Friday, June 5, 2009

Brick Wall, Go Away!

Last night I was able to break through a brick wall. I have had trouble with my father's father's father's family for years. Doyles. In Pittsburgh. In the early 1900's. I'm lucky they aren't Jones' or Smiths. For the longest time I searched blindly for my great grandfather and his parents, under the impression that his father's name was Joseph. For years I thought his name was Joseph but I could not find a Joseph that matched the dates I had. Then this past fall I tried instead to search for my grandfather's uncle "Patsy," and there they were, my great grandfather and his 9 siblings and parents. His father's name? Anthony. Not Joseph. That explained a lot. According to the censuses of 1880 and 1910, Anthony had come from Ireland in 1872. I took this information and soldiered on.

Anthony Doyle was a ghost. He appeared in the 1880 census and 1910 but no where in between. Neither did his wife or children. Did they leave Pittsburgh? Not likely, I knew my great grandfather had been born in Pittsburgh in 1889. I searched the city directories at and found their address. They were in the city, on 2nd Avenue. The city directories explained where 2nd Avenue ran and what city wards it passed through. I took these notes and went back to the census.

I started in the city and worked my way outward, one page at a time. The 1900 census wonderfully shows the street name and house number so I simply had to scan that first column of each page. I worked my way through the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 14th wards through thousands of Pittsburghers, stopping occasionally to skim interesting facts, names and addresses. I noted each time the census taker had walked 2nd Avenue, and saw from the house numbers that the Doyles were not nearby. I considered jumping to the city limits and working my way into town. Each time I considered this, I feared that my family was on the next page, in the next district, just around the corner. Street names, house numbers and addresses in this city make only some sense today, I doubted logic would have applied to them 110 years ago.

Logic did, in fact, apply. I got closer as I worked through the 22nd city ward. The 800 block, the 900 block. Into the last ward on my list, the 23rd. The first few districts were north of my search area, but occasionally a more southern page jumped in. There! 2nd Avenue. The 1200 block. 1400. 1600? Wait, that can't be right. I reviewed the pages again, to no avail, and then noticed the 1600 block was counting down. The census taker was working his way into town. There, the 1500 block. 1540, 1550, 1560, where are they?

And at last, there. 1586 2nd Avenue, there they were, just where the city directory said they should be (click the image for a better view!):

I should credit this image to though I feel funny doing so. I paid for the subscription, I searched their site for it for days and their search function insisted that these people did not live in Pittsburgh in 1900 yet there they are. So yes, I got it from but I paid for it with my own money and time so it's mine now.

I am especially happy to have found them in the 1900 census because of the additional information this census provides. It lists birth month and year which will be great for me to use to sort out my great grandfather's brothers, Thomas, Edward and William. It will also help greatly chasing his sisters after they married. That birth month and year is very, very helpful. Also, this census cleared up something I had been wondering. My 2nd great grandmother, Catherine, had 12 children but only 10 were living in 1900. I was never able to find all of her children in one census, and even in this one the eldest two, Patrick and John, had moved out. I wondered if the names overlapped and if there were fewer children than I thought. It turns out there were many.

Also, I see now why I could never find my great grandfather in a search, if this image is in the search at all. His name, James, is clearly written over top of the letters for the name Daniel. Searches for any other member of this family came up blank, though, so I question if it has been entered into the search.

Interestingly, a family of Doyles lives next door to this one. Elizabeth and Marrie. Elizabeth is older than Anthony and listed as widowed. I suspect she might be his sister-in-law. I must find out more about her. It might lead me to Anthony's parents.

I am looking forward to using everything the 1900 census image for my great grandfather's family was able to provide. Onward!