The Story of Pioneer Joseph Babington Found in an Old Obituary

How many stories can a family remember and pass down? Some of the great family stories from the past were not recorded and have been forgotten. Time after time genealogists have found amazing stories in their ancestry research that they never knew about their family.

Look at what we learn from the obituary of Joseph Babington (1837-1922), an early Idaho pioneer.

picture of Joseph Babington from his obituary, Idaho Statesman newspaper article 30 April 1922

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 30 April 1922, page 2

In the spring of 1862 Babington crossed the Great Plains by ox train in a caravan of 80 wagons. The trip included many Indian fights, and he had his horse shot out from under him multiple times. One time the American Indians stole the pioneers’ oxen “and he tracked the animals and while the enemy slept brought them back again.”

Babington’s story reads like so many of my favorite Westerns!

“Crossing the Snake River in Idaho, the wagons had to be taken apart three times and rafted over the treacherous stream.”

Think about that: three times the pioneers had to take apart the wagons just to get them across the river. Now—look at this detail about their journey across America provided in the old newspaper: “Cattle accompanied the train and in the morning after milking a certain quantity was suspended in strong holders over the rear wheels, the jolting of which manufactured all the butter required.”

Funny. What great family stories. We need to find these stories, document them and make sure they get preserved in the family so that they are not lost.

Babington’s obituary has all of the usual genealogical facts—but the details it provides about the tough life of an American pioneer give us the rest of his story, and will be treasured by the family forever. We might think we’re living in tough times today—but look at what our ancestors had to do just to survive!

Joseph Babington, Pioneer, Is Dead, Idaho Statesman newspaper obituary 30 April 1922

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 30 April 1922, page 2

How the 5 Ws & FAV(orites) in Newspapers Can Help Genealogists

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott explains how he adds his own personal touch to the “5 Ws” (Who, What, When, Where & Why) of newspaper journalism to enliven his family history research.

Recently I wrote here on the GenealogyBank.com blog about how much I love the 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where & Why) of good, high-quality newspaper reporting for my genealogy and family history work. There is little better than finding an interesting article in one of the thousands of GenealogyBank.com newspapers that contains your ancestor’s name, and then topping that off by finding that the reporter adhered to the newspaperwoman/man’s mantra of the 5 Ws. Most decidedly, to me, it just doesn’t get much better than this! However, since none of us genealogy-crazy folks ever leave something well enough alone, I like to add my own FAVs to the 5 Ws. Now, while I know this won’t win me a Pulitzer or anything, my FAVs do help my family search efforts.

My FAV(orites) are this: Fun, Adventure, and Value.

First, FUN: One of my key precepts as a genealogist is that we must always keep the fun in our work. If we hope to attract the interest of others to genealogy and family history, one of the easiest ways to do this is by making it fun! Whenever I am doing genealogy research in newspapers I am reminded that my father always began his day, every day, with the funny pages of the newspaper. Although a businessman through-and-through, he said the news and business of the day could wait while he started his day with a smile and a chuckle. I have wonderful memories of my dad in his crisp white shirt and tie, coffee mug in hand, and seeing his eyes sparkling as he laughed at the funnies. So it is from these vivid memories that I keep the fun in my genealogy in a variety of ways. One of which is that whenever I am searching old newspapers I make sure to check the funnies.

If nothing else I enjoy seeing how some of my favorites have changed over the years, like good old Dagwood Bumstead of the “Blondie” comic; I found this example in a 1938 newspaper. That day’s comic featured a coal-fired furnace (like my grandparents’ home had), old-fashioned telephone switchboard (which I recall from my old hometown), and much more all in one comic. Times like this give me what I call “a minute vacation” and the fun refreshes me for the work ahead.

"Blondie" comic strip, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper 11 December 1938

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 11 December 1938, page 115

Second, ADVENTURE: I also love discovering in old newspaper articles the adventures that our ancestors had. As a matter of fact, just two days ago I was beginning my genealogy research on the Fortelka family branch in our family tree when I discovered Frank Fortelka aka “The Bohemian Cyclone”!

Pugilism: The Cyclone Will Fight, Plain Dealer newspaper article 11 April 1895

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 11 April 1895, page 3

Not only did I get to follow The Cyclone’s career as a boxer, but also his career after that when he became a member of the “thin blue line” as a police officer for the city of Cleveland, Ohio. I also learned that The Cyclone was known to use his fisticuffs abilities against ne’re-do-wells in that city, often being reported to take on groups of twenty or more, successfully subdue them, and bring them to justice—with only his fists! Wow, talk about a real-life adventure and superhero! Then I got treated to his photograph, along with his wife’s picture for good measure, in a 1947 newspaper article about the golden wedding anniversary of The Bohemian Cyclone and his wife.

Ex-Boxer and Wife Married 50 Years, Plain Dealer  newspaper article 26 October 1947

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 26 October 1947, page 16

Third, VALUE: Another of my mantras in my genealogy work is to capture the persona, not just the data, of my ancestors. I believe that nothing adds more value to my family tree quite like the insight into the real persona of my ancestors that I gain from newspaper articles. I find great value in newspapers’ photographs, in-depth information, stories, and articles on the times my ancestors lived, and much, much more. The last time I looked at my family tree I found that I have more than 320 newspaper articles attached to the profiles of my family members and ancestors! Now that is what I call adding value. Of course, while I love the value these impart to me, I am even more thrilled when their value is realized by others.

For instance, whenever I get to share a newly discovered newspaper account about one of our ancestors with my 93-year-old Mother I get to see the happiness in her eyes and hear the excitement in her voice. Now that, my friends, is adding real value!

photo of Scott Phillips' mother

From the author’s collection

So tell me—what do you add to the 5 Ws in newspaper journalism as you work on your family tree?

Richardson, Texas Newspapers Online

GenealogyBank has Richardson, Texas, newspapers online dating back to 1920.

photo of Richardson, Texas, circa 1923

Photo: Main Street, Richardson, Texas, circa 1923. Credit: Wikipedia; courtesy of the Richardson Historical and Genealogical Society.

Always ranking high on the lists of best and safest places to live in the U.S., Richardson, Texas, is home to many cutting-edge electronics and telecommunications companies, as well as the University of Texas at Dallas. The city is located in both Dallas and Collin counties.

To learn more about your family history from “The Lone Star State,” search GenealogyBank’s extensive online Texas Newspaper Archives.

Here is a list of our online Richardson, Texas, newspapers currently available in the archives. Each Richardson newspaper title contains a hyperlink taking you directly to that newspaper’s search page. Click now and start searching for your ancestors out west!

Richardson Echo 1/10/1920 – 12/28/1966 Newspaper Archives
Richardson Digest 1/6/1965 – 12/29/1965 Newspaper Archives

Frakturs & Family Bibles Can Provide Proof of Marriage

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary writes about using family Bible records and an interesting folk art called “frakturs” to document early family history.

I was recently asked to be part of a “Brick Wall” genealogical panel, whereby researchers submit a series of questions regarding their seemingly unsolvable ancestral proofs.

Many family researchers get stuck at dead-ends due to the loss of church and civil records, and don’t know where to turn next in pursuing their family history.

So if you can’t find an official genealogical proof document, what should you do? One good solution is to look for a family record, such as notes recorded in family Bibles. Another good genealogical resource is a fraktur, a type of folk art, mostly created to commemorate births, baptisms, and marriages.

Frakturs (or Fraktur Schrift) was originally an early type of black letter printing (or calligraphy) found in Germany. Later it expanded into a delightful type of decorative pictorial or manuscript art, popularized by Pennsylvania Mennonites at Ephrata, as described in this 1955 article from GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives.

The Art of 'Fractur' Made Pennsylvania Walls Bright, Boston Herald newspaper article 9 October 1955

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 9 October 1955, page 38

Fraktur examples are often found in museums, and are advertised for high amounts on popular auction sites such as eBay. Numerous artifacts are in private collections, such as this framed fraktur which was given by one of my ancestors to her spouse in commemoration of their marriage.

photo of a marriage fraktur

Framed marriage fraktur

Beyond delving into family collections, how might one locate family Bibles and frakturs?

An easy method is to search military pension records. If a spouse survived her veteran husband and wished to collect a pension, proof of marriage was required.

Typically, a widow would submit a church record or a letter from a town clerk certifying a civil registration. In this example from 1840, James P. Terry of Somers, Tolland, Connecticut, certified the marriage of Stephen Chapel and Lucy Russel on 25 October 1795.

marriage certification for Stephen Chapel and Lucy Russel 25 October 1795

Revolutionary War Pension File W.1888, page 10

However, if a civil or court record was unavailable (perhaps lost to fire or other disaster), the surviving family member might resort to submitting original pages from the family Bible or a fraktur.

A few of these proof-of-marriage document submissions were returned to the families—but many were not, and numerous examples still exist within the National Archives. Most are digitized (generally in black and white) within pension files, such as this one for Revolutionary War soldier John Tomlin and his wife Jane Chamblin.

marriage fraktur for John Tomlin and Jane Chamblin

Fraktur commemorating the births and marriage of John Tomlin and Jane Chamblin. Revolutionary War Pension File W.6302, page 18.

As descendants find their ancestors’ frakturs, they are often posted on websites. You can find these posted frakturs using my “visual” method.

How to Find Your Family’s Fraktur

1)      Open your favorite search engine (mine is Google).

2)      Search for “fraktur” or “Bible” followed by a keyword such as a surname, or a phrase such as “Revolutionary War.”

3)      Click on the “Images” tab at the top of the resulting search results page—and voilà: pages and pages of images of frakturs appear. Some will be links to books and references, but most will direct you to digitized images. (Note: if using Google Chrome, you can explore additional searching options under the “More” or “Search Tools” options.)

4)      Bookmark the images you are interested in for later reference, or add them to a Pinterest.com board. Pinterest is a “content sharing service that allows members to ‘pin’ images, videos and other objects to their pinboard.”

Google Images search results for “fraktur” and the surname “Tomlin”:

screenshot of Google Images search results for “fraktur” and the surname “Tomlin”

screenshot of Google Images search results for “fraktur” and the surname “Tomlin”

Search results for family “Bible records”:

screenshot of Google Images search results for “Bible records"

screenshot of Google Images search results for “Bible records”

You can search Pinterest for genealogy links, such as GenealogyBank’s Pinterest boards at

http://pinterest.com/genealogybank/, or my recently established Frakturs and Family Bible Records Pinterest board at http://pinterest.com/compmary/frakturs-and-family-bible-records/.

For more information on frakturs, visit the Ephrata Cloister website.

Angela Cavallo Saves Her Son’s Life with Her Supermom Strength

We are all grateful for our mothers—but Tony Cavallo of Lawrenceville, Georgia, has been especially grateful for his mom, Mrs. Angela Cavallo.

She Lifted a Car to Save Her Son, Springfield Union newspaper article 14 April 1982

Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), 14 April 1982, page 25

Friday 11 April 1982 was a day like any other. Tony Cavallo was in the driveway fixing his 1964 Chevy Impala. Suddenly the jack collapsed and he was knocked unconscious, pinned under the car.

His mother came to the rescue with superhuman strength: with a prayer in her heart she reached down and lifted the car while the neighbor boy, Johnny Edwards, ran calling for help. “I was kicking him, saying ‘Get out, get out,’” while waiting for help to arrive, she said in an interview. Quickly the neighbors rushed to help and pulled Tony to safety.

Wow—with her phenomenal supermom strength she picked up the car and kept it off her son until help arrived. Now that’s the power of a mom’s love!

Where Was Ohio’s First Capital?

Chillicothe, Ohio, was the state’s first capital—from 1803-1810—and then it became Ohio’s third capital from1812-1816. GenealogyBank has that early period of “The Buckeye State’s” history covered with four Chillicothe newspapers from 1801 to 1839.

photo of city sign for Chillicothe, Ohio

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Wait— Chillicothe was Ohio’s first and third capital?

Why did the capital of Ohio change so much?

In the 1800s Ohio’s politicians could not agree on where the capital of the state should be located. It alternated between Chillicothe and Zanesville, and finally in 1812 the state’s politicians settled upon a compromise and chose Columbus as Ohio’s new capital.

However, there was a problem. The city of Columbus did not yet exist—it was simply a heavily-forested area in the center of the state. But where there is a will, there is a way—and the city born of compromise was organized, populated and became the established capital city of Ohio that we know today.

Read about life in Chillicothe, Ohio’s first capital city—and find the obituaries and articles about your ancestors, as well as news stories about the political infighting of that day, in GenealogyBank’s Ohio Newspaper Archives.

You can search all four of GenealogyBank’s Chillicothe, Ohio newspapers on one search page.

Or, you can search each newspaper for genealogy records independently. The titles in the below list are active links; click on any one to take you directly to that specific newspaper’s page where you can search for articles about your ancestry by surname, dates and more.

City Newspaper Date Range Collection
Chillicothe Fredonian 2/19/1807 – 8/10/1813 Newspaper Archives
Chillicothe Scioto Gazette 8/2/1801 – 12/26/1839 Newspaper Archives
Chillicothe Supporter 1/5/1809 – 1/20/1818 Newspaper Archives
Chillicothe Weekly Recorder 7/5/1814 – 12/27/1820 Newspaper Archives

More Obituaries Online in the Obituary Archives!

I love it. GenealogyBank is always growing, adding more obituaries online every day. Here are some examples of the content we will be adding to our Recent Newspaper Obituaries archive in the next few weeks.

This obituary preview list showcases new content from eight U.S. states: Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. And there’s always more coming online in the archives. Stay tuned!

South Florida Times (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

  • Obituaries:  12/31/2010 – Current

Mountain Advocate (Barbourville, KY)

  • Obituaries:  09/13/2012 – Current

Herald (Chicopee, MA)

  • Obituaries:  03/13/2007 – Current

Reminder (East Longmeadow, MA)

  • Obituaries:  03/13/2007 – Current

Springfield Reminder (Springfield, MA)

  • Obituaries:  03/13/2007 – Current

Grand Island Independent (Grand Island, NE)

  • Death Notices:  01/02/2007 – Current

Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, NE)

  • Death Notices:  09/04/2005 – Current

Adirondack Journal (Warrensburg, NY)

  • Death Notices:  04/10/2012 – Current

Burgh (Plattsburgh, NY)

  • Death Notices:  04/10/2012 – Current

Denpubs.com (Elizabethtown, NY)

  • Death Notices:  04/10/2012 – Current

News Enterprise (North Creek, NY)

  • Death Notices:  04/10/2012 – Current

North Countryman (Altona, NY)

  • Death Notices:  04/10/2012 – Current

Times of Ti (Ticonderoga, NY)

  • Death Notices:  04/10/2012 – Current

Valley News (Elizabethtown, NY)

  • Death Notices:  04/10/2012 – Current

News & Observer – Blogs (Raleigh, NC)

  • Obituaries:  12/07/2009 – Current

Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise (Bartlesville, OK)

  • Death Notices:  02/10/2009 – Current

Murfreesboro Vision (Nashville, TN)

  • Obituaries:  01/15/2009 – Current

Nashville Pride (Nashville, TN)

  • Obituaries:  01/02/2009 – Current

Old Photos of the City of Cleveland in Historical Photo Archive

It was a happy day in 1914 when Clevelanders learned that a cache of old city photos had been found.

A photograph, after all, is worth a thousand words—and these old Cleveland, Ohio, photographs told quite a story about the city’s development.

Photographing Cleveland for 50 Years, Plain Dealer newspaper article 27 December 1914

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 27 December 1914, page 27

This massive collection of more than 5,000 negatives had been taken over a lifetime by Jerry Greene, long-time Cleveland photographer. The cache of these old city photos of Cleveland was found and rescued by Stanley McMichael in 1914.

You too can find and rescue your family’s old photographs by searching for those that were published in the nation’s newspapers over the past century and more. Uncover your ancestors’ old pictures from events such as birthdays, graduations, marriages, family reunions and more. See historical pictures of the cities and towns they lived in and watch them grow. These old photos can provide a true sense of what life was like during their times.

Be sure to use GenealogyBank’s handy photographs and images search page designed to help you focus in on these historical photos.

GenealogyBank's Newspaper Photos & Illustrations search page

GenealogyBank’s Newspaper Photos & Illustrations search page

Search the historical photo archive using only a surname to find photos and illustrations of your relatives, or search on the name of their home town to find images of the ancestral towns where your family was from.

Find, preserve and pass down these old family photographs!

Researching Ancestors Who Were Committed to Asylums, Using Old Newspapers

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post Gena writes about how difficult it can be finding information about an ancestor who was committed to an asylum (i.e., state  hospital)—and how using old newspapers can help.

When I look at the latter years of one set of my paternal 2nd great-grandparents, I see a similarity. They both had divorced and later remarried, and their latter years were marked by the same outcome: they spent their final years in a state hospital, called an “asylum” in those days.

Asylums served the needs of more than just mentally disabled people: they also served as a place for the elderly who needed care. In an American era before rest homes and specialized elder care, asylums were available to care for elderly persons whose family could not—or would not—care for them. While we often associate the words “insane asylum” with mental illness, historically many different types of people were locked up in asylums who were anything but mentally ill. For example, besides the elderly, women who didn’t conform to society’s ideas of what a woman should be were sometimes locked up at the whim of their husbands or other male family members.

vintage postcard of the Arkansas Insane Asylum

Vintage postcard: Arkansas Insane Asylum. Credit: from the author’s collection.

Researching your ancestor who was committed to an asylum can be difficult due to the lack of sources, as well as privacy law restrictions. This is where social history sources can help your family history research.

In the case of my paternal 2nd great-grandmother, Malinda Randall Montgomery Bean, she spent less than a year in the Oregon State Hospital located in Salem, Oregon, in the 1940s. (To learn more about the Oregon State Hospital, visit their museum online at Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health.)

I knew a little bit about Malinda from interviewing family members but I wanted to know more. I was especially interested in her life between the years after her second husband died in 1935 and her own passing nine years later. I knew from family sources that she suffered dementia in her later years, which helped explain why she lived her last months in the state hospital.

To find out more about Malinda’s life I took a genealogy trip to Oregon, researched at the Oregon State Archives, visited the grounds of the hospital (still in existence), and found her burial place. Because I was limited in what I could learn about my ancestor’s life during her time at the state hospital, I researched old newspapers to understand the life of asylum patients during the early 1900s.

One gets a sense of the normalcy of sending the elderly to live out their final years at a state facility from this 1911 newspaper article, which is about the Oregon State Hospital asking families to not send their elderly to the hospital due to concerns about overcrowding, and instead take care of them at home or have the county care for them.

Asylum to Close to Many Insane, Oregonian  newspaper article 24 March 1911

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 24 March 1911, page 6

Reading a later newspaper article from 1940 lamenting the crowding of the facility gives me a sense of what my great-great-grandmother’s living conditions must have been like at the end of her life. One danger from the overcrowding is mentioned in the news article: fire. The old newspaper article states “The main building, built in 1883, is tinder dry, and its floors are soaked with the oil of many cleanings.” It goes on to say that the elderly are housed on the first floor just in case they need to escape during such a tragedy.

State Hospital Visit Reveals Crowded Conditions, Oregonian newspaper article 14 April 1940

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 14 April 1940, page 85

Besides problems with overcrowding in the asylums, there were other dangers for those living in institutionalized care. For example: right before my ancestor was a resident at the Oregon State Hospital, some cooks from the facility were charged in the deaths of 47 inmates. They served residents roach poison mixed in their food!

Asylum Cooks Provide Bail, Oregonian  newspaper article 25 November 1942

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 25 November 1942, page 27

Malinda “Lennie” Bean died on 19 March 1944 of bronchopneumonia and “senility” at the age of 79 years. Her family paid for her final arrangements and her subsequent burial in a nearby cemetery. According to her death certificate she had lived in the Oregon State Hospital for 9 months and 29 days.

Although doing genealogy research on an ancestor who spent time in an asylum can be difficult, don’t forget the power of incorporating social history—found in historical newspaper articles— to help you better understand their lives and the times in which they lived.

N.H.’s Old Man of the Mountain Collapsed 10 Years Ago Today

The “Old Man of the Mountain” was a granite rock formation in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that looked like the rugged profile of a man’s face. First discovered in 1805, the 40-foot-high face had been N.H.’s state emblem since 1945. But centuries of freezing and thawing eventually did the Old Man in.

News of the collapse of Old Man of the Mountain rock formation—ten years ago today—spread with shock throughout the U.S. on Saturday morning, 3 May 2003.

newspaper article and stamp illustration of New Hampshire's "Old Man of the Mountain"

Newspaper article: Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 4 May 2003, page 4. Stamp illustration: Wikipedia.

It was like hearing that your aged father or grandfather had died. We thought the Old Man of the Mountain would live forever. Yes, we knew about the rehabilitation efforts the state had been doing on the rock formation—the therapy to keep him going. It felt like every new approach would “work” and keep him going well into the new millennium.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

The Old Man of the Mountain lost his fight with age and time and passed with a great, earth shattering crash. The news of the collapse stunned everyone for days—even now hearing of it brings back the old memories.

The news of the demise of the great stone face was reported in the newspapers, and on radio and TV. Family members called one another to share the news, speaking in quiet reverence—still shocked by the fact that the “Old Man” had died.
Whether it is the recent loss of a beloved member of the family or an obituary from 300 years ago, you will find over 220 million obituaries and death records in GenealogyBank.

Gather your family’s stories, save them, and pass them down.

Don’t let your story be lost.