20 New Years’ Resolutions for Genealogy

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary – with tongue firmly in cheek – presents 20 New Year’s resolutions for genealogists as we head into 2016.

As we head from 2015 to 2016, remember to quickly document 2015, as it is now your past.

Illustration: cartoon showing an infant representing “New Year 1905” chasing “Old Man 1904” into history

Illustration: cartoon showing an infant representing “New Year 1905” chasing “Old Man 1904” into history. Credit: John T. McCutcheon; Wikimedia Commons.

But seriously, when asked by GenealogyBank for some timely genealogy resolutions for the New Year, my serious side left the building. Wouldn’t it be fun to use these resolutions!

  • Locate deceased relatives in order to figure out which ancestor is haunting the family house – or better yet, invite one to become the family ghost and leave you clues.
  • Resolve to donate a black sheep to the local petting zoo. Family historians will understand the innuendo.
  • Resolve to never purchase a house with a real brick wall. It’s very unlucky when trying to solve the family puzzles.
  • Add a genealogically oriented cornerstone to your home. Include the pertinent data as to the family name, its pronunciation, when you moved there, etc.
  • Find birth records to make genealogy quilts for family members with the names of your ancestors and their countries of origin.
  • Resolve to only donate to politicians who have supported funding for genealogy and historical preservation. While you’re at it, search military records to see which of your ancestors served this country.
  • Threaten to disinherit the family down-at-the-mouthers when they sneer at your genealogy.
  • Write your own glowing obituary – then add a clause to your will disinheriting anyone who dares replace it with another version.
  • Read newspaper archives and historical documents to create a genealogy quiz for the executor to distribute at the reading of your will. Anyone who can’t answer questions, such as “which ancestor built the house on 7th Street” or “what was Grandma’s maiden name” has to retake it until they get an A. Leave a bonus to the top scorer, along with all your family research material and a stipend to preserve it.
  • Create birth, marriage and death announcements for ancestors who missed out on having them.
  • If you hear a relative sneer with “blah, blah, blah” to your latest genealogy find, respond with: “thanks, I think I’ll ‘blog, blog, blog’ about your disinterest, so it will be out there when you finally get interested.”
  • Record the GPS coordinates of the family headstones and present the data to disinterested relatives. Make sure you take their photos to record their “Oh gee thanks” expressions!
  • Use historical books to find your living family’s doppelgangers (ancestor look-alikes) and frame their images in side-by-side frames.
  • In order to hook your grandchildren on genealogy, search family names to figure out how they are related to their favorite pop stars.
  • Create your multi-generational family tree and engrave it into your headstone! (No joke. Some genealogists have already thought of this.)
  • Engrave your headstone with a statement noting your better qualities. (“Loving mother, or grandmother, genealogy diva & the family favorite”)
  • Persuade your local library board to provide special parking places for family history researchers.
  • Petition your state legislature for vanity license plates that grant free & convenient parking for genealogists at all state and national archives.
  • Hire handwriting experts to determine just who mislabeled the family photos. If it turns out it was a living relative, label this person’s really bad photos accurately.
  • Lastly, to complete the family DNA tests – resolve to do it surreptitiously during a family get-together. Here’s how: cover your desserts and say “Everyone. Open your mouth and close your eyes, so you can have a little surprise.” Instead of inserting a tasty bite, take a cheek swab.

Remember: all New Year’s resolutions go in one year and out the other! Make this one a safe one!

Bunker Hill Drummer Boy

Every Christmas we hear the familiar lyrics of “The Little Drummer Boy” Christmas classic popularized in the 1950s and still popular today.

Pa rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum

Drummer boys have resonated with Americans for centuries.

painting: “Yankee Doodle,” aka “The Spirit of ’76,” by Archibald Willard

Painting: “Yankee Doodle,” aka “The Spirit of ’76,” by Archibald Willard. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Rufus Kingsley (1763-1846) was one of three drummer boys at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The town of Kingsley, Pennsylvania, was named for this Connecticut-born Revolutionary War veteran.

obituary for Rufus Kingsley, Centinel of Freedom newspaper article 23 June 1846

Centinel of Freedom (Newark, New Jersey), 23 June 1846, page 4

Kingsley’s obituary recalled his popularity:

Many of our readers will recollect the enthusiasm with which the old veteran, with his ancient drum, was hailed when presented to the audience.

He gave us a touch of the music which awakened the American combatants on the morning of that memorable battle…The stirring note of his old drum will be heard no more.

Tragically his wife of 60 years, Lucinda Cutler, died three days later.

Don’t let their stories be lost.

GenealogyBank’s over 1 billion records are your best source to find their stories.

Document every drummer boy in your family tree and pass down their stories.

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from recent and historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

Related Revolutionary War Articles:

Idaho Archives: 35 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Idaho became the nation’s 43rd state when it joined the Union on 3 July 1890. A mountainous state with large areas of wilderness, Idaho is the 14th largest state in the country and the 39th most populous.

Photo of Yellow Bells at City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho

Photo: Yellow Bells at City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho. Credit: Wallace Keck, Park Superintendent, City of Rocks National Reserve; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your ancestry from Idaho, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online ID newspaper archives: 35 titles to help you search your family history in the “Gem State,” providing coverage from 1864 to Today. There are more than 13.7 million articles and records in our online Idaho newspaper archives!

Dig deep into our online archives and search for historical and recent obituaries and other news articles about your Idaho ancestors in these ID newspapers. Our Idaho newspapers are divided into two collections: Historical Newspapers (complete paper) and Recent Obituaries (obituaries only).

Search Idaho Newspaper Archives (1864 – 1976)

Search Idaho Recent Obituaries (1989 – Current)

Illustration of the Idaho state flag

Illustration: Idaho state flag. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Here is a list of online Idaho newspapers in the historical archives. Each newspaper title in this list is an active link that will take you directly to that paper’s search page, where you can begin searching for your ancestors by surnames, dates, keywords and more. The ID newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Blackfoot Blackfoot Register 07/10/1880 – 03/22/1884 Newspaper Archives
Blackfoot Morning News 08/02/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Boise Evening Bulletin 02/21/1903 – 02/21/1903 Newspaper Archives
Boise Idaho Statesman 07/26/1864 – 01/01/1953 Newspaper Archives
Boise Idaho Statesman 01/26/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Boise Idaho Democrat 01/28/1871 – 06/28/1871 Newspaper Archives
Bonners Ferry Bonners Ferry Herald 10/05/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Challis Challis Messenger 03/17/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Coeur d’Alene Coeur d’Alene Press 10/01/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Coeur d’Alene Idaho Spokesman-Review 07/03/1994 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hunt Minidoka Irrigator 09/10/1942 – 07/28/1945 Newspaper Archives
Idaho Falls Citizen 03/11/1907 – 04/01/1907 Newspaper Archives
Idaho Falls Idaho Falls Times 07/09/1891 – 09/16/1920 Newspaper Archives
Idaho Falls Idaho Register 04/04/1885 – 10/31/1916 Newspaper Archives
Idaho Falls Post Register 01/02/1992 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kellogg Shoshone News-Press 04/06/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lewiston Lewiston Morning Tribune 12/01/1989 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lewiston Lewiston Tribune 08/01/1964 – 05/31/1976 Newspaper Archives
Moscow Moscow-Pullman Daily News 01/01/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune 07/01/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Payette Independent Enterprise 05/16/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pocatello Idaho State Journal 06/27/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Priest River Priest River Times 06/05/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rathdrum Kootenai Courier 06/29/1889 – 06/21/1890 Newspaper Archives
Rigby Jefferson Star 07/25/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ruby City Owyhee Avalanche 08/19/1865 – 08/11/1866 Newspaper Archives
Salmon City Idaho Recorder 12/12/1889 – 05/04/1892 Newspaper Archives
Salmon City Semi-weekly Mining News 08/11/1867 – 08/11/1867 Newspaper Archives
Sandpoint Bonner County Daily Bee 03/02/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Shelley Shelley Pioneer 08/29/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Silver City Owyhee Avalanche 08/18/1866 – 12/28/1900 Newspaper Archives
Silver City Owyhee Daily Avalanche 10/17/1874 – 04/26/1876 Newspaper Archives
Silver City Owyhee Semi-Weekly Tidal Wave 12/15/1868 – 02/10/1870 Newspaper Archives
Twin Falls Twin Falls Daily News 04/08/1918 – 12/31/1922 Newspaper Archives
Twin Falls Times-News 08/19/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries

*Date Ranges may have selected coverage unavailable.

You can either print or create a PDF version of this Blog post by simply clicking on the green “Print/PDF” button below. The PDF version makes it easy to save this post onto your desktop or portable device for quick reference – all the Idaho newspaper links will be live.

Related Resource:

 

She Had the Best Laugh!

What a great tribute.

This obituary for Effie Mae Sanders says:

She had the best laugh – loud and hearty and she was always cheerful. No one could walk past the house without a ‘hello’ from Effie.

obituary for Effie Mae Sanders, Gettysburg Times newspaper article 6 March 2014

Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), 6 March 2014

Yes, her obituary gives the facts: when and where she was born; whom she married; the groups she belonged to; the details of her death and who the survivors were.

But…it is her story that sticks with us.
The way this obituary characterized her life – capturing her persona and making us wish that we had known her too.

She “loved to cook…to try new recipes and share them with her friends. And she had a lot of friends.”

She was always worrying about those who were sick. She would call them and pray for them. Effie said ‘no matter how many health problems I have, there are always those worse off than me.’ She was a friend to everyone she met and loved by many more.

Find the stories of every one of your relatives.

What a terrific person.
Effie Mae Sanders (1930-2015) would have been 85 years old this month.

She was “a joyful woman.”

Use GenealogyBank to find and document your family’s stories so that they are told and remembered, just like Effie Mae’s.

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from recent and historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

Related Obituary Articles:

For the 12 Days of Christmas: 12 Types of Newspaper Articles for Genealogy Research, Part II

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena gives examples of six types of newspaper articles that can help with your family history research.

Still looking for your ancestor in the newspaper? Or maybe you’re looking to find more mentions of your family? In yesterday’s Part I of our “12 Days of Christmas” blog article, we looked at six types of newspaper articles that give us some of the basic facts of a person’s life: birth, marriage, death, etc.

Now let’s look at six more types of newspaper articles that fill in more of the details of what your ancestors’ lives were like. All of these examples were found in the pages of GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

7) Family Reunion Articles

I went to a family reunion last spring and that event was a great meeting between cousins who were new to each other – and an opportunity to trade photos and stories. Unfortunately, the local newspaper wasn’t there documenting that time we spent together, nor did anyone think of providing that story to them. However, it is not unusual to find family reunion activities documented in old newspapers. Large family reunions or milestone events that were the catalyst for a reunion (think of an elder family member’s birthday, 50th wedding anniversary, etc.) were newsworthy. Articles about these events in the local newspaper often include names, dates, history and memories.

For example, this Jackson family reunion article from a 1903 Texas newspaper tells the migration story of the family that ended in Dallas. The article gives the names, and the birth year and month, of each of the five Jackson family members pictured. It also gives a tremendous amount of family history, beginning with the family patriarch, John Jackson, his birth in England in 1806, and the perilous journey the family took in 1848 to come to Texas. Note that this article points out “His sons and daughters married, and had children, and these children did the same thing” – valuable clues to other records to search for in tracing this family’s history.

article about the Jackson family reunion, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 3 September 1903

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 3 September 1903, page 6

8) School Days Articles

All types of newspaper articles document the school days of children and young adults. You might find articles about school sports competitions or awards won for various events. Lists of graduates are also popular newspaper fodder. As you consider school-based newspaper articles, remember to not make assumptions about your ancestor’s school career (such as presuming they never attended school), and don’t assume that their school days were like your own (that assumption can result in missing articles unique to their time period). Lastly, remember that newspaper articles may focus on students, teachers, staff, and the school board.

This 1897 New York newspaper article about the graduates of Miss Hunter’s Training School gives the names of women who graduated from this Kindergarten teacher training school. The graduates’ and post-graduates’ names and city of residence are listed.

article about women graduates from a training school, New York Tribune newspaper article 8 June 1897

New York Tribune (New York, New York), 8 June 1897, page 5

Obviously your ancestor’s name mentioned in a graduate list or attached to a school activity would be great to find – but don’t forget about photos in the newspaper. The GenealogyBank search engine provides you the ability to narrow your search results by photos and illustrations. By narrowing a search to the phrase “high school football” I found this great photo of the 1901 Baker City High School football team from Oregon. The caption reads “In the group here presented are the husky fellows who make up the Baker City High School football team, together with the coach and manager of the eleven and Professor Churchill, principal of the High School.” Surnames and positions played by the students are listed.

article and photo about the Baker City High School football team, Oregonian newspaper article 2 December 1901

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 2 December 1901, page 3

9) Legal Notices

We’ve talked about legal notices before on this blog and how important they can be to your genealogy research. Those largely ignored, small dense notices in the back of the newspaper call to attention all kinds of important legal matters, including court actions. These notices, most useful for searching for your mid-19th century ancestors and beyond, are the place to find probate actions. If you’re having problems finding a probate in the courthouse archive where your ancestor lived, take a look at the legal notices in newspapers.

legal notices, Duluth News-Tribune newspaper article 3 August 1908

Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 3 August 1908, page 7

10) Delinquent Tax Notices

This is a list most of us would rather not find ourselves on. But just like modern families, our ancestors faced difficult economic times. Lists of those with delinquent taxes can be found in the newspaper and those mentions include a name, address and even the amount owed. Such articles should be followed up by searching land grants as well as additional newspaper articles having to do with the possible sale of the property for the money owed. A seemingly sudden move to a different address or completely out of an area might be explained by finding your ancestor’s name on such a list.

list of delinquent taxes, Albuquerque Journal newspaper article 2 September 1910

Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 2 September 1910, page 3

11) Letters to the Editor

Did your ancestor have a strong opinion about something? Maybe they just wanted to inform the community about an issue or event. There were several ways a person could get their name in the newspaper and writing a letter to the editor was one.

Judging from the various letters to the editor columns I read, some newspapers allowed letter writers to use a symbolic moniker, some provided anonymity by printing only the writer’s initials, while others insisted on the full name and address of the individual. I love this 1915 letter to the editor article that explains to a person who signed their letter “Neutral” why their anonymous letter wasn’t published. As you can see by the editor’s explanation, those wishing to have a letter published had to include their name and address.

letters to the editor, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 30 August 1915

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 30 August 1915, page 8

It’s important to remember to try various ways of searching for your family, including narrowing and widening your ancestry search. If you only narrow your search to a name and place, you may miss mentions of your ancestor in places you would least expect to find them.

For example, this 1925 Letter to the Editor column from a San Diego newspaper is a good example. The letter reminisces about the author’s 1929 trip to San Diego. The writer states that “In my opinion the two grandest sights in the United States are the Grand canyon of Arizona and San Diego bay from Pt. Loma.” Family of Mr. Lawrence J. Callanan of New York might be interested in this trip, which would provide some background to any photos or souvenirs passed down.

letter to the editor from Lawrence Callanan, San Diego Union newspaper article 24 August 1935

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 24 August 1935, page 5

12) Post Office Letters

I have a friend who lets her mail pile up for a week before begrudgingly picking it up. By the time she finally goes to the post office, her box is sometimes filled to capacity and some of the more urgent items have gone unchecked. One day in the future the idea of mail being delivered to our homes will probably be all but a distant memory.

Just like my friend, our ancestors didn’t always pick up their mail. Why? Lots of reasons come to mind, including that the person moved or died. This 1904 Alaska newspaper article with a list of names of people from Juneau who have not picked up their mail explains that after two weeks, the mail will be forwarded to the dead letter office in Washington, D.C. These types of lists found in the newspaper can be great clues for your ancestral timeline.

article about unclaimed letters at the post office, Daily Alaska Dispatch newspaper article 15 March 1904

Daily Alaska Dispatch (Juneau, Alaska), 15 March 1904, page 4

Most of us have heard at one time or another about the “dead letter office.” The Second Continental Congress established the position of inspector of dead letters, who would deal with undeliverable mail. Later, the first dead letter office in Washington, D.C. made its debut in 1825. Postmasters published lists of names in the newspaper of people who had letters waiting to be picked up, with warnings that unclaimed letters would be sent to the dead letter office.*

article about unclaimed letters at the post office, Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper article 21 March 1738

Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 21 March 1738, page 2

So where will you find your ancestor in the newspaper? Newspapers are a rich source of information and your ancestor could be mentioned in any type of article. But before you give up on finding that elusive ancestor, search for them in the 12 types of newspaper articles we outlined yesterday and today. Utilize tools provided in the GenealogyBank search engine to narrow and broaden your search. And remember to search on versions of your ancestor’s name, including initials.

Good luck in your search!

———————-

* Dead letter office gave rise to official seals. Linn’s Stamp. http://www.linns.com/en/insights/stamp-collecting-basics/2005/july/dead-letter-office-gave-rise-to-official-seals.html

Related Articles:

For the 12 Days of Christmas: 12 Types of Newspaper Articles for Genealogy Research, Part I

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena gives examples of six types of newspaper articles that can help with your family history research.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…Well if you’re like most of us your family history gift would be finding more mentions (or perhaps just one mention) of your ancestry. Instead of geese a-laying or the partridge in a pear tree, you want to go straight to the genealogy happy dance where you celebrate finding that newspaper article about your family.

The ways in which your ancestor could be listed in the newspaper are endless – but there are some go-to articles you should be regularly looking for. It’s important to be knowledgeable about what newspaper articles can assist in your search so that you know what is available and what you should expect. Will your ancestor be mentioned in each type of newspaper article listed below? No, many factors determine whether a person is mentioned in any one type of article, but you should still keep your eye out for the following article types.

In honor of the 12 Days of Christmas, this article will take a look at 12 genealogically rich newspaper article examples – starting with these first 6 that provide the basic facts about a person: their birth, marriage, and death. Tomorrow, in Part II, we’ll look at 6 more types of newspaper articles that can help with your family history research. All of these examples were found in the pages of GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

1) Birth Notices

A person is born and the newspaper publishes an announcement, right? Well, sometimes.

birth notices, Republic newspaper article 5 January 1909

Republic (Rockford, Illinois), 5 January 1909, page 4

In some cases a birth notice at the time of the birth might be found in the newspaper. However, even though newspapers report current events, in some cases a birth notice may not appear until sometime much later than the actual birth. At first read that doesn’t appear to make much sense, so let me explain.

One example is the case of delayed birth certificates, when a notice appeared in the newspaper notifying the public that a person had filed for one – and that notice included their birth date. What is a delayed birth certificate? These are a type of birth certificate issued to those who were born before the mandatory use of birth certificates, or for those whose birth was not registered at the time of the event. Obtaining a delayed birth certificate was especially important after the implementation of Social Security and during World War II.

Look at some of the samples in this article. In the first one, the person was born in 1898 – yet was requesting a birth certificate in 1944!

article about delayed birth certificates, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 29 December 1944

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 29 December 1944, page 12

Genealogy Tip: Birth announcements are likely not to include the name of the child, so search instead for the parents’ names or just the last name.

2) Engagement Notices

An upcoming nuptial may lead to numerous mentions in the newspaper, starting with an engagement notice. These notices may or may not include photos and will likely provide a little bit of information about the prospective bride and groom.

This 1922 Alabama newspaper column of engagement notices includes an example showing how much family information these notices sometimes provide: the Hertz-Friedman announcement reports the place of residence for the bride’s father, the groom, and the groom’s mother – both her current and former locations.

Engagement Announcements, Montgomery Advertiser newspaper article 4 June 1922

Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama), 4 June 1922, Society Section, page 16

Genealogy Tip: An engagement notice might be in several newspapers, including the newspaper where the bride or groom live and the newspapers where their parents live. So make sure to not limit your search to a single city.

You never know what kind of information you will find in the newspaper. I particularly like this appraisal of the bride and groom found in the above notice for the Knowles-Johns engagement:

Miss Knowles is a popular member of the younger set and endeared herself to her friends by her charming personality. Mr. Johns is well known in Montgomery and holds a responsible position with the A. C. L. railroad.

Remember that an engagement notice – like the issuance of a marriage license – does not mean that a wedding actually took place. It’s important to continue your search and seek out proof that the wedding occurred.

3) Wedding Announcements

We sometimes get so used to the way a newspaper is laid out that we may miss newspaper articles that appear to be something else entirely. For example, this 1919 Nebraska newspaper article is entitled “Festive Bridal Array Again Here.” At first glance this appears to be an article about wedding fashion – but it is really a wedding announcement for two couples that begins with a comment about the return of festive wedding attire since the end of World War I. The announcement goes on to tell us about the two couples and where they currently reside.

wedding announcements, Omaha World-Herald newspaper article 2 February 1919

Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 2 February 1919, page 29

4) Anniversary Announcements

Celebrations for couples that have been married for 25, 50 and even more years are often documented in the newspaper. The great thing about these articles is they may include the wife’s maiden name as well as the names of the couple’s children and grandchildren. Frequently, photos of the happy couple accompany the article as in this example from a 1955 North Carolina newspaper which includes the couple’s street address, the number of children they had (though unfortunately not their names), and the bride’s father’s name.

article about the Elkins' 50th wedding anniversary, Greensboro Record newspaper article 25 October 1955

Greensboro Record (Greensboro, North Carolina), 25 October 1955, page 13

5) Divorce Notices

Birth and marriage are a fact of life – and so too is divorce. All types of court actions can be found in the newspaper, including notices about divorce cases. Think divorce is a modern-day issue? Nothing could be further from the truth. In the United States, the first divorce occurred in colonial America. If you think people didn’t do that back in the “good old days” – yet your research shows a spouse that suddenly “disappeared” – consider the possibility of a divorce.

The name of the divorcing couple might be found in a newspaper article listing court cases to be heard, or in a legal notice seeking a hard-to-find defendant. While only the most notorious or infamous of divorce cases warranted a longer newspaper article, these smaller mentions are important because they can lead you to further research in court records.

divorce notices, Columbus Daily Enquirer newspaper article 29 October 1922

Columbus Daily Enquirer (Columbus, Georgia), 29 October 1922, page 8

6) Obituaries

Obituaries are a staple in genealogy research. One of the first sources many family history researchers check, obituaries can be a hit or miss proposition. When you can find them they can range in length from a single line to multiple paragraphs with a photo.

obituary for F. Lenwood Scott, Augusta Chronicle newspaper article 28 January 2001

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 28 January 2001, section B, page 7

A few tips are in order when looking for obituaries. Remember that in some cases the obituary may have been preceded by notices involving the illness of the deceased or reports of an accident. These types of mentions would be more common in small communities. If the death was due to an accident or crime, search for articles detailing that event and then the coroner’s inquest or court trial that presumably followed. Like engagement notices mentioned above, obituaries may be found in multiple newspapers including where the deceased lived and the city they were from originally. Also take into consideration that a close relative may have also decided to place the obituary in their local newspaper as well.

So were you familiar with these six types of newspaper articles? These are just some of the newspaper articles where your ancestor might appear. In tomorrow’s article we will explore six other types of newspaper articles that fill in the details of your ancestor’s life.

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Want to Involve the Grandkids in Family History? Tip #3

With families gathering for the Holidays, you’ll be able to spend time with the grandkids. Want to get them interested in family history? Make it fun!

front page of the Rockford Register Star newspaper 1 December 2005

Rockford Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 1 December 2005, page 1

Try this.

Show them the front page of a newspaper from the day they were born.

That’s easy – GenealogyBank’s archive goes back 325 years. They’ll be amazed to see what the news was on the day they were born.

Then go through the newspaper page by page and see what the prices were like, and see what was playing at the movies. Get a feel for life on that day.

Then challenge them to find the front page of the newspapers on the days that their ancestors were born.

montage of the front pages of various newspapers

Source: GenealogyBank.com

Why not save each newspaper and make an album of these pages? You could label them with the name of each ancestor and save them in a scrapbook.

Add a photograph of your ancestor – and a copy of their birth or marriage certificate.

If you found one or two front pages each time your grandkids visit, before you know it you’d have a terrific family history album – which they helped to create – that effectively tells your family’s story and the times in which your ancestors lived.

Genealogy Tip: Want to involve the Grandkids in family history? Tip #3: Make it fun!

Create a family history that will make your history come alive for your grandchildren.

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A Tale of 4 Early Obituaries: Are You Missing Their Clues?

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary shows how small references and brief mentions in obituaries can provide clues to help your family history research.

Obituaries are the stalwart basis for genealogy research – but many family historians miss clues that are crying out for follow-up searches. Let’s look at some early obituaries from GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives and see what lessons we can learn from them.

Genealogy Tip: When you find an obituary, read it differently to uncover its clues.

Instead of just focusing on names and dates, look for associations – such as locations and organizations. Take what you observe and use it in follow-up queries.

Take for example this 19th century obituary – really just a trio of early American death notices. It’s fairly typical for the time period, when a person’s entire existence seemed to be summarized in 1-3 lines.

This obituary briefly mentions:

  • the Shepards (Julia Ann and T. W.)
  • Abel Chapin
  • the Taylors (James and his wife)

But there’s more to uncover for each one of the deceased listed here.

death notices, Hampshire Gazette newspaper article 19 October 1831

Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, Massachusetts), 19 October 1831, page 3

#1 Julia Ann Shepard

Julia Ann Shepard’s young passing was at one year old. We learn the location where she died and her father’s name, albeit abbreviated.

Starting with Findagrave, a search located her at memorial #89027833.

Her Findagrave page had a small date error reporting that she passed in December rather than on October 15. So I did what many colleagues do, and sent the correction with a reason why the information was incorrect. It is now noted on the record.

#2 T. W. Shepard

I thought Julia Ann’s father might be Thomas W. Shepard. A search for Thomas or Thomas W. Shepard located little in GenealogyBank, so I resorted to the biggest clue of all: how he was named in the daughter’s death notice.

Turns out T. W. really did go by just his initials. This search found him.

screenshot of GenealogyBank's search box showing a search for T. W. Shepard

Source: GenealogyBank

He turned out to be an interesting fellow.

Among his many accomplishments was the inspiration for the New England Farmer and Horticultural Journal, published from 1822-1846.

article about T. W. Shepard founding the "New England Farmer" journal, Hampshire Gazette newspaper article 22 May 1822

Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, Massachusetts), 22 May 1822, page 2

This journal is mentioned repeatedly in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives. As one of the earliest agricultural journals, it provides researchers with unparalleled insight into 19th century New England agriculture.

Another tidbit I unearthed about T. W. in the newspaper archives pertains to his religion. In 1821, he assisted in the publication of a sermon called “The Guilt and Danger of Religious Error.”

article about a sermon delivered by Rev. Joseph Lyman, Hampden Patriot newspaper article 12 December 1821

Hampden Patriot (Springfield, Massachusetts), 12 December 1821, page 4

What I wasn’t able to locate was T. W. Shepard’s obituary. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to find it.

#3 Col. Abel Chapin

The most intriguing information about Col. Abel Chapin is his rank. Can GenealogyBank confirm his military rank and let us know more about him?

A 1954 report from the Daughters of the American Revolution in GenealogyBank’s Historical Documents section reports that he served in Charles Chapin’s regiment in Ticonderoga, New York, during the American Revolutionary War.

a report of Revolutionary War soldiers' graves in Massachusetts produced by the Daughters of the American Revolution

Source: GenealogyBank

His Findagrave memorial notes that he was also in the War of 1812 and Shay’s Rebellion.

Old Massachusetts newspapers are sprinkled with various tidbits about Col. Abel Chapin. One fact I found amusing concerned his oxen. His largest ox weighed 3,028 pounds!

article about Col. Abel Chapin and his oxen, Boston Commercial Gazette newspaper article 24 September 1821

Boston Commercial Gazette (Boston, Massachusetts), 24 September 1821, page 2

According to a Google search quoting Tiller’s International: “Depending on the breed, an ox can weigh anywhere from about 500 to 3,000 pounds,” so Chapin’s ox was a mighty large animal – even by today’s standards.

#4 Rev. James Taylor and wife

According to the death notice, the Rev. James Taylor and his unnamed wife died within five days of each other, on 11October and 16 October, 1831.

However, curiosity makes one wonder if the close proximity of their deaths was a coincidence? Did she die of a broken heart or was there another cause?

Their online Findagrave memorials at Riverside Cemetery report her name was Elizabeth Terry and they both died of typhoid fever. A quick check of similar obituaries shows that typhus was prevalent in the area during this time period.

Findagrave memorial for Rev. James Taylor

Source: Findagrave

I noticed that their Findagrave memorial does not show the exact date of death, so I submitted a correction which will hopefully be addressed.

Searching in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives produced a few more items about this family, such as this report of a church service in which Rev. Taylor gave the sermon.

article about the installation of Rev. Joel Wright, Weekly Messenger newspaper article 25 October 1821

Weekly Messenger (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 October 1821, page 4

In some newspaper articles he was referred to as James Taylor, but others simply referred to him by his initials. Several newspaper notices report that he officiated at other ordinations.

I even found an 1807 newspaper article about his own ordination. How cool is that!

article about the ordination of Rev. James Taylor, Vermont Precursor newspaper article 7 August 1807

Vermont Precursor (Montpelier, Vermont), 7 August 1807, page 3

So there you have it: a virtual tale of four obituary discoveries, starting with the briefest of mentions in a death notice that led to follow-up searches uncovering more of their stories. Please share in the comments section how obituary clues have led you to other genealogical discoveries.

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from recent and historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

Related Obituary Articles:

Squirrels Came to the Rescue of Washington’s Troops in Valley Forge

The difficult winter of 1777-1778 nearly destroyed the Army when General George Washington and the American Continental Army were camped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The damp and cold conditions, combined with disease, malnutrition and exposure, killed 2,500 of Washington’s 12,000 soldiers.

That tough winter was much colder than it has been so far this year in the eastern states. According to John Ludwig Snyder (1746-1860) – who was there with Washington at Valley Forge – it was an especially brutal winter, as recounted in his obituary when the Revolutionary War veteran died “in the 114th year of his age.”

obituary for John Ludwig Snyder, Sun newspaper article 9 April 1860

Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 9 April 1860, page 1

It was so cold at Valley Forge that the men resorted to using squirrels to protect themselves from the freezing temperatures.

According to Snyder’s obituary:

He has said that the winter of that year was the coldest he ever experienced. Our troops, he has said, shot squirrels and drew their skins over their feet for shoes.

The Wikipedia entry on Valley Forge describes the camp’s shelters:

The first properly constructed hut appeared in three days. One other hut, which required 80 logs, and whose timber had to be collected from miles away, went up in one week with the use of only one axe. These huts provided sufficient protection from the moderately cold, but mainly wet and damp conditions of a typical Pennsylvania winter of 1777–1778. By the beginning of February, construction of 2,000 huts was completed. They provided shelter, but did little to offset the critical shortages that continually plagued the army.

I had two ancestors that served that winter with George Washington in Valley Forge.

Private Moses Starbird, a private in the Continental Army, had extensive service in the American Revolutionary War – including Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

This is an example of the cabin he would have stayed in. This replica stands in the Valley Forge National Park in Pennsylvania, approximately 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

photo of a replica cabin, Valley Forge National Park, Pennsylvania

Photo: replica cabin, Valley Forge National Park, Pennsylvania. Credit: Djmaschek; Wikimedia Commons.

Want to Involve the Grandkids in Family History? Tip #2

Make your family stories memorable. If you had an ancestor who camped with George Washington at Valley Forge, show them this photo of the replica cabin and read John Ludwig Snyder’s firsthand account from his obituary, telling that it was so cold and supplies were so low that they had to use squirrels for warm shoes.

Related Revolutionary War Articles:

Louisiana Archives: 97 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Louisiana became the nation’s 18th state when it joined the Union on 30 April 1812. Famous, among other things, for the multi-cultural melting pot that is New Orleans, Louisiana is the 31st largest state in the country and the 25th most populous.

photo of a Louisiana entrance sign off Interstate 20 in Madison Parish, east of Tallulah

Photo: Louisiana entrance sign off Interstate 20 in Madison Parish, east of Tallulah. Credit: Billy Hathorn; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your ancestry from Louisiana, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online LA newspaper archives: 97 titles to help you search your family history in the “Pelican State,” providing coverage from 1803 to Today. There are more than 167 million articles and records in our online Louisiana newspaper archives!

Dig deep into our online archives and search for historical and recent obituaries and other news articles about your Louisiana ancestors in these LA newspapers. Our Louisiana newspapers are divided into two collections: Historical Newspapers (complete paper) and Recent Obituaries (obituaries only).

Search Louisiana Newspaper Archives (1803 – 1991)

Search Louisiana Recent Obituaries (1986 – Current)

illustration of the Louisiana state flag

Illustration: Louisiana state flag. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Here is a list of online Louisiana newspapers in the historical archives. Each newspaper title in this list is an active link that will take you directly to that paper’s search page, where you can begin searching for your ancestors by surnames, dates, keywords and more. The LA newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Abbeville Abbeville Meridional 06/01/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Abbeville, Gueydan, Kaplan Vermilion Today 07/02/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Alexandria Louisiana Herald 03/20/1819 – 06/30/1824 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Louisiana Planter 05/15/1810 – 05/15/1810 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Louisiana Rambler 03/28/1818 – 04/11/1818 Newspaper Archives
Amite Amite-Tangi Digest 08/19/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Arabi St. Bernard Voice 07/24/2015 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ascension Gonzales Weekly Citizen 05/02/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bastrop Bastrop Daily Enterprise 06/27/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Baton Rouge Advocate 01/01/1986 – Current Recent Obituaries
Baton Rouge Advocate 07/19/1925 – 12/31/1985 Newspaper Archives
Baton Rouge Community Leader 06/16/1985 – 06/16/1985 Newspaper Archives
Baton Rouge Daily Advocate 01/02/1854 – 10/31/1906 Newspaper Archives
Baton Rouge Daily State 08/01/1906 – 07/16/1910 Newspaper Archives
Baton Rouge Observer 01/13/1900 – 01/13/1900 Newspaper Archives
Baton Rouge State Times Advocate 01/01/1909 – 10/02/1991 Newspaper Archives
Baton Rouge Weekly Advocate 12/24/1845 – 10/31/1903 Newspaper Archives
Baton Rouge State-Times 01/01/1986 – Current Recent Obituaries
Baton Rouge Advocate Extra 10/09/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Belle Chasse Plaquemines Gazette 07/28/2015 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bogalusa Daily News 01/02/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bossier City Bossier Press-Tribune 02/25/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Clinton Watchman 12/18/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Covington St. Tammany News 02/17/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crowley Crowley Post-Signal 10/14/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crowley, Rayne Acadia Parish Today 06/21/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
De Ridder Beauregard Daily News 06/25/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Donaldsonville Donaldsonville Chief 06/11/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Eunice Eunice News 03/07/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fort Polk Fort Polk Guardian 11/04/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Franklin Franklin Banner-Tribune 12/04/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Greensburg St. Helena Echo 12/18/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Gueydan Gueydan Journal 09/13/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hammond Daily Star 04/23/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kaplan Kaplan Herald 05/30/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
La Place L’Observateur 01/14/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lafayette Acadiana Advocate 12/13/2013 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lake Arthur Lake Arthur Sun-Times 08/20/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lake Charles American Press 09/14/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Leesville Leesville Daily Leader 07/02/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Marksville Avoyelles Journal, Marksville Weekly News, Bunkie Record 11/04/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Minden Minden Press-Herald 09/11/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Morgan City Daily Review 05/04/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Natchitoches Mexicano 06/19/1813 – 06/19/1813 Newspaper Archives
New Iberia Daily Iberian 01/02/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Orleans Abeille 01/03/1829 – 12/27/1831 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Black Republican 04/15/1865 – 05/20/1865 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Courrier de la Louisiane 01/01/1821 – 01/14/1824 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Daily Delta 06/17/1846 – 02/14/1863 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Daily True Delta 05/23/1857 – 12/31/1864 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Evening True Delta 05/27/1862 – 07/30/1862 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Gambit 09/04/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Orleans Inside New Orleans 05/01/1965 – 05/01/1965 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Jeffersonian 05/30/1842 – 05/30/1842 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Jeffersonian Republican 12/21/1844 – 03/30/1847 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans L’Union 09/27/1862 – 07/19/1864 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Louisiana Advertiser 04/19/1820 – 11/03/1827 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Louisiana State Gazette 05/28/1805 – 12/07/1826 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Misisipi 10/12/1808 – 10/12/1808 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans New Orleans Argus 11/18/1809 – 03/26/1834 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans New Orleans Daily Creole 07/01/1856 – 01/10/1857 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans New Orleans Times 01/01/1865 – 05/02/1898 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans New Orleans Tribune 07/21/1864 – 02/28/1869 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans New Orleans Weekly Times 02/18/1865 – 12/28/1867 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Orleans Gazette and Commercial Advertiser 12/20/1804 – 06/16/1820 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans New Orleans Advocate 10/22/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Orleans NOLA Defender 03/13/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Orleans Sunday Delta 09/28/1856 – 03/25/1860 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Times-Picayune 01/25/1837 – 12/31/1988 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Weekly Louisianian 12/18/1870 – 06/17/1882 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Weekly Pelican 12/04/1886 – 11/23/1889 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Weekly Picayune 01/24/1842 – 06/09/1913 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Weekly Times-Picayune 04/16/1914 – 10/31/1918 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Times-Picayune 01/01/1989 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Orleans Times-Picayune, The: Web Edition Articles 08/11/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Orleans Uptown Messenger 09/27/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Orleans Carillon 09/12/1869 – 05/02/1875 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Echo du Commerce 09/28/1808 – 09/28/1808 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Lanterne Magique 11/20/1808 – 11/20/1808 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans New Orleans Item 07/06/1877 – 12/31/1922 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans New Orleans States 01/01/1916 – 12/01/1928 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans New-Orleans Daily Chronicle 07/14/1818 – 09/14/1819 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans Telegraphe et le Commercial Advertiser 12/17/1803 – 09/04/1806 Newspaper Archives
New Orleans New Orleans States-Item 01/02/1961 – 06/27/1966 Newspaper Archives
Plaquemine Plaquemine Post South 04/10/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rayne Rayne Acadian-Tribune 08/04/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rayville Richland Beacon-News 11/03/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
St. Francisville Louisianian 05/08/1819 – 05/27/1820 Newspaper Archives
St. Francisville St. Francisville Democrat 12/18/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
St. Francisville Time Piece 04/25/1811 – 01/17/1815 Newspaper Archives
St. Martinville Echo 03/15/1873 – 03/15/1873 Newspaper Archives
St. Martinville Teche News 11/17/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sulphur Southwest Daily News 03/26/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Vidalia Concordia Eagle 10/02/1875 – 04/12/1883 Newspaper Archives
Ville Platte Ville Platte Gazette 11/25/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Zachary Zachary Plainsman-News 12/30/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Zachary Zachary Advocate and Plainsman 10/09/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries

*Date Ranges may have selected coverage unavailable.

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