Handy Genealogy Research Tips

Here are three quick tips to help you research and document your family history. These handy genealogy research tips will help you become more efficient using GenealogyBank.

Genealogy Research Tip 1: How to Print Newspaper Articles

GenealogyBank makes it easy to print out any of its newspaper articles using the site’s printing tools. Read this article to learn how to print newspaper articles.

Genealogy Research Tip 2: How to Browse a Specific Issue of a Newspaper

Sometimes when you are doing family history research you just want to go right to a specific newspaper and start searching or browsing through that newspaper. GenealogyBank provides an easy way to do this. Read this article to learn how to search or browse a specific newspaper.

Genealogy Research Tip 3: Having Trouble Finding Your Ancestor? Try Searching Using Only the First Name

Yes—try it. If you’re not finding your ancestor using a surname search, try searching GenealogyBank’s archives by only using your ancestor’s first name. This search technique is especially effective when the name of your ancestor is unusual or a less common name. Learn more about searching using only your ancestor’s first name.

screenshot of GenealogyBank's search form and results for first name "Durwood"

Screenshot of GenealogyBank’s search form and results for first name “Durwood”

We hope these quick genealogy research tips help you do better family history research using GenealogyBank.com. Happy ancestor hunting!

How to Do Genealogy Research with German-Language Newspapers

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary writes about resources and techniques to help you find family history information in foreign-language newspapers, even if you’re not familiar with that language.

GenealogyBank’s recent announcement that it is adding Italian American newspapers in 2013 is a welcome addition—but it may also concern family history researchers who are nervous about navigating foreign languages.

However, there are certain resources and techniques you can use to find valuable genealogical information in foreign-language newspapers, even if you have limited—or no—familiarity with the language, as this article explains.

My roots include a number of German immigrants who settled in various parts of Pennsylvania. By using specific techniques, I have been able to locate information about these ancestors from the German American newspapers in GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives.

Some of these German-language newspapers include:

  • Cincinnati Volksfreund (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • Der Wahre Amerikaner (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
  • Der Zeitgeist (Egg Harbor City, New Jersey)
  • Deutsche Porcupein (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
  • Egg Harbor Pilot (Egg Harbor City, New Jersey)
  • Highland Union (Highland, Illinois)
  • New Jersey Deutsche Zeitung (Newark, New Jersey)
  • Nordwestliche Post (Sunbury, Pennsylvania)
  • Reading Adler (Reading, Pennsylvania)
  • New Yorker Volkszeitung (New York, New York)
  • Northumberland Republicaner (Sunbury, Pennsylvania)
  • Unparteyische Harrisburg Morgenroethe Zeitung (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)

When presented with a language hurdle in your genealogy research, try not to be intimidated.

By employing a free language translator such as Google Translate and consulting foreign genealogical word lists, you may be able to determine the gist of a notice, such as the two death notices shown in the following illustration. They report that the decedents died (“starb”) on last Sunday night (“Sontag Nacht”), and on last Monday morning (“Montag Morgen”), respectively.

death notices from German-language newspapers

Death notices from German-language newspapers

Some of my family’s notices were published in the Reading Adler (Reading, Pennsylvania), which published alternately in both English and German.

Daniel Miesse obituary, Reading Adler newspaper article 14 April 1818

Reading Adler (Reading, Pennsylvania), 14 April 1818, page 2

This particular German-language obituary relates to my ancestor Daniel Miesse (28 January 1743, Elsoff, Germany to 1 April 1818, Berks County, Pennsylvania), who died in Bern Township in the 76th year of his age. This death notice was a bit more challenging to understand, since several German terms did not translate directly. For example, the first word (“Berstarb”) stumped me, but I was able to figure out that it corresponded to the term “verstarb” (died).

An interesting explanation of the interchangeability of Germanic letters can be found in Family Search’s German Word List.

Its explanation notes that “spelling rules were not standardized in earlier centuries,” so variations are common. It is best to substitute letters, if you cannot make a definitive translation, or to do a reverse look-up by querying obvious terms. For example, choose a word in English that you might assume to be in a foreign notice. Then, translate it into your target language (e.g., German).

This blog article would not be complete without noting that search engines are often type-face-challenged; being persistent and varying your queries is central to finding ancestral notices in foreign-language newspapers.

While researching my genealogy, I sometimes query with German terms whose meanings I have learned over the years: “taufe” or “taufen” helps locate christenings; “heiraten” finds marriages; and husband or wife can be found by searching on the terms “mann,” “ehermann” and “gatte,” or “ehegattin,” “frau” and “gattin.”

Generally, search software does a fine job in responding to queries, by employing sophisticated “optical character recognition” (OCR) techniques—which is the process by which the computer makes an electronic conversion of scanned images.

However, it sometimes does not produce the desired results. Reasons vary, but foreign publications often used different type styles, such as German Fraktur, Blackletter and Gothic type, and foreign languages may include letters of the alphabet which do not exist in English.

And even old English presents a unique situation—since archaic spellings changed over time. The classic example is the interchangeable use of ff and ss, as seen in this 18th century spelling of possessed.

the word "possessed" as spelled in an 18th century newspaper

The word “possessed” as spelled in an 18th century newspaper

Hopefully, by employing these techniques, you will be able to successfully navigate a variety of foreign-language newspapers. Don’t be intimidated! Plunge right in—you may be agreeably surprised by what you find out about your family history.

Newspaper Genealogy Research: Finding the Hames Family Stories

So few family stories are passed down and preserved by folks today. People are busy earning a living and dealing with the demands of 21st century lives. In addition, many families now find themselves spread across the country. It can be difficult for the rising generation to hear the old family stories from their grandparents.

Fortunately newspapers published many of these interesting family stories from yesteryear, and they can be found online today.

Here’s a great story preserved in an old newspaper: the trip the Hames brothers made in 1910 to visit for the first time the grave of their 2nd great-grandfather John Hames.

brothers find grave of ancestor John Hames, Marietta Journal newspaper article 29 July 1910

Marietta Journal (Marietta, Georgia), 29 July 1910, page 2

After a train ride, the two brothers took “a buggy across the country to Sardis” where they saw the grave where their ancestor was buried in 1860.

Today, a gravestone marks the spot where John Hames was buried. The 1910 newspaper article stated that “his grave will be properly marked” by the visiting brothers to honor their ancestor. What’s there now is a standard military gravestone supplied by the government. Did the two brothers arrange for it to be placed in the cemetery?

photo of the gravestone of John Hames, buried in 1860

Photo: gravestone of John Hames. Credit: Waymarking.com.

Reading further into the old newspaper article about the brother’s gravesite visit, we find that when John Hames died he was known as the oldest man in the country: 108 years old.

Look at all the family history we learn from this one newspaper article:

  • W.J.M. Hames and D.C. Hames were brothers living in Marietta, Georgia
  • Their 2nd great-grandfather, John Hames, served in the Revolutionary War and was buried in Sardis, Georgia
  • John married Charity Jasper, the sister of Sergeant (William) Jasper—another hero of the Revolutionary War. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Jasper
  • The brothers took the Western & Atlantic train to Tilton, Georgia, then went by buggy to the cemetery at Sardis, Georgia
  • There they saw their ancestor’s grave and met John Beemer (who helped to bury the old soldier) and John Shannon (who made his coffin)
  • In 1860 when he died, John Hames, at 108, was considered to be the oldest man in America
  • The brother’s father was Hamlet C. Hames
  • Their grandfather was William Hames
  • Their great-grandfather was Charles Hames, the son of their Revolutionary War ancestor
  • They enjoyed their trip and spent time fishing in the Connasauga River
  • They visited Fort DeSoto
  • They visited the jail where John Howard Payne was imprisoned. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Howard_Payne
  • They also visited the home of Chief James Vann, the Cherokee Indian leader
photo of Cherokee Chief James Vann’s house

Photo: Cherokee Chief James Vann’s house. Credit: Georgia State Parks: http://www.gastateparks.org/ChiefVannHouse.

As this one historical newspaper article shows, newspapers provide information about your ancestors you can’t find anywhere else. More than just the names and dates you can get from other genealogy records, newspapers tell stories about the experiences your ancestors had, the people they met, and the times they lived in—these family stories help you get to know them as real people.

‘You Can’t Take It with You’? Nelson A. Brucker Did

We’ve all heard that saying before. Conventional wisdom tells us: “you can’t take it with you when you go.”

But Nelson A. Brucker of Deadwood, South Dakota, did. He made arrangements before he died to have his money buried with him in an unmarked grave “in a secluded spot in the hills near his cabin.”

Brucker had no wife or children to leave his money to, and felt that his relatives were “so neglectful and unkind” that he didn’t want to leave his life’s savings to them. As for friends, the old miner once remarked: “I have no friends who have done anything for me to justify my giving them what little money I have.”

Hopefully he has a genealogist cousin today who isn’t neglecting him and has made sure to document Brucker’s life in their family history.

Hmm…I wonder if anyone ever found that unmarked grave and the money.

Money Buried with Him, Aberdeen American newspaper article 25 April 1907

Aberdeen American (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 25 April 1907, page 2

Genealogy Tools & Resources Review: Best Bang for Your Buck!

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott shows the method he uses at the end of each year to evaluate all the genealogy tools and resources he used, to help him prepare his genealogy budget for the new year.

About this time of year I go through my annual exercise of evaluating the benefits, or “bang-for-my-bucks,” that I derived from the money I spent on genealogy tools and resources during the past year to indulge all my family history pursuits. I do this as the first step toward building my genealogy tool budget for the upcoming year.

More Bang for Your Buck, Greensboro News and Record newpaper headline 5 August 1984

Greensboro News and Record (Greensboro, North Carolina), 5 August 1984, page 144

2013 is no exception and, due to a variety of reasons, I decided that I was going to adhere to the “brutally honest” approach in my genealogy tools and resources review.

Each year I make up a simple table and list all the genealogy software and website subscriptions I spent money on for family history research and write them down in the far left-hand column. Then I begin to take stock of each of them. If you’d like to do a similar analysis for your genealogy tools and resources, feel free to use my spreadsheet as a model for your own evaluation.

Download the Genealogy Tools Evaluation Spreadsheet.

My evaluation criteria are simple and few. The following are the four I used for this year’s review:

  1. How often have I used the genealogy resource or tool in the past year?
  2. How successful have I been at finding useful genealogical information for my family tree from this genealogy resource or tool?
  3. How many times have I had an “AH-HA” moment of discovery using the genealogy resource or tool? And, of course,
  4. How much did I spend on this genealogy tool or resource?

I proceed to place a value of 0, 1, or 3 points for each of the first three evaluation criteria for each item in my list and the dollar amount in the fourth. Then just in case of a tie, I have a column on the far right-hand side that asks: Is this genealogy resource or tool fun to use? I really like to have fun with my family history, so I place a premium on those genealogy research tools and resources that offer me not only useful information, but some enjoyment as well. This column, since it is a tie-breaker, simply gets a “-” or a “+” sign.

When all was said and done, after this exercise my genealogy tools budget for 2013 was remarkably easy to assemble.

My review includes every subscription and membership that I purchased during the year for any genealogy or history society, museum, software program, database, or association. In my case (simply for example) I have such diverse line items as MyHeritage.com (the software I use for my family tree and our family social network website), the British Newspaper Archive, Ohio Genealogical Society, Ancestry.com, Ohio History Society, Cornwall Family History Society, Minnesota Historical Society, Association of Professional Genealogists, National Genealogical Society, Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, Ontario, Canada Genealogical Society, and almost two dozen additional state and local societies—in addition to GenealogyBank. I include them all from my largest individual annual outlay of $299 for Ancestry to my smallest for a local genealogical society that still only charges $10 a year. (I do not enter the costs I incur each year for experts, long distance assistants, translators, and genealogy tourism/travel in this evaluation spreadsheet because I have a different analysis I use for these outlays.)

You might find it interesting to know that GenealogyBank.com was one of the very top-rated genealogy resources in my analysis.

screenshot of an Excel spreadsheet

The following are the answers from the table I constructed:

  1. I used GenealogyBank.com at least every week and some weeks every day: 3 points.
  2. Over and over, on almost every log-in, I discovered extremely useful, critical, and unique information for my family tree: 3 points.
  3. My “AH-HA” moments were numerous, ranging from articles that provided needed background, obituaries that listed previously missing family members (especially married names of daughters and nieces), and the intensely precious newspaper photos that in several cases make up the only family photo we have of a particular family member: 3 points.
  4. I pay for my GenealogyBank.com subscription on the annual plan, so I notice when I have to part with the fee of $55.95—but I actually do it with a smile because if I divide this total by month, day, article found, or “AH-HA” moment, it works out to pennies a discovery. Well worth it!

Oh, and one of my favorite parts is that GenealogyBank.com also gets a “+” in the “fun column.” I have had more fun finding my family history discoveries and learning new and exciting aspects of the times of my ancestors through GenealogyBank’s newspaper collections than I have had on any other genealogy-oriented site. In fact I always find myself looking forward to logging in, ready for another session.

So GenealogyBank came out of my analysis with a score of 9+, the highest possible score. Renewal for sure!

We all know that genealogy can be an expensive hobby, but in this case there is no second-guessing my use of GenealogyBank.com as one of my premier, must-have sites.

I hope you found my genealogy resource and tool review method helpful. Good luck with your own family history searching in 2013!

Did You Hear? Even More Newspaper Articles Put Online!

GenealogyBank is rapidly growing. In fact we add newspaper articles from all 50 states every single day, 365 days a year. It can be hard to keep up with all the newspaper additions that are going online. Here are just some of the announcements we recently made.

Rockford Register Star (Rockford, Illinois)

We announced that GenealogyBank has added more back issues of the Rockford Register Star, spanning the years 1991-1996.

Read the original announcement about this newspaper’s back issues being added to our archives on Facebook: More Back Issues of the Rockford Register Star Put Online.

With this addition we now have over 20 million articles from the Rockford Register Star, covering the years 1979-2007. That’s a lot of newspaper articles to help you document your family history in the “Land of Lincoln.

Search the Rockford Register Star.

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia)

GenealogyBank has added more back issues of the Richmond Times Dispatch, spanning the years 1970-1986. With this addition we now have over 22.6 million articles from the Richmond Times Dispatch, covering the years 1903-1986. That’s a lot of information to help you document your family history in the “Old Dominion.”

Read the announcement about this recent archive expansion on Facebook: More Back Issues of the Richmond Times Dispatch Put Online.

Start researching your VA genealogy now! Search the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Boston Traveler (Boston, Massachusetts)

GenealogyBank has added another 1,094 back issues of the Boston Traveler to its online newspaper archives—that’s over 44,000 pages of newspaper articles, spanning the years 1949-1965.

Read about the addition of this popular historical Boston newspaper to our archives on Facebook: 1,094 Boston Traveler Newspaper Back Issues Put Online.

Dig into these newspaper back issues to document your family history in “The Bay State” from 1954-1967. Search the Boston Traveler.

GenealogyBank is adding more historical and recent newspapers from many U.S. cities at an astonishing pace, dating from the 18th century to today, to help you explore your family tree.

A Peek into Yesteryear: Using Scrapbooks for Genealogy Research

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena describes how scrapbooks can be a surprising and valuable resource for your family history research.

Did you ever keep a scrapbook? I’m not referring to the modern-day scrapbooks that are essentially decorated photograph albums. I’m referring to the type of scrapbook that held postcards, letters, favorite poems, photos and newspaper clippings. When I was young I would fill my scrapbook with all the events I was a part of, like band concerts, school graduations, and church activities. I would include postcards I had received from family members, and newspaper clippings I found interesting (I still have a clipping my grandmother gave me about how to cook a bat).

photo of a scrapbook

As a family history researcher I have found scrapbooks from past generations that included genealogically significant information such as newspaper clippings of births, marriages, and deaths. I’m always amazed at the dedication some people have put into documenting their community and their family through scrapbooks. Scrapbooks tell a story, a fact that was reinforced for me a few years back when I was helping a client preserve her childhood scrapbook that included valentines given to her by elementary school classmates. Some of those classmates were Japanese Americans who would later be held at the Manzanar internment camp during the World War II years.

photo of a scrapbook showing newspaper clippings

In her book Scrapbooks: An American History, Jessica Helfand describes scrapbooks as being a “visual autobiography.” Looking at the scrapbooks I own, it’s easy to see that they are autobiographies and community histories. Scrapbooks contain visual representations of what was important to the owner. Scrapbooks can hold a variety of genealogical treasures, even in cases where the scrapbook’s original owner was not related to you.

Consider some of the items that get pasted into scrapbooks: letter correspondence, newspaper articles, and photos. These all document the interests and life of the scrapbook owner, and include people from his or her community: neighbors, family members, and friends and associates from school, church and work. As virtual autobiographies scrapbooks should be part of a genealogical search, even in cases where they are not your ancestor’s but rather from someone who lived in their community. In one scrapbook that I own that dates from 1930 to 1950, there is a newspaper clipping showing the names of a graduating class as well as photographs, correspondence, thank-you notes and invitations, all documenting the life of a community.

photo of a scrapbook showing an old letter

While we often think of scrapbooking as an individual pursuit, it’s important to remember that individuals weren’t the only ones who kept scrapbooks. Organizations also kept scrapbooks that documented the people, history, and achievements of their group. So while an individual’s scrapbook may provide you with social history and even a possible mention of an ancestor, an organizational scrapbook will provide information about a group that your ancestor was a part of, allowing you to better document their activities.

photo of a scrapbook showing a picture of a high school graduation

How do you find scrapbooks to use in your genealogy research? They can be housed in manuscript collections found at libraries, historical societies, museums and archives. To find scrapbooks you can use a union catalog like ArchiveGrid. A recent search on the keyword “scrapbook” resulted in over 36,000 results.

Other combined library catalogs also exist. When I searched the catalog for Online Archive of California, which includes museums, archives, universities and public libraries in California, I found scrapbooks for organizations and groups such as:

You can also search an individual repository’s catalog for the keyword “scrapbook.”

Individuals, organizations, and other types of groups created scrapbooks that they filled with items they were interested in and didn’t want to forget, as well as ephemera that documented the activities and events of the life of their community. Many are often packed with old newspaper clippings that provide a wealth of genealogical information. Scrapbooks are just one more example of a genealogy resource that can tell your family’s history. Be sure to include them in your family history searches.

Note: all photos are from the author’s collection.

Italian American (Americano Italiano) Newspapers Are Coming!

GenealogyBank is pleased to announce that later this year it will be adding six Italian American newspapers from three states: California, New York and Pennsylvania.

These new additions to GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives will provide thousands of articles to help you do genealogy research on your Italian American ancestors. Trace your Italian ancestry back to the 1800s with obituaries, birth notices, wedding announcements, and local news stories found in these old Italian-language newspapers.

photo of Mulberry Street in "Little Italy" in New York City around 1900

Photo: Mulberry Street, “Little Italy” in New York City, around 1900. Credit: Wikipedia.

The early Italian American newspapers we will be adding soon to our online archives include:

State

City Newspaper

Start

End

CA

San Francisco Corriere del Popolo

1916

1962

NY

New York Cristoforo Colombo

1891

1893

NY

New York Eco d’Italia

1890

1896

NY

New York Fiaccola Weekly

1912

1921

NY

New York Progresso Italo-Americano

1886

1950

PA

Philadelphia Momento

1917

1919

Look for these Italian news titles to be added online late in 2013.

GenealogyBank Adding More Recent Obituaries from 5 U.S. States

GenealogyBank is pleased to announce that it is adding recent obituaries from another 19 newspapers from 5 states. This includes newspapers from Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, New York and Vermont—thousands more obituaries to help with your family history research.

Search these newly-added recent obituaries online now at: http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/obituaries/

GenealogyBank's Recent Newspaper Obituaries search box

GenealogyBank’s Recent Newspaper Obituaries search box

Or you can go directly to your current obituary archive of interest by clicking on the newspaper title links below:

Athens Banner-Herald (Athens, GA)

  • Obituaries: 6/10/2003 – Current

Daily Nonpareil, The (Council Bluffs, IA)

  • Obituaries: 11/15/2006 – Current

Georgetown News-Graphic (Georgetown, KY)

  • Obituaries: 09/08/2000 – Current

Adirondack Journal (Warrensburg, NY)

  • Obituaries: 8/05/2011 – 02/01/2012

Cazenovia Republican (Cazenovia, NY)

  • Obituaries: 08/05/2011 – Current

Denpubs.com (Elizabethtown, NY)

  • Obituaries: 02/10/2007 – Current

Eagle Observer, The (Marcellus, NY)

  • Obituaries: 08/04/2011 – Current

Eagle Star-Review (Cicero, North Syracuse, NY)

  • Obituaries: 08/05/2011 – Current

Guilderland Spotlight (Delmar, Guilderland, NY)

  • Obituaries: 08/05/2011 – Current

News Enterprise (North Creek, NY)

  • Obituaries: 08/05/2011 – 02/29/2012

North Countryman (Altona, NY)

  • Obituaries: 08/05/2011 – 02/28/2012

Saratoga County Spotlight (Saratoga Springs, NY)

  • Obituaries: 08/05/2011 – Current

Schenectady County Spotlight (Schenectady, NY)

  • Obituaries: 08/05/2011 – Current

SpotlightNews.com (Delmar, NY)

  • Obituaries: 08/08/2006 – Current

Times of Ti (Ticonderoga, NY)

  • Obituaries: 08/05/2011 – 02/29/2012

Valley News (Elizabethtown, NY)

  • Obituaries: 08/05/2011 – 02/22/2012

Addison Eagle (Middlebury, VT)

  • Obituaries: 08/03/2011 – Current

Green Mountain Outlook (Middlebury, VT)

  • Obituaries: 08/05/2011 – Current

New Market Press (Middlebury, VT)

  • Obituaries: 08/03/2011 – Current

GenealogyBank’s Archives Keep Growing, Every Single Day

In the next few weeks GenealogyBank will be adding even more newspapers to its vast online historical newspaper archives, which currently contain more than 6,400 titles and over 1.25 billion articles—including more than 215 million obituaries.

Here is a list of the newspaper titles and date ranges that will be added from seven states: Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia—plus the District of Columbia.

In the next few weeks GenealogyBank will be adding even more newspapers to its vast online historical newspaper archives, which currently contain more than 6,400 titles and over 1.25 billion articles—including more than 215 million obituaries.

Here is a list of the newspaper titles and date ranges that will be added from seven states: Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia—plus the District of Columbia.

State City Newspaper

Issues

Pages

Start

End

District of Columbia Washington (DC) Evening Star            812     22234

4/28/1908

3/20/1912

Illinois Springfield Daily Illinois State Register               81        1184

7/3/1896

7/25/1915

Massachusetts Boston Boston Daily Record            226        3956

6/6/1958

8/25/1961

Massachusetts Boston Boston Herald 4819 78844

9/21/1920

1/31/1969

Massachusetts Boston Boston Traveller 1029     41660

7/1/1948

10/31/1959

Nebraska Omaha Omaha World Herald                  1               52

9/17/1981

9/17/1981

North Carolina Greensboro Greensboro Daily News               30            620

7/1/1939

7/31/1939

North Carolina Greensboro Greensboro News and Record               38        3940

4/4/1984

2/23/1986

North Carolina Greensboro Greensboro Record               62        2295

3/1/1946

10/21/1983

Ohio Cincinnati Cincinnati Post               23            425

7/23/1915

12/20/1922

South Carolina Charleston Evening Post                  5               62

10/5/1912

7/16/1913

Virginia Richmond Richmond Times Dispatch               43        2433

10/27/1935

1/31/1954