Tombstone Tuesday- Dr. John H. O’Brien

John H. O'Brien- Headstone. (Used with permission of photographer.)
John H. O’Brien- Headstone. (Used with permission of photographer.)

My mother always thought that her family were most probably just poor Irish or German immigrants, with little education and only blue collar jobs. Little education did not mean little intellect, however- as an example, her father was brilliant and read everything. With the publication of the 1940 census last year I was surprised to learn that her father had only completed 8th grade, and her mother completed 2 years of high school. Education was very valued within the family, and that has been passed on through subsequent generations.

I wish my mother had been able to know about her family- by the time I found the early information on the family, it was too late. She would have been very happy to know about Dr. John H. O’Brien, who was the maternal grandfather of G. W. Helbling.

John H. O’Brien was born in June, 1808 in Carrick on Suir, Ireland. His parent’s names are as yet unknown- there are a lot of John O’Brien’s in Ireland!

Dr. John H. O'Brien- headstone detail
Dr. John H. O’Brien- headstone detail

John O’Brien graduated from the University of Dublin with a medical degree sometime before 21 Jun 1831 when he immigrated to the United States. Western Pennsylvania was in the midst of a cholera outbreak around that time, so his medical skills were put to good use right away. The inscription on the monument is appropriate for his calling, and states:

Blessed is he that understandeth concerning

the needy and the poor, the Lord will deliver

him in the evil day. -XL Psalm 

Dr. John H. O’Brien married Jane Neel who descended from early pioneers, and they lived in Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania, in various places such as Baldwin, Scott, and Pittsburgh. It has not been as easy to find information about John’s life and career as with other doctors- possibly because he was Irish, and they were looked down upon? Or because he initially practiced out on the frontier of Western Pennsylvania?

O'Brien Headstone- Anna Bell O'Brien and Eleanor O'Brien detail. Possibly daughters of John O'Brien and Jane Neel?
O’Brien Headstone- Anna Bell O’Brien and Eleanor O’Brien detail.

John and Jane had at least 10 children, and possibly two more who are listed on the O’Brien monument in Saint Mary Catholic Cemetery, Lawrenceville, Allegheny Co., PA, Section H.

Nothing is known about Jane Neel O’Brien’s death as yet, and she does not appear to be buried in the same cemetery, at least, not with this same name. She did survive him, and one researcher states she died 06 Dec 1895. More to come about the children and Jane Neel and her family in upcoming posts.

A grandchild of John and Jane is also buried in this plot, and listed on the monument:

O'Brien Headstone- Charlie O'Brien detail
O’Brien Headstone- Charlie O’Brien detail


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) The 1940 census was a goldmine for family historians, if you can find how they were indexed- Gerard W. Helbling is listed on as “Gerhart W. Hebling.” I found the family by looking for their daughter and her husband- they lived in the same house.

2) 1940 US Federal Census for Gerard W. Helbling: Source Citation: Year: 1940; Census Place: St Louis, St Louis City, Missouri; Roll: T627_2208; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 96-670. Source Information: 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls. Accessed 12 Jan 2014.

3) I have been unsuccessful as yet getting information from the University of Dublin re: John O’Brien’s attendance there.

4) A John O’Brien’s immigration is listed in 1840 in Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania, at Source Information: U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2010. WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY, Pittsburgh, compilers. A List of Immigrants Who Applied for Naturalization Papers in the District Courts of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh: the society. Vol. 2, 1841-1855. 1978. 139p. 7,800 names, p. 82. Original data: Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2012. I believe this may be another John O’Brien, or maybe when his papers were filed. More investigation is needed. Accessed 12 Jan 2014.

5) Find a Grave Memorial # 55460843 at Accessed 14 Jan 2014.


Please contact us if you would like a higher resolution image.

Copyright 2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Exercise your brain- prove you\'re not a spammer/bot! * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.