Sunday, December 14, 2014

Serendipity in Genealogy - 94 Years and No Longer Waiting...

Genealogy isn't always about searching for the dead. Often, it's about finding the living to help solve the mysteries of the dead. This is a case of a random Google search for a great grand-uncle, a pair of DNA tests and, after 94 years, being able to confirm that the man whom we could only ever suspect as the father of William Thomas Crawford is in fact the right guy.

For me, this story begins on August 30, 2014. It was late in the evening; Brendan had already been put to bed. As usual, I was sitting in front of my computer searching away to find the next family gem or lost record. I don't remember my exact search terms, but I in the process I found this request written on a genealogy forum:
I am looking for the birth father of a William Crawford born in Leetonia in 1920 ,family oral history says that a Ed Lowry was the father,only want information,,about the Lowry family from that area,,1 
I looked at the date it was posted: January 20, 2006. It had been almost nine years since Linda Tritt Crawford wrote looking for information about Edward Lowry from Leetonia. Until I stumbled upon it, this request had gone unanswered.

I promptly sent Linda an email stating that my great grand uncle was Edward Martin Lowry, born in 1896 in Leetonia. Still, I didn't hold out much hope that I would receive a response. Nine years is a long time without someone changing their email address, losing interest in a hobby or dying. Fortunately for me, Linda was still very much on the search.

Linda's response the next day reemphasized that family history held that the father of William Thomas Crawford, her husband Bill's father, was Edward Lowry. Edward and Margaret Crawford, William's mother, had dated but never married. Since 1920, there has been no reliable confirmation that Edward Lowry was the father.

Linda and I exchanged a few emails and I sent her a link to my website and family photos so she could search through my published material herself. Since I held a possible key to this mystery, I wanted to do what I could to help solve this problem. I had the wild idea that maybe her husband and my dad could take DNA tests to attempt to confirm this relationship. I recently have gained an interest in genetic genealogy and although I want to take a DNA test myself, I knew that my dad would be a closer relative and thus more likely to be a match. If the Crawford family story was true, my dad and her husband would be second cousins. They would share a great-grandfather in Michael Lowry (1868-1949).

I proposed the idea to my dad as well as Linda, who passed it along to Bill. Fortunately, both agreed. I suggested an autosomal DNA test through Family Tree DNA. There are basically three different types of DNA tests for genetic genealogy. Y-DNA tests trace paternal lines from father to paternal grandfather to paternal great grandfather, etc. Mt-DNA tests trace maternal lines from a mother to grandmother to great grandmother. Each of these tests looks at the specific parts of chromosome 23 that get passed from parent to child. An autosomal DNA test, on the other hand, looks at shared genetic material on chromosomes 1 through 22. The more shared material, the more likely you are to be related. This is the perfect test for identifying a cousin relationship.

I bought my dad's test and had it shipped to the house. All that is required is a cheek swab on a glorified Q-tip. Linda and Bill ordered their test as well. Both tests were returned and then we waited. And waited. And waited. These tests aren't especially fast. This isn't like we were just waiting for Jerry Springer to announce, "YOU ARE THE FATHER!" DNA tests can take 4-6 weeks for results so we each expected something returned by Thanksgiving.

Even though it was my dad's test, I was particularly antsy, checking my account almost every day looking for an update. Finally, on December 6, a little more than 3 months since I first reached out to Linda, we had both tests results. Right there at the top of my results, which identify hundreds of very distant cousins who have also tested, was the name William David Crawford - 2nd or 3rd Cousin. A MATCH!
The result's page. Click to enlarge.
Naturally, we again exchanged emails and shared our excitement over the match. In doing so, I also learned a little more about Linda and Bill. Today they live outside Cleveland, Tennesee, although Bill grew up in Leetonia and they still have family in the area. One of those family members in the Leetonia area is Bill's niece Debra Moore, who I've also started to exchange family information with. Sadly, Bill's mother Elsie Crawford passed away on December 7, just one day after we solved the mystery of her late husband's father.

A portion of the results showing a strong genetic link (the orange part) between my dad and Bill Crawford on chromosome 5. Not every chromosome shows a match, but enough do to indicate a close relative.

Of all of my genealogical discoveries, this has been by far the most important. While it's great to be able to identify new generations of grandparents back in history, it's more important to be able to connect with those newly found cousins who share small and large branches of your family tree. In this case, we were able to solve a mystery that had existed for almost a century and finally confirm the long-held suspicion that the father of William Thomas Crawford was my great grand uncle Edward Lowry.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sentimental Sunday - A Geography of the North Side, Part 2

This is part 2 of a story written by my uncle Chuck Lowry. Part 1 is available here. It's published here with permission.

Dave Roberts' widowed mother, Sophie, also lived on Bissell, in an apartment at the corner of Elm Street. Her funeral, as I recall, was a day or two after Mom's. It was at the cathedral, and the priest was Fr. Larry Fye, who was vice-principal and dean of boys (I think Sr. Martina was dean of girls) at Ursuline when I was there.

On Wick Avenue were two venerable institutions that I recall from visiting gram and grandpa. The service station at Bissell and Wick was owned by a man named Steve. Grandpa had an account there and wrote Steve a check once a month for his gas. I think Steve too was killed in a robbery, several years after I graduated from Ursuline (1967). The other place was the Costas store, at the corner of Wick and Thornton. It was a small store with groceries and cold cuts. The owner was George Costas, a Greek about the same age as gram and grandpa. Grandpa used to send me there for cigars for him, Marsh Wheeling. Mr. Costas carried two kinds, and both were $0.08 each. Here is how I could tell which ones grandpa wanted: although they were all $0.08 each, one of them was two for $0.15 and the other was two for $0.16. Grandpa got the ones that were two for $0.16.

Uncle James and Aunt Catherine lived on Bryson Street, just off Bissell, about three doors south of Bissell. Aunt Catherine baked tremendous Christmas pastries. I remember how to pronounce them (collacci) but I have no idea of the correct spelling. Each year, as part of a fund-raising program in the mill, Uncle James and a co-worker used to purchase one annual membership to the YMCA on Champion Street, and for a period of several years, I got it. Uncle James was my godfather (I believe he may have been dad's godfather too; Aunt Barbara was my godmother).

Long before the custard shop at 1427 Logan, dad ran two other businesses. One was a very similar operation, on Belmont Avenue, near the hospital. I have a recollection that grandpa may have been part owner of that. The other was Isaly's, at the corner of Benita and Ohio, catty-corner fro St. Ed's. I was not yet in school, I think, when he bought that, from Mr. and Mrs. Tomas, who lived on Cordova, very near where Mother and Daddy Groc would eventually live. One night a football was thrown through the front window and dad and I (oh the privileges of being the oldest) went in. The police were there and one of the cops gave me the football. It was around our house for years, an ordinary football with a gash in the leather from the window. The Youngstown Fire Department actually came out and boarded up the window. The Isaly Dairy Corporation, from which dad bought most of the stock at his Isaly's, was at the foot of Mahoning Avenue. It had one of the three air raid sirens that I can recall in Youngstown. They were tested each Saturday at noon. One was on McKinley Junior High School at Bissell and Kensington, just up from Gram's, and another was on East High School. I suppose there may have been others, but those are the three I recall.

There were a couple other retail establishments of note on the North Side that I remember. On Elm Street, in the block moving north from Benita, were two of them. The first was Benita Drug. It was an old-time drugstore with an actual soda fountain. The owner was also the pharmacist, and he wore the short white lab coat every day. Next came the market. I don't know that it ever had a name. It was a typical though small grocery store with a meat counter. It was much smaller than Sturgeon's, going down Elm Street the other way. I think it may have been between Saranac and Thornton. It was operated by two brothers, both St. Ed's parishioners, and I think they generally were provenders to the parish. That was a pretty big deal. At that time, there were often seven priests living in the rectory and a couple dozen nuns in the convent.

Next to the Isaly's, on Ohio Avenue heading north from Benita, was a bakery where they made fresh doughnuts every morning. I remember that they were $0.05 each and then the price went to $0.06, a 20% increase. Bob Pesce used to hang out in there.

One of the priests who did not always live in the rectory was the pastor, Msgr. William S. Nash, a priest who was born in Cleveland and was on the wrong side of the "iron curtain" when the Youngstown diocese was split off from Cleveland in the late forties or early fifties. He spent half the year in Florida, from Thanksgiving onward, though he did come back for Christmas. In those days pastors generally did not retire. They kept the job for life, but if they were old or sick or senile (Msgr. Nash was old but certainly was not senile; I don't know about sick) it was no big deal, because there were plenty of priests to go around. St. Ed's was run often by Father James Cavanaugh, a friend of dad's who also was in charge of the junior high. He had a great device on his phone there. One of the two prongs on which the receiver sat (you younger people will have no idea what I am talking about and will have to watch old movies) could be picked up, and when it was, no one on any extension or connected phone could listen to his conversation. The other priest who often was in charge was Fr. Emil Kalafut, a close friend of Dorothy and Bob Schell. In fact, he worked with Uncle Bob when he wanted to become a Catholic (when Dorothy and Bob got married, Bob was not Catholic but in the common parlance of that day, he "turned.") Fr. Kalafut organized and ran the festival every year, in the junior high gym. It was always around Thanksgiving, after Msgr. Nash had gone to Florida, because Msgr. Nash would not allow alcohol or gambling at the festival. That was always the scuttlebutt, but we never knew how much of it was true.

There was forever the Golden Dawn, the place where almost everyone of my age had the first "legal" beer. The Dawn in those days (and probably still) carded and carefully monitored under-age drinking, and it was especially powerful because they knew who we all were. Everyone's first illegal, underage beer, by the way, was almost always at the St. Anthony's festival. The Dawn did not even have 3.2 beer, or beer with 3.2% or less alcohol, which could be sold to people from 18-21.

In the late fifties, the Liberty Plaza was built and North Side retail changed forever.

Charles Lowry, Brooklyn, New York, [e-mail for private use], to Lowry Family e-mail, 28 Nov 2014, "My Forgetful Self: A Geography of the North Side," Local Folders: Genealogy : Bloggable!; privately held by Joe Lowry, [e-mail &address for private use], Sterling, VA, 20165.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sentimental Sunday - Healthcare News

This story was written by my uncle Chuck Lowry and shared with his siblings. It's published here with permission.

I thought with all the healthcare news around, I would offer three pieces of healthcare trivia from the Groucutt clan.

* Uncle Dickie was in the army, though I was a very small child at the time. I recall that Mother and Daddy Groc had a picture of him, in uniform, on a table in their living room on Elm Street, an apartment I think most of you will not remember. A bunch of the aunts and uncles were around, and I looked at the picture and said, "Oh, Uncle Dickie was in the army. Where was he shot?" That occasioned a great deal of hilarity. I don't know any more about Dick's military service now than I did then, but he didn't get shot, thank God. In my defense, who was the only soldier I knew at that time? Dad. Who did get shot.

* It was in that same apartment on Elm Street that mom (Jean Groucutt Lowry) fell, heavily, when very pregnant. I'm not sure which baby she was carrying at the time, but if I had to guess, I would say Mary or Joan. We were there on a late Sunday morning or early Sunday afternoon, and mom went upstairs to use the bathroom. The stairs, as I recall, were somewhat winding and were linoleum-covered. On her way downstairs, she tripped or slipped or something two or three steps from the bottom and broke her shoulder. I remember seeing her lying on the floor in a black and white maternity dress. Isn't it amazing what you remember? Anyway, the ambulance came and took her to St. E's, where her shoulder was tended to. Does anybody remember that?

* If my Latin is good enough to read a simple inscription, I can tell you that St.Columba Cathedral was destroyed by fire (incendio destructa) in 1954 and rebuilt (reaedificata) in 1956. Daddy Groc was a volunteer bookkeeper at the cathedral. At some point before the fire--because I remember that it was at the old cathedral, not the new one--he tripped going down the stone steps and broke his kneecap. He was in the hospital for a couple days and walked with crutches for some time after that.

Ah, the memory bank.

Charles Lowry, Brooklyn, New York, [e-mail for private use], to Lowry Family e-mail, 2 Jul 2012, "Heath Care Notes," Local Folders: Genealogy : Bloggable!; privately held by Joe Lowry, [e-mail &address for private use], Sterling, VA, 2012.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Newspapers.Com Is Newest Tool In My Toolkit!

I've been pretty quiet on the blog lately, but that's because my genealogy research has been moving along at full steam and I can't find the time to write! I recently obtained a subscription to and have spent countless hours searching their vast archive of newspapers. Included in that archive are over 100 years of New Castle, Pennsylvania papers and several decades of East Liverpool, Ohio papers. As my paternal family spent many years in or around those two cities, I'm finding great articles covering births, deaths, baptisms, birthday parties and weddings. The Groucutts, in particular, were a very well written about family.

For the last two years, I maintained a subscription to GenealogyBank is also a newspaper archive site but had very little material for the regions of the country where my ancestors lived. In fact, in going through my saved records, I can find only two GenealogyBank articles of any use. Meanwhile, I searched for the surname 'Groucutt' and located almost 525 records in Pennsylvania newspapers alone. Most of those are from New Castle and almost exclusively the mentions belong to my ancestors. 

Over the next few months, I'll try and do a regular feature with some of the newspaper articles I've located. Some include content that would never pass muster in today's news. Thanks to modern journalistic standards and medical privacy laws (such as HIPAA), I doubt any legitimate newspaper would publish an article detailing a nervous breakdown of someone, let alone someone who is 14 years old as Mary Groucutt was when this article was published:

"Rogan Groucutt Wedding, October 22", New Castle [PA] News, 13 Oct 1913, page 3; online index and digital image, ( : accessed 24 Nov 2014), Newspaper Archives, 1700s-2000s.

"Ms. Annie Connor", New Castle [PA] Weekly Herald, 1 Jun 1904, page 2; online index and digital image, ( : accessed 24 Nov 2014), Newspaper Archives, 1700s-2000s.

"Social News", New Castle [PA] News, 6 Apr 1914, page 3; online index and digital image, ( : accessed 24 Nov 2014), Newspaper Archives, 1700s-2000s.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Those Places Thursday - A Geography of the North Side

This story was written by my uncle Chuck Lowry and shared with his siblings. It's published here with permission.

When Chris was a babe in arms, we moved to 607 [Mansell Drive]. Here is my recollection of the distribution at that time.

Barbara and Dave Roberts lived at 135 New York Avenue, in a house I remember for its back stoop. I can remember Aunt Barbara sitting on that back stoop shelling peas. I must have been seven or eight years old. The front porch had a pole in the middle of it. I suppose it might have been a support for an awning, but I cannot be sure. I remember two of their neighbors, the Ash family and the Judge family.

Dorothy and Bob Schell lived at 81 Saranac, They were right down the street from the Elm Beverage Shop, on Elm Street near Saranac. Grandpa used to go there, and the proprietor was named Jack Daley. Jack had a container of pretzels on the counter, and whenever I went in there with grandpa, Jack gave me two pretzel rods. I believe Jack was killed in a robbery. [Ed Note: Jack Daley owner of Elm Beverage, was lucky enough to die a natural death.] One year someone in the Schell family got a small peep at Easter time. Now they are mostly dead or given away in a week or two, but not this one. By the end of the summer it was huge. I don't recall what happened to it. Across the street from the Schells lived Sally Lowry, who was in my class every year at St. Ed's, it seems. We were not related but she ended up working a couple summers at the custard shop.

Ruth and Joe Callahan lived on Madison, between Bryson (Ursuline) and Elm Street (fire station, which was the main fire station until they built the one downtown in (I vaguely recall) the early 1960's. Uncle Joe worked on the railroad. After Ruthie and Joe (two children, each one named after a parent) moved out, Ruth and Joe moved to Elm Street, between Tod Lane and Benita.

Virginia and Johnny Naples lived on Florencedale, I think not far off Thornton, toward the north. They then moved to Fifth Avenue, two houses (when they moved, but soon three houses) north of Mansell Drive. They had a dog named Mickey, and the Eidelmans, who lived next door toward Mansell, had a dog named Prince, and Mickey and Prince fought occasionally but not always. Sylvan Eidelman, Jackie and Jimmy Naples and I used to sit around and discuss the Untouchables, with Robert Stack as Eliot Ness. It was on at 10:00 on Wednesday nights and took some maneuvering to watch because it was late on a school night. We were eventually joined by Jeff and Jay Martin whose family moved into the house next to Eidelmans, next to the corner of Mansell Drive. Jimmy Naples was a year older than I was. Jeff Martin was his age and Jay was a year younger than I was, the year between Pat and me. On the northwest corner of Mansell and Fifth lived the Gross family. Each year they walked to the synagogue on Yom Kippur.

The Sullivans, of course, lived in Cleveland. I do not recall where, except that it was Christ the King parish. For decades, whenever I saw anyone wear a Calvin Klein cap, I wondered if they were from the Sullivans' parish. When we would go to baseball games in Cleveland (it was rare; because of Daddy Groc and Uncle Dickie, Pittsburgh was a more frequent destination for baseball), I always begged to be able to stay for a couple days at the Sullivan house. The answer was usually no, but it occasionally became yes once I was old enough to have Uncle Bob put me on the train from Cleveland to Youngstown in a form of captivity known as "conductor's care."

Uncle Dick got out of the army and went back to live with Mother and Daddy Groc on Elm Street, just south of Bissell Avenue, near the park. Daddy Groc used to love to walk in Wick Park, every day, and always in a white shirt and tie, even after he retired. After Louise stole Dick's heart, Mother and Daddy Groc moved to Cordova, just across from Harding and Rayen. Mother Groc hated to stay alone, so after Daddy Groc died (April 1967) the families took a week at a time sending someone to stay. There was a roll-away cot in the living room. You would just be getting off to sleep when you would be doused with a splash of holy water--Mother Groc blessing the four corners of the room.

Charles Lowry, Brooklyn, New York, [e-mail for private use], to Lowry Family e-mail, 27 Nov 2014, "My Forgetful Self: A Geography of the North Side," Local Folders: Genealogy : Bloggable!; privately held by Joe Lowry, [e-mail &address for private use], Sterling, VA, 20165.

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.

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