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.)

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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.