).

I don't know if my mother would have followed newer singers and actors to be able to recognize their voices.  But I think she would have had a lot of fun trying.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Favorite Toys as a Child

How well will I remember my childhood as compared to Randy Seaver?  This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun has people digging up old memories.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) Jen on Auntie Jen's Family Trees posted "Throwback Thursday Favorite Toys" on 23 January, and Linda S. thought it would make a good SNGF topic.  I agree!

(2) What are some (one or more) of the toys you played with as a child?  

(3) Share your favorite toy(s) with us in your own blog post, in a comment on this blog post, or in a Facebook message.  Please leave a comment on this blog noting where your conjectures are located.

Thank you, Jen, for the idea.

The only toy I remember playing with as a child is my Barbie dolls.  I didn't have an original model Barbie (not old enough), but I had Barbie, Stacey (I can always remember her because my sister's name is Stacy), and I think Midge.  If it wasn't Midge then it was Francie.  I had a few of the clothes you could purchase, but I learned to sew at a young age and made more clothes for them.  I know I still have Stacey and I think the others.  They're in storage right now, so I can't get to them.

Other than that, I played games with my brother and sister.  We played a lot of cards, especially poker and pinochle, and Monopoly, which my brother almost always won.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Where Were Your Ancestral Families in the 1950 U.S. Census?

Randy Seaver is getting the jump on things, because the 1950 census won't be available for more than two years, but this week in Saturday Night Genealogy Fun we can think ahead.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) The 1950 United States census release to the public is just over two years away (on 1 April 2022).  

(2) Who in your ancestral families will be in the 1950 census?  Where will they be residing?  What occupations will they have?  The official date was 1 April 1950.

(3) Share your conjectures with us in your own blog post, in a comment on this blog post, or in a Facebook message.  Please leave a comment on this blog noting where your conjectures are located.

Okay, since Randy said "ancestral families", I"m going to stick to my direct lines.  Collateral lines are not "indirect ancestors", they're not ancestors at all.

My father should be living with his parents, who in 1950 were still together.  According to the list of his residences that my grandfather wrote up, from 1946 to 1952 he was living on Union Mills Road in Mount Holly, New Jersey, so that's where I will expect to find my grandfather, grandmother, and father.  My father would have been 14 when the census taker came around, so I don't think he was working yet.  My grandfather might have been working for the Army at Fort Dix.  I have no idea whether my grandmother was working, but if I had to guess I would say no.

• B. L. Sellers, Sr., age 47, born New Jersey
• Anna Sellers, age 57, born New Jersey
• Lynn Sellers, age 14, born New Jersey
• Mildred Sellers, age 21, born New Jersey (maybe in the household)

My paternal grandfather's mother should also be in Mount Holly, probably on Broad Street at the same house in which she was living in 1940 but wasn't enumerated (that address is missing from the 1940 census).  She might have retired by then.

• Laura Ireland, age 68, born New Jersey

My paternal grandmother's parents were both alive in 1950.  They were probably in Mount Holly; I don't have an address.  Considering their ages, I hope they were retired.

• Thomas K. Gauntt, age 79, born New Jersey
• Jane Gauntt, age 78, born England

My mother should be with her parents, but I don't know if they will be in Miami, Florida or in Brooklyn, New York.  I think by that time they had moved to Miami.  My mother was 9 when the census taker visited, so she won't be working.  My grandfather might be a taxi driver, and my grandmother might be working in real estate or else a housewife.

• Abe Meckler, age 37, born New York
• Lily Meckler, age 31, born New York
• Myra Meckler, age 9, born New York
• Martin Meckler, age 6, born New York

My maternal grandfather's mother had already passed away, but his father was still alive in 1950.  He should be in Brooklyn, although I don't know an address.  In 1953 he was living at 591 Sneider Avenue, so maybe he was there in 1950.  I don't know if he will be working.  Hey, there were rumors that he remarried after my great-grandmother died; if that was true, maybe I'll find the second wife with him in the 1950 census!

• Morris Mackler, age about 68, born Russia

My maternal grandmother's parents were both alive in 1950.  They should also be in Brooklyn, I think on Livonia.  My great-grandfather was probably still working in the clothing industry.  My great-grandmother was a housewife and never worked outside the home that I know of.

• Joe Gordon, age about 58, born Russia
• Sarah Gordon, age about 59, born Russia

And I think that's it.  I've accounted for all my known great-grandparents, and my last great-great-grandparents died in 1948.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Happy 9th Blogiversary to Me!

It's January 15, the blogiversary date I share with Lisa Hork Gorrell (because we started our blogs on the same day in 2011) and with Dick Eastman, of all people (who has been doing it far longer than we have).  It's the 9th blogiversary for Lisa and me, and 9 is one of my lucky numbers, so I think this will be a lucky year for my blog.

I passed 1,500 posts this past year (and didn't even notice it at the time!), which on the one hand is quite an accomplishment for someone who doesn't enjoy writing, but on the other isn't as good as I had been doing.  I averaged fewer than one post every three days or so in 2019.  I have accumulated a long list of stories I want to write about, however, so I have enough material to work with.  I'm going to work hard on posting those stories so they aren't forgotten.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Accentuate the Positive Geneameme 2019

I always have fun with lists of questions for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, but I have to admit I've never heard of the word "geneameme" before.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) Jill Ball reconstituted her "Accentuate the Positive Geneameme 2019" on 30 December 2019 and invited readers to participate.  

(2) This week, let's contribute our answers to her questions about our genealogy accomplishments in 2019.  Copy the questions below and add your own responses.

(3) Share your responses on your own blog, in comments on this blog, or on Facebook.  Please leave a comment on this post so readers can find your post, and please let Jill know about your efforts by e-mailing her at

Here are mine.

1.  An elusive ancestor I found was:

I did not discover the names of any unknown ancestors in 2019.

2.  A great newspaper article I found was:

I found several interesting newspaper articles about my cousin Sam Brainin on, including one about a bad car accident he was in as a child.

3.  A geneajourney I took was:

I took three geneajourneys, to RootsTech, the Ohio Genealogical Society conference, and the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

4.  I located an important record:

Yes!  I found the passenger list for my great-great-grandmother Ruchel Dwoire (Jaffe) Brainin immigrating to the Untied States with four of her children.

5.  A newly found family member shared:

A cousin I discovered through a DNA match shared lots of information on his branch of the family, plus a photograph of my great-great-grandparents Gershon Itzhak Nowicki and Dube (Yelsky) Nowicki from about 1915, while they were still in Russia.

6.  A geneasurprise I received was:

When I posted a family photograph that I love but didn't know who was in it, one of my cousins recognized her grandmother and grandaunt, which was totally unexpected.  Plus the photo is probably of her father's bris!

7.  My 2019 social media post that I was particularly proud of was:

I am glad I took the time to write up all my family connections in "Now That's What I Call a Blended Family!"  It takes a genealogist to keep track of a family as complicated as mine.

8.  I made a new genimate who:

I've gotten to be friends with someone who comes regularly to the African American Special Interest Group at the Genealogical Forum of Oregon.  We're even working toether on a few genealogy projects.

9.  A new piece of technology or skill I mastered was:

Well, not quite mastered, but for the first time I was the speaker for a Webinar, and I did all the computer stuff for it.

10.  I joined:

Well, I rejoined the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon.

11.  A genealogy education session or event from which I learnt something new was:

I always learn something from every conference and Webinar, but one of the standouts last year was Judy Baston's presentation on the Vilna Ghetto Library, which I attended at the IAJGS conference.  It was fascinating to see the kinds of documentation that have survived.

12.  A blog post that taught me something new was:

Jennifer Mendelsohn's "No, You Don't Really Have 7,900 4th Cousins:  Some DNA Basics for Those with Jewish Heritage" has incredibly useful information on how to work around the overabundance of matches that endogamy produces.

13.  A DNA discovery I made was:

For the first time, a DNA match connected me with someone on the Jewish side of my family I was able to place in my family tree immediately but didn't know already.

14.  I taught a genimate how to:

I did 25 presentations at conferences and genealogical societies, in addition to my volunteer work at the Gresham Family History Center and "Helping Hands" sessions for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon.  I think I taught several "genimates" how to do a lot of things.

15.  A brick wall I demolished was:

I had been looking for my great-great-grandmother's arrival into this country for about 20 years (see #4).

16.  A great site I visited was:

"Old Photographs of African Americans" is a site that displays unidentified photographs for free.  People have been able to find their relatives' photos, which is wonderful.

17.  A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was:

I found a copy of London:  Then and Now by Diane Burstein at a thrift store, and it was a bargain.

18.  It was exciting to finally meet:

Like Randy, I also can't think of someone new and exciting I met in 2019.  I'm sure there was someone, but my memory is blanking.

19.  I am excited for 2020 because:

I am really looking forward to working more on figuring out who my paternal great-grandfather Mr. X was.

20.  Another positive I would like to share is:

I'm always excited about a new year of opportunities to learn about and share genealogy!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles: A DNA Match on My Jewish Side Whom I Didn't Already Know!

A couple of months ago I logged into my account to check out my DNA matches.  I don't do this often (probably not as often as I should), mostly because I've gotten used to finding no useful information.  The close matches are all relatives I know already, the distant matches are too far away to be viable at the moment, and most of the in-between matches are on my Jewish side, which means they are actually distant anyway.

This time I saw a person estimated to be a 1st–2nd cousin.  The last name was Novick, a known Americanized version of Nowicki/Novitsky, one of my Jewish family names.  I think a 1st–2nd cousin match is the closest I've ever had on my Jewish side for someone I didn't already know, so it definitely got my attention.  I sent a message with some basic information about the family including the name of my great-great-grandfather Gershon Itzhak Nowicki and hoped for the best.

He actually responded!  And we are related!  In a definable, trackable way!

My great-great-grandfather was his grandfather.  What AncestryDNA had estimated as a 1st–2nd cousin relationship is actually 1st cousin twice removed.

His branch of the family is one for which I had almost no information.  I had his father's name with approximate birth and death years and the name of one child, whom I have learned is the oldest in the family (and she's 98 and still alive!).

We batted e-mail messages back and forth with names and dates and other tidbits about family members.  Then out of the blue my phone rang.  He had found my phone number and decided to call!  So then we spent a couple of hours on the phone talking more about family.

I've learned lots more about his branch of the family.  He sent some photographs, too, includng the one above, which is of his grandparents (my great-great-grandparents) and his father in 1915, still in Russia.  Previously the only photo I had of my great-great-grandparents was this one:

where they look quite a bit older.  I had not considered where this photo had been taken, but now I'm thinking it might have been in the United States.  If that's the case, I can bracket it between 1922, when Gershon and Dube arrived in New York, and 1936, when Dube died in Brooklyn.

And now I want to meet my newfound cousin in person.  I would have loved to try to travel over the holidays, but who wants to visit Long Island in the winter?

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your 2020 Plans/Goals/Resolutions for Your Genealogy Research

The new year is a time when lots of people make resolutions for what they're going to do.  Me, I don't make resolutions, not since the one I made many years ago and have followed ever since:  never to make another resolution!  So I'm glad that for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver gave the option of calling them plans or goals instead.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission: Impossible! music!):

(1) It's the New Year, and many readers have already made resolutions, or goals, or plans for one or more tasks or projects.  Or they haven't yet, but could or should.

(2) For this SNGF, please tell us what plans you've made, or what goals you've stated, or what resolutions you've averred for 2020.  Writing them down may help you achieve them.  Do one or more as you wish.

(3) Put it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a link on this post so readers can find your resolutions/goals/plans.

I think I will set myself two genealogy goals for 2020:

1.  I will get back to work on finding the ever elusive Mr. X (probably Mundy), my paternal grandfather's biological father.  I've gone back far enough with no lines that come down to the present day that if/when I finally find someone connected to this line, it will be a distant enough cousin that DNA will probably not be helpful.  So I'm going to change my approach to looking for more documentation for my likely candidate, in particular photographs.  If I can find a photo of Bert Mundy and he looks a lot like my grandfather, I may grudgingly accept that as "proof" that he was my boilogical great-grandfather.

2.  I want to catch up on data entry in my family tree program.  I actually coughed up good money to retrieve all the data from my failed hard drive, including Family Tree Maker.  Now I need to see if it will run in a virtual environment on my Mac so that I can continue using the program I like.