Tuesday, September 27, 2016

FamilySearch Find: Adoption of Walter in 1911

Orphanage from The Pittsburgh Catholic,
April 17, 1924
With the help of a digitized collection of adoptions on FamilySearch, I was able to find additional facts to support my thinking that one of my Pittsburgh cousins was adopted. This file doesn't appear on the site's list of published collections and can only be browsed, but "Index to adoption and change of name, Allegheny County (Pennsylvania), 1865-1917" was a key piece of my research.

Walter J. Klein first appeared with his parents in the 1920 census at age 16. Since Andrew & Magdalena were childless in 1910 (when Walter was 6 years old), I suspected that he had been adopted between 1910 and 1920. But how could I know for sure?

When I was scanning FamilySearch's catalog of records for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, I came across the adoption collection. While it's just an index of the court records, I did find an Andrew Klein who had adopted a child. The date was November 23, 1911, but no name for the child was provided in the index. Since Andrew Klein isn't an uncommon name, I couldn't assume he was my Andrew. And in order to find Walter in the index, I would need his surname prior to being adopted by the Kleins.

I used the 1910 census to provide me with a list of possible candidates. In Ancestry, I searched for everyone with the first name of Walter who also:
  • was born in Pennsylvania between 1903 and 1905, 
  • was living in Allegheny or nearby counties in 1910, and 
  • was shown as an "inmate," which was often used on census records to describe an orphan's relationship to the head of household. 
There were 7 matches.

I then went back to the adoption index at FamilySearch and searched for each orphan. When I got to Walter Miller, I found that name in the index. Walter John Miller was the name of the adopted child, and the decree was dated November 23, 1911, exactly like Andrew Klein. Bingo! I still need to verify that they are my Andrew and Walter, but it looks very promising.

All I know at this point is that Walter J. Miller was a Pittsburgh orphan in 1910 and lived at St. Michael's Orphan Asylum, which was an orphanage established to take care of the orphans of St. Michael's parish on the South Side. When he was about 7 years old, he was adopted by Andrew & Magdalena Klein and became Walter J. Klein. (Again, I need to verify this last statement.)

I would love to know Walter's story. Who were his biological parents, what happened to them, and did he have any siblings?  Pittsburgh births are also browseable on FamilySearch and provide parent names, but I haven't found Walter's birth record yet. The Diocese of Pittsburgh may have records for his orphanage, so that's another place that might provide the identities of his parents. The search continues...

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Letterhead Used by My Uncle, 1890s

When my great-grandmother, Alice Laubersheimer, arrived in New York in 1899, she named Frederick Waldschmidt as her uncle and indicated that he had paid for the trip that would take her to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While browsing the FamilySearch collection of "Registrations of deaths in the city of Allegheny, 1876-1907," I found a copy of the letterhead that Fred used as an alderman at that time:


You never know what you might find by browsing!

For more information about Fred's life and to see his image, click on the link below. If you have any Waldschmidts in your family tree who lived in Pittsburgh or France, I'd love to hear from you to see if we have a connection.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

In Pursuit of Pennsylvania Prisoners

If you've found any newspaper mentions of the arrest of an ancestor in Pennsylvania, you may want to search prison records to see if he/she served time for the crime. Ancestry.com has a new record collection called Pennsylvania, Prison, Reformatory, and Workhouse Records, 1829-1971 (subscription required) that may give you some new information about your troubled relative.

Image from Annual Report of the Managers of the
Allegheny County Workhouse & Inebriate Asylum
, 1923
Here's the description of this database: "This collection from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) consists of records from the Eastern and Western State Penitentiaries, the Allegheny County Workhouse, and the Pennsylvania Industrial Reformatory in Huntington, Pennsylvania. It includes a variety of records, including inmate registers, bertillon hand books, identification cards, hospital records, and descriptive lists."

My 3rd great-uncle, James Baker, is in the database multiple times for sentences served in the Allegheny County Workhouse. Despite his common name and another Pittsburgh man in the collection with the same name and age, I'm almost certain that I'm looking at the various records for my James since they each contain a note of his "rt arm off." While newspaper articles give more detail on some of his crimes (see post at the end), I did learn that James had 30 convictions by 1919 when he was 58 years old. Yikes! And it's likely there were additional arrests that did not lead to time in the workhouse.

The workhouse records also show that James seemed to spend many years as a homeless peddler. I know this because occupation is listed for all inmates, and James was sentenced for vagrancy on more than one occasion. The majority of his sentences are for disorderly conduct, although it appears that only a fraction of his total convictions are in Ancestry's database.

Each Pennsylvania institution's records are different, so you may learn even more about your ancestor. For example, the Eastern Penitentiary indicates if any relatives are in prison, and the Western Penitentiary provides a very detailed description of each person's appearance, including measurements.

Of course, court records should be explored for more specific details about a conviction, but the records in this Ancestry database give some interesting general information and are definitely convenient.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

View Labor Union Labels from 1903

This full-color advertisement appeared in a 1903 souvenir booklet published by the Utica Trades Assembly in New York to mark its 21st anniversary. Here's one paragraph from the group's introduction:

"To the wage-earners, or rather wealth producers, who have not yet joined hands with us, we extend a hearty invitation to become a part of the great army of Organized Labor. In union there is strength. Better conditions can only come through concerted action. Organized Labor points out the way to shorter hours, better wages, time for intellectual and physical improvement. Hence our path leads to the goal of enlightened, progressive citizenship."

The most interesting section of the publication provides images of many labels proudly placed by labor unions on their products or in their businesses. There are four pages of them, but here are just a few (click to view larger):

To see the dozens of other union labels, click on the link at the beginning of this post and go to page 60. Happy Labor Day!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pittsburgh and the World War, 1914-1918

The souvenir publication, Pittsburgh and the World War 1914-1918, can be viewed in the HathiTrust Digital Library and contains many photographs of Pittsburgh soldiers. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the booklet:

"From the high up places of Pittsburgh's loftiest skyscrapers a ton or more of confetti, small bits of paper and streamers of paper floated and fluttered to the streets below. A snowstorm of the white and red and blue fragments filled the air. The streets began to fill with merrymakers as the news was flashed about the city and its environs by newspapers, by word of mouth, by telephone and all other means of communication. Like wildfire the word spread that the armistice had been signed and the Huns had, in effect, laid down down their arms in ignominious recognition that to struggle further world be useless.

Parades formed as offices, stores, shops and mills were abandoned. Bells clanged loudly and to the din, which almost drowned the shouts of the populace were added the sound of many bands playing, the measured tolling of the bell on old City Hall, pounded in turns by men with a sledgehammer; the shrieking of sirens and mill whistles, the deep screeching of steamboat whistles and the booming and cracking of guns and other weapons in the air."

My great-uncle, George Stenglein, is one Pittsburgh soldier who didn't return, didn't see the parade, and didn't hear the cheers. As I looked at some of the photos in this book, I wondered if my grandmother and her parents cried when they heard others celebrating, since their hearts had to be breaking that George  wasn't coming home.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Don't Ignore Signs of a Genealogy Mistake

In 1904, a publication about the Cowden and Welch families indicated that a man named David Sloan was the father of Annie Sloan Cowden. David was a Revolutionary soldier who was killed at the Battle of Long Island in 1776. It turns out that David Sloan did have a daughter Annie, but she was not the woman who married John Cowden.

The Canonsburg Daily Notes (Pa.),
November 2, 1925
More than 25 years after that publication was printed, my husband's 2nd cousin three times removed, Lyda J. Cowden, sent a letter to the U.S. government, trying to locate the grave of this assumed Patriot ancestor. She was a member of the Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and even held DAR meetings in her home in the 1920s. I found Lyda's letter dated October 11, 1930, in a bounty-land warrant application record for David Sloan on Ancestry.com:

     "Dear Sir, Is it possible for you to furnish me with the information of the burial place of Lt. David Sloan who was killed in the Battle of Long Island Aug 27, 1776.
      Left a widow Mary Sloan and a daughter Ann. I am a member of D.A.R. through Lt. Sloan, and am seeking the location of his grave. A pension was granted to Mary Sloan widow of David Sloan Feb. 8, 1785 but I can not find any record of his burial place. Sloan served under the command of Colonel Miles First Penn Regiment.
      If you do not know or have records of his burial place please tell me if the bodies at that time were returned to their respective homes or buried on the battlefield."

The response she received is also part of this Ancestry record and makes it clear that Annie Sloan Cowden's father was not the Patriot David Sloan:

     "Dear Madam, You are advised that the Revolutionary War records of this bureau show that the widow of Lieutenant David Sloan was Mary and that his daughter Ann married Robert Hunter. In 1806, said Robert and Ann were of Salem Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.       
     The location of the burial place of the soldier is not shown and the bureau is unable to advise you further in regard to same."

Did Lyda choose to ignore what the letter was saying about her DAR connection? Or did she skim over that part and just take away from the response that David's grave location was unknown? Hmm. I do know from a newspaper article that Lyda continued to meet with her fellow DAR members for at least five years after learning that David Sloan was not her ancestor.

The mistake was still circulating in 1935 when a Welch cousin contacted the government to request the pension file of David Sloan. Like Lyda, she had submitted a DAR application and became a member through her connection to Lt. David Sloan. There are more than a dozen DAR members who claimed this inaccurate connection between Annie Sloan Cowden and David Sloan.

Fortunately, the DAR eventually caught this mistake, and all of these incorrect applications are now flagged with this message on its website: "Problems have been discovered with at least one previously verified paper." The explanation given is that "Annie who married John Cowden is not the dau of this man."

This is a good reminder to read everything carefully and to correct genealogy mistakes even if it's painful to remove a high-profile person from your family tree. Accuracy is more important than bragging rights.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Female Writers in Pittsburgh, 1897

A search in the Digital Public Library of America led me to Book of the Writers, published by the Writers Club of Pittsburg (Pennsylvania) in 1897. Among the men, you can find nine women profiled in the book, including Mrs. Ida L. Easton:

Ida L. Easton
     "Of much more than local literary note is Mrs. Ida L. Easton, or to use her social name, Mrs. Andrew Easton. Although she is comparatively a new comer into the world of the newspaper scribe, to the readers of the Pittsburg Dispatch, the Florida Times-Union, the Saturday Review, and a number of other publications her name is a familiar one and her pen is as versatile as it is tireless.

     In wide spread charities, moral reform movements, philanthropic ventures she has always been a leader. With a true heart in close touch with the joys and sorrows of humanity, she possesses a courage that never recognizes failure and many an abuse has been brought to light and ended by her daring struggle in behalf of justice and kindness.
     To a large number of friends among the younger newspaper workers she is a genial, sympathizing mentor, and not infrequently terms herself the grandmother in the Womans' Press Club, of which organization she is treasurer. Mrs. Easton is an active member of the Writer's Club."

The other female writers included in Book of the Writers are Mrs. Dallas Albert, Jeannette Barbour, Roberta Bradshaw, Janey M. Coard, Marie D. Coyle, Sarah H. Killikelly, Dorothy Richardson, and Miss A.R. Stratton.

Note:  Ida Lois Reed Easton died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the age of 61 on August 24, 1916. Her newspaper obituary indicated that she married Dr. Andrew Easton in 1871 and left two children, Dr. John S. Easton of Pittsburgh and Mrs. C.L. Martin of Philadelphia.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Was Boy Missing in 1911 Ever Found?

I'm currently reading a fictional story by Kate Morton that involves the disappearance of a toddler in 1933. (If you love suspense, family secrets, and a touch of history, I highly recommend all of Kate's books. They're fabulous.)

The Pittsburgh Gazette Times,
November 5, 1911
The book got me thinking about real cases of missing children and how devastating that would be for a family. After searching historic newspapers, I found the following article from a 1911 Pittsburgh newspaper with the headline "Butler Boy Missing":

"Raymond, the 13-year-old son of William C. Cooper, a merchant tailor living at 519 West Clay Street, Butler, Pa., has been missing from his home since October 27. On that morning his father had taken him to school and at the morning recess Raymond disappeared from the institution. He left a note on his desk saying he was going to Pittsburgh to look for work.
As a result of Raymond's disappearance, his mother has become ill. Mr. Cooper has conducted a thorough search for the boy and the police of Pittsburgh and neighboring cities have been asked to keep a lookout for him. Mr. Cooper has appealed to The Gazette Times to assist in the search for the missing boy. If the lad sees this article he is requested to communicate with his father at once. The latter will extend his forgiveness, as Raymond's mother wants her son badly."

I couldn't find any news updates to see if he had been found, and I just had to know what happened to him or if his family was left guessing for decades. My son will be turning 13 soon, so the story touched a nerve.

Fortunately, a WWI Compensation Application on Ancestry provided the answer. I don't know how long Raymond was gone or when he returned, but it looks like he came back to his family...before leaving them again. The document says that he enlisted in the Army in 1914 (when he was 16 but apparently claimed to be 19), and he served until 1920.