Sunday, February 24, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: How Did You Get Started in Genealogy Research?

This week's challenge for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is a story I've told many times, but apparently never for SNGF.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!), is:

(1) Jacqi Stevens recently suggested, in her blog post "The Networks of Life", the question "How did you get started in researching your genealogy?"

(2) This week, let's tell our "getting started in genealogy research" stories.

(3) Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a comment on this blog post to lead us to your answers.

I started researching my genealogy before Roots appeared on TV, and I've still never read the book.  My journey began at the tender age of 13 with what used to be a common middle school assignment, to research your family tree back four generations.  For some reason that assignment really got me hooked.  I still have the purple mimeographed paper (even though that special scent is long gone).

I interviewed all of my local family members with all sorts of questions, and I still have my notes from those interviews.  I also wrote letters to others who did not live locally.  I have the letter I received from my paternal grandmother, where she responded to my questions about her mother's family.

Over the years I kept adding to the information I had gathered.  Whenever I traveled (I used to average at least one trip per month), I checked to see if I had any family in the area and then arranged to visit.  I asked more questions and offered to share what I had put together.  I've met several dozen relatives this way and become good friends with some of them.

I began to do a lot of volunteer work.  I've been staff at LDS Family History Centers since 2000.  I joined the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society and became the publicity director, then programming director, then ZichronNote editor, and eventually vice president.  I stepped down from the latter position when I moved to Oregon, but I still do all the rest.  I joined the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California, took over editing The Baobab Tree, and was elected to a board position.  I have worked in various volunteer capacities for the California Genealogical Society, California State Genealogical Alliance, Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy, and other sociteties.  I've done transcription and editing work for JewishGen.

Around 2004 I discovered people could make a living being professional genealogists and decided I wanted to do that.  The general recommendation at the time was that first you should volunteer to do research for friends and extended family and see if you still liked it.  I ended up doing the genealogy of everyone in my office; they joked I knew their families better than they did (and I still do).  In 2005 I placed an advertisement as a professional genealogist and got my first client right away; he was a client for five years.

In 2009 Marge Bell of the Oakland Family History Center sneakily conned me into giving a presentation on using online newspapers, and I've been giving talks on genealogy subjects ever since.  Along with lots of local and regional talks, I've been fortunate enough to have presented at some national conferences, such as RootsTech, the Ohio Genealogical Society annual conference, and several International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies' annual conferences on Jewish genealogy.

And all of this started with one mimeographed family tree.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: How Did Your Parents Meet?

For this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver is recycling a question he has asked before, but he has reworded the challenge:

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!), is:

(1) One of our family stories for our descendants should be how we met our spouses.  Another one should be, if we know it, how did our parents meet each other?

(2) This week, let's tell our "parents meeting" story if we know it.  If you don't know that story, tell us another one about one of your relatives meeting his/her spouse or significant other.
(3) Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a comment on this blog post to lead us to your answers.

As I mentioned, Randy has asked this question at least once before.  I answered it back in 2015.  I have not added any details to my knowledge of how my parents met (I really need to talk to my father about that), so I'll write about my great-grandparents instead this time.

I was told by my mother that her maternal grandparents, Joe Gordon and Sarah Libby Brainin, met when Joe was boarding in Sarah's parents' house in Manhattan.  It was common for immigrant families to take in boarders, particularly from the same ethnic group, both as a way to help make ends meet and to help new immigrants arriving in the United States.  Apparently my great-great-grandparents, Morris and Rose Dorothy (Jaffe) Brainin, had boarders at various times.

My great-grandfather arrived in New York City in 1909 as Jojne Gorodetsky.  In the 1910 census he had already changed his name and was enumerated as Joe Gordon, living with his uncle Sam Schneiderman (his mother's brother) and Sam's family in Manhattan.

My great-grandmother arrived in New York City also but earlier, in 1905, as Sore Leibe Brainin.  Her father, my great-great-grandfather Mendel Hertz Brainin (he went by Morris and Max in the United States), arrived in 1906.  I still haven't found my great-great-grandmother Ruchel Dwojre Brainin on a passenger list with the three young children she brought with her, but by 1910 the entire family was here and was enumerated in Manhattan also (except for Sarah's brother David).

Joe must have become a boarder in the Brainin household sometime between 1910 and 1913.  Joe and Sarah became engaged in 1913 and married on April 4, 1914 in Manhattan.  The marriage lasted until Joe's death on May 2, 1955.

I have Joe and Sarah's engagement photo, but I can't find the scanned version.  My grandmother told me that this photo of them was taken while they were engaged.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wedding Wednesday

Benjamin Louis Kushner married Gladys Shindelman on February 11, 1951 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  Ben is my 3rd cousin once removed on my Meckler line.  I was fortunate enough to meet two of his children, Paul and Gayle, a couple of years ago in San Diego, which was an adventure.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Longest Ancestral Marriage

It's Saturday, which means another interesting genealogy challenge from Randy Seaver for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!), is:

(1) Marcia Philbrick wrote Celebrating 50 Years today on her Heartland Genealogy blog and suggested it for a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge, so here it is:

(2) How many of your ancestors were married for FIFTY years?  What is the longest marriage of your ancestors in your tree (from marriage to first death of a spouse, or divorce)?  Consider, say, the last six generations to make it manageable!

(3) Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a comment on this blog post to lead us to your answers.

I saw this challenge and thought I was going to have only one pair of ancestors who made it to 50 years.  I was wrong about that!  On the other hand, Randy had 52 couples, while I have a total of only 18, and I had to go all the way back to 6th-great-grandparents to get that many.


• Bertram Lynn Sellers, Jr. and Myra Roslyn Meckler:  16 years (1961–1977)


• Abraham Meckler and Lillyan E. Gordon:  50 years (1939–1989)
• Bertram Lynn Sellers, Sr. and Anna Gauntt:  0 years (They were never married.)


• Cornelius Elmer Sellers and Laura May Armstrong:  15 years (1903–1918)
• Thomas Kirkland Gauntt and Jane Dunstan:  59 years (1891–1951)
• Morris Meckler and Minne Zelda Nowicki:  36 years (1900–1936)
• Joe Gordon and Sarah Libby Brainin:  41 years (1914–1955)


• James Gauntt and Amelia Gibson:  38 years (1851–1889)
• Frederick Cleworth Dunstan and Martha Winn:  15 years (1858–1873)
• Joel Armstrong and Sarah Ann Lippincott:  about 22 years (1878–about 1900)
• Gershon Itzhak Nowicki and Dora Yelsky:  60 years (1876–1936)
• Avigdor Gorodetsky and Esther Leah Schneiderman:  about 19 years (about 1889–1908)
• Morris Brainin and Rose Dorothy Jaffe:  about 39 years (about 1881–1930)


• Hananiah Selah Gaunt and Abigail Atkinson:  about 23 years (about 1829–1852)
• Richard Dunstan and Jane Coleclough:   21 years (1833–1865)


• Hananiah Gaunt and Rebecca Mulliner:  about 14 years (about 1785–1799)
• Joel Armstrong and Catherine Stackhouse:  30 years (1823–1854)


• Joseph Gaunt and Elizabeth Borton:  44 years (1762–1806)


• Hananiah Gaunt and Ann Ridgway:  61 years (1730–1792)

The longest marriage I have recorded is 61 years, for my 6th-great-grandparents Hananiah Gaunt and Ann Ridgway.

The lengths of the marriages range from 14 to 61 years.  Two of the marriages were ended by divorce; the others ended with the death of one spouse.

The average length of the 18 marriages is 33.5 years.

Four marriages of the marriages lasted 50 years or longer.  That's 22.2% of the marriages.  Randy had 15 of 52 marriages last 50 or more years, which is 28.9%.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Russian Rubles

My second former daughter-in-law and her current boyfriend (I have mentioned that my family tree is complicated, right?) recently were looking at some books being given away for free and found several pieces of paper money tucked into one of the volumes.  After we determined that, unfortunately, none of them was valuable because they were all in such extremely poor condition, they allowed me to keep two of the bank notes, which are in Russian rubles.

The first note is for 25 rubles.  The front (I think it's the front) shows Tsar Alexander III, who ruled the Russian Empire from March 13, 1881 until his death on November 1, 1894.  The back shows the year of the bank note, 1909.

The second bank note is for only 3 rubles.  The front is highly decorative, and the back shows the note is from 1905.

Why would I care to keep these?  All of my mother's family lived in the Russian Empire for many generations prior to some of them immigrating to the United States in the early 20th century.  I have almost nothing from their time in Russia — a grand total of three photographs.  This is probably the type of money they would have used over there.  Kind of like collecting photographs of towns where family lived, this gives me a little more information about their lives.  It makes me feel a little more in touch with them to have these bank notes.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Super Bowl LIII (2019) Sunday

Randy Seaver has an annual tradition of focusing Saturday Night Genealogy Fun the day before the Super Bowl on the big game, and this year is no exception.

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

(1) What is your favorite National Football League team?  [For those who are not American football fans but fans of other sports teams, substitute your favorite team.]  Why are you a fan of this team?  How long have you been a fan of your favorite team?

(2) What is the genealogy of your favorite team?  When did it start playing, what leagues has it played in?

(3) Have you worked for the team in any capacity, or attended games?  What is your best memory of your favorite team's history?

(4) Predict the score of the Rams-Patriots game on Sunday.

(5) Tell us in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, or in a comment on Facebook.

Here's my contribution.

1.  My favorite NFL team is the Minnesota Vikings.  Way back when I was very young, I remember watching a football game and thinking, "I should really have a favorite team."  I picked the Vikings, who were playing in that game, because I liked their helmet logo better.  That was about 1969 or so, so I've been a fan for almost 50 years now, the great majority of my life.  I have stuck with them through all four Super Bowl losses, which was a record, for most times going to the Super Bowl and not winning a game.  In fact, I was upset when the Denver Broncos broke the record with five losses and no wins; it was a lousy record, but it was ours.

2.  According to Wikipedia, the Vikings joined the National Football League in 1960 and began playing in 1961.  It was in the stand-alone National Football League and then became part of the new National Football Conference after the AFL-NFL merger in 1969.  Something I just learned from reading the Wikipedia page is that the Vikings were the last (old) NFL champions before the merger.

3.  I have never worked for the Vikings.  I have attended only one game, when they played the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans), on December 21, 1980.  That was my mother's big surprise Christmas present to me (and the rest of the family) that year.  My parents were living in San Antonio, and I was going to visit over Christmas break from college.  My mother told me that she had a very special present for me.  I read in the newspaper that the Vikings were going to be in Houston and managed to correctly guess that was the present.  I was very excited to go to the game (my first NFL game attended) but dismayed (not surprised, unfortunately) when the Vikings lost.

I know one person who played for the Vikings.  I met Joey Browner when he was at the University of Southern California.  I was thrilled when he was picked by my favorite team.  I also met Fran Tarkenton, the great Vikings quarterback, once, at a golf tournament in Monterey.  He was grumpy and snapped at me when I wished him a happy birthday (but did recover and apologize).

My favorite memory of the Vikings is from when they played against the Oakland Raiders (coincidentally my second favorite NFL team) in Super Bowl XI in 1977.  As I had already been through three Vikings Super Bowl losses, I was anticipating the worst, so while I made some bets with friends for the Vikings to win, I also made several other bets to mitigate my losses, in particular that the Vikings would set a record.  While that was the year that they set the record for most Super Bowl losses without a win, I knew going in that they would have a record for the oldest starter in a Super Bowl, which was Alan Page.  They also set the record for most Super Bowl appearances that year, as they were the first team to go to the big game four times.

4.  I have read that the Patriots are favored in the game.  I have no idea what the score will be, but I will predict a Rams victory because I absolutely do not want the Patriots to tie the Steelers for all-time Super Bowl wins.