Sunday, February 26, 2017

Pittsburgh's Historic Oliver Bath House

Oliver Bath House,
From The American City, 1915

I mentioned the Oliver Bath House almost two years ago in my post "The Pittsburgh Buildings of Henry W. Oliver." On Friday, a newspaper article showed the efforts underway to designate the bath house as a historic landmark:

"The idea for the bath house was born in the early 1900s, when industrialist Henry W. Oliver saw the need to provide mill workers a place where they could clean and refresh themselves after their shifts. Indoor plumbing was rare, particularly in working-class neighborhoods. (Pittsburgh did not require bathrooms in homes or apartments until the 1950s.) Many workers simply rinsed off in the Monongahela River on their way home."

Many members of my family tree lived on the South Side of Pittsburgh. Who knows? Maybe they used the bath house or at least walked past it.

Read the entire Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article at "Preservation Pittsburgh pushes for historic designation for Oliver Bath House."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Valentine from 1933

I hope you're having a great Valentine's Day. Here's another greeting card from my grandmother's collection. She received it from my grandfather in 1933, a year before they married. I love these vintage cards!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Successful Genealogy Is in the Details

This post began as a tribute to my 3rd great-uncle who lost both his wife and newborn son in the 1880s, but it has turned into a good lesson about the importance of slowing down and paying attention to details. If you read a lot of other blogs like I do, you've probably heard multiple times that you should understand every collection that you search. Yeah, yeah, an obvious tip meant for newbies. Not so. It's a mistake I made, even though I should have known better.

My uncle, Thomas Baker, was born in Canada on February 1, 1857. To be more specific, his baptismal record from St. Patrick in Caledonia, Ontario, states that he was born in "the township of Seneca of the Mission of Indiana." Sometime before the age of 10, Thomas crossed the border with his parents and siblings and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In his 20s, Thomas met Maggie Olive Barnett (sometimes recorded as Burnett), got married, and had son John Wesley Baker in 1885. But the couple's lives together ended tragically. In 1888, their second son Allen was born in April and died in November of gastroenteritis. Then Maggie died six months later in 1889 of phthisis pulmonalis (tuberculosis).

Thomas raised his son as a single dad in Pittsburgh until he married Virginia Irwin Wilson on February 9, 1894, in Jefferson County, Ohio. With this marriage, he became the stepfather of two teen girls. The family stayed in Pittsburgh for a while, but then left for Glendale, California. One of Virginia's daughters had moved there with her ill husband and, when he died in 1921, it appears that her parents and sister decided to join her.

Thomas and Virginia were together for more than 30 years, until her death in 1927. I assumed that both died in California since that's where they're buried, but I wanted to see their death certificates to be sure. FamilySearch has images of California death certificates in its collection called "California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994." On the search page, I entered the names of both Thomas and Virginia but didn't find them in the list of results.

Then I read the description of the collection at the top of the page, which included this sentence at the very end: "The name index for death records covers Stockton, Lodi and Manteca cities and San Benito and San Joaquin counties." Clearly, I would have to browse the collection to find the Bakers' death certificates. It took a couple of steps, but I did find both of them.

California Death Certificate (partial), Thomas Baker, 1937

It was definitely a good reminder for me to slow down and focus on the details. All of us should take time to understand exactly what records are provided in each collection. Even though I remember reading this tip more than once on other blogs, I skipped this important step. The bottom line: there is so much we can learn from each other. Thank you, fellow bloggers!