Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Glimpse of the Past: Federal and Robinson Streets, Pittsburgh

Federal Street looking south from Robinson Street with
Sixth Street Bridge in background. July 28, 1911.
Historic Pittsburgh Image Collections

Federal Street today, looking south from Robinson Street with the
Roberto Clemente Bridge in the background. Google Maps Street View.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Seeking Margaret Ann McCracken Mills Bentley

New discovers in my own tree are fewer and farther between so to fill the gaps, I have also been periodically researching my husband's tree (as well as my sister-in-law's tree). This has been difficult because my husband has zero interest in genealogy - he doesn't mind me working on it but he doesn't know much about his family beyond his parents and doesn't see why he should. I've tried to tell him about my discoveries in his family tree but he just shrugs his shoulders. Sometimes, he pretends to be interested for my sake but I know he's just indulging me.

1901 Census of Bentley
Click to enlarge
Anyway, I hit a roadblock rather quickly when looking for my mother-in-law's paternal grandparents, Francis (Frank) William and Margaret Ann Bentley. I quickly traced Frank's lineage back several generations but I didn't even know Margaret's maiden name, just that she was born in Salford, England around 1868.

In the 1901 census (left), I found them living in Salford with several children, three of whom were listed as Frank's stepchildren, Thomas, Sarah and Albert Mills. I also found an 1897 marriage index for Francis William Bentley to Margaret Ann Mills.

So is Margaret's maiden name Mills or is it her name from her first marriage? I don't know why I didn't just order the marriage record to see if her father's name was on it. Trying to cut corners, I guess. But Margaret married Frank in Salford when she was 29 and I couldn't find any earlier census records of an unmarried Margaret Mills born in Salford about 1868, even though she should theoretically be on the 1871, 1881, and 1891 censuses. So I was thinking it was more likely Margaret was married previously to a man by the name of Mills, given the names of Frank's stepchildren. There's also no record of Frank being married before Margaret so it's unlikely the Mills children are his orphaned stepchildren from a previous marriage of his own. Unfortunately, the children are too young to be found on the 1891 census so trying to trace Margaret through them is not possible.

1891 Census of Mills family
In the 1891 census, there are two married Margaret Mills who were born in the right area around the right time, one of them was married to Richard Mills and the other to Albert Mills in Oldham (just outside Manchester/Salford). Already, I am leaning towards Albert because we know Frank's stepson's name was the same. Sure enough, later census records confirm Richard Mills and his wife still living together when Margaret had married Frank so that rules out Richard. To further support the idea that Albert Mills from Oldham is the guy I'm looking for, I can't find him in the censuses after 1891 and there is a death index of what looks like him in 1895, two years before Margaret married Frank Bentley (but not before Albert Jr. was born the same year).

Another tree suggested that Margaret's maiden name was Warburton so I then found an 1889 marriage in the England & Wales FreeBMD Index suggesting Albert Mills had married Margaret Ann Warburton in Manchester. But the way the index works is by listing everyone on the same page without telling you who married who. However, the fact that they were on the same page (below, right) must not be a coincidence, right? The date fits, the names fit, the location fits.

Incorrect marriage index of Margaret Ann Warburton
Wrong! I tried to order the record under Margaret's name only to be told the record didn't exist. What? So I ordered it under Albert's name and it turns out, Albert had married the other woman on the list: Sarah Ann Weedle. Who did Margaret Ann Warburton marry? You may notice on the index listing to the left, there are five names listed, which is unusual because it's uneven amount and marriages come in couples, polygamy being illegal. As it turns out, Margaret Ann Warburton was transcribed on the incorrect page. If you view the original document, it says Vol. 8d, Page 358 but it was transcribed as Page 858, thus incorrectly listing her along with Albert Mills! So this Margaret Ann Warburton has NO connection to Albert Mills and this is why it's so important to look at the original document, not just the index. Looking at the index for Page 358, it looks like Warburton married either Daniel Silk or Christopher Harland. This is also why it's so important to be careful about what is added to other trees! I should really know better on both counts but everything did seem to add up at first.

Hopefully correct marriage index of Margaret Ann.
It still seems likely to me that Mills was Margaret's name from a first marriage since Frank has stepchildren with that name. And maybe it was the Albert Mills in Oldham she was married to - after all, the census of them in 1891 does list his wife as Margaret A. Mills, not Sarah. So where is the record for the correct Albert Mills marrying Margaret Ann? I don't know why but finding the likely candidate took some digging. I had to search only within the England & Wales Free BMD Index and restrict all the fields to "exact", then entered Albert Mills, married between 1887 and 1891 in Oldham. Then I did another one for Salford and finally found the record to the right. This makes sense because even though Albert was born in Oldham and he and Margaret lived in Oldham, Margaret was born in Salford. Additionally, I knew I'd seen the name McCracken somewhere else. Take a look at who is listed with Albert and Margaret Mills in the 1891 census above: a "visitor" Sarah McCracken.

I have since ordered Margaret's marriage record to Frank, which is what I should have just done in the first place but I thought finding her first marriage record would be more likely to give me her maiden name. I'm hoping that the full record for her marriage to Frank names her father, thus finally confirming her maiden name. Hopefully, it is McCracken and I will have redeemed myself in the eyes of the genealogy gods who had apparently forsaken me and taken me down a wayward path called Warburton.

In the mean time, I did some more research on McCracken and found Margaret's father was from Scotland. Excited, I told my husband that his mother may have had a Scottish ancestor and what does he tell me? "I already knew that." I must have looked aghast because he laughed and said "Oh, sorry, I meant to say 'Oh my God, that's brand new information!'" (Kudos to anyone who gets the 'Friends' reference).

On one hand, I'm glad because it confirms that I am on the right path with McCracken. On the other hand, I feel like strangling my husband for not telling me sooner.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Interesting Clippings #15: No Desire to Vote

Click thumbnail to read full article.

This article is interesting because it addresses the issue that not all women in the early to mid 20th century had a desire to vote or had any political interest. It seems hard to imagine to us today but some women were just more comfortable leaving it all to the men. It's not very surprising that the woman in this article was 92 years old and had grown up during a time when women's rights was in it's infancy.

Ambler Gazette, September 14, 1933, page 8.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

I had originally written this for Women's History Month but decided it would be more appropriate for Mother's Day.

I consider my relationship with my mom to be somewhat unique. We have always been close, even through those "difficult teen years" we did not have major difficulties communicating and all my friends were always jealous of my "cool mom". When they said she was cool, it did not mean my mom never disciplined me in attempt to win my friendship, just that she was fun but also understanding, reasonable, patient, and fair. She never took the "because I said so" approach and instead always listened to me and explained things to me. In all my years growing up, all the times I'm sure I tried and tested her patience, I can only ever remember her raising her voice to me once. We were making applesauce and I must have been very young because my role was limited to stirring some cold applesauce that I'm now pretty sure didn't actually need to be stirred. Even so, after a while, my arm got tired so I announced, "I'm done stirring, mommy. Can you do it now?" She was busy at the stove so she told me to just leave the bowl on the counter and she'd get to it in a minute. I obviously decided it couldn't wait so I began pushing the bowl towards her and towards the opposite edge of the counter. She noticed this and warned me to stop or the bowl would fall off the counter but I must have thought there was more room and kept pushing. Next thing I know, there is applesauce all over the floor and anyone who knows anything about the laborious process of making applesauce knows how frustrating it would be to watch all that effort in ruins on the floor. So quite literally, for once in my whole life, she blew her top and began yelling at me. Shocked, I burst into tears and I can't remember if she sent me to my room or I fled there willingly. In either case, it was of mutual consent that I'd go to my room. Don't get me wrong, as soon as the bowl tipped over the edge, I knew I was in trouble. But yelling was not her discipline style and so it alarmed me greatly. Later, after she'd cleaned everything up, she came to my room and this is a testament to her patience and forgiveness when she apologized to me for yelling at me. But she also explained why she lost her temper and reminded me why it was important that I listen to her when she tells me not to do something.

I am certainly not trying to preach about parenting styles. The point is, because of her understanding, patience, and communication, I felt I could talk to my mom about anything - and I attribute this entirely to my mom's doing, I was just along for the ride. Her relationship with her own mother when she was growing up was not as good as ours and so she resolved that when she had kids, she would do everything in her power to make sure it would be different. And my mom never does things by halves.

Mom and me.
I adored (and still do) both my parents but my mom was a stay-at-home mom and therefore my primary care taker growing up. The influences she has had on me are remarkably blatant sometimes. Frequently, my dad will fondly laugh and say to me, "Sometimes, you are so like your mother I can't believe it". Even people who hardly know me, like my mom's coworkers (she is now a nurse), refer to me as "Rachael's mini-me" because not only have I inherited much of her character, I also apparently look exactly like her. I say apparently because this is what everyone says but when my mom and I look at each other, we both agree "I don't see it." I suppose when you know someone so well, no matter how similar they are, you also know and see all the things that make them unique and individual. However, I am flattered when people say I look like my mom since she is one of the most beautiful women I've ever known. Even now that she's in her 50's, she still gets compliments on her appearance - it helps that she has always looked a good 10 years younger than she is. My mom once asked me "Does it bother you when people say you're just like me? You don't feel like you're not an individual, do you?" and I almost laughed because that couldn't be farther from the truth. If I have inherited even half of the charm, rationale, devotion, talent, independence, determination, thoughtfulness, selflessness, forgiveness and understanding that my mom has, I will count myself lucky.

As I said, my mom was a stay-at-home mom for most of my childhood but when I was in high school she went back to school and became a nurse, such is her desire to help and care for others. She had always wanted to be a nurse, from the time she was at least a teenager, I think. But her mother always told her that nursing wasn't an ideal profession for her because she "cared too much" about people. My grandmother was afraid she'd grow too attached to patients and have her heart broken if something tragic happened to them. My grandmother's reasoning stemmed from her own life experiences which I'm sure I'll go into another time but suffice to say for now, she was trying to protect my mom. Fortunately, there are plenty of nursing jobs which don't see life-or-death cases and my mom is now a surgical nurse, mostly doing ENT cases (ears, nose, throat) which are usually routine. But she does see some heartbreaking and inspiring cases when she goes on a two week "surgical mission trip" every year (or nearly every year) - which is basically like Doctor's Without Boarders but specializes in providing surgeries for people in third world countries - typically Peru. The work they do there can be amazing and it changes people's lives. I remember she told me about one case of a child who had been severely burnt by an open cooking fire in the past and the scars were limiting the child's mobility so the surgery helped loosen and reduce the scarring. They also fix a lot of cleft lips and palates. I am so proud of her for being a part of this kind of work and it just shows how incredibly selfless and caring she is.

Even before she became a nurse, as a stay-at-home mom, she was always involved in something. One of her characteristics I definitely did not inherit is her inability to sit still and relax. For as long as I have known her, she has always been on the go, always doing something, even as a stay-at-home mom. She was always involved in or supportive of the activities my brother and I were involved in, she had numerous craft hobbies, she volunteered at places like the school library, she was always donating our old stuff to charity, she even started a part time cleaning business with her best friend. I don't think we would have done half the fun and cool stuff we did as kids if it hadn't been for my mom's energy and enthusiasm; like the time she had us painting and decorating puzzle pieces to make into jewelry and sell at the Children's Arts Festival in State College. Even at the end of the day, when she relaxes in front of the TV, she often folds laundry or knits because she just never sits still.

You would think with this kind of drive, she would also be one of those clean freaks but she frequently quoted her mother's motto which was "if you can write your name in it, it's time to clean". It's a good motto, I think. One day, my brother and I came home from school and my mom was cleaning so we excitedly asked "Who's coming to visit?!" because we typically only did a full house clean when we were having guests stay over. We were very disappointed to learn no one was visiting and I think my mom resolved to start cleaning a little more often from then on. In her defense, my dad is a slob (as most men are), and it must have been difficult cleaning up after him and two kids, even when she did recruit us kids to help and give us chores.

She did apply this drive to her parenting though and was always utterly devoted to her children's happiness, though not to the extent of spoiling us. She was a stickler for certain things and I learned from a very early age never to interrupt her while she was speaking to someone else unless it was an emergency (which was defined by "if someone is hurt"). But when we were sad and upset or having difficulties with something, she would gladly turn the world upside down to make it right if she could. And she always did seem to have the answer to everything (except math problems!) - she could fix anything and always had what I needed. I remember when I got my ears pierced and I was having difficulty sleeping because when I put my head down on the pillow, it hurt my ears. She laid in bed with me for what felt like hours trying to sooth me until I finally fell asleep and when I woke up in the middle of the night, I discovered a very strange looking pillow with a hole in the middle of it which was obviously meant for my ear to go in. It didn't quite work out because it was kind of lumpy but I wondered where such a thing came from and in the morning, I asked my mom if she'd made it, knowing that she sews. She confirmed that she had, in the middle of the night, sewn it for me. I was astonished that she would stay up so late to make something for me right on the spot just because I was experiencing some discomfort or pain. I don't know if I thanked her for it at the time but if not, I will now. Mom, thank you for always being there for me, for always listening to me, for always going so far out of your way to make me happy and to make me feel loved and safe.

And if it hadn't been for my mom, I also probably wouldn't have gotten into genealogy! Even if I had, it wouldn't be near as much fun making discoveries without her to share them with. Like my mom, I don't do things by halves and once I caught the genealogy bug, it was probably only a matter of time before I started blogging about it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

FTM 2012: Preparing for PA Public Death Certificates

Following up on my previous post about Pennsylvania Birth and Death Certificates, I wanted to illustrate how you can use FTM 2012 (and probably some previous versions) to make a list of all the people in your tree who did or may have died in PA between 1906 and 1962, the current range of years for which PA death certificates are available to the public.

Go to the "Publish" part of FTM where you can create reports and charts and select "Custom Report" under "Person Reports". I changed the report title to "Pennsylvania Deaths 1906-1962".

Filter in all deaths which occurred in Pennsylvania
Choose "Selected Individuals" and in the pop up window, select "Filter In".

Think about the parameters you want to use. You need the list to be restricted to people who died in Pennsylvania so let's start with that. As shown in the example image to the right (click for larger view), make sure "Vital Facts" is selected, in the first drop down menu, choose "Death", the next one "Contains" and the bottom one "Place", then in the text field type "Pennsylvania". Click "OK". On the right, there should now be a list of everyone in your tree who died in Pennsylvania.

Filter out deaths before 1906 and after 1962
Next, we need to restrict it to deaths between 1906 and 1962. This is a two step process. We want to take the current list and remove anyone who died before 1906 and after 1962. So click "Filter OUT" this time and select "Death" for the first drop down box, "Date" for the bottom one, and "Is before" for the other one. In the text field, type "1906". Click "OK" and you've now filtered out all deaths before 1906.

Click "Filter Out" again, change "Is before" to "is after" and type 1962 and click OK. Now you have a list of everyone who died in Pennsylvania between 1906 and 1962.

Filter in all individuals who have no death data
But wait! What about all the people who you don't have any death data for but might have died in Pennsylvania within these years, people who you might want to find death dates for? Half the reason we look for death records is because we don't know when an individual died, right?

To do this, you need to go back to "Filter IN". With the first drop down box still set to "Death," in the bottom drop down box choose "Any Data" and in the second drop down box choose "Does not exist", as shown in the example to the right - then click OK.

Filter out any individuals who never lived in PA
because they probably didn't die in PA
You've now included everyone who has no death data entered which means you're going to have a lot of individuals who never set foot in PA or who were born too early or too late to have died between 1906 and 1962. This means we need to do more filtering out so choose "Filter out" again but this time, tick "All facts" instead of "Vital facts" and in the first drop down box, select "Residence". We're going to filter out anyone who never lived in Pennsylvania by choosing "Does not contain" in the second drop down box, "Place" in the bottom one, and typing "Pennsylvania" in the text field. Click OK.

Of course, just because someone lived in Pennsylvania doesn't mean they died there but it's the best we can do. If you don't know where someone died, all we can do is rule out the ones who probably didn't die in PA because they never lived there as far as we know.

Filter out any births before 1806 and after 1962, since
they probably didn't die between 1906 and 1962
Lastly, we want to rule out anyone who was born too early or late to have died between 1906 and 1962. So click "Filter out" again and go back to "Vital facts". Choose "Birth" from the first drop down menu, "Date" in the bottom one and "Is before" in the middle one. The date you choose is up to you - I figured most people don't live to be 100 years old so I put in 1806. Click OK. Now do it again but with "Is after" and the date changed to what you think is best - I went with 1962 because even though infant deaths were unlikely by this point, you just never know.

Click OK on both popup windows and FTM should regenerate the list in the preview window accordingly. It should now be a list of all deaths in Pennsylvania between 1906 and 1962 and of all people who lived in Pennsylvania and may have died between those dates. With the list, you know what names to look for in the PA Death Index. Of course, once the records are available on Ancestry.com, you'll probably gets lots of hints popping up but you can check with this list to find which ones didn't register a hint.

One last option: if you have a lot of people in your list who have no birth data and want to remove them, do another "Filter out" and set it to "Birth > Any Data > Does not exist" OR "Birth > Date > Is blank", whichever one you prefer.

If you want to save the list, click the last icon in the toolbar in the Options window on the right. This saves the editable list so you can always modify it later instead of recreating it but you can only access it in FTM. If you want to export a copy of it, click "Share" in the top right hand corner and choose "Export to..." - I usually go with PDF or, if I want it as a spreadsheet, CSV.

I hope this helps people who are researching Pennsylvania genealogy but remember, you can use this technique with any place or dates. I often find myself thinking "Who else in my tree might be found in this collection of records?" and I use this method to figure that out. If you are not confident using this method with different parameters on your own, feel free to ask me how to create a specific type of list and I'll post step by step instructions.

This is the kind of geeky crap I do on my days off from work!

Pennsylvania Birth and Death Records

As some of you may be aware, Pennsylvania only recently has made some birth and death records available to the public. In the past, the unavailability of these records was a huge hindrance to genealogists but now all death records older than 50 years and all birth records older than 105 years are available to the public. At the moment, the system works by finding the record you want in the index available at the Pennsylvania Department of Health website and then filling out a request form for the full record using the details from the index. Some of the indices are strictly alphabetical, others are organized by Soundex. For those who might be new to genealogy, Soundex is a phonetic organization system and to navigate it, you merely type the surname you're looking for into a Soundex converter such as the one on RootsWeb and you'll get a code which will be listed on the index.

Each non-certified copy of a record costs $3, a very reasonable price in the genealogy world, but they can take several months to get back to you. My first order took 6 months. It dawned on me today that this may be because of their exciting deal with Ancestry.com. If you haven't heard already, the PA DOH made a deal with Ancestry.com in August 2012 in which all the public birth and death records would be scanned by and made available on Ancestry.com. This is great news for those of us already subscribed to Ancestry.com, not so great news for those who aren't. However, the good news for everyone is that after three years of the records availability on Ancestry.com, they will be made available online to the public for FREE from the PA DOH. I know three years is a long wait but I get the impression the PA DOH did not want to put the cost and effort into scanning the records themselves so if it weren't for this deal, it might not have ever happened. They are letting Ancestry.com do the work for them and in return, Ancestry.com will have exclusivity of the records availability online for three years.

For those who aren't Ancestry.com subscribers, it would probably be cheaper to keep using the mail order system through the PA DOH unless you're ordering a large batch of them. A monthly U.S. membership to Ancestry.com is only $22.95 so if you think you'll wind up finding 8 or more records (which would be $24+ plus postage from the PA DOH), it would be cheaper to subscribe for one month and then cancel. Keep in mind, of course, you'll also have access to all of Ancestry.com's U.S. records collections too so temporary access may be well worth it to get as many records as you can in that time. Additionally, keep in mind that many libraries provide access to Ancestry.com so this is another option as well.

Anyway, my original point was that right now, Ancestry.com are in the middle of scanning all these records in batches and while they are scanning, that batch is not available from the PA DOH. So if you're waiting 6 months for your records, it's probably because they are tied up being scanned. It's entirely possible that once they have all been scanned, it won't take as long to order one through the mail. Also good news for those sticking with the mail order system.

According to the PaHR-Access, the first batch of records will be available on Ancestry.com sometime late this summer and all the records should be completed around early next year (they estimate February 2014). So now that I know when the records will be available on Ancestry.com, I'm not going to order anymore records through the PA DOH, I can wait until August 2013/February 2014.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Interesting Clippings #14: Threatened with a Knife

Click the thumbnail to view full article.

This sounds like an interesting early civil court case of death threats and intentional infliction of emotional distress in 1907. Mrs. Dumee is described as having already been in a "delicate condition" and though it does not specify why, the implication is that she was under distress given the threats Mr. Regal had been making for some time. When his threats escalated to brandishing a knife and claiming he would drink her blood, she broke down and experienced a "nervous fit" or what we would now call an anxiety or panic attack.

The article describes it as "an unique case" suggesting that civil suits based on emotional well being were not common at the time. It's important to note that this is a civil case, not a criminal one.

Ambler Gazette, February 14, 1907, page 4.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Interesting Clippings #13: Insane Man

Click the thumbnail to read the article.

I wonder what exactly it was about John White's behavior that made Mr. Devine suspect that he was "insane"?

Founded in 1880, the Norristown State Hospital was the first institution in the U.S. to accept female physicians and still functions today as a psychiatric hospital. You can read more on the Norristown State Hospital from Wikipedia and Asylum Projects.

Clipping from The Ambler Gazette, July 07, 1910, page 4.