Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Young Alien in Kansas, 1918

Paul Wiechmann, 1918
In 1918, a teenager from Germany, named Paul Wiechmann, registered for a permit in Wichita, Kansas, to move freely through the area due to work. The document, which is available on the FamilySearch website, provides an interesting look at Paul's life and provides a glimpse of how aliens were scrutinized during World War I. Here's part of the document (words in bold were typed onto the application):

   "I, Paul Wiechmann, a native, citizen, denizen, or subject of a country at war with the United States, being male and fourteen years of age or over, residing at 618 Madison, Wichiata [sic], Kansas, hereby apply to the United States Marshal for the [blank] district of Kansas for a permit to pass through an area within one-half mile radius from all zones for the purpose of performing duties as messenger.
   I solemnly swear that I was born at Parum, Wittenburg, Mecklenburg, Scherin, Germany on or about the 29th day of October 1902; that I have resided 11 years in the United States from October 15, 1902 [sic], to Sept. 6, 1918, at the places and been employed since July 1, 1914, in the occupation and by the employers hereinafter stated:
   Wichita, Broom labeling, Southwest Broom Co.
   Wichita, Messenger, Western Union Tel. Co."

Paul probably didn't even remember his time in Germany because he was only 5 when his parents brought him to the U.S., but that didn't matter. He still needed to comply and complete the required paperwork. Even Wichita farmer Henry Lohkamp, who had been in the U.S. for 52 years, was required to apply for a permit, and his application and photo can also be viewed online.

This FamilySearch collection, "Records of the U.S. Attorneys and Marshals: alien application for permit, 1917-1918 (Kansas)," isn't indexed but can be browsed. Similar alien permit applications are available for Kentucky and Missouri as well.

Do you have an ancestor who was required to register as an alien or apply for a permit to move around an area of the United States?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Discovering a Divorce in Ohio

Court of Common Pleas,
Washington County, Ohio, 1900
While browsing Ohio divorce records on the FamilySearch website, I noticed that the documents often showed the wife didn't know what happened to her husband. The collection, "Ohio, Washington County, divorce records, 1894-1960," isn't searchable, but you can view each page of the filing, including the petition, detail of clerk fees, and the court's decision.

One example of a missing husband involved William B. Hite. According to his wife Julia, as stated in the court documents, William "went to the state of Virginia, ostensibly for the purpose of obtaining work, but that since September 1899 plaintiff has not heard from defendant, and received nothing from him towards her support, and that of her child, and she has been compelled to support herself - that she has not been able to locate defendant, although she has written to the point from where he was last located in 1898, but he has left said place, and she cannot discover his hereabouts..."

In 1880, the family was living in Marietta, Ohio, where William worked as a blacksmith. In the 1900 census, he was recorded twice: once with his family in Ohio (although he had not lived there for some time) and also as a boarder in Huntington, Cabell, West Virginia. Due to the divorce in 1900, it's likely that they never saw each other again, and neither remarried. William died in 1929 in Cabell County, West Virginia, and Julia died in 1935 in Marietta, Ohio.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Anniversary of a WWI Death

The Pittsburgh Catholic, February 28, 1924
Last week was the anniversary of my great-uncle's death in France during World War I. George J. Stenglein was born to German parents just 1 week after they arrived in New York in 1891. The family soon settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. George served in the Army from September 21, 1917, until his death on September 26, 1918. My grandmother was only 10 years old when her oldest brother was killed in action.

Several years after George's death, The Pittsburgh Catholic listed him among the names of the city's Catholic soldiers who were buried in the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery. Here's part of the newspaper article:

     "Many Catholic graves in the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery, located at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, (Meuse), France, have been recently blessed. The graves of American heroes from the Diocese of Pittsburgh are listed below.
     The location of this cemetery is within the area of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the greatest engagement in which American troops ever participated. During the forty-seven days' struggle 1,200,000 Americans were engaged, suffering 120,000 casualties.
     Upon completion of concentrations there will be 13,969 interments in the American cemetery. The data on the Catholic heroes has been assembled through cooperation of the pastors, the Catholic press, and the Bureau of Records, N.C.W.C. [National Catholic Welfare Conference]
     The following are grave records of young men of the Pittsburgh diocese who, serving in the World War, made the supreme sacrifice and whose bodies are buried in the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery..."

Each man's military unit, date of death, and grave location in the cemetery were also provided by the newspaper.
  • Paul Adamski, Braddock
  • Joseph Battaglia, Sharpsburg
  • Anthony Broestel, Pittsburgh
  • John F. Coakley, Washington
  • Dominico Colaizzi, Pittsburgh
  • Patrick Paul Collins, McKeesport
  • James Connolly, Pittsburgh
  • Edward R. Connors, Pittsburgh
  • John Patrick Corrigan, McKeesport
  • Patrick J. Cronin, Pittsburgh
  • Domenico Dimasi, Greensburg
  • Andrew Early, Pittsburgh
  • Barton W. Elliott, Springdale
  • George W. Fleischer, Butler
  • Oscar John Gallas, Pittsburgh
  • Stephen Gasper, St. Vincent
  • Lorenzo Gentile, Jeannette
  • Paul Grabowski, Braddock
  • Albert Jacob Hohman, Pittsburgh
  • John Hutchinson, New Salem
  • John P. Jene, Pittsburgh
  • Alex Johnston, Turtle Creek
  • Walter R. Johnston, Pittsburgh
  • William B. Kamer, Ford City
  • James M. Keady, Pittsburgh
  • Daniel R. Kelley, Mt. Pleasant
  • John P. Kirby, Pittsburgh
  • Andrew H. Klein, Pittsburgh
  • Karl Kleinert, McKees Rocks
  • Joseph Kohuth, Glencampbell
  • Louis F. Krezanosky, Avella
  • Walter Kudzman, Vandergrift
  • Andrew Leap, Pittsburgh
  • Ellsworth J. Lew, Carrick
  • Donato Maesano, Sharpsburg
  • Fiore Marchegioni, Bradenville
  • Samuel Martello, Braddock
  • Marco Mercurio, Greensburg
  • Peter J. Och, Pittsburgh
  • Vincenzo Piccirillo, Butler
  • John Plehta, Uniontown
  • Stanley Price, Glassport
  • Michael Puskat, Burgettstown
  • William A. Reinhardt, Pittsburgh
  • Frank J. Rieble, Pittsburgh
  • Ludwig Rigotti, Sutterville
  • Sylvester Rombach, Pittsburgh
  • Anthony Ryder, Braddock
  • George A. Schafer, Millvale
  • William E. Schaffer, Duquesne
  • Alphonse A. Schmidt, Pittsburgh
  • George Schmidt, Pittsburgh
  • George Joseph Schmitt, Pittsburgh
  • Nicola Serago, Jeannette
  • Michael Snee, Kittanning
  • Christopher A. Steighner, Coylesville
  • John Steininger, Blairsville
  • George J. Stenglein, Pittsburgh
  • John H. Theuret, Freeport
  • Bernard W. Travers, Castle Shannon
  • Emanuel G. Tschippert, Pittsburgh
  • George J. Wintz, Pittsburgh
  • Steve Wolf, Connellsville
  • William H. Zewe, Duquesne
  • Mike Joseph Zoldak, Coral

You can search issues of The Pittsburgh Catholic (1844-2001) in Duquesne University's Gumberg Library Digital Collections. 

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.