Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday - I Live For These Moments!

Buried Saint Gabriel's Cemetery, Hazleton, PA
Have you ever had those moments of genealogical divine intervention where a brick wall that has been laughing at you for months or years finally starts to crumble?  That happened to me yesterday morning.  I woke up early to get ready for a PTA-type morning.  Before falling into PTA induced insanity I relaxed with my morning routine of coffee, checking Facebook, and checking obits from my (and my husband's) hometown.

It was my hometown's obituaries that caught my attention.  An obituary in the Hazleton Standard Speaker for one Rose Marie Dugan.  While Rose is no relative of mine, at least not one I'm aware of, she does share a name with a relative.  Rose Dugan was the second wife of Dennis Dugan.  Dennis' first wife, Elizabeth "Bessie" Dugan nee Quirk was my 2nd great aunt.  So why would I be interested in his 2nd wife?  A little background...

Bessie was one of (at least) 9 children of William Quirk Sr and Mary A. Lee.  Nine children and you would think that there would be lots of descendants around to help me with my research, or heck, just to connect with.  Nope.  Sometimes life throws curve balls at families and they deal as best as they can:

Child #1 - William Quirk b. 09JUL1869 d. before 1880 - I have 2 baptismal records for William Quirk (son of William and Mary Quirk), which indicates to me since this William is in the 1870 census and then is the same age in the 1880 census that he died before 1880 and the parents later named another son William.

Child #2 & #3 - Susan Quirk b. 22SEP1870 d. 13AUG1889 - Why child 2 and 3?  Well, I have a baptismal record for Susan Quirk (child of William and Mary Quirk) showing her birth as 1870.  I have a funeral card for Susie Quirk for 1889.  The problem?  If these dates were for the same person, she would have been almost 19 when she died, but the funeral card (left) has that she was 15 years, 8 months old when she died (wish they had listed the days so I could figure out the exact date).  Doing the math, this Susie was born between December 1873-January 1874.  So was the baptismal certificate transcribed wrong?  Possibly, but that a lot to transcribe wrong...the month and year?  I think it's more likely that the first Susan died sometime before the 2nd Susan was born.  I can understand them wanting to rename another daughter Susan (as they would for William) since Susan was Mary's mother's name.  So the above dates (seem to me to be) most likely the birth for one Susan and the death for the other.

Child #4 - Eleanor "Ella" Quirk b. 15APR1872 d. 01JUL1941 - Ella would have been born between the two Susans, if there were indeed two Susans.  She never married. She was a school teacher and helped to raise my grandmother Mary Ann Brown nee Quirk (mentioned immediately below).

Child #5 - Edward Joseph Quirk b. 08AUG1876 d. 19OCT1950 - Edward was my great grandfather.  He married Alice Blanchfield on 15SEP1912.  They had my grandmother, Mary Ann.  Then Alice died in/shortly after childbirth with their second child (name/gender unknown) on 23SEP1915.  Edward and Mary then lived with Edward's siblings who helped raise Mary Ann.

Child #6 - Catherine G. Quirk b. 24JUL1878 d. 23JAN1961 - "Aunt Kay".  I believe my aunt Cathy is named for her.  She never married.  Just helped take care of Mary Ann.

Unk Hazleton newspaper
Child #7 - William Quirk b. 26OCT1880 d. 16OCT1948** - "Uncle Bill".  He never married.  Lived with his siblings his whole life and can be assumed that he also helped to raise little Mary Ann.

Child #8 - Elizabeth "Bessie" Quirk b. 09FEB1882 d. 14DEC1918 - Bessie was the postmistress in Jeanesville, PA.  She married Dennis Dugan on 02OCT1917.  She would have been 35 when she got married.  Late by standards in the early twentieth century.  She died after a cesarean section (on right).

Child #9 - Mary A. Quirk b. 10MAY1887 d. 02DEC1965 - "Aunt Mary" (shocker, I know) never married.  She helped to raise Mary Ann as well.

Obviously, William and Mary could have had other children that are not accounted for in the census records and that didn't get sent to me from the church in baptismal records.

It's also obvious that little Mary Ann Quirk was taken care of and loved.  I hear those stories from my mom, aunt and uncle.  She may have actually been a little spoiled too, and I say that in a loving, good way.  She probably didn't want for much.  But for William and Mary to have had all those children and end up with only one descendant?  Talk about sad.  I say "one" because no one in my immediate family knows what happened to Bessie and Dennis' child.

1920 U.S. Federal Census - Andrew Dugan household

I became fixated with Bessie and Dennis' child.  Nothing no name for the child in the newspaper, BUT I did find Dennis in the 1920 census.  He was living in Bethlehem, PA with his siblings and his daughter...BETTY!  Named after Bessie!  YAY!!!  Happy dance!  1930 census...well, Dennis is still there in Bethlehem, but he's remarried (to Rose) and with a (step) son...no Betty.  Did she die?  Did she go off to live with other relatives?  I don't know.  Certainly it was a little bit of progress on finding another Quirk.  But happiness at realizing Bessie's daughter survived was slammed down by a nasty brick wall, and Betty wasn't found with her aunts and uncles in the 1930 census.

1930 U.S. Federal Census - Dennis Dugan household

That's where I was before yesterday morning.  Seeing the Rose Marie Dugan obituary made me realize that I had never checked to see when Dennis' 2nd wife died.  If I could find an obituary, maybe I could find a reference to Betty.  I don't k now why I hadn't thought to search through the 2nd wife before, but sometimes it just happens.

So I checked the Social Security Death Index for Rose Dugan...yep.  Right where I expected her in Bethlehem, PA.  Died September 1982.  Good.  Recent is good.  I contacted the local Bethlehem newspaper, The Morning Call, via email and asked for help.  Who has the archived copies and are they available through inter-library loan?  I let them know who I was looking for and when she died (always hoping that they might perform a random act of genealogical kindness) and throwing in there that I'm from northeastern PA but living in Texas near Fort Hood (gotta try for some military lovin'...I'm not beneath that!).

I got a response a few hours later, and while it wasn't with the obituary, it directed me to the libraries with the microfilm and with some additional information.  She told me that their records indicate that there was an obituary published on 14SEP1982 for a Rose Steager Dugan on page B6 under "Local/Region" section.  She said I would need a date to request the information from the library.  I was excited.  Another name...Steager.  So what did I do?  I jumped on Google and typed a search for "Rose Steager Dugan".

I got an obituary for one James J. Steager Sr. published in...The Morning Call!  It mentioned his mother, Rose (King) Dugan and his step-father, Dennis Dugan.  Sadly, no mention of Betty.  Dennis and Rose did have another child (Francis), but he's no relation to me and he passed away as well.

Still, I got a church name...Saint Ursula.  I contacted them for the name of the parish cemetery, Holy Saviour.  I've also got the number for the groundskeeper. I called and left a message asking for Dugan burials.

So now I've got names.  Perhaps a child of James or Francis knows about Betty.  Perhaps they have a picture of Dennis.  I would love to see what he looks like.  I've got so many pictures in an old album that could be him...with an unknown baby...perhaps Betty.

The wall hasn't been torn down, but I think I whacked a brick or two out of it and can see some light on the other side.  The wall will eventually come down.  I'm sure of it.  I'm not hopeful though to find the result I wanted...another Quirk descendant.  If she had lived, wouldn't the she be listed as a step-sister in James' obituary?  Who knows, but I won't stop whacking away at that wall.  I'm determined and new motivation has energized me!

[The news clipping for Bessie Dugan nee Quirk's death has no source information.  It was glued to the inside cover of a photo album with dates penciled in.  The dates are presumably for her death and burial rather than actual publication.  The newspaper is most likely from the Hazleton Standard Sentinel or Hazleton Plain Speaker which predate the current Hazleton Standard Speaker.  It is also possible that the clipping came from a Bethlehem newspaper, but since the rest of the Quirks to which this album belonged lived in/around Hazleton it is unlikely]

**William Quirk is listed in the 1880 census which was enumerated in June 1880...that was before his October birth.  Now they were enumerated on June 21st so unless the baptismal record for William is wrong and he was born February-ish in 1880 there was another baby William that died before the one born in October?  If you look at the 1900 census William is listed as being born in May 1881! We can expect errors in them to some extent though.  Mary Quirk nee Lee is said to have given birth to 9 children 6 still living which is something to go on!


  1. Wow, that's a whole lot of bricks gone in one day. Congratulations!

  2. What a great post! After researching for over 30 years, it has been great to find those nuggets in my papers that are just now making sense...or that I'm taking a second look at.