About Mary Harrell-Sesniak

Mary Harrell-Sesniak, MBA, brings to the GenealogyBank Blog a blend of technical and genealogical research skills. In addition to having been a columnist with RootsWeb Review, she was president of a computer training/consulting firm for 15+ years, worked as an editor and has authored several genealogy books. You’ll find her an active contributor to a variety of online forums, RootsWeb’s WorldConnect, Findagrave.com and indexing projects.

Our Ancestors’ Age-Old Sayings from 100 Years Ago, Part II

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary presents some of the enlightening and entertaining sayings she found from 100 years ago while browsing through newspapers from the year 1915.

The allure of genealogy makes genealogists curious – or perhaps it is the desire to return to simpler days that keeps us avidly researching our family trees!

Whatever the reason, family historians love to read historical news accounts of the past – and one of the most enjoyable discoveries is reading the old sayings and quotes of our ancestors.

ancestor's saying: "The sweet music that children make in a home has nothing to do with piano lessons."

What were our ancestors reading about and saying 100 years ago? To find out, I explored the year 1915 in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives. What I found were hundreds of wonderful old sayings and good time-tested advice in the newspapers read by our ancestors.

Some of these old sayings were offered in jest. Some are inappropriate by today’s standards, but others we truly should revive. The following are all from 1915, a mere 100 years ago! (Earlier this month we posted Part I of this series: see Our Ancestors’ Age-Old Sayings from 100 Years Ago, Part I.)

Enter Last Name

Good Advice

  • It’s so much easier to pay compliments than bills. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 5 January 1915, page 12
  • Let’s not attempt to light our paths through life by burning the candle at both ends. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 14 October 1915, page 23
  • Once a coward, always a liar. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 5 January 1915, page 12
  • One way to sidetrack bad luck is to be prepared for it. –Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 2 January 1915, page 6
  • Opinions and visits should not be forced upon people. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 27 November 1915, page 6
  • Politeness is one luxury that all may indulge in. –Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida), 13 March 1915, page 8
  • Worry is a bad bedfellow. Kick it out. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 28 March 1915, page 27

Keen Observations

  • Poetry is the pastry of literature; prose the corn bread and bacon. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 15 February 1915, page 4
  • Procrastination is the thief of a good time. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 15 February 1915, page 4
  • Revenge is a boomerang that often returns to the borrower and puts him in the hospital. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 11 March 1915, page 9
  • Silence may be golden or it may be an admission of guilt. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 19 February 1915, page 6
  • The chronic kicker is always looking for something to boot. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 15 February 1915, page 4
  • The world cannot come to an end because it is round. –Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida), 20 March 1915, page 6
  • There are times when even the parson imagines there is no earthly hope for the choir. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 13 May 1915, page 6
  • Trying to dodge work tires more men than hard labor. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 23 March 1915, page 11

ancestor's saying: "Trying to dodge work tires more men than hard labor."

  • There comes a time in the life of every man when he feels justified in kicking himself. –Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 28 January 1915, page 6
  • Weak solutions may be all right in chemistry, but they don’t go in politics. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 11 March 1915, page 12
  • When men grow suddenly good it’s dollars to doughnuts they are thinking of running for office. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 18 March 1915, page 14
  • Words of wisdom are few, but there are many echoes. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 5 January 1915, page 2
  • You have a right to express your opinion of the weather, but what’s the use? –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 6 March 1915, page 10
  • You may lead the landlord to your house, but you can’t always make him repair it. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 18 March 1915, page 14
  • Your neighbors have a lot of nerve to imagine that they are as good as you are. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 5 January 1915, page 12

Genealogical Musings

  • People boast of their ancestors only after the world has forgotten their records. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 19 February 1915, page 6
  • Usually when people say nice things about a man he is too dead to appreciate them. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 11 August 1915, page 5

Gossiping Hurts

  • Gossips believe all they hear, and what they merely think they often take for granted. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 14 October 1915, page 23
  • If a woman chases her children out of the room when another woman calls, there is gossip in the air. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 27 February 1915, page 8
  • A good deal of conversation should be canned and the can thrown away. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 25 July 1915, page 67

Hankering for Happiness

  • Our idea of an unhappy man is a proud person with last year’s automobile. –Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida), 22 April 1915, page 6
  • Self-made men don’t always make themselves agreeable. –Greensboro Record (Greensboro, North Carolina), 6 August 1915, page 4
  • Were it not for clouds, people would be unable to appreciate sunshine. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 9 August 1915, page 4

ancestor's saying: "Were it not for clouds, people would be unable to appreciate sunshine."

  • Self-pity is what many people relish most. They delight to revel in imaginary grievances and to roll their wounded sensibilities about in a large ball. –Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida), 20 March 1915, page 6
  • Some people are never happy unless they are in a position to make others miserable. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 5 January 1915, page 12
  • Somehow intellect doesn’t seem to have much to do with happiness. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 15 February 1915, page 4

On Love, Courtship & Marriage

  • After a young man has called on a girl at least three nights in one week she imagines there is an odor of orange blossoms in the air. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 18 March 1915, page 10
  • Almost any young man will do anything a pretty sister asks – that is, if she happens to be some other fellow’s sister. –Rockford Republic (Rockford, Illinois), 11 February 1915, page 2
  • Every woman is a conundrum that keeps some men guessing. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 11 March 1915, page 12
  • Fewer marriages would be failures if love were blind only in one eye. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 18 March 1915, page 14
  • If love were contagious girls would work overtime trying to catch it. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 18 March 1915, page 10
  • It’s up to the lovesick youth to take his from a spoon. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 1 January 1915, page 14
  • Look not for peace in family jars. –Rockford Republic (Rockford, Illinois), 11 February 1915, page 2
  • The early maid catches the bridal train. –Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 2 January 1915, page 6
  • Women are so tender-hearted they will not even deliberately step on a mouse. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 31 January 1915, page 2

Money Matters

  • It’s a wise man to pick a fool whose money he can spend. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 13 December 1915, page 1
  • Poverty has its good points. A poor man never has the gout. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 19 February 1915, page 6
  • Poverty may pinch an honest man, but it never lands him in jail. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 7 January 1915, page 16
  • When a man offers you something for nothing, you will save money by going out of your way to avoid accepting it. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 11 March 1915, page 12

ancestor's saying: "When a man offers you something for nothing, you will save money by going out of your way to avoid accepting it."

  • The man who tells others how to make a fortune in a short time is seldom able to show a bank balance of more than three figures. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 3 March 1915, page 10
  • Those who offer bargains get rich quicker than those who seek them. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 5 January 1915, page 12
  • What the average woman thinks she would do if she had plenty of money is nothing in comparison to what she does do because she hasn’t got it. –Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 2 January 1915, page 6

Parental Insight

  • Of course it is all right to establish nurseries in the movie theaters. It is hard on a baby to stay at home by itself. –Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida), 22 April 1915, page 6
  • The sweet music that children make in a home has nothing to do with piano lessons. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 21 September 1915, page 4
  • The trouble with too many children is that the education of their parents has been neglected. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 13 December 1915, page 1

If you want to search for more ancestor sayings in old newspapers, try some of these keywords – and don’t forget to tell us in the comments section about some of the gems you find.

  • Gathered Jests
  • Good Advice
  • Pellets of Thoughts
  • Pointed Paragraphs
  • Tips from Texas
  • Waifs of Wisdom
  • Week’s Wit

Related Sayings Articles:

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Our Ancestors’ Age-Old Sayings from 100 Years Ago, Part I

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary presents some of the enlightening and entertaining sayings she found from 100 years ago while browsing through newspapers from the year 1915.

The allure of genealogy makes genealogists curious – or perhaps it is the desire to return to simpler days that keeps us avidly researching our family trees!

Whatever the reason, family historians love to read historical news accounts of the past – and one of the most enjoyable discoveries is reading the old sayings and quotes of our ancestors.

"Laughter is merely a smile set to music."

What were our ancestors reading about and saying 100 years ago? To find out, I explored the year 1915 in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives. What I found were hundreds of wonderful old sayings and good time-tested advice in the newspapers read by our ancestors.

Some of these old sayings were offered in jest. Some are inappropriate by today’s standards, but others we truly should revive. The following are all from 1915, a mere 100 years ago!

Enter Last Name

Good Advice

  • Blessed is he who keeps his troubles to himself. –Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 10 March 1915, page 6
  • Do not fail to exercise your influence if you would keep it good and strong. –Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida), 20 March 1915, page 6
  • Don’t expect two favors in return for one. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 18 March 1915, page 14
  • Don’t force your advice upon people whose friendship you care to retain. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 28 March 1915, page 27
  • Folly, as she flies, should be swatted. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 25 July 1915, page 67
  • Hot pokers and heated arguments should be quickly dropped. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 1 January 1915, page 14
  • If your friends annoy you, sick ’em on your enemies. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 25 July 1915, page 67

Keen Observations

  • A cozy corner is a handy place in which to sweep the dirt. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 18 March 1915, page 10
  • A few short weeks and the house cleaning microbe will get busy again. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 11 March 1915, page 12
  • Art is long, but spot cash is what the artist longs for. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 1 January 1915, page 14
  • By covering up their tracks some men get credit for walking in the straight and narrow path. –Rockford Republic (Rockford, Illinois), 11 February 1915, page 2
  • By the time the average man reaches the age of fifty he knows a lot of things he would like to get rid of at 99 percent less than cost. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 5 January 1915, page 2
  • Concealed knowledge is as useful as buried treasure. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 5 January 1915, page 12
  • For our part, we would rather get up in the world than go down in history. –Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida), 10 April 1915, page 8
  • Haste makes some people waste a lot of other people’s time. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 23 March 1915, page 11

"Haste makes some people waste a lot of other people's time."

  • Good luck is but another name for common sense. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 25 July 1915, page 67
  • If religions were good for the complexion men would seldom get their share of beauty. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 7 January 1915, page 16
  • If you are looking for trouble, probably you began by finding fault. –Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida), 29 May 1915, page 6
  • It’s a poor mirror that will not enable a man to see his best friend. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 3 January 1915, page 28
  • Maybe you also have met men who favor a safe and sane Fourth of July because it promises not to cost them anything. –Bridgeton Evening New (Bridgeton, New Jersey), 17 September 1915, page 5
  • Most of us are overloaded with good intentions. –Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida), 4 August 1915, page 6
  • People who are always saying “Listen!” never have anything of importance to say. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 27 November 1915, page 6

Genealogical Musings

  • Goodness is only a relative term – and one that is always on the tongue of relatives. –Bridgeton Evening News (Bridgeton, New Jersey), 17 September 1915, page 5
  • If you fuss about the weather it may be a sign that you are getting old. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 7 January 1915, page 16
  • Many a man charges his misdeeds up to his ancestors. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 22 April 1915, page 17

Gossiping Hurts

  • Gossip is a deadly gas that is often fatal to friendships. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 12 February 1915, page 2
  • Eliminate politics, religion and the weather and there wouldn’t be much to talk about. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 5 January 1915, page 2

Hankering for Happiness

  • Be satisfied with the best you can get. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 27 November 1915, page 6
  • Few people are wise enough to know that ignorance is bliss. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 11 March 1915, page 9
  • Bright people look upon the bright side of life. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 27 February 1915, page 8

"Bright people look upon the bright side of life."

  • Happy is the girl who thinks her father is the best man on earth. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 9 August 1915, page 4
  • Laughter is merely a smile set to music. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 5 January 1915, page 2
  • Many a man is unhappy only because he believes himself so. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 9 August 1915, page 4

On Love, Courtship & Marriage

  • A man can get his wife’s attention by talking in his sleep. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 14 October 1915, page 23
  • A woman is seldom as fussy with her children as she is with her husband. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 28 March 1915, page 27
  • A woman’s accounts on how she spent the “house money” are only equaled in inventive genius by a man’s accounts of how he spent his time. –Bridgeton Evening New (Bridgeton, New Jersey), 17 September 1915, page 5
  • Diamonds are trumps in the game of love. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 11 March 1915, page 12
  • A woman may not accept a proposal of marriage, but she always admires the good judgment of the man who made it. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 12 February 1915, page 2

"A woman may not accept a proposal of marriage, but she always admires the good judgment of the man who made it."

  • Falling in love is easy, but falling out again – aye, that’s what hurts. –Greensboro Record (Greensboro, North Carolina), 6 August 1915, page 4
  • It is easier to fall in love or into a river than it is to climb out. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 5 January 1915, page 2
  • True domestic happiness is founded on the rock of the cradle. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 5 January 1915, page 2
  • True love is always able to dispense with the valuable advice of outsiders. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 27 November 1915, page 6
  • What most married men would rejoice to see is a war tax on old bachelors. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 5 January 1915, page 2

Money Matters

  • A close friend is one who won’t lend you money. –Grand Forks Daily Herald (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 5 May 1915, page 3
  • A man would rather have fortune smile on him than give him the laugh. –Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 2 January 1915, page 6
  • And it’s surprising how many bargains we see in the shop windows when we are broke. –Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 1 January 1915, page 14
  • Fortune is said to knock at every man’s door, but it’s difficult to make a man believe it. –Cleburne Morning Review (Cleburne, Texas), 21 September 1915, page 4
  • He is a fortunate man who can catch up with his ambitions and his debts. –Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 28 January 1915, page 6
  • It’s a strong friendship that can stand a loan. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 11 March 1915, page 9

Parental Insight

  • A crying shame – the neighbor’s baby. –Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), 6 March 1915, page 10
cartoon about parenting, Times-Picayune newspaper cartoon 18 November 1915

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 18 November 1915, page 16

  • Before asking children questions in public, be sure of their answers. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 15 February 1915, page 4
  • Children need fewer critics and more good models. –Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 9 August 1915, page 4

If you want to search for more of these old sayings spoken by our wise ancestors in historical newspapers, try some of these keywords – and don’t forget to tell us in the comments section about some of the gems you find.

  • Gathered Jests
  • Good Advice
  • Pellets of Thoughts
  • Pointed Paragraphs
  • Tips from Texas
  • Waifs of Wisdom
  • Week’s Wit

Related Sayings Articles:

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Memorable Aging & Birthday Quotes from Famous People

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary shares some of the interesting and/or funny quotes about birthdays and aging that she found in old newspapers.

While researching birthdays and aging in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, I came across some delightful quotes from famous people. Some are modern, some are historical and others are just plain hysterical!

cartoon about birthdays, Omaha World-Herald newspaper cartoon 6 February 1898

Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 6 February 1898, section 3, page 23

Have fun using these quotes in blogs or while making “Happy Birthday” cards. If you have some of your own birthday quotes to share, please post them in the comments section of this blog.

Famous People Birthday & Gift Quotes

  • “I love a card. You know, cards? At birthdays? I collect them.” –Adele
  • “I binge when I’m happy. When everything is going really well, every day is like I’m at a birthday party.” –Kirstie Alley
  • “I like to go to anybody else’s birthday, and if I’m invited I’m a good guest. But I never celebrate my birthdays. I really don’t care.” –Mikhail Baryshnikov
  • “A friend never defends a husband who gets his wife an electric skillet for her birthday.” –Erma Bombeck
cartoon about birthday gifts, Plain Dealer newspaper cartoon 19 April 1896

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 19 April 1896, page 26

  • “There are 364 days when you might get unbirthday presents…and only one for birthday presents, you know.”–Lewis Carroll (AKA Charlie Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • “I don’t pay attention to the number of birthdays. It’s weird when I say I’m 53. It just is crazy that I’m 53. I think I’m very immature. I feel like a kid. That’s why my back goes out all the time, because I completely forget I can’t do certain things anymore – like doing the plank for 10 minutes.” –Ellen DeGeneres who was born 26 January 1958
  • “A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.” –Robert Frost
birthday cartoon, Omaha World-Herald birthday cartoon 20 April 1902

Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 20 April 1902, page 31

  • “In 1993 my birthday present was a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.” –Annette Funicello
  • “There is still no cure for the common birthday.” –John Glenn
  • “All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much.” –George Harrison
article about birthdays in Hollywood, Evening Star newspaper article 26 August 1934

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 26 August 1934, page 49

  • “Money is appropriate, and one size fits all.” –William Randolph Hearst on suggestions for gifts
  • “The way I see it, you should live every day like it’s your birthday.” –Paris Hilton
  • “You know you’re getting older when the candles cost more than the cake.” –Bob Hope
  • “Your children need your presence more than your presents.” –Jesse Jackson
  • “My biggest hero, Gregory Peck, was my birthday present on April 14, 1973. I just sat and stared at him.” –Loretta Lynn
  • “Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.” –Phylicia Rashad
  • “I’m not going to be caught around here for any fool celebration. To hell with birthdays!” –Norman Rockwell
  • “I wish people would stop talking about my birthday.” –George Bernard Shaw
article about birthdays, Evansville Courier and Press newspaper article 31 July 1938

Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, Indiana), 31 July 1938, page 18

  • “Love the giver more than the gift.” –Brigham Young
  • “I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “You know you’re getting old when you get that one candle on the cake. It’s like, ‘see if you can blow this out.’” –Jerry Seinfeld
  • “The last birthday that’s any good is 23.” –Andy Rooney
Enter Last Name

Famous People Quotes on Aging

  • “It’s sad to grow old, but nice to ripen.” –Brigitte Bardot
  • “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” –John Barrymore
  • “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be!” –Robert Browning
  • “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” –Truman Capote
  • “Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.” –Fred Astaire

quote about aging from Fred Astaire

  • “I can’t go back to yesterday – because I was a different person then.” –Lewis Carroll (AKA Charlie Lutwidge Dodgson) from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” –Maurice Chevalier
  • “We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” –Emily Dickinson
  • “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” –George Eliot
  • “I’ll keep singing ’till I die.” –Bing Crosby
quote about aging from Bing Crosby, Evening Star newspaper article 28 June 1933

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 28 June 1933, page 10

  • “All my possessions for one moment of time.” –Queen Elizabeth
  • “The years teach much which the days never knew.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “An old young man will be a young old man.” –Benjamin Franklin (AKA Poor Richard)
  • “At twenty years of age, the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment.” –Benjamin Franklin (AKA Poor Richard)
  • “Youth is pert and positive, Age modest and doubting; So ears of corn when young and bright, stand bold upright, But hang their heads when weighty, full and ripe.” –Benjamin Franklin (AKA Poor Richard)
article about Benjamin Franklin, Daily Inter Ocean newspaper article 20 October 1895

Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), 20 October 1895, page 25

  • “Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • “Old age is fifteen years older than I am.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • “Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle.” –Bob Hope
  • “Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.” –Victor Hugo
  • “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” –Abraham Lincoln
  • “Whatever poet, orator, or sage may say of it, old age is still old age.” –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • “The older you get the stronger the wind gets – and it’s always in your face.” –Jack Nicklaus
  • “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” –Satchel Paige
  • “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” –Satchel Paige
  • “It takes a long time to become young.” –Pablo Picasso
  • “I was forced to live far beyond my years when just a child, now I have reversed the order and I intend to remain young indefinitely.” –Mary Pickford
  • “Youth is just wasted on young people.” –George Bernard Shaw
  • “To me, fair friend, you never can be old, For as you were when first your eye I eye’d, Such seems your beauty still.” –William Shakespeare
  • “In childhood be modest, in youth temperate, in manhood just, in old age prudent.” –Socrates
article about Socrates, Camden Mail and General Advertiser newspaper article 21 May 1834

Camden Mail and General Advertiser (Camden, New Jersey), 21 May 1834, page 4

  • “May you live all the days of your life.” –Jonathan Swift
  • “Too bad that youth is wasted on the young.” –Mark Twain.
  • “The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy without the chance; the last half consists of the chance without the capacity.” –Mark Twain
  • “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” –Mae West
  • “Those whom the gods love grow young.” –Oscar Wilde
  • “My happiest memory of childhood was my first birthday in reform school. This teacher took an interest in me. In fact, he gave me the first birthday presents I ever got: a box of Cracker Jacks and a can of ABC shoe polish.” –Flip Wilson
  • “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” –Oprah Winfrey
  • “From our birthday, until we die, is but the winking of an eye.” –William Butler Yeats

Memorable Songs & Books

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

–Bob Dylan from the song “May You Stay Forever Young”

They say it’s your birthday
It’s my birthday too, yeah
They say it’s your birthday
We’re gonna have a good time
I’m glad it’s your birthday
Happy birthday to you

–John Lennon & Paul McCartney from the song “Birthday”

Time is on my side, yes it is
Time is on my side, yes it is

–Jerry Ragovoy (AKA Jimmy Norman) from the Rolling Stones’ song “Time Is on My Side”

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

–Dr. Seuss (AKA Theodor Seuss Geisel) from the book “Happy Birthday to You!”

Related Articles:

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Tips for Researching Birthdays & Birthday Notices in Newspapers

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary finds birthday articles and notices in old newspapers to show how they can help with your family history research.

I suppose there are people who don’t celebrate birthdays, but they’re hard to find. Who wouldn’t want to partake in this annual celebration of life?

The Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson was the exception. In 1900, he bequeathed his birthday to Adelaide Ide, a little girl who had “carelessly” been born on Leap Day (29th February). Many accounts claim that she had been born on Christmas Day, but one of the wonderful things about historical newspaper articles is that they correct mistakes like this.

Not wishing for Adelaide to be cheated out of birthdays every three years out of four, Stevenson wrote:

I, Robert Louis Stevenson, in a sound state of mind and body, having arrived at an age when I no longer have any use for birthdays, do give and bequeath my birthday, on the 13th of November, to Miss Adelaide Ide, to be hers from this year as long as she wishes it. Robert Louis Stevenson.

article about Robert Louis Stevenson, Daily Illinois State Register newspaper article 3 June 1900

Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield, Illinois), 3 June 1900, page 10

What a delightful birthday idea!

Genealogical Stories in Newspaper Birthday Notices

Newspaper articles round out our genealogical stories, so use them lavishly to learn how family celebrated festive affairs such as birthdays. Many articles, such as this one from 1895, suggest hints for planning a child’s big day.

article about birthday cakes, Evening Star newspaper article 2 February 1895

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 2 February 1895, page 12

This next newspaper article, from 1892, reminds us that high teas were in favor – but it also demonstrates that many birthday customs have not changed. As is practiced today, the child’s name was written in frosting on the birthday cake, which was decorated with candles to match her age plus one to grow on.

article about birthday cakes and parties, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 6 November 1892

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 6 November 1892, page 13

Life Milestones

Birthday articles with the most impressive genealogical data spotlight celebrants who attain impressive milestones, such as this 1894 newspaper article reporting on the 105th birthday of Hannah Chard. This article notes where she was born, her birth date, her maiden name and some of her progeny. Facts and narratives are reported, such as how she gathered cannonballs at the Revolutionary War battlefield in Pennsylvania from the Battle of Brandywine.

birthday notice for Hannah Chard, New York Herald newspaper article 14 April 1894

New York Herald (New York, New York), 14 April 1894, page 14

This 1800s newspaper article alludes to several timelines in Hannah’s life. Although she was of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, Hannah came to live with a Quaker family around the age of five after her father passed away, and her husband’s death is reported as occurring 12 years earlier. If you were searching for pertinent dates, an old news article like this provides important leads.

We also learn that Hannah enjoyed exceptional health at the age of 105, despite taking great comfort in smoking a clay pipe four times a day!

An interesting genealogy aside: I have an ancestor who also found cannonballs at the Battle of Brandywine battlefield.

photo of a cannonball from the Battle of the Brandywine found by Mary Harrell-Sesniak's ancestor, Edith Scott

Photo: cannonball from the Battle of the Brandywine found by the author’s ancestor, Edith Scott. Credit: Mary Harrell-Sesniak.

Surprise Birthday Parties

Surprise birthday parties frequently make the news, and those newspaper articles can identify family relationships helpful to your family history research, or sometimes describe gifts that may have become family heirlooms.

Enter Last Name

This 1880 newspaper article does both, noting three generations of family in attendance and a special chair.

Mrs. Evelene Laverty turned 75 in 1880, and she was kept out of the house before being surprised by her son-in-law with upwards of thirty relatives and friends at her surprise birthday party. Two of the people attending were her brother and sister-in-law, the Darlings, a useful tidbit when searching for maiden names. Their daughter, Mrs. R. C. Dart, was also present.

birthday notice for Eveline Laverty, Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper article 3 January 1880

Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, Michigan), 3 January 1880, page 5

Surprise birthday parties are not always given by family members.

In this 1883 newspaper article, we learn about E. B. Myers, a school teacher at Elkhart, Indiana. When his students realized it was his birthday, they surprised him with a pair of elegant slippers and a lovely note:

Mr. Myers will please accept the accompanying gift as a token of the high esteem and regard of his pupils.

birthday notice for E. B. Myers, Elkhart Daily Review newspaper article 15 March 1883

Elkhart Daily Review (Elkhart, Indiana), 15 March 1883, page 3

Genealogy Tips for Researching Birthdays in the News

To recap, newspaper birthday notices may contain:

  • addresses (home & location of the party)
  • attire worn and decorations
  • dates (birthday & date of the festivity)
  • food, refreshments, activities & the entertainment
  • birthday gifts & presents
  • guest lists, family members & their relationships
  • photographs
  • Cross-reference birthday notices with birth and vital records, to see if someone fudged on an age
  • Cross-reference names to see how they are related
  • Search other years for similar announcements
  • Search for nicknames, particularly in classified advertisements

Foreign Birthday Terms

If an ancestor was an immigrant or child of an immigrant, search by foreign language birthday keywords. Remember that although different countries may share a language, the term in one location may vary from another. Here are some examples:

  • Dutch: verjaardag
  • French : anniversaire, fête, la jour de naissance
  • German: geburtstag
  • Irish: lá breithe
  • Spanish: ¡feliz cumpleaños!

Fun Genealogy Activity

If you’re working on your family genealogy or planning a summer reunion, search old newspaper headlines for memorable events that occurred on the day someone was born, or on a milestone birthday. You never know what interesting facts you might discover about their date of birth.

If you’ve found an unusual birthday notice doing your newspaper research, please share it with us in the comments.

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Mary’s Musings: Humorous Observations about Excited Genealogists

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary shares some of her humorous musings on how excited genealogists get about genealogy.

As we head into summer, I’d like to share some of my genealogy funnies to brighten your day (or night).

As fellow genealogists you know how excited we get doing genealogy, so perhaps you will relate to these humorous musings. If you think of more, please let me know – as one thing I’ve learned about family historians, we all love a good laugh!

Genealogists get so excited…

  • at counting ancestors, I’m surprised they get any sleep at all! (Certainly more fun than counting sheep in your sleep.)
  • at discovering birth records, I’m surprised they don’t throw baby showers for their ancestors!
  • at discovering black sheep ancestors, I’m surprised they don’t consider if they are the same for their generation!
  • at displaying genealogy, I’m surprised to see households with modern décor!
  • at finding family Bible records, I’m surprised they don’t recreate the missing ones.

Genealogy Saying: Genealogists get so excited •	at finding family Bible records, I’m surprised they don’t recreate the missing ones.

  • at finding mistakes in online trees, I’m surprised they don’t charge offenders with a crime. (“Fraudulent trees will be sent to the genealogy police!”)
  • at learning old medical terms, I’m surprised they don’t report them during medical appointments. (“Hey Doc, can you please prescribe something for my bone shave, dropsy and podagra?”)
  • at meeting new folks, I’m surprised they don’t introduce their children as descendants and their parents as ancestors.
  • at meeting new grandchildren, I’m surprised they don’t present baby blankets decorated with family trees.
  • at navigating old maps, I’m surprised their glove compartments have room for modern ones.
  • at noting family resemblances, I’m surprised there aren’t photo collages showing all of the connections. (“Do you see that Susie has 2nd Great Grandmother’s nose, Johnny has his Grandpa’s eyes and Little Arthur has elongated hands like 3rd Great Grandpa’s?”)
  • at organizing family reunions, I’m surprised they have time to get to know their neighbors!
  • at passing on heirlooms, I’m surprised their children receive modern gifts! (“Oh gee thanks Grandma. I love this old wooden train better than that video game I’ve had my eye on!”)
  • at pinning on Pinterest, I’m surprised when they create boards on other subjects!

graphic showing various genealogy-related Pinterest boards

  • at breaking through brick walls, I’m surprised there isn’t a lineage society for high achievers. (Suggestion: Solver of the 10-Ancestor Brick Wall Society.)
  • at proving dead-ends, I’m surprised they don’t throw a party to celebrate! (“Please attend a party on the 15th in honor of solving my 35th dead-end!”)
  • at proving vital records, I’m surprised they don’t throw birthday parties for their ancestors!
  • at putting together the pieces of the ancestral puzzle, I’m surprised they ever see daylight!
  • at querying databases, I’m surprised genealogy sites don’t crash on a regular basis.
  • at reading ancestral diaries, I’m surprised they don’t conjure up better details for the duller ones!
  • at reading blogs, I’m surprised they don’t petition school boards to add them to required curriculum!
  • at reading early documents, I’m surprised we don’t all speak in Old English.
  • at reading obituaries, I’m surprised family historians don’t write their own!
  • at reading old newspapers, I’m surprised someone hasn’t started a daily subscription of old news!
  • Enter Last Name

  • at reading wills, I’m surprised more don’t address genealogy records in their own will. (“Item one: I leave all of my worldly possessions to the person who promises to preserve the family genealogy!”)
  • at recording ancestral birthdays, I’m surprised they celebrate their own!
  • at remembering ancestral data, I’m surprised they can remember anything else at all!
  • at researching the family tree, I’m surprised their smart phones have apps for other purposes.
  • at saving genealogical finds, I’m surprised their hard drives aren’t totally full!
  • at seeing family photographs, I’m surprised there isn’t a national genealogists’ photo club.
  • at studying DNA, I’m surprised that little ID card in their wallets doesn’t have results recorded on it!

humorous graphic showing a "genealogist's ID card"

  • at studying DNA, I’m surprised they don’t have a genetic test run on every new family member!
  • at taking tombstone photos, I’m surprised they don’t take selfies more in front of them.
  • at tracing lineages, I’m surprised they raise anything but pedigreed pets!
  • at tracking down people, I’m surprised they aren’t all working as private investigators!
  • at traveling to family homesteads, I’m surprised their family members ever get to visit fun places like the beach!

humorous photo showing a genealogist's "happy husband"

  • at visiting cemeteries, I’m surprised most don’t have a personal cemetery in their backyard!
  • at visiting family sites, I’m surprised to hear the GPS has room for other trip destinations!
  • at visiting cemetery graveyards, I’m surprised they don’t all plan their funerals in advance.
  • at visiting libraries, I’m surprised they don’t attend self-help groups when the libraries are closed.
  • at working on their family trees, I’m surprised there’s room to sit at their tables for a meal.
  • at writing genealogy blogs, I’m surprised they take time out for eating & drinking!
  • upon finding military records, I’m surprised more genealogists are not re-enactors!
  • upon finding old family homesteads, I’m surprised they haven’t purchased more of them.
  • upon finding reprobate ancestors, I’m surprised when genealogists don’t have a “Wall of Shame” on their Facebook pages! [“Who are you? Why can’t I find you? You know if you hide, I’ll find you! Ancestors wanted Dead or Alive!”]
  • upon finding tombstones, I’m surprised they don’t have a wall in their home of cemetery photographs!
  • upon trying old recipes, I’m surprised their kitchens aren’t full of antique cookware!
  • when bragging about genealogy, I’m surprised genealogists don’t pull ancestral photos out of wallets! (“If you think your kid is special, take a look at my Great Great Grandparents’ offspring!”)
  • when finding new cousins, I’m surprised there’s anyone else in their address books!
  • when they can’t solve genealogical brick walls, I’m surprised they don’t consult psychics!
  • when they solve brick walls, I’m surprised doctors don’t prescribe genealogy as a cure for depression!

humorous cartoon showing a happy genealogist ready to travel

  • when traveling for genealogical purposes, I’m surprised the gadgets leave any room for clothing. (“Packing list: camera, computer, files, flashdrive & backup drive, GPS, maps, notebook, scanner, smart phone loaded with apps, tablet & clothing – Oops, no room!”)

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Researching Kids with Vintage Newspaper Ads of 100 Years Ago

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary shows how historical newspaper advertisements offer a fascinating insight into the stories of our ancestors’ lives – such as these old ads concerning children.

If you’re like most genealogists, you thrive by living vicariously through the lives of ancestors.

montage of ancestor photos with the caption: "Genealogists thrive on living vicariously through the lives of their ancestors."

We amass hordes of vital statistics on our ancestors – and then we look for detailed data about what happened in their lives. Who were their relatives, what did they do for a living, where did they live, when did all of this happen and why did they do what they did?

And for some of our ancestors, historical newspaper advertisements offer a fascinating insight into the personal stories of their lives.

Take, for instance, children.

Ads for Children

As every parent knows, we do our best to provide for our children – so it should come as no surprise to find old newspapers advertisements that are targeted toward children’s well-being. From schools to medical treatments, there is a wealth of information to be gleaned about what life was like back in their times.

Early American Schools

According to an article on the History of Public Schools at Wikipedia, by 1918 every U.S. state required students to complete elementary school. So what were parents to do if they wanted to arrange for more education beyond that level?

They turned to tutors and private educational institutions, such as the many featured in these 1915 Pennsylvania newspaper advertisements.

ads for schools and colleges, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper advertisements 11 September 1915

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 11 September 1915, page 5

Of course, not every advertisement was for a traditional school, and not every ad was for children.

ad for the International School of Photo-Play Training, Oregonian newspaper advertisement 9 April 1915

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 9 April 1915, page 2

At the International School of Photo-Play Training in Portland, Oregon, you could learn movie acting. The allure of high salaries, such as Mary Pickford’s $2,000 a week or Charlie Chaplin’s $1,250 weekly pay, was a strong draw.

Mary Pickford was a huge star in 1915.

photo of Mary Pickford, Tulsa World newspaper article 7 February 1915

Tulsa World (Tulsa, Oklahoma), 7 February 1915, page 8

Juvenile Apparel (Clothing)

What would you guess your ancestors paid for their children’s clothing?

Enter Last Name

I’m not certain what the average national salary was a hundred years ago. The Social Security Administration maintains a chart of average salaries in the U.S., starting in 1951 (when it was $2,799.16), so it couldn’t have been much back in 1915 (see http://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/AWI.html).

So in 1915 newspaper advertisements, when you see prices for juvenile apparel starting at a few dollars per item, that was considered expensive by many people. Note the Saturday specials for Joel Gutman & Company of Baltimore, Maryland, in the ad below:

  • Boys’ and girls’ footwear was on sale for $1.90, with high and lace shoes selling for $2.15
  • Boys’ suits were priced from $7.50 to $8.50, and overcoats from $10.00 to $13.00
  • Girls’ cloth dresses ranged from $1.67 to $2.85
  • Girls’ coats from $5.97 to $8.37
ad for children's clothing from Joel Gutman and Company, Sun newspaper advertisement 9 January 1915

Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 9 January 1915, page 4

Medicine and Quackery

If you want to have a good laugh – or can handle being shocked at what happened in the past – take a look at the medical treatments available to our ancestors. Many of the medical treatments of yesteryear, such as the opiate paregoric (powdered opium), promised to cure everything from diarrhea to colic (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paregoric).

As seen in the ad below for castoria (castor oil) warning parents “Don’t Poison Baby,” the dangers of paregoric were known 100 years ago. Surprisingly, you could purchase it without a subscription until 1970, so it ended up in many household medicine cabinets.

ad for castoria (castor oil), Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper advertisement 7 July 1915

Colorado Springs Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado), 7 July 1915, page 5

If your children were “vertically challenged,” parents could arrange for magnetic wave treatments.

Dr. Charles I. White, who (in my humble opinion) should be added to the many lists of quack doctors, promised to double the growth of children by electrical treatment. Let’s hope none of your family was drawn in by the spurious medical advertisement shown below.

ad for the "magnetic wave" medical device, Riverside Independent Enterprise newspaper advertisement 16 January 1915

Riverside Independent Enterprise (Riverside, California), 16 January 1915, page 3

Delve into historical newspaper classified ads and let us know if you find information that helped with your family history research.

Related Vintage Advertisement Articles:

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How to Search Graduation Announcements in Newspapers

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary shows how graduation announcements in old newspapers are a good resource for your family history research.

It’s that time of year, when graduation ceremonies abound – but I’d wager to say that few genealogists have thought to search old newspapers for their ancestors’ graduation announcements.

But genealogists really should, because the graduation articles and photos found in historical newspapers are wonderful – and may tell you something about your ancestors you never knew.

Graduation Photographs & Illustrations

Many early graduation announcements include just a few details, but starting around 1899 coverage expanded with photographs, some depicting historical events.

For example, when President McKinley attended Smith College’s Commencement Exercises in 1899, it was national news. This spread from a Massachusetts newspaper includes photos of the presidential party, female graduates in their finery, and a picture of two presidents: U.S. President William McKinley and Smith College President Laurenus Clark Seelye.

photos of President McKinley attending Smith College’s commencement exercises, Boston Journal newspaper article 25 June 1899

Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 June 1899, page 3

Many newspaper graduation articles include pictures of the individual graduates, like the following article from an Oregon newspaper. Although small (only three students!), the first graduating class of Goldendale Washington’s Klickitat Academy had their pictures and class rankings published: Miss Mabel E. White, Salutatorian; Edgar Clarence Ward, Composition Graduate; and Miss Beulah B. Morris, Valedictorian.

First Graduates of Klickitat Academy, Oregonian newspaper article 1 July 1899

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 1 July 1899, page 6

Today, medal and prize-winning graduates are honored in the newspaper – and it was no different over 100 years ago.

William Jennings Bryan, a well-known politician and candidate for U.S. president, was the benefactor of several colleges – who bestowed awards in his honor. Some of the William Jennings Bryan Medals were for political science or other subjects, such as this journalism medal established in 1898.

article about the William Jennings Bryan Medal, Cincinnati Post newspaper article 25 February 1898

Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, Ohio), 25 February 1898, page 3

E. P. Camron, Jr., was the 1900 recipient of the William Jennings Bryan Medal at Missouri State University.

article about E. P. Camron, Jr., being awarded the William Jennings Bryan Medal, St. Louis Republic newspaper article 1 June 1900

St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, Missouri), 1 June 1900, page 6

Lists of Graduates

Search old newspapers for lists of graduates – and not just for high schools and colleges. You might uncover elementary school commencements as well, such as this one from Grand Forks, North Dakota. In 1911, every eighth grade graduate in the city schools was listed in this North Dakota newspaper article – all 129 of them.

Graduates from Eighth Grades, Grand Forks Daily Herald newspaper articles 20 June 1911

Grand Forks Daily Herald (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 20 June 1911, page 8

Honors Such as “Most Likely to Succeed”

You may be surprised to learn that those charming “Most likely to succeed” and other titles bestowed upon the senior class were invented long ago. For example, notice some of the honors bestowed on the Yale College Seniors in 1907:

  • Most likely to succeed in life: Edward H. Hart of Brooklyn
  • Greatest grind: Charles Pomeroy Otis of Andover, Massachusetts
  • Most popular member: Captain Samuel Morse of the football eleven
  • Nerviest and windiest: George Harold Wiess of Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania
  • Most scholarly: L. A. Doherty of Murray, Idaho
  • All around athlete & member who has done the most for Yale: William F. Knox
  • Best natured: Harold Sherman Wells of Scranton
  • Best dressed: Theodore Ives Driggs of Waterbury
  • Wittiest: Jeremiah H. Jones of Haverhill
Yale Seniors' Qualities, Hemet News newspaper article 5 July 1907

Hemet News (Hemet, California), 5 July 1907, page 3

Searching for Graduation Announcements in Old Newspapers

Add graduation announcements to your search list of newspaper article types: perhaps you’ll find an honor bestowed upon your ancestor.

Enter Last Name

However, as with any genealogical search, include appropriate keywords in graduation searches. Terms change over time. For instance, the “annual” is what we now think of as a yearbook, such as this annual published by the senior class that is described in this Indiana newspaper article.

article about the local high school's yearbook, Fort Wayne News Sentinel newspaper article 7 June 1921

Fort Wayne News Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana), 7 June 1921, page 13

Suggested Graduation Search Keywords

Searching on these keywords may help you find graduation announcements about your ancestors:

  • alumna, alumnus, alumni
  • grad, graduate, graduand, graduation
  • commencement, exercise, ceremony
  • candidate, senior, students, pupils
  • certificate, diploma, degree, sheepskin, cap and gown
  • award, medal, honors, accolade, laurels
  • Baccalaureate, Valedictorian, Salutatorian, Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude
  • annual, yearbook
  • “most likely to succeed”

Graduation Announcements in Other Collections

Have fun looking for graduation announcements and don’t forget that they can be found in collections other than Historical Newspaper Archives. For example, be sure to look for graduation ephemera in GenealogyBank’s Historical Books collection. There are a number of commencement programs, such as this 1874 one from Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati, just waiting to be found.

photo of the 1874 commencement program for Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati

Good luck with your graduation article searches; perhaps you’ll earn this honor:

graphic for "the Diligent Genealogist"

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Passing on Family Heirlooms

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary gives practical tips on how to document and preserve your precious family heirlooms.

Passing on cherished heirlooms is a time-honored tradition – one that predates all of us for as long as history has been recorded. Your belongings may become the heirlooms of tomorrow, but only if you take care of them.

Unfortunately, many family heirlooms become lost through the ages, mostly due to:

  • lack of proper care
  • exposure to harmful substances and environments
  • incomplete provenance
  • overlooking the need for the provenance
  • providing only an oral, not a written history

My Family Heirloom: Box of Lace & Handicrafts

A good example of a family heirloom is a box of lace and handicrafts handed down in my family. The box is full of charming little handicrafts which I adore – and luckily for me, the items have been well preserved.

photo of the contents of a family heirloom box

Photo: contents of the family heirloom box. Credit: from the author’s photo collection.

This vintage heirloom box contains dozens of small treasures, some even with the original price tag. The bundle of dainty lace at the top of the photo has a tag reporting six yards that cost $3.50 from McCutcheon’s of New York. Some of the frilly handicrafts in the box were handmade. There are two crazy quilt blocks consistent with a larger quilt made by my 2nd great grandmother and other garment parts – some partially completed, and others which appear to have been removed from existing clothing. Then there is a lovely little unsigned note which reads:

I bought this Maltese lace in Australia 1900.

When you read a note like this from one of your ancestors, you immediately long for more details.

Luckily I recognized the handwriting, and from other family documents determined which ancestors sailed to Australia in 1900. It was my maternal great grandparents – and fortunately for us, there are several heirlooms and stories connected to their trip.

Enter Last Name

Research Your Heirloom in Old Newspapers

I was intrigued about the note, but didn’t know which object in the box was the “Maltese lace.” So I turned to the old newspaper archives to do further research.

A query of Genealogy Bank’s Historical Newspaper Archives showed that by 1904, this type of adornment had reached the height of popularity. For example, this 1904 newspaper fashion article features a photo of a stylish silk suit. The woman’s garment is decorated with “a narrow edging of gray Maltese lace defining the yoke.”

fashion article about Maltese lace, Omaha World Herald newspaper article 19 June 1904

Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 19 June 1904, page 18

I found a good description of Maltese lace in another 1904 newspaper article:

Maltese lace is finely wrought, but very open in pattern, so that the decorative design stands boldly, if delicately, out from a background of fairy-like stitches in an open mesh. Made of the finest of silk threads, it has a creamy glow about it that is exceedingly becoming to the face, and it is peculiarly harmonious when worn with silk and velvet.

article about Maltese lace, Evening Star newspaper article 2 January 1904

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 2 January 1904, page 20

With these clues, the choice of which object in the box is the Maltese lace became obvious. I just looked for something with fairy-like stitching that might also be a scarf or mantilla. Although this picture doesn’t do it justice, I believe this is it.

photo of Maltese lace

Photo: Maltese lace from the family heirloom box. Credit: from the author’s photo collection.

Research Tip: While newspapers are a great resource to research your ancestors directly (their stories as well as their vital statistics), newspapers can also be used to research other aspects of their lives (such as their personal items, their communities, and the times they lived in).

Enhancing the Provenance of Family Heirlooms

Appraisers advise that provenance (establishing the origin of an object, and its past owners) adds value to an antique or heirloom, and a large component of this is writing down the object’s history.

So don’t make the mistake made by many families – if you know the heirloom’s story, don’t just tell it, write it down! Document the heirloom’s time period and ownership, and list yourself as the recorder. Add a note in your own handwriting – or if typed, include an original signature. Here are some suggestions for documenting your heirloom:

  • This (description of the item) was given to me (your name) on or about (date) by (name), who was my (relationship).
  • I was told by (name) that this heirloom was made by (name).
  • This heirloom was passed down through the (maternal or paternal) side of my family and given to me on (special occasion).
  • This heirloom did not pass through the family. I found it at an antique shop in (place) around (year). I love it because (description).
  • This note is believed to have been written by (name) of (location), as the writing is similar to a (letter, will, etc.) written on (date).

Don’t forget that you are part of the provenance. My heirloom lace in the box now has a second note:

This piece of Maltese lace was identified by Mary Harrell-Sesniak, in February of 2015.

Care and Handling of Family Heirlooms

Don’t neglect to learn about the proper care of your family heirloom. If something has broken, make sure modern materials won’t harm it before attempting a repair. Get an expert to fix it, or learn how to use traditional materials for your own repair.

As my family learned with an early American antique chest, it is better to use a traditional, natural glue than more modern products that might contain acid or wood-destroying chemicals.

Enter Last Name

Library of Congress Has Heirloom Preservation Tips

The Library of Congress is the keeper of many of our country’s treasures. As such, they have accumulated much expertise, and have created numerous guides about preservation of works of art, documents, and other objects that might be in your family heirloom collection. Many heirloom preservation tips are found in the Collections Care section of their website.

Here you will learn about determining the material and condition of your heirloom. The material it is made from will determine much of its care. There are different guidelines for different materials, whether they are artwork, paper, textiles, photographs, metal, wood, ceramics or other fine materials.

In general terms, however, there are a few universal guidelines: avoid

  • uneven temperatures
  • materials with acid
  • handling without gloves (your fingers can damage items)
  • light

As the Library of Congress notes in their guide Why should you care about light damage:

Light causes permanent and irreversible damage that affects the chemical composition, physical structure, and, what is usually most obvious, the appearance of the collection item… There are no conservation treatments that can undo light damage.

Expert Advice for Documenting & Preserving Your Family Heirlooms

In addition to the ideas in this Blog article about documenting and preserving your heirloom, be sure to network with experts for further advice – and never underestimate the power of social media. Look for special pages on Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ about family heirlooms. You’ll often encounter an expert commenting on the same social media pages you frequent.

Sources for additional heirloom advice:

  • antique experts
  • appraisers
  • curators
  • fine auction houses
  • historical societies
  • reference guides
  • social media groups

I’ll conclude with this photo of a very fine collection of silverware:

photo of silverware

Photo: silverware. Source: Library of Congress.

Tell us about your own family heirlooms in the comments section, especially any advice you have about documenting and preserving your cherished items.

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Quilting & Genealogy: Treasured Family Heirlooms

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary writes about a family treasure of particular interest to genealogists: heirloom quilts.

Heirloom quilts and coverlets are comfort for the soul. They tell many a tale of family history, so it comes as no surprise that genealogists and quilting go hand in hand.

Perhaps an heirloom quilt has passed down through your family, as some have in mine.

Emalena’s Quilt

One such quilt in my home was made by Emalena, our family baby sitter.

She was a single woman who remained single until late in life. She treated us like her own children, and gave us many of her beautiful quilts. This one, fashioned in the traditional wedding ring pattern, became a present for my parents.

photo of a family quilt from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

Photo: family quilt from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

One has to assume she made a quilt for the kind widower she married. Perhaps one of her quilts “sealed the deal” with the marriage proposal. We certainly hope so!

Jacquard Coverlets

Two family treasures that came through my family were matching Jacquard coverlets.

Notice that this one, which belongs to my aunt, has the name Sophronia W. Seymour inscribed on it, along with the year 1834. Sophronia was my second great grandmother, and in 1834 would have been 20. Perhaps it was part of her trousseau, an old tradition in which items were collected for a girl to take into her marriage.

photo of a family coverlet from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

Photo: family coverlet from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

For many years, I thought that a family member had been a talented weaver – but now I know from historical research that this was probably not the case. Around 1820, a special loom was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard which truly revolutionized the world of weaving.

article about the Jacquard loom, Evening Post newspaper article 29 October 1833

Evening Post (New York, New York), 29 October 1833, page 2

As Jacquard’s loom was programmable, it was much like an early computer. Intricate fabric patterns were made much quicker than before, and often in a double weave motif. The coverlet above, and another matching eagle and heart patterned example that also came through the family, are black on white on one side, and white on black on the other.

Not every quilt or coverlet contains names and dates – but when they do, they are wonderful genealogical gems (click this link for examples.)

Jacquard died in 1834, and it is a shame that so many people today do not realize the impact his loom had on the world.

obituary for Joseph Jacquard, Daily Atlas newspaper article 29 October 1834

Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), 29 October 1834, page 2

Textile Research

Newspapers offer a fine opportunity to research heirloom quilts and coverlets. Many of the newspaper articles are rich with detail. Not only can they help you date your treasures, but you can even find patterns to help you make your own family heirlooms.

One of the earliest newspaper reports that I could find regarding a quilt dates to 1752.

Margaret Rogers, a young girl apprenticed to Alice Dodd of Philadelphia, ran away. The runaway ad detailed Margaret’s garments, along with a light blue homespun quilt that she took with her.

runaway ad for apprentice Margaret Rogers, Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper article 12 October 1752

Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 12 October 1752, page 7

Looking through 19th century newspapers you’ll find various quilting and sewing advertisements, some even detailing the machines our ancestors used.

ad for sewing machines, New Orleans Tribune newspaper advertisement 23 October 1866

New Orleans Tribune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 23 October 1866, page 3

By the 20th century, quilting had become all the rage. Quilting patterns appeared in newspaper articles, including this pretty Star Center Quilt block “stolen” from a neighbor’s laundry line. News articles frequently detailed color patterns and tips to assemble the quilts. For this one, red, white and blue were suggested:

Any house w[h]ere there are many children would be apt to furnish easily the blues and whites, and even if the red had to be bought for the purpose the cost would be very slight.

quilt block pattern for the Star Center Quilt, Broad Ax newspaper article 18 July 1903

Broad Ax (Chicago, Illinois), 18 July 1903, page 3

A favorite of modern quilters are patterns, of which there is no shortage in newspapers. Many of the famous Laura Wheeler designs were published, including this basket applique quilt design from 1936.

quilt patterns by Laura Wheeler, Heraldo de Brownsville newspaper article 15 January 1936

Heraldo de Brownsville (Brownsville, Texas), 15 January 1936, page 3

This 1937 newspaper article detailed the activities of Miss Minnie Eldridge, a home demonstration agent from Texas. She educated various Louisiana farm women on how to fashion quilts and taught them about the flower pot pattern fashionable among the mountaineers of Tennessee.

article about quilting, State Times Advocate newspaper article 11 August 1937

State Times Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 11 August 1937, page 13

Quilting is no lost art in Louisiana, not even a decadent one, if the enthusiasm and interest registered by hundreds of farm women at a quilting lecture Wednesday morning may serve as a basis for determining the quilting status in the state.

Other Resources for Quilting Examples

Don’t forget to explore social media, and in particular Pinterest, for quilting examples. A favorite of mine is the Library of Congress, where I found this lovely picture of quilters in Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

photo of Jorena Pettway sewing a quilt, Gees Bend, Alabama, c. 1937

Photo: sewing a quilt, Gees Bend, Alabama, c. 1937. Shown are an unidentified girl, Jennie Pettway, and quilter Jorena Pettway. Credit: Arthur Rothstein; Library of Congress.

Hope this inspires you to research your textiles, quilts and coverlets in newspapers. Be sure to share your finds in the comments.

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7 Tips on How to Find Elusive Ancestors in Newspapers

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary provides seven practical tips for searching hard-to-find ancestors in old newspapers.

While reading my mother’s Book of Ancestors recently I noticed she had little to say about one of our ancestors, because that person had kept himself out of the public records.

Forebears who didn’t hold public office, own property, or were married in churches or synagogues with lost or private records, are difficult to document. These elusive ancestors can also be difficult to find in historical newspapers, but sometimes they can be found in creative ways. This article gives seven search tips to help find those tricky ancestors in old newspapers.

illustration of Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass

1) Pay Attention to “Please Copy” Notices

When something noteworthy occurs such as a birth or death, news is first printed locally.

If that person has ties to other areas, then other newspapers may carry the story. Newspapers may do this either on their own accord, or at the request of the original publisher. What you want to watch out for is a “please copy” notice, which can be a valuable clue that your ancestor had ties to another part of the country where you might find additional articles or records about him or her.

In the newspaper article below from New Orleans, Louisiana, we see many examples of “please copy” notices.

  • Jesse Sands, formerly of Pittsburg, and his wife Jessie M. Olmsted, passed away within two days of each other. The end of their death notice says: “Newburg, N.Y. and Pittsburg, Pa. papers please copy.” So for these two ancestors, you want to include New Orleans, Newburg and Pittsburgh in your searches.
  • J. West Murphy died in Louisiana, but was described as “late of Philadelphia.” The end of his death notice says: “Philadelphia papers please copy.”
  • The end of Virginia B. Harrison’s death notice says: “Philadelphia and Cincinnati papers please copy.”
  • The end of John Gunderman’s death notice says: “St. Louis papers please copy.”

Because these death notices were originally published in a New Orleans newspaper, you want to search that area for more news about your ancestor. But thanks to these “please copy” notices, you are given additional locations for further searching.

death notices, Times-Picayune newspaper article 23 August 1853

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 23 August 1853, page 2

2) Know Your Resource: Understanding the Differences between Small Town & Metropolitan Newspapers

Depending upon the population of a town or city, news will vary. Reasons include:

  • Unless a person was well known, there may be inadequate space to present long articles in newspapers from areas of high population.
  • In smaller towns this is not the same issue, so there is a tendency toward longer descriptions of events such as weddings and arrests.
  • In smaller towns, you may also see more “gossipy” news.
  • If a lengthy feature was carried in a hometown paper, another may feel it only deserves minimal coverage, or the opposite may be true. Minimal coverage in one newspaper may result in extended details in another.
  • Some publishers may wish to sensationalize or downplay news. Once while researching a hometown newspaper, I found that a neighboring town paper was happy to publish the lurid details of a person’s arrest. It was not published in his hometown newspaper, perhaps to protect the family.
Enter Last Name

3) Name Variations

People are usually known by a variety of monikers, both formal and informal. Keep in mind that this is the rule, rather than the exception, so don’t ever limit searches to just one version of a name. Include titles, nicknames, initials, middle names without first names, and other variations. For example:

  • John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith
  • J. J. Smith or J. J. J. Smith
  • Jacob or Jingleheimer Smith
  • Mr. Smith or simply Smith
  • Thomas Edison or Mr. Edison
  • The Wizard of Menlo Park
  • Mary Stillwell
  • Dot Stillwell (her childhood nickname)
  • Thomas Edison’s first wife
  • Mrs. Edison
  • Mina Edison or Mina Miller
  • Thomas Edison’s second wife

4) Spelling Variations and Name Changes – Consider Using a Wildcard

One of the most vexing issues occurs with spelling variations, which occur all too often.

An example can be noted with my husband’s birth surname of Szczesniak. Since others were prone to misspelling it, the family had it legally shortened to Sesniak. Unfortunately, that didn’t work as typos are frequent. One of the most common is to change the ending to “ck,” rather than “ak.”

Name changes can be informal. A woman I know was named Jane. It’s a fine name, but prone to various putdowns, including “plain Jane.” Rather than be labeled with this throughout her life, she elected to change the spelling to Jayne.

We see similar variations in the given name of Mary. I use the traditional spelling, but there are many variations including:

  • Mamie, Maria, Mariah, Marie, May, Meg, Merry, Merrie, Moll, Mollie, Molly, Pollie, Polly, etc.

If you wish to search newspapers and databases for similar spellings, sometimes a wildcard will work.

There are two types: an asterisk “*” which searches for any number of characters in a name; or a question mark “?” which replaces just one letter. For example:

  • Merr* would query the database for any name beginning with Merr, such as Merry or Merrie, followed by any combination of letters. If a woman were named Merriweather, it would also find it.
  • Sebasti?n would return both Sebastian or Sebastien.

Also see prior articles on ancestor name research tips for tips on searching for first names, surnames, name spelling variations and more.

5) Overcoming Language Barriers in Foreign-Language Newspapers

Many online collections of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, contain foreign-language newspapers. GenealogyBank, for example, has some newspapers in French, German, Italian and Spanish.

What do you do if you find your ancestor’s name in a foreign-language newspaper, but are not sure what the article is saying about him or her?

There are a number of free online translators available, where you can type in the text from the foreign-language newspaper and receive an English translation.

For example, what if you found this article about your ancestor Georg Clifforeye?

Heiratete seine Grossmutter.

CALAIS, Me., 28 Oktober. Der 18 Jahre alte Georg Clifforeye heiratete seine Grossmutter Rebecca Louise Garnett von St. Stephen N.B., Canada, und begab sich dann mit ihr nach seiner Wohnung, aber kaum war er dort angelangt, erschien Rev. Gaucher, der has liebende Paar getraut hatte und verlangte den Trauschein, wobei er ihm die $10 Traugebühren retournierte und die Heirat für illegal erklärte, wegen der…

By plugging this text into Google Translate or Bing Translator, we uncover a startling story about the young man attempting to marry his grandmother!

wedding announcement, New Yorker Volkszeitung newspaper article 29 October 1922

New Yorker Volkszeitung (New York, New York), 29 October 1922, page 2

6) Social Notices Provide Many Clues

Many newspapers carried social notices, such as the below example from the Dallas Morning News, reporting the comings and goings of many friends and relatives.

Enter Last Name

These social columns in newspapers provide wonderful research clues to track your ancestor’s activities as well as personal relationships.

social column, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 18 June 1904

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 18 June 1904, page 10

7) Broaden Your Searches

Lastly, if you are in the habit of narrowing ancestor searches with specific dates, get in the habit of broadening the ranges.

Marriage details can extend for months, if not years. Look for engagement notices, bridal showers, banns notices, wedding descriptions, honeymoon reports and even “the happy couple has returned” articles.

Death reporting can also extend over long time periods. Right after passing, you’ll find death notices and obituaries, but some may be published long afterward. I’ve seen an obituary as long as one year after someone died. Also watch for legal notices pertaining to probate, which can occur many years after your ancestor died.

Don’t forget to think outside the box. Some reports are made in error. Even with their mistakes, they can contain valuable personal information. One of my favorite examples was addressed in my article The Lessons of Daniel Boone’s Obituary: Check and Double Check.

I hope these seven search tips will help you break through some brick walls and find those elusive ancestors who didn’t leave many records behind – but may well be found in the pages of old newspapers. Good luck with your family history research!

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