Saturday, April 19, 2014

Finding O'Donnell's in Pennsylvania Death Certificates

I have been having such fun with the newly released Pennsylvania Death Certificates 1906-1924 on Ancestry. I have been preparing for this release ever since the index was put on the PA vital records page. I have pages of lists of the people I have looked up on the index getting the place they died and the exact date and the certificate number. Some of them I sent for along the way because I just could not wait to see the information to prove something that was nagging at me. But most I have saved until now.

Yesterday morning before going to work I wanted to look for at least one. My Paternal second great grandmother, Mary McGee O'Donnell. I had narrowed down when I thought she had died by census records and directory listings. I figured it was between 1914 and 1920. So I looked on the index and found 3 Mary O'Donnell's that died in that time period in Hazleton and Luzerne County. One in 1914 and the other 2 in 1915. So I let that one wait for the Ancestry release because I did not want to order all three knowing that hopefully only one would be the right one. Well the first one I found was the right one. I saw the informant was Mrs Andrew McKelvey and I knew it was right. That was her daughter Mary's married name. Unfortunately it only gave me her father's name and not her mother's and of course only that she came from Ireland, not the place in Ireland! I was so excited that I posted it on Face Book real fast. The citation for Mary's certificate is: Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1924 [database on-line]. No. 48964 (stamped), Mary O'Donnell entry, died 8 May 1914, digital image: Operations, Inc., 2014. accessed 18 April 2014;
citing Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Then I thought, I have time to look up another one before I go. So I looked for Mary's grandson, my Great Uncle, Manus O'Donnell. I had the family story that he had been killed in a mining accident and I had a date from the records at Saint Gabriel's Church in Hazleton of when a Manus O'Donnell died. When I looked in the index I only found one Manus O'Donnell and the date was a couple of days off so I had saved it. I found it right away and as soon as I saw his parent's names I knew it was right. Well both the indexer and the person who wrote the certificate had a problem spelling his father's name, Cornelius, but I knew it was correct. He was 21 years old and died from a skull fracture received in a mining accident! The citation for Manus' certificate is: Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1924 [database on-line]. No. 97700 (stamped), Manus O'Donnell entry, died 15 Oct 1914, digital image: Operations, Inc., 2014. accessed 18 April 2014;
citing Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

So today I wanted to see if I could find one of the three children that I figured out that Cornelius and his wife Cecilia had lost. The first two were before 1900 so they will not be in there, but the third was before 1910. So I just put in the O'Donnell surname to see where it would take me. I figured it was dangerous because O'Donnell is one of those names that is like the Irish version of Smith, well over 6,000 records came up. I had to go through a few pages but I found Marguerte O'Donnell. She was 6 months old when she died 1 August 1908, from Infant Cholera. The citation for Marguerte is: Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1924 [database on-line]. No. 76226 (stamped), Marguerte O'Donnell entry, died 1 Aug 1908, digital image: Operations, Inc., 2014. accessed 19 April 2014
citing Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

So I still have the VanBilliard's, the Fitzpatrick's and some others, but off to a good start!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Who were the parents of Helen Catherine Carrigan Natale?

Helen Catherine Carrigan Natale was my maternal grandmother's sister. I always remember my Nana talking about Aunt Helen that lived in Brooklyn and in my distant memory I remember her, but she died when I was just 2 years old. I guess I just remember Nana's stories so well. I remember her children and us going to New York to visit our New York relatives and them coming to our house a few times. And every year when watching New Year's Eve on TV my mother would always say" I wonder if the Natale's are there?"

Well a few years back my mother's best friend was out from California for a visit. I was asking her some questions about my mother's family and she says, "you do know that Aunt Helen was Nana's half sister?" I was floored and did not know anything about this. So I set out to find out more. So after a couple of tries I received Helen's death certificate from New York. Well that was confusing from the start! The informant was her husband, Louis Natale. It had her birthplace as New York? and her father listed was Emil Carrigan, mother was Catherine Gunther? Well my grandmother's father was Emil Gunther and her mother was Catherine McCarron. So I was thinking that Uncle Louie had reversed the last names and that her mother was also named Catherine. So continued to look for information. I tried to fine a marriage record for her but could not find one in New York or Philadelphia. I found them in census records and she was listed as born in Pennsylvania and that her oldest child, Anna Natale was also born in Pennsylvania. Then a couple of years ago I found another tree on Ancestry with her in it. I contacted the owner and found they were one of her great grandchildren. They had her in the tree with the maiden name of Carrigan. Told me that was the name they knew. Had only recently heard the name Gunther. I had the copy of her death certificate on my tree and I think it was the first time they saw it. This great granddaughter helped me with names in photos and it was great. then last year she said that her mother, Helen's granddaughter was to be in touch with me. So I gave her my phone number and on St. Patrick's day last year I had a call from my cousin Helen. We talked for a long time and I said I would send her what I had on Emil and sent that off snail mail. When I talked to her again she said that her Aunt Anna could not have been born in Pennsylvania because she new that her grandparents had not lived in PA. So another mystery?

So I had a breakthrough a couple of weeks ago when I found a new set of indexes for New York on Ancestry. In it I found the marriage record for Helen Carrigan and Luigi Natale. So I went to the NY City Archives and ordered the marriage certificate and record and called Helen to tell her I found it. Then yesterday it arrived! Her name was on there as Helen Carrigan and she was born in Philadelphia. Her father was listed as John and her mother was Catherine McCarron! So I had been going on the assumption that her father was Emil Gunther and the three sisters had the same father. But I was wrong, they had the same mother! and who is John Carrigan???? So when I called Helen this morning to tell her what I found I also had another idea to give her about Anna being born in Philadelphia. Anna was born 1 Oct 1914 and Catherine McCarron Gunther died 17 Sep 1914, just a couple of weeks before. So with the information that this was Helen's mother, she was most likely in Philadelphia for her mother's illness and death and did not get back to New York before having her child. I have a copy of Anna's death certificate so next I am seeing if Pennsylvania has a birth record for her.

So I guess you know that once again I have found that you should not give up because you never know how long it could take you to find the answer. I just looked at the date stamp on Helen's death certificate, February 4, 2003. So I have been working on this for 9 years.

So have fun and keep looking!!!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Finding Where in Connecticut Patrick McCarry was born

                                                                                                   Tracking down these two documents I have learned a valuable lesson. The Best Thing is to Begin with What you KNOW!

I thought I had done that when I tried before to find out where Patrick McCarry, my great grand uncle, was born. I knew that Patrick, along with his two older siblings, had been born in Connecticut. But in what town? That was not clear. On his marriage license it said he was born in Thomason, Conn. and his WWII registration card said he was born in Thompsonville, Connecticut.

According to the Connecticut Towns and Counties Map, "compliments of Chuck and Molly", that I found online, there is the town of Thompson over in the very northeast corner of the state in Windham County. And then there is Thomaston in Litchfield County. This seemed like the logical one to me because Mary had been born in Naugatuck and James in Waterbury. Both of these just in the county next to Litchfield, New Haven County. I had tried before to check with both of the towns but kinda got the run around and put it aside. But a few weeks ago after being inspired by a Legacy webinar I thought about trying a different approach to the problem.

I knew that even though Mary and James were born in a different town that they were baptized in the same Church, St Francis in Naugatuck. So I called the church and this time asked if they had a record for Patrick. I figured it was worth a shot since the town of Thomaston was not that far away. But they did not have a record for him. I explained that I thought it could be Thomaston and could they tell me what Catholic Churches would have been there in 1879. She found that there was only one Catholic Church and that was St Thomas and she gave me their number. I called when I got off with her. the secretary told me that I needed to send her the information and she would look it up. I sent her an email right away and the next day I had a reply that they did have a baptism record for Patrick. She also included the phone number for the Town Clerk. I called her right away and she did find a birth record for Patrick.

Unfortunately of the 6 children of Patrick and Margaret (O'Connell) McCarry this is the only one that I have this much information for. I do have baptism records for Mary and James but there are no birth records. Their oldest son, Hugh, was born in Philadelphia before they traveled to Connecticut and Margaret was born in New York as they were making their way back to Philadelphia. I have found no birth records for her and have not been able to find what church they may have gone to when she was born. Their youngest, John, was born in Philadelphia and the birth records were spotty. I do know where they lived there and the church they went to. I just have to get info from the Archdiocese's archives. Hopefully they will have his baptism record. They also might have one for Hugh. Keeping my fingers crossed while I keep looking.

Right now I am excited for my new finds!!!!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday-David William O'Donnell

original photo owned by author
This is the veterans stone that was on my paternal grandfather's grave. I took this photo in 2002. I have been working on my family history for a few years but this was the first time I went to a cemetery and took photos. I had been to my grandfather's grave over the years with my dad, but when I took this photo and went home and uploaded the photo to my computer I really read it for the first time. The first thing that hit me was his birth date, "March 8, 1889" I had just gotten his death certificate and that date did not match anything I had known before. I had his birth year as 1898. I called my father and told him and he said that he had never noticed the date being wrong before. I had heard stories that he had lied about his age to get into the army for WWI so I called the VA. They told me that they would go by what was on the death certificate for the stone engraving.

image from

Well in January of this year I found this document on Ancestry. It is the application for the headstone. With all the red on this it is hard to believe that anything was correct on the stone. But you can see they have his birth year as 1889 like on the stone. But if you notice along that side in red,"age at end 23 years 1 mo" I am guessing that means at end of service. On here it is 1919. But one of the first records I sent for when I started happened to be the service record for David William O'Donnell. It is very light on the information but they do differ on his service end date. It is shone as April 19,1921. this date would make him 23 years and a little over a month old using his real birth year. So talk about conflicting information all on one document!

This stone is no longer on his grave. A couple of years after I took the photo one of my cousins put a new one on with my grandmother's information on there and the correct information for my grandfather.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Photo from Otter's Cedar Hill Farm Boarding House

original photo in possession of author

This is one of those photos that I keep coming back to trying to figure it out. It comes from  my paternal grandmother's things. So it could be people from the O'Donnell's or her family, the VanBilliard's.

I enlarged the sign area to read it. I am sure it says: 
Otter's Cedar Hill Farm Boarding House
Auto Rest
Home Cooking
Cannot make out the last line of it. I have no idea who this woman and and little girl are. It is just annoying!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday-Gallagher/Hanf

This is the third plot at Westminster Cemetery that I found when I last visited there. this plot was owned by Timothy Gallagher. He was the father-in-law of my great grand uncle Patrick McCarry. This plot has 4 graves and this stone is across the top of the two middle ones. Rose Gallagher Hanf was another Gallagher daughter and John was her husband.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Ever Elusive George VanBilliard

This past weekend was going to be a busy one. On Saturday I was going to the Family History Event in Luzerne County Pennsylvania. It was a joint event by the Genealogical Society of PA and Northeast PA Genealogical Society. So I thought I would go up on Friday and get some research done. I mostly wanted to get a marriage record for my Great Grandparents, George VanBilliard and Susan Haas. I have a transcription of their newspaper announcement in the Bethlehem newspaper.

  "Bethlehem Daily Times: Name[Van Billiard, George Name[Haas, Susan Beckel_Index[George Van Billiard of South Bethlehem MARRIED Miss Susan Haas of Bethlehem, September 19, 1885 in Bethlehem by Reverend Isaac K. Loos"

 I called the Northampton County Orphan's Court in Easton last week to see if I needed to order the record ahead of time but was told that I could just look for the record when I got there. Problem was that when I got there on Friday, I was told that they were having computer problems and they were going to be shut down in 15 minutes for 2 hours so we had to hurry. So the person helping me went over to the index book to see if they had the record but they did not. When I told her about the newspaper announcement saying they were married in Bethlehem she said that maybe they went to Lehigh County since a part of Bethlehem is in Lehigh County. She gave me their number to call them. I told her that I wanted to see if they had my grandmother's birth record. She pulled out the book it should be in but did not find her in 1900. She did find her sister that was born in 1902. So she took the information to put that in the computer quickly so I could get a copy of that. While she was putting it in the computer I did a transcription of the record. She was able to get it in and get me a copy before the computers went down. The transcription is:

  "book 2 page 276, Register of Births of Northampton County. Date of Record: December 11, 1902, Name of Child: Margurette VanBilliard, Date of Birth: June 14, 1902, Female, White. Place of Birth: South Bethlehem, Father of Child: George VanBilliard, Mother of Child: Mrs. George VanBilliard"

Well it is good that I did the transcription because when I got the record home and looked at it real well, in her hurry she put the year of the recorded date as 1903 instead of 1902.

 So after the court house I stopped at the Signal Museum in Easton. The Northampton Genealogical Society is in the Museum. I wanted to see what information they might have on the VanBilliards. As it turned out I had lots more information then they have and it was decided that I should write up what I have and get it to them for their family files.

 I still have so much more I need to find out about all my VanBilliards and like George, they do not make finding things easy! So I will keep on hunting down the facts.