John Adams & Thomas Jefferson: Intertwined in Life – and Death

Introduction: Duncan Kuehn is a professional genealogist with over eight years of client experience. She has worked on several well-known projects, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and researching President Barack Obama’s ancestry. In this blog post, Duncan searches old newspapers to learn more about the remarkable coincidence of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – friends and ex-presidents – both dying on 4 July 1826, the nation’s 50th anniversary.

John Adams, the nation’s 2nd president, and Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president, were a large presence in one another’s life – a lifelong personal connection that continued to the day they both died: 4 July 1826, the 50th anniversary of the young country they were instrumental in creating and leading.

portrait of John Adams, 2nd president of the United States, by Asher B. Durand

Portrait: John Adams, 2nd president of the United States, by Asher B. Durand. Credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center; Wikimedia Commons.

John Adams (1735-1826) and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), were friends and companions as they fought for independence from the British government. Although Jefferson was ultimately the author of the Declaration of Independence, Adams was initially favored to draft it and was on the writing committee – from which position he convinced the other members that Jefferson was the right man for the job. After the Declaration was written, Adams was perhaps the loudest and most assertive of its supporters and was hailed as a champion to the cause – which only increased the goodwill between the two men.

portrait of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president of the United States, by Rembrandt Peale

Portrait: Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president of the United States, by Rembrandt Peale. Credit: New York Historical Society; Wikimedia Commons.

Their individual personalities and political opinions about how the new government should function, however, proved to be radically different. John Adams was aggressively in favor of a strong federal government and his bold, pushy demeanor alienated many. Thomas Jefferson was refined and gentile. He strongly defended the rights of the individual states over the rights of the federal government. The two men clashed constantly on political issues.

Both ran for the office of president of the United States after George Washington. Adams won the office in 1796 with the most votes and, as was customary at the time, Jefferson was made vice-president after receiving the second-highest number of votes. It was a political role Jefferson despised. He ended up beating Adams for the presidential office in the 1800 election and set to work undoing as much of Adams’s work as he could. He called it the “Revolution of 1800.”

In their latter years, they were able to set aside their differences and repair the relationship, maintaining a strong, steady correspondence for the last 14 years of their lives. On 4 July 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, they both lay in their sick beds. Jefferson died first, but Adams didn’t know that when he said his last words: “Jefferson survives.” Adams, being older, was one of the longest-living presidents. He died just months shy of his 91st birthday. Of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, only Charles Carroll was still living after Adams and Jefferson died.

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In the midst of celebrating the nation’s 50th anniversary, Americans marveled that these two great leaders and friends died together on such an important day – the only time in U.S. history two presidents have died on the same day.

As the following newspaper obituary noted:

The coincidence is a remarkable one. It seems as though Divine Providence had determined that the spirits of these great men…should be united in death, and travel into the unknown regions of eternity together!

Death of Thomas Jefferson, Hampshire Gazette newspaper article 12 July 1826

Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, Massachusetts), 12 July 1826, page 2

The importance of the 4th of July was also emphasized in this obituary.

Death of John Adams, Salem Observer newspaper article 8 July 1826

Salem Observer (Salem, Massachusetts), 8 July 1826, page 2

Obituaries – of ordinary citizens as well as famous people – help provide the details of our ancestors’ lives. GenealogyBank’s deep newspaper archive of over 1.7 billion records holds story after story about the people who built this nation, along with their births, marriages, and deaths. Find your ancestors’ stories today and see what they’ve done.

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from 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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Remembering the Amazing Life of Maya Angelou

Calling someone a “Renaissance” person is an overused – and overblown – term these days. If a rock guitarist paints a portrait, the critics gush that he is a “Renaissance man.” However, America – and the whole world – truly did lose a Renaissance woman on 28 May 2014 when the remarkable Maya Angelou died.

Born in poverty on 4 April 1926 in St. Louis, Angelou experienced and accomplished more in her 86 years than is almost imaginable. In alphabetical order, she was an: activist, actress, artist, author, dancer, director, composer, cook, editor, journalist, mother, musician, nightclub performer, playwright, poet, professor, prostitute, producer, screenwriter, singer, speaker, streetcar conductor and waitress.

photo of Maya Angelou giving a speech during the Barack Obama 2008 presidential campaign, 18 September 2008

Photo: Maya Angelou giving a speech during the Barack Obama 2008 presidential campaign, 18 September 2008. Credit: Talbot Troy; Wikimedia Commons.

An advocate for women in general and African American women in particular, Angelou was also active in the Civil Rights Movement. She was a friend of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela, and a mentor to Toni Morrison and Oprah Winfrey. She maintained a large circle of friends and associates, including prominent politicians, activists, entertainers and writers. Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.

photo of Maya Angelou reciting her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, 19 January 1993

Photo: Maya Angelou reciting her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, 19 January 1993. Credit: Office of the White House; Wikimedia Commons.

She produced and directed movies, plays and television programs. Angelou wrote seven autobiographies (including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1969), several volumes of essays and poetry, and could speak seven languages. She was recognized, appreciated and praised, receiving more than 50 honorary degrees and dozens of awards – including nominations for a Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award, and Emmy Award; winning three Grammys; and receiving the National Medal of Arts, the Lincoln Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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The astonishing extent of Angelou’s life accomplishments was mentioned prominently in her obituaries, such as this one from the Associated Press published in a Vermont newspaper – note she is immediately identified as a “renaissance woman.”

obituary for Maya Angelou, Bennington Banner newspaper article 29 May 2014

Bennington Banner (Bennington, Vermont), 29 May 2014

The Renaissance aspect of Angelou’s long life was also featured in the lead of this newspaper obituary.

obituary for Maya Angelou, Blade newspaper article 29 May 2014

Blade (Toledo, Ohio), 29 May 2014

Angelou spent much of her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas, and this Arkansas newspaper published an extensive obituary about her, with this lead.

obituary for Maya Angelou, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper article 29 May 2014

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas), 29 May 2014

Obituaries are a key resource for family history research. Although vital statistics can be found in government and other official records, it is newspaper articles – and especially obituaries – that go beyond the names and dates to provide the stories of our ancestors, to help us get to know them as real people.

For example, later in the above obituary comes this little tidbit from Angelou.

obituary for Maya Angelou, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper article 29 May 2014

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas), 29 May 2014

The obituary from the Ohio newspaper above provided this detail about her first name.

obituary for Maya Angelou, Blade newspaper article 29 May 2014

Blade (Toledo, Ohio), 29 May 2014

This obituary from a West Virginia newspaper provided a story about the close relationship that Angelou maintained with Coretta Scott King, widow of the slain civil rights leader.

obituary for Maya Angelou, Charleston Gazette newspaper article 29 May 2014

Charleston Gazette (Charleston, West Virginia), 29 May 2014

And finally, this obituary from a North Carolina newspaper provided an insight into Angelou’s character.

obituary for Maya Angelou, Charlotte Observer newspaper article 29 May 2014

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 29 May 2014

It isn’t just obituaries that provide stories about our ancestors. GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives – more than 6,700 titles from 1690 to today – have more than 3,400 articles about Maya Angelou.

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Of particular interest in these online newspaper archives is GenealogyBank’s African American Newspaper Archives. From that collection we gain the following perspectives on Maya Angelou.

This African American Kansas newspaper said this of Angelou.

article about Maya Angelou, Wichita Times newspaper article 18 November 1976

Wichita Times (Wichita, Kansas), 18 November 1976, page 3

This African American New York newspaper reported on one of Angelou’s many speaking engagements.

article about Maya Angelou, Sojourner-Herald newspaper article 1 May 1998

Sojourner-Herald (Albany, New York), 1 May 1998, page 3

This African American Michigan newspaper reported on another of her speaking engagements.

article about Maya Angelou, Afro-American Gazette newspaper article 20 December 1993

Afro-American Gazette (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 20 December 1993, page 1

This African American newspaper from Wisconsin reviewed Angelou’s 1969 autobiography.

article about Maya Angelou, Soul City Times newspaper article 8 October 1970

Soul City Times (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 8 October 1970, page 13

As these examples from GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives have shown, obituaries and other newspaper articles can give us a fuller understanding of Maya Angelou’s remarkable life, broad experiences, and many achievements. Genealogy is about so much more than mere statistics; names and dates don’t tell the complete story of a person’s life. To better understand our ancestors’ lives and the times they lived in, we need the stories forever preserved in online newspaper archives.

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from 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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His Life for His Son’s: The Story of My Cousin Isaac Smith

I recently found compelling newspaper articles about a local New York baker who lost his life while saving his drowning son.

A distant cousin wrote me last week and mentioned that a mutual cousin of ours, Isaac Smith, had died while trying to rescue his son back in the 1800s. I thought, that sounds like a story that a newspaper would pick up – so I headed to GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to find the rest of that story.

I quickly found not one – but three articles on this tragedy.

article about W. Isaac Smith drowning while strying to save his son, New York Herald newspaper article 24 June 1895

New York Herald (New York, New York), 24 June 1895, page 5

The drowning happened at a company picnic at Oakland Beach in Rye, New York.

According to the newspaper article, Isaac never took time off from his bakery. The picnic he organized was his first break from work in ten years. The news article goes on to describe the grim details of his death while rescuing his drowning son.

article about W. Isaac Smith drowning while trying to save his son, Watertown Daily Times newspaper article 24 June 1895

Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, New York), 24 June 1895, page 1

According to the other two articles I found, Isaac died of a heart attack – likely brought on by the urgency, fear and stress of finding and rescuing his son Gordon Smith, who was 15 years old.

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Thanks to these old newspaper articles, my connection to William Isaac Smith went beyond the dates and places. The details and people involved in saving Gordon Smith’s life helped me see into the lives of my relatives in a unique way that is now preserved forever. These newspaper articles provided more than the “facts” so that I could see my relatives as they lived – and died. I got the details of this tragedy – but also sprinkled through there were the details of William Isaac Smith’s character, work ethic and business success that led him to open not just one bakery, but two more in neighboring towns.

article about W. Isaac Smith drowning while trying to save his son, New York Herald Tribune newspaper article 24 June 1895

New York Herald Tribune (New York, New York), 24 June 1895, page 7

Isaac ran a “wholesale bakery” in White Plains that branched out with bakeries in Tarrytown and Port Chester. By the young age of 43, he had provided financial security for his wife and children, and served his employees faithfully. These newspaper clippings on the accident provide amazing details that I would not have found anywhere else – describing not just this tragic incident, but details of the character of my cousin.

GenealogyBank has become a core “go-to,” reliable resource for learning about and writing the history of your family. Newspapers are the only place that genealogists can find the stories of their relatives.

Beyond the dates and places and news of the day are the stories of our grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Only GenealogyBank provides access to over 1.7 billion newspaper records that tell the stories our ancestors cannot. Thanks to our digital archival technology, our records can be made available to you at the click of a mouse. Sign up today and discover stories you might otherwise never have known about your family. Start your 30-day trial now!

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Tamales: One of My Family’s Favorite Hispanic Foods

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to find recipes for one of her family’s favorites: tamales.

Every now and then my family goes out and purchase tamales to have for dinner. It’s one of those Hispanic food traditions we look forward to. While some families like ours purchase the tamales, others have a generational tradition of getting together and making dozens of tamales for family and friends. Eating tamales is one example of a family food tradition that’s been passed down through the generations.

photo of tamales

Photo: tamales. Credit: the author.

What Are Tamales?

Never had tamales? Tamales can be traced way back to 7000 B.C., when Aztec women accompanied men into battle to cook for them. Today tamales, depending on where and who is making them, can vary ingredient-wise and what the tamale is wrapped in. In fact, tamales even differ regionally in the United States. Tamales are made from a corn-based meal that is stuffed with fruits, meats, cheese or chili peppers, and then wrapped in a corn husk, banana leaf, or parchment paper and steamed. Some people serve the tamales covered in a red or green sauce, while others may eat them without a sauce topping. Tamales may be spicy hot, made with no chili peppers, or even be sweet. People may think of tamales as a traditional food made at home but actually, in the United States, tamales have been sold since the late 1800s.

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Tamale Recipes Anyone?

Maybe store bought tamales aren’t good enough, and you want to try cooking your own homemade. Preparing tamales can be a lot of work – but so worth it! Here’s one recipe from 1899 for chicken tamales.

tamales recipe, Daily Herald newspaper article 11 June 1899

Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), 11 June 1899, page 3

Another tamale recipe provided by famed New York food writer Craig Claiborne not only provides a recipe but includes the family history behind it. Mable Grimes talks about using her mother’s recipe during the Great Depression and making 150-200 a week to sell for 50 cents a dozen.

article about Mable Grimes and her Texas tamales, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 27 May 1971

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 27 May 1971, section E, page 15

Tamales for Sale

Like I mentioned before, making tamales is hard work; that’s why some people prefer to purchase them instead of cooking them from scratch at home. Buying them pre-made doesn’t seem to be a more recent idea; here’s an advertisement from Idaho in 1912.

tamales for sale ad, Idaho Statesman newspaper advertisement 21 December 1912

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 21 December 1912, page 9

Probably my favorite advertisement for tamales is this 1893 one from Southern California that includes a poem:

Tamales, they say, are hotter today,
Hotter than they were last week.
To have them just right
You must try them each night,
Tamales each night you must eat.

tamales for sale ad featuring a poem about tamales, Riverside Independent Enterprise newspaper advertisement 24 September 1893

Riverside Independent Enterprise (Riverside, California), 24 September 1893, page 1

That tamale maker doesn’t just want to sell you tamales once in a while; he wants to sell them to you “every evening.”

What Else Is for Dinner?

What other foods are served with tamales? In our family we typically serve pozole, a hominy and pork-based soup, but you might also want to add marzipan, buñuelos (a fried dough ball), champurrado (a chocolate-based drink served warm), and turron (a honey-based candy) to the dinner table. A holiday food served around Christmas time is Rosca de Reyes (a sweet, round bread decorated with candies or crystallized fruit to celebrate Epiphany).

article about Rosca de Reyes including a recipe, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 8 December 1971

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 8 December 1971, page 53

GenealogyBank’s Hispanic American Newspaper Archives include English- and Spanish-language newspapers from across the United States. You can find traditional Hispanic recipes printed in these newspapers for all types of foods.

For example, are you looking for a recipe for buñuelos? Browsing the San Antonio, Texas, newspaper Prensa we find these articles: “Buñuelos de Molde en Forma de Rosa” (12 February 1944); “Buñuelos de Manzanas” (9 November 1935); and “Buñuelos de Viento” (1 November 1925). In this column below, “Recetas de Cocina,” there is a recipe for Buñuelos de Queso Fresco (Fresh Cheese).

recipe for Buñuelos de Queso Fresco, Prensa newspaper article 28 December 1925

Prensa (San Antonio, Texas), 28 December 1925, page 5

Whether you serve tamales with pozole, and buñuelos for dessert, or something entirely different, here’s wishing you many happy family food traditions and memories.

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World War II Japanese American Relocation Camp Newspapers

GenealogyBank has added newspapers published in the Japanese American Relocation Camps during World War II.

photo of the Mochida family awaiting the evacuation bus to Japanese American relocation camps during WWII

Photo: Mochida family awaiting the evacuation bus. Source: National Archives photograph; Wikimedia Commons.

Birth, Marriage and Death Notices

These newspapers from Arkansas, California, Colorado and Utah contain birth, marriage, and death records that are very useful for genealogists to trace Japanese lineage.

For example, here is an old obituary from the Tulean Dispatch for Hiromi Homanishi, who was from Puyallup, Washington.

article about the funeral service for Hiromi Hamanishi, Tulean Dispatch newspaper article 17 February 1943

Tulean Dispatch (Newell, California), 17 February 1943, page 1

Here is another historical newspaper article, from the Denson Tribune, listing the names of evacuees and providing birth notices and names of Japanese American servicemen as well.

article about evacuees from Japanese American relocation camps during WWII, Denson Tribune newspaper article 17 September 1943

Denson Tribune (Denson, Arkansas), 17 September 1943, page 6

WWII-Era Departures

During World War II evacuees were prevented from returning to California, Oregon and Washington state – but they were permitted to relocate to other parts of the United States. Notice that the news article above names the residents who opted to leave their camp in Denson, Arkansas, for employment in towns across America.

Some Japanese American young men joined the U.S. military. The newspaper article above names some of them when they were returning to visit family and friends in the camp.

GenealogyBank’s deep newspaper archive has newspapers from the 1600s to today that cover the small towns and big cities across America. We now have these newspapers from World War II that documented life in the Japanese American relocation camps.

Here is a list of those newspapers that contain information on Japanese American relocation camps:

State City Newspaper Date Range
Arkansas Denson Denson Tribune 03/19/1943–06/02/1944
California Manzanar Manzanar Free Press 07/14/1943–09/06/1944
California Newell Newell Star 02/15/1945–02/15/1945
California Newell Tulean Dispatch 03/31/1943–03/31/1943
Colorado Amache Granada Pioneer 06/09/1943–06/09/1943
Utah Topaz Topaz Times 10/30/1942–2/9/1943

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Looking for His Obituary – There Was His Face Looking Back at Me

Genealogists benefit from having access to GenealogyBank’s deep newspaper archives with their millions of obituaries, because obituaries detail the lives of our family – immediate relatives as well as distant cousins. Obituaries can include dates of birth, marriage information, and even where a missing relative might be buried – but it’s a real bonus when they contain a picture of them.

The Springfield Republican published the obituary of Joseph Merrick in 1898. In this primary record we learn about his personality, his livelihood, and – because of this etching – I am also able to see him and get a better sense of who he was.

obituary for Joseph Merrick, Springfield Republican newspaper article 23 February 1898

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 23 February 1898, page 10

The obituary goes on to detail all of the places Joseph lived. It lists his birth in West Springfield, Massachusetts, and tells how he became one of the early entrepreneurs in the Connecticut Valley. These are good clues to help me locate other records on Joseph, and they help me form a timeline of his life.

It tells his story.

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At GenealogyBank, we are interested in the story. Joseph Merrick started off as a young milkman at the age of 20, and died having a post office named after him. His is only one of the more than 1 billion stories contained in GenealogyBank. With over 1.7 billion documents in our archives, your ancestors have plenty of stories to tell. Sign up today and discover their stories.

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from 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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Oregon Archives: 61 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

On Valentine’s Day, Oregon celebrated the 156th anniversary of its statehood. Originally carved out of the Oregon Country, Oregon entered the Union as the 33rd state on 14 February 1859. Today, it is the 9th largest state in the nation, and the 27th most populous.

photo of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest of southwest Oregon

Photo: Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest of southwest Oregon. Credit: U.S. Forest Service; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your family roots in Oregon, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online OR newspaper archives: 61 titles to help you search your family history in the “Beaver State,” providing news coverage, family stories and vital statistics from 1850 to Today. There are currently more than 58 million newspaper articles and records in our online Oregon archives!

Dig deep into our archives and search for obituaries and other news articles about your Oregon ancestors in these recent and historical OR newspapers online. Our Oregon newspapers are divided into two collections: Historical Newspapers (complete paper) and Recent Obituaries (obituaries only).

Search Oregon Newspaper Archives (1850 – 1987)

Search Oregon Recent Obituaries (1988 – Current)

Here is our complete list of online Oregon newspapers in the archives. Each newspaper title in this list is an active link that will take you directly to that paper’s search page, where you can begin searching for your ancestors by surnames, dates, keywords and more. The OR newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Albany Albany Democrat-Herald 7/11/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ashland Ashland Daily Tidings 1/5/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Astoria Daily Astorian 5/28/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Baker City Baker City Herald 1/1/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Beaverton Beaverton Valley Times 6/14/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bend Bulletin 7/1/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Brookings Curry Coastal Pilot 4/27/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Canby Canby Herald 1/29/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cannon Beach Cannon Beach Gazette 5/2/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Clackamas Clackamas Review 6/26/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Coos Bay World 3/2/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Corvallis Corvallis Gazette-Times 7/11/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Enterprise Wallowa County Chieftain 6/13/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Estacada Estacada News 7/11/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Eugene Oregon State Journal 3/12/1864 – 12/25/1880 Newspaper Archives
Eugene Register-Guard 12/22/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Forest Grove Forest Grove Leader 5/13/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Forest Grove Forest Grove News Times 7/26/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Gresham Outlook 6/27/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hermiston Hermiston Herald 2/28/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hillsboro Hillsboro Argus 2/4/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hillsboro Hillsboro Tribune 6/26/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hood River Hood River News 8/9/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
John Day Blue Mountain Eagle 8/1/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Keizer Keizertimes 9/10/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Klamath Falls Herald and News 12/1/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
La Grande Observer 6/19/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lake Oswego Southwest Community Connection 8/28/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lake Oswego Lake Oswego Review 6/21/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lake Oswego West Linn Tidings 6/21/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lakeview State Line Herald 7/12/1879 – 6/5/1880 Newspaper Archives
Lebanon Lebanon Express 5/5/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Madras Madras Pioneer 10/17/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Molalla Molalla Pioneer 1/29/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Newberg Newberg Graphic 6/26/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ontario Argus Observer 1/7/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pendleton East Oregonian 7/11/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Portland Oregonian 2/4/1861 – 12/31/1987 Newspaper Archives
Portland Weekly Oregonian 12/4/1850 – 11/15/1862 Newspaper Archives
Portland Portland New Age 4/14/1900 – 3/30/1907 Newspaper Archives
Portland Daily Oregon Herald 2/12/1871 – 10/9/1872 Newspaper Archives
Portland Democratic Standard 8/30/1854 – 2/16/1859 Newspaper Archives
Portland Liberator 3/7/1903 – 5/30/1903 Newspaper Archives
Portland Oregonian 1/3/1988 – Current Recent Obituaries
Portland Boom! Boomers & Beyond 1/29/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Portland Bee 7/31/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Portland Oregonian, The: Web Edition Articles 10/16/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Portland Portland Tribune 1/2/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Prineville Central Oregonian 2/5/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Redmond Redmond Spokesman 1/16/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Salem Capital Press 7/3/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sandy Sandy Post 10/24/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Scappoose South County Spotlight 9/30/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Seaside Seaside Signal 3/25/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sherwood Sherwood Gazette 2/1/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
St. Benedict St. Josephs-Blatt 1/3/1938 – 1/3/1938 Newspaper Archives
The Dalles Dalles Chronicle 3/1/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tigard Regal Courier 10/29/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tigard Tigard-Tualatin-Sherwood Times 7/5/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wilsonville Wilsonville Spokesman 6/26/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Woodburn Woodburn Independent 6/26/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries

*Date Ranges may have selected coverage unavailable.

You can either print or create a PDF version of this Blog post by simply clicking on the green “Print/PDF” button below. The PDF version makes it easy to save this post onto your desktop or portable device for quick reference—all the Oregon newspaper links will be live.

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The Wizard of Menlo Park, a.k.a. Inventor Thomas Edison

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Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog post, Mary searches old newspapers to learn more about the amazing life and accomplishments of the great inventor Thomas Edison.

As you observe your family members enjoying conveniences such as talking on cellphones, downloading music, charging batteries and living in a well-lit house, remind them to give thanks to Thomas Edison. These modern devices wouldn’t exist without him.

photo of Thomas Edison with his phonograph (second model), c.1878

Photo: Thomas Edison with his phonograph (second model), c.1878. Credit: Levin C. Handy; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Edison’s Early Years

Born on 11 February 1847 in Milan, Ohio, Thomas Alva Edison was the youngest of seven children born to Samuel and Nancy (Elliott) Edison. His mother died in 1871 and his father died in 1896 at the age of 91. According to Samuel Edison’s obituary below, the family’s ancestors arrived in North America long before the American Revolution. There’s a good chance many of our readers, including myself through his Beach and Merriman lines, are distant cousins of Thomas Edison. (See famouskin.com and Thomasedison.org.)

obituary for Samuel Edison, New York Tribune newspaper article 27 February 1896

New York Tribune (New York, New York), 27 February 1896, page 7

Home Schooling – and Deafness

Thomas Edison had little formal schooling. After his teachers reported him to be a slow learner, his mother decided that home schooling was a better method to educate her son.

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For someone who made so many inventions involving sound, it is startling to learn that Edison was almost completely deaf. At the age of 12, he either contracted scarlet fever or had an accident which left him severely hearing-impaired. The National Park Service’s Thomas Edison page reports that Edison once wrote: “I have not heard a bird sing since I was twelve years old.” Another story, which Edison himself told, was that he “was picked up by the ears to keep from falling out of a train” and this caused something to pop inside his ears.

The genius behind so many amazing inventions never attended college or technical school. He learned through his mother’s home schooling, his own voracious reading, and constant experimentation. His inventions amazed our ancestors and they continue to impact us today. No wonder he was called the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” the location in New Jersey where he built a laboratory in 1876.

Inventions and Patents

Despite his genius and remarkable inventions, however, most children today are not taught much about Thomas Edison other than a few lines in a history book. Nor can many young people identify his inventions, even though Edison achieved 1,093 or more patents (some report 1,368) in his lifetime.

According to the History Channel’s Thomas Edison page, many of his patents addressed telephony, telecommunications and electricity – so imagine where we’d be without them.

Here are some of his many achievements:

  • 195 patents for telephony, the phonograph, and their improvements, starting in 1876
  • 34 patents for the telephone, beginning in 1878
  • 389 patents for electric light and power, including the first commercially-successful incandescent light bulb in 1879

This is his patent for the telephone of 1883.

drawing of the telephone design patented to Thomas Edison on 27 March 1883

Illustration: telephone design, patented to Thomas Edison on 27 March 1883. Source: Google Patents.

Invention of the Phonograph

In 1877, Edison invented the phonograph – a device to record people’s voices that greatly amazed the public. At that time, people could hardly imagine a machine that can record your voice now, so that your ancestors hundreds of years later can hear what your voice sounded like! It seemed as though Edison was truly a wizard. As this newspaper article reports:

Speech has become, as it were, immortal.

article about Thomas Edison inventing the phonograph, Vermont Phoenix newspaper article 20 November 1877

Vermont Phoenix (Brattleboro, Vermont), 20 November 1877, page 2

For his own first recording, Edison recited the beloved children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It is wonderful and almost magical, even in our own age of technological marvels, to hear Edison’s own voice from so very long ago. You can hear him reciting the poem here.

Controversies

Edison arrived at some of his invention ideas simultaneously with others, and in some cases his inventions were based on the breakthroughs of his predecessors. Consequently, you’ll find various reports objecting to giving Edison credit for some of his inventions – controversies that erupted during Edison’s lifetime and in some cases continue today.

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For example, the invention of the light bulb is often credited to Edison, although Sir Joseph Swan (1828-1914) and at least 22 other inventors came up with the idea before him. Where they failed to perfect their ideas, however, Edison succeeded, as he always strove to use superior materials and clever marketing to materialize and promote his inventions. His incandescent light bulb can truly be said to be the father of modern lights.

article about who really invented the electric light bulb, Evansville Courier and Press newspaper article 29 November 1929

Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, Indiana), 29 November 1929, page 7

Another controversy involving Edison resulted from patents pertaining to the movie industry. As seen in this article, Edison strongly protected his inventions in the courts in 1908. In the end, he won.

article about Thomas Edison and legal controversies regarding motion picture inventions, Aberdeen Daily News newspaper article 25 March 1908

Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 25 March 1908, page 3

More Breakthrough Edison Inventions

I could literally write a book about Thomas Alva Edison’s inventions. Many of his inventions that should be common knowledge include these:

  • An early stock ticker machine, around 1869
  • The “Improvement in Phonograph or Speaking Machine,” in 1878
  • A motion picture camera called the Kinetograph, in 1891
  • The Kinetophone, or talking motion picture, in 1912
  • The first steel alkaline storage batteries, 1900-1910
  • The battery which was introduced on the Model T for Henry Ford, in 1908
  • The telescribe, which allowed for recording both sides of a telephone conversation, in 1914
  • Various military devices during World War I, including detection devices for airplanes, submarines, periscopes and guns by sound ranging, as well as ship camouflaging

However, there is one product he didn’t create – and why he didn’t do so is one of the greatest mysteries of all time.

Mysterious Invention Oversight

With his nearly complete hearing loss, why didn’t Edison invent a hearing aid?

The stories of how he coped with his damaged hearing are heart-wrenching. In order to improve the clarity of sound, his method was to place his ear against a phonograph cabinet and bite on wood. Surprisingly, this seemed to improve his hearing. While raising our family in Fort Myers, Florida, we’d often visit Edison’s Winter Estate – and we all remember viewing furniture with his bite marks.

Apparently, Edison’s poor hearing bothered the people around him more than himself. Some theorize he preferred silence over distracting noises. In 1914, his wife Mina located a physician who had hopes of fully restoring Edison’s hearing. He agreed to undergo the procedure, but on the day of the operation Edison told his personal assistant:

By the way, will you telephone that doctor and tell him he is not to come over today: I am not going to have the operation.

article about Thomas Edison refusing an operation to restore his hearing, Boston Herald newspaper article 19 July 1914

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 19 July 1914, page 41

Perhaps Thomas Edison truly preferred to concentrate in a world of near-silence.

Additional Thomas Edison Resources:

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February 2015 Update: GenealogyBank Just Added 26 Million Records!

Every day, GenealogyBank is working hard to digitize more U.S. newspapers and obituaries, expanding our burgeoning collection to give you the largest newspaper archives for family history research available online from the 1600s up to today. We’ve just added 26 million more U.S. genealogy records, vastly increasing our news coverage from coast to coast!

screenshot of GenealogyBank's homepage announcing the addition of 26 million more records in February 2015

Here are some of the details about our most recent U.S. newspaper additions:

  • A total of 49 newspaper titles from 19 U.S. states
  • 21 of these titles are newspapers added to GenealogyBank for the first time
  • Newspaper titles marked with an asterisk (*) are new to our online archives
  • We’ve shown the newspaper issue date ranges so that you can determine if the newly added content is relevant to your personal genealogy research

To see our newspaper archives’ complete title lists, click here.

State City Title Date Range Collection
Alabama Alabaster Alabaster Reporter* 08/10/2008–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Alexander City Alexander City Outlook, The* 01/12/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Andalusia Andalusia Star-News, The* 07/02/2002–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Atmore Atmore Advance, The* 11/09/1999–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Brewton Brewton Standard, The* 10/08/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Clanton Clanton Advertiser* 06/24/2008–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Columbiana Pelham Reporter* 07/15/2009–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Demopolis Demopolis Times* 04/10/2002–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Greenville Greenville Advocate, The* 01/05/2000–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Madison Madison County Record* 04/30/2010–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Russellville Franklin County Times, The* 10/06/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Selma Selma Times-Journal, The* 10/02/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Tallassee Tallassee Tribune* 02/27/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Troy Messenger, The* 08/01/1999–Current Recent Obituaries
Alabama Wetumpka Wetumpka Herald, The* 10/06/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Arkansas Denson Denson Tribune 10/01/1943–04/11/1944 Newspaper Archives
Arkansas McGehee Rohwer Outpost 06/23/1945–06/23/1945 Newspaper Archives
California San Francisco Corriere del Popolo 10/15/1918–10/09/1947 Newspaper Archives
California San Francisco San Francisco Chronicle 4/12/1944–12/31/1984 Newspaper Archives
California San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram 10/12/1953–10/12/1953 Newspaper Archives
Colorado Denver Denver Rocky Mountain News 11/29/1911–11/30/1919 Newspaper Archives
Florida Miami Miami Herald 1/1/1929–2/25/1929 Newspaper Archives
Georgia Columbus Columbus Daily Enquirer 7/25/1941–12/26/1942 Newspaper Archives
Georgia Macon Macon Telegraph 5/1/1944–12/31/1945 Newspaper Archives
Idaho Boise Idaho Statesman 11/19/1955–11/19/1955 Newspaper Archives
Illinois Highland Highland Union 10/25/1901–10/25/1901 Newspaper Archives
Illinois Springfield Daily Illinois State Journal 9/6/1934–6/30/1974 Newspaper Archives
Illinois Springfield State Journal-Register 7/1/1974–1/15/1986 Newspaper Archives
Illinois Springfield State Journal-Register* 8/12/1974–6/15/1979 Newspaper Archives
Kentucky Lexington Lexington Herald 8/1/1939–4/30/1940 Newspaper Archives
Michigan Dowagiac Dowagiac Daily News* 07/23/2009–Current Recent Obituaries
Mississippi Natchez Natchez Democrat, The* 07/14/1999–Current Recent Obituaries
New York New York Courrier des Etats-Unis 12/24/1873–12/30/1874 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Cristoforo Colombo 01/06/1891–09/03/1893 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Jewish Messenger 03/08/1872–09/12/1902 Newspaper Archives
New York New York New Yorker Volkszeitung 01/08/1894–03/21/1920 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Vorwarts 05/03/1913–08/16/1913 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Charlotte Charlotte Observer 2/12/1933–12/31/1935 Newspaper Archives
Pennsylvania Erie Erie Tageblatt 09/09/1899–10/29/1914 Newspaper Archives
Pennsylvania Reading Der Pilger Durch Welt und Kirche 01/17/1874–01/17/1874 Newspaper Archives
Pennsylvania Reading Readinger Postbothe und Berks, Schuylkill und Montgomery Caunties Advertiser 07/13/1822–07/13/1822 Newspaper Archives
Rhode Island Providence Providence Journal* 12/23/1981–Current Recent Obituaries
Tennessee Elizabethton Elizabethton Star* 04/08/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Utah Topaz Topaz Times 02/17/1945–02/17/1945 Newspaper Archives
Washington Bellingham Bellingham Herald 1/1/1948–1/30/1948 Newspaper Archives
Washington Olympia Morning Olympian 10/1/1951–10/31/1951 Newspaper Archives
Washington Seattle Seattle Daily Times 12/20/1895–12/30/1899 Newspaper Archives
Wisconsin Milwaukee Wahrheit 01/05/1895–01/08/1910 Newspaper Archives
Wisconsin Rice Lake Chronotype, The* 01/04/2001–Current Recent Obituaries

You can either print or create a PDF version of this Blog post by simply clicking on the green “Print/PDF” button below. The PDF version makes it easy to save this post onto your desktop or portable device for quick reference—all the newspaper links will be live.

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What Were the Real Last Words of These U.S. Presidents?

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In celebration of Presidents’ Day, Mary takes a look at the last words our first four presidents supposedly said on their deathbeds.

In honor of Presidents’ Day, I decided to research the last words of our first four United States presidents. You’ll find them quoted in books, in historical documents and in historical newspapers.

What I found while researching was intriguing: some of these accounts of presidents’ last words are noteworthy – and others, well (how do I say this politely), may be historically inaccurate.

I’ll let you be the judge if any of the common lore should be discounted.

George Washington (1732-1799)

portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797

Illustration: portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Many, including Mount Vernon’s website, report George Washington’s final words as “’Tis well.”

These final words were said during a conversation with Washington’s personal secretary Tobias Lear, but interestingly, we do not find it recorded in a newspaper until years later. The Springfield Republican in 1856 published a full account of Washington’s last day, which claims a far more extensive report of Washington’s last words than the Mount Vernon website. Part of this report discusses Washington’s conversations with his physician, and others with his secretary. No family member, including his wife Martha who died in 1802, is mentioned.

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The old newspaper article reports that Washington was ill and asked to be bled, which although gruesome by today’s standards, was an accepted medical treatment at that time. His overseer, Mr. Rawlings, was concerned; his hands trembled and Washington told him: “Do not be afraid. More.”

After this, time was spent with his secretary and Washington indicated where his will was. Then he said:

I find I am going; my breath cannot continue long. I believed from the first that it would be fatal. Do you arrange and record all my military letters and papers; arrange my accounts and settle my books, as you know more about them than any one else, and let Mr. Rawlings finish recording my other letters, which he has begun.

Between 5 and 6 o’clock, he addressed Dr. Craik, followed by another sentence not much later:

I feel myself going; you had better not take any more trouble about me, but let me go off quietly; I cannot last long! …Doctor, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go; I believed from my first attack I should not survive it; my breath cannot last long.

His last recorded conversation was with Mr. Lear about 10 o’clock:

I am just going. Have me decently buried, and do not let my body be put into the vault in less than two days after I am dead.

Lear nodded assent and Washington asked: “Do you understand me?”

“Yes, Sir,” he replied, followed by Washington’s final response: “’Tis well.”

article about George Washington's death, Springfield Republican newspaper article 19 July 1856

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 19 July 1856, page 8

John Adams (1735–1826)

portrait of John Adams by Asher Brown Durand

Illustration: portrait of John Adams by Asher Brown Durand. Source: U.S. Navy; Wikimedia Commons.

Much has been written about the coincidence of the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who both died on the 50-Year Jubilee of the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1826.

The Jefferson Monticello website reports that the Adams family recalled many years later that ex-President Adams’s last words were: “Thomas Jefferson survives.” (See Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Memoirs of John Quincy Adams (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1874-77), 7:133.)

Were John Adams’s last thoughts about his friend and the third president, ex-President Jefferson, or were his last words about the 50-year celebration of the Fourth of July? I’m inclined to suspect the Jefferson reference may have been a family joke, since not long after his death, it was noted in the Spectator of 14 July 1826 that Adams’s last words were: “It is a great and glorious day.”

article about John Adams's last words, Spectator newspaper article 14 July 1826

Spectator (New York, New York), 14 July 1826, page 1

Thomas Jefferson (1743- 1826)

portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1805

Illustration: portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1805. Source: New York Historical Society; Wikimedia Commons.

The Jefferson Monticello website  reports that nobody can state with certainty what ex-President Jefferson’s real last words were. Three persons, including physician Robley Dunglison, grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and his granddaughter’s husband Nicholas Trist, gave varying accounts of his final words.

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Trist reported that on July 3 Jefferson enquired: “This is the Fourth?” and upon not hearing a reply, he asked again. Trist nodded in assent, finding the deceit repugnant.

Randolph reported Jefferson made a strong statement: “This is the Fourth of July.” He slept and upon awaking refused a dose of laudanum (an opiate) by saying: “No Doctor. Nothing more.”

Dunglison’s account was that Jefferson asked: “Is it the Fourth?” The doctor responded with, “It soon will be.” Several later accounts mention this, but add an additional statement: “I resign my spirit to God, my daughter to my country.”

About 21 years after he passed, the Maine Cultivator and Hallowell Gazette reported an additional variation in 1847: “I have done for my country and all mankind all that I could do, and now I resign my soul to God, and my daughter to my country.”

article about Thomas Jefferson's last words, Maine Cultivator and Hallowell Gazette newspaper article 13 March 1847

Maine Cultivator and Hallowell Gazette (Hallowell, Maine), 13 March 1847, page 3

James Madison (1751-1836)

portrait of James Madison by John Vanderlyn, 1816

Illustration: portrait of James Madison by John Vanderlyn, 1816. Source: White House Historical Association; Wikimedia Commons.

James Madison’s death was only six days prior to the Fourth of July, on 28 June 1836. There is some uncertainty about Madison’s last words as well, but the common lore is that he spoke last to a niece. She asked, “What is the matter?” Madison’s response was: “Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear.”

However, none of Madison’s obituaries report these – or any other – last words. Typical is this obituary from the Alexandria Gazette.

obituary for James Madison, Alexandria Gazette newspaper article 2 July 1836

Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia), 2 July 1836, page 3

So there you have it. The authors of historical accounts do not always agree with what people say – but don’t let that stop you from having fun. Search GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives for the last words of U.S. presidents and let us know if you can disprove any of what people say they said!

Related Articles about U.S. Presidents:

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