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. Ancestry.com 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!