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

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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.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mystery Monday - What Happened To Edward Lowry?

Edward Lowry is a mystery. A brick wall. After 1904, an apparition being sought. He is also my 2nd great grand uncle, a son to my third great grandfather Michael Lowry. Throughout Edward's life, he worked hard, but was never able to stay in one place and to some degree, appears to have had a strained relationship with his family. Over the course of a few dozen years, he made a trek west starting in Pennsylvania before the final mention of him appears in Washington State. But it's only the final mention, and probably not the final record. I've been trying for years to figure out what happened to Edward. The easiest thing to do to help locate someone if study what you already know.

Edward was born in 1855 in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, the second child of Michael and Bridget Lowry. He had an older sister, Mary, who edged him by a year. At least three more children would follow, including Anna in 1858, Margaret in 1861 and my great great grandfather Michael Jr. in 1868. For at least the first five years of his life, Edward and his family lived in Carbon Township in Huntingdon County. Michael Sr. was a coal miner and that dangerous work is how the family paid its bills. There is speculation that he was a member of the Molly Maguires, an often violent Irish secret society believed to be active in Pennsylvania coal fields. They used murder, extortion and kidnapping to fight for better working conditions on behalf of the Irish American miners. Whether or not Michael was a 'Molly' remains to be determined.

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By 1870, the family had moved to Saline Township, Ohio, along the banks of the Ohio River. Edward, only age 15, was already at work in the coal mines with his father. Today, a child this age can't drive, vote or drink, but 140 years ago, he was sent into the dark and dangerous depths of a coal mine to extract whatever million year old carbon he could.

In 1877, Edward married Sarah Humphrey. Sarah was born in Ohio to Welsh parents but spent much of her childhood in Bevier, Missouri. By 1879, the family of three lived in Boulder, Colorado where their first child, Edward Jr was born. In addition to being a miner, Edward was an organizer for the Knights of Labor. This early labor union that rose to quick prominence and size in the early 1880's but by the middle of the decade, largely failed because of a weak organization and a penchant for violence.

Click to enlarge

By the end of the 1880's, Sarah was in Bevier with her family. We know this because it is where their second son, Ralph, was born on 18 April 1889. How long they stayed with Sarah's family or the reasons for leaving Colorado are unknown, but by 1900 the family  was together in Republic, Washington. Republic is the county seat of Ferry County in northeastern Washington. Ferry County was created in 1899 from a part of Stevens County, located to the east. Ferry County is so large and so desolate that its population density even today is just 3 people per square mile. Large amounts of snowfall and very cold temperatures in the winter no doubt made living in Republic less than ideal in the late 1800's.

At the turn of the century, Ralph was busy studying in school while his older brother and father worked in the coal mines. It's hard to image an 11-year old dreaming about escaping that life if it was all he had known. We know, however that while his brother continued to work in the mine, Ralph would go on to obtain an engineering degree from Washington State College and become a senior engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation and involved in some of the largest construction projects ever conceived in the United States. (See my article about Ralph here.)

The last mention I have of Edward Sr. is a 1904 obituary for his mother Bridget that appeared in the Leetonia Reporter. It says only that he was living near Spokane, Washington, 120 miles away from Republic. I haven't located either of them in the 1910 Census. Sarah Lowry died in 1915 at age 57 in Spokane and is buried alone in Republic. Her obituary makes no mention of Edward, only her sons.

Sarah's grave in beautiful Republic Cemetery. Edward is not buried there.
In 1904, Edward was only 48 years old. So the important questions to be asked are when and where did Edward die? Where is he buried? Why did Sarah go back to Bevier for the birth of her son when the family was otherwise living in Boulder? This is a brick wall that I really want to answer to both help explain Edward's journey west.

(PS: Today is supposedly the 184th birthday of Edward's father and my third great grandfather Michael Lowry. How they tracked birthday's in 1830 in rural Ireland is beyond me, but sure, let's celebrate. Happy birthday grandpa Mike!)

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