Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Merry Christmas in 1932

The Christmas card below was given to my grandmother in 1932 by my grandfather, two years before they married.

I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas and hope that you make many genealogy discoveries in the new year!

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Holiday Skating Tragedy, 1920

The holiday season is a time of joy but can also be difficult if you've lost a loved one. One particular loss had to be extremely tough for my Steimer branch to overcome and, since it happened so close to Christmas, most likely affected their holidays for many, many years.

Photograph from The Gazette Times (Pittsburgh, Pa.),
December 27, 1920
Vincent Steimer was probably a typical 10-year-old. His Christmas in 1920 had to have been full of excitement, presents, and family. Once the big day was over, my 2nd cousin three times removed decided to spend time outdoors with his friends. The day was cloudy and cold with the temperature in the 20s, but I'm sure the group of boys thought it was perfect for having fun.

According to this 1920 newspaper story published in The Pittsburgh Post on December 27th, two boys died that day:

     "Two boys were drowned, and two others, apparently dead, were resuscitated by prompt medical aid after being rescued by a man who risked his own life when a portion of the ice on Chartiers creek, near the plant of the Superior Steel Corporation, Carnegie, gave way yesterday afternoon.
     In trying to rescue the boys, Thomas Hall, 10 years old, of Logan and Cubbage streets, Carnegie, also fell into the water, but managed to get to shore safely.
Vincent Steimer, 9 years old [actual age was 10], of 711 Logan street, Carnegie.
Richard Joyce, 9 years old, of Logan and Cubbage streets, Carnegie.
John Walnosky, 10 years old, of 28 Bank street, Carnegie.
Leo Walnosky, 7 years old, brother of John Walnosky.

     The five boys went to the creek to skate shortly after noon and at 12:30 o'clock all were struggling in the water. According to the police, the ice gave way when the boys were about 10 feet from the shore. Young Hall was able to scramble from the water and ran to summon aid.
     H.C. Dodds, a druggist, of Oakdale, and Homer Moore, also of Oakdale, were riding in the Noblestown road when Dodds discovered the boys struggling in the water and crying for help. Operating his machine at fast speed he drove as near the creek as he could, and, leaping from the automobile, dashed across the Panhandle railroad tracks and jumped into the water.
     Moore followed, but remained on the shore. Dodds lifted the Walnosky brothers from the water and placed them on the ice. Assisted by Moore, both boys were carried to the automobile and rushed to the office of Dr. James A. Hamma, 408 Chartiers avenue, Carnegie, one-half mile away.
     Dodds stated that he believed both boys were dead, but hurried them to the office of Hamma.
     Although he believed each boy was dead, Dr. Hamma sent a call for aid to Dr. F. E. Herriott, of 412 Chartiers avenue, Carnegie, and also for the pulmotor at the power house of the Duquesne Light Company, in Railroad street, Carnegie.
     Assisted by Harry Schaffer, of Carnegie, the Shafter method of resuscitation was used until the pulmotor arrived.
     Dr. Herriott was on the scene in a short time and while one physician worked with the pulmotor on one boy, the other used the Shafter method. Previous to the using of the pulmotor, Rev. L. McCrory, pastor of St. Luke's Catholic Church of Carnegie, administered the last rites of the church to the boys.
     After working with the boys more than 30 minutes, the physicians restored them to consciousness. An hour later both were able to go to their homes.
     Dr. Hamma said that Joyce and Steimer probably disappeared below the ice after falling into the creek while the two Walnosky boys reappeared on the surface and were rescued.
     The bodies of Joyce and Steimer were recovered about one hour after the accident by Carnegie police, Watchman John Keil of the Superior Steel Corporation plant; James McCaffery, George Ebner and Orrin Baux, all of Carnegie who went to the creek after learning of the accident.
     Dodds said he did not see the Steimer or Joyce boys."

Discovering a family story like this one reminds us to cherish those in our lives today. You never know how much time you have with them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Ad, 1920

This vintage advertisement is from The Saturday Evening Post dated November 13, 1920. You can find images like this by searching the Internet Archive Book Images on Flickr.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cousin Who Died on a Train

An unexpected find showed me that she was young, a teacher, and died while traveling on a train. I came across this Cowden death while browsing an unindexed FamilySearch collection. The scanned page from "Record of deaths, 1893-1906" for Pennsylvania's Washington County showed that Mary Alma Cowden died on May 9, 1899. Since I didn't have her name in my husband's family tree, I took a closer look.

Mary's life began very soon after the 1880 census and ended a year before the 1900 census, so I had no record of her from those sources. Her 1899 death registration shows that her parents were John K. & Elizabeth Cowden and that she died of consumption (tuberculosis) while on a train, an illness she had battled for six months. Mary was 18 years old and, during her short life, had become a teacher. She is my husband's third cousin 2 times removed.

I searched and found this article about Mary Alma's death:

Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, May 10, 1899

I was glad to see that she hadn't been alone when she died. A photo on shows that Mary shares a headstone with her parents and brother Emil in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Hickory, Pennsylvania.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Pittsburgh Nurse & War Veteran

Ester LeMans, from
The Gazette Times, 1922
In honor of Veterans Day, here's a story that appeared in The Gazette Times (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) on August 13, 1922:

"Hearing Affected by War, Nurse Will Help Disabled

    With the better part of her life already devoted to making others happy, Mrs. Ester LeMans, aged 39, registered nurse and World War nurse, is starting anew and along entirely different lines to radiate sunshine and spread cheer and contentment to the unfortunate.
    Handicapped by the loss of hearing, one of the woman's sacrifices for her country, and realizing she could no longer minister the wants of the sick, Mrs. LeMans decided she would devote her time brightening the lives of crippled and disabled soldiers. She confided her plans to the War Department and was informed that to pursue this work she must have training and a college degree.
    Undaunted by this obstacle, she appealed to the Army Vocational Bureau, after she learned she was entitled to war compensation and asked to be sent to school. This all happened in May, 1920, and now, after two years of intensive study, Mrs. LeMans has completed half of the arts and crafts course at Carnegie Institute of Technology.
    Mrs. LeMans is a native Pittsburgher. She joined the Red Cross in April, 1918, and after a period of training was sent overseas with Base Hospital Unit No. 115. The unit later became known as the President Wilson Unit and was stationed at Vichy, France. She was afterwards reassigned to Base Hospital No. 38, stationed at Nantes.
    In September, 1918, Mrs. LeMans was stricken with influenza and after hovering between life and death for several months recovered and again joined her unit. She was again stricken in January, 1919, and invalided home in April. She was confined in Staten Island Hospital for eight months, having three operations in that time in an attempt to restore her hearing. She is a graduate of Emergency Hospital, Washington."

The Veteran's Compensation Application for Ester Dolores LeMans, which can be found on Ancestry, shows that she was born in Pittsburgh on April 7, 1883. When she submitted the form in 1934, Ester was living in Phoenix, Arizona.

Thank you to all veterans, past and present, for your service and the sacrifices you've made for our country.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Lot Can Happen to Your Ancestor in a Decade

Population Record, 1890-92,
Western State Penitentiary
Murder, trial, and prison. If you looked at the life of Stewart Cherry based on census records alone, you'd never know that his life was turned upside down when he was 38. Stewart was born in Pennsylvania in 1853, and in the 1880s married Mary Jane Phillips and started a family. He would eventually become the father-in-law of my first cousin 3 times removed, when his daughter Rachel married Harry Monroe Dietz.

The census records seem to show that Stewart maintained a rather normal, routine life:
  • 1900 - oil well driller living in McKeesport, Allegheny, Pennsylvania
  • 1910 - oil driller living in McKeesport, Allegheny, Pennsylvania
  • 1920 - driller for an oil well company in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania

Decade after decade, it looks like Stewart's life didn't change. And if the 1890 census had survived, it most likely would have showed again that Stewart was a well driller. I base this assumption on a different type of census record: the one shown at the right that was created by the Western State Penitentiary. It provides many details, including his occupation and his crime of murder. Yes, Stewart Cherry's life shows that a lot can happen in between censuses.

Newspapers from 1891 show that Stewart was arrested for murder, found guilty, and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He claimed self-defense. Stewart was released at the end of May 1900 after serving almost 9 years of his sentence (just a few days before the 1900 census was taken). His normal-looking life from census records turned out to be far from ordinary.

The Pittsburg Press, May 11, 1900

You never know what interesting events and facts you may find about your ancestors.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Costumes, 1916

If you're giving out candy this Halloween, you'll see children wearing lots of different costumes. The advertisement below from The Philadelphia Inquirer shows what kids might have worn a hundred years ago.

Advertisement for Snellenburgs store,
The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 25, 1916
Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Young Alien in Kansas, 1918

Paul Wiechmann, 1918
In 1918, a teenager from Germany, named Paul Wiechmann, registered for a permit in Wichita, Kansas, to move freely through the area due to work. The document, which is available on the FamilySearch website, provides an interesting look at Paul's life and provides a glimpse of how aliens were scrutinized during World War I. Here's part of the document (words in bold were typed onto the application):

   "I, Paul Wiechmann, a native, citizen, denizen, or subject of a country at war with the United States, being male and fourteen years of age or over, residing at 618 Madison, Wichiata [sic], Kansas, hereby apply to the United States Marshal for the [blank] district of Kansas for a permit to pass through an area within one-half mile radius from all zones for the purpose of performing duties as messenger.
   I solemnly swear that I was born at Parum, Wittenburg, Mecklenburg, Scherin, Germany on or about the 29th day of October 1902; that I have resided 11 years in the United States from October 15, 1902 [sic], to Sept. 6, 1918, at the places and been employed since July 1, 1914, in the occupation and by the employers hereinafter stated:
   Wichita, Broom labeling, Southwest Broom Co.
   Wichita, Messenger, Western Union Tel. Co."

Paul probably didn't even remember his time in Germany because he was only 5 when his parents brought him to the U.S., but that didn't matter. He still needed to comply and complete the required paperwork. Even Wichita farmer Henry Lohkamp, who had been in the U.S. for 52 years, was required to apply for a permit, and his application and photo can also be viewed online.

This FamilySearch collection, "Records of the U.S. Attorneys and Marshals: alien application for permit, 1917-1918 (Kansas)," isn't indexed but can be browsed. Similar alien permit applications are available for Kentucky and Missouri as well.

Do you have an ancestor who was required to register as an alien or apply for a permit to move around an area of the United States?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Discovering a Divorce in Ohio

Court of Common Pleas,
Washington County, Ohio, 1900
While browsing Ohio divorce records on the FamilySearch website, I noticed that the documents often showed the wife didn't know what happened to her husband. The collection, "Ohio, Washington County, divorce records, 1894-1960," isn't searchable, but you can view each page of the filing, including the petition, detail of clerk fees, and the court's decision.

One example of a missing husband involved William B. Hite. According to his wife Julia, as stated in the court documents, William "went to the state of Virginia, ostensibly for the purpose of obtaining work, but that since September 1899 plaintiff has not heard from defendant, and received nothing from him towards her support, and that of her child, and she has been compelled to support herself - that she has not been able to locate defendant, although she has written to the point from where he was last located in 1898, but he has left said place, and she cannot discover his hereabouts..."

In 1880, the family was living in Marietta, Ohio, where William worked as a blacksmith. In the 1900 census, he was recorded twice: once with his family in Ohio (although he had not lived there for some time) and also as a boarder in Huntington, Cabell, West Virginia. Due to the divorce in 1900, it's likely that they never saw each other again, and neither remarried. William died in 1929 in Cabell County, West Virginia, and Julia died in 1935 in Marietta, Ohio.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Anniversary of a WWI Death

The Pittsburgh Catholic, February 28, 1924
Last week was the anniversary of my great-uncle's death in France during World War I. George J. Stenglein was born to German parents just 1 week after they arrived in New York in 1891. The family soon settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. George served in the Army from September 21, 1917, until his death on September 26, 1918. My grandmother was only 10 years old when her oldest brother was killed in action.

Several years after George's death, The Pittsburgh Catholic listed him among the names of the city's Catholic soldiers who were buried in the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery. Here's part of the newspaper article:

     "Many Catholic graves in the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery, located at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, (Meuse), France, have been recently blessed. The graves of American heroes from the Diocese of Pittsburgh are listed below.
     The location of this cemetery is within the area of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the greatest engagement in which American troops ever participated. During the forty-seven days' struggle 1,200,000 Americans were engaged, suffering 120,000 casualties.
     Upon completion of concentrations there will be 13,969 interments in the American cemetery. The data on the Catholic heroes has been assembled through cooperation of the pastors, the Catholic press, and the Bureau of Records, N.C.W.C. [National Catholic Welfare Conference]
     The following are grave records of young men of the Pittsburgh diocese who, serving in the World War, made the supreme sacrifice and whose bodies are buried in the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery..."

Each man's military unit, date of death, and grave location in the cemetery were also provided by the newspaper.
  • Paul Adamski, Braddock
  • Joseph Battaglia, Sharpsburg
  • Anthony Broestel, Pittsburgh
  • John F. Coakley, Washington
  • Dominico Colaizzi, Pittsburgh
  • Patrick Paul Collins, McKeesport
  • James Connolly, Pittsburgh
  • Edward R. Connors, Pittsburgh
  • John Patrick Corrigan, McKeesport
  • Patrick J. Cronin, Pittsburgh
  • Domenico Dimasi, Greensburg
  • Andrew Early, Pittsburgh
  • Barton W. Elliott, Springdale
  • George W. Fleischer, Butler
  • Oscar John Gallas, Pittsburgh
  • Stephen Gasper, St. Vincent
  • Lorenzo Gentile, Jeannette
  • Paul Grabowski, Braddock
  • Albert Jacob Hohman, Pittsburgh
  • John Hutchinson, New Salem
  • John P. Jene, Pittsburgh
  • Alex Johnston, Turtle Creek
  • Walter R. Johnston, Pittsburgh
  • William B. Kamer, Ford City
  • James M. Keady, Pittsburgh
  • Daniel R. Kelley, Mt. Pleasant
  • John P. Kirby, Pittsburgh
  • Andrew H. Klein, Pittsburgh
  • Karl Kleinert, McKees Rocks
  • Joseph Kohuth, Glencampbell
  • Louis F. Krezanosky, Avella
  • Walter Kudzman, Vandergrift
  • Andrew Leap, Pittsburgh
  • Ellsworth J. Lew, Carrick
  • Donato Maesano, Sharpsburg
  • Fiore Marchegioni, Bradenville
  • Samuel Martello, Braddock
  • Marco Mercurio, Greensburg
  • Peter J. Och, Pittsburgh
  • Vincenzo Piccirillo, Butler
  • John Plehta, Uniontown
  • Stanley Price, Glassport
  • Michael Puskat, Burgettstown
  • William A. Reinhardt, Pittsburgh
  • Frank J. Rieble, Pittsburgh
  • Ludwig Rigotti, Sutterville
  • Sylvester Rombach, Pittsburgh
  • Anthony Ryder, Braddock
  • George A. Schafer, Millvale
  • William E. Schaffer, Duquesne
  • Alphonse A. Schmidt, Pittsburgh
  • George Schmidt, Pittsburgh
  • George Joseph Schmitt, Pittsburgh
  • Nicola Serago, Jeannette
  • Michael Snee, Kittanning
  • Christopher A. Steighner, Coylesville
  • John Steininger, Blairsville
  • George J. Stenglein, Pittsburgh
  • John H. Theuret, Freeport
  • Bernard W. Travers, Castle Shannon
  • Emanuel G. Tschippert, Pittsburgh
  • George J. Wintz, Pittsburgh
  • Steve Wolf, Connellsville
  • William H. Zewe, Duquesne
  • Mike Joseph Zoldak, Coral

You can search issues of The Pittsburgh Catholic (1844-2001) in Duquesne University's Gumberg Library Digital Collections. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

FamilySearch Find: Adoption of Walter in 1911

Orphanage from The Pittsburgh Catholic,
April 17, 1924
With the help of a digitized collection of adoptions on FamilySearch, I was able to find additional facts to support my thinking that one of my Pittsburgh cousins was adopted. This file doesn't appear on the site's list of published collections and can only be browsed, but "Index to adoption and change of name, Allegheny County (Pennsylvania), 1865-1917" was a key piece of my research.

Walter J. Klein first appeared with his parents in the 1920 census at age 16. Since Andrew & Magdalena were childless in 1910 (when Walter was 6 years old), I suspected that he had been adopted between 1910 and 1920. But how could I know for sure?

When I was scanning FamilySearch's catalog of records for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, I came across the adoption collection. While it's just an index of the court records, I did find an Andrew Klein who had adopted a child. The date was November 23, 1911, but no name for the child was provided in the index. Since Andrew Klein isn't an uncommon name, I couldn't assume he was my Andrew. And in order to find Walter in the index, I would need his surname prior to being adopted by the Kleins.

I used the 1910 census to provide me with a list of possible candidates. In Ancestry, I searched for everyone with the first name of Walter who also:
  • was born in Pennsylvania between 1903 and 1905, 
  • was living in Allegheny or nearby counties in 1910, and 
  • was shown as an "inmate," which was often used on census records to describe an orphan's relationship to the head of household. 
There were 7 matches.

I then went back to the adoption index at FamilySearch and searched for each orphan. When I got to Walter Miller, I found that name in the index. Walter John Miller was the name of the adopted child, and the decree was dated November 23, 1911, exactly like Andrew Klein. Bingo! I still need to verify that they are my Andrew and Walter, but it looks very promising.

All I know at this point is that Walter J. Miller was a Pittsburgh orphan in 1910 and lived at St. Michael's Orphan Asylum, which was an orphanage established to take care of the orphans of St. Michael's parish on the South Side. When he was about 7 years old, he was adopted by Andrew & Magdalena Klein and became Walter J. Klein. (Again, I need to verify this last statement.)

I would love to know Walter's story. Who were his biological parents, what happened to them, and did he have any siblings?  Pittsburgh births are also browseable on FamilySearch and provide parent names, but I haven't found Walter's birth record yet. The Diocese of Pittsburgh may have records for his orphanage, so that's another place that might provide the identities of his parents. The search continues...

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Letterhead Used by My Uncle, 1890s

When my great-grandmother, Alice Laubersheimer, arrived in New York in 1899, she named Frederick Waldschmidt as her uncle and indicated that he had paid for the trip that would take her to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While browsing the FamilySearch collection of "Registrations of deaths in the city of Allegheny, 1876-1907," I found a copy of the letterhead that Fred used as an alderman at that time:


You never know what you might find by browsing!

For more information about Fred's life and to see his image, click on the link below. If you have any Waldschmidts in your family tree who lived in Pittsburgh or France, I'd love to hear from you to see if we have a connection.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

In Pursuit of Pennsylvania Prisoners

If you've found any newspaper mentions of the arrest of an ancestor in Pennsylvania, you may want to search prison records to see if he/she served time for the crime. has a new record collection called Pennsylvania, Prison, Reformatory, and Workhouse Records, 1829-1971 (subscription required) that may give you some new information about your troubled relative.

Image from Annual Report of the Managers of the
Allegheny County Workhouse & Inebriate Asylum
, 1923
Here's the description of this database: "This collection from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) consists of records from the Eastern and Western State Penitentiaries, the Allegheny County Workhouse, and the Pennsylvania Industrial Reformatory in Huntington, Pennsylvania. It includes a variety of records, including inmate registers, bertillon hand books, identification cards, hospital records, and descriptive lists."

My 3rd great-uncle, James Baker, is in the database multiple times for sentences served in the Allegheny County Workhouse. Despite his common name and another Pittsburgh man in the collection with the same name and age, I'm almost certain that I'm looking at the various records for my James since they each contain a note of his "rt arm off." While newspaper articles give more detail on some of his crimes (see post at the end), I did learn that James had 30 convictions by 1919 when he was 58 years old. Yikes! And it's likely there were additional arrests that did not lead to time in the workhouse.

The workhouse records also show that James seemed to spend many years as a homeless peddler. I know this because occupation is listed for all inmates, and James was sentenced for vagrancy on more than one occasion. The majority of his sentences are for disorderly conduct, although it appears that only a fraction of his total convictions are in Ancestry's database.

Each Pennsylvania institution's records are different, so you may learn even more about your ancestor. For example, the Eastern Penitentiary indicates if any relatives are in prison, and the Western Penitentiary provides a very detailed description of each person's appearance, including measurements.

Of course, court records should be explored for more specific details about a conviction, but the records in this Ancestry database give some interesting general information and are definitely convenient.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

View Labor Union Labels from 1903

This full-color advertisement appeared in a 1903 souvenir booklet published by the Utica Trades Assembly in New York to mark its 21st anniversary. Here's one paragraph from the group's introduction:

"To the wage-earners, or rather wealth producers, who have not yet joined hands with us, we extend a hearty invitation to become a part of the great army of Organized Labor. In union there is strength. Better conditions can only come through concerted action. Organized Labor points out the way to shorter hours, better wages, time for intellectual and physical improvement. Hence our path leads to the goal of enlightened, progressive citizenship."

The most interesting section of the publication provides images of many labels proudly placed by labor unions on their products or in their businesses. There are four pages of them, but here are just a few (click to view larger):

To see the dozens of other union labels, click on the link at the beginning of this post and go to page 60. Happy Labor Day!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pittsburgh and the World War, 1914-1918

The souvenir publication, Pittsburgh and the World War 1914-1918, can be viewed in the HathiTrust Digital Library and contains many photographs of Pittsburgh soldiers. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the booklet:

"From the high up places of Pittsburgh's loftiest skyscrapers a ton or more of confetti, small bits of paper and streamers of paper floated and fluttered to the streets below. A snowstorm of the white and red and blue fragments filled the air. The streets began to fill with merrymakers as the news was flashed about the city and its environs by newspapers, by word of mouth, by telephone and all other means of communication. Like wildfire the word spread that the armistice had been signed and the Huns had, in effect, laid down down their arms in ignominious recognition that to struggle further world be useless.

Parades formed as offices, stores, shops and mills were abandoned. Bells clanged loudly and to the din, which almost drowned the shouts of the populace were added the sound of many bands playing, the measured tolling of the bell on old City Hall, pounded in turns by men with a sledgehammer; the shrieking of sirens and mill whistles, the deep screeching of steamboat whistles and the booming and cracking of guns and other weapons in the air."

My great-uncle, George Stenglein, is one Pittsburgh soldier who didn't return, didn't see the parade, and didn't hear the cheers. As I looked at some of the photos in this book, I wondered if my grandmother and her parents cried when they heard others celebrating, since their hearts had to be breaking that George  wasn't coming home.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Don't Ignore Signs of a Genealogy Mistake

In 1904, a publication about the Cowden and Welch families indicated that a man named David Sloan was the father of Annie Sloan Cowden. David was a Revolutionary soldier who was killed at the Battle of Long Island in 1776. It turns out that David Sloan did have a daughter Annie, but she was not the woman who married John Cowden.

The Canonsburg Daily Notes (Pa.),
November 2, 1925
More than 25 years after that publication was printed, my husband's 2nd cousin three times removed, Lyda J. Cowden, sent a letter to the U.S. government, trying to locate the grave of this assumed Patriot ancestor. She was a member of the Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and even held DAR meetings in her home in the 1920s. I found Lyda's letter dated October 11, 1930, in a bounty-land warrant application record for David Sloan on

     "Dear Sir, Is it possible for you to furnish me with the information of the burial place of Lt. David Sloan who was killed in the Battle of Long Island Aug 27, 1776.
      Left a widow Mary Sloan and a daughter Ann. I am a member of D.A.R. through Lt. Sloan, and am seeking the location of his grave. A pension was granted to Mary Sloan widow of David Sloan Feb. 8, 1785 but I can not find any record of his burial place. Sloan served under the command of Colonel Miles First Penn Regiment.
      If you do not know or have records of his burial place please tell me if the bodies at that time were returned to their respective homes or buried on the battlefield."

The response she received is also part of this Ancestry record and makes it clear that Annie Sloan Cowden's father was not the Patriot David Sloan:

     "Dear Madam, You are advised that the Revolutionary War records of this bureau show that the widow of Lieutenant David Sloan was Mary and that his daughter Ann married Robert Hunter. In 1806, said Robert and Ann were of Salem Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.       
     The location of the burial place of the soldier is not shown and the bureau is unable to advise you further in regard to same."

Did Lyda choose to ignore what the letter was saying about her DAR connection? Or did she skim over that part and just take away from the response that David's grave location was unknown? Hmm. I do know from a newspaper article that Lyda continued to meet with her fellow DAR members for at least five years after learning that David Sloan was not her ancestor.

The mistake was still circulating in 1935 when a Welch cousin contacted the government to request the pension file of David Sloan. Like Lyda, she had submitted a DAR application and became a member through her connection to Lt. David Sloan. There are more than a dozen DAR members who claimed this inaccurate connection between Annie Sloan Cowden and David Sloan.

Fortunately, the DAR eventually caught this mistake, and all of these incorrect applications are now flagged with this message on its website: "Problems have been discovered with at least one previously verified paper." The explanation given is that "Annie who married John Cowden is not the dau of this man."

This is a good reminder to read everything carefully and to correct genealogy mistakes even if it's painful to remove a high-profile person from your family tree. Accuracy is more important than bragging rights.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Female Writers in Pittsburgh, 1897

A search in the Digital Public Library of America led me to Book of the Writers, published by the Writers Club of Pittsburg (Pennsylvania) in 1897. Among the men, you can find nine women profiled in the book, including Mrs. Ida L. Easton:

Ida L. Easton
     "Of much more than local literary note is Mrs. Ida L. Easton, or to use her social name, Mrs. Andrew Easton. Although she is comparatively a new comer into the world of the newspaper scribe, to the readers of the Pittsburg Dispatch, the Florida Times-Union, the Saturday Review, and a number of other publications her name is a familiar one and her pen is as versatile as it is tireless.

     In wide spread charities, moral reform movements, philanthropic ventures she has always been a leader. With a true heart in close touch with the joys and sorrows of humanity, she possesses a courage that never recognizes failure and many an abuse has been brought to light and ended by her daring struggle in behalf of justice and kindness.
     To a large number of friends among the younger newspaper workers she is a genial, sympathizing mentor, and not infrequently terms herself the grandmother in the Womans' Press Club, of which organization she is treasurer. Mrs. Easton is an active member of the Writer's Club."

The other female writers included in Book of the Writers are Mrs. Dallas Albert, Jeannette Barbour, Roberta Bradshaw, Janey M. Coard, Marie D. Coyle, Sarah H. Killikelly, Dorothy Richardson, and Miss A.R. Stratton.

Note:  Ida Lois Reed Easton died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the age of 61 on August 24, 1916. Her newspaper obituary indicated that she married Dr. Andrew Easton in 1871 and left two children, Dr. John S. Easton of Pittsburgh and Mrs. C.L. Martin of Philadelphia.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Was Boy Missing in 1911 Ever Found?

I'm currently reading a fictional story by Kate Morton that involves the disappearance of a toddler in 1933. (If you love suspense, family secrets, and a touch of history, I highly recommend all of Kate's books. They're fabulous.)

The Pittsburgh Gazette Times,
November 5, 1911
The book got me thinking about real cases of missing children and how devastating that would be for a family. After searching historic newspapers, I found the following article from a 1911 Pittsburgh newspaper with the headline "Butler Boy Missing":

"Raymond, the 13-year-old son of William C. Cooper, a merchant tailor living at 519 West Clay Street, Butler, Pa., has been missing from his home since October 27. On that morning his father had taken him to school and at the morning recess Raymond disappeared from the institution. He left a note on his desk saying he was going to Pittsburgh to look for work.
As a result of Raymond's disappearance, his mother has become ill. Mr. Cooper has conducted a thorough search for the boy and the police of Pittsburgh and neighboring cities have been asked to keep a lookout for him. Mr. Cooper has appealed to The Gazette Times to assist in the search for the missing boy. If the lad sees this article he is requested to communicate with his father at once. The latter will extend his forgiveness, as Raymond's mother wants her son badly."

I couldn't find any news updates to see if he had been found, and I just had to know what happened to him or if his family was left guessing for decades. My son will be turning 13 soon, so the story touched a nerve.

Fortunately, a WWI Compensation Application on Ancestry provided the answer. I don't know how long Raymond was gone or when he returned, but it looks like he came back to his family...before leaving them again. The document says that he enlisted in the Army in 1914 (when he was 16 but apparently claimed to be 19), and he served until 1920.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Another Tale of Online Tree Errors: Wrong Photo

This is NOT John George Fischer
How exciting it is to find a photograph of your ancestor! Somehow that black-and-white image makes the person more real to us, not just a bunch of dates and places. But when the photo is attached to the wrong person in an online tree and then added by others to their trees because they assume it's accurate, it actually bothers me more than a wrong fact. How awful to share the wrong face!

Last week, I was following a lead to see if I could tie a Stenglein woman who died in 1910 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to my Stenglein branch. She had married a man named Johann Fischer in Bavaria before they came to the U.S. As I searched for as much information as I could about the couple and their children, I stumbled across multiple family trees with an incorrect photo of Johann's brother.

Johann Fischer remarried after his first wife died in 1910, and a trip was planned in 1922 to return to Europe to visit family. His brother also planned to go since both men completed passport applications. If you've looked at these documents on Ancestry, you know that a photograph is included on the more recent applications. The photo appears (and I stress this) on the second page.

When you find a match in this collection and view the image, you see two pages side by side. The page on the left is not related to your match; it's the previous person in the collection. The right side is your person, and it's important that you advance to the next image to see the second page of that application (which includes a photo). How very sad that the trees I saw last week used the photo that first popped up when they viewed their match, instead of looking at page 2.

The photo at the beginning of this post is attached to multiple family trees as the face of John George Fischer, Johann's brother. It is actually a man named Abraham Jeremiasz. Unfortunately, these people don't realize that below is the real face of John George Fischer with his wife Theresa and son Joseph:

This is the correct photo of John George Fischer and family

Note: I added a comment to the incorrect photo in each tree, and one person has already replaced it. I don't feel any glee in pointing out mistakes, but I had to try to right this particular wrong. Hey, we all make mistakes, and I must say it's nice to see that we can work together to improve each other's research.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Isabella Couldn't Vote But Still Had Great Influence

Isabella Jeffry was born in Ohio in 1839 and was living in Kansas when she married Hugh Kirkendall, my husband's 3rd great-uncle, in 1862. They moved to Montana Territory by 1870 and were described by newspapers decades later as pioneer residents of Lewis & Clark County.

Although Isabella and women throughout the country couldn't vote, she was certainly active in the community. The Montana Historical Society says that Isabella "was one of Helena's little known unsung heroes. No woman was more active in the community, nor more sensitive to the needs of the less fortunate." Here are some of her accomplishments that I've found:

1881 - Founding Member, Ladies' Aid Society of the First Baptist Church of Montana at Helena
1883 - Charter Member, Helena chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union
1884 - Finance Committee, First Baptist Church of Helena
1891 - President, Montana Women's Relief Corps
1892 - named by the Mayor as Chairman of raising funds for Mississippi flood victims (her leadership helped raise money for starving Russians earlier in the year)
1893 - Leader, Women's Helena for the Capital Club
1894 - Supervisory Board, Associated Charities of Helena
1900 - President, Florence Crittenton Home, a refuge for women and girls in need

Isabella's role in the Women's Helena for the Capital Club was especially noteworthy as it showed the importance of women with respect to political issues. "Denied the vote, but far from devoid of influence, Montana's women readily took sides in the capital fight of 1894."

The Archives West website explains this historic vote: "The question of a permanent location for the capital of Montana was submitted to the voters in the general election of 1892. Seven cities entered the contest: Helena, the temporary capital; Anaconda; Butte; Bozeman; Great Falls; Deer Lodge; and Boulder. The two cities receiving the most votes, Helena and Anaconda...entered a run-off campaign two years later. The capital question overshadowed all other political issues in the 1894 election."

"The Women's Helena for the Capital Club, led by Isabella [Mrs. Hugh] Kirkendall of Helena, was a state-wide group that solicited help from women in every county. Although unable to vote, the women in the local chapters exerted pressure on the men with voting privileges through letter writing campaigns, distribution of leaflets, newspaper advertisements, and speeches. Helena won the election by a narrow margin: 27,024 votes to 25,118 for Anaconda."

Although unable to vote in the 1894 election, Montana women won the right to vote in 1914, five years before Isabella died. I'm so glad she lived to see it happen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

FamilySearch Find: Deaths in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania

Are you overlooking some online records at FamilySearch? Here's one example of a digitized non-indexed collection that isn't on the site's list of published collections.

Image from end of death register book,
Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, 1891

Allegheny City in Pennsylvania wasn't annexed by Pittsburgh until 1907, so deaths for both cities were recorded separately prior to that time. That means if you look at the FamilySearch collection "Pittsburgh City Deaths, 1870-1905," you won't find my Uncle Emil's 1903 death record. While there doesn't appear to be a similar death record collection for Allegheny City, it is in fact on the site and available for online viewing.

My French 3rd great-uncle, Emile Wey, arrived in the United States in 1871. Known as Emil in America, he would marry, have 6 children, and build a life in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. Emil died in Allegheny City on May 4, 1903, which was provided by his newspaper obituary. Knowing exactly when he died is fantastic, but I wanted to know why he died at the young age of 54.

If you click on "Browse all published collections" on the FamilySearch site, you won't see a record set for Allegheny City deaths. But FamilySearch actually does have these records digitized and available to browse in its collection called "Registrations of deaths in the city of Allegheny, 1876-1907." Each listed record group with a picture of a camera under "Format" means it can be viewed online. (A reel means you have to order the microfilm for viewing at your local Family History Center.)

Glancing at the thumbnail images will give you a sense of where the handwritten surname index starts for each volume; it's usually somewhere in the middle and not at the beginning or end due to the way the book scans were saved. And sometimes there's a second index further down in the same file where the next book of death records begins. You can use these indexes to locate the page number of the death record.

My Uncle Emil did indeed die on May 4, 1903, due to "abcess [sic] of liver." The record also states that he had resided at 707 Middle Street in the 3rd Ward for 30 years and that he was buried in St. Peter's Cemetery on May 7th (although a photo of his headstone on FindAGrave indicates that he's in Highwood Cemetery).

By browsing for other relatives, I found cousin August Huber who died in 1882 at 7 weeks of age due to eclampsia, as well as another cousin's father-in-law who died in 1903 of "mania a potu" or madness from drinking. I had their dates of death from other sources (church record for the first and a newspaper obituary for the second), but now I have more details, including where they are buried.

Be sure to search the FamilySearch Catalog for your ancestors' towns to see if digitized images are available. As this example shows, some online records don't appear on the published collections list.

Note: "Registration of births in the city of Allegheny, 1878-1907" is also available on FamilySearch, although five years are missing.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

West Virginia State Police Records

From Flickr: Police Officers, 1889
The West Virginia Division of Culture & History has posted some online State Police records that caught my eye. Since one of my great-grandfathers was a police officer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I had to take a peek at "West Virginia State Police Payroll Records, 1919-1924."

If you already know from census records that one of your ancestors was with the West Virginia State Police, these browse-only files may not provide any critical information. But there are still some interesting items: officer's rank, date of enlistment, and total amount of pay for the month. In January 1922, privates in Company B made $100 for the entire month! There is also a page for "Changes Since Last Pay Roll" that shows those who were discharged or resigned.

This website also has searchable births, marriages, and deaths (which are on FamilySearch as well), so if you have West Virginia relatives, this is a key resource for your genealogy research.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Arrests of My "One-Armed" Uncle

James Baker, c. 1915
James Baker, the brother of my 2nd-great grandmother, seems to have struggled during his lifetime. It appears that he had problems with anger or alcohol, or both. James appears in several newspaper articles about fights, arrests, and marital problems.

James was born in Canada and moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his parents around 1866 at the age of 5. He married Carrie Betler when he was 22 and had two children: Clara and Harry James.

His death certificate indicates that his right arm was amputated due to an accident four decades before his death, but I haven't found any information about this incident. But newspapers provide many other sad details about his life, such as:

  • 1884 - "Jacob Betler was badly beaten by his son-in-law, James Baker, the other night, and has been laid up ever since. Betler keeps a saloon on Picnic street, South Side. No arrests were made. The trouble was about a domestic misunderstanding." (Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, 24 Jul 1884)
  • 1900 - "James Baker, a one-armed man, was picked up by the police at the corner of Carson and South Twenty-fifth street, last evening, under the influence of liquor. After he was taken to the police station it was found that he was suffering from a compound fracture of the right ankle..." (The Pittsburg Press, 30 Jan 1900)
  • 1905 - "Baker's wife alleges he came home drunk Monday night and set fire to the feather bed in which she was sleeping. Failing to burn her alive, she says he demolished all the furniture in the house and threatened to murder her and their two children. On a former occasion she says he threw oil over her for the purpose of setting fire to her clothes, and also threatened to burn her mother's house." (The Pittsburgh Gazette, 25 Oct 1905)
  • 1907 - "The master's report in the divorce case of Carrie Baker against James Baker was filed in common pleas court No. 3 and a decree recommended. Desertion was charged." (The Pittsburgh Post, 1 Nov 1907)
  • 1915 - "James Baker has but one arm and while drunk last night used it in a most effective manner. He deemed it his province to be the sole occupant of the sidewalk and those who disputed his right he promptly landed on them with his fist. Naturally James landed in the bastile and he was sentenced to pay a fine of $2 or serve five days in the county jail." (The Pittsburg Press, 10 Feb 1915)
  • 1925 - "James Baker, aged 60, was dubbed 'the one-armed terror' by police of the Allegheny station yesterday as a result of an altercation he had with two prisoners placed in the same cell with him. One of them...was taken to the Presbyterian Hospital with a severe cut in his cheek, and the other...suffered facial and body bruises. Baker, who has only one arm, was placed in a solitary cell after the fight. The three were originally arrested on charges of drunkenness." (Pittsburgh Gazette Times, 27 Feb 1925)

James Baker died in 1944 at the age of 82 and was buried in Pittsburgh's Oakland Cemetery. (Oakland Cemetery was moved after the land was purchased by the University of Pittsburgh. The graves are now in the Oakland Section of Mount Royal Cemetery in Glenshaw, a suburb of Pittsburgh.)

Related Post:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Clues to Great-Grandma's Birth Town

How can a woman born in 1876 be such a mystery? I don't know the parents of my great-grandmother, Alice Laubersheimer Huber (other than the names passed down in family stories). I don't know for sure where she was born. But there are some clues.

Google Map of Strasbourg,
Gerstheim, & Mulhouse in France
A birth certificate for one of her daughters says that Alice was born in "Strassburg, Alssaice-Lorraine." A birth record for her half-sister indicates that Anna Laubersheimer Milliken was born in Mulhouse, Haut-Rhin, France. In between those towns (see the map), a birth record for an uncle, Frederick Waldschmidt, shows that he was born in Gerstheim, Bas-Rhin, France.

Unfortunately, I haven't found the birth of my great-grandmother in any of those towns. A search of the online records in both the Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin archives came up empty. There was no Alice and no other Laubersheimers (other than Anna).

The records for other family members often give you clues to information about your direct ancestors. But many times more digging is required.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Who Lived in Your House?

Ghost Image from The
Funny Side of Physic
, 1874
I've written before about how helpful it is to search for your ancestors' addresses and not just their surnames. Searching for a specific address in newspapers can be especially enlightening, since it can tell you a little bit about the people who used to live there, including non-relatives.

I used this tip recently in searching for information about the house of one of my sisters. To protect her privacy, I won't share the address, but it was built in a Pittsburgh suburb around 1930. At one point, my nephew thought the house was haunted. And my sister mentioned that she heard vintage music after getting into bed that stopped when she sat up. So great! (Well, at least I think so, but I don't have to live there.)

Anyway, by searching for the address, I found a few mentions of some of the people who used to live there. One was a young soldier who died in a car accident overseas and left behind his parents and two brothers (1964). Another was offering Dachshund puppies for sale (1938). One was an amateur photographer (1955). And most interesting, there was a young lady in the early 1930s who used to host bridge parties in the house when she was home from college. Hmm, perhaps with music?

You never know what you might find by searching for an address...

Related Post:  Search for Old Addresses, Not Just Names

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hockey Night in Pittsburgh

As lots of Pittsburgh hockey fans hope for a huge win tonight, it appears that the love of this sport has been around for a while. Here's an excerpt from an article that was published in The Pittsburg Press on March 15, 1903 (from

The Pittsburg Press, March 15, 1903
"Pittsburgers are great admirers of hockey. Ever since the game has been played here it has been popular, and its popularity is not decreasing nor the interest dying out. It is only recently, however, that local athletes have taken great interest in the game. Formerly the people depended on imported skaters to entertain them, but of late years young men and boys of this city and county have organized teams, and are on the ice almost daily. Duquesne Garden is practically the only available place in the county where the game can be played to any great advantage, and it is, therefore, the headquarters of the sport. Of course, the chief teams are those belonging to the Western Pennsylvania Hockey league, made up of the Bankers, Pittsburg Athletic club, the Victorias and the Keystones. But other teams are coming to the front, and it will not be long until Pittsburg will boast of a championship team made up of purely local talent."

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Distracted by Maryland's Online Indices

I've always considered myself to be organized and a planner, but some days I'm easily distracted. Does this happen to you, too? Over the weekend, I found some new family facts by browsing Maryland's online vital record indices. But I can't even remember how I ended up there...

I was researching a lead in the hopes it would shed some light on my 2nd great-grandfather's German town of origin. Two brothers with the same unusual surname as my ancestor arrived in the U.S. from Frankfurt in the late 1920s and settled in New York and then New Jersey. That was more than 70 years after the arrival of my ancestor, but the lead looked promising.

How I got from there to Maryland is a mystery to me! I somehow stumbled upon the Maryland State Archives website and saw it had links to scanned indices for vital records. I don't have many family connections to Maryland, but I remembered that my 2nd great-aunt had a brother-in-law who lived in Maryland starting in the 1860s. I couldn't help but see what I could find about Franz "Frank" Nehren. Was it important to my family research? No. Could I resist this temptation? NO.

Since the indices aren't searchable, I had to use some logic to narrow down the years and county that I needed to browse. I started by looking for his marriage. All I knew was that Franz married a woman named Lizetta and that their first child was born in Maryland in 1865. By 1870, the Nehren family was living in Baltimore.

I used the Baltimore City marriage index for males for 1851-1885 and clicked on the link for the surnames "Moore to Owens." I was excited to see that it wasn't just a list of the couples' names and date of marriage. The file contained scans of cards with a little more detail than I expected, like this one below:

Interestingly, the marriage I wanted (below) was mostly blank! It didn't even show the marriage date. However, it did provide me with one fact I didn't have yet: the bride's maiden name.
Baltimore City marriage record of Franz Nehren & Lisette Gardner, 1863
Next, I decided to look for Franz's death. A Baltimore city directory showed that Elizabeth Nehren was a widow by 1885. The last city directory that mentioned Franz as living seemed to be 1883. Although the Archives website is a little confusing in places, I found my way to the online Baltimore City Death Index for 1875-1972. I scrolled down to the letter 'N' and clicked on the link for 1875-1888. Franz H. Nehren died on Dec 5, 1883, and the index provides the certificate number, volume, and page in case I want to order a copy.

Franz was only 41 when he died, so it's possible that Lisette remarried. I couldn't find her in the death indices under Nehren. If she did remarry, I would need the surname of her second husband to make it easier to locate her marriage since the female index isn't online.

Sometimes it's fun to get distracted! Please post a comment if you've ever found anything interesting when your research got side-tracked.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Inventory of Pittsburgh's War Monuments

Civil War Monument,
Pittsburgh's Calvary Cemetery
I'm late posting this but, for those of you with Pittsburgh roots, I wanted to share a link that appeared in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article over the Memorial Day weekend. The article itself is worth reading and gives the background story on the effort to itemize all of the city's memorials: "War memorials, monuments abound in Pittsburgh, but some in danger of being forgotten."

Of particular interest is one of the links at the end of the article that takes you to the "City of Pittsburgh Preliminary War Monument Inventory", which provides a look at over 100 photographs of memorials, many with the date and artist. They are grouped by neighborhood.

The name of my great-uncle, George J. Stenglein, appears on a World War I memorial on the South Side of Pittsburgh. He died in France at the age of 27, when my grandmother was only 10. This memorial in St. Michael's Cemetery on 18th Street doesn't appear in the City's inventory, but perhaps that's because it was placed there by the parish. Or maybe it was just missed.

The list isn't complete, but it's interesting to peruse those that have been included. I highly recommend it!

Related Post:  WWI Death: Remembering George J. Stenglein

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Genealogy Even While on Vacation

I just got back from a family trip to Delaware, but genealogy wasn't far from my mind. We went to a playground, and my husband pointed out a cemetery just a half black away (he knows me so well). Of course, I had to take a look! I don't have any genealogy connections to Delaware, but I can still appreciate the family history present in every cemetery.

Epworth Methodist Cemetery,
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
(Photo taken by author)
Here's one of the headstones I saw, this one for a World War I veteran who died in 1955. The 1917 draft registration card for Daniel T. Simpler says that he was 23 years old and worked at a glove factory in Rehoboth Beach, Sussex County, Delaware.

According to his death certificate, Daniel was born in Georgetown, Delaware, became a carpenter, and died in the V.A. Hospital located in Caln, Chester County, Pennsylvania. His usual residence was in the Dewey Beach area of Delaware, which is why he was buried in nearby Epworth Methodist Cemetery. He was 62 and left behind his wife, Elsie.

Daniel, thank you for your service.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Memorial Day Thoughts, 1897

In honor of our upcoming Memorial Day, here are some excerpts from an article published in The Daily Republican (Monongahela, Pennsylvania) on Saturday, May 22, 1897:

     "Approaching Memorial Day reminds us of our duties to our beloved dead, not only to those whose last resting places may be under the cypress, in the swamp, on the hillside, in the valley, on coral reefs or in the ocean depths, but to those who have followed later and left vacant chairs in our homes.
     Nearly three thousand years ago ancient Greece, that nation of pioneers of the higher civilization of the world, paid tribute to its dead who died in their Country's cause. Let us then pay homage to our Comrades, our brothers who fell in the cause of liberty for all mankind; let us gather the brightest and fairest of Spring's most beautiful flowers, and with music and with speech eulogize those who dying left the priceless heritage of citizenship in free America.
     Let us so observe this day of ours--this day of America's people--that no reproach may come to ourselves and no indifference to the deeds of our noble dead."

This Memorial Day, take time to remember those who died for our freedom.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kansas Connections

My husband has several relatives with connections to Kansas, including the surnames Cowden, Lee, Dawson, Kirkendall, and Klingensmith. Using the Kansas Historical Society's name search, I found this item of interest about Orville A. Lee, the husband of 3rd great-aunt Martha Jane Pollock:
"O. A. LEE, city weighmaster, is a native of Pennsylvania, and was born in Erie County, December 22, 1817. His father, Stephen C., was a pioneer in Erie County; he had been Captain in the army during the war of 1812. The paternal grandfather of the subject of this sketch was a soldier in the Revolutionary war. O. A. received the advantages of what was considered a liberal education in the common schools. He adopted and pursued for several years the vocation of school teaching, in Alleghany [sic] County. He eventually embarked in the coal trade and was identified with that branch of industry for fifteen years, doing business in Pittsburgh and McKeesport. In 1858 came west, went to Pike's Peak, was at what is now Denver City before there was a house built; was engaged in mining and speculating until the spring of 1862; came to Kansas, locating temporarily in Jefferson County; came to Atchison County in January, 1863, engaging in farming four miles south of Atchison; for a number of years was closely identified with the agricultural development of the county. A few years ago removed to Atchison, and was the first to open a coal yard in the city which he did in connection with a feed store which he still operates. Mr. Lee is a well-informed gentleman, thoroughly conversant with the important issues of the day. He is one of the most public spirited citizens in the city - one who aims to keep pace with the progress of time. He was married in 1843 to Miss Martha J. Pollock, of Elizabeth township, Alleghany [sic] County, Pa. They have by this union three daughters - Mary A., now Mrs. Hanson; Lizzie and Ella. The last mentioned ladies are favorably known in Atchison as educators, being teachers in the city schools for the past ten years. Mr. Lee, wife and family are members of the Presbyterian Church." (Source: William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas)

There seems to be some good information on the site so, if you have Kansas ancestors, you should definitely take a look.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Immigrant Ancestors and the Elusive Town of Origin

I have 17 direct ancestors who were immigrants in the United States. The earliest arrival appears to be my Rüttger branch in 1846, which is very different from those of you whose families have been in the U.S. since colonial times! My immigrant ancestors include great-grandparents (4), 2nd great-grandparents (7), and 3rd great-grandparents (6). Most of my immigrant ancestors (12) came from Germany, three from Canada (though two were born in the U.K.), and two from France.

I have A LOT to learn about them, with the most important unknown being that often elusive town of origin. The only towns that I'm sure of are Artolshiem and Dambach-la-Ville in France, Pirmasens and Miesenheim in Germany, and Seneca Township in Ontario, Canada. That's not good. I have 10 direct ancestors where my research is stuck in the U.S. unless I determine the German towns where these ancestors used to live.
From the 1890 U.S. Passport Application for my 
2nd great-grandfather who arrived in the U.S. on 1 May 1854

Online trees from sites like, index-only records on FamilySearch, and sibling church records have given me a place to start, but there's more work to do before concluding that these are definitely the towns. These places in Germany include Bettingen, Großkarlbach (2), Lambsheim, and Wiesbach (2). And then there are the 4 German ancestors who have given me zero clues pointing to where they came from. Sigh.

A recent birthday gift has given me renewed inspiration to continue the search for these towns. I've just read a few chapters of James Beidler's Trace Your German Roots Online, which was released at the end of April, but it's pushed me to revisit these immigrant ancestors. I'll definitely post any progress I make.

If you have any success stories about locating the towns of your German immigrant ancestors, please share them with me!