Military Monday – Armed Forces Day

In recognition of Armed Forces Day, which was Saturday, May 19th, I am posting a few images in honor of my military ancestors.
 William Arthur Cubbage
World War II, Yeoman Second Class, US Navy
Christian Linneman
World War I, Pvt. 3rd Co. 1st Btn. 155th DB
Frank Rudolph Speck
US Maritime Service
Charles G Schwenk
Civil War, Sgt, Co. C, 82nd PA Vol
(I don’t have any pictures of Charles, this is an image of his re-enlistment papers)
Gerhard Linneman
World War I, Cook, Quartermaster Corps




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).


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!


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).


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.