This entry in a Pittsburgh City Directory made me stop and think about how tough life was back in the day- today too, but even fewer safety nets then like Social Security or food stamps. Manual labor was the only job available for many throughout their lifetime. Poor “Old Cochran”- not even known by his first name, just his age- was still working as a laborer at that point in his life. Still living on his own maybe, but sadly I did not notice other Cochrans nearby on his street. A daughter may have been nearby but we wouldn’t know because she, if even listed, would be under her husband’s name.
OK, that was another Heritage Rambling… on to the topic at hand.
I came upon the “Old Cochran” entry while looking for a R. D. Cochran, Artistic Photographer in Pittsburgh. Old City Directories are a great way to find family, friends, associates, and neighbors (the “FAN Club”), as well as nearby businesses, for those from times long gone. I have been trying to find a date for the photos discussed in this week’s “Mystery Monday” post:
Since we have a photographer’s name/studio listed on the portraits, finding when the photographer was in business would help to narrow the date range of the photos. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh, PA does not have a listing of photographers (some other cities do have lists that family historians or archivists have compiled). The knowledgeable folks on the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania RootsWeb group suggested that I search the many City Directories online for Pittsburgh at http://digital.library.pitt.
There is a search function on the page so I put in “R. D. Cochran” and got 16 hits. I had previously seen a photo of an African-American Civil War soldier posted online that was taken by R. D. Cochran (similar design on the advertisement), so checked the early directories first. My results:
Title: Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny cities, 1863
Publication Info: Pittsburgh, Pa.]: G.H. Thurston, 1863, p. 58
“Cochran, Robert D., of R D Cochran & Co., n Woods’ Run”
Title: Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny cities, 1865-1866, Pittsburgh, PA: G.H. Thurston, 1865
Collection: Historic Pittsburgh City Directories, p.80
“Cochran R. D., of R. D. Cochran & Co., McClure tp”
Title: Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny cities, 1867
Publication Info: Pittsburgh, Pa.]: G.H. Thurston, 1867, p.96
“Cochran R. D. of R. D. Cochran & Co. McClure tp”
Title: Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny cities, 1869-1870
Publication Info: Pittsburgh, Pa.]: G.H. Thurston, 1869, p.100
“Cochran R. D., of R. D. Cochran & Co., res McClure tp”
There are other R. D. Cochrans listed for many later years, mostly in the oil business. I was unable to find the studio listed in the business section of the city directory, but often a business would be required to pay for the privilege of being listed under “Photographers” in the directory, and many were not able to afford the advertising.
So if “R. D. Cochran & Co.” was a photography studio, we may have narrowed the date of the photos. Probably not though, as the Green and Golumb families did not immigrate to the United States until the 1880s, so the time frame is not correct for our image.
I did a US Federal Census search for R. D. Cochran, and found a Robert D. Cochran listed as a steamboat captain in the 1860 census for McCluer Twp, Allegheny, PA- so that might be the “R. D. Cochran & Co” I found in the City Directory in that same township. I searched through other censuses in Allegheny Co. for our photographer, but little luck in finding him or her.
We definitely need more information.
Probably the next step is dating the photos by clothing, hairstyles, and props. There are a number of books available to use for this research, so those will be bedtime reading this week. I also have an email out to a person who includes the Golomb family on their tree, though they have not posted any photos. But I am really hoping that a cousin will see these photos and remember they have an acid-free storage box with the same photos, with individuals positively identified on them in archival ink. (A family historian’s dream…)
As always, suggestions are appreciated.
Notes, Sources, and References:
1) “Old Cochran- lab” may be found in the Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny cities, 1862-1863, p.52, Collection: Historic Pittsburgh City Directories at
2) The “FAN Club” is a way to help break through brick walls. By researching Friends, Associates, and Neighbors, you may find something about the ancestor you seek. I wish I could give credit to the researcher who originated the acronym, but do not know who came up with it as a quick way to explain what experienced genealogists have been doing for a long time. Researching siblings is another way to break through brick walls- especially helpful if one of the siblings had an unusual name whereas your direct ancestor might have had a common name. Siblings are often listed in obituaries, parent’s names may be on birth or death records, etc.
3) The Allegheny County, PA RootsWeb List: http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/index/PAALLEGH
The Allegheny County, PA RootsWebWebsite: http://www.pagenweb.org/~
4) African-American Civil War soldier- Cabinet Card found at http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/cabinet-card-african-american-soldier . Accessed 1/17/2014.
5) Robert D. Cochran: Source Citation: Year: 1860; Census Place: McClure, Allegheny,Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1065; Page: 379; Image: 386; Family History Library Film: 805065. Accessed on Ancestry.com 1/18/2014.
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