Old Diseases & Early Medical Terms in Historical Newspapers

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary provides another fun quiz to test your knowledge of terms used in old newspapers to describe our ancestors’ diseases and medical conditions—and then provides illustrated definitions of those terms.

Here is the 18th century folk ballad “O Dear, What Can the Matter Be?” from a 1794 newspaper.

"O Dear, What Can the Matter Be?" folk ballad, Weekly Museum newspaper article 22 February 1794

Weekly Museum (New York, New York), 22 February 1794, page 4

Although this old ballad doesn’t have anything to do with medical conditions, it describes my feelings precisely when I encounter accounts of diseases such as tetters, scurf and morphew in early newspapers like this 1736 advertisement.

To Be Sold, New-York Weekly Journal newspaper advertisement 29 March 1736

New-York Weekly Journal (New York, New York), 29 March 1736, page 4

“O Dear,” I think, “Are these strange diseases of yesteryear, or something we might contract today?”

The truth is somewhere in the middle.

Many of these early diseases are now sub-categorized into specific medical diagnoses, while others still exist but under new names. For example, in the 1736 newspaper advertisement above, Mrs. Edwards advertised products to cure tetters, a skin condition, which today describes the symptoms of eczema, herpes or ringworm.

What if you find an obituary or newspaper article about one of your ancestors that names a disease or medical condition using old terms you’re not familiar with? It’s important to understand the meanings of these early medical terms—otherwise you might miss an important piece of your family history.

Test your knowledge of these old diseases and medical conditions with this fun Early Medical Terms quiz. Match the old medical terms in the first column with the definitions on the right. The answers can be found at the bottom of the quiz. If you miss any, be sure to read the rest of the blog article—which provides definitions for these early medical terms as illustrated in historical newspapers.

early medical terms genealogy quiz

Acites or Ascites: In 1849, Sand’s Sarsaparilla was recommended as a permanent cure for a wide variety of illnesses, including acites, probably the same as ascites or abdominal swelling.

Sands' Sarsaparilla, Charleston Courier newspaper advertisement 19 February 1849

Charleston Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), 19 February 1849, page 1

Ague: This is another term for malaria, a disease often spread by mosquitoes, as noted in this 1875 account by J. G. Truman.

The Ague--Its Cause and Cure, Progressive Communist newspaper article 1 October 1875

Progressive Communist (Cedar Vale, Kansas), 1 October 1875, page 6

Barber’s Itch: This is an inflammation of the hair follicles, typically affecting the area around a man’s beard. It may be caused by eczema or ringworm.

Health Talks--Barber's Itch, Evening News newspaper article 14 January 1922

Evening News (San Jose, California), 14 January 1922, page 6

Biliousness and Bilious Fever: This ailment described a variety of gastric illnesses, ranging from nausea to bile disorders of the gall bladder or liver, as seen in these two advertisements from 1920 and 1840.

Dr. Thacher's Liver and Blood Syrup, Marietta Journal newspaper advertisement 2 July 1920

Marietta Journal (Marietta, Georgia), 2 July 1920, page 3

Peters' Pills, Wabash Courier  newspaper advertisement 17 October 1840

Wabash Courier (Terre Haute, Indiana), 17 October 1840, page 4

Dropsy: Dropsy is edema or excessive swelling, a common ailment, which afflicted former Texas Governor James S. Hogg in 1905. Another reference to edema was anasarca.

photo of James S. Hogg, Baltimore American newspaper photograph 19 October 1905

Baltimore American (Baltimore, Maryland), 19 October 1905, page 4

Grippe or La Grippe: The grippe is another name for the flu or influenza. In 1843, opponents of President John Tyler coined a variation of the disease: “The Tyler Grippe.”

The Tyler Grippe, Constitution newspaper article 9 August 1843

Constitution (Middletown, Connecticut), 9 August 1843, page 2

Jail Fever: This is an early term for typhus or typhoid fever, which often spread quickly in confined areas such as jails. In 1828 there was a report of jail fever at the Bellevue Penitentiary in New York, which also sickened the “keepers” and physicians.

Jail Fever in New York, Boston Traveler newspaper article 22 April 1828

Boston Traveler (Boston, Massachusetts), 22 April 1828, page 2

King’s Evil: In the above example for Acites, the advertisement referred to King’s Evil, which indicated tuberculosis, scrofula or glandular swelling.

Morphew: Morphew was a type of blisters, often associated with scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency. (See the 1736 Mrs. Edwards advertisement above.)

Pest and Pest Houses: Also known as the “Black Death,” the pest is another name for the plague, a highly contagious and fatal disease. In 1782, when smallpox was prevalent, a reference was made to pest houses, which were “situated as not to endanger travellers.” In this sense, a pest house was a type of isolation dwelling or hospital where a person with any contagious disease might be housed.

pest houses in Waterbury Connecticut, Connecticut Journal newspaper article 28 February 1782

Connecticut Journal (New Haven, Connecticut), 28 February 1782, page 3

Scurf: This is another medical term for dandruff, or cradle cap when applied to babies.

Scurf in the Head, Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics newspaper article 9 January 1875

Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 9 January 1875, page 1

Tetters: This is a broad description of a variety of skin diseases, such as eczema, herpes or ringworm. (See the 1736 Mrs. Edwards advertisement above.)

Variola: This was another name for smallpox, and often describes a mild form of the affliction. In 1773, variolae patients from Nevis did not wish to be inoculated, as this was an “extraordinary infringement of their liberty.”

smallpox innoculation in Nevis, Connecticut Journal newspaper article 31 December 1773

Connecticut Journal (New Haven, Connecticut), 31 December 1773, page 3

New HBO Series ‘Family Tree’ Begins May 12th

A hilarious new HBO series, Family Tree, makes its debut Sunday May 12th at 10:30 p.m.

logo for HBO's new series "Family Tree"

Credit: HBO “Family Tree”

This new show will be a gut-buster for genealogists. The central character, Tom Chadwick, has a rather unsure sense of his own identity. When he inherits a mysterious box of belongings from a great aunt he never met, Tom starts investigating his lineage and uncovers a whole world of unusual stories and characters, acquiring a growing sense of who he and his real family are.

Some very funny people will appear in this show: Ed Begley Jr., Fred Willard, Carrie Aizley, Bob Balaban, Maria Blasucci, Matt Griesser, Christopher Guest, Don Lake, Michael McKean, Lisa Palfrey, Jim Piddock, Kevin Pollak, Amy Seimetz, Meera Syal and Ashley Walters.

Watch these two trailers in the videos below to see just how funny this new HBO series will be.

Hmm…I might have to sign up for HBO to get this one!

Family Tree Season 1: Invitation to the Set

Family Tree Season 1: Trailer

Popular Baby Names from the Early 1900s to Today

Did you ever wonder why your ancestors had the first names they did? Were they old names used over generations in the family, or does your family history have some names that seemingly were random with no obvious family connection?

It might be that your family chose a name because it was the name of a family friend, or maybe it was one of the popular names of their day.

Here is a list of the most popular baby names for girls and boys in the United States spanning nearly a century, from the early 1900s up to 2011. See where your family’s first names place on this list of the top baby names.

What is your favorite first name in your family tree? Share with us in the comments.

Top Five Names for Births in 1912-2011

Females

Males

Year

Rank 1

Rank 2

Rank 3

Rank 4

Rank 5

Rank 1

Rank 2

Rank 3

Rank 4

Rank 5

2011

Sophia

Isabella

Emma

Olivia

Ava

Jacob

Mason

William

Jayden

Noah

2010

Isabella

Sophia

Emma

Olivia

Ava

Jacob

Ethan

Michael

Jayden

William

2009

Isabella

Emma

Olivia

Sophia

Ava

Jacob

Ethan

Michael

Alexander

William

2008

Emma

Isabella

Emily

Olivia

Ava

Jacob

Michael

Ethan

Joshua

Daniel

2007

Emily

Isabella

Emma

Ava

Madison

Jacob

Michael

Ethan

Joshua

Daniel

2006

Emily

Emma

Madison

Isabella

Ava

Jacob

Michael

Joshua

Ethan

Matthew

2005

Emily

Emma

Madison

Abigail

Olivia

Jacob

Michael

Joshua

Matthew

Ethan

2004

Emily

Emma

Madison

Olivia

Hannah

Jacob

Michael

Joshua

Matthew

Ethan

2003

Emily

Emma

Madison

Hannah

Olivia

Jacob

Michael

Joshua

Matthew

Andrew

2002

Emily

Madison

Hannah

Emma

Alexis

Jacob

Michael

Joshua

Matthew

Ethan

2001

Emily

Madison

Hannah

Ashley

Alexis

Jacob

Michael

Matthew

Joshua

Christopher

2000

Emily

Hannah

Madison

Ashley

Sarah

Jacob

Michael

Matthew

Joshua

Christopher

1999

Emily

Hannah

Alexis

Sarah

Samantha

Jacob

Michael

Matthew

Joshua

Nicholas

1998

Emily

Hannah

Samantha

Ashley

Sarah

Michael

Jacob

Matthew

Joshua

Christopher

1997

Emily

Jessica

Ashley

Sarah

Hannah

Michael

Jacob

Matthew

Christopher

Joshua

1996

Emily

Jessica

Ashley

Sarah

Samantha

Michael

Matthew

Jacob

Christopher

Joshua

1995

Jessica

Ashley

Emily

Samantha

Sarah

Michael

Matthew

Christopher

Jacob

Joshua

1994

Jessica

Ashley

Emily

Samantha

Sarah

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Joshua

Tyler

1993

Jessica

Ashley

Sarah

Samantha

Emily

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Joshua

Tyler

1992

Ashley

Jessica

Amanda

Brittany

Sarah

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Joshua

Andrew

1991

Ashley

Jessica

Brittany

Amanda

Samantha

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Joshua

Andrew

1990

Jessica

Ashley

Brittany

Amanda

Samantha

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Joshua

Daniel

1989

Jessica

Ashley

Brittany

Amanda

Sarah

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Joshua

David

1988

Jessica

Ashley

Amanda

Sarah

Jennifer

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Joshua

Andrew

1987

Jessica

Ashley

Amanda

Jennifer

Sarah

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Joshua

David

1986

Jessica

Ashley

Amanda

Jennifer

Sarah

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Joshua

David

1985

Jessica

Ashley

Jennifer

Amanda

Sarah

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Joshua

Daniel

1984

Jennifer

Jessica

Ashley

Amanda

Sarah

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Joshua

David

1983

Jennifer

Jessica

Amanda

Ashley

Sarah

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

David

Joshua

1982

Jennifer

Jessica

Amanda

Sarah

Melissa

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Jason

David

1981

Jennifer

Jessica

Amanda

Sarah

Melissa

Michael

Christopher

Matthew

Jason

David

1980

Jennifer

Amanda

Jessica

Melissa

Sarah

Michael

Christopher

Jason

David

James

1979

Jennifer

Melissa

Amanda

Jessica

Amy

Michael

Christopher

Jason

David

James

1978

Jennifer

Melissa

Jessica

Amy

Heather

Michael

Jason

Christopher

David

James

1977

Jennifer

Melissa

Amy

Jessica

Heather

Michael

Jason

Christopher

David

James

1976

Jennifer

Amy

Melissa

Heather

Angela

Michael

Jason

Christopher

David

James

1975

Jennifer

Amy

Heather

Melissa

Angela

Michael

Jason

Christopher

James

David

1974

Jennifer

Amy

Michelle

Heather

Angela

Michael

Jason

Christopher

David

James

1973

Jennifer

Amy

Michelle

Kimberly

Lisa

Michael

Christopher

Jason

James

David

1972

Jennifer

Michelle

Lisa

Kimberly

Amy

Michael

Christopher

James

David

John

1971

Jennifer

Michelle

Lisa

Kimberly

Amy

Michael

James

David

John

Robert

1970

Jennifer

Lisa

Kimberly

Michelle

Amy

Michael

James

David

John

Robert

1969

Lisa

Michelle

Jennifer

Kimberly

Melissa

Michael

David

James

John

Robert

1968

Lisa

Michelle

Kimberly

Jennifer

Melissa

Michael

David

John

James

Robert

1967

Lisa

Kimberly

Michelle

Mary

Susan

Michael

David

James

John

Robert

1966

Lisa

Kimberly

Mary

Michelle

Karen

Michael

David

James

John

Robert

1965

Lisa

Mary

Karen

Kimberly

Susan

Michael

John

David

James

Robert

1964

Lisa

Mary

Susan

Karen

Patricia

Michael

John

David

James

Robert

1963

Lisa

Mary

Susan

Karen

Linda

Michael

John

David

James

Robert

1962

Lisa

Mary

Susan

Karen

Linda

Michael

David

John

James

Robert

1961

Mary

Lisa

Susan

Linda

Karen

Michael

David

John

James

Robert

1960

Mary

Susan

Linda

Karen

Donna

David

Michael

James

John

Robert

1959

Mary

Susan

Linda

Karen

Donna

Michael

David

James

John

Robert

1958

Mary

Susan

Linda

Karen

Patricia

Michael

David

James

Robert

John

1957

Mary

Susan

Linda

Debra

Karen

Michael

James

David

Robert

John

1956

Mary

Debra

Linda

Deborah

Susan

Michael

James

Robert

David

John

1955

Mary

Deborah

Linda

Debra

Susan

Michael

David

James

Robert

John

1954

Mary

Linda

Deborah

Patricia

Susan

Michael

James

Robert

John

David

1953

Mary

Linda

Deborah

Patricia

Susan

Robert

James

Michael

John

David

1952

Linda

Mary

Patricia

Deborah

Susan

James

Robert

John

Michael

David

1951

Linda

Mary

Patricia

Deborah

Barbara

James

Robert

John

Michael

David

1950

Linda

Mary

Patricia

Barbara

Susan

James

Robert

John

Michael

David

1949

Linda

Mary

Patricia

Barbara

Susan

James

Robert

John

William

Michael

1948

Linda

Mary

Barbara

Patricia

Susan

James

Robert

John

William

David

1947

Linda

Mary

Patricia

Barbara

Sandra

James

Robert

John

William

Richard

1946

Mary

Linda

Patricia

Barbara

Carol

James

Robert

John

William

Richard

1945

Mary

Linda

Barbara

Patricia

Carol

James

Robert

John

William

Richard

1944

Mary

Barbara

Linda

Patricia

Carol

James

Robert

John

William

Richard

1943

Mary

Barbara

Patricia

Linda

Carol

James

Robert

John

William

Richard

1942

Mary

Barbara

Patricia

Linda

Carol

James

Robert

John

William

Richard

1941

Mary

Barbara

Patricia

Carol

Linda

James

Robert

John

William

Richard

1940

Mary

Barbara

Patricia

Judith

Betty

James

Robert

John

William

Richard

1939

Mary

Barbara

Patricia

Betty

Shirley

Robert

James

John

William

Richard

1938

Mary

Barbara

Patricia

Betty

Shirley

Robert

James

John

William

Richard

1937

Mary

Barbara

Patricia

Shirley

Betty

Robert

James

John

William

Richard

1936

Mary

Shirley

Barbara

Betty

Patricia

Robert

James

John

William

Richard

1935

Mary

Shirley

Barbara

Betty

Patricia

Robert

James

John

William

Richard

1934

Mary

Betty

Barbara

Shirley

Dorothy

Robert

James

John

William

Richard

1933

Mary

Betty

Barbara

Dorothy

Joan

Robert

James

John

William

Richard

1932

Mary

Betty

Barbara

Dorothy

Joan

Robert

James

John

William

Richard

1931

Mary

Betty

Dorothy

Barbara

Joan

Robert

James

John

William

Richard

1930

Mary

Betty

Dorothy

Helen

Margaret

Robert

James

John

William

Richard

1929

Mary

Betty

Dorothy

Helen

Margaret

Robert

James

John

William

Charles

1928

Mary

Betty

Dorothy

Helen

Margaret

Robert

John

James

William

Charles

1927

Mary

Dorothy

Betty

Helen

Margaret

Robert

John

James

William

Charles

1926

Mary

Dorothy

Betty

Helen

Margaret

Robert

John

James

William

Charles

1925

Mary

Dorothy

Betty

Helen

Margaret

Robert

John

William

James

Charles

1924

Mary

Dorothy

Helen

Betty

Margaret

Robert

John

William

James

Charles

1923

Mary

Dorothy

Helen

Margaret

Betty

John

Robert

William

James

Charles

1922

Mary

Dorothy

Helen

Margaret

Ruth

John

Robert

William

James

Charles

1921

Mary

Dorothy

Helen

Margaret

Ruth

John

Robert

William

James

Charles

1920

Mary

Dorothy

Helen

Margaret

Ruth

John

William

Robert

James

Charles

1919

Mary

Helen

Dorothy

Margaret

Ruth

John

William

James

Robert

Charles

1918

Mary

Helen

Dorothy

Margaret

Ruth

John

William

James

Robert

Charles

1917

Mary

Helen

Dorothy

Margaret

Ruth

John

William

James

Robert

Joseph

1916

Mary

Helen

Dorothy

Margaret

Ruth

John

William

James

Robert

Joseph

1915

Mary

Helen

Dorothy

Margaret

Ruth

John

William

James

Robert

Joseph

1914

Mary

Helen

Dorothy

Margaret

Ruth

John

William

James

Robert

Joseph

1913

Mary

Helen

Dorothy

Margaret

Ruth

John

William

James

Robert

Joseph

1912

Mary

Helen

Dorothy

Margaret

Ruth

John

William

James

Robert

Joseph

61 Tennessee Newspapers Now Online for Your Genealogy Research

Dolly Parton’s powerful country song “My Tennessee Mountain Home” evokes the quiet days of her childhood growing up in Tennessee:

In my Tennessee mountain home
Life is as peaceful as a baby’s sigh
In my Tennessee mountain home
Crickets sing in the fields near by…

photo of country singer Dolly Parton

Photo: Dolly Parton. Credit: Alan Light.

If you have Tennessee roots like Dolly does, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s Tennessee newspaper archives: 61 online news titles to help you search for your family history in “The Volunteer State.”

Dig in and search for obituaries and other news articles about your ancestors in these recent and historical TN newspapers online:

Search Tennessee Newspaper Archives (1793 – 1969)

Search Tennessee Recent Obituaries (1990 – Current)

Here is our complete list of online Tennessee newspapers. Each news title is an active link that will take you directly to that paper’s search page where you can begin searching for your ancestors by surnames, dates, keywords and more.

City Newspaper Date Range Collection
Athens Daily Post-Athenian 3/28/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Carthage Carthage Gazette 8/13/1808 – 7/1/1817 Newspaper Archives
Carthage Western Express 11/21/1808 – 11/21/1808 Newspaper Archives
Chattanooga Chattanooga Courier 2/10/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chattanooga Chattanooga Daily Rebel 8/9/1862 – 4/27/1865 Newspaper Archives
Chattanooga Chattanooga Times Free Press 4/1/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chattanooga Justice 12/24/1887 – 12/24/1887 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Clarksville Gazette 11/21/1819 – 12/23/1820 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Tennessee Weekly Chronicle 1/27/1819 – 6/7/1819 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Town Gazette 7/5/1819 – 11/8/1819 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Weekly Chronicle 2/18/1818 – 9/16/1818 Newspaper Archives
Cleveland Cleveland Daily Banner 10/15/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbia Daily Herald 10/12/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cookeville Herald-Citizen 4/12/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crossville Crossville Chronicle 9/1/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crossville Glade Sun 6/2/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Dayton Herald-News 1/6/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Greeneville Greeneville Sun 9/14/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Jackson Headlight 1/27/1900 – 1/27/1900 Newspaper Archives
Kingston Roane County News 1/14/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Daily Journal and Journal and Tribune 4/1/1888 – 12/31/1896 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville Enlightener 1/31/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Knoxville Gazette 12/7/1793 – 10/29/1806 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville News Sentinel 1/4/1991 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Negro World 10/15/1887 – 11/26/1887 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Wilson’s Knoxville Gazette 9/1/1818 – 9/1/1818 Newspaper Archives
Lafayette Macon County Times 10/8/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
LaFollette LaFollette Press 11/21/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lenoir City News-Herald 9/27/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maryville Blount Today 2/1/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maryville Daily Times 12/12/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Commercial Appeal 1/1/1968 – 12/31/1969 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Commercial Appeal 6/27/1990 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Commercial Appeal, The: Web Edition Articles 11/14/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Memphis Daily Avalanche 1/1/1866 – 4/30/1869 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Memphis Triangle 11/17/1928 – 7/27/1929 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Tri-State Defender 2/3/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Murfreesboro Murfreesboro Union 6/6/1939 – 6/6/1939 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Colored Tennessean 8/12/1865 – 7/18/1866 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Impartial Review 1/18/1806 – 8/16/1806 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Murfreesboro Vision 1/15/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Nashville Clarion 2/6/1821 – 8/29/1821 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Gazette 5/26/1819 – 2/14/1827 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Post 1/21/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Nashville Pride 1/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Nashville Republican 8/7/1824 – 1/16/1835 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Scene 11/23/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville National Banner and Nashville Whig 1/1/1834 – 12/30/1836 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Review 11/10/1809 – 5/3/1811 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Tennessee Gazette 2/25/1800 – 5/30/1807 Newspaper Archives
Newport Newport Plain Talk 7/1/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oak Ridge Oak Ridger 2/17/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Paris Paris Post-Intelligencer 7/5/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rogersville Rogersville Review 12/16/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rogersville Western Pilot 8/19/1815 – 8/19/1815 Newspaper Archives
Sevierville Mountain Press 10/3/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Shelbyville Tennessee Herald 12/19/1817 – 3/8/1820 Newspaper Archives
Spring Hill Advertiser News 5/14/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sweetwater Advocate and Democrat 6/12/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tazewell Claiborne Progress 11/18/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wartburg Morgan County News 12/19/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries

Carnegie Libraries: A History of Library Philanthropy from Steel

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post Gena writes about a resource beloved by genealogists, the local library—and how thousands were built thanks to the generosity of businessman, steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Many genealogists are thankful for a resource that helps them immensely with their family history research: the local library. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, communities throughout the English-speaking world owed their local libraries to the generosity of one man: businessman, steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Between the years 1883 and 1929, more than 2,500 libraries were built with donated Carnegie money, including a staggering 1,689 in the United States alone!

A recent History Channel mini-series, “The Men Who Built America,” told the story of those late 19th century tycoons who helped industrialize and bring innovation to the United States, including Andrew Carnegie. While the wealth that Carnegie amassed building his steel empire later benefitted the public, he was not without controversy. Along with his business success, Carnegie was also known for his indirect roles in the tragedies of the 1889 Johnstown Flood and the deadly Homestead Strike in 1892. Carnegie, no matter how benevolent, was not a universally-liked man during his time.

While he spent his working years building Carnegie Steel, his later years were devoted to philanthropy including establishing thousands of libraries in the United States, the United Kingdom and other English-speaking countries. Carnegie wrote that the rich had a moral obligation to distribute their wealth, and that is what he did—and continues to do long after his death in 1919, thanks to endowments set up during his lifetime.*

Was your town granted money for a Carnegie library? To secure a new library, communities had to write a letter requesting funding. They were then provided a form to fill out with questions about the community’s present library and finances. Funding for a Carnegie library was not an outright gift. Those seeking funding were required to provide the land and funding for the continued operation and maintenance of the library each year, about 10% of the initial funding amount.**

Though these conditions made some communities angry, who saw them as a drain on taxpayer money, others understood the educational opportunity made possible by the offer of a Carnegie library. The first Carnegie library in the United States was opened in 1902 in New York City.

Here is an example of an announcement in an old newspaper for the approval of a library in the California town of Nevada City.

Carnegie Library for Nevada City, Evening News newspaper article 29 February 1904

Evening News (San Jose, California), 29 February 1904, page 1

This library building still stands and now houses the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research, a research facility for Nevada County history.

While some of those Carnegie-funded libraries still exist and function as active libraries, including the one pictured below in the Southern California town of Beaumont, there are many that have not stood the test of time or were converted to other uses.

photo of the Carnegie library in Beaumont, California

Photo: Carnegie-funded library in Beaumont, California. Credit: Gena Philibert-Ortega.

In some cases a city’s growing population meant that a bigger library was eventually needed. This happened in San Diego, whose booming population outgrew its cramped library (opened in 1902) over the decades. That San Diego library was the first Carnegie library in California.

photo of the Carnegie library in San Diego about to be demolished, San Diego Union newspaper photograph 17 July 1952

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 17 July 1952, page 3

Interested in learning more about Carnegie libraries? Here are some websites for Carnegie libraries and images:

Want to know even more about Carnegie libraries? The Andrew Carnegie Collection housed at the Carnegie Mellon University Libraries includes documents regarding Carnegie libraries.

* History Channel. Andrew Carnegie. http://www.history.com/topics/andrew-carnegie. Accessed 31 March 2013.

** Determining the Facts. Reading 2: Obtaining a Carnegie Library http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/50carnegie/50facts3.htm. Accessed 31 March 2013.

Have You Participated in a DNA Study for Ancestry Research?

Have you tried a genetic DNA study as an approach to learning more about your family history?

If so, have you made family connections that you wouldn’t have found otherwise?

It is essential that you participate in a DNA study as soon as possible. Doing so will save time, and give you a clearer picture of your family history that will bridge the gaps where other genealogical records simply have not survived.

In the past, I avoided participating in a genetic DNA study because of the high cost and the sense that it wouldn’t prove anything about my ancestry.

Well, times have changed.

The cost of participating in DNA studies has dropped to very affordable levels and the results are surprising. DNA testing will allow you to clearly see how distinct groups with your surname are or are not related to you.

Genetic DNA Testing for Genealogy Image

Image Credit: Image by jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Imagine being able to sort through records for our family searching not just the surname coupled with a place of birth—but being able to narrow our search to the correct DNA haplogroup, Y-DNA 12 or deeper identifiers so that we can limit our search results to only our relatives.

If you were not sure which Miller, Stark or Sawyer individuals written up in thousands of obituaries were your relatives, knowing which DNA group they fell in would quickly help you to focus on the ones that you are related to.

A few months ago I heard from a researcher in Scotland who was spearheading a study of “Kemp” lines from Ireland, and in particular the Kemp families of County Cavan, Ireland. He wanted to determine if they were all related or if they actually were separate, unrelated families.

A quick search of other DNA projects found a Kemp study already underway, organized by Andrew Kemp in Australia. Efforts were made to find more Kemp men from all parts of the world who would be willing to participate. Seventy-five agreed and the results are still coming in.

I have been researching my Kemp family from County Cavan for the past 50 years. In piecing together the family tree I found that over the past 250 years my family—like so many Irish American families—has been continuously growing and migrating around the world, settling in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and all across the United States.

As I looked at the big picture I could see that there were large concentrations of Kemp families in England, Germany, Sweden and almost everywhere I looked. Were they all related? It is going to take a long time to examine each Kemp household and see how they connect to each other. Since the bulk of the historical family records simply did not survive, there just aren’t records that would prove how these Kemp groups were or were not related—until now.

Unbelievable.

The results of the genetic DNA study were clearly showing which of the Kemp groups are in fact related.

For example: there is the Johann Conrad Kemp group. He was born in Germany in 1685 and settled in Frederick County, Maryland. The DNA study reports that his descendants are in the E1b1b1 haplogroup.

There is a Kemp family group in County Cork, Ireland. A look at the results for all of the descendants participating in this DNA study shows that they are in the R1b1a2 group.

So—the County Cork group and the Germany/Frederick County Kemp groups are not related.

Knowing where not to look for family connections will save genealogists a lot of time.

What about the large Kemp family in England? Over 25 living descendants have participated in this DNA project and all of them are also in the R1b1a2 haplogroup.

So the County Cork, Ireland, Kemp family group clearly should look to England to document their family connections.

There is a Kemp line in the Bahamas. Since that is a part of the British Commonwealth, perhaps they are also descended from a Kemp line in England. But, DNA testing shows that they fall in the I1 haplogroup common to Scandinavia. So, another completely separate Kemp family line.

Where did my Scotch-Irish County Cavan Kemp line fall?

They are all in the R1a1 haplogroup.

So—they are not related to the English, Maryland/German or Bahamian Kemp groups.

But, look at this genetic testing find: they are related to the Kemp family of Wake County, North Carolina.

The Wake County Kemp family descends from Richard Kemp who was born about 1715 in Scotland and settled in Wake County. His descendants have spread across the southern states. They are in the R1a1a haplogroup.

There are no surviving old genealogical records that can help genealogists connect the multiple Kemp lines, but DNA is now clearly showing us which groups are or are not related.

In the decades ahead we will be able to use the basic DNA haplogroups and full DNA sequencing as additional data that we can search on to extend our family trees.

What a great day for genealogy!

A Civil War Captain in My Family Tree?! Share Your Surprises

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott writes about his genealogy surprise: he was researching a branch of his family tree and discovered a Confederate captain from the Civil War!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working on our genealogy is the surprises we discover. If you are like me, you have had your fair share of finding something in your family history research that you either weren’t looking for at the time, or were shocked at what you actually did find. Recently that happened to me while I was working on our daughter-in-law’s family branch. Here is that story. And after telling you about my latest genealogy adventure, I’d love to hear about your biggest genealogy surprises!

I had been at work on our daughter-in-law’s family tree for some time when I got a bit stumped on one of the female members back in the early 1800s. The family was from southern Ohio and their daughter Mary A. Dillon seemed to have disappeared on me. That is to say, she disappeared until a colleague happened to mention that he thought she might have married a fellow by the name of Scovell. A quick check with the Lawrence County, Ohio, Genealogy Society and I confirmed the marriage of our Mary A. Dillon to one William Tiley Scovell. Once I had a place and a name I was off to the newspaper archives and other databases of GenealogyBank.com to see what else I could find.

Well, the last thing I was expecting to find in my family tree was a Civil War Confederate captain who was so in demand that Southern generals were competing to have his services! Plus, none other than General Robert E. Lee, the top man himself, was deciding where Scovell could best serve the Confederacy.

I’ve long known that we have a Civil War veteran or two in our family tree, but never anyone above the rank of private and certainly no one who was in demand quite like Captain Scovell. A riverboat captain before the war, Scovell evidently was extremely adept at getting ships, men, and cargo up and down—as well as across—rivers.

In my first search I found an 1895 newspaper article explaining that Captain Scovell had just passed away—at that time he was the second-to-last surviving member of the Grivot Rifles of the Fifteenth Louisiana Infantry.

William Scovell obituary, Times-Picayune newspaper article 4 July 1895

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 4 July 1895, page 11

From this old newspaper article I gained excellent information, leads, and insight into the Civil War career of William T. Scovell and began looking further.

Next I discovered, in GenealogyBank.com’s Historical Documents collection, the Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, which showed William T. Scovell “taking rank” on June 5, 1862, in Louisiana.

reference to William Scovell in the Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865

U.S. Congressional Serial Set: Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865. Volume II. Serial Set Vol. No. 4611; S.Doc. 234 pt. 2.

Next I found an additional 1895 newspaper article about Scovell.

Liked by Lee and Jackson, Idaho Register newspaper article 18 October 1895

Idaho Register (Idaho Falls, Idaho), 18 October 1895, page 2

This historical newspaper article was wonderful since it explained that Captain Scovell’s services were argued over by Generals Stonewall Jackson and Early, with the decision over Scovell’s assignment coming from General Robert E. Lee himself. It also offered the information that Captain Scovell was one of the CSA officers in charge of the infamous burning of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, on July 30, 1864.

Then I discovered a real bit of genealogy treasure. In a 1922 newspaper I read a “Succession Notice” for “Mrs. Mary A. Dillon, widow of William T. Scovell.”

succession notice for Mary Dillon, New Orleans States newspaper article 8 January 1922

New Orleans States (New Orleans, Louisiana), 8 January 1922, page 35

This historical succession notice was for the probate of the estate of Mary. I have since sent to Louisiana for instructions and information on how I can access this will and estate file since the old news article wonderfully contains the court name, parish, division, date, file number, deceased, attorney, and executor. What an abundance of information in one short article!

photo of the crypt of William T. Scovell and Mary Dillon in Louisiana

Photo: the Louisiana crypt for William T. Scovell, his wife Mary Dillon, and their family. Credit: from the author’s collection.

From almost nothing I am now deeply involved in learning about our family’s Civil War luminary and it brings me back to the question I asked in the beginning of this article.

Tell me…what is the biggest surprise that you have found doing your genealogy and family history?

9 Wyoming Digital Newspapers Available Online

GenealogyBank’s Wyoming newspaper archives contain nine digital titles covering the years 1868 to the present, to help search for your ancestors in the “Equality State.”

photo of the Teton Range, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Photo: Teton Range, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Credit: Wikipedia.

Find your ancestors—whom they married, the lives they lived—in the wide open spaces of this historic Western state. With tens of thousands of digitized obituaries and hundreds of thousands of articles from WY online, GenealogyBank has the news that your ancestors read to help you uncover your family history.

City Title

Date Range

Collection

Casper Star-Tribune 11/26/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cheyenne Wyoming State Tribune- Cheyenne State Leader 1/1/1917 – 12/31/1921 Newspaper Archives
Cheyenne Wyoming Commonwealth 7/20/1890 – 11/14/1891 Newspaper Archives
Cheyenne Wyoming Tribune-Eagle 10/1/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knight Frontier Index 4/14/1868 – 4/14/1868 Newspaper Archives
Laramie Daily Boomerang 1/2/1890 – 6/30/1890 Newspaper Archives
Laramie Laramie Boomerang 2/9/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Riverton Riverton Ranger 4/3/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Worland Northern Wyoming Daily News 1/3/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries

27 Oregon Newspapers Online: Obituaries, Historical Articles & More!

GenealogyBank’s online Oregon newspaper archives cover from 1858 right up to today, and include more than 56.4 million news articles and records—plenty of birth records, marriage announcements, obituaries and local news stories to help with your family history research in the “Beaver State.”

photo of the Oregon coast

Photo: Oregon coast. Credit: Wikipedia.

I grew up hearing my grandfather tell stories of Major Robert Rogers and his exploits in the French & Indian War, when he commanded the famous New Hampshire regiment “Roger’s Rangers.” According to Wikipedia, Rogers’s 1765 reference to “Oregon” was the first recorded use of that term.

Research your American ancestors’ lives from coast to coast. Find the old stories, now lost to your family, where they are still preserved—in newspapers. Discover these family stories, record them and pass them down. Make sure your ancestry is not lost to the rising generations.

Here is the complete list of the Oregon newspapers currently online in our newspaper archives, available for you to research your genealogy. Each title is an active link taking you to that Oregon newspaper’s search page, where you can search for articles about your ancestors by surname, location, dates, keywords and more.

City Newspaper Date Range Collection
Astoria Daily Astorian 5/28/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Baker City Baker City Herald 1/1/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bend Bulletin 7/1/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Brookings Curry Coastal Pilot 4/27/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Coos Bay World 3/2/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Enterprise Wallowa County Chieftain 6/13/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Eugene Oregon State Journal 3/12/1864 – 12/25/1880 Newspaper Archives
Eugene Register-Guard 12/22/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hood River Hood River News 8/9/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
John Day Blue Mountain Eagle 8/1/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Keizer Keizertimes 9/10/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Klamath Falls Herald and News 12/1/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
La Grande Observer 6/19/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lakeview State Line Herald 7/12/1879 – 6/5/1880 Newspaper Archives
Ontario Argus Observer 1/7/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pendleton East Oregonian 7/11/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Portland Oregonian 2/4/1861 – 12/31/1987 Newspaper Archives
Portland Weekly Oregonian 12/4/1850 – 11/15/1862 Newspaper Archives
Portland Portland New Age 4/14/1900 – 3/30/1907 Newspaper Archives
Portland Daily Oregon Herald 2/12/1871 – 10/9/1872 Newspaper Archives
Portland New Age 1/27/1900 – 4/7/1900 Newspaper Archives
Portland Democratic Standard 8/30/1854 – 2/16/1859 Newspaper Archives
Portland Oregonian 1/3/1988 – Current Recent Obituaries
Portland Oregonian, The: Web Edition Articles 10/16/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Redmond Redmond Spokesman 1/16/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Salem Capital Press 7/3/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
The Dalles Dalles Chronicle 3/1/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries

What about the Kids? Researching Your Family Tree’s Children

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena writes about the family history challenge of researching your ancestors’ lives when they were children.

My sons have had the opportunity to visit more cemeteries and hear more genealogy presentations than most family historians. They’ve been a captive audience as I give genealogy talks to conferences, societies, and libraries. They even have a few of my genealogy presentations memorized. Unimpressed by the family history topics I cover, my youngest always asks: “why don’t you ever talk about researching kids?”

old photo of children from Gena Philibert-Ortega's collection

Old photo of children, from the author’s collection

It’s a fair question considering that all of our ancestors started life as children. My guess is that most family historians would reply that children don’t leave a record trail, or that their lives aren’t as documented as adults—and that is why genealogists don’t spend much time researching their ancestors’ early years.

But there are instances where children do leave a paper trail. A visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois, reinforced this fact to our family when we viewed a photographic exhibit of Civil War soldiers. Boys as young as 9 years served in the Civil War, and some of them were photographed.

photo of an unidentified young Civil War soldier in Union uniform and forage cap, from the Library of Congress

Photo: Unidentified young Civil War soldier in Union uniform and forage cap. Credit: Library of Congress.

From: Library of Congress. Flickr, The Commons. Accessed 23 March 2013.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/5229153190/

While children are too young to leave the type of documentation reserved for adults, they do leave behind records. A birth record or church christening announcement may start your search, depending on the time period. School records are another choice for researching kids. Don’t forget the variety of articles found in a local newspaper.

Obviously the era the child grew up in will determine what mentions could be found in the newspapers. But some ideas include:

Organizations

What organizations or clubs did the child belong to? By learning more about the history of the place your ancestor was from, you may identify groups that they may have taken part in, including organizations that were social, educational, ethnic or religious in nature.

The Boy Scouts of Black Wolf and B.P., Lexington Herald newspaper article 25 September 1910

Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 25 September 1910, page 4

Although far from comprehensive, here is a list of some groups from the 20th century:

School

In a previous blog article, “Searching Family History: Old School Records in the Newspaper,” I explored the types of newspaper articles that listed teachers and students.

As explained in that blog article, there are numerous types of articles mentioning children. From their achievements and awards, to sporting events and even misdeeds, you can find mentions of school children in local newspapers. One of the pluses to digitized newspapers is that a search of just a name can assist you in finding these mentions. Consider limiting your search by date as you explore GenealogyBank, allowing you to focus on an ancestor’s early years.

Letters to Santa

Reading letters to Santa from the late 19th and early 20th centuries reminds one how much better off materially most people are now.

Letters to Santa from the Children, Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article 16 December 1906

Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 16 December 1906, page 9

These letters range from requests for toys or food to desperate pleas for almost anything their parents couldn’t afford. These letters often include the child’s name and, in some cases, an address. What a great find to see the requests of your family member to the jolly guy in the red suit!

Dear Old Santa Claus, Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article 21 December 1899

Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 21 December 1899, page 2

Social History

As with any genealogy research, consider social history when learning more about children from past generations. Use the newspapers as a local history source to get a sense of what organizations and activities your ancestors may have been involved in during their younger years. Read histories of the time to learn more about what childhood was like during their era. By learning more about the locality of your ancestor, you can learn more about what types of activities they may have enjoyed. Gaps in specific family records can be filled with broader social history information.

Keep your own children’s interests in mind! Including stories about their ancestors’ childhoods will stimulate present and future generations of children to take more interest in the family history you are documenting and preserving.