This article was on the front page of The Monessen Daily Independent on 20 September 1927. Mary Swank was my second great grandmother and had died three days earlier while visiting her daughter in Cape May, New Jersey. She was born in 1855 in Connecticut as Marian Burd, but also went by “Mary” and “Mary Ann”.
She married Charles Schwenk in 1871 and they had four children before Charles died in 1893. The surname Schwenk evolved over time to Schwank and finally to Swank. Mary has been a difficult person to research at times due to the variations of both her first and last names! As of now, I still cannot locate a death record for her in either New Jersey or Pennsylvania. It appears that her daughters did not file one after she died.
Mary was visiting her daughter Margaret Speedy, who was living in Cape May at the time. Margaret’s husband, William Arthur Speedy, had died at sea just over a year earlier. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for Margaret to be alone after losing both her husband and her mother in Cape May, while the rest of her family was in Pittsburgh and Monessen. Margaret eventually moved back to Monessen and lived with her sister Maine Cubbage and her family.
A death notice also appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Marian “Mary Ann” Burd Schwenk was likely buried with or near her husband at Braddock Cemetery (also know as Russell Cemetery) in North Braddock, Pennsylvania. There is no tombstone for Mary but there are plots and headstones for her husband, sister, and other family members at Braddock.
 “Mother Dead,” The Monessen Daily Independent (Monessen, PA), 20 September 1927, p. 1, col. 1; digital images Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 August 2013).
 “Swank, Mrs. Mary,” death notice, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), 20 September 1927, p. 26, col. 6; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 18 September 2019).
This is picture of my husband’s mother, with her parents Mary Simko and Michael Petrun in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, circa 1936. Michael’s cousin Irene owned the beauty shop. The Petruns lived on the lower East Side of New York City when they first arrived in America.
Elisabeth Maria Linnemann was my paternal great-grandmother. She died 53 years ago this week (20 April 1966). I have been thinking about her a lot lately as I’ve been using her as an example of genealogy records in my Intro to Genealogy presentations. I am almost finished with an extensive biography of her, with records and images, but that’s a bit long for here.
When we look into our family history, we often learn things about ancestors that we didn’t know, or that our parents and grandparents didn’t know. What often strikes me about Elizabeth is that she was the only biological grandparent that my father got to know (his other three grandparents shortly before his birth). He called her “Mem” and has shared stories about her, yet there are details about Elizabeth and her family that I have uncovered which my father never knew.
Elizabeth has shown up in some of my earlier posts – stories previously known and unknown about her husband, brother and father. Below are some of the previously unknown details about Elizabeth and her family that I have uncovered and been able to share with my Dad:
Mem was the only daughter of Gerhard Linneman and Barbara Elizabeth Nilkowski. My Dad knew of her brothers that lived in Monessen – Gerhard, George and Christian (Christ) – and has faint memories of seeing “Uncle Christ”. He did not know that she had a brother, William, who moved to Chicago, and that Mem had two brothers who died in Germany, both named Rudolph. My Dad now understands why his Uncle Frank’s middle names was Rudolph.
Mem’s father Gerhard was her mother Elizabeth’s second husband. Her first husband was Christan Fasel, who died a few months before their son Christian was born. Elizabeth married Gerhard within a year of his birth, and Christian was always known as Christian Linnemann. Uncle Christ was Elizabeth’s half-brother.
Mem and her first husband Frank had a third child, Alma Mary, who lived for only one day in 1916. Agnes Elizabeth (his mother) was born in 1915, and Frank Rudolph was born in 1918.
Mem’s father Gerhard committed suicide. This was a complete shock to my father, and he believes it was unknown to many in his family. I wrote about Gerhard’s death here. My dad grew up with Mem, remembered some of her brothers, but had never heard of the suicide. In fact, he didn’t even know that her father had ever been in the U.S. – Gerhard was never mentioned.
Mem graduated from nursing school in 1926, when she was about 29 years old. A newspaper article mentioned that the class of six women had been in training for three years at the Memorial Hospital in the neighboring town of Charleroi, as well as studied at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. This is an especially notable unknown detail about Mem since her daughter Agnes (my father’s mother) also went to nursing school after they moved to New Jersey. It is unknown how long she worked as nurse, but must have stopped by the time my father was born and/or living with her in the 1940s.
Mem’s first husband Frank had a moving and storage company in Monessen, which my Dad knew about. He did not know that the company ran into some troubles in the 1920s. A front-page newspaper article announced the settlement of a case against Frank and his company. A man was accidentally killed by a railroad rail that was dropped by an employee. The widow received $9000 in the settlement. Two years later, another article reported a man was critically injured after being crushed by a truck operated by Frank. By 1936, there was a notice of a final bankruptcy hearing for Frank.
Even when we feel certain that we know about our family history, it is possible to uncover surprises or unknown details about our ancestors. While none of these were truly shocking family secrets (well, maybe the suicide), the others were unknown details that helps us to understand who Mem was, and how these details may have affected her as a mother and grandmother.
Mem and Pap (her second husband) were my father’s grandparents – the ones he celebrated holidays with, lived with, and connected with as a boy and then as a young man. The details about her life – both known and previously unknown – are parts of her story. I am thankful for who she was and the family that she raised, including my grandmother and father.
Have you uncovered any hidden details about ancestors – big or small – that were unknown to your family?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Even in this posed shot, I love Agnes’ expression and the way her sons, Corky and Jeff, are looking at her.
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?