Apr 112017
Three Generations

Mary (Bittner) Pohl, her daughter Ida Stewart, and her daughter Ruth Voisin (standing)

“Glück Auf” has been the traditional greeting used by miners. No doubt my ancestors, who were coal miners, used this expression daily. In German, it means “good luck.” Not only did miners wish each other luck in finding and extracting the minerals they sought, but it was a wish that they also come back alive.

Pécsbánya is a coal-mining district about three miles northeast of Pécs, Hungary. The area was also called Pécsbányatelep. Literally translated they mean Pécs-mine and Pécs-mine-settlement. Pécs was known as Fünfkirchen by the Germans. For 250 years, more than 35 different coal mines operated at one time or another and 40 million tons of coal were produced here.

The Danube Steamship Company (Dunai Gőzhajó Társaság, or DGT) was a large consumer of coal. In 1852 it expanded into ownership of coal mines. To house workers for its growing operations, DGT started a “colony” in 1855, named Colonia. It was located on Gesztenyés hill ridge near the András (Andrew) mine. The first settlers there were Hungarians, Germans, Czech-Moravians, Slovakians, Bosnians and Slovenians.

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Mar 112017
Stewart Blockhouse

Western Pennsylvania and the vicinity of Pittsburgh was a wilderness frontier at the time of the Revolutionary War and for years afterward. The few settlers who ventured into this area not only endured the hardships of pioneer life, but they also had hostile encounters with Native Americans.

In his work, History of Indiana County Pennsylvania: 1745-1880, editor Walter F. Arms provides a map of the county.1 He indicates the location of two blockhouses within Buffington Township.

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  1. Walter F. Arms, editor, History of Indiana County Pennsylvania: 1745-1880, (Newark, Ohio: J. A. Caldwell), 1880, frontispiece.
Jan 272017

Maria “Mary” Pohl, early 1940s

It happened again. This time Zsuzsanna Jácint contacted me with information about my ancestors. She lives in Hungary and it turns out we are distant cousins. My great-grandmother Mary (Bittner) Pohl (1867-1944) is the younger sister of her great great-grandmother, Julianna (Bittner) Szeidl (~1857-1916).

Zsuzsi even provided an image of the elusive marriage record of Mary to Albert Pohl, for which I’ve searched a long time. She provided Mary’s birth record too. There’s no doubt now about the parents of both Mary and Albert.

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Aug 032016
Corp. Arthur Pollock

Cpl. Arthur Pollock

Corporal Arthur Nelan Pollock served in Company F, 320th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in World War I.  Amazingly, he kept a diary.  It so happens he got separated from his regiment and became attached to the 319th Infantry.  This was the same regiment in which my granduncle Russell Stewart served, as I describe in a previous post.

It is enlightening to read Corporal Pollock’s account of the battle.  Since both men were then in the same regiment, this is very likely what Russell Stewart also experienced.  Here is an excerpt of Corporal Pollock’s account from September 26 to October 2, 1918.  It was originally published in the Pittsburgh Press, April 20, 1919 and continued on May 18, 1919.  This excerpt was transcribed by Lynn Beatty and the full text is found at the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania USGenWeb.1

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  1. Pennsylvania, USGenWeb Archives, Allegheny County, Military, World War I, (http://www.usgwarchives.net/pa/allegheny/military/wpa-ww1/chapter-16.htm : 3 August 2016.)
Jul 232016

VioletsThere once was a precious little girl named Violet who died at age 2. More than one hundred years later, it is she who helped me unravel a compelling mystery.

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Jun 302016
Russell Stewart

Russell T. Stewart

My granduncle Russell Thomas Stewart was my maternal grandfather’s younger brother. In a family tree published by my second cousin, Robert M. Stewart, there is a somber copy of a telegram addressed to my great-grandmother, Mary (McKee) Stewart, and dated December 5, 1918.1   It was news that her son Russell Stewart was killed in action November 2, 1918.

Finding no other information, I decided to investigate the short life of my granduncle, who I had never heard about. I was able to find a little more about him, but his story is mostly the tragedy of World War I and the sad ironies of its end.

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  1. Robert M. Stewart, Stewarts 1776-1979 (N.p.: n.p., 8 July 1978), Appendix, Copy of Western Union telegram to Mary Stewart indicating Russell Stewart was killed in action 2 November.
Apr 022013

My fourth great-grandparents, John and Margaret Stewart, were two of the first settlers in what would eventually become Buffington Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. John Stewart married Margaret McFarland in 1788 and by 1796 they had a son, my third great-grandfather, James Stewart.

I describe here how I used records available at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC)1 and Google Earth to pinpoint the location of the original Stewart homestead.

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  1. Pennsylvania, “Copied Surveys, 1681-1912,” database and digital images, Pennsylvania State Archives, Land Records (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/state_archives/2887 : downloaded 9 December 2009), RG-17, Series #17.114, Copied Survey Book C-206, Page 221 and reverse, John Stewart, http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r17-114CopiedSurveyBooks/Books%20C1-C234/Book%20C206/Book%20C-206%20pg%20441.pdf; Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History.
May 182012

I found a scrap of paper on which my mother, Ruth (Stewart) Voisin, wrote a poem.  In December 1945, World War II had finally ended.  Ruth was only 18 years old.  She had just left home and moved to Philadelphia to enroll at the Franklin School of Science and Arts.  This was against her father’s wishes, who said college was no place for women.  Her mother had died two years prior.  With no financial help from her father, she began her way in the world.

She always loved poetry and transcribed many famous poems in her notebooks.  She also wrote her own poems.  In this one, I can envision her sitting in her room at the YWCA looking out her window to the street below:  A young woman on her own, and filled with a sense of peace and hopefulness about the future.

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Apr 242012
Ida (Pohl) Stewart

Ida (Pohl) Stewart, about 1909

The 1910 Federal Census lists the occupation of my grandmother Adelheid T. (Pohl) Stewart as a Taper at the Electric Works.  She was 19 then, just prior to her marriage with John Galbreath Stewart later that year.

I’ve been curious for some time.  What was a Taper?  No doubt the “Electric Works” was Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Company in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It was a short distance from Turtle Creek, where my grandmother lived.

Through the wonders of the Internet I happened upon a short video clip produced in 1904 that explains a lot.

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Jan 292012

Ruth Voisin

It was twenty years ago today that my mother died suddenly.  I often wish I could speak with her again.  But time is healing my loss and it’s fun to reminisce every now and then.

She collected old lithographs with a theme depicting a bluebird on a tree branch with a little girl gazing up, usually looking out a window.  They reminded her of one by Bessie Pease Gutmann that her mother had.  Of course this morning a couple bluebirds happened by my backyard.  Every time I see one now I chuckle and think to myself it’s mom saying hi.

Mom’s the one who got me interested in genealogy.  She often said that I come from “good stock” and spoke of how strict and clean my German ancestors were.  Even though my grandmother’s pantry had a dirt floor, it was always swept and “clean.”

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Sep 212011
Pohl Homestead

Albert and Mary Pohl Homestead

This is a case of genealogical serendipity.  I set out to determine the precise location of the house where my maternal great-grandparents, Albert and Mary Pohl, lived.  In this picture taken about 1909, the Pohl family posed in front of their house.1

From something unexpected, I uncovered a trail of bread crumbs that led me to their doorstep.

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  1. The original is in the possession of Mike Voisin (mounted on cardboard, 5-15/16 by 6-15/16 inches).
Aug 152011
Adelheid (Pohl) Stewart

Adelheid "Ida" (Pohl) Stewart

I recently noticed FamilySearch.org added more Hungarian records.  I quickly found a new lead in the search for the birthplace of my grandmother, Adelheid “Ida” (Pohl) Stewart.  She immigrated to America in 1893 when she was but 2 years old along with her mother and two older siblings.  They departed from Hamburg, Germany, where the ship’s manifest listed them as living in Fünfkirchen, Hungary.

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