Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Brickwall Ancestor: Lydia (Lafferty) Skiles 1850?-1904

Miriam, who writes the blog AnceStories, came up with a great idea for posting our genealogy brick walls in her post: Who Are Our Brickwall Ancestors, and Why Aren't We Blogging About Them Regularly?

This is what she suggests as an outline:
  1. A title of "My Brickwall Ancestor: [Name], [dates, if known]"
  2. List what we want to know.
  3. A chronological list (timeline) of known information.
  4. List positive and negative searches in detail.
  5. List any possible resources you can think of that you haven't checked.
I love the idea! I had been thinking for a long time about doing something like that, but as usual, it seems I need someone to give me a little push. I figure it's important to let people know what I'm looking for, you never know who might be Googling that person's name. Someday I'll write about how a Google search reconnected my mom to her birth family in 2001, all because I had made a post that mentioned her mother's name on a message board! You never know what someone might find!

For my first brick wall, I am choosing my g-g-grandmother, Lydia Catherine (Lafferty) Skiles. She may have been born in June 1850 in McKeesport, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and died 25 July 1904 in Canonsburg, Washington County, PA.

I would like to find out who her parents were and exactly when she was born. I would also like to find out if she had any blood relationship to the family who raised her. When I first started working on genealogy, my father told me that Lydia, his great-grandmother, had been an orphan. Everything seems to point to that being true.

I first found her in the 1860 Census. She was living in Peters Twp, Washington County, PA, with Joseph and Jane "Denison". It showed she was 12 years old.

In 1870, she was still living with Jane "Dennison". Joseph had died in the meantime. In 1870 they started showing relationships within the household. Lydia was listed as a domestic servant, and they said she was 26 years old.

By 1880, Lydia was married to my g-g-grandfather, James Hare Skiles, and they were living in North Strabane Twp, Washington County, PA. They had three children, Alice, Martha and William. Lydia was listed as Liddie C. Skiles and her age was 29, only a difference of 3 years from 1870!

In 1900, the family was living in Canonsburg, Washington County, PA. Lydia Skiles was listed as 50 years old, born in June 1850. It showed that she had borne 10 children but only 5 were living. I only have information about 9 of those 10.

On July 25, 1904, she died. The Record of deaths, 1893-1906, which is on FHL film #1318243 (items 1&2), lists her date of death as 1905, but that is obviously an error. I have a transcript of her obituary.

Canonsburg Herald, Thurs. 28 Jul 1904, front page:

Lydia L. Skiles -- On Monday night, July 25, at her home on East Pike Street, Mrs. Lydia L. Skiles died of lung trouble in the 55th year of her age.

She is survived by her husband, Jas. H. Skiles and the following children: Mrs. C. Fife, Mrs. H. Bowers, Alice and Maude. The funeral services were held in the First M. E. Church on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Interment was in the Center Presbyterian Cemetery.

The Record of deaths gives her place of birth as McKeesport, PA. However, at some time, Lydia's youngest daughter, Maude (Skiles) Emory, filed a delayed birth certificate for herself that listed her mother's place of birth as "Hastings, Allegheny County, PA". I cannot find a locality in Allegheny County called Hastings, although in Cambria County, more than 90 miles away, there is a town called Hastings. It seems unlikely that Lydia was born there.

I also found this mention of her in the Samuel MacMillan Manuscript which has been transcribed for the Washington County PA GenWeb site. You can read more about this document HERE.
Mrs James Skiles wife of James Jr Canonsburg July 25, 1904, 56
I have visited her burial place at Center Presbyterian Church in Peters Twp, Washington County. There are no markers for either her or her husband, although there is an empty spot next to the graves of her husband's parents where I am assuming they were buried. My dad's cousin told me a story that might explain what happened to the markers for their graves. According to the cousin, her Uncle Selwyn (my great-uncle) visited the cemetery many years ago and claimed he saw their gravestones in a rubbish pile, yet he never did anything about it. Uncle Selwyn was known as the family eccentric which makes this story seem questionable. Perhaps they never had markers. In another part of the cemetery are the graves of Joseph and Jane "Denniston", Lydia's foster-parents.

I haven't been good about keeping records of my negative searches, but I do know that I have gone page by page thru the Orphans Court Records for Washington County, PA, looking for possible guardianship information about Lydia. I have found other Laffertys listed, but none that mentioned Lydia. I also believe I have looked for information in the Allegheny County Orphans Court records, but looking thru unindexed information from Allegheny county can be daunting because the city of Pittsburgh is there.

You can see her listing in my database on Rootsweb WorldConnect at Lydia Catherine Lafferty. Her entry on Find a Grave can be seen HERE.

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