About Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history. He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society. An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

Civil War Nurse Mary Maxwell Featured in OGSQ

I received the latest copy of the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly (OGSQ) in the mail this week and was interested in the cover story about “Mary Francis (Stokes) Huddleston Maxwell, Civil War Nurse.”

photo of the cover of the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly magazine

Source: Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly

The article was written by Laurel Sheppard, the Assistant Editor of the OGSQ – who was assisted by Barbara Hart, Susan Lee and Daniel Reigel.

OK – I wondered if GenealogyBank had any articles about Mary Francis (Stokes) Maxwell (1835-1924).

I quickly found her obituary in the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio).
Lots of good data here.

obituary for Mary Maxwell, Plain Dealer newspaper article 13 January 1924

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 13 January 1924, page 7

Mary’s obituary reports that she died “last night” – on 12 January 1924.
She died at the home of her daughter in Lakewood, Ohio, on Bonnieview Avenue.

A quick search of Google Street View pulls up how that home looks today.

photo of a house in Lakewood, Ohio

Source: Google Street View

Mary’s obituary tells us that she enlisted in the Civil War in 1861 and was stationed at the Civil War-era U.S. Army hospital in Keokuk, Iowa.

Click to Read: Kennedy, Gerald. U.S. Army Hospital: Keokuk, 1862-1865.” Annals of Iowa (Fall 1969), Vol. 40, No. 2, pages 118-136.

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Her obituary also reports:

  • She was receiving a pension
  • She lived in Ashland, Ohio
  • She moved from Ashland to Lakewood, Ohio, to live with her daughter in 1910
  • She was buried in Ashland, Ohio, on 14 January 1924

There are hundreds of millions of obituaries in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives – come find your ancestor’s today!

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from recent and historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

If you are interested in Ohio genealogy research, then a membership in the Ohio Genealogical Society is essential. Do it!

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A Special Family History Gift Fit for a Queen

What gift do you give to a nine-year-old queen? Why, a copy of your just-published book of family history, of course!

Gift to Queen Wilhelmina, New York Tribune newspaper article 23 November 1899

New York Tribune (New York, New York), 23 November 1899, page 5

We remember Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands (1888-1962) as a kindly, matronly woman – but at age nine she received a special gift.

What young lady wouldn’t be thrilled to receive her own copy of the newly-printed Swartwout Chronicles, 1338-1899? It was presented to her by Major William Merrill Swartwout of Troy, New York.

photo of the Swartwout Chronicles

Source: Library of Congress, American Memory

This handsome family history book was published in a limited edition of 100 copies. According to the New York Tribune article:

The book is 11 inches long, 8 1/2 inches wide and 2 1/4 inches thick. The linen coated paper is of a superior quality that will, it is said, last for centuries…It is bound in full crushed levant, with leather double and fly and richly handtooled in gold. The outer cover, dark brown in color, is embossed in antique, with the Swartwout coat of arms.

This must have been a special day at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.

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According to the article it was “claimed that there is not one typographical error in the volume.”

You can see for yourself and read through this family history online.

All kidding aside – this was a terrific honor.

How many families have the opportunity to present a copy of their family history to the Royal family of their homeland?

Did You Know?

Family history books still make for excellent gifts to give to family and friends. You can have your own family history printed in a hard copy book format by several publishing services nowadays. See Cyndi’s List for a list of family history publishers.

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What’s a Third Cousin Anyway? Genealogy Tutorial Video

The Anaconda Standard reported this interesting case in 1901 of one of George Washington’s “third cousins” who had fallen on hard times.

article about Agnes Washington Fairchild, Anaconda Standard newspaper article 24 November 1901

Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana), 24 November 1901, page 14

Per the news report, Miss Agnes Washington Fairchild, who was born in Fairfax, Virginia, had no means of support and had called on the “Supervisor of the Outdoor Poor” (now, that’s a descriptive title) and the local New York City chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution for help.

Wait – “third cousin”?
What exactly is that?

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How can you easily see how cousin relationships are structured and named?

Here are two handy genealogy tutorial videos from YouTube that will help you do just that.

Watch “What’s a Second Cousin Once Removed?”

Now that you have the basics of tracing your cousins, you’re ready to tackle a more advanced family tree.

Watch “The Complicated Chinese Family Tree – Cantonese Version”

Did you know?

GenealogyBank.com has a Learning Center and Youtube channel where you can watch expert-led genealogy tutorial videos to learn how to use historical newspapers and obituaries to find your family stories and trace your family tree.

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RootsTech 2016 Registration Is Now Open!

Early bird registration is now open for RootsTech 2016 – the largest genealogy conference in North America. This year’s RootsTech conference is expected to draw well over 23,000 attendees to Salt Lake City, Utah.

photo of the audience at the RootsTech genealogy conference

Source: RootsTech.org

Register for the upcoming 2016 Rootstech conference >>
Book your room at the RootsTech Official Conference Hotels >>

More than 200 live genealogy sessions will start on Wednesday, February 3rd, and continue through Saturday, February 6th.

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Stop by and visit us in person at our GenealogyBank.com booth.

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Elijah Sold Shoes Straight from His Saddlebags

No shoe stores in Boston in the late 1700s? According to Elijah Leathe’s obituary, “he was about the first who carried shoes, in saddle bags, to market to Boston, there being then no shoe stores.”

obituary for Elijah Leathe, Boston Traveler newspaper article 22 December 1835

Boston Traveler (Boston, Massachusetts), 22 December 1835, page 3

This old 1800s newspaper article added that “He peddled them out from a bench, north side Faneuil Hall.”

illustration of Boston's Faneuil Hall as it appeared in 1776

Illustration: Faneuil Hall as it appeared in 1776. Source: Wikipedia.

Can it be true that there were no shoe stores in the late 1700s in Boston? Anyone know for sure if this is a fact?

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Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from recent and historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

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Groundbreaking Study Tracing Back DNA 210,000 Years!

The Scotsman newspaper recently reported that the company ScotlandsDNA “has completed the first stage of…research tracing the beginnings of a family tree for ‘all men on Earth.’”

masthead for the newspaper "The Scotsman"

Source: The Scotsman

Read the full article from The Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland), 7 August 2015, here: http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/heritage/scots-dna-project-compiles-family-tree-for-all-men-1-3852633

This important new DNA study shows that the branching of the DNA tree evolved slowly over time – but then that evolution abruptly changed. According to the article:

About 4,500 years ago, many new branches suddenly appear over a very short period.

illustration of a section of DNA

Illustration: a section of DNA. Source: Wikipedia.

According to Alistair Moffat who ran this study:

DNA research showed this was highly likely to indicate an invasion by a warrior elite, small bands of highly aggressive and sexually predatory men sailing by small boats to Britain and Ireland over a short space of time around 2,500 BC from Spain, Portugal and southern France.

He went on to say:

This is noticeable across the whole Tree but particularly clear under the very British and European Y chromosome haplogroup, R1b S145, where a staggering 25 new branches are found.

map showing the spread of European Y chromosome haplogroup, R1b S145

Source: Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia the R1b line “is believed to have originated in Asia” and “had been in Europe before the end of the Ice Age.”

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ScotlandsDNA’s study of the “Y” chromosome DNA concludes that all “men” descend from a common ancestor.

chart showing the evolutionary tree of human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups

Source: Wikipedia

Have you taken a DNA test?
What did you learn from your test results?

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Anniversary of President McKinley’s Assassination

Suddenly, President William McKinley (1897-1901) – one of only four American presidents killed in office – is in the news again. This week, his name was removed from North America’s highest mountain peak, located in Alaska.

This weekend, Americans will be marking the anniversary of the assassination of President McKinley, who was shot by “anarchist” Leon Czologsz at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, on 6 September 1901. The nation was traumatized as they had been with the murder of President Lincoln just 36 years before. With the shock of both shootings – and that of President Garfield in 1881 – still firmly in their minds, Americans looked to their daily newspapers to learn the latest news of McKinley’s condition.

article about the assassination of President William McKinley, Plain Dealer newspaper article 7 September 1901

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 7 September 1901, page 1

McKinley lingered, then passed away the following week on 14 September 1901.

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When national leaders such as Presidents Lincoln, McKinley and Kennedy, and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., are assassinated, the nation responds by renaming streets, schools and monuments for our fallen leaders.

photo of Mt. McKinley (now Denali), Alaska

Photo: Mt. McKinley (now Denali), Alaska. Source: National Park Service.

In 1917 President Woodrow Wilson honored McKinley’s memory by signing “the Mount McKinley National Park Act, which required the park to be ‘dedicated and set apart as a public park for the benefit and enjoyment of the people under the name of the Mount McKinley National Park.’” (USA Today, 31 August 2015).

But Mount McKinley is no more. On Aug. 30, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the name of North America’s highest mountain is being changed back to its original name, Denali, which in the Athabaskan languages of Alaska Natives means “the high one.”

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William Halsall: Artist of ‘Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor’

Marine artist William Formby Halsall’s 1882 “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” painting is a favorite of New Englanders and Mayflower descendants. What do we know about the painter – was he also a Mayflower descendant?

painting: “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” by William Formby Halsall

Painting: “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” by William Formby Halsall, 1882. Source: Wikipedia.

William Halsall was born 20 March 1841 in Kirkdale, Lancashire, England, and came to America in 1858 at age 17.

During the Civil War, Halsall enlisted in the U.S. Navy. His naval experience clearly shows in the theme of his paintings.

Following the war he married Josephine A. Nickerson (1841-1915) in Roxbury, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. He was naturalized a U.S. citizen on 24 January 1872 at the U.S. District Court in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. He died 7 November 1919 in Winthrop, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

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While William was not a descendant of the Mayflower Pilgrims, his wife Josephine was. She was a descendant of Pilgrim Stephen Hopkins.

There are many newspaper articles in GenealogyBank about William Halsall, including this one published a few weeks after his death.

article about the artist William Formby Halsall, Momento newspaper article 15 November 1919

Momento (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 15 November 1919, page 3

The old 1900s news article describes the hanging of his painting “The Arrival in Boston Bay of the Fleet Bearing Governor John Winthrop’s Company of Colonists,” saying that it “…is a large canvas, in which the light of the early morning is flooding the spaces of the sea and sky with a rosy tone.”

GenealogyBank is your go-to source for thousands of newspaper articles and historical documents about the Mayflower Pilgrims and their descendants.

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Resources to Trace African American Slave Ancestry

FamilySearch recently announced it is working with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society and the California African American Museum to crowdsource the online indexing of 1.5 million Freedman’s Bureau records that FamilySearch has put online.

This is a great resource to start learning about African American slaves in early American history. Is it possible to find out more about these slaves – the actual stories of their individual lives? Can we know what happened to each one?

photo of a slave cabin

Photo: slave cabin. Source: Library of Congress.

In some cases, yes – we can.

There are two key sources for these African American slave stories.

Slave Stories in Newspapers

Some of these black slave stories can be found in old newspapers. GenealogyBank’s 1.8 billion news stories are available – with unlimited downloads – at a nominal monthly or annual fee, making them easily available to genealogists everywhere.

a montage of newspaper articles about former slaves

As the nation grew so did newspapers – and newspapers recorded and preserved our ancestors’ stories.

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For example, in newspapers we can learn the story of 79-year-old “Uncle Reuben” Taylor who grew up a slave on a farm near Baltimore, Maryland, was freed in 1863, and launched his career over the next 57 years delivering coal in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Patriot (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) 31 December 1920, page 7 tells us that he then retired to live with his daughter in Chicago.

Dig in and find your ancestors’ stories in GenealogyBank’s newspaper vault 1690 to Today.

a montage of newspaper articles from African American newspapers

Note that GenealogyBank also has a special search for our expansive online collection of more than 260 African American newspapers, which contains some of the earliest black publications such as Frederick Douglass’ Paper, an early anti-slavery newspaper by abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Access our African American newspaper archive here: http://www.genealogybank.com/static/african-american-heritage.html

Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938

The Library of Congress has digitized and put online the collection of all 2,300+ first-person interviews with former slaves that were conducted by the Federal Writers’ Project from 1936-1938.

a photo of three ex-slaves interviewed for the by the Federal Writers’ Project from 1936-1938

Source: Library of Congress

These one-on-one slave interviews are invaluable.

The typescripts retain the tone of the person being interviewed. Reading the pages, you quickly can “hear” them speaking to you today.

Robert Bryant lived in Herculaneum, Mississippi – here is his story.
Find his story – and the story of thousands of others in this online collection.

ex-slave Robert Bryant's story as told to the Federal Writers’ Project

Source: Library of Congress

Real people. Real stories. Real lives.
These stories give you the opportunity to glimpse the life of a slave – as told one story at a time.

Get to know them – read and experience their stories.

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Google Remembers Olympian & Surfer Duke Kahanamoku

This week’s Google Doodle honors famed five-time Olympic medalist, Hawaiian athlete and swimmer, Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968), who was born 24 August 1890 in Hawaii. He was known as the “Father of Surfing.”

a Google Doodle of Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku

Source: Google

Here is a 1965 interview with him by Bruce Brown at the start of the first annual Duke Kahanamoku invitational surfing competition. Source: YouTube.com

There are hundreds of old news articles in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives that detailed his remarkable surfing career – which lasted more than 50 years.

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article about Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku, Oregonian newspaper article 24 September 1917

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 24 September 1917, page 10

Discover more about Kahanamoku’s life and amazing success in professional surfing in the historical archives now: http://genealogybank.com/explore/all?lname=Kahanamoku&fname=Duke

GenealogyBank is your source for more than 300 years of America’s history.

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