Posts Tagged ‘ancestry’

Catherine Aspery – Solved?

I think I may have actually figured out who her parents were and where she came from.  Here’s how it went:

Thomas Aspery
I started researching Thomas Aspery a couple weeks ago, from the list I made of possible relatives (see previous post).  He had the same uncommon last name, was born in England, same generation as Catherine, and lived in Sharon, PA.  They must have been related!

New Castle News 3 Sep 1917

First, I ordered a couple obituaries for Thomas.  This one lists a father named John Aspery and a sister, Phoebe Talbot of Youngstown.

Phoebe Talbot
Luckily, Phoebe Talbot was not a very common name combination, so it was pretty easy to find her death certificate on familysearch.org.

Phoebe (Aspery) Talbot’s Death Certificate

The father is listed as Henry Aspery, not John as Thomas’ obituary said.  Both records are secondary though… maybe the father’s name was “John Henry?”  Another possible issue is Phoebe’s birth year of 1861, making her 22 years younger than brother Thomas.  Either way, the mother’s name is extra helpful: Sarah Perchase.

Sarah Perchase
I began searching England census records for a Sarah, married to either a John or Henry, with children Thomas and Phoebe (and maybe my Catherine!). One census record was particularly promising.

Here we have Sarah with husband Henry and children Thomas, Phoebe, and a Catherine! The grandson named “John Henry” fits with my theory about the father’s name.

Thomas’ age is only slightly off from his obituary, but Phoebe’s is about 8 years off her death certificate age and if this is my Catherine, her age is off by 9 years compared to the 1900 US census.

I found Phoebe in 4 more census records, all of which were consistent with the birth year of about 1853 (within 2 years), so it’s likely the informant on her death certificate just didn’t know exactly.

At this point, I decided that the Thomas and Phoebe in the US is the same Thomas and Phoebe in England, and that they were children of (John) Henry Aspery and Sarah Perchase.  But that still left the question, is this “my” Catherine?

I was at the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg pulling some death certificates and found they have a microfilm of Mercer County death records for 1898-1906.  Catherine died sometime between 1900 and 1906, so I started looking and here’s what I found:

Of course I was on the microfilm machine that doesn’t make copies, so here is a cell phone photo of the image.  That’s my Catherine Aspery-Murphy and her parents were Henry and Sarah!  She died 21 January 1902 at 52 years old (or 56, or 59 depending on who you’re asking!)  With all this I now know lots about Catherine, her parents, siblings, and birthplace.  I may be inferring too much, but I think it all makes perfect sense.  :)

Using Inferential Genealogy for Catherine Aspery

Earlier this year, I attended the Fairfax Genealogical Society Spring Conference and there were two lectures by Thomas W. Jones that were particularly helpful: “Using ‘Correlation’ to Reveal Facts that No Record States” and “Inferential Genealogy: Deducing Ancestors’ Identities Indirectly.”

I learned that I was not doing nearly enough to get past my brick walls.

Leaving the conference with fresh ideas and enthusiasm, I decided tackle the Catherine Aspery-Murphy family line.

Catherine Aspery

In a nutshell, Catherine was the wife of John William Murphy; mother to William, Harry M, John, James Joseph, May, Sarah T and four additional unknown children.  She was born about May 1854 in England and arrived in America in 1892 with husband and children. They moved to Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

Most of what I know is from the 1900 census and I hate only using one record for her birth year.  Catherine’s maiden name comes from three of her children’s death certificates all with independent sources.  Her own death certificate has not been located and I suspect she died between 1900 and 1906 (the year death certificates were required in PA).

Reasonably Exhaustive Search

As the Genealogical Proof Standard states, we must “search beyond the person, family, event, or record of most-direct impact on the project.” So, I’m going to investigate all the other Aspery families in England and the Mercer County area.  I can do this because the name Aspery is not very common. This method probably wouldn’t work for my Murphy relatives!

A quick search for Asperys in the 1861 U.K. census on Ancestry.com & FamilySearch.org comes up with 150-200 Aspery hits.  A search for Asperys in the 1900 U.S. census on HeritageQuest comes up with less than 20 hits and most of them are in the same area as “my” Catherine Aspery-Murphy. One of them must be a sibling or cousin!

I’ve started a spreadsheet with possible relatives (about 30 long now, some overlapping) and will keep it growing and ruling out those that don’t match. So far there are no obvious connections to Catherine.

I’m interested to hear if anyone has a best practice or recommendation on deducing ancestors’ identities indirectly? Any thoughts on this strategy?

Perspectives on Poverty and Genealogy

I love statistics and all the fun charts and graphs you can make. I also love TED Talks. You can imagine my delight when watching Hans Rosling’s New Insights on Poverty, when he inserts his grandparents into the data set while comparing past and present economic situations around the world. Genealogy adding context to economic data? Yes please!

Here’s how it works. Gapminder has compiled an incredible amount of historical data from around the world on various topics such as life expectancy, education, energy consumption, GDP, population growth, etc. Click here to view a chart of life expectancy and income per person (inflation-adjusted). On this particular chart, the data goes back to the year 1800 and if you click “play,” you’ll see some incredible patterns unfold.  Not much happens in the 1800’s, but around 1910 things start to really take off. On the right bar, you can click on a particular country to see their journey to increased life expectancy and income.

Inspired by Mr. Rosling’s example, I thought I would give some context to the world my ancestors were born into.

My Great Grandfather, John William Updegraff, who was born in 1889 in the United States, was born into similar conditions (life expectancy/income) as present day Swaziland.

Using the same reasoning, my Grandfather, Robert Lee Updegraff was born in South Africa and my Mother in Trinidad and Tobago. Myself, born in 1983, similar to present day United Arab Emirates.

I would have gone back to my 2nd Great Grandfather Henry Updegraff, who was born in 1855, but there are no present day countries represented in the data with similar life expectancy and income.

It’s interesting to note the consistent and significant increase of life expectancy among each generation in the United States.

Looking at my Dad’s family, all born in Austria, I ran into a couple issues.  In comparing child mortality with income per person (inflation-adjusted), I couldn’t find a similar present day equivalent to the world that my Great Grandfather Kilian Pirolt (1874 Austria) was born into. Furthermore, my Grandfather Johann Pirolt (1906 Austria) and my Father (1944 Austria), were both born into similar conditions; thanks to WW2 there was little improvement among the two generations.  In fact, in 1945, Austria reverted back to the 1860 income rate and 1914 child mortality rate.  It took nearly 5 years for them to get back on a consistent track of improvement.

I encourage everyone to check out the gapminder website and enter in the countries and dates your ancestors were born.  The data will give you a better understanding of the conditions of and improvements made from one generation to the next.

I Must Confess

1.  I was a little disappointed when my DNA results said this.  No Asian, no African.*

2.  I’ve never identified with the Irish culture, gasp.*

3.  I’m so bored hearing about famous people’s colonial roots.  Megan Smolenyak has a whole chapter on this in her new book Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing.

4.  Since doing genealogy I’ve realized that my own K-12 history education was appalling.  To think of all those wasted hours learning of half-truths and sugar coated nonsense and all the great things we did not learn about…

5.  I have an indian princess in my family.  Her name was Rebecca and she was of the Seneca tribe.  Unfortunately, she died in childbirth and her husband remarried an evil woman who treated the step-child horribly.  It’s highly unlikely, actually 100% unlikely, but I’d love to find out how the story started in the first place.

6.  I haven’t found a single family member in the 1940 census.

*A 5% African and/or Asian would have been quite the mystery and pretty fun to solve. There was a brief “oh shucks” moment seeing there wouldn’t be any scandals in our DNA. Plus it squashed my indian princess rumor. Regarding Irish culture, what can I say, I feel more American, Austrian, English, Welsh, Dutch, and German than I feel Irish, *shrugs*.

Genealogical Research Exchange

Library of Congress - Washington, DC

I often find that if I step away from a brick wall or mystery for a couple days or weeks, and approach with a fresh mind later, things start to fall into place.  In addition, nearly all of my former brick walls were solved with the assistance of fellow genealogy hobbyists.

With that in mind, I’d like to propose a little genealogical research exchange.  Send me one of your mysteries, problems, or outstanding to-dos, and I will send you one of mine.  Let’s work on it, as time permits, for the next month or two and then return back our conclusions.

Living in the metro DC area, I have access to many genealogical resources. Some of the things I can help with are:

  • Pull records at the National Archives
  • Newspaper search at the Library of Congress
  • Obituary search in local newspapers
  • Headstone photographs
  • Research at the Daughters of American Revolution Library
  • Help preparing for a research trip to DC (most of the work should done before you even get here)
  • Check over your current theories and conclusions

Some examples of my research problems and to-do’s include (but are not limited to): handwriting analysis, newspaper & directory research at local library, missing census records from 1900-1930, and help navigating Civil War records.

My goals are to help out a fellow hobbyist and to learn something new.  Send me an email if you’re interested!

The White House Library contains over 2700 books relating to American life. The Federal furnishings were made in New York, 1800-1820. The room is used for teas, meetings, and press interviews.

District of Columbia Genealogy Research

Do you have ancestors that lived in the District of Columbia?  Here are some suggestions on getting started with local DC records.

Newspapers
Birth, Marriage, and Death Announcements

DC Public Library:
Baltimore Sun 1837-1985
The Washington Post 1877-1994
Washington Times 1990-Present

You may search in any of the 25 DC Library Branches or online at home, but you must have a DC Library card.

NewspaperARCHIVE.com:
Washington Daily Globe 1837-1855
The Washington Post 1904-1924

Requires paid subscription.

Birth and Death 

District of Columbia Department of Health Vital Records Division:
Birth and Death Certificates August 1874 to Present
Birth certificate is public 100+ years after birth: application $23
Death certificate is public 50+ years after death: application $18

You must have an exact date, they do not do searches and do not allow researchers access to the records. Use the Family Search index (below) to find your ancestors before you order.  DC Department of Heath Vital Records does not do online requests, but you can order DC birth and death records (if they are public) through www.vitalchek.com.  Here are the FAQ & Guidelines.

Family Search:
Deaths and Burials 1840-1964 (index)
Deaths 1874-1959 (images available)
Births and Christenings 1830-1955 (index)

Marriage and Divorce

Family Search:
Marriages 1811-1950 (images available)
Marriages 1830-1921

DC Superior Court Marriage Bureau
Marriage Records 1811-1980
Divorce Records September 16, 1956-Present

You may request by mail or in person with a money order $10 made out to “Clerk, D.C. Superior Court.” Include full names, maiden names, and the date of marriage/divorce and mail to:

DC Superior Court Marriage Bureau
H. Carl Moultrie I. Courthouse
Room #4485
500 Indiana Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

I highly recommend calling the court first before mailing in your request: (202) 879-4840

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:
Divorce Records prior to September 16, 1956
Call first!  (202) 354-3050

They may ask you send over a fax with all the known details and they will email you a response, either a copy of the divorce record or the location it is held in the National Archives.

Cemeteries

Congressional Cemetery 
Founded in 1807 and contains many famous Washingtonians, including J. Edgar Hoover, John Philip Sousa, and Elbridge Gerry.  Walking tour guides and an internment index are available on their website. More information available at the National Park Service.

Oak Hill Cemetery, Georgetown

Oak Hill Cemetery
One of DC’s best kept secrets and by far the most beautiful cemetery I have ever been too.  Local Georgetown residents often take walks through the gardens.  Founded in 1849, the cemetery’s history is mostly of the 19th century with an emphasis on the Civil War.  Take a walk through and do a quick google search of any of the headstone names, like Paul J. Pelz or Philip Barton Key and you’ll find some wonderful historical gems! An index of internments is available on their website.

Holy Rood Cemetery (no official website)
Established in 1832 and contains about 7,000 graves, including 1,000 free and enslaved African Americans.  This historical cemetery has been neglected for years by it’s current owner, Georgetown University and very few headstones remain.  A list of interments can be found at the Georgetown University Special Collections Research Center, open M-F 9am-5pm.

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Rock Creek Cemetery

For a full list of cemeteries located in DC, try using the findagrave.com directory here.

Other

There are tons of other resources for researching ancestors in DC.  Ancestry.com has a list of DC specific sources and the Family Search library has lots of interesting books and microfilm available for ordering, such as District of Columbia free Negro registers, 1821-1861 and Who’s who in the nation’s capital.

Harry Murphy and the Photo Mystery

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the discovery of a brother to my 2nd great grandfather, the elusive James Joseph Murphy.  This brother, Harry Murphy, had immigrated a couple years after his parents and siblings to Sharon, Pennsylvania.  The only way I found out about him is because my great grand aunt had his obituary with a large pile of old photos which was then passed on to her niece who recently passed the photos on to me.  Many of the photos are of unknown people; my mom and relatives have gotten lots of  “who are these people?” emails.

There are 6 photos with nice little captions on the back, all written by the same person in a somewhat affectionate way.  One in particular stands out.

“Bob’s wife Barbara, taken only two months ago with their new car a Ford Victoria”

Stylish woman, new car, and a huge cat! I love it.  I must be related to her.

“This is the only picture I have of Jim. From right to left they are myself, Harry Luse, and Jim my brother. This was taken about three years ago.”

The caption of the three men below tells me that the recipient probably didn’t speak or visit those in the picture on a regular basis.  Maybe they are cousins of my great grand aunt’s husband?

In this big pile of old photos and obituaries is also an envelope from H. Letson in Huntington Beach, CA to Mr. Harry Murphy.  That’s Harry Letson, Harry Murphy’s son that lived in Huntington Beach. Nothing in the envelope though; I wonder why it was saved.

As I was scanning some photos today, I realized that the return address handwriting is strikingly similar to the handwriting on the back of these photos.

The “to” address is written in big block generic letters so it never stuck out, but the return address gives the clue.

Bingo!  Harry Letson was sending these photos to his (estranged?) father.

Another clue: the date on the stamp is June 13, 1956.  Harry Murphy died in 1956.  Was his son sending him photos because he knew his father was dying soon?  I can only wonder.  All the captions are very kindly written and I get a sense that they were selected specifically to let the recipient a view of the immediate family living in Huntington Beach.

“This is me the old man and my two gals the best in the world”

Luckily, I found a descendant of Harry’s brother Jim on ancestry.com.  Hopefully they can provide some context. Meanwhile, I need to find the exact date of Harry Murphy’s death.

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