How to Research Legal Notices in Newspapers for Genealogy

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena shows how legal notices published in old newspapers are a great genealogy resource, providing a wealth of family history information.

When doing your family history research, have you ever given much thought to those legal notices found at the back of the newspaper? Legal notices in newspapers have an important purpose: they notify the public about government and individual actions so that readers may take action if necessary. The publishing of these public notices dates back to 1789, when Congress “required all bills, orders, resolutions and congressional votes to be published in at least three publicly available newspapers.”*

According to the genealogical text, The Source, legal notices may include: “land sales for payment of taxes, administration in probate, proving of wills, heirship determination and the settlement of estates, pending divorce proceedings, sales of properties of insolvent estates, and more.”**

Have you looked for your ancestor in these public notices published in newspapers? These legal articles can lead you to additional sources stored in courthouse archives, county government offices, and beyond. Let’s look at a few examples.

Probate & Estate Notices to Creditors

One genealogically rich source of information is the Notice to Creditors for estates being probated.

At the very least these probate notices provide the deceased’s name, such as this example found in an Arizona newspaper following the death of Mary J. Griffin.

This legal notice is a good reminder to not make assumptions about female ancestors. We often assume women in earlier times didn’t leave behind wills, but they may have – and if so, legal notice of that will or testament might have been published in the local newspaper. Legal notices are a wonderful source for researching female ancestors.

a legal notice for Mary Griffin, Tucson Citizen newspaper article 26 July 1915


Tucson Citizen (Tucson, Arizona), 26 July 1915, page 5

Legal notices will often include a family member’s name who was administering the estate. This notice to creditors article example from an Idaho newspaper includes the name of the deceased, S. F. Beery, and the name of the executor who was most likely a relative, David Beery.

legal notice for S. F. Beery, Idaho Statesman newspaper article 26 June 1905

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 26 June 1905, page 5

Court Actions & Case Files

Notices of court actions in the newspaper include everything from divorces to individual lawsuits, delinquent tax issues, and foreclosures on property. Consider this example from a Minnesota newspaper that not only notifies the defendants about the court action, it mentions the land that is at the heart of the case.

legal notice for Elizabeth Field, Duluth News-Tribune newspaper article 11 January 1910

Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 11 January 1910, page 11

Let’s face it, even our ancestors had money troubles – and that’s nowhere more obvious than in the Notice of Summons for delinquent taxes. This example from a North Carolina newspaper published during the Great Depression is an entire page of delinquent tax notices, and includes the names of married couples as well as individuals.

legal notices, Greensboro Record newspaper article 22 August 1932

Greensboro Record (Greensboro, North Carolina), 22 August 1932, page 12

Divorces can be found in various parts of the newspaper (see Divorce Records in Newspapers: Genealogy Research Tips) including the legal notices section. In this example from an Oregon newspaper, Loretta Gates believed her husband John W. Gates to be dead, so a notice was published in the newspaper giving him the opportunity, if alive, to respond to her divorce petition. It states:

SIR: PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that a petition has been presented to this court by Loretta Gates for dissolution of your marriage on the ground that you absented yourself for five successive years, last past, without being known to her to be living, and she believes you to be dead, and that pursuant to an order of said court, entered the 22d day of December 1949, a hearing will be had upon said petition at Supreme Court…

legal notice for Loretta Gates, Oregonian newspaper article 12 February 1950

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 12 February 1950, page 39

This notice ran in the newspaper for at least three consecutive Sundays, providing ample time for a living Mr. Gates to read it.

Enter Last Name
Enter Last Name

Bids

Government notices in the newspaper may provide you a better understanding of an event, or even an occupation, that affected your ancestor. In this legal notice from a Mississippi newspaper, the city of Gulfport in 1936 was taking bids from those who wanted to feed prisoners.

legal notice, Daily Herald newspaper article 31 December 1936

Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), 31 December 1936, page 3

It’s important to remember that newspaper articles may report on activities that impacted your ancestor’s life, but they won’t be specifically named. Search the census and city directories for your ancestor’s job and then turn to the newspaper to learn more about how they may have acquired that job.

And Then This…

I have to admit that when I think of legal notices, I think of a certain type of notice such as those I’ve highlighted above . But you never know what you might find, including this one from a San Quentin prisoner published in a California newspaper.

legal notice for Charles Cupp, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 9 January 1927

San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 9 January 1927, page 73

This pardon notice for Charles S. Cupp surprised me – though I guess it shouldn’t have. His seeking a pardon would have been of interest to the community, and its publishing provided the community – and the victim of his crime – with notification so that they could then respond. Cupp had been convicted of shooting at a police officer.

Did You Know?

GenealogyBank has a special category for legal records, probate records and court case files. Explore legal records now >>

Genealogy Tip: Don’t limit your newspaper search to just one type of article. Make sure to examine all kinds of newspaper articles, including legal notices that mention your ancestor by name or involved activities that impacted their lives.

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* “Public notice and the role Oregon newspapers play.” Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. Accessed 3 May 2015. http://www.gallatinpublicaffairs.com/services/media/pdf/Public_Notice_Whitepaper.pdf.
** “Newspapers” by Loretto Dennis Szucs, FUGA, and James L. Hansen, FASG in Szucs, Loretto D, and Sandra H. Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Provo, UT: Ancestry, 2006.

Related Legal Notices Articles:

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Vermont Archives: 88 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Many Americans may not know this, but Vermont was actually an independent country before becoming part of the United States. Originally territory disputed between New Hampshire and New York, Vermont was not one of the 13 colonies that formed the United States. Instead, the Vermont Republic was founded in 1777 and retained its independence for 14 years. Finally, in 1791, Vermont became the first addition to the young country when it was admitted into the Union as the 14th state. Today Vermont is the 6th smallest state in the nation and the 2nd least populous.

photo of the Vermont State Capitol building in Montpelier

Photo: Vermont State Capitol building in Montpelier. Credit: Jared C. Benedict; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your ancestry from Vermont, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online VT newspaper archives: 88 titles to help you search your family history in “The Green Mountain State,” providing coverage from the 1700s to Today. There are more than 12.5 million articles and records in our online Vermont newspaper archives!

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

Search Vermont Newspaper Archives (1781 – 2006)

Search Vermont Recent Obituaries (1999 – Current)

illustration of the state flag of Vermont

Illustration: state flag of Vermont. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Here is a list of online Vermont 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 VT newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

Did You Know?

The Rutland Herald is the oldest family-owned newspaper in ongoing operation in the U.S., as well as the second largest in circulation in Vermont. You can explore Rutland Herald news articles and obits from the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s through to today in the VT archives.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Barre Times Argus 03/07/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bellows Falls Vermont Intelligencer 01/01/1817 – 12/30/1822 Newspaper Archives
Bellows Falls Bellows Falls Gazette 12/01/1838 – 05/30/1851 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Bennington Banner 11/18/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bennington World 10/19/1807 – 03/27/1809 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Vermont Gazette 05/04/1847 – 10/10/1850 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Vermont Gazette 03/17/1847 – 12/27/1848 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Ploughman; or, Republican Federalist 07/27/1801 – 02/01/1802 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Vermont Gazette 12/14/1872 – 12/22/1876 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Tablet of the Times 01/05/1797 – 08/31/1797 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Bennington News-Letter 03/25/1811 – 08/14/1815 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Green-Mountain Farmer 04/17/1809 – 06/10/1816 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Vermont Gazette 06/05/1783 – 02/16/1847 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Epitome of the World 02/10/1807 – 10/12/1807 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Bennington Banner 02/27/1841 – 12/31/1885 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Semi-weekly Eagle 08/10/1847 – 12/09/1852 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Brattleboro Reformer 06/07/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Brattleboro Brattleboro Messenger 12/24/1821 – 08/29/1834 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Federal Galaxy 01/06/1797 – 01/17/1803 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Vermont Phoenix 10/24/1834 – 12/29/1882 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Independent Inquirer 09/14/1833 – 09/06/1834 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro American Yeoman 02/04/1817 – 01/27/1818 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Reporter 02/21/1803 – 12/05/1820 Newspaper Archives
Burlington Burlington Gazette 09/09/1814 – 01/28/1819 Newspaper Archives
Burlington Burlington Mercury 06/03/1796 – 03/24/1797 Newspaper Archives
Burlington American Repertory 09/28/1821 – 03/25/1823 Newspaper Archives
Burlington Vermont Centinel 03/19/1801 – 07/12/1850 Newspaper Archives
Chelsea Vermont Advocate 01/12/1830 – 07/30/1834 Newspaper Archives
Chester Chester Telegraph 03/29/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chester Green Mountain Palladium 06/22/1807 – 04/12/1808 Newspaper Archives
Colchester Colchester Sun 01/27/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Danville North Star 01/08/1807 – 01/26/1889 Newspaper Archives
Essex Junction Essex Reporter 12/30/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Manchester Manchester Journal 04/06/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Columbian Patriot 09/01/1813 – 08/23/1815 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury Addison Eagle 08/03/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Christian Messenger 11/06/1816 – 11/23/1819 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury Middlebury Mercury 12/16/1801 – 07/04/1810 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury Middlebury Campus, The: Middlebury College 01/16/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury New Market Press 08/03/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Addison County Independent 12/27/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Christian Herald 09/25/1816 – 10/30/1816 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury Green Mountain Outlook 08/05/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Vermont Mirror 09/30/1812 – 09/18/1816 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury Valley Voice 02/28/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Religious Reporter 04/08/1820 – 09/30/1820 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury National Standard 08/30/1815 – 12/26/1820 Newspaper Archives
Milton Milton Independent 10/18/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Montpelier Argus and Patriot 07/09/1863 – 12/30/1908 Newspaper Archives
Montpelier State Journal 10/25/1832 – 10/25/1832 Newspaper Archives
Montpelier Vermont Precursor 11/22/1806 – 11/13/1807 Newspaper Archives
Montpelier Freemen’s Press 08/25/1809 – 08/27/1812 Newspaper Archives
Montpelier Watchman 11/20/1807 – 12/31/1873 Newspaper Archives
Newport Newport Daily Express 07/24/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Northfield Northfield News 09/25/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Peacham Green Mountain Patriot 02/23/1798 – 01/27/1810 Newspaper Archives
Putney Argus 03/16/1797 – 02/26/1799 Newspaper Archives
Randolph Weekly Wanderer 01/24/1801 – 04/06/1810 Newspaper Archives
Royalton Vermont Advocate and White River Advertiser 11/21/1827 – 03/11/1829 Newspaper Archives
Rutland Rutland Herald 12/08/1794 – 12/29/1818 Newspaper Archives
Rutland Herald of Vermont 06/25/1792 – 09/10/1792 Newspaper Archives
Rutland Rutland Herald 10/01/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rutland Farmers’ Library 04/01/1793 – 11/29/1794 Newspaper Archives
Rutland Vermont Mercury 03/29/1802 – 03/12/1804 Newspaper Archives
Rutland Vermont Courier 07/25/1808 – 05/30/1810 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans Vermont State Paper 06/23/1835 – 04/26/1836 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans St. Albans Messenger 12/04/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
St. Albans St. Albans Messenger 01/25/1838 – 10/12/1933 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans St. Albans Daily Messenger 04/24/1861 – 04/29/2006 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans Franklin County Advertiser 07/26/1810 – 10/29/1810 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans St. Albans Adviser 03/10/1808 – 01/28/1809 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans St. Albans Advertiser 12/19/1873 – 07/05/1878 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans Champlain Reporter 05/11/1809 – 06/28/1810 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans American Repertory 05/15/1823 – 12/26/1833 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans St. Albans Transcript 03/22/1873 – 07/30/1874 Newspaper Archives
St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record 01/05/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
St. Johnsbury St. Johnsbury Republican 08/07/1907 – 08/07/1907 Newspaper Archives
St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record 09/03/1918 – 12/31/1926 Newspaper Archives
St. Johnsbury Caledonian 08/08/1837 – 03/13/1918 Newspaper Archives
Vergennes Vergennes Gazette and Vermont and New-York Advertiser 08/30/1798 – 10/08/1801 Newspaper Archives
Westminster Vermont Gazette or Green-Mountain Post-Boy 04/02/1781 – 09/27/1781 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Morning Ray, or, Impartial Oracle 11/15/1791 – 09/25/1792 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Vermont Republican 01/02/1809 – 10/09/1834 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Spooner’s Vermont Journal 08/07/1783 – 11/04/1826 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Washingtonian 07/23/1810 – 01/22/1816 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Post-Boy 01/01/1805 – 03/31/1807 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Vermont Journal 06/20/1844 – 10/20/1877 Newspaper Archives
Woodstock Woodstock Observer 01/11/1820 – 06/05/1832 Newspaper Archives

*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 Vermont newspaper links will be live.

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The Evertons’ Genealogy Workshop 50 Years Ago Hooked Me

It was 50 years ago this week – 25 July 1965 to be specific – that George and Ellen (Nielsen) Everton conducted their genealogy workshop in the lower-level auditorium of the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Connecticut.

photo of George and Ellen (Nielsen) Everton

Photo: George and Ellen (Nielsen) Everton. Credit: FamilySearch.org – KWZM-YNM George Baugh Everton, Sr. Memories Page

They were road warriors who routinely conducted classes and day-long genealogical workshops, teaching the basics of genealogy across the country. Their firm – Everton Publishers was founded in 1947 –was active in publishing the long-running Genealogical Helper magazine, how-to books, charts, forms and other support materials for family historians.

The Evertons were terrific – funny, upbeat and personable – as they taught the basics of genealogy research. I had been working on my family history for several years, and this genealogy workshop was a game-changer for me.

I was working at the Ferguson Library then, where I was “apprenticed” to Grace Hope Walmsley (1885-1971), the long-serving genealogy reference librarian there.

article about librarian Grace Hope Walmsley retiring, Stamford Advocate newspaper article 28 February 1968

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 28 February 1968, page 14

Up to that point I had kept my family tree and genealogy notes on the familiar yellow pads of paper, which I kept in a folder in my desk.

Miss Walmsley was a skilled genealogist and teacher. Working with her got me started in genealogy. The Ferguson Library’s Genealogy & Local History Room was always busy – and I learned from her about the books, documents and resources that were needed to document a family history.

Enter Last Name

During a break in the Everton’s genealogy workshop in 1965, they announced that they were giving away door prizes to the youngest and the oldest person attending the seminar.

As one of the hosts of the family history event, I was standing along the side of the auditorium. George Everton said: “The winner of the door prize for the youngest person in the room is easy – it’s him” – pointing in my direction.

I turned around to see whom he was pointing at – and realized he meant me! Ha.

I went up to the front and he gave me a 12-generation family tree chart – which I started filling out and have never looked back.
I was hooked.

I had been getting my genealogy skills from on-the-job training – but now the Evertons opened up more techniques, tools and a sense of what was possible. Their wonderful genealogy workshop was invaluable to me.

Take the time to be trained in genealogy.
There are online classes and webinars available 24/7 on the Internet.

Watch and learn at sites like:

Both of these sites have hundreds of live and taped classes on a wide range of topics – from Hungarian research to the core basics in Genealogy Boot Camp. Also, watch GenealogyBank’s genealogy tutorial webinars on Youtube and the Learning Center.

Check with your local genealogical society and see when their next meeting or event will be. Getting together with other genealogists is an easy way to learn new approaches and improve your research skills.

Related Resources:

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Hit a Brick Wall? 4 Genealogy Tips to Break Through

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena provides four tips to help solve a problem every genealogist runs into: the dreaded “brick wall,” when you don’t know where to turn or what to do to find information on an elusive ancestor.

Do you ever find yourself frustrated by your genealogy research? Maybe you feel like you’ve looked everywhere and will never find that missing ancestor. Family history research is a careful process and it takes a lot longer than we would often like. Genealogical records are incomplete, transcriptions have errors, not everything is found online, and your ancestor had no control over how others spelled or misspelled their name.

photo of a brick wall in English cross bon pattern

Photo: brick wall in English cross bon pattern. Credit: Oula Lehtinen; Wikimedia Commons.

So yes, you will hit that genealogy brick wall, multiple times. How can you get over that persistent obstacle?

1) Take a Genealogy Research Break

You may be scratching your head and wondering why I’m suggesting that you take a break from your family history research before trying to break through your brick wall. It’s really very simple. We all benefit from stepping away from a problem for a time, whether momentarily or for a longer stretch. Putting your genealogy research away allows you time to ponder, as well as learn about new resources and methodologies.

How do you make the most out of your research break? Take some time to enhance your genealogy research skills by reading books that teach methodology or expose you to record sets you’ve never used. Some of my favorite genealogy books are The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe, The Genealogists’ Google Toolbox and The Family Tree Problem Solver.

Also during your research break, take advantage of webinars and other genealogy learning opportunities. Explore your local library or a nearby archival collection. By exploring different library and archival catalogs you can learn more about what family history resources exist for the place and time period you are researching.

To get started, conduct some searches on the FamilySearch catalog. Search on the name of the place you are researching, and continue your hunt by conducting a keyword search – for example, utilizing words that describe an ancestor’s religion or occupation.

2) Strategize Your Next Research Step

Where do you look for ancestral records now? What do you do if you can’t find an ancestor in records where you think they should be, like a census record? What do you do then?

Take some time to plan out your next genealogy research steps. One way to do this is to put together a Research Plan. A Genealogy Research Plan allows you to clarify what you are looking for, what you currently know, and where you go from there. To learn more about creating a research plan, see the article Think Like a Detective – Developing a Genealogy Research Plan by Association of Professional Genealogists president Kimberly Powell.

One question I get asked in regards to my genealogy research is: “How did you find that?” There’s no magical answer except that I use some basic tried and true research techniques, such as searching on different variations of an ancestor’s name (see Name Research Tip: Search Variations of Family First & Last Names). In addition to standard genealogy record sets, I also use resources like digitized books (see Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 2: Google Books & Internet Archive).

One of my favorite genealogy tools is to create a timeline for the ancestor’s life I’m researching, and then populate that timeline with dates, events, comments and sources. By creating that timeline, I can keep track of my research and see what gaps need to be filled. It also helps me to focus on what family history resources I may be missing (see Genealogy Timelines: Helpful Research Tools).

Search 1:

Enter Last Name

Search 2:

3) Try Something New

What resources do you use for your research? Instead of doing the same old thing, try using your favorite websites in a different way. For example, GenealogyBank is a great resource for newspapers – but did you know the site offers historical books and documents as well?

Now’s the time to go beyond just searching the same old way and instead try searching differently or utilizing a new collection. You can get some new ideas by checking out the GenealogyBank Learning Center.

Once you’ve explored a new way to use your favorite websites, start searching for genealogy websites you’ve never used before. Need some ideas? You can find website links specific to a topic or a place by checking out Cyndi’s List or Linkpendium. Explore online catalogs by searching on WorldCat or ArchiveGrid, or the catalog for the state archive or library you are researching.

4) Get Help from Professionals, Family & More

Ask a research professional (professional genealogist, reference librarian or archivist) for some assistance searching an online catalog or looking for new resources. There are so many opportunities to ask questions and get assistance with your genealogy searches; one of my favorite ways is to use the “Ask a Librarian” feature found on many library websites. This allows me to email or use a chat room to ask a question about a resource or collection.

In addition, GenealogyBank offers a toll-free phone number for free help from a Family History Consultant. Call 1-866-641-3297 (Hours: Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET) for help. Also, try looking for more strategies to break through genealogy brick walls in GenealogyBank’s Genealogist Q&A and brick wall blog articles.

Even problem-solving with a non-genealogist friend or relative can be useful. The non-genealogists around us will approach the problem from a different angle since they do not have preconceived notions of where to find information. Talk about your family history research problem with the non-genealogists around you and you may get a few new ideas.

How are you going to get over your genealogy brick wall? We all come to a point where we feel “stuck.” The key is to take a break, regroup, and plan out your future genealogy research. Genealogy is a pursuit that involves continuing education, so take some time to learn something new every day – it will benefit your research and perhaps even your stress level!

How have you overcome your genealogy brick walls? Share your brick wall experiences with us in the comments section.

Related “Brick Wall” Articles:

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Will You Mention Your Ancestors in Your Obituary?

Have you noticed how many obituaries include details about the ancestors of the deceased?

George Green’s obituary summarizes his life, compactly detailing his accomplished life in a paragraph or two – and prominently, we learn that he “had deep roots in Michigan.”

According to his obituary:

He was officially recognized as a direct descendant of a Michigan Sesquicentennial Pioneer, William Weaver, who came by ox car in 1835 from Hartland, Niagara County in upstate New York with wife, Mary Earl Willets and settled in what became Somerset two years prior to official statehood.

These are terrific genealogical details.

George Green’s obituary is a good example of a well written, informative genealogical biographical sketch.

obituary for George Green, Detroit News newspaper article 19 July 2015

Detroit News (Detroit, Michigan), 19 July 2015

Esther Mary (Blair) Crane’s obituary tells us in the opening sentences that she was a descendant of John Alden of Mayflower fame.

obituary for Esther Crane, Commercial Appeal newspaper article 18 July 2015

Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), 18 July 2015

Esther Crane – I didn’t know her, but right away I know that she was my cousin because of her link to John Alden – and I want to know more about my newly discovered deceased relative. I want to make sure that she is included in our family tree and that her story is remembered and told.

Enter Last Name

I truly appreciate it when these genealogical details are included in an obituary, making it easier for me to trace the members in our family tree.

I can quickly see that Detroit native George Green had roots in Niagara County, New York, and that Esther was my cousin.

Don’t you wish that every one of your relatives’ obituaries gave this many genealogical details?

What does this say about your obituary?
What are your plans?
Do you want to have the details of your heritage included in your obituary?

Tell us what you’re thinking of including in your obituary.

Related Obituary Articles:

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Tennessee Archives: 78 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Originally part of North Carolina, Tennessee was admitted into the Union as the nation’s 16th state on 1 June 1796. It is the 36th largest of the United States, and the 17th most populous. So many volunteer soldiers from Tennessee fought for the young U.S. during the War of 1812 with Great Britain – especially at the famous Battle of New Orleans under the leadership of Andrew Jackson – that Tennessee earned the nickname “The Volunteer State.”

photo of the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville

Photo: Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. Credit: Kaldari; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your ancestry from Tennessee, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online TN newspaper archives: 78 titles to help you search your family history in “The Volunteer State,” providing coverage from 1793 to Today. There are more than 3.7 million articles and records in our online Tennessee archives!

Dig deep into our archives and search for historical and recent obituaries and other news articles about your Tennessee ancestors in these TN newspapers online. Our Tennessee newspapers are divided into two collections: Historical Newspapers (complete paper) and Recent Obituaries (obituaries only). Note that GenealogyBank’s expansive collection includes rare publications that date back to the late 1700s and early 1800s, including Tennessee’s first newspaper: the Knoxville Gazette.

Search Tennessee Newspaper Archives (1793 – 1982)

Search Tennessee Recent Obituaries (1990 – Current)

illustration of the state flag of Tennessee

Illustration: state flag of Tennessee. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Here is a list of online Tennessee newspapers in the 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 TN newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Athens Daily Post-Athenian 03/28/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Carthage Western Express 11/21/1808 – 11/21/1808 Newspaper Archives
Carthage Carthage Gazette 08/13/1808 – 07/01/1817 Newspaper Archives
Chattanooga Chattanooga Times Free Press 04/01/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chattanooga Chattanooga Courier 02/10/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chattanooga Chattanooga Daily Rebel 08/09/1862 – 08/30/1863 Newspaper Archives
Chattanooga Justice 12/24/1887 – 12/24/1887 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Clarksville Gazette 11/21/1819 – 12/23/1820 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Weekly Chronicle 02/18/1818 – 09/16/1818 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Town Gazette & Farmers Register 07/05/1819 – 11/08/1819 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Tennessee Weekly Chronicle 01/27/1819 – 06/07/1819 Newspaper Archives
Cleveland Cleveland Daily Banner 05/05/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbia Daily Herald 01/10/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cookeville Herald-Citizen 04/12/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crossville Crossville Chronicle 09/01/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crossville Glade Sun 06/02/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Dayton Herald-News 08/28/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Elizabethton Elizabethton Star 04/08/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Erwin Erwin Record 02/16/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Greeneville Greeneville Sun 09/14/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hartsville Hartsville Vidette 07/06/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Jackson Headlight 01/27/1900 – 01/27/1900 Newspaper Archives
Johnson City Johnson City Press 06/30/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jonesborough Herald & Tribune 02/01/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kingsport Kingsport Times-News 01/10/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kingston Roane County News 10/31/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Knoxville Register 08/10/1816 – 10/22/1839 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Negro World 10/15/1887 – 11/26/1887 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville News-Sentinel 01/01/1940 – 12/31/1982 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville Journal 04/01/1888 – 12/31/1896 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville News Sentinel: Blogs 06/01/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Press and Messenger 01/08/1873 – 12/15/1875 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville Gazette 12/07/1793 – 10/29/1806 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville News Sentinel 01/04/1991 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Knoxville Gazette 09/01/1818 – 09/01/1818 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville Enlightener 03/23/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lafayette Macon County Times 10/08/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
LaFollette LaFollette Press 11/21/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lebanon Lebanon Democrat 07/06/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lenoir City News-Herald 09/27/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maryville Blount Today 02/01/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maryville Daily Times 12/12/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Commercial Appeal 01/01/1968 – 12/31/1969 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Commercial Appeal, The: Web Edition Articles 05/19/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Memphis Triangle 11/17/1928 – 07/27/1929 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Commercial Appeal 06/27/1990 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Memphis Daily Avalanche 01/01/1866 – 04/30/1869 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Tri-State Defender 08/03/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Memphis Evening Post 04/27/1868 – 05/31/1869 Newspaper Archives
Mt. Juliet Mt. Juliet News 07/06/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Murfreesboro Murfreesboro Union 06/06/1939 – 06/06/1939 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Clarion 02/16/1808 – 08/29/1821 Newspaper Archives
Nashville City Paper 01/09/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Nashville Scene 11/23/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Colored Tennessean 08/12/1865 – 07/18/1866 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Pride 01/02/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville National Banner and Nashville Whig 09/16/1834 – 12/30/1836 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Tennessee Gazette 02/25/1800 – 05/30/1807 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Post 01/21/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville National Banner and Daily Advertiser 01/01/1834 – 09/15/1834 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Impartial Review, and Cumberland Repository 01/18/1806 – 08/16/1806 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Murfreesboro Vision 01/15/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Nashville Republican 01/16/1835 – 01/16/1835 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Examiner 09/29/1813 – 05/25/1814 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Republican 08/07/1824 – 10/16/1833 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Gazette 05/26/1819 – 02/14/1827 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Review 11/10/1809 – 05/03/1811 Newspaper Archives
Newport Newport Plain Talk 07/01/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oak Ridge Oak Ridger 02/17/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Paris Paris Post-Intelligencer 07/05/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rogersville Western Pilot 08/19/1815 – 08/19/1815 Newspaper Archives
Rogersville Rogersville Review 12/16/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sevierville Mountain Press 10/03/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Shelbyville Tennessee Herald 12/19/1817 – 03/08/1820 Newspaper Archives
Spring Hill Advertiser News 05/14/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sweetwater Advocate and Democrat 06/12/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tazewell Claiborne Progress 11/18/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wartburg Morgan County News 12/19/2008 – 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 Tennessee newspaper links will be live.

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Getting Genealogy Records Online: My Clean-Up Plan

Looking at my genealogy research notes and files accumulated over the past 50+ years, I am wondering: what should I do with all this stuff?

montage of family history papers from the Kemp family

Photo: Thomas Jay Kemp

I have five four-drawer file cabinets packed with notes, clippings, letters, photos and the like.

While my children and extended family are interested in our family history, they are sprinkled across the country – and just aren’t prepared to transport and ingest this much material into their homes and busy lives.

So – what to do?
I have started to tackle my messy genealogy records problem, one file folder at a time.

Getting Started

I am taking the time to go through the file cabinets, item by item.
My goal is to become as “paperless” as possible by digitizing all this genealogy research material and putting it online.

My main “backup” sites for my family history are two of the online family tree sites: FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com. I also use Scribd and Pinterest.

I am finding one immediate benefit from doing this. I haven’t looked at many (most?) of these files for years. Looking at these genealogy records and research notes again now, I can reevaluate the information with the knowledge about the family gained over the years. I can quickly make sure that the most accurate information is in my twin online family trees.

I am finding that some of the details – perhaps a complete date, a stray fact or a footnote – did not make it online. Now I can take the time to make sure that online genealogy record is complete.

Enter Last Name

Letters

I have saved letters from distant relatives and genealogists wondering if we are related. What should I do with them?

Reading through these letters again, I am deciding if they have genealogy value – and as long as they don’t mention living people, I am scanning them and putting them online.

On FamilySearch I can upload a multipage letter as one PDF document. Click here to see an example of a two-page letter I uploaded to that site written by a cousin. Other sites do not permit you to upload PDF files, so I converted her letter to the image .JPEG format to upload it and preserve it online.

For longer items like the handwritten cookbook of my great-grandmother Marcia Amanda (Young) Richmond, I uploaded the PDF file for the entire cookbook to Scribd.com. Click here to see my great-grandmother’s cookbook for some good family recipes.

Note: You can also upload and share family recipe articles on Pinterest. GenealogyBank has a shared Old Fashioned Family Recipes board you can join to share your family recipes.

Photographs

I scan and put every photo I can online in order to make it easy for the family to find these images of our ancestors – and I put them on multiple sites.

For example: this photo of my great-grandmother Marcia Amanda (Young) Richmond is on Pinterest, FamilySearch and Ancestry.

photo of Marcia Richmond

Photo: Kemp family papers

This “Summer Clean-up” of my files is making sure that the online copies of my family history are more accurate and complete.

By scanning and uploading the documentation to multiple websites – and double-checking the personal information I have entered into my online family history – I will make it easier for the family to find and know about their history.

And – importantly – I will be able to reduce the thousands of genealogy records and notes that I’ve saved down to the core enduring historical material that the family will want to preserve.

What plans are you making to preserve and pass down your family history information?

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Truly Personal Obituaries from the Recent Obituary Archives

Introduction: Duncan Kuehn is a professional genealogist with over nine years of client experience. She has worked on several well-known projects, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” In this blog post, Duncan searches GenealogyBank’s recent obituaries collection and discoveries some truly interesting – and sometimes funny – passages in some of these obituaries.

Writing an obituary can be a painful and unexpected event. It can also be a healing one. More and more families are rejecting a dry, formulated writing style for their loved one’s obituary, taking instead a more personalized approach. It is challenging to compact a person’s life into a few lines. It is even more difficult to try to convey that person’s unique sense of being onto the printed page. Here are some marvelous examples of more personalized obituaries; I found these while browsing in GenealogyBank’s Recent Obituary Archives.

passage from Donna Smith's obituary urging people to be kind to one another

Humorous Life Philosophy

Sometimes an obituary shares a person’s philosophy.

Donna Smith’s obituary passed on this humorous life philosophy:

Do what’s right and do what’s good. Be kind and help others. The world can always use one more kind person. And if you can take it one step further, please do it for people grandpa’s age.

Donna Smith

obituary for Donna Smith, Salt Lake Tribune newspaper article 18 December 2014

Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah), 18 December 2014

Jokes Help

The family, or even the person themselves, may try to lighten up the situation by making a joke.

In his obituary, Aaron Joseph Purmorts’s family stated that he:

died peacefully at home on November 25 after complications from a radioactive spider bite that led to years of crime-fighting and a years long battle with a nefarious criminal named Cancer, who has plagued our society for far too long. Civilians will recognize him best as Spider-Man, and thank him for his many years of service protecting our city. His family knew him only as a kind and mild-mannered Art Director, a designer of websites and t-shirts, and concert posters who always had the right cardigan and the right thing to say (even if it was wildly inappropriate).

Aaron Joseph Purmort

obituary for Aaron Joseph Purmort, Star Tribune newspaper article 30 November 2014

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 30 November 2014

Unusual Final Requests

Others leave behind unusual requests in their obituaries.

B. H. Spratt’s family suggested:

In lieu of flowers, tune-up your car and check the air pressure in your tires – he would have wanted that.

B. H. Spratt

obituary for B. H. Spratt, Florida Times-Union newspaper article 23 October 2011

Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Florida), 23 October 2011

Lisa Schomburger Steven’s family asked:

that you spend time with your children, take a walk on the beach with your loved ones and make a toast to enduring friendships lifelong and beyond. That is what Lisa would wish for you.

Lisa Schomburger Stevens

obituary for Lisa Schomburger Stevens, Charlotte Observer newspaper article 19 December 2005

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 19 December 2005

Tom Taylor Jr.’s family stated:

One of his last requests to his good friend Scott, was to contact the Cremation Society to ask for a refund because he knew he weighed at least 20 percent less than when he paid for his arrangements.

Thomas J. Taylor Jr.

obituary for Thomas J. Taylor Jr., Sun News newspaper article 27 August 2008

Sun News (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), 27 August 2008

Tom Brady Fan

To make an obituary more personal, family members sometimes add a line about a person’s passions or strongly held beliefs.

Enter Last Name

Patricia M. Shong was a fervent New England Patriots fan. Her family stated this wish in her obituary:

She would also like us to set the record straight for her; Brady is innocent!

Patricia M. Shong

obituary for Patricia M. Shong, Worcester Telegram & Gazette newspaper article 24 May 2015

Worcester Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Massachusetts), 24 May 2015

Patricia’s defense of Tom Brady put a smile on everyone’s face, as reported at the end of her obituary.

obituary for Patricia M. Shong, Worcester Telegram & Gazette newspaper article 24 May 2015

Worcester Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Massachusetts), 24 May 2015

Another Football Fan

Michael Sven Vedvik’s family did their best to lighten things up by saying in his obituary:

We blame the Seahawks lousy play call for Mike’s untimely demise. Mike was greatly loved and will be dearly missed.

Michael Sven Vedvik

obituary for Michael Sven Vedvik, Spokesman-Review newspaper article 5 February 2015

Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), 5 February 2015

The Dog Ate It

Norma Brewer’s obituary contained this humorous remark:

Norma Rae Flicker Brewer, a resident of Fairfield, passed away while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. She never realized her life goal of reaching the summit, but made it to the base camp. Her daughter, Donna, her dog, Mia, and her cats, came along at the last minute. There is suspicion that Mrs. Brewer died from hypothermia, after Mia ate Mrs. Brewer’s warm winter boots and socks.

Norma Brewer

obituary for Norma Brewer, Connecticut Post newspaper article 31 January 2015

Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Connecticut), 31 January 2015

Losing a loved one is never easy. Helping others to see that person the way you did can help ease your sorrow at their passing. You may even consider helping your family out by writing your own obituary!

Do you have a touching or funny obituary you’ve come across in your genealogy research? If so please share your obituary finds with us in the comments.

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Genealogy Tip: Search a Wide Date Range in GenealogyBank

Newspapers often published commemorative articles celebrating milestones. Take for example the 50th wedding anniversary of Elizabeth Kern and Valentine Humburg. They were both born in Germany, married 3 April 1854 in New York, and settled in San Jose, California, six years later.

article about the Humburgs celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, San Jose Mercury News newspaper article 3 April 1904

San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, California), 3 April 1904, page 2

This detailed newspaper article names their five children and their nine grandchildren – and, as a bonus, includes photographs of the couple.

If you were searching just on the marriage date of the Humburgs in the 1854 newspapers in New York City, you would not find this great article about their marriage printed 50 years later in a newspaper across the country.

Enter Last Name

Genealogy Tip: After you’ve tried a search on a specific date in GenealogyBank’s archives for an important event in your ancestors’ lives, search on a wide date range to see if a commemorative article was published many years later about that same important event.

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July 2015 Update: GenealogyBank Just Added 8 Million More Records!

Every day, GenealogyBank is working hard to digitize more newspapers and obituaries, expanding our collection to give you the largest newspaper archives for family history research available online. We just completed adding 8 million more U.S. genealogy records, vastly increasing our content coverage from coast to coast!

screenshot of GenealogyBank's home page showing the announcement that 8 million genealogy records were added in July

Here are some of the details about our most recent U.S. newspaper additions:

  • A total of 22 newspaper titles from 13 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia
  • 9 of these titles are newspapers added to GenealogyBank for the first time
  • Newspaper titles marked with an asterisk (*) are new to our online archives
  • We’ve shown the newspaper issue date ranges so that you can determine if the newly added content is relevant to your personal genealogy research

To see our newspaper archives’ complete title lists, click here.

State City Title Date Range Collection
Arizona Phoenix Phoenix New Times* 01/29/2007–Current Recent Obituaries
California Hollister BenitoLink* 04/01/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
California La Jolla La Jolla Village News* 04/18/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
California Lakeport Lake County News* 12/21/2006–Current Recent Obituaries
California Mission Beach, Pacific Beach Beach & Bay Press* 04/17/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
California Redding Searchlight 1/1/1910–12/30/1917 Newspaper Archives
California Redding Weekly Searchlight 10/3/1899–12/27/1923 Newspaper Archives
District of Columbia Washington (DC) Washington Times 6/4/1982–11/27/1989 Newspaper Archives
Florida Ormond Beach Ormond Beach Observer* 04/11/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
Idaho Boise Idaho Statesman 7/14/1957–2/15/1971 Newspaper Archives
Idaho Idaho Falls Idaho Falls Times 11/16/1970–11/30/1970 Newspaper Archives
Indiana Elkhart Elkhart Truth 5/18/1905–5/18/1905 Newspaper Archives
Indiana Evansville Evansville Courier and Press 7/1/1933–12/31/1937 Newspaper Archives
Kentucky Lexington Lexington Herald 10/1/1957–10/31/1957 Newspaper Archives
Kentucky Lexington Lexington Leader 3/3/1912–11/30/1977 Newspaper Archives
Michigan Grand Haven Grand Haven Tribune* 01/02/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Minnesota Virginia Hometown Focus* 01/08/2010–Current Recent Obituaries
Mississippi Biloxi Daily Herald 1/2/1947–7/20/1955 Newspaper Archives
Missouri Kansas City Kansas City Star 5/26/1945–7/13/1945 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Bryson City Smoky Mountain Times* 02/06/2004–Current Recent Obituaries
Pennsylvania State College Centre Daily Times 3/8/1983–9/30/1994 Newspaper Archives
Washington Bellingham Bellingham Herald 10/1/1947–10/1/1947 Newspaper Archives

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 newspaper links will be live.

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