Captain Alden Howell: Last Confederate Officer

When Alden Howell passed away in 1947 at the age of 106, he was the last surviving commissioned officer of the Army of the Confederate States of America.

obituaryr for Alden Howell, San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram newspaper article 21 March 1947

San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram (San Luis Obispo, California), 21 March 1947, page 9

It’s a good thing that there were multiple obituaries about this centenarian. Each historical obit gives us more of the details of his life.

For example, see this old obituary in the Greensboro Record.

obituary for Alden Howell, Greensboro Record newspaper article 21 March 1947

Greensboro Record (Greensboro, North Carolina), 21 March 1947, page 10

We learn that he was a captain of “Company B of North Carolina’s Sixth Regiment,” that when he enlisted he had been “attending law school,” and that after the war he resumed his studies and received “his degree in 1866.”

We also pick up this critical piece of genealogical information: he “was a descendant of John Alden,” the famous ship’s cooper on the Mayflower, signer of the Mayflower Compact, and best known for marrying Priscilla Mullins. A great clue.

Enter Last Name

In his ripe old age Howell was called upon to give advice, as reported in the Morning Olympian.

Confederate Veteran (Alden Howell) Gives Advice on Life, Morning Olympian newspaper article 19 February 1941

Morning Olympian (Olympia, Washington), 19 February 1941, page 1

“Don’t get mad. Don’t use cuss words. Never complain.”

Good advice – even now.

Even in this feel-good news article we pick up more genealogical details. He was an attorney and banker in Waynesville, North Carolina. He retired “15 years ago and moved [to Los Angeles],” and this critical statement: “He and his seven-year-old grandson, Kenneth Brimmer, jointly cut a birthday cake Tuesday” – a good clue that both he and his grandson were born on February 18th.

Genealogy Tip: Track down every newspaper article. Don’t stop with the first news article or obituary you find about your relative. Each one might contain the critical clue or fact that you need to build your family tree. Take those clues, verify the facts and document your family history.

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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January 2015 Update: GenealogyBank Just Added 8 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’re getting off to a great start this 2015, just completing the addition of 8 million more U.S. genealogy records, vastly increasing our content coverage from coast to coast!

screenshot of GenealogyBank's home page announcing the addition of eight million more records

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

  • A total of 52 newspaper titles from 18 U.S. states
  • 26 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
Arkansas Denson Denson Tribune* 03/19/1943–06/02/1944 Newspaper Archives
California Manzanar Manzanar Free Press 07/14/1943–09/06/1944 Newspaper Archives
California Newell Newell Star 02/15/1945–02/15/1945 Newspaper Archives
California Newell Tulean Dispatch 03/31/1943–03/31/1943 Newspaper Archives
California San Francisco Corriere del Popolo 10/8/1918–12/6/1928 Newspaper Archives
California San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram 1/1/1951–10/31/1952 Newspaper Archives
Colorado Amache Granada Pioneer 06/09/1943–06/09/1943 Newspaper Archives
Florida Miami Miami Herald 6/13/1926–9/19/1928 Newspaper Archives
Florida Winter Garden West Orange Times, The* 02/06/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Georgia Columbus Columbus Daily Enquirer 12/30/1940–6/28/1941 Newspaper Archives
Georgia Jesup Press-Sentinel, The* 09/13/2007–Current Recent Obituaries
Georgia Macon Macon Telegraph 5/14/1934–2/29/1944 Newspaper Archives
Kansas Wichita Wichita Eagle 11/2/1973–12/31/1974 Newspaper Archives
Kentucky Lexington Lexington Herald 2/6/1938–3/28/1939 Newspaper Archives
Maryland Baltimore Sun 4/4/1920–4/23/1920 Newspaper Archives
Missouri St. Louis Westliche Post* 03/13/1932–03/13/1932 Newspaper Archives
New York Adams Jefferson County Journal* 08/27/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
New York New York Courrier des Etats-Unis 6/22/1850–7/31/1890 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Cristoforo Colombo 01/08/1891–05/24/1892 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Gaelic American 10/20/1906–10/27/1906 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Jewish Messenger 1/10/1862–12/26/1902 Newspaper Archives
New York New York New Yorker Volkszeitung 01/24/1920–01/25/1920 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Vorwarts 06/18/1921–09/30/1922 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Andrews Andrews Journal, The* 12/04/2008–Current Recent Obituaries
North Carolina Charlotte Charlotte Observer 11/1/1933–6/29/1934 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Clemmons Clemmons Courier, The* 01/06/2011–Current Recent Obituaries
North Carolina Hillsborough News of Orange County, The* 08/27/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
North Carolina Littleton Lake Gaston Gazette-Observer* 07/08/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
North Carolina Mebane Mebane Enterprise, The* 09/17/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
North Carolina Murphy Cherokee Scout* 04/20/2007–Current Recent Obituaries
North Carolina Troy Montgomery Herald* 06/20/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
North Carolina Warrenton Warren Record, The* 07/08/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
North Carolina Yanceyville Caswell Messenger, The* 08/27/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
North Dakota Bismarck Staats-Anzeiger* 07/07/1931–07/07/1931 Newspaper Archives
Ohio Toledo Toledo Express* 03/31/1932–03/31/1932 Newspaper Archives
Pennsylvania Erie Erie Tageblatt 4/22/1903–10/31/1904 Newspaper Archives
Pennsylvania Philadelphia Philadelphia Demokrat* 12/21/1907–12/21/1907 Newspaper Archives
Pennsylvania Reading Der Pilger Durch Welt und Kirche 12/31/1870–12/26/1874 Newspaper Archives
Pennsylvania Reading Readinger Postbothe und Berks, Schuylkill und Montgomery Caunties Advertiser* 08/03/1816–07/27/1822 Newspaper Archives
Pennsylvania State College Centre Daily Times 3/1/1982–2/28/1983 Newspaper Archives
Utah Topaz Topaz Times 10/30/1942–2/9/1943 Newspaper Archives
Virginia Altavista Altavista Journal* 10/08/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
Virginia Appomattox Times-Virginian* 10/08/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
Virginia Brookneal Union Star, The* 10/02/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
Virginia Chatham Star-Tribune* 10/02/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
Virginia Emporia Independent-Messenger* 07/08/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
Virginia Lawrenceville Brunswick Times-Gazette* 07/08/2003–Current Recent Obituaries
Virginia South Hill South Hill Enterprise* 01/07/2004–Current Recent Obituaries
Virginia Wirtz Smith Mountain Eagle* 10/06/2004–Current Recent Obituaries
Washington Bellingham Bellingham Herald 9/3/1945–4/28/1947 Newspaper Archives
Washington Olympia Morning Olympian 7/23/1950–5/30/1952 Newspaper Archives
Wisconsin Milwaukee Wahrheit 06/22/1895–04/26/1902 Newspaper Archives

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Snow & Ice: Winter’s Frosty Fun

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. With the East Coast (especially Boston) digging out from yesterday’s blizzard, this seems like a good time for an article about winter. In this blog post, Duncan searches old newspapers to find poems and photos about our ancestors enjoying winter activities.

Some people love winter and the frosty fun that comes with it. They love wrapping up in blankets and sipping hot chocolate after a long day frolicking in the snow or skating on the ice.

photo of some boys making a giant snowball

Photo: making a giant snowball. Credit: Kamyar Adl; Wikimedia Commons.

Children Play

The cold weather keeps some people indoors, where snuggling up with a loved one by the fire is the highest priority. For many children, however, winter is a wonderland to be explored. If this describes you, this poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, presenting a child’s perspective on winter, may bring you joy.

Winter Time

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,

A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;

Blinks but an hour or two; and then

A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,

At morning in the dark I rise;

And shivering in my nakedness,

By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit,

To warm my frozen bones a bit;

Or, with a reindeer sled, explore

The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap

Me in my comforter and cap;

The cold wind burns my face, and blows

Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;

Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;

And tree and house, and hill and lake,

Are frosted like a wedding cake.

“Winter Time” was published in Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885) and was reprinted in this 1903 Minnesota newspaper.

the poem "Winter Time" by Robert Louis Stevenson, Duluth News-Tribune newspaper article 14 January 1903

Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 14 January 1903, page 4

Adults Worry

Unlike children, many adults find that the harshness of winter reminds them of some of the difficulties of life. The hassle of slippery roads, buried cars, and treacherous walkways takes its toll.

Enter Last Name

This poem brings these sentiments to mind. It was published in a 1917 Pennsylvania newspaper and attributed to “Uncle Walt the Poet Philosopher.”

the poem "Snow," Patriot newspaper article 8 January 1917

Patriot (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), 8 January 1917, page 6

Remember the Joy

It seems that children are naturally drawn to the slippery stuff in nature’s playground. Perhaps Uncle Walt needs to spend more time watching the pure joy of children playing in the snow to perk up his mood. Or watch lovers holding hands as they ice skate, round and round the pond. Or take a moment to really see the snow as it flutters to the ground. We get so focused on what we have to do and how the snow hinders us, we miss out on its wonder. The infuriating white stuff seems to be there just to make life hard. But maybe this is nature’s way of reminding us to slow down and remember what is most important. Perhaps it is time to wrap up in a warm, fuzzy blanket and read the newspaper by the glow of a crackling fire. Or maybe we need to dust off the sled and get some invigorating exercise as we pull the kids around the yard. It is hard to retain our crusty mood as we watch children, wrapped in snow clothes to the point of near immobility, waddle around the uneven surface of a snowy field, laughing as they tumble to the ground in a frosty heap. And taking a moment to laugh with them can heal our soul.

Photos Capture the Fun

Here are pictures from four old newspapers to remind us of winter’s joy.

These photos were published in a 1916 Oregon newspaper, entitled “Portland Children Reveling in the Snow with Christmas Sleds as Agents of Joy.”

photos of children sledding on the snow, Oregonian newspaper article 28 December 1916

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 28 December 1916, page 14

These photos were published in a 1939 Pennsylvania newspaper. They show adults “joining the ‘keep fit’ movement sweeping the nation” – but one look at their faces, and you realize what’s really happening: these adults are remembering how much fun it is to play in the snow.

photos of people playing in the snow, National Labor Tribune newspaper article 14 January 1939

National Labor Tribune (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 14 January 1939, page 8

This photo, published in a 1912 North Dakota newspaper, shows U.S. Secretary of the Navy George von L. Meyer skating on the frozen Potomac River with his daughter Alice. The photo caption says “Washington Society” is excited about ice skating; Meyer is identified as “a leader in the movement.”

photo of U.S. Secretary of the Navy George von L. Meyer skating on the frozen Potomac River with his daughter Alice, Evening Times newspaper article 24 December 1912

Evening Times (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 24 December 1912, page 5

This photo, published in a 1910 Maryland newspaper, shows people enjoying ice skating on the boat lake in Baltimore’s Patterson Park. The caption says:

This is practically the only place for ice skating which is convenient to East Baltimore folk, and it is thronged morning, afternoon and evening when the park officials consider the ice thick enough for the sport.

photo of people ice skating, Baltimore American newspaper article 13 December 1910

Baltimore American (Baltimore, Maryland), 13 December 1910, page 15

If you live along the East Coast, have you dug out from yesterday’s major blizzard? How much snow did Winter Storm Juno dump in your area? No matter where you live, we hope you have found some time this winter to get out and enjoy the snow and ice – winter’s frosty fun.

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Congratulations! FamilySearch.org Celebrates 120 Years

FamilySearch International recently observed the 120th anniversary of the formation of its forerunner, the Genealogical Society of Utah. FamilySearch is the largest worldwide Internet genealogy service in the world. For more details, read the full article at “FamilySearch Celebrates 120 Years.”

a timeline of the history of FamilySearch.org

Source: FamilySearch

The Genealogical Society of Utah was formed in 1894 by Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898), a native of Connecticut, to help the residents of Utah “to seek out their ancestors and preserve their family trees for future generations.”

Enter Last Name

The article quotes Paul Nauta of FamilySearch public affairs:

Today, the vast collection of historical records and other family history services for preserving and sharing information are available for free to anyone at FamilySearch.org and the famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Here’s a quick overview of FamilySearch’s history from their announcement:

  • During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the society pioneered the use of microfilm to preserve and provide access to the world’s genealogical records.
  • In 1963, the society completed the Granite Mountain Records Vault for long-term storage of microfilmed records. More than 2.4 million rolls of film from more than 120 countries and principalities are stored there today.
  • In 1984, the society pioneered one of the first desktop genealogy management software programs, Personal Ancestral File. It also developed GEDCOM, a software code for sharing genealogical data.
  • In 1999, it launched the free website FamilySearch.org, which is available today in 10 languages.
  • In 2007, FamilySearch began crowd-sourcing family history by creating a website where volunteers could index records to make them searchable. Over 1 billion records have been indexed in just seven years.
  • In 2013, FamilySearch introduced Family Tree and Memories, which let you build, preserve, and share your family trees, photos, stories, and historical documents collaboratively.

Today, FamilySearch is used by tens of millions of people around the world “to build, preserve, share, and research their family histories and records.”

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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Michigan Archives: 148 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

On 26 January 1837 Michigan was admitted into the Union as the 26th state, doubling the nation’s original total of 13. Located in the Great Lakes region, Michigan (including the Upper Peninsula) is America’s largest state east of the Mississippi River, and the 9th most populous state in the U.S.

photo of Upper Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan

Photo: Upper Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan. Credit: Attila Nagy; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your family roots in Michigan, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online MI newspaper archives: 148 titles to help you search your family history in “The Wolverine State,” providing news coverage, family stories and vital statistics from 1837 to Today. There are currently more than 31 million newspaper articles and records in our online Michigan archives!

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

Search Michigan Newspaper Archives (1837 – 1995)

Search Michigan Recent Obituaries (1995 – Current)

Here is our complete list of online Michigan 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 MI newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Adrian Daily Telegram 1/3/1893 – 12/28/1922 Newspaper Archives
Adrian Tri=weekly Telegram 9/25/1900 – 1/1/1903 Newspaper Archives
Adrian Daily Telegram 12/9/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ann Arbor Ann Arbor News 1/2/1909 – 12/30/1922 Newspaper Archives
Ann Arbor Ann Arbor Daily Times 9/1/1903 – 5/2/1908 Newspaper Archives
Ann Arbor Michigan Argus 10/17/1879 – 12/27/1907 Newspaper Archives
Ann Arbor Ann Arbor Daily Argus 11/16/1898 – 6/24/1907 Newspaper Archives
Ann Arbor Ann Arbor News-Argus 6/25/1907 – 5/2/1908 Newspaper Archives
Ann Arbor True Democrat 12/19/1845 – 3/8/1849 Newspaper Archives
Ann Arbor Ann Arbor News 4/3/2003 – 7/23/2009 Recent Obituaries
Ann Arbor Ann Arbor News: Web Edition Articles 7/24/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bad Axe Huron Daily Tribune 12/17/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Baldwin Lake County Star 1/1/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bay City Bay City Times 1/2/1889 – 12/30/1922 Newspaper Archives
Bay City Bay City Times 1/1/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bay City Bay City Times, The: Web Edition Articles 10/22/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Big Rapids Pioneer 4/2/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bronson Bronson Journal 3/3/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Caro Tuscola County Advertiser 9/26/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cassopolis Cassopolis Vigilant 7/23/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Charlevoix Charlevoix Courier 1/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cheboygan Cheboygan Daily Tribune 10/5/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Coldwater Coldwater Daily Reporter 11/9/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Dearborn Arab American News 10/27/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Detroit Plaindealer 9/20/1889 – 5/19/1893 Newspaper Archives
Detroit Weekly Detroit Free Press 1/2/1886 – 6/4/1887 Newspaper Archives
Detroit Herold 1/6/1911 – 12/29/1911 Newspaper Archives
Detroit Detroiter Abend-Post 8/18/1929 – 8/18/1929 Newspaper Archives
Detroit Detroit Independent 1/13/1923 – 1/13/1923 Newspaper Archives
Detroit Detroit Informer 1/13/1900 – 1/13/1900 Newspaper Archives
Detroit South End, The: Wayne State University 5/5/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Detroit Michigan Chronicle 8/2/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Detroit Associated Newspapers of Michigan 7/20/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Detroit Metro Times 8/4/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Detroit Detroit News 1/1/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Detroit Detroit News, The: Web Edition Articles 10/28/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Edwardsburg Edwardsburg Argus 7/20/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fenton Tri-County Times 3/23/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ferndale, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge Woodward Talk 5/19/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Flint Flint Journal 1/3/1898 – 12/31/1922 Newspaper Archives
Flint Flint Journal 4/3/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Flint Clio Messenger 4/20/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Flint Flushing Observer 10/12/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Flint Swartz Creek News 4/20/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Flint Grand Blanc News 6/12/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Flint Burton News 8/14/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Flint Flint Journal, The: Web Edition Articles 10/15/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Flint Davison Flagstaff 6/13/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Flint Flint Township News 3/21/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Flint Fenton Press 7/24/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Frankfort Benzie County Record Patriot 6/24/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fraser Fraser-Clinton Township Chronicle 2/23/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Gaylord Gaylord Herald Times 1/1/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Gladwin Record & Clarion 10/6/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Grand Rapids Grand Rapids Press 1/11/1893 – 12/30/1922 Newspaper Archives
Grand Rapids Grand Rapids Herald 1/1/1898 – 12/31/1900 Newspaper Archives
Grand Rapids Afro-American Gazette 1/1/1991 – 8/7/1995 Newspaper Archives
Grand Rapids Grand Rapids Press 7/25/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Grand Rapids Grand Rapids Press, The: Web Edition Articles 10/18/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Grand Rapids Cadence Advance 10/10/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Grosse Pointe Grosse Pointe Times 1/30/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hart Oceana’s Herald-Journal 9/16/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hastings Maple Valley News 7/9/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hastings Sun & News 7/16/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hastings Hastings Banner 7/7/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hastings Lakewood News 7/9/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hillsdale Hillsdale Daily News 5/25/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Holland Holland Sentinel 7/25/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Holland myZeeland 11/3/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Homer Homer Index 5/2/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hudsonville Grand Valley Advance 11/19/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ionia Sentinel-Standard 12/17/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Jackson Citizen Patriot 3/27/1865 – 12/31/1922 Newspaper Archives
Jackson Jackson Citizen 8/15/1849 – 10/16/1903 Newspaper Archives
Jackson Jackson Citizen Patriot 1/1/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Jackson Citizen Patriot: Web Edition Articles 10/22/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jenison On-the-Town 12/1/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jonesville Jonesville Independent 4/8/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kalamazoo Kalamazoo Gazette 1/23/1837 – 12/31/1922 Newspaper Archives
Kalamazoo Kalamazoo Evening Telegraph 11/2/1900 – 11/2/1900 Newspaper Archives
Kalamazoo Kalamazoo Gazette 1/1/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kalamazoo Hometown Gazette 3/26/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kalamazoo Kalamazoo Gazette: Web Edition Articles 10/19/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kalamazoo Western Herald 9/14/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kentwood Southeast Advance 9/30/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lansing Lansing City Pulse 3/3/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lansing New Citizens Press 7/9/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lowell Lowell Ledger 7/6/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ludington Ludington Daily News 2/5/1998 – 9/27/2013 Recent Obituaries
Macomb Macomb Township Chronicle 3/24/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Madison Madison-Park News 3/9/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Manistee Manistee News Advocate 3/1/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Marlette Marlette Leader 3/2/2005 – 6/5/2013 Recent Obituaries
Midland Midland Daily News 6/20/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Monroe Monroe Evening News 10/31/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Mount Pleasant Morning Sun 7/1/2007 – 4/23/2012 Recent Obituaries
Muskegon Muskegon Chronicle 1/30/1869 – 12/30/1922 Newspaper Archives
Muskegon Muskegon Chronicle 1/3/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Muskegon Muskegon Chronicle, The: Web Edition Articles 10/17/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Buffalo Harbor Country News 4/8/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Niles Niles Daily Star 7/23/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ontonagon Lake Superior Miner 10/6/1855 – 9/10/1870 Newspaper Archives
Owosso Argus-Press 2/9/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Petoskey Petoskey News-Review 4/16/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pontiac Oakland Press 8/8/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Portage Portage Gazette 2/12/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Reed City Pioneer – Osceola Edition 6/6/2007 – 3/28/2012 Recent Obituaries
Reed City Herald Review 4/4/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rochester Rochester Post 6/21/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rockford Northeast Advance 10/15/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Royal Oak Royal Oak Review 10/8/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Saginaw Saginaw News 5/2/1881 – 12/31/1922 Newspaper Archives
Saginaw Saginaw News: Web Edition Articles 10/22/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Saginaw Saginaw News 11/16/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sault Ste. Marie Evening News 1/26/1901 – 2/2/1924 Newspaper Archives
Sault Ste. Marie Sault Ste. Marie News 1/7/1888 – 12/29/1900 Newspaper Archives
Sault Ste. Marie Sault Ste. Marie Democrat 5/12/1887 – 12/29/1887 Newspaper Archives
Sault Ste. Marie Evening News 10/5/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Shelby, Utica Shelby-Utica News 2/17/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Southfield Southfield Sun 8/4/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Southfield Detroit Jewish News 2/23/2006 – 3/12/2009 Recent Obituaries
Sparta, Kent City Northwest Advance 8/18/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
St. Clair Shores St. Clair Shores Sentinel 1/23/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
St. James Northern Islander 12/12/1850 – 6/19/1856 Newspaper Archives
St. James Daily Northern Islander 5/5/1856 – 6/20/1856 Newspaper Archives
St. Joseph Herald-Palladium 4/1/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
State-Wide County mlive.com: Blogs 8/5/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sterling Heights Sterling Heights Sentry 2/5/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sturgis Sturgis Journal 10/5/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Temperance Bedford Now 8/3/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Traverse City Traverse City Record-Eagle 10/4/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Traverse City Grand Traverse Herald 2/19/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Troy Troy Times 6/4/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Vassar Vassar Pioneer Times 3/9/2005 – 3/16/2011 Recent Obituaries
Vicksburg Commercial-Express 1/22/2011 – 10/29/2011 Recent Obituaries
Warren Warren Weekly 5/15/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Warren Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal 3/2/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Warren Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider 9/4/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Warren Farmington Press 6/25/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Warren C&G Newspapers Web Exclusive Articles 1/13/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Warren Advertiser Times 8/4/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Warren Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle 2/9/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wayland Penasee Globe 12/17/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
West Bloomfield West Bloomfield Beacon 2/22/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Whitehall White Lake Beacon 4/18/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wyoming Southwest Advance 12/16/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ypsilanti Ypsilanti Commercial 3/11/1864 – 8/25/1898 Newspaper Archives
Ypsilanti Eastern Echo: Eastern Michigan University 11/7/2008 – 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 Michigan newspaper links will be live.

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Elizabeth Blackwell: First Woman Doctor in the U.S.

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), an important figure in both the history of medicine and the women’s rights movement, achieved a historic triumph on 23 January 1849 when she was awarded her Medical Degree by Geneva Medical College in New York. With that distinction she became the first woman doctor in U.S. history. She would go on to practice medicine, open the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children, establish women’s medical schools in both England and the U.S., and write about the rights of women to be educated and to enter the medical profession.

photo of Elizabeth Blackwell

Photo: Elizabeth Blackwell. Credit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health; Wikimedia Commons.

A native of England from a strong Quaker family, Blackwell’s family immigrated to America in 1832 when she was 11. She later pursued her interest in medicine by reading extensively in several doctors’ libraries, but none of the leading medical colleges were willing to accept a female applicant. As she proved throughout her life, however, Blackwell’s perseverance was as strong as her intellect.

There is a story that the only reason she got into Geneva Medical College was because the all-male student body voted to accept her application believing it was a hoax. Whether that is true or not, there is no doubt that once Blackwell arrived she worked hard and did well, graduating first in her class in 1849.

portrait of Elizabeth Blackwell, by Joseph Stanley Kozlowski, 1905

Portrait: Elizabeth Blackwell, by Joseph Stanley Kozlowski, 1905. Credit: Upstate Medical University, New York, Library; Wikimedia Commons.

She overcame the initial reluctance of her classmates and teachers in college—but American society in 1849 posed additional challenges for the new graduate to face, as the following newspaper articles show. While some of these articles are supportive, others reflect the public’s resistance to the thought of a woman doctor—an obstacle Blackwell would go on to conquer in her long life and career. She died back in England in 1910 at the age of 89.

photo of Elizabeth Blackwell’s headstone, St. Munn’s Parish Church, Kilmun, Scotland

Photo: Elizabeth Blackwell’s headstone, St. Munn’s Parish Church, Kilmun, Scotland. Credit: NewTestLeper79; Wikimedia Commons.

This flippant notice was published by a Connecticut newspaper.

article about Elizabeth Blackwell, New London Daily Chronicle newspaper article 1 February 1849

New London Daily Chronicle (New London, Connecticut), 1 February 1849, page 2

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Another Connecticut paper was content to announce Blackwell’s news without resorting to sarcasm.

article about Elizabeth Blackwell, New London Democrat newspaper article 3 February 1849

New London Democrat (New London, Connecticut), 3 February 1849, page 2

The New York Star published an editorial saying of women in the medical profession: “Entrust them to be good nurses and familiar with the diseases of females, but beyond that we fear the consequences.” The Albany Express reprinted that editorial, and its article in turn was reprinted by the Richmond Whig.

article about Elizabeth Blackwell, Richmond Whig newspaper article 9 February 1849

Richmond Whig (Richmond, Virginia), 9 February 1849, page 2

Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave, noted abolitionist, and supporter of women’s rights, printed an editorial supportive of Blackwell in his own newspaper.

article about Elizabeth Blackwell, Frederick Douglass’ Paper newspaper article 20 April 1849

Frederick Douglass’ Paper (Rochester, New York), 20 April 1849, page 3

This editorial says in part:

Miss Blackwell is remarkable in that she has succeeded in getting a diploma in spite of opposition from many of the influential Galens [Galen of Pergamon was a Greek physician in the Roman empire – ed.] in this country. There must be a large proportion of the right metal in her composition, or she would never have dared to make the attempt, in opposition to sneers and jeers of the ignorant and self-conceited, about the “sphere,” the “proprieties,” the “decencies,” and all that sort of fudge. Miss Blackwell thinks (and she is right) that whatever a [man] can do, that she may do. If she can think, why should she not think? If she has a mind capable of grasping the most abstruse science, what good reason can be urged against her studying that science.

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The following editorial is an interesting one. It begins with such premises as “the delicacy and shrinking sensibility that is the peculiar attribute of women” and that the “retirement and quietude of the family circle” are “more agreeable to the female disposition.” Yet it goes on to concede there is a need for women doctors (albeit, in the writer’s narrow view, only to serve other women) and concludes by thanking Elizabeth Blackwell for setting “an example for others to follow” and calls for the establishment of “female Medical Schools.” This editorial was published by the Cincinnati Enquirer and reprinted by the Daily Ohio Statesman.

article about Elizabeth Blackwell, Daily Ohio Statesman newspaper article 25 April 1849

Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus, Ohio), 25 April 1849, page 2

This editorial says in part:

Yet, for all that, it must be confessed, that in a sick chamber [a woman] is a “ministering angel”; and that there are diseases peculiar to females that should be treated by women and women alone. The whole branch of Obstetrics should be left entirely to female practitioners. It is repugnant to our notions of propriety, that any other than female doctors should be engaged in that branch. There are other cases, too, which female delicacy painfully shrinks from in consulting a male doctor about. A female doctor would of course direct her studies particularly, and confine her practice altogether to the diseases and cases that are peculiar to her sex. We may be alone in these notions, yet they are sincerely entertained and have been by us for a long time.

One male doctor who offered his support was a Dr. Bailey, who wrote an article about Elizabeth Blackwell for the National Era newspaper in which he praised her character, hard work and intelligence. His article was reprinted in dozens of newspapers and contributed greatly to the ongoing discussion of this new phenomenon of a woman doctor.

article about Elizabeth Blackwell, National Era newspaper article 5 April 1849

National Era (Washington, D.C.), 5 April 1849, page 53

Dr. Bailey concluded his article this way:

The conclusion of the whole matter, I think, is just this: the subject is no longer a question, but a fact. Miss B. is a worker. Just so far as people are workers, they are omnipotent, every one of them; they need very little help, and cannot be much hindered by anybody. She is one of those who cannot be hedged up, or turned aside, or defeated. She will not stop to complain or wrangle about proprieties with people that never do anything, either right or wrong, and she won’t fret. She is a woman, not of words, but of deeds; and those who only want to talk about it, may as well give it up. Withal, her purpose is higher pitched, her aim is broader, her idea deeper, than appears to those who look only at surfaces, and worry themselves with what they call proprieties and practicabilities.

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Revolutionary War Soldier Andrew Wallace – Dead at 105

In 1772 at the age of 42, Andrew Wallace shipped off for North America from Scotland – and just a few years later he was fighting in the American Revolutionary War for his new country.

obituary for Andrew Wallace, Elyria Republican newspaper article 19 February 1835

Elyria Republican (Elyria, Ohio), 19 February 1835, page 1

According to this old soldier’s obituary, Andrew “was engaged in some of the most memorable battles of the Revolutionary War,” and fought honorably. To the end of his life, he was honored by all for his military service. His most heroic moment on the battlefield came when General Marquis de Lafayette “was wounded at the battle of Brandywine [and] Wallace assisted in rescuing him from his perilous situation, and carried him off the field of battle to a friend’s house nearly two miles distant.” By the war’s close, Wallace was a decorated and honored sergeant.

Painting: “Nation Makers” by Howard Pyle, depicting a scene from the Battle of Brandywine

Painting: “Nation Makers” by Howard Pyle, depicting a scene from the Battle of Brandywine. Source: Brandywine Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; Wikimedia.

Wallace lived to be 105. A few weeks before his death, the Peale Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, hosted Andrew as a living exhibit meant to be the “connecting link between the olden and modern age.”

Andrew Wallace, at Peale's Museum, Richmond Whig newspaper article 2 December 1834

Richmond Whig (Richmond, Virginia), 2 December 1834, page 1

Wait – this is interesting.
The article states that Andrew “fought at the battle of Culloden…”
Battle of Culloden? That was in Scotland in 1746 when the British were putting down Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites.

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Thousands attended Wallace’s funeral at the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, where he was buried. The Evening Post reported that even though he “lived and died in the Catholic faith…on his death-bed he asked to be buried with the honors of a mason and a soldier.” His request was honored and although “the weather was wet and stormy…there was an exceedingly brilliant display of military, the masonic fraternity, citizens and others.” The Church extended the extraordinary honor of having him buried in the same tomb as the revered Bishop John Connolly (1750-1825), the Second Bishop of New York. Andrew Wallace was beloved by many and had a great love for the country that took him in so many years prior.

Funeral of Andrew Wallace, Evening Post newspaper article 26 January 1835

Evening Post (New York, New York), 26 January 1835, page 2

Our veterans, old and new, have rendered us such great service and should be remembered every day. GenealogyBanks’ archive of over 1.7 billion historical documents holds the untold stories of your veteran ancestors; sign up today and discover them.

Genealogy Tip: Quite often, a person’s death is reported by many different newspapers in multiple states. Be sure to make a wide search for the obituaries of your ancestors. Do not limit your search to just the newspapers published in their home town.

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Wedding Belles! How to Find Your Ancestors’ Marriage Records

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog post, Mary provides search tips for finding your ancestors’ marriage records in old newspapers.

When romance is in the air, newspapers report it in many surprising ways. By searching old newspapers, you’ll find copious details about your ancestors’ engagements, rehearsal dinners and weddings!

photo of a bride in her wedding dress

Photo: bride in wedding dress, 11 September 1929. Credit: Infrogmation; Wikimedia Commons.

Newspapers Provide Shower & Wedding Details

You might even find old newspaper articles on wedding showers, such as this one from 1910, when Grace (Floyd) Kannaman’s friends surprised her with one. Even though the wedding had already occurred, they couldn’t resist more festivities.

They dined on frappes and wafers, while entertaining themselves with the games “Ring on the String,” “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button,” “Jenkins Up,” and a clothes-pin race. Color-coded gifts were accompanied by poetical dedications, and recipes were pasted in a blue-bound book to become her “infallible household guide!” What a treasure that recipe book must have been to receive – and a great family heirloom to locate if it’s still around!

article about Grace Floyd's bridal shower, Sedan Times-Star newspaper article 1 September 1910

Sedan Times-Star (Sedan, Kansas), 1 September 1910, page 1

Notice how the wedding of Mr. Le Grand C. Cramer and Miss Nellie Almy was described in the following newspaper article as a virtual feast of details. This lengthy historical news article names family members, bridesmaids, groomsmen, the officiant and even the organist – and you get to read about the magnificent pearl and diamond earrings bestowed on Nellie by her groom.

Her bridal costume “consisted of a very rich Velour white-ribbed silk dress with court train, the front breadth elaborately trimmed with flowers and tulle, and the remainder of the dress also elaborately trimmed with waxed orange buds and tulle.” There was a matching veil and extraordinary gifts abounded. An imported camel’s hair shawl was “very cheap at twelve hundred dollars” and of the solid silverware “there seemed to be no end, either in quantity or variety.” The article went on to say that “Those who ought to be good judges say that no bride in this city has ever received such a large quantity of elegant presents as have been bestowed upon Mrs. Cramer.” (I imagine that was an understatement!)

wedding  notice for Le Grand C. Cramer and Nellie Almy, Providence Evening Press newspaper article 17 November 1871

Providence Evening Press (Providence, Rhode Island), 17 November 1871, page 2

The elite are usually proffered prime newspaper coverage for their weddings – but even if your ancestor wasn’t a society belle, you’ll likely uncover intriguing details and descriptions of her wedding.

In 1897, this wedding notice for J. C. Love and Hattie Upchurch reported that the church was “crowded to the doors” and that after the “knot had been tied, to be broken only by death” there was a “swell reception.”

wedding notice for J. C. Love and Hattie Upchurch, Gazette newspaper article 30 October 1897

Gazette (Raleigh, North Carolina), 30 October 1897, page 3

Ancestor Wedding Photographs

Don’t forget to hunt for photographs of marriage engagements and weddings.

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Historical newspapers have always been prone to printing arrays of pictures. When you find weddings, you get a special treat – not only do you get to see the bride and sometimes the groom, but you also get a fashion show of earlier styles!

Genealogy Tip: As discussed in other articles on this blog, if you’ve got an undated photo, browse early newspapers to see if you can figure out the time period when similar clothing styles were popular. For example, read the article How to Date Family Photos with Vintage Fashion Ads in Newspapers.

Here is a 1913 photograph depicting a society belle with her groom. He was Frances Bowes Sayre (1885-1972), the lucky fellow who married President Woodrow Wilson’s daughter, Jessie (1887-1933). Her gown was magnificent – and if you search GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives for reports about their wedding, you’ll learn about the White House ceremony and their honeymoon in Europe.

wedding photo for Frances Bowes Sayre and Jessie Wilson, Evening Times newspaper article 29 November 1913

Evening Times (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 29 November 1913, page 8

This next photo example, from 1936, is a virtual collage of people – from the wedding party to family members and attendees. What a treasure it would be to include this wedding picture collage in the family scrapbook!

wedding photos, Heraldo de Brownsville newspaper article 9 August 1936

Heraldo de Brownsville (Brownsville, Texas), 9 August 1936, page 8

Search Tips for Ancestor Wedding Information in Old Newspapers

I’d like to leave you with some search tips, and invite you to share your own with us in the comments section.

screenshot of GenealogyBank's newspaper search page

  • After exhausting these two, try other search categories. Occasionally you’ll find a honeymoon mentioned in the Passenger Lists category, or the unfortunate divorce filing in the Legal, Probate & Court category. Any of these can help with finding an elusive date of marriage.
  • Don’t forget to broaden date ranges when you do your newspaper searches. Engagement notices can appear in newspapers many years prior to a wedding. Although local wedding notices are usually printed not long after a wedding, out-of-town papers may report the wedding after a long delay. Even honeymoon stop-overs are reported when the happy couple visits relatives.
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  • Research wedding legal requirements. An often overlooked query are banns, which had to be published prior to a wedding. This was done so that people could report concerns as to why a couple should not be married. The amusing anecdote in the following newspaper article showcases the process. In this instance, the groom had written to the church sexton with a request to publish the banns. Trying to be congenial, he concluded his letter: “So no more from your well wisher and Mary Williams.” This sexton unfortunately interpreted the man’s name as “William Wisher,” which was used in the published banns. Imagine the couple’s disappointment when they learned their wedding had to be postponed until after the corrected banns had been published!
article about wedding banns, Biloxi Herald newspaper article 16 December 1893

Biloxi Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), 16 December 1893, page 3

  • Many records kept by organizations are only available at the source. Go to your family’s house of worship to see if any canonical records can be searched. One example comes from my own family. I tried to order my parents’ marriage certificate, but it is lost. So Mom and I went to the church where they were married, only to find that the official wedding book had been lost. The church finally located a report in the monthly newspaper which verified the details of their wedding.
  • Learn about religious customs. An example comes from those with ancestors belonging to the Society of Friends (or Quakers). Many of their accounts make for interesting reading. Recently, I spotted reports where members were directed to observe weddings. The intent was to make sure the ceremony was performed in a manner appropriate to the religion. When it wasn’t, there were follow-ups as to how the marriage had occurred out of unity and whether or not a member took appropriate steps to restore the relationship with the church.
  • If you can’t find a family wedding notice in a newspaper, focus on the groom. Enter his full name, and follow up with a search using his given name’s initials. As seen in the Sayre-Wilson wedding photo above, the bride wasn’t even mentioned by name – and the groom only as “F. B.” Sayre
  • A related tip is to search for the bride or groom’s father. It’s all too common to read reports that “a daughter or son of Mr. So & So was married recently.”
  • Many historical newspaper articles will have headlines reporting just the surnames of the wedding couple, so try searching without given names, such as “Smith-Kline marriage.”
  • If your primary objective is to determine a date and you’re striking out as to the exact date of the marriage, look for anniversary notices and obituaries. Many will report that a couple was married on a certain day, or that they were celebrating a special milestone such as a golden wedding anniversary.
article about wedding anniversaries, San Francisco Bulletin newspaper article 26 September 1866

San Francisco Bulletin (San Francisco, California), 26 September 1866, page 3

  • From one’s engagement to the actual wedding, there are more steps associated with marriages than any other type of life event – so consider all of them as potential keywords. Browse the following list to find keywords that can be cross-referenced:
  • bachelor
  • banns
  • best man
  • betrothal or betrothed
  • bride
  • bridal
  • bridal party
  • bridal shower
  • bridegroom
  • bridesmaid
  • ceremony
  • civil ceremony
  • civil union
  • commitment ceremony
  • dowry
  • elope
  • eloped
  • elopement
  • engaged
  • engagement
  • engagement ring
  • fiancé or fiancée
  • flower girl
  • groom
  • groomsmen
  • guests
  • honeymoon
  • intended
  • intentions
  • maid of honor or matron of honor
  • marriage
  • marriage certificate
  • marriage license
  • married
  • marry
  • newlyweds
  • nuptials
  • officiant (minister, priest, rabbi, reverend, etc.)
  • proposal
  • ring
  • shotgun wedding
  • shower
  • spinster
  • trousseau
  • union
  • veil
  • vows
  • wedding
  • wedding party
  • witness and witnesses

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Your Wife – She Just Might Save Your Life

Marriages create life. They connect family trees and create orchards of ancestors.

And sometimes your wife pulls you out of a snowbank.

Saved by His Wife: Decker Was Caught in the Big Snowstorm, Idaho Daily Statesman newspaper article 18 February 1898

Idaho Daily Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 18 February 1898, page 2

That was the case for Abram Decker, 35, of Sussex County, New Jersey, in 1898.

The Idaho Daily Statesman reports that Decker went to town late one night for groceries in bad weather, and didn’t return. Because they lived far from Newton, what should have been a simple trip for groceries became dangerous due to the distance and the freezing weather.

Patient but worried, his wife waited until early the next morning to go out and search for him; she feared the worst as she fought her way “through snow drifts in some places 15 feet deep.” The Statesman reports that when she found a single foot sticking out of the snow, Abram’s wife identified her frozen husband and saved his life by building a large fire to warm him and bring neighbors to their aid. Decker had collapsed from exhaustion, overtaken by the distance and weather. Thankfully his loving wife saved him from certain doom.

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Genealogy is not just the births, marriages, and deaths; it’s the in-between that truly connects us to our ancestors. Stories like Abram Decker’s brave wife often fail to be passed down in the family – but they really are memorable and should be preserved.

GenealogyBank helps preserve the color and details that fill in our ancestors’ lives. Family stories like this and many others in our archive are waiting to be found. Sign up for GenealogyBank today and add color to your family tree.

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The Controversial Birth of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today the United States celebrates the national holiday Martin Luther King Jr. Day, continuing to honor the slain civil rights leader nearly 47 years after his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on 4 April 1968. This famous advocate of nonviolence helped raise the civil rights movement to national prominence, forever changing American society. He also was a champion of economic justice for the nation’s poor, and was becoming a leader in the anti-Vietnam War protest movement when he was murdered. Martin Luther King, Jr. won the Noble Peace Prize in 1964.

photo of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo: Martin Luther King, Jr., by Dick DeMarsico, 1964. Source: Library of Congress.

To many, it would seem that honoring such a pivotal figure with a national holiday would be an obvious choice for America’s government and public, but that was not the case. There was a great deal of opposition to President Reagan’s signing the bill on 2 November 1983, creating the MLK holiday. Reagan himself had earlier opposed the bill, saying that giving federal employees the day off with pay would be too expensive.

photo of President Ronald Reagan signing the bill to create Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Aberdeen Daily News newspaper article 3 November 1983

Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 3 November 1983, page 6

Reagan had threatened to veto the bill but backed off when it was passed by such strong veto-proof votes in Congress (78 to 22 in the Senate and 338 to 90 in the House of Representatives). At a press conference two weeks before signing the bill, Reagan said he would sign it “since they (Congress) seem bent on making it a national holiday.” He then went on during the press conference to speculate that FBI documents might reveal King’s communist sympathies. He also wrote Meldrim Thomson, the governor of New Hampshire, that the public’s high regard for King was “based on an image, not reality.”

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When the bill first came before the House of Representatives, in 1979, it failed passage by five votes. Senator Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina) led opposition to the bill in the Senate, questioning King’s qualification for such an honor and grousing about his “Marxist” tendencies. When it came up for the Senate vote, John McCain (R-Arizona) was one of the 22 senators who voted against it. Even after the bill’s passage and Reagan’s signature, various states refused to recognize the MLK holiday, with Arizona and New Hampshire being the last two holdouts. It was not until 2000 that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed in all 50 states.

President Signs King Holiday Bill, Augusta Chronicle newspaper article 3 November 1983

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 3 November 1983, page 19

According to this old news article:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said after the ceremony, “I think as an optimist and someone with hope. I would hope that now, that this is the beginning of this administration’s real commitment to the basic and fundamental rights of people in our society.”

While criticizing Reagan’s firing of three Civil Rights Commission members who criticized the administration, Kennedy added, “I’d rather look to today and think that perhaps the administration will move on a different path in the future than it has in the past.”

In his remarks, Reagan said, “In America, in the ’50s and ’60s, one of the important crises we faced was racial discrimination. The man whose words and deeds in that crisis stirred our nation to the very depths of its soul was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

editorial about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy, Augusta Chronicle newspaper article 20 January 2003

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 20 January 2003, page 4

This editorial reads:

A Uniting Legacy

As the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day today—he’d be 74 if he hadn’t been tragically assassinated in 1968—it’s remarkable how his legacy has pulled this nation together.

Despite the controversies and emotions he generated in the turbulent ’60s, just about everyone claims him today. Even people who criticized him on specific issues, such as his support of school busing and opposition to the Vietnam War, have come to see how right he was on racial justice.

Every reasonable person today agrees that people should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

History, of course, looks beyond the ideological and political battles of the ’60s. King’s legacy is larger than that. By leading America’s greatest civil rights movement in the 20th century, he stands as a symbol of non-violent resistance to overweening government power. That legacy resonates loudly as we enter another contentious era—balancing privacy rights against the need for security against terrorism.

Another measure of the Rev. King’s lasting impact is that, although he’s been dead for nearly 35 years, no other civil rights leader has come along who comes close to filling his shoes—not that several haven’t tried.

Today’s theme for the ninth annual memorial observance honoring the Rev. King at Augusta’s Mt. Calvary Baptist Church nicely sums up the powerful impact the great man had on our country: “Making a World of Difference through Godly Leadership for Racial Harmony, Non-Violence and Human Emancipation.”

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