Monday, April 21, 2014

#52Ancestors Week 16: Mary Frances (McConnell) Fife

Better get my submission for week 16 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks done in time; don't want to miss the deadline for the weekly recap again!

I've written about my 2nd g-grandma, Mary Frances (McConnell) Fife before, way back in 2009 for a Tombstone Tuesday entry, HERE.  I hope you'll visit that page to learn for more about Mary Fife's life.  Her husband died young in a violent accident, so I can't help thinking of her life as tragic.  

You may know that and the state of Pennsylvania have recently made the images of Pennsylvania Death Certificates for the years 1906 to 1924 available to Ancestry members at 

This past weekend, I went crazy looking for the records of relatives who died during that time.  One that I found, for the first time, was the one for Mary F. Fife.
Click HERE to view
I already knew her full date of birth and death, I've visited her grave at Bethel Cemetery many times, and I know enough to realize that her mother's maiden name was actually Ann Jane Morrow, not "Mary McConnell" as it's listed on the form.  What I didn't know was that she lived with her daughter, Kate McGinnis, in Wilkinsburg, PA, at the time of her death.  And I discovered that she died of breast cancer.  That actually scared me a little.  I know how important it is to know my family's medical history and I was concerned enough to search for information about how concerned I should be about the fact that my great-great-grandmother died of that illness.  I quick Google search for making a medical family history.  Not one page I looked at mentioned collecting information further back than my grandparents.  I suppose that means that I don't have to be overly concerned about Mary Fife's cause of death.  

But I found an interesting website that has inspired me to collect more of the information that I should have for my own medical history at My Family Health Portrait.  It's probably not the only site like that, but I think it will work well for me.  Check it out!  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Do you know the Sharp family of Cambria Co, PA?

I work at a used bookstore in Cary, NC.  The two photographs below were found in a used book on our shelves.  I would love to find the family of these people. I don't know if they are related to each other, but I suspect that they are from the same roll of film.  There's no writing on either one of them, but one has the number 25 stamped on the back and the other is stamped 26.

It was pretty easy to track down whose grave this is.  It has been entered on Find a Grave.  I contacted the man who created the memorials for Joseph and Anna Sharp, but unfortunately, he's not a relative and hasn't researched the family.  After I scanned the photos, I went ahead and uploaded the gravestone photo to both of the memorials, making it clear that I did not take these photographs and mentioned that I'm hoping to get the photos to people who will appreciate them!

It's hard to tell if this photograph was accidentally taken at an angle or if the house sits on a hill.  If it was taken in Cambria County, PA, where the Sharps are buried, then I'd guess that it's on a slope.  What do you think?  Do those clothes look like the 40s to you?  Please contact me if you think you know who these people are!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

#52Ancestors Week 15: Where was Mary Elizabeth (Wolfe) McDaid really born?

For week 15 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, I want to touch on the mystery of where my 2nd great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth (Wolfe) McDaid was born in 1837.  While I am fairly certain that I know now, when I was first researching my family history, she confused me!

I first found her in the 1880 Census for West Finley Twp of Washington County, PA.  She was called Elizabeth and it listed her place of birth as Pennsylvania.  That seemed logical, most of my father's side of the family had been born in PA and lived there all their lives.  I went back ten years to 1870 and found the McDaid family in the same place, but at that time, they listed her birthplace as Ohio and she was called Mary E. McDaid.  So, my first thought was that my g-g-grandfather Samuel McDaid had been married twice.  Once again, I went back ten years to 1860 and found Samuel and "Elizabeth" McDaid.  Her place of birth was once again Ohio.  This led me to believe it was the same woman in all three of those census records and that whoever provided information to the enumerator in 1880 didn't know where she was born. 

Because my grandma had filled out my dad's side of the family in the family tree chart in my mom's Bible, I knew that Mary Elizabeth McDaid's maiden name had been Wolfe, so it was relatively easy to find 13 year old "Elizabeth Woolf" in the 1850 Census when she had lived with her parents Luther and Nancy in Morris Twp, Greene County, PA.  Imagine my surprise when her birthplace was once again listed as "PA." With the 1890 Census unavailable, I next searched for her in the 1900 Census and found "Mary E. McDaid", a widow, living in West Finley with her daughter, Margaret Sprowls and Baby Sprowls.  Again, her birthplace was listed as Pennsylvania, and I found the same thing in 1910.  By then, I was beginning to think that the two census records that said she was born in Ohio were anomalies of some kind.  

About that time, I got in touch with my 3rd cousin, Marilyn (McDaid) Varilone, who was also a 2nd g-granddaughter of Samuel and Mary Elizabeth McDaid.  She shared her family tree with me.  I was surprised to see that she had g-g-grandma's place of birth listed as Mount Vernon, NY!  I had never seen any evidence that these people had been in New York, but I wondered if Mount Vernon might be a clue.  There is a Mount Vernon in Knox County, Ohio.  A search of records for that county indicated that there were people named Wolfe living there and that it seemed possible that a man named Daniel Wolfe of that county was the brother of Mary's father, Luther.  Perhaps Mary Elizabeth Wolfe's parents lived for a short time in the same area?

While I have not found a primary source for Mary Elizabeth (Wolfe) McDaid's birth, in the early 2000s, I was researching Delayed Birth Certificates for my family members on microfilm at the Family History Library when I came across one for Margaret McDaid Sprowls who was the daughter of Samuel and Mary and the sister of my great-grandmother, May (McDaid) Atkinson.  One of the pieces of information required on the form was her mother's place of birth.  On it, Margaret had entered "Mount Vernon, Ohio."  And while I realize that Margaret Sprowls could have been mistaken about where her mother was born, until I have further information, I'm going to take her at her word!

Mary Elizabeth McDaid and her husband were buried with many of their family members in West Finley Cemetery.  Take a moment to visit her memorial on Find a Grave by clicking on the photo on the left!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#52Ancestors Week 14: May (McDaid) Atkinson

Time to fill you in on another of my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  Can you believe this is the 14th week of 2014 already? 

Until 2008, I had no idea what my paternal great-grandma Atkinson looked like.  Luckily, I have a nice cousin who scanned the photos his mom has of her and he emailed them to me! She was obviously very young in this picture.  Her full name was Lilly May (McDaid) Atkinson, but she seemed to have always gone by May.  Even her gravestone is engraved "May L. Atkinson."

She was the daughter of Samuel and Mary E. (Wolfe) McDaid.  She was 28 years old when she married in 1898 and her husband, George Atkinson was 11 years older than she was.  Her first two children, my Pappap, Charles and his sister, Esther, were born early in their marriage, and then she had one more son in 1915 who was named George McDaid Atkinson. 

For a long time, I wasn't especially interested in May Atkinson.  According to what my Mom--who never met her--had heard, she was the mother-in-law from Hell and was the cause of some rocky times in my grandparents' marriage.  I don't remember Pappap ever talking about his mother, but Grandma told me once that May didn't want them to get fact, according to Grandma, Pappap's mother already had someone else picked out for him to marry.  So I imagine it was a blow to her when they got their way and were married in 1926.  But I heard this story long before I was interested in my family history.  It's funny how things you learn about a person you never knew can taint your opinion of that person.  Wouldn't it be interesting to know May's side of that story?
This photograph must have been taken sometime before 1920...May Atkinson with son George, husband George, son Charles, daughter Esther, and an unknown girl. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

#52Ancestors Week 13: William Steffel Tolbert

I've written about my great-grandfather, William Steffel Tolbert a couple times in the past, but I suppose it's likely that I will repeat myself a few times if I'm going to keep this challenge going.  I hope you'll check out those previous entries HERE and HERE.

William Tolbert was my mother's grandfather.  He was born in Carroll County, VA, on and died in Fayette County, WV, on July 12, 1939. My mom lived with him and his second wife when she was a little girl on his land near Pax, WV. He's buried there in a tiny cemetery that once held only him and his wife, Anna (Larwood) Tolbert.

When I went there many years ago with my mom, we couldn't find the place, but with the help of someone who was originally from that area, I have been able to visit the graveyard a few times.   My mom went with me once and pointed out the foundation of their old house, now overgrown with weeds.  She lived there until she was five or six years old.  The house had no electricity or running water and she remembered traveling to town in a horse-drawn wagon because they didn't own a car.  It's so hard to imagine isn't it?  That wasn't that long ago.

I'm very lucky to have lots of relatives who lived in West Virginia.  Did you know that they have most of their birth, death and marriage records online?  Their website is a wonderful resource!  Back when I first received William's death certificate, I actually visited the WV Archive in person and had them print me out a copy. Now I can look at it and share it to the right.  I ♥ the Internet!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

#52Ancestors Week 12: Martha (Skiles) Fife

She raised these five children
I've been sick and it's getting late, so this is going to be a quick post for this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks!

I'm ashamed to admit how little I know about my grandma's mother, Martha (Skiles) Fife.  Her father was a blacksmith and her mother grew up an orphan. 

The photo of her to the right was labeled:

"Taken at McClellands school yard
Grandma Fife"

She and her husband, Charles Edgar Fife, are buried at Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery in the oldest section of the churchyard where they are the 7th and final generation of my Fife ancestors to be buried there.  

Please visit Martha Fife's memorial on Find a Grave

Monday, March 17, 2014

#52Ancestors Week 11: Christopher Wolfe

It's Week 11!

This week I'm writing about my 4th great-grandfather, Christopher Wolfe.  He was probably born in Morris County, NJ in about 1767 and moved to southwest Pennsylvania in about 1800.  I haven't researched his ancestry myself, but when planning this blog entry, I remembered an email that was sent to me way back in the year 2000 that mentioned that his father was probably George WOLF (b.10 Aug 1737 d.16 Sep 1789) whose father was Johaan Augustus WOLF (b.Abt 1712 d.Aft 1759).  More info is available at: Wolf family of NJ which was copied directly from the email I was sent.  I'm not sure what all the abbreviations for the locations meant, but if you have questions, I'd be happy to make a guess.
Christopher Wolfe died sometime in  April 1847 and he was buried in the Upper Ten Mile Presbyterian Church Cemetery.  Luckily, his gravestone had been transcribed at sometime in the past because, as you can see, his marker is disintegrating.  One cemetery transcription can be found at: Upper Ten Mile Cemetery Prosperity, Washington County, Pennsylvania.  Clicking on the photo to the left will take you to his memorial on  You may also notice the military flag next to his grave.  I have seen information that Christopher Wolfe fought in the American Revolution.  He would have been about 16 years old when it ended in 1783 and I have not researched whether that might be likely or not.  I have searched the DAR records and they do not list any men named Christopher Wolfe in their database.

Christopher Wolfe was married twice.  His first wife was a woman named Phebe whose last name is unknown to me, although I have seen her listed in some trees on the Internet as Phoebe Douglas.  She was my ancestor, the mother of my 3rd great grandfather, Luther Wolfe.  After she died in 1813, Christopher married again, this time to a woman named Elizabeth Smith.  It seems to have been a rocky marriage, at least at the beginning.  My evidence for that is the following notice which I found transcribed on page 47, in Abstracts of the Washington Reporter; January 1, 1817 to February 6, 1820

From the Washington Reporter, Monday, Sept 22, 1817

Caution.  The subscriber is under the painful necessity of cautioning the public against trusting his wife Elizabeth Wolfe, late Elizabeth Smith, of Morris Township.  She had previous to this time absented herself and threatened to involve me in debt and to get as much on my credit as possible, whether she stood in need of it or not.  Notwithstanding her improper conduct I looked over it and restored her to my house and protection - but now finding that nothing else will do, I am compelled to publish to the world that I shall refuse to pay any debts she may contract in future unless compelled by law, especially while she continues in her present unlawful and unbecoming course. /s/ Christopher Wolfe, Morris township.

As far as I know, Christopher and Elizabeth Wolfe were together until he died.  In his will, he mentioned her with the sentence:  
I will that my wife Elisabeth have a comfortable support at the Expense of my Estate as long as she remains my widow with liberty of remaining in the house where I now live.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Canonsburg's Potteries

You may remember that when I wrote about my grandfather, Charles Atkinson, last week, I mentioned that I had asked for permission from the Jefferson College Historical Society to repost an article that came from their website in the early 2000s.  Two days ago, I received permission and yesterday I uploaded this:
Canonsburg's Potteries

When this first appeared on the Internet, I was so excited that I downloaded the entire article and photographs so that I would always have a copy for myself!  I'm very grateful that the JCHS representative and Mr Herron, the author, gave me permission to recreate the page!  When I wrote about Pappap, I searched for a good history page about the potteries in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, but I couldn't find anything as well researched and as complete as this article!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

#52Ancestors Week 10: Charles Edgar Fife

I've made it to week 10 of the 52 ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge!

Charles Edgar Fife with his daughter, Rowene, my grandma.

I never met any of my great-grandparents.  Charles Edgar Fife was my grandma's father.  I wish I had taken the time to find out more about all of the family members of my grandparents and if you're lucky enough to be able to ask your grandparents questions about their families, I hope you will take the opportunity to do that!  

Charles was born in 1874.  His father, John Calvin Fife, died in a horrible accident while helping to build a bridge in 1879.  I wonder if he remembered his father at all?  His mother, Mary (McConnell) Fife never remarried, essentially raising four children as a single mother.  How did that affect Charles Fife as he was growing up?  The Fife family was relatively prominent in Upper St. Clair PA where he was born, but the fact that his mother was advertising a sale of household items in the paper on the same day that her husband's obituary appeared in the paper makes me think that there probably wasn't much money. 

Charles E. Fife seemed to work at many jobs in his life.  In the 1910 Census, he was listed as working for a gas company; in 1920, he was listed as working for a tin plate mill.  His obituary, in 1941, said he was a machinist at the Carnegie-Illinois Company.  He owned a house on Smithfield St in Canonsburg, PA, and last I knew, that house still belongs to my Dad's cousin. 

He can be seen in this photo; I believe he's the person 4th from the left.

Written on the back of this photo is:

  • Mr & Mrs WH Dunlap
  • Mr & Mrs CE Fife
  • Mr & Mrs John Schaufele
  • Mrs. F. L. Bell (Callie) & Rowene Fife
  • Canonsburg Water Dam 1920
Please take time to visit his Find a Grave Memorial

Monday, March 3, 2014

#52Ancestors Week 9: My Pappap, Charles William Atkinson!

I think it's hardest for me to write about the people I knew and loved.  For week 9 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, I'm going to try to tell you about my grandfather, Charles William Atkinson.  I'm a bit surprised to realize that I haven't written about him before.  I hope I can do him justice, and if I get anything wrong, I hope my family members will correct me!
This pattern is called "Moss Rose"

Grandpap worked at the Canonsburg Pottery. Most in our family are still interested in where our dishes  are made.  My sister says that you can tell an Atkinson because we always turn our plates over to see if there's a pottery mark!  I bought an almost complete set of china made at Canonsburg Pottery several years ago on eBay and while our place is too small for a full china hutch, you can see how I display a few pieces to the right.  A while back, the Jefferson College Historical Society posted a wonderful history of the pottery on their website which disappeared several years ago.  I saved a copy of the entire article along with the photos they posted and while writing this entry, I was inspired to ask for permission to repost that story.  I'll let you know if I hear back from them!

Pappap always seemed so dignified to me. The photo to the left is how I remember him most of the time, but he couldn't have always been so serious.  To the right is a wonderful picture of him with his brother George McDaid Atkinson who was 15 years younger than he was.  Grandpap was the son of Andrew and May (McDaid) Atkinson. He also had a sister named Esther Lillian Atkinson.  He grew up in West Finley Twp, a rural area near the West Virginia state line in Washington County, PA.  

Another more light-hearted photo of him
is this one with my dad, Jim Atkinson

Pappap loved roses and his backyard was full of the rosebushes he grew.  That's why this is my all-time favorite photograph of him.  That's me in his arms in the summer of 1959!  My mom always said I was Pappap's girl from my earliest days!

A short biography and more photographs can be seen on his Find a Grave Memorial.  He left us suddenly in the summer of 1987.  My dad and my brother were on vacation at the time and they were staying at his house.  One morning, Dad went up to check on him because he was usually an early riser.  He found Pappap lying on the edge of his bed, dressed for the day as if he had sat down to put his shoes on and had just fallen back dead.  I hope I can go like that someday.