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!

Are You Related to Pocahontas & John Rolfe?

If you are related to Pocahontas and John Rolfe, you’ll want to read this recent article from Popular Archaeology: Archaeologists rebuild 1608 church where Pocahontas was married.

article about Pocahontas in the magazine Popular Archaeology

Credit: Popular Archaeology

The June 2015 issue of Popular Archaeology has this interesting article that archeologists have found the original site of the church in Jamestown, Virginia, where Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married 401 years ago, on 5 April 1614.

Archeologists are rebuilding a replica of the church on the site. Here is a companion Youtube video showing how this rebuilding is being done: Experimental archaeology: bringing Jamestown’s early church to life.

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In 1616 the Rolfes traveled to England and stayed for 10 months. In March 1617 they set sail to return to Virginia, but as the ship was heading down the river Thames Pocahontas (then renamed Rebecca Rolfe) took sick. She was taken ashore in Gravesend, England, where she died. She was buried there on 21 March 1617 in Saint George’s Church cemetery.

photo of a statue of Pocahontas in Saint George’s Church, Gravesend, Kent, England

Photo: statue of Pocahontas in Saint George’s Church, Gravesend, Kent, England. Source: Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia:

Pocahontas and Rolfe had one child, Thomas Rolfe, who was born in 1615 before his parents left for England. Through this son, Pocahontas has many living descendants.

Two of Pocahontas’s descendants have become First Lady of the United States, both First Lady Edith Wilson and First Lady Nancy Reagan.

photo of First Lady Edith Wilson

Photo: First Lady Edith Wilson. Source: Wikipedia.

photo of First Lady Nancy Reagan

Photo: First Lady Nancy Reagan. Source: Wikipedia.

Did you know?

Pocahontas was known by many different names during her lifetime. She was a Powhatan Native American and it was common for Powhatan Indians to have several names. Pocahontas’s other Powhatan names included Matoaka and Amonute. She also changed her name to Rebecca upon converting to Christianity.

Do you know if you are related to Pocahontas?

If so – tell us how.

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Willard Hyatt’s Genealogy Puzzler: ‘Houston, We Have a Problem’

In researching Willard O. Hyatt’s genealogy, I quickly found this entry for his tombstone.

a montage showing Willard Hyatt’s tombstone and death certificate

Montage showing Willard Hyatt’s tombstone and death certificate. Credit: FamilySearch – partner site Find-a-Grave.

Great – that is my target Willard O. Hyatt. He was born in Burlington, Calhoun County, Michigan, and I knew that he died there.  I could see by his tombstone that he died in 1934.

Armed with this initial tombstone information it was time to dig deeper.

By pulling his entries in the old U.S. census, his death certificate, and other records, we can begin to piece together the facts of his life.

I next found his death certificate.

photo of Willard Hyatt's death certificate

Credit: FamilySearch, Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952

Hmm…“Houston, we have a problem.”

His date of death in the death certificate is not agreeing with the date carved on his tombstone.

I looked in the old newspapers in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to see if I could find out more about this discrepancy – and uncovered an unusual story.

article about Willard Hyatt's tombstone, Heraldo de Brownsville newspaper article 4 November 1937

Heraldo de Brownsville (Brownsville, Texas), 4 November 1937, page 9

This article in the Heraldo de Brownsville newspaper gives us the rest of Willard’s story, telling us why he decided to commission his own gravestone so many years before his death – and why it has the wrong date.

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Willard figured that since both of his parents – Thomas Hyatt (1806-1887) and Mary Ann (Odell) Hyatt (1811-1891) – died at age 80, he too would die at 80 years of age.

So in 1906 – 18 years before his projected date of death – he bought a tombstone and had the carver enter his life dates as he expected them to be: 1854-1934, when he would be 80 years old.

But as things turned out, it was another 10 years before Willard finally passed away – on the 28th of October 1944.

Genealogy Tip: Dig deep and find every supporting genealogical document. Go beyond census and vital records in your genealogy research. Be sure to search the old newspapers – that’s where the stories of our ancestors are.

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Linus Lounsbury, Revolutionary War Veteran

I found this obituary for Linus Lounsbury, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, by searching in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

obituary for Linus Lounsbury, Columbian Register newspaper article 23 July 1836

Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), 23 July 1836, page 3

He died on 15 July 1836.
He was a pensioner.

He was in the Siege of Fort Johns in Newfoundland, Canada – 17 September 1775 to 3 November 1775, and was in the Battle of White Plains on 28 October 1776.

Great information.

photo of a two-cent stamp depicting the Revolutionary War Battle of White Plains

Image Credit: Battle of White Plains 1926 Issue 2c, U.S. Post Office, 20 February 2010

Here is the confirmation of his death, as reported in the 1838 Pensioners List on the page showing deaths of Connecticut pensioners.

photo of a Revolutionary War pension list showing that Linus Lounsbury has died

Publication: Pensioners — pension agents. Letter from the Secretary of War, transmitting the information required by a resolution of the House of Representatives of 26th March last, in relation to pensioners and pension agents, and the payment of pensions. June 22, 1838. — Referred to the Committee on Revolutionary Pensions. June 27, 1838. — Ordered to be printed, as per resolution of the Committee herewith. Date: Wednesday, June 27, 1838. Serial Set Vol. No.331-1; Report: H.Doc. 444. Source: GenealogyBank.com

Continuing my newspaper search on Linus, I found this notice from 1817 reporting that there was a letter for Linus at the post office.

list of people who have letters waiting for them at the Woodbridge, Connecticut, post office, Columbian Register newspaper article 19 July 1817

Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), 19 July 1817, page 1

It would be great if we had that old letter.

Re-reading his obituary, I like that last line about his character:

He truly possessed the spirit of ’76 as long as he lived.

It makes me think of the George M. Cohan chorus from “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” as found on Wikipedia:

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle, do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,
Born on the Fourth of July.

Find the life story of your ancestors – search GenealogyBank today. Start your 30-day trial now!

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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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Dad’s Hole in One Story Featured in the Newspaper

Going through Dad’s old papers I found that he had shot a hole-in-one playing golf. In fact he had certificates for four of them. How he liked to golf.

I wondered if these perfect shots were written up in the newspapers – yes, they were.

article about golf, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 20 August 1982

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 20 August 1982, page 31

In the Dallas Morning News, golfer Doris Gray was asked what was “her secret” for shooting nine holes in one. She said: “I just aim for the flag.”

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93-year-old Ralph Blake (1914-2008) had a successful career in banking and was a decorated war hero who fought in World War II. But, look closer and there in his obituary is a long, full mention of his multiple holes in one.

obituary for Ralph Blake, Republican American newspaper article 8 January 2008

Republican American (Waterbury, Connecticut), 8 January 2008

Everybody has a story.
Big ones – little ones – memorable ones.

GenealogyBank helps you find your family’s stories – all of them.
Find the stories of your ancestors.

Start your 30-day trial now!

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Easter Sunrise Services: A Brief History

Easter sunrise services have been held for centuries. According to Wikipedia, the earliest recorded sunrise service was held in 1732 in Germany.

Easter sunrise services – often coupled with an early morning breakfast – have also been an American tradition since the 1700s. The Moravian Church Easter sunrise service, held annually since 1772 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has grown to be one of the largest Easter services held in the country.

article about Easter sunrise service, Winston-Salem Journal newspaper article 16 April 1911

Winston-Salem Journal (Winston Salem, North Carolina), 16 April 1911, page 1

In 1937, more than 35,000 braved the cold weather to attend the Easter sunrise service near Lawton, Oklahoma.

article about Easter sunrise service, Brownsville Herald newspaper article 1 April 1937

Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas), 1 April 1937, page 10

Like Christmas Eve services that are often held at midnight in churches across the country on December 24th, church congregations have gathered for Easter sunrise services before dawn on Easter morning – often at beaches, parks, atop hills and even in cemeteries.

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The congregation is often positioned so that they are facing the east and will see the sun rising during the service. It is customary to erect a cross at the service, like this 2007 Easter sunrise service held by Littlefield Memorial Baptist Church in Rockland, Maine.

photo of a 2007 Easter sunrise service, Rockland, Maine

Photo: 2007 Easter sunrise service, Rockland, Maine. Credit: Jp498 at English Wikipedia; Wikimedia Commons.

GenealogyBank wishes you and yours a very happy Easter.

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Bloody News: Battles of Lexington & Concord Begin April 1775

Stirring front page news – as gripping as a breaking news bulletin on television today

Bloody News – This town has been in a continual alarm since Mid-day… the attack began at Lexington (about 12 miles from Boston) by the regular troops, the 18th Inft., before sunrise… From thence they proceeded to Concord where they made a general attack…

article about the Battles of Lexington and Concord, New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle newspaper article 21 April 1775

New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 21 April 1775, page 1

The British had attacked: the Battles of Lexington and Concord began the fighting between Great Britain and its 13 American colonies that led to the Revolutionary War and the founding of a new nation.

article about the Battles of Lexington and Concord, New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle newspaper article 21 April 1775

New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 21 April 1775, page 1

The reports continued to be published in Colonial newspapers up and down the coast. The newspapers printed them all – and the New Hampshire Gazette and Historical Chronicle added: “The foregoing is the different accounts we have receiv’d, but how far and what part is authentic, presume not to determine.”

This reads like any breaking news story today – when the reporters read every detail as the “raw news” comes in over the satellite feeds.

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The British had attacked and the committees of safety from colony to colony were responding and getting the word out – through the newspapers – that it was time to act.

Thanks to GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives we can read the same newspapers our American colonial ancestors read and feel the impact of the news as they lived it. No other site has the depth of coverage found on GenealogyBank – spanning the news from 1690 to today.

Illustration: “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere"

Illustration: “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” Credit: National Archives’ Pictures of the Revolutionary War — Beginnings in New England, 1775-76; Wikimedia Commons.

In his long-famous poem, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote of that day:

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said “Good-night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,–
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,–
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

April is National Poetry Month. Did you know GenealogyBank’s newspaper collection has a special search category for Poems & Songs? Come take a look today and see what poetic gems you can find.

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Great Advice from an Interview with a Very Old Man

I like newspaper articles where the oldest person in town is interviewed and gives their best advice for living well to an old age. They tell it as they lived it.

Here is the advice Sam Cox (1819-1922) gave on his 102nd birthday as “he sat in his home yesterday afternoon smoking a cigar and shaking hands with those who called.”

interview with Samuel Cox, Sunday Herald newspaper article 28 August 1921

Sunday Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 28 August 1921, page B1

He said:

“…A man ought to live as long as he can and do all the good possible for his neighbors.”

“Live moderately, work hard, but don’t overdo.”

“Be moderate in the use of tobacco and intoxicants.”

“Eat plenty of good, hearty food.”

“Abstain from sweets.”

“Keep out in the open air; take long walks and don’t be afraid to expand the lungs in song.”

“Above all, don’t worry.”

“Be happy and make others happy.”

“Get plenty of sleep, and be up early in the morning for the day’s work.”

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Great advice.

Newspapers are not only a great way to find your ancestors’ vital statistics – they are a tremendous resource for discovering great advice and the stories of their lives as well. Dig into GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives and find your ancestors’ stories. Start your 30-day trial now!

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BOGO: Search for One Relative & Find Another One as a Bonus

I was searching for newspaper articles about my cousin Cyrus Lane (1824-1911) from Sanbornton, New Hampshire, and quickly found an announcement of his marriage

wedding announcements for Cyrus Lane and Sarah Plummer, also for Oliver Piper and Judith Lane, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette newspaper article 30 November 1848

New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord, New Hampshire), 30 November 1848, page 3

But wait – there’s more.

Here was an added bonus.

Following the report of Cyrus’s marriage to Sarah H. Plummer on 25 October 1848, there is this next announcement: “also, Oct. 30, Mr. Oliver P. Piper to Miss Judith C. Lane, all of S.”

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This refers to his sister, Judith Clifford Lane (1826-1899).
Wow – that must have been a time of family gathering and joy with two weddings within a week.

Newspapers reported the news of our ancestors.
Dig in to GenealogyBank and find your ancestors’ stories.

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Native American Newspapers for Genealogy Research

When births, marriages and deaths occur, Native American families make sure that they are written up and documented in their local newspapers. Family and tribal historians want to data mine GenealogyBank’s entire Historical Newspaper Archives looking for these events by searching on the names of the individuals – but also by searching on the tribal affiliations of the persons involved.

montage of newspaper articles about Native Americans

Genealogy Tip: Search for your Native American ancestors using not only individual names, but also the names of their tribal affiliations to locate all articles about your family.

As part of its online collection of deep back runs digitized from more than 7,000 different newspapers spanning 1690 to today, GenealogyBank has a specific collection of Native American newspapers, fantastic for researching Indian roots from several tribes, from all around the country.

Currently, our Native American newspaper titles include:

Genealogy Tip: Make sure to begin searching for your Native American ancestors with a wide search of our entire archives, then narrow down to specific locations and newspapers – including our collection of Native American newspapers – to increase your chances of success.

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Where in Ireland Are Your Irish Ancestors From? Search Newspapers

Newspapers recorded every day of our ancestors’ lives – and that is a good thing for genealogists.

Time and time again old documents, from death certificates to the census, simply state that someone like John Clifford was born “in Ireland” – and never tell us where in Ireland. Often it is newspapers that are critical to our finding the name of the community or the county in Ireland where our Irish immigrant ancestors were born.

For example, this old 1800s obituary for John Clifford tells us where in Ireland he was from.

obituary for John Clifford, New York Herald newspaper article 4 November 1880

New York Herald (New York City, New York), 4 November 1880, page 8

Thanks to GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, we know that he was born in Killeshandra, County Cavan, Ireland.

Government and other official passenger lists routinely list that the waves of Irish immigrants were born in “Ireland” without any further details – but it is in newspapers that we can find two other key facts (origin and destination) that were not recorded in the passenger lists genealogists are familiar with.

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I am just amazed every time I read these Irish American passenger lists in online newspapers and see that they tell me where these new arrivals had lived in Ireland, and where they were going to live in America.

How in the world did the editors of New York City’s Irish American newspapers find the time to interview and document the incoming Irish immigrants, and keep doing it for over a century?

Irish immigrants passenger list, Irish Nation newspaper article 27 May 1882

Irish Nation (New York City, New York), 27 May 1882, page 8

Irish American newspapers were diligent about reporting the great migration of Irish immigrants to America in the 19th and 20th centuries. Newspapers like the Irish Nation and Irish World regularly published lists of Irish passengers that came over on the passenger ships each week.
These published ship passenger lists did not include every Irish immigrant – but for the tens of thousands that were interviewed and documented by the newspapers, these lists give us the critical place of origin and where they were heading after their arrival in America, valuable information that is just not found in any other genealogical source.

One of my colleagues, Duncan Kuehn, closely compared some of the passenger lists published in newspapers to the corresponding federal passenger lists. She found that for the passengers interviewed and listed by the newspapers, their names were often more complete – and often, additional names of accompanying family members were given in the newspaper account that did not appear in the federal lists.

It would be even better if the newspapers had interviewed every single passenger, but we’re grateful for the excellent job they did on the ones that were documented.

Genealogists must use these newspaper passenger lists to learn more about their ancestors’ stories.

Start searching GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives and begin documenting and recording your family history. If you have Irish ancestry, try searching our special Irish American newspaper archives first.

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