Sunday, March 18, 2018

A reminder

This is just a gentle reminder for any new readers of the blog who haven’t seen the “rules” before –while we really do welcome comments – ones that add information, or even ones that say “Well done” (blog writers are human after all) - this blog does not engage in polemics. If that is what you want you will have to look elsewhere. Comments judged inappropriate for this blog will simply be removed. But that allows a lot of leeway for readers to still send in comments. In the past, some vital leads have been provided in this way, and we really do appreciate the interest shown and help offered by various ones.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


by Jerome

This I believe is new research, which I sent to Bruce and Rachael a few weeks’ ago.

Many of those from Scots-Irish stock who immigrated to America belonged to the Presbyterian Church. The Russell family were no exception.

The first known to make the journey was Charles Tays Russell, Uncle of our CTR. His obituary notes that he came to America in 1823 and set up business in Pittsburgh in 1831.  In fact, we now know that he joined the Presbyterian Church there in 1834.

The 3rd Presbyterian Church Pittsburgh was established in 1834, and as members joined they were given a number. In the very first year of operation, Charles T Russell, became a member, and was given the number 47. Here is his entry in the church register.

The entry states he was admitted on January 22, 1834, by certificate, which means he came from another Presbyterian Church – somewhere – with a letter of introduction.

The right hand column details what eventually happened to these members. For Charles T the entry reads “suspended.”  If he’d misbehaved in some way and been expelled the entry would have specified this. If he’d resigned and transferred to another church, the entry would have read “dismissed” – which in modern language can give the wrong impression. In the case of Charles T the entry “suspended” must mean something else. I suspect it simply means that his membership lapsed as he stopped supporting the church by attendance or contribution.

Nine years later, CTR’s father Joseph Lytle Russell entered the picture. His obituary suggests he came to America in 1845. However, his application for naturalization in 1848 stated that he had been in America for at least five years. Assuming his application was truthful that would pre-date 1845. However, it may be that he reached Pittsburgh in 1845, because early in that year he, like his older brother before him, chose to join the 3rd Presbyterian Church. His number was 551. Here is his entry in the church register.

He was admitted on March 7, 1845, by certificate, which means he had come from another Presbyterian Church – somewhere. I cannot quite picture Joseph L travelling across the Atlantic clutching a letter of introduction, so he likely belonged to another American church before joining the 3rd Presbyterian Pittsburgh. But where that was is unknown.

The right hand column states he was “dismissed” which, as noted above, simply means he transferred to another church.

Church session minutes give us the date when this happened, December 1, 1849.

As to where he went, the answer is found in the church session minutes for the 2nd Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh. This confirms that he had previously been with the 3rd Presbyterian.

It was an interesting time for Joseph L to change churches. He was not long married and his first child Thomas was on the way. The most logical reason for the transfer was him relocating within the city.

Existing church records do not mention his wife, Ann Eliza Birney. There is no record discovered as yet of the actual marriage of Joseph L and Ann Eliza, and neither are any of their children in the baptism registers of 2nd Presbyterian. Yet, a few years later, Ann Eliza’s brother, Thomas, has at least six children baptised in this church. But Thomas’ marriage is not in the register either.

Records of around 40 different Presbyterian churches in Pittsburgh are now available to researchers, and I have personally checked them all. That wasn’t as difficult as it sounds – many were outside the time frame which narrowed the search down considerably. But these are the only results found for the Russell and Birney families. Of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence – it may be that more records will surface in the future to fill missing pieces in the jigsaw.

I have a theory that maybe Ann Eliza was affiliated with a Philadelphian Presbyterian Church. We know that later in her marriage she and Joseph lived in Philadelphia. We know that she had business interests there (after his own business failed Joseph ended up as her “agent in Philadelphia” in her will). And near the end of her life Ann and Joseph were mentioned in a Philadelphian register (as detailed in Separate Identity volume 1). The trouble is that while Pittsburgh had 40 odd Presbyterian Churches, Philadelphia appears to have had far more. If an Ancestry index doesn’t throw up any information, it would take a very long time to search them all. A VERY LONG TIME. Sometimes, life is just too short.


For the benefit of fellow researchers who read this site, how was the above information discovered? Remarkably easily, and basically in the reverse order to the way the above article is presented.

Using Ancestry I did a search for Ann Eliza Birney, CTR’s mother. Almost immediately a birth came up in this name from 1855, in the records of the 2nd Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh. It turned out to be the daughter of Thomas and Mary Ann Birney. Thomas was Joseph Lytle Russell’s brother-in-law. They had simply named one of their children after her aunt. The 2nd Presbyterian records showed that Thomas and May Ann had six children baptised there, although there are no extant records of their marriage. Still, here was definite proof that one branch of the family had been 2nd Presbyterian. With a little help from the Presbyterian Historical Society the church sessions records showed Joseph Lytle joining this church in 1849, and crucially that he had transferred from the 3rd Presbyterian Church. All the extant records for 3rd Presbyterian are online, and conveniently past church members had compiled a rough alphabetical list of all members past and present. There were several Russells on the list – some obviously no connection - but two were. There was Joseph, who joined in 1845, and the extra big surprise, the original Charles T(ays) Russell who joined in 1834, the year the church opened. I still visually checked the complete listing of members in date order just in case the compilers had omitted a stray Russell, but they hadn’t.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

From Zoe's New Book

Can you help?

We are hemorrhaging money with medical expenses. This means we cannot afford Zoe Knox's new book: Jehovah's Witnesses and the Secular World. Hard cover costs $99.00 plus postage. If you want a way to support our research, this is it. Up to you. Mr. Schulz wouldn't ask, but I am. She says nice things about us in that book and it seems well done, based on the little we were able to read.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

M. F. Russell

you may want to review this older post

Project progress - and ZWT samples

The first issue of ZWT was 6000 copies, many sent out as samples, which then continued for several months. How did people react to receiving these? Please could readers here check any very early newspaper references to ZWT, and crucially any readers’ comments as published in ZWT over the first couple of years?

To do this in ZWT you would need to consult the originals, not the reprints. Originals as pdfs, and a text file of all the originals are available, and I would imagine most readers here have them. This is important because the reprint volumes omitted many of the notices and smaller letters, which for our purpose in 2018 probably yield the most information.

This information is needed for one of the uncompleted chapters of Separate Identity volume 2.

You can send short comments here, or longer comments if you wish to me back-channel, and I will collate whatever comes in and make sure Rachael receives it.

In case the initial ZWT print run of 6000 copies seems ambitious it must be remembered that CTR had access to at least three publications’ mailing lists (although there would have been some overlap of readership) and was well known in Age to Come circles (The Restitution gave away Object and Manner to all readers) and Adventist circles (The Advent Christian Times warned readers about his preaching). CTR had done a lot of travelling and speaking over the past couple of years and was well known in groups that might be receptive to ZWT. But how receptive were they? And if receptive, what reasons did they give? That is the project for this post.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


In the previous post we asked for help in researching Maria before she married CTR. I want to thank those who contacted me by email. I have done some extra research in newspaper archives over the past few days and am putting together here an article on what is known. IF ANYONE CAN ADD TO THIS PLEASE MAKE A COMMENT OR CONTACT ME BACK-CHANNEL.

Mahlon Foster Ackley (1807-1873) was born in New Jersey. Selena Ann Hammond (1815-1901) was born in Philadelphia. They married and their children were all born in Allegheny. Of the five who survived to adulthood, Maria was in the middle. She had two older sisters, Laura and Selena, and a younger sister and brother, Emma and Lemuel.

Some biographical material about Maria’s parents can be found in Selena Ann Hammond Ackley’s obituary from 1901.

The Ackley family history site also quotes another couple of obituaries (unidentified) which provides the following extra information:

She journeyed by stage and canal with her mother to Johnstown, Pa, where she was married to the late Mahlon F Ackley of Allegheny, who was employed on the Pennsylvania railroad, which was then in the process of construction. Early in the 1840s she came to Allegheny with her husband and had resided there ever since. She saw the city grow from a straggling village to a metropolis. Mrs Ackley was for many years a member of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, and before the formation of that church was, with her late husband, connected with the Arch Street church of the same denomination. (end quote).

The 1850 and 1860 census returns list Mahlon as a carpenter and in 1870 as a car maker.

As well as giving her history, Selena’s obituary also gave details of her five surviving children in 1901. Taking them in order of birth they were, Laura J Raynor (1839-1917), widow of Henry Raynor who died in 1873. Selena A Barto (1848-1929), widow of Baptist minister, Charles Edmund Barto who died in 1883.  Then we have Maria Frances Ackley (1850-1938) and Emma Hammond Ackley (1855-1929). And finally there was Lemuel Mahlon Ackley (1857-1921), who became a lawyer in Chicago. Maria went to him first when she left CTR. Lemuel died quite spectacularly when a disgruntled defendant shot him in a courtroom in 1921.

Laura Ackley became a dressmaker before she married. Selena Ackley became a teacher and Maria followed Selena to become a teacher as well.

In the 1870 census both girls (Selena aged 22 and Maria aged 19) are listed as teachers.

Selena (with variant spelling Salina) Ackley is mentioned in the Pittsburgh Daily Commercial for July 24, 1868. At a meeting of the Board of School Directors of the Reserve Independent School District she is elected to work as Assistant in the Spring Garden School.

However, Selena would leave the teaching profession on marrying Baptist minister, Charles Barto. I don’t have a date for their marriage, but their first child was born in 1873. Years later as a widow with two adult children she listed herself as “private teacher” in a census return.

This means we can safely assume that all references to “Miss Ackley” as a teacher in Allegheny or Pittsburgh for the period 1872-1879 refer to Maria.

Maria was asked about her schooling in the 1907 court hearing. She said she had been educated at the High School, Pittsburgh, and then at the Curry Normal School. The latter was for teacher training. It may not be connected but early ZWT meetings c.1880 took place at the Curry Institute.

There are a number of newspaper references in Pittsburgh papers to Maria Ackley, M F Ackley and Miss Ackley, all in connection with teaching.

The first one is particularly interesting and so is reproduced here. The Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette for June 24, 1871 described a meeting of the Allegheny Teachers association where Maria gave what amounted to a lecture on public speaking.

Maria’s speaking ability would stand her in good stead many years later when she went on the road to defend CTR in the 1894 troubles.

Maria gave another lecture the following year. From the Pittsburgh Daily Commercial for April 3, 1872 – from the annual meeting of the Allegheny County Teachers’ Institute (Second Day) “In the evening, Miss Mariah Ackley read an essay entitled Will It Pay?”

Two more references from 1872. The Pittsburgh Daily Post for June 20, 1872 – “the following teachers have been elected for the 19th ward public schools: Grammar, Miss Lyons and Miss Ackley.” Then the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette for July 27, 1872 – “Miss T (?) Ackley was elected teacher to fill the vacancy in Room no. 7 of the North Avenue building.”

1873 adds another dimension to Maria’s work when she is elected as a Sunday School Teacher. From the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette for April 5, 1873:

Three years later she is still teaching in Sunday School and is given a pin-cushion to show appreciation. From the Pittsburgh Daily Commercial for January 4, 1876:

In 1877 she is mentioned in the teacher elections for the public schools. She is elected as Marie F Ackley for the North Avenue School. Also elected is a Mary D Lecky. We will come back to her with the next cutting.

However, not all was plain sailing in the teaching profession. In early 1878 Maria was accused of assaulting a pupil. The news was in the Pittsburgh Daily Post for January 19, 1878:

It appears that her fellow teacher in the North Avenue School, Mary Lecky, was concerned that someone might think it meant HER. The Pittsburgh Daily Post for January 22, 1978, carried a clarification:

Putting this in context, we must remember that corporal punishment was allowed at this time and the complaint may have been malicious. There is no information in the newspapers as to how the investigation turned out, but we must assume Maria was cleared of any misconduct. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for July 3, 1878 carried a report of the latest election of teachers. For the Second Ward, North Avenue School, Marie F Ackley was elected again; as was Mary Lecky.

However, with that kind of experience and after a decade of teaching (with more of the same looming ahead) perhaps Maria was getting tired of it all. Getting married, as her two older sisters had done before her, was the normal way out for a single woman.

On March 13, 1879, she married Charles Taze Russell.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Project progress - and Maria

Readers of this blog will be pleased to know that, in spite of current illnesses, work on the second volume of Separate Identity continues.

And hopefully you can help.

This is a special request for any information you can find on the pre-marriage history of M F Russell, when she was Maria Frances Ackley.

Information needs to be verifiable, so the source need to be provided.

You may have access to a newspaper archive (see below) or be adept at working your way around Ackley family history sites. You may have material on Maria's later life that gives references to when she was a single woman. And you may be able to add some context to existing records. Just as a "for instance" consider the two newspaper cuttings below.

They both relate to Maria as a school teacher. The first is from The Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette for July 27, 1872. Miss Maria T Ackley is elected to fill a vacancy in the North Avenue building. We can probably assume this is a misprint for Miss Maria F Ackley.

The second is from five years later, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for July 3, 1877. Right at the bottom of the page for the North Avenue School, we find Maria F Ackley elected.

But what is the context? How did these schools work at that time? What age groups would Maria be teaching? What level of qualification did Maria need to get the job? Did you have to specialize to teach at these schools, or was your training just a general all-round education to a level recognized at the time? Such background gives "meaning" to the cuttings.

And these are just two cuttings from my internet newspaper archive. You may have a subscription or access to a different archive with different newspapers and additional information about Maria.

So please could all readers check and send in anything they can find. It is far better to get the same information two or three times than for something to be missed. 

Something short could be sent as a blog comment. Anything more detailed with attachments can be sent direct to me (you'll find a contact email by clicking my name on the blog) and I can then collate this information and forward it to Rachael.

Thanks, in advance, for any help you may be able to give.

Sunday, February 4, 2018


by Jerome

If you have not looked at this blog for a little while, please look below this article for news about Rachael's stay in hospital, and perhaps send her a message.

Debates sometimes featured in the early Bible Students’ witnessing efforts. CTR was featured in two famous ones, against E L Eaton in 1903 and later against L S White in 1908. The text of both debates was transcribed and published. In 1915 J F Rutherford engaged in debate with J H Troy. Again the text was published, originally in the 1915 convention report, transcribed in the main by Rutherford’s son Malcom.

In the UK a debate was held in Scotland in 1896 between Bible Student Charles Houston and a Scottish Free Church clergyman Donald Davidson which was extensively reported. Houston would have probably become a well-known name in UK Bible Student history, but he died young. For the story of this debate you can check back in this blog or download my book on it. See:

(I know this is a shamless plug, but the download IS free).

However, not all invitations to debate were accepted. Following the Russell-Eaton debate, CTR received a challenge through the pages of the Christadelphian Advocate magazine. The strand of the Age-to-Come movement that developed into the Christadelphians was to split into several different fellowships. An original statement of belief was later “amended” by a sizeable group, leaving those who disagreed as “unamended” Christadelphians. The unamended group was responsible for the Christadelphian Advocate, founded in Iowa in 1885 by Welsh immigrant Thomas Williams.

As you can see from the main article in this issue, CTR was not their favorite person. A member of the Christadelphian ecclesia started publishing materials the editor viewed as heresy. In a swipe at him, the beliefs of CTR and ZWT came in for attack. Amongst the issues that clearly marked out the differences between Christadelphians and Bible students were two mentioned in the paragraph below from October 1903:

In 1904 CTR was challenged by one of their members to debate with the Advocate’s editor.

CTR’s response was polite but negative.

It was also noted that the invitation had not come directly from the editor but just one of the paper’s readers, although the paper had chosen to publish the correspondence.

In 1906 the attempt was made again. CTR’s response was published in the Advocate:

Much as those outside the Christadelphian fellowship tended to lump different Christadelphian groups together, so to a degree did Christadelphians when looking at the developing Bible Student movement. So John H Paton appeared on their radar.

From 1905:

This shows that while Paton’s magazine had a more limited circulation than ZWT (and they confused his magazine title World's Hope with his book Day Dawn), he was still quite well known in these sort of circles.

Having failed to tempt CTR, Williams challenged Paton to a debate. Paton accepted and the two men and their adherents squared up to each other in February 1906.

The results were published in a booklet by the Christadelphian Advocate.

CTR’s debates tended to dwell on conditional immortality and whether or not there was a hell-fire. Paton’s debate centered on his main Universalist platform.

How much the event influenced the respective sides, other than confirm their existing positions, is debateable. But the Christadelphian Advocate felt confident enough to publish the results. Although they did choose to cry “foul” in their introduction.

The May 1, 1915 WT published an article from CTR on the subject of ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF DEBATES. In it CTR wrote:

"Although the Lord's providence did seem to open up the way for the "Eaton-Russell Debate" and later, for the "White-Russell Debate," and through these Debates led the way on to the publication of the Sermons in hundreds of newspapers throughout the world, nevertheless the Editor is not, and never was, much of a believer in the advantages of debating. The Debates mentioned were valuable chiefly as entering-wedges for the newspaper work…So far as the Editor is concerned, he has no desire for further debates. He does not favor debating, believing that it rarely accomplishes good and often arouses anger, malice, bitterness, etc., in both speakers and hearers. Rather he sets before those who desire to hear it, orally and in print, the Message of the Lord's Word and leaves to opponents such presentations of the error as they see fit to make and find opportunity to exploit.--Hebrews 4:12."

Thursday, January 25, 2018

R. M. de Vienne, PhD

We brought mom home from the University Hospital today. She is still very ill and will not be able to answer your email or comments on her blogs. She appreciates the nice comments some of you made.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Update on Rachael

Rachael has been in the hospital since Monday noon. As before if you want to pass on a message, you may do it through the blog.

Update to the update:

Please don't email mom while she is sick. Katarina and I are trying to answer her emails, but we spend all the time we have at the hospital with mom. Besides we can't answer most of the questions people ask, and I don't know how to find any of her papers to copy. 


Sunday, January 7, 2018


As of today we have completed at least in first draft fourteen chapters of Separate Identity, Volume 2. An introductory essay, three chapters and an afterward remain. The completed chapters total 440 pages.

I wonder if our readers realize just how much work this has been.

Next comes revisions and proof reading. Then formatting for publication and the actual first print.

I know I say this from time to time, but I am profoundly disappointed in this blog. But then I'm also really sick and easily discouraged.

Friday, January 5, 2018


We know of only one original of this booklet by Barbour, written after he and Russell separated. We are not at liberty to share our copy which was kindly made for our use. But we can let you see the front page. A recent request has prompted me to post this, hoping that we can come up with a better scan - one that we can share. Anyone?

Thursday, December 28, 2017


We have a chapter nearly in final form. It needs a good read, review and proofread. The rules are you may keep a copy for your own use, but you may not share it with anyone else. If you wish to volunteer, email me at r m de vienne @ ya hoo .com. No spaces. I appreciate every willing eye.

Look for grammar and spelling errors. Look for errors of fact.

Also thanks for the kind words and well-wishes. I'm am some better though I am having memory problems and fall asleep often.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Three weddings (but no funeral this time)

If you haven't looked at this blog for a while, please look down the page to Bruce's post on December 18 about Rachael being unwell at the moment and perhaps send a message.

by Jerome

 Genealogical researchers in Britain are well and truly spoiled for resources when compared with other countries. Civil registration (where the State took over officially from the Church) was introduced in 1837. Theoretically, all births, marriages and deaths (hatched, matched and dispatched) have been centrally recorded and readily available in Britain since 1837. As for marriages, Hardwick’s marriage act of 1753 laid down a legal framework for marriages in England and Wales (sending some couples scurrying to Scotland) which at least gave standardisation and a better preservation of records.

In such a new and diverse country as the United States, this level of record keeping was not achieved in some places until the start of the 20th century. This can make research difficult. Once you go back into the 19th century (and beyond) in America you are generally at the mercy of ecclesiastical records. This presumes that scribes of yesteryear were both literate and conscientious, that damp and mice didn’t then destroy their handiwork, and when the churches in question disappeared that their records didn’t just disappear with them due to incompetence or disinterest. We have the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and their teaching of vicarious baptism to thank for so many records being scanned and preserved for the benefit of all researchers. But even so, there are so many gaps. Maybe more records will be discovered and scanned. Maybe. But the further back in history you go, if we haven’t already got the material on sites like Family Search and Ancestry, then the chances are that the records – assuming they even properly existed originally – have gone for good.

This preamble is necessary because we are going to look at three marriages involving Charles Taze Russell’s family in the 19th century. As yet we have no official surviving official records for any of them. So this article presents some detective work using other resources to establish within a few months when each event happened. However, it is acknowledged that words like “assuming” and “assumption” occur rather a lot in what follows.

Joseph Lytel (or Lytle) Russell and Ann Eliza Birney

CTR's parents both came from Ireland originally, and the Watchtower Society's history video Faith in Action part 1 (Out of Darkness) suggested that they came over as a couple in 1845. The commentary states "it was in 1845 that Joseph and Ann Eliza Russell emigrated from Ireland to Pennsylvania, USA."

This is likely based on Joseph Lytle’s 1897 obituary which indeed says he came to America “about 1845.” However, obituaries have one built-in problem when it comes to accurate information - the one person who can verify the details is not there to do so. Many years ago in the pre-Internet age I found Joseph L’s naturalization record in the Society of Genealogists’ library in London. It was dated 1848. Obtaining a copy of the original document from the Prothonotary’s office in Pittsburgh, it plainly showed that Joseph swore an oath to the effect that he had been in the country for at least five years. Assuming he told the truth, that pushes his immigration back to at least 1843.

You may need to enlarge this graphic to read it properly. I have reproduced it here, even though the quality is poor, because the microfilmed rolls of naturalization records for Pennsylvania on the Ancestry website appear to omit this document. It is not there with all the other swearings held on 26 October 1848 and neither does it show up in the Ancestry index. But it exists, because here it is.

As for Ann Eliza, the Birney family was in America in the 1840s, although her brother’s obituary in 1899 is somewhat garbled, suggesting that Thomas came to America in 1821, which is actually his birth year. It also states that he joined the 2nd Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh in 1845. A naturalization record exists for a Thomas Birney in Allegheny Co., Penn. dated 8 October 1855, which might tie in with the baptism of OUR Thomas’ children from 1857 onwards in 2nd Presbyterian. Thomas married Mary Ann Covell and they had six children baptised between 1857 and 1872, including one named after Ann Eliza.

The above facts about Joseph L Russell and Ann Eliza Birney would give a wide leeway for a marriage.     However, we can fix the date down to just a couple of months due to other records, although even here some assumptions are made. The Pittsburgh Post carried a regular feature listing the names of people who should visit the post office to collect mail. A E Birney turns up in 1848. More significantly Miss A E Birney turns up again in March 1849. The cutting below comes from the Pittsburgh Daily Post for Wednesday, April 4, 1849, page 2.

So Ann Eliza is in Pittsburgh and still single in March/April 1849 – although this assumes that her correspondent wasn’t someone ignorant of a marriage that had already taken place. But taking this at face value, Joseph L and Ann E travelled to America as singles and were not married until after March 1849.

Let’s now approach it from another angle. The 1850 census finds Joseph L and Ann E married with one child, T(homas), who is aged 5/12. Here is the entry below.

The rule for the 1850 census was that it should be a snapshot of how people were on June 1 that year. Assuming the enumerator followed this rule, if Thomas was five months old on June 1 then he was born either late December or early January. So he was conceived back in April/May, 1849, which was not long after Miss A E Birney was told to collect her mail from the post office. Maybe it related to an impending wedding.

There are several assumptions in the above calculations, but absent a baptism record it is the best we have.

Because Ann Eliza’s brother, Thomas, was a member of the 2nd Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh (according to his obituary) it was thought that the newly married Russells were also members there.  A check of available church records only has one mention of Joseph L Russell – the sessions minutes have him being given a certificate of dismission on December 1, 1849. See the image below.

This entry suggests that he was an ex-member of 2nd Presbyterian who had gone back for a certificate to use as an introduction to a new place of worship. For whatever reason, JLR changed churches, so it is not surprising that no subsequent baptisms of his children are found in the 2nd Presbyterian records. But neither is there any record of him joining that church or his marriage. However, although as noted above, Thomas Birney was a member and had six children baptised there, the actual marriage of Thomas and Mary Ann is not in the 2nd Presbyterian register either.

Charles Taze Russell and Maria Frances Ackley

Our second marriage is far easier to establish, in spite of an equal paucity of records. There is no register available with the details of CTR’s marriage to Maria Frances Ackley. However, on this occasion it was mentioned in the newspaper. From the Pittsburgh Daily Post for Saturday, March 15, 1879:

That meant the marriage took place on Thursday, March 13, 1879. The same announcement appeared in the Pittsburgh Gazette for Friday, March 14, 1879, which added the information that the wedding was conducted by Eld. J H Paton of Almont, Michigan.

Joseph Lytle Russell and Emma Hammond Ackley

CTR’s mother died in 1861. His father was to re-marry, and what would complicate family relations later in time, married CTR’s wife’s sister, Emma. Emma Ackley once she became Emma Russell was both CTR’s sister-in-law and step-mother.

Although there are a few missing issues, a careful check of Pittsburgh newspapers did not yield any announcement of this union. And there are no known extant records giving a date. So again we have to narrow events down by other evidence.

The 1880 census was designed to provide a snapshot of events on or of June 1 that year. Below is the relevant entry for the Russell household, actually dated June 14, and well over a year after CTR and Maria were married.

It is not the clearest of writing but it shows four people living together in Cedar Avenue.

Russel (sic) C.T.          Aged 28                                 
Married           Occupation: merchant
Maria F                        Aged 29          Wife               
Married           Occupation: Keeps house
J L                               Aged 60          Father             
Widowed        Occupation: merchant
Ackley E.H.                Aged 26          Sister (*)         
Single              Occupation: at home

*This is difficult to read. It looks a bit like Sister (step) but the correct relationship to the head of the household, CTR, should be Sister (in law).

Joseph L has shaved a few years off his age. He was approaching 68 at this point, but only admits to 60.

According to this census return, at the beginning of June 1880 Joseph L and Emma are living at the same address but are still not married.  So their marriage would have to be after the date of the census.

Again let us approach it from another angle. Joseph L and Emma had one child named Mabel. Her direct birth record has not been found, but when she married Richard Packard on June 30, 1903, she provided a partial birth date. I say partial, if you check the graphic below you can see what I mean.

Mabel does not give the day – just a line and then September 1881.

 A search on Ancestry gives the date September 16, 1881.  But on close checking everyone seems to be copying everyone else on this and no-one can provide a primary source for the information. It might just be on her death certificate (from 1962), but even then who is to say this is accurate, given that she appeared not to be sure when alive in 1903?

So personally, I would prefer to stick with the information we know Mabel supplied, “sometime” in September 1881. So let’s do the math again. If born in September 1881, she must have been conceived around December 1880. So we can assume her mother, Emma, was married sometime between the census of June 1880 and November/December 1880. With Joseph and Emma living under the same roof in the snapshot of June 1880, I would suspect that the marriage took place quite soon after that census was taken.

It would of course have been so much easier for researchers had they all got married in Britain or had just waited until the 20th century in America.

However, that might have been a bit problematic for Joseph Lytle since he died in 1897…

Monday, December 18, 2017


Rachael went into the hospital Sunday morning at 4am. She was diagnosed with a trans ischemic event, a mini-stroke. She should be home today. Many of our readers know she has complex health issues, and this is not an unexpected event. The possibility of more and similar is very real.

If you wish to leave your well wishes here, she will see them. But for the moment she will not be very visible either here or on her personal blog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Can you solve the puzzel?

            So ... we have a mystery. Ann Eliza Birney’s headstone says she was thirty-nine when she died. That gives a birth year of 1821-1823, depending on in what month she was born.
            We’ve been re-examining elements of her life without much result. However, we found a ship’s passenger list from December 9, 1848. This is an index card and not the original record, which I have no located. The card index was made decades later. The passenger was Ann Birney. She arrived on the ship Great Britain entering through the port of Philadelphia. The problem is her age, given on the index card which is not the original record, as twenty. This gives her a birth date about 1828.
            My suspicion is that this is our Ann Birney, and that the original record would show a different age. Handwriting on ship’s lists is notoriously hard to read. My suspicion is that the transcriber guessed. But how do I verify that? I’d need to see the original record. I don’t have time to find it.
            It’s probably in the US National Archives. It may be on I’m too busy being sick and in pain to go further. Some nice blog reader might be able to do this for me.
            Its importance rests in how it narrows the date range for her marriage to J. L. Russell.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

This from a newish blog reader made my day.

I am impressed with your work and wonder how your surgery and Bruce's illness (?) translate in little time to blog . . . Did I misunderstand? You have written so much. I have questions (this seems so trivial) about the technical accuracy of your text, viz., punctuation, which is definitely not in the British mode. ... As an editor for American writers, I find, with a cursory reading of your blog, virtually no errors (a few compounds could be dehyphenated and rendered as a single word). ... I find the complex, interwoven structure of your writing and its attendant punctuation top notch. Your content has attained a high level of academic and literary excellence, yet it is reader-friendly. L*