Thursday, December 29, 2011



Everyone is writing about whether they met their goal for 2011,   I could not remember if I had set any….  I checked back on my posts and found that I did not.

What does that mean?   It certainly does not mean I did not have any, it means that I had no clue what I wanted to do.   When I wrote the posts a year ago, I did not know for sure that I would be retired by now.    But I am…..I think forty two years working as a nurse is long enough. 

I made a lot of discoveries, most of them by happenstance.  I find things when I least expect it, it is that I go to search for an ancestor or something related and come up with something totally different.  This has happened the past four years of my research.

The most surprising was my sister and I went to take pictures of my grandparents graves and I found a whole branch of her family.   I had no idea that my great grandfathers siblings had moved to the USA.

My mother spoke of her Tante’s but I wrongly assumed that she was speaking of her fathers Aunts in Germany.   She also had mention family secrets that I have yet to prove and perhaps I shall never find.    What do you do with family scoundrels?   I suppose I shall not print what I have heard until proved otherwise…..I could have gotten it mixed up like the information about  her Aunts.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011



It has been three years since I have started writing.   Thanks to Thomas MacEntee at GENEABLOGGERS for  reminding me and mentioning my blog. I knew the anniversary date was soon, but I thought it was after Christmas. When I started I had no clue what I was doing, sometimes I feel that I still don’t.  

Looking back I feel it is more on the order of a research summary and questions to decide how and where to proceed.   I really have learned a lot in a short period of time. 

What I have done was to find collateral families of my ancestors that I did not know existed.   I am currently trying to find what happened to them since I can not even find the Michael Downs Family in the census.

I have started to volunteer doing research at the Diocese of Pittsburgh Archives , and indexing on Family Search.   I am even getting better at reading the old style German writing script.  I would like to assist on the indexing of the Pennsylvania Deaths and Birth which now will be made public after the bill was signed into law by Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania.

I am hopeful that I will find as much more information in the next three years as I have found in the past.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011



After spending time yesterday I found the 1910 census of my O’Donnell Family in North Braddock PA.    Edward, Mary and the daughters are still living on the same street as her brother Thomas Dowd and sisters Catherine Mulroy and Norah Finnerty.

But census searches for any of the family after 1910 were negative.   One thing I did find was a application for a passport for Bridget O’Donnell.


bridget O.Donnel passport appl


Bridget was born in December, 1889 and would have been fifteen at the time of the passport application.    My brewing question is, did they are return to Ireland?    If some family tragedy occurred I am sure some of the remaining family would have taken her in.

This case is getting quite interesting……








These are only a few of the children who had died. They are the children of Katharine Rauscher Sperl and Anton Sperl.

Johann, 20 June 1888-27 February 1891

Anton F,  1 July 1890-11 March 1891

Margaretha, 10 February 1885-15 July 1892

They all died from infectious diseases.

Monday, December 19, 2011



This morning I went to the Archives to do my volunteer work.   I usually go on Thursdays but I will be busy with Christmas preparations.

My morning was filled with searching for information of a client, which was successful. There weren’t any requests left.  The afternoon was spent looking for my own ancestors.  

I found that the previously mentioned Mary Dowd O’Donnell was indeed my great aunt.   She and her husband had only daughters.   He had emigrated in 1875, according to the 1900 census.  Edward was fifteen years older than Mary.

I did not find a marriage record for Edward and Mary Dowd but the 1900 census  they had stated they were married in 1885.   I suspect they were married at St. Thomas RC Church in Braddock, but could not find a record of this marriage.  According to the 1900 census Mary emigrated in 1882 which  was two years later than my great grandfather (Thomas Dowd her brother.)  Edward and Mary had only daughters  Margaret 1885, Catherine 1887, Bridget 1887,Annie 1889, Mary in 1892 and Norah in 1895.

I have looked for them in the 1910 census but they could not be found.   With all daughters I find them hard to search because of the change of name.

My great grandmother Bridget Naughton Dowd (b. 1868) had a sister Mary born in in County Galway, Ireland in 1865.   I found Mary, she married Michael Downs on 23 July 1882 at St. Thomas Church in Braddock PA.  

They also has daughters and one son.  Michael Downs b. 1892, Sarah Mary Downs,  Mary Downs 1884, Anna b. 1887, Margaret b. 1889, and Josephine b. 1896. 

I can not find the Downs Family in any census.   I know Mary was alive because my father, Thomas told me that his grandmother Bridget had a twin sister and he could not tell them apart.   My father was born in 1918 and Bridget died in 1939.   My theory is that he would have been somewhere between 1925 and 1939 to have remembered Mary Naughton.  

She was alive probably in that time period, but where was she?

Sunday, December 18, 2011



Ellen O'Rourke Obit 14 March 1924 - Copy

O’Rourke, Ellen.   On Friday March 14 at 7 30 (?)  a.m.  Ellen O’Rourke, beloved wife of Patrick O’Rourke, in her 72d year.

Funeral from her late residence, 274 Braddock Avenue, East Pittsburgh, on Tuesday, March 18 at 130 p  m (?)  Requiem high mass at St. Coleman’s Roman Catholic Church, Turtle Creek at 2 a m (?)   Friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend.  Interment in Braddock Catholic Cemetery.

This is the obituary of my great grandmother Ellen O’Rourke.  The copy from the paper is difficult to read and it looks like what should have been PM looks like AM.  I can not imagine anyone being buried in the middle of the early morning.

I was sad when I found it because it does not mention her birthplace (Limerick, Ireland), her parents (Patrick Mortel and ??? her mother), or her children.   Many of her children, Mary, William and Gertrude, were still living at home with her.

Was the cost of the obituary a factor in omitting this information?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011



Since I have retired my cousin Helen Jean has been sharing her family information (husbands side) with me.  I have been researching a few of the Catholic families.

I made an informal research plan and decided to see if I could find information on Anton and Barbara Miller (Muller) who had listed their place of birth as Switzerland.   I found that Anton had come across in the late 1840’s.  

My goal was to see if the records existed to find Barbara maiden name and where they came from in Switzerland.   They had many children so I check for the Baptisms first.   I was able to find the Baptism of Chucks and Helens ancestor, Adelaide Miller Feldkamp.   Adelaide was born in 1851 and I indeed did find her Baptism which was at St. Marys’ RC Church in Allegheny City, Allegheny County,PA.   As I searched more I was able to find her siblings, Ferdinand, John, Caroline, Evelyn, and Bertha.  A check with the 1850 census produced a sister Susanna, who did not appear in the succeeding census of 1860.  

I was also able to glean Barbara maiden name, Bosshard and the town of her birth, Turpenthal/Turbenthal, Switzerland and the town of her husband Anton Muller/ Miller of Koblentz, Switzerland.   This was exciting…..because I came across a person who was also researching this line on Ancestry.   A quick note off to this other person and I found a cousin….Barbara who was descended of Adelaide's brother John.

We were able to share information amongst the three cousins.   Now we had three people in on the search and Barbara and Helen sent for some records from the LDS Church.  Barbara found a microfilm of a Family history of the Bosshard Family and it was documented the ancestors back for seven generations.    That is totally unbelievable to me that records could exist back that far.   After I realized Switzerland's neutrality and the records still exist.  We have still much to find but this was a great find in a new cousin and much more information with just the maiden name of Barbara Bosshard Muller and her town of birth.   From the family history we found that Barbara and Anton were married in Turbenthal before they emigrated to Pennsylvania.

It has been a good week.   In the records from Switzerland and St. Mary’s Church the name is recorded as Muller and later on on the census and other documents it has been changed to Miller.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Pictures taken at PHIPPS CONSERVATORY on my outing yesterday.

Thursday, December 8, 2011



With a few hours and lack of clients I also tried to sort out the names of the four deceased O’Rourke children of my great grandparents Patrick and Ellen Mortel O’Rourke.  

I knew of the daughter (Loretta “Gertrude”  O’Rourke b. May 1890) and the tale of Dennis O’Rourke (“drowned in river”)    I did find the death index of Loretta in the Allegheny County records.   My cousin send a picture of Dennis and I never found a death record for him, and the cemetery records are incomplete.

  Allegheny County did not keep records until about 1892 or 1893 and I estimated the time of death as August 1891 because that was when the cemetery lot was purchased.    Dennis would have been named after Patricks’ father, Denis O’Rourke who lived in Limerick, Ireland.

I decided to start at the beginning.  Looking for Baptism records at St. Thomas RC Church in Braddock PA.    Since Patrick and Ellen were married in 1874 I started looking in 1875.

I found Dennis (Dionysium O’Rourke)   I had to ask and was told this was Latin for Dennis.   Born 28 October 1875 and Baptized 1 November 1875.    Father, Patrick O’Rourke and mother Ellen Murtal, sponsors James O’Rourke and Maria Farrell.    James was Patricks’ brother.

On the same page and two entries later was another record.   Born 10 November 1875 was Joanne O’Rourke and Baptized 18 November 1875.   Father Patrick O’Rourke and Ellen Mortel with sponsors Martin and Winifred Otter.

These pages were the original entries, what just happened here, or rather in 1875?   It is highly unlikely that Ellen would give birth to two children twelve days apart. Who are the parents of one of the children?

Did they adopt a child as their own of some other family member to avoid a scandal?   The two could actually be raised as twins, that would have been no problem at all.     I have been thinking about all the possibilities and can not come up with a answer at all.

The Baptism record is probably the only record that I will ever find on these births.    Being the first born children I can honestly say that this will remain a mystery forever.

Any thoughts on this mystery please leave a comment, I have to consider every possibility.  

Monday, December 5, 2011



Today I went to the Archives to do my volunteer researching.  Since Thursday is  HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION the Archives will not be opened. 

I did some research for a client and since there were no more requests I decided to search for my Irish ancestors.   The records of St. Thomas RC Church are incomplete and Spartan.   The Church was founded about 1854 and the marriage I was looking for in 1874 is not recorded, actually for the year there were only about eight. 

Quite unexpectedly I came across a listing for a Baptism and the name of the mother caught my eye.   Her name was Mary Dowd.   I knew my great grandfather, Thomas Dowd had three sisters, Catherine, Norah and Mary.    Catherine and Nora emigrated to the USA, married and I found them living next to their brother Thomas in the 1910 census.


Copy from

Catherine was married to Thomas Mulroy and Nora to Cummins Finnerty.   What I found was a Baptism for a child, Bridget O’Donnell and the parents were Edward O’Donnell and Mary Dowd. Bridget was born 15 December 1889.  The sponsors were Thomas and Ann Dowd.   Thomas was my great grandfather, but who was Ann?  I searched for additional children of Edward and Mary and found a few.   The most important clue was a sponsor for one of the children was Richard Fitzmorris and Fitzmorris was the maiden name of the Dowd siblings mother Catherine.

Back to the 1900 census and Mary and Edward were there.   According to the census they had been married fifteen years and Edward was fifteen years older than Mary.  

Relatives really do hide in plain sight.   On the above census the four siblings were living together on the same street.   More research to be done on Mary and Edward.   There is only one sibling left and that is a brother John.    I suppose he will pop up unexpectedly  like Mary did………..

There were a few other surprises which I will follow with later.