Posts Tagged ‘family history’

Sunday’s Obituary – Loretta Zillifro-Hutchinson

New Castle News, August 3, 1948 Front Page

New Castle News, August 3, 1948 Page 2

On 23 July 1948, Roscoe Campbell Hutchinson was electrocuted while on the job at the National Tube company.   He was 51 years old, leaving a wife, four children, two brothers, two sisters, and his mother Loretta Hutchinson.

A week after Roscoe’s unexpected death, Loretta Hutchinson stepped around a large commercial grass mower and was hit by a car driving 45 mph.  She died instantly. It’s believed that Loretta was crying about the recent death of her son, that she never saw the car coming. Loretta’s sister, Ethel Gold, who witnessed the tragic event, developed many health problems as a result from the shock.

Loretta is buried with her sons Roscoe and Victor at the Locust Grove Cemetery in Ellwood City, PA.

(Relation: Loretta Alice Zillifro → Cametta Marie Hutchinson → Robert Lee Updegraff → Barbara Updegraff → Me)

Sunday’s Obituary-David H. Davis

Johnstown Daily Tribune - Friday, June 18, 1886

If only all obituaries were this informative!  Here we have the complete birth date, location, marriage date, wife’s full name, immigration year, children’s names and locations, and memberships.

Finding out the specific area of origin from “across the pond” can be pretty difficult to come by.  Cardiganshire, as listed in the obituary, is one of the thirteen traditional counties of Wales.  In 1996, the county was reconstituted under its historical name of Ceredigion.

Welsh immigration into what is now known as Cambria County, Pennsylvania began in 1796.  Most of which were skilled industrial workers, such as miners.  The name Cambria is actually the latinized version of the word Cymru, meaning “land of Welsh.”  To this day, Pennsylvania has the largest population of people with Welsh ancestry.

For more information on David Davis’ wife Catherine Harris, click here.

(Relation: David H Davis → Margaret H Davis → John William Updegraff → Robert Lee Updegraff → Barbara Updegraff → Me)

The Ancestors’ Geneameme

Just for fun, prompted from the blog Geniaus.  Here’s “The Ancestors’ Geneameme”

Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (color optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

Extra comments and details are in brackets.

Which of these apply to you?

  1. Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents (can only name my mother’s 8 great grandparents & have a couple surnames from my father’s side)
  2. Can name over 50 direct ancestors
  3. Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents (I have photos of 5: Elizabeth Murphy, Charles Robert Duncan, Cametta Marie Hutchinson, John William Updegraff, and Valentin Stossier.  Missing: Maria Pröll, Juliana Rauscher, and Kilian Pirolt.
  4. Have an ancestor who was married more than three times (I don’t think so…)
  5. Have an ancestor who was a bigamist (I hope not!)
  6. Met all four of my grandparents (Unfortunately no, Grandma Kate: Katherine Murphy-Updegraff and Opa: Johann Pirolt passed before I was born)
  7. Met one or more of my great-grandparents (Yes!  My dear Nana- Elizabeth Murphy)
  8. Named a child after an ancestor (No children yet, but I intend on choosing all family names.  That’s very important to me)
  9. Bear an ancestor’s given name/s (Yes!  I’m named after Grandma Kate)
  10. Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland (lots!)
  11. Have an ancestor from Asia
  12. Have an ancestor from Continental Europe (lots!)
  13. Have an ancestor from Africa
  14. Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer (lots!)
  15. Have an ancestor who had large land holdings (The Hutchison family owned and farmed large amounts of land in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Butler, Pennsylvania in the early 1800’s)
  16. Have an ancestor who was a holy man – minister, priest, rabbi
  17. Have an ancestor who was a midwife (I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t be surprised)
  18. Have an ancestor who was an author
  19. Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones
  20. Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng
  21. Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X
  22. Have an ancestor with a forename beginnining with Z (Supposedly my 8th great grandmother is Zerviah Stanley, born in England and died in Portsmouth, New Hampshire)
  23. Have an ancestor born on 25th December
  24. Have an ancestor born on New Year’s Day
  25. Have blue blood in your family lines (I doubt it and don’t really care)
  26. Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth (My Dad was born in Austria)
  27. Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth (Both of my paternal grandparents were born in Austria)
  28. Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century (The Hutchison line is my most sourced line going back to the American Revolution)
  29. Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier (I do, but not much of it is sourced so I don’t think it counts just yet)
  30. Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents (yes, thanks to draft records)
  31. Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X
  32. Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university
  33. Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offense
  34. Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime (???)
  35. Have shared an ancestor’s story online or in a magazine (
  36. Have published a family history online or in print 
  37. Have visited an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries (Yes, in 1850 the Pirolt family moved into a home that had been built around 1500.  It remained in the Pirolt family until 2002.  It’s since been declared an historical site by the Austrian government)  
  38. Still have an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family (Unfortunately not, see #37)
  39. Have a family bible from the 19th Century (no, but that would certainly be great!)
  40. Have a pre-19th century family bible

Hutchinson Mystery Men

Hopefully the Vital Records Bill SB-361 gets passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives because I need some vital records! Pennsylvania is super restrictive on their vital records and is one of only eight states that doesn’t offer death certificates and/or indexes online.  For more information, go here: People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access.

Until then, my list of records from PA I’d like to have will just keep getting longer.  Here are two ancestors that I would love to know more about:

William Hutchison
3rd Great Grandfather
Mystery: Missing in 1900 census, unknown death date, unknown birth date, no real source for connection to parents, and an unexplained nickname.

Born around 1821 in Butler, Pennsylvania to Forgus Hutchison and Jane Campbell
Married Ann Marie Jamison and had the following known children:

  • Forgus M Hutchison 1846-1912
  • Mary Elvira Hutchison-Snowden 1848-1915
  • Thompson J Hutchison 1851-1907
  • Margaret A Hutchison-Thompson 1853-?
  • Amanda Jane Hutchison-Ewing 1857-1916
  • Alexander Campbell Hutchinson 1858-1940 (2nd great grandfather)
  • Sarah B “Euphemia” Hutchison-Dieter 1860-?
  • Rosetta Hutchison 1865-?
  • William Hutchison 1869-?

William appears in the Census from 1850-1880 and is living with his wife and children.  His birth years range from 1815-1825.  There are multiple un-sourced trees that list a 1904 death date and the nickname “Fox Bill” or “William Fox,” but no one had any idea where it came from when messaged.  It had to originate somewhere!  Maybe he served in the Civil War?  I couldn’t find William’s will at the Butler County office, but I did find his father’s *very long* one that leaves lists of items to various people, but never mentioning specifically his “son” William.  The 1900 Census would certainly provide more information, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to find it.

Alexander Campbell Hutchinson
2nd Great Grandfather
Mystery: Missing in the 1930’s census, possible unknown 2nd wife

Born April 1858 in Butler, Pennsylvania to William Hutchison and Ann Marie Jamison.
Married Loretta Alice Zillifro 14 July 1893 and had 8 children, 5 lived to adulthood:

  • Oscar Bower Hutchinson 1893-1973
  • Roscoe Campbell Hutchinson 1897-1948
  • Victor Harold Hutchinson 1899-1950
  • Cametta Marie Hutchinson 1902-1954 (my great grandmother)
  • Rose Ellen Hutchinson 1904-1982

Alexander Campbell (went by “Cam”) and Loretta were divorced in 1912.  I was so curious why they were divorced as most were only granted under circumstances of cruelty or abandonment.  But, after finding the record in the Butler County Prothonotary office, it just states that Loretta filed for divorce and it was granted a couple months later.  In the 1920 census, Cam is a boarder with an older woman.  He died 23 October 1940; when the PA vital records become public, this is the first death record I’m ordering.  Cam is buried in Concord Cemetery in Butler, but doesn’t have a headstone (the church does not have any older records of the cemetery either).  His obituary states that he leaves a wife at their home in Butler.  I wonder if that is a misstatement, if Cam actually remarried, or if Loretta had moved back in.  The 1940’s census will certainly help with that.

Here’s how we’re related: Forgus Hutchison -> William Hutchison -> Alexander Campbell Hutchinson -> Cametta Marie Hutchinson -> Robert Lee Updegraff -> Barbara Lynn Updegraff -> Me

Contacting Distant Cousins

Have you ever followed a lead by contacting an unknown non-genealogist cousin?

Websites like,, etc make it very easy connect with distant cousins that share an interest in genealogy.  The rewards of those connections can be quite great.  Here’s an example:

Last year I found a story on involving my Davis ancestors and the Johnstown Flood of 1889.  The Davis family climbed up onto the roof for protection, but the house began to float away as water reached the 3rd floor.  As it crashed into other houses, the family was able to jump onto the roof of another, more sturdy, brick house.  Throughout the night, they heard the cries of drowning children and cattle as people floated by on wooden boards.  The inferno of debris at the stone bridge lasted three days while food and water were unobtainable.  Rachel, the youngest child, found a moldy crust of bread that she ate and said was “delicious.”

FASCINATING!  The woman that posted the story happens to share the same 3rd great grandparents as I; the story never quite made it to me, but it was passed down to her.  I sent her a message and it turns out that her mother and aunt (in their 80’s) remember my 2nd great grandmother, Margaret Davis-Updegraff (grandmother of Robert Lee Updegraff) fairly well.  Apparently, Margaret Davis-Updegraff married “well” and the Updegraffs were considered high society.  We’ve since exchanged many emails and I thoroughly enjoy hearing the stories and memories of her mother’s.

But, what’s the policy on contacting distant cousins that can’t be found via any genealogical website?  I’m lucky that the Davis’ of Johnstown memories were passed down to a woman interested in family history, but not everyone is.

Recently, while researching my Zillifro/Hutchison line, my mom informed me that 15 or so years ago she exchanged some letters with the daughter of the sister of my great grandmother Cametta Marie Hutchinson.  Her name was Dorothy and she had a great passion for genealogy.  She wrote in one of her letters that Cametta’s mother Loretta “hated her step-mother Sarah.”  Oh, step-mother?  Please tell me more!  Unfortunately, Dorothy passed away in 2001.  My mother knew Dorothy’s daughter’s name, so like a total creep, I found her in the phone book and wrote a letter introducing myself (noting that my mother and her mother had once been pen pals).   She called me a couple weeks later, clearly uninterested in the family history and told me that she had no idea where any of her mother’s family history was but would keep her eye out.  About a week later, I received in the mail about 50 pages of photos, lineages, and stories, most of which was first hand account and details I would never be able to find through vital records.  It was a genealogy gold mine.

Have you ever contacted an unknown, distant cousin (otherwise known as a complete stranger) in order to follow a lead?  It’s one thing to send an email out to your immediate relatives or participate in a message board and it’s quite another to search through the phone book and contact someone out of  the blue.  You certainly don’t want to do it all the time, but you never know what it might bring.  You may end up solving your biggest mystery.

An Unusually Attractive and Popular Girl

On occasion, while researching my family history, I’ve come across a person, photo, or event that touched me personally.  Often it was completely unexpected, and mostly about ancestors that I wasn’t even that closely related to.  One such instance occurred while reading about my great grand aunt Alma Catherine Updegraff.  Thanks to the New Castle News archives at the New Castle library, we can piece together some fantastic details of Alma’s life.  She is mentioned nearly 50 times in the Society Section during the time of her childhood and adult life.

Alma Catherine Updegraff

5 February 1895:  Alma Catherine Updegraff was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania to Henry Herman Updegraff and Margaret H Davis.  She was much younger than her three older brothers: Clarence David, Royer Howard, and John “Jay” William. (1900 Census)

2 June 1900:  Five year old Alma was living with her parents, three older brothers, and Aunt Rachel Davis (her mother’s youngest sister) near 257 West Washington Street, New Castle, Pennsylvania. (1900 Census)

20 March 1908:  A large meeting was held by The Protected Home Circle and the Ladies League, with a great number of members being present.  For entertainment, Alma performed a duet, “Star of the East” with Charles Isaacs.

7 February 1911: So that Alma’s 16th birthday would not go unnoticed, her friends at the L.B.G. Club planned a surprise party.  Alma’s mother furnished the music and entertainment and decorated the house with red and white ribbons, flowers, and hearts.

29 November 1911: Alma and her brother Jay spent Thanksgiving with their Aunt Susannah Davis-Schultz (mother’s sister) in Alliance, Ohio.

31 Jan 1912:  While visiting their home at 135 North Beaver Street, New Castle, Alma’s Aunt Annie Hughes-Davis died of dropsy.  Annie Hughes-Davis was the wife of Alma’s mother’s younger brother Luther John Davis.

11 March 1912: Alma and her brother Jay visit for a couple of days to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, possibly to see their Aunt Rachel Davis.

17 January 1913: Just before her 18th birthday, Alma was appointed Pianist at the Protected Home Circle, New Castle Circle No. 5 (a fraternal insurance organization).

11 July 1913:  On this day she participated in a motor party to Youngstown with some friends, her brother Jay, and future fiancé Leon Claire Taggart.

15 August 1913:  In honor of a friend visiting from New York, Alma hosted a 6 o’clock dinner at her Front Street home.

30 October 1913: Alma participated in a “progressive party” in which party attendees change houses for each course.  Alma’s house was the last stop and was co-hosted by her cousin Irene Davis (Uncle Luther John Davis’ daughter).

28 July 1915:  Alma attended a “Supper at Park” in honor of her sister-in-law’s cousin visiting from Pittsburgh.  Those in attendance included her brother Clarence David and sister-in-law Minnie Colgan, brother Jay, and future fiancé Leon Clare Taggart.

31 August 1915: Alma hosted a “Corn Roast” with four of her friends.  The event was decorated with japanese lanterns and Alma’s mother served the refreshments.  Music and dancing occurred later in the evening.

16 February 1918:  Alma was described in her engagement announcement as “unusually attractive and popular.”  The engagement party was held at the home of Alma’s parents and was hosted by her mother, sister-in-law Minnie Colgan, and Aunt Rachel Davis-Fischer.  A basket of red tulips decorated with red, white, and blue ribbon hung from the chandelier.  The favors to guests included miniature ships filled with red and white candy and the message “will sail in the spring.”

13 January 1920: Renting at 179 Cleveland Street, Youngstown, Ohio with husband Leon Clare Taggart. (1920 Census)

16 April 1920:  The J.B.G. Girls held a farewell dinner at the Leslie House in honor of Alma who was moving to Akron, Ohio.

5 July 1921: Alma and Leon visit with her parents in Youngstown because of the serious sickness of Irene Davis-Shaffer -Alma’s 1st cousin.

17 February 1925: Mr. and Mrs. Leon Clare Taggart celebrate the birth of their son, Leon Russell Taggart.  (Family called him Russell, my Uncle Rusty Updegraff was actually named after him!)

7 April 1930:  Living at 35 Erskine Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio with husband and five year old son. (1930 Census)

20 November 1930: Funeral services for Alma Updegraff-Taggart occurred at the family residence 35 Erskine Avenue.  The house was filled with beautiful flowers and many friends in mourning.

I was absolutely shocked when I read the last article.  Happiness seemed to surround Alma and it was so enjoyable reading each article.  The last thing I was expecting to read was her obituary.

Alma died during childbirth at the age of 35.

Unless otherwise noted, all events have been gathered from the New Castle News archives.

Friedhof Pörtschach

Greetings from Austria!

What better time to research my dad’s family history, then while on vacation in his hometown!  I’m really starting from scratch  and was hoping to visit the church archive and interview some older family members while on vacation.  Upon contacting the Archiv der Diözese Gurk (Catholic Church Archives), I found out that you must make a FOUR month in advance appointment to do research – a huge disappointment.  This was confirmed over the phone with the church archivist.  So, the archives will have to wait.

One of the first things we did was visit my Oma’s grave in Friedhof Pörtscach.  I loved my Oma very much.  We visited the cemetery many times with her, as most of her family is buried there.  On these visits, she had no interest to explain who was who and I had never had the interest to ask.  But times have changed and now my Oma’s name appears on the headstone with her husband’s, and I have lots of questions.

Who are these other two people: Matthias and Juliane Feicht?  My dad recalls that Oma would explain that Juliane was her aunt (…who liked to flirt with younger married men).  Aha! That tells me so much!  But who is she really?  She could be my great-grandfather’s sister; I have a photo with three mystery women one of which could be her.  Which of the three looks more flirtatious?  :)  Then again my great-grandmother could have had 12 sisters for all I know!  As my dad said to me leaving the cemetery “that’s for you to figure out!”

The cemetery visit still provided a lot of information.  All of my Oma’s siblings are buried there and I now have all their birth dates and spouse names.  We will return once more to the cemetery for further reflection.

To view photos of the headstones, visit the family photo album here.

Family Photo Album

Hello!  I’m just getting back to civilization after a very busy work week/weekend and am desperately trying to manage my “flourishing” genealogy to-do list.

First things first, do something with the growing collection of family photos.  Thanks to family members that have posted photos to Facebook and a recent trip to my parent’s house, I now have quite a collection of old family photos.  So that everyone may browse freely, I’ve created a flickr account that can be viewed here.  Once on the flickr page, you can select specific photo albums or browse through all of them together.

I still have many more photos to add so please keep checking back!

Sunday’s Obituary-Walter Harris

I believe this is the oldest obituary I have of a direct ancestor, Walter Harris, my 4th great grandfather.  Walter was born 1769 in Wales.  He came to America at the age of 85 with his wife, Sarah, and settled in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  He died 10 years later in 1864.  His obituary is particularly interesting:

The Cambria Tribune – 29 January 1864

Walter must have been very proud of his health, particularly his dental hygiene, for his relatives to relate this fact to the columnist.  Another great detail is that he reared a large family; I’ve only been able to locate records for 3 of Walter’s children, but that may just be a fraction of his total offspring.  After all, his daughter Catharine had 16 children.

(Relation: Walter Harris → Catharine Annie Harris → Margaret H Davis → John William Updegraff → Robert Lee Updegraff → Barbara Updegraff → Me)

Who is this?

I had this photo labeled as James Joseph Murphy, but I’m starting to think this may be someone else.  James J Murphy died in 1917 at 36 years old.  This man looks a little older, don’t ya think?  To give some comparison, the photo on the right is actually James J Murphy.

The hair part is different, but the eyes and cheeks are very similar.  Could be him, his father, or someone completely different.  What are your thoughts?  Does anyone know where the photo on the left came from?


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