Thanksgiving Traditions

My mom grew up in a large family. She always talked about the big traditional family gatherings where everyone traveled to one house and celebrated together. Growing up we still had a traditional dinner, but it usually was a small group. I never quite understood the big production of Thanksgiving, but I knew my mom was continuing a tradition that was very special to her.

My grandparents have both passed and my mom’s four siblings live very far from each other. We won’t be spending these holidays together, we won’t be sitting around the table reminiscing, but I thought it still to be a great opportunity to find out more about those big traditional Updegraff family dinners.

Thank you to my mom, Uncle Rusty, and Aunt Betty for taking the time to answer my questions. I combined them together below:

1950’s Ohio
When the family lived in Youngstown, Thanksgiving was held at Nana’s (Elizabeth Murphy) house at 554 Ridge Avenue. Nana’s dining room had a crystal chandelier with a china closet in the corner and the tablecloth was Quaker lace. There was always a beautiful tablecloth. My mom recalls opening the china closet and smelling the wood.

Nana baked homemade pies and rolls that would melt in your mouth. On the table would be turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, cranberry, candied yams, stuffed celery, and chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles.

Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and friends would come over. Uncle Eddy and Aunt Mill would eat dinner at their house earlier in the day and then would come over afterwards to visit with the family.

There was so much food and everyone would be stuffed. Some of the men would comment, “I’m so full, I need to roll into the living room.” The men would watch football, while the women cleaned up.

1960’s California
After Grandma Kate and Pop Pop (Katherine Murphy & Robert Updegraff) and the six kids moved to Cudahy, California in the spring of 1963, the Thanksgiving tradition continued. The house was small already with 8 people, but there were always many visitors.  Nana would come out from Ohio a week before so that she could bake the pies and rolls. Grandma Kate would add tables to extend and make one big table.

Food on the table included the chicken soup with homemade noodles, a pickle and olive plate, stuffed celery with pimento /pineapple cream cheese, salad, two kinds of cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with oranges, mashed potatoes, french green beans with tomatoes and sautéed onions, yellow wax beans with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, turkey, stuffing, rolls, and gravy.

Nana and Grandma Kate did all the cooking with Aunt Betty and my mom helping.  The boys were not allowed in the kitchen. Washing all the dishes afterwards was a lot of work, even after they bought a dishwasher it still took 3-4 loads!  But they would sing in the kitchen all their favorite Patsy Cline songs and others like Dean Martin’s ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’ and Jeanne Pruett’s ‘Satin Sheets’. When all the work was done, they would join the men in the living room and watch Lawrence Welk or another holiday special show.

1970’s California
As the six kids got older and  moved out, they still gathered for the holidays.   Usually Nana, Grandma Kate, Pop Pop, Uncle Bobby, Aunt Betty and her husband Dan, my mom, Uncle Danny and his girlfriend Susan, Uncle Richy and his wife Debbie, Uncle Rusty, and the grand kids Jamie, Chad, Michelle, and Christy would all be in attendance.   Sometimes Uncle Dick and Aunt Arlene would come out from Ohio with their kids Mark, Dawn, Dirk, and Marla.

Aunt Betty moved to Alaska when her husband Dan took a job in 1978 and it was hard to get together for Thanksgiving.  Grandma Kate passed away unexpectedly in 1980 and after that it seems like the family all started to celebrate on their own.  My mom and Aunt Betty have continued the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with their families.  Uncle Rusty has started his own tradition of a modern Thanksgiving with close friends.  They are all thankful for the hard work Nana and Grandma Kate did and will always remember those big traditional dinners.

1940 Census Action Plan

Census records are the starting point for nearly all genealogical research projects.  Privacy restrictions limit public access of census records for 72 years, so on April 2, 2012 the 1940 census will become available.   Thanks to, the records will be available immediately online for free.

For those of you who often refer to the 1850-1930 census, you’ll be very pleased with the 1940 census and it’s 50 questions. For a list of the questions, go here.  The number of hours worked and the 1935 residence questions will be especially interesting.

Because the records will not be indexed by name, you will have to search by address, enumeration district, or geographic location.  Enumeration districts (ED) are geographical subdivisions that are defined strictly for the purpose of census taking.  EDs include two numbers, the first identifies the county and the second number designates the district.   If you don’t have the exact address of your relatives, it may be tricky to find them in the 1940 census.

It’s a good idea to begin planning now and create an action plan so that no time is wasted on April 2nd.  I recommend starting at the “How to Access the 1940 Census in One Step” quiz.  Here are some examples from my action plan:

  • Loretta Hutchinson.  Loretta is my 2nd great grandmother  and I can’t wait to see what info was given on her census record, especially who was living in the same household.  Loretta can be found in the 1930 census living at 604 Lawrence Avenue, Ellwood City, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania – ED 37-5.  I’m assuming she stayed put for 10 years and was living in the same location in 1940.
    1. Used the 1930 to 1940 Census ED Conversion Tool which resulted in EDs 37-4 and 37-5.
    2. Just to double check, I searched the specific Enumeration District Map via the National Archives’ Archival Research Catalog (ARC) by entering “1940 Census Maps Lawrence Pennsylvania” into the search field.  The search resulted in 24 maps of different cities in Lawrence County.  I clicked on “Ellwood City” and then the tab “Digital Copies.” By pulling up the address in Google Maps and referencing nearby streets with the Enumeration District Map, I found Loretta’s address to be on the border of ED 37-4 and 37-5.  You may also get to the ED maps by going 1940 Enumeration District Maps in One Step page.
  • Elizabeth and Katherine Murphy.  This is my great grandmother and grandmother.  I’m nearly 100% certain that they were not living at the 1930 address.  But I do know that they were living in Youngstown, Ohio.  There are way too many districts in Youngstown (145 to be exact) so just browsing is not very feasible.  Here are two options that should lead me to a specific street or neighborhood:
    1. Call the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County (most local libraries have archives of city directories) and check if they have a city directory around the time of 1940.  I may be visiting Youngstown this winter, so I’ll definitely take advantage of the resources at the library.
    2. If I’m unable to visit the Youngstown Library, the Library of Congress in Washington, DC has a LARGE collection of city directories and phone books. After a quick search in the Table of Contents, I see that  the Library of Congress holds the city directories for Youngstown, Ohio of the years 1880-1944.
  • Alexander Campbell Hutchinson.  “Cam” is mostly a mystery to me.  He was divorced to my 2nd great grandmother, but his obituary says he left a wife at “home on Center Avenue” and I know he resided in Butler County, Pennsylvania his entire life.  I’m really curious to see if he was in fact remarried in the 1940 census.
    1. I used the Finding ED Definitions for 1940 in One Step by selecting “Pennsylvania”, “Butler County” and the keyword “Center” results in EDs 10-6, 10-7, 10-8, 10-9, and 10-10.
    2. For me, five EDs are too many to browse through, so I will probably call the Butler County Library and inquire about their city directories.  This particular library has a ton of genealogical resources so I feel pretty positive about finding a more specific address.
  • John William Updegraff.  “Jay” is my great grandfather and another family member that I can’t wait to learn more about.  Thanks to the FamilySearch WW2 Draft Records, I was able to find his 1942 address as 1220 Oak Hill Avenue, Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio.
    1. Entered the street into the Large Cities tool, added a cross street (Garfield) and got EDs 96-107 and 96-108.
    2. To double check, I used the National Archives’ Archival Research Catalog (ARC) by entering “1940 Census Maps Mahoning Ohio”, clicking on “Youngstown”, then the tab “Digital Copies” to get a map of the Youngstown Enumeration Districts. A  Google Map of 1220 Oak Hill Avenue was very helpful in finding a reference location, as the Youngstown map is quite large.  Jay’s address was located near the border of 96-107 and 96-108.  Again, you may use the 1940 Enumeration District Maps in One Step page (it’s actually easier to use than the NARA site, but was discovered afterwards).

What are your strategies for the 1940 Census?

Special thank you to Joel Weintraub, PhD for all the guidance! 

Another Reason Why I Love Genealogy

I’ve recently been in contact with a cousin of my father’s, who is also interested in genealogy and still lives in my dad’s hometown. He is older than my dad and has more first-hand accounts of my Oma’s generation.

His recent email included an interesting little story – my Oma’s father (my great-grandfather) Valentin Stossier had 12 unmarried children.  TWELVE.  His wife, being a good-natured and social woman, sent the single mothers care packages of food and clothing each month.  According to my father, adultery in rural Austria was somewhat common back then.  But, TWELVE unmarried children is a little over-the-top.

My Oma had TWELVE half-siblings. To think of all the things I would have never known, had I not become interested in genealogy…

Valentin Stossier

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


William Hutchison – 3rd Great Grandfather (for family reference, this is Robert Lee Updegraff’s great grandfather)

  • Missing 1900 census
  • Unknown death date (estimate 
  • Unknown birth date (estimate 1821-1825)
  • No actual sources for connection to parents (DNA has confirmed though)

Williams parents were Forgus Hutchison (1798-1860) and Jane Campbell (1800-1872).

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 has any idea where it came from.

I couldn’t find William’s will at the Butler County office, but I did find his father’s *very long* one with lists of items for various people, but never mentioning specifically his son William.  The 1900 Census would certainly provide more information, but I haven’t been able to find it.

William Hutchison married Ann Marie Jamison and had the following known children:

  • Forgus M Hutchison 1846-1912, m. Eliza Fleming
  • Mary Elvira Hutchison 1848-1915, m. John Elliott Snowden
  • Thompson Jamison Hutchison 1851-1907, m. Alice Brady
  • Margaret A Hutchison 1853-1920, m. — Thompson
  • Amanda Jane Hutchison 1857-1916, m. Gilbert Ewing
  • Alexander Campbell Hutchinson 1858-1940 (2nd great grandfather), m. Loretta Zillifro
  • Euphemia E Hutchison 1860-1906, m. Edward M Dieter
  • Rosetta Hutchison 1864-1910, m. Lincoln Saylor
  • William Hutchison 1869-bef 1880


Alexander Campbell Hutchinson – 2nd Great Grandfather (for family reference, this is Robert Lee Updegraff’s grandfather)

Update February 2017: Alexander Campbell is less of a mystery thanks to finding his death certificate, obituary, and release of the 1940 census.  Updated blog post: Alexander Campbell Hutchison.


*Originally published October 2011, updated February 2017