Sunday, April 30, 2017

And Then There Were None

Four years after her husband died in 1925 my husband's paternal grandmother, Cecelia (Klimasansluski) Dagutis remarried. She had moved her younger children from West Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to Hamtramck, Michigan. Dodge built their main assembly plant in Hamtramck in 1910 and workers flooded to the area, which had previously been rural. With the opening of the plant came a flood of Polish immigrants and by 1920, 85 percent of the population were factory workers.

11398 St. Albin Avenue, home of Cecelia Dagutis and her
children, courtesy of Google Maps

On 13 April 1929, Cecelia married Anthony Strupski, a 30-year-old autoworker, who had immigrated from Lithuania and been married previously. Cecelia claimed she was 42 years but was actually a few years older. They were married by the pastor of St. George's Roman Catholic Church in Detroit, a Lithuanian church.

When the 1930 census was enumerated Cecelia remained on St. Albin Avenue with four of her sons and a boarder, Joseph Okrongley. She indicated she was married but Anthony was not listed as living in the home. By 1935, Cecelia and her younger sons were back in West Hazleton. There is no mention of a husband. She used "Dagutis" as her surname and the city directory included "(wid Adam)." It appears Anthony had been expunged.

Anthony Shrupski died on 2 November 1939 at St. Francis Hospital in Hamtramck of pneumonia at the age of 38. His death certificate said he was married and listed Cecelia as his wife. My working theory at this time was they had separated.

I first learned about Anthony Shrupski in 2015 when Michigan marriage records became available online. My husband was shocked to discover his grandmother had remarried; his eldest sister knew all about Anthony! Recently, I got curious about him and learned that the black cloud of tragedy seemed to follow him around.

Anthony declared his intention to become a naturalized citizen on 19 July 1928 and said he was a widower. He provided 15 February 1901 as his birth date and that he had immigrated on the S/S America from Bremen, Germany. Other family members indicated they came to the U.S. in 1901. However, I have not been able to find a corresponding passenger record. Anthony did come to the U.S. on the S/S America, arriving in New York on August 1923. In tow were a wife named Vinca and a four-year-old son named Frank. The family had last lived in Berlin and were headed to Anthony's uncle, Joseph, who lived in Brooklyn. Anthony's parents and siblings also lived in Brooklyn.

Little Frank died in Kings, New York, on 17 May 1904, and Vinca was dead by 1928 when Anthony filed is intention to naturalize papers with the court. Eleven years later, he died, and then there were none.

I still have many questions...Did Anthony remain in Europe when his parents immigrated? He would have been an infant when they left. Did he go back to Europe after World War I, perhaps to find a wife? Why did they live in Berlin? Where did Anthony and his family live before he appeared out of thin air in Hamtramck in 1928?

Three Sons Born in One Year...Really?
The Onion Layers that Were Cecelia Dagutis
Cecelia's Big Secret?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Chipping Away at the Dagutis Family

My husband's family tree has been a particularly tough nut to crack. I discover a bit more each time I poke at it but what I know has taken years. His ethnicity is 98 percent eastern European. His paternal grandparents immigrated from Lithuania; his maternal grandmother, from Austria; and his maternal grandfather was a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Emipre but immigrated from what is now Serbia and considered himself German.

My husband's oldest sister believes their paternal grandmother, Cecilia Dagutis/Degutis had 13 children, including three sets of twins. I have learned of nine children, including two boys who died young. Cecilia's oldest known son was John Joseph Degutis. I now believe was born on 16 April 1902 in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.

When the 1920 census was enumerated, John was 16 years old and worked as a clerk in a drug store. His family lived in West Hazleton. Five years later John was arrested and held on $3,000 bond. He was charged with performing an illegal operation which resulted in the death of Mrs. Linnie Baker. Arrested with John was Peter O'Donnell, who was described in the newspaper as being "friendly with the woman."

21 February 1925 Scranton Republic, courtesy of

After the above article and similar ones appeared in several local newspapers no other mention of the incident has been found.

John married Mary Bridget (or Bernadette) O'Donnell, daughter of Hugh and Ella "Nellie" (Campbell) O'Donnell on 35 June 1925. For several years I knew nothing more about John and Mary. When I found them through a series of obituaries discovered on, I discovered that John had changed the spelling of his surname to DeGatis. There is a family story that John had performed an abortion (which was illegal at the time) and disappeared for several years before his younger brother, Tony, found him in either Pittsburgh or Philadelphia.

I learned John and Mary had a son they named Bernard who lived but three days in in March 1928. Little Bernard died on 21 March of circulatory failure due to toxemia from his mother who had eclampsia. When I found the 1930 census, I discovered Bernard had a twin brother, John Joseph DeGatis, Jr., who lived. A sister Constance "Connie" followed in 1936. John Sr. worked as a pharmacist and a salesman for a candy manufacturer in 1930 and 1940, respectively.

He died on 26 April 1983 and was interred at Our Lady of Grace Cemetery in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. His wife, Mary, died on 7 February 2000 and was buried beside her husband.

John Joseph DeGatis, Jr., married Nancy McMullen; they had three children before her death in 1987. John Jr.'s second wife was Margaret Jane (Lavin) Berry. John's son Michael Dennis DeGatis died suddenly in 1993. He was married to Rosemary Mace and had three children. John Jr. died 11 May 2006.

Constance "Connie" DeGatis married Thomas Francis McArdle, who died on 16 September 1999 and was interred at Our Lady of Grace Cemetery. They had two children.

Three Sons Born in One Year. . .Really?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Janet (Semple/Muir) Hutchison (1871-1942)

This is one in a series of posts about the family of my great great grandparents James and Margaret (Semple) Muir. Janet (Semple) Hutchison, Margaret's eldest child, was an aunt of my grandmother, Alice (Muir) Jennings.

Janet Semple was born on 25 November 1871 in Dalserf Scotland to Margaret Semple, who was unmarried at the time of her birth and worked as a dairy maid away from her parents' home. She returned to Dalserf for the birth of her daughter. A father was not listed on Janet's birth registration and Janet was known as Jessie throughout her life. She frequently used Muir as her surname before her marriage and she was raised as part of James and Margaret (Semple) Muir's household.

British Ordnance Survey of Dalserf, including the farm
Margaret's father leased

When Jessie was almost two years old her mother married James Muir. In 1881 Margaret, Jessie, and Robert Muir, were living with Margaret's parents, Peter and Janet (Torrance) Semple, at Swinhill Farm in Dalserf. Jessie's step-father was not enumerated with the rest of the family. From 1877 until 1886, Jessie's mother had six children. However, only the two youngest, Margaret and Peter (the fourth son so named) lived to adulthood.

When Jessie was 15 years old, she, her mother, and half siblings, boarded the Allen Line's S/S Manitoban in Glasgow. After stopping in Ireland, they arrived in Philadelphia on 30 September 1887. Jessie was included on the passenger manifest as Jessie Muir, but she was listed on a different page than her mother and half siblings. Her occupation was listed as a domestic.

Margaret and the children settled in Streator, Illinois. The town was the second fastest growing town in Illinois, besides Chicago. The coal mines attracted workers from every part of the globe. Two years after immigrating to the United States, Jessie married a fellow Scot, Alexander Hutchison on 2 January 1889 in Streator. Her step-father, James Muir, was listed as her father on the marriage certificate and acted as one of the witnesses to the marriage.

They had three children in Illinois before moving back to Scotland, but only two were living when they made the trip. On 14 February 1894, the young family arrived in Glasgow aboard the Anchor Line's S/S Ethiopia. They had traveled to New York City to board the ship.

In 1895 the family lived at 20 Swinhill Colliery, which was housing for the miners and owned by the colliery. There were just over 50 one- and two-room apartments in the complex. In 1910 the housing was described as fair in size, with five privy middens for residents living in all the apartments. There was no ground for private gardens, no sinks in the homes, and water had to be drawn from wells. By 1910 most of the complex had been demolished.

When the 1901 census was enumerated in Scotland, Alex and Jessie lived at 31 New Street in Stonehouse. Alex worked as a coal miner and the couple had five children. Interestingly, Jessie's mother and her family lived at the same address in 1861. I do not know if it was still being rented by the family or if this is merely a coincidence.

Jessie had a daughter in 1903. The family decided to return to the United States. They boarded the Anchor Line's S/S Furnessia in Glasgow on 21 July 1904 and arrived in New York City on 1 August. Traveling with Alex and Jessie were their six children. Everyone in the family was a United States citizen and their physical description was listed as good. The family's destination was Kirksville, Missouri.

Jessie had her last child, a daughter, in 1905. When the 1910 census was enumerated the family, including their seven children lived in Nineveh, Missouri, next door to Jessie's half sister, Margaret (Muir) Caswell. Alex and his brother-in-law were coal miners.

Children of Alexander and Janet "Jessie" (Semple) Hutchison
  1. Jessie Hutchison born about 1889; died about 1891 (this information was according to my grandmother)
  2. Alexander Hutchison born 1891-Illinois; died 1959; never married
  3. James Hutchison born 1893-Illinois; died 1970-Illinois; married Emma Frances Hanlin
  4. Maggie Hutchison born 1895-Scotland; died 1994-Missouri; married William Bruce Melching
  5. Lily Hutchison born 1898-Scotland; died 1989-Missouri; married Andrew Jackson McDaniel
  6. Joseph Hutchison born 1901-Scotland; died 1966-Georgia; married Ruth Anna Richardson*
  7. Jane "Janie" Hutchison born 1903-Scotland; died 1959-Missouri; never married
  8. Ruth Hutchison born 1905-Missouri; died 1993-Missouri; married David Connel Combs
In 1920 Jessie and Alex remained in Nineveh. Alex worked as a coal miner. All the children lived at home except for their daughter Maggie, who lived and worked in Kansas City, Missouri. Jessie's mother had moved from O'Fallon, Illinois, to Nineveh, sometime between 1912 and 1920. She lived nearby with her youngest daughter and granddaughter, Alice Muir, likely to be near her daughters, Jessie and Margaret.

Plat map of Novinger, which indicates it was at the junction of two
railroad lines; image courtesy of Plat Book of Adair County, Missouri

Jessie lost her husband 19 May 1927. She continued to live in Nineveh with a daughter. The John Blacksmith family boarded in their home. By 1935 Jessie had moved to nearby Novinger to a house she owned, which was valued at $400. Two of her children lived with her.

Jessie died on 23 February 1942 of pernicious anemia from which she had suffered for four years. She was buried in the Novinger City Cemetery beside her husband.

Mrs. Alexander Hutchinson of Novinger Dies

Succumbs at age of 70 after ten-year illness

Mrs. Jessie Hutchinson, 70 years old, died at her home in Novinger this morning at 10:30 o'clock after a ten-year illness.

The body is at the Dee Riley Funeral Home here and will remain there until Tuesday evening when it will be taken to the Hutchinson home. Funeral services will be held at Novinger Wednesday afternoon.

She is survived by her husband, Alexander Hutchinson, four daughters, and three sons, Mrs. Ruth Camles and Mrs. Margaret Melcher, of Kansas City, Mrs. Lillian McDaniels of Memphis, Mo., Miss Janie and Alex Hutchinson at home, Joe Hutchinson of Springfield, Ill., and Jimmie Hutchinson of Taylorville, Ill. One child preceded her in death.**

As published in the Kirksville Daily Express on 23 February 1942.

*Joseph Hutchison may have also been married to Edna L. Ridgeway but I have been unable to definitively prove it.

**There are several inaccuracies in this obituary. The Hutchison surname is not spelled with two 'n's. Jessie's husband died in 1927 and did not survive her. All of the daughters' surnames are incorrect. Camles should be Combs; McDaniels should be McDaniel; and Melcher should be Melching.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Slave Name Roll Project: Tracing Descendants of Former Slaves

On 3 March 2015 I wrote a post about the Slaves of Harvey Claytor (1800-1871) of Franklin County, Virginia. I used Cohabitation Registers I found in the digital holdings of the Library of Virginia. These registers are often the first time that a former slave appeared officially in a public record and included extensive information about their families and former owners, enabling researchers to perhaps link a former slave to the 1870 census. These records also included the surname used soon after emancipation.

According to an Out of the Box, a blog written by staff members of the Library of Virginia, post, "Virginia provided no legal recognition for slave marriages. The commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands directed assistant commissioners of states to order the county clerks to make a registry of such cohabitating couples in 1865. A year later the Virginia General Assembly passed an act to amend the Code of Virginia to legalize the marriages 'of Colored Persons no Cohabiting as Husband and Wife'."

I found four people formerly enslaved by Harvey Claytor, my first cousin five times removed, in the Floyd County registers. After watching the educational video entitled Documenting the Enslaved with Crista Cowan, I decided to handle the slaves owned by my ancestors in the manner outlined in the video. I went through all the blog posts I wrote about named slaves. As I created a person in my tree for each for each named slave and associated wills, estate inventories, probate documents, deeds, letters, and other documents to those people, I would search for additional records about their lives after they were freed.

Web links added to owners and enslaved people when there is no known
blood relationship. Also included is a blog link with more information;
image courtesy of

Facts added to formerly enslaved Samuel "Sam" Henry Claytor. Most of
this information came from the Cohabitation Registers but I have not yet
made a source citation; image courtesy of

I had success with two families I found in 2015. This post is about:

Samuel Henry Claytor and Adaline Lemons, Floyd County, Virginia

Samuel "Sam" Henry Claytor[1} was born on 13 February 1845 in Franklin County, Virginia, and was born into slavery owned by Harvey Claytor. In 1866 he began cohabitating (marriage between slaves was not legal) with Adaline Jane Lemons[2], who was born about 1849 also in Franklin County, and was enslaved by Creed Lemons at the time of her birth. On 27 February 1866 when the cohabitation registers were created, they lived in Floyd County, Virginia, but had no children.

The 1870 census indicated Sam and Adaline lived in Jacksonville, Virginia; Sam worked as a day laborer. In 1880 the family remained in Jacksonville, but Samuel may have run afoul of the law and served time in the county jail. He was also enumerated with his family in Jacksonville. By 1910 Sam's family owned a farm on Franklin Turnpike in Floyd County and he farmed his land while several of his children worked outside the home. Adaline had eleven children during their marriage and two were no longer alive. In 1920 Sam and Adaline were still living and working on their farm. Three of their sons worked the farm with them and several other children had married and left home.

Adaline died on 25 October 1922 of apoplexy and Sam died on 9 September 1923 of broncho-pneumonia following a bout with the flu. Adaline's death certificate indicated she was interred at Robertson Graveyard in Floyd County.
  • Baltimore "Balty" Claytor, born 3 October 1866 in Floyd County; died 4 June 1936 in Floyd County; married Judie Loretta Banks, daughter of Bruce and Ellen Banks, on 18 December 1909 in Floyd County. Two children: Ada M. Claytor (about 1900) and Mary E. Claytor (about 1903)
  • Mariah Jane Claytor, born in 1871 in Floyd County; died 9 November 1935 in Floyd County. Never married
  • James Claytor, born 11 May 1873 in Floyd County[3]
  • Peter Claytor, born about 1875[4]
  • Adelaide Claytor, born on 30 November 1875 in Floyd County; died 10 March 1961 in Floyd County; married Doctor "Dock" Simpson Turner, son of Stephen Turner and Frances Patterson. No children.
  • John Claytor, born about 1878[5]
  • Mary Claytor, born 20 June 1879 in Floyd County[6]
  • George W. Claytor, born about 1882 in Floyd County; married Clyde A. Jones[7], daughter of Richard and Edna Jones, on 4 November 1906 in Floyd County. No children.
  • Palmer "Pal" Claytor, born 20 March 1885 in Floyd County; died 29 June 1957 in Floyd, Virginia; married Eva Baker on 11 March 1914 in Mercer County, West Virginia; divorced before 1920
  • Anna "Annie" Claytor, born about 1889 in Floyd County; died 7 March 1961 in Floyd, Virginia; married Falos Morris Akers, son of David and Albina Akers, divorced; married Elliott Pritchett. One child: Vernon Akers
  • Minnie Claytor, born 15 February 1897 in Floyd County; died 21 August 1958 in Radford, Virginia; married William Reed Columbus Ingram, son of George Ingram and Laura Beaver or Moran, on 6 October 1938. He was married previously with several children; Minnie had one son: Oscar Claytor.
In reviewing the Member Connect feature available through, many people have some of this information, but not all of it. It appears they have worked their family trees backwards in time, as is recommended. However, I worked from the 1867 Cohabitation Registers forwards and in this particular case, it enabled me to break through the 1870 census which is frequently a brick wall for African-American family historians and genealogists. I hope this information will help descendants of Sam and Adaline (Lemons/Menefee) Claytor break through their brick walls. 

[1] The Claytor surname is often written in records as Clayton.

[2] Adaline's maiden name was often recorded in documents about her children as Menefee. Her death certificate listed Steven and Harriett Menefee as her parents. However, she was listed in the cohabitation registers as Adaline Lemons. I do not know the origins of the Menefee surname.

[3] Information about James Claytor is from the Virginia, Floyd County Births, 1873-79.

[4] Information about Peter Claytor is from the 1880 Census.

[5] Information about John Claytor is from the 1880 and 1900 Census.

[6] Information about Mary Claytor is from the 1900 Census and the Virginia, Floyd County Births, 1873-79

[7] Clyde (Jones) Claytor married James Lemuel Redd in 1923. I do not know if George W. Claytor died before that date or if they divorced.

Slaves of Harvey Claytor (1800-1871) of Franklin County, Virginia
In Celebration of Black History Month (or More DNA Discoveries)