St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Double Shot of Blood is Good for the Soul

Have you ever struggled to explain how you are related to someone?  Sometimes, it is so very easy.  You can say, "He's my mother's brother."  That works well. 

In my world, however, it can be quite difficult to just say it.  I mean, I sometimes find I need a pen and paper just to explain it to my closest blood relatives.  Take, for example, my dear sweet cousin who called last week just to chat.  I met sweet Barbara some 12 years ago while I was researching my grandfather's bloodline.  She had an unusual name to my ears and she was living in the same metro area as I was.  Or at least, someone with that surname was.  So, I took a chance and wrote her a letter.  Gee, do you even remember writing letters and sending them through the mail?  That seems like ages ago.  Anyway......

Barbara gave me a call after she had received the letter and told me that she was indeed the granddaughter of my grandfather's first cousin.  She had stories to tell and I had ears anxiously waiting to listen.  And, then, she dropped the news that we shared another bond.

It seems her grandfather on her mother's side was the brother of grandfather's mother.  Seems confusing, eh?

To make it clear really does take a paper and pen, or a great chart printed by my favorite genealogy program, but it is true.

My sweet cousin was able to provide more information for me and was able to introduce me to both her parents.  Now, yes, they were quite old and memories were fading.  But for me, they were a link to grandfather.  For me, they were a love bond ready to happen.  For me, they were family and I was happy to listen and hold their hands.  Just thinking that those wrinkled hands of old had known my greatgrandparents and hugged them and shared family meals with them just brought shivers down my spine.  Of course, hearing them share some more lore with me brought tears to my eyes.

So, here I sit, still trying to untangle the weave of the cloth of which I am made.  Every time a new string appears, there's another new story for my ears.  Just last week, Barbara shared with me that my greatgrandmother had worked in a cigar factory.  A cigar factory?  Really?  I didn't even know there was one in the Low Country.

So the search was on....  Using my trusty fingers on the keyboard, I found the cigar factory that had been mentioned.  I just wonder if she worked there when it first opened in the early 1880s or if she worked there before her marriage or after the birth of her children.  I still haven't figured out if I can determine that, and I may not be able to find the trail.  But, the image of her that was painted for me by another great-niece of hers became clearer as this niece told me that greatgrandmother loved her snuff.  You can read the story of how I found her here.

Ahhh, genealogy.  How many double shots of blood do you have running in your veins?  I have several of them....from the late 1800s.  Brings new meaning to who is related to whom?  Or is it how many times are you related?

©AS Eldredge 2013.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Can I Use the Evidence as Proof?

It's a beautiful fall morning and my voice has gone still.  While the weather outside is delightful, I am, well, I am wordless.  Am I quiet after spending a day shouting "Happy Constitution Day" yesterday, or am I just plain stuck?

I have to write a paper to try and prove that my beloved ancestor is who I think he is.  All was well in the world until someone tried to use my dearly departed's information as their own.  To be fair, the imposter descendant of my beloved didn't realize that she was only a cousin to my ancestor.  You think she would have noticed that the odds of him serving in the American Revolution in Connecticut while living in New Jersey was a stretch.  However, in this great world of folks just cutting, pasting and claiming on the internet, my ancestor is now torn in his roots.

I know who he was.  I have followed the evidence.  Now I have to prove it as best I can.

To try and accomplish this, I had to learn how to find all evidence from the Revolutionary War time that exists in New Jersey.  That in itself was enlightening.  After spending a few weeks digging through the web, I also sent off to New Jersey for other information which is not currently found online.  Ah, ha.  I am now thoroughly convinced I have my man.  His was the only family name living in that county at the time, and we have successfully been able to follow the lines from there with primary evidence or very sound secondary evidence.  All except for one generation, but that generation is not the one for which I am trying to prove at the moment.

There is a ton of secondary information to be found and now, I have to try and make sense of it all in writing for a genealogist to review.  I have the sources, the websites, the history book pages, the oaths of allegiance for his dad and uncle, payroll information from the state of NJ for the American Revolution, etc.  I just don't have the date of death, although I know where he was living when he died.  I don't have his final resting place, although one source would lead me to believe it could be in the same family location as his older brother who still has a headstone back in that one county where they were the only family name living there.  Why, oh why, didn't he have the wisdom to apply for a pension so I could find the definitive proof?

What I don't have are the words to put it all down in an understandable format.  What I don't have is a thorough understanding of how to write a genealogical proof standard.

Many of the elements found in the GPS are now in my possession.  I performed a reasonably exhaustive search, found the citations, resolved the conflict of evidence and arrived at a soundly reasoned conclusion.  I just can't seem to get it down on paper.  It is still swirling around in my head. 

Perhaps the first step is just what I have done now.  Put my frustrations down on paper- will that be enough to eliminate this wordless Wednesday?  Words.  I need words.

Ahh, genealogy.  How much indirect evidence can I use?  It's clear as mud.

©AS Eldredge 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday's Tip: Public Tax Returns for Pittsburgh

It's just something you don't see everyday.  Local newspapers printing up the tax returns for your neighbors.  Just in case you've just broken out in a sweat, go on and wipe off your brow.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette published the 1864 Tax Returns for several of its districts.  While some of us may cry out in fear of the newspapers stance that the desire to review tax returns is universal in the neighborhood, we genealogy buffs jump in joy.

These 1864 returns are just another tool to use in our quest for documenting the location of our beloved ancestors, and, in some cases, documenting they were still alive.

So, go on and take a look.  Who knows what you may discover.  How much your family paid in taxes or how little their neighbors did.

These lists can be found on our Pittsburgh Old Newspaper Project:

Ahh, genealogy.  The tax man came and the newspaper let everyone know.  Wonder if that would go over well today?  Hmmmmmmmm......

©AS Eldredge 2013

The American Contract Lives

Our nation has had a contract which we support, defend and protect everyday.  It's something we Americans have done for the last 226 years.  Yep, today is the 226th anniversary of the signing of our Constitution. 

While I don't have any ancestors who signed the Constitution, I do have on both my maternal and paternal bloodlines patriots who have fought and died for America since the Revolution.  I was thinking of today being Constitution Day and it occurred to me that every generation of my family has served America since the founding of our great land.

What do you know about the Constitution?  Have you read it or studied since you were in high school or college?  I am still amazed that the 55 delegates from the newly formed 13 states were able to debate, argue, and compromise over that long, hot summer in Philadelphia so many years ago.  What they penned and what the 39 delegates who signed the Constitution did is so incredible.  We have the longest surviving Constitution and the shortest in the world.  Amazing. 

Since I can't claim any genealogy fame to any signer of the Constitution, I guess I'll just have to thank those men who did sign it.  Perhaps, I'll shout "Happy Constitution Day" to all I see today and then sit down and see what military records I can find on my beloved and brave soldiers and sailors in my bloodline.  Seems fitting.

Just in case you need a fun fact about the Constitution--  The original Constitution (without the 27 amendments added at later dates) had something like 4400 words.  Only one word is misspelled. Can you guess it?  The state it was penned in---  Pennsylvania.

Ahh, genealogy.  Gotta love it while we support, defend and protect our nation-  one generation at a time.

©AS Eldredge, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friend of Friends Friday: Pittsburgh Folks Just Keep Dying to Get In

The good people in the Allegheny County, PA, area keep dying and well, we keep finding them.

For over two years, our little band of volunteers has been digging in the old Pittsburgh area newspapers for death notices.  The volunteers come and go, but there are usually at least five of us working at any given time.

Our last update brought us to over 88,000 death entries.  We have over 3500 entries waiting in the hopper.  I suspect these names will be available for family history buffs by Easter weekend. 

Check us out.  In addition to our death index, we have:

over 24,000 marriages
Divorce notices
WWI Military Personnel with over 73000 names
World War I articles
The record of Company E from the Civil War
House of Refuge information
Morganza information
Poor House Census 1850-1910
Poor House articles
1931 Fire of Little Sisters Poor House
1890 Veterans Schedule/Poor homes
Allegheny Co Home Census 1860-1940

There are also wonderful snippets of interest that will lead you to outside links with history information and resources from the area.

Whatcha waiting for?
The index of names:

Ahhh, genealogy.  Such generous, kind friends--  any day of the week, not just Friday!

©2013 AS Eldredge

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tomstone Tuesday: Gotcha! Union Brick Cemetery Bricks Collapse

Don't you just hate it when you think you are on the right track in the race to find those elusive family members of old, and then the proverbial brick wall looms up high before you?  It seems like the research just comes crashing to a halt.

I think I've managed to climb over one brick wall with circumstantial evidence.

Thomas HUNNEWELL was the son of William HUNNEWELL (abt 1730-1813) and Alice COLLIER of Sussex Co, NJ.  He is mentioned in his brother, William HONEYWELL's, Revolutionary War Pension application.

In the pension application, William states he was born in Knowlton, Sussex, NJ, Dec 1,1759.  He was drafted 1778 into the Militia for three months.  The company was formed in Knowlton.  At the end of this service, he traveled towards "....home as far as the Moravian Settlement called Hope, in Sussex County, where he met his father who informed him that his older brother Thomas HONEYWELL, was drafted.....".

From this statement, we can infer Thomas was born before 1759.  Remember this.

Thomas is again mentioned in the will of his father, William.  The will was written in 1791, but not proved until 1813.  So, Thomas is alive in 1791.

William Jr and John, the brothers of Thomas, remove to Luzerne Co, PA before 1810.  There is no mention of Thomas here.  The only Thomas mentioned in Luzerne Co is the son of William of the pension file.

While looking around Sussex County flanked by my new buddy Jan, she told me she had transcribed some old cemeteries of Sussex and placed them online.  So away I went to search.

Bingo!  There resting peacefully in Union Brick Cemetery, which is located between Hope and Blairstown, Warren, NJ is T. HUNNEYWELL, d. May 27, 1800, aged 43.5.1.

So that makes this T. HUNNEYWELL born around Dec 1756.  The right age, the right place, the right name and the only HUNNEYWELL/HUNNEWELL/HONEYWELL family in the county makes me think I've found Uncle Thomas.

To further cement this thought, I will need to find the actual probate records of papa William which were filed in 1813 to see if they mention the demise of Thomas and whether he had any issue or not.

Ahh genealogy. Revving the old engines to race for the next lead!  Oh, did I mention that my new buddy Jan had two grandpas that flanked my grandpa when they appeared in 1777 to sign their Oaths of Allegiance?  Yep, tis found right there in the official records of old.  Pretty cool to think she is assisting me now some 230 years later.  Guess the family friends can survive that long!

©2013 AS Eldredge

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tis Madness Monday: Those Puzzling Hunnewells

Researching the past makes for great entertainment in life.  I so enjoy sharing the tidbits with my spouse on our nightly constitutional.  Of course, it is also a time for me to talk through the finds, the mysteries and the good old head scratchers.

Last week found me digging around in New Jersey in the mid to late 1700s.  With the kind assistance of a volunteer who is so much more knowledgeable about the area than I am, we found documentation for my John HUNNEWELL or HONEYWELL or HONEWELL or HUNIWELL family.  Some of the finds confirmed what I thought.  Other finds have me scratching my head as I try to solve the mystery.

Take, for instance, the mention of a John H STANSBURY in early Sussex/Warren Co, NJ.  We first stumbled across him in 1794 listed as the Ward. Son of Rebecca Hunneywell DOUD.  She asked for a guardian to be named for her son, John STANSBURY.

Hmmmm, Rebecca's first husband was John HUNNEWELL who died in May 1779.  In his will, there is no mention of any children.  Other than wife, Rebecca, he leaves some small legacy to some nieces and nephews.

After spending some time looking for this chap, a source related to STANSBURY says his mother's name was unknown.  Which leads us to the next question, could she have been a relative of Rebecca or of John?

To add to the confusion.....

The 1752 will of John HONEYWELL of Greenwich, Morris, NJ, gives the administration of the estate to son John HUNNYWELL (who marries Rebecca in the 1760s).

The deed books abstracted by Clyde W DOWNING add to the mystery. 

In 1803 a confusing deed abstract seems to tell us that STANSBURY, ROBERTSON (his court appointed guardian) and a couple more good folks in the neighborhood are all involved in selling land that was originally belonged to the John HUNIWELL who died in 1752.  The land was surveyed in 1753 for John HUNIWELL, the son, and was part of a tract in Knowlton, Sussex, NJ adjoining that of brother William HUNIWELL.  The land is sold by public auction in 1798 to HENDERSHOT and therefore John STANSBURY and his court appointed guardian.  The land is sold by executor of John HUNIWELL, the son who died in 1779, in 1804 to KERR, who sells it the next day to Rebecca.

I still can't quite follow it, although I do believe there is a strong reason for John H STANSBURY to keep being involved with the John HONEYWELL land.  So, far, I just can't put the one name in who could solve the mystery.

To make this more fun and frustrating at the same time is a comment in the Deed Abstract Book by Clyde W DOWNING who admits the deed is confusing and he thinks there is a connection between his SWAYZE line and the HUNIWELLs.

I spent some time trying to find the good Mr. Downing, but, alas, he seems to have disappeared over the last six years or so.  Is he still around?  If so, I can answer that mystery for him.  Yep, we have at least two marriages of our lady HONEYWELLs to the SWAYZE chaps in Sussex Co, NJ.

Ahhh, genealogy.  With one mystery, another one is solved.  Thanks to Jan for all her assistance as she tries to teach me about that area.  She's a gem.

©2013 AS Eldredge

Thursday, March 14, 2013

1788 Death of an American

Digging around in the state of New Jersey for American Revolution era documentation has been an adventure.  Occasionally, the same names pop up again and again. 

Yesterday, I found the July 1777 appearance of Daniel HENDRICKSON as he was called upon by the Council of Safety to testify on his beliefs and allegiance to the present government in New Jersey.  HENDRICKSON had refused to renounce his  "Protection from the Enemy" and pledge his allegiance to New Jersey.  He was released on good behavior as he prepared for his next appearance with the Council.

To be fair to the man in question, I did not follow up to see the outcome of his visits to the Council.  However, in researching this Council, I did learn the purpose of the Council was to protect the state from the enemy and provide the militia fighting material, whether it be supplies or money.  It has been suggested that expressing your views in a negative fashion could have you brought up in front of this group of 12 men who had the power to dismiss the charge, have the person taken to prison, or remove the person to the enemy in New York.

Today, I have stumbled across the gentleman again while researching Revolutionary and Post Revolutionary Documents, Calendar of New Jersey Wills, Vol VII, 1786-1790.  Once again, the names I was researching were not to be found.  HENDRICKSON was.  Here is his entry.

1788, July 31. Hendrickson, Daniel, of Middletown, Monmouth Co.
Int. Adm'x — Cathrine Hendrickson, widow of said Daniel, and Hen-
drick Hendrickson, son of said Daniel; both of said place. Wit- — Garrit Hendrickson and Thomas Hendrickson. 

Did he sign his Oath of Allegiance to New Jersey?  I don't know, but he certainly died an American in a free from British rule country.

Ahhh, genealogy.  The fun stuff I can find while stumbling around the neighborhood of old looking for that elusive evidence and enjoying thankful Thursday.

©2013 AS Eldredge

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Homeland Security 1777 Style

Wednesday morning has arrived after a restless sleep last night.  I am almost speechless as I try to understand the past.  Almost a wordless Wednesday, but not quite.

Imagine the scene, if you will, of the events following our beloved country's 1776 Declaration of Independence from the super power across the pond.  The early events in the blossoming war were not very successful for the Americans.  In fact, in the fall of 1776, the British officers Richard Howe and William Howe issued a proclamation from New York City offering a pardon for treasonable acts to anyone who would take an oath of allegiance to the King.

The new states then issued a mandatory oath of allegiance to the new and present government in the spring and early summer of 1777.  In looking at several states, it seems that all white men had to sign the oath of allegiance or be subject to imprisonment or forfeiture of their property or even being exspelled from the area of their residence.  All allegiance to George the Third, King of Great Britain, had to be renounced.  All those suspected of treason or conspiracies were to be made known to the government, as declared by Congress.

Until last night, it had not dawned on me that the oath was a forced oath of allegiance to the Americans.  Gee, I wonder how that went over.  Can you imagine the revolt today if we had to go to court and sign an oath of allegiance to a new government?  Yikes.


Last night's research sent me to the Minutes of the Council of Safety of the state of New Jersey 1777-1778. (Many thanks to the kind volunteer who found the book for me online.)  In reading many of the entries, I was stunned to see how people turned in their neighbors for being suspicious, or dangerous to the present government, or how Quakers were brought in to testify. 

Here is a portion of one man's plight which I thought interesting.  Was he one of the men who had accepted Howe's pardon?

Daniel Hendrickson, who was summoned to appear as a Person suspected of being disaffected and dangerous to the present Government, did accordingly attend, and on Examination acknowledged that he had recd a Protection from the Enemy, which he refused to give up when demanded by the Board....

He refused to take the Oath of Allegiance but was dismissed on account of his good behavior as he prepared for his next appearance before the next Court.  I didn't follow up on this gentleman, so I am unaware if he changed his mind or went to prison for supporting the Crown.

And another one which caught my eye.

The petition of Benjamin Morgan, now in confinement at Morristown, was read, setting forth, That he is desirous to take the Oaths of Abjuration & Allegiance agreeably to Law, and is willing to be circumscribed in his Boundaries & laid under such Penalties as the Board may think necessary; and praying that he may be permitted to return home.

The one I for whom I was searching was found to have appeared July 8, 1777, on a demand of the Council with the charge of being "suspected."  William Honeywell appeared and requested time to think about it.  The Council agreed.  Honeywell returned the next morning and signed the Oath of Allegiance to New Jersey and the United States.  That afternoon, his brother, John Honeywell also appeared and signed the oath.

What must these men have thought?  Their family had been in the colonies since the early 1600s and had never even been to England.  They were born under the Crown, but lived as Americans for generations.  Did they wonder if the Americans would, or could, win the battle against the Crown?  Did they really care?  Were their daily lives affected by all the troops around?  I don't know the answer, but I do know that two of William's children were contacted by the militia to serve.  One of the sons served in place of the other, so only one of his sons has a revolutionary war pension.  So, William did support the American cause.

Even though I have known of the Oaths of Allegiance for many years, it never dawned on me that it was a forced oath of allegiance.  If a man didn't sign it, he stood to lose everything.  Of course, if the British had won the war, he would have most likely lost everything. 

Ahhh, genealogy.  William's declaration of wanting to think about signing the oath reminds me of that immortal classic song by Meatloaf.  I've been humming, "Do you love me?  Will you love me forever?....Let me think on it, baby baby. Let me think on it.  I'll give you an answer in the morning."
And just like the song, grandpa William Honeywell said yes.

©2013 AS Eldredge

Friday, March 08, 2013

Friday Funny: Letter Sent From Irish Mother

Laughing is good for the soul.  Sometimes the letters sent in the past could have the desired effect of making the recipient sit and laugh for a few minutes.

I found this letter in my mother's papers.  There is no date but the handwriting of her sister is at the top of the page with the words "Just for a couple of laughs." Why she kept it I don't know.  I just know I am glad she did.  For even today, this find made me sit and laugh.


"To my Irish son from your Irish Mother"

Dear Son:

I'm writing this slow 'cause you can't read fast.  We don't live where we used to.  Your dad read in the pater where most accidents happen within 20 miles of home, so we moved.  I won't be able to send you the address, 'cause the last family that lived here took the number with 'em so they wouldn't have to change their address.

This place has a washing machine.  The first day I put in  4 shirts, pulled the chain, and haven't seen 'em since.  It only rained twice this week;  three days the first time and four days the second time.  About the coat you wanted me to send you?  Aunt Sue said that it would be too heavy with them buttons on it so we cut 'em off and put 'em in the pockets.

Your father has a lovely new job.  He has 500 people under him.  He cuts grass at the cemetery.  We also got a bill from the funeral home.  It said if we don't make the last payment on grandma's funeral, up she comes.  Your sister had a baby this morning.  I ain't found out if it's a boy or a girl so I don't know if you're an aunt or an uncle.

Your Uncle John fell into the whiskey vat while working at the distillery.  Some men tried to pull him out but he fought them off bravely, so he drowned.

Three of your old high school friends drove off the bridge in a pickup truck.  Jack, who was driving, rolled down the window and swam to safety.  Billy Bob and Bubba, who were riding in the back, drowned 'cause they couldn't get the tail gate down.

Not much more to say, nothing much has happened.


P.S.  I was going to send some money, but I had already sealed the envelope.

Ahh, genealogy.  Love to see the humor of the past.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday: DAR-ing to Dig Up the Proof

Genealogy buffs and searchers of family history generally love to dig in the past.  Looking for the absolute definitive proof to prove a theory can be frustrating.  Finding the proof is thrilling.

Many thanks will go the ladies of the Daughters of the American Revolution as their new project on proving the past takes root.  The DAR has undertaken the task of reviewing the patriots whose either service,location or lineage has been questioned over the years.

These questions arose when an applicant tried to join the DAR using faulty information. The end result was the denial of the applicant or the patriot's line would be closed to future applicants.  Those of us who have run across some of these old closed lines have pulled our hair out in vain.  And, of course, there were those instances in the past when applicants were accepted in the DAR using bad information.  Now, those are the cases that can really get under the skin of dedicated, diligent family history researchers. 

I applaud the DAR for changing how applications were reviewed some 40 years ago.  They have worked hard to identify problems with the information being sent to them by unsuspecting applicants.

Today, I applaud the DAR for their new project they call the Cold Closed Cases Project.  Volunteers within the ranks of the DAR will be going back to take a look at these "questionable" patriot lines.  Analysis of the old records will be used to try and determine what caused these patriots' lines to be closed. 

Then, the fun begins.  These wonderful women volunteers will spend countless hours researching these old patriots using the technology of today to dig up the definitive proof of the service or lineage.  Hopefully, a new number of old patriot lines will be reopened for applicants.  To date, some two dozen patriots of the American Revolution can once again have their daughters enter the DAR.

Ahh, genealogy.  Ain't volunteers grand?

©2013 AS Eldredge

Monday, February 25, 2013

Madness Monday Mourning

Losing a member of the family is heartbreaking.  How is it that your heart can break while your lungs are constricting the life giving air in to your body?

After a week of mourning for my dearly beloved pet, who was a full fledged member of my family for the last nine years, the fog is beginning to rise.  Even though waves of despair and sadness still can overwhelm my household in a blink of an eye, the acknowledgement of the sun rising is a daily event.

I spent some time looking for an appropriate memorial piece for my beloved pet and I do believe I have sniffed it out.  We are looking at a laser engraved pendant which can be worn close to our hearts.  My daughter spent many therapeutic hours sifting through the pictures of our beloved pet when he was young, healthy and so very full of life.  Together, we laughed and cried at the memories of our sweet boy.

After a week of searching, the best picture has been chosen.  Now, I will send it off today to the engraver and will eagerly await its arrival next week.

What a great memorial gift this is.  I realized I could also have one made of my dearly departed parents or grandparents.  Why, the list is endless.

Whose image would you choose to wear close to your heart when you can no longer hug them or tell them how much you love them?  Wouldn't it be cool to have their images engraved on something else, say, a piece of rock or glass?

Ahh, genealogy.  Sometimes, just the thought of the dearly departed can make you smile while the tears trickle down.

©2013 AS Eldredge

Monday, January 28, 2013

Madness Monday: Here a Marriage, There a Marriage

Looking for ancestors using the census can be frustrating.  Then again, it can also be entertaining when the hunt is on.

I knew of the name George W CALDWELL, Jr, from the 1870 census detailing the family members of my 2g-grandpa, George W CALDWELL, Sr.  Jr is found again in later census records.  Only, the later entries can make my eyebrow rise.  How so?

The 1900 census (which was taken June 2) shows Jr living with his dad in a boarding house in Pittsburgh.  Of interest is the note Jr is divorced.  I have yet to find a divorce record for Jr.

What has been uncovered is legal documentation which has made life entertaining as I try to decipher what was really going on in Jr's life.  Let's look at the sequence of the documentation:

1-  Dec 27, 1900
There is a marriage found in Mahoning Co, OH, for George W CALDWELL Jr and Emma BAKER.  The groom's parents are the ones I expect to find.  The bride's parents are James BAKER and Emma SAFFIEL.

2- 1904 Pension Papers for Daddy
George W CALDWELL, Sr, is living with Jr in Johnstown, Cambria, PA, when his pension file for the Civil War is updated.  Listed in the pension file are the names of daddy's children, all as expected.  The surprise is that all children are listed as married.  So, was Jr married at this time? Added to this is the knowledge that one child appears to have died in a 1903 accident.

3- Mar 7, 1905
There is a marriage record found in Clinton Co, PA, for George W CALDWELL Jr and Jennie GILLESPIE.  On the record is the notation that his first wife died in 1899.   Hmmm, really?

The details from the 1910 to 1940 census records flow along with the earlier documented information.  There is a son born abt 1908 who is named George G CALDWELL.  I suspect the middle name would be GILLESPIE, although I find no definitive trace of the child after the 1910 census.  Of course, I will now be interested to see how long it takes for other researchers of the family to incorporate this name without finding supporting evidence of their own.

Now, the head scratching begins as I wonder who the first wife was that died in 1899 and the final whereabouts of the wife from 1900 and the one from 1905.  How maddening it all is!

Ahhh, genealogy.  Two marriages are documented.  The census would indicate a divorce before 1900.  The son disappears.  No graves found for any of the group yet.  Will the real story please stand up?

©2013 AS Eldredge

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: 1931 Holocaust in Pittsburgh

History teaches us many lessons as we seek to learn of the past.  Some lessons are terrifying while other lessons demonstrate the heroic deeds of mankind.  We all remember the details of the Holocaust that so many suffered under the dictator hands of Hitler.  What about events that were given the description of Holocaust by those who lived through them?

One such example is the 1931 six alarm fire at the Little Sisters of the Poor Home in Pittsburgh.  Many newspaper articles referred to the event as a holocaust.  It must have been terrifying to witness the fire and the helpless infirm patients and inmates of the home.  The rescue efforts mounted by the firemen, policemen, and general public should be remembered.

Sample excerpts:

"... Carried down by ladders by firemen, after she became weak and overcome by smoke, Mrs. Margaret Kline, 80, told her rescuers after resuscitation, that she was hemmed in by smoke and flame and "prayed that God would take her away."
Miss Veronia Stein, 64, also one of the rescued, said that when she was taken down the ladders she told firemen that Mary Henley, 75 and Mary Jacobs, 75, both crippled, and paralyzed, were lying behind a door, unable to help themselves.  When firemen returned and tried to enter the same window from which Miss Stein had been saved, they found their ladders burned, and fire pouring from the window...."

"... Mrs. Sarah Carlson, 65, first spread the alarm to the aged group, three of whom were crippled or paralyzed.  Then she started for the men's quarters in another part of the building to make sure that her husband, Dan, was saved.  Her friends last night did not know whether or not she reached safety.
As the five aged who were able to walk began helping Bridget Dooley, Margaret Henry and Bridget Reardon to safety, the three invalids cried in unison:  "No! No! Help Mama."  "Mama" is an aged and paralyzed woman in the next room, beloved by all the inmates...."

"... Men seemed to try to outdo each other in their efforts to save the aged and infirm from the smoke and flames.  Trapped inmates were carried down ladders by firemen, and volunteers and one aged woman, unconscious, was lowered to the ground from the third floor by a rope tied around her waist.
Firemen and policemen, live Lavery, off duty, rushed to the fire, working in civilian clothes in which they had been enjoying an evening's rest to battle the flames.  Brawny bluecoats worked with the doctors to aid the stricken victims of smoke as they waited for the arrival of the clanging ambulances in the shadow of the flames that had turned a quiet haven for the aged into a roaring inferno.
Men and boys living in the vicinity of the home, were the real heroes of the catastrophe, veteran policemen and firemen, who had attended most the city's big fires in recent years, said last night.
"This is certainly the worst fire I've ever seen," Lavery said..."

Take time to read some of the stories on our Old Pittsburgh Newspaper Project.  Along with details of the fire and rescue efforts are the names of the wounded and dead.

Ahh, genealogy.  Tis a great day to thank those first responders for their heroic efforts to protect others in times of need.  Thanks.

©2013 AS Eldredge

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Those Places Thursday: Going Crazy Just to Smoke

Ever heard of the smoker? Today, most visions when the word smoker is uttered include someone with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth.  Typically, this brand of smoker is found lounging around the approved smoking section outside the doors of many buildings.

Read the words from 1931 Pittsburgh and weep for the old men who went "gas crazy" just to catch a smoke in their approved smoking site at the Poor House.

..... I had heard of the "smoker" while I was still in the observation ward of the hospital.  An old Negro had come over from the home for a few days' treatment of a boil on his neck.  He regarded the boil as a not unmixed evil, since it gave him a few days of uninterrupted rest and food considerable better than that he was accustomed to in the home.  He was talking about the old men over at the home.

"Those old fellows oveh theah all crazy," he informed me. "They all gone gas crazy."

"Gas crazy," I demanded, immediately thinking of gas victims of the war.  "Those men were all too old to serve in the army.  They can't be gas crazy."

"Oh, they's gas crazy all right.  They sits theah all day drinkin' in that gas in the smokah till they gits jes as crazy as bedbugs."

Hot and Stifling

He failed to make me understand just what he was talking about but assured me:

"You goin' oveh to the Home, yeh say.  You'll find out about the gas, Jes' wait."

I did.

The first place I made for when I was transferred to the home was the "smoker."  It is a great, barn-like room, filthy dirty with rows of benches.  More than a hundred old men were sitting and standing about the great room.  Here these old pensioners on a great city's bounty can smoke.

At one end of the room is the biggest stove I ever say.  It must be done duty in its time as a giant kitchen range.  That's the only purpose I can conceive anyone might have for building such a monstrosity.  It must be all of 10 feet square with an iron top.  Underneath this top, great gas jets roar.   Flames leap out through big cracks and holes in the shattered top.

The Home - Rockview

It provides heat.  It also fills the great room with stifling fumes of unburned gas until the air is thick and foul.  I could stand it only a few minutes.  But these old men are used to it.  All day long some of them sit there, smoking in silence and hopelessness, breathing in the noisome deadly fumes......

.....Together we walked through the corridors and saw the broken men draped along the pipe, the blind, the halt, and the maimed.  We ate the scanty dinner.  We breathed the fumes of the "smoker" for a moment and then escaped to the keen, wintry air outside with a gasp.

He turned to me, on his face the most devastating despair I have ever seen - and I have seen men go to their death on the gallows - and he said slowly:

"Well - here we will live.  What do you think?"....

What do you think of the smoker written about in 1931 Pittsburgh?  Tis enough to drive one crazy.  At the least, many old pensioners were allegedly crazy after they smoked in the approved smoking site of the City Home at Mayview. 

This entire story, along with 74 other historic articles, can be read on the old Pittsburgh Newspaper Project site.  But beware, reading some of these stories will break your heart.

Ahhh, genealogy.  Another day has passed in to the history books.  I wonder what future generations will think of our stories from today. 

©2013 AS Eldredge

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Finding the Poor, Ill and Insane in Early Allegheny County

Finding documentation or information on some ancestors can be quite a task if the ancestor happened to have been admitted as an inmate to an early institution for the poor, ill, insane or neglected.  The Commonwealth of PA does not readily allow for any information on the inmates to be released easily.  For some researchers, this may be just the lead for which they are searching.

My genealogy buddy, Lynn B, and I have been fascinated by the early poor houses and institutions used in early Allegheny and Washington Counties, PA, after some recent comments on the Allegheny Co Rootsweb Mail List.  So, we set out to find the census for these places which frequently changed names and locations over the years.  Additionally, we are locating old newspaper articles and placing them online as well for researchers to peruse.

The tidbits I have gleaned from this research include identifying which institutions just changed names and which ones changed locations.  Common to them all is the appalling circumstances these poor and ill of our past lived in.  It can be heartbreaking to read the articles.

Comments from readers have included that Marshalsea, which was later renamed the Pittsburgh City Home Hospital at Mayview, was for the people from the city of Pittsburgh while Woodville was for the county poor and ill.

Other comments have included the correction of spelling of some names found in their census, while another researcher sent the death notice for one of their own who had spent time at an Allegheny Co. institution.

Woodville Hospital had alternate names as well in its history.  Included are:

Allegheny County Almshouse
Allegheny Hospital for the Insane
Allegheny County Home for the Poor
Woodville State Hospital

The House of Refuge which was incorporated by the Commonwealth of PA in 1850 was originally in Pittsburgh.  It moved to the new site in Washington Co, Morganza, in 1876.  Whether your research takes you to the early House of Refuge or the later Morganza, it should be remembered this institution was for the confinement and reformation of delinquent youth.

As we find more articles, we are placing them online for other researchers.  Another 20 articles were uploaded today, bringing our total to 53 for the Poor House and 33 for Morganza.

If interested in reading these articles or looking for your beloved, go to the Pittsburgh Old Newspaper Project.

Ahh, genealogy.  We appreciate the comments and knowing others may find some tidbit to assist them in their quest for the family history.

©2013 AS Eldredge

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Freak Found in Pittsburgh

Thirty-three articles are now available on the Allegheny County Poor House.  After reading these articles, you may discover more of an understanding of the sad plight of people who were abandoned, neglected, or poor in our nation's past.  Some of the stories have a "ho hum" quality in their tale, but other stories have the ability to shock in today's world and values. 

An example of a shocking story at Marshalsea from the June 28, 1904 Pittsburgh Press follows. I suspect many readers will be left speechless and heartbroken after reading the tale of the unknown male.

Found Freak In Empty Room
Long Haired Idiot Boy Abandoned by Showmen Who Meant to Exhibit Him
Will Go to Marshalsea

Abandoned by men who sought to profit by its mental and physical deformities a male freak, about 18 years, was discovered yesterday afternoon in the third floor of the rooming house at 545 Second avenue. About the time of the discovery was made by Mrs. Annie Dropple, the landlady, Superintendent of Police Wallace received an anonymous communication from the men who had left the freak, telling him where it could be found.

The case is the most heartless in the history of the local police department, and for a time the authorities were puzzled as to what steps to take. Finally it was decided to send the freak to Homeopathic hospital until this morning, when it will be taken to the city home at Marshalsea.

About 10 o'clock Sunday morning two well dressed men called at Mrs. Dropple's boarding house and asked if they might rent a room. She informed them that there was but one vacant room in the house and that it was furnished with only a bed and mattress.

"That's all right. We have traveled about 100 miles and are very tired. We are going to show at the Swissvale carnival next week," said one of the strangers as he passed upstairs. Two hours later the men left the house and Mrs. Dropple did not see them return. It was learned last night, however, that about midnight neighbors say a closed carriage drive to the door. Two men alighted and between the carried a long, closely wrapped bundle into the house, while the carriage drove rapidly away. This was the last seen of the strangers.

About 10 o'clock yesterday morning Mrs. Dropple went to the third floor front room which she had rented to the strangers. They were nowhere to be seen, but on the bed lay the form of a half animal, half man continually beating its head on the mattress. She fled in a fright and at once notified Patrolman McCready, who investigated and then notified the police.

Capt. Bartley went to the house in company with Superintendent of Detectives McQuaide and Detectives Kelly and Cole. The officers found the freak still beating its head against the bed. It was beyond all doubt the most pitiable specimen of a human being imaginable. It had the face and long hair of a woman, while the trunk of its body was distorted and splotched with patches of long wiry hair. Its limbs were about the thickness of a man's wrist and were bent and twisted. It was about 5 feet 6 inches in height and weighed about 100 pounds. On the bed beside its head was a piece of meat which had evidently been left for it by the men who abandoned it. At 10 o'clock last night it was removed to Homeopathic hospital.

The being was bereft of reason and could not talk. Judging by all indications, Superintendent McQuaide stated that the freak had evidently been exhibited throughout the country as a missing link of wild man, and this theory was confirmed upon returning to central police station where Superintendent Wallace had just received a mysterious letter which explained the matter. The letter read:

Chief of Police, Pittsburgh, sir, at 545 Second street you will find in the third floor front an unfortunate boy who is foolish and who is singularly marked and possesses peculiar characteristics. He is entirely harmless and helpless because he knows no more than an animal. I was here with him with the intention of putting him with a carnival, but they refused to do as they agreed. I have been compelled to abandon him to be put in a home by the proper authorities. He has no living father or mother, he has no friends. I have kept him until I broke and cannot do so longer,

The letter was unsigned and bore the postmark of the Pittsburgh postoffice. The police are making an effort to learn the identity of the men.

To read more of the articles, go to and click on the Poor House articles.

Ahh, genealogy.  History.  Sometimes, it just breaks my heart to read it. 

©2013 AS Eldredge