Irish American Genealogy & Family History Facts Infographic

Irish American Genealogy & Family History Facts Infographic

In celebration of Irish Heritage Month, here are some interesting facts about Irish ancestry in America.

Irish American Population Statistics

  • There are 34.5 million people who claim Irish ancestry in America
  • Approximately 11% of the total United States population is Irish American
  • There are over 7 times more people of Irish descent in the United States than the entire population of Ireland

History of Irish Immigration to America

There were 2 major waves of Irish immigration to America.

  1. The first immigration period was in the Colonial era of the 18th century. These people set sail from the northern provinces of Ireland looking for new lives as American pioneers. The migration consisted of approximately 250,000 Scots-Irish who were predominately Protestant. The major ports of entry for these incoming Irish immigrants were in New York and Philadelphia.
  1. The second wave of immigration was between 1846 and 1900. During this period approximately 2,873,000 people fled to America from the southern provinces of Ireland. This was primarily due to the Great Irish Potato Famine, which caused poverty and starvation throughout Ireland. These new arrivals were predominately of Catholic denomination. The major American ports of entry were in New York and Boston. The Irish also arrived on trains and ships from Canada, which was then called British North America.

Origins of the Saying “Luck of the Irish”

During the 1848-1855 California Gold Rush many Irish immigrants headed out West to mine silver & gold. Many Americans said the immigrants’ mining success was due to luck, not skill—hence the saying “Luck of the Irish.”

Common Irish Surnames

Here is a list of the top 10 most common Irish last names and their meanings:

  • Murphy – Sea Battlers
  • Kelly – Bright-headed Ones
  • O’Sullivan – Hawkeyed Ones
  • Walsh – Welshmen
  • O’Brien – Noblemen
  • Byrne – Ravens
  • Ryan – Little Kings
  • O’Connor – Patrons of Warriors
  • O’Neill - From a Champion, Niall of the Nine Hostages
  • O’Reilly – Outgoing People, Descendants of Reilly

Percentage of Irish Americans by State

The Northeastern United States has the highest concentration of Irish Americans. The following 9 states all have more than 15% Irish ancestry in their total populations. The states are listed in descending order from highest to lowest total Irish population percentages. Massachusetts has the highest percentage in the United States with 22.5% of its residents claiming Irish ancestry.

  1. Massachusetts
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Rhode Island
  4. Delaware
  5. Connecticut
  6. Vermont
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. New Jersey
  9. Maine

The following 9 U.S. states also have high Irish American populations of 12-14%. Montana has the highest in this range with 14.8% of its population claiming Irish ancestry.

  1. Montana
  2. Iowa
  3. Nebraska
  4. Wyoming
  5. New York
  6. Missouri
  7. Ohio
  8. Colorado
  9. Illinois

11% to 11.9% of the residents in the following 7 states claim Irish ancestry.

  1. Oregon
  2. Maryland
  3. Kansas
  4. Washington
  5. Minnesota
  6. Nevada
  7. West Virginia

The remaining states have less than 11% Irish ancestry in their total populations.

Famous Americans Who Are a Wee Bit Irish

From presidents to outlaws, there have been many famous Irish Americans throughout U.S. history. Here are a few of them:

  • John F. Kennedy a.k.a. JFK: 35th President of the United States
  • Henry Ford: Founder of Ford Motor Company
  • Barack Obama: 44th President of the United States
  • William Henry McCarty Jr. a.k.a. Billy the Kid: Outlaw
  • Judy Garland: Actress & Singer
  • Bill O’Reilly: TV Host & Political Commentator
  • Conan O’Brien: TV Host & Comedian
  • Grace Kelly: Actress & Princess of Monaco
  • Walter Elias Disney a.k.a. Walt Disney: Film Producer & Co-founder of the Walt Disney Company
  • Danica Patrick: NASCAR Driver
  • Eddie Murphy: Actor & Comedian
  • Mel Gibson: Actor & Film Producer

Top Irish Genealogy Records

The top genealogy records to trace your Irish roots are:

Did You Know?

Civil registration in Ireland didn’t begin until 1864, although some non-Catholic marriages were recorded as early as 1845. Fortunately for genealogists, Irish American newspapers routinely published the news of Irish births, marriages and deaths for more than half a century before Ireland started recording them.

Got a little Irish in you? Discover your Irish American ancestry at http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/ethnic/irish_american/

Follow GenealogyBank on social media with hashtag #IrishHeritage for more Irish American genealogy facts throughout Irish Heritage Month.

Sources:

http://www.biography.com/people/groups/famous-irish-americans

http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb13-ff03.html

http://www.edwardtodonnell.com/

http://www.energyofanation.org/waves_of_irish_immigration.html

http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/The-10-most-popular-Irish-last-names-2-133737553.html?page=3

http://names.mongabay.com/ancestry/st-Irish.html

http://www.udel.edu/soe/deal/IrishImmigrationFacts.html

http://www.wikipedia.org/

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Name Research Tip: Search Variations of Family First & Last Names

It is generally rare for families to change the spelling of their names (although some immigrant families did so in an attempt to make their names sound more familiar to American ears, so be aware of this possibility).

When doing your family history research, however, you may encounter variations on the spelling of your family’s name for a reason that had nothing to do with the family: registrars often recorded names the way they heard them.

All my growing-up years I had to spell my last name because everyone wanted to write “Kent” instead of “Kemp.”

Why?

Because they were unfamiliar with my surname.

Kemp is an uncommon surname, and for that reason it is spelled differently in various records.

Some variations of my last name I’ve encountered: Kent, Kamp, Camp, etc.

You know by name research experience which names could be a problem.

In the past some immigrants did decide to simplify their names in an attempt to fit in better with American society, revising their original foreign-spelled name when there was an obvious English equivalent. Names were Anglicized: Mueller became Miller; Johansson became Johnson; etc.

Contrary to movie portrayals, it was not government policy to change people’s names.

There was no government official at Castle Garden or Ellis Island responsible for changing the names of incoming immigrants.

If you are having trouble finding your target ancestor searching by their surname, try searching on the first name.

In time Americans—whether they were government officials, teachers, etc.—became more familiar with immigrants’ first names and were more likely to record them spelled correctly. While they had difficulty with seemingly one-off surnames, there was a smaller supply of first names. It was easy for Americans to remember Johann, Guido or Ludwig. Although, of course, the first name could also be Anglicized: Johann becoming John; Tâm becoming Tom; etc.

For all these reasons, it is a good idea to try searching for variations of your ancestors’ first and last names when doing your family history research searches, to increase the chances of finding documents and records about them.

Let me give you a case in point.

I was recently searching the New Jersey State Archives for the death certificate of Isaac Meserole.

I went to the online index to New Jersey Death Certificates for 1878 to 1888 and searched for him.

I found several “Meserole” death certificates but not one for Isaac.

I knew Isaac had died in North Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey, around 1882. So I searched using only his first name “Isaac”—leaving the surname field blank.

Bingo! His entry came right up, with his surname spelled as “Meseroll.” The registrar had written the name as he heard it.

Here is the entry for Isaac:

death certificate for isaac meserole for January 6, 1882, from the new jersey state archives

Death certificate for Isaac Meserole, 6 January 1882, from the New Jersey State Archives

This is a good research tip for when you search for ancestors on GenealogyBank or any online resource. Begin your family search with the correct spelling of your ancestor’s name. Then do follow-up searches, with name variations for both the first and last names, and see if you can find additional genealogy records. You may find that record you’ve long been searching for, but remained hidden because the ancestor’s name had been misspelled.

In today’s mail bag.

Q:The person I’m searching for is James Francis Fewster b.1867.
I know that there was an article published about him in the Baltimore Sun – 12 August 1889 – but I can’t find it.
What am I doing wrong?

When I browse GenealogyBank I find NOTHING – but I know this article exists.
Please help – thank you.


Great question!

Here’s what you want to do.

A: At the search box simply type in: Fewster in the surname box and 1889 in the date box. You’ll see that the article about him comes right up.

Notice that GenealogyBank highlights the search term: Fewster – making it easy to spot it on the page.

Why search that way?

The newspapers in GenealogyBank have been published for over 300 years. Editors have used various editorial styles for writing about individuals. So – keep the searching simple.

In this case – the newspaper wrote James Francis Fewster’s name: as: Jas. F. Fewster.

So – if you type in his full name – you will miss this article.

Remember the rule of WYSIWYG (pronounced /ˈwɪziwɪɡ/).
It is an acronym that stands for What You See Is What You Get.

In other words – what you type in the search box is what the computer will search for.

Adding extra terms: like the middle name can be very helpful in limiting your search results to zero in on your ancestor – but – remembering WYSIWYG – it can also work against you.

Fewster is a distinctive surname and like most surnames, it is not very common.

So – a tip: limit your search to simply the “surname”.

The search engine will then cut through the 672 million articles and zero in on just the ones mentioning a person named Fewster.

And in this example you want only the articles published in 1889.

So, put both of those facts together and Bingo.
There it is.

1910 Census just like 2010 Census

Taking the census in 1910 was just as difficult for census enumerators then as it is for today’s census workers.

100 years ago today – Census Supervisor R.W. Hill issued an “ultimatum” that he would invoke “fines” and penalties if Seattle, WA residents continued to treat census takers with “discourtesy and contempt.”

Click here to read the full story – 19 April 1910 – Seattle Daily Times.

You can read what was happening today in history or any day over the past 300+ years. GenealogyBank has over 4,300 newspapers online and adds more every day! Join now and start digging for your family history.

Read the stories of your ancestor’s lives in the historical newspapers – see history as they lived it.

Click here to see a larger image of the 19 April 1910 Seattle Times front page.

Where can I find Philadelphia death certificates?

Q: I am trying to find the exact date of death of my ancestor. I am sure he died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1800 and 1910. Is there a source for death records for that time period?

A: You want to search these key sources:
1. Philadelphia Historical Newspapers on GenealogyBank 1719-1983 http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/newspapers/explore/USA/Pennsylvania/Philadelphia/
2. Philadelphia Death Records (free) online 1803-1915 http://search.labs.familysearch.org/recordsearch/start.html#p=collectionDetails;c=1320976


It’s a great day for genealogy.

Tell us your success story.

We hear from GenealogyBank researchers all the time about their success in finding their family in historical newspapers and documents.

Do you have an interesting story to tell?
Would you be willing to be interviewed about it?

If so, please contact me directly at: TKemp@NewsBank.com

We want to hear from you.

Here is what others have told us:

Genealogy is my #1 hobby and profession. After hearing about your site, I signed up for a year. I have spent hours at libraries finding and copying obituaries and now some of them I can find just by typing in a name! I’m also finding the less common marriage notices and newspaper articles that I did not even think to search for because I did not know they existed until they came up on my screen!
Michael W. McCormick Adams County, PA, Enduring Legacy Genealogy, LLC

I have never heard of this site before, just saw it on Facebook and decided to check it out. This is my dream come true! In 5 minutes I’ve found more articles about my g-g-g grandfather than I ever thought possible! I’m sold….
Joan Morrison

[....] I found something very valuable on your site, [...] the story of my ggrandparents getting back together after 20 years being apart back in 1901-2 time. I believe it was in one of the TX papers, don’t know why it was in it, because my ggrandfather went out to Wisconsin to seek his fortune after marrying my ggrandmother in Nova Scotia. He left after 2 weeks marriage (she was already pregnant but didn’t know it, with my grandmother) and her parents did not like him, so they kept all his letters from her. He went to Massachusetts to see a friend and he asked about her and was told she lived not too far away, never married. He went to her house, and the rest is history as they say.
Margaret Sessions, Florida

I have been a subscriber since February 2008. I really like your site. I have been able to locate news articles about my ancestors in a matter of minutes. I had been looking for an article on my great grandfather’s death in a train accident for at least twenty years without any luck. I found it in about ten minutes searching GenealogyBank. THANK YOU!
Keith Parrish

Your site…I am delighted I found it. Such a wide variety from major city newspapers I’ve never found anywhere, especially with regard to the period of history in which I am most interested. Keep adding, and thank you, from a very much pleased subscriber.
George B. Parous, Pittsburgh, PA

I am a multi-state licensed private investigator that specializes in historical and genealogical research. THIS IS MY FAVORITE WEBSITE! Thanks so much!
DeeDee, Baton Rouge, LA

I subscribed to your site yesterday and forthwith found a very interesting 4th of July article concerning my Revolutionary War patriot ancestor. What a great find!
Nancie Brunk

I’ve been having a ball finding articles about my family. The biggest find for me…was discovering my gr-grandfather’s uncle in Congressional records as well as in newspapers. He had left home as a child and didn’t return home again until after his father died. It was reported in the newspapers that his elderly mother (my gr-gr-gr-grandmother!) almost went into shock after not seeing him for nearly 37 years. GenealogyBank gave me great insight into his life as a fisherman turned world traveler and the names of his children that he had with his Russian wife and his locations in Russia and Japan back in the 1800s! How cool is that??? :) I can’t wait to see what papers you will put up next. Keep up the great work!
Catherine “Casey” Zahn

Genealogybank is a fantastic resource. I literally have pulled 100s of newspaper articles in the past year from the 1780s to the 1920s that have helped me reconstruct families, and much eye opening information. Over this holiday I reconstructed another family using it and am now matching old photos back to these folks from over 100 years ago. Whereas most databases give you the vital records, GenealogyBank fills in the life stories. I have been getting a kick out of the horse trader and express man brothers and their stories that made the paper. They amused (and not so amused) the folks of Springfield, Mass, for several years in the Springfield Republican. Although I have not found photos of them yet, I have now correctly identified their sisters and some nieces and nephews after decades of not knowing for sure who the people were.
Ken Piper, Facebook

I recently learned my early ancestors traveled with a French group called The Ravel Family. They were a circus family but performed in theatres in New York City, Boston, Havana, New Orleans and other U.S. cities and countries. It turns out, The Ravel Family were world famous and had a great reputation. My 2nd great-grandfather, Leon Giavelli (stage name of Javelli) performed high wire acts that no others dared try…I found all of this out just from typing ‘Giavelli’ in your search engine; I have been very busy downloading newspaper articles and advertisements of my family and I owe it all to you!
Jane Laughon

I have never believed in paying for websites, but I finally broke down and subscribed to Genealogybank.com. I was thrilled to have found numerous articles on my family in the Philadelphia Inquirer (PA). Thanks for your great website.
Barbara Turner, Woodbury, NJ

I’m going for a two-year subscription, for the price may never be this good again – and with all the new resources being added, who knows how much more genealogy I will be able to access 18 months from now. Look how much new content went up in just six weeks!

I subscribed immediately. Within a short space of time I found an obit for great uncle John P. McCANNEY. My father’s namesake, he hid from me for years! I also found a news article for Aveline KUNTZMANN, my beloved’s 2nd great grandmother. It always puzzled me because she is not interred with KUNTZMANN family. Wow! She was lost when the LA BOURGOGNE sank in July 1898. I am going to be sleep deprived!
-Mary McCanney Finley

I found a letter written by my third great grandfather – the first thing I’ve ever seen written by the man. This letter was published in the Albany (New York) Argus in February of 1819. Wonderful!
Most of the content found at GenealogyBank is unique, not found on other sites. You may search it for free to see how many records there are for your family. If it looks good, sign-up to see the full records.
Honestly, if you have colonial ancestry, you can’t afford not to use this new resource. For the first time ever, you will be able to access newspapers and documents not previously indexed or in many cases, accessible at all. What makes this collection unique is that much of the data is from the American Antiquarian Society in Worchester, Massachusetts. This organization holds the earliest American printed materials, including newspapers – and now, for the first time, much of this material is accessible to you and I – all in digital format.
-Leland MeitzlerGenealogyBlog.com

Congratulations on a terrific website! I can’t leave it – I found several newspaper items I’ve not before seen and I still have more on the list to view. I’m one of your first subscribers.
Thank you so much for your dedication. It paid off tremendously. I’m going back now.
-Stefani Evans, CG

…they are the kind of resources that help you to not only use source documents to learn more about your ancestry, but they also help you to put ‘meat on the bones’ of your genealogy as you work to create a family history. Now, individuals have access to a wide array of great resources, which are centralized and available through a single subscription service. GenealogyBank is quickly becoming a major player in the field.
Internet Genealogy, January 2007

Your GenealogyBank is WONDERFUL. It’s a must for researching genealogists. I ran into info that I had searched and searched for years ago in libraries. And here it is now right at my fingertips! Amazing. It is well worth the price. Thank you for giving us all this information.
-Diana K. Bennett

I had a chance to ‘test drive’ the new individual GenealogyBank and was much impressed…. My best finds were in the Historical Documents collection – the American State Papers and the U.S. Serial Set. They yielded the most interesting and amazing information. I learned my 3rd great-grandfather, Solomon Dunagan was a constable, and testified at a voter fraud trial at Wayne County, Ky. Feb. 9, 1860. Solomon’s son, Thomas J. Dunagan testified at the same trial as a witness for the prosecution.
-Carllene Marek AncestreeSeekers, Chico (CA) Enterprise-Record

I almost fell off my chair last week, and not because I’m naturally clumsy. I was trying out the new GenealogyBank database … and saw a headline ‘Boy From Holy Land Working Way Through University of Texas.’ I clicked, and there was a picture of my grandfather. The slightly melodramatic 1924 Dallas Morning News article told how my Lebanese ancestor – who lived in an orphanage – respected his elders, studied into the wee hours and worked in a dairy all summer to earn money for college. Despite ‘lacking in dash and brilliance’ (in the reporter’s opinion), he was in the band, played football and won a debate contest.
I never met my grandfather, but he sounds a lot like my dad (except my dad is brilliant). It was a totally unexpected discovery, and just goes to show you can find information in surprising places.
-Diane Haddad, Newsletter Editor

Right off the bat, you’ll notice the servers respond quickly to return hits. In my first two searches I found 2 relevant entries for my ancestors. I expect this new website will be on my ‘must visit regularly’ lists.
-MyrtleDearMYRTLE.com

I subscribed today and have only stopped twice – once to eat a quick dinner and now for this note to thank you for this wonderful site. Already I have found 30 newspaper references in 1700-1800 for my ancestor in New York. I can’t thank you enough for putting this out there for us. What an accomplishment! I’m so glad it came along while I’m still here. I turned 87 this September. The program sent me hurrying along to finish my family history!
-Alice H. Williams

It has a lot more and to me it has been worth the money. You can take it a month at a time. I have already found so much info on one of my surnames and it will take me days to go through it all. I love the site.
-Barbara Nichols

GenealogyBank is the most customer-oriented genealogy website I’ve ever had the pleasure to use. Its constantly-expanding content is remarkably varied, immensely useful, and delightfully out-of-the-ordinary. A vast number of the documents included in ‘America’s Government Documents’ and ‘America’s Historical Books’ are not found in the genealogy databases I’ve seen. GenealogyBank’s features are easy to understand and use. The Help section is comprehensive and well-written. GenealogyBank clearly was created and structured with the needs of genealogists at all levels of research in mind.
-Joy Rich, M.L.S., Editor, Dorot: The Journal of the Jewish Genealogical Society (New York)

I have never believed in paying for websites, but I finally broke down and subscribed to Genealogybank.com. I was thrilled to have found numerous articles on my family in the Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer. Thanks for your great website.
-Barbara Turner Woodbury, NJ

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Genealogy Boot Camp – Quick Tips

Genealogy Boot Camp

Here are a few tips that every genealogist should know.

Using an online index

Researchers using an online index sometimes try to tell the computer everything they know about their deceased ancestor.

Assuming that the computer will sort through all of the facts and narrow down the hits to just their ancestor – they will type in the person’s full name, complete dates of birth/death, nicknames and any other facts that might be helpful.

Sometimes – less is more.

What you want to do is try multiple approaches as you interrogate the index.

1. Search on the full name: first name, middle name, surname.
Give it a try and see if it promptly gives you the results you want. This is particularly effective if the parts of the name are distinctive, uncommon words.

2. Not finding your guy? Then – try again. This time search on only the surname. Or – if the first name is distinctive – search on just the first name. 3. Notice that once you have made your initial search you may narrow down your search to only the obituaries, marriage notices or birth announcements.

Click on Obituaries and the computer will bring you only the 55 obituaries – instead of all 2,651 article results for “Starbird”.

This is a handy tool for speeding up your search.

4. Be careful not to narrow your search too much.

It is common for new researchers to only search the “local” newspaper published in the town where their ancestor once lived. That is a common mistake.

Newspapers routinely published information about people living far from the town where the newspaper was published.

For example – Chloe Starbird – wife of John Starbird died in Portland, Maine – but her obituary appeared in the Boston Semi-Weekly Advertiser (16 March 1822) – published in another state. Newspapers routinely published articles about people who lived in other counties; or other states. Their mandate was to fill the newspaper with news every day and to expand their circulation base. So – editors routinely added birth, marriage and death notices for individuals – providing their readers with the news they needed.

Notice that in this same example from the Boston Semi-Weekly Advertiser (16 March 1822) – that there are obituaries for individuals from Portland, Maine; Dublin, New Hampshire; Sturbridge; Shrewsbury; Bolton; New Braintree; Barre, Vermont; Zanesville, Ohio and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Think big – search all of GenealogyBank – then narrow your search by region, state or town.

George Washington gave his farewell address 17 September 1796.

George Washington gave his farewell address September 17, 1796.

Think of it.

He had led the nation in war and unified us as a new and separate country. He had served as President since April 30, 1789 and now he was leaving office. He was the image of stability, security, a father figure. He was called the Father of our Country.
Read what the newspapers wrote – as it was happening:

“The President of the United States, has in an address worthy of his goodness and his greatness, announced to his fellow citizens, his resolution to decline being considered among the number of those, out of whom choice is to be made of a citizen to administer the Executive Government when the present period of office expires”.

You can read the complete address as it was printed in the New-Jersey Journal 28 September 1796.

He would would serve to the end of his term on March 4, 1797 and then passed away just a few years later on December 14, 1799.

Read the news as your ancestor’s read it.
See it, day by day as it unfolded in their lives.
The uncertainty – the stories of their lives.

GenealogyBank – over 3,800 newspapers – 1690 to today – All 50 States.
No other site covers the Colonial period like GenealogyBank.

Joshua Hempstead (1678-1758) – I was blind but now I see.

New London Historical Society (CT) is doing a terrific job serializing Joshua Hempstead’s diary on their site.

Styled the Joshua Hempstead Blog – each entry of his diary captures the details of life in Colonial Connecticut. Hempstead’s diary entries are dated from September 8, 1711 through November 3, 1758. He died 22 December 1758.

According to historian Bruce P. Stark, “The diary, the only one of its kind in Connecticut, fills over 700 tightly-packed, printed pages and provides a detailed picture of the life of Hempstead, his family, neighbors, and acquaintances. It also includes a great deal of information about events in New London and eastern Connecticut.” See his complete article: Joshua Hempstead published on the Connecticut Heritage Gateway.
I am looking forward to reading his diary entries for the time his sight was restored in 1831. Here is the account from the newspaper Connecticut Courant 12 July 1831

According to the newspaper he was blind for ten years but being “of an industrious habit” he went to work in his fields every day.

One day after being “led into the field” … “while at work, he placed, as usual, his staff in the centre of a hill of corn, as a guide when stooping with a quick motion, the top of the staff struck his eyebrow a violent blow and glanced over the eye, producing a severe pain.” The blow restored his sight and he “hastened home alone, bearing the joyful tidings, to his astonished and happy family.”

Now – that’s a great family story. If you don’t have your ancestor’s diary passed down in the family or preserved at a historical society – check and see if the stories of their lives were recorded in one of the 3,800+ newspapers in GenealogyBank.

It’s a Great Day for Genealogy!

Many thanks to Barbara Matthews for alerting me to the New London Historical Society’s decision to put Joshua Hempstead’s diary online.
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I can’t find my ancestor – what am I doing wrong?

For most searches on GenealogyBank it is easy to find your ancestor. You type in their name and in an instant you spot them in the search results list.

So - what do you do when your ancestor’s name doesn’t come right up in the search hits?
Just like any other genealogical resource you need to step back and see what your options are and try various ways to search on the site.

Consider your search strategy.
1. Sometimes less is more.
Be careful how you type in your ancestor’s name.
His full name might have been: Willard Jacob Teskey …. but the newspaper article may have simply called him:

Willard Teskey
Willard J. Teskey
W.J. Teskey
Bill Teskey
or only: Teskey

Try typing in variations of the person’s name.
I have found that typing in only the surname can quickly get you the best results.

Tip: You almost never want to type in a person’s “middle” name. Newspapers rarely use a person’s full name.

Be Careful How You Limit Your Search
It is tempting to limit your search to only one state or even to one newspaper. That can often be the most appropriate search strategy. However, if your searches did not locate the obituary or article about your ancestor – try your search again and this time do not limit your search geographically.

If that produces too many hits – then repeat your search and limit it by the likely starting and ending years when your ancestor. Be sure add a few years in both directions so you will bring up the most possible hits.

Tip: Newspapers often published brief biographies and articles years after a person died. So be careful how you limit your search or you might miss the articles you are looking for.

GenealogyBank brings together newspapers, books, reports and documents from over 300 years. During that time printers had access to varying qualities of newsprint; pieces of type and printing presses.

1. Newspapers have been printed on newsprint paper of varying quality. Some are smooth and some pages are rough.

2. Printers had only so many pieces of type and the newspaper had a deadline. It would be easy when they set the type for the day’s newspaper to swap in an “m” for a “w” or switch a “d” and a “p” or a “1″ and a “l”. The reader in 1843 would hardly notice the difference. But a modern computer might struggle to interpret each word if the piece of type was a different letter or had been damaged.

Let me give you a similar example that has circulated on the Internet for years:

Cna yuo raed tihs?
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotui t a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

This is an extreme example that shows the problems that computers have reading the old newspapers and documents. Individuals reading an old newspaper quickly adjust to the look, feel of the newspaper and learn how to read it. GenealogyBank has been working on these issues for years and improved and enhanced our OCR capability.

GenealogyBank uses state of the art OCR software and we have teams of indexers that review and tag each item – focusing on names, obituaries, births, marriages and other data of high importance to genealogists.

3. Still can’t find your ancestor? Then, its time to dig in and search the target newspapers, page by page. GenealogyBank makes it easy to bookmark a specific newspaper, combination of newspapers or locations. You could then go through the newspapers – month by month – clicking from page to page to quicly see if your ancestors were mentioned.

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