Saturday, June 16, 2012

Genealogy by the Numbers: Confirming a Relationship with DNA

There have been few items in the genealogist’s toolbox that can demolish those ever present brick walls; however, one that I have learned to depend upon to help solve some puzzles is DNA analysis. To date, four personal genealogical brick walls have collapsed through the use of both Y-DNA and autosomal DNA testing. Some of these dead ends could not be settled with almost 35 years of traditional research as documentation did not exist.

Last week, autosomal DNA testing solved a mystery that I have been pondering since I discovered a relative at the Boston Public Library in 1988. Named Ruth Day, this woman could have been my father’s half-sister, first cousin through his Aunt Susie, or first cousin through his Aunt Lydia. While I had a theory on her relationship to my father, I could not confirm my suspicions until DNA analysis indicated a solution to this genealogical quandary. This was confirmed by the numbers in light of other family information.

By comparing the amount of autosomal DNA shared between relatives, it is possible to estimate a relationship. Recombination of autosomes occurs randomly; however, as the amount of DNA shared between individuals lessens, the ability to predict a relationship with some accuracy becomes more difficult. For those who have shared DNA with my own family at under 0.75%, some of the relationships are quite distant. Steve Mount has a blog post that explains this very well.

To date, I have been able to confirm only three heretofore unknown relationships – a seventh cousin; a double 9th cousin, once removed; and a 12th cousin, twice removed. These relationships are quite distant and some share more DNA with me than those with known relationships. So predicting at lower levels is a gamble, but predicting approximate relationships with a higher percentage of DNA is possible.

With that said, two individuals from an endogamous group (such as Ashkenazim) will have a higher shared percentage of DNA with more distant relationships. Even those with Colonial ancestry might have higher shared DNA percentages than indicated and that may explain the three distant relationships mentioned above as all three are related to me through my grandmother’s New England colonial ancestry.

Autosomal DNA Shared Between Close Cousins

With each generation, the average amount of shared DNA decreases by half; however, because recombination is random, this number is not exact. For example, I share at a less than average amount of DNA with one of my brothers – 41.00%. His son and I share only 14.90% of our DNA – a difference of 63.7% less than the preceding generation. With the range is outside of the normal range for a nephew, 23andMe calculates us as first cousins.

Add another generation with my daughters and the percentages tend to right themselves. My youngest daughter and her first cousin share 9.13% of their DNA – a difference of 38.7% from the preceding generation – indicating that a more than average amount of DNA was retained with this next generation – although lower than the average 12.5% estimated share. My other daughter shares 7.38% with her cousin, which is a very low share for a first cousin; however, she retained 50.5% of the DNA that her father and cousin shared.

Following a normal curve, statistically 68.2% of all matches should occur within ±1 standard deviation (σ) from the mean score. The following chart indicates the ranges of ±1 standard deviation from the mean for each degree of relationship from first to third cousins.

Since there are a variety of relationships that fall within these ranges, I have identified the percentages according to the degree of relationship between the two subjects. These are based on the civil definition of degrees of relationship which is calculated by adding the total distance from the common ancestors for both subjects. Half first cousins have the same civil degree of relationship (4) as full first cousins; however, the amount of DNA shared is less and appears to be the same as first cousins, once removed (a degree of relationship of 5).

 Relationship DNA Degree 
 of Relationship 
 First Cousin4
 First Cousin, Once Removed5
 Half Cousin*
 Second Cousin6
 First Cousin, Twice Removed
 Half Cousin, Once Removed*
 Second Cousin, Once Removed7
 First Cousin, Thrice Removed
 Half Second Cousin*
 Half Cousin, Twice Removed*
 Third Cousin8
 Second Cousin, Twice Removed
 Half Second Cousin, Once Removed* 
 Half Cousin, Thrice Removed* 

*half cousins have a degree of relationship one step higher; however, they share DNA with relationships of a lower degree.

Finding Ruth Day

During spring 1988, I took a marathon research trip that took me to Newark and East Orange, New Jersey; Boston, Massachusetts; Concord and Claremont, New Hampshire; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During that journey, I had the opportunity to visit the Boston Public Library and was able to find my great-grandfather (Thomas Day) in the soundex for the 1880 and 1900 census records for New London County, Connecticut.

In the 1900 census, I discovered that his household contained a nine-year old granddaughter named Ruth Day. This was the first time that I encountered this name and really didn’t know how she was Thomas’ granddaughter. Since Thomas had three daughters and no sons, there were three primary possibilities of how she could have been related to me.

Although I pondered this over the years, I didn’t think much about it until I visited the National Archives in July 2009. During this trip, I decided to have Thomas Day’s Civil War pension record pulled for a second look. I had accessed it in February 2000 and it provided me very critical information that helped me enlarge my family tree. While looking at the documents, I noticed that Ruth Day was utilized by her grandfather as a witness to his documentation. The final entry that she witnessed was on March 9, 1907. Her address was listed as being North Stonington, CT.

Not being able to find her under Ruth Day in the 1910 census, I assumed one of three scenarios: she had relocated, got married, or had died. I assumed that she must have married. I repeated my search to find a married woman by the name of Ruth who was born from 1889-1891 and who was living in North Stonington, CT.

Three possible married women named Ruth from New London County were returned in the search on Ancestry. While one lived in Lyme and another lived in East Lyme, the third was living in Stonington. Ruth Tillinghast, the wife of Walter B. Tillinghast, seemed like a prime suspect to be my Ruth Day. I searched her husband’s name and found him among the family trees posted on Ancestry with his wife “Ruth Day.” In addition, I learned about the story of their son Julius who, at the age of 4, was adopted out because his mother never bonded with him. Julius Tillinghast became J. Russell “Russ” Deckard.

Russ Deckard Chief Radio Officer, SS Evangeline, 1941, World War II

The tree was managed by Deckard’s son Gerald, and he included the transcript of the letter sent by Russ’ birth father to his adoptive father.
Mr. Deckard,
I had no trouble getting Mrs. Tillinghast to sign the paper. I saw her about an hour and she did not mention his name even how he was or where he was or who was to adopt him. It makes me feel bad the interest she has shown in him but it is God’s will. I believe he knows best. You need not worry about her ever trying to see him for she won’t know where he is or who has him. I myself feel bad to do this but think it is the best for him as his mother takes no interest in him. I shall not try to see him here after. I was in the insurance office at Westerly but they had sent my book Saturday morning to the city so you will have to go the insurance office here in the city have it changed for yourself for I may not get the book before I go away but if I do and have time I will make them fix the book and policy. The next premium will be due the 20th of May next as I paid it in advance yesterday 9 weeks. I would like it to have paid 1 year in advance but could not on account of money. I am to have no money for two months in Kavey (???) as they would hold one month back.

P.S. Mr. and Mrs. Deckard. I can never thank you enough for this kind and charitable deed you have done for me and mine and hope you people never have cause to regret it. I also hope you have no trouble to train him to your likes and dislikes.

I remain your respectfully Walter B. Tillinghast

Additional searching provided me further information regarding Ruth Day including her death at 45 in Rochester, Minnesota. I purchased her death certificate online and it arrived a few days later. Her tragic end was detailed by the attending physician. It appears that Ruth fractured her right femur during a fall in 1933. In late January 1935, she had a bone graft operation at the Mayo Clinic because the break was not joining together; however, she developed a pulmonary embolism following her operation and died. In time, her husband remarried.

Even though her approximate birth date and location were known, her birth did not appear to be registered. I could not be certain on which one of the Day sisters was Ruth’s mother. Although I knew more about her in 2009, my ability to determine the identity of her mother had not changed since I discovered her existence 21 years earlier.

Daughter of Susie Eva Day?

As I analyzed the data, her birth on December 22, 1890 at Gales Ferry, CT, and other data helped narrow the possibilities. It would be unlikely that she was Susie’s child, as Susie was married at the time and would have been pregnant with her second child Myrtle in December 1890.

Susie and John Merriman with their youngest child, Lawrence Raymond Merriman

Myrtle Merriman was born in May 1891. If Myrtle was premature, it is possible (but highly unlikely) that Susie could have given birth to both girls in that short period; however, there is also question regarding Ruth’s birth year. The 1900 census lists her being born in December 1890; she is also listed with the following ages on her last birthday during the following census: 1900 – 9, 1910 – 19, and 1920 – 29 – all corroborate an 1890 birth year.

The 1930 census and her death certificate, however, indicate she was born in 1891. If this were the case, her birth 7 months after Myrtle’s could be believable, but not very probable. With Ruth having the name of Day, it is another strike against her being Susie’s daughter as she was already married to John Merriman at the time of Ruth’s birth.

Daughter of Lora Gardner Day?

Although Susie could be eliminated by the virtue of her own pregnancy, this was not the case with the second daughter Lora – my grandmother. In my mind, she was eliminated because in 1904 she gave birth to the fifth of her sixth children and named this daughter as Ruth E. Dalton. While it is possible to have two or more children with the same name (ask George Foreman), it wasn’t very probable.

Lora with her youngest child: Charles Ellsworth Owston

Daughter of Lydia D. Day?

As far as I was concerned, Lydia, the youngest daughter of Thomas and Amy Day, was the best candidate for being Ruth Day’s mother. Lydia was born on September 10, 1875 and she would have been 15 years old when Ruth was born. Although younger than her sisters, circumstantial evidence pointed toward Lydia; however, I had no proof that she was the rightful mother of Ruth Day.

On Ruth’s death certificate, a mother isn’t listed; however, Thomas Day was listed as her father. A birth certificate for Ruth Day was not found at Ledyard which includes the village of Gales Ferry. Although Thomas Day is listed on the death certificate for Ruth, it does not appear that he was her actual father. In the 1900 census, she is listed as his granddaughter and in various documents in his Civil War pension file, she is not listed among his children.

Lydia (left) with sister Lora; identity of the baby is not known

Of the sisters, Lydia is the one of which I know the least. She was the first of the three to pass away (August 1931) and she is the only one of the three to divorce a husband. She married Frank Ernest Botham circa 1892. One child, Elmer Ernest Botham, was produced from the union in 1893. It is uncertain when she divorced, as in an affidavit dated April 14, 1898, her father lists her as Lydia Botham and that she was married. In the 1900 census, Frank Botham was listed as still being married and having been so for eight years – even though Lydia was married to someone else by then.

When she married William Henry Gorton in 1898, it appears that custody of her eldest son was retained by his father. The relationship she had, if any, with Elmer Botham is currently unknown; however, it appears to be negligible at best. He is not counted among her children in the 1900 and 1910 censuses. Four children were produced from her second marriage and included William H. Gorton, Jr. (1899), Henry Reynolds Gorton (1902), Mary Gorton (1904), and Elmore Gorton (1907). It appears that young Elmore died prior to the enumeration of the 1910 census.

Being the youngest child of Thomas and Amy Day, Lydia was not quite 13 years of age when her mother passed away. During her critical adolescent years, a mother’s influence was absent, and this may have had a profound effect on Lydia. If she were Ruth’s mother, her pregnancy occurred in less than two years from the time of her mother’s death.

Since the rearing of Ruth was consigned to her grandfather and Lydia’s child Elmer was raised by his father, it creates an interesting picture of Lydia’s psychosocial development. This same abandonment scenario appears to have occurred with Ruth and her son Julius and therefore, the behavior could be considered cyclic. That is, if Lydia was her mother – but neither Susie nor Lora had similar experiences with their children. In fact, Susie took in a grandchild and raised him as her own.

Unfortunately, psychosocial similarities are not accepted proofs of descent. Without a birth certificate to prove Ruth Day’s maternity, I was back to square one – I knew she was related but not how. In August 2009, I messaged Gerald Deckard through his Find A Grave account to attempt to make contact with this newly found cousin; however, he did not discover my message until January 2012. After a series of emails, we decided to try the autosomal DNA route to see if a specific relationship might be confirmed.

Shared DNA Segments

By using induction, we should be able to confirm the relationship between Gerald and others who are descended from Thomas Wesley Day and Amy Alice Champlin. The amount of shared DNA among the subjects should be indicative of their relationships. In addition, the percentage of shared DNA should fall within ±1 standard deviation of the statistical mean for that relationship.

Although I do not have contact with any known descendants of Lydia, we do have DNA results from seven descendants of Lora and two descendants of Susie. For the purpose of this analysis, we will consider the five closest matches. If Ruth were the child of Susie or Lora, then the relationship between Gerald and the appropriate subject would be that of a half cousin, once removed.

The amount of DNA shared by half cousins, once removed would average at 3.13%. The range within ±1 standard deviation would be 2.06% to 4.20 %. Extending that range to ±2 standard deviations would increase the range from 1.63% to 4.62%. Theoretically, 95.4% of all matches within this close relationship should fall within this range. Even at ±3 standard deviations, the percentage shared ranges expand to 1.57% to 4.69%. Nearly all matches (99.7%) would fall within ±3 standard deviations.

If Ruth were descended from Lydia, Gerald’s relationship with the others would be diminished to that of a second cousin, once removed. The amount shared for this relationship averages at 1.56%. The ranges for this relationship would be 1.03% to 2.10% ±1 standard deviation and a range of 0.82% to 2.30% with ±2 standard deviations.

Subject Grandmother  Amount of 
 Shared DNA 
 Jim Lora1.47%
 Chuck Lora1.29%
 Suzanne Susie1.17%
 George Lora1.15%
 John Lora0.92%

Although more samples from Susie’s line at the grandchild level and samples from Lydia’s known descendants (if any exist) would have been optimum in confirming Ruth Day’s maternal ancestry; however, by combining the information we currently know with the amounts of shared DNA, we may be able to infer that Ruth’s mother was Lydia.

Four of the five subjects are grandchildren from Lora and three of these subjects' results fall within ±1 standard deviation. A fourth, John, falls within ±2 standard deviations. There are enough samples here to confirm that Ruth Day was not the daughter of Lora Gardner Day and that her own daughter Ruth E. Dalton was probably named for this cousin.

As for Susie’s descendants, we only have one sample from a grandchild; however, since that number falls within ±1 standard deviation for a second cousin, once removed; it is likely that the suspected relationship is accurate. Suzanne falls completely outside of the realm of a half-cousin, once removed even with ±3 standard deviations from the mean for the higher relationship. Even if she were an outlier, it would be expected that that the numbers would be higher for a supposed closer relationship. Two of Lora's grandchildren have higher results.

As mentioned earlier, there are four other individuals that have been tested at 23andMe from this family: three great-grandchildren of Lora and a second great-grandson of Susie. The descendents of Lora should be related to Gerald as third cousins and Susie’s great-great-grandson, Craig, should have a relationship as a third cousin, once removed.

 Subject  Ancestor  Amount of
 Shared DNA 
 Kristen Lora0.63%

As more distance is placed within a specific relationship, it is my experience is that it becomes more difficult to predict the suspected relationship. The average estimated DNA shared at the third cousin level is 0.78% while a third cousin, once removed would be 0.39%. It is also estimated that only 90% of third cousins will have shared DNA. That percentage drops to 0.45% at the fourth cousin level.

In the case of these family members, Michael shared no DNA with his suspected third cousin – but among the previous generation, Michael’s father had the least amount of DNA shared with Gerald. Lora and Kristen both fell within a ±1 standard deviation; however, Craig shared nearly twice as much for a third cousin, once removed. His results appear to be like that of a third cousin. He also has five shared segments.


Although Craig’s unusually large match might implicate Susie as Ruth Day’s mother, other factors include the amount of DNA shared between Suzanne and Gerald and Susie’s pregnancy with Myrtle that overlaps the birth of Ruth.  This evidence appears to eliminate the slightest possibility that Susie was Ruth’s mother.

With four grandchildren of Lora sharing with Gerald at a relationship consistent with second cousins, once removed, she is eliminated by virtue of the lower numbers. The fact she also had named her daughter Ruth in 1904 adds weight to this argument.

Although samples from Lydia’s line and additional samples from Susie’s grandchildren would provide further data and make the case stronger, I believe by combining the circumstantial evidence with the amount of DNA shared suggests that Lydia was Ruth Day’s mother. I have always assumed this, but had an inability to confirm my hypothesis.

DNA analysis in this regard helped break down a brick wall in our family tree; however, enough other data was present to lead to this confirmation. Some close DNA matches, however, may not be able to suggest a relationship without the presence of other data. A suggested relationship by the numbers, however, may provide an impetus to look for the relationship in the correct direction; and thus, shared DNA can add to the body of genealogical evidence in determining one’s relationship with another individual.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Remembering the Civil War Dead: Part 2

As an alternative to the “shield” type Civil War stone discussed in the previous installment, the federal government provided a simpler “slab” type of marker for Civil War vets. Some of the same companies that produced the “shield” marker also produced the “slab” headstone.

The typical marker had the soldier’s name, regiment, and date of death that were carved as a bas relief style within a rectangle. Unfortunately, these stones were particularly vulnerable to the elements in industrial areas. A simpler version of the stone had the information cut into the white marble. 

In the Pittsburgh region, many of these stones are currently illegible due to the sulfur dioxide emissions as a byproduct of steel production. When the sulfur dioxide mixes with precipitation, it creates acid rain. This is disastrous to marble and limestone which causes the inscriptions to become illegible and the stone itself begins to flake. You will notice that several of the stones in this installment have suffered great damage.

As with last time, we will look at several examples of government supplied “slab” type tombstones. All are from one regiment, the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps – also known as the 38th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Except for one, all come from the Greater Pittsburgh area and all were photographed by the author during 2004. The men honored provide a cross section of service in the regiment and a brief description of their lives follows.

Joshua Bain

Joshua Bain at Culpeper National Cemetery, Culpeper, VA

One of the simpler versions of the standard “slab” type of governmental tombstone can be found at Culpeper National Cemetery in Culpeper, VA. The grave for Joshua Bain was photographed on June 14, 2004. A resident of the former Penn Township in Allegheny County, the 5 foot, 4 ¼ inch Bain was a coal miner by trade when he joined the McKeesport Union Guards (Company I) on June 18, 1861.

As did many of the men in the Pennsylvania Reserves who had seen battle in the Seven Days and Second Bull Run Campaigns, Bain straggled behind as the regiment was getting in line of battle for the Maryland Campaign. By doing such, these stragglers missed the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. The stragglers in the division were summarily court martialed at the regimental level and were fined for their lack of participation.

Because of the large numbers of stragglers, these men had to be punished, but not put through the process of a general court martial. Typically, these actions were called “drumhead court martials.” Bain was fined $10 for his absence and this was to be deducted from his pay on October 31, 1862. While $10 does not seem like much in today’s economy, the monthly pay of a private in the US Army was $12. Therefore, 83% of a soldier’s pay for one month was significant.

While Bain had not always been a stellar soldier, his place of burial in a national cemetery speaks to the ultimate sacrifice that he paid. While on picket duty along the Orange and Alexandria Rail Road near the Forks of the Rapidan River, Bain was killed by Rebel cavalry. Originally buried near the rail road, his body was reinterred at the national cemetery.

John Vickeroth

John Vickeroth at South Side Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA

Born as Johannes Vickeroth in Hebel, Homburg, Hesse-Kassel, John Vickeroth, as he was to be known in America, was the illegitimate son of Martha Elisa Hausmann and Johannes Vickeroth. As he immigrated in 1848, he was probably among the number of German men who were dissatisfied with the lack of change after the March Revolution in the 39 states that comprised the German Confederation. Desiring additional freedoms, the Forty-Eighters came to America in droves. Like John Vickeroth, many of these men participated in the Civil War.

Vickeroth was among the first enlistees in Conrad Feger Jackson’s company of the City Guards, Company B. Later as the company was incorporated into the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve, it became Company G. A carpenter by trade, the 5 foot 11 inch Vickeroth participated in the early battles of the Army of the Potomac. He was shot in the left thigh and was captured at Charles City Crossroads on June 30, 1862.

He was released on parole on July 22, 1862 and was hospitalized following his return to the Union Army. He wound resulted in a “Limitation of motion of left thigh, leg, and foot” and his “Lameness prevented him from marching.” On December 2, 1862 he was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability being one-fourth disabled. Although he immediately filed for a pension, it would not be granted until 1869.

Vickeroth was married to Elizabeth Keil (in 1863) and Eliza Schilling (in 1887) and outlived both wives as well as four of his six children. One of his children, his namesake son, lived only a day and one half dying of a brain compression due to forceps delivery at his birth in 1875.

In September 1906, John Vickeroth sought and was granted citizenship by virtue of his Civil War service. He died on June 3, 1911 and was buried in the South Side Cemetery in Pittsburgh. The stone was photographed on October 8, 2004. His marker is one of the better examples of the “slab” type in the Pittsburgh area as it can be easily read. The cemetery's location on the south side of Mt. Washington away from the direct exposure of the mills along the Monongahela River may have protected it.

Edward K. Davis

Edward K. Davis at Grove Cemetery, New Brighton, PA

Edward K. Davis was the son David and Sarah A. Davis of Fallston, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. While records of his age vary with different records, the 1900 census suggests that his birth occurred in July 1841; however, earlier records indicate that he probably was born between 1838 and 1840. A blacksmith by trade, he enlisted in the New Brighton Rifles (Company H) on April 19, 1861; however, his tenure with his unit was slightly over one year in duration.

On December 20, 1861, the 9th Reserve was engaged with the enemy at Dranesville, Virginia in what would become the first victory of the Army of the Potomac. During this battle, Davis received a gunshot wound to the left leg. He was one of several members of the regiment that General E.O.C. Ord recommended as “worthy of a certificate of merit for . . . bravery and gallantry.” Following his injury, he spent most of the time in the division hospital and on furlough back to Beaver County. Upon his return, he was sent to the general hospital on March 6, 1862.

Because his wound hampered his ability to march, he was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on April 30, 1862. Davis returned home where he married, fathered seven children, and worked in a variety of jobs. By 1890, the Davis family moved to Allegheny County. He died in Swissvale on January 9, 1913 and was survived by his widow and three children.

His remains were taken home to Beaver County where they now rest in New Brighton’s Grove Cemetery. The above photo was taken on June 29, 2004. The stone shows the flaking of gypsum that occurs when acid rain contacts stone high in calcium carbonate.  In addition to the marker a GAR ceramic flag holder is seen in the photograph. Each of these were numbered and the local post kept a record of the soldier's service and his date of death.

Jacob Coneby 

Jacob Coneby at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Munhall, PA

Born on May 1, 1835 in Baltimore, Maryland, Jacob Coneby was a coal miner residing with James and Hanah [sic] Flinn in Baldwin Township, Pennsylvania in 1860. Because of the location of his home and that he enlisted in Robert Anderson’s Government Guards on May 15, 1861, it is thought that he may have belonged to a segment of men who were an overflow of the McKeesport Union Guards. Many of the men from Company D were from McKeesport’s sphere of influence and could have helped alleviate the deficit of men found in that company.

Private Coneby participated in all of the regiment’s battles through the Maryland campaign where he was wounded at Antietam. For a short period of time, he was detached to the regiment’s ambulance corps, but was reassigned as regimental teamster by Lt. Col. James McKinney Snodgrass on February 15, 1863. He remained in that position until muster out in May 1864 and participated in no further engagements.

He returned to coal mining following the war and was a charter member of Homestead’s General Griffen Post #207 of the Grand Army of the Republic in May 1881. Not remaining current with his membership, he was dropped from the rolls of the post in 1884.

Coneby married his wife Mary Jane in 1864 or 1865 and the couple produced one daughter, Laura. The 1900 census indicates that Mary Jane had another living child as well. By 1910, Jacob was a widower and was living with his daughter and son-in-law William Hickman.

Coneby died at Hays (now Pittsburgh) on November 13, 1913 and was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Munhall, PA. The deterioration of his marker is typical of what is found in the Pittsburgh area. This stone was photographed on October 8, 2004. It is nearly illegible except for the name of "Jacob"; however, this stone shows less of the characteristic gypsum flaking.

Thomas W. Kirkwood

Thomas W. Kirkwood at McKeesport-Versailles, McKeesport, PA

Born circa 1841, Thomas W. Kirkwood was the son of Samuel and Lucinda Kirkwood of McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Although throughout his life he worked in a variety of occupations, the younger Kirkwood was a cigar maker at the time of his enlistment in the McKeesport Union Guards in 1861.

At Beaver Dam Creek on June 26, 1862, Kirkwood was captured by the Confederate Army. During his incarceration at Belle Island Prison in Richmond, he contracted typhoid fever which significantly weakened his constitution. He was paroled on August 8, 1862 with other sick and wounded Union soldiers and was sent for treatment on a hospital ship anchored at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. He returned to Company I in October 1862 and participated in all of the subsequent campaigns of the regiment without incident.

Following the death of his wife Hannah in 1881, he applied for a pension as he found it difficult to work a full time job due to his health. When the pension laws changed in 1890, he was granted his request; however, he only benefited from it for a short while – if he benefited from it at all. McKeesport-Versailles Cemetery records indicate that he died on December 2, 1891; however, since Lee Brothers provided the stone under contract dated September 5, 1891, it is likely that his death actually occurred in 1890. His pension was canceled shortly after it was issued.

His stone is one of the most exposed “slab” type markers that I have seen. The stones were between 30 and 42 inches tall and it was intended that only 12 inches would show above ground. In this instance, it appears that more than half of the stone is exposed. This stone was photographed on July 1, 2004. This stone was only found by comparing cemetery records for the section and determining that it was his grave. The name of "Kirkwood "is barely identifiable.

Felix Machalewski

Felix Machalewski at St. Wendelin Catholic Cemetery, Carrick, PA
The son of Ignatz Machalewski and Catharina Mushinska, Felix Machalewski was born April 25, 1843 in Konitz in the Kingdom of Prussia. His hometown is now known as Chojnice, Poland. While many of the soldiers in the 9th born outside of the United States came from the British Isles and various German states, Machalewski was the unit’s only Polish member. He immigrated to the America in August 1860, and in less than a year, he had tendered his service to the Garibaldi Guards (Company B) of the 9th Reserves.

At Charles City Crossroads on June 30, 1862, he received a gunshot wound in his left hand that required the complete amputation of his middle finger. He was sent to Davis Island, NY for hospital treatment. In April 1863, he was listed as deserting from the hospital. His whereabouts between the spring and fall 1863 are missing from his records.

He rejoined the regiment during fall 1863 and apparently his absence was not charged against him. He finished out his tour of duty and was mustered out with the regiment in May 1864. Additionally, he was granted a pension in 1871 for $3.00 a month for the loss of his finger. Based on his military service, Machalewski was naturalized as an American citizen in November 1864.

Although prior the to war Machalewski was employed as a butcher, he later worked in Pittsburgh’s glass trade. He and his wife, Julia Kempf (a native of Baden), were married at St. Mary’s German Catholic Church at Allegheny City (Pittsburgh’s North Side) on April 25, 1865. The couple had at least five sons; however, since the family cannot be located in the 1900 census, it is difficult to determine how many children they produced in total.

Machelewski died from gastric cancer on August 15, 1906 at 2237 Southern Avenue, Carrick, Allegheny County, PA. He was buried at St. Wendelin Cemetery on August 17. The photo was taken July 3, 2004. Still readable in 2004, the stone shows its age and acid rain exposure.

These six examples provide a look at the “slab” markers that mark the graves of Civil War soldiers. There are other examples that are completely illegible.  While several members of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves are buried in McKeesport's Fairview Cemetery none of the dozen or so "slab" markers for Civil War vets can be identified without a concerted effort by using cemetery records.  I've attempted this; however, determining where one section ends and another begins in this old cemetery appears to be haphazard at best. 


Compiled Military Service Records of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves; Records of the Adjutant General, Record Group 94; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Coneby, Jacob. Pension record #939.529. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Current Record of Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1879-1903, Rolls M-1845, National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Davis, Edward K. Pension record #146.373. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Eighth United States Census (1860); Washington ,DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

Eleventh United States Census (1900); Washington ,DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

Kirkwood,Thomas W. Pension record #744.968. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Machalewski, Felix. Pension record #620.718. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District Court, 1820-1930, and Circuit Court, 1820-1911, for the Western District of Pennsylvania; NARA Series: M1537; National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington DC.

Ninth United States Census (1880); Washington ,DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

Records of the General Griffen Post #207 of the Grand Army of the Republic, Homestead, PA; Pittsburgh, PA: Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.  

Regimental Records of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves, Civil War Loose Record Files; Records of the Adjutant General, Record Group 94; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Seventh United States Census (1850); Washington ,DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M123, 118 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Twelfth United States Census (1910); Washington ,DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

Vickeroth, John. Pension record #96,346. Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Vickeroth, John.  Death Records of Pittsburgh.  Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.