Monday, March 30, 2015

Genealogy & "Finding Elizabeth's Soldiers" Documentary

Last week, my local PBS television station WQED aired an interesting documentary called Finding Elizabeth's Soldiers:

Genealogy and Documentaries"Elizabeth Black left a promising Pittsburgh art career to join American Red Cross efforts during World War II. She proposed a unique project to sketch hundreds of soldiers, sailors and airmen throughout Europe and send the treasured portraits to worried families back home - all across America."
"This sequel explores efforts to find homes for dozens of soldiers' sketches found among the Pittsburgh artist's memorabilia. Through detailed research, detective work and the kindness of volunteer genealogists, producer David Solomon tracks down soldiers or their survivors."

You can watch both the original documentary, Portraits for the Home Front: The Story of Elizabeth Black, and the sequel online, as well as view the gallery of these amazing sketches.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Pittsburgh Buildings of Henry W. Oliver

The Henry W. Oliver Building, located in Pittsburgh's downtown business district, was completed in 1910. It was designated as a historic landmark in 1974. I worked in this building for 10 years and, while I still remember the slow elevators, I can appreciate it's history.
Henry W. Oliver Building
From Pittsburgh, How to See It, 1916

According to probate records, Henry W. Oliver died on February 8, 1904. His will, which can be viewed on FamilySearch, indicates his wishes with respect to the erection of buildings in Pittsburgh:

"Having in my lifetime offered to the City of Pittsburgh, a certain lot of ground situated on the Northwestern corner of Tenth and Bingham Streets, Pittsburgh, for the erection of a Public Bath House, together with an endowment for the support of the same, I hereby authorize and direct my Trustees to carry out my said offer during the existence of this Trust, if in their judgement the best interest of my estate will allow then to do so; if the offer cannot be carried out by the said Trustees during the existence of this Trust, I request my wife and daughter to carry out said offer as soon as convenient after the termination of the Trust.
I further authorize and empower my said Trustees to improve my real estate by erecting such buildings and structures as shall seem best to them and to make such contracts, bonds or instruments of any kind as shall be necessary for the purpose."

The bath house he mentioned in his will became known as the Oliver Bath House and still exists today as a community swimming pool. It is located in Pittsburgh's South Side neighborhood and was presented to the city on June 17, 1915. (Love the old car parked next to the building!)

Oliver Bath House
From The American City, 1915

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Relative, a Catholic Nun

On this day in 1884, my 2nd great-grandfather's sister, Margaretha "Maggie" Klein, entered the Order of St. Francis and then became known as Sister Genevieve. Her obituary contains some great details, so her order must have kept good records.

Convent of Sisters of St. Francis, Millvale, Pennsylvania
From The Catholic Church in the United States of America, 1914
Sister Genevieve outlived all of her siblings and died at the age of 85. She worked as a school teacher and then as a nurse at both St. Francis Hospital in Pittsburgh and New Castle Hospital in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Her obituary appeared in New Castle News on April 11, 1949:

Burial Held For Sister Genevieve
Sister of St. Francis Order, Formerly of New Castle Hospital Taken By Death
Word has been received here of the death of Sister Mary Genevieve Klein, of the Sisters of St. Francis, Mt. Alvernia, Millvale, who died last Tuesday, April 5, in St. Francis hospital, Pittsburgh, Pa. Sister Genevieve had been ill for several years.
Sister Genevieve entered the Order of St. Francis March 25, 1884 and was invested with the Franciscan habit on July 14, 1884. She pronounced her perpetual vows on September 24, 1888. On March 1934 Sister Genevieve celebrated her Golden Jubilee.
Since 1926, she had been stationed on active duty in the New Castle hospital, this city, where she remained until her health began to fail several years ago. She returned to Pittsburgh four months ago.
Born in Pittsburgh, March 25, 1864, Sister Genevieve was the daughter of the late Peter and Barbara Steimer Klein. She was the last member of her family.
A solemn requiem mass was offered in her home, in St. Francis chapel, Mt. Alvernia, Pittsburgh, last Friday morning. Burial was in Mt. Alvernia cemetery, Millvale, Pa.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Include All Information in Research Requests

Genealogy and Marriage Records
Often due to distance or limited access to records, we must request research help from others. For example, you may choose to hire a professional genealogist to find information for you. Or, as is the case with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, you may not be allowed to search through the archives yourself. You may have to fill out a form, and then volunteers will do their best to dig through the records in search of the information you need.

In both instances, it's absolutely critical to provide as much information as you can so that the chances of success are greatly increased.  A thoughtful genealogy query is just as important as other steps in the research process such as determining your objective and identifying key sources of information.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I learned from church marriage records the names of my 4th great-grandparents. Church records are an invaluable resource in genealogy research, since they often provide parent names and the town where an ancestor lived before coming to the U.S. By providing all of the information I knew, a wonderful volunteer found the answers I needed.

My research goal was to learn: 1) where my 3rd great-grandparents, Peter & Barbara Steimer Klein, lived in Germany, and 2) the names of their parents. I knew that they were Catholic and hoped that church records would have the answers. For the archive volunteers to find what I needed, it was important that I provide clues as to which parish they may have belonged.

I knew when and where their first child was born (which helps narrow the range of their marriage year) and that the family later lived in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. If I would have stopped with that information when I filled out the research request form, I would have learned only half of the answers. The research report showed that Peter & Barbara did in fact get married at St. Michael's on the South Side of Pittsburgh, and it provided the names of their parents. So my 4th great-grandparents are Peter Klein & Eva Dani and Clemens Steimer & Barbara Eid.

However, on the research form, I also provided information about Barbara's brothers. My hope was that, if her marriage record couldn't be located or if it wasn't detailed, the brothers' records might be more helpful. Bingo! Barbara's brother, Jacob, was married in McKeesport, and his church marriage record confirmed that their parents were Clemens & Barbara Eid Steimer. But it also showed that Jacob was born in Wiesbach, Germany. Therefore, I now know where some of my ancestors were living during at least one key event of their lives.

Even if you think a detail is unimportant, it's definitely better to include too much information than not enough. It may make a huge difference in discovering more about your ancestors.

Related Posts:

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Huber Brothers of Akron & Pittsburgh

Genealogy and Akron Ohio
From Views of Akron, Ohio,
and Environs
, 1904
My 2nd great-grandparents, Ignace & Carolina Wey Huber, had all sons--eight of them. The oldest was born in Paris, France, but the rest (at least the ones I've found) were born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania.

John Paul Huber died at the age of 1. Two brothers, Harry and Theodore, were named in the obituary of another brother but I know nothing about them. I don't know where they were born and haven't found them in any censuses. But I haven't given up!

My great-grandfather, Joseph Henry, and brothers Frank Pius and John Peter all stayed in Pittsburgh and raised their families there. The other two brothers, Alphonse Antoine and Charles Eugene, left Pittsburgh and moved to Akron, Ohio. Charles moved first, possibly due to his employment with a railroad, and Alphonse followed almost 20 years later.

Here are five of the Huber brothers and their wives:

  1. Alphonse Antoine Huber m. Anna Friedl
  2. Charles Eugene Huber m. Anna Hanselman
  3. Frank Pius Huber m. Amelia Kinzer or Kinzel
  4. Joseph Henry Huber m. Alice Laubersheimer
  5. John Peter Huber m. Julia Cliney

If there are any cousins out there who have information on Harry and Theodore Huber, I would love to hear from you!

Related Posts:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Family Marriage: Kuckert-Applegate in Beaumont, Texas

Genealogy and newspaper wedding announcements
The Evening Review (East Liverpool, OH),
March 19, 1907
On March 12, 1907, my 1st cousin twice removed, Frank Jacob Kuckert, married Florence Margaret Applegate in Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas. Frank was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Jacob & Elizabeth Jae Kuckert and moved with his parents to East Liverpool, Ohio, at some point between his half-sister's 1888 wedding and the 1900 census.

Frank's wedding announcement from mentions that he lived in New Jersey and New York before marrying in Texas:

"Mr. Kuckert is an East Liverpool boy and grew up practically in the local young men's associations. He is physical director at present in Beaumont, where he has been residing the past year and a half. After he left this city he went to New Jersey, later he was transferred to Brooklyn, then to Beaumont."

Frank spent at least the last 45 years of his life in Oklahoma, where he worked as a bookkeeper for an oil company. He and Florence had two daughters, Rebekah and Alice.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pittsburgh Death of Nathan T. Velar

When McKinley was President, Nathan T. Velar was appointed in 1897 to be the first black postmaster in the country. His death was reported in The Pittsburgh Courier in August 25, 1928, which can be viewed on

Pittsburgh Death of Nathan Velar
"The community has lost one of its most noble citizens--Nathan T. Velar! A grand, old warrior whose rugged personality and aggressive spirit inspired local color and impetus forty years ago! 
Mr. Velar's political and civic career began in 1888. Although he was a familiar figure in various community efforts, it was the political field that claimed his major interest. He was a staunch Republican and his zealous activity soon won him recognition among foremost leaders of is party.
Mr. Velar was born in Frederickstown, Mo., September 12, 1858. He was educated, however, in Sparta, Ill., where his family moved when he was young. He came to Pennsylvania at an early age and settled in Rankin. In 1892, Mr. Velar moved to Brenton [sic], Pa., where he served as postmaster for ten years.
In 1889 he was elected school director and in 1890 chosen a member of the Borough Council of Rankin. He was also a member of the Afro-American Republican Club. In business he gained an honorable reputation; in early years he was connected with the Carnegie Steel Company.
Mr. Velar is survived by a widow, seven sons, four daughters and many grandchildren. Since his death Tuesday evening, telegrams of sympathy from county, city and borough officials and friends have flooded into his late residence, 601 Boundary street, East Pittsburgh." 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Happy Birthday to My Genealogy Advocate

Genealogy and Birthdays
Happy birthday to my sister who got me interested in genealogy many years ago and still patiently listens to my research stories. I often feel her birthday is overshadowed by other events.

For example, today she gets to hear how it's Friday the 13th and how unlucky the day is. And her birthday is always exactly one week after an older sister's birthday. I can't help but think there wasn't quite as much excitement when the second birthday cake came out because we had just eaten one the previous week! Then there's the proximity to St. Patrick's Day and all things green, weather events like the Blizzard of '93, plus the years when it lands on a Friday during Lent and her birthday meal was fish.

Dear sister, I hope you know that you and your birthday will always be special to me. Hope you have a great day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Plumber's Portrait

My third great-uncle, Emil Wey, had three sons who became plumbers and started their own business called Wey Brothers in the city of Allegheny, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh). While searching The Plumbers Trade Journal, I found several issues that mentioned the brothers' projects, such as this blurb in 1906:  "Wey Bros., 707 Middle street, Allegheny, are doing the plumbing in the residence of E. E. Garside, of East Bellevue."

On the same page, it is even more interesting to see the mentions of personal information about plumbers, such as the birth of a baby boy and this great photo of a plumber and his wife!

Genealogy and Trade Journals"We show in the present issue a portrait of that successful master plumber of 90 Lowry street, Troy Hill, Allegheny, Pa., John B. Heid, and his charming wife. Mr. Heid is just installing a nice piece of plumbing in the Hubert residence on Troy Hill, and is known far and wide for the high quality of his work. He has one of the best shops in Allegheny and has performed some of the best contracts in that neck of the woods. He has a very delightful home on Lowry street, a couple of squares from his shop. Mr. Heid looks forward to a good year in 1906 and judging from his record in the past he should have a big number of contracts on hand by spring. Mr. and Mrs. Heid recently returned from their wedding trip, which included Cleveland, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, New York and Boston."

Trade journals can tell you more about an ancestor than items related to his profession. You may get lucky and find some great personal details.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Bonus Photos in Yearbooks

In some yearbooks, you can see the face of your ancestor as a student, plus get a bonus photo of him or her as a young child! The Junior class in the 1906 yearbook for West Virginia University provides one example of this. Margaret Buchanan of Morgantown is not a relative, but I would be extremely happy to find these photos for someone in my family tree.

"Behold in this co-ed one of the brightest of her class. She is not only a student of the University, but is at times a member of the Faculty. As an Assistant Professor in Mathematics, she has shown herself to be an efficient instructor, and yet, with all this dignity she has never lost her popularity. What it is about her that captures all the offices of Secretary we do not know, but suffice it to say that she has now to her credit not less than six such offices. Miss Buchanan is one of the small number of perosns [sic] who seem to know how to mix properly work and pleasure. In this she certainly has found the 'happy medium.'"

Margaret was one of only three women in her class. She went on to become a teacher at the university and married engineer Harry O. Cole in 1929.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Women in History: Army Nurses

There's a great book you can find on The Internet Archive or Google Books called Our Army Nurses. It includes a photo of each nurse and their personal recollections of their service during the Civil War. Mrs. Ruth Helena Sinnotte was from Illinois and spent time as a nurse on several hospital boats. She described the time she saved a patient suffering from typhoid fever:

Genealogy Publications"I got a little chicken broth, and alternated every fifteen minutes, a few drops of brandy, then of the broth. I stood over him for hours. After awhile I noticed a change for the better. He could swallow, and his pulse was quite perceptible. Finally it beat as quick as I wanted to feel it. After midnight I became quite faint; I had not eaten. I could not stop for supper. I called the best nurse on the boat to relieve me. I went to my quarters, but could not undress. I unfastened my shoes, then fell into a faint, or dead sleep. Did not awake until the sun called me, shining through the slats of my door. I went to my patient. He looked up and smiled. The doctor soon came along, and said, 'Why, ain't he dead yet?' The sick man whispered, 'She,' pointing to me. The doctor asked me what I had done. I said, 'I attended to him as though he were my own, and in our own home.' I asked if I could have him in my ward. He said, 'Yes; you deserve to have him.' When he got to St. Louis he walked the length of the boat between two men, shook hands with me, and said: 'God bless you always. You have saved me to my wife and five children.'"

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Access the Archives of Colleges & Universities

Genealogy and College Archives
The obituary of my husband's great-grandfather mentions that he was an 1898 graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, which is located in Washington, PA. So I decided to check out that school's archives to see what information they had about alumni.

In the U. Grant Miller Library Digital Archives on W&J's website, there are two alumni directories that cover the years 1802 to 1945. They also include information on college presidents, faculty, and alumni who died in various wars. On page 536 of the first volume, under the graduating class of 1898, it says this about my husband's great-grandfather:
"STEWART, JOHN BOYD DINSMORE--Son of John W. and Elizabeth Gamble Stewart; born in McKeesport, Pa., Nov. 7, 1874; graduated West Penn Medical College, 1901; practiced medicine McKeesport, '01--; married Feb. 16, '99, Anna M. Kirkendall. Physician, McKeesport, Pa."
I browsed the index and learned that John's older brother also graduated from W&J, in 1890:
"STEWART, MURRAY WILSON--Son of John W. and Lizzie G. Stewart; born McKeesport, Pa., April 30, 1865; law student with E. P. Douglass, of Pittsburg; practiced his profession in Pittsburg and McKeesport. Residence, McKeesport, Pa."
If you had ancestors who were fortunate to attend a college or university, alumni publications are another great resource for your genealogy research.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Women and the Trades: Pittsburgh, 1907-1908

In honor of our female ancestors, here are some excerpts from Women and the Trades: Pittsburgh, 1907-1908, which you can view on Google Books.
"The customary working day for women in Pittsburgh factories is ten hours. This may be shortened in some industries to five hours on Saturday, but in general, the working work is 60 hours long. In part, this customary limit to hours of work is due to the Pennsylvania law, which has for 12 years limited the working week to 60 hours; in part it is due to the general tendency, both in Europe and in the United States, to regard 10 hours a day as a reasonable maximum for women's work."
Genealogy and Pittsburgh Women
"Lunch Room for Workers in a Stogy Factory"
"The numbers of women workers in competitive industry are greater, not less, than they were fifty years ago, or twenty-five years ago, or ten years ago. There is every indication that these numbers will continue actually and proportionately to increase. We have no reason to think that the problems presented by the industrial employment of women will be solved by a cessation of that employment. But there is reasonable prospect that through change in the conditions of their labor much that seems evil in it may be done away, and the participation of women in industry may become a force of permanent value."
According to the publication, the top Pittsburgh trade groups based on the total number of women workers were:
  1. Mercantile Houses
  2. Food Production
  3. Cleaning Industries
  4. Stogy Industry
  5. Metal Trades
  6. Needle Trades
  7. Miscellaneous Manufacturers
  8. Lamps and Glass
  9. Telephone and Telegraph
  10. Printing Trades
Take a moment this month to remember the working women in your family tree.