Sinking of the ‘Athenia’: Mythical Family Survival Story Proves to Be Reality

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott tells how old newspaper articles confirmed his uncle’s incredible WWII survival story—a tale that Scott, as a boy, used to question.

One of the first precepts of genealogy that my mentor (Ginger Simek, president of the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International) taught me, was to always work hard to find out if the family stories I had heard over the years were mythology or, in fact, reality. Mythology may be fun and exciting, but genealogy is all about reality and the truth as we can document it. Recently, I found myself employing this rule.

I have to say that I was basically blessed with a great childhood. However, I have always found myself harboring a serious regret—one that, as a genealogist and our family’s historian, continues to haunt me to this day. This regret is that I never listened closely enough to far too many family stories when they were proffered to me by my elder family members.

However, just a short time ago I found hope for abolishing, at least in part, this regrettable behavior of my youth. Here’s the story.

photo of the Edwin and Margaret Cottle family taken in Launceston, Cornwall

Only known photograph of the whole Edwin and Margaret Cottle family, taken in Launceston, Cornwall, on a date unknown. The author’s Uncle George Bellemy Cottle, the subject of this blog post, is the fourth from the left in back, sporting the black tie. Family photo from the author’s collection.

As a child, I found that by pleading with my Uncle George Cottle using my best smile, my saddest eyes, and/or my finest “please,” he could be coaxed into telling the story of when he and his wife were on a ship that was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in the Atlantic Ocean, and how they barely escaped with their lives. The trouble is I was always focusing on the submarine part (to this day I still love submarines) and not listening closely for the details of this amazing survival story, such as which ship they were on, when they sailed, where they were going, why, etc.

When I began researching the life and times of my Uncle George for our family tree, I decided I needed to find out if “the torpedo story,” as we all called it, was true or simply a family myth. Naturally, I found myself searching GenealogyBank.com for help.

Using the search terms Cottle, torpedo, ship, and a few others I found that good old Uncle George was indeed telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! I found the ship’s name was the Athenia. Upon adding this name to the search terms, BINGO, I found myself reading about the sinking of the Athenia in over 300 newspapers from the Heraldo de Brownsville published in Spanish in Brownsville, Texas, to the Oregonian published in Portland, Oregon, and from the San Diego Union published in San Diego, California, to the Greensboro Record, published in Greensboro, North Carolina. I was also learning that the 1,347 passengers and crew were bound from the United Kingdom to New York in September 1939.

I found myself being entranced by the newspaper articles about the sinking of the S.S. Athenia in WWII, such as one in the Richmond Times Dispatch that reported the attempts by Nazi propaganda minister, Paul Josef Goebbels, to smear British Prime Minister Winston Churchill over the event.

Goebbels Charges Churchill Sank Athenia, Challenges Britisher to Reveal the Truth, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 23 October 1939

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 23 October 1939, page 8

As I began honing in on Cleveland, Ohio, George’s home, I found a truly fantastic set of newspaper articles in the Plain Dealer from that city.

There I was looking at an old photo showing Uncle George and his wife Laura in a lifeboat on their rescue vessel, the Knute Nelson.

photo of George and Laura Cottle being rescued after the sinking of the Athenia, Plain Dealer newspaper article 11 September 1939

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 11 September 1939, page 20

This old photo brought a flood of family memories, and suddenly I was hearing my Uncle’s voice again as he related how he and Aunt Laura, after donning their lifejackets several decks below, headed up to their assigned lifeboat—where they were shoved out of the way by others clambering to get into any lifeboat they could to survive the attack. My Aunt and Uncle moved on to luckily find another lifeboat, the last one to leave the Athenia. They then spent more than seven hours at sea in their leaking lifeboat before their ordeal ended. As they were being rescued, they were horrified to see their originally-assigned lifeboat pulled into the propellers of the Knute Nelson and destroyed with a significant loss of life.

Here is Uncle George’s obituary. Notice that it mentions the sinking of the Athenia.

obituary for George B. Cottle, Plain Dealer newspaper article 27 January 1966

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 27 January 1966, page 61

In my memory, I can still hear my Uncle George telling his survival story of the sinking of the Athenia, and it makes me smile. He would always end this story by remarking “it was the first time in 28 years I went on the ocean, and I am not going again”—although he actually used a bit more colorful language!

How to Search for an Ancestor Whose Last Name Is a Common Word

We often get this question: What do I do when the surname I’m searching for generates thousands of hits because it is a common word (like Brown, Green or Coffee)?

Yes, searching for information on ancestors with ambiguous surnames can be a problem.

GenealogyBank often recommends searching using only the surname as the best way to maximize your search result hits and find the best target articles about your ancestor.

But a surname such as “Coffee” certainly can generate a lot of extra newspaper articles.

GenealogyBank search results page for search term "Coffee"

GenealogyBank search results page for search term “Coffee”

Scanning this list of search results we can quickly see articles about coffee roasters, flavor and other irrelevant articles—clearly not what the genealogist is looking for.

How do you find the genealogy records you are looking for?

GenealogyBank’s search results page has search tools to help you eliminate some of those extra newspaper articles and increase the likelihood of finding articles about your Coffee ancestor.

GenealogyBank search results page showing "article types"

GenealogyBank search results page showing “article types”

Look closely at the left column on the search results page. That is a list of “article types.”

GenealogyBank classifies the articles in our collection of over 6,100 newspapers into types: Historical Obituaries, Marriage Records, etc.

These article types can really help narrow the results of your genealogy search for your Coffee ancestor.

For example, try clicking on “Historical Obituaries.”

GenealogyBank "article type: historical obituaries" results for search term "Coffee"

GenealogyBank “article type: historical obituaries” results for search term “Coffee”

Now we’re not seeing any articles about coffee roasters or flavors of coffee—most of these obituary search results are about deceased people named Coffee.

If we click on “Marriage Records” we see similar results.

GenealogyBank "article type: marriage records" results for search term "Coffee"

GenealogyBank “article type: marriage records” results for search term “Coffee”

We can immediately see that these articles are mostly marriage and wedding announcements for people with the surname “Coffee.”

This genealogy search approach will save family history researchers a lot of time by limiting the website’s search results to the ones you want to use to document your family. The results will still include obituaries or marriage records that contain the word “coffee” in the text of the article. For example, perhaps the person was not named Coffee, but instead was employed by a coffee company or lived in Coffee City, Texas. The word “coffee” might appear in these articles for all types of reasons, but at least this genealogy search tip will help you get more relevant articles about Coffee the person, not the object.

Try your next ancestor search at GenealogyBank using the “article types” to better focus your search results.

 

Family Memories: Finding My Grandfather’s Stories in the Newspaper

When I was a kid my grandfather would drive us over to see the old family sites in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. I remember grandpa was quite the storyteller. Every corner had a story attached to it, including the story of Joseph Plummer (1774-1862) of Meredith.

collage of newspaper articles about New Hampshire hermit Joseph Plummer

Collage of newspaper articles about New Hampshire hermit Joseph Plummer

Why was that story memorable? Because Plummer was a hermit.

A hermit…that was kind of spooky, mysterious…but there we were—parked near his grave. My grandfather showed us where Plummer’s cabin stood. As we drove around the Lakes Region, my grandfather brought us to the old Baptist Church where some of our relatives were once baptized on Christmas Day—after chopping a hole in the ice. Later, he showed us the place where another relative was buried in a glass coffin, a sealed vat of alcohol, in an attempt to prevent his body from decomposition by being buried in the ground.

These were great stories I heard while growing up in New Hampshire. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have TV; we had our grandfather to keep us spellbound with his stories—“our” stories. Today, remembering his storytelling provides some of my fondest memories of time spent with grandpa when I was young.

Over the years I have found documentation in old newspapers that filled in my memory of the stories he told us when we were children.

Bingo: here is another one of my grandpa’s stories verified. I found information in an old newspaper article about the New Hampshire hermit Joseph Plummer that my grandfather told us about.

Over the years the newspapers wrote a dozen articles about Joseph Plummer, giving many of the details of his life.

He was interviewed in 1862 and asked his age: “he answered: ‘I was born the 9th hour of the 13th day of October, in 1774.’”

New Hampshire hermit Joseph Plummer, Deseret News newspaper article 15 October 1862

Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 15 October 1862, page 123

Another news report gave an episode in Plummer’s life that my grandfather didn’t include in his telling of the hermit’s story.

It seems Plummer didn’t quite know how to go about dating the Deacon’s daughter. His brothers married two other of the Fox daughters—but for Joseph it wasn’t to be, despite his apparent determination: “Joseph on one occasion made up his mind to sally forth from his retreat and woo the remaining daughter.”

Unfortunately for Joseph, as the old article relates, “He was somewhat original in his method and broke down in his project.”

A Hermit's Attempt at Courtship, Washington Reporter newspaper article 19 February 1873

Washington Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), 19 February 1873, page 7

After failing in his attempt at romance, Plummer bought land and built his cabin far from the “crowds” and cares of the world.

Hermit's Home Today, Broad Ax newspaper article 21 May 1898

Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, Utah), 21 May 1898, page 2

These old newspaper article clippings bring back memories of time spent with my grandfather and add depth to the stories he told us as children. They provide perfect material for family memory books and scrapbooking projects to share with family generations to come so that they remember grandpa and his stories. Family stories are a treasure—even more so when we can document and expand on them in the deep newspaper archives of GenealogyBank.

 

 

The Social Columns: Mrs. Smith Is Visiting Her Parents in New Mexico

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena shows how much valuable family history information can be found in newspapers’ social columns.

Newspapers report important events and breaking news on the local, national and international level. They document accidents, crimes, politics, and natural disasters. They also report on the rich and famous, the infamous, and politicians. Many people have an assumption that only “famous” or “important” people are written about in the newspaper. Some people assume that their ancestor’s name would never be found in the newspaper because they were “just farmers”—no one special.

But of course, everyday people’s lives are recorded in newspapers, with many articles documenting births, marriages, and deaths. Ordinary people’s stories can also be found in other parts of the paper. Newspapers document their community, both the good times and the bad. They report everything from who owes back taxes and epidemic victims’ names, to legal notices and school achievements. Many of a town’s small goings-on can be found in the local newspaper’s social columns.

I love the social columns of the newspaper. This is the section that names community members and reports on their everyday lives. Think of it as Twitter for an earlier generation.

According to the online article “Using Newspapers for Genealogical Research” available from the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library in Indiana, one type of newspaper article that is especially helpful to genealogists is the “social items, such as notices of visitors from out of town; visits of local people to other places; birthday parties and their attendees; illnesses; community events, contests, and holiday celebrations and their participants; notices of residents who have moved to other locations; etc.”

There can be great genealogical benefits to searching a social news column, especially around the time of an ancestor’s death. Once as I was researching a death for a client the social column reported the illness of the client’s ancestor, the update on her illness, her death, and then mentioned that the deceased’s son was coming to the funeral. All great family information that was not recorded anywhere else.

Consider the following social news column, which records everything from the names of people visiting, to who won awards and who is ill.

Social News, Plaindealer newspaper article 30 October 1931

Plaindealer (Topeka, Kansas), 30 October 1931, page 6

Some of the details we learn in this historical news article:

  • “Miss Muriel Carney, 1041 Grand avenue, left Sunday for Chicago to visit her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. T. G. Thompson.”
  • “Mrs. Marvel of Albuquerque, N. Mexico, is visiting with her daughter, Mrs. Curtis Burton and Mr. Burton.”
  • “Miss Marie Hicks and Mrs. Bessie King spent Thursday in Tongonxie, Kansas, visiting their mother, Mrs. Mary Hicks.”

While these social postings typically fill up a column or two in the newspaper, sometimes a newspaper devotes much more space to the social goings-on in its community. Consider the following social column; it takes up a page and a half and includes social news from various nearby communities.

Society, Duluth News-Tribune newspaper article 29 June 1902

Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 29 June 1902, section III, page 2

The reporting on several communities in the above social column serves as a good reminder that news of your ancestors may not be limited to just their town’s newspaper. A larger regional newspaper may also carry news from surrounding communities. Genealogically rich information can be gleaned from this Minnesota paper’s large social column, including birth notices, business openings, and out-of-town visitors.

Social news columns provide not only a glimpse of the comings and goings of your ancestors but they can also provide information on genealogical facts. As you search newspapers, don’t limit yourself to obituaries. Check out social columns to learn more about your ancestors and their lives.

Remembering September 11th

We can never forget.

collage of newspaper front pages after 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Collage of newspaper front pages after 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Discover the story of September 11th as it happened with news coverage detailing the stories and facts of the tragic events. Find 9/11 articles with factual information, photos, survivor stories and obituaries of the victims that died that day, at GenealogyBank.

GenealogyBank has a deep digital newspaper archive going back 300 years. Documenting the story of America, newspaper articles give us a permanent record of the major stories of our lives and the daily lives of our ancestors.

Search our online archive to discover your family’s history and the role they played in 9/11 now: http://bit.ly/OVSfFb

 

She’s Been Workin’ on the Railroad! Researching Railway Records

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott discovers his centenarian cousin once worked for the U.S. Railway Mail Service—and delves into some railroad history.

As a genealogical historian, one of the aspects of family history I love the most is discovering something new about an ancestor. Then I can take some time off from working on my family tree and spend it learning about this new aspect, or area, that I have uncovered. So it was recently as I found myself once again working on my Bohemian (Czech) ancestors in Ohio.

This time I was delving into one of my first cousins, twice removed, Theresa (Sluka) Armstrong. I was reading her obituary in GenealogyBank.com and among all the other tidbits of great information I was finding, I came upon the statement that she was a retiree of the United States Railway Mail Service.

As you can see by reading my cousin’s obituary, Theresa was 100 years old when she passed away. She must have loved the city as she was the wife of a Cleveland policeman and the sister of Frank and Albert Sluka, who were also both Cleveland policemen. (You can read about the tragic murder of Albert Sluka in my previous GenealogyBank.com blog article found at http://blog.genealogybank.com/author/scottphillips.)

obituary for Theresa Sluka Armstrong, Plain Dealer newspaper 19 February 1991

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 19 February 1991, page 11

The more I thought about it, the more intriguing this organization called the United States Railway Mail Service became to me. Additionally, I found it quite interesting that my female cousin worked for them. Having never heard of it before, I began investigating her occupational history with the railroad almost before I realized it.

Still on GenealogyBank.com, I began searching on “U.S. Railway Mail Service” and was instantly treated to amazing railroad background and historical information.

Unbeknownst to me, in about 1863, the United States Postal Service began outfitting and utilizing specially-designed railway cars to accommodate the collecting, sorting, and distributing of mail aboard railroad trains as they traversed across the United States as an integral part of the early postal system. This efficient railway system was even designed so that at many locations, usually smaller, rural towns where the train did not stop, mail pouches were hung by the railroad tracks where a special “arm” attached to the train would snag the bag while moving. Then the postal clerks on board would retrieve the pouches, open their locks, and sort and process the mail as the train roared along. The train never slowed down or missed a beat!

Quickly I was treating myself to multiple stories about the development, history, and operations of the United States Railway Mail Service. One of my early favorite stories was from an 1891 newspaper article that not only explained the functioning and design of this delivery service, but even contained a drawing of what the mail pouch pick-up looked like.

Mail on the Rail, Plain Dealer newspaper article 25 October 1891

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 25 October 1891, page 13

Then I really found myself hitting pay dirt with a 1909 newspaper article from North Dakota. This historical article is an entire page of the newspaper explaining in detail the U.S. Railway Mail Service and containing six extraordinary photographs of the working areas of these specialized train cars. It even contains the names of the postal clerks working that run. Lists of employee names are always a treat for genealogists and family historians!

U.S. Railway Mail Service in North Dakota, Grand Forks Herald newspaper article 24 January 1909

Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 24 January 1909, page 16

I am now engaging in a full pursuit of finding the employment and pension records for my cousin, which for the U.S. Railway Mail Service are held at the Civilian Personnel Records Department of the National Personnel Records Center, housed at the National Archives and Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

I am keen on discovering more about the employment history of my centenarian cousin and finding out if her working career involved actually “riding the rails” or staying on the solid ground at the station in Cleveland.

 

 

Search Charlotte, North Carolina, Newspapers Online

With the Democratic Convention in town, the nation’s eyes have been focused on Charlotte, North Carolina, this week. Thanks to our online U.S. newspaper archives, you can dig deeper into the history of the Queen City. GenealogyBank has Charlotte covered, with five newspapers in our online collection.

collage of newspapers from Charlotte, North Carolina

Collage of newspapers from Charlotte, North Carolina

Our Charlotte, NC, coverage includes not only an issue of the rare Africo-American Presbyterian newspaper, but a Jewish newspaper (Carolina Israelite) as well as the Charlotte News, Charlotte Observer and the Charlotte Post. It’s great that GenealogyBank has been able to bring together such a diverse archive of old Charlotte newspapers for you to research your Southern ancestors with.

Newspaper Coverage Collection
Africo-American Presbyterian 12/21/1899 Newspaper Archives
Carolina Israelite 2/1/1944 – 12/1/1958 Newspaper Archives
Charlotte News 12/11/1888 – 9/29/1922 Newspaper Archives
Charlotte Observer 3/13/1892 – 12/31/1922 Newspaper Archives
Charlotte Observer 1/1/1992 – Current Recent Obituaries
Charlotte Post 2/3/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries

Search our Charlotte newspaper archives and learn more about your North Carolinian ancestry now!

 

 

More Newspapers Online for Genealogists from GenealogyBank

GenealogyBank has added the backfiles of more than 100 newspapers from 28 U.S. states! This is great news for genealogists—so start searching now.

Every day we work to fill in missing issues in our newspaper archives of more than 6,100 titles so that you can do deeper genealogy research. Thousands of newspaper pages were added in this latest addition, totaling more than 25 million articles to help you fill in the gaps on your family tree.

Five newspapers (marked with an asterisk in the table below) are titles new to GenealogyBank.

These new titles include one newspaper from Florida and four from Georgia:

  • Plant City Observer (Plant City, Florida)
  • Fayette Chronicle (Fayetteville, Georgia)
  • Fayette County News (Fayette, Georgia)
  • Today in Peachtree City (Fayetteville, Georgia)
  • East Coweta Journal (Senoia, Georgia)

Here is the complete list of our latest newspaper additions. Each title is an interactive link taking you directly to that newspaper’s search form.

State City Title Date Range Collection
Arkansas Little Rock Arkansas Gazette 01/29/1878–11/05/1898 Historical Newspapers
Arkansas Little Rock Arkansas Weekly Gazette 08/01/1824–11/27/1866 Historical Newspapers
Arkansas Little Rock Morning Republican 03/20/1868–03/20/1868 Historical Newspapers
California Sacramento Weekly Rescue 02/01/1864–09/20/1877 Historical Newspapers
California San Francisco San Francisco Abend Post 01/12/1871–12/30/1876 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut Hartford Connecticut Courant 01/03/1852–12/26/1874 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut New Haven Columbian Register 11/26/1859–11/26/1859 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut New Haven Connecticut Journal 09/27/1825–02/24/1835 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut New Haven Daily Herald 05/18/1839–12/15/1843 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut New Haven New Haven Palladium 09/19/1863–09/19/1863 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut New London New London Daily Chronicle 08/02/1852–07/15/1861 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut Norwich Norwich Aurora 06/11/1864–07/29/1868 Historical Newspapers
Florida Pensacola Pensacola Gazette 06/12/1830–04/08/1848 Historical Newspapers
Florida Plant City Plant City Observer* 07/12/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Georgia Augusta Augusta Chronicle 05/04/1799–03/26/1882 Historical Newspapers
Georgia Augusta Daily Constitutionalist 10/31/1861–11/07/1869 Historical Newspapers
Georgia Fayetteville Fayette Chronicle* 08/25/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Georgia Fayetteville Fayette County News* 12/02/2010–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Georgia Fayetteville Today in Peachtree City* 05/02/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Georgia Savannah Georgian 01/09/1830–05/10/1830 Historical Newspapers
Georgia Savannah Savannah Republican 12/08/1807–03/04/1825 Historical Newspapers
Georgia Senoia East Coweta Journal* 11/11/2010–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Kentucky Lexington Kentucky Gazette 08/07/1823–12/22/1826 Historical Newspapers
Louisiana New Orleans Times-Picayune 01/01/1906–01/01/1906 Historical Newspapers
Maine Portland Daily Eastern Argus 08/18/1863–03/17/1888 Historical Newspapers
Maryland Baltimore Baltimore American 04/30/1903–06/04/1911 Historical Newspapers
Maryland Easton Easton Star 04/30/1844–04/15/1856 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston American Traveller 01/20/1826–09/30/1834 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Boston Commercial Gazette 01/02/1823–06/25/1829 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Boston Evening Transcript 07/01/1857–05/31/1862 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Boston Herald 11/07/1920–11/14/1920 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Boston Post 02/06/1862–10/08/1866 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Boston Recorder 01/01/1821–05/03/1872 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Saturday Morning Transcript 11/19/1831–11/21/1835 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Trumpet and Universalist Magazine 06/07/1834–06/07/1834 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Lowell Lowell Patriot 01/02/1835–04/06/1837 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Nantucket Nantucket Inquirer 08/08/1825–07/24/1840 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts New Bedford New-Bedford Mercury 05/14/1869–05/14/1869 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts New Bedford Whaleman’s Shipping List and Merchants’ Transcript 02/25/1845–03/06/1855 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Newburyport Newburyport Herald 01/02/1838–03/17/1846 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Springfield Springfield Union 12/01/1963–12/01/1963 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Stoughton Wicked Local: Avon* 12/01/2008–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Massachusetts Worcester Massachusetts Spy 03/03/1876–03/03/1876 Historical Newspapers
Michigan Kalamazoo Kalamazoo Gazette 05/27/1917–05/27/1917 Historical Newspapers
Minnesota Winona Winona Post* 02/12/2006–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Mississippi Indianola Indianola Enterprise-Tocsin* 09/16/2010–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Montana Helena Helena Weekly Herald 05/09/1867–05/09/1867 Historical Newspapers
New Hampshire Amherst Amherst Village Messenger* 01/09/1796–12/05/1801 Historical Newspapers
New Hampshire Concord New Hampshire Patriot 10/24/1878–10/24/1878 Historical Newspapers
New Hampshire Concord New Hampshire Patriot* 10/24/1878–10/24/1878 Historical Newspapers
New Hampshire Concord Republican Gazette 09/06/1802–09/06/1802 Historical Newspapers
New Hampshire Portsmouth Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics 12/16/1876–12/16/1876 Historical Newspapers
New Jersey Newark Centinel Of Freedom 09/18/1821–09/19/1876 Historical Newspapers
New Jersey Newark Newark Daily Advertiser* 01/03/1834–12/31/1836 Historical Newspapers
New York Albany Albany Argus 12/08/1829–01/05/1855 Historical Newspapers
New York Albany Albany Evening Journal 2/28/1854–6/27/1872 Historical Newspapers
New York Albany Daily Albany Argus 05/25/1826–09/08/1875 Historical Newspapers
New York Auburn Auburn Journal and Advertiser 01/13/1841–04/20/1842 Historical Newspapers
New York Auburn Cayuga Tocsin 01/02/1812–07/06/1814 Historical Newspapers
New York Auburn Wisconsin Chief 01/04/1849–12/28/1852 Historical Newspapers
New York Batavia Republican Advocate 11/19/1819–07/27/1821 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Commercial Advertiser 01/06/1845–12/31/1850 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Courrier des Etats-Unis 03/29/1862–12/10/1882 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Daily Graphic 07/01/1875–04/13/1876 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Evening Post 07/08/1822–11/08/1876 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 10/24/1863–04/21/1866 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Morning Telegraph 1/12/1873–1/12/1873 Historical Newspapers
New York New York National Advocate 04/27/1821–01/31/1829 Historical Newspapers
New York New York New York Herald-Tribune 3/4/1880–3/4/1880 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Spectator 06/18/1845–12/27/1849 Historical Newspapers
New York Potsdam North Country Now* 05/22/2010–Current Newspaper Obituaries
New York Poughkeepsie Dutchess Observer 01/02/1822–04/26/1826 Historical Newspapers
New York Poughkeepsie Poughkeepsie Journal 08/25/1789–06/01/1814 Historical Newspapers
New York Schenectady Cabinet 05/31/1826–12/30/1856 Historical Newspapers
New York Stony Brook Statesman, The: SUNY, Stony Brook* 12/08/2008–Current Newspaper Obituaries
New York Utica Columbian Gazette 6/23/1807–6/23/1807 Historical Newspapers
North Carolina Belhaven Beaufort-Hyde News* 07/27/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Edenton Chowan Herald, The* 07/12/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Farmville Farmville Enterprise, The* 07/13/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Fayetteville Carolina Observer 02/24/1831–02/23/1863 Historical Newspapers
North Carolina Grifton Times-Leader, The* 07/20/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Hertford Perquimans Weekly* 07/13/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Hillsborough Hillsborough Recorder 10/30/1861–10/30/1861 Historical Newspapers
North Carolina Kenansville Duplin Times, The* 09/29/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Kenansville Duplin Today – Pink Hill Review* 03/08/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Snow Hill Standard Laconic, The* 07/13/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Williamston Martin County Enterprise and Weekly Herald* 08/02/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Windsor Bertie Ledger-Advance* 07/13/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Ohio Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune, The* 06/02/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Ohio Cincinnati Cincinnati Daily Gazette 6/21/1867–5/26/1881 Historical Newspapers
Ohio Cleveland Plain Dealer 12/28/1893–07/08/1908 Historical Newspapers
Ohio Columbus Crisis 11/16/1864–10/07/1868 Historical Newspapers
Oklahoma Hobart Hobart Daily Republican 08/08/1908–05/29/1920 Historical Newspapers
Oklahoma Perry Perry Journal 11/07/1901–02/27/1902 Historical Newspapers
Oklahoma Perry Perry Republican 08/29/1918–08/29/1918 Historical Newspapers
Pennsylvania Canton Canton Independent-Sentinel, The* 02/05/2008–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Pennsylvania Harrisburg Patriot 01/13/1872–09/03/1921 Historical Newspapers
Pennsylvania Philadelphia Pennsylvania Journal 12/09/1742–09/18/1793 Historical Newspapers
Pennsylvania Reading Reading Adler 05/29/1855–12/12/1876 Historical Newspapers
Pennsylvania Washington Washington Reporter 03/09/1853–06/02/1869 Historical Newspapers
Pennsylvania Washington Washington Review and Examiner 09/27/1820–01/31/1877 Historical Newspapers
Rhode Island Providence Providence Evening Press 03/20/1872–01/07/1874 Historical Newspapers
South Carolina Charleston Charleston Courier 08/01/1834–02/20/1857 Historical Newspapers
South Carolina Georgetown Winyaw Intelligencer 12/30/1829–04/06/1831 Historical Newspapers
South Carolina Greenwood Index-Journal, The* 07/01/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Texas Clarksville Standard 10/5/1850–10/5/1850 Historical Newspapers
Texas Dallas Dallas Morning News 1/24/1979–12/22/1984 Historical Newspapers
Utah Salt Lake City Salt Lake Telegram 01/07/1903–01/11/1921 Historical Newspapers
Vermont Bellows Falls Bellows Falls Gazette 03/07/1842–09/23/1843 Historical Newspapers
Vermont St. Albans St. Albans Daily Messenger 04/13/1893–08/06/1908 Historical Newspapers
Vermont St. Albans St. Albans Messenger 04/14/1859–01/22/1903 Historical Newspapers
Virginia Alexandria Alexandria Gazette 03/13/1850–12/31/1851 Historical Newspapers
Virginia Alexandria Virginia Journal* 01/05/1786–05/21/1789 Historical Newspapers
Virginia Richmond Richmond Whig 07/13/1869–12/07/1869 Historical Newspapers
Washington Tukwila Tukwila Reporter* 08/18/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries

 

 

Searching Family History: Old School Records in the Newspaper

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post timed with kids going back to school, Gena shows how valuable school records—in archives and in newspaper articles—can be in tracing your family history.

Once again it’s that time of the year when children’s parents rejoice: the start of a new school year! The beginning of a school year is also a good time for family history researchers to consider how much old school records can help them document their ancestors. Compulsory education has long been a fact of life in America, starting with the first attendance law passed in Massachusetts in 1853. As long as kids have been going to school records have been kept chronicling their school days.

Looking to find information about your ancestors when they were children? Or perhaps you want to find out more about your ancestors who were in the education field, either as teachers or administrators. Consider seeking out local and school histories, school and federal censuses, yearbooks and alumni lists, just to name a few resources. As with any research project, begin by searching your home for sources like attendance records, report cards, rewards of merit, yearbooks, autograph books, and photos. Next, consult the Family History Library Catalog. Conduct a search on the place your ancestor lived and then look for the subject heading “Schools” for microfilmed records that can be viewed at your local FamilySearch Center.

Once you have searched the Family History Library for historical school records, look for collections at a state archive, library or historical society. These school records most likely can be found in a manuscript collection. A look at the Colorado State Archives showed school records that document students as well as teachers. A search using the keyword “School” on the website Online Archive of California, a union catalog of California repositories, found over 6,000 hits including photos, dance cards, report cards, student publications, school district records, and parent association records, just to name a few.

Don’t limit your ancestral school research to just documents. School life is an important part of every community, and local newspapers print many different types of articles about schools, students, teachers and administrators. Searching an online archive of historical newspapers using school-themed keywords can turn up a surprising amount of information on your ancestors. The following examples of school-related news articles are all from GenealogyBank’s online collection.

This listing of Chicago-area schools provides a glimpse at all the students who graduated in 1895. Notice that the list is broken down by school and includes names of students who won awards. These school graduation lists continue even today, especially in small town newspapers.

End of School Year, Daily Inter Ocean newspaper article 29 June 1895

Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), 29 June 1895, page 6

School statistics can give you an idea of the school population for where your ancestor lived. Though they will not provide the names of students, these statistics give you some information about what the area was like in your ancestor’s time.

School Statistics, Jackson Citizen newspaper article 1 January 1889

Jackson Citizen (Jackson, Michigan), 1 January 1889, page 8

Individual students may have been mentioned or even photographed for a newspaper. Such newspaper clippings can provide valuable family keepsakes. Activities such as sports and student clubs are often documented in newspaper articles.

County School Boys Compete in Meet Today, Sun newspaper article 14 June 1913

Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 14 June 1913, page 7

Did your ancestor work at a school as a teacher or administrator? Don’t forget that they too could be mentioned in an old newspaper article. The following news article provides a list of school personnel and what schools they were assigned to in Dallas.

Assignments Announced for Dallas Public Schools, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 5 August 1962

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 5 August 1962, page 6

Was your ancestor a brainiac? One way kids made it into the paper was for their outstanding academic achievements.

School News and Honor Rolls from the Cobb County Schools, Marietta Journal newspaper article, 25 February 1921

Marietta Journal (Marietta, Georgia), 25 February 1921, page 7

Today we are used to hearing about school violence but it’s a mistake to believe that this is a new phenomenon. Consider this story of a 12-year-old boy who died from a school hazing incident back in 1900. While the successes of students are celebrated in the newspaper, there are also reports documenting tragedies.

Hazing Kills Young Student, Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper article 7 November 1900

Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, Michigan), 7 November 1900, page 3

Remember to include school records of all kinds when filling in details on your family tree, including articles from local newspapers. You’re likely to find information and stories about your ancestors you can’t find anywhere else, especially from their younger days.

 

 

 

Mining for My Italian-American Wife’s Minnesota Hometown History

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott tells about researching his ancestors’ lives and the history of the Mesabi Iron Range in northern Minnesota where they lived.

The most significant blessing in my life was when the young woman who is now my wife of 37 years said “yes” to my proposal of marriage. During our courtship I learned that she and her family were living in a part of the country that I was not particularly familiar with. OK, wait, I will rephrase that and be more honest about it. While the blessing part is 100% accurate, the fact of the matter is that when I met my future wife I did not know a plug nickel’s worth about her hometown area, which is located on the Mesabi Iron Range in northern Minnesota. One of my favorite aspects of genealogy is learning the history of the times that goes along with discovering our ancestors and their information.

Learning the ancestry essentials from my wife was easy. Her family is 100% Italian on both sides, all four of her grandparents emigrated from central Italy to northern Minnesota for economic opportunity, I was going to be the first non-Italian to ever join her family (but that’s a story for a different time), northern Minnesota is far more beautiful than I had ever imagined, and the area owes its prosperity, and future, to the iron ore hiding in the soils of the Mesabi Iron Range.

photo of workers at the Scranton Mine in Minnesota in 1932

Author’s grandfather-in-law, Pasquale, during the Great Depression at the mines of the Mesabi Iron Range. This was the entire annual output of the ore from the Scranton Mine in all of 1932. From the collection of Scott Phillips.

Several years ago, as I was researching deeply into my wife’s Italian ancestry, I realized I had a hankering to learn even more about the history, background, and the life and times of the area in northern Minnesota that her Italian immigrant grandparents chose to call their new home. While I knew a lot from wonderful stories told to me by her grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and especially her parents, I was looking forward to learning even more.

So naturally I found myself clicking over to GenealogyBank.com to delve deeper into her Italian family’s past!

Utilizing the “Advanced Search” feature on the site, I began by looking up such keyword terms as Mesabi Iron Range, Hibbing, Chisholm, Eveleth, Minnesota, while tossing in a surname and a few other terms periodically. My depth of understanding was growing with every old newspaper article I was reading. As the expression goes, “It’s the next best thing to being there.”

For me, one of the most impressive features of GenealogyBank.com is the geographic reach of their more than 6,100 newspapers, which I was having a blast researching. It was thrilling to be reading a full page story from 1890 in the Chicago Herald titled “Mountains of Riches,” all about the early times on the Mesabi Range.

Mountains of Riches, Chicago Herald newspaper article 14 October 1891

Chicago Herald (Chicago, Illinois), 14 October 1890, page 9

Another interesting historical newspaper article was about the challenges of building the first railroad from Duluth, Minnesota, on the shores of Lake Superior to the towns on the Iron Range, published in the Duluth News-Tribune.

A Road to the Mesabi, Duluth News-Tribune newspaper article 6 June 1891

Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 6 June 1891, page 2

Of course, being an avid American baseball fan it was personally thrilling to find an old newspaper article in the Marietta Journal, in Marietta, Georgia, on a story from the movie Field of Dreams that was relating the true story of Doctor Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. This time the story was being told by our family friend and a newspaper editor herself, Ms. Veda Ponikvar, of Minnesota’s Chisholm Free Press.

Real Character in 'Field of Dreams' Has Point of View, Marietta Journal newspaper article, 1 June 1991

Marietta Journal (Marietta, Georgia), 1 June 1991, page 2

Then just for what seemed like good measure, I found myself reading an obituary from the Hibbing Daily Tribune for one of my wife’s uncles. It was an obituary that I didn’t have in my family tree.

Mike D'Aquila Newspaper Obituary, Hibbing Daily Tribune newspaper article, 21 September 1999

Hibbing Daily Tribune (Hibbing, Minnesota), 21 September 1999

This obituary brought back wonderful memories of family times gone by—especially since the article was noting that his funeral was held in The Church of the Immaculate Conception, which I was quickly remembering was known all over the Iron Range simply as “the Italian Church” since daily Mass was still said in Latin and Italian. There I was, all over again, sitting in those church pews surrounded by family.

Now here I sit, smiling and teary-eyed all at the same time.