How the 5 Ws & FAV(orites) in Newspapers Can Help Genealogists

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott explains how he adds his own personal touch to the “5 Ws” (Who, What, When, Where & Why) of newspaper journalism to enliven his family history research.

Recently I wrote here on the GenealogyBank.com blog about how much I love the 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where & Why) of good, high-quality newspaper reporting for my genealogy and family history work. There is little better than finding an interesting article in one of the thousands of GenealogyBank.com newspapers that contains your ancestor’s name, and then topping that off by finding that the reporter adhered to the newspaperwoman/man’s mantra of the 5 Ws. Most decidedly, to me, it just doesn’t get much better than this! However, since none of us genealogy-crazy folks ever leave something well enough alone, I like to add my own FAVs to the 5 Ws. Now, while I know this won’t win me a Pulitzer or anything, my FAVs do help my family search efforts.

My FAV(orites) are this: Fun, Adventure, and Value.

First, FUN: One of my key precepts as a genealogist is that we must always keep the fun in our work. If we hope to attract the interest of others to genealogy and family history, one of the easiest ways to do this is by making it fun! Whenever I am doing genealogy research in newspapers I am reminded that my father always began his day, every day, with the funny pages of the newspaper. Although a businessman through-and-through, he said the news and business of the day could wait while he started his day with a smile and a chuckle. I have wonderful memories of my dad in his crisp white shirt and tie, coffee mug in hand, and seeing his eyes sparkling as he laughed at the funnies. So it is from these vivid memories that I keep the fun in my genealogy in a variety of ways. One of which is that whenever I am searching old newspapers I make sure to check the funnies.

If nothing else I enjoy seeing how some of my favorites have changed over the years, like good old Dagwood Bumstead of the “Blondie” comic; I found this example in a 1938 newspaper. That day’s comic featured a coal-fired furnace (like my grandparents’ home had), old-fashioned telephone switchboard (which I recall from my old hometown), and much more all in one comic. Times like this give me what I call “a minute vacation” and the fun refreshes me for the work ahead.

"Blondie" comic strip, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper 11 December 1938

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 11 December 1938, page 115

Second, ADVENTURE: I also love discovering in old newspaper articles the adventures that our ancestors had. As a matter of fact, just two days ago I was beginning my genealogy research on the Fortelka family branch in our family tree when I discovered Frank Fortelka aka “The Bohemian Cyclone”!

Pugilism: The Cyclone Will Fight, Plain Dealer newspaper article 11 April 1895

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 11 April 1895, page 3

Not only did I get to follow The Cyclone’s career as a boxer, but also his career after that when he became a member of the “thin blue line” as a police officer for the city of Cleveland, Ohio. I also learned that The Cyclone was known to use his fisticuffs abilities against ne’re-do-wells in that city, often being reported to take on groups of twenty or more, successfully subdue them, and bring them to justice—with only his fists! Wow, talk about a real-life adventure and superhero! Then I got treated to his photograph, along with his wife’s picture for good measure, in a 1947 newspaper article about the golden wedding anniversary of The Bohemian Cyclone and his wife.

Ex-Boxer and Wife Married 50 Years, Plain Dealer  newspaper article 26 October 1947

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 26 October 1947, page 16

Third, VALUE: Another of my mantras in my genealogy work is to capture the persona, not just the data, of my ancestors. I believe that nothing adds more value to my family tree quite like the insight into the real persona of my ancestors that I gain from newspaper articles. I find great value in newspapers’ photographs, in-depth information, stories, and articles on the times my ancestors lived, and much, much more. The last time I looked at my family tree I found that I have more than 320 newspaper articles attached to the profiles of my family members and ancestors! Now that is what I call adding value. Of course, while I love the value these impart to me, I am even more thrilled when their value is realized by others.

For instance, whenever I get to share a newly discovered newspaper account about one of our ancestors with my 93-year-old Mother I get to see the happiness in her eyes and hear the excitement in her voice. Now that, my friends, is adding real value!

photo of Scott Phillips' mother

From the author’s collection

So tell me—what do you add to the 5 Ws in newspaper journalism as you work on your family tree?

Old Photos of the City of Cleveland in Historical Photo Archive

It was a happy day in 1914 when Clevelanders learned that a cache of old city photos had been found.

A photograph, after all, is worth a thousand words—and these old Cleveland, Ohio, photographs told quite a story about the city’s development.

Photographing Cleveland for 50 Years, Plain Dealer newspaper article 27 December 1914

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 27 December 1914, page 27

This massive collection of more than 5,000 negatives had been taken over a lifetime by Jerry Greene, long-time Cleveland photographer. The cache of these old city photos of Cleveland was found and rescued by Stanley McMichael in 1914.

You too can find and rescue your family’s old photographs by searching for those that were published in the nation’s newspapers over the past century and more. Uncover your ancestors’ old pictures from events such as birthdays, graduations, marriages, family reunions and more. See historical pictures of the cities and towns they lived in and watch them grow. These old photos can provide a true sense of what life was like during their times.

Be sure to use GenealogyBank’s handy photographs and images search page designed to help you focus in on these historical photos.

GenealogyBank's Newspaper Photos & Illustrations search page

GenealogyBank’s Newspaper Photos & Illustrations search page

Search the historical photo archive using only a surname to find photos and illustrations of your relatives, or search on the name of their home town to find images of the ancestral towns where your family was from.

Find, preserve and pass down these old family photographs!

61 Tennessee Newspapers Now Online for Your Genealogy Research

Dolly Parton’s powerful country song “My Tennessee Mountain Home” evokes the quiet days of her childhood growing up in Tennessee:

In my Tennessee mountain home
Life is as peaceful as a baby’s sigh
In my Tennessee mountain home
Crickets sing in the fields near by…

photo of country singer Dolly Parton

Photo: Dolly Parton. Credit: Alan Light.

If you have Tennessee roots like Dolly does, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s Tennessee newspaper archives: 61 online news titles to help you search for your family history in “The Volunteer State.”

Dig in and search for obituaries and other news articles about your ancestors in these recent and historical TN newspapers online:

Search Tennessee Newspaper Archives (1793 – 1969)

Search Tennessee Recent Obituaries (1990 – Current)

Here is our complete list of online Tennessee newspapers. Each news title 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.

City Newspaper Date Range Collection
Athens Daily Post-Athenian 3/28/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Carthage Carthage Gazette 8/13/1808 – 7/1/1817 Newspaper Archives
Carthage Western Express 11/21/1808 – 11/21/1808 Newspaper Archives
Chattanooga Chattanooga Courier 2/10/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chattanooga Chattanooga Daily Rebel 8/9/1862 – 4/27/1865 Newspaper Archives
Chattanooga Chattanooga Times Free Press 4/1/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chattanooga Justice 12/24/1887 – 12/24/1887 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Clarksville Gazette 11/21/1819 – 12/23/1820 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Tennessee Weekly Chronicle 1/27/1819 – 6/7/1819 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Town Gazette 7/5/1819 – 11/8/1819 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Weekly Chronicle 2/18/1818 – 9/16/1818 Newspaper Archives
Cleveland Cleveland Daily Banner 10/15/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbia Daily Herald 10/12/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cookeville Herald-Citizen 4/12/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crossville Crossville Chronicle 9/1/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crossville Glade Sun 6/2/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Dayton Herald-News 1/6/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Greeneville Greeneville Sun 9/14/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Jackson Headlight 1/27/1900 – 1/27/1900 Newspaper Archives
Kingston Roane County News 1/14/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Daily Journal and Journal and Tribune 4/1/1888 – 12/31/1896 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville Enlightener 1/31/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Knoxville Gazette 12/7/1793 – 10/29/1806 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville News Sentinel 1/4/1991 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Negro World 10/15/1887 – 11/26/1887 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Wilson’s Knoxville Gazette 9/1/1818 – 9/1/1818 Newspaper Archives
Lafayette Macon County Times 10/8/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
LaFollette LaFollette Press 11/21/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lenoir City News-Herald 9/27/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maryville Blount Today 2/1/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maryville Daily Times 12/12/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Commercial Appeal 1/1/1968 – 12/31/1969 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Commercial Appeal 6/27/1990 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Commercial Appeal, The: Web Edition Articles 11/14/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Memphis Daily Avalanche 1/1/1866 – 4/30/1869 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Memphis Triangle 11/17/1928 – 7/27/1929 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Tri-State Defender 2/3/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Murfreesboro Murfreesboro Union 6/6/1939 – 6/6/1939 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Colored Tennessean 8/12/1865 – 7/18/1866 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Impartial Review 1/18/1806 – 8/16/1806 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Murfreesboro Vision 1/15/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Nashville Clarion 2/6/1821 – 8/29/1821 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Gazette 5/26/1819 – 2/14/1827 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Post 1/21/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Nashville Pride 1/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Nashville Republican 8/7/1824 – 1/16/1835 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Scene 11/23/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville National Banner and Nashville Whig 1/1/1834 – 12/30/1836 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Review 11/10/1809 – 5/3/1811 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Tennessee Gazette 2/25/1800 – 5/30/1807 Newspaper Archives
Newport Newport Plain Talk 7/1/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oak Ridge Oak Ridger 2/17/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Paris Paris Post-Intelligencer 7/5/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rogersville Rogersville Review 12/16/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rogersville Western Pilot 8/19/1815 – 8/19/1815 Newspaper Archives
Sevierville Mountain Press 10/3/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Shelbyville Tennessee Herald 12/19/1817 – 3/8/1820 Newspaper Archives
Spring Hill Advertiser News 5/14/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sweetwater Advocate and Democrat 6/12/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tazewell Claiborne Progress 11/18/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wartburg Morgan County News 12/19/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries

Genealogy Is Family Stories & Newspapers Are Full of Them

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott hears some interesting family stories from his 93-year-old mother and digs into old newspapers to learn more.

If you were at RootsTech 2013 or followed much of that genealogy conference online as I did, you know that speaker after speaker reminded us that stories are what make our genealogy come alive. I am sure you will agree with this sentiment. Few things in our family history work surpasses the impact and enjoyment of stories.

So it was natural that I got to thinking again about the multitude of stories that adorn my family tree. It is probably the item I ask for most often from people for our tree, right after I hound them for a photograph. Family stories can tell us so much about the lives and times of our ancestors. They offer us snapshots of life that are often filled with amazing tidbits and personal details.

photo of Scott Phillips and his 93-year-old mother

Photo: Scott Phillips’s mother sharing her stories with him. Credit: from the author’s collection.

When I am working on my genealogy early in the morning and it is too early to bother family members for a new story over the phone, I scan the newspaper for new information and stories that might be of interest. Since I am also a GOG—a Grizzled Old Genealogist—I still like my newspaper the old-fashioned way, delivered to my stoop each morning.

I begin my day, every day, the same way my father always began his day. That would be with the comics section of the newspaper! My Dad, God rest his soul, always said “The headlines and business news can wait. It’s more important to start your day off with a smile.” Then he would first open the paper to the funny pages.

Still to this day, I start my day the same way! Two things happen: I do indeed start my day with a smile and a chuckle; and in my mind’s eye I can see and hear my dad chuckle over his favorite comic, “Pogo” by Walt Kelly. My dad even had his favorite quote, uttered by Pogo himself, taped on his desk: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Pogo cartoon for Earth Day 1971, Anchorage Daily News newspaper 18 April 1971

Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska), 18 April 1971, page 4

Not long ago I was visiting with my 93-year-old Mother about all things family and asking her about stories from her youth in the Czech community of Cleveland, Ohio. One of the stories she shared gave me gooseflesh. She told me about living in fear at the time of the “Torso Murders” in Cleveland that instilled dread throughout her neighborhood and the entire city.

This story was new to me, so it didn’t take me long to pull up some articles on GenealogyBank.com and begin to research this story from the 1930s involving a set of serial murders which remain unsolved to this day. I dug into this story and was fascinated to learn that these murders greatly tarnished the career of one of America’s most famous “G-Men,” Elliot Ness.

The "Mad Butcher" Strikes Again, Omaha World Herald newspaper article 18 September 1938

Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 18 September 1938, page 37

While I was reading my fourth newspaper article about the “Torso Murders” I was thrilled to find that one of my ancestors, Gordon Shibley, was a Cleveland Police Detective working to try and solve these horrible crimes. It was amazing and quite interesting to follow this strange murder case and read, in a 1936 article, about my ancestor’s efforts trying to solve these heinous crimes.

story about the "Torso Murders" in Cleveland in the 1930s, Plain Dealer newspaper article 12 September 1936

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 12 September 1936, page 1

As I was following this story as it unfolded in the newspapers of the day through GenealogyBank.com it was easy for me to check out, and add to, my family tree with additional items I uncovered. For example, I found other stories covering Detective Shibley’s experiences as a member of Cleveland’s “Thin Blue Line,” some family obituaries, wedding announcements, and many more family-related newspaper articles. I was able to more fully populate our family tree as I read and learned about some of Detective Shibley’s parents and siblings.

I have now become so intrigued with this historical murder case that I ordered a copy of the book In the Wake of the Butcher: Cleveland’s Torso Murders written by James Jessen Badal (Kent State University Press, 2001) for even more in-depth information on this family-linked story. I am excited to get this book—especially since I have been told there are multiple references to my detective ancestor in it.

My Mom finished her recollections by telling how her mother would admonish her and her brother each day, when they went to school or out to play, to be very careful. She said this warning continued for many years even when she and her brother headed just down the street to their highly-loved corner candy shop…the one operated by an uncle, which was half beer parlor and half candy store. Wow, did my ears perk up at hearing that! Here is yet another new family story I will get to investigate!

What is your favorite family story that you have been able to add to your family tree?

List of 50+ Mississippi Newspapers Online

Mississippi is in the heart of the Old South. Today there are three million Mississippians living in the Magnolia State—and millions more have lived in the Delta area since its first settlement over 300 years ago.

With more than 50 Mississippi newspapers currently online and growing, GenealogyBank’s historical archives are your starting place for researching your family tree—dating back to the American Colonial period up to modern times—in this old Southern state.

photo of Meridian, Mississippi

Photo: Meridian, Mississippi. Credit: Wikipedia.

Here is the list of the Mississippi newspapers currently available in our online archives:

City Title Date Range*

Collection

Biloxi Biloxi Herald 1/14/1888 – 11/26/1898

Newspaper Archives

Biloxi Daily Herald 3/31/1888 – 12/31/1909

Newspaper Archives

Biloxi Sun Herald 2/12/1994 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Brandon Free State 1/20/1900 – 1/20/1900

Newspaper Archives

Clarksdale Clarksdale Press Register 4/20/2005 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Cleveland Bolivar Commercial 10/2/2009 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Columbia Columbian-Progress 11/3/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Columbus Columbus Packet 12/12/2010 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Columbus Commercial Dispatch 5/7/2002 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Corinth Daily Corinthian 6/12/2011 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Eupora Webster Progress-Times 3/25/2003 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Forest Scott County Times 8/5/2003 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Gautier Mississippi Press 8/15/2006 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Gautier Mississippi Press, The: Web Edition Articles 10/18/2012 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Greenville Delta Democrat Times 1/8/2002 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Greenwood Greenwood Commonwealth 5/29/2000 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Gulfport Daily Herald 1/1/1910 – 12/30/1922

Newspaper Archives

Hattiesburg Lamar Times 4/21/2011 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Hattiesburg Petal News 4/21/2011 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Indianola Indianola Enterprise-Tocsin 9/16/2010 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Jackson Clarion 1/6/1886 – 1/11/1888

Newspaper Archives

Jackson Clarion Ledger 1/19/1888 – 3/6/1890

Newspaper Archives

Jackson Jackson Advocate 2/23/2011 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Jackson Mississippi Free Press 12/16/1961 – 8/1/1964

Newspaper Archives

Jackson Mississippi Link 2/17/2011 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Jackson Mississippi Weekly 5/18/1935 – 5/18/1935

Newspaper Archives

Jackson Northside Sun 7/1/2007 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Kosciusko Star Herald 1/7/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Laurel Laurel Leader-Call 5/2/2006 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Louisville Choctaw Plaindealer 11/10/2005 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Louisville Winston County Journal 3/25/2003 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Magee Magee Courier, The & Simpson County News 1/3/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

McComb Enterprise-Journal 12/24/1999 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Meridian Meridian Star 2/17/2006 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Mound Bayou Mound Bayou News-Digest 5/13/1950 – 5/13/1950

Newspaper Archives

Natchez Ariel 7/20/1825 – 7/19/1828

Newspaper Archives

Natchez Mississippi Free Trader 11/20/1844 – 3/28/1854

Newspaper Archives

Natchez Mississippi State Gazette 3/6/1818 – 5/14/1825

Newspaper Archives

Natchez Southern Clarion 5/13/1831 – 11/18/1831

Newspaper Archives

Natchez Southern Galaxy 5/22/1828 – 3/18/1830

Newspaper Archives

Natchez Statesman and Gazette 5/18/1825 – 10/24/1832

Newspaper Archives

New Albany New Albany Gazette 11/20/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Olive Branch DeSoto Times-Tribune 3/25/2005 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Oxford Oxford Eagle 2/9/2012 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Picayune Picayune Item 2/5/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Starkville Starkville Daily News 3/9/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Vicksburg Daily Commercial 3/21/1877 – 12/28/1882

Newspaper Archives

Vicksburg Golden Rule 1/27/1900 – 1/27/1900

Newspaper Archives

Vicksburg Light 1/18/1900 – 1/18/1900

Newspaper Archives

West Point Daily Times Leader 3/27/2008 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Winona Winona Times & Conservative 4/2/2009 – Current

Recent Obituaries

Newspapers: A Brief History, the 5 Ws & Why I LOVE Them

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott explains why newspapers’ use of the “5 Ws” is tremendously helpful to genealogists.

A Brief History of Newspapers

Thank goodness the world of news reporting switched from hand-written Avvisi—which were some of the first hand-written newsletters that appeared in Europe—to the first printed newspaper, or Bao zhi—which was printed in Beijing, China, in about 1582 during the late Ming Dynasty. Ever since their mass production began, newspapers have been a staple of our lives and they are certainly one of the most valuable resources we as genealogists can access, learn from, and utilize in our genealogy research.

The Five Ws of Newspaper Journalism

However, the real reason newspapers are such wonderful and useful resources in genealogy, I believe, goes all the way back to Hermagoras of Temnos, a 1st century BC Greek rhetorician. According to my limited research, this fellow is credited with being the first person to propose the importance of what has now become the mantra of good newspaper reporting: the “5 Ws.” So let me here and now say: thank you, Hermagoras of Temnos, on a job well done!

Still taught today, the 5 Ws of “who, what, where, when and why” remain the gold standard of good journalism.

The more one thinks about it, the more obvious it may become that this mantra fits better than O. J.’s glove when it comes to our family history work. It is also why my family tree is chockablock with information and articles from GenalogyBank.com.

My Great Grandfather Was Robbed!

One particularly interesting example of the 5 Ws at work is the article I found on my great grandfather from an 1898 newspaper.

Vicha Held Up, Plain Dealer newspaper article, 24 November 1898

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 24 November 1898, page 3

As you can see, the very first sentence offers me all 5 Ws by telling me my great grandfather (even giving me his employment for good measure) was robbed for a loss of $1.35 on Forest Street on Tuesday night. There you have all five: Who (Joseph Vicha), What (robbery), Where (on Forest Street), When (Tuesday night) and Why (for $1.35). I love that this old newspaper article has lots of great genealogical information and a nifty snapshot of a day in the life, albeit a bad one, of my great grandfather.

My Cousin’s Home Was Attacked during a Strike

Another example of the 5 Ws being clearly presented, although not in the first sentence of the article, is one I discovered about my cousin in a 1911 newspaper.

Woman Declares Life Is in Danger, Plain Dealer newspaper article 30 September 1911

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 30 September 1911, page 4

This historical newspaper article describes how my cousin Anna Tussel’s home was attacked during the confrontations over a garment workers’ strike (her house was sprayed with tar, “blackening the windows and doors”). This article provides another snapshot of an ancestor’s life and gives information on her home address at the time, and more.

The use of the 5 Ws can also be a huge help in ruling out similarly-named folks, through the reporting of addresses, middle initials, employment, and more.

My Sister’s Wedding

Plus every so often you can also get a little treat closer to home, as I did when I was working on a branch of my in-laws and a newer article caught my eye. This article from a 1967 newspaper treated me to a nice account of my own sister’s wedding. Given that my brother-in-law and his parents have now all passed away, it was especially nice to get all the information contained in this old newspaper article.

Karen Phillips Married to David Berry, Plain Dealer newspaper article 18 June 1967

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 18 June 1967, page 117

So dig into those newspaper archives and when you find your next great article join me in thanking Hermagoras of Temnos!

Tracing My Unknown Ancestor in the Martin Family

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott discovers the name of an ancestor he never knew about—and turns to old newspapers to fill in this blank on his family tree.

Recently my sister phoned me to ask some questions about certain members of our family who had passed through Ellis Island. As I was talking to her, I pulled up some of the documents I had for our grandparents and started reciting facts and information about them. As I was wrapping up our phone call a bell was ringing in my mind telling me something wasn’t quite right.

I looked at all the information again and there it was: on her Ellis Island documentation, my future grandmother had listed her brother-in-law, Thomas Martin of Cleveland, Ohio, as her contact in the U.S. Since I knew that her sister, my Great Aunt Rose, had married a Martin, finding this contact listing was not a surprise. As I looked at our family tree, however, I could see that the Martin her sister had married was named William, not Thomas.

photo of Rose Cottle Martin Jones and Ina Cottle Phillips

The author’s Great Aunt Rose Cottle Martin Jones on the left, with her sister (and the author’s grandmother) Ina Cottle Phillips on the right. Photo from the author’s collection.

So who was the Thomas Martin my grandmother had listed at Ellis Island?

I needed to look into this! I went to GenealogyBank.com first to see what I might discover. As the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.” This family history search led me down a very long—but delightful—path.

First I discovered the old obituary for William Martin, my Great Aunt Rose’s husband. It was quite a genealogical find.

William Martin obituary, Plain Dealer newspaper article 26 October 1933

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 26 October 1933, page 23

In just its seven short lines, it provided my great aunt’s name complete with her maiden name. It also gave the names of their two daughters (Edna and Dorothy) and William’s three siblings (Grace, Charlotte and Jessie). The obituary listed the street address where William and Mary Rose lived. I was about ready to move on, when that last item caught my attention.

I went back to the Ellis Island passenger manifest that I had been reading to my sister, and noted that the street address listed for Thomas Martin happened to be the very same as the street address given in William’s obituary. Nice way to close that circle! The link was looking quite strong, but still a puzzle remained: there was no mention of a brother named Thomas in the obituary.

Next, I started a search on the three siblings listed in William’s obituary. First up, I searched on Grace Bowhay. What I found was mention of her name in her sister Charlotte’s obituary.

Charlotte Martin obituary, Plain Dealer newspaper article 17 September 1944

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 17 September 1944, page 78

This old obituary not only made reference to Grace Bowhay and siblings Jessie and William, but also listed the so-far elusive Thomas (deceased). Oh, and don’t let me forget to tell you that it also included three additional siblings: three sisters (complete with married names) all still residing in England!

With Thomas Martin being such a common name combination, I decided to make a quick check of the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office website for Thomas Martin. Sure enough, not only did I get a “hit,” but it was for the purchase of a home on—again—the same street as all the other notices. Plus, the property record informed me that this Thomas had a wife, Mary.

While I am still on the trail of Thomas Martin and have more searching to do, I am more convinced than ever that I am on the right path! And I am bound and determined to find this ancestor that I never knew about and add more information to our family tree!

Tracing the Bohutinsky Family Tree: Good Finds from Bad News

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 some bad news in his family history—and how this turned into good clues for his genealogy.

It seems that in genealogy even bad news can magically be transformed into good news, which is quite a feat when you think about it. Recently I decided that I was going to do some in-depth research on a branch of my family that I had not worked on before. It was during this research that I witnessed bad news turn good right before my eyes—and it was via GenealogyBank.com. Here is that story!

One of the more challenging branches of my family tree has been the Bohutinsky branch of our family. Research on this family branch remains a “work in progress,” but I do know that they appeared in Cleveland, Ohio, from Bohemia sometime prior to 1870. This means that they were amongst the earlier Bohemian immigrants to that area. Now let me tell you, not only does Bohutinsky get altered by misspellings, typographical errors, etc., but there are also branches that made the decision to change their surname from Bohutinsky to Bohntinsky, Botin, and even Bugg. Add to this the fact that some of the men chose to abandon their Bohemian given names and adopt Americanized given names—but then at times reverted back to their original Bohemian given names! Needless to say it has been a fun and complicated search.

As you might expect, it got even more challenging as I worked to find marriages and the ensuing families and paths for the female offspring in the family, but here is where truly bad news turned good.

One day as I was doing my research on the Bohutinsky line I happened upon a brief newspaper article from 1885.

James Bohutinsky domestic violence, Cleveland Leader newspaper article 3 October 1885

Cleveland Leader (Cleveland, Ohio), 3 October 1885, page 8

I was sad to read the story that James (born Vaclav) Bohutinsky was “fined $5 and costs” in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas for striking his young married daughter and her “babe.” This was certainly not the type of thing I like to find in my family history, nor do any of us. Domestic violence is terrible, even if the defendant was, as the article stated, “a little old man.”

However, I soon discovered that this historical newspaper article provided some good news for me as well!

I was very pleased to find that the daughter’s given name of Barbara was reported, as was her married surname of Seitz. This was a wonderful genealogical discovery. I immediately switched my search from Bohutinsky to Seitz and started looking for Barbara.

I quickly found an old newspaper article published back in 1900 that leads me to believe Barbara might have been active in the Knights of the Maccabees, a fraternal organization that was formed in 1878.

Knight and Lady "Bees," Cleveland Leader newspaper article 18 January 1900

Cleveland Leader (Cleveland, Ohio), 18 January 1900, page 7

This lengthy old newspaper article listed numerous officers in the organization, and buried in all those names I found mention that Barbara Seitz was “mistress-at-arms.”

Barbara Seitz, Cleveland Leader newspaper article 18 January 1900

Cleveland Leader (Cleveland, Ohio), 18 January 1900, page 7

After consulting other genealogy resources such as Ancesty.com, I found the family on the 1900 United States Census.

Then, back on GenealogyBank.com, it wasn’t long before I came across a death notice from 1904 which listed the death of one Barbara Seitz at 153 Beechwood Avenue in Cleveland, at the age of only 37.

Barbara Seitz death notice, Plain Dealer newspaper article 26 November 1904

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 26 November 1904, page 4

Although Barbara’s life and marriage were both cut short, I later found information about the “babe” that was referenced in the first article I had found. As a result of that I now know her name, and I am on the path of that daughter: Grace Seitz Vretman. So my ancestry search continues.

Yes, finding a historical newspaper article about domestic violence in my family history was dismaying, but the silver lining in that dark cloud was discovering an important family clue that has led to other searches for other members of my family.

I still have lots to learn about the Bohutinsky members of my family and especially the Bohutinsky/Seitz/Vretman branch, but it certainly has been nice to see that initial piece of bad news turn into something so good and helpful in my genealogy research!

Historical Cleveland, Ohio, Newspapers from 1800s-Today Online!

GenealogyBank has Cleveland, Ohio, newspapers online, dating back to 1845 and right up to today, to help you with your family research in “The Buckeye State.” That is more than a century and a half of content to help you uncover your family history and discover interesting facts about Cleveland’s past! Research thousands old news articles, obituaries, pictures and more to trace back your ancestry.

“The Forest City” was settled in 1796 and incorporated in 1814. Wherever American settlers went newspapers were sure to follow, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s first issue rolled off the press on 7 April 1845.

masthead, Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper 7 April 1845

Masthead, Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 7 April 1845

Here is a quick list to help you research your genealogy in the back files of Cleveland’s historical newspapers online:

Newspaper Coverage Collection
Aliened American 4/9/1853 – 4/9/1853 Newspaper Archives
Cleveland Gazette 8/25/1883 – 5/20/1945 Newspaper Archives
Plain Dealer 4/7/1845 – 5/31/1991 Newspaper Archives
Plain Dealer 8/2/1991 – Current Recent Obituaries
Plain Dealer, The: Web Edition Articles 10/15/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries

GenealogyBank has two search pages for Cleveland newspapers, one for its “Newspaper Archives” collection and one for “Recent Obituaries.”

Here is a link to the search page for the Cleveland digital newspaper archives, dating from 1845-1991: Cleveland Newspaper Archives.

GenealogyBank search page for Cleveland, Ohio, Newspaper Archives

GenealogyBank search page for Cleveland, Ohio, Newspaper Archives

Here is a link to the Cleveland recent obituaries archives, dating from 1991-today: Cleveland Recent Obituaries.

GenealogyBank search page for Cleveland, Ohio, Recent Newspaper Obituaries

GenealogyBank search page for Cleveland, Ohio, Recent Newspaper Obituaries

Current Obituary Archives from 16 U.S. Newspapers Just Added!

GenealogyBank is pleased to announce that it is adding 16 current U.S. newspapers this month to our collection of recent obituaries, with titles from Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.

This addition of thousands more current obituaries and death notices will help you with your family history research, providing information on family members who have passed away recently.

Here is the list of current obits just added, expanding our coverage for 16 more U.S. states:

Chicago Crusader (Chicago, IL)

  • Obituaries:  11/26/2011 – Current

Gary Crusader (Gary, IN)

  • Obituaries:  12/03/2011 – Current

Advocate, The: New Orleans Edition (New Orleans, LA)

  • Obituaries:  10/22/2012 – Current

Retrospect (Collingswood, NJ)

  • Obituaries:  01/06/2012 – Current

American (Fairland, OK)

  • Death Notices:  10/04/2012 – Current

Bethany Tribune (Bethany, OK)

  • Death Notices:  12/07/2012 – Current

Nowata Star (Nowata, OK)

  • Death Notices:  10/03/2012 – Current

Perry Daily Journal (Perry, OK)

  • Obituaries:  12/04/2012 – Current

Vinita Daily Journal (Vinita, OK)

  • Obituaries:  11/10/2012 – Current

Weatherford Daily News (Weatherford, OK)

  • Obituaries:  11/27/2012 – Current

Independent-Observer (Scottdale, PA)

  • Obituaries: 4/21/2011 – Current

Ligonier Echo (Ligonier, PA)

  • Obituaries:  4/21/2011 – Current

North Journal (Monroeville, PA)

  • Obituaries:  04/12/2012 – Current

Plum Advance Leader (Penn Hills, PA)

  • Obituaries:  4/14/2011 – Current

South Hills Record (South Hills, PA)

  • Obituaries:  4/21/2011 – Current

Times Express (Monroeville, PA)

  • Obituaries:  4/14/2011 – Current

In addition to these 16 new obituary collections, we have also expanded the coverage of several of the other current obits collections already in our recent obituary archives:

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

  • Death Notices:  added 09/28/2010 – Current

Burlington County Times (Willingboro, Burlington, NJ)

  • Death Notices:  added 12/27/2010 – 11/15/2011

Eastern Wake News (Zebulon, NC)

  • Death Notices:  added 11/12/2009 – Current

Garner-Cleveland Record (Garner, Cleveland, NC)

  • Death Notices: added 01/19/2011 – Current

Midtown Raleigh News (Raleigh, NC)

  • Death Notices:  added 04/13/2011 – Current

Smithfield Herald (Smithfield, NC)

  • Obituaries:  added 1/11/2012 – Current

Southwest Wake News (Apex, Holly Springs, NC)

  • Death Notices:  added 04/15/2012 – Current

Blairsville Dispatch (Blairsville, PA)

  • Death Notices:  added 09/26/2001 – 11/04/2011

Bucks County Courier Times (Levittown, Bristol, Langhorne, PA)

  • Death Notices:  added 06/02/2011 – 11/11/2011

Daily Courier (Connellsville, PA)

  • Death Notices: added 10/17/2001 – 11/7/2011

Herald (Fox Chapel, PA)

  • Death Notices:  added 4/21/2011 – Current

Intelligencer (Doylestown, PA)

  • Death Notices:  added 04/13/2011 – 11/10/2011

Leader Times (Kittanning, PA)

  • Death Notices:  added 10/12/2001 – 11/18/2011

Mount Pleasant Journal, The (Mount Pleasant, PA)

  • Death Notices:  added 04/21/2011 – Current

Valley Independent (Monessen, PA)

  • Death Notices:  added 10/16/2001 – 11/18/2011

Valley News Dispatch (New Kensington, PA)

  • Death Notices:  added 10/17/2001 – 11/18/2011