I Met Abraham Lincoln: True Stories in Historical Newspapers

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post—in honor of today being Presidents’ Day—Gena searches old newspapers to find amazing stories about people who were still alive in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s who had met Abraham Lincoln.

Did your ancestor meet a famous person? Maybe they had occasion to hear a great orator or speak with an author. Did they rub elbows with someone infamous? I’m always fascinated by the history that our ancestors, even our more recent ancestors, witnessed.

Do you have an ancestor who met, heard or saw Abraham Lincoln? There could be a variety of reasons a 19th century ancestor encountered the 16th president of the United States. As president during the American Civil War, Lincoln gave speeches and visited the troops so it’s possible that a person living in the 1860s may have had an encounter with him.

photo of President Abraham Lincoln, 8 November 1863

Photo: President Abraham Lincoln, 8 November 1863, by Alexander Gardner. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

But did you ever consider that some of those same people may have lived into the20th century and had occasion to tell their story about meeting Lincoln? Many Civil War soldiers or contemporaries of Lincoln would have been at least middle-aged to quite elderly when the 20th century rolled in. There were some alive at the beginning decades of the 20th century who were able to boast about meeting Lincoln.

So what if we up the ante? What about people who were still alive in the mid-20th century? The chances of someone who had met or personally saw Lincoln would have dwindled by then. However, a search in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives shows that there were still people at that late date who could tell of meeting what many believe is the greatest president who ever lived.

Samuel J. Seymour, Last Living Witness to Lincoln’s Assassination

In 1956 an elderly man appeared on the television game show I’ve Got a Secret. This TV show featured a celebrity panel who, when presented with a special guest, tried to guess what secret the person held. The featured guests’ secrets included things that were amazing or unusual about that person. Those who stumped the panel received a cash prize. Samuel J. Seymour spent about five minutes on the show while two of the panelists asked questions that led them to guessing his secret. (A side note: while many younger readers wouldn’t recognize most of the celebrities that appeared on the show, on the day of Seymour’s guest spot there was a very recognizable face—that of famous actress and comedian Lucille Ball—who was on the panel, but she didn’t get a chance to question Mr. Seymour.)

Seymour was a 5-year-old boy when he was taken to Ford’s Theatre on 14 April 1865—the night that President Lincoln was shot. While he did not know initially that Lincoln was shot, and did not see the actual shooting, he did remember years later the fear he felt that night. He also remembered feeling concerned about the man (John Wilkes Booth) that he saw fall onto the stage. In the chaos of the moment—and because he was so young—Seymour didn’t realize that Booth had in fact shot the President when he saw the actor suddenly leap down onto the stage.

Of the lasting effect of being at Ford’s Theatre that night, Mr. Seymour said: “…I sometimes still relive the horror of Lincoln’s assassination, dozing in my rocker as an old codger like me is bound to do.”

Imagine that—a man in the 1950s carrying the memory of President Lincoln’s assassination!

I Saw Lincoln Shot, Plain Dealer newspaper article 7 February 1954

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 7 February 1954, page 192

You can view the actual portion of this episode of I’ve Got a Secret featuring Samuel Seymour on YouTube.

Richard R. Davis, Civil War Soldier

The following 1936 newspaper article, written just three years shy of Mr. Davis’s 100th birthday, tells of his Civil War career and his meeting Abraham Lincoln one day when the president came and spoke to the troops. Of that talk, Mr. Davis remembered that Lincoln “told us then that we were fighting to preserve the Union of States and of our sacrifice.” After speaking, Lincoln walked amongst the troops with his son.

Davis recounts that when he tussled the hair of Lincoln’s son the boy grinned and said: “Do you think I’m a child? Say, I’m a pretty big fellow.”

Richard Davis: Civil War Veteran Who Met Lincoln, Druid newspaper article 1 December 1936

Druid (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 1 December 1936, page 1

Davis actually saw Lincoln several times, and also met other noteworthy figures of the time such as Generals Grant and Hooker. The reporter writes that it’s obvious that Lincoln was a hero to Davis and that his time serving in the Civil War was a “highlight of his journey along life’s highways.”

Meeting Presidential Candidate Lincoln

Because some young people who met Lincoln went on to live long lives, we do have stories of the Great Emancipator told by witnesses well after most who knew Lincoln had died. For example, Perry Green Brock—who died in 1949 at the age of 105 years—told of meeting candidate Lincoln in 1856 in Kentucky when he was a boy. Brock later fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War but doesn’t mention what he thought of Lincoln during that time. He was quoted in the following newspaper article as saying that the South would have won if “us rebels hadn’t run out of shells.”

Perry G. Brock, Who Met Lincoln, Passes at 105, Dallas Morning News newspaper obituary 24 November 1949

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 24 November 1949, section III, page 6

Did your ancestor meet Abraham Lincoln or another famous person? If so, research the encounter in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, then write the story and preserve it for future generations. If your ancestor did indeed meet Abraham Lincoln, please share the details about the encounter with us in the comments. We’d love to hear your family story.

Related Articles about Abraham Lincoln:

102 Year Old Ex-Slave Once Shook Abraham Lincoln’s Hand

Abraham Lincoln: The Life of a Legend Infographic

Curious & Funny Epitaphs of Famous People & the Not-So-Famous

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary presents some of the hilarious or unusual—and, in some cases, quite touching—epitaphs she has discovered.

Are you an expert on some of the more famous epitaphs found on tombstones?

To see if you are, take this handy Famous People’s Tombstone Epitaphs quiz—which you are welcome to share with your genealogy-loving and cemetery-sleuthing friends—and then check your answers below.

a quiz of epitaphs found on famous people's tombstones

Authors of Their Own Epitaphs

If you want to be certain you’ll be remembered in a unique way, then write your own epitaph. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) did it, so why not you? Besides, it’s a great way to make sure you get in the last words you want!

Thomas Jefferson’s Epitaph

Of the two, Thomas Jefferson’s epitaph is the more serious. Prior to his death on 4 July 1826, he wrote:

“Here lies Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, and of the Statutes establishing religious toleration in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Thomas Jefferson's epitaph, Macon Weekly Telegraph newspaper article 2 January 1855

Macon Weekly Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 2 January 1855, page 2

Benjamin Franklin’s Epitaph

I prefer Dr. Franklin’s epitaph; he humorously described himself as “food for worms” prior to his passing on 17 April 1790.

Benjamin Franklin's epitaph, Massachusetts Centinel newspaper article 5 May 1790

Massachusetts Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), 5 May 1790, page 58

William Shakespeare’s Epitaph

Another famous historical figure who wrote his own epitaph was William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Shakespeare’s tombstone inscription, which has been widely debated, suggests that a visitor might be cursed if he moved Shakespeare’s bones. One theory is that Shakespeare wished to scare away grave robbers; another is that as cemeteries filled, he wished to deter the custom of moving existing interments to make room for others. (See his grave from Holy Trinity Churchyard in Stratford-upon-Avon, England at www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1450.)

Shakespeare wrote:

“Good friends, for Jesus’ sake, forbear
To dig the dirt inclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
But curst be he that moves my bones.”

William Shakespeare's epitaph, Providence Gazette newspaper article 23-30 December 1769

Providence Gazette (Providence, Rhode Island), 23-30 December 1769, page 2

Sam Houston’s Epitaph

Then there is that famous Texan, Sam Houston (1793-1863). As a senator from Texas, he delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate defending the Compromise of 1850. Worried that slavery would split the Union, he declared: “I wish, if this Union must be dissolved, that its ruins may be the monuments of my grave, and the graves of my family. I wish no epitaph to be written to tell that I survived the ruin of this glorious Union.”

He died in the middle of the Civil War, and no epitaph was written for him. However, his gravesite memorial features a quote by Andrew Jackson: “The world will take care of Houston’s fame.”

a photo of Sam Houston’s gravesite memorial in Huntsville, Texas

Photo: Sam Houston’s gravesite memorial in Huntsville, Texas. Credit: Wikipedia.

Curious & Memorable Epitaphs of the Famous and Not-So-Famous

Some epitaphs are noteworthy because they were written for famous people—and others are memorable for their uniqueness. While researching this topic, I discovered that many epitaphs are simply urban legends and don’t exist in reality—but the epitaph examples below are real. Just follow the links to check the inscriptions with photographs of the tombstones at findagrave.com.

Lucille Ball’s Epitaph

“You’ve Come Home”

(Lake View Cemetery, Jamestown, New York:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7003071)

Deborah Marie Bennett’s Epitaph

“Life is short,
Eat dessert first”

(Mount Hope Cemetery, Pescadero, California:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=99693195)

Jonathan Blake’s Epitaph

“Here lies the body of
Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake”

(Uniontown Cemetery, Uniontown, Pennsylvania:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=39158322)

Mel Blanc’s Epitaph

“That’s All Folks”

(Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=100)

Rodney Dangerfield’s Epitaph

“There Goes the Neighborhood”

(Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=9556754)

Marguerite Dewey Daniels’s Epitaph

“She always said her
Feet were killing her,
But no one believed her.”

(Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=28457972)

Bette Davis’s Epitaph

“She Did It the Hard Way”

(Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=258)

Jack Dempsey’s Epitaph

“Heavyweight Champion of the World
A gentle man and a gentleman”

(Southampton Cemetery, Southampton, New York:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=275)

Murphy A. Dreher Jr.’s Epitaph

“This ain’t bad
Once you get used to it.”

(Star Hill Cemetery, Saint Francisville, Louisiana:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=95370531&PIpi=65389055)

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Epitaph

“So we beat our boats against
The current, borne back
Ceaselessly into the past”
The Great Gatsby

(Old Saint Mary’s Catholic Church Cemetery, Rockville, Maryland:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=344)

Robert Frost’s Epitaph

“I Had a Lover’s Quarrel with the World”

(Old Bennington Cemetery, Bennington, Vermont:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=371)

Sal Giardino’s Epitaph

“World’s Greatest Electrician”

[This tombstone looks like a light bulb.]
(Laurel Grove Memorial Park, Totowa, New Jersey:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5103)

Merv Griffin’s Epitaph

“I will not be right back
After this message”

(Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=20909851)

Joan Hackett’s Epitaph

“Go Away—I’m Asleep”

(Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1447)

William H. Hahn Jr.’s Epitaph

“I Told You I Was Sick”

(Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, New Jersey:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7968130)

Rita Hayworth’s Epitaph

“To yesterday’s companionship
And tomorrow’s reunion”

(Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1253)

Coretta Scott King’s Epitaph

“And now abide faith, hope,
Love, these three; but the
Greatest of these is love.”
I Cor. 13:13

(Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, Atlanta, Georgia:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=582)

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Epitaph

“Free at last, free at last,
Thank God Almighty
I’m free at last.”

(Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, Atlanta, Georgia:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=582)

Harvey Korman’s Epitaph

“You’re Born, You Suffer, and You Die”

(Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica, California:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=27185449)

Jack Lemmon’s Epitaph

“Jack Lemmon in”

(Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=22822)

Paul G. Lind’s Epitaph

“WEMISSU”

[This tombstone looks like a scrabble board.]
(Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery, Portland, Oregon:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=27240724)

Sylvester B. McCracken’s Epitaph

“School is out
Teacher has gone home”

(Grace Lawn Cemetery, Elkhart, Indiana:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=43210077)

Lester Moore’s Epitaph

“Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No les [sic], no more”

(Boothill Graveyard, Tombstone, Arizona:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=19899)

Leslie Nielsen’s Epitaph

“Let ’Er Rip”

[And on the bench:]
“Sit Down Whenever You Can”

(Evergreen Cemetery, Fort Lauderdale, Florida:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=62278982)

Dr. William P. Rothwell’s Epitaph

“This Is on Me”
—Rx

(Oak Grove Cemetery, Pawtucket, Rhode Island:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=11588247)

Billy Wilder’s Epitaph

“I’m a writer
But then
Nobody’s perfect”

(Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California:
www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6295551)

Here is a collage of some more curious epitaphs, all found in historical newspapers.

a collage of epitaphs found in historical newspapers

If you know of some curious or funny epitaphs from cemeteries near you, please share them with us in the comments!

Remembering James Dean, Woody Guthrie & Janis Joplin with Newspapers

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott looks up profiles, news stories and obituaries in old newspapers to learn more about these three famous entertainers who died this week in American history.

During this week in history (30 September to 4 October) America lost three of its most iconic entertainment personalities. America, and indeed the whole world, lost film actor James Dean in 1955, singer Woody Guthrie in 1967, and singer Janis Joplin in 1970.

Newspapers are filled with obituaries and profiles that help us better understand the lives of our ancestors—and the famous people who lived during their times. The following newspaper articles about these three famous Americans are good examples.

James Dean (1931-1955)

Although he only starred in three movies in his short lifetime, James Dean was already being compared to Marlon Brando when he died. In 1955 Dean shot to stardom as a result of his starring role of Cal Trask in East of Eden, which earned him the first-ever posthumous nomination for an Academy Award. For most of us today, James Dean is best known for his role as Jim Stark in Rebel without a Cause. At the time of his death, Dean had just finished filming his now-famous role as Jett Rink in the film Giant, and had set off in his Porsche sports car to indulge in his passion for car racing at a racetrack in Salinas, California, in the upcoming weekend. Dean never made it to Salinas.

How did James Dean die so young? As you can read in this article from a 1955 Texas newspaper, a tragic automobile accident claimed the life of James Dean at the age of only 24.

Car Collision Kills Actor James Dean, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 1 October 1955

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 1 October 1955, page 1

Then just two days later, the Dallas Morning News again reported on the Dean tragedy, this time focusing on his funeral to be held in Dean’s home town of Fairmount, Indiana.

Funeral Services for Dean Planned in Indiana Saturday, Dallas Morning News newspaper article, 3 October 1955

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 3 October 1955, page 18

This newspaper article not only provides a fascinating look at the early life of James Dean, but also reports the stark reactions of his costars such as Elizabeth Taylor, who “took it the hardest” and was “crying unashamedly.”

I always thought James Dean was buried in Hollywood; now that I know he lies at rest just a couple hours from my home, I will be taking a future road trip to pay my respects to this marvelous actor and icon of youth angst. Interesting note: this same small Indiana town is also the hometown of another American cultural icon, Jim Davis, the cartoonist and creator of “Garfield.”

Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)

While some folks reading this might be more familiar with Arlo, the son of Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie, many musicians and music historians would agree with the claim in this 1971 New Jersey newspaper article that Woody is “generally considered America’s greatest balladeer.”

Okie Folk Poet [Woody Guthrie] Loved Underdog, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 27 June 1971

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 27 June 1971, page 102

Woody Guthrie wrote more than 1,000 songs, of which more than 400 are preserved in the Library of Congress (and dozens of which populate my iPad). He also wrote an autobiography Bound for Glory(also on my iPad), and has been acknowledged as a major musical influence on such modern-day musicians as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, and dozens of others. His best known musical piece might well be “This Land Is Your Land.”

When he succumbed to his 15-year battle with Huntington’s disease on 3 October 1967, the news of Guthrie’s death was carried from coast-to-coast. This obituary from a 1967 Louisiana newspaper makes note of a fact still true about Woody today: “Many persons heard Guthrie’s songs without ever knowing his name. Among those who have recorded Woody’s songs are Bing Crosby, Harry Belafonte, Frank Sinatra, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.”

Folk-Singer [Woody] Guthrie Dies, Times-Picayune newspaper obituary, 4 October 1967

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 4 October 1967, page 8

Being a born and raised Clevelander (home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), it was especially nice to read a 1987 news article from my hometown Cleveland newspaper that reported the 1988 Class of inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: not only was Woody Guthrie being honored—but also a singer whom he greatly influenced, Bob Dylan.

Lads, Boys, Girls, Bob [Dylan] in Hall, Plain Dealer newspaper article 28 October 1987

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 28 October 1987, page 83

Oh, and just in case you are a fan of the website FindAGrave.com, I’ll let you in on a “secret.” There may be a memorial stone to Woody in his hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma, but Woody’s not there. His ashes were actually spread at Coney Island, New York.

Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

The year was 1970. America was at war; the Vietnam War was raging in its 11th year. The fight over the war raged across our nation’s home front. The divisions that this war caused throughout America were evident in families, public protests, college campuses, and beyond. Rock and roll music was a boiling caldron fueled by many of these divisions (for instance my parents would not allow rock and roll in my house). Into this scene burst some of America’s most noted rock artists.

One of these was one of my personal favorites, Janis Joplin. Her name is forever welded to “Mercedes Benz” in my mind, a song she recorded just two days before her untimely death in 1970 at the age of only 27. As you can see it was Page One news in this 1970 article from a Texas newspaper.

Singer Janis Joplin Found Dead in Hotel, Dallas Morning News newspaper obituary 5 October 1970

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 5 October 1970, page 1

As you can imagine there followed numerous articles that mourned the loss of this one-of-a-kind singer. Other newspapers seized the occasion to rail away at the excesses of America’s youth.

This 1970 article from a North Carolina newspaper reported that Janis had signed her will only three days before her death, and left half her estate to her parents and one quarter each to her brother and sister.

Janis Joplin Left Estate to Family, Greensboro Daily News newspaper article 22 October 1970

Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, North Carolina), 22 October 1970, page 11

Janis had a unique voice and style. In this 1969 article from a California newspaper, reporter Carol Olten had this to say about Janis: “Janis Joplin never leaves doubts in anyone’s mind about being THE rock ’n’ roll woman. Any musicians who appear on stage with her have been more or less reduced to mashed potatoes.”

Janis Joplin Here Saturday, San Diego Union newspaper article 28 September 1969

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 28 September 1969, page 78

Janis was indeed quite the woman of rock and roll. As reported in this 1994 article from an Illinois newspaper, she was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the 1995 Class of inductees.

[Janis] Joplin, [Frank] Zappa Join Hall of Fame, Register Star newspaper article 17 November 1994

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 17 November 1994, page 35

By the way, whenever you are in Cleveland, Ohio, pay a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Famewhere you can see some of Janis’s memorabilia and a whole lot more. From personal experience, I suggest you allow at least two days for your visit!

Obituaries provide personal details about someone’s life that we can’t find elsewhere—whether they are our ancestors or famous people we’re interested in. GenealogyBank features two collections of obituaries:

Dig into these obituary archives today and see what you can discover about your family and favorite celebrities!

Top Genealogy Websites: Utah Genealogy Resources for Records

Are you researching your family roots in Utah? Here are two good sources of Utah genealogy information online—GenealogyBank and vital records put up by the state itself—to help with your family history research in the “Beehive State.”

collage of genealogy records from the Utah Division of Archives & Records Service

Credit: Utah Division of Archives & Records Service

Utah county and state genealogical records are going online. The state’s Division of Archives & Records Service is putting up indexes and digital copies of original records ranging from birth certificates to probate records, and all types of records in between.

Utah has put up a wider variety of records than perhaps any other state in the U.S.

Utah Death Records

Utah has digitized and is in the process of putting online their death records from 1904-1961. These are Series 20842 (Index to Series 81448).

According to its website there are also these records. (Note: the series without links are not available online, but can be searched in person at the Utah Division of Archives & Records Service office.)

  • Reports from Summit County (Utah). County Coroner, Series 3716, contains the death certificates that are associated with the individual deaths investigated in this coroner record.
  • Military death certificates from the Department of Administrative Services. Division of Archives and Records Service, Series 3769, includes death certificates for military personnel killed in World War II and the Korean War, whose bodies were transported back to Utah for burial.
  • Death certificates electronic index from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 20842, is a computerized index for the death certificates.
  • Burial record from Vernal (Utah)Series 25360, contains death certificates from Uintah County beginning in 1905.

Utah Birth Records

Utah has an index to Birth Certificates 1905-1906 and has additional Birth Certificates 1907-1912 that are not indexed but can be browsed.

According to its website there are also these related birth records online:

  • Birth certificates from Weber County (Utah). County Clerk, Series 20896, includes all live births occurring in the state of Utah as recorded by the Office of Vital Records and Statistics.
  • Birth certificate indexes from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81437, indexes the birth certificates (1904-1934) by Soundex code number.
  • Out-of-state births from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81442, are birth certificates from other states sent to the Utah Office of Vital Records and Statistics for statistical compilation of Utah residents that were born in other states.
  • Native American birth certificates from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81444, are a separate file of birth certificates issued for Indians.
  • Delayed certificates of birth from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81445, are birth certificates that are registered with Vital Records a year or more after the date of birth.
  • Amendments to birth records from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81446, are forms used to change information on birth certificates, either through error, name change, or subsequent sex change.
  • Birth registers from Emery County (Utah). County Clerk, Series 84038, contains birth certificates filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics beginning in 1904—but do not become public until 100 years after birth. The researcher should contact the agency.
  • Birth and death records from Weber County (Utah). Vital Statistics Registrar, Series 85146, contains the official copy of birth certificates.

More Utah Records for Genealogy

Utah has also put an extensive collection of records online ranging from cattle brand registration books to naturalization records to probate records. See its complete list of records here.

Utah Newspapers for Genealogy

GenealogyBank has an extensive collection of Utah newspapers online dating from 1851 to 1922 & 1988 to Today.

Search Utah Newspaper Archives (1851 – 1922)

Search Utah Recent Obituaries (1988 – Current)

Discover a variety of genealogy records and news stories in these 8 Utah newspapers:

Search recent obituary records for your relatives in these 15 Utah newspapers:

Click on the image below to download a printable list of the Utah newspapers in GenealogyBank for your future reference. You can save to your desktop and click the titles to go directly to your newspaper of interest.

Utah Newspaper Archives at GenealogyBank

Feel free to share this list of Utah newspapers on your blog or website using the embed code provided below.

How to Spot and Avoid 9 Common Genealogy Mistakes & Errors

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary discusses 9 common mistakes made when doing family history research, and suggests ways to avoid them.

Family history researchers are often frustrated by the mistakes of others—particularly when there is an obvious error in identity, such as the mistake explained in this 1914 Virginia newspaper article. It points out that a member of the Gwathmey family was incorrectly identified as having been a maid of honor to Queen Elizabeth.

Rchmond Times Dispatch Newspaper Gwathmey Family Genealogy

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 17 May 1914, page 41.

This sounds like an obvious mistake, and one that could have been corrected with simple subtraction. Unfortunately, once a mistake is written in a book or newspaper article, the mistake is often carried into other research—forever frustrating the more serious genealogists.

Genealogical mistakes are not often easy to sort out, so let’s discuss some strategies.

1. Abbreviations Are Not Always What They Seem

Two of my favorites are “NA” and “NMI.”

In the case of the first abbreviation, “NA” might indicate non applicable, naturalized, Native American or even Navy, demonstrating the importance of finding the “key” explaining what an abbreviation actually means.

Another abbreviation that sometimes causes confusion is the use of “NMI” in place of a middle name. It is not an actual moniker, but rather used to indicate that a person has no middle initial—no middle name.

2. Age-Related Mistakes

  • Women who are too old to be mothers.

Although Mrs. Steve Pace, of Rose Hill, Virginia, reportedly gave birth to her 17th child in 1939 at the age of 73 (see the Wikipedia article “Pregnancy Over Age 50”), it is rare for women to give birth over the age of 50.

If a woman continued to give birth through her 40s, then it is possible that a report of her having a child as an older woman may be correct.

However, whenever you see such an older mother-child relationship claim, examine the possibility that the family may have been raising an orphan or a grandchild.

  • Persons who were born too young or old to have served during a military event.

If you are researching an ancestor for a lineage society, such as the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution, start by figuring out the beginning and ending dates of the event.

For example, the American Civil War occurred between 1861 and 1865.

Although there are examples of very young veterans, most of the younger set did not serve in a military capacity—unless they were older. One exception was Civil War Missouri veteran George Huffman, who enrolled as a volunteer in the 13th Missouri Infantry on 4 November 1861 at the age of 14. He re-enlisted on 8 February 1864, and was considered to have been the youngest veteran to have re-enlisted that year—as explained in this 1864 Massachusetts newspaper article.

Lowell Daily Citizen & News Newspaper George Huffman Civil War

Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts), 2 September 1864, page 2.

For the most part, however, it is safe to assume that someone—other than a drummer or bugler—must have been at least 15 when he enlisted for combat service. Therefore, it is unlikely that a combat veteran actually served in the Civil War if he was born after the year 1850.

Now, if a child served in a non-military capacity, then you might find evidence of children as young as seven involved in a war—such as Nathan Futrell, a young boy who served in the American Revolutionary War.

Greensboro Daily News Newspaper Nathan Futrell Revolutionary War

Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, North Carolina), 3 January 1971, page 24.

You can also apply an age factor to determine the likelihood of an older person serving in the military.

3. All Applicable Genealogy Records Have Not Been Found

Just because you can’t find a genealogical proof doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist. For example, many military records were burned, so look to other types of records for evidence.

In other words, if an original record is missing you might be able to find alternate records. In the case of a missing military record, look for a petition for a pension, or a list of enlistments, reprinted in an old newspaper article. Other possible genealogical sources: a family diary or letter, or church bulletin, that references military service.

4. Children Listed without Parents May Not Be Orphans

Just because a child is not recorded with a parent on a census record doesn’t necessarily indicate that both parents are deceased.

On one of the 1850 U.S. Federal Census records, I noted that the children of my ancestor Permelia Ann (Davis) Drake were living in different households.

Not finding their mother, I at first assumed that she had died. It turned out that she was very much alive, and recorded in the census with her second husband, Samuel Bassett. It’s not clear why the children were with the neighbors in 1850, but perhaps they were mother’s helpers or farm helpers working to support the family.

5. Informants Are Not Always Correct

A primary record is one that was recorded at the time of the event. A secondary record is one that is recorded later, generally from an informant. In the case of a death certificate, the date and place of death is primary evidence, but the birth date of the decedent, along with the stated parents, is not necessarily correct.

In my family, my great-grandfather’s parents were recorded on his death certificate as his natural parents, when in fact court records and other records establish that he had been adopted.

6. Just Because Two People with the Same Name Reside in the Same Area Does Not Necessarily Mean They Are Related (Coincidences Happen)

In the case of my ancestor William Harrell of Virginia (and Indiana) of the late 1700s and early 1800s, it turns out there are three men by the same name. Now that descendants have submitted results from DNA studies, it is clear that they were not closely related.

7. Spelling Errors

Alternate spellings are the norm, rather than the exception.

For example, my Ebling ancestors can be found with the surname spelling Ebeling, Hebling and even Heblinger. As a result, I always browse a book’s index to see if there are similar spellings. When searching online or in a search box, such as at GenealogyBank, I frequently use a wildcard such as a question mark (?) or asterisk (*) when searching for ancestor names.

  • The ? is used to take the place of one letter
  • The * is used to take the place of several letters

For example:

  • Eb*ing* would find Ebling, Ebeling and Eblinger
  • ?Eb*ing* would find all of the above, and include Hebling or Heblinger
  • Cath?rine would find both Catherine and Catharine

8. Transpositions (Reversing or Mixing Up Letters and Numbers)

Many people, including myself, are prone to transpositions. The year 1787, for example, might be unintentionally entered as 1778, or even 1877.

To overcome this tendency, be sure to closely examine recorded figures, such as the reported age at death. Several genealogy programs calculate this figure, and may even note it during an error check.

9. Widows and Widowers May Not Necessarily Be Widowed

In the event of a divorce, separation or bigamy, a spouse might be recorded as widowed on an official record. This may be to handle a delicate issue, or simply to accommodate a census form that didn’t have other options.

These are just a few common genealogical errors. If you have some that you have observed, please share them with us on Facebook or our blog page in the comments section!

New DNA Ancestry Study Reveals We’re All Related?!

It’s nice to think that everyone is related—but as genealogists we have known that would be difficult to prove. Now science is proving that theory is correct.

illustration for DNA study showing that everyone on the planet is related

A new DNA study shows that everyone alive on the earth today shares common ancestors only 1,000 to 2,000 years ago.

What?

“Group Hug!”

Wow—what is this study telling us?

It is saying that we are all related and that science can prove it.

How is that possible?

With every generation the number of our ancestors doubles. We have 4 grandparents; 8 great-grandparents; 16 2nd-great-grandparents, and so forth.

But as we go back in time the reverse is true: the number of people who were alive on the earth keeps growing smaller.

A new DNA study shows that all Europeans descend from the “same set of ancestors only a thousand years ago.” This theory has long been proposed, and it has commonly been said that “everyone” in Europe is a descendant of Charlemagne—or that every Englishman alive today has royal ancestry.

UC-Davis Professor Graham Coop says that “we now have concrete evidence from DNA data” that we are all related, and “it’s likely that everyone in the world is related over just the past few thousand years.” Read the entire article: Europeans All Related by Genetic Footprint Dating Back Only 1,000 Years Ago.

This interesting finding will revolutionize the way we view “family” in much the same way that the 1873/1874 Galton-Walton study changed our view of surnames 140 years ago.

graph illustrating the Galton-Walton surname extinction study

Credit: Wikipedia

Their pioneering work showed us that it was likely for a surname to go extinct after 12 to 20 generations. Assuming that each generation begins every 30 years, then 20 generations would extend back to the 1400s.

Click here to read their study “On the Probability of the Extinction of Families” published in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain, volume 4, pages 138–144, printed in 1875.

This interesting genealogy study concluded that any given family would eventually no longer have male descendants in the male, surname line. They might have hundreds or thousands of female heirs, but no male descendants carrying the surname after 12 to 20 generations.

Their probability research showed that with each generation it was possible, even likely, that in the next generations there would be no male children born to a given household, or that the male children born would die without surviving male children. They concluded that it was likely after 12 to 20 generations—with wars, disease, or simply by chance—that there would be no more surviving males who could marry and pass down the family name. In genealogy-speak this is referred to as daughtering-out.

From the probability theories of 140 years ago to the more exact science of DNA today, we genealogists are getting a lot more to consider as we trace our family history.

Celebrate Redlands’ 125th Anniversary & Its Library Archives

Hat’s off to Nathan Gonzales, City Archivist of Redlands, California, for maintaining an extensive collection of genealogical and historical material about Redlands itself and the surrounding San Bernardino County.

photo of the A. K. Smiley Public Library, Redlands, California

Photo: A. K. Smiley Public Library, Redlands, California. Credit: Wikipedia; Amerique.

Watch this video interview (49 minutes) with Nathan, as he describes the extensive genealogical and historical materials gathered over the past 100 years and archived in the Heritage Room at the A. K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands.

Nathan Gonzales: Archivist from A. K. Smiley Library

Want more California genealogical and historical information? GenealogyBank’s online California newspaper archives contain millions of birth notices, wedding announcements, obituaries and local news articles to help you research your family history in “The Golden State.”

Search the history of Redlands and all of California by clicking on these two archive collections:

Search California Newspaper Archives (1846 – 2007)

Search California Recent Obituaries (1983 – Current)

Here is the complete title list of our extensive collection of California newspapers. Each CA newspaper title contains a hyperlink taking you directly to that newspaper’s search page where you can begin tracing your family tree by ancestor first names and surnames, dates, keywords and more.

City Newspaper Date Range Collection
Agoura Hills Acorn 6/22/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Agoura Hills Simi Valley Acorn 5/7/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Agoura Hills Thousand Oaks Acorn 7/18/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Alameda Alameda Journal 2/8/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Anaheim Anaheim Bulletin: Orange County Register weekly 5/27/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Anaheim Anaheim Hills News: Orange County Register weekly 5/27/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Anaheim Fullerton News Tribune: Orange County Register weekly 5/20/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Anaheim Orange City News: Orange County Register weekly 8/12/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Anaheim Placentia News-Times: Orange County Register weekly 5/20/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Anaheim Yorba Linda Star: Orange County Register weekly 5/20/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Anderson Anderson Valley Post 5/3/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Antioch Brentwood News 5/9/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Antioch East County Times 10/28/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Antioch Ledger Dispatch 3/23/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Arroyo Grande Adobe Press 12/21/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Auburn Auburn Journal 12/19/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Avenal Avenal Progress 5/18/2005 – 12/18/2007 Recent Obituaries
Bakersfield Bakersfield Californian 3/25/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bakersfield Bakersfield Californian, The: Web Edition Articles 8/25/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Benicia California Gazette 3/29/1851 – 2/21/1852 Newspaper Archives
Berkeley East Bay Daily News 10/18/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Berkeley Fuego de Aztlan 3/1/1976 – 12/1/1978 Newspaper Archives
Berkeley Grito 9/1/1967 – 6/1/1974 Newspaper Archives
Beverly Hills Beverly Hills 90210 5/1/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Beverly Hills Beverly Hills Weekly 3/20/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Beverly Hills Canyon News 4/23/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Big Bear Lake Big Bear Grizzly 6/5/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bishop Inyo Register 10/8/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Burbank Burbank Weekly 6/23/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Calistoga Weekly Calistogan 9/4/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Camarillo Camarillo Acorn 5/12/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cambria Cambrian 5/10/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ceres Ceres Courier 2/6/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chico Chico Enterprise-Record 9/12/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chino Chino Champion 1/1/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chino Chino Hills Champion 1/1/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Coachelia Ideal 11/2/1969 – 11/21/1977 Newspaper Archives
Coalinga Coalinga Record 5/6/2003 – 2/7/2009 Recent Obituaries
Colfax Colfax Record 12/16/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Colton Chicano 4/21/1968 – 6/30/1977 Newspaper Archives
Compton Compton Bulletin 8/31/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Concord Concord Transcript 2/22/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crescent City Daily Triplicate 1/15/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Culver City Culver City Observer 7/7/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cupertino La Voz Weekly: De Anza College 5/15/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Danville Danville Times 10/13/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Davis Davis Enterprise 7/18/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
El Centro Imperial Valley Press 1/2/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Escondido North County Times 1/2/2001 – 3/5/2013 Recent Obituaries
Eureka Humboldt Beacon 4/23/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Eureka Times-Standard 9/15/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Folsom El Dorado Hills Telegraph 11/18/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Folsom Folsom Telegraph 1/21/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fort Bragg Fort Bragg Advocate News 9/20/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fountain Valley Fountain Valley View, The: Orange County Register weekly 12/16/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fremont Argus 9/15/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fresno Collegian, The: California State University-Fresno 10/30/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fresno Fresno Bee 2/5/1987 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fresno Fresno Republican Weekly 1/7/1882 – 12/29/1883 Newspaper Archives
Garberville Redwood Times 9/22/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Glendale California Courier 2/15/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Glendale California Courier 8/20/1958 – 12/27/2007 Newspaper Archives
Glendale Glendale Independent Weekly 6/30/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Gridley Gridley Herald 10/18/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Half Moon Bay Half Moon Bay Review 2/15/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hanford Hanford Sentinel 5/12/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hayward Daily Review 9/15/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hemet Hemet News 1/6/1899 – 12/30/1927 Newspaper Archives
Hermosa Beach Beach Reporter 11/4/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hermosa Beach Easy Reader 10/14/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Huntington Beach Wave, The: Orange County Register weekly 5/27/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Idyllwild Idyllwild Town Crier 1/27/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kingsburg Kingsburg Recorder 7/5/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
La Cañada Flintridge La Cañada Flintridge Weekly 10/20/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Laguna Woods Leisure World News: Orange County Register weekly 5/20/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lake Arrowhead Mountain News & Crestline Courier-News 12/6/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lake Forest Canyon Life – Ladera Post – Rancho Santa Margarita News: Orange County Register weeklies 5/14/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lake Forest Laguna News-Post: Orange County Register weekly 5/13/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lake Forest Laguna Niguel News – Aliso Viejo News: Orange County Register weeklies 5/13/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lake Forest Saddleback Valley News: Orange County Register weeklies 5/14/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lake Isabella Kern Valley Sun 11/16/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lakeport Clear Lake Observer American 11/19/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lakeport Lake County Record Bee 9/23/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lemoore Lemoore Advance 6/11/2003 – 9/17/2009 Recent Obituaries
Lincoln Lincoln News Messenger 11/25/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lodi Lodi News-Sentinel 2/15/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lompoc Lompoc Record 10/2/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Long Beach Downtown Gazette 7/30/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Long Beach Grunion Gazette 2/22/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Long Beach Long Beach Press-Telegram 8/11/1990 – Current Recent Obituaries
Long Beach Uptown Gazette 1/21/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Loomis Loomis News 12/10/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Aguacero 3/24/1878 – 3/31/1878 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Amigo del Pueblo 11/30/1861 – 11/30/1861 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Argonaut 3/5/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Bel-Air View 7/11/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Brentwood News 8/11/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Cinema 2/1/1935 – 2/1/1935 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Clamor Publico 6/19/1855 – 6/27/1857 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Con Safos 6/1/1968 – 1/1/1972 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Correo Mejicano 10/18/1917 – 10/18/1917 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Cronica 9/12/1874 – 9/12/1874 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Democrata 10/14/1882 – 11/4/1882 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Dos Republicas 3/15/1892 – 9/3/1898 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Eastern Group Publications 8/11/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Eco de la Patria 2/14/1878 – 2/21/1878 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Eco de Mexico 10/3/1924 – 10/29/1924 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Eco Mejicano 10/29/1885 – 10/29/1885 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Fe en la Democracia 10/29/1884 – 11/3/1884 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Heraldo de Mexico 12/9/1917 – 12/29/1928 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Inter-Faith Churchman 4/20/1941 – 4/20/1941 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles 9/30/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Joven 9/18/1877 – 4/12/1878 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles L.A. Observed 5/23/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles L.A. Watts Times 4/20/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles LA Alternative 4/2/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Los Angeles Downtown News 1/17/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Los Angeles Sentinel 3/22/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Los Angeles Times 1/2/1985 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Los Angeles Tribune 9/6/1943 – 4/22/1960 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Malcriado 4/17/1927 – 4/17/1927 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Malibu Beach 7/11/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Mesazero 12/21/1954 – 12/21/1954 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Monitor Mejicano 10/26/1895 – 10/29/1898 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Our Weekly 9/9/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Pacific Citizen 3/16/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Park Labrea News/Beverly Press 12/1/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Prensa 12/8/1917 – 1/2/1937 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Regeneracion 9/5/1910 – 10/6/1917 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Santa Monica Sun 8/2/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Angeles Teller 3/20/1946 – 3/20/1946 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Union 11/21/1896 – 5/15/1897 Newspaper Archives
Los Angeles Westside Today 7/4/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Banos Los Banos Enterprise 8/2/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Los Gatos Los Gatos Daily News 9/22/2006 – 8/19/2007 Recent Obituaries
Madera Madera Tribune 5/8/2002 – 3/10/2009 Recent Obituaries
Mammoth Lakes Mammoth Times 10/9/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Manteca Manteca Bulletin 11/19/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Marina Del Rey Del Rey News 5/1/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Martinez Martinez News-Gazette 1/6/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Martinez, Pleasant Hill Record 4/10/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Marysville Appeal-Democrat 10/25/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Marysville Weekly California Express 11/7/1857 – 10/29/1859 Newspaper Archives
Mendocino Mendocino Beacon 9/20/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Merced Merced Sun-Star 8/22/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Milpitas Fremont Bulletin 6/28/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Milpitas Milpitas Post 8/5/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Modesto Modesto Bee 1/3/1989 – Current Recent Obituaries
Monrovia Arcadia Weekly 9/8/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Monrovia Monrovia Weekly 9/8/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Monrovia Pasadena Independent 9/8/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Monrovia Sierra Madre Weekly 9/8/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Montclair Village Montclarion 11/23/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Monterey Californian 8/15/1846 – 8/15/1846 Newspaper Archives
Monterey Monterey County Herald 1/6/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Moorpark Moorpark Acorn 3/18/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Morro Bay Central Coast Sun Bulletin 11/11/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Mount Shasta Mt. Shasta Herald 10/5/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Napa American Canyon Eagle 9/7/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Napa Napa Valley Register 1/1/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Needles Needles Desert Star 4/9/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Newport Beach, Costa Mesa Current, The: Orange County Register weekly 5/7/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Novato Marin Independent Journal 2/11/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oakdale Escalon Times 2/6/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oakdale Oakdale Leader 10/7/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oakdale Riverbank News 8/16/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oakhurst Sierra Star 2/21/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oakland Alambres de N.E.L. 5/21/1975 – 6/21/1977 Newspaper Archives
Oakland Alameda Times-Star 9/15/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oakland American Sentinel 1/1/1886 – 12/25/1889 Newspaper Archives
Oakland Mundo 1/6/1971 – 12/25/1974 Newspaper Archives
Oakland Oakland Post 11/5/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oakland Oakland Sunshine 3/20/1915 – 2/25/1922 Newspaper Archives
Oakland Oakland Tribune 9/15/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oakland Western Outlook 11/7/1914 – 5/26/1928 Newspaper Archives
Ojai Ojai Valley News 1/30/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ontario Inland Valley Daily Bulletin 4/9/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oroville Oroville Mercury-Register 1/2/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pacific Palisades Pacific Palisades 90272 2/5/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pacifica Pacifica Tribune 8/20/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Palm Springs Desert Star Weekly 9/2/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Palo Alto Burlingame Daily News 9/22/2006 – 9/25/2008 Recent Obituaries
Palo Alto Daily News 9/22/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Palo Alto Daily Post 12/18/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Palo Alto Redwood City Daily News 9/22/2006 – 9/25/2008 Recent Obituaries
Paradise Paradise Post 7/11/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pasadena Pasadena Star-News 9/15/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pasadena Pasadena-San Gabriel Valley News Journal 2/25/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Piedmont Piedmonter 3/1/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Placerville Mountain Democrat 3/9/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pleasanton Pleasanton Times 8/26/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pleasanton Tri-Valley Herald 9/15/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pleasanton Valley Times 6/19/1995 – 8/28/2011 Recent Obituaries
Porterville Porterville Recorder 4/15/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Red Bluff Red Bluff Daily News 9/12/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Redding Redding Record Searchlight 3/8/1991 – Current Recent Obituaries
Redlands Redlands Daily Facts 9/16/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rialto Rialto Record 1/27/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Richmond Berkeley Voice 11/30/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Richmond El Cerrito Journal 11/2/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Richmond West County Times 6/28/1995 – 8/4/2011 Recent Obituaries
Richmond West County Weekly 3/2/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ridgecrest Daily Independent 4/7/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Riverdale Twin City Times 5/13/2003 – 1/23/2008 Recent Obituaries
Riverside Business Press/California 2/26/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
Riverside Press and Horticulturist 7/6/1878 – 12/29/1905 Newspaper Archives
Riverside Press-Enterprise 9/28/1992 – Current Recent Obituaries
Riverside Riverside County Record 1/12/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Riverside Riverside Daily Press 6/10/1886 – 3/11/1949 Newspaper Archives
Riverside Riverside Independent Enterprise 3/3/1891 – 12/31/1922 Newspaper Archives
Rocklin Placer Herald 12/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rolling Hills Estates Palos Verdes Peninsula News 12/27/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Roseville Press-Tribune 12/11/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sacramento Daily Democratic State Journal 8/26/1853 – 4/30/1858 Newspaper Archives
Sacramento Post (El Informador) 11/4/1967 – 12/2/1967 Newspaper Archives
Sacramento Prensa Libre 1/15/1969 – 12/31/1970 Newspaper Archives
Sacramento Sacramento Bee 3/31/1984 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sacramento Sacramento Weekly Union 10/31/1851 – 4/15/1853 Newspaper Archives
Sacramento Themis 2/24/1889 – 6/24/1894 Newspaper Archives
Sacramento Weekly Rescue 2/1/1864 – 9/27/1877 Newspaper Archives
Salinas Valley Adviser 6/3/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Bernardino Colton Courier 12/16/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Bernardino El Chicano 12/16/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Bernardino Sun 9/18/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Clemente Capistrano Valley News: Orange County Register weekly 5/20/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Clemente Dana Point News: Orange County Register weekly 5/27/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Clemente Sun Post News: Orange County Register weekly 5/21/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Diego Daily San Diegan 11/1/1887 – 2/29/1888 Newspaper Archives
San Diego Evening Tribune 12/3/1895 – 9/24/1940 Newspaper Archives
San Diego San Diego Daily Bee 5/16/1887 – 3/30/1888 Newspaper Archives
San Diego San Diego Daily World 1/28/1873 – 7/25/1873 Newspaper Archives
San Diego San Diego Sun 7/27/1881 – 2/29/1888 Newspaper Archives
San Diego San Diego Union 3/20/1871 – 12/31/1983 Newspaper Archives
San Diego U-T San Diego 12/7/1983 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Diego Weekly World 7/27/1872 – 7/19/1873 Newspaper Archives
San Fernando San Fernando Valley Sun 11/11/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Francisco Alaska Appeal 3/6/1879 – 4/15/1880 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Alta California 6/1/1850 – 6/21/1861 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Bay Citizen 6/1/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Francisco California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences 1/12/1854 – 9/21/1876 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco California Journal und Sonntags-gast 1/14/1872 – 12/30/1877 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Centro America 2/20/1921 – 8/25/1921 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Cronica 12/15/1854 – 2/28/1855 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Daily Commercial News 1/1/1885 – 12/31/1888 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Daily Globe 1/1/1857 – 8/14/1858 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Daily Placer Times and Transcript 6/28/1852 – 12/4/1855 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Eco del Pacifico 4/9/1857 – 4/9/1857 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Elevator 5/5/1865 – 6/11/1898 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Free Angela 5/1/1971 – 11/8/1971 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Grafico Internacional 2/1/1937 – 4/1/1937 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Hispano America 6/16/1918 – 12/5/1931 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Imparcial 11/20/1931 – 2/1/1935 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Jalamate 12/1/1971 – 6/9/1972 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Mefistofeles 3/9/1918 – 7/20/1918 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Mercantile Gazette and Prices Current, Shipping List and Register 10/2/1863 – 10/18/1867 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Mirror of the Times 12/12/1857 – 12/12/1857 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Nueva Mission 11/27/1967 – 10/1/1969 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco San Francisco Abend Post 1/3/1871 – 12/30/1876 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco San Francisco Bulletin 10/8/1855 – 12/31/1891 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco San Francisco Chronicle 1/1/1937 – 12/31/1942 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco San Francisco Chronicle 1/1/1985 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Francisco San Francisco Evening Journal 5/31/1852 – 5/13/1854 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco San Francisco Vindicator 5/2/1887 – 2/16/1889 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Seminario Imparcial 8/13/1938 – 11/12/1938 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Voz de Chile y de las Republicas Americanas 10/11/1867 – 5/26/1868 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Voz del Nuevo Mundo 3/27/1865 – 9/23/1884 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Weekly Alta California 10/5/1850 – 12/30/1854 Newspaper Archives
San Francisco Weekly Pacific News 12/31/1849 – 5/15/1851 Newspaper Archives
San Jose Almaden Resident 10/16/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Jose Campbell Reporter 9/22/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Jose Cupertino Courier 12/27/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Jose Evening News 2/23/1884 – 12/30/1922 Newspaper Archives
San Jose Los Gatos Weekly-Times 3/17/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Jose Rose Garden Resident 4/29/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Jose San Jose Mercury News 11/5/1861 – 12/31/1922 Newspaper Archives
San Jose San Jose Mercury News 6/1/1985 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Jose Sunnyvale Sun 2/21/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Jose Willow Glen Resident 1/10/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Luis Obispo Tribune 1/1/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Mateo San Mateo County Times 9/15/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Mateo San Mateo Daily Journal 6/18/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Ramon San Ramon Valley Times 9/9/1995 – 7/28/2010 Recent Obituaries
Santa Ana Irvine World News: Orange County Register weekly 5/13/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Santa Ana OC Post-Irvine World News: Orange County Register weekly 2/19/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Santa Ana Orange County Register 1/1/1987 – Current Recent Obituaries
Santa Ana Star-Progress: Orange County Register weekly 5/27/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Santa Ana Tustin News, The: Orange County Register weekly 5/6/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Santa Anita Santa Anita Pacemaker 4/24/1942 – 7/29/1942 Newspaper Archives
Santa Barbara Gaceta 8/9/1879 – 7/30/1881 Newspaper Archives
Santa Clarita Signal 12/5/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Santa Maria Santa Maria Times 12/3/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Santa Maria Times Press Recorder 1/5/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Santa Monica Aguila 3/21/1971 – 3/21/1973 Newspaper Archives
Santa Monica Santa Monica Daily Press 3/9/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Santa Rosa Press Democrat 1/1/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Saratoga Saratoga News 12/6/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Scotts Valley Santa Cruz Sentinel 2/9/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Seaside Monterey County Weekly 4/24/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Selma Selma Enterprise 5/6/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sonoma Sonoma Index-Tribune 11/29/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sonora Union Democrat 3/4/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
St. Helena St. Helena Star 3/3/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Stanford Atisbos 6/1/1975 – 6/1/1978 Newspaper Archives
State-Wide County California Newswire 7/9/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Stockton San Joaquin Republican 10/27/1855 – 12/8/1860 Newspaper Archives
Taft Midway Driller 11/8/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tanforan Tanforan Totalizer 5/15/1942 – 9/12/1942 Newspaper Archives
Temecula Californian 7/14/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Torrance Daily Breeze 8/3/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Torrance More San Pedro 2/18/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Turlock Turlock Journal 12/11/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Twentynine Palms Desert Trail 5/7/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Twentynine Palms Observation Post: Marine Corps Combat Center 1/16/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ukiah Ukiah Daily Journal 9/30/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Vacaville Reporter 1/3/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Vallejo Solano Times 4/20/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Vallejo Times-Herald 7/10/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ventura Ventura County Star 3/5/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Walnut Weekly News 8/4/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Walnut Creek Contra Costa Times 6/1/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Walnut Creek Lamorinda Sun 2/21/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
Walnut Creek Walnut Creek Journal 8/5/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
West Covina San Gabriel Valley Tribune 9/25/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Whittier Whittier Daily News 9/15/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Willits Willits News 9/17/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Woodland Daily Democrat 8/20/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Woodland Hills Daily News of Los Angeles 10/3/1985 – Current Recent Obituaries
Yreka Siskiyou Daily News 5/16/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Yucca Valley Hi-Desert Star 5/7/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries

Clues in Petitions: Did Your Ancestors Petition the Government?

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary writes about our ancestors’ petitions to the government, an often-overlooked source of family history information.

From the establishment of companies, to divorces, to relief from tobacco weighing, the right to petition the government “for a redress of grievances” is a constitutionally-protected right in the U.S., ever since the Bill of Rights came into effect on 15 December 1791.

These petitions that our ancestors sent to their government, reports of which can be found in old newspapers, can be a valuable source of family history information.

Here is an example of several petition notices published in a 19th century Virginia newspaper.

citizens' petitions to the government, Richmond Whig newspaper article 1 January 1850

Richmond Whig (Richmond, Virginia), 1 January 1850, page 2

Many genealogists have not yet discovered their ancestral petitions—but in all likelihood, family historians will be able to locate them with a little digging into newspaper archives.

When our ancestors petitioned the government, a typical procedure was to have a public representative or prominent citizen present their case in front of Congress.

In this example, Mr. Wayne (i.e., General “Mad” Anthony Wayne) presented a petition “praying compensation” for Revolutionary War surgeon John Davis, who, according to The Life of John Davis (William Watts Hart Davis, 1886), served valiantly under Wayne at the Battles of Monmouth, Morristown, etc.

petition by John Davis, Massachusetts Spy newspaper article 1 December 1791

Massachusetts Spy (Worcester, Massachusetts), 1 December 1791, page 2

This historical newspaper article also reports on similar pleas for Revolutionary War service compensation that were referred to the Secretary of War. We can also review a variety of other requests: Philip Bush had lost a certificate, the Branch Pilots of Pennsylvania wished an increase in their fees, and Mr. Wicks prayed compensation for a vessel and cargo damaged during the late war.

Some petitioners’ names were not identified in the news articles, probably due to the publisher’s need to conserve space. To make further identification in such cases, search archives of official congressional papers.

Petition requests are valid evidence for genealogical proofs. Whether or not the petitions were granted is another story. But whatever the outcome, our ancestors’ pleas are a treasure trove of data waiting to be mined. There are so many government petitions that (in my humble opinion) this is a project waiting to be tackled.

Wouldn’t it be great to have an indexed book on petitions, divided into subtopics, such as debt relief or the Temperance movement?

The crusade against drinking sparked a number of petitions in 19th century America. For example, in 1850 a “Mr. W.” presented fifteen petitions from citizens of Massachusetts, asking that the spirit ration of the Navy be abolished.

petition against Navy's liquor ration, Daily National Intelligencer newspaper article 1 January 1850

Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.), 1 January 1850, page 2

Were these concerned Massachusetts citizens members of the group that met at Gibbs’ Hotel in Boston, where Sons of Temperance meetings were held?

Gibbs' Hotel advertisement, Boston Herald newspaper 1 January 1850

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 1 January 1850, page 3

I haven’t yet completed the research, but my hunch is that Gibbs’ Hotel is where the teetotalers of the temperance petitions were meeting. My suspicion was enhanced after discovering this delightful old 1800s poem.

poem dedicated to J. B. Gibbs, Norfolk Democrat newspaper 29 March 1850

Norfolk Democrat (Dedham, Massachusetts), 29 March 1850, page 3

To locate petitions in GenealogyBank, search using the “Legal, Probate & Court” category in the Newspaper Archives.

GenealogyBank's search form for legal, probate and court notices

GenealogyBank’s search form for legal, probate and court notices

Include keywords such as pension, military or relief, along with an ancestor’s surname.

Have fun searching for petitions in GenealogyBank. Some are serious, and others are not.

Here’s an example of a petition I found in the “not so serious” category—and I see that some things never change.

This 1810 Georgia petition shows that, the same then as now, lawyers—as much as we need them—tend to infuriate us!

“We pray your honorable body to make such laws as to dispense with and totally obliterate the most useless pests that ever disgraced the human society, to wit, the lawyers, who have so successfully learnt the trade of living.”

Georgia petition against lawyers, Connecticut Herald newspaper article 2 January 1810

Connecticut Herald (New Haven, Connecticut), 2 January 1810, page 6

Yes, petitions in old newspapers can help us a great deal with our family history searches. And if, every now and then, one of our ancestor’s petitions manages to give us a chuckle or put a smile on our face—so much the better!

Solve the Robert ‘Believe It or Not!’ Ripley Ancestry Brick Wall

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary writes about two discoveries she made relating to Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley, and invites readers to join her in breaking through a brick wall in Ripley’s family history.

There is a wealth of discovery waiting to be found in historic newspapers. For one thing, old newspapers provide the stories that help you understand your ancestors and get to know them as real people.

For another thing, while researching your family history in a newspaper archive you occasionally stumble across interesting discoveries that have nothing to do with your family, things you never knew before—like what I found out about Robert L. Ripley and the origins of his “Believe It or Not!” publishing/radio/television/museum empire, and his involvement with “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

In this article I want to talk about my Ripley discoveries, and then ask for your help in breaking through a brick wall I’ve hit in exploring his genealogy.

photo of Robert L. Ripley, Dallas Morning News newspaper article, 28 May 1949

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 28 May 1949, page 1

Ripley’s First “Believe It or Not” Newspaper Cartoon

One day while looking through old newspapers I was fortunate enough to stumble upon this tantalizing treasure, explaining how Robert L. Ripley drew his first “Believe It or Not” cartoon.

On 19 December 1918, Ripley—a 27-year-old cartoonist for the New York Globe newspaper—was sitting in front of his drawing board with no new ideas. He was under deadline pressure to produce a cartoon for the next day’s paper, so “in desperation” he put together an assortment of odd sports occurrences to make a cartoon. He published it under the caption, “Believe It or Not.” He was interviewed on the subject of the cartoon’s origin years later, and his recollection was published in the New York Daily Mirror.

When Robert Ripley died in 1949 at the age of 58, his obituary reprinted that first cartoon recollection:

obituary for Robert L. Ripley, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 28 May 1949

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 28 May 1949, page 1

Here is one of Robert Ripley’s early “Believe It or Not” cartoons with a sports theme:

Ripley's "Believe It or Not," State newspaper cartoon 22 October 1919

State (Columbia, South Carolina), 22 October 1919, page 8

How astonishing it is, that from a single case of writer’s block developed an empire of over 90 world-wide attractions, including wondrous museums and amazing aquariums!

Robert Ripley & “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Here’s another Ripley tidbit I uncovered while browsing through old newspapers, of historical importance: Ripley had a role in making “The Star-Spangled Banner” our official national anthem.

The lyrics come from a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, entitled “Defence of Fort McHenry.” Key wrote his poem after witnessing the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812. Key’s poem was set to the tune of a popular British song, “The Anacreontic Song” (or “To Anacreon in Heaven”) and the resulting song came to be known as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Although officially used by the Navy in the late 1800s, it wasn’t the country’s national anthem at that time. Nonetheless, crowds caught up in patriotic fever would rise and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

"The Star-Spangled Banner," Daily Register-Gazette newspaper article 2 January 1930

Daily Register-Gazette (Rockford, Illinois), 2 January 1930, page 2

And then one day, Robert L. Ripley started a national conversation about its use with this comment, noting that the U.S. “has no official national anthem”:

Ripley at Music Box, Oregonian newspaper article 5 November 1930

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 5 November 1930, page 10

The discussion about the country’s lack of a national anthem gained momentum. Several months later, President Herbert Hoover signed the act that made “The Star-Spangled Banner” the official national anthem, on 3 March 1931.

"Star Spangled Banner" Is Now National Anthem though Pacifists Object, Springfield Republican newspaper article 5 March 1931

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 5 March 1931, page 1

And for you curiosity-seekers, you can read the first publication of Francis Scott Key’s poem by searching the newspapers in GenealogyBank. It was published in the Baltimore Patriot (Baltimore, Maryland) on 20 September 1814. No, I’m not going to republish it in this blog—you can have the joy of looking up this amazing discovery yourself.

But readers, I need some help with Robert Ripley, whose ancestry is as elusive as spotting a shooting star on a cloudy night.

Help Me Uncover Robert Ripley’s Family Tree!

I can’t seem to crack the brick wall in his genealogy. He left no descendants and was only married briefly to actress Beatrice Roberts. I can’t discover his family history any further back than his maternal grandmother.

Here are the clues I’ve been able to find, if any of you determined genealogists want to take up the challenge and break through the Ripley genealogy brick wall:

  • See one of Findagrave.com’s earliest memorials, #1399, from Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery in Santa Rosa, California
  • His parents, Isaac Davis Ripley (1854-1904) and Lillie Belle Yocka or Yocke (1868-1915), are also buried there; they married on 3 October 1889 in Sonoma, CA (California, County Marriages, 1850-1952 Database at familysearch.org)
  • Isaac was a carpenter born in Ohio (various California directories)
  • In 1870, a census reports that Isaac was possibly residing in the household of Jason and Phelia A. Stubs or Stutes in Belpre, Washington, OH, and attending school, age 16 (see http://ohgen.net/ohwashin/OMP-2.htm — Ohio Historical Society, Newspaper Microfilm Reel # 38487 — marriage license for Jason Stubbs and Phelia A. Hunter of Belpre on 8 May 1865)
  • Lillie was the daughter of Nancy Yocke (1828-?) and an unknown father from Germany (1880 Analy, Sonoma, CA, census)
  • Ripley’s siblings were Douglas and Ethel or Effie Ripley (obituary); it is unclear if they ever married, but are seen on a passenger list traveling together

We look forward to seeing who can crack this ancestry brick wall first, and promise to publish your results in the GenealogyBank blog! Please post your Ripley genealogy finds on GenealogyBank’s Facebook or blog pages as comments, or email us using our blog contact form at: http://blog.genealogybank.com/contact.

1940 Census Taker Doesn’t Let 3 Vicious Dogs & 50 Stitches Stop Her

It was a sunny day in Sonoma, California, on April 6, 1940, and census taker Alice Davis was off on her rounds enumerating the people of Sonoma, California, for the permanent record of the 1940 U.S. census. Little did she know that she was about to become “the first census-taker casualty in northern California.”

Three Dogs Attack Woman Census Taker, San Diego Union 7 April 1940

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 7 April 1940, page 11

As this old news article reports: “The enumerator was attacked by three large Airedale dogs when she attempted to take the tab at the Sonoma home of Carl Bergfried, retired San Francisco merchant.

“Bergfried, who was not at home at the time, returned to find Mrs. Davis battling valiantly against the enraged animals. He took her to Ferndale sanatorium where 50 stitches were required to close her wounds.”

Published in the San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 7 April 1940, page 11.

The determined Alice completed the enumeration, and Carl Bergfried and his wife Ida were recorded in the 1940 census. But the formal, dry federal census pages do not tell us of the sacrifice that Alice Davis made that day.

1940 census form for Carl Bergfried of Sonoma, California

1940 census form for Carl & Ida Bergfried of Sonoma, California

1940 Census. Sonoma, California. FamilySearch.org https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-27793-626-28?cc=2000219&wc=MMRS-PP1:786740582

Fortunately, the census enumerator’s story was recorded in the pages of a local newspaper. And thanks to GenealogyBank the pages of the San Diego Union have been indexed, digitized and put online—so we can learn that despite three vicious dogs and 50 stitches, Alice Davis saw it through and got the job done.

When doing your family history research, don’t rely just on the data provided by census and other government records. To really get to know something about your ancestors’ lives and the times they lived in, read their stories in the millions of newspaper articles contained in GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives.