Busy Month in Pittsburgh

My stay in the Pittsburgh area was crazy busy, filled with great stuff; the month I spent there literally flew by.

For the first week and a half, I hung out most days with my second cousin Melody.  We went to courthouses and libraries, and also scanned a bunch of photos at her house, which took several days.  She’s spent most of her life in the area, and knows exactly where the old farm is, so we drove up there and she shared her memories about it.  I had been there years ago with my Mom, but wasn’t exactly sure I could find it again, so the tour of the farm and the old stomping grounds in Finleyville was fascinating to me.  Melody and I also had dinner with two sisters who are third cousins to us.

Farm in Coal Bluff, looking up the hill, circa 1930’s
Farm in Coal Bluff, looking down the hill, circa 1930’s
Coal Bluff farm today.

Then my friends Sandra and Bob joined me for a week.  They’re the folks I met when we were all living in the same neighborhood in Woodland, California about 27 years ago, and they’re also living full time in an RV – amazing coincidence!  We spent our days hiking, swimming, sightseeing in Pittsburgh, and getting various errands done.

Bob and Sandra at Point State Park, Pittsburgh.

We played cards every night, except for the night we went to see a Frankie Valli Tribute band play in a concert along the Monongahela River.  Probably the most fun thing we did was to take a tour of a coal mine!  I just loved feeling that connection to my many coal mining ancestors.

Generations of my maternal grandfather’s ancestors worked in the mines.

Next, I spent a week studying genealogical citations with Dr. Thomas Jones at GRIP, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, held at LaRoche College.  The majority of attendees stay in the dorms on campus, which I’ve done in the past.  But I decided to commute this time, and I’m not sure I would do that again!  I drove an hour in rush hour traffic each morning and evening; sometimes it took an hour and a half.  Classes went from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, and there were also evening activities which I chose not to attend because of the long drive.  The commuting part was a bit stressful – it definitely reminded me of going to work!  Otherwise, the week was fabulous, and zipped right by.

That Friday, my friend Agnes came for a weekend visit.  We hung out by the pool, went out to eat, hiked, made a campfire, and generally chatted non-stop the whole time.  It was the first time I had a guest in the RV, and it worked out really well!  I gave her my bed, and I slept in the over-the-cab bunk.  It was so great to have a buddy for a couple of days!

On Monday, July 3rd, I spent the day at the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh.  Actually, technically it was the City-County Building.  I had ordered my grandparents’ 1944 divorce file from offsite storage when I was there earlier in the month.   Both of my grandparents re-married and then divorced again, so there are tons of juicy marital issues to be discovered – this is where you find out what was really going on, if it can be believed!

On the Fourth, I took a long walk through the gorgeous Mingo Creek County Park,

Path in Mingo Creek County Park has its own covered bridge!

and then I did a tour of all the houses where my mother lived when she was a child.

One of the houses in Mt. Lebanon where my mother grew up.

After that, I visited the cemetery where they are all buried, including my parents and brothers.

James Chapel and the cemetery, a long time ago!

During the whole day, I thought about the family gatherings held on the 4th of July at my mother’s grandparents’ farm in Finleyville.   Patriotism runs in my family, and it comes directly from my great-grandparents, James William Furlong and Mary Payne.   James was the son of an immigrant, and Mary came to this country with her parents at the age of 11.  They were proud Americans, and celebrated the 4th of July each year in grand style!

James William Furlong and Mary Payne; my grandfather Norman Furlong is in the back holding the dog.  Unknown woman on the right. Estimated to be late 1920’s.

Their six children all brought their spouses and kids to the farm for the big celebration every 4th of July. My mother said they gathered for the Fourth as long as she could remember, and the picture above shows that they did it before she was born as well.

James Furlong often wore all white to celebrate the day, and there was a huge American flag.  All of the aunts were busy in the kitchen making the picnic fixins, which included  ham, potato salad, homemade bread and ice cream, while the cousins all played games.  Grandma and Grandpap gave each of their grandchildren a silver dollar every year, and many photographs were taken which we all SO enjoy and appreciate today.  And I still have the silver dollars my mother received – she saved every one of them.

My grandparents, Norm and Viola, in the center; grandfather is holding one of his nieces.  Note the big flag in the background!

It seemed very appropriate for me to spend the Fourth near the farm in Finleyville, feeling patriotic and envisioning those many, many happy times my mother told me about, and which I can clearly see in the old photos.

When it was time to go the next day, I wasn’t ready to leave.  It felt good to be there, and I have lots more research to do.  So I know I’ll be back, and hopefully next time it’ll be a longer stay!

10 thoughts on “Busy Month in Pittsburgh

  1. Hi Chris…..great pictures! I’m pretty sure that is Olive that who grandfather is holding in the bottom pic. Do you think that the little blonde is Aunt Ann on the right??


    1. Yes! I’m sure that’s Olive, and I think the little blonde is Aunt Ann. I love that picture – one of very few that I’ve seen of Norm and Viola together. It was in Cousin Grace’s collection.


      1. Yes that was the first picture I’ve ever seen if them together I think!!
        Great work Chris!!!


  2. Hi Chris, it was a pleasure to meet you and to know a kindred spirit in genealogy and travel. I look forward to reading about your adventures and hope to see you down the road!


  3. Great to hear about your time in the ‘Burgh. Where was the house in Mt. Lebanon that you included? I love that pic of Norm and Viola with my mom!


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