Since I spoke of my many coal mining ancestors in Week 30 with the Health topic, I have decided to expand on it with this week’s theme of working. Three of my 4 great-grandfathers worked in the coal mines. Two in Pennsylvania, the third in Ohio.
Andrew Jackson Blair
Born 17 April 1881 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, Andrew Jackson Blair was born to another Andrew Jackson Blair and Susan Jane Foster. According to the 1900 Census, when Andrew was just 19 years old he was already working in the coal mines (and so was his 13 year old brother, William). His father was also a miner, having it noted as his profession in the 1880 census, as well as his profession in the death register when he passed away in 1899.
I won’t go into details about Andrew too much as I have written about it before (see here). He died when the mine he was in had falling rock and it crushed his chest, killing him instantly. He was 45.
Charles Jackson Morgart
Born 2 August 1873 in East Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, Charles Jackson Morgart was born the oldest child of George Washington Morgart and Mary Ann Ritchey. Charles was originally a farmer but then became a coal miner. It’s odd, I can find him and my great-grandmother, Margaret Dora Wise, twice in the 1910 Census. When they were living in Bedford County he was a farmer, when he was found in Huntingdon County he was a coal miner. His death certificate also listed him as a coal miner. He did not die in the mines, but he committed suicide. It was not the first in his family as his mother had too.
Born 8 July 1890 in Leigh, Lancashire, England, James Fairhurst was already working in the coal mines in England in the 1911 census when he was still living at home with his parents, Thomas Fairhurst and Rachel Topping. He came to the United States in 1913 leaving behind his wife, Phoebe Boone (pregnant with their son, Wilfred) and his daughter, Elsie, to work with his brothers at Wolf Run, Jefferson County, Ohio. Phoebe came over with Elsie and Wilfred in January 1915. By June 1917 he had filed his declaration of intention to become a citizen of the United States, and by 14 May 1920 he was a naturalized citizen.
James occupation took a turn for the better. He opted to move to the rubber capital of the world in Akron, Ohio and began working for the various rubber companies, a much safer occupation compared to the work one did working in the coal mines.
Life in the Coal Mines
Working in the coal mines was a dangerous occupation. Most began working at a young age of 10 to 12 years old where you started out sorting out the coal from other rocks (sometimes elderly coal miners would do this too).
As you got older, responsibility increased. The next position for a teen would be keeping the the tunnels lit at key spots in the mine. Miners did wear hats with lanterns attached to help them see what they were doing and where they were going, but there were still people sometimes positioned in key places so that danger could be avoided.
Other jobs within the mine would be pushing and pulling the carts throughout the very narrow tunnels and the actual mining of the coal. They spent 12 hours a day underground in the dark hunched over.
Those working in the coal mines were often paid in company money, renting company housing, and the stores you were able to shop in were also owned by the coal mining company as it was the only store that took the company money. It was very difficult to be able to move onto another company to make more because the coal companies more or less owned you.
Working in the coal mines was a difficult job but was just one of many sacrifices the coal miner made to provide for their families. It was a hard job that had many health risks, but it was taken with the hope that the next generation would do better.
This week’s topic for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is Health. It was proving to be a struggle for me as I went through various people, illnesses, and how my mom was a nurse, but since I had discussed her not so long ago I wanted something that was different and not so obvious, and then it hit me – I have so many relatives who were coal miners, I decided to discuss the unhealthy conditions of working in a coal mine.
Coal Miners in My Family
I started making a list of all the men that were coal miners in my family and had not gotten too far on just my dad’s side and I already had over 20. My mom’s side could easily have just as many with her Fairhurst and Boone relatives as they all came over from England in the early 1900’s and settled in Jefferson County, Ohio where they were also miners (my great-grandmother, Phoebe Boone even ran a boarding house for miners).
My coal miners were not just limited to those who were here in the United States like my Blair’s, or the Fairhurst’s and Boone’s who immigrated from England, but my great-great-great-grandfather, James Boone was a coal miner in England. I do know that Isaiah Boone, mentioned later, moved to Utah and mined there and then returned to Ohio.
An Unhealthy Industry
Coal was one of the main resources that ran engines (stationary and locomotive) when the world began going through the Industrial Revolution. Though in the United States coal mining was done in smaller, rural towns, the mines were sometimes owned by railroads, which would obviously make sure the coal got where it needed to go.
Coal mining was not easy work. You were in the darkness all day, hunched over because most of the time the cavities within had low ceilings and you were constantly inhaling coal dust. Many illnesses were caused by lung issues.
Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis
Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis is a lung disease caused by the inhalation of dust and the lungs become inflamed or scarred which eventually made the person have a difficult time breathing. Another common name for this is black lung.
The stages of the disease often began with a cough, which leads to shortness of breath, then chest tightness. There is no cure, only prevention.
Though technology was not available hundreds of years ago, today’s miners can wear a personal dust monitor that measures the dust exposure, knowing at the end of each shift what the amount of dust was.
Another similar ailment is Silicosis.
Lung cancer in coal mining is primarily caused by exposure to the diesel exhaust daily for five-plus years. This is focused primarily on miners since the 1940’s and is normally combined with pneumoconiosis.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a common ailment among many people in today’s world, even outside of being a coal miner (your common habit of smoking is enough to contribute to COPD, my mother and maternal grandmother were both diagnosed). Like pneumoconiosis, COPD cannot be cured. Examples of COPD are bronchitis and emphysema, and along with coal worker pneumoconiosis, it has been classified as an occupational disease.
Though not deemed harmful, “coal tattoos” also were a sign of the coal miner as the miner would get cut and coal dust would get in it before it healed.
Along with suffocation, gas poisoning, another unhealthy part of coal mining are explosions and mine collapse. I know in my own lifetime I’ve witnessed on television in differing areas of the world tragic outcomes where a group of men were trapped underground due to an explosion or a cave-in and it was unknown if the area where the men were trapped had enough air to sustain the 22 miners in China (11 survived), or the 33 miners in Chile (all survived for a period of 69 days), or the 13 miners in West Virginia (only 1 miner survived this explosion).
Explosions in mines are nothing new. I have both direct and collateral ancestors in my tree who died from such mining accidents.
“Mine Explosion Kills Four Men At Wolf Run” – Carroll Journal, 12 December 1935
“Four men lost their lives and 31 had a narrow escape in an explosion early last Thursday night in the Warner Collieries Mine at Wolf Run near Bergholz. Those killed were Isaiah Boone, 50, his half brother, Joseph Boon, 47, and Robert Russell, 25, all of Amsterdam, and Albert James, 50, of Bergholz.”
Isaiah and Joseph Boone were the older and younger brother of my great-grandmother, Phoebe Boone, she was sandwiched between them in chronological order of children of Enoch Boone and Susannah Rigby’s children. Both came to the United States from Leigh, England – Isaiah in 1923 and Joseph in late 1920.
Using Newspapers.com to find articles of the paper, the blast was reported from as far East as Connecticut and as far west as Idaho, and I also found where it was reported in Canada.
Andrew Jackson Blair
“Blair, Andrew J. aged about 44, of B Court was instantly killed about one o’clock this afternoon when caught beneath a fall of rock while at work in the Forks Coal Mining Company mine. The victim was badly crushed. Mr. Blair’s brother-in-law, Abraham Childers, was injured in the same mine yesterday, having the ligaments torn in his leg”. – Johnstown Tribune, Wednesday, 17 November 1926, Page 26 (This article was found on Find A Grave where it was transcribed for his memorial, I was unable to find the original to include).
My great-grandfather was born in 1881 and on the 1900 census was already working in the coal mines. My dad told me that his dad, Leroy, Andrew’s oldest surviving son, also briefly worked in coal mining but had an accident in the same area his father died and that is when he found a different vocation.
I was able to find a newspaper article from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania newspaper, The Evening News, with a snippet of his death:
Other Interesting Facts
Coal mining was an institution unlike any other that I know of. Workers worked for a company who not only paid them in company cash or script, the housing was crude and also owned by the mines, the stores that took the script were owned by the company and priced everything high, but they could, because these stores were the only ones that would take the company cash. You were in a never-ending cycle and it really didn’t give you an “out”.
Young boys began working at the mines by the time they were 12 to 14 years old. They were not allowed to work in the mines but they would stay outside sorting the coal. To work within the mines they had to be 18 years old.
The social systems surrounding the mines were ethnicity based. Those with the highest prestige were the Welsh and English (this would have been where Isaiah and Joseph Boone fit in); then the Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans and finally those that were from Appalachia. I am not quite sure where my great-grandfathers would have fit in being born in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, they weren’t foreign but also too far north for Appalachia.
It had to take a person of strong mind and spirit to work in the coal mines day in and day out. My other paternal great-grandfather, Charles Jackson Morgart worked in the coal mines the last handful of years before he took his own life. I’ve sat and contemplated his death numerous times trying to wrap my head around why he killed himself but I’m sure it’s a mystery I’ll never know for sure. Was it a bit of depression from working in the dark after being a farmer? I’ll never know.
I am sure there are hundreds of other illnesses that can coincide with working in a coal mine that I haven’t listed, but this is what I found in just a day or two researching for this blog of mine. Coal mining was a dangerous occupation that until I saw how many of my ancestors did this for a living, I never gave much thought too (well, until you hear about a grave situation on the news). I look at it so much differently these past few years, so many risks, both health and otherwise, that these men took to provide for their family.
* I found the information for the above article and provided links throughout leading to Wikipedia, American Lung Association, NCBI, NIOSH, and the Nursing Times
It was a sad day for my family 94 years ago today. My great-grandfather, Andrew Jackson Blair (also referred to as AJ) was killed when he was caught beneath falling rock within a coal mine owned by the Forks Coal Mining Company located in South Fork, Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Andrew was a pick miner and the tragedy happened between 12-1pm.
Andrew Jackson Blair left behind a widow, Bertha Childers Blair: two daughters, Vada (age 18) and Genevieve (age 16); and two sons, Leroy (my grandfather, age 14) and Donald (age 9).
When I was younger I knew my great-grandfather had died in the mines, but I never knew the detail involved. It makes me cry to think of what his last moments must have been like.
I often watch webinars and videos, read blogs, or attend lectures and Linkpendium is always brought up as being a great resource for genealogists. But I have never used it, so today I am going to change that as we both can learn about Linkpendium together.
When you go to www.linkpendium.com you are greeted with the above homepage, and I like how it begins by telling you what it is and how to use it.
Linkpendium is a directory of over 10-million resources to help you find surnames within the United States (but it does say “worldwide” as well). There are 3-ways for you to research your family:
Using the “Family Discoverer” boxes at the top of the page
You can select if you want to search “worldwide” or by a specific state.
Using the “Jump to a City” box in the yellow section at the right of the page
Using the “Jump to a County” box below the City in the yellow section
Using the “Jump to a Surname” box in the yellow section
So I decided to do a search. I am missing the 1930 Census for my grandfather, Leroy Blair, so I put his first and last name in the Family Discoverer at the top of the page and selected “Pennsylvania” for my area (he lived in 3 different states – Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana). Below are my results for Pennsylvania.
For 85 milliseconds I was impressed. None of the hits initially are of my Leroy Blair but I will take a peek at the MyHeritage link at the top of the page.
I repeated the same search using Indiana and Ohio.
Okay, so I didn’t find out what I was looking for in my quest for information about my grandfather but let’s see what else I am able to find using the various search bars on Linkpendium.
Jump to City
My maternal great-grandmother was born in Coudersport, Pennsylvania so put it into the “Jump to City” search, and received 525 links to pages and subpages for Potter County (Coudersport is the county seat) so all in all I’m pleased (and plan on perusing the pages to get a better idea of the area. I’m especially curious of a biography page that came up, maybe one of my ancestors will be listed).
Jump to Surname
Next I did a surname search using my grandmother’s maiden name “Morgart”. The first half of the page was focused entirely on what I typed, but the second half of the page went into other options of the name. This isn’t so bad as there are a couple of different ways my Morgart’s spelled their last name. The family cemetery is actually known as the Morgart Morgret Cemetery so I could see how alternative spellings could be handy, and give you another option to look for when doing other searches for your family name in Censuses, etc.
I’m definitely going to utilize Linkpendium for future searches. I was impressed with the amount of hits I was able to get on learning about the specific areas of where my ancestors lived, and one of my favorite aspects of doing my family tree is finding out how my relatives spent their time and actually lived their lives. I could see myself being able to find so much more information using this valuable directory.
Has Linkpendium helped you solve any family history mysteries? Let me know in the comments below!
For the past few months I’ve been getting more and more intrigued in working with my DNA. Last year at this time I took a DNA test through Ancestry to solve a genealogy puzzle, and it worked, I discovered who I am fairly positive is my biological great-grandfather on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family.
With the announcement of Ancestry changing how they give us results and taking some of our matches away, I’ll admit, I have been like many who are probably plowing through their results as I type this hoping they can save something, anything that may be that key to a mystery.
This was my thinking. My darn brick wall consisting of Andrew Blair and Suzanna Akers (I think that’s her last name?). I was afraid that maybe, just maybe, one of those 6-7 centimorgan matches may be the answer I am seeking to break down my brick wall. The key to where my 3rd-Great-Grandfather was before he showed up on the 1850 Federal Census in Cambria County, Pennsylvania.
So I’ve been slaving away for the past week in my free time, trying to figure out who goes where. And don’t forget the many matches who you have no matches with.
All in all it’s exhausting.
I did stop for a little bit as one of my matches lines up to be the sister of Andrew. I will admit, someone’s tree on MyHeritage showed this relationship but I’d never seen head or tales of her. So this gave me hope.
So I plugged in an ominous “Blair” for their father and placed Sarah Permelia Blair as Andrew’s sister on my tree, wondering if maybe something, anything would come up for a mom, or even more information for a dad… but nothing.
So it also stated that Sarah was born in Washington County, Maryland. I began looking there for Blair’s listed on the 1810 Census (Sarah was born in 1816 and don’t you know there is an Andrew Jackson Blair who lived there in 1810??? Andrew Blair’s and Suzanna Aker’s second oldest son’s name is Andrew Jackson Blair – he is my 2nd-great-grandfather). So yes, I got really excited for about 30 seconds because this Andrew Jackson Blair’s son, Andrew Jackson Blair was born in 1825 and my Andrew has 4-censuses stating he was born between 1812-1815.
Do you think I can find any other information about this Andrew Jackson Blair quickly? No. However, I’m not a huge fan of Andrew Jackson, so with his being born in the late 1700’s and being named Andrew Jackson made my day as he wasn’t named after the War Hero/President (took a class in college while getting my history degree called “Jefferson to Jackson” and the more I learned the more I came to dislike both Jefferson and Jackson).
For the past year in my hunt for Blair men in Pennsylvania with people aged 25-30 in their house in the 1840 census, various names have repeatedly come to the forefront of my search, one being a John Blair. I finally decided to throw him and his wife as the parents of Andrew and Sarah into my Ancestry tree. They didn’t have an “Andrew Blair” listed on anyone else’s Ancestry tree, but they all have a gap in their children around 1812, so I figured it didn’t hurt to try. It took a long 24 hours but it gave me the answer I needed. I had 4 hits – it wasn’t enough for John Blair and Mary Perdew to be my 4th-great-grandparents (I’d had 23 matches with Andrew and Suzanna, so I should have had at least that many or more for them to lineup; more than 4 anyhow). Some would see this as a failure. I chose to see it as I had matches so I made progress. John Blair is a member of a much larger Blair family in Pennsylvania and it appears I may be in the ballpark for finding a connection. I quickly removed them as I have my tree public (I like to help others as I’ve viewed other’s trees for assistance over the years).
So I now only have a day or so to go before the algorithm changes for Ancestry’s DNA matches. I am still trying to get matches grouped but I am no longer in the rush I was. If I get any of the 6-7 centimorgan matches, great. I like to think I may not know what I’m missing. But I find organizing my matches fun. And I love that I have several on my dad’s side that have overlapped with my mom’s side. It’s funny – this particular branch of my dad’s are all settled in south central Pennsylvania while my mother’s is north central PA, all I can figure is that some came and met in the middle. Weird enough that my half sister (we don’t have the same dad) has a blue dot which represents my dad’s last name.
Fingers crossed that my DNA helps hold the key to my 4th-great-grandparents on my Blair side of the family, and this new algorithm is all that and more. Time will tell!
Thirteen years ago on this very day I lost one of the greatest human beings I ever knew. My paternal grandmother, Anna Maria Morgart died at the age of 93 years and a part of me has been lost ever since. On this anniversary of her death I will honor her.
Anna Maria Morgart was born on 2 April 1914 in Broad Top Township, Pennsylvania at 11:55am to Charles Jackson Morgart and Margaret Dora Wise. She was named after her maternal grandmother, Anna Maria Leighty Wise. By the time she was 5 years old, her father would commit suicide and her mother would re-marry. From the many stories I heard, my grandma thought the world of Irie Earl Custer, so much so my dad’s middle name was his middle name, and the name he (Mr. Custer) used, Earl.
She always told me about how much she loved school, and though she didn’t get the best of grades, she did love English and handwriting. She loved to write. Her handwriting was so distinctive, you can see it below in the “Blondie” on the photo on the right.
Anna Maria Morgart, about 1925 or 1926 or earlier
Below red school house. Looking at Geo Wise
One of her first jobs, she told me, was how she cleaned a bank. She claimed she got down and cleaned the floor with a little brush. She may or may not have said tooth brush but as a little girl that’s always what I pictured so that might be where I got that idea in my head. When I visited Pennsylvania last Summer my cousin, Hope, was so nice to show me where the bank was – and here it is – it’s where you pay your utilities in Saint Michael now.
The photo below was taken of her in 1933 – she was just 19 years old. It’s odd how much my dad looks like her in these photos.
I never quite knew when my grandparents met, I’m still not certain how they met either. I think I asked my dad but he isn’t entirely sure either. However I did come across this article from the Everett Press from 7 July 1933 where it shows they attended a Fourth of July picnic together at my Grandmother’s aunt’s home (Mrs. Bartley Noggle was Anna Rebekah Morgart, sister of Charles Jackson Morgart).
My grandparents got married on 24 April 1937 in Elkhart, Indiana. I’ve not found any wedding photos or even a marriage announcement, but I have found a copy of their marriage license on FamilySearch.
My grandparents moved to Indiana because my grandfather, Leroy Blair, was offered an apprenticeship in sheet metal. This was a much-preferred occupation as his father had passed away in the coal mines when he (Leroy) was just 14 years old, and according to my dad, Leroy also had an accident in the same “room” where his dad had died.
My Grandfather’s older sister Vada also lived in Gary, Indiana and she and my Grandma were best friends. I often talked to Darlene, Vada’s daughter, and she always remembered how close they were.
Despite living in Indiana, my Grandma still found a way to go back to Pennsylvania and visit her family. She was very close to her family. Her mom, Margaret Wise and brother, Charles Edward “Eddie” Morgart lived in Pennsylvania, but she would also head up to Detroit Michigan to visit with her older sister, Virginia. (Below are photos from 1940 of my Grandma, her with her brother-in-law, Joe Dipko, and lastly one of her and her sister, Virginia).
My Daddy Makes 3
On 11 January 1943 my dad was born. My Grandma was so happy to have a little one, and my dad was her only child. They were still living in Gary, Indiana when he came along, and since World War 2 was taking place, amongst the photographs was the ration book that was used for my dad.
In the 1950’s my grandparents moved from Gary, Indiana to Akron, Ohio. Initially they lived in a trailer but by 1955 they had money to move into a house. My Grandma had never been so proud of a house as the one she made her home. I couldn’t tell you how many photos she had of her house on Roslyn Avenue. That’s her standing in the door below. (She lived here the rest of her life).
My favorite was the photo she had of how there was nothing in the yard so my Grandfather, aka Pappy, decided to grow ears of corn in front of the living room window (however I am not finding that photo at the moment).
Another story of how they found their house was that as long as my Grandma could walk to a store she was going to be happy (she didn’t drive, apparently when she was younger a suitor attempted to teach her but she ran off the road and never got in the driver seat again). Pappy did well, he found a home for her and my parents got her a shopping cart that she could push her groceries home. She was also a master of coupons, and this was before couponing was a thing (or at least before I knew couponing was a thing).
As She Grew Older
My Grandma always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. She loved birds and family. The below photo I shared before. My Grandma and Pappy (right side) are playing with their bird, Skippy #1, while my Grandma’s mom, Margaret “Maggie” Wise, is laughing along with them, and Bertha Childers, Leroy’s mom, is just as grumpy as can be.
My Grandma was one of the most generous people I knew. During the summer months she would get up super early in the morning and go to a lady’s home, Mrs. Juhas was her name, she was the mom of one of my dad’s best friends growing up, and she would help her in her garden. She shared green beans and tomatoes with my grandma as payment (though we use to go over weekly for my dad to help my Grandma with a very small garden she had in her backyard). Until my Grandma got macular degeneration and could no longer can green beans, which was around 1997, I’d never had green beans in an aluminum can until about the year 2000.
Leroy/Pappy died on 14 May 1975 so I don’t really have any recollection of him (I was born in 1973). But Grandma went everywhere with us. She spent the night before Christmas so she was there to watch us open our presents. She was always invited over to functions on my mom’s side of the family (she was 1 of 5 kids so there was always something going on). My husband for the longest time didn’t believe this, especially when I began having trouble going places after my Grandma passed. I realized Grandma was who I sat with at these functions so I could entertain her, and frankly so she could entertain me (I’m quite the introvert at times). But after my maternal grandma passed, my aunt gave us a bunch of photos that we were in that she had, in every photo was my Grandma Blair beside me. I laughed so hard to prove my husband wrong.
When She Turned 93
The last six weeks of my Grandma’s life were not the best. She had gotten a case of shingles on her legs and didn’t tell anyone. It got into her bloodstream and made her pretty sick and she ended up in the hospital. This is where she was on her 93rd birthday. I remember my dad and I going to visit her on her big day, 2 April 2007.
From there she was moved into a nursing home not far from my house to go through therapy so she could walk and move around again. I would go and visit her often and slowly her appetite was decreasing. My husband made her sweet potatoes and it was the last solid food she ate. About a week later, I did what I didn’t want to do, which was tell her it was okay if she wanted to go “home”.
I’ve hated myself for 13 years for doing that. I know it’s what she needed, I know it was probably the right thing to do, but a selfish part of me hates myself for doing it because my kids never got to know her. My son was 7 months old and my daughter just 3 years. She has vague recollections, but that’s it.
But the thing is my kids have gotten to know her. I’ve shared with them all the wonderful stories I have of my Grandma Blair. Just today I told my daughter of the time when my Grandma was watching my sister and I in 1976 after my cousin Tracy was born. My mom helped drive my Aunt Barb to Texas to be with my Uncle who was in the Air Force. Aunt Barb had been in my room so I was staying in Kellie’s room on bunk beds. My sister had finally let me up on the top bunk and very quickly she decided I had overstayed my welcome. She went to take me off the top bunk by force but I quickly pushed her off the top bunk and on to the floor. My Grandma came back to see what was wrong, there was me on the top bunk and there was Kellie on the floor. My Grandma reached up for me and told me it was time to leave Kellie alone. As Kellie cried Grandma just told her that she would be okay and to get up off the floor. I really dodged a bullet that day. Don’t worry, some day I’m sure you’ll hear part 1 of this story when Kellie dragged me around the walls of the living room by my feet giving me rug burn (there is no love loss between my sister and I, even to this day).
A little over 2 years ago as I sat at a band concert with my mom, I can’t even remember what we were talking about but my mom looked at me and said that every day I reminded her of more and more of my Grandma Blair. It was the greatest compliment she could have ever given me. And sadly she (my mom) passed away a few weeks later, so I’m glad she said it when she did.
This week’s topic for 52 Ancestor’s in 52 Week’s is the Same Name. Do you have ancestors with the same name? You know the ones, they drive you crazy because they are all back to back to back and you aren’t sure which ancestor they are talking about because they are father and son and they overlap.
I have the same name. Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson is a name that turns up on both my paternal and maternal sides of my dad’s side of the family. On my Blair side I my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather are both Andrew Jackson Blair’s with my great-great-great-grandfather being Andrew (he may be an Andrew Jackson as well but I’ve not had any confirmed documentation stating such). Then on my grandma’s side I have a great-great-great-grandfather named Andrew Jackson Morgart.
Andrew Jackson Blair (1881-1926)
The first Andrew Jackson Blair I will discuss was my great-grandfather. No one alive today ever knew him as he died before any of his grandchildren were born. Andrew was a miner and died when rock began falling within one of the mines and it crushed his chest. His brother-in-law, Abraham Childers, was injured when the ligaments in his leg were torn.
Above is the only photo known to have been taken of my great-grandfather. The story is that it was taken as a group shot of his Sunday School class and they managed to snip him out of the group shot so we have it. When I was sent this photo a few months ago I was so happy, I love seeing what my relatives looked like.
I have never found any marriage record yet of when my great-grandparents wed. But using Newspapers.com I have been able to piece together their marriage date of March 19, 1906.
Andrew, or AJ as I have seen him regarded as often, was buried in South Fork Cemetery.
Andrew Jackson Blair (1851-1899)
I don’t know a whole lot about my great-great-grandfather. He was born in March 1851 in Cambria County, Pennsylvania and passed away of a Paralytic Stroke on June 20, 1899 in Bedford County, PA. On the 1870 Census he was still living at home and was a woodchopper but in the 1880 census he had married the former Susan Jane Foster and had 3 children, all girls, and was a miner. In the 1880’s he and his wife would have 3-boys and 2-girls to add to the mix, bringing their total children to 9.
Andrew is actually buried in Duvall Cemetery, which is on the land of his wife’s great-grandfather, Basil Foster. I didn’t see his grave when I visited last year, but I also was unaware of his being buried there until my final day in Pennsylvania when I discovered his death record at the Bedford County Courthouse.
Andrew Blair (@1812 – After 1880)
Andrew Blair is my 3rd-great-grandfather and also one of my biggest brick walls (the other is his wife, Susannah (Suzanna) Akers and his son, George Washington Blair). Though he isn’t an Andrew Jackson, he is the Andrew that at least began it all (or so I think). I can honestly say I’ve not gotten any further than just the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses for my great-great-great-grandparents. His occupation is just a laborer, and he rented his home so there is no land ownership. In 1850 he lived in Conemaugh Township, Cambria County, then in 1860 he lived in Huston Township in Blair County, and in 1870 and 1880 he lived in Bedford County, first in Broad Top Township and then in Coaldale.
Along with a vague occupation, I have no definitive birth or death date for this elusive man. One day I will find out more about my ancestor – it will just take time and plenty of patience.
Andrew Jackson Morgart (1824 – 1870)
On my grandmother’s side of the family is my 3rd-great-grandfather, Andrew Jackson Morgart. This Andrew Jackson was a farmer who lived in West Providence in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. On June 4, 1847 he married his wife, the former Rebecca O’Neal whom he had 10 children with, I’m an offspring of his oldest son, George Washington Morgart.
He died August 19, 1870. According to his obituary he must have been sick for a spell as death was not unexpected, but at the same time he was only 46-years-old. Wow, that’s the same age I am, but he was actually younger as I’ll be 47 next week.
To Sum It Up
To my knowledge, these are all the Andrew Jackson’s in my family. Now, Andrew Jackson Morgart did have a grandson named Charles Jackson but that’s another story for another time.
I guess the most fascinating part of having all these Andrew Jackson’s in my family is that in college I took a class entitled Jefferson to Jackson where it focused on the history of the United States while Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson where president. During this time period Andrew Jackson was such a hero, saving our new country from the British in the War of 1812 which led to his presidency. But I so disliked Andrew Jackson, still dislike him to this day. It would just figure that I have all these relatives named after him.
Though a part of me would love for my Andrew Blair to be an Andrew Jackson Blair too – as he was born in 1812 (maybe sooner) it could possibly make it a family name and not in honor of the famous war hero.
But I am going to have to break down that brick wall first.
Are you like me, constantly looking at maps to see exactly where your family once roamed? I’m always using the below map on the FamilySearch Wiki to solve brick walls, wondering where my next further back batch of relatives would come from or lived in relation to others.
Just about all the relatives on my paternal side are found within the counties in the South-Western/Central portion of Pennsylvania. These counties would be Somerset, Bedford, Fulton, Cambria, Blair and Huntingdon counties. But not all of these counties have always existed, at one point I believe most of the region was Bedford County (which is why I chose Bedford to visit in July 2019).
Maps can be very helpful for locating where your ancestor’s records are kept. Records tend to stay with the county of when they were created. So if your family’s land is in what is now Blair County – since it was formed from Bedford County and Huntingdon County – if the records you seek are prior to 1846 – you will need to look in either Bedford or Huntingdon Counties.
An article on GenealogyBank.com by Gena Philibert-Ortega states, “Maps help you follow migration patterns, learn more about the place your ancestor lived, determine the location of cities that no longer exist, show changes in county boundaries, and verify land your ancestor owned.”
You may be lucky enough to find a map that even shows where your ancestors lived without your even plotting it. Below is a map that I photocopied out of the “County Atlas of Bedford Pennsylvania” and it shows the land where both my 2x-Great-Grandfather lived (G. Morgart) and my 3x-Great-Grandfather lived (A. Morgart). It turns out B. Hughes is a distant relative as well, and he married my 2x-Great-Grandmother when George Morgart passed away. I’m most likely related to the Ritchey’s as my aforementioned 2x-Great-Grandmother was Mary Ann Ritchey, and she had 2 brothers with the first name beginning with D.
According to Wikipedia, a gazetteer is “a geographical dictionary or directory used in conjunction with a map or atlas. It typically contains information concerning the geographical makeup, social statistics and physical features of a country, region, or continent”.
These books are essential as they normally list the names of places that may not even exist in an area anymore, which can be very important for finding information on your family. Gazetteers can also provide the history of an area, including photographs.
David Rumsey Map Collection
A great website to find historical maps is the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. The collection began about 30 years ago and includes over 150,000 maps spanning between the 16th through 21st centuries from across the world. The digitizations began in 1996 and include over 95,000 pieces. The real pieces are housed in the David Rumsey Map Center in Stanford library.
If you find yourself trying to purchase a ton of books to find the maps you need, you can always turn to mapping software for computers. These programs work by you typing in your location and then you can scroll through the years watching the boundaries change before your eyes, giving you the exact county within your state (if in the United States) of where your ancestor lived at a specific point in time. This makes it convenient so you know where to look for the records you seek (remember, records stay with the county).
Examples of these programs are AniMap, Family Atlas, or you can go the free route and use Google Earth. One of the nice features of using Google Earth is that it is programmed with some of the David Rumsey maps that you can overlay where your ancestors lived at various points in history, so you can walk where they walked, so to speak (please note you’ll have to download the software for your computer for the Rumsey maps to work, but don’t worry, it’s still free!).
Just Google It
One of the other functions I used for my more recent ancestors is simply putting the address of where my ancestors lived that I have found using City Directories in Google so I can see the homes where my family members once lived. More often than not the house is still standing (I will often refer to the real estate tax site for my county as well just to confirm when the house was built). By seeing what the house looks like in advance I am able to drive by and find it more easily.
My mother’s side of the family settled where I live around 1916 and a majority of her side of the family is still here. Because of where they originally made their home each day when I drive to work I pass where my great-great-grandmother and her husband had their store. And I found it using the City Directory to obtain the address and putting the address into Google.
In a Nutshell
Maps offer us so much information. They are visual so it can open up an entirely new world to your research. You can see how far apart relatives live. If you’re tackling a brick wall and you see someone far away from any other place they’ve lived it might have you question “Is this person mine?” as the migration patterns can become quite apparent once you begin plotting addresses.
I’ve always referred to maps in my search for my family history, but I am at the point I’m really going to start plotting out where they lived just to get a better idea of where their proximity to others so I can wrap my head around things.
If you have used maps please feel free to share your tips and what you use to visually track your relatives and get a feel for where they lived.
My favorite photo from my family history journey? I have to pick just one? I have so many that seeing an ancestor seems to have changed my life that picking just one seems so difficult. Until I realize it isn’t.
The photo I chose is actually (at the present anyhow) a part of my header here on my blog.
I’ve included it just as it was scanned off my dad’s flatbed scanner that he is allowing me to use. This photo includes 2-great-grandmothers and my paternal grandparents. It was taken at my grandparent’s house in Akron, Ohio in 1961. From left to right is Bertha Childers, Margaret “Maggie” Wise, Anna Maria Morgart, and Leroy Blair. This photo just seems to exemplify the personalities of them all and just looking at it brings a smile to my face.
I’ve heard from more than one person that Bertha (aka Mrs. Chappell, the last name of her second husband) was always mad at someone. So seeing her cross on the end of the sofa makes me wonder which of my other relatives was she upset with? Bertha is the mother of my grandfather, Leroy Blair. I never had the chance to meet Bertha, she passed away in 1963.
Margaret “Maggie” Wise
Next up is Maggie Wise, my Grandma’s mom. I actually have very fuzzy memories of visiting Gammy (that’s what her grandkids called her) in the nursing home when we went back to Pennsylvania to visit. I only recall meeting her a few times, and she passed away at the age of 96 in 1987 (I was 14 at the time). She always seemed happy and I remember her playing the “mouth organ” or harmonica.
My Paternal Grandparents
I love seeing my grandparents (Anna Maria Morgart and Leroy Blair) so happy in this picture. Now it’s hard to make out, even with the original photo in your hand, but from the note on the back of it, they are playing with a bird (not just any bird mind you, Skippy #1. My Grandma Blair went on to name every bird she had Skippy over the years, so it’s rather cool to see the original). Not having ever met my grandfather, I never knew that much about him, and stories seemed to fall all over the place. Seeing him having a good time with my Grandma makes me happy.
Anna Maria Morgart
My Grandma Blair was probably the best friend I will ever have. I could talk to her about anything and she never judged, just listened, and gave me the best advice she thought I needed. Gosh, I miss her. She passed away almost 13 years ago but sometimes the pain seems like it was yesterday.
My grandfather, affectionately called Pappy, died when I was 2-years-old so I really don’t have any recollections of him. My mom’s favorite story of him was how every time he came over to our house, I’d be asleep and he would say “I just want to go in a look at her” and somehow I always woke up. I have heard from other relatives how he just loved little girls and he would have probably spoiled me rotten (not that he wasn’t fond of my dad). I wish I could have had him in my life. He seems like he was just a good man, and in the end, isn’t that what you want from your relatives?
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
If you are interested in doing your own writing journey, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is where you can sign up and see the listing of all the prompts for this year’s challenge.
Death certificates are one of my favorite tools to find when working on my family tree. Granted it’s always sad that your ancestor passed away, but death certificates offer so much information that when you find them it’s like hitting the family history jackpot.
Different States, Different Availability
The downside of death certificates when searching in the United States is that each state differs when they began keeping vital statistic records, and their availability for each is different as well. I am fortunate that I live in the state of Ohio and we can go and get a birth certificate from anywhere, at any time. There are limitations, like you have to be in the county where the person died (my grandfathers are both eluding me as one died in Jefferson County and the other in Monroe), or if the person passed away between 1908-1953 you can find them on FamilySearch but if they died between 1954-1963 you have to contact the Ohio History Center in Columbus to obtain those. The cost is $7 plus tax but I can honestly say when I mailed in my check for the two I needed, I sent away on a Thursday and my death certificates were emailed to me the following Monday (my check hadn’t even cleared yet).
Most of my relatives are from Pennsylvania which has a much stricter policy for the release of their vital statistics. Birth certificates are available 106 years after birth. Death certificates are available 50 years after they die. Next year I will finally be able to get my grandmother’s birth certificate as she was born in 1914. I will be ordering my grandfather’s at the same time as he was born in 1912.
Make sure you check with the state you are researching to find out when you are able to obtain these valuable vital statistics records and find out how much it will cost to obtain these records. In Pennsylvania, it is presently $5 each.
Birth Certificates vs. Death Certificates
Though birth certificates are very important (when recently coming across my great-aunt’s birth certificate on Ancestry, I discovered that her father was not my great-grandfather). Death certificates give you birth dates, death dates, spouse, parent’s names, where they are buried, if they are buried, when they were buried, how they died, where they lived, where they were born. Granted, the information is only as reliable as the informant, but it gives you something to go with as far as your person is concerned, especially if you know little about the person.
My Most Memorable Death Certificate
My most surprising death certificate I found using Ancestry Library Edition. I am fortunate for my local library to have this, and so I would often go to my local branch and spend an hour or more at least once a week utilizing the records they had. This is when I came across my second cousin twice removed’s death certificate.
Discovering that one of your relatives was executed by the state of Ohio is always a little alarming. I am sure if I ever find another (I truly hope I don’t) that I will be just as amazed. (And I know I’ve shown this before, but some surprises you just never get over).
However, look at all the information that you can discover on the above death certificate.
Name: Ralph Reed
Birth Date: 1 Jun 1921
Place of Birth: Johnstown, Cambria, Pennsylvania
Father: Thomas Reed
Mother: Margaret Phillips
Date of Death: 4 May 1949
Place of Death: Columbus, Franklin, Ohio
Cause of Death: Electrocution by Legal Execution
Informant: Mrs. Margaret Reed (his mother)
Burial: Headrick Cemetery
Date of Burial: 7 May 1949
All this information is from one piece of paper. Now in Ralph’s case, we are fortunate that the informant was his mother so it was a person who had a great deal of knowledge of his life. Many times we aren’t as lucky. So often I find “I don’t know” or “Unknown” for a parent’s name because the children of a person aren’t always aware of their grandparent’s names, especially if they passed away before they were born.
It is highly recommended that you gather all the vital statistics that you can for each member of your family. These include birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates.
New England States
Most states began keeping death records between 1900-1930. If you are lucky enough to have relatives in the New England states where religion was the backbone of the community, you will be fortunate to have ledgers with birth and death dates. When I was finally able to leave Potter County, Pennsylvania and go to Franklin/Hampshire County, Massachusetts, I was amazed at how many vital statistic records I was able to obtain for my family where they were absent in PA.
As settlers moved west towards the new frontier, keeping records wasn’t at the top priority. As far as religion went, most of these areas had itinerant ministers. These circuit riders went from community to community, performing weddings, baptisms, and possibly funerals, but the documents weren’t always filed. This is why records throughout the mid-west are more challenging to find.
In Bedford County, Pennsylvania, where a majority of my father’s family came from, records are available in a handwritten book from 1890 to 1905. But anything before that is a mystery, often relying on gravestones for the answers for vital records, along with census records for birth dates.
Sources for Family History
Though there are many important documents to find in genealogy, I find that death certificates are one of the more important ones. Death certificates don’t always have the answers you are seeking for your people, but they are still valuable documents to have in your possession to obtain needed information about your ancestors. I know I presently have a death certificate for my second great-great-uncle and it is the only hint I have of what my third great-grandmother’s name is (I’m still hoping to hunt down her fourth living child in a hope of his death certificate giving me the same name). Both Ancestry and FamilySearch provide online images of death certificates so utilize these valuable sources, you never know what kind of interesting facts you will discover about your ancestors.