Monday, January 27, 2014

#52Ancestors Week 4: Lydia (Lafferty) Skiles

I'm very grateful to Amy Johnson Crow who challenged everyone to write about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  She has really given me a reason to push myself to write at least one blog entry every week this year!  I can see myself accomplishing this goal and I encourage anyone reading this to play along!  I'm also going to make an effort to read other people's blogs and make comments.  It's important to give and receive feedback.

Lydia Lafftery Skiles is a real mystery to me.  I'm not sure when she was born, and I have no idea who her parents were.  My dad once told me that he had always heard she was an orphan.  She was one of his maternal great-grandmothers.

The earliest record I've found for her was the 1860 Census.  She was living with Joseph and Jane (Gilkeson) Denniston in Peters Twp of Washington County, Pennsylvania, and they claimed that she was 12 years old at that time.  When she was listed in the 1870 Census, she was living alone with Jane Denniston and her age was given as 26 years old.  By 1880, she was married to James H. Skiles.  They lived in North Strabane, PA, she was 29 years old, and she and James were already the parents of three children.  Obviously, there was some confusion about exactly how old she was.  

I have searched, page by page, through the Orphan Court Records for both Washington and Allegheny Counties of Pennsylvania that are available on microfilm at the Family History Library for any hint I could find about her birth family with no luck.  I have so many questions.  Were the Dennistons related to her, or did she merely work for them as a domestic servant as the 1870 census indicated? 

In 1904, Lydia Skiles died from lung problems.  Her obituary appeared on the front page of the Canonsburg (PA) Herald on July 28, 1904.  It says she was "in the 55th year of her age" which seems to indicate that she was born around 1849.  This is what it said:

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.
Lydia was buried at Center Church Cemetery in Peters Twp.  There are no markers there for her or her husband, James, but I have assumed that they were buried in an empty space near James H. Skiles' parents, James P. and Martha (Hair/Hare) Skiles.  Joseph and Jane Denniston are also buried in the same cemetery.

A cousin once told me that Lydia and James used to have markers on their graves but that my great uncle claimed that he visited the cemetery once many years ago and found the stones in a rubbish pile and because he didn't speak up, they were lost.  That's a little difficult to believe.  Uncle Selwyn was known for his jokes and tall tales. 

Click on the photo to view Lydia Skiles' memorial on Find a Grave.

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