Sunday, April 23, 2017

Yom HaShoah: Remembering My Family Members

Yom HaShoah is the annual day of commemoration to honor and remember the Jewish victims of the Holocaust during World War II.  It is usually held on the 27th of Nisan, which this year falls on April 23.

The following is the list of my known family members who died in the Holocaust.  May their memory be for a blessing.

Miami Holocaust Memorial, panel #26, Szocherman family names (March 2016)
Thank you to Barbara Zilber for the photograph.

Beile Dubiner
Eliezer Dubiner
Herschel Dubiner
Moishe Dubiner
Sore Meckler Dubiner
Esther Golubchik
Fagel Golubchik
Lazar Golubchik
Peshe Mekler Golubchik
Pinchus Golubchik
Yechail Golubchik
Mirka Nowicki Krimelewicz
— Krimelewicz
Beile Szocherman
Chanania Szocherman
Maishe Elie Szocherman
Perel Szocherman
Raizl Perlmutter Szocherman
Zlate Szocherman

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: How Many Trees in Your Database?

One way to learn more about the capabilities (or lack thereof) of your family tree program is to take Randy Seaver up on his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenges:

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is:

(1) How many different "trees" do you have in your genealogy management program (e.g., RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker, Reunion) or online tree (e.g., Ancestry Member Tree, MyHeritage tree)?

(2)  How many trees do you have, and how big is your biggest tree?  Do you have some smaller "bushes" or "twigs?"

(3)  Tell us in your own blog post (please leave a link in Comments here), in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.

Well, the program that I use is Family Tree Maker v. 16, and it apparently can't do what Randy's RootsMagic can.  I don't seem to have any function that counts the different trees and twigs in my database.  On the other hand, I can count files manually, and I have 45 separate FTM family trees.  My primary database has about 7,956 people in it.  Some of the other trees are working subsets of my main tree, but most are other people's trees, either friends and extended family, people who have shared trees with me because they thought we were related, or people for whom I have done research.  Some of the other trees are probably superfluous at this point, so it would probably be a good idea to move those out of the main folder and get them out of the way.

I've mentioned previously that I have several genealogy management programs installed on my computers (I'm bilingual:  I use both Mac and PC).  I've actually built three family trees in Reunion for people using Macs.  The largest one of those has 131 people in it.

I think Reunion is the only other program I've actively used.  I keep telling myself I'm going to look more at RootsMagic, especially since Randy keeps showing all the cool tricks it can do, but there are only 24 hours in a day.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Who Has How Much Land?

These scans are of both sides of one sheet of 5" x 8" lined paper.  The paper seems to be of moderate to poor quality.  It has no watermark but does have a distinct texture, and I can see lines running vertically down the sheet.  It was folded lengthwise.  The writing is all in pencil.  This looks like Jean La Forêt's handwriting to me.

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(Page 1)

E. Curdt to Alvina =
825.38' long - South side
452.53' wide – East side
827.84' – North side
450.83' – West side
          8.569 Acres
          8.571 acres


Louisa Schaeffer's lot =
south side
East side 461.52'
North Side 528.42'          5 1/2 acres
West Side 460.22'
South side 517.50'


From Ashby Road to Mid. Golf Club.
distance 825.38 + 517.50 = 1342.88
For 5 acres it would take a slice
162 1/5 feet wide, from Ashby Road
to Midland Golf Club. –


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(Page 2)

Four acres = 174240 sq. ft
One acre  = 43560 sq. feet
two  —   = 87120  ——"——
Five —   = 217800  ——"——


If length 825 1/3 feet, it would
take a little over 105 feet in width.


5 acres South of Lot No. 10
from Ashby Road to Golf Club.


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The first two sections of page 1 appear to be measurements of the land of Alvina Curdt (married Schulte) and Louisa Curdt (married Schaefer).  Similar to some of the account figures I posted a few weeks ago, Jean came up with two different results for Alvina's acreage.  Granted, there isn't much difference between the two — a mere .002 acres — but I have begun to question how good Jean really was with numbers.  I admit I don't know how to compute the amount of land based on the figures he's given.

The distance from Ashby Road, which is where the family members lived, to the Midland Golf Club is the sum of the lengths of the south side of Alvina's lot and the south side of Louisa's lot, assuming that the unit of measurement here is feet,.  That's what he noted for Alvina and Louisa's lots, but I wish he had stated it here.  Does that mean that Alvina's and Louisa's lots were adjacent to each other and ran between the road and the golf club?  And what does it mean to say that it would take a piece 162 1/2 wide to make 5 acres?  Why would he need or want to make 5 acres?

The top of the second page is nothing more than how many square feet are in one, two, four, and five acres, although not in that order.  Maybe Jean wrote that as a reference for himself, as he worked out how many acres Alvina and Louisa had.

As for his next item, when I multiply 825.33333 by 105 feet, the result is 86,659.9997, just a little less than the 87,120 square feet Jean listed for two acres.  Taking that from the other perspective, 87,120 feet divided by 825.33333 equals 105.557351, which is not what I would call "a little over" 105 feet; it's more than halfway to 106 feet.  But it appears that Jean was thinking about 2 acres.  On the other side of the page he the south side of Alvina's lot as being 825.38 feet.  That 825.38 is almost the same as 825 1/3.  When I multiply 825.38 by 105 feet, the result is 86,664.9, a little more than the previous number but still significantly short of 2 acres.  Starting with the acreage, 87,120 feet divided by 825.38 is 105.551382, which is still closer to 106 than 105.  Maybe he was trying to figure out 2 acres for Emma?

In the next section, with the simple drawing, Jean refers to 5 acres.  Is this the same 5 acres he wrote about on the other side of the page?  None of the numbers written by the drawing — 80, 25, 30 — match the figures he's used previously.

If I'm really lucky, something else in this folder will explain what all of this means.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

National Volunteer Week: What Can You Do to Help?

National Volunteer Work is a week of observance in the United States and Canada designed to spotlight the contributions volunteers make and to thank them for their efforts.  In 2017 it will run from April 23 through April 29.  In my little corner of the family history blog world, I regularly post about ways in which people can volunteer their time, talents, and more to help with various genealogy and history projects.  So in honor of next week's event, it seemed like a good time to help publicize opportunities to help out.

A historian is researching the history of personal ads in the United States.  She is looking for information about couples who met each other through a personal ad published in a newspaper any time between 1750 and 1950.  If one of your ancestors or another family member met a husband or wife through a personal ad, or if you know of someone else who did, Francesca Beauman would love to hear the story.  You can contact her by e-mail at  All information that is shared with her will be treated with the strictest confidence.

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Ho Feng-Shan
Researcher Mark Sy is working on a project about Dr. Ho Feng-Shan, a Chinese diplomat during World War II who issued thousands of exit visas to Austrian Jews fleeing the country after the Nazi invasion.  Sy would like to communicate with survivors who received these visas, or their descendants, to learn about their plights and experiences during that time.  This could be anyone who was living in Vienna from 1938–1940 and received a visa.  Many of the refugees exiled to Shanghai ended up settling in North America, as several documents of survivors obtained from Yad Vashem and the Vancouver Holocaust Education Center reference early U.S. postal codes and New York ZIP Codes.  Interviews so far have been conducted with individuals based in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Melbourne, but survivors and their descendants could be anywhere in the world.  Please contact Mark at

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How much do you know about Colorado history?  Maybe you can help solve the mystery of the woman in the portrait.  At the Colorado State Archives, while cleaning up after a leak in a storage area, several old portraits of former Colorado governors were found, along with one portrait of a woman.  The problem is that no one has any idea who the woman is.  The local NBC affiliate covered the story, and the reporter posted about it on his Facebook page, but so far no one has come up with the answer.

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Speaking of history, the Pioneer Village Museum in Beausejour, Manitoba is asking people to help identify early 20th-century photographs from the area, about 30 miles east of Winnipeg.  The photographs are being scanned from negatives that were donated to the museum after the woman who had them passed away.  So far the photos appear to range from about 1900 to the 1930's.  One man actually recognized himself in a photo!  The museum is looking for identification of people or locations in the photographs, which are being posted to Facebook.

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Another repository seeking help in identifying people in photographs is the Oak Ridge Public Library in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  The photos were taken by resident Ruth Carey from the 1960's to April 1994 and were donated to the library, along with many undeveloped negatives, by Carey's daughter.  Some of the prints and negatives have been digitized, but the majority have not and must be viewed in person at the library.  Carey apparently was Jewish, and a good number of the photographs are of the Jewish community in Oak Ridge.

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About 30 some odd years ago, a man living in Hrodna, Belarus (formerly Grodno in Russia and Poland) discovered two albums with photographs and letters in the attic of the building in which he was living.  Some of the photos have writing in Polish and Hebrew, and the names Konchuk/Kanchuck and Vazvutski appear.  The items were likely left in the building, which seems to have been in the Jewish section of the city, before or during World War II.  The man is now trying to find family members to return the items.  There's a long article in Byelorusian about the story (here's the Google Translate version), but apparently without contact information.  A woman who has posted about this on Facebook seems to be functioning as a contact person.

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Two more photos that are currently unidentified arrived at the Belleville (Illinois) Labor & Industry Museum with a donation of printing materials.  Each of the photographs is of an individual (one man, one woman) laid out in a casket for viewing.  The museum is asking people to look at the photos and call if they can provide any information.

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This year, the West Midlands Police (main office in Birmingham, England) celebrates the 100th anniversary of its first female officers, who joined the force in April 1917.  Three female officers in an archive photograph are unidentified, and files on four of the early officers have not survived.  The force is looking for help from the public in identifying the unknown faces in the photo and in gathering any information on these pioneering policewomen.

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Not all photographs are unidentified, which is a good thing.  If you have any family connections to Truro, Nova Scotia, particularly from 1967 to the late 1980's, you might want to contact Carsand Photo Imaging.  The company is owned by the son of the late Carson Yorke, who founded Carsand-Mosher Photographic.  The elder Yorke kept all the negatives of portraits he took during the aforementioned years, and his son, Colin Yorke, is now trying to reunite images with families.  Colin Yorke is apparently taking contacts primarily through his company's Facebook page, but you should be able to get in touch with him through the company's Web site if you don't use Facebook.

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The University of South Florida at St. Petersburg is looking for donations of back issues of The Weekly Challenger, the historic black newspaper of Pinellas County, from 1967 through the 1990's.  Even clippings can be helpful.  The newspapers will be digitized to create an archive.  Contact information is in the article linked above, as is a link to a recording of a lecture about the Weekly Challenger digital initiative.

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When I teach about online newspapers, I discuss the problems that optical character recognition (OCR) software has with reading old newspapers due to ink bleed, typeface dropout, damaged pages, and other problems.  Something I've never considered is whether the software has problems recognizing old fonts.  That issue apparently did arise for Iowa State University when it digitized its yearbooks for 1894–1994 (except 1902).  Because of that, and to have the content be more accessible (as in ADA) online, Iowa State is asking volunteers to help "Transcribe the 'Bomb' " (the name of the yearbook is The Bomb).  An article has information about the digitization project and a link to the volunteer site.

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Dr. Ciaran Reilly is coordinating the Irish Famine Eviction Project to document evidence of evictions between 1845 and 1851.  His vision is to create a dedicated online resource listing GPS coordinates for famine eviction sites and to create a better understanding of the people involved in the evictions.  It is hoped that the project will shed new light on numbers, locations, and background stories of those involved.

Sponsored by Irish Newspaper Archives, the project will use primary and secondary source information to research, gather, and catalog evictions.  One of the goals is to collaborate with individuals, societies, and libraries across the world.  The project is looking for any information about evictions, locations, and local folklore.

To see the 500 sites that have been mapped so far, visit  To submit your own research for inclusion in the project, e-mail your findings to or tweet @famineeviction.

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Writer David Wolman wants to have a huge party with descendants of the approximately 600 passengers (most of whom were Irish) rescued from the sinking ship Connaught in October 1860.  Failing that, he would at least like to make contact with any of those descendants.  Wolman recently published a story about the rescue of the Connaught's passengers and a modern-day treasure hunter who wanted to find the shipwreck, and issued an invitation to contact him via e-mail or Twitter.  A list of the passengers is in a New York Times article available online.

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I don't usually post stories that have already appeared on Eastman's blog, because he has much, much wider readership than I do, but this one is important enough that I felt I should (because I know not everyone reads Eastman).  Extreme Relic Hunters, a company that specializes in World War I and World War II relic retrieval, discovered a huge cache of WWII dog tags (more than 12,000!).  The majority are from British servicemen, but there are some from other countries.  Of the British, almost all are from Royal Armoured Corps, Royal Tank Regiment, or Reconnaissance, with no RAF or Navy personnel.  The guys from the company want to reunite as many of these dog tags with family members as humanly possible (one was returned to the veteran himself).  You can read about the discovery and the project to return the dog tags on the Forces War Records and the Extreme Relic Hunters sites.  Oh, and Extreme Relic Hunters is looking for volunteers to help them with the return project; they're just a little overwhelmed.

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If you have not read about it yet, well known genealogy speaker Thomas MacEntee has posted a survey to learn what family historians and genealogists think of the industry today and what they would like it to be.  Read about it here and then click the link to take the survey.  He promises that your e-mail address will not be saved and you will not be contacted.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Who in Your Database Has Your Birthday?

In this week's challenge for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver has us crunching data in our genealogy databases:

Your mission this week, should you decide to accept it, is to:

(1) Are
 there persons in your genealogy database who have the same exact birth date that you do?  If so, tell us about them what do you know, and how are they related to you?

(2) Are there persons in your database who are your ancestors and share your birthday (but not the year)?   How many, and who are they?

(3)  Are there other persons in your database who share your birthday (but not the year)?  How many, and who are they?

(4) For bonus points, how did you determine this?  What feature or process did you use in your software to work this problem out?  I think the Calendar feature probably does it, but perhaps you have a trick to make this work outside of the Calendar function.

(5) Share your answers on your own blog, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook or Google+.  Be sure to leave a link in Comments to your post.

So here's my little data dump.

(1) No one in my database has the exact same birthday that I do, April 9, 1962 (my birthday was a week ago Sunday).  Like Randy, I didn't really expect to find anyone.

(2) None of my ancestors for whom I have complete birthdates was born on April 9.

(3) Of the people in my database for whom I have complete birthdates (I don't know how many that is), only six persons were also born on April 9, and they're all in the 20th century.

• April 9, 1907, George Wendel Votaw, 4th cousin twice removed
• April 9, 1917, Anna Marie Stayton, grand-aunt-in-law
• April 9, 1945, Cecelia Keselman, ex-4th cousin-in-law
• April 9, 1980, Patricia Marie Gauntt, 2nd cousin
• April 9, 1995, Jacob Berkowitz, 3rd cousin
• April 9, 1996, Yoni Monat, 3rd cousin

The only one I remembered beforehand is my cousin Yoni.  I do have several people with only the month of April and no specific day, so it's possible there are a few more.  I so need to have time to work on my own family research.

(4) This did not work as well as it should have.  I use Family Tree Maker v. 16, which does have a calendar function.  Unfortunately, when I ran it, it gave me 57 copies of each month, and every single one was empty, even though I double-checked to make sure it was supposed to be searching through the entire database.  So I had to do a manual search in the birthdate field.  For my search term I used "April 9."  Also unfortunately, this too did not work as well as I had hoped.  It picked up all birthdates that started with "about", "before", and "between" and anything with just a year.  Altogether, I paged through 1,806 entries to come up with my list of six people.  You could say I'm a little . . . disappointed in FTM's performance.

My database, by the way, has only 7,956 individuals in it, as compared to Randy's 47,500 (which I am just astounded at!).  Randy had .14% of the people in his database with the same birthdate but a different year.  For me the figure was .07% of my database with the same birthdate.  Pretty small numbers there for both of us.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: A Note about Settling Elizabeth Curdt's Estate

This, believe it or not, is a calling card that is 3 3/4" x 2 1/4".  It is made of fairly heavy card stock.  It is yellowish-brown and seems to have some staining or discoloration, perhaps due to age.  A newspaper clipping has been pasted over printing on the front of the card, and handwritten notes are on the back.

Underneath the newspaper clipping on the top image is Jean La Forêt's calling card after he retired from the Marine Corps.  I was unable to scan it due to the way the clipping is pasted on the card.  The text reads (in a beautiful script font):

Jean L. La Forêt
N. C. Staff Officer, U. S. M. C., Ret'd.

The newspaper clipping is not dated and does not state from which newspaper it came.  It probably ran for the first time on August 25, 1920, the date at the bottom of the notice, but these notices often ran for several days.

On the back of the card are some notes in what appears to be Jean's handwriting:

Settled 8-10-20
Accepted Check
for 119 98/00 dal.[?]
Personal estate of
Eliz. Curdt .

On Jean's calling card, U.S.M.C. is obviously United State Marine Corps, but I don't know what N. C. is an abbreviation for.  It does not appear in the Unofficial Unabridged Dictionary for Marines or as anything that makes sense in context in Acronym Finder's list of military and government abbreviations.  Can someone enlighten me, please?

Because Jean retired twice from the Marines — once before he served as a Vice Consul and again after he re-upped to serve during World War I — this card could date from either time.  Whichever it is, there's nothing to indicate how old it was when he used it as a notecard for pieces of information relating to settling Elizabeth Curdt's estate.

August W. Curdt is listed as the administrator, as he was in Jean's accounting notes.  August was Emma (Schafer) La Forêt's half-brother from her mother's second marriage, to Louis Curdt.

The notice states that the final settlement of the estate was to take place on the second Monday in August 1920.  According to Jean's accounting notes and to the notes on the reverse of this card, however, it was settled on August 10, 1920, which apparently was a Tuesday.

Jean noted the amount of the check accepted, presumably by Emma, as 119.98.  I'm pretty sure I have read the letters after the figure correctly — dal. — but I don't understand what that means after the amount of the check.

In Jean's accounting notes, he wrote that the check August gave to Emma was $119.94.  Somehow I don't think the apparent extra four cents made him very happy, considering that he wrote that he believed Emma was due $133.35.  But I don't understand why there are two different figures.

Jean has usually appeared very careful in his notes that I've looked at previously, even down to the exact dates of his enlistments.  I'm surprised at the differences in the figures in his accounting notes and now in what he noted as the amount of the settlement check.  Perhaps they're an indication of Jean's mental state during all of these shenanigans.

And in case anyone is wondering why there was no Treasure Chest Thursday post last week, it was not because I was lolling around and taking the night off.  We had another heavy storm go through the San Francisco Bay area that evening, and it knocked out my power before 7:00 p.m.  I didn't get a text that the power was restored until almost 12:30 a.m.  At that point it was already Friday morning, so I decided against a late post.  So I'm putting the blame on PG&E!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Learning a Little More about Sikh Family History Traditions

When I have met people of Sikh ancestry here in the United States, most of them are far enough removed from traditions in Punjab and India that they have not known "how things worked", such as naming practices, who keeps family information, etc., which of course drove this genealogist nuts.  I lucked out last week and found someone who knew a little more and was generous enough to add to my small accumulation of information.

Previously, I knew that men carry the last name Singh ("lion") and women have the name Kaur ("princess"), but that family names exist also.  I had been told that the tradition was for a man to use the name Singh until he married, so someone might be known as Karam Singh.  When he married, Singh would become his middle name and he would add his family name, e.g., Karam Singh Sandhu.

I had always wondered what happened with the women's names.  My guess was that when a woman married, she probably added her husband's family name after Kaur.  So if Raj Kaur married Karam Singh, her name would become Raj Kaur Sandhu.

The woman I spoke to last week had a hyphenated last name and a middle name of Kaur.  Well, I know Kaur is associated with Sikhs.  We had a few minutes, so I asked if she minded me being nosy.  Lucky me, she said it was ok!  I told her the few bits I just wrote about above and in particular that I was wondering about her hyphenated last name after Kaur.

She started out by saying that one of the original ideas behind Sikhism was to eradicate the castes, so that everyone was equal.  That reasoning was behind the names of Singh for men and Kaur for women — everyone would have the same names, no name could take precedence, everyone would be equal.  No surprise, not everyone was on board with this concept, and so, she told me, three different naming traditions now exist.

Those individuals who thought "no castes" was a great idea took on Singh and Kaur, and that's all they used.  They left behind the family names.  So you had the name Singh, and when you married you were still a Singh.

Many people of higher castes weren't as willing to give their names up.  Some who maintained family names used the system I had already learned about, where you take on the family name after marriage.  But some, such as the family of the woman I met, used the family name from birth.  So if a family used this tradition, Karam's name would always have been Karam Singh Sandhu.

What was particuarly amusing about this woman's specific situation is that her hyphenated name was a combination of her family name and that of her husband, who is Muslim.  The naming tradition with which he is familiar dictates that when a woman marries, she takes her husband's given name as her middle name and his family name as her own.  So if I use the names from above as examples (even though they are Sikh names), Raj Kaur would have become Raj Karam Singh (or possibly Sandhu) on marrying Karam Singh.  The reason my acquaintance maintained her own name is that her college degrees are in that name and she was already an established professional.  She told her husband there was no way she was negating that by taking his name and dropping her own.  As a thoroughly modern woman, but one with knowledge of her people's history, she created her own tradition.

I also discovered last week that there are indeed Sikh family genealogists!  When I learned about Hindu family genealogists on the Sanjay Gupta segment of Finding Your Roots in 2012, I suggested at the time that it could mean Sikh family genealogists existed, especially for prominent families.  Well, I was looking up something on Wikipedia, and it led me to another page, and somehow I found a page about Mirasi, the genealogists of India and Pakistan.  The section on the Mirasi of Indian Punjab specifically mentions Sikh subgroups.  Of course, I still don't speak or read Punjabi, Urdu, or any other Indian languages, so it might be difficult for me to communicate with any of these genealogists if I could find them, but I definitely think progress is being made!  One of these days, I am convinced I will find more family information for my stepsons' grandfather (and maybe even prove that their great-great-grandfather really was the headman of the village).