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.
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, ( : 3 August 2016.)
Jul 232016

newspaperWhat motivated my fourth great-grandparents John and Margaret (McFarland) Stewart to settle in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania near the end of the Revolutionary War?  There may be a very simple explanation:  They saw a newspaper ad.

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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 ( : downloaded 9 December 2009), RG-17, Series #17.114, Copied Survey Book C-206, Page 221 and reverse, John Stewart,; Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History.
Mar 262013

google-earth-00In a past posting I described how I located the homestead of my great-grandparents Albert and Mary Pohl near Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania.  I’ve since found that Google Earth is another tool to further visualize the location.  It is helpful in modernizing old maps to better understand where my ancestors lived.

What I did is add an overlay of an old map to the modern world shown in Google Earth.  This allows you to see precisely where a road, building or property once stood in relation to what’s there now.

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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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Jul 092011

Those researching their ancestors in Pennsylvania know that county boundaries changed frequently in the years since 1682. To make these boundary changes easier to see, I animated them.

I used portions of the “Genealogical Map of the Counties” available at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. I simply snipped the individual images in their sequence of state maps that show county boundaries and made a short flash animation.

Unfortunately these maps do not show cities and towns, but if you know the county you are interested in, you can see when it was created and how it changed over the years.

View an animated history of Pennsylvania Counties.