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.

Photo of the Day – January 13, 2015

I probably met my great grandma Witt at some point when I was very young. Helen Bixler Witt died in January 1985, two months shy of my third birthday. This photo of her was taken on her porch on North Osborn Street on Youngstown’s West Side in the late 1970’s. You can get a more recent view of the houses in the background by clicking here (link).
Helen Bixler Witt (1898-1985), photograph, taken at 24 N Osborn Avenue, in about 1977; digital image, photocopy of original, scanned in 2013 by Joseph Lowry; privately held by Marie Dockry, [address for private use], Austintown, Ohio. Woman sitting in a porch chair in housecoat. Provenance is Marie Dockry to Joseph Lowry.

Cemetery Sunday – A Visit to Arlington National Cemetery

My uncle Tom Witt was in Washington, D.C. for work and wanted to make a point to visit Arlington National Cemetery. As I had not been there in some time, I felt it would make a great time to catch up with him and visit America’s most hallowed ground.

Arlington National Cemetery sits on 624 acres and is the final resting place of 400,000 war casualties and veterans. Included in the latter group is my great uncle, Francis Witt Jr. Francis was an Air Force officer who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. I’ve previously written about his evasion and escape after being shot down in 1944 here.

My uncle, and later joined by my wife, son and mother-in-law, spent three hours walking around the cemetery, pausing at interesting or well-known individuals and honoring the unknown Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen with a stop at the Tomb of the Unknown.

Headstone of my great uncle Francis Witt’s grave.
The back of the headstone records the birth and death of his wife Mary Lou, buried with him.

My uncle Tom is here digging for a stone to leave on the top of Francis’s grave.

Francis had a brother Fred who served in the Marines during World War II, but this isn’t him. Ironically, this unrelated Fred is buried just a few rows away from Francis in the same section.

The date of death of Lt. McKamey was striking: June 6, 1944 is D-Day. A Google search revealed that his B-26 Marauder was shot down while on a bombing run to weaken the German forces in the area of Utah Beach. The entire crew was killed.

This entire section contains unknown soldiers from the Civil War.
General Ostermann was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the 1915 invasion of Haiti. He retired from the Marine Corps as a Major General in 1943, in part because he was not given a combat command during World War II.

America’s most decorated soldier. Ever.
The American flag flies inside the Memorial Amphitheater, located behind the Tomb of the Unknown. I have been to Arlington National Cemetery numerous times but had never seen the wonderful exhibit inside the Amphitheater. 
The Tomb of the Unknown
The memorial of the seven astronauts lost when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart during reentry in 2003.
This panoramic shot captures the memorials to the Space Shuttle Challenger, the loss of American airmen in Operation Eagle Claw in 1980, and the Space Shuttle Columbia.
The grave of Commander Dick Scobee, who was lost in the Challenger disaster.
The mast of the U.S.S. Maine. The ‘Maine’ exploded in Havana harbor in 1898 and led in part to the Spanish-American War.
“Ask not what your country can do for you…” Part of the memorial wall around JFK’s grave.

The gang after a hot morning walking around Arlington.

Four Generations Once Again

I love photos showing four generations of my family. There are quite a few collecting on the blog here, here, here, here, and here. This is another taken two weeks ago at the baptism of my son. My grandmother Barb Viti is holding her great grandson Brendan Lowry with my mom and me on either side. I will feature Brendan’s baptism in an upcoming blog post.

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(Not So) Wordless Wednesday – Family on Ohio Avenue

This photo was taken around 1990 on Ohio Avenue in Youngstown. My grandmother Barb Witt, my uncle Chris Witt, my parents and my sister Caroline all posed at a family get-together. I don’t recall the occasion, however. I’m also not 100% certain of the location. This was either in front of an apartment my grandmother was living at or a block over in front of the home of Mary Catherine and Irving Sanders, first cousin’s 2x removed (but affectionately called aunt and uncle by family). Aunt Mary Catherine provided this photo.

Patrick, Rebecca, Joseph and Caroline Lowry, Barbara Witt and Christopher Witt, photograph, taken on Ohio Avenue in Youngstown, Ohio. digital image, photocopy of original, scanned in 2014 by Joseph Lowry; privately held by Joseph Lowry, [address for private use], Sterling, VA. Six individuals standing in front of door. Provenance is Mary Catherine Sanders to Joseph Lowry.

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday – Four Generations of Witts

This photo was provided to me by the spouse of a distant relative, specifically a great nephew of my 1st cousin, 3x removed. How’s that for some genealogical reach? This fantastic image was taken around 1920 and shows four generations of Witts.


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Seated L-R: Joseph C. Roolf, with son Norman Roolf, Mary K. Ostien, Martin Witt, Elizabeth Witt, Lenora C. Witt holding Dorothy (baby).
Standing Back Row L-R: John A. Roolf, Margaret M. Ostien Roolf, Johanna Thaner Witt and John A. Witt.

Martin  and Elizabeth Kreher Witt are my 3rd great grandparents. Their son John Albert Witt and his wife Johanna Thaner were featured elsewhere on the blog looking into John’s murder. Lenora Clara (alternatively, Clara Lenora) Witt is John’s daughter, married to Joseph Roolf. She is holding her daughter Dorothy while her husband stands with their other child Norman. Joseph Roolf’s parents John and Margaret Ostien Roolf are behind him, while his grandmother Mary Ostien sits next to him.

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday – My Great Grandparents Francis and Helen Witt

Photo provided by Marie Witt Dockry.
My maternal great grandparents Francis and Helen (Bixler) Witt all dressed up with hopefully somewhere to go! Great Grandpa sure looks dapper with that navy blue pocket square. The corsages lead me to believe this was for an anniversary party or perhaps a wedding. I’m certain someone knows; it’s just that I don’t. This photo was taken around 1980.

Military Monday – The Crew of the ‘Rum Pot II’

My great uncle Francis Witt served in the 547th Bombardment Squadron during World War II. He was stationed at RAF Grafton Underwood in central England. He was shot down and survived a harrowing evasion and escape effort in March 1944. Just two weeks prior, he posed for this crew photo. On February 21, the crew of the ‘Rum Pot II’ led by pilot Clarence Stearns stood in front of their girl for a mission to bomb the Lingen railroad yard and Werl airfield in Germany.
On this mission, Francis officially served as the tail gunner. Though odd for an officer to serve as a gunner (officers on B-17s were slotted as either pilot, copilot, navigator or bombardier), on this mission the Rum Pot II served as the Group A squadron leader. This meant that in addition to running the tail gun, Francis’s job was to ensure the other planes in the formation dropped their bombs appropriately. It was common to have a pilot or copilot fly in the tail gunners position on lead aircraft to provide the commander of the mission on the same aircraft a reliable, knowledgeable person that had formation flying and combat experience.

This mission was part of the ‘Big Week’ or Operation Argument, a sustained bombing campaign against German aircraft factories in an attempt to lure the Luftwaffe into the sky, destroy them and achieve air superiority. The ‘Rum Pot II’ was one of 336 B-17s launched against German various airfields and railroad yards for this mission. (See here for additional information on the Big Week and mission 228.)

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B-17G Rum Pot II, Stearns crew

Back L-R: George Marquardt (B), Clarence Stearns (P), Francis Witt (OBS/TG), Keith Garrison (N)

Front L-R: David Barkhurst (TT), Warren Martell (FG), Albert Fulwider (TT), John Robison (FG), Thomas Benson (RO), William Buck (CA/CP), Vernon McKittrick (N)

Aircraft: B-17G 547th BS 42-31433 SO*V Rum Pot II

“B-17G Rum Pot II, Stearns crew.” 384th Heavy Bombardment Group. Web. 4 Jan 2014. <>

“Big Week,” Wikipedia. Web 12 Nov 2012 <>
“384th Bomber Group.” Facebook.  Web. 4 Jan 2014. <>