Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all who celebrate today! Here are a few pictures from our families:

Cork & Jeff Easter 1960
Corky & Jeff Cubbage, New Providence, 1960
Me, my brother and sister, 1977 (I am rocking the white gloves and my brother in the famous sailor suit!)
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My husband with his sister, mother, and grandparents, circa 1979 (who knew he had so much hair when he was younger!)
My boys on Easter morning in 2006


Women’s Words Wednesday – A Grieving Mother’s Letter

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 have added 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 my great-grandmother, Maine (Swank) Cubbage, to her sister Margaret (Swank) Speedy about the illness and death of her son George. It is known who has the original letter, but my mother transcribed it many years ago at a family gathering.

George Cubbage was about two years old when he died of diphtheria on Christmas Day  1921. He was the youngest of the eight children born to Charles and Maine Cubbage. George was buried on 26 December 1921 in Braddock (Russell) Cemetery, the same place where Charles and Maine buried their daughter Leah a year and a half earlier in 1920.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for them. The letter mentions Charles (Charlie), some of their children (Lester, Marian, Minni, Artie) who were between ages 7 and 17. The letter also mentions Art (Margaret’s husband) and Bill, who was Maine and Margaret’s cousin who had lived with Charles and Maine for most of his life.

Monessen Jan 1 1922
Dear Sister
It has been a long time since I wrote to you. and what a lot has happened since then.
Just two weeks ago today I wrote you a long letter and told you all about my trip to Swissvale. George and I went on Friday and stay till monday. and Uncle George got our George a nice pair of tan shoes for his birthday. and he wore them home and that was the last he wore them he called them his pitty shoes. When I was writing that letter he was playing around here as well as he ever was. and him and Lester and Marian and I sat here until after eleven o’clock that night and him and Lester were carrying on high. you know how he was just at the age when he would try any thing or say any thing he saw the rest do. and he always was bright for his age. even the Dr. said he was a wonderful boy. Well we went to bed. and all went to sleep and about one o’clock he wakened me crying to get in my bed and coughed then just like the croup. he dedn’t sleep much untill morning about six he fell a sleep and slept until dinner time. I brought him down and he ate dinner with us we had soup and he was always fond of that and he ate some. but I saw what I thought was a very bad cold he was feverish and horse but didn’t seem to be sick. I dressed him and he played around a little while and then ask me to by O baby him. and I took him and he went to sleep. and when he woke up I saw he was getting worse. I greased him with campherated oil. but when Charlie got up at four o’clock he said if I were you I call the Dr. and tell him how he is and may be he want have to come so I did. But as soon as I told him he had a high fever and a croupie cough he said why that sounds like diptheria and I will be right over. he came over. he came and looked at him and at his throat and said that is what it is. and he said call up my wife and tell her I won’t be home for supper for an hour. he said put him to bed and I will be right back and he went but was only gone half hour and he came with the anti toxine and put it on both of his legs. and watched him for a while and then went but he said before he went he would be back in two hours and he would have to put a tube in his throat for it was closing up fast. he told us to be ready. he said he would have to have three to hold him and he said we would have to do it because we could not call any one else in. so we called Charlie home and we had everything ready when he came back. he looked at George and shook his head and said there is no use waiting. He is changing color now. So I held him in my arms and Charlie held his head and Marian his feet. and he got the tube in all right. and it was wonderful the change that came into his face. when I went out of the room he said if it had been two hours later he would of been dead. Well the next day he put more anti toxine in him and all the rest of them. he said it was the very worst kind of diptheria. it was the black diptheria. he put anti toxine in him four different times and we had to tie his hands down to his sides to keep him from pulling the tube out. he did get it out one night about one o’clock and started to choke right away and Marian called the Dr. and he came so fast. I don’t know how he got here – he just threw his over coat on over his pajamas and run. I thought that night he was gone for sure. I didn’t think he could stand to have it put in again but he did. Marian and I held him and he went to sleep as soon as it was in again. after that Charlie didn’t go to work no more he stayed home and we never left him night or day. he got over the diptheria all right. The Dr. took the tube out on the fourth day and he could breath all right but the next day we noticed he was worse and we called the Dr. to come right away and when he came and examined him he said phenonia had set in. he told us before that we would be lucky if we could get him through with out it. that was on Thursday that he said he had phenonia. well be both worked with him night and day and on Friday evening he turned over on his said and went to sleep and slept for over two hours. he was still sleeping when the Dr. came in at nine o’clock. he said how is he. neither one of use said a word for we didn’t know whether that was good or not. we thought he might be in a stupor of some kind. but when the Dr. looked at him he was just tickled to pieces. he said why his pulse is normal and he is sleeping just as natural as can be. we you can guess how we felt. well all day Saturday he seemed to improve and the Dr. was come in about nine o’clock in the evening to see him for the night. he said he is no worse only he was flity. he just talked all the time. well that night we both sat there untill two o’clock and then I laid down across the bed and slept till five and got us and Charlie layed down. and George knew us both all the time. he talked to me. and just coaxed me to take him up. he reached his arms up around my neck. and said by sehlep mama but I told him he would frize if I took him up. and then he said he was freezing just to get me to take him and that is the way he talked on and I gave him watear as he called it at half past six. and then I noticed a change in him and I called Charlie and said this baby is worse or dying and Charlie jumped right up. but George just gasped three times and was gone. the Dr. got here in time to see him breath his last. he said he had phlurises of the heart is what made him go so quick. he heart got paralised. well I have told you the best I could all bout his sickness. but I can’t attempt to tell you what a house this is. they all thought so much of him and he was always ready for mischief. I thought it was hard when I couldn’t be with Leah when she died. but I found out that is not the hardest part of death. we could fix Leah just the way we wanted to and the kids could all kiss her good by. but as soon as George died, the undertaker came and I got the clothes ready that I wanted on him. but he said. I am very sorry but we are not allowed to dress him. I said well if I had known that I would have dressed him my self but he said he would of had to take them off again. It was the law. he just rapped and rapped him in white muslin and layed him on a stand that he had and left him in the room until the health officer came – and he sealed the room up and disinfected the room body and all and left it that way for two hours and then the undertaker came and put him in the casket with a glass top and all you could see was just his face not even his hair nor his ears nor his hands. it was supposed to be sealed but I found out it wasent. I found the catch on it and opened it. and kissed him. no one knows that but you now. I wish now that I had let the kids kiss him too. I don’t think it would of hurt them. we were not allowed to have no funeral just the family and no one was allowed to come in all the time he was sick or we of been fined $50. They allowed the men to go to work but they were not allowed to go near his room. that is why Charlie quit work and stayed home and helped nurse him. We had two large cars. Charlie and I and Lester and Minni and the casket went in one and the rest of them and the minster went in the other one. that roads were awful rough too. Poor Bill is taking it awful hard. he dont cry he just groans and that is worse. They took the sign down yesterday and Charlie is going back to work to morrow and the kids to school. then is when I will miss him more than ever for he was always where I was. Lester and Bill have no work the mill shut down the day before Christmas. I don’t think I will ever think the same of Christmas again. The kids were waiting on Christmas they had been saving their pennies to get trimmings for a tree. I had told them if they got enough trimmings I would get a tree. they wanted one so bad for George. Artie had got him a little tin??? as George called them. he was crazy about autos. Bill was planning to go to Pittsburg after Christmas and get him one that he could ride in. but he never saw any thing he got for Christmas. They are all wrapped up yet. I hadent got him anything yet, we had him down street the Saturday evening before he got sick and he saw santa claus. and shook hands with him. I intended to get him a kick a bobcle. we could hardly get him away from them but we didn’t get down street again and when I called up the store where they was Friday evening they were all sold. they said they would have some in on Tuesday and Charlie said that would be alright for he would not be able to play Christmas any how. and sure enough he wasn’t. I think I have told you all now. if there is any thing else that I have forgot to tell you, why you ask me and I will tell you. I took a wreath down for Leah’s grave. I couldn’t think of coming away and leaving flowers on one and nothing on that poor lone grave. George dident have as many flowers as Leah had but they looked nice. what he did have Bill got him a pillow that was a great deal bigger than the one Leah had and it said George across the center and Lester got him a big bunch of carnations. I tryed to get a bunch of sweet peas for Leah’s grave but I couldn’t get them. I am sending you a couple of little yellow flowers off George’s pillow. He was always picking dandelions. he said there were a tame dandelion with another name. Well I will close now. we are all well at the present and hope this will find you both the same. Tell Art that we both thank him for his offer. and if we find we cannot squeeze through we will be glad to know we have a friend waiting to help us out.
Good by
Your Sister

Wow. This is by far the most personal item we have in our family heirlooms and records. Maine’s words so clearly captured a mother’s grief.

“but I can’t attempt to tell you what a house this is … I thought it was hard when I couldn’t be with Leah when she died. but I found out that is not the hardest part of death.”

I think too of her sister Margaret who received this letter and learned of her nephew’s death (Leah had been visiting Margaret when she died). We have no pictures of George, and only a couple of Leah. I am so thankful that we have this transcription of Maine’s words to her sister, as heartbreaking as it is to read.

Have you found any letters or diaries in your family history? Have you read their words to better understand your ancestors?

Favorite Photos Friday- Art’s Pictures of Agnes

Agnes (Speck) and Art Cubbage, New Providence, New Jersey, circa 1954.

It’s Women’s History Month, and I am highlighting my female ancestors. My grandmother, Agnes Speck Cubbage, died when I was only six years old. These beautiful images of her, long before I was born, capture some of her personality.

My grandfather, Art Cubbage, was the photographer of his family. He wasn’t in many of the pictures – he was usually the one behind the camera. Art took pictures of his family and friends on holidays and at family events, but also around the house and yard. I have already written about his awesome slide collection (which was dated and labeled!). The black-and-white earlier prints were just as wonderful, although these were not labeled like the slides. While Art’s posed pictures of family in front of the Christmas tree were nice, it was his candid shots of his wife Agnes that I love the most.

Agnes 1957

I absolutely love this picture! These mundane, everyday shots of Agnes might seem unremarkable, yet I feel that I know her a little better through these images. Agnes’ expressions share so much about her.

Agnes 1957

I like this one because it shows their kitchen in New Providence in the 1950s. I remember visiting in the 1970s, but some things had been updated by that time. I wonder what she was saying when Art took this one.

This series of pictures isn’t labeled, but appear to be taken in their backyard in New Providence, probably in the 1950s. It looks like something happened after the first two shots and Agnes was going towards Art. This one really shows a more playful side … different from the posed pictures, and so many of the other candid shots of Agnes where she seems more serious.

maybe 1950s

Many of Art’s pictures are of Agnes doing everyday activities … cooking, drinking coffee, reading the newspaper. I love these snapshots of their life together.

Agnes August 1959

This is one from the slide collection. It was double exposed with another image overlaying it towards the bottom. Even with that, I like her seriousness and expressive hands while she is talking. Again, I would love to know what she was talking about.

Jeff, Cork, Ag August 1959 (1)

This serious picture of Agnes was with a series of images of her and sons Corky and Jeff, where they appear to be on a boat trip. I love this picture too!

d February 1960 (9)

Another picture of everyday life … talking on the phone. I can remember where the phone was in the hallway, as well as the one-piece table and chair by the phone (some call it a “gossip chair”). I like the glimpse of their bedroom in the background too.

Spring 1961

Even in this posed shot, I love Agnes’ expression and the way her sons, Corky and Jeff, are looking at her.

d May 1962 (4)

A more serious, pensive picture of Agnes. The red lipstick is a contrast to the simple housecoat.

I am so thankful for all of the pictures that my grandfather took, especially the ones of my grandmother. I wish I had seen them years ago so I could have asked him about them. Lesson learned … ask your family about pictures now so that we aren’t leaving it up to speculation years later!

As you research your family, go through any photos that you can find. Ask your living relatives about the people. Look for those everyday images of your ancestors’ lives.

Did you have an amateur photographer in your family? Do you have any favorite pictures of your ancestors?

Workday Wednesday – Women in the Census

For Women’s History Month, I will be highlighting different women and/or records of my female ancestors (and my husband’s ancestors too). Today is all about the jobs we find for women in the census. Census records are one of the most valuable resources that we have available when researching our family. Occupations were not specifically recorded until 1850, and in 1910 a column for industry was added, providing more details about where our ancestors worked.

I have learned much about the women in my family though the occupations that were recorded in the census. The most common occupation for women, especially in the 19th century, as well as in rural farm or mining communities, was that of homemaker. The instructions for the 1870 note that “Women keeping house for their own families or for themselves, without any other gainful occupation, will be entered as ‘keeping house.’ Grown daughters assisting them will be reported without occupation.”

1870 Etna CUbbage

In 1870 “Cath” [Catherine] Cubbage, age 50, reported an occupation of keeping house. She was living with her grown and teenage children and was likely separated (her husband William is consistently found living elsewhere). Her daughter Mary, age 20, was working as a seamstress.

1870 Penn Cubbage

In the same year, “Barbary Copige” [Barbara Cubbage], age 35, was keeping house in rural Butler County. Her daughter Sarah, age 15, was “at home” and likely helping her mother.

1870 Burd

Another common occupation for women in my family ws that of domestic servant or simply servant. In 1870, “Mary Bird” [Mary Ann Burd], age 18, was working as a domestic servant with Martha and Isaac Mason in McKeesport, a suburb of Pittsburgh. The Masons, only a few years older than Mary,  would later file an affidavit for Mary’s veteran’s widow’s pension to provide details about her wedding and marriage to Charles Schwenk in 1871 (less than a year after this census).

1880 JCubbage Census

1880 Sara C Middlesex

Sarah Cubbage worked as servant for many years with the Logan Family in Butler County. Sarah never married, and she worked for, and possibly lived with, the Logans until she died in 1902 after falling on some ice. In 1880, Sarah, age 25, was found enumerated twice – once with her parents in Penn Township, and then again with the Logan family in neighboring Middlesex Township. She was recorded as a servant in both records.

I am always happy to see women in our family who have the occupation of at school – especially when they are in the teenage years, since many did not attend school past 8th grade (until into the 20th century). In 1900, Carrie and Hattie Draper, ages 16 and 19, are at school while living with their brother in Bedford County, Virginia. Their father had died the year prior, and the sisters and widow lived with older brother Walter Draper.

Occasionally, I have found women who had taken over a husband’s occupation after his death. Also in 1900, Jane Cubbage, age 72, was recorded as a farmer just a few months after her husband Jacob died. They had a substantial amount of property in Buffalo Township, Pennsylvania, including land that was being mined for oil and gas. Her son John would take over managing the land and farm a few years later.

In 1920, Elizabeth Linnemann, age 54 and also a widow, was found working as a “stuart.” at a hotel in Monessen, Pennsylvania. She was most likely a steward, and could have worked as a waitress or bartender. Her son Christian (here as “Christopher”) had the same occupation and worked most of his life as steward and bartender in local hotels and establishments. Elizabeth lived in the city of Monessen, which provided more opportunities for work than was available for some of my women ancestors who lived in rural areas.

In the 20th century, I have found additional occupations for women – at least before they married. In 1900, Margaret Cubbage, age 26, was found working as a teacher in Allegheny City. Margaret also never married, and spent her life working in education.

Living in a city or suburb provided more options for women to work in clerical occupations. In 1930, the Cubbage sisters were living in the city of Monessen with their parents and siblings. Marian, age 25, was working as bookkeeper at a bank. Marian never married and would have a long career as a bookkeeper (my dad remembers Marian to be the most financially stable aunt, and the first of those Cubbage siblings to own a car). Minnie, age 22, and Gladys, age 19, were working as stenographers at a real estate office and the steel mill. Both sisters would leave these positions after they married. And at this time, mother Maine had an occupation of none rather than keeping house.

I found an interesting “occupation” in the 1910 census. Jennie [Cubbage] Kearns, age 75 and widowed, was living in Pittsburgh with her daughter Jeanne. Both women reported an occupation of own income. Jennie’s husband, William D. Kearns, has been a well-known and successful physician in Pittsburgh. I guess they were financially stable!

I love piecing together the stories of my female ancestors. I encourage to take a look at your female ancestors through the occupations that you find in the census. Do you see changes in each generation? Do the women in more urban areas have better jobs? Did any young widows go back to work?


Census Office, Department of the Interior, “Ninth Census, United States, 1870; Instructions to Assistant Marshalls,” Washington: Government Printing Office, 1870; The United States Census Bureau (https://www.census.gov/history/www/ through_the_decades/census_instructions/1870_instructions.html : accessed 1 March 2019).

1870 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Etna, p. 10 (penned), sheet 399B (stamped), dwelling 71, family 78, Cath Cubbage household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 March 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1299.

1870 U.S. census, Butler County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Penn Township, p. 15 (penned), dwelling 115, family 115, James Copige household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 132.

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, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 January 2014) citing National Archives publication M5393, roll 1294.

1880 U.S. census, Butler County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Penn Township, Enumeration District (ED) 52, p. 413B (stamped), p. 10 (penned), dwelling 80, family 84, James Cubbage household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 September 2016), citing NARA  microfilm publication T9, roll 1109.

1880 U.S. census, Butler County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Middlesex Township, Enumeration District (ED) 46, p. 326D (stamped), p. 12 (penned), dwelling 101, family 104, Sarah Cubbage in John R. Logan household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 September 2016), citing NARA  microfilm publication T9, roll 1109.

1900 U.S. census, Bedford County, Virginia, population schedule, Lisbon District, Enumeration District (ED) 11, sheet 12-A, p. 206 (stamped), dwelling 196, family 262, Walt Draper household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623.

1900 U.S. census, Butler County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Buffalo Township, Enumeration District (ED) 54, sheet 5-A, p. 51 (stamped), dwelling 98, family 100, Jane Cubbage; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623.

1920 U.S. census, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Monessen Ward 1, Enumeration District (ED) 152, sheet 2-B, p. 147 (stamped), dwelling 22, family 38, Elizabeth Lineman household; digital images,  Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 November 2018), citing National Archives microfilm publication T625, roll 1666.

1900 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Allegheny City, Enumeration District (ED) 10, sheet 1-A, p. 102 (stamped), dwelling 8, family 9, Martha C. Cubbage household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623.

1930 U.S. census, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Monessen City, Enumeration District (ED) 65-98, sheet 8-A, p. 106 (stamped), dwelling 119, family 163, Charles A. Cubbage household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T626.

1910 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Pittsburgh Ward 13, Enumeration District (ED) 450, sheet 4-B, p. 158 (stamped), dwelling 86, family 89, Jennie C. Kearns; digital images,  Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 1303.


Fearless Females Friday – Women’s History Month

Scan of picture

Since today begins Women’s History Month, my blog posts in March will focus on the stories, records, photos and words of my female ancestors.

Above is a picture of some of my Cubbage women, taken in Monessen, Pennsylvania in the mid-1930s . In the back center is Maine Swank Cubbage, the matriarch, who was married to Charles Cubbage. This is the only image that I have of Maine! The women around her are daughters Marian, Marge, and Gladys “Babe.” I believe the woman at the top right is Maine’s daughter-in-law, Gladys “Happy” Griffith Cubbage. Apparently no one named Gladys used that name!

I looking forward to sharing about my fearless, beautiful female ancestors!