Tuesday’s Tip – Collateral Relatives

Burd crop_0001.jpgI have been thinking about William Burd lately. In an assignment for ProGen (peer study group) last month, William Burd was the key that unlocked a family for my second great-grandmother. I knew that my great-grandmother, Maine Swank Cubbage, was the daughter of Charles G. Schwenk/Swank and Marian Burd. Marian was born in Connecticut in 1854-5 and married Charles in 1871 in Allegheny County.[1] I had been unable to find any records for her prior to 1870.

This is where collateral relatives – siblings, cousins, nieces or nephews – can be helpful in opening some locked family doors. Census records for the Swank and Cubbage families included a William H. Burd. My grandfather mentioned that he shared a room with “Bill Burd” as a kid. Could William Burd be related to my second great-grandmother Marian Burd? Absolutely! (or this would be a very short and boring blog post!)

Burd crop schoolAccording to a birth register, William Burd born on 28 February 1894 in Natrona, Pennsylvania, although he consistently used 29 January 1894 as his birthdate.[2] I’ll come back to that date discrepancy shortly. By the time that Bill was six years old, he lived with his widowed Aunt Marian “Mary” (Burd) Swank, as an “adopted son” with her children, Maine and Charles.[3] For most of the next 30 years, Bill lived with Maine Swank, now married to Charles Cubbage, and their children.[4]

Charles and Maine had eight children, and Bill was about 10 years older than their oldest son, Lester. Over the years, Bill was recorded on various censuses as cousin, roomer and boarder. I found a photocopy of Bill’s school record and his photo (above) with some Cubbage memorabilia (I don’t know who had the original). Bill never married and spent most of his life with the Cubbage family in Swissvale and then Monessen. He lived with them when they lost two of their children (Leah in 1920 and George in 1921) and in Maine’s letter to her sister, she mentions how upset Bill was about George’s death, “Poor Bill is taking it awful hard. he don’t cry he just groans and that is worse.”

1942 burd obituary

Bill died of influenza and pneumonia at the Cubbage home in Monessen in 1942.[5] Bill’s obituary lists the Cubbage family as his own, with no mention of his birth parents or other Burds.[6] Bill worked for many years as a foreman at the Blast Furnace at Pittsburgh Steel.

Negative ScansSo how did he help me find my second great-grandmother’s family? For starters, “Burd” is often listed as “Bird” or “Byrd” and I was having problems determining which was our family and which was the correct spelling. In Bill’s death record, Lester Cubbage named Bill’s parents as Alexander Burd and Elizabeth Ryan. Obituaries helped me connect Alexander to his sister Marian Burd, and to four other siblings in Allegheny County. These siblings led me to confirm that their parents were Alexander Burd and Main Bingham. I’ll save them for another post.

So back to Bill Burd’s date of birth – the date that he used, 29 January 1894, was the date of his parent’s marriage, a month before the date of Bills’ birth in the county register.[7] I haven’t been able to locate much information about Alexander Burd and Lizzie Ryan. Alexander was widowed by 1900, but no death record has been located.

Much is still unknown about Bill Burd’s origin and parents, yet it appears that he was well taken care of by the Swank and Cubbage families. His presence in their families led me to his Burd family and opened the door to my third great grandparents, Alexander Burd and Main Bingham!

Have you ever used a collateral relative to help you find an ancestor?


[1] 1870 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, North Versailles Township (McKeesport Post Office), p. 20 (penned), dwelling 137, family137, Mary Bird in Isaac Mason household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 October 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication M593. Also, Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, compiler, Marriage Returns, City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, 1870-1875, Volume 3, (Pittsburgh: The Society, 1999), 83.

[2] “Birth record index, 1893-1905, to births outside the city of Pittsburgh,” Birth index, A-G 1893-1905, p. 76, William Bird, digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 28 October 2019); citing Allegheny County Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, FHL microfilm 7902608, image 77 of 371.

[3] , 1900 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Pittsburgh Ward 22, Enumeration District (ED) 261, sheet 7-A, p. 270 (stamped), dwelling 102, family 114, William Burd in Mary A. Swank household; digital image, Ancestry.com (httpa://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 October 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 1362.

[4] 1920 U.S. census, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Monessen Ward 2, Enumeration District (ED) 154, sheet 5-A, p. 207 (stamped), dwelling 48, family 89, William Burd in Charles A. Cubbage household; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 October 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T625, roll 1666.

[5] Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate no. 16957 (1942), William Harrison Burd; Bureau of Vital Statistics, New Castle.

[6] “William Harrison Burd,” obituary, The Monessen Daily Independent (Monessen, PA), 19 February 1942, p. 3, col 6; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 October 2019).

[7] “Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950,” Marriages, v. 28, no. 17754, Ryan-Burd, 29 January 1894, digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 28 October 2019); citing Allegheny County Courthouse, Pittsburgh.


Tuesday’s Tip – Using a Draft Card to Identify a Man in a Photo

Military records are an incredible resource that can help us learn about our ancestors. Enlistment, discharge, pension, and service records, plus muster-rolls, draft cards and others, can provide valuable biographic and personal information about our family.

Some military records may even provide a physical description of the person – height, weight, eye color, hair color – which can help to paint a picture of the ancestor in the absence of photos. Draft Registration Cards for Word War I and II both collected information about the physical description of the registrant.

copy  005266807_05955

My second great-uncle, William Arthur Speedy, registered for the draft in 1918 and was recorded as medium height and build with gray eyes and brown hair. During the registration for World War I, the registrant was also asked Has person lost arm, leg, hand, eye or is he obviously physically disqualified? (Specify). William’s card reads:

“Left index finger entirely gone, also 1st + second joint of second finger left hand.”

Well now I have a better picture of what William looked like! I do have one photocopy of a picture of William, but his left hand is hidden.

These physical descriptions can be helpful in identifying unknown persons in our family photos. This picture is from my grandparents’ collection. Using other pictures, we easily identified the man sitting as Christian Linneman, my great grandmother’s Elisabeth’s brother. It was possible that the man standing was one of the other brothers, probably Gerhard or George since they lived in the same town (William had moved to Chicago).

Christian & maybe a brother

George Linneman, registered for the draft in 1942 with the following card and information:

5-A G. Linneman Draft Card  5-A G. Linneman Draft Card 2

Besides learning that he was 5’ 7” and 145 pounds with gray eyes and brown hair, it was noted that he had a

“Fractured Knee-cap” and “Crossed left eye.”

George’s crossed eye is noticeable in this picture (and others) and was the key in identifying him!

Christian & maybe a brother

Be sure to check out the physical features of your ancestors on the back side of the cards. Draft Registration Cards are accessible for free on the FamilySearch website, and at subscription sites Ancestry and Fold3.

Have you used records to identify an unknown person in a photo?


“United States, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” index and images, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 4 June 2018), card for William Arthur Speedy, serial no. 2298, Local Draft Board No. 14, Swissvale, Allegheny 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.

“United States, World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” index and images, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 4 June 2018), card for George Linneman, serial no. 1783, Local Draft Board No. 10, Monessen, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania; citing World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania, NARA microfilm publication M1951; National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri.


Tuesday’s Tip – Family Bibles

A family Bible is a treasured family heirloom and a valuable resource to the family historian. I am so fortunate to have a family Bible for part of my Cubbage family. This Bible was originally owned by James and Barbara (Black) Cubbage, my second great grandparents. James and Barbara were married in 1852 and lived in Butler County, Pennsylvania.


Condition and Care

Be aware of the age and condition of your family Bible as you begin to glean genealogical details from the book. While that historical information is valuable, you will also want to preserve the family Bible for future generations. Wrapping the Bible in archival tissue paper and storing in an archival box is the best option for fragile or disintegrating books.

It’s best to transcribe and/or photograph any genealogical writings or other items found in the Bible, so that you do not need to reopen the book each time you need that data. If the Bible and binding are fragile, be sure to photograph rather than place it on a scanner (which will require you to lay the Bible flat and potentially damage the spine). If you are opening an old Bible, use care to support the spine and avoid expanding it so that it is completely flat – use your hands or a pillow to support the book. If there are pages falling out or the cover is no longer attached, do not try to glue or tape the Bible back together. I do not know that there is anything that is safe to add to your heirloom. You can see in the image above that the cover is no longer attached to the Bible.



Inside of the Bible is where you may find valuable genealogical information. Many older Bibles had blank pages to record births, marriages and deaths. If your Bible has this information, be sure to photograph and/or transcribe the vital events as it was recorded (spelling errors and all).

Nancy Cubbage was born October the 28 1853
Sarah Cubbage was born March the 6 1855
George Cubbage was born February the 3 1857
John Cubbage was born September 21 1860
Jacob Cubbage was born May 1 1863
James L Cubbage was born October the 19 1865
Mary ann Cubbage was born February the 8 1868
William H Cubbage was born May 1 1870
August the 3 1873 Charles Cubbage was Born

A few more tips:

  • look at pen that was used – was it different for each entry or the same to record all names? This will indicate if each event was recorded near when it happened, or if the information was added to the Bible at the same time.
  • look at the Bible’s publication date and compare this to the dates of recorded events. Again, this will reveal if the events were recorded at a much later time.

In the Cubbage Bible, it appears that the same pen was used for the first eight births (1853-1870) and that Charles’ birth (1873) was recorded in a different pen. In addition, this Bible was published in 1870, therefore it was likely that James and Barbara recorded the first eight births when they received the Bible, and then added Charles’ birth after he was born in 1873.


The next page lists two of the children’s deaths (again note the different pens):

Nancy Cubbage died January the 14 1854
Mary ann Cubbage died November the 20 1882

Your family Bible may also contain loose items tucked in the pages, such as newspaper clippings, locks of hair, pressed flowers and other items. The Cubbage Bible had all of these plus a few pictures of unknown children, funeral cards and obituaries, Sunday School lessons, scraps of paper with names and more. Some of the highlights that relate to those children recorded above are:

1908 Cubbage letter
A letter from James L. to Charles in 1908.
image 2009-11-4 0010
Sarah’s obituary from 1902.

image 2009-11-4 0018  image 2009-11-4 0019










Be sure to ask your family members who originally owned the Bible, and to whom it was passed until it reached it current location. This may help identify who added information or items to the Bible. For example, my father previously held the Cubbage Bible, which explains my grandfather’s funeral card (1996) in the book. Below is a citation that I used to reference the birth of Charles Cubbage:

[1] James and Barbara Cubbage Family Bible Records, 1853-1902, The Holy Bible (New York: American Bible Society, 1870), “Births”; privately held by the author, Metuchen, New Jersey. This Bible is said to have been passed from Barbara Cubbage (1834-1907) to her son James L. Cubbage (1865-1932) to his nephew William Arthur Cubbage, Sr. (1912-1996) to [living], who passed it to the author in 2017.

I hope that you find this helpful as you explore your family Bible as a genealogical resource. If you have other tips or suggestions, be sure to leave a comment.


Melissa Barker, “The Archive Lady: Preserving the Family Bible,” Abundant Genealogy, 29 June 2017 (https://abundantgenealogy.com/archive-lady-preserving-family-bible/ : accessed 10 February 12019).

Leslie Albrecht Huber, “Family History Preservation: Preserving Scrapbooks, Family Bible and Other Books”  FamilySearch Blog, 6 April 2017 (https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/preserving-scrapbooks-family-bible-books/ : accessed 10 February 2019).

“Safely Storing Family Bibles,” Advice from Donia [American Library Association] (http://www.ala.org/alcts/preservationweek/advice/bible-storage : accessed 10 February 2019).