Author: lauracubbagedraper

Military Monday – US Naval Training

Military Monday - US Naval TrainingThe United States Navy was founded on 13 October 1775 and “Navy Day” will be celebrated on 27 October this year, so it’s a good time to share a series of stories about my only (known) ancestor who served in the US Navy.

My grandfather, William Arthur “Art” Cubbage, served in the US Navy during the end of World War II from 1944-1946. At the start of the war, Art was living Ohio (first Akron and then Cleveland) with his wife, Agnes (Speck), and young sons Corky, and Jeff. He worked as a passenger representative for the Pennsylvania Railroad.[1] Art was inducted into the US Navy on 17 April 1944 in Akron. Corky was not yet 3, and Jeff was only 3 weeks old.

Art attended boot camp at the US Naval Training Center Great Lakes in North Chicago, Illinois. All recruits began their Naval careers at the USNTC for orientation and training. The Training Center at Great Lakes had grown substantially since World War I. Over 4 million sailors served in the US Navy during World War II, and about 1 million were trained at Great Lakes.[2] Below is a picture of Art’s Company on 11 May 1944.

Military Monday - US Naval Training

Art went on to complete additional training in Service School Command at Great Lakes on 22 September 1944. This school was organized to provide additional intensive courses of study in various specialized areas (signal, coxswain, armed guard, quartermaster, etc.). Art was in Section Y6-1, Yeoman School. The yeoman branch of the Navy executed the clerical work of the navy, and required some clerical experience.[3] Art had worked in accounting before working for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and likely had the clerical background needed. In the Yeoman School at Great Lakes, four months of courses included “practical work in all branches of clerical duty ashore and afloat”.[4]

Military Monday - US Naval Training

Art is in the second row, second from the left. It is interesting that in most of these pictures, he was not wearing his glasses. In almost every other picture of him since high school, Art was wearing glasses. During this time, Agnes, Corky and Jeff moved to Pittsburgh to live with Agnes’ mother and step-father, Elizabeth and Charles Merz.

The story continues next week when Art was stationed in Virginia.


[1] Notice of Separation from U.S. Naval Service, William Arthur Cubbage, 2C USN-I(SA), 9 April 1945, USN PSC Shelton, Virginia; privately held by the author’s father, original scanned by Laura Cubbage-Draper, 2011.

[2] “About Naval Station Great Lakes – History,” Naval Station Great Lakes, ( : accessed 2 October 2017).

[3] Yates Stirling, Fundamentals of Naval Service, (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1917), 71; digital images, Google Books (,+Fundamentals+of+Naval+Service&source=bl&ots=hF05mLKEqM&sig=PJI-mGpK9V0K_F3h4EDAskTkqmE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiK4Y2IlNfWAhWB5iYKHbk_DZIQ6AEISTAJ#v=onepage&q=yeoman&f=false : accessed 4 October 2017).

[4] Francis Buzzell, The Great Lakes Naval Training Station: A History (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1918), 118; digital images, ( : accessed 3 October 2017).




Madness Monday – World Mental Health Day

Tomorrow is World Mental Health Day, with the “objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.” We’ve come a long way in the awareness, acceptance and support for the treatment of mental health issues. But what about our ancestors? Many of us have come across ancestors who may have been dealing with mental health issues.

Gerhard Linnemann was my great-great grandfather, and for a long time I didn’t know a lot about him. His daughter, Elizabeth, was the only grandparent that my father knew as a child. He knew that she was born in Germany and had two brothers that lived nearby in Monessen, Pennsylvania. But that was it. My father never knew that Elizabeth’s parents had lived in Monessen too.

A couple of years ago, I was digging deeply into the Linnemann family and other ancestors in Monessen. In searching Monessen’s the Daily Independent newspaper on, I came across a notice that the funeral of Gerhard “Lineman” had been held the day before. I assumed that this was Elizabeth’s brother, also named Gerhard. I went to search the editions from earlier in the week and they were not there. Those gaps in record collections – ugh!

That fall, I traveled to Monessen with my father, brother and sister for a family history trip (so much fun!). We went to the Monessen Public Library and spread out to start researching. I went right to the microfilm machines to search the newspapers and this is the front-page news that I found for 9 June 1918:



Gerhard Lennemann committed suicide yesterday afternoon around 4 o’clock in a bedroom of his home, corner of Schoonmaker avenue and Tyler pass. With a strap drawn tightly about his neck and tied fast to the foot of a bed, the victim of his own rash act was found. He unbuckled his belt from his waist, circled it about his neck and after tieing himself to the bed dropped to the floor where he was found when dead. At the time of the tragedy there was no person about the place. Members of the family had gone out for a Sunday afternoon walk and had asked Mr. Lennemann to accompany them, but he said he preferred to remain at home. It is stated that there was no hint at suicide and no member of the family thought of such a thing. The deceased was about 60 years of age and leaves a widow and several children. About six years ago he was injured in a coal mine and at times he seemed to feel irrational as a result of that trouble. He would take spells of anger and brooding, and it is thought that in a despondent state of mind he decided upon a short route to death. The widow and children survive.

This was not what we were expecting! I called my father over to read the headline, to his great surprise. 

The good news was that I had a date and cause of death, but was left with so many questions. At this time in 1918, Gerhard was about 56 years old, and had four grown sons (three in the Monessen area) and a daughter Elizabeth (my father’s beloved grandmother), who had just given birth to her second child only a month earlier, and lived just a few blocks away.


I was able to find a death certificate and coroner’s report for Gerhard “Lenemann,” as he was named in the newspaper article. The coroner’s report was witnessed by Chris and George Lenneman [his sons], and Mike Walko, [?] Laird and Lieut. Abright, with a “decision” of “Suicide by hanging.” The death certificate confirmed the family’s address, his occupation of coal miner, cause of death as “Suiside by hanging to head bed”, and his place of burial in Grandview Cemetery.


I have not been able to locate Gerhard in the 1910 census in either Pennsylvania or West Virginia (where they may have also lived), nor found any coal mining records for him as of now. If he was injured 6 years before his death (around 1912), he most likely would not have been in Monessen, so more research is needed to see where the Linnemanns were before their arrival (probably around 1916).

So, was Gerhard really “mad”? Was his “anger and brooding” and “despondent state of mind” due to the coal mining accident? Or was there a mental health issue of depression or anxiety or something else? There are so many questions, and I will most likely never find those answers to these. This part of researching my family – wanting to know so much more about the actual person, their “whys” – can be agonizing.

And then there was the rest of the family … Gerhard’s widow, sons and daughter. One son was serving in World War I (when did he find out about his father?), and another would enlist in the next month. His daughter had two young children. And his widow. The losses she had already endured before her husband’s suicide were numerous. I’ll save her story for March and those strong women.

Back to the research trip with my family … my father, shocked, had never heard anything about Gerhard or his death from his family (or that he had ever left Germany). Again, his grandmother Elizabeth (Gerhard’s daughter) was the only grandparent that he knew, and he had actually lived with her as a child in Pittsburgh, and later she with him New Jersey. In all that time, she never once mentioned her father or his suicide. Was she still grieving or maybe angry? Or embarrassed by his possible mental health issues? Or had she just moved on, as so many of our ancestors were required to do to survive?

Some stories stay hidden and aren’t passed down to children and grandchildren. And then they are unearthed by a great-great-granddaughter almost 90 years later.



“World Mental Health Day – 10 October,” World Health Organization ( : accessed 29 September 2017).

“Local Notes” and “Card of Thanks,” Daily Independent (Monessen, PA), 13 June 1918, p. 1, col. 5; digital images, ( : accessed 29 September 2017).

“Man Tied Belt Around Neck and Strangled Self While Family Is Absent,” Daily Independent (Monessen, PA), 9 June 1918, p. 1, col. 1; microfilm, Monessen Public Library, Monessen, PA.

Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate 69108 (1918), Gerherd Lenemann; Bureau of Vital Statistics, New Castle.

Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, “Coroner Record Dockets,” database, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania ( : accessed 29 September 2017), entry for Gerhard Lenemann, no. 273, 9 June 1918.

“Woman Found Dead in Bed,” The Monessen Daily Independent (Monessen, PA), 30 July 1935, p. 1, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 29 September 2017).


Friday’s Faces from the Past – Mystery Photo

This photo was found in my grandparent’s collection of family photos and memorabilia. There are no markings or notes on the back, and I haven’t been able to find a family member that recognizes either person. I do like this picture though – his big smile and her big kiss! I wonder if he was returning from military service, or maybe heading off to war??



Wednesday’s Child – Alma Mary Speck

Alma Mary Speck was the daughter of Frank Speck and Elisabeth Linneman Speck and would have been the younger sister of my grandmother, Agnes Speck. Alma was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania and died just one day later. The cause of death was “premature infant” and she was buried that same day at Grandview Cemetery in Monessen.

I never knew of Alma until the Pennsylvania death certificates from 1906-1964 were made available on As most of us did when these records were released, I searched for surnames of family that had lived in Pennsylvania to see if I could find death certificates for collateral relatives or ancestors whose date of death was unknown. Through these searches I have found several children that died young between census years, and had no other records of their short lives.

I asked my father about Alma and he was not aware that Frank and Elizabeth had another child. We visited Grandview Cemetery in 2007 and found the tombstone for Alma’s father, Frank Speck, but did not see anything for Alma. She man have been buried in another location or did not have a headstone.

Frank & Elizabeth Speck

Frank & Elizabeth Speck, 1915

Besides finding another ancestor, I was able to learn a few more things about the Speck family from this record. They were living at 223 Alliquipa Street at the time of her death.

In addition, the name Alma Mary may provide some clues for family names. Their other children seem to have been named after family members … Agnes (Frank’s mother) Elizabeth (Elizabeth and her mother Elizabeth Barbara) and Frank (Frank) Rudolph (Elizabeth’s two brothers who died as children). I know the names of Elizabeth’s siblings and parents, so Mary may be from her side (Maria was Elizabeth’s middle name and her grandmother’s name). Alma could possibly be from Frank’s side of the family, as I do not know much about his family or where they were from in Germany. Maybe Alma was Frank’s sister or grandmother??  Another possible clue to add to the mysterious Speck family.


Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1963, No. 73103, Alma Mary Speck, 1 July 1916; digital image, ( : accessed 30 March 2015); citing Pennsylvania (state). Death certificates, 1906-1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


Amanuesis Monday – Affidavit from Amos Conner

Amanuesis Monday is a daily blogging prompt from which encourages the family historian to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Amanuensis Monday is a popular ongoing series created by John Newmark at Transylvania Dutch.

Click on images for a larger view.

General Affidavit 
State of Pennsylvania
County of Allegheny
In the matter of claim for Orig. ? of Chas. Schwank #694362
Personally came before me Clerk of Court in and for aforesaid County and State, Amos Conner of McKeesport Allegheny County Pennsylvania.
a person of lawful age, who, being duly sworn, declare in relation to the aforesaid case as follows:

Mr lemon sir is appears that you and the government wishes to know a bout mr swenks condishion. i will tell you what i know – i have noing him for sixteen years. We are brotherinlaws By maring sisters in the first place he is a badley used up man with rheumatism he has been botherd with rheumatism ever since i know him in his back he hesent been able to do a hard days work for sixteen years  that is as far back as i know if he dos work hard or run or lift he is of [?] for days with the panes in his back the first hard work i ever new him to do was last winter and he had to give up his job on acount of his back  he wood set up for nights and bath and saltes then he wood go to [?] this wood releave him for a time but tha cant cure him  he is that bad be times that he cant tie his own shoes and when down he has hard work rising to a strate position  it wood be imposibel for me to give date or year for he has been that way every year and the older he gets the wors he is  i have lived too hundreds from him and have worked with him and for him  he dos contract work i am working for mr swenk now and that gives me all the better chance to no his case thorley with out eney dout.

Further declare that i havnt no interest in said case, and am not concerned for its protection.
                                                                                          [Amos Conner]

Sworn and subscribed 17 September 1889.
                                                                                          [DK. McGunnegle]
                                                                                          [Clerk of Courts]

This affidavit is from the pension file of my second great-grandfather, Charles G. Schwenk. I have been re-reading and analyzing the records of this 85+ page packet and have gleaned an amazing amount of information about Charles, including his service in the Civil War, injuries sustained, life after the war, his wife (and marriage) and their children.

This affidavit was submitted a few months after Charles initially filed for an invalid pension. Amos Conner was Charles’ brother-in-law. He was married to Jane “Jennie” Burd, sister of Charles’ wife Marian Burd.

This particular affidavit gave a clear picture of how much the rheumatism had affected Charles’ life, and his difficulty performing even simple tasks such as tying his shoes. Charles was only 44 years old and had four children between the ages of 7 and 15. I wonder how this debilitating rheumatism, and Charles’ inability to hold a steady job, impacted the lives of his wife and children.


Affidavit of Amos Conner; Charles G. Schwenk (Pvt. Co. A and 1st Sgt. Co. C, 82nd Pennsylvania Inf., Civil War) Civil War pension file, 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.

© 2017 Laura Cubbage-Draper. All rights reserved.