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?

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