Finding a long-lost Birthday Betty for my Mom…

My webmaster Kathryn recently told me how she tracked down a still living 95-year-old woman. I asked her to write up the techniques she used, to stimulate you in your research. Here’s how Kathryn did it:

A lady named Patricia Bunin writes a Sunday column in my local paper, called Senior Moments. One Sunday, the title of the column was:  “Finding a long lost Birthday Betty for my Mom.”  It turns out that her mother had a friend in her teenage years in New York City. They lived in the same apartment building and had many mutual friends, but lost touch after “Mom” (Jean) married and moved to the Bronx. Jean was turning 97 the next day and had wondered if her old friend was still living. Patricia said:

“There are not many things I can give her on her birthday that would be very exciting anymore. But the gift of her old friend; now that would be a Wow! So if, by some miracle, Mom’s Betty — she would be about 94 — or a relative or friend of hers is reading this, please get in touch with me and I will put you in touch with Mom. She will probably cry. She won’t be able to help herself.”

Betty’s name was distinctive, Betty (Scheufele) Goldfinger. I thought it would be exciting if genealogical skills could help. About 1/2 hour after reading the column I sent Patricia an email (at 10:06 pm) telling her I had a possibility for her. (Someone else also found her but with different methods.) Betty seems to have been alive as of 2005 per obituary of her brother, which I found by doing Google searches on several variations of her name (with and without maiden name, with and without quotes, etc):

Scheufele, Arthur, 79, of Boynton Beach, FL, formally of Tamarac, and NY passed away March 28, 2005. <snip>. Husband of Ann, father of Clifford (Bonnie) and Carol Wray (Steve), grandfather of Margot, brother of Betty Goldfinger. <snip the rest>

Here, you have a  Scheufele with a sister named Betty Goldfinger. Seems pretty conclusive this is the right person. In the 1940 census, I found this family in the Bronx:

Head                     William Scheufele           M             51           New York

Wife                      Mary Scheufele                F              43           Russia

Daughter             Elizabeth Scheufele         F              22           New York (so born circa 1918)
Daughter             Jeanette Scheufele          F              21           New York
Daughter             Lillian Scheufele              F              15           New York
Son                       Arthur Scheufele             M             14           New York

She was still single in this census. A momentary chance encounter in their 20s is how Jean knew Betty’s married name. Arthur was buried in Star of David Memorial Gardens in North Lauderdale FL. There is a David Goldfinger (24 Aug 1909 – 4 Feb 1992) buried in the same cemetery as Arthur, who would be a candidate for Betty’s husband.  – note space for the wife, with no inscription.

So, I looked to see if there is a Betty Goldfinger “listed” in Florida. I found an Elizabeth Goldfinger 65+ years old with an address and phone in Bay Harbor Islands, FL. That’s only 20 miles from Ft Lauderdale where her possible husband is buried.

I told Patricia that if it were someone I was trying to find, I’d call that phone number without delay and see if she’s the right person.

The next week’s column was headed “Readers find Mom’s long lost friend for her birthday” and started out: “Jinxie, is that you?” Betty asked Mom on the phone, using a nickname for my mother that only a very old friend would have known. And that made my mother’s 97th birthday the best she ever had.

Patricia said: “Dozens of readers responded to my plea last week…” and “There were tips on searching, leads to resources, research notes, addresses, and copies of obituaries for a different Betty Goldfinger. Someone even found Betty’s niece on Facebook.

The man she mentioned by name in the column “made it his personal mission not only to find Betty, but also to make sure she called Mom on her birthday. He worked almost around the clock using his own resources along with bits of pertinent information that I had sent him from other readers. His search had gone from the Bronx, to New Jersey, to Florida, and finally to Arizona where he found Betty’s son-in-law” and “the son-in-law had called his wife, Betty’s daughter.”

Via subsequent correspondence with Patricia, I found out that “my” Betty was the same as the one the other person found and that he said it was my research that helped him over the top in his time sensitive search! Turns out that Betty had moved from the address/phone I found, so the search needed both of us. She’s now living in AZ, and last week, Betty’s daughter brought Betty to Los Angeles to visit Patricia’s Mom. Patricia said: “The reunion of the two friends was beautiful. One of the best days I have ever seen my mother have.”

It was a fun challenge, and shows that genealogy skills can be used for non-genealogical purposes.  Kathryn Bassett

PS  Thanks to Kathryn, you gentle reader, can use the same sequence of techniques–all online searches–to track living family members of your ancestors.


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