Tuesday, November 24, 2020

"DNA Weekly" Interview

I'm very excited!  I was interviewed recently by DNA Weekly about my genealogy research, and the interview has gone through the editing process and is now available online.

I'm sure people who know me will recognize my rambling, but I think it turned out very well.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Happy Ninth Anniversary!

Today is the 9th anniversary for my brother and my sister-in-law, who were married in Elkridge, Maryland.  They chose November 12 as their wedding date as they wanted to honor my deceased mother, whose birthday was November 11, but did not think it appropriate to have the wedding on her actual birthday.  Ergo, it took place the day after.

The traditional gifts for the 9th anniversary, per the lists on Wikipedia, are pottery or leather goods in the United States (or copper in the United Kingdom).  Those sounded kind of blah to me, so I figured a blog post commemorating their special day was a nicer gift.

Happy anniversary!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Remembering My Granduncle for Veterans Day

The older of my grandmother's two older brothers was Sidney Gordon.  He was born December 22, 1915 in Manhattan, New York and died May 10, 2012 in Graniteville, Richmond County (Staten Island), New York, where he had lived since about 1952.  During World War II, from about 1939 to 1943 he served in the U.S. Navy, with at least some of that time spent as a medic in Trinidad, or at least that's what I've been told.

Sidney had several photos taken of himself during his Navy service, and he apparently sent copies of the photos to his sister.  I now have my grandmother's photo collection and therefore lots of photos of Sidney in the Navy.

I think this is the first time I've collected them all together.  I don't have anything to date them by, so I don't know what order they should be in.  While I'm pretty sure that some of them were taken in Trinidad, others (such as the one where Sidney is wearing a heavy coat) might have been in the States.  I wish I had more details.

At this point I believe his service records should be available to me, and since he was in the Navy and not the Army, I shouldn't have to worry about lost records.  I need to put requesting them on my to do list.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Oldest Ancestral Item

Time to go on a treasure hunt with Randy Seaver for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Lorine Mcginnis Schulze on her Olive Tree Genealogy blog asked this question several weeks ago in

(2) So have at it — what is the oldest ancestral item in your collection of artifacts and stuff?  

(3) Tell us all about it in a blog post of your own, in comments on this blog post, or in a post on Facebook.  Be sure to link to them in a comment on this blog post.

Thank you to Lorine for the idea and to Linda S. for suggesting it.

I don't have many ancestral items to begin with and very few old ones, but I did take my time thinking about this to make sure I had determined the oldest item.  I'm pretty sure it's a photo of my Gorodetsky great-great-grandparents taken in Kamenets Podolsky, Russian Empire, from about 1890.  It's the only family item I have from before 1900.

The second-oldest ancestral item I have is a photo of a different set of great-great-grandparents, the Brainins, from about 1906, taken in Manhattan.

And that's almost everything I have that can count as an "ancestral item."  I do have my great-grandmother's set of silverplate tableware, but I don't have a date for them.  She married in 1914, so that's the oldest they are likely to be, but there's a good chance they're more recent.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Hallowe'en Memories and Family History

Today is Hallowe'en, so it's to be expected that Randy Seaver would focus on that for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1) What are your Hallowe'en memories from childhood or adulthood?  How did you celebrate the day?  Do you have any photographs?

(2) What about haunted houses?  Are there any in your family history?  Black cats?  Creepy neighbors?  Or witches — are there any in your family history? 

(3) If you were to make a genealogy-themed costume, what would it be?

(4) Tell us all about it in a blog post of your own, in comments on this blog post, or in a post on Facebook.  Be sure to link to them in a comment on this blog post.

Well, let's see how I do with this.

1.  The only Hallowe'en costumes I remember are from my teen years and later, when I traditionally dressed up as a hooker.  I am sure that my brother, my sister, and I went out trick or treating when we were young, but I have no specific memories from childhood.  So far I have found no family photos of my siblings or me in Hallowe'en costumes.  I'm hoping there are some in my father's photos, which my stepbrother delivered to my sister.  Her niece scanned a bunch, but so far nothing from Hallowe'en.

2.  Two friends of mine were convinced that my house in Oakland, California, where I lived for 24 years, was haunted, particularly the front bathroom.  I never felt anything.  I know of no haunted houses or witches in my family history on either side of the family.  We did, however, have a few black cats.  I remember Shazam and her daughter Velvet from when my family lived in Pomona, California.

3.  Does it count as a genealogy-themed costume if you dress up as an ancestor?  That's the first thing that came to my mind.  Or maybe dress as someone of the appropriate social class and ethnic background as an immigrant ancestor?  I could dress as a middle-aged Jewish woman, either middle-class or peasant, from the Russian Empire circa 1890–1910 or so.  Here's my great-great-grandmother Esther Leah (Schneiderman) Gorodetsky, who was middle class and lived in the Russian Empire.  How about dressing up like that?

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Where Were Your Ancestors 80 Years Ago?

It's time to look at the 1940 census for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun with Randy Seaver!

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Determine where your ancestral families were on 1 April 1940, 80 years ago, when the U.S. census was taken.

(2) List them, their family members, their birth years, and their residence locations (as close as possible).  Do you have photographs of their residences from about that time, and do the residences still exist?

(3) Tell us all about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook Status post.

I actually had several ancestors alive in 1940 (not "direct ancestors", because that's a nonsense term; someone is either an ancestor or a collateral relative).

• My father, Bertram Lynn Sellers, Jr. (born 1935), and my paternal grandparents, Bertram Lynn Sellers, Sr. (born 1903) and Anna Gauntt (born 1893), were living either in New Jersey or in NewYork.  I have looked up, down, and sideways for them in the 1940 census and have not found them.  At this point I don't expect to, because when my grandfather compiled a list of all the places he had lived during his life, he included three(!) locations for 1940.  I'm pretty sure they simply were missed by census takers.

• My paternal grandfather's mother, my great-grandmother Laura May (Armstrong) Sellers Ireland (later called Nanny Ireland; born 1882), was also not enumerated in the 1940 census.  I know the address at which she was living on Broad Street in Mount Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey, but that house number was missed by the census taker.  It does not appear in the enumeration district.  I have a photo of the house, though, which was owned by family members for at least 40 years.

• My paternal grandmother's parents, my great-grandparents Thomas Kirkland Gauntt (born 1870) and Jane (Dunstan) Gauntt (born 1872), were living at 119 Hume Street, Mount Holly Township, Burlington County, New Jersey.  I not only don't have a photo of the house, I can't find the address on Google Maps, so the street name might have changed.

• My maternal grandparents, Abraham Meckler (born 1912) and Lillian Esther (Gordon) Meckler (born 1919), were living at 484 Livonia Avenue, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York.  My mother was there also, in a way, because my grandmother was pregnant with her when the census was taken.  I don't have a photo of the building from that time, and a quick peek at Google Maps shows a pretty modern-looking building, but I might be able to get a photo by paying New York City.

• My maternal grandfather's father, my great-grandfather Morris Meckler (born about 1862), should be in Brooklyn, but I haven't found him yet.  I really want to find him in 1940 because I have been told that he married a second time after my great-grandmother Minnie Zelda (Nowicki) Meckler died in 1936.  If he actually did, that second wife might be enumerated with him.  I know he was alive in 1940 because he didn't die until 1953.

• I might have found Minnie's father, my great-great-grandfather Gershon Itzhak Novitsky (born about 1858), also in Brooklyn, at 99 44th Street.  I think it's him, even though the person is enumerated as Jean, not Gershon, because the age and birth location are right, and he is enumerated with a wife named Ethel.  If this is the correct couple, that Ethel is Ethel (Nowicki) Perlman (botn about 1868), who was Gershon's niece.  I was told many years ago that Gershon had married his niece later in life.  Apparently, it was not uncommon in some Jewish communities for an older man who was widowed to marry a niece.  This wasn't necessarily a fully "active" (ahem!) marriage; the reason for it was for the elderly widower to have someone to take care of him.  I have a second one of these uncle/niece marriages in my family.  I don't have a photo of this residence, and Google Maps shows me a modern concrete building, so that ain't it.  This is another location that I might be able to obtain a photo through New York City.

• My maternal grandmother's parents, my great-grandparents Joe Gordon (born about 1892) and Sarah Libby (Brainin) Gordon (born about 1885), were living at 10 Livonia Avenue, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, just a few blocks from my grandparents.  Also living with them was their oldest child, Sidney Gordon (born 1915).  I don't have a photo, and when I look for that addresss on Google Maps, I can't even tell what the building looks like, because it's covered with scaffolding.  Yet another location that I might be able to get a photo from New York City.

So I have a total of twelve ancestors who were alive in 1940, seven of whom I have found in the 1940 census.  Four of the remaining ancestors I have conceded that I will never find.  The only one left after that is Morris Meckler; I haven't given up on finding him — someday.