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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Another Tale of Online Tree Errors: Wrong Photo

This is NOT John George Fischer
How exciting it is to find a photograph of your ancestor! Somehow that black-and-white image makes the person more real to us, not just a bunch of dates and places. But when the photo is attached to the wrong person in an online tree and then added by others to their trees because they assume it's accurate, it actually bothers me more than a wrong fact. How awful to share the wrong face!

Last week, I was following a lead to see if I could tie a Stenglein woman who died in 1910 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to my Stenglein branch. She had married a man named Johann Fischer in Bavaria before they came to the U.S. As I searched for as much information as I could about the couple and their children, I stumbled across multiple family trees with an incorrect photo of Johann's brother.

Johann Fischer remarried after his first wife died in 1910, and a trip was planned in 1922 to return to Europe to visit family. His brother also planned to go since both men completed passport applications. If you've looked at these documents on Ancestry, you know that a photograph is included on the more recent applications. The photo appears (and I stress this) on the second page.

When you find a match in this collection and view the image, you see two pages side by side. The page on the left is not related to your match; it's the previous person in the collection. The right side is your person, and it's important that you advance to the next image to see the second page of that application (which includes a photo). How very sad that the trees I saw last week used the photo that first popped up when they viewed their match, instead of looking at page 2.

The photo at the beginning of this post is attached to multiple family trees as the face of John George Fischer, Johann's brother. It is actually a man named Abraham Jeremiasz. Unfortunately, these people don't realize that below is the real face of John George Fischer with his wife Theresa and son Joseph:

This is the correct photo of John George Fischer and family

Note: I added a comment to the incorrect photo in each tree, and one person has already replaced it. I don't feel any glee in pointing out mistakes, but I had to try to right this particular wrong. Hey, we all make mistakes, and I must say it's nice to see that we can work together to improve each other's research.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Isabella Couldn't Vote But Still Had Great Influence

Isabella Jeffry was born in Ohio in 1839 and was living in Kansas when she married Hugh Kirkendall, my husband's 3rd great-uncle, in 1862. They moved to Montana Territory by 1870 and were described by newspapers decades later as pioneer residents of Lewis & Clark County.

Although Isabella and women throughout the country couldn't vote, she was certainly active in the community. The Montana Historical Society says that Isabella "was one of Helena's little known unsung heroes. No woman was more active in the community, nor more sensitive to the needs of the less fortunate." Here are some of her accomplishments that I've found:

1881 - Founding Member, Ladies' Aid Society of the First Baptist Church of Montana at Helena
1883 - Charter Member, Helena chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union
1884 - Finance Committee, First Baptist Church of Helena
1891 - President, Montana Women's Relief Corps
1892 - named by the Mayor as Chairman of raising funds for Mississippi flood victims (her leadership helped raise money for starving Russians earlier in the year)
1893 - Leader, Women's Helena for the Capital Club
1894 - Supervisory Board, Associated Charities of Helena
1900 - President, Florence Crittenton Home, a refuge for women and girls in need

Isabella's role in the Women's Helena for the Capital Club was especially noteworthy as it showed the importance of women with respect to political issues. "Denied the vote, but far from devoid of influence, Montana's women readily took sides in the capital fight of 1894."

The Archives West website explains this historic vote: "The question of a permanent location for the capital of Montana was submitted to the voters in the general election of 1892. Seven cities entered the contest: Helena, the temporary capital; Anaconda; Butte; Bozeman; Great Falls; Deer Lodge; and Boulder. The two cities receiving the most votes, Helena and Anaconda...entered a run-off campaign two years later. The capital question overshadowed all other political issues in the 1894 election."

"The Women's Helena for the Capital Club, led by Isabella [Mrs. Hugh] Kirkendall of Helena, was a state-wide group that solicited help from women in every county. Although unable to vote, the women in the local chapters exerted pressure on the men with voting privileges through letter writing campaigns, distribution of leaflets, newspaper advertisements, and speeches. Helena won the election by a narrow margin: 27,024 votes to 25,118 for Anaconda."

Although unable to vote in the 1894 election, Montana women won the right to vote in 1914, five years before Isabella died. I'm so glad she lived to see it happen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

FamilySearch Find: Deaths in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania

Are you overlooking some online records at FamilySearch? Here's one example of a digitized non-indexed collection that isn't on the site's list of published collections.

Image from end of death register book,
Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, 1891

Allegheny City in Pennsylvania wasn't annexed by Pittsburgh until 1907, so deaths for both cities were recorded separately prior to that time. That means if you look at the FamilySearch collection "Pittsburgh City Deaths, 1870-1905," you won't find my Uncle Emil's 1903 death record. While there doesn't appear to be a similar death record collection for Allegheny City, it is in fact on the site and available for online viewing.

My French 3rd great-uncle, Emile Wey, arrived in the United States in 1871. Known as Emil in America, he would marry, have 6 children, and build a life in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. Emil died in Allegheny City on May 4, 1903, which was provided by his newspaper obituary. Knowing exactly when he died is fantastic, but I wanted to know why he died at the young age of 54.

If you click on "Browse all published collections" on the FamilySearch site, you won't see a record set for Allegheny City deaths. But FamilySearch actually does have these records digitized and available to browse in its collection called "Registrations of deaths in the city of Allegheny, 1876-1907." Each listed record group with a picture of a camera under "Format" means it can be viewed online. (A reel means you have to order the microfilm for viewing at your local Family History Center.)

Glancing at the thumbnail images will give you a sense of where the handwritten surname index starts for each volume; it's usually somewhere in the middle and not at the beginning or end due to the way the book scans were saved. And sometimes there's a second index further down in the same file where the next book of death records begins. You can use these indexes to locate the page number of the death record.

My Uncle Emil did indeed die on May 4, 1903, due to "abcess [sic] of liver." The record also states that he had resided at 707 Middle Street in the 3rd Ward for 30 years and that he was buried in St. Peter's Cemetery on May 7th (although a photo of his headstone on FindAGrave indicates that he's in Highwood Cemetery).

By browsing for other relatives, I found cousin August Huber who died in 1882 at 7 weeks of age due to eclampsia, as well as another cousin's father-in-law who died in 1903 of "mania a potu" or madness from drinking. I had their dates of death from other sources (church record for the first and a newspaper obituary for the second), but now I have more details, including where they are buried.

Be sure to search the FamilySearch Catalog for your ancestors' towns to see if digitized images are available. As this example shows, some online records don't appear on the published collections list.

Note: "Registration of births in the city of Allegheny, 1878-1907" is also available on FamilySearch, although five years are missing.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

West Virginia State Police Records

From Flickr: Police Officers, 1889
The West Virginia Division of Culture & History has posted some online State Police records that caught my eye. Since one of my great-grandfathers was a police officer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I had to take a peek at "West Virginia State Police Payroll Records, 1919-1924."

If you already know from census records that one of your ancestors was with the West Virginia State Police, these browse-only files may not provide any critical information. But there are still some interesting items: officer's rank, date of enlistment, and total amount of pay for the month. In January 1922, privates in Company B made $100 for the entire month! There is also a page for "Changes Since Last Pay Roll" that shows those who were discharged or resigned.

This website also has searchable births, marriages, and deaths (which are on FamilySearch as well), so if you have West Virginia relatives, this is a key resource for your genealogy research.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Arrests of My "One-Armed" Uncle

James Baker, c. 1915
James Baker, the brother of my 2nd-great grandmother, seems to have struggled during his lifetime. It appears that he had problems with anger or alcohol, or both. James appears in several newspaper articles about fights, arrests, and marital problems.

James was born in Canada and moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his parents around 1866 at the age of 5. He married Carrie Betler when he was 22 and had two children: Clara and Harry James.

His death certificate indicates that his right arm was amputated due to an accident four decades before his death, but I haven't found any information about this incident. But newspapers provide many other sad details about his life, such as:

  • 1884 - "Jacob Betler was badly beaten by his son-in-law, James Baker, the other night, and has been laid up ever since. Betler keeps a saloon on Picnic street, South Side. No arrests were made. The trouble was about a domestic misunderstanding." (Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, 24 Jul 1884)
  • 1900 - "James Baker, a one-armed man, was picked up by the police at the corner of Carson and South Twenty-fifth street, last evening, under the influence of liquor. After he was taken to the police station it was found that he was suffering from a compound fracture of the right ankle..." (The Pittsburg Press, 30 Jan 1900)
  • 1905 - "Baker's wife alleges he came home drunk Monday night and set fire to the feather bed in which she was sleeping. Failing to burn her alive, she says he demolished all the furniture in the house and threatened to murder her and their two children. On a former occasion she says he threw oil over her for the purpose of setting fire to her clothes, and also threatened to burn her mother's house." (The Pittsburgh Gazette, 25 Oct 1905)
  • 1907 - "The master's report in the divorce case of Carrie Baker against James Baker was filed in common pleas court No. 3 and a decree recommended. Desertion was charged." (The Pittsburgh Post, 1 Nov 1907)
  • 1915 - "James Baker has but one arm and while drunk last night used it in a most effective manner. He deemed it his province to be the sole occupant of the sidewalk and those who disputed his right he promptly landed on them with his fist. Naturally James landed in the bastile and he was sentenced to pay a fine of $2 or serve five days in the county jail." (The Pittsburg Press, 10 Feb 1915)
  • 1925 - "James Baker, aged 60, was dubbed 'the one-armed terror' by police of the Allegheny station yesterday as a result of an altercation he had with two prisoners placed in the same cell with him. One of them...was taken to the Presbyterian Hospital with a severe cut in his cheek, and the other...suffered facial and body bruises. Baker, who has only one arm, was placed in a solitary cell after the fight. The three were originally arrested on charges of drunkenness." (Pittsburgh Gazette Times, 27 Feb 1925)

James Baker died in 1944 at the age of 82 and was buried in Pittsburgh's Oakland Cemetery. (Oakland Cemetery was moved after the land was purchased by the University of Pittsburgh. The graves are now in the Oakland Section of Mount Royal Cemetery in Glenshaw, a suburb of Pittsburgh.)

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