Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Is Frederick Waldschmidt My Uncle?

Frederick Waldschmidt of Allegheny City (now Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania
Frederick Waldschmidt
In a previous post, I mentioned that I am still searching for records to identify the parents of my great-grandmother, Alice Laubersheimer Huber. Oral history from family indicates that they are Fritz Laubersheimer and Caroline Waldschmidt, but I have no proof.

The 1899 passenger record that I believe is for Alice shows an "Elise Laubersheimer" of the right age traveling to her final destination of "Pittsburg, Pa." The record indicates that her passage was paid by her uncle and that she was planning on joining her "uncle: Fred. Waldschmidt" in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

Since I was hoping that this connection between Alice and Frederick would lead me to her parents, I searched for more information on Frederick. A biography and the photo above appear in the 1897 book "City of Allegheny, Pa: Illustrations and Sketches of the Banking, Wholesale and Manufacturing Interests and the Representative Professional Interests of Allegheny County":

"Frederick Waldschmidt, alderman, was born June 26, 1848, in Elsass, then a part of France. He was educated in the public schools of his country and began a business life in connection with a manufactory of boots and shoes. He was a soldier in the army of France, in the Franco-Prussian war, and for valor on the battlefield, was made a sergeant-major. After his arrival in this country he engaged in the insurance and real estate business. Before coming to Allegheny he served as tax collector, justice of the peace and borough treasurer of Glenfield borough, Allegheny county. Since residing here he has served in council. Mr. Waldschmidt was married January 17, 1878, to Magdalena Teutenberg. He is one of Allegheny's substancial [sic] citizens, and enjoys the confidence of many who are honored by his acquaintance. He is secretary of the Allegheny building association, and a director of the German National building and loan association, and not only takes great interest in these organizations, but is one of the best posted men on building association affairs in the United States. His office is at 157 Ohio Street. Mr. Waldschmidt is a member of Voegtly's Church."

Frederick died on April 15, 1918, and I found a great clue on his Pennsylvania death certificate. It states that he was born in Gerstheim, Alsace, France, and that his father Daniel was born in Goersdorf, Alsace, France. Since many French records are online, I hoped that I could find Frederick's birth record and, by browsing other years, see if he had a sister named Caroline Waldschmidt.

In the online Bas-Rhin Archives, I found Frederick's French birth record for June 26, 1848, in Gerstheim to parents Daniel Waldschmidt and Elisabeth Frauenfelder:

I also found birth records from Gerstheim for two sisters, Salome (1845) and Madeleine (1846). Additional siblings were born in Boofzheim, France: Salome (1856), Sophie (1858), Auguste (1860), and Edouard (1862). No Caroline. There is a gap of eight years between Frederick's birth in 1848 and the second Salome in 1856, so there could have been another move during that period. I browsed nearby towns and haven't found anything yet.

So I still don't know if Frederick Waldschmidt is a relative, but I will keep looking in the hope that it leads me to the names of Alice Laubersheimer's parents.

Two notes:
  1. There is an Illinois death record for a Daniel Waldschmidt that shows he is another sibling of Frederick since their parent names match. Daniel's birth is shown to have been in "Straussberg, Germany" in 1854.
  2. The Pennsylvania marriage license application of Alice's half sister, Anna Laubersheimer, shows Anna's parents were Phillip Laubersheimer and Fredericka "Wallsmith." So, while I've always assumed they had the same father, it's possible that they share the same mother who married another Laubersheimer.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

1816: A Year Without a Summer

Last week, I read a story on CNN's website, "Magma expanse under Yellowstone supervolcano more vast than thought."  Since my family had traveled to the national park a couple of years ago, it caught my eye. The article also mentioned an interesting bit of history.

While it states that an "eruption in the next few thousand years is extremely unlikely," it goes on to say that, "when it does blow, it probably will change the world." Apparently, an 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia had a wide-reaching impact. "Its dust may have blocked sunlight around the world, chilling the air and dropping the Earth's climate into a frigid phase that garnered the year 1816 the 'year without a summer,' some climatologists believe. It may have led to frosty crop failures in Europe and North America."

Sure enough, a search on found many mentions of "a year without a summer," although the articles I read did not make a connection to the volcanic eruption. Here's one that appeared in the Pittsburgh Daily Post on January 3, 1916:

Pittsburgh Newspaper Article: Odd Incidents in American History

Friday, April 24, 2015

Family Birth: Walter Charles Jackson in 1890

Genealogy and Family Who Owned Restaurants
My 1st cousin twice removed, Walter Charles Jackson, was born 125 years ago in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His mother, my 2nd great-aunt Katherine Jae Nehren Jackson, was one of the strongest women in my family tree and had to deal with heartache many times, but Walter's birth on April 25, 1890, had to be one of the happiest days of her life.

Walter had two half-brothers who died before he was born, so he was essentially an only child. After Kate's first husband died, she married Frank Jackson, the manager of her South Side tavern. Sometime between 1900 and 1910, Walter's family moved from Pittsburgh to East Liverpool, Ohio, and they opened a restaurant at 625 Jefferson Street. When Walter was 27 years old, his father died, and he took over the business.

Walter never married and must have been a colorful character based on the newspaper stories that mention the fines he received for selling liquor and organizing dice games at his restaurant. On May 31, 1926, at the age of 36, he passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage. Kate, who must have been so happy when her son was born, had to have been devastated to bury him. She had lost two husbands and all three of her sons.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Two Obituaries of John Wilson Stewart

My husband's 2nd great-grandfather passed away on July 5, 1907, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Like many of our ancestors, his obituary appeared in the local newspaper (Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 6, 1907) and included the basic information about his death and family:

"John W. Stewart, 73 years old, a well-known resident of McKeesport, died yesterday morning at the McKeesport hospital from injuries received Thursday when he was struck by a street car. The following children survive: M. Wilson Stewart, a Pittsburgh attorney; J. Boyd Stewart, a physician, and Scott M. Stewart, of McKeesport. A brother, Henry Stewart, 75 years old, has been ill for the last six months, and is now in a critical condition at his home in East Eleventh street, McKeesport."

However, I was lucky to find another, more extensive obituary in Google Books, which appeared in Pittsburgh's Presbyterian Banner on August 22, 1907. This one even provided a description of his character and appearance!

Pittsburgh Presbyterian Banner Newspaper

"STEWART--At McKeesport Hospital, McKeesport, Pa., July 5, 1907, John W. Stewart in his 73d year.
Mr. Stewart was born within the present limits of McKeesport, on September 9, 1834. He was married in 1862 to Miss Elizabeth Gamble, of Kiskiminetas, Armstrong county, Pa., who died in October, 1899. Three sons survive him: M. Wilson, J. Boyd and Scott M.
Mr. Stewart came from strong Presbyterian stock. Seven ministers of the Presbyterian Church were close relatives of his mother. Hamilton Stewart, his father, was a pioneer in organized religious effort in McKeesport, and one of the earliest ruling elders of the First church of this city, which office he held 41 years, or until he was called to rest. What may have been the first temperance society west of the mountains was organized in the First church in 1829, by Hamilton Stewart and two others. Henry, the surviving brother of our subject, is the oldest ruling elder of the above church. He was ordained in 1873.
John W. Stewart was a life-long member and for 36 years a trustee of the First church. He was secretary of the board of trustees when he died.
In his treatment of people he was genial and unassuming. His sympathy for the sick and unfortunate was marked. The man's heart beat true. Little did he lecture about right living, but himself lived right, as nearly as men can. So he endeared himself to those who knew him well and commanded the respect of the community.
Mr. Stewart was a man of dignified bearing and fine presence. A full flowing beard, almost white, added to his venerable appearance. While he usually wore a thoughtful look, his face beamed with pleasure when he conversed with friends. He much enjoyed a social talk.
At the time of his death Mr. Stewart was a trustee and treasurer of McKeesport Hospital, where he died, as a result of an accident which befell him on July 4. Much of the man's time was devoted to the interests of this institution. He was also a member of the McKeesport Chamber of Commerce, where, among other great questions, he strove for pure city government. Our heavenly Father has taken this dear brother home."

As you can see, obituaries may vary in each publication, so it may be worth your time to look at each newspaper published in the area to see if there are variations that give you some additional details about your ancestors.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

A Female Entrepreneur Leaves for Canada

I found this great story in a trade journal on The Internet Archive:

Crockery & Glass Journal, November 6, 1913

I found Mary in the 1910 census of Pittsburgh living as a lodger with her sister Emma at 420 Tenth Street. She was employed by a department store as indicated in the article and was born about 1886 in Pennsylvania. So Mary would have been around 28 years old when she left for Canada in 1914.

I don't know if Mary ever made it to Canada or how long she stayed, but she eventually married Edward Francis Maloney and, by 1930, was living in Los Angeles County, California. It doesn't look like they ever had children, and Mary's sister Emma lived with them. Mary stayed in California for the rest of her life and died on March 11, 1976, in Los Angeles at the age of 90.

Friday, April 17, 2015

I Have a Cousin in Colorado!

Yesterday, I woke up to find an email from a cousin I didn't even know existed. It was very exciting! It turns out that she lived ten miles from me for a decade, but now she's in Colorado. Her paternal grandmother and my great-grandfather were siblings and, while you would think that this family branch with 13 children would lead to many cousin connections, it just hasn't turned out that way.

Two of the thirteen siblings didn't marry because they died in their 20s, and two others didn't have children of their own. For seven of the remaining nine, either I couldn't locate descendants or they didn't respond to my letter/email. This message from my cousin has inspired me to try to reach out to them again.

My cousin and I have already started to share family details, and I'm hoping to see some photos of her grandparents. I compiled a booklet several years ago on this family branch as a gift for my dad, so I can't wait to share it with her.

I still need to ask my "new" cousin how she tracked me down, but I suspect it was via this blog since she contacted me through the email address I mainly use here. I've read from other bloggers about similar cousin connection stories, but I really didn't think I would be one of the lucky ones!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ancestors Who Divorced

Divorce has been a part of our family trees for centuries. In the 1917 book The Challenge of Pittsburgh, it was called a "epidemic social disease":

"Lessening Sense of the Sacredness of Marriage
In 1916 in Allegheny County, there were issued 12,259 marriage licenses; and the same year 1,256 applications were filed for divorce. During the same period 725 divorces were granted and forty-six refused. This means that for every ten weddings solemnized in Allegheny County a divorce was applied for; and for every seventeen couples married, there was one divorce.
Domestic instability is fast becoming an epidemic social disease among us. It is nation-wide. In the thirty years from 1870 to 1900 there was a decrease in the United States of over ten per cent. [sic] of marriages in proportion to the population of the country. This is alarming, even if the reason is economic. But this is not nearly so bad as the fact that in the United States in 1910 there were granted 91,000 divorces. Divorce is the most portentous problem that confronts society to-day."

FamilySearch has divorce records for the following states:  Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In addition, you may find divorce decrees attached to marriage license applications.

For example, my great-aunt Ruth Huber's 1940 marriage license application in FamilySearch shows that she was married once before and that the divorce date was November 17, 1934. That one page has a lot of information including details about her second husband, her occupation and residence, and the names of her parents. The next pages contain images of the certified copy of the divorce decree, showing that the Court found that her first husband "committed wilful [sic] and malicious desertion, and absence from habitation of the injured and innocent spouse...without a reasonable cause, for and during the term and space of two years."

You've probably heard it before, but this is a reminder: always look at the pages before and after your ancestor's record. You just may find additional details.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Wheeling, Virginia Advertisement

The following advertisement was found on Google Books in the 1861 publication, G. W. Hawes' Commercial Gazetteer and Business Directory of the Ohio River. It reflects the time when Wheeling was a city of Virginia, before West Virginia became a state in 1863.

Genealogy and Advertisements

Friday, April 10, 2015

Three Brothers Who Married Sisters

Genealogy and weddings in your family treeThis would be strange today but probably wasn't so uncommon in the past. Three brothers of my great grandmother married three sisters:

  • Peter Jacob Klein married Mary Teresa Theis on February 22, 1898. Both were the oldest siblings of their families, and they were the first to marry.
  • Andrew Klein married Frances Theis on November 12, 1902.
  • George Leo Klein married Elizabeth Theis on February 5, 1908.

All were married in St. Martin's Roman Catholic Church in the West End section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I wish I knew how the first married couple met. They weren't close neighbors, and they belonged to different churches. Most likely, the other two brothers got to know their future wives from various family gatherings such as the baptisms of Peter's children.

In any event, they were married for a combined total of nine decades. Peter & Mary were together for 49 years. The 30-year union of Andrew & Frances was cut short due to his death at the young age of 54 due to a cerebral hemorrhage. George & Elizabeth had even less time together (12 years) when he died of a cerebral tumor in his thirties.

Do you have a similar situation in your family tree where multiple brothers married sisters? Post a comment to share your story!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Peruse Probate Records

An article in from The Daily Notes (Canonsburg, Pennsylvania) provides details of the will of my husband's 2nd great-grandfather, John Cowden. He died at the age of 81 on September 29, 1909, in Mt. Pleasant Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania. The article mentions several pieces of property:
Genealogy and Probate Records
The Daily Notes
October 14, 1909

  • a farm in Mt. Pleasant township,
  • a lot and two houses on Pike street, 
  • two lots on Grant street, Houston, Pa.,
  • a house on Pike street, Houston, known as the Hutchison house,
  • house and lot on Plum Run, Chartiers township, 
  • farm in Beaver county, Pa.,
  • farm in Kansas, and 
  • lot in the state of California

Since FamilySearch has Pennsylvania probate records online, I decided to read the actual will for myself. This required browsing the Washington County wills for 1907-1910 but was really very simple. It didn't take me too long to find the John Cowden will, which he signed on June 12, 1909. 

For probate records that are online, locating a will varies by state and even by county. For example, if you need to find a will in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, it takes three steps:
  1. Browse the Estate Index based on surname and first name to see if there are any probate records for your ancestor. (Be sure to look at the Russell Index page at the beginning of the scanned file to guide you to the page you need.) This step will provide you with the volume, page and block numbers you need for the Proceeding Index;
  2. Using the details found in the first step, browse the Proceedings Index to see if there is a will, which will be indicated by WB for will book;
  3. Based on the will book details found in the second step, browse the appropriate Will volume to find the page number for your ancestor's will.

Unfortunately, I didn't learn any new information from reading John Cowden's will, but it's always a good idea to check the records related to newspaper articles about your ancestors.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Hats, 1906

I hope you enjoyed the holiday and got to spend time with your family. Many of us get new outfits to wear on Easter, so here's an ad from a publication in Google Books showing some of the hat styles from 1906.

The Illustrated Milliner, April 1906

Friday, April 3, 2015

Vintage Easter Card

I wish you a Happy Easter by posting one of my grandmother's cards. My grandfather gave her this card in 1934. Enjoy the day!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Family Clues in Birth Certificates recently added a new collection: Pennsylvania birth certificates for the years 1906-1908. Although you may already know when and where an ancestor or relative was born, it's definitely worth your time to take a look at birth records.

Genealogy and Pennsylvania Birth Certificates

First, you could learn some fun facts. For instance, my grandmother Gertrude Francis Stenglein was actually named Gertrudt Francisca Stenglein on her birth certificate. Very German! Since her parents had only arrived in the U.S. in 1891 and still spoke German, this isn't a surprise but is still fun to see.

Most importantly, you may learn more about the child's parents. My great-aunt Laura Caroline Huber was born in 1906 in Reserve Township, Pennsylvania. It showed her father's occupation of engineer and that her parents were living at 38 Luty Avenue in Reserve. Her birth certificate also gave me a clue that I hope helps me track down more information on my great-grandmother.

Laura's mother, Alice Laubersheimer Huber, is a bit of a mystery to me since I've been unable to find out where she was born nor verify the names of her parents as passed along in family oral history. Laura's handwritten birth certificate only gave the birthplaces of her parents as "American" and "German." However, the typed version shows that Alice was born in "Strassburg, Alssaice-Lorraine."

I believe this is Strasbourg, France, which is near the border of Germany. This was very exciting to learn since French records are online and I've had a lot of success with them in the past. I browsed the records of the Bas-Rhin Archives but haven't had any luck finding Alice's birth. I'm hoping to perhaps find her in a nearby town. 

Anyway, although my post doesn't have a happy ending, hopefully you can see how birth certificates could provide a clue to help you advance your family research. Take a look and find out if you can learn any interesting things about your relatives.