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!

Mayflower Genealogy: Finding Your Cousins Using Newspapers

Searching through GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives recently, I found this old newspaper announcement for Margaret (Rogers) Smith’s 81st birthday.

obituary for Margaret (Rogers) Smith, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 23 January 1938

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 23 January 1938, page 12

Margaret Anne (Rogers) Smith (1857-1943) didn’t come to America on the Mayflower ship – but according to this newspaper article her ancestor Thomas Rogers (c. 1572-Winter 1620/21) did.

Hey – I am also descended from Mayflower Pilgrim Thomas Rogers.
That makes Margaret my cousin.
What more can I learn about her?

Could it be this easy to find my Mayflower cousins?
Yes – it is.

This historical newspaper article is packed with genealogical clues and information about Margaret, her siblings and children. That would make all of them my cousins too. Armed with these clues I then need to verify and prove each member of the family as I go back generation by generation to our common ancestor: Pilgrim Thomas Rogers.

For starters, the newspaper article gives me Margaret’s photo and tells me that she “celebrated her eighty-first birthday this week at her home at Prosper [Colin County, Texas].”

Wow – her photo. A great find. Nice smile.
So, she was 81 years old in January 1938 and living in Prosper, Colin County, Texas.
That should be easy to verify.

Here is a copy of her death certificate.

death certificate for Margaret (Rogers) Smith

Source: FamilySearch, “Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-25246-83874-37?cc=1983324: accessed 3 September 2015), Death certificates > 1943 > Vol 073-079, certificates 036001-039400, Aug, Brazoria-Starr counties > image 314 of 3524; State Registrar Office, Austin.

Good, her death certificate shows that she was still living in Prosper, Texas, when she died, and it gives me her date of birth as 18 January 1857, in Colin County, Texas. Hmm… January 1857 – that was just 11 years after Texas became a state.

The old newspaper clipping also says her grandparents “were among the first settlers in this community.”

Another great genealogy clue.
So it looks like multiple generations of the family had moved from Tennessee to Texas.

The old newspaper article continues giving me the names of her surviving brothers, sisters and children. Perfect. Historical newspapers sure make it easy to research and fill in the entire family tree of my Mayflower ancestors.

My next step is to look at the records available in other newspapers in GenealogyBank, FamilySearch and other sources to verify each member of the family going back generation by generation.

Sometimes you actually can work your family tree from the top down – and in a case like this where the ancestral connection is in the surname line, you can work on your tree from the bottom up. As ever: Trust, but verify and confirm that she is in fact a descendant of Thomas Rogers of the Mayflower.

Genealogy Tip: Researching your Mayflower family lines? Use the old newspapers to find those who are self-identified as descendants of the same Pilgrim ancestors you are. Then link them back, generation by generation, to attach them to your extended Mayflower family tree.

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Obituaries – Don’t Make This Rookie Genealogy Research Mistake

This is a typical newspaper obituary.
It gives the usual genealogical information, including her name (Ella M. Crofoot), age, & date and place of birth.

obituary for Ella M. Crofoot, Stamford Advocate newspaper article 17 February 1970

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 17 February 1970, page 6

I could easily transcribe this information and move on to the next relative to research in my family tree – but that would be a mistake.

I have her obituary – isn’t that what I came for?

Historical newspapers often published two items about the deceased: the obituary and the more compact “death notice.”

Death notices come in all shapes and sizes, and vary from newspaper to newspaper – but, you must look for them while doing your genealogy research or you will miss important clues.

For example: on the same page of that newspaper, further down along the far right column, there is Ella’s “death notice.”

death notice for Ella M. Crofoot, Stamford Advocate newspaper article 17 February 1970

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 17 February 1970, page 6

Comparing both news articles, we quickly see that additional relatives are named in the death notice:

Aunt of Lawrence T. Kemp, Mrs. Olive Skinner, Mrs. Hazel Randall, and Mrs. Ruth Brush.

Good thing we checked or we’d have missed four family members.

Genealogy Tip: Always check for both the Obituary AND the Death Notice. You’ll likely be glad that you did.

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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William Mercer Married Five Sisters!

This has to be a record.
It’s not uncommon for a young man to marry the girl next door – but in William Mercer’s case he married five of them, all sisters!

[William Mercer] Married Five Sisters, Omaha World-Herald newspaper article 8 October 1899

Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 8 October 1899, page 28

He married the first of five of the Moffitt sisters, Jennie, when he was 19. After her death, he married in succession her sisters Ada, Catherine, Missouri, and then Anna. The reason for all these marriages? As the article explains:

Each of his wives has died of…consumption.

Nestled in the Raccoon Creek area of West Virginia, the Mercer and Moffitt farms were next to each other.

When he was asked “Why don’t you marry somebody besides a Moffitt, just for a change…?” He responded:

If ye want a reason, it’s kind o’ handy to run over there an’ git a wife. I aint got much time to go chasing round in the mountains for one.

Mercer’s marriages to the first four Moffitt sisters produced eight children. Are you related?

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Hurricane Preparedness: Protect Your Family – & Your Genealogy Records

Every year we read about hurricanes raging toward the U.S. coast and nearby islands.

[Hurricane} Allen Slams into Jamaica, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 6 August 1980

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 6 August 1980, page 6

This year’s hurricane season will be no different.

screenshot of the "Ready" logo for hurricane preparedness from the Department of Homeland Security

Take a minute to be prepared in the event a hurricane strikes your area.

You – your family – and your genealogy records are all depending on the steps you take to be prepared for the storm.

The Department of Homeland Security has issued tips for getting ready for a hurricane:

Genealogy Tip:

Save your family history work by getting it online! See the related articles below for details on scanning, saving and preserving your genealogy research.

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Searching the Archives for Rufus, I Found Little Eugenie

Eugenie Caroline Kemp (1842-1845) was only three years old when she died – and until recently, I didn’t even know she had existed. I discovered her when I was doing a search in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives about one of my ancestors.

I was searching for information about Rufus Crosby Kemp (1813-1856). My research notes said that he was born in Maine in 1813 and died in 1856 in New York City. So – he lived in at least two U.S. states: Maine and New York.

Looking for him in GenealogyBank’s archives, I knew by experience that typing his full name into the search box probably wouldn’t get me the record results I wanted.

But, let’s try that full name archive search anyway and see what we can find about Rufus.

screenshot of GenealogyBank’s search box showing a search for Rufus Crosby Kemp


Genealogy Search Tip:

Typing in the first name, middle name and surname was just “too much information.” In the early 19th century, newspaper editors rarely referred to individuals in print by their full names – they shortened the name to what fit the character space available in that day’s newspaper.

So – I searched for Rufus in the newspaper archives again, this time typing in his name as Rufus C. Kemp to give a wider scope of possible articles, and I limited the search date range to 1810-1870.

screenshot of GenealogyBank’s search box showing a search for Rufus C. Kemp

OK. That search returned 24 record results.

screenshot of GenealogyBank’s search results page fora search for Rufus C. Kemp

Let’s see what they tell us.

Looking at the first result…
Hmm – that’s not good news.

Business Troubles

It seems that he and his business partners Benjamin L. Mann and Albert Whitney were having a tough go in their business – “Whitney, Kemp & Co.” was insolvent.

article about the insolvency of Whitney, Kemp and Co., Boston Daily Advertiser newspaper article 22 March 1841

Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts), 22 March 1841, page 3

This newspaper article gave key new information: in 1841 Rufus Kemp was living in Boston, Massachusetts, and operated a business in the area.

What did the next search result, an obituary, show?

Obituary for Rufus Kemp

obituary for Rufus C. Kemp, New York Tribune newspaper article 23 October 1856

New York Tribune (New York City, New York), 23 October 1856, page 7

OK. This is also our target Rufus Kemp.

His obituary tells us that by 1856 he was living in New York City at 259 Fourth Avenue (which is by Union Square) and that he died on Monday, 20 October 1856.

The obituary gives his age (“43d year of his age”) and tells us that he was a member of the Olive Branch Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, No. 31.

Business Ad

The next newspaper article gives us more information on his business.

ad for Rufus C. Kemp's Clothes Warehouse, Boston Daily Advertiser newspaper advertisement 2 January 1833

Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 January 1833, page 1

This advertisement tells us that his business was well located, next to the Eastern Stage House – an important Boston hotel in the early 19th century.

Marriage Announcement

The next search result also gives me key information that I didn’t have: the exact date of his marriage to Ann Maria Moynihan (1815-1907).

wedding notice for Rufus C. Kemp and Ann Moynihan, Columbian Centinel newspaper article 6 September 1834

Columbian Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), 6 September 1834, page 2

We now know that they were married on Wednesday, 3 September 1834 in Boston.
Great – I can add that information to my family tree.

Obituary of Rufus’s Daughter

I kept opening up each search result – and then I found this: the obituary notice of little Eugenie Caroline Kemp (1842-1845).

obituary for Eugenie Caroline Kemp, Weekly Messenger newspaper article 31 December 1845

Weekly Messenger (Boston, Massachusetts), 31 December 1845, page 3

Who was she?
I had no record of her – but there she was.
She was 3 years and 7 months old when she died on 29 December 1845.

Now I have a new member to add to our family tree!

If I had given up after my first newspaper archive search attempt, I wouldn’t have found her. Also, if I had stopped looking at the articles after finding Rufus Kemp’s obituary and marriage announcement, I wouldn’t have found her. It was by adjusting my ancestor search from her father’s full name, Rufus Crosby Kemp, to Rufus C. Kemp, and by continuing to look at every article, that I found more information – and critically – that I found Eugenie Caroline Kemp.

Genealogy Tip:

Keep searching the historical archives and be flexible in how you search for your ancestors. If you search only using your target ancestor’s full name, you might miss the key articles you need to document your family tree.

Better to search the archives using several variations: with only the surname; the first and last name; or first name, middle initial, and last name.

And – when you get your search results – be sure to open and read each one of them. You just might find a new twig on the Family Tree – like little Eugenie Caroline Kemp (1842-1845).

Related Search Tip Articles:

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

Related Genealogy Video Articles & Resources:

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.

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

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?

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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