National Handwriting Day & Signatures

Today is National Handwriting Day, which was established in 1977 by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (who knew there was such an association!).[1] It was to be held on January 23rd which is John Hancock’s birthday, in honor of his famous signature on the Declaration of Independence. Rather than comment on our current digital world and its replacement of handwriting and penmanship, I’ll look at one of my favorite finds in genealogical documents … signatures.

I usually do the happy dance when I am able to find a document or record of ancestor, but I am especially happy when it includes a signature. I find signatures to be such a personal part of what can be sterile or factual document. I can see a piece of this person on the page. I often picture him or her signing the document and wonder what was going through their minds at the time, espcially since these can be on a will, naturalizaiton or draft record. Below are some of the tangeable marks left by my family.


Charles Cubbage

My great-grandfather, Charles A. Cubbage’s signature on his will.[2]


Charles Swank

My 2nd great-grandfather, Charles G. Schwenk’s Civil War Pension Record.[3]


Christ Linneman

My 2nd great-uncle, Christian Linneman’s World War I Draft Card.[4]


Anna Babai

My husband’s great-grandmother, Anna Babai’s Petition for Naturalization (note the variant spelling of her name).[5]


Sarah CUbbage

My 4th great-grandmother, Sarah Cubbage’s mark left on her will.[6]


[1] Jennie Cohen, “A Brief History of Penmanship on National Handwriting Day,” ( : accessed 10 January 2018), A+E Networks, 2012.

[2] Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, estate file 346, Charles A. Cubbage (1939), Register of Wills, Orphan’s Court, Greensburg.

[3] Declaration for Increase of Invalid Pension, 15 September 1890, Charles G. Schwenk/Swank (Pvt. Co. A and 1st Sgt. Co. C, 82nd Pennsylvania Inf., Civil War), pension application no. 694362, certificate no. 454879, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications … 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[4] “United States, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” index and images, ( : accessed 10 January 2018), card for Christ Linneman, serial no. 2883, no. 163, Local Draft Board No. 8, Monessen, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, NARA microfilm publication M1509; imaged from Family History Library roll 1927074.

[5] Anna Babay petition for naturalization (1940), naturalization file no. 26784, Middle District of Pennsylvania; Records of the District Courts of the United States; Record Group 21; National Archives-Mid Atlantic Region, Philadelphia.

[6] “Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994,” digital images, FamilySearch  ( : 4 January 2018), Allegheny County, Wills 1808-1830, vol. 2, page 289, no. 221, Sarah Cubbage (1822).


Women’s Words Wednesday – Sarah’s Will

So much of our history is recorded, remembered, and influenced by the views our male ancestors. But that’s only part of our story, and I am fascinated by the stories of our female ancestors. I am adding a new blogging category called Women’s Words Wednesday where I will post and reflect on these important words that I have found in my research, in whatever form they arise (letter, photo, official document, etc.).

Sarah (LNU) Cubbage is my 4th great-grandmother. Her husband William died intestate around 1820. Sarah died a few years later, around 1822, but unlike her husband, she did leave a will.[1]

Sarah Will 1Sarah Will 2

I Sarah Cubbage, widow of the late Wm Cubbage Decd of Pine Township Allegheny County State of Pennsylvania, do make this my last wil and Testament as follows, to wit, To my eldest daughter Martha Fletcher I do wil and bequeath on dollar, and to her eldest son known by the name of Samuel Cubbage, I do wil and bequeath one hundred-dollars to be paid to him out of my share of the estate of my husband Wm, Decd. The remaining part of my property I do allow to be equally divided between my sons, John George & Wm Cubbag and daughters Sarah Whitsell, Elizabeth Good, Mary Whitsell, & Jane deer. Except my clothing which I do allow to be divided amongst my daughters over and above their foregoing shares as follows to wit to my daughter Sarah Whitsell I do bequeath my black-silk shawl, provided her or her husband calls on it, to my daughter Elizabeth Good two of my Goats, to My daughter Mary Whitsell and Jane Deer I allow to be equally divided between them, except my spinning-wheel I allow to Jane and my son William’s eldest daughter I do bequeath a two-year-old heipher. And further I do appoint James Hilands Esq of Ross Township and George Whitsell of Pine Township to be my Executors, In witness whereof I have here unto set my hand and seal this thirteenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand Eight hundred and twenty two in the presence of

James Hilands                                                                                Sarah Cubbage                           James McElwain                                                                            X her mark

[Sarah’s will was filed on 27 September 1822.]

I have not found many wills for my female ancestors, especially back as far as the early 1800s. There were estate proceedings found in the Orphan’s Court for her husband William, that continued even after she died. Much of those proceedings had to do with the division of his property to his heirs, including three children who moved west to Ohio and Kentucky. I wonder if Sarah decided to write out a will, or if she was influenced by her family, of she saw what may have been happening with the division of property.

It is interesting that she left her oldest daughter Martha only one dollar, but to Martha’s oldest son she left one hundred dollars. I have seen other wills in Allegheny County where money was bequeathed to the oldest grandson of each child. Martha had moved to Ohio before William had died, and I have not been able to locate her husband Joseph Fletcher. Sarah names her grandson as “Known by the name of Samuel Cubbage”, which may help in locating the Fletchers.

The rest of Sarah’s property was to be divided among the remaining seven children, with the exception of the special gifts of clothing, spinning wheel and goats that she left to her daughters that also lived in Pine Township. Sarah also left a heifer to the daughter of her son William, who was living in Pittsburgh.

Sarah’s words through her will (that was actually written by another, her mark X indicating that she could not write), helps me to understand her relationship with her children. Rather than having her property divided equally, she had felt it was important enough to specify which items were to go to her children, especially her daughters. I wonder if she saw how the children handled her husband’s estate, and she wanted to be sure her wishes were carried out? Or if there was another reason that she made out a will before she died.

I am thankful to have Sarah’s words and wishes, expressed through her will, to know more about her and her family.


[1] “Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994,” digital images, Family Search  ( : 4 January 2018), Allegheny County, Wills 1808-1830, vol. 2, page 289, no. 221, Sarah Cubbage (1822).


Wedding Wednesday – Mary Ann Burd and Charles Schwenk

On Friday, January 12th, it will be the wedding anniversary of my second great-grandparents, Charles Schwenk and Marian “Mary Ann” Burd. They were married in 1871 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


This photocopy of the marriage certificate is from a file of family records and images that my grandfather had with his pictures.[1] I do not know who has the original image, but my father believes that these family heirlooms were photocopied in the 1970s and given to my grandfather by one of his sisters.

This certificate confirms the marriage that I found in a complied book of marriage returns from the City of Pittsburgh: Charles Schwenk, age 24, married Mary Ann Bird, age 21, on 12 January 1871 in a Civil Ceremony by Samuel McMasters, Ald.[2] Both Charles and Mary Ann were from Saltsburgh, Allegheny County (a village in North Versailles Township).

While it’s wonderful to find documents and abstracts about our ancestors, there is so much more that I would love to know about Charles and Mary Ann.  I don’t have any pictures of them, or diaries or letters …  but what if I could know a little more about their wedding?


In the many, many incredible documents that were included in Charles’ Civil War Compiled Service and Pension records, there is an affidavit that Mary Ann submitted for her Widow’s Pension. The affidavit was from Isaac and Martha Mason and dated 3 March 1899.[3]

That the soldier Charles G. Schwenk and Mary A Schwenk now a Widow were married on January the 12″ 1871 at Pittsburgh Pa. That said Mary A Schwenk was living with them at Saltsburg Pa at the time of her marriage to the soldier Charles G. Schwenk.
That after the return of the couple from Pittsburgh were the marriage took place, they had the wedding supper at their (Deponents House) and that they the Deponents participated at the wedding festivities held in honor of the said marriage.
That the said Mary A. Schwenk lived with them (Deponents) for about 2 years before her marriage to the soldier and know that she was not married prior to the marriage to the soldier above named.
That they know the facts testified to in this affidavit of their own Personal knowledge, having had an intimate aquaintence with Mary A Schwenk before and after her marriage to the soldier.
That their Post Office address is Creighton in the County of Allegheny State of Pennsylvania.

Wow! So now I know a little more about Charles and Mary Ann’s wedding. The wedding “supper” was held at the home of Isaac and Martha Mason in Saltsburgh, after they married in the City of Pittsburgh. In the 1870 census, just a year before the wedding, Mary Ann was living with the Masons in North Versailles Township, and working as a domestic servant.[4] Charles was also living in North Versailles in 1870 and was enumerated on the same day and only a few pages apart in the census book.[5] Both were no longer living with their parents, and it appears that they met in Saltsburgh.

There is another interesting item in this affidavit that needs further research. One of the witnesses to this affidavit was Margaret Orris, who was Mary Ann’s sister. When Margaret Orris died in 1922, her obituary listed eight children including Mrs. Harry Mason.[6] Harry Mason was the son of Isaac and Martha Mason. There seem to be some connections between the Burd, Orris and Mason families that need to be explored. Maybe that’s how Mary Ann found work, or how Margaret’s daughter met her husband?

In the meantime, I’m happy to know a little more about the wedding of my second great-grandparents and how they celebrated this important event!


[1] Marriage Certificate, Charles Schwenk-Mary Ann Burd, 12 January 1871; photocopy privately held by the author’s father, ca. 1975.

[2] Western Pennsylvania Genealogy Society, compiler, Marriage Returns City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, PA, 1870-1875. Pittsburgh: Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, 1999.

[3] Affidavit of Isaac and Martha Mason, 3 March 1899, Mary Ann Schwenk, widow’s pension application no. 586124, certificate no. 475533, service of Charles G. Schwenk (1st Sgt., Co. C, 82nd reg., Pennsylvania Infantry, Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications …, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files, Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[4] 1870 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, North Versailles, population schedule, McKeesport Post Office, p. 20 (penned), dwelling 137, family 137, Isaac Mason; digital image, ( : accessed 13 January 2014) citing National Archives publication M5393_1294; Family History Library Film 552793.

[5] 1870 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, North Versailles, population schedule, McKeesport Post Office, p. 23 (penned), dwelling 156, family 156, John Rogers; digital image, ( : accessed 13 January 2014) citing National Archives publication M5393_1294; Family History Library Film 552793.

[6] “Former Creighton Woman Summoned by Death,” The Valley Daily News (Tarentum, PA), 17 February 1922; photocopy, Community Library of Allegheny, copied by library staff, 12 October 2012.


Favorite Photo Friday – Snow!



It was a snowy, windy day in New Jersey yesterday, so this seemed like a good one! I have always loved this image from my Cubbage side. Taken in the winter of 1946, this picture captures my grandmother Agnes Speck Cubbage, my father Corky, and his younger brother Jeff on a snowy Pittsburgh day.

This photo was most likely taken on or near Thelma Street on the North Side, where they were living with Agnes’ mother and her husband (Elizabeth Linneman Speck Merz and Charles Merz). My grandfather, Art Cubbage, was in the Navy and stationed in Norfolk at the time.

I am guessing that Elizabeth or Charles took the picture … maybe so Agnes could send it to Art while he was away? So he could see how his boys were growing, or to remember those Pittsburgh winter days? There are no markings on the back, but there is another image in the collection of just Corky and Jeff. Art would be discharged in a few months and the family would be reunited.

Happy snow day!


Thriller Thursday – Boys Rescue Pup

It’s always fun to go through my parents’ old memorabilia and newspaper clippings – you never know what you’ll find! This article was published in a northern New Jersey newspaper around 1954 or 1955 (I can’t seem to find it on any newspaper sites). My father is one of the Cubbage boys who rescued the pup! He was about 13 or 14 years old and his brother was 10 or 11 years old.

My father had never told us about the big rescue. When I asked him about it, he corrected the newspaper, which reported that the boys jumped into the river. My father told me that they had walked out onto the ice to reach the dog and fell in! The water was about waist deep, so they grabbed the dog, and all climbed out. My father then said, “See, you can’t believe everything you read, even back then!”

It’s another reminder to ask our living family about the pictures, memorabilia, and records that we find. They might have more details about the story … or in some cases, corrections!


Women’s Words Wednesday

So much of our history is recorded, remembered, and influenced by the views our male ancestors. But that’s only part of our story, and I am fascinated by the stories of our female ancestors. I am adding a new blogging category called Women’s Words Wednesday where I will post and reflect on these important words that I have found in my research, in whatever form they arise (letter, photo, official document, etc.).

Below is a letter from Sara Logan to Charles Cubbage, my great-grandfather, about Sarah Cubbage, Charles’ sister.

[unreadable along frayed top edge of letter]
Dec. 16, 1902

Mr. Charles Cubbage,
                    Dear Friend –
Will write you a few lines this morning in place of your parents to tell you that Sarah had fallen yesterday evening and got seriously hurt. It was so very ice, and she had gone to the shed to feed the chickens and was lying there when they found her. Her head pains her awfully and her back hurts her too. The Dr was here again this morning and said there was little improvement on her
[unreadable along frayed top edge of letter]
be no change for 48 [?]
She just lies and seems to be sleeping and does not seem to notice any one. Charlie I think poor Sara is quite [unreadable] your Father and Mother are so worried but I know Charlie you will come out if you can and if you do not come out the [unreadable, possibly “next word you” ??] that Sara will be better and fully recovered again and a marked improvement from her present condition.

                                                        Sara Logan

Sadly, Sarah Cubbage died on Christmas Day, ten days after her fall. I do not know if Charles ever traveled the 30 miles from Swissvale to Penn Township in Butler County to visit his sister before she died.

But who was Sarah Logan? And why did she write the letter “in place” of Charles’ parents, James and Barbara Cubbage? Sarah mentioned how worried they were and that her brother should “come out if you can”. Were James and Barbara too distraught to write the letter? At this time, only Sarah and her brother James L. were still living at home; the remaining brothers had all left Butler County.

Sarah Cubbage worked for many years as a servant in the home of John R Logan. I am fairly certain that Sarah Logan was connected to this family – either a relative of John, or possibly the spouse of one of John’s sons. Sarah Logan wanted Charles to travel to see his sister, yet she seemed to stay positive at the end of the letter, hoping that Sarah will be “better and fully recovered.”  What was it like for her to be the bearer of bad news? Did she reach out on her own, or at the request of the parents? And since Sarah Cubbage didn’t survive, did Sarah Logan need to write another letter to the Charles, and possibly their brothers, to let them know about her passing?

These are questions I most likely won’t know the answers to, but get me thinking about the role that women played during a tragedy. I am excited to share more words from women as I come across them.


Travel Tuesday – Research in Pittsburgh

In October I spent a week in Pittsburgh – doing some of my favorite things in one of my favorite cities. It was a wonderful week of research, conference learning, tours and genealogy friends.

I originally started planning this trip when a genea-friend told me that that the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International Annual Conference was being held in Pittsburgh. I had never attended a CGSI event, but it was a good place to attend one. My husband is mostly Slovak (three of his four grandparents are from Slovakia) and his mother was born in Slovakia before immigrating when she was a little over a year old. I attended two days of the conference and attended some wonderful sessions on Slovak land records, Czecho-Slovak history, the Slovak language and more.

The conference offered several tours earlier in the week, and my friend and I attended the “Pittsburgh’s Industry of Our Immigrants” tour on Tuesday. I was very excited for this tour, not for the Slovak focus but because it included places that my father’s ancestors would have worked. We went to the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in Homestead during the morning, stopped at Penn Brewery on the North Side for lunch, and ended with a coal mine tour in Tarentum.


It was a cold morning and the fog on the Monongahela River added an eerie effect to the silhouette of Carrie Furnace.

The highlight of this day for me was the tour at Rivers of Steel, especially the guided tour at Carrie Furnace in Rankin, which had been a part of the Homestead Steel Works. My great grandfather, Charles Cubbage, worked in the blast furnace at Carrie when they lived in Swissvale in the early 1900s. It was an excellent tour where we were able to go into the furnace and learn about the iron making process. I always find it extremely moving to stand in the places where my ancestors stood. And to experience the massive size of Carrie was very powerful (luckily minus insane heat of the furnace). Our tour guide, Susie, was outstanding! If you are in the Pittsburgh area, I highly recommend this tour.


The people in the foreground show the scale of Carrie Furnace.

On Wednesday, I spent some time at Homewood Cemetery in the Point Breeze neighborhood. Homewood is an almost 200-acre cemetery which is absolutely beautiful and well-maintained. I had emailed the cemetery ahead of time inquiring about record availability. A wonderful research volunteer, Richard, pulled records for my Cubbage ancestors and had copies of burial books, headstones, plot records, and other cemetery records for me. He even took me around to the locations of the graves (sadly, many of my ancestors didn’t have any tombstones).


I went back to cemetery after lunch for a wonderful tour led by Jennie Benford. I had read about the tour through a link to a newspaper article on Homewood’s Facebook page. The tour, “Audacious Pioneers: The Women of Section 14”, was about a handful of women who were laid to rest in the section of the cemetery where some of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest were buried. Walking through this section, we saw amazing mausoleums, obelisks and headstones for names like Mellon, Heinz, Frick and more. Jennie researched some fascinating stories about these women, and quite honestly, I’m so jealous of her job! Homewood also offers other tours, and I highly recommend visiting, especially if you have any ancestors who lived in Pittsburgh. The social history around the city and community was so very interesting.

In addition to researching at the Allegheny County Courthouse and the Carnegie Library, I spent most of a day at the Detre Library and Archives at the Heinz History Center. I had been to the museum part of the center years with my family (they have excellent exhibits and western Pennsylvania sports museum), but wasn’t able to get to the library. Archivist Sierra Green had presented a session at the CGSI conference about the library, so I changed my plans and went on Friday …  and I am so glad that I did!

The library has an amazing manuscript collection in addition to vertical files, maps, books and more. I did a few searches with their online catalog, so that I arrived with a list of materials to be pulled for research. I found some excellent information including an oral history, school, tax and funeral home records, and town information held in vertical files. The archivists and staff were extremely helpful, and I will be sure to continue my research there on my next trip.


H. Samson, Inc. Records, 1859-1982; MSS 0260, Order Book, April 1875-1881; Detre Library and Archives, John Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh. Entry for Wm. Cubbage, 13 April 1881.

In addition to the conference, research, and tours, I was able to spend some time with my genea-friends Helen and Ellie. We compared research and resources, shared suggestions, and offered ideas for some roadblocks, and I heard about their amazing research trip to Poland! And one of the biggest highlights was having dinner with my dear friend’s son, who is a freshman at CMU.


Early Sunday Morning at Union Dale Cemetery.

On my way out of town, I stopped at few cemeteries too … it was a full week! I’ll post more details on some of my research finds in the coming weeks.