Discovering Thanksgiving Family History in Newspaper Articles

From the earliest days of the nation our presidents and governors have proclaimed annual days of “publick Thanksgiving and Prayer” in gratitude for their families, lives and success in the New World. Then as now we pause as families gather to give thanks.
Lucky for us many of these holiday family gatherings were recorded in newspapers, providing a valuable genealogical resource to trace our family histories and fill in details on our family trees.

Here is a newspaper article about a family gathering for Thanksgiving the year the American Civil War finally ended. It was originally printed by the Providence Press and reprinted by the New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 28 December 1865, page 1.

This terrific newspaper article describes four generations of the McIntyre family that gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving Day in 1865, providing many family details. For example, we learn about the physical stature and ability of 82-year-old Daniel McIntyre of York, Maine (Only 72 pounds! No gray hair! Still works the fields! Still reads the newspaper without glasses!) and his good wife (“his bigger and better half”) who was more than three times his size. The newspaper article supplies interesting details such as the fact they had 12 children, 11 of whom were still living and 10 that attended the Thanksgiving gathering along with their children.

A quick search of familysearch.org shows that it was their first child, Nancy McIntyre (c. 1811-1838) who was the child mentioned in the newspaper article that had passed away. The newspaper article also speaks of Mary (Staples) McIntyre’s good cooking that was greatly enjoyed by the grandchildren. Clearly she liked her own cooking—and for those of you who might be thinking of cutting back over Thanksgiving, consider that Mary at 225 pounds outlived her good husband of 72 pounds by 11 years!

GenealogyBank has more articles about the McIntyres from York, Maine—there is Rufus McIntyre who served in Congress, and a George S. McIntyre whose “reputation for mathematics” caused him to be called a “born mathematician.” Guess over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend I’ll sort out how all of these McIntyres are related.

It is really amazing what you can find in GenealogyBank’s newspapers archive, with its 5,700 newspapers from all 50 states. With hundreds of millions of newspaper articles all digitized and easily searched, you can start uncovering your own family reunion articles: documenting each member of the family, the old family stories, the details of their lives, perhaps even some favorite family recipes!

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Written by Thomas Jay Kemp

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!

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