Monday, August 31, 2015

Thankful for Teachers

From Flickr: Boston Public School, 1892
As my son returns to school today to begin 6th grade, I am thankful for those who dedicate their lives to educating our children. It's a tough job but so important!

I don't remember seeing any teachers in my family tree, but my husband has some relatives who spent time in front of students. This isn't a complete list, but here are eight:
  • Elizabeth Lee (1852-1938) - one of three sisters who taught in Atchison County, Kansas
  • Ella Lee (1857-1929) - another sister who taught in Atchison County, Kansas
  • Mary Lee (1850- ) - the 1870 shows her as a teacher living in Mount Pleasant, Atchison, Kansas; I haven't been able to locate her after that year
  • Luella Lewis Wiegel (1873-1957) - music teacher who lived in Elizabeth, Allegheny, Pennsylvania
  • Nellie Lewis Laing (1869-1949) - teacher who lived in Elizabeth, Allegheny, Pennsylvania 
  • Henry Stewart (1831-1908) - he was a Pennsylvania farmer, store clerk, salesman, and shipping clerk, but the 1860 census shows that he also was a teacher
  • Mary Vance Rudy (1893-1967) - the 1930 census shows her as a "public school teacher"; newspaper articles identify her as an instructor in the Third Ward school of Canonsburg, Washington, Pennsylvania
  • Gladys Vance Paul (1908-1998) - the 1930 census shows her as a "country school teacher"; a newspaper article indicates that she taught in the North Strabane school district in Washington County, Pennsylvania

Men and women who wanted to become teachers typically enrolled in a "normal school." You can find publications online from some of these schools that include lists of students and alumni. Here are just a few that I found in the HathiTrust Digital Library, and many of these have additional years as well:

Be thankful for the teachers in your family tree! While these publications may not give you new facts about them, they provide a list of courses your teacher ancestors would have taken, giving you a peek at what their lives might have been like during the years they attended a normal school.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Photograph: Identifying a Police Officer

I found the photograph below in a small box that belonged to my grandmother. There's an 'X' by the feet of one of the police officers, and on the back is just a surname: "Scheppner."

My great-grandfather was a policeman, and he married Christina Schoeppner in 1921 after his first wife died. So my first thought was that this was her father. But all records for Joseph Schoeppner showed that he was a laborer.

Christina also had three brothers--Joseph, Herman, and Michael Schoeppner--so I took a look at each of them. The younger Joseph was a mill worker and then became a grocer. Herman died when he was 16 years old. Michael was a steel worker in the 1900 census, and I couldn't find him in 1910.

So I put the photo away and forgot about it.

But then when I was recently searching for the surname Schoeppner on, I came across an article that reminded me of that photograph:

The Pittsburg Post, May 11, 1905

I pulled up Michael's record in my database and saw that I didn't have a record of his death. I searched the Pennsylvania death certificates on and found out that he died on December 22, 1913 of influenza and pneumonia. Michael's occupation? Police officer.

It's such a great feeling to be able to identify family members in old photographs!

Note: A report on Pittsburgh, which included an evaluation of the city's police force, was published in 1913, the same year Michael Schoeppner died. It was titled, The City of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania: Report on a Survey of the Department of Public Health, and I found this section very interesting:
"Policemen receive no training whatever for their work. The moment a patrolman has been appointed he is assigned to duty and little or no instruction is given him. He is required to learn the duties of his office as best he can or, as the authorities in charge of the bureau put it, 'by experience.' He is not even placed under the charge of an older patrolman or required to perform duty with him for a definite number of days so as to become familiar with the merest routine. ... Policemen are given revolvers to use without a single lesson in target practice."

Related Post:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Did a Father's Death Lead to Sons' Mental Illness?

When we discover mental illness in our family trees, it may raise a lot of questions. And there are just some things that genealogy won't be able to answer. Mental illness may run in families, so a parent may pass it on to children. However, it may also be triggered by a traumatic event, and a suicide would be considered awful enough to have an impact on any family. We can only guess at the cause of a relative's mental illness.

Jacob Steimer, the nephew of my 3rd great-grandmother Barbara Steimer Klein, was 44 when he shot himself in the back yard of his Carrick, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania home. His death appeared as front page news in 1915: "Steiner [sic] went home and found his wife preparing to go to the home of her mother. He asked for forgiveness. His pleas fell on unheeding ears, it is said, and Steiner [sic] obtained his shot gun and aimed at his wife. She fled when the trigger failed to explode the cartridge in the gun."

The Pittsburgh Post, June 14, 1915

Jacob and Anna Kramer Steimer were married in 1896 had two sons, Edward and Lawrence, who would have been teenagers when their father killed himself. Both of them appear to have struggled with mental illness during their lifetimes.

Edward Steimer's World War I draft registration card in 1918 shows him unemployed at the age of 21 and described as "mentally deficient."

World War I Draft Registration Card, Edward Steimer, 1918

Later, in the 1920 census, Edward was working as an elevator boy in an office building but, by 1930, he was a patient in the Pittsburgh City Home and Hospital at Mayview in South Fayette, Allegheny County. Edward was still there in 1940, and his brother Lawrence was now institutionalized with him. Edward's 1943 death certificate mentions nothing about mental illness but shows that he suffered with pulmonary tuberculosis for 2 years before he died of it at the Woodville State Hospital in Collier Township, Allegheny County.

The second son, Lawrence, was working in 1918 as a driver for the Pittsburgh Terminal Railroad & Coal Co. in Castle Shannon, Allegheny County, at the age of 18. By 1920, he was a coal miner. I haven't been able to find him or his mother in 1930 (when his brother was in an institution), but his 1940 census record shows that he was still in Carrick in 1935. Lawrence's 1941 death certificate shows that he died of tuberculosis of the lungs at Mayveiw State Hospital and that he suffered from syphilis and schizophrenia.

Pennsylvania Death Certificate, Lawrence Steimer, March 10, 1941

Edward and Lawrence are both buried in South Side Cemetery in Pittsburgh. I haven't found out what happened to their mother yet.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Akron Advertisement, 1887

This advertisement appears in the 1887 publication, Recipes by Ladies of St. Paul's P.E. Church, Akron, Ohio. While most of the ads are for Akron businesses, there also are several for the Cleveland area. You can view this booklet both in the HathiTrust Digital Library and The Internet Archive.

Some of my Huber relatives moved to Akron in the early 1900s, so I wonder if this store still existed then and if they ever saw it. Most of the ads in this recipe book used text only, so this one with artwork definitely stands out.
Laskaris Store, Akron Ohio, 1887

Take time to browse publications from the areas where your ancestors lived. If they owned a business, you may find one of their old ads, but it's also a great way to learn more about the city or town where they lived and raised their families.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Deaths of Two Frederick Fiegers in 1901

My first cousin twice removed, Robert Louis Jay, married Ray Fieger in Pittsburgh around 1928. (With this marriage, her name became Ray Jay. Love it!)

Ray lost her father Frederick, who was a city councilman, in January 1901. Her grandfather, who also was Frederick Fieger, died just a few months later in May 1901. Ray was only four years old.

Here are the newspaper death notices for both Fredericks:

The Pittsburgh Post, January 7, 1901

The Pittsburgh Post, May 2, 1901

Ray Fieger Jay was the only daughter of Frederick Fieger, who also had five sons. Ray didn't have children of her own, but she lived a long life. She died in Pittsburgh at the age of 82 on March 31, 1979.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dig into Pennsylvania Farm Records

My husband's 3rd great-grandfather, Hamilton Stewart, was born on May 10, 1799, in McKeesport, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. I can see from census records that he spent at least 5 decades as a farmer in the nearby township of Versailles, but I want to know more than that.

To get a better picture of what Hamilton's life was like, I took a look at the agricultural census manuscripts that are available on the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission website. This is what I learned about his farm from 1850:

1850 Agricultural Census, Versailles - Hamilton Stewart Farm

  • 80 improved acres of land
  • 20 unimproved acres
  • 4000 cash value of farm
  • 5 horses
  • 7 cows
  • 5 other cattle
  • 11 sheep
  • 16 swine
  • 423 value of live stock
  • 188 bushels of wheat
  • 200 bushels of Indian corn
  • 400 bushels of oats
  • 40 pounds of wool
  • 260 pounds of butter
  • 17 tons of hay
  • 10 value of homemade manufacture
  • 76 value of animals slaughtered

Agricultural census data for Pennsylvania is also available for 1880 and 1927, but Hamilton passed away before that. It would have been great to compare the 1850 data to a later decade to see if his farm grew.

If you have Pennsylvania farmers in your family tree, dig into these farm records to learn more about your ancestors.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Kiefer Children Died Too Young

My 3rd great-aunt, Philippina Klein, married Peter Kiefer in Pittsburgh on January 30, 1889. By 1910, they had 8 children but only 4 were living. Even the four children who would become adults died before the age of 50. Sadly, the parents had to see six of their children buried before they died themselves in 1927 and 1936.

St. Peter's Cemetery, Mt. Oliver area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(Reprinted with permission from Roseanne Kocinski-Fowler)

Here are the Kiefer children:
  1. Clement James Kiefer (1890-1938) - Clement left behind wife Ethel and daughters Dorothy and Ruth when he died at the age of 47 of coronary disease and chronic nephritis;
  2. Marcella Kiefer (1891-1896) - Marcella was only 5 years old when she died of burns; she was an unknown cousin until I found the newspaper article below;
  3. Alfred William Kiefer (1893-1920) - Alfred was 27 when he died at his parents' home of pulmonary edema;
  4. Loretta B. Kiefer (1895-1922) - Loretta was only married to Louis Schanck for a year or two when she died at the age of 26 of cardiac exhaustion and edema of the lungs;
  5. Paul Peter Kiefer (1903-1945) - Paul was the last surviving sibling and died in Pittsburgh at the age of 41 of malignant hypertension; he left behind his wife Cecilia and children, Paul and Loretta;
  6. Unknown Kiefer - died by 1900 census;
  7. Unknown Kiefer - died by 1900 census;
  8. Unknown Kiefer - died by 1910 census

The Pittsburgh Post, November 24, 1896

I've submitted a research request to the Diocese of Pittsburgh to find information about the three unknown young children who passed away. I hate having nameless entries in my family tree since I feel they deserve to be acknowledged and remembered. 

The Kiefer family lived on Arlington Avenue in the Lower St. Clair area of Pittsburgh, and Peter's obituary says that his funeral mass was held at St. Henry's Church. The wonderful volunteer researchers should be able to take that information to find the family starting with the 1889 marriage and trace them forward, even if they switched parishes at any point. I included information about each of the 8 children with the hope they can identify the names I'm missing.

I'll post an update when I receive the report.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Find French Birth Records

My 2nd great-grandparents, Ignace "Charles" and Caroline Wey Huber, were born in France, were married in France, and had their first child in France. As I indicated in an earlier post (see link at the end), they left this son in France for several years while they built a life in the United States.

The French archives are absolutely wonderful since many birth, marriage, and death records have been scanned and are available online for free. They aren't searchable but, as long as you know the town, you can browse the images to find key records for your family members. Finding my uncle Alphonse Huber's birth record in the large Paris archives took a lot of patience, but it was worth it.

Birth record for Alphonse Antoine Huber, Paris, France, March 16, 1864

I wish I could read French, but I was able to understand a few things:
  • Alphonse's middle name was Antoine, which was his paternal grandfather's name;
  • His father, Ignace Hubert [sic], was a tailleur or tailor; and  
  • His mother, Caroline Wey, was a couturière or dressmaker.
I also used the Bas-Rhin archives to locate Ignace's birth record in Artolsheim and Caroline's in Dambach-la-Ville. If my research was successful without knowing the language, then others looking for their French ancestors definitely can do it, too.

If you can read French and see any other important details in the birth record above, I would love to hear from you!

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Fire Captain John B. Lucot

John B. Lucot was named after his French grandfather who came to the U.S. in the 1840s and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The younger John was most likely born in Temperanceville, now the West End of Pittsburgh, since he was living there in 1870 at the age of two with his parents, Albert and Minnie.

John was first employed as an iron worker but, by the age of 23, he was appointed as a Pittsburgh fire fighter. A year later, he married a Minnie of his own, Philomena Stella Cain. Within 10 years, they had a household full of children: five girls.

But a few days before his youngest daughter's first birthday, on May 17, 1904, Minnie died of pneumonia. John most likely moved back in with his parents so they could help raise his girls because that's where he was in the 1910 census. In 1911, he married his second wife, my great-great aunt Frances Echement, at St. Mary of the Mount Church. They had three boys together: Albert John, Arthur Ambrose, and Richard J. Lucot.

In between his marriages, John B. Lucot was promoted to fire captain and assigned to Company No. 35 in the 40th Ward of Pittsburgh. It appears that he moved to at least one other fire company in the city after that, and then retired in 1933 after 41 years of service.

John and Frances are buried in St. Martin's Cemetery, along with their son Al:

St. Martin's Cemetery, West End section of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania
(Photo taken by the author)

Related Post:  Firemen Switch from Horses to Motor Vehicles 100 Years Ago

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ads for Missing Relatives

Missing person ads were placed in newspapers by relatives when they were trying to locate a family member. When you see one of these ads, you can't help but wonder if they ever got the information they hoped for.

Here is one placed in a Pennsylvania newspaper by Sarah Bliss Whiteway of Devon, England, who was searching for her brother, William Bliss, in the United States:

The Wilkes-Barre Record, January 19, 1909

This next ad was looking for a traveling salesman from Pittsburgh, John Franklin Llewellyn, who disappeared four years earlier. There are two family trees on that have no additional information about him after 1900, so it's possible he was was never found.

Harrisburg Daily Independent, March 17, 1906

Michael Kundratouch disappeared on a Sunday in 1921, and the ad below was placed in the newspaper on Friday of that same week. I found his Pennsylvania death certificate on, so at least his family found out what happened, although it was not good news. The death record for "Mike Kundratouich" indicates that he was a coal miner from Russia, and it looks like his body was found on March 16, 1922, since that's the date the deputy coroner viewed the body. Cause of death was "Drowned, probably accidental, found in Monongahela river at Coal Bluff."

The Daily Republican (Monongahela, Pennsylvania), December 9, 1921

Related Post:  Sadly, Research Doesn't Find All Answers

Monday, August 3, 2015

Great Documentary: Packed in a Trunk

Old Steamer Trunk
"Here's to being seen"
There's a wonderful HBO documentary that you just have to watch. It's called Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson and is the story of a little-known artist and the discovery of her artwork in an attic in Wheeling, West Virginia. It began airing on July 20th, but I just saw it yesterday and thought is was fantastic. If you have access to HBO On Demand, please take time to watch it.

As summarized on the website dedicated to Edith:

"Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson is a documentary film that will celebrate the long-buried talent of the painter Edith Lake Wilkinson who was part of the Provincetown art scene in the early 20th century and produced an astounding body of work. In 1924 she was committed to an asylum -- perhaps with the help of the family lawyer who was busily siphoning off her funds. The lawyer had also objected to Edith’s 'close and constant contact' with her companion Fannie. Once she was put away, Edith’s work and all her worldly possessions were packed into trunks and shipped off to a relative in West Virginia where they sat in an attic collecting dust for the next 40 years. Edith was never heard from again. 
Edith’s great-niece, Jane Anderson (Emmy-winning Writer & Director) grew up surrounded by Edith’s paintings thanks to her mother who had gone poking through that dusty attic and rescued Edith’s work. ... Packed in a Trunk will follow Jane in her efforts to find the answers to the mystery of Edith’s buried life, as well as her goal to return Edith’s work back to Provincetown."

There are some historical records, a few photos, a scene where her great-niece walks the cemetery in search of Edith's grave, lots of art, and ultimately a result not unlike our efforts with genealogy: this woman's story is uncovered and now she will not be forgotten. 

As it says in this line on the website, "Here’s to being seen."