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

50 Tennessee Newspapers Online for Your Genealogy Research

GenealogyBank has put more than 50 Tennessee newspapers online making it even easier for genealogists to find their old family stories and detailed information for their family tree.

Search millions of Tennessee newspaper articles in our online TN newspaper archives, including birth announcements, marriage notices, obituaries, and local news stories, to find out more about your ancestors from “The Volunteer State.”

collage of the Tennessee state seal and the Tennessee Herald masthead

Collage of the Tennessee state seal and the Tennessee Herald masthead

Click and start researching your ancestry now (each title is a link that will take you directly to that newspaper’s search page):

City Newspaper Date Range Collection
Athens Daily Post-Athenian 1/11/1999 – 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 10/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbia Daily Herald 1/8/2002 – 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 10/2/2009 – 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 1/1/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Commercial Appeal 1/1/1968 – 12/31/1969 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Commercial Appeal 6/27/1990 – 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 Nashville Gazette 5/26/1819 – 2/14/1827 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Post 1/21/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
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 10/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Shelbyville Tennessee Herald 12/19/1817 – 3/8/1820 Newspaper Archives
Sweetwater Advocate and Democrat 6/12/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tazewell Claiborne Progress 10/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wartburg Morgan County News 12/19/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries

How to Use Old Newspapers to Research Family Stories & Photos

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott searches online newspapers to figure out who the companions are that appear with his grandmother in an old family photograph.

Recently my awesome Mom (God bless her as she is 92, still going strong, and loves to help me with our family history) gave me a couple of old family photographs. One was a photo of my paternal grandmother, Ina Cottle Phillips, with the notation on the back “On the Boardwalk with the Wades.” As you can guess, as a genealogist I was off and running trying to discover the “Wade” portion of that note. Who were these companions of my grandmother?

Photo of Ina Cottle Phillips on the Boardwalk with the Wades

Ina Cottle Phillips, seated in the rear, “On the Boardwalk with the Wades.” Photo from the author’s collection.

First, I did what every genealogist should do: ask the elders! I asked my mom, who had a recollection that when my grandmother first arrived as an immigrant in Cleveland, Ohio, she got a job with a Wade family. Ah ha! Next, I reviewed my family tree notes and found that I had a reference, long forgotten, that said my grandmother was the “traveling companion” of one Mrs. Wade of Cleveland. Now this story was getting interesting! I wondered who might, in the early 1900s, have had a “traveling companion.”

Next stop was searching the old newspapers at GenealogyBank.com. It wasn’t long before a fun story began to unveil itself. First I happened across a vast number of references to Wade families in Cleveland, but one in particular stood out. An old newspaper article published in the Cleveland Leader explained that one Wade family gave substantial donations around Cleveland, including a large piece of land for what, still to this day, is known as Wade Park.

The Gifts of the Wades, Cleveland Leader newspaper article 10 May 1902

Cleveland Leader (Cleveland, Ohio), 10 May 1902, page 6

I dug deeper into the historical newspaper archives and soon found a beautiful drawing from the Plain Dealer showing the Wade Memorial Chapel in Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery.

illustration of the Wade Memorial Chapel, Plain Dealer newspaper article 25 December 1898

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 25 December 1898, page 1

Sensing that I might be on to something I started looking for obituaries, and sure enough found an exceptionally informative one in the Chicago Herald that gave quite a biography of Jeptha Wade. The old obituary’s lead was that Mr. Wade was the man who saw the true value in a newfangled device called the telegraph, and started a company known to this day: Western Union. This obituary also tied in Cleveland and Wade Park.

Demise of Jeptha E. Wade, Chicago Herald newspaper article 10 August 1890

Chicago Herald (Chicago, Illinois), 10 August 1890, page 11

Next I sharpened the focus of my genealogy research to include both the Wade and Cottle names and got a hit, but when I opened the newspaper article I was surprised to find that the Cottle was not my grandmother: it was an obituary for her brother George. I learned that he, too, had a connection to the Wade family. The obituary stated that my great uncle George worked for the Wade family in their Wade Realty Company for 35 years. A fun aside was discovering that he was also a gardener for John D. Rockefeller, but that will have to be a different story for a later time!

George B. Cottle, Plain Dealer newspaper article 27 January 1966

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 27 January 1966, page 61

Now the pieces were beginning to fit. Brother George immigrated first and got a job with the Wade family. Could he possibly then have vouched for my grandmother and helped her get a job as traveling companion for Mrs. Wade? Perhaps on one of their trips someone took the old photos of her that I now hold in my hands.

It has been tremendous fun learning about this aspect of my Cottle ancestors and beginning to understand the possible history of those photographs my Mom gave me. Now to finish the task! Thanks to some more genealogy detective work I have located the living descendants of the Wade family and have reached out and asked them if they might review the old photographs. Hopefully, they can identify my grandmother’s companions in the photos—and if I am really, really lucky, they just might.

Now…I wonder if anyone out there needs a “traveling companion” today. I’d sure be happy to apply for the job!

Want to Get the Younger Generation into Genealogy? Pass Down Your Old Family Stories

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott tells how he got his grandsons interested in genealogy by enhancing his family stories with articles from old newspapers.

When I was growing up, I was blessed to be in a family that told lots of stories. Looking back, I believe that this storytelling is one of the key reasons I became intrigued with genealogy later in my life. As a young boy, I was frequently being regaled with stories by one family member or another. The stories often involved growing up in “the old country,” sometimes about how much life had changed. Many were family stories that, while based in truth, were often embellished with more than a bit of exaggeration.

I recall very well my Aunt Gladys telling stories of the trouble she constantly found herself in due to the schemes hatched by my mother, and the story of the eye in the back of her head. There was my grandfather telling stories about being a “lad” in Cornwall.  Then there was my Uncle Jim—family storyteller extraordinaire! He was always willing to tell his stories about his time fighting in three wars as a member of the United States Navy, getting marooned on a deserted South Seas island, his various tattoos, or how he was chosen to accompany the giant telescope mirrors manufactured by Warner and Swasey Company from Cleveland all across America on the railroads.

Years later it came as no surprise to me that, as my children were growing up, I took on the role of family storyteller.

Just a week ago, I found myself sitting with my grandchildren and wondering how I could “talk some genealogy” with them. They were visiting us from their home that happens to be practically in the shadow of Disney World, Epcot, etc. It now seems so simple, but at the time it struck me like a bolt of lightning: I should be telling them our family stories! So I began by telling my grandsons all about my favorite amusement park. It was named Euclid Beach Park, located in Cleveland, Ohio, and as a kid it was heaven-on-earth to me.

photo of the author's grandmother and family having a picnic at Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland, Ohio

Scott Phillips’s grandmother Ina and some of her family having a picnic at Euclid Beach Park, date uncertain. Family photo is from the author’s collection.

Going to Euclid Beach Park for family gatherings was clearly the most special event of my year! We’d make a day of it from opening to well after dark, complete with a picnic lunch of my Cornish grandmother’s famous pasty and sausage rolls. As I wove the story, I could tell my grandsons were having a hard time buying into my excitement about what a special place Euclid Beach was. So what could I do?

I grabbed my iPad and off we clicked to GenealogyBank.com to see what I could show the boys about Euclid Beach Park. By the time I was done, everyone in the house was clustered around my grandsons and me. They were all rapt and enjoying the journey back in time, complete with my family stories to enhance them. Yep, the newspaper articles I found were that good.

I was overjoyed to see three generations enjoying what got me excited about genealogy so many decades before: family stories, but this time vastly improved through technology and GenealogyBank.com.

As I clicked, the first story—in a cache of hundreds—was about the season opener of the park in 1905, the crowds that attended, and what a significant event this was.

Euclid Beach Park Opened, Plain Dealer newspaper article 28 May 1905

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 28 May 1905, page 6

Plus, since it is true that “boys will be boys,” my grandsons were especially enjoying the “action” stories I soon found and read to them about famed naval aviation pioneer Glenn H. Curtiss’s attempt to set a naval aviation record from Euclid Beach Park, a trapeze artist falling to his death from an aerial balloon, and ferry boats smashing into one another.

Steamers Crash Together in River, Plain Dealer newspaper article 17 June 1901

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 17 June 1901, page 1

Then even I got excited! I found an old article that showed, nice and close up, my very favorite (still to this day) amusement park ride in the world, “The Flying Turns.” The historical newspaper article was complete, showing younger riders in all stages of happiness as they rode this amazing ride, which was a rollercoaster set inside 2/3s of a wooden tube with no rails! Centrifugal force took care of keeping you inside and it was quite the ride.

Crazy Days of Summer, Plain Dealer newspaper article 26 July 1964

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 26 July 1964, page 107

I was so happy! With just a few easy clicks there we were and Euclid Beach was staying alive for another generation of the Phillips family. Even better, my grandsons were enjoying genealogy without even realizing it. Sometimes stories passed down from generation to generation can be the best!

Sinking of the ‘Athenia’: Mythical Family Survival Story Proves to Be Reality

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott tells how old newspaper articles confirmed his uncle’s incredible WWII survival story—a tale that Scott, as a boy, used to question.

One of the first precepts of genealogy that my mentor (Ginger Simek, president of the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International) taught me, was to always work hard to find out if the family stories I had heard over the years were mythology or, in fact, reality. Mythology may be fun and exciting, but genealogy is all about reality and the truth as we can document it. Recently, I found myself employing this rule.

I have to say that I was basically blessed with a great childhood. However, I have always found myself harboring a serious regret—one that, as a genealogist and our family’s historian, continues to haunt me to this day. This regret is that I never listened closely enough to far too many family stories when they were proffered to me by my elder family members.

However, just a short time ago I found hope for abolishing, at least in part, this regrettable behavior of my youth. Here’s the story.

photo of the Edwin and Margaret Cottle family taken in Launceston, Cornwall

Only known photograph of the whole Edwin and Margaret Cottle family, taken in Launceston, Cornwall, on a date unknown. The author’s Uncle George Bellemy Cottle, the subject of this blog post, is the fourth from the left in back, sporting the black tie. Family photo from the author’s collection.

As a child, I found that by pleading with my Uncle George Cottle using my best smile, my saddest eyes, and/or my finest “please,” he could be coaxed into telling the story of when he and his wife were on a ship that was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in the Atlantic Ocean, and how they barely escaped with their lives. The trouble is I was always focusing on the submarine part (to this day I still love submarines) and not listening closely for the details of this amazing survival story, such as which ship they were on, when they sailed, where they were going, why, etc.

When I began researching the life and times of my Uncle George for our family tree, I decided I needed to find out if “the torpedo story,” as we all called it, was true or simply a family myth. Naturally, I found myself searching GenealogyBank.com for help.

Using the search terms Cottle, torpedo, ship, and a few others I found that good old Uncle George was indeed telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! I found the ship’s name was the Athenia. Upon adding this name to the search terms, BINGO, I found myself reading about the sinking of the Athenia in over 300 newspapers from the Heraldo de Brownsville published in Spanish in Brownsville, Texas, to the Oregonian published in Portland, Oregon, and from the San Diego Union published in San Diego, California, to the Greensboro Record, published in Greensboro, North Carolina. I was also learning that the 1,347 passengers and crew were bound from the United Kingdom to New York in September 1939.

I found myself being entranced by the newspaper articles about the sinking of the S.S. Athenia in WWII, such as one in the Richmond Times Dispatch that reported the attempts by Nazi propaganda minister, Paul Josef Goebbels, to smear British Prime Minister Winston Churchill over the event.

Goebbels Charges Churchill Sank Athenia, Challenges Britisher to Reveal the Truth, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 23 October 1939

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 23 October 1939, page 8

As I began honing in on Cleveland, Ohio, George’s home, I found a truly fantastic set of newspaper articles in the Plain Dealer from that city.

There I was looking at an old photo showing Uncle George and his wife Laura in a lifeboat on their rescue vessel, the Knute Nelson.

photo of George and Laura Cottle being rescued after the sinking of the Athenia, Plain Dealer newspaper article 11 September 1939

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 11 September 1939, page 20

This old photo brought a flood of family memories, and suddenly I was hearing my Uncle’s voice again as he related how he and Aunt Laura, after donning their lifejackets several decks below, headed up to their assigned lifeboat—where they were shoved out of the way by others clambering to get into any lifeboat they could to survive the attack. My Aunt and Uncle moved on to luckily find another lifeboat, the last one to leave the Athenia. They then spent more than seven hours at sea in their leaking lifeboat before their ordeal ended. As they were being rescued, they were horrified to see their originally-assigned lifeboat pulled into the propellers of the Knute Nelson and destroyed with a significant loss of life.

Here is Uncle George’s obituary. Notice that it mentions the sinking of the Athenia.

obituary for George B. Cottle, Plain Dealer newspaper article 27 January 1966

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 27 January 1966, page 61

In my memory, I can still hear my Uncle George telling his survival story of the sinking of the Athenia, and it makes me smile. He would always end this story by remarking “it was the first time in 28 years I went on the ocean, and I am not going again”—although he actually used a bit more colorful language!

She’s Been Workin’ on the Railroad! Researching Railway Records

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott discovers his centenarian cousin once worked for the U.S. Railway Mail Service—and delves into some railroad history.

As a genealogical historian, one of the aspects of family history I love the most is discovering something new about an ancestor. Then I can take some time off from working on my family tree and spend it learning about this new aspect, or area, that I have uncovered. So it was recently as I found myself once again working on my Bohemian (Czech) ancestors in Ohio.

This time I was delving into one of my first cousins, twice removed, Theresa (Sluka) Armstrong. I was reading her obituary in GenealogyBank.com and among all the other tidbits of great information I was finding, I came upon the statement that she was a retiree of the United States Railway Mail Service.

As you can see by reading my cousin’s obituary, Theresa was 100 years old when she passed away. She must have loved the city as she was the wife of a Cleveland policeman and the sister of Frank and Albert Sluka, who were also both Cleveland policemen. (You can read about the tragic murder of Albert Sluka in my previous GenealogyBank.com blog article found at http://blog.genealogybank.com/author/scottphillips.)

obituary for Theresa Sluka Armstrong, Plain Dealer newspaper 19 February 1991

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 19 February 1991, page 11

The more I thought about it, the more intriguing this organization called the United States Railway Mail Service became to me. Additionally, I found it quite interesting that my female cousin worked for them. Having never heard of it before, I began investigating her occupational history with the railroad almost before I realized it.

Still on GenealogyBank.com, I began searching on “U.S. Railway Mail Service” and was instantly treated to amazing railroad background and historical information.

Unbeknownst to me, in about 1863, the United States Postal Service began outfitting and utilizing specially-designed railway cars to accommodate the collecting, sorting, and distributing of mail aboard railroad trains as they traversed across the United States as an integral part of the early postal system. This efficient railway system was even designed so that at many locations, usually smaller, rural towns where the train did not stop, mail pouches were hung by the railroad tracks where a special “arm” attached to the train would snag the bag while moving. Then the postal clerks on board would retrieve the pouches, open their locks, and sort and process the mail as the train roared along. The train never slowed down or missed a beat!

Quickly I was treating myself to multiple stories about the development, history, and operations of the United States Railway Mail Service. One of my early favorite stories was from an 1891 newspaper article that not only explained the functioning and design of this delivery service, but even contained a drawing of what the mail pouch pick-up looked like.

Mail on the Rail, Plain Dealer newspaper article 25 October 1891

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 25 October 1891, page 13

Then I really found myself hitting pay dirt with a 1909 newspaper article from North Dakota. This historical article is an entire page of the newspaper explaining in detail the U.S. Railway Mail Service and containing six extraordinary photographs of the working areas of these specialized train cars. It even contains the names of the postal clerks working that run. Lists of employee names are always a treat for genealogists and family historians!

U.S. Railway Mail Service in North Dakota, Grand Forks Herald newspaper article 24 January 1909

Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 24 January 1909, page 16

I am now engaging in a full pursuit of finding the employment and pension records for my cousin, which for the U.S. Railway Mail Service are held at the Civilian Personnel Records Department of the National Personnel Records Center, housed at the National Archives and Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

I am keen on discovering more about the employment history of my centenarian cousin and finding out if her working career involved actually “riding the rails” or staying on the solid ground at the station in Cleveland.

 

 

More Newspapers Online for Genealogists from GenealogyBank

GenealogyBank has added the backfiles of more than 100 newspapers from 28 U.S. states! This is great news for genealogists—so start searching now.

Every day we work to fill in missing issues in our newspaper archives of more than 6,100 titles so that you can do deeper genealogy research. Thousands of newspaper pages were added in this latest addition, totaling more than 25 million articles to help you fill in the gaps on your family tree.

Five newspapers (marked with an asterisk in the table below) are titles new to GenealogyBank.

These new titles include one newspaper from Florida and four from Georgia:

  • Plant City Observer (Plant City, Florida)
  • Fayette Chronicle (Fayetteville, Georgia)
  • Fayette County News (Fayette, Georgia)
  • Today in Peachtree City (Fayetteville, Georgia)
  • East Coweta Journal (Senoia, Georgia)

Here is the complete list of our latest newspaper additions. Each title is an interactive link taking you directly to that newspaper’s search form.

State City Title Date Range Collection
Arkansas Little Rock Arkansas Gazette 01/29/1878–11/05/1898 Historical Newspapers
Arkansas Little Rock Arkansas Weekly Gazette 08/01/1824–11/27/1866 Historical Newspapers
Arkansas Little Rock Morning Republican 03/20/1868–03/20/1868 Historical Newspapers
California Sacramento Weekly Rescue 02/01/1864–09/20/1877 Historical Newspapers
California San Francisco San Francisco Abend Post 01/12/1871–12/30/1876 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut Hartford Connecticut Courant 01/03/1852–12/26/1874 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut New Haven Columbian Register 11/26/1859–11/26/1859 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut New Haven Connecticut Journal 09/27/1825–02/24/1835 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut New Haven Daily Herald 05/18/1839–12/15/1843 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut New Haven New Haven Palladium 09/19/1863–09/19/1863 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut New London New London Daily Chronicle 08/02/1852–07/15/1861 Historical Newspapers
Connecticut Norwich Norwich Aurora 06/11/1864–07/29/1868 Historical Newspapers
Florida Pensacola Pensacola Gazette 06/12/1830–04/08/1848 Historical Newspapers
Florida Plant City Plant City Observer* 07/12/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Georgia Augusta Augusta Chronicle 05/04/1799–03/26/1882 Historical Newspapers
Georgia Augusta Daily Constitutionalist 10/31/1861–11/07/1869 Historical Newspapers
Georgia Fayetteville Fayette Chronicle* 08/25/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Georgia Fayetteville Fayette County News* 12/02/2010–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Georgia Fayetteville Today in Peachtree City* 05/02/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Georgia Savannah Georgian 01/09/1830–05/10/1830 Historical Newspapers
Georgia Savannah Savannah Republican 12/08/1807–03/04/1825 Historical Newspapers
Georgia Senoia East Coweta Journal* 11/11/2010–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Kentucky Lexington Kentucky Gazette 08/07/1823–12/22/1826 Historical Newspapers
Louisiana New Orleans Times-Picayune 01/01/1906–01/01/1906 Historical Newspapers
Maine Portland Daily Eastern Argus 08/18/1863–03/17/1888 Historical Newspapers
Maryland Baltimore Baltimore American 04/30/1903–06/04/1911 Historical Newspapers
Maryland Easton Easton Star 04/30/1844–04/15/1856 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston American Traveller 01/20/1826–09/30/1834 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Boston Commercial Gazette 01/02/1823–06/25/1829 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Boston Evening Transcript 07/01/1857–05/31/1862 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Boston Herald 11/07/1920–11/14/1920 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Boston Post 02/06/1862–10/08/1866 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Boston Recorder 01/01/1821–05/03/1872 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Saturday Morning Transcript 11/19/1831–11/21/1835 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Boston Trumpet and Universalist Magazine 06/07/1834–06/07/1834 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Lowell Lowell Patriot 01/02/1835–04/06/1837 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Nantucket Nantucket Inquirer 08/08/1825–07/24/1840 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts New Bedford New-Bedford Mercury 05/14/1869–05/14/1869 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts New Bedford Whaleman’s Shipping List and Merchants’ Transcript 02/25/1845–03/06/1855 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Newburyport Newburyport Herald 01/02/1838–03/17/1846 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Springfield Springfield Union 12/01/1963–12/01/1963 Historical Newspapers
Massachusetts Stoughton Wicked Local: Avon* 12/01/2008–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Massachusetts Worcester Massachusetts Spy 03/03/1876–03/03/1876 Historical Newspapers
Michigan Kalamazoo Kalamazoo Gazette 05/27/1917–05/27/1917 Historical Newspapers
Minnesota Winona Winona Post* 02/12/2006–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Mississippi Indianola Indianola Enterprise-Tocsin* 09/16/2010–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Montana Helena Helena Weekly Herald 05/09/1867–05/09/1867 Historical Newspapers
New Hampshire Amherst Amherst Village Messenger* 01/09/1796–12/05/1801 Historical Newspapers
New Hampshire Concord New Hampshire Patriot 10/24/1878–10/24/1878 Historical Newspapers
New Hampshire Concord New Hampshire Patriot* 10/24/1878–10/24/1878 Historical Newspapers
New Hampshire Concord Republican Gazette 09/06/1802–09/06/1802 Historical Newspapers
New Hampshire Portsmouth Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics 12/16/1876–12/16/1876 Historical Newspapers
New Jersey Newark Centinel Of Freedom 09/18/1821–09/19/1876 Historical Newspapers
New Jersey Newark Newark Daily Advertiser* 01/03/1834–12/31/1836 Historical Newspapers
New York Albany Albany Argus 12/08/1829–01/05/1855 Historical Newspapers
New York Albany Albany Evening Journal 2/28/1854–6/27/1872 Historical Newspapers
New York Albany Daily Albany Argus 05/25/1826–09/08/1875 Historical Newspapers
New York Auburn Auburn Journal and Advertiser 01/13/1841–04/20/1842 Historical Newspapers
New York Auburn Cayuga Tocsin 01/02/1812–07/06/1814 Historical Newspapers
New York Auburn Wisconsin Chief 01/04/1849–12/28/1852 Historical Newspapers
New York Batavia Republican Advocate 11/19/1819–07/27/1821 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Commercial Advertiser 01/06/1845–12/31/1850 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Courrier des Etats-Unis 03/29/1862–12/10/1882 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Daily Graphic 07/01/1875–04/13/1876 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Evening Post 07/08/1822–11/08/1876 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 10/24/1863–04/21/1866 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Morning Telegraph 1/12/1873–1/12/1873 Historical Newspapers
New York New York National Advocate 04/27/1821–01/31/1829 Historical Newspapers
New York New York New York Herald-Tribune 3/4/1880–3/4/1880 Historical Newspapers
New York New York Spectator 06/18/1845–12/27/1849 Historical Newspapers
New York Potsdam North Country Now* 05/22/2010–Current Newspaper Obituaries
New York Poughkeepsie Dutchess Observer 01/02/1822–04/26/1826 Historical Newspapers
New York Poughkeepsie Poughkeepsie Journal 08/25/1789–06/01/1814 Historical Newspapers
New York Schenectady Cabinet 05/31/1826–12/30/1856 Historical Newspapers
New York Stony Brook Statesman, The: SUNY, Stony Brook* 12/08/2008–Current Newspaper Obituaries
New York Utica Columbian Gazette 6/23/1807–6/23/1807 Historical Newspapers
North Carolina Belhaven Beaufort-Hyde News* 07/27/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Edenton Chowan Herald, The* 07/12/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Farmville Farmville Enterprise, The* 07/13/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Fayetteville Carolina Observer 02/24/1831–02/23/1863 Historical Newspapers
North Carolina Grifton Times-Leader, The* 07/20/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Hertford Perquimans Weekly* 07/13/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Hillsborough Hillsborough Recorder 10/30/1861–10/30/1861 Historical Newspapers
North Carolina Kenansville Duplin Times, The* 09/29/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Kenansville Duplin Today – Pink Hill Review* 03/08/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Snow Hill Standard Laconic, The* 07/13/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Williamston Martin County Enterprise and Weekly Herald* 08/02/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
North Carolina Windsor Bertie Ledger-Advance* 07/13/2011–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Ohio Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune, The* 06/02/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Ohio Cincinnati Cincinnati Daily Gazette 6/21/1867–5/26/1881 Historical Newspapers
Ohio Cleveland Plain Dealer 12/28/1893–07/08/1908 Historical Newspapers
Ohio Columbus Crisis 11/16/1864–10/07/1868 Historical Newspapers
Oklahoma Hobart Hobart Daily Republican 08/08/1908–05/29/1920 Historical Newspapers
Oklahoma Perry Perry Journal 11/07/1901–02/27/1902 Historical Newspapers
Oklahoma Perry Perry Republican 08/29/1918–08/29/1918 Historical Newspapers
Pennsylvania Canton Canton Independent-Sentinel, The* 02/05/2008–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Pennsylvania Harrisburg Patriot 01/13/1872–09/03/1921 Historical Newspapers
Pennsylvania Philadelphia Pennsylvania Journal 12/09/1742–09/18/1793 Historical Newspapers
Pennsylvania Reading Reading Adler 05/29/1855–12/12/1876 Historical Newspapers
Pennsylvania Washington Washington Reporter 03/09/1853–06/02/1869 Historical Newspapers
Pennsylvania Washington Washington Review and Examiner 09/27/1820–01/31/1877 Historical Newspapers
Rhode Island Providence Providence Evening Press 03/20/1872–01/07/1874 Historical Newspapers
South Carolina Charleston Charleston Courier 08/01/1834–02/20/1857 Historical Newspapers
South Carolina Georgetown Winyaw Intelligencer 12/30/1829–04/06/1831 Historical Newspapers
South Carolina Greenwood Index-Journal, The* 07/01/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries
Texas Clarksville Standard 10/5/1850–10/5/1850 Historical Newspapers
Texas Dallas Dallas Morning News 1/24/1979–12/22/1984 Historical Newspapers
Utah Salt Lake City Salt Lake Telegram 01/07/1903–01/11/1921 Historical Newspapers
Vermont Bellows Falls Bellows Falls Gazette 03/07/1842–09/23/1843 Historical Newspapers
Vermont St. Albans St. Albans Daily Messenger 04/13/1893–08/06/1908 Historical Newspapers
Vermont St. Albans St. Albans Messenger 04/14/1859–01/22/1903 Historical Newspapers
Virginia Alexandria Alexandria Gazette 03/13/1850–12/31/1851 Historical Newspapers
Virginia Alexandria Virginia Journal* 01/05/1786–05/21/1789 Historical Newspapers
Virginia Richmond Richmond Whig 07/13/1869–12/07/1869 Historical Newspapers
Washington Tukwila Tukwila Reporter* 08/18/2012–Current Newspaper Obituaries