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Research Notes


  As of December 2, 2000:

I've finally added some of the Sickman family information that I received several months ago. A brief history of the family by Clara Smith Bossuet is now available, as is Luke Sickman's military history. (Luke is probably the brother of George Sickman.) Luke served in the War of 1812 - here's an overview just in case all you remember is that it took place sometime around 1812.

Doing my regular search through the ever-expanding Historic Pittsburgh website, I discovered that Charles Natcher worked as the general manager for Bower's Hardware in Homestead in 1890. Mrs. Stephen K. Natcher was a member of the German Evangelical Protestant Smithfield Church (Congregational) in Pittsburgh as of March 28, 1926. In 1900 H. V. Natcher - possibly our Henry - was the secretary and treasurer of the M. B. Suydam Company, paint and varnish manufacturers. I also found some information about catholic churches in Duquesne in 1910,

I added some more articles from the McKeesport Daily News, mostly from the fall of 1949. Check out this ad - we had one of these in the laundry room when I was little.

I've added a guest book and an update mailing list for those who'd like to be notified when there are changes made to this website.

As of November, 2000:

Mom, Susan and I went to Ireland in October. It was wonderful to finally get to see the land of the McDermotts and Topleys and Butlers et. al. I didn't learn anything new about my Irish ancestors, but Susan surely did - her Lincolns of county Waterford were traced back hundreds of years by another descendant. We got to meet two of her cousins (not sure what degree) and visited her grandparents' home town of Ardmore.

We kept a journal of the trip. Putting it up onto the website is my substitute for any genealogy work this month. I hope you enjoy the story of our travels.

 As of October, 2000:

I took some time off from genealogy research, but I'm back into it again. Only a few new things to report for now, mostly from emails that I received from other family researchers who did not slack off during the summer.

Robert Harris answered a question I had about John A. Natcher, Civil War veteran and prisoner at Andersonville Confederate prison. Being a good researcher, Robert won't make the leap to state that John is the son of George Natcher and Nancy Kline, but it is a good working hypothesis. Anyone out there have any proof?

I've received a lot of material from other Sickman family researchers and I promise I'll get it up on the site soon.

Congratulations Duquesne High School Class of 1950 on your 50th reunion! Sounds like everyone had a wonderful time.

I found a great site that contains Beers' Commenorative Biographical Record of Washington County Pennsylvania published in 1893. A bio of one of Moses Curry's grandsons is contained in this book: Joseph Moore Curry.

Deaths in the family:
Cousin Ralfe Weinstein died on 9 July 2000. Cousin
Sam Topley died on 3 August 2000.

New contacts:
Bette Topley of New York, Jack & Thelma Topley's daughter

As of July 1, 2000:

I've spent time this month revising the family tree pages to include more extensive notes. If you haven't visited them for awhile, have a look around. Please let me know if you find any bad links - I did a lot of coding by hand and may have missed a few.

I continued to add more McKeesport Daily News articles this month. I've almost finished transcribing the photocopies I have - guess I'll have to make a trip to the McKeesport Heritage Center sometime soon.

Cousin Kathy Langkamp Bentley sent me some new information about the Beam family connection. I've added Eleanor Sickman Beam's will to the wills page.

Jerry Dittman added to our civil war soldiers page with more information he found in Bates' History of Pennsylvania Volunteers. Thanks, Jerry!

Have you wondered how we might be related to the late Rep. William H. Natcher of Kentucky? Joseph, one of the sons of George Natcher, moved to Tennessee in 1845. One of Joseph's sons moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky which coincidentially was Rep. Natcher's district - think there's a connection?

Richard Topley married Alice McCabe in 1863 in the parish church of Whickham, County Durham, England. I did a quick search of the net and discovered that the church is still there and has its own webpage. Check out Whickham's church of St. Mary the Virgin.

As of June 1, 2000:

I've been reading the McKeesport Daily News this month - from the 1940s. I borrowed several reels of microfilmed issues through interlibrary loan. Trying to find a reference to the medal awarded to my grandfather for saving a co-worker's life; no luck yet, but I enjoyed the research. Since I was spending so much time living in wartime on the homefront, I put together a quick Memorial Day page from some of the articles I copied. I'll add to it from time to time.

A friendly fellow researcher in Ireland, Sharon Davison, generously took the time to copy some Topley documents for me at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. The documents are two letters, one written in 1850 by Isaac Topley in Port Hope, Montreal, Canada to his father Abraham in Markethill, Armagh. The second letter was written by Abraham Topley in Port Hope, Montreal to his brother-in-law James Boardman in Tandragee, Armagh. I was hoping for homesick letters asking about dear uncle James and cousin Richard and mentioning the old homestead and how lovely it was in the springtime where it sits on the edge of town next to the church where grandfather was married. Ah well, we now know the price of mutton in Montreal. There are some clues in the letters and Abraham is surely the Abraham that Dianne in Canada is tracing. The letters mention some other names (Leeper, Boardman, Chaats[?!]) that may provide some clues.

Another researcher, Mike Maher, searched an old directory of Armagh from 1819-1820 and found one Topley listing there: John, a weaver in Tandragee. According to Richard John Topley's marriage certificate, his father John was a weaver.

Remember the pony from last month? I heard from cousin John Borza - there was a winner!

"The winner was Ted Weber of Sherman Ave., Duquesne. This was Mom's next door neighbor by chance! When Ted won the pony, his parents could not keep it so they sold it to Kennywood Park, West Mifflin. My Mom, her brother Jim and of course, Ted received free rides when they visited Kennywood Park. Mr. and Mrs. Weber saved the money from the horse and used it towards Ted's college education. Ted Weber went on to become a Lt. Col. in the service and is now deceased."

I upgraded my genealogy software, Reunion, to the newest version. One of the new features is this nifty fan chart.

As of May 1, 2000:

I made a short trip up North last month to visit my parents and spent some time researching at the Carnegie Library in Oakland and the Hillman Library at the University of Pittsburgh.

My very able assistant and niece, Ms. Whitney Jordan, discovered the news about the Shetland pony contest in the Duquesne Times at the Hillman library. When she saw the ad while searching for a news article about her greatgrandfather, she immediately recognized the Butler name. The drug stores did indeed belong to James and Cyril Butler. Jimmy's store was on the corner of Grant and First and Cyril's store was across from St. Joseph's. Further research of the paper on the date of the drawing did not yield the name of the winner of the pony. This mystery was resolved when we reached home and Whitney showed the ad to her grandmother, Mary Jane (Topley) Wilkinson. The pony was never claimed! It remained in Jimmy Butler's yard on Sherman street, much to the dismay of his neighbors, and lived out its life there.

Carnegie's microfilmed copies of the Pittsburgh Press finally answered the question "Who Shot J.T?" (Natcher) It was Billy Lee, the dirty cur! Read all about this 1889 murder and other stories of the day in the Newspaper area of the Life and Times section.

Recent contacts:

  • Jeff Topley, the greatgrandson of Samuel John Topley.
  • David Natcher, another of Charles and Bessie Natcher's greatgrandchildren
  • Bill Curry, who is descended from Dr. Joseph Curry. We'll be exchanging info, look for new Curry family stuff on these pages soon.
  • Jason Weinstein, great grandson of Richard Topley
  • Kathy Langkamp Bentley, Beam family researcher

Added this month:

As of April 4, 2000:

I'm still busy with the Topleys - my work is very much in progress, but you're welcome to check out the Topleys in Ireland page which is currently under construction. Maybe you can help me organize my information. I have more microfilm about Armagh to go through at the Family History Center and hope to add to the Topley story as I find out more about the area where they lived.

Speaking of Topleys, yet another Topley cousin has contacted me. Jeff Topley is the greatgrandson of Samuel John Topley, the real estate tycoon and Allegheny Clerk of Courts. A month or so ago, I sent out a generic email to all the possible Topleys and Natchers I could find using Bigfoot, Infospace, WhoWhere at Lycos and Yahoo. Jeff was one of the people who responded, as was David Natcher who is (like me) one of Charles and Bessie Natcher's greatgrandchildren. I also just heard from Bill Curry, who is descended from Dr. Joseph Curry, one of the sons of Moses Curry. Bill found us through Rootsweb and has lots of terrific information about that branch of the family. I'm thinking of starting a page with family email addresses on it since I've been meeting so many relatives on line - I'll be in touch with you soon to ask permission to include you if you're in my genealogy address book.

As of March 1, 2000:

I've been busy doing a lot of Topley research this month. It's not quite organized enough to publish. I have found a number of Topleys in Ireland, but I haven't made any connections between them yet. Received death certificates from Allegheny county for John Natcher and John T. Natcher. John T. died of a gunshot wound, contributing cause of death is listed as "homicide"! I'll be trying to dig up newspaper articles from 1889 to find out what happened and will let you know.

Managed to put a few things online:

  • A search engine has been added to this site. Now you can search for specific words anywhere in the site. See below for the Search field. "Search" also appears on every page in the footer.
  • Additional Butler county newspaper clippings about tragic accidents in the Topley family added to the Newspaper area of the Life and Times section.
  • Added a Photo Album link for family photos.
  • There's a Topley family reunion in Canada this summer. More info here.

As of February 1, 2000:

  • Lots of Topley news this month. I met with Sandy Topley Davidson, my third-cousin-once-removed, and we exchanged lots of information about our Topley families. Her father was James B. Topley of Slippery Rock, PA and his father was James Topley of East McKeesport (see the above picture.) She graciously lent me a bunch of family photos to scan and added quite a bit of data to the family tree. I also made copies of some newspaper clippings about tragic accidents in the Topley family and have added them to the Newspaper area of the Life and Times section.
  • Cousin Richard Topley passed away on January 21. Family members came together for his funeral at St. Joseph's church in Duquesne.
  • I received a letter from Dianne Topley of British Columbia, Canada who is organizing a Topley family reunion there this summer. Her Topleys are descended from Abraham Topley of county Armagh in Ireland. I'm looking for a connection between our families. Sandy confirmed that our Topleys are from that county also and I've begun digging into Irish records to find our John Topley there. If you're interested in attending the reunion, email me and I'll give you the details.
  • Added a new Biographies section. This contains biographies of family members from various sources such as the county history books which were very popular between 1880 and 1910. Take them with a grain of salt - the information was given to the writers by family members and is not as accurate as that found in primary sources like birth certificates or land records.
  • I've started scanning some of the documents I have, such as birth and marriage records, and will include them in the Records section. It's kind of cool to see John Wilkinson's signature on his naturalization form or to read Felix and Elizabeth's entry in Scotland's marriage registry.
  • Quite a few updates to the Curry/Sickman/Linhart pages from information I've picked up on the Linhart mailing list and emails from Kathy Langkamp and her father Richard. Kathy's gggrandmother was Eleanor Lydia Sickman, sister to our Jeremiah.

Thanks to Wendy and Jason Weinstein for sending info on the Weinstein family. These are my second cousins that I grew up with and, until now, I had more information in my files about third and fourth cousins I've never met! 

As of January 1, 2000:

  • Check out the McDermotts picture above! Felix is my great great grandfather - isn't that neat? My cousin John Borza asked his mother to get the picture for me from our cousin Kathleen McDermott of Duquesne (her father was John McDermott - in the back row.) I received it in time to use it on the cover of the millennium calendar I made for my mother for Christmas.
  • Another new cousin contacted me. Jim Linhart has been researching his Linhart line for some time and knew a Sickman had married into his family. He found our Jeremiah and Elizabeth Linhart Sickman on this website and added several generations to that line for us, all the way back to Christian Linhart, b. 1722 in Germany.
  • (Non-genealogy page: Christmas pictures)
  • Added or revised:

As of December 1, 1999:

  • New location!! This site has a new location on the internet. We're still with Rootsweb (the best genealogy service online), but we now have a URL that's a little easier to remember:
  • I've added the contributions to the Butler branch of the family tree made by cousins John Borza and Daniel Butler. Check out all these new cousins!
  • My partner Susan has been working on her family tree and I've finally added her research to my Reunion database (and therefore to these pages.)
  • John sent me a "History of the Butler Family" written by Mary Butler which I've added to the Family History section.
  • I wrote to the Diocese of Pittsburgh to request a search for the marriage of greatgrandparents Bernard McDermott and Annie Butler. No record found - they possibly were married at St. Patrick's in Coulter and the parish records were lost in a fire. I've added the baptismal information about their children to the "Various Church records" page.
  • I had the McKeesport Heritage Center send me copies of The Daily News articles about the terrible automobile accident which killed James and Estelle Topley in 1914. The story was frontpage news for days and went into great detail about the accident itself and about all the people involved. I've uploaded the articles to the Life and Times section.
  • Added or revised:

As of November 1, 1999:

  • John Borza, my newly-met third cousin, has given me a wealth of information about the Butlers. John became interested in the family history as a teenager and inherited the research that his aunt Catherine Butler had done. Catherine was the head librarian at the Carnegie library in Homestead, PA. John's additions to the family tree included Daniel Butler. I discovered that our Daniel had been added to the IGI by one of his descendants, also named Daniel. John contacted Daniel and they are sharing family information which I'll upload next month. (The International Genealogical Index, or IGI, is an enormous database maintained by the Church of Latter Day Saints which can be searched online.)
  • While attempting to organize my records, I came across an article in the Carlisle Herald regarding a plan to erect a Civil War memorial. It contains a list of soldiers from Cumberland County, PA who fought and died in the Civil War.
  • The research I did last month for on the Natchers turned up quite a few "extra" Natchers that I haven't been able to tie in to our tree yet. I've added the notes I took in case anyone can shed some light on these folks.
  • I received a letter this week from another cousin, Jean Topley Scrivens. Her son-in-law found me through Rootsweb and put us in contact with one another. It turns out that Jean is originally from East McKeesport and is descended from James Topley, brother of my greatgreatgrandfather Richard John. I'm trying to track down an article I read on microfilm at the McKeesport Heritage Center about the auto accident which killed Jean's grandparents in 1914. Her father Frank was only 11 years old and was also injured in the accident.
  • Jean was inspired to track down Topleys when she received an invitation to a Topley 2000 reunion in British Columbia. These Canadian Topleys, Ron and Dianne, also trace their family to county Armagh, Ireland. I'm searching for a connection.
  • Added or revised:

As of October 1, 1999:

Catherine McDermott Schorr died this month at the age of 95. She was the last remaining child of Annie and Bernard McDermott and lived a very long and happy life. Her daughter Janet has just begun researching the Schorr family. My mother spoke with a cousin from the Butler side of the family at the funeral whose son is also researching the family - our mothers put us in touch and I look forward to receiving data from John soon.
I did a lot of work on the Natchers this month in preparing material for Mom to take with her to a family wedding. I've uploaded the narrative I put together for her about the
Natchers and hope to create one for each branch of the family. As a followup to last month's tidbit about the Turner and Natcher construction company, I discovered a reference to "John Turner, a Carlisle builder," in a history of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I've uploaded the map of Carlisle from 1858 that I included in the Natcher booklet. You can check out the smaller GIF file or go to the large JPG file that shows more detail. I have also includedthe index with the property owners of the lots.
I've added a page with rambling
memories of growing up in Duquesne. I'll expand it with stories from my family as they send them to me.

Added or revised:

As of September 1, 1999:

Most of my genealogy time this month was spent doing lookups in the History of Allegheny County for people on the PA Allegheny County mailing list. It was fun and I learned more about Allegheny history. I will focus on the family again in September.

Added or revised:

Revised census records for UK for 1851, 1861, 1871 to include County Durham records

As of August 1, 1999:

The biggest news is that my website has moved - I am now a proud sponsor of Rootsweb, the Internet's largest and oldest genealogy site, and these pages are now housed on their servers. If you're not familiar with Rootsweb, wander on over there after you check out this site. The other big news is that I connected with another cousin on line. Bob Minteer's my third cousin through the Natcher line - check out his site and say hello. His great-grandfather John Herbert Natcher is the brother of our Charles Edson Natcher. I've continued to track down Topleys, Coyles and McKennas in 1861 and 1871 in Durham, confirming what I found last month in the 1881 and 1891 census returns. Figuring out which Coyles and McKennas were related to each other and how has been an interesting puzzle.

As of July 1, 1999:

I found more information in County Durham, England in the 1891 census. Aggie and Richard Topley were no longer in Benfieldside, but quite a few Coyles and McKennas were still there. The widow Annie Coyle was listed as an innkeeper - possibly Aggie's sister-in-law. Still figuring out all the connections. The Civil War database on was free for a few days, so I looked for any of our male family members who were of fighting age at the time. Several possibilities, a few I'm pretty certain of. There were three Natchers fighting for the North - none of them the William Natcher that I found last year in the Cumberland Historical Society files!

Added Census records, Civil War soldiers, History of Duquesne by Mary Zella Butler.

As of June 10, 1999:

Found the Topleys in England! In 1881 Richard and Agnes were living with their families in Benfieldside, County Durham. Richard's parents were both born in Ireland. James Coyle was born in County Tyrone, Ireland. Catherine McKenna Coyle was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland. (Sound familiar? Check out the Butlers and McDermots!) There were a bunch of Coyles and some McKennas nearby that look like ours. I also got to look at the birth register for Wheeling, WV and found Fanny Fern Merkle's parents, Albert and Anna Mericle .

As of May 1, 1999:

I received a birth certificate for Richard John Topley, my grandfather's older brother. He was born in 1893 in Benfieldside in the north part of County Durham. The family was living at 13 West Row, Black Hill, at the time. Now I can order the 1891 UK census and find them. I borrowed the book MacDermot of Moylurg through Interlibrary Loan to determine whether I want to buy it from the MacDermot Clan Association. It's an extensive history of the MacDermot family going back into the 4th century. Definitely adding it to my Christmas list. I'm making a research trip to Allegheny County this month so look for lots of new information in June!

As of April 1, 1999:

There's not much new this month, except that I discovered that Richard and Alice (my grandfather's older brother and sister) were not born in Lancaster, but Lanchester. Wish I had known that before I read through the 1891 Lancaster census! I've sent for Richard's birth certificate to get more information. Lanchester is in northern England, in the north part of County Durham.

As of March 1, 1999:

This month was mostly NOT finding people. Sometimes that's the way the research goes. Not finding Kennedys in New Monkland, Scotland in 1871. Not finding Hugh Gavin in Bothwell, Scotland in 1871 (3 years after his wife died.) Not finding anyone in Bothwell in 1851. No Curry wills in Chester county. Ah, well.....I've added a section called "Life and Times" that has miscellaneous documents relating to the places and times in which our family lived over the centuries. These aren't family records, but they can give us an idea of what life may have been like for our ancestors. They will contain descriptions of the places our family has lived, churches in which we've worshipped, how we earned our daily bread, etc.

As of February 1, 1999:

Papers from the Scottish General Records Office arrived. I now have a birth certificate for Bernard McDermott, born November 29, 1860 at 1:00 AM in Johnstonhall, parish of Bothwell.The death certificates for Martin and Anne McDermott also arrived. Martin died in 1864 of "asthma and cardiac disease." The certificate gave his parents' names! I wasn't expecting that - another generation to add to the tree. His father was Michael, his mother Bridget. And her maiden name was on there - Cockburn. So we have more names to narrow the search once I get to the Irish records. Anne's certificate held more surprises. She died in 1868 and was listed as widow of Martin and wife of Hugh Gavin! So she remarried after Martin passed on. Her father was Martin Hart and her mother Anne, maiden name Colman.

As of January 17, 1999:

Spent some more time checking out Margaret Turner Natcher in the records of the Carlisle Methodist Episcopal Church. No further information about her expulsion. In addition to mother Rebecca, Sarah and Susan Turner both attended classes. John Natcher also attended classes organized by the Methodists. I spotted a Joseph Turner in 1850, but I don't know if he's one of ours. There was a family of Rudicells in 1851. Don't know yet how that surname is connected to our Rudicill Natcher, but I'm looking. I've also rented the Carlisle Presbyterian records microfilm and hope to review it in the next few weeks.

Pursuing the Scottish census records a little further, I found more information about the McDermotts and Butlers. I looked through the 1871 and 1881 census reurns for Bothwell parish and discovered that sometime between 1861 and 1871 the McDermott boys lost their parents and were living with their grandmother Bridget. In 1881 the family was no longer in Bothwell, possibly having gone to America by that time. Felix and family were there in both 1871 and 1881 (which explains why I couldn't find them in Allegheny in 1880.) Going back to the Scottish General Records online search, I located and sent for death records for Martin and Anne McDermott in 1864 and 1868. Since I had already paid for my time, I checked out the 1891 census index that they now have at the site and guess who's still in Scotland - Felix! He must have left shortly afterward and gone straight to Duquesne.

As of December 31, 1998:

Lots of news since my last update. I did find an obituary for Felix Butler in the Duquesne Times. He moved to Duquesne around 1890. His wife died five years later. The Scottish General Registry Office now has an on-line search service where I discovered that Felix married Elizabeth Kennedy on May 24, 1865 in Airdrie. I sent for a copy of the marriage registration and discovered that her parents were Thomas Kennedy and Ann Derby. James and Catherine (McKendrie) Butler were listed as Felix's parents. Felix gave his residence as Bothwell Parish in Lanark county. Why does that sound familiar? Because Martin and Ann McDermott also lived there! I reviewed the 1861 census for Bothwell and discovered the Butlers, James, Catherine, Daniel Felix and Matilda living on Legbranock Road. All of them had been born in county Antrim in Ireland. The McDermotts (Martin, Ann and the boys) lived nearby on Ward End Street. Hugh (Ann's brother) and Bridget Hart lived next door or in the same house. Elizabeth Kennedy was living with her parents in Airdrie at the time of the census. She and her brothers Bernard, Thomas, John and James were born in Ireland. Sisters Ann and Mary were born in Scotland; the family emigrated between 1854 and 1857. Next step will have to be the Irish records, but I'm putting it off in hopes of finding a reference to the town or parish that these folks were from. Irish records apparently can be a wee bit of a mess.

Disappointment on the Natcher front. William was not one of the fallen brave of Gettysburg. He was killed by friendly fire while stationed in Washington, D.C. I don't think this William was Rudisill's son, more likely a nephew or cousin. Interesting news about Rudisill's daughter-in-law Margaret. She was expelled from the Methodist Church in 1847 for "immorality". Well, well. Margaret's mother Rebecca had attended classes at the church with her between 1839 and 1844, along with Sarah Turner. I found the widow Rebecca Turner with daughters Elizabeth,Susan, Caroline, and Elmira in the 1850 census. Ten years earlier, David Turner lived in Carlisle with a housefull of females - good chance that these are our Turners.

Still looking for those Wilkinsons. The earliest listed in the Great Gonerby parish record is the marriage of Thomas Wilkinson in 1800. I've started searching outward from there for Wilkinson families in Lincolnshire hoping to find the family that moved to Great Gonerby. There are a lot of George Wilkinsons in Lincolnshire!

As of June 25, 1998:

I finally located a date for Philip "Felix" Butler's death when I was in Pennsylvania this spring. I stopped at the former Holy Name RC Church in Duquesne (now Christ the Light of the World RC Church) and asked about parish records. Felix was buried in Holy Name Cemetery on November 27, 1920. Now that I have a date, I'll be looking for an obituary in the Duquesne and McKeesport papers.

The Natchers definitely moved to Pittsburgh from Cumberland County, probably in 1868. The earliest Natcher I have is Michael in Harrisburg in 1790. I'll be visiting the Cumberland County Historical Society in July. A William Natcher died in Carlisle in July 1863, a few weeks after the battle at Gettysburg. Is he the same William who served in the US Cavalry and died in the war? Is he Rudisill's son? Stay tuned.

I'm currently reviewing the parish registry for Great Gonerby, Lincolnshire. There are baptismal records for Wilkinsons starting in 1802. Wonder where they came from before then? I'll let you know as soon as I figure it out.

Updated on Wednesday, 24-Jan-2001 20:21:21 MST