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 Ancestry.com 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 atlanta.archives@nara.gov 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!

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