I can’t find my ancestor – what am I doing wrong?

For most searches on GenealogyBank it is easy to find your ancestor. You type in their name and in an instant you spot them in the search results list.

So - what do you do when your ancestor’s name doesn’t come right up in the search hits?
Just like any other genealogical resource you need to step back and see what your options are and try various ways to search on the site.

Consider your search strategy.
1. Sometimes less is more.
Be careful how you type in your ancestor’s name.
His full name might have been: Willard Jacob Teskey …. but the newspaper article may have simply called him:

Willard Teskey
Willard J. Teskey
W.J. Teskey
Bill Teskey
or only: Teskey

Try typing in variations of the person’s name.
I have found that typing in only the surname can quickly get you the best results.

Tip: You almost never want to type in a person’s “middle” name. Newspapers rarely use a person’s full name.

Be Careful How You Limit Your Search
It is tempting to limit your search to only one state or even to one newspaper. That can often be the most appropriate search strategy. However, if your searches did not locate the obituary or article about your ancestor – try your search again and this time do not limit your search geographically.

If that produces too many hits – then repeat your search and limit it by the likely starting and ending years when your ancestor. Be sure add a few years in both directions so you will bring up the most possible hits.

Tip: Newspapers often published brief biographies and articles years after a person died. So be careful how you limit your search or you might miss the articles you are looking for.

GenealogyBank brings together newspapers, books, reports and documents from over 300 years. During that time printers had access to varying qualities of newsprint; pieces of type and printing presses.

1. Newspapers have been printed on newsprint paper of varying quality. Some are smooth and some pages are rough.

2. Printers had only so many pieces of type and the newspaper had a deadline. It would be easy when they set the type for the day’s newspaper to swap in an “m” for a “w” or switch a “d” and a “p” or a “1″ and a “l”. The reader in 1843 would hardly notice the difference. But a modern computer might struggle to interpret each word if the piece of type was a different letter or had been damaged.

Let me give you a similar example that has circulated on the Internet for years:

Cna yuo raed tihs?
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotui t a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

This is an extreme example that shows the problems that computers have reading the old newspapers and documents. Individuals reading an old newspaper quickly adjust to the look, feel of the newspaper and learn how to read it. GenealogyBank has been working on these issues for years and improved and enhanced our OCR capability.

GenealogyBank uses state of the art OCR software and we have teams of indexers that review and tag each item – focusing on names, obituaries, births, marriages and other data of high importance to genealogists.

3. Still can’t find your ancestor? Then, its time to dig in and search the target newspapers, page by page. GenealogyBank makes it easy to bookmark a specific newspaper, combination of newspapers or locations. You could then go through the newspapers – month by month – clicking from page to page to quicly see if your ancestors were mentioned.

.

Washington, DC Captured – President Flees on Horseback

Washington, DC was captured and burned August 24-25th, 1814.

Illustration: National Archives Identifier 531090

With British troops overwhelming the city “…a retreat was ordered, when the President, who had been on horseback, with the army the whole day, reared from the mortifying scene, and left the city on horseback accompanied by Gen. Mason and Mr. Carroll.” (Baltimore Evening Post – 30 Aug 1814).

Follow your ancestor’s lives through the War of 1812 – read the day’s newspapers as they read them.

Click Here to read the entire account of the attack on Washington, DC in GenealogyBank – Baltimore Evening Post – 30 August 1814.

.

Joel Munsell – a genealogist & publisher who went to jail to protect his sources

Joel Munsell was an active genealogist, publisher, printer and journalist. He’s always been one of my “heroes” for his legendary contributions to genealogy and local history. (Photo – Munselle’s Picassa Gallery)

I was looking on GenealogyBank and found his marriage to Jane Caroline Bigelow (1812-1854)

17 June 1834 Independent Inquirer 28 Jun 1834

And here is his obituary - (New York Herald – 17 Jan 1880).

Look at this article from the New York Herald – 28 Feb 1845.

Munsell published a small pamphlet in 1845 – Pulpit Sketches, or Dreams of a Pew Holder. The author was not identified. The pamphlet by innuendo subjected prominent citizens to “libelous ridicule”.

Real controversy erupted and following a Grand Jury Munsell was found in contempt and had a “choice to pay two hundred and fifty dollars or stand the imprisonment” …. all for not revealing the author’s name. He went to jail.

This case is held up as one of the early cases where journalists went to jail rather than reveal their sources.

But dig a little deeper.

This pamphlet was pointed and barbed – on page 27 the new chapter compares “Rev Dr. J.N.C. to “Judas Iscariot”. Tough stuff.

Who was the Rev. Dr. J.N.C.? Why attack him?

As in our day when the President’s team had moral problems they called on the minister’s of the day to resolve the issue. In Andrew Jackson’s day his cabinet was deeply involved with a scandal involving Peggy Eaton – that drove cabinet members to resign.

The President called on the Rev. John Nicholson Campbell (1798-1864) to examine the situation and counsel with the parties involved. Read the details here in the San Jose Mercury 3 May 1903.

Those actions in 1831 resulted in Munsell’s pamphlet in 1845.

But, who was the author?

Librarians and historians have concluded that the author was Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1937). So it was a 13 year old boy who wrote this pamphlet attacking the most learned and respected clergy of his day.

My question is: Did Joel Munsell refuse to say who the author was from journalistic zeal to protect his sources or because his source was a 13 year old boy? Or – was someone else the author of that pamphlet?

Write me and tell me what you think.

.

Most times I’m looking for just an obituary notice. How do I limit my search to just those articles?

Yes – you can do that on GenealogyBank.

Step 1. Start your search. For example let’s say your are researching the surname: Clapper. Press Search

Step 2. Limit your search results to: Obituaries. Click on the blue highlighted category: Obituary.

Your results will then be limited to only the obituaries for the name that you are searching.

.

Title Lists – Newspapers, Books & Documents on GenealogyBank

You can quickly see what is included in GenealogyBank by looking at the title lists.

Click on the title list for each section to see what is included in GenealogyBank

Newspaper Title Lists

Historical Books Title List

Historical Documents Title List

For example – here is part of the title list for South Carolina newspapers in GenealogyBank.

Obituaries – From Annual Reports – Congress has chartered many national associations – among them the American Instructors of the Deaf.

Obituaries – Routinely Published in Government Reports & Documents

Get the most out of GenealogyBank!


The annual reports of the Department of the Interior are in
GenealogyBank. They were published annually as part of the US Serial Set.

I didn’t know that was in GenealogyBank!

What the Commissioner of Education did was publish the obituaries of teachers and educators at all levels. See this example of the obituary of Jeremiah Root Barnes (1809-1901).


What did we learn from this obituary?
Full Name: Jeremiah Root Barnes
Date/Place of Death: 1 Jan 1901 – Marietta, Ohio
Date/Place of Birth: 9 March 1809 – Southington, CT
Education: Yale College, 1834; Yale Theological Seminary – 2 years; Honorary Degree – Yale (1892).
Career: Pastor: Evansville, IN; Salem, IN; Piqua, OH; young ladies seminary (1850) suburbs of Cincinnati; founder of Carleton College in Northfield, MN; publisher of: Western Magazine
Military: Civil War – in the Freedmen’s Bureau 1861-1865.

Tip: Obituaries were published not only in newspapers but also in government documents and reports.
.

This example is from: Annual reports of the Department of the Interior for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1902. Report of the Commissioner of Education. Volume 1. Date: 1903-01-01; Publication: Serial Set Vol. No. 4464, Session Vol. No.25; Report: H.Doc. 5 pt. 5.1

Julia Child (1912-2004)

This week the nation is remembering Julia Child – how much she contributed to our lives and how much fun she was to be with – via her books, newspaper columns, TV Show – The French Chef and interviews.

Julia Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams – this week – August 15, 1912 in Pasadena, California and died this week – August 13, 2004 in Montecido, California. She married Paul Cushing Child over a long Labor Day weekend – 1 September 1946. She had met Paul Child while stationed in Sri Lanka with the OSS during World War II. The OSS is now known as the CIA. For her life’s work she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2003. She was 92 years old.

She is celebrated in Meryl Streep’s new movie – Julie & Julia


and she is in GenealogyBank too – from her numerous recipes; articles about her books & TV series; numerous obituries published in newspapers across the country and her death record in the SSDI.

Cook like Julia Child

.

Search Baltimore Sun Online

Search the back issues of the Baltimore Sun – click here.

Go through every page – millions of articles – obituaries, birth announcements and wedding notices. GenealogyBank has Maryland covered.

Click on these links to search the back issues of other Baltimore newspapers:

Click here to search newspapers published in other Maryland towns:

Tip: You can bookmark these links and quickly start your search in the back files of any Maryland newspaper.
.