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 Ancestry.com:

     "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.