Photo of the Day – January 19, 2015

This is such a cute family moment, not too different from what Eileen and I have had recently with Brendan. It looks to me that my grandpa Chuck Lowry is about seven or eight months old and my great grandmother is trying to get him to laugh. (As I can’t see that person’s face, I’m going to assume it’s her.) Great grandpa is having a good laugh at the moment. This candid is a nice change or pace from the staged shots I have so many of.

Charles Lowry (1924-2007), Charles Lowry (1899-1975) and Margaret Pepperney Lowry (1902-1980), photograph, taken at unknown location around 1925; digital image, photocopy of original, scanned in 2013 by Joseph Lowry; privately held by Mary McCaffrey, [address for private use], Canton, Ohio. Family of three standing in the backyard. Provenance is Mary Pepperney Lowry to Charles Lowry to Mary McCaffrey.

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday – Charles’ First Communion, Maybe?

My parents and I believe this photo was taken the day my grandfather Chuck Lowry celebrated his First Communion. His grandparents George and Mary Bahle Pepperney made the drive up from Leetonia to Youngstown to celebrate. The photo was probably taken in front of 106 Thornton Avenue, where grandpa lived as a kid. 
I believe his First Communion occurred at Saint Columba Church around 1931. Saint Columba would become a cathedral upon the creation of the Diocese of Youngstown in 1943.

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday – 1st Sunday at Work?

Was April 1 the first day my great uncle James Pepperney went off to work? Was it the first Sunday he worked? I’m not 100% sure the meaning of the caption, however April 1, 1923 was a Sunday. James was 16 years old, assuming this photo was taken on that date. I’m equally not as certain where he would have worked at age 16. If you have any insights, leave a comment!

James Albert Pepperney Sr. (1906-1999), Photograph, taken in unknown location, probably on 1 Apr 1923; digital image, photocopy of original, scanned in 2013 by Joseph Lowry; privately held by Mary McCaffrey, [address for private use], Canton, Ohio. Man wearing dark pants and vest, lighter colored jacket and cap. Provenance is Charles Lowry family to Mary McCaffrey.

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).

Amanuensis Monday – Last Will and Testament of Jacob Pepperney (1805 – 15 Aug 1888)

Just what is “Amanuensis Monday?” An amanuensis is a person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. I’m not employed but by you, my dear reader, and will use the occasional Monday to transcribe family documents. Transcribing forces me to make a very close reading of the text, thus perhaps showing some detail I may have otherwise missed. When printed on the blog, it makes information more findable for search engines and others interested in the same topic.

One way to easily learn about the last years of an ancestor is to read their last will. Many are available online and recently I was able to locate the will of Jacob Pepperney, my 4th great grandfather. Jacob was born in in or near present-day Austria in 1805. He died in Allegheny (present-day Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania on August 15, 1888. One of his last acts before his death was to have drafted in his name a last will and testament. This document is available through the records of FamilySearch and is itself a transcription. Instead of keeping thousands of wills and testaments in different formats, entire probate records were transcribed into journals for record keeping. This ensured a more complete record that was uniformly organized. I’ve transcribed the transcription. While nothing earth-shattering – Jacob wasn’t bequeathing any family treasure – it does show that he left a small sum to his grandson whose father died a few years prior. The details are below; I’ve transcribed it as best I can but apologize in advance for any errors.

Page 1 of 2. Click to enlarge
Page 2 of 2. Click to enlarge
No 307
Last Will and Testament 
Jacob Pepperney
In the name of God, Anew, 
I, Jacob Pepperney of the City of 
Allegheny, County of Allegheny,
 and State of Pennsylvania, being of sound mind, memory, and underst-
anding, do make and publish this my last will and testament, hereby
revoking and making void all former wills by me as anytime hereto
-fore made by me.
And as to my world Estate and all the property, real, personal, or 
mixed, of which I shall die seized and possessed, on to which I shall be 
entitled at the time of my decease, I give, advise, bequeath, and 
dispose thereof in the manner following, to wit:
First, my will is, that all my just debts and funeral expenses
shall by my Executor herein after named, be paid out of my Estate, as
soon after my decease as shall by him be found convenient.
Hence, I give, devise, and bequeath to my grandson John Pepperney
(child of my deceased son John Pepperney) the sum of One Hundred
All the rest, residue and remainder of my Estate, real, personal,
and mixed, of what nature or kind so even and whensoever the
same shall be at the time of my death I give, devise and bequeath
unto my son Frank Peppperney and to my daughter Mary Beck
(wife of John Beck) their heirs and assigns forever share and 
share alike.
And I do hereby constitute and appoint my said son Frank
Pepperney Executor of this my last will and testament.
In witness whereof, I, Jacob Pepperney the Testator, have to
this, my will written on one sheet of legal Cap-paper, set my 
hand and seal, this second (2) day of March A.D. 1882.
Jacob (his X mark) Pepperney
Signed, sealed, published and declared by the above named Jacob
Pepperney, as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us, 
who have hereto subscribed our named as his required as witnesses
thereto in the presence of said testator and of each other.
Joseph Schmid            Adam Hohmaun
Nikolaus Manz            George Roesch
State of Pennsylvania
Allegheny County
Be it known, that on the twentieth day of August A.D.
1888, before me, Samuel P Conner, Registrar of Willis, **** and for the
County aforesaid, came Adam Hohmam and Nikolas Manz and
on August 22nd 1888 came Joseph Schmid three of the subscribing 
witnesses to the foregoing last will and testament of Jacob Pepp
erney deceased and on this their solemn oath did depose and say that
they were present and did see and hear Jacob Pepperney the test-
ator therein named, sign (my making his mark) seal, publish 
and declare the same as and for his last will and testament, and
at the time of so doing he was of sound mind and memory to the 
best of their knowledge and believe and as his request and in his 
presence they subscribed their named as witnesses thereto.
Sworn and subscribed before me the above date:
Samuel P Conner, Registrar
Adam Hohmaun
Nikolaus Manz
Joseph Schmid
Now, August 23rd AD 1888, the testimony of the above named witnesses
being sufficient, I do hereby admit that foregoing Will to Probate, and
order the same to be recorded as such.
Given under my hand the above date
Samuel C Conner
State of Pennsylvania
Allegheny County
Be it known, that on the 23rd day of August A.D. 1888.
Letters testamentary with a copy of the Will annexed upon the Estate of
Jacob Pepperney deceased was duly granted unto Frank Pepperney
the Executor in said Will named who was duly sworn to well and 
truly administered the goods and chattel rights and credits which
were of said decedent and to faithfully comply with the acts of ass-
embly relating to collective inheritances.
                           Given under my hand the above date
                                                                  Samuel P. Conner
“Pennsylvania, Probate Records, 1683-1994,” images, FamilySearch (,283261801 : accessed 03 May 2014), Allegheny > Wills 1887-1889 vol 33-34 > image 320 of 691.

Mystery Monday – Who Is Edna?

Update 3/14/2015:
While searching, I discovered a picture of Edna Reiber on her wedding day. The picture is of a low quality and from a bit of a distance, but the similarities are enough that I believe it to be her. Edna Reiber is the sister-in-law of my 2nd great grand aunt Philamena Pepperney Reiber.
Original post:
This photo is from a collection of Lowry and Pepperney photos dating between 1915 and 1930. While the name ‘Edna’ is written across the top and bottom (more faintly), it’s not clear who Edna is. I have three Edna’s documented in my family tree and they are all on my maternal side, while the photo collection is on my paternal side. Perhaps over time I will find another Edna tucked in a branch somewhere.
Possibly Edna Reiber Ferry (1905-1986), photograph, taken unknown location probably in the mid/late 1920s; digital image, photocopy of original, scanned in 2013 by Joseph Lowry; privately held by Mary McCaffrey, [address for private use], Canton, Ohio. Portrait of woman with hair pulled back, white collar on blouse. Provenance is Mary Pepperney Lowry to Charles Lowry to Mary McCaffrey.

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.

The Death of William Pepperney

My 2nd great grand uncle William Pepperney spent a career as a Pittsburgh fireman before retiring around 1940. He no doubt spent countless hours at the Troy Hill fire station from which he retired, located just two blocks from his home at 1954 Ley Street. As a firefighter myself, I know that most retirees enjoy catching up on the latest fire department gossip, chatting with the men you once served with, and drinking the free coffee. It is only fitting that it is just outside the firehouse doors that William died, albeit so tragically. While just feet from both the firehouse and his home, William was struck by a car making a right turn at Lowrie and Ley Streets. The report in the Coroner’s Case Files indicate that William died of a skull fracture. He was 71 years old.
This case file was provided by the University of Pittsburgh Archives, which maintains the Allegheny County Coroner’s Case Files through 1971. It includes multiple documents that tell how William died, including:
  • Proof of Identity – This form provides a statement by William’s wife Mary. It provides a positive identification of William’s body and includes such details as her home address, his birthday (just the day prior), and information on the incident.
  • Statement of Doctor Robert R. Clark, M.D. – Doctor Clark operated a medical practice just 50 feet from the accident scene and was summoned by the firefighters. This report documents what he found and actually replaces the autopsy record.
  • Coroner’s Jury Verdict – This legal record would indicate if the Coroner’s Jury was in agreement with the medical findings and if there was any criminal intent. In this case, the death was ruled accidental.
  • Press Report – The Press Report provides details on the coroner’s jury, the deceased, who handled the mortuary affairs, and related details.
  • Disposition of Case – Interestingly, this document provides the full name and address of the driver who struck William and the name of the investigating officer. It has a place on the paper for a sketch of the accident, but that area remains blank.
  • Memorandum to Col. Geo. E. A. Fairley from Captain Joseph David, Captain, Engine Company 51. Captain David was the first on the scene of the accident and provided information on what he saw and did. He also corroborates basic information about William’s job as a retired Hoseman for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire.
  • Source:
    “Autopsy of William Pepperney,” Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Coroner’s Office Records, collection AIS.1982.07, box 506, record #194701-246, University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh.