Catharine Harris-Davis of Wales

Obituaries are fantastic sources of information.  Dates and names are great, but hints at what kind of people your ancestors were are priceless.  I love searching through old newspapers, especially the society section and obituaries.  Usually the articles are short and give a couple little clues, but this particular obituary is practically a novel in comparison.

Catharine Harris-Davis
(grandmother of John William Updegraff, great-grandmother of Robert Lee Updegraff, my 3rd great grandmother)
Monday, August 19, 1895
The Cambria Tribune

Born in Blaenavon, Wales on 19 August 1833 to Walter and Sarah Harris.  She married David H. Davis on 21 November 1851.  They came to America in 1854 with a young son and daughter.  Unfortunately, the young daughter died during the voyage and was buried at sea.  The young couple and child settled in Johnstown, Pennsylvania; David Davis purchased land and built a house on the corner of  Vine and Walnut Streets.  He was also the proprietor of a hotel on Washington Street.

Catharine and David Davis had SIXTEEN children.  Catharine buried seven of her children, one of which was killed in Montana.  She died on 18 August 1895 (one day before her 63rd birthday) after she became ill and took to her bed eight months prior.

Not only does this give us her birth information, parent’s names, date of immigration, children’s names, and street address in Johnstown, Pennsylvania; but what I found most interesting in the obituary was the naming of the church Catharine attended in Wales.  Catharine was once a member of the Blaenavon Congregational Church, and a little bit of research revealed that the church, built in 1820, is still standing and is a designated World Heritage Site.  This is why I love genealogy!

Click here to read more about the history of Catharine Harris-Davis’ hometown and church.  The history of religion in Blanaevon is also fascinating; “nonconformity became too conformist.”

I think this definitely requires a trip to Wales for more research!


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sarah Chapman on September 8, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Can I find an obituary from a Blanaevon paper online? I am looking for one on Derek Robinson of Blanaevon, 1928-2001, who created the concept of Migraine Art & curated a large collection of pictures made by migraine sufferers. I have failed to find an obituary for him through a general internet search. Thanks.


    • Most old obituaries (and newspapers) are not online. This obituary, from The Cambria Tribune in Johnstown, Pennsylvania was found at the Johnstown, PA library in their microfilm collection.
      Because the obituary you are looking for is relatively recent (not historical). Do you know what the current newspaper is that serves Blaenavon? I recommend calling them. If not, call the local library in the area.
      Also, was this person’s last residence Blaenavon or was it somewhere else more common, like London? It’s likely the obituary was in the local newspaper and the newspaper of his hometown. If it’s someplace like London, you may have more luck finding it online. But your research shouldn’t be limited to the internet.


      • Posted by Sarah Chapman on September 8, 2012 at 2:21 pm

        Thanks for this. I only know that this man’s home town, in his youth, was Blaenavon and his parents were there for some time beyond that. I don’t know the current newspaper but it’s a good idea to chase that up.

  2. Posted by Alan Holcomb . on February 22, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Hi Katie
    I just visited your web page very impressive; I noted that you would send a copy of Catherine’s obit upon request. A transcribed obit is already on Ancestry, however I would like a copy of the original for my records. The transcribe article states her sister Mary Davis from Ohio recently passed; this article would document that I am a descendant of Walter Harris b. in Wales and d. in Johnstown, Cambria, Pennsylvania. I am the 3rd Great-grandson of Mary Ann Harris Davis of Ohio. According to LDS transcribers on the death record she died 17 Dec 1892 in Barnhill, Tuscarawas, Ohio and her father’s name was listed as Walter Harris. She and her husband Evan D are buried at Union Cemetery Tuscarawas, Ohio; Memorial # 89773977.



    • Hi Alan,
      I can’t remember if I sent you the obit or not, but right now I do not think I have your email address. Would you mind giving me your email? I have the transcribed obit on, but I don’t see that you’ve added it to your tree so I can’t find you.


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