Sunday, July 26, 2009


July 26, 1918 was my fathers birthday. He grew up during the Great Depression. When he was about four years ago his father died, he, his brother and his mother had to fend for themselves.

picturesbyclaudia 260 picturesbyclaudia 273

He looks serious even in this picture. I figure he looks to be about 3 or 4 months old. He is propped up in the picture, so that means he is unable to sit up by himself.

I do not think he remembered anything about his father. What he did say is the only thing he did right in his eyes was insist that Gertrude O’Rourke Dowd named him Thomas after his father and grandfather. Gertrude wanted to name him Malcolm. I like Thomas better myself.

His father died when he had fallen down a flight of steps, and I believe alcohol was involved in the death. My father did not drink and refused to have it in our house.

My father always would fight with his brother Richard.picturesbyclaudia 265

Richard Dowdpicturesbyclaudia 272

Thomas Dowd

After his fathers death Gertrude moved the family back to her parents home and had to go to work. She worked in the Westinghouse Electric Plant in East Pittsburgh PA. She had said her job was a “winder”, so I am surmising that she was winding the coils for the motors that they made.

My grandmother was only in her late twenties and I suppose she wanted to go out and her father Patrick O’Rourke was strict and told her to stay at home with her children. Gertrude told a story of how one evening she wanted to go to a dance. So, she climbed out on the porch roof and threw down her coat, which landed on her fathers head. She said she got beaten for this escapade and did not go to the dance.

Both my father and grandmother said Patrick was “mean.” This is a picture of Thomas in the yard of his grandparents.picturesbyclaudia 269

Gertrude held back my father from going to school so he and his brother Richard could start together. That would put my dad at about the age of 7 or 8 when he started to school. They would walk uphill to St Williams Catholic School in East Pittsburgh PA.

She made Thomas responsible to Richard and they would fight because my dad was punctual and Richard would lollygag. One dad he did not wait and went on while Richard was dallying as usual. Dad made it to school and a while later Richard arrived and went to the back of the classroom and hit

my dad on his head. The Sister told Gertrude that “Thomas has the patience of a saint.”

It is hard to believe today that Thomas or any child of that age would have the responsibility of someone two years younger. They would have CYS investigating and call it child neglect and child abuse.

To be continued.

picturesbyclaudia 274

My dad and grandfather.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I can’t believe I went without my camera.   To the Oakmont PA Sidewalk Sale.  They have photo contests and I would have liked to have pictures to post.  I had left the camera in the car.

Every year Oakmont PA has a Sidewalk Sale and the Oakmont Genealogy Study Group has a table and table to try to lure people in to get them to do genealogy….They lured me in about three years ago.

We set up out tent, and then had brochures about how to get started in the obsession.  Really, that is what it becomes… you all know.

There were about seventy five to one hundred vendors.    Some of them were fund raisers for their groups and some were merchants selling their wares, and individuals selling their crafts and such.

One elderly gentleman stopped by.  He asked us to guess when he was born.   He was quite fit and mentally sharp.   He was going to try to do his family tree but wanted to work forward rather than back ward.

My guess was he was born in 1918,  I was off only by two years, he was born in 1916 that would make him 93.    He looked really great for his age.   My advice to him, write the names of the people (with pencil) on the back of your family photos because their names will be lost if you don’t.   He seemed to like the idea.

I am also good at guessing weights, but that is for another day….  Chuck and I walked around and had a hot dog, and I had a fruit cup which was being sold by the health food store.     Did you ever notice how good the hot dogs taste when you are out and some body is grilling them right before your eyes?

I have not gotten my Obits yet, I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas.


Sunday, July 19, 2009


In contact with my newly found cousin Jenny.   She has her family (mine too actually,)  all fired up about scanning family photos.

Her grandmother is frail and Jenny wants to get family information.   In August she has a trip planned to GA and another cousin in FL are going to have a scan festival.  I told her to write down who is on the photos because I have many that are not labeled.  

I sent her two of them because the O'Rourke cousin did not know who they were, so maybe they are on the Dowd side.  Unknown   any one on Dowd side? Unknown wedding party c.1910's.

Unknown   Think it is the woman in wedding picture??? Unknown woman.  She is very pretty  but who is she???

I know my sister is going to call and ask me what is up with this development LOL.



Thursday, July 16, 2009


I had to check back with my Blog to see when I had sent for my obits.   It was June 27, and today is July 16, so I am getting impatient.   This is nothing new because I expect instant gratification.  

Today I was on the Irish Family History Site and got two records.   One was for my great grandfather Thomas Dowd.    I knew his birthday to be 14 March 1860.  Since Thomas was the only one born (with that name) in County Mayo in 1860 this is a pretty sure bet.  It has listed the address as Rathbane and Parish/District as Backs/Knockmore…   It is a church Baptism record and the date was 24 April, 1860 and his parents are Thomas Dowd (no surprise there) and Cate Sweeney.  The two sponsors are  Andrew Dowd and Cate Dowd.   MY THEORY is that Andrew is my gggrandfathers brother, but is Cate Andrew’s wife or sister.   Do not have a theory on that yet.    With the Baptism date about one month after the birth I feel that this is the RIGHT family, so another generation added to my list.

I had found a listing for Ellen Mortel (Mortell) she was the only one for the year 1851 in County Limerick, the Baptism was 7 April 1851.   Ellen had listed 1852 as the year of her birth, but Patrick (as listed on her death certificate in PA) is listed as her father.   Joanna Condon is listed as her mother.   Address is unknown but Parish/District is Effin/Garrenderk.   Now  I had posted a few weeks ago about a Patrick Mortel with Ellen as a newborn in England’s 1851 census, with Patrick as father and Mary Mortel as mother.   Is Joanne and Mary the same person???   Is the 1851 English census accurate??? Are they my people?

Each answer begets another list of questions………

I ran a search on Patrick O’Rourke and Bridget Naughton but there were too many to determine.   I know the names of both sets of parents, what I need is a Reverse Search Option.  Where I can put in the names of the parents to find out information.


Friday, July 10, 2009

I’m So Excited


After a few days away I got home and checked my email…..There was a reply to a message I had left in 2004, in regards to the DOWD family.   I have hear from a newly found cousin, Jennifer from TX.   I think this may have been a posting I had placed on the Pinellas County Genealogy Web Site.   I will have to ask her.

She has just started her research and I imagine that she is probably in my daughters age group.   I am only two and a half years ahead of her, but I do have more information.

Agnes DOWD Hendershot was one of the youngest of the DOWD siblings.   She had moved away from North Braddock and moved to FL in the 1920’s, can you imagine how hot it must have been with no air conditioning?

  I think the branches of the family have all but lost contact with the passage of time.   Jennifer said even among her grandmother’s siblings have lost contact.  Agnes was her great great grandmother.  But she died in c. 1980 so I will  have to ask if she remembered her.

I guess it just sort of happens with new marriage, deaths of the old folks, and  people who do not remember or have never known of their extended family.

Will I ever get all the people in this extended tree????   Perhaps, I know a lot more than I did before.




Saturday, July 4, 2009


Yesterday I was rereading the old documents in my possession. For some reason my Great Uncle Bill and my Grandmother had applied for delayed birth certificates in the early 1950's. MY THEORY is that it had to do with Social Security, but one would have thought that would have been about 15 years earlier. Maybe they had the SSN but needed proof of their births.

Guess Patrick O'Rourke and his wife Ellen Mortel did not register the children's births. In the 1890's it would have been a trek into Pittsburgh, some days it is a trek even today.

My great Uncle Bill had his birthday listed in May 1888 and the document had listed that there were 9 children living with now ten including him.

My grandmother's birth day was in October 1892 but now there were three children dead with in that four year period. I knew about Dennis drowning in the river and Loretta dying in 1894 but who is the third siblilng?

On my dads hand written notes it has listed Rebbecca as a sibling but nothing else but the name. There were not any listings as stillborn so did Rebbecca die in her infancy? Exactly where are these children buried? I need to get records from the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The funny part is I have THE ORIGINAL deed for the family plot, the cemetery office told me there were two open graves, could the records be lost and they are there. That seems to be the norm that cemetery records are missing or burned in a fire.

Patrick bought the plots 15 August 1891, could that have been the time period of Dennis's death, I guess he must have been school age at that time. At least that is MY THEORY.

Does everyone else move this slowly in their research? It seems the O'Rourkes and the Sperls has a lot of children that died in childhood, but I haven't come across any of the Dowd children dying. Guess they were of a hardier stock.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Well, yesterday Chuck and I made the arrangements and prepaid a lot of the funeral related expenses. My father had purchased the lots about 20 years ago.

My sister and I both thought that there were 8 sites, but there are only 6. Here in PA you can put two persons per grave, it is called extra deep. Emily said thanks that we took of a lot of worry for her when the time comes. The last one to go will have to find their own spot. We also learned about Mausoleums'. It costs just a little more to be buried in one.

The sales woman is fluent in German, Hungarian and Czech. She read the old German on my grandmother (Anna Bartels) birth certificate and said the church in Celle was Blumlage. So now I can delve into the bowels of the LDS records and order them.

I find the site difficult to navigate, or perhaps, it is me……I will get on that soon. I’m so excited.