Finding the Historical Articles That Tell My Ancestor’s Story

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott writes about finding old newspapers articles about a foreign-study program called “World Campus Afloat” that he once participated in—the same program, it turns out, that a family member had attended years earlier.

As a genealogical historian I often include what some people might call the “back story” on many of my ancestors. I, however, much prefer to call it the “front story.” I take great enjoyment and pride in being able to add more to my family members’ profiles on my family tree than just facts, figures, and dates. I think of each person’s profile as a quilt. As a result, I need to find and attach as many of the unique squares—the stories—that represent their lives. I believe a terrific place to find such ancestor stories is in the historical newspapers of the time.

So it was that I found myself using GenealogyBank.com while I was working on stitching up the “quilt” for one of our family members. I had made the discovery that they, too, had attended “Semester at Sea,” the same foreign-study program that I had, although they had done it many years before I attended. Not being familiar with this program’s roots, I decided to take a look for what was originally named the “University of the Seven Seas.” Not expecting much, I was amazed to find that my search provided me with over 240 results!

photo of the author, Scott Phillips, as a youth on board ship, participating in the World Campus Afloat program

Photo: the author as a youth (left) on board ship, participating in the World Campus Afloat program

The first article I read was a terrific find from the Springfield Union. It featured an article that covered more than half a page of newsprint and told a detailed story about the very first voyage ever undertaken by the University of the Seven Seas program, and featured the first Academic Dean and a local student as well.

SC Professor Back after Semester on High Seas, Springfield Union newspaper article 23 February 1964

Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), 23 February 1964, page 51

The next article I read was published in the Boston Herald. Again I found that the wonderful focus on detail provided by good newspaper reporting paid dividends: the news article listed dates of sailing, duration of the voyages, and ports of call. It also gave a bit of history, talked about the partners in the program at that time, and gave some personal insights by students.

New 'Semesters at Sea' Scheduled by Ship Line, Boston Herald newspaper article 19 April 1964

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 19 April 1964, page 264

My next discovery led me to the fact that the program officially changed names from the “University of the Seven Seas” to “World Campus Afloat.” Thanks to another capable newspaperwoman or man, this fact was nicely showcased in an old article published in the Trenton Evening Times and provided me with yet more detailed information.

Floating Campus Cruises the World, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 10 December 1967

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 10 December 1967, page 53

From a report in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set from the “Historical Documents” portion of the GenealogyBank.com database, I learned that a member of the program’s faculty testified on United States policy toward Asia in front of a subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee in 1966. It was interesting to read the biography of this individual, Dr. C. Y. Pan, and then to follow along and read his actual testimony.

United States Policy toward Asia, U.S. Congressional Serial Set: Vol. No.12725-3; Report: H.Doc. 488; 19 May 1966

U.S. Congressional Serial Set: Vol. No.12725-3; Report: H.Doc. 488; 19 May 1966

At this point I had lost all track of time and must have read more than 50 historical articles and scanned many more, but another one caught my eye and I had to keep going. It was published in the Greensboro Daily News, and when I opened the article—there was an old classmate of mine looking back at me from the newspaper photograph showing up on my computer screen!

New Program Lets Students Help Plan Courses, Greensboro Daily News newspaper article 26 December 1972

Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, North Carolina), 26 December 1972, page 51

I was about to conclude my searching for the evening when I found one more article of interest. Sadly, it was an obituary for the actor Jeff Corey. Jeff had been our Actor-in-Residence, drama professor, and a wonderfully friendly, open, and approachable member of our shipboard faculty. This was certainly a bittersweet find.

Jeff Corey death notice, USA Today newspaper article 3 January 2003

USA Today (Arlington, Virginia), 3 January 2003

So not only did I find enough material to more fully tell the story about my family member as I had set out to do, but I also found out a great deal more about an educational organization we both attended. In doing so, I rekindled old memories of my own. What a tremendous side benefit to my family tree research!

Do you have anything like this in common with your ancestors? If so, please share with us in the comments. We love to hear your family stories.

GenealogyBank adds more Army, Navy, Air Force Registers

GenealogyBank has added the 1970 military registers for the Army, Air Force, Navy & Marine Corps.

US Army Register – 1970
U.S. Army Register. Volume I. Regular Army active list. 1 January 1970.

U.S. Army Register. Volume II. Army, NGUS, USAR, and other active lists. 1 January 1970.

U.S. Army Register. Volume III. Retired lists. 1 January 1970.

Navy Register – 1970
Register of commissioned and warrant officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps and reserve officers on active duty. 1 January 1970.

Air Force Register – 1970
Air Force Register. Volume I: Active lists & Volume II: Retired lists.

The annual “Registers” issued by each branch of the military are a handy reference tool for obtaining genealogical and military service information about our ancestors.

TIP: You may quickly find these registers by searching for “Army Register” – or “Air Force Register” (in quotes) in the keywords search box – then narrow the search by the years you are researching. The title varies over the years – so you’ll have to adjust the keywords you use over the last 200 years.
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"I sank the Bismarck"

The London Daily Telegraph (9 June 2009) is reporting that it was John Moffat, an RAF pilot, who dropped the torpedo that led to the sinking of the Bismarck on May 28, 1941.

(Click here to read the entire article Dallas Morning News 31 May 1941).

The sinking of the Bismarck is a powerful story. The US was not in the war yet – but the headlines of the war in Europe and Asia had gripped the country for years. Pearl Harbor would not be attacked for another 7 months.

(Dallas Morning News 8 Dec 1961).

Songs were sung about that day.

Whether you are researching your ancestor’s in World War II or the Revolutionary War you will depend on GenealogyBank to get the job done.

Over 3,800 newspapers, all 50 States, 1690-Today
Join with us today!

Thank you to History News Network for alerting me to this story.

Columbia University puts Tibetan newspaper online

Columbia University Libraries has placed a new digital library of 97 issues of the Tibet Mirror (Tib. Yul phyogs so so’i gsar ‘gyur me long) online for scholars to consult and study. Click here to see this collection.

(Image: Yul phyogs so soʾi gsar ʾgyur me long (Kālimpong : G. Tharchin, 1925-<1963>)

The digitized newspapers date from 1933 to 1961, and offer a total of 844 scanned pages drawn from the rich collections of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library.

This Tibetan-language newspaper was published from 1925 to 1963 in Kalimpong, India, and chronicles the most dramatic social and political transformation to have occurred in Tibet during a time when vernacular writing was relatively scarce, and a Tibetan media otherwise non-existent. Columbia’s holdings represent about 30% of the paper’s full run.

“The recent digitization of large portions of the Tibet Mirror is a welcome and significant advancement in the study of modern Tibet,” said Gray Tuttle, Leila Hadley Luce Assistant Professor of Modern Tibetan Studies at Columbia University. “This Tibetan language resource was a key source of news of the world to Tibetans in the middle of the 20th century. As such, it demonstrates that at least some Tibetans were well aware of international developments, from the spread of Communism from Russia to China to the price of wool in Indian markets.”

“To date, no serious study of the contents of this important resource has been published. Having used the existing collections in the past, I am very excited to see how easy it is to navigate around, read and download from this online resource. The contributors Paul Hackett and Tina Harris, Columbia’s Tibetan Studies librarian Lauran Hartley, and all the Columbia staff who made this beautiful site a reality have made an immense contribution to modern Tibetan Studies worldwide,” continued Tuttle.

The digitized newspaper is a cornerstone of the Starr Library’s “Tharchin Collection,” which features the papers of Gegen Dorje Tharchin (1889-1976), a Tibetan Christian convert and the renowned editor of the Tibet Mirror. The Tharchin Collection, which is being readied for public access this year, was acquired with support from the Columbia University Libraries’ Primary Resources Acquisitions Program. In addition to final and draft publications (in both modern and traditional formats), the Collection also includes correspondence; accounts from 1918-1924, and later years; receipts and financial statements; an imprint of a seal designed for the “Future Democratic Tibet Government;” Tibetan hymnals and bibles; scattered photographic prints; advertising solicitations; a list of cotton licenses; and a “Certificate for Traders, Muleteers and Porters.”

The newspapers were a recent gift to C.V. Starr East Asian Library from Dr. Paul G. Hackett, who donated 75 issues, and CUNY graduate student Tina Harris, who donated 22 issues of the paper. The digitized library was created as joint project of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library, the Preservation and Digital Conversion Division, and the Libraries Digital Program Division. For more information about the project, contact Hartley at lh2112@columbia.edu.

The C.V. Starr East Asian Library is one of the major collections for the study of East Asia in the United States, with over 820,000 volumes of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, and Western language materials, as well as some holdings in Mongol and Manchu, and over 6,500 periodical titles. The collection, established in 1902, is particularly strong in Chinese history, literature, and social sciences; Japanese literature, history, and religion, particularly Buddhism; and Korean history. The Library’s website is located at: www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/eastasian/.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 25 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 550 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries at www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb is the gateway to its services and resources.

This collection is not on GenealogyBank.