Death Certificate of Elisabeth Louise Kreher Witt

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Elizabeth Louise Kreher Witt, or as it appears on the above, Mrs. Elizabeth Witt, is my 3rd great grandmother. She was born on 22 March 1840 in Herman Township, Butler, Pennsylvania and died at the age of 89 (or specifically, 89 years, 9 months and 15 days) on 13 January 1930 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her husband Martin preceded her in death by nine years.
From this death certificate, we know that her father was Chris Kreher and her mother was Anna Hause, both born in Germany. She died from arteriosclerosis, having been under a doctor’s care for the last few days of her life. Her son Martin Witt served as the informant of her death and McCabe Brothers Funeral Home handled the arrangements. (They remain a Pittsburgh-area funeral home however their location at 3520 Butler Street is no more.) Elizabeth was buried on 15 January 1930 at Mount Carmel Cemetery in the Penn Hills neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

“Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906 – 1963,” index and images,, accessed 18 Jan 2015, Elizabeth Witt, 1930; citing reference Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Tragic Deaths of William Pepperney and William Groucutt

Two little boys who lived just 50 miles apart. The same age and sadly, the same cause of death. These two death certificates tell of the very sad deaths of William A Pepperney and William Groucutt Jr. 
William Groucutt and William Pepperney were born a few months apart. They were both no doubt the apple of their parents eyes. They were the first son in each family, expected to carry on the family name. Sadly, it was not meant to be. After a brief illness, both died from what is today a very manageable disease – pneumonia.
William A Pepperney was born on 26 December 1919 to Andrew and Magdalena Pepperney. He is my first cousin, three times removed. The Pepperneys lived, ironically, on Lowrie Street, in the Troy Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Andrew was a pipe fitter and Lena kept the house. William was their second child, following a daughter Savilla three years prior.
At just 15 months, Andrew contracted pneumonia. It probably started as bronchitis or influenza however this was before antibiotics could have provided any relief. Antivirals and vaccines to treat or prevent the flu did not yet exist either. According to the death certificate, Wiliam Pepperney was attended to by Doctor J.F. Thomas from 29 March until his death on 31 March. He had probably been ill for days prior but it finally reached a severity where his parents felt the need to contact a doctor. At 2:30 p.m. in 31 March, 1921, little William died of complications from pneumonia. This no doubt was devastating to his family. He is buried in Most Holy Name Cemetery in Troy Hill.
Just 50 miles away in New Castle, Pennsylvania lived the Groucutts. William and Tillie Groucutt had two daughters before William Jr was born on 29 February 1919. William Jr is my first cousin, twice removed. William Sr. worked in the steel mills while Tillie was a homemaker. Tragically, William Groucutt would not live to see his first birthday. Sometime in late January he probably contracted influenza or bronchitis. By 2 February, his symptoms were so severe as to warrant a doctor’s attention and Doctor Davis was called. Sadly, on 3 February he too would die of pneumonia.
William was buried at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in New Castle on 5 February 1920. He was only 11 months old.

Pennsylvania Department of Health, “Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1944,” database, ( accessed 19 Oct 2014), entry for William A Groucutt, record 20022 (3 Feb 1920).

Pennsylvania Department of Health, “Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1944,” database, ( accessed 19 Oct 2014), entry for William Pepperney Jr, record 23020 (31 Mar 1921).

Treasure Chest Thursday – Death Certificate of Bridget Foy Groucutt

Sometimes you need to search long and hard for a great record, and sometimes you just need to click on a Shaky Leaf. uses ‘shaky leaves’ to indicate that someone in your tree has a hint, or possible match to a record in their vast collection of databases. I had basically exhausted all of the hints in my direct ancestors so I was very excited to see a new shaky leaf appear on Bridget Foy Groucutt.
Bridget Foy Groucutt is my 2nd great grandmother and this shaky leaf hint indicated that a death certificate match may have been automatically made. Of course I review all of these hints meticulously. There are often useless record hints for a person you know isn’t your ancestor. On more than one occasion, has suggested a possible match of a record for someone who lived or died 100 years from when the record was created.
This death certificate was a legitimate hint however. It told me quite a bit about Bridget and her life. At the end of her life, Bridget was at living at 1026 Huey Street in New Castle, Lawrence, PA with her husband George and daughter Sara, who was the informant on her death. She died of carcinoma of the large bowel after being sick for 6 months. An infection one month before her death and surgery just two weeks prior no doubt made for a difficult last stage of life for both her and her family.
Her death certificate tells us that she was born on 2 February 1862 in England, the daughter of John Foy and Sarah Coyne, likewise born in England. She was a house wife who tended to her home and large family. At the time of her death on 14 October 1925, she was 62 years old. She is buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery in New Castle.

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, “Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1944,” database, ( accessed 8 Oct 2014), entry for Bridget Groucutt, File 101333 (16 Oct 1925).

Death Certificate of James A. Rogan

My 2nd great grandfather James Rogan died on 21 April 1938 at 78 years of age. His death certificate tells a lot about both how he lived and how he died. He was born in Aurora, New York to James Rogan and Esther Callahan. He was a second generation American, as both his father and mother were born in Ireland. His primary occupation was in the steel mills, although what he actually did is not discernible.
The last months of his life were no doubt difficult both for him and his family. He suffered a serious fall on 10 January 1938, which led to a fracture of his right femur (thighbone). The femur is the largest bone in the human body, and it takes significant force to break. Breaks of the femur and the hip to which it connects can have significantly detrimental effects to the lifespan of the elderly, who suddenly lose all mobility. About 10% of people who break their hip die within the first 30 days. That number increases dramatically if there are other complications, including pneumonia, heart trouble, or another acute medical problem. In James’s case, he suffered a pulmonary embolism, no doubt brought on in part by his sudden immobility.
At the time of his death, he was being cared for at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Youngstown but was previously living in the home of Catherine Rogan. His final arrangements were handled by D. A. McVean in Youngstown, long considered the Lowry family funeral home. However, he was a long time resident of New Castle, Pennsylvania, and that is where he is buried.

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“Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 09 Sep 2014), James Rogan, 1938; citing Youngstown, Mahoning, Ohio, reference fn 24019; FHL microfilm 2023561.

Treasure Chest Thursday – Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906 – 1924

Is it mean to say I am glad so many of my ancestors died in Pennsylvania between 1906 and 1924? While tragic perhaps, it’s fortunate that these records have recently been made available through releases new record groups all the time. Some are indexed, meaning searchable by name, while others are simply images which require manually looking through sometimes thousands of scanned images to find the one you need.

“Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906 – 1924” was released this week and contains thousands of death certificates not otherwise easily obtained. I have numerous ancestors who lived in Pennsylvania in this time period, including Pepperneys and Bahles. I did a quick surname search for Pepperney and found six records, all of relatives. This includes two for children I did not know previously existed. Suddenly, thanks to’s reach and my subscription fee, I had access to the death certificates for:

  • Margaret Buhl Pepperney (21 Apr 1851 – 23 Feb 1923) who is my 3rd great grandmother
  • Grace Rosina Kreller Pepperney (1876 – 22 Jan 1911) is the wife of my 2nd great grand uncle and Margaret’s daughter-in-law
  • Lawrence A Pepperney Sr. (1883 – 13 Sep 1920) is my 2nd great grand uncle who was tragically struck by a train while working on the railroad
  • Stella Sophia Pepperney (1889 – 1919) who died during the Spanish flu epidemic
  • Infant Pepperney (16 Apr 1915) was stillborn. I was not aware of this child until I searched this record group
  • William A Pepperney (1919 – 31 Mar 1921) is my 3rd cousin, 1x removed and is another child I was not aware of. I perhaps should have been as I imagine he is listed in the 1920 census, but he is distant enough that I had not checked that record yet for his family.
And that’s no doubt all of the family records suddenly available. A search of Bahle, the surname of George Peter Pepperney’s wife, Mary Anna, turns up 15 records. Bahle and Pepperney are both relatively unique names, so I can be more confident in the results than if I had searched Smith. However, I have not done as much research on the Bahle family so while I see some family death certificates, there are some I am not sure of.
Death certificate of my 3rd great grandmother Henrietta Schnauffer
Access to these death records is just one way I am able to piece together our family history. Unfortunately, not everything is found as easily as these and not everything is online. The documents available online through,, and other genealogical websites is a small fraction of the genealogical documents out there. Finding others requires countless hours of research in libraries, archives and courthouses. Still, I am excited when a new collection is released online saving me and other researchers those countless hours of searching.

“Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906 – 1924,” index and images,, accessed 30 Apr 2014, Margaret Pepperney, 1923; citing reference Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906 – 1924” index and images,, accessed 30 Apr 2014, Henrietta Bahle, 1921; citing reference Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Questions lead to more questions

For the last year or so, my Lowry ancestry research has ended with my 3rd great grandfather Michael Lowry. From what I can determine, Michael was born in Ireland in 1830, arrived in the United States in 1849 and died in 1921. Every fact has a source except his date of death. That is, perhaps, until last week. I was continuing my research and discovered a death certificate for a Michael Lowry of Salem, Ohio dated 21 Jun 1928. An 8-year difference in date of death is a researcher’s nightmare. Is this the same Michael Lowry? Is this a random cousin or someone who is not related? I have to admit, with his original date of death uncited, I’m not even sure how I came across the year 1921 (probably an Member Tree). Well, I continue to search for a 1921 death and now the new 1928 death. The great thing about this death certificate is that it adds the name of a father (Thomas), mother (Mary) and address to use as research points. I’m looking for more to back this document up and will let you know what I find.

Update: (14 Apr 2014) This is the death certificate of my third great grandfather Michael Lowry. I’ve featured him quite a bit on the blog so do a quick search (above) for the follow-up.
“Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 01 Nov 2012), Michael Lowry, 1928; citing reference fn 35520, Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio.