Revolutionary War Veteran’s Obituary Was Short—but Said a Lot

William Walcutt was there—a stalwart throughout the American Revolutionary War. He enlisted at Valley Forge 7 May 1778 “while yet a youth.” He was only 17 years old, having turned 17 just a month and a half earlier.

When he died at the age of 73, his one-paragraph obituary detailed his military service during the Revolutionary period.

obituary for William Walcutt, Ohio State Journal newspaper article 29 June 1833

Ohio State Journal (Columbus, Ohio), 29 June 1833, page 3

The soldier’s obituary states that he fought at the battles at Lexington and Trenton, and was later captured at the battle of Camden. It also reports the key fact that he:

…afterwards joined Morgan’s celebrated corps of grenadiers, served throughout the glorious campaign in the Southern States, and was present at the capture of Yorktown, and the surrender of Lord Cornwallis.

Brigadier General Daniel Morgan’s Southern campaign was one of the decisive turning points of the war, especially the Battle of Cowpens.

Enter Last Name










According to Wikipedia:

“Morgan chose to make his stand at Cowpens, South Carolina…As the British forces approached, the Americans, with their backs turned to the British, reloaded their muskets. When the British got too close, they turned and fired at point-blank range in their faces. In less than an hour, [British Colonel Banastre] Tarleton’s 1,076 men suffered 110 killed and 830 captured. The captives included 200 wounded. Although Tarleton escaped, the Americans captured all his supplies and equipment, including the officers’ slaves. Morgan’s cunning plan at Cowpens is widely considered to be the tactical masterpiece of the war and one of the most successfully executed double envelopments of all of modern military history.”

When William Walcutt died in Columbus, Ohio, he was honored and remembered for his service in the American Revolution with an inscription telling about it on his tombstone.

photo of the tombstone of William & Anna Macy Walcutt

Photo: tombstone of William & Anna Macy Walcutt. Source: US GenWeb, Ohio.

The inscription reads:

William Walcutt of Maryland, 1761-1833. A soldier of the Revolution. Joined the Army at Valley Forge under Gen. Morgan. Participated in all the principal battles and was present at the surrender of Cornwallis.

Don’t let your Revolutionary War ancestors be forgotten. Find their stories in GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives, and preserve and pass them down in the family.

Related Revolutionary War Articles:

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

How to Research Old Newspaper Headlines for Family History

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog post, Mary shows how searching for headlines in old newspapers turns up articles that provide a glimpse into our ancestors’ world and their daily lives.

From iconic happenings of the past to lesser-known events, reading old newspaper headlines helps us share the day-to-day experiences of our ancestors. Reading the news that they read is one way to walk in their footsteps.

For example, imagine being in Vermont on 8 November 1860, picking up your local paper, and seeing this newspaper headline announcing Abraham Lincoln as the new president.

Glorious News! Abraham Lincoln Elected President!! St. Albans Messenger newspaper article 8 November 1860

St. Albans Messenger (St. Albans, Vermont), 8 November 1860, page 2

So why not become a newspaper headline hunter and query GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to see what was happening in your ancestors’ lives? Knowing the events that were happening that affected their lives, and the news that they were talking about with their family and friends, helps provide a glimpse into their world and into the past.

Enter Last Name










Abolishing Slavery

Headline hunters weave fascinating circumstances into life stories. They’re constantly on the search for a bold or unusual newspaper headline that leads to something interesting.

In their search for headlines, they select major historical events, along with what was happening in the outside world during particular time periods. Sometimes they’ll stumble on a major event they never heard of, leaving one to wonder why it is not included more in history books.

For example, manumission (the freeing of slaves) occurred in many parts of the world long before the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution (adopted 6 December 1865) abolished slavery in the U.S.—and the movement continued long after.

For example, a search on the terms “slavery abolished” pulled up this 1794 newspaper article about the French Colonies.

article about slavery being abolished in the French Colonies, Farmers’ Library newspaper article 13 May 1794

Farmers’ Library (Rutland, Vermont), 13 May 1794, page 3

That search also found this 1879 article about African King Mtesa (or Mutesa) of the Kingdom of Buganda abolishing slavery throughout his dominions.

Slavery Abolished in Africa, Cincinnati Commercial Tribune newspaper article 13 September 1879

Cincinnati Commercial Tribune (Cincinnati, Ohio), 13 September 1879, page 2

Women’s Suffrage

Another movement not fully addressed in history books is women’s suffrage, underscoring the importance of newspaper research to clarify historical events.

A search on the term “suffragettes” found this old newspaper headline.

article about suffragettes being arrested in Great Britain, Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper article 1 March 1908

Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas), 1 March 1908, page 5

This headline reports that women were humiliated, harassed and often treated as criminal offenders. Imagine how a young girl of today would feel if she learned that her great grandmother was jailed, merely for wanting to vote!

These two headlines introduce articles reporting that California granted females the right to vote in 1911, but the quest for national equality took until 26 August 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted.

Suffrage Wins in California, Boston Journal newspaper article 13 October 1911

Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 13 October 1911, page 12

Tennessee Approves Suffrage Amendment, Bellingham Herald newspaper article 18 August 1920

Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Washington), 18 August 1920, page 3

For an interesting timeline of how the women’s suffrage movement progressed, see the National Women’s History Museum’s Woman Suffrage Timeline (1840-1920).

Enter Last Name










Timely Timelines

You can locate many interesting timelines in newspapers, either as feature articles or related to historical events. Search for them using the keywords “timeline,” “this day in history” or “famous headlines.”

article about historical newspaper headlines, Boston Record American newspaper article 29 October 1961

Boston Record American (Boston, Massachusetts), 29 October 1961, page 39

You may wish to construct your own timeline with historical newspaper headlines. Pick a subject and locate pertinent newspaper headlines and their corresponding articles. Categories are only limited by your imagination.

  • Art & Artists
  • Civil Rights
  • Disasters (Hindenburg, Titanic, volcanoes, etc.)
  • Famous People (explorers, presidents & first ladies, the rich & famous, etc.)
  • Laws (age of majority, child labor, education, immigration, manumission & slavery, suffrage, etc.)
  • Entertainment (movies, music, plays, etc.)
  • Eras (Roaring Twenties, Victorian Age, etc.)
  • Genealogy Research (Alex Haley’s Roots, lineage societies, technological advances, etc.)
  • Great Discoveries (gold, medical advances, vaccines, etc.)
  • Migrations (immigration, westward expansion)
  • Sports & Events (competitions, Olympics, World Series, world fairs, etc.)
  • States, Territories & County Formations
  • Wars & Military Events

Here’s a timeline of important events that the Charlotte Observer published in 1907.

timeline of important historical events, Charlotte Observer newspaper article 30 May 1907

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 30 May 1907, page 8

Your genealogy software may have overlays or add-ons to create a timeline, or you can make one in a spreadsheet or with one of the free tools found on the Web. Many timeline “how-to” articles are written for teachers, but the concept applies equally to family historians.

Here are two helpful timeline articles:

Before & After Headlines

An effective tool for teaching family history is to compare before and after newspaper headlines.

For example, here is a newspaper ad from the steamer company White Star Line, advertising cross-Atlantic voyages on its huge new ship Titanic (misspelled as “Titantic”), just two months before the steamer’s ill-fated maiden voyage.

cruise ad from the White Star Line for their new steamer "Titanic," Evening Star newspaper advertisement 13 February 1912

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 13 February 1912, page 17

By contrast, here is one of the many shocking headlines the world saw after the “unsinkable” Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in the early morning hours of 15 April 1912.

Ship's Band Plays "Nearer My God to Thee" as Titanic Sinks, Winston-Salem Journal newspaper article 19 April 1912

Winston-Salem Journal (Winston-Salem, North Carolina), 19 April 1912, page 1

Here is another jarring example of contrasting old newspaper headlines. The first is a straightforward headline about the “famous dirigible navigator” Dr. Hugo Eckener arriving in America for a series of conferences on expanding dirigible service between Europe and the U.S. Eckener announced that the Hindenburg dirigible would soon resume its transatlantic flights, and declared:

By the end of the summer, I am certain we will have convinced anyone who has any doubts about the safety of Zeppelin flights across the Atlantic.

Eckener Arrives on Air Mission; Will Visit Akron, Repository newspaper article 10 January 1937

Repository (Canton, Ohio), 10 January 1937, page 3

Less than four months after Eckener made his remark, the world saw headlines such as this in its newspapers.

Fire Wrecks Hindenburg, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 6 May 1937

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 6 May 1937, page 1

Please share with us any of your favorite or surprising historical newspaper headlines found at GenealogyBank!

Related Articles about Newspaper Research for Family History:

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

Because GenealogyBank Is Growing, Be Sure to Search Again Later

Recently, I checked in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives for a few of my Sawyer relatives in Grafton County, New Hampshire—and didn’t find them. Bummer.

When I search in GenealogyBank and do not find my target relatives, I make a quick note to try again in a few weeks to see if I can find articles about them later.

Why?

Because GenealogyBank updates its archives and keeps adding millions of articles—in fact we update over 3,000 newspapers every day. What is not there today might be added to GenealogyBank tomorrow.

Case in point: Not finding my Sawyer family, I next decided to recheck GenealogyBank for the Schell family of North Adams, Massachusetts.

I had searched for them in the past, but found nothing.

Bang—this time I found them.

I discovered quite a few articles about H. Horton Schell’s business and fraternal association activities, several obituaries and this wedding announcement.

wedding announcement for Marion Spencer and Harlan Schell, Springfield Republican newspaper article 12 February 1935

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 12 February 1935, page 7

Great. This article gives me the details of the wedding of my cousin Harlan Horton Schell (1907-2001) along with a photograph of his wife Marion Rudman Spencer (1908-1992).

Enter Last Name










Digging deeper, I found the obituary of her father, Albert Edmund Spencer (1876-1965). Good catch, as this gives me his middle name: “Edmund.” That’s a good clue for further searches.

obituary for Albert Spencer, Boston Herald newspaper article 5 February 1965

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 5 February 1965, page 29

Continuing to search, I found this much longer obituary with many more details about his life and family.

obituary for Albert Spencer, Springfield Union newspaper article 5 February 1965

Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts). 5 February 1965, page 7

See: http://bit.ly/1phoLVG

Genealogy Search Tip: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. GenealogyBank’s search page includes an “Added Since” feature with a drop-down menu that lets you search on content added in the past one, two or three months.

screenshot of GenealogyBank's search page for its newspaper archives

Good luck with your own genealogy searches!

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

The 5 Biggest Mistakes I Made with My Genealogy

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog post, Gena talks about the five worst mistakes she made when she first began researching her family tree—and offers advice to help other genealogists avoid those same errors.

How long have you been researching your family history? Do you look back at your genealogy research and wish you had done things differently? We all do. Just like parenting, genealogy research is a “learn as you go” proposition. Even when we receive unsolicited advice from more experienced family historians we may ignore that advice, not understanding the wisdom that comes from having researched over time.

illustration of a light bulb

Mistakes? Yeah, I’ve made a few. Here are five that I’ve made researching my family tree—and how you can avoid them.

1) Sources? What’s a Source?

Most genealogists will name “not citing their sources” as a family history research beginner’s regret. Sure, maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal now—after all, you aren’t publishing anything right? But a year from now when you want to look at a particular record again and you can’t remember where you saw it, believe me you’re going to wish you wrote down the source of that piece of genealogical information.

So how do you remedy that? Well if you want to do a thorough job, you can refer to the Elizabeth Shown Mills classic Evidence Explained. If you are using a genealogy software program, chances are that program includes citation templates that you can use to fill in the blanks. And for those who prefer to copy and paste, do so with the source citations many genealogy websites provide with each document view. Your end goal should be to have enough information about what the document is, and where to locate it, that you or others can find it when they need to.

2) I Don’t Need to Write That Down (Not Recording What You Find)

Really this genealogy research mistake is connected with the first. I remember when I started working on my personal family history research, most genealogists were buried under paper copies. We have come a long way since the days where you worried about how much room photocopies would take up in your suitcase after a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. And with the ability to subscribe to websites and print from home, that pile of papers just got bigger and bigger. Yes, it’s fun to find stuff and to have that physically on paper, but it’s equally important to record what you find. Whether you do that in a genealogy software program, spreadsheet or database you create, recording what you find will help you avoid repeating searches that you have already exhausted or, worse yet, “finding” information that you had already discovered six months ago.

Another benefit of recording the information—or even transcribing or abstracting that information—is that you get to know the document better. I find I learn so much more about a resource when I’m actively engaging with it by abstracting the information found in that document.

Sure, print or digitally save that census record, newspaper article, or vital record. But after you do that, then record the information so that you have it and can refer back to it when needed.

Enter Last Name










3) Not Learning How to Search

Sometimes we think that searching our ancestors is easy. Anyone can do it, right? You just enter a name, date, and place and you find what you need. Well yes, almost anyone can do it but crafting a good search and finding those elusive ancestors involves more than filling in the boxes on a search engine.

So how do you conduct a really good ancestry search? For GenealogyBank, which uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to search its content, you get better results by using keywords or a keyword phrase. Don’t limit your ancestor searches to just a name.

First, develop lists of keywords to use in your search. One list of keywords should be name variations for your ancestor including nicknames, initials, and misspellings. For example, if my ancestor is John Jacob Smith, I would want to search for him as John Smith, John J. Smith, J.J. Smith, and Mr. Smith.

Because this ancestor search is for a common surname, simply doing a name search is not enough; I would also want to use GenealogyBank’s advanced search engine to add other keywords to narrow my search to my target ancestor. Create a second list of keywords that includes the places your ancestor was from, their occupation, the name of their spouse, and other details like religion or membership organization.

Also, remember this advice: keep searching over time! Conducting a single search on a website that is constantly adding content, like GenealogyBank, isn’t enough. The newspaper article you need may not have been available back when you did your original search months ago, but perhaps it was added yesterday. Make sure you utilize the “Added Since” button found on the Advanced Search engine to search the latest content, especially if you have conducted a search recently.

(We often discuss genealogy search tips here on the GenealogyBank blog; see the end of this article for a list of relevant examples.)

4) Not Evaluating Evidence

There’s a rush of excitement in finding something new about an ancestor—but in that excitement we don’t always take a moment to really analyze the information we found. What’s involved in analyzing the evidence? A good part of the analyzing involves immersing yourself in reading the document and asking yourself what the document tells you, what it doesn’t tell you, and where you should go next. Don’t take the document at face value; take the time to read slowly and deeply to understand everything that is written down in the article, and use that information to ask additional questions to guide your research further.

Enter Last Name










5) Not Having a “Permanent” Email Address

Part of genealogy is networking: reaching out and connecting with other researchers and potential cousins. Making those connections can help you uncover details previously unknown to you. The problem is that in the rush to change an Internet provider we are unhappy with, we often forget all of the clues and questions we’ve left on various message boards and social media websites using that no-longer-current email address as our only contact information. There’s nothing worse than having the answer to someone’s genealogy problem—only to send them an email and having that email bounce because it’s no longer a valid address.

So before you make all those posts and ask all of those questions on genealogy subscription websites, message boards and social media sites, secure a permanent email address through a website like Gmail or Hotmail. This email address won’t change if you switch Internet providers, thus leaving you with a permanent online address for potential cousins to find you today and six years from now.

What genealogy mistakes have you made in your family history research? Fess up in the comments below and help other genealogy researchers not fall into the same traps.

Related Genealogy Search Articles:

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

Genealogy: A Brief History of Obituaries & Death Notices

Newspapers have been publishing obituaries for hundreds of years, making it easy for bereaved family and friends to learn the details of the life of the deceased as well as the funeral arrangements.

GenealogyBank has put this information from the past 300 years online, allowing genealogists to find their relatives within a few clicks.

300 years?

That’s a lot of obituaries, resulting in the largest collection online.

Enter Last Name










Have obituaries really changed much over the course of three centuries?

Yes—of course they have, and so have newspapers.

But the basic rule of thumb has always been true: famous people get long obituaries and not-so-famous people get short ones.

Back in the days before the linotype machine (invented in 1886), the type for printing each day’s newspaper was set by hand. That took time and so, realistically, newspapers were generally only four pages long.

Fewer pages meant that there had to be a balance between the length of the news articles and the number and size of the advertisements. That’s why you see old obituaries that are brief—just one line announcing that some individuals had died—with longer, more detailed obituaries about people the editor thought would be of more general interest.

For example, look at the information packed into this brief obituary:

obituary for Ephraim Crofoot, Constitution newspaper article 3 March 1852

Constitution (Middletown, Connecticut), 3 March 1852, page 3

This is a short obituary, but we learn that Ephraim Crofoot died on 24 February 1852 in Middletown, Connecticut. We also learn that he was 51 years old and likely was a lawyer, as indicated by the title “Esq.” [Esquire] following his name.

Now look at these obituary examples:

various obituaries, New Hampshire Sentinel newspaper article 28 April 1826

New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 28 April 1826, page 3

The opening paragraph has three brief obituaries:

  • In this town, of consumption, Dr. Joseph Wheeler, aged 46
  • Mrs. Sarah Sturtevant, wife of the late Mr. Cornelius S., aged 88
  • An infant child of Mr. John Phelps

Now contrast that last brief obituary for the infant child of John Phelps with the final obituary in this column—also for an infant who had died:

In Fitzwilliam, an infant daughter of Mr. Geo. Damon. Deacon Oliver Damon and wife have lived in Fitzwilliam 42 years, and this [is] the first instance of mortality that has occurred in his family or among his descendants (25 in all) during that time. Printers in Massachusetts are requested to notice this death.

Both were infants that died. Neither obituary gave the name of the child. One obituary was so brief it only gave the name of the father, even though the child died in Keene, New Hampshire, where the newspaper was published.

The other obituary named the father as well, but also provided more details. This infant’s death was “news”—this was the first death in the family of Deacon Oliver Damon in 42 years. This was big and the editor knew his readers would want to know about it. He even inserted the line “Printers in Massachusetts are requested to notice this death,” indicating to other newspaper editors the importance of this obituary in case they wanted to run it in their own newspapers.

The New Hampshire Sentinel published on 28 April 1826 may have only been four pages long, but the editor used his judgment as to how much copy (how many lines) he would give to each story.

Obituaries can be long or short. The size of the obituary was determined by the importance of the person who had died, the story to be told, and the time the newspaper editor and reporters had to research and write about the deceased. As towns grew into cities it became common for the family itself to write the obituary, so that the newspaper would publish more information about their relatives.

Enter Last Name










Inside the newspaper industry these user-supplied obituaries became known as “Death Notices”—articles written by the family or friends and supplied to newspapers. The articles written by the newspaper staff continued to be called “Obituaries.”

Obituary columns in newspapers have carried all types of headers: Obituaries, Deaths, Died, In Remembrance, Memorials, etc.

For genealogists and the general public, the terms Death Notice and Obituary are synonymous. Most family historians refer to all biographical articles about the recently deceased as obituaries, regardless of who wrote them or how long/short they are.

Over time newspapers came to view these family-supplied articles as paid classified advertisements, and they began charging accordingly. It is customary now for most newspapers to charge by the word count, the inclusion of photographs, and the number of insertions.

Obituaries are critical for genealogists. Long or short, they contain the information and clues we need to document our family tree.

Related Newspaper Obituary Articles:

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

New Family Story Find: My 18th Century Uncle Jonathan Dore

Last year I wrote about my relative Elizabeth (Meader) Hanson (1684-1737) who, along with her children, was kidnapped by Abenaki Indians on 7 September 1724 and taken to the Indians’ village along the St. Francis River in Canada. They were held there for over two years. (See: Find & Preserve Your Family’s Stories.)

Powerful. Memorable. That story has been told and retold in our family for the past 290 years. Every night when we were young we asked our grandfather to tell us that story. We loved it. It was real—it was our family story.

Indian Raids Continued

Recently I found this 1749 newspaper article with a report from Timothy Brown about his attempts to learn more about—and to free—captives still held by the Indians.

He was able to get in and around the Abenaki village and learned about multiple captives, including this specific reference:

There is also a Boy who was taken from Rochester in New Hampshire, with the Indians at St. Francois, his Name is Jonathan Dore.

article about Jonathan Dore being taken captive by Abenaki Indians, Boston Post Boy newspaper article 10 July 1749

Boston Post Boy (Boston, Massachusetts), 10 July 1749, page 2

Jonathan Dore?
Rochester, New Hampshire?
St. Francis Indians?

This is sounding just like the story of my relative Elizabeth Hanson, who was also taken prisoner by the Abenaki Indians from St. Francis.

This Jonathan Dore has to be one of my relatives, too—the same Jonathan Dore who was my 5th-great uncle.

Enter Last Name










New England Had Had Enough

The Abenaki and the French were taking American women and children captive so that they could sell them back to their families.

It was time to stop these atrocities—and that was one of the reasons the French & Indian War was launched (1754-1763).

Attack on Fort William Henry

During the war there was an attack on Fort William Henry in August of 1757.

The following account comes from Terror in Rochester by Linda Sargent, 2008:

“The fort was manned by the British, including many New Hampshire men. The siege had ended and the British had surrendered the fort to the French who were being aided by the Indians. There are various accounts of what happened next, but British soldiers were massacred after they had surrendered.

“One man who managed to escape from the fort was from Dover, NH. When he returned to Dover, he told how he had been pursued by Indians. One of them had caught up to him and lifted his tomahawk.

“When their eyes met, under the war paint and Indian dress he recognized the eyes of a young boy he had known well when he worked as a teamster logging on the Salmon Falls River and visiting at the Dore’s home in Rochester. He knew this white Indian was Jonathan Dore. Jonathan recognized him, as well, and dropped his tomahawk to his side and left. No one believed the man’s story when he returned to Dover.”

See: http://bit.ly/Vj2ZVD

Jonathan Dore had been sighted again, 11 years after he was taken by the Abenaki.

New Englanders Settle the Score

The Abenaki had been terrorizing New Englanders for decades. The old scores were settled on 4 October 1759 when Robert Rogers and his Rangers attacked the Indians’ village.

The following account comes from Wikipedia:

“Rogers and about 140 men entered the village, which was reportedly occupied primarily by women, children, and the elderly, early that morning, slaughtered many of the inhabitants where they lay, shot down many who attempted to flee, and then burned the village. Rogers and his men endured significant hardships to reach the village from the British base at Fort Crown Point in present-day New York, and even more hardship afterwards. Chased by the French and vengeful Indians, and short on rations, Rogers and his men returned to Crown Point via the Connecticut River valley.”

Jonathan Dore Witnessed Rogers’ Attack on the Abenaki Village

Digging deeper into GenealogyBank’s archives, I found out more of the story.

Jonathan Dore, Aberdeen Daily News newspaper article 5 January 1905

Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 5 January 1905, page 2

The above historical newspaper clipping is only part of the long account about Jonathan Dore that appeared in the Aberdeen Daily News. The whole article gives a good overview of what had happened to Jonathan Dore.

Enter Last Name










According to the article, Jonathan Dore (1734-1797)—my 5th-great uncle—was kidnapped on “Salmon Falls Road in Rochester [New Hampshire]” by the Abenaki on 26 June 1746, when he was only 12 years old!

Jonathan Dore married an Abenaki Indian woman and they had two children. When Major Robert Rogers attacked their village in 1759 to avenge the attack on Fort William Henry, Jonathan Dore “witnessed the massacre.”

Everyone in the village was killed and it was set on fire. “Among the ruins he found the bodies of his wife and children. He buried them in one grave and with them his attachment to the Indians.”

In 1760 Jonathan Dore returned home to Rochester, New Hampshire. His family had moved across the Salmon Falls River to Lebanon, Maine, where he also settled.

The newspaper article concluded:

He settled in Lebanon, Me., married again and spent there the remainder of his days, famous for his marksmanship, especially with the bow and arrow, and known to every one as “Indian Dore.”

Wow—we would have loved to have heard that family story as kids!

Our “uncle” was not much older than we were when he was captured by the Indians, and then held captive for over 13 years—what a great story.

Preserve your family’s stories.

Find them in the old newspapers in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives—preserve those stories and pass them down to the rising generation.

Related Family Story Articles:

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

Commemorating V-J Day: 14 August 1945

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this blog post, Scott searches old newspapers to find stories about the day Japan announced its surrender, ending World War II.

A few days ago I happened to notice an obituary in my local newspaper for Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk. I read that this gentleman passed away in Stone Mountain, Georgia, at the age of 93. I was curious to learn why this obituary would be in my local paper when Stone Mountain, Georgia, is well over 700 miles away.

photo of the World War II bomber Enola Gay after the Hiroshima mission

Photo: the Enola Gay bomber after the Hiroshima mission. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

I soon discovered that his death was news across the entire United States—his obituary was published coast to coast. For example, this obituary was published in a California newspaper.

obituary for Theodore Van Kirk, Tri-Valley Herald newspaper article 31 July 2014

Tri-Valley Herald (Pleasanton, California), 31 July 2014

As this obituary explains:

Theodore ‘Dutch’ Van Kirk [was] a navigator who guided the Enola Gay bomber over Hiroshima during World War II to drop the first nuclear bomb in the history of warfare… Van Kirk was the last surviving member of the Enola Gay’s 12-member crew, which was responsible for dropping the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945 that killed 80,000 people and hurried the war’s end eight days later.

The phrase “hurried the war’s end eight days later” refers to the fact that the announcement of Japan’s surrender was made on 14 August 1945 (which, due to time zone differences, was actually August 15 in Japan), in effect ending WWII.

This article from an Illinois newspaper presents Van Kirk’s own words describing the world-altering event he and his fellow Enola Gay crew members participated in that day.

article about the WWII bomber Enola Gay and the atomic bombig of Hiroshima, Register Star newspaper article 7 August 2005

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 7 August 2005, page 11

“Dutch” died just two weeks shy of the 69th anniversary of the declaration of “V-J Day” (Victory over Japan Day), commemorating the Japanese surrender which marked the end of World War II. Note: although Japan’s surrender was announced in the U.S. on 14 August 1945, the formal surrender ceremony took place aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2—so both days can be called V-J Day.

Enter Last Name










Intrigued by Van Kirk’s story, I began to look for more historical information on V-J Day in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to see how the news was reported—and to learn what our ancestors might have been doing that day.

Here is what the front page of this Louisiana newspaper looked like on Victory over Japan Day.

Japs Surrender Unconditionally, Advocate newspaper article 15 August 1945

Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 15 August 1945, page 1

This photo spread from a California newspaper shows Americans celebrating the good news of Japan’s surrender and the ending of the war: streets jammed with huge, happy crowds, with celebrations of all types.

photos of people in San Diego celebrating V-J Day, San Diego Union newspaper article 15 August 1945

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 15 August 1945, page 2

And speaking of end of war celebrations, on page three of that same newspaper was an article reporting that floodlights were lit at night after four years of darkness, almost every store in nearby towns was shuttered for the holiday—and from weeping telephone operators to an elevator attendant giving out free whisky to his riders, the whole of America seemed engaged in some type of revelry.

article about people in San Diego celebrating V-J Day, San Diego Union newspaper article 15 August 1945

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 15 August 1945, page 3

And why shouldn’t America have been celebrating with wild abandon? As the headline of this Ohio newspaper declared: the soldiers would finally be coming home!

Japs Delay Reply to MacArthur's Orders on Surrender Procedure, Plain Dealer newspaper article 16 August 1945

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 16 August 1945, page 1

Seven and a half million men (and women) coming home at last! I know my father, a 1st lieutenant in the U.S. Army, was among those men. While Dad fought throughout Europe, he and his men all had a terrible feeling of foreboding should they have to fight on the shores of Japan. But now they all knew that they’d be coming home.

Enter Last Name










While many Americans had been waiting out every second of time for V-J Day to finally arrive, this Texas newspaper article cleverly pointed out that a Mr. and Mrs. B. M. Day had enjoyed V. J. Day for 12 years already! It seems that their daughter was Vera Janice Day, and some smart reporter caught that cute tidbit amongst all the other excitement!

Vera Janice Has Been V-J Day Twelve Years, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 16 August 1945

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 16 August 1945, section II, page 7

This Oregon newspaper article reported that Portland was already planning how to celebrate V-J Day even before Japan announced its surrender: “City fathers have no objection to John Q. Citizen’s celebrating in any manner he chooses so long as the peace is kept. ‘I am not interested in stopping people from showing their exuberance,’ the mayor said, ‘as long as property is not destroyed and the laws are observed.’” Sounds to me like Portland was surely going to rock for V-J Day!

Citywide Plans Underway--V-J Day Pattern like V-E, Oregonian newspaper article 11 August 1945

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 11 August 1945, page 4

Also on the home front, the impending end of the war was going to mean the end to rationing. Two days before V-J Day, a Massachusetts newspaper published this article listing many of the everyday items that were being rationed for the duration of the war, such as gasoline, tires, shoes, food and fuel oil. The old newspaper article speculated when that rationing might end after the formal surrender of Japan. Another family story I recall is that after my Dad returned home from the war, my Mom explained to him how challenging it was to live with rationing—and my Dad responded, with a chuckle: “I’d have traded anyone on the home front anything for the bullets and K-Rations!”

Life Will Begin Again for Civilians Not Long after Japs Fold for Good, Springfield Republican newspaper article 12 August 1945

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 12 August 1945, page 1

As we commemorate V-J Day today, I hope you will take a moment to reflect on what your ancestors might have been doing 69 years ago. I’d love to read your comments here!

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

My Favorite Genealogy TV Programs & Family History Videos

There are so many powerful genealogy TV shows and family history videos.

photo of a bucket of popcorn

Source: Phys.org

Here are a few family history—and general history—videos that are of particular interest to me. From time to time I like to re-watch these videos—it’s that time again—so I am watching these in the last weeks of this summer. I thought you’d like to grab the popcorn and watch them too.

Enter Last Name










A Celebration of Family History
http://bit.ly/1r1PKTn

This was the evening keynote session of the 2010 National Genealogical Society annual conference. A powerful, short video about genealogy research—with memorable remarks by David McCullough and Henry B. Eyring. This program sums up what drives us as genealogists to do what we have done for the past 100 years.

The Civil War (series by Ken Burns)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Civil_War_(TV_series)

The Ken Burns series The Civil War first aired September 23 to 27, 1990. Powerful—it is just as riveting now as it was 24 years ago. The impact of David McCullough’s narration and Shelby Foote’s historical insights clearly frame the war, year by year.

John Adams (HBO miniseries)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Adams_(miniseries)

Inspiring miniseries that speaks to the life and hardships of John Adams and America at the time of the American Revolution.

Who Do You Think You Are?
http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/who-do-you-think-you-are

Watch every episode of this long-running genealogy TV show, which is now in its 5th season here in the United States. Each segment is aimed at demonstrating how easy, fun and compelling family history is. This popular family history show is must-watch TV.

Connections (BBC, PBS)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connections_(TV_series)

This popular TV series showed how seemingly unrelated events, inventions and discoveries were each essential for progress to be made and new tools to be created. It tied historical events together in a way not demonstrated in any other program.

History Detectives (PBS)
http://video.pbs.org/program/history-detectives/

Each episode focuses on a family heirloom, with the goal of seeing exactly how the heirloom fit into the family’s personal history and the history of the area at large. Family traditions, newspapers and old documents are all researched to determine the true history of each artifact.

What other genealogy and history shows should we be watching this summer? Let us know in the comments and we’ll make sure to add the program to our Genealogy TV Shows board on Pinterest.

Follow Genealogy Bank’s board Genealogy TV Shows on Pinterest.

Related Articles about Genealogy & History Programs:

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

How to Research Land Records for Genealogy Clues

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 discusses a genealogy resource that will help family historians trace their family tree: land records.

Prior to the Civil War, more than 85% of American males owned property! This astonishing statistic shows the importance of using and understanding land records when researching our ancestors. Many genealogists are unaware of the value of these historical documents and the family relationship information that can be gathered from them. Some genealogists are intimidated by these old property records. However, it has been said that land records are the bread and butter of American genealogy research, particularly in the Southern states.

During the Civil War, records were destroyed across many areas in the South—some accidentally by fire, others deliberately by Union troops. Southerners had begun classifying slaves as property similar to land. This was a political move to prevent the North from encroaching on their property rights. When Northern troops attacked Southern towns and cities, they often targeted courthouses to destroy documents recording property—and therefore records of slave ownership.

After the war, Southerners were anxious to protect their property rights and quickly re-filed their land claims. Sometimes these reconstructed land deeds list previous owners and their relationships, providing valuable family history information and clues.

Brief History about Deeds

A deed is a document showing the transfer of land from one private entity (person, company, trust, organization, etc.) to another. These documents record the seller, buyer, and property details. They are usually indexed in two ways: under the name of the grantor (seller), and under the name of the grantee (buyer). The index will list the book and page number to search for the actual recording of the deed.

photo of Aroostook County, Maine, deed books 1865-1900

“Maine, Aroostook County Deed Books, 1865-1900,” accessed Aug. 2014, Northern Registry > Deed books, 1868-1879, vol. 7 (p. 1-300) > image 6 of 303; citing Register of Deeds, Houlton. Source: FamilySearch.

See: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-21740-26870-86?cc=1447693&wc=M6KC-X29:38808601,38833501

This deed is between an engaged couple. It goes on to give conditions and qualifications, including a nullification of the deed in the event that the marriage does not take place. Some of the information that we gather from these two paragraphs:

  • Anna Perkins Pingree of Salem, MA
  • Thomas P. Pingree of Wenham, MA
  • Joseph Peabody of Salem, MA
  • Joseph and Anna plan to marry
  • Anna owns an estate of which Thomas is the trustee
  • She received the estate from her father David Pingree, deceased, of Salem, MA
Enter Last Name










When a married man sold land, his wife was often asked to give a dower release. This meant that after the seller died, his widow could not claim rights to a portion of the land he had previously sold. The dower release will usually list her name.

photo of Cattaraugus County, New York, land records, 1841-1845

“New York, Land Records, 1630-1975,” accessed Aug. 2014, Cattaraugus > Deeds 1841-1845, vol. 13-14 > image 122 of 1144; citing County Clerk. County Courthouse. Source: FamilySearch.

See: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-32808-9067-66?cc=2078654&wc=M7C7-2ZZ:358137101,359440401

In this dower release we learn about the following individuals:

  • Ferdinand Suydam’s wife, who was named Eliza
  • James Boyd Jr’s wife, who was named Maria Ann

Genealogy Clues in Deeds

These land documents can help to distinguish between two individuals with similar names. They can provide the name of the wife. Sometimes they explicitly state other familial relationships such as receiving land from a father, mother, brother, uncle, grandfather, etc. I have even seen deeds which include the last will and testament of an individual. Plotting out the residences of all those with the same last name in an area can help to clarify family groupings. For example if there are two John Smiths in an area, and one owns land near or purchases several plots of land from Robert Smith and the other one is doing the same thing with Simeon Smith, you can build a case for which father belongs to which John Smith.

As you can see, these documents are an important part of a well-researched family history project. Unfortunately, there are some challenges. These documents can be hard to read as the hand writing is not always clear. There is a lot of legal terminology that you will want to become familiar with. Also, not very many of these documents are available online at this point. Fortunately, the sale of land was also recorded in newspapers, which in many cases are available online.

Enter Last Name










Legal notices in newspapers about land transactions began very early. For example, here is one from 1716, 60 years before the USA became a country.

article about an estate sale for Jonathan Springer, Boston News-Letter newspaper article 2 April 1716

Boston News-Letter (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 April 1716, page 2

Genealogy Tip: When reading old newspapers, keep in mind that the letter “s” often appears as an “f.”

This article lists several individuals:

  • Doctor Jackson in Marblehead
  • Jonathan Springer, deceased, of Glocester (sic)
  • John Newman, Esquire, of Glocester (sic)
  • John Maule of Salem

All of this information is helpful for the genealogical researcher.

Some land records will list even more information. Here is an example of an 1857 land sale notice that mentions the grandchildren of an individual.

article about an estate sale for Samuel Randall, Barre Gazette newspaper article 13 February 1857

Barre Gazette (Barre, Massachusetts), 13 February 1857, page 3

This land sale mentions the following individuals:

  • Mary E. Marsh, minor child, daughter of Hiram Marsh, granddaughter of Samuel Randall
  • Ellen Marsh, minor child, daughter of Hiram Marsh, granddaughter of Samuel Randall
  • Hiram Marsh, minor child, son of Hiram Marsh, grandson of Samuel Randall
  • Hiram Marsh, probable son-in-law of Samuel Randall
  • Samuel Randall, original land purchaser
  • Artemas Bryant, guardian of minor children
  • P.W. Barr, owner of auction house in Petersham
  • Deacon Bassett, neighbor of Marsh children

Have you used land records in your family history research? What success have you had tracing your family tree with property records?

Related Articles about Property Records for Genealogy:

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

GenealogyBank Just Added 6 Million More Genealogy Records!

Every day, GenealogyBank is working hard to digitize more newspapers and obituaries, rapidly expanding our content to give you the most comprehensive newspaper archives and largest obituary collection for family history research available online. We just completed adding 6 million more U.S. genealogy records, vastly increasing our content coverage from coast to coast!

screenshot of GenealogyBank's homepage announcing the addition of 6 million more genealogy records

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

  • A total of 42 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 Birmingham Birmingham Courier* 08/19/1899–09/12/1903 Newspaper Archives
Alabama Cullman Nord Alabama Colonist* 07/01/1881–07/01/1881 Newspaper Archives
Alaska Anchorage Alaska Dispatch News* 07/10/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Alaska Anchorage Alaska Dispatch* 10/15/2009–Current Recent Obituaries
California Marin Sausalito Marin Scope* 09/16/2009–Current Recent Obituaries
California Novato Novato Advance* 08/26/2009–Current Recent Obituaries
California San Francisco Corriere del Popolo 01/04/1916–07/25/1935 Newspaper Archives
California San Francisco San Francisco Chronicle 12/5/1908–9/1/1927 Newspaper Archives
California San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram 4/6/1934–12/31/1937 Newspaper Archives
California San Rafael San Rafael News Pointer* 03/10/2010–Current Recent Obituaries
Connecticut Stamford Stamford Advocate 4/5/1829–12/31/1841 Newspaper Archives
Georgia Macon Macon Telegraph 5/1/1932–5/20/1934 Newspaper Archives
Georgia Marietta Marietta Journal 4/14/1871–11/15/1990 Newspaper Archives
Georgia Toccoa Toccoa Record, The* 06/24/2004–Current Recent Obituaries
Idaho Boise Idaho Statesman 8/16/1931–12/31/1933 Newspaper Archives
Iowa Perry Perry Chief* 06/06/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Iowa Story City Story City Herald* 06/11/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Kentucky Lexington Lexington Herald 10/4/1929–12/31/1930 Newspaper Archives
Louisiana New Orleans New Orleans States 6/1/1920–6/1/1920 Newspaper Archives
Mississippi Biloxi Daily Herald 1/21/1937–3/27/1937 Newspaper Archives
New Jersey Egg Harbor City Egg Harbor Pilot 06/22/1872–07/20/1872 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Arbeiter Zeitung* 11/28/1874–05/19/1878 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Cristoforo Colombo 02/04/1892–08/20/1892 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Eco D’Italia* 01/01/1890–12/31/1896 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Fiaccola* 09/05/1912–02/10/1921 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Freiheit* 12/26/1903–12/26/1903 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Fur Worker* 09/01/1917–04/01/1931 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Progresso Italo-Americano 01/09/1886–12/27/1889 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Vorwarts 01/02/1915–10/29/1921 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Charlotte Charlotte Observer 6/1/1928–5/31/1929 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Greensboro Greensboro Record 5/6/1908–5/6/1908 Newspaper Archives
Ohio Cleveland Sendbote* 01/05/1927–06/26/1952 Newspaper Archives
Oregon Cannon Beach Cannon Beach Gazette* 05/02/2008–Current Recent Obituaries
Oregon Hermiston Hermiston Herald, The* 02/28/2001–Current Recent Obituaries
Oregon Seaside Seaside Signal* 03/25/2010–Current Recent Obituaries
South Dakota Aberdeen Aberdeen American 11/5/1924–11/21/1924 Newspaper Archives
South Dakota Aberdeen Aberdeen Daily News 6/29/1911–1/23/2000 Newspaper Archives
South Dakota Aberdeen Aberdeen Journal 3/3/1922–3/3/1922 Newspaper Archives
South Dakota Eureka Eureka Post* 06/06/1912–06/06/1912 Newspaper Archives
Vermont St. Albans St. Albans Daily Messenger 3/31/2006–3/31/2006 Newspaper Archives
Washington Bellingham Bellingham Herald 5/2/1935–6/29/1937 Newspaper Archives
Wisconsin Milwaukee Milwaukee Herold und Seebote* 01/01/1901–01/01/1901 Newspaper Archives

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank