Monday, November 3, 2014

How Being a New Parent Can Change One's Genealogy Habits

A few days after his birth, I wrote a new blog post about my son Brendan and shared a few photos of the little guy. It was exciting to be able to add a new twig to the family tree, quite literally. I was almost giddy adding Brendan to my online tree. What I didn't expect were the very significant changes to my genealogy habits that would result from this little bundle of joy.

Genealogy is a hobby that I have poured hours upon days into over the last several years. I have attempted to be as professional as an amateur genealogist can and that takes time. Before Brendan was born that may have meant hours working in front of the computer. It was not unusual for me to get home from work at 6:30 p.m., have dinner and then spend the next two or three hours searching for documents, following leads, and working my way down genealogical rabbit holes. I would easily lose myself in or and before long, it's 11:30 p.m. and I've guaranteed myself only four or five hours of sleep.

As anyone with a toddler knows time is not something I have in abundance anymore. Brendan's presence has forced a shift in my genealogy habits. Parenting requires that my genealogy involve more fits and starts. I've had to become an expert at "5-minute genealogy." Thanks to the app, maybe I conduct a quick search for a record on my iPad or clean up my family tree on my iPhone. It's not unusual for me to conduct a records search, walk away from the computer and come back an hour later not remembering what I had already looked at. Instead of trying to figure it out, I tend to open a new browser tab and start a new search. Pretty soon I have 15 tabs open in Google Chrome, all with search results or record displays and not much to answer for it.

Besides cleaning the house, doing laundry and maybe (just maybe) watching TV, I can usually work on my genealogy for an hour or so after Brendan goes to bed. I tend to rotate between conducting research and new blog posts. Because a blog post of any substance can take at least an hour to write and source, they are often now done haltingly. (I started writing this one over two months ago.) Hence, you will see a lot of "(Not So) Wordless Wednesday" posts, with just a photo and a caption and a lot fewer detailed articles.

While cranking out the work may be harder, I do have a new emotional driver for my work. Brendan is obviously a descendant to whom I can pass my work. I have no idea if he will ever appreciate genealogy, but there are family stories and photos that I want him to hear and see. As we all know, it's important to pass down the stories of the ancestors he didn't know as I did, like my grandfather Chuck Lowry or great grandfather Francis Witt. Genealogy has become more meaningful as I write down my family history for him.

Having Brendan in my life is a blessing. With the exception of wanting an hour or two of additional sleep each night, I wouldn't change a thing. This includes cutting back on the genealogy. Instead of 20 hours a week spent with dead relatives, I gladly spend more time with the living. And those are the real memories I want to remember.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday - 1st Sunday at Work?

Was April 1 the first day my great uncle James Pepperney went off to work? Was it the first Sunday he worked? I'm not 100% sure the meaning of the caption, however April 1, 1923 was a Sunday. James was 16 years old, assuming this photo was taken on that date. I'm equally not as certain where he would have worked at age 16. If you have any insights, leave a comment!

James Albert Pepperney Sr. (1906-1999), Photograph, taken in unknown location, probably on 1 Apr 1923; digital image, photocopy of original, scanned in 2013 by Joseph Lowry; privately held by Mary McCaffery, [address for private use], Canton, Ohio. Man wearing dark pants and vest, lighter colored jacket and cap. Provenance is Charles Lowry family to Mary McCaffery.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Tragic Deaths of William Pepperney and William Groucutt

Two little boys who lived just 50 miles apart. The same age and sadly, the same cause of death. These two death certificates tell of the very sad deaths of William A Pepperney and William Groucutt Jr. 

William Groucutt and William Pepperney were born a few months apart. They were both no doubt the apple of their parents eyes. They were the first son in each family, expected to carry on the family name. Sadly, it was not meant to be. After a brief illness, both died from what is today a very manageable disease - pneumonia.

William A Pepperney was born on 26 December 1919 to Andrew and Magdalena Pepperney. He is my first cousin, three times removed. The Pepperneys lived, ironically, on Lowrie Street, in the Troy Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Andrew was a pipe fitter and Lena kept the house. William was their second child, following a daughter Savilla three years prior.

At just 15 months, Andrew contracted pneumonia. It probably started as bronchitis or influenza however this was before antibiotics could have provided any relief. Antivirals and vaccines to treat or prevent the flu did not yet exist either. According to the death certificate, Wiliam Pepperney was attended to by Doctor J.F. Thomas from 29 March until his death on 31 March. He had probably been ill for days prior but it finally reached a severity where his parents felt the need to contact a doctor. At 2:30 p.m. in 31 March, 1921, little William died of complications from pneumonia. This no doubt was devastating to his family. He is buried in Most Holy Name Cemetery in Troy Hill.

Just 50 miles away in New Castle, Pennsylvania lived the Groucutts. William and Tillie Groucutt had two daughters before William Jr was born on 29 February 1919. William Jr is my first cousin, twice removed. William Sr. worked in the steel mills while Tillie was a homemaker. Tragically, William Groucutt would not live to see his first birthday. Sometime in late January he probably contracted influenza or bronchitis. By 2 February, his symptoms were so severe as to warrant a doctor's attention and Doctor Davis was called. Sadly, on 3 February he too would die of pneumonia.

William was buried at Saint Mary's Cemetery in New Castle on 5 February 1920. He was only 11 months old.

Pennsylvania Department of Health, "Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1944," database, ( accessed 19 Oct 2014), entry for William A Groucutt, record 20022 (3 Feb 1920).

Pennsylvania Department of Health, "Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1944," database, ( accessed 19 Oct 2014), entry for William Pepperney Jr, record 23020 (31 Mar 1921).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday - 1950 Lowry Family Photo

On the back of this photograph it reads, "May 1950 Jean, Chas III, Chas. Jr." The Lowry family of three would end up being a family of eleven. If only they had been able to predict the future, the changes they would see!

Jean Groucutt Lowry (1924-1987), Charles James Lowry (1924-2007) and Charles James Lowry, Jr. [year of birth withheld], Photograph, taken in unknown location, in May 1950; digital image, photocopy of original, scanned in 2013 by Joseph Lowry; privately held by Mary McCaffery, [address for private use], Canton, Ohio. Family of three standing together in front of car with brick structure in the background. Provenance is Charles Lowry family to Mary McCaffery.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday - Death Certificate of Bridget Foy Groucutt

Sometimes you need to search long and hard for a great record, and sometimes you just need to click on a Shaky Leaf. uses 'shaky leaves' to indicate that someone in your tree has a hint, or possible match to a record in their vast collection of databases. I had basically exhausted all of the hints in my direct ancestors so I was very excited to see a new shaky leaf appear on Bridget Foy Groucutt.

Bridget Foy Groucutt is my 2nd great grandmother and this shaky leaf hint indicated that a death certificate match may have been automatically made. Of course I review all of these hints meticulously. There are often useless record hints for a person you know isn't your ancestor. On more than one occasion, has suggested a possible match of a record for someone who lived or died 100 years from when the record was created.

This death certificate was a legitimate hint however. It told me quite a bit about Bridget and her life. At the end of her life, Bridget was at living at 1026 Huey Street in New Castle, Lawrence, PA with her husband George and daughter Sara, who was the informant on her death. She died of carcinoma of the large bowel after being sick for 6 months. An infection one month before her death and surgery just two weeks prior no doubt made for a difficult last stage of life for both her and her family.

Her death certificate tells us that she was born on 2 February 1862 in England, the daughter of John Foy and Sarah Coyne, likewise born in England. She was a house wife who tended to her home and large family. At the time of her death on 14 October 1925, she was 62 years old. She is buried in Saint Mary's Cemetery in New Castle.

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, "Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1944," database, (]: accessed 8 Oct 2014), entry for Bridget Groucutt, File 101333 (16 Oct 1925).

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday - Fussy Guy

Boy, can I relate to this photo! My son Brendan recently had his very first teeth pop; his two lower incisors both made an appearance last week and he hasn't really been enjoying the experience. He's been fussy, crying, and wants to be held more than usual. I doubt this photo of my dad taken around 1953 involves crying over new teeth but his sentiment is the same as Brendan's - "I'm not a happy camper." I saw my dad this weekend and he appears to have made a recovery from whatever bothered him while this photo was being taken.

Patrick Lowry [year of birth withheld], Photograph, taken in unknown location, in about 1953; digital image, photocopy of original, scanned in 2013 by Joseph Lowry; privately held by Mary McCaffery, [address for private use], Canton, Ohio. Child crying in a crib. Provenance is Charles Lowry family to Mary McCaffery.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday - The Three Musketeers

Click to enlarge
The three musketeers are my great grandfather Charles Lowry (center) and two others whose relation I'm not sure. Perhaps they are friends or coworkers. Based on captions in photos taken at the same time, the person on the left is named Bill and the person on the right Campbell. This photo was taken in 1929, which leads me to think it was probably taken at Republic Steel, where Charles was working at the time.

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