Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year Advertisement, 1916

This advertisement appeared in the January 1916 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine, which I found by searching the Internet Archive images via Flickr:

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Brother's Visit to Kansas

These Cowden brothers were farmers born in Pennsylvania. One stayed there his entire life, but the other moved to Kansas. This photograph taken in a Kansas studio shows that the brothers were lucky enough to see each other at least one time after that move.

On the back of this photo, the two brothers are identified as James Nelson Cowden and John Cowden. Both men were born in Mt. Pleasant, Washington County, Pennsylvania. John, who was my husband's 2nd great-grandfather, was older by 8 years. James was living in Kansas by 1895.

This wonderful photograph commemorates a visit to Kansas by the older brother. It may have been the last time they saw each other, since John died in 1909.

James Nelson Cowden (left) and John Cowden (right);
Photographer: Miller of Arkansas City, Kansas

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Portrait on a 1910 Christmas Postcard

Have you seen a portrait postcard like this? It's absolutely lovely, and I couldn't let it go when I saw it in an antique shop.

The recipient of the postcard, Mrs. Libbie T. Reeves, was a postmaster in Ohio for more than three decades. The sender is a little harder to identify. The postmark is 1910 from Downington, Ohio, in Meigs County. There were three women with the name Aura who were living in that county in 1910. The most likely match is Aura Mae Wilcox Wood. She was the closest to Libbie's age, and her husband Frank was a mail carrier.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and hope that you enjoy every moment with your family and friends!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Lighting the Christmas Candle, 1920

From the December 1920 issue of Farmer's Magazine, a Canadian publication, which can be found in the Internet Archive:

Lighting the Christmas Candle

A Tradition That Is Growing in the Present Day

An old tradition has it that "a lighted candle set in the window on Christmas Eve will guide the Babe of Bethlehem to your home, that he may bring you happiness." In some countries it has long been the custom so to mark the coming of Christmas, and John H. Stedman, of Rochester, N.Y., has originated a movement to spread it in this country, so says a brief article in the Literary Digest. In a pamphlet urging all to light the "Christ-candle" on Christmas Eve he says:

"The Irish will tell you that the Christ-candle was always lighted in their homes in the Emerald Isle as it has been for years and years in Norway and Sweden. Boston has had it for a decade. In Rochester 1916 was our third celebration--the first year a few houses shone--the second over a thousand--the third nearly every one; and it has spread to town, village, and country over a forty-mile radius. Many far-away homes, Wisconsin, Maine, California, Florida, kindled their candles from ours, and when you have lighted yours you will appreciate why."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Millionaire's Will: Must Have Felt Like Christmas

In 1869, Russell Boggs was one of two partners who opened the Boggs & Buhl department store in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, now the North Side of Pittsburgh. Boggs and his wife both died in 1922, and they had no children. So his employees and more than a dozen charities were some of the recipients of his fortune. They must have felt that it was a little like Christmas (in July)!

The Washington Times
 (Washington, DC), July 23, 1922

Note: Allegheny County probate records for 1922 aren't online yet, so I couldn't verify the accuracy of this newspaper article.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Ad Featuring Family

As I take a little holiday break from blogging, I hope you enjoy this vintage advertisement for a 1921 phonograph that I found via Flickr. If this family had been real, they would have appeared in the 1920 census, and someone out there would be researching them today!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Shopping in 1913

With Christmas approaching, you're probably finishing your shopping for items to give to family and friends. I came across this great image from 1913 while searching the Internet Archive book images on Flickr. It makes me extra grateful for online shopping!

From Christian Herald, December 24, 1913

Historical images on Flickr help to give us a view of our ancestors' lives, including the towns and cities where they lived and their holiday traditions.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Value of Google's Newspaper Archive

Washington Reporter (Washington, PA),
April 26, 1845
The Google newspaper archive is no longer adding newspapers, but it's still a very valuable resource. For example, it has historical publications that are useful to my genealogy research such as the Washington Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), which goes back to 1845. GenealogyBank has the same newspaper, but I don't have a subscription to that site. I took a look at Chronicling America,, and NewspaperArchive, and I didn't see this title in their lists of newspapers offered. So if there's a particular newspaper that could help with your research, don't forget to check out Google's list.

Searching the Google newspaper archive may not be as easy or effective as the subscription newspaper sites, but Google is free and may be the only way to access some publications or issues online. I found some great tidbits about ancestors who lived in the Mt. Washington section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by browsing issues of The Mt. Washington News in the Google newspaper archive. It's a publication that the subscription sites don't have, so I was thrilled to have access to it for free.

So once you've determined which newspaper(s) may help with your genealogy research, don't forget to check Google's newspaper list to see if the publication is there. I still use this resource often!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The G's of Genealogy

Your genealogy research has probably led you to discover many patterns, such as family naming patterns and migration patterns. I thought I'd write a lighter post this week about a different type of pattern: genealogy resources that begin with the same letter.   (I mean, why not?)
  1. Gazettes - I love using newspapers for my research and have found many references to relatives on It's been a great tool for my Pittsburgh and Washington County, Pennsylvania research, but one of the other newspaper websites may be a better choice for you depending on the locations of your ancestors.
  2. Genes - I'm a newbie when it comes to DNA tests, but I'm trying to learn. I have results for myself, my parents, and an uncle, but very few close matches so far. But I'm hoping that this eventually adds another layer to my research.
  3. Google - We all know what a great resource this search engine is, and I use its books, maps, and newspaper archive often.
  4. Grandparents - If you're lucky enough to have living grandparents, talk to them now! While they may not remember all of the facts accurately, they will likely share information, photographs, and stories that you won't find anywhere else.
  5. Graves - Sometimes dates on a headstone may not match other records but, in some cases, it was one of the first clues I had which then led to an obituary or death record with more details about an ancestor. 
I've only mentioned a handful of genealogy items, but I know there are more. Feel free to join in and add to the list by commenting below.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Historic Building's Gamble Connection

Samuel S. Moore House & Store,
Saltsburg, Pennsylvania
(Image from the Library of Congress)
It's always great to find ancestors mentioned in books, and I was particularly lucky to find a mention when I wasn't even looking for it. I usually don't like surprises, but this was one I didn't mind at all!

When I wrote about the 1890 Kirkendall-Garman wedding last month, I decided to learn more about the location of the event since I didn't know anything about Saltsburg, Indiana, Pennsylvania. I found a book from 1989 in the Internet Archive called Two Historic Pennsylvania Canal Towns: Alexandria and Saltsburg.

In the last third of book, there's information on the historic buildings of the area. As I was browsing through it, I came across a section for the Samuel S. Moore House and Store. Though I didn't remember it at the time, Samuel married Margaret Gamble, who was the daughter of John and Fannie Moore Gamble, my husband's 3rd great-grandparents.

According to the deed details provided in the book, the building passed from the Moore family to Margaret's two sisters, Fannie and Julia Gamble:
"1877 - Deed April 16, 1877, Volume A-40, Page 460. Samuel S. and Margaret Moore to Emma Thomas 
1883 - Deed April 10, 1883, Volume A-46, Page 72. Emma Thomas to Margaret Moore 
1884 - Deed August 21, 1884, Volume A-47, Page 575. Margaret Moore to Fannie and Julia Gamble 
1893 - Deed March 20, 1893, Volume A-57, Page 588. Fannie Gamble to Julia Gamble"

The book also provides some information about Samuel S. Moore:
"Historical Context: The building at 222 Point St. was constructed by Samuel S. Moore, a 'dealer in confectioneries, fruits and nuts, cooking and parlor stoves,' and a 'manufacturer of tin and sheet iron ware' ... Tax records of the 1870s through the early '80s identify him variously as a tinner, grocer and postmaster. His income during these years ranged from $100 to $150. Moore and his family lived on the second floor, and he operated the business on the first, which included serving as the Saltsburg post office for some years. By 1909 the building was completely vacant, but by 1927 both spaces were utilized as offices ..."

Yes, it's definitely a good feeling to find the names of relatives in books. And even if you don't find an ancestor, learning more about the city or town where they lived may give you a new perspective about their lives.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Greetings from 1909

The postmark date on this postcard from Wampum, Pennsylvania, is difficult to read, but I was able to figure it out from the message written:
"Did you know John Fosnaught's youngest boy was dead. Was buried today. Grover was his name. He had Typhoid Fever. Your cousin Ola"

The postcard recipient Minnie Beighley can be found in the 1900 census at the same address that is shown on the postcard. She was a dressmaker, living with her parents Joseph and Susan.

A search of Pennsylvania death certificates on shows that 24-year-old Grover Fosnaught did die of typhoid fever on November 20, 1909, in Big Beaver, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. He was a single farmer, and his parents were John and Sarah Lambright Fosnaught. Grover was buried on November 22, 1909, in Wilson Cemetery.

This Thanksgiving, we should be thankful for every minute we have with our families and remember those we have lost.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Family Marriage: A Chilly Wedding in 1890

Harvey Stewart Kirkendall was my husband's 2nd great-uncle and was born in November 1865, most likely in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. Between 1880 and 1890, Harvey left Saltsburg, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, and moved to Helena, Montana. But he came back to Saltsburg in November 1890 to marry his bride, Emma Frances Garman, on the 20th.

Here is a description of their wedding from The Pittsburg Dispatch:
"A very pleasant and pretty chrysanthemum wedding was that of H.S. Kirkendall and Miss Emma Garman at Indiana, Pa., on November 20, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. The parlors, tables and surroundings were appropriately decorated with this popular and lovely flower, while the bridal company carried elegant bouquets of the same in colors to match the costumes. ... About 80 guests from Pittsburgh, Irwin, Blairsville, Indiana and Saltsburg, tendered congratulations to the young couple, who go to Helena, Mont., in a few days to their new home."
It had to be a little chilly that day. A newspaper from nearby Pittsburgh predicted a temperature of 45-50 degrees but no rain. Actually, that's not a bad forecast, and I'm assuming it was a lot better than Montana in November!

Their first daughter Beatrice was born in Montana in 1891, but then by 1893 the family was living in Spokane, Washington. The 1890 article above about the wedding described Harvey as "one of the leading and most prosperous railroad contractors of the Northwest, having completed within the last three years several lines in Montana and Washington." In each of the censuses of the 1900s during his lifetime, his occupation in Spokane was listed as real estate broker/agent.

The couple had two daughters and two sons, and they were married for more than 40 years. Emma passed away in 1932, and Harvey died in 1938.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New to Kansas during the Civil War

Clipping from Wyandotte Gazette
(Kansas City, Kansas), August 29, 1863
After collecting typical information from census records, the Lee family seemed like any other ordinary family. Martha Jane Pollock was my husband's 3rd great-aunt. She married Orville A. Lee, and they had three daughters between the years 1850 and 1857 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. At some point between 1857 and 1865, the Lee family moved from Pennsylvania to Atchison County, Kansas. Over his 40 years in Kansas, Orville worked as a farmer, coal merchant, and owner of a feed store. His daughters were school teachers.

Nothing extraordinary about the Lee family, right? Well, while I'm not yet certain when they arrived in Kansas, it's very possible that they found themselves there during the Civil War. The 1865 state census shows that they were definitely there in the summer of '65, right after the war ended. So they could have just arrived, or they might have been there for several years. If they were there during the Civil War, it had to be scary to live in a strange, new state during such a volatile time.

Prior to the war, the Kansas territory was already a contentious area with respect to the issue of slavery. Violence between pro-slavery settlers and area abolitionists led to the territory being called "Bleeding Kansas." Then, during the war, citizens of Douglas County, Kansas became victims of Confederate guerillas during the Lawrence Massacre. This event, in which more than 150 men and boys were killed, had to have caused fear among their neighbors, including those living in nearby Atchison County. One can only imagine what the Lee family was thinking and feeling if they were new residents there.

This is just a reminder that it's important to find out what was happening in the country, state or town where your ancestor lived. Knowing the historical context of your ancestors' lives may cause you to look at them a little differently.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Photographs: Unknown Cowden Relatives, Rothwell Studio

As I've mentioned before, my mother-in-law gave me dozens of photographs of her husband's Cowden family. The 5 cabinet cards below were taken at Rothwell Studio in Washington, Washington County, Pennsylvania. 

The first three photos measure 4.25 inches wide by 6.5 inches high, and the last two are smaller at 2.5 inches wide by 4 inches high. The first two men seem to be wearing the same suit, so they could be brothers.

As far as I can tell from newspaper articles and census records, James Wesley Rothwell was the first photographer in Washington, Pa. and worked there from 1870 until at least 1900. However, it's unknown if another photographer kept the studio name after Rothwell's death in 1904.

If you are one of my husband's cousins and can help identify these Cowden photographs, I would love to hear from you!

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Postcard from a Matchmaker?

I couldn't resist this postcard from an antique store and just had to find out what happened to Zella Powell and W.J. Warren. Was the sender trying to set up Mr. Warren with a girlfriend, or did it mean something else?

An unknown lady named Pearl sent the postcard below from Conway, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, to her apparent relative, W. J. Warren, in Warrendale, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania:
"Well John I have a girl for you [S]he will be their [sic] Mon morn. Grand dad will bring her [S]he is Zella Powell [A]s ever, Pearl"
Did the two meet and get married? Nope. But they each married a Dunlap from Economy, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, so that's an interesting twist.

Here is a brief summary of what I found about Zella and John:
  • Zella Mary Powell was born 24 Jan 1889 in Economy, Pennsylvania. At the age of 25, she traveled to Brooke County, West Virginia, to marry James Franklin Dunlap Jr. who was 20. They had at least seven children together.
  • William John Warren was easy to locate in various records; he was living at the same address shown on the postcard up until his death in 1962. He was an oil field worker and married Emma Bell Dunlap on 22 Oct 1908. They had two sons.
  • I was unable to determine the relationship between James Franklin Dunlap Jr. and Emma Bell Dunlap but, since they both were living in Economy, Pennsylvania before marriage, it's very possible there was a family connection.

I thought the postcard was dated 1912 but either (1) that's incorrect since John was already married by that year, or (2) Pearl wasn't trying to fix him up with a girlfriend at all!

If you are a family member of either Zella Powell Dunlap or William John Warren and would like the postcard, please contact me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Received! Railroad Pension Record

You've probably read from other bloggers that the Midwest Genealogy Center website has a free index of US Railroad Retirement Board pension records that's available for all of us to search. These records include employees who were working for a railroad in the year 1937 or later.

After I became aware of this resource, I immediately thought of my 2nd great-uncle, Joseph Carr, who spent most of his life in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and had definitely worked for a railroad. I searched the index for him and then contacted the National Archives at Atlanta to request his file. In less than a week, I received the information via email.

Of most interest to me were: (1) the list of Joseph's occupations with The Pennsylvania Railroad Company as shown in the image below; (2) the discovery that the two middle initials of his wife Clara M.A. Carr, my 2nd great-aunt, stood for Marie Antoinette; (3) the confirmation that his parents' names were John and Martha Storm Carr; and (4) the N.J. address of the son of Joseph and Clara in 1955.

If you think these records might help with your family research, here are the steps for requesting this information:
  1. Search the Midwest Genealogy Center's free index; try searching using only the initial of your ancestor's first name since it appears that many are recorded that way;
  2. Print the page that matches your ancestor, or make a note of the information provided;
  3. Visit the National Archives at Atlanta website for an overview of these records and then send an email to giving the details you found in Step 2 above;
  4. The National Archives at Atlanta will confirm the existence of the file and provide an estimate of the cost of copying the file; they gave me the option of the entire file or just 25 of the most genealogical relevant pages; they also gave me the option of receiving the pages via email.

If you have a railroad worker in your family tree, you may want to find out if these records have any great information for you!

Friday, November 6, 2015

My Great-Grandmother's Undertaker, Harry Brooks

Former Undertaking Business
2726 E. Carson Street, Pittsburgh
(Image from Google Maps)
When I first started researching my family, one ancestor who fascinated me was my great-grandmother Albertina. She had died in her 30s of influenza during 1918 and left behind three young children. There was also mystery: the state health department didn't have a record of her death certificate; she couldn't be found in any cemeteries, and a lifelong resident of the South Side area of Pittsburgh told me about rumors of bodies being buried in mass graves during the epidemic.

When I finally received Albertina's death certificate (it had been indexed under the wrong letter), I studied it for every possible detail about her life. And I was relieved to see the name and address of an undertaker and the cemetery where she had been buried. He was "H. Brooks" located at "2726 Carson." I became curious to know more about him and, since I didn't know his first name, I searched for his address in Google Books. I found the following excerpt in the 1922 book, History of Pittsburgh and Environs:
   "HARRY BROOKS--The undertaking business now conducted by Harry Brooks at No. 2726 Carson street is one of the oldest in Pittsburgh, South Side. It was established by John Bittner, in 1877, and with the exception of the improvements Mr. Brooks has made, and the change from horses to motors, is about the same as Mr. Bittner left it. Mr. Bittner conducted a livery barn in connection with his undertaking business, and that has been changed to a garage. Another change is in the amount of business done, that having largely increased. Harry Brooks was born in Pittsburgh, on Christmas Day, 1868, son of Harry and Helen (Vose) Brooks, his father deceased since 1894, his mother yet living at the age of seventy-one. Harry (1) Brooks came from England when a boy of thirteen, and was one of the old time glass blowers of Pittsburgh, working in several of the old historic plants. Harry (2) Brooks attended public schools, and when old enough learned glass blowing, but about the year 1882 became an employee of John Bittner, the undertaker and after becoming a proficient assistant became Mr. Bittner's business manager, continuing with him in that capacity for twenty-five years. He then succeeded Mr. Bittner in business and still continues in the same location. He is a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and the Fraternal Order of Eagles, serving the last named as trustee. In politics he is a Republican.
   Mr. Brooks married, Dec. 31, 1896, Rose Bittner, and they have three living children: Harry, born 1906; Mildred, born 1908; William, born 1912. Two children, John and Marion, died in childhood, John aged five years, Marion three years. Mr. Brooks has three sisters living; Mrs. Emma Barton, of Toledo, Ohio; Estella, of Pioneer, Ohio; Mrs. Jeannette Swearer, of New York City."
I know that learning about Harry Brooks does nothing to advance my family research, but I still think it's interesting to know more about a man who would have come in contact with many Pittsburghers during his long career. And he would have spoken with my great-grandfather during a very difficult time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Collaborate with Cousins

Last week, I heard from a cousin that I've emailed from time to time in the past. He had found my blog and wanted to give me an update on his research regarding the Huber branch of our family tree. This reminded me of how great it is to have someone to work with on genealogy research. Here are some reasons to collaborate with cousins or anyone who is willing to partner with you on genealogy research:

  • Gain a Fresh Look - It's true that a second pair of eyes is always helpful in noticing clues or errors that you may have missed otherwise. 
  • Revisit Your Research - I prepared an updated summary of my research for my cousin, which made me look again at all of my facts, sources, and assumptions; this was extremely helpful in reminding me of the records that still need to be found.
  • Avoid Duplication - By sharing information, you can avoid spending time and money tracking down records that someone else has already located.
  • Learn from Others - Whether reading someone else's genealogy blog or exchanging emails about family research, there's so much we can learn from each other.

I'm so thankful that my cousin keeps in touch and that he's both willing to share his research reports and is interested in what I've found. If you've had success in collaborating with cousins, please share your experience!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Photographs: Unknown Cowden Relatives, Taken in Canonsburg Pa.

As I mentioned last week, my mother-in-law gave me dozens of photographs of her husband's Cowden family. The 5 cabinet cards below were taken at the studio of Ern K. Weller in Canonsburg, Washington County, Pennsylvania, and include some of my favorites. I just love the women's clothes! All of these photos measure 4 inches wide by 6.25 inches high.

According to a newspaper article in The Daily Notes (Canonsburg, Pa.), Mr. Weller bought his first studio from his employer and mentor in 1890. He was definitely in business on his own in 1891 since he placed an advertisement in the newspaper. Weller also had a studio in the city of Washington, Pennsylvania, and I'll share those cabinet cards in a future post.

As far as I can tell, Weller's studio operated in Canonsburg until 1915 when he sold it to R.N. Sandberg. So I'm assuming the photos below can be dated as 1890-1915. If you are one of my husband's cousins and can help identify these Cowden photographs, I would love to hear from you!

Related Post: 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween and "Chalk Night"

Today is my husband's birthday, and we always tease him about being born on the day of pranks that my family and others in Pittsburgh call "Devil's Night." Apparently in the early 1900s, there were other names used to describe the nights when kids ran rampant in anticipation of Halloween. Some of these included "Chalk Night" and "Corn Night."

Here's a 1907 newspaper article from The Daily Notes, found on, that explains these nights a little more:

"'Chalk night' is a rather new one and until last night had been but little observed here. However, many youngsters, liberally supplied with chalk, which perhaps the Canonsburg school board paid for, were out, and marks were left all over town. Many a pedestrian went home with the back of his overcoat or raincoat bearing a liberal supply of hieroglyphics which resembled, somewhat, the handwriting of Horace Greeley or a Chinese laundry check.
Tonight, 'corn night,' has long been associated with Hallowe'en, and the rattle of corn on window panes will have a familiar sound."

The Daily Notes (Canonsburg, Pa.),
October 30, 1907

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

6 Tips for Telling a Better Genealogy Story

Book with Red Cover; "The Story"
I know I have a lot of room for improvement in the area of storytelling. Here are some tips all of us can try to use when writing about our ancestors:
  1. Think about the audience - Who do you want to reach? You may want to inspire others who do genealogy research, share stories with your family, or you may be hoping to reach long-lost cousins. 
  2. Ask why this person or event matters - I've said it before: every life matters, and your family was important even though they may seem like ordinary folk. When you focus on the person or the impact of a particular event, you tend to write differently than just listing a bunch of facts.
  3. Tell the truth - Your storytelling should be accurate. There's no need to embellish; you'll find that your ancestors were interesting in their own way.
  4. Be bold - Don't be afraid to share your stories. It may not seem like it at times, but you have something important to say!
  5. Let your research guide you - It's always easier to focus your writing on a recent record find or someone you just researched.
  6. Keep practicing - If you commit to writing on a regular basis (my goal is three posts each week), you'll definitely keep improving.
I follow hundreds of genealogy blogs, and I enjoy reading the family stories. If you have any additional tips for telling a better story, please leave a comment.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Article: Headstone Photographs

The Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania) posted this article over the weekend: "What's old is new again with gravestone photographs." One of the captions says, "Tombstone photos were popular in the early 1900s but are gaining new popularity. The photos started as an ethnic tradition but are becoming a more widespread tradition as a way to honor and remember loved ones."

I've seen these photographs during some of my cemetery walks, and they always make me stop and wonder about the person's life. The images below are from a headstone I saw in Melrose Cemetery located in Bridgeville, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Sylvester Selva
Born June 24 1871
Died Sept. 30 1921
Leaving Wife and Children
(Photo taken by the author)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Photographs: Cowden Family

My mother-in-law recently gave me dozens of photographs, mostly cabinet cards, saying that they were unknown members of her husband's family. All but two were unmarked, and I haven't found any Cowden photos on to help me identify the individuals.

Here are the only photos that have a name on them: one is Elmer Cowden (1884-1958) which was taken in front of a house in Canonburg, Pennsylvania, and the other is his sister Elva Cowden Hardesty (1890-1955). It's possible that the second man with Elmer is his only brother Harry.

Elmer Cowden, also marked "Cannonsburg [sic], Pa."

Closer view of photograph above

Elva Cowden Hardesty

I'll be sharing the rest of the photographs in future posts with the hope that a Cowden relative may find my blog and help identify them. If you are a cousin of my husband's family, I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

3 More Children in My Family Tree Identified

1910 Federal Census
Since the censuses of 1900 and 1910 asked how many children a woman had (and how many were living), we can tell if we are missing any names in our family tree. If a child was born and died in between censuses, this may be the first hint we have that they existed.

Looking at those two censuses, I was able to see that my Stenglein great-grandparents had a child who must have died young. In another branch of my family tree, these censuses showed that I had three Kiefer cousins I hadn't identified. As I mentioned in a previous post called The Kiefer Children Died Too Young, Peter and Philippina Klein Kiefer had a total of 8 children, but I only knew about five of them.

Since both of these Pittsburgh families were Catholic, I contacted the Diocese of Pittsburgh to see if the volunteer researchers could help. The general public can't access the sacramental records, so I filled out the research request form and patiently waited. While they couldn't provide all of the answers I wanted, I'm grateful for what they did provide:
  • A burial record shows that my grandmother, Gertrude Stenglein, had a brother named John (the second brother with their father's name) who died on December 19, 1903, when he was only a day old and was buried in St. Michael's Cemetery on the same day;
  • Baptismal records show that Anna Marcella Kiefer, who was the second daughter with this name (the first died two years before this one was born), was baptized on May 15, 1898 at St. Peter's Church on the South Side of Pittsburgh;
  • Mary Catherine Kiefer was the name of another of the unidentified children; church baptismal records show she was born on September 11, 1900, and was baptized on September 23 of that same year; 
  • The third Kiefer child is still unknown because no baptismal record was found. The death of this third Kiefer child, as well as the deaths of Anna Marcella and Mary Catherine, are unknown because there are no existing burial records for St. Peter's Parish from May 1899 through March 1920.
Church records are an invaluable resource when civil registrations of births and deaths are unavailable. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ontario Baptismal Record of Thomas Baker

Thank you to Lorine of The Olive Tree Genealogy blog for writing about the FamilySearch record collection of "Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923."  It was a good reminder for me to take a look at these records for the only branch of my family tree that seems to have lived in Canada.

My Baker relatives lived in Seneca, Haldimand County, Ontario, from at least 1861 to 1866. The first child was born earlier than that, somewhere in Canada in 1853, but I haven't confirmed that it was in Seneca. I'm not sure why I never browsed these images before but, since the only towns listed under Haldimand are Caledonia, Cayuga, and Dunnville, I wasn't sure if I'd find anything.

I started with Caledonia and saw that one of the record collections for St. Patrick Parish fit the time period for my Bakers: "Baptisms, marriages, burials 1857-1898." On the fourth image, I found a match. Fantastic! Thomas Baker was the brother of my 2nd great-grandmother, Mary Baker. It confirms their parents' names (although I have Arthur instead of Arthurs), and it points me to another possible relative, Mary Arthurs.

Baptismal Record for Thomas Baker, 1857
If I'm reading the writing correctly, the record says: "This eight day of October one thousand eight hundred and fifty seven I the undersigned priest have baptised Thomas - born since the first day of February from the lawful marriage of John Baker and of Elisabeth Arthurs of the township of Seneca of the Mission of Indiana, Sponsors were John Goslinn and Mary Arthurs."

This is the only family member I could find in any of the towns listed under Haldimand, but I'll take it. Thank you, Lorine!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Vintage Anniversary Card

My paternal grandparents were married on this day in 1934 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My grandmother saved some of the greeting cards she received from my grandfather; this one is for their 2nd anniversary in 1936:

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Hotel Image Preserved in Military Records

Years ago when I ordered my 2nd great-grandfather's Civil War records, I received an added bonus. Not only did I learn that he had moved from Pittsburgh to Toledo to live in the hotel owned by his daughter and her husband Charles Prill, but he signed a notarized letter on the hotel's letterhead. This simple letter about his address change allowed me to see how the building looked. Fabulous!

"This House is Specially Adapted to Accommodate the Traveling Trade"
Letterhead from Prill's Hotel, Toledo, Ohio, 1890

This is just another example of interesting details or special items you might stumble upon while researching your ancestors.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Record Browsing Has Benefits

We all may groan when we learn about a new record collection that hasn't been indexed yet. But wait, there are some benefits of having to browse record images:
  • Learning an Interesting Detail - When you're forced to browse, you actually look at the image, instead of finding a match from a search and just attaching it to your family tree. This may lead you to see on the page an interesting detail about your ancestor that you may have missed. Even for indexed collections, it's good to get in the habit of opening the image and reviewing it thoroughly.
  • Spotting a Different Relative - You might find a familiar name that you weren't looking for. When I searched for my 2nd great-grandfather in the 1890 Census of Union Veterans of the Civil War on FamilySearch and didn't get a match, I decided to browse the pages in case his name was botched. I still haven't found him even though he was alive at the time, but I did find two other distant relatives, including one who I didn't know had served in the Civil War.

Surnames of "the undersigned" at the bottom of this clipping (not included in the cropped image) are Brennan, Brown, Carroll, Collins, Conboy, Cullen, Cunningham, Dalton, Daugherty, Delaney, Donnelly, Downey, Doyle, Duffy, Evoy, Farrell, Hannan, Harris, Hayes, Higgins, Hogan, Hurly, Keating, Kelly, Kennedy, Lamond, Lennon, Madigan, Mangan, Mannix, McCarty, McGill, McGuill, McDonald, Meir, Murphy, Murray, O'Brien, O'Riley, Phillips, Reip, Ryan, Shea, Shehan, Smith, Sullivan, Sweeney, Walsh.
Browsing records is relaxing and fun for me (weird, I know!), and I enjoy reading interesting details about people even though they aren't in my family tree. So don't ignore collections that haven't been indexed or you may miss a great record for one of your ancestors.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Family's 3 Tragedies Due to Carbolic Acid

My family has a handful of photos of my 2nd great-grandmother, Mary Baker Klein (1855-1932), posing at various times outdoors when she was in her 60s and 70s. She doesn't look like a particularly warm or friendly woman (though it's hard to tell from those old photos!), and there's only one photo where her eyes seem to sparkle a little. But after learning more about her, I can look at these photos a little differently and with admiration that she found the strength to get through a very dark period in her life.

Mary and the Baker branch of my family tree had to deal with the tragedy of carbolic acid poisoning three times. Carbolic acid was used as a disinfectant and sometimes was accidentally ingested which caused death. According to the following newspaper article, this is what happened to Irene Kaufmann, the daughter of one of the men who ran the famous Kaufmann's department store in Pittsburgh. She thought she was taking "headache medicine."

The Pittsburgh Post, July 24, 1907

In the case of my relatives, the poisoning appears to have been intentional. Young Mary and her family moved from Canada to the United States around 1866 and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mary married Jacob Klein 10 years later and had 11 children. During a 3-year period in the 1910s, Mary and her siblings had to mourn the deaths of three family members due to carbolic acid poisoning:

  • Mary's brother, John H. Baker, died on March 15, 1912 at the age of 38 in Braddock, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. His death certificate says simply, "suicide by taking carbolic acid."
  • Mary's nephew and the son of her sister Sushannah, Albert Parrish Jr., died the same year on September 13, 1912. Sadly, his second child had just been born the previous year. A newspaper article and the coroner's report indicate that he was despondent due to lack of employment as a chain maker. His death certificate states his cause of death was "carbolic acid poisoning, suicide while temporarily insane."
  • Mary's brother-in-law, James H. Stuart, who was married to her sister Sarah Baker, died on May 21, 1915. His death certificate indicates that he was found in Braddock in a box car of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie railroad and that the cause of death was "carbolic acid poisoning (probably suicide)."

It must have been extremely difficult for Mary and her family to deal with such terrible tragedies so, when I look at photographs of her now, I see a woman of great strength.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Stuttgart Beer Festival

Beer Mugs - Stuttgart Beer Festival, GermanyIf you have ancestors who lived in Stuttgart, Germany, at any time since 1818, they most likely attended the annual Stuttgart Beer Festival, or Cannstatter Volksfest. This year's event ends on October 11 after almost three weeks of festivities.

My family tree doesn't have a connection to Stuttgart (other than it's the name of the ship that brought my German great-grandmother Susanna Truar to America in 1885), but my husband loves Oktoberfest and beer...and I love that it's a historical event that's been held for almost 200 years.

Stuttgart is the largest city and state capital of Baden-W├╝rttemberg. The Cannstatter Volksfest is considered the second largest beer festival in the world, after Munich's Oktoberfest. King Wilhelm I and Queen Katharina created the festival in 1818 to celebrate the harvest, two years after Europe's worst famine of the 19th century. Abnormal weather, including snow in the summer, led to extreme food shortages. Thousands of Germans left their homes to escape the famine, going to North America or Russia. After surviving such suffering, the country definitely had something to celebrate.

The Cannstatter Volksfest started as a one-day event for the locals and has grown to attract about 4 million visitors every year from many different countries. While beer, food, rides and special events may attract people today, it's an event based on tradition. Plus, it's interesting to think that someone in your family tree may have been at the festival during his or her lifetime.

Do you have any German ancestors who lived in Stuttgart?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

After One Year: Amazing Support

I can't believe that a year has passed since my first genealogy post on this blog. Looking back at my experience so far, there is one main theme that stands out for me: the genealogy community is amazingly supportive.

Starting with Thomas MacEntee who lists new blogs every week on GeneaBloggers, I felt welcome right away. Then, when I had only been blogging for three months, Randy Seaver took the time to mention one of my posts in his weekly Best of the Genea-Blogs. Needless to say, due to the number of readers he reaches, that post has remained my most popular one ever since. About four months after that, I was thrilled to be mentioned on Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems blog. (See my Mentions page to view these posts.)

But even more amazing, there are several bloggers who take time to regularly highlight the posts of others. Every week, Linda Stufflebean, Jana Last, Julie Cahill Tarr and others show that we can all learn from each other, and they've made me feel that I have something worthwhile to share even though I'm new to blogging.

Thank you for taking time to read my blog over the last year, and extra thanks to those who submitted comments. It's always great to hear from you! If you have only recently found my blog, please check out the most popular posts listed on the right side, as well as some of my favorite older posts:

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pittsburgh's Great Floods

Recent flooding along the East Coast made me think about two historic floods that Pittsburgh experienced in the 1900s. On March 15, 1907, the water rose to 38.5 feet (flood stage is 25 feet). A search of Flickr: The Commons pointed me to some great photos on the front page of the New York Tribune, which is available on Chronicling America:

New York Tribune, March 24, 1907

The worst flood ever in Pittsburgh's history was on March 17-18, 1936, with water levels at 46 feet. Internet Archive has a couple of videos showing the cleanup and some of the destruction, and this Universal Newsreels video is from YouTube:

Related Posts:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Embrace the Living

My family lost a bright light this week. She was gone suddenly and too soon at the age of 43. Our hearts are hurting, but I'm so thankful for the love and happiness she gave my brother while she was here.

Genealogy helps us honor and remember those who have passed. But since our time with loved ones may be painfully short, make sure you embrace the living.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Charles Labbe of Ohio, Boot & Shoe Dealer

Charles Labbe lived his entire life in Canal Fulton, Stark County, Ohio. He was the brother-in-law of my 2nd great-uncle, Charles Eugene Huber of Akron.

Charles Labbe's father was an immigrant from Bavaria who settled in Canal Fulton in the 1850s and set up shop as a shoemaker. In 1870, Charles was working as a shoemaker apprentice, so it looks like he joined the family business. From the 1880 census to the 1920s, he was identified as a boot & shoe merchant. Charles had retired by 1930.

The Labbe family appeared in newspapers a few times. In 1898, Charles' son Cornelius was accidentally shot & killed at the age of 15 by a friend:

The Massillon Evening Item (Ohio), July 15, 1898

And in 1906, the Labbe family's house was struck by lightning:

Coshocton Daily Age (Ohio), August 1906

Charles Labbe died in September 1942 at the age of 85. His wife, Louise, was 95 years old when she died in 1955. They are buried in Saints Philip and James Church Cemetery in Canal Fulton, Ohio.

An interesting side note: When Charles' sister, my 2nd great-aunt Rachel, visited him in early 1942, it was mentioned in the local newspaper. However, it used her name from the first marriage, Rachel LaCroix, even though her first husband had died and she had been Mrs. Charles E. Huber since 1919.