WWII Victory Gardens: Family History & War Food Rations

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to learn more about an effort on the American home front during World War II to support the country and the troops: the planting of “Victory Gardens.”

What was your family doing during World War II? Often we remember the brave American soldiers who went “over there” and fought for freedom, but forget that those left behind on the home front were an integral part of the war effort. Families in the United States did their part by buying WWII war bonds, recycling metals, and participating in the rationing of food and other materials.

In order to supplement the rationed food they could purchase during WWII, families cultivated Victory Gardens that supplied them with fresh homegrown produce – both in the short term as well over time as they learned to preserve their harvest. This increased food production also freed up more canned food for sending to the soldiers overseas.

illustration: WWII Victory Garden poster

Illustration: WWII Victory Garden poster. Credit: Morley; U.S. Agriculture Department; Wikimedia Commons.

It might seem that learning more about your ancestors’ WWII Victory Garden would be near to impossible. After all, unless you have a diary, photos, or an interview with a family member, how would you learn more?

The answer: a collection of online newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is a great go-to place to uncover the lives of everyday people. World War II-era newspapers don’t disappoint, with articles and mentions of men, women, and children living during the war. A search for your ancestors or browsing their hometown newspaper can provide many interesting Victory Garden finds.

Victory Garden Poems & Essays

Many gardeners waxed poetic about the Victory Gardens they were growing or were planning. Adults and children alike submitted their garden poetry to newspapers. Many of these were titled, not surprisingly, “My Victory Garden.” Poetry contests at this time were full of patriotic, instructive poems encouraging everyone to do their duty.

In this example found on the “Junior” page of the Daily Illinois State Journal, 14-year-old Alice Mae Jackson of Carlinville encourages other teens to grow a garden during the summer:

Why don’t you garden a little instead of play
And help to pass your spare time away?
Also, you’ll find, some of these days
Your Victory garden really pays

WWII Victory Garden poem, Daily Illinois State Journal newspaper article 5 September 1943

Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), 5 September 1943, page 20

Young people didn’t just write poems about Victory Gardens; they also entered contests describing the gardens they planned on planting. In this winning entry from the Jordan Marsh Victory Garden Contest, Eva Solimine of Belmont, Massachusetts, won $5 for her entry that stresses the importance of these wartime gardens. She writes:

We all have a job to do, and it is everybody’s job [planting a garden]. Our men are fighting on the battlefronts, and also men and women are working in defense plants making ships, tanks and other weapons to win this war. We at home also have a job to do, and that is by buying War Saving Stamps and Bonds and by planting Victory Gardens this summer and every other summer until this war is won.

Her essay points out the shortage of food during World War II and how homegrown gardens allow more food to be sent to soldiers.

essay about WWII Victory Gardens, Boston Herald newspaper article 23 May 1943

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 23 May 1943, page 96

Victory Garden Seed Advertisements

There’s no doubt that Victory Gardens were a great marketing tool for nurseries and seed suppliers. Just like other newspaper advertisements we’ve discussed in previous articles (see links at the end of this article), they sometimes used real people to provide endorsements – complete with a photo and home address. This advertisement from Germain’s Seeds is just one of many that can be found with a community member’s photo. In this ad featuring Mrs. Dorothy Hoelsken from Oakland, California, she testifies that:

I have planted Germain’s Seeds exclusively the last two years, and my Victory Garden has been the talk of the neighborhood.

ad for Germain's seeds, Sacramento Bee newspaper advertisement 24 February 1945

Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California), 24 February 1945, page 10

Further genealogical research shows that Mrs. Hoelsken lived in the Bay Area of California for a number of years, up to her death in 2000. The advertisement’s mention of Mrs. Hoelsken’s residence allows a researcher to continue searching for her in records such as city directories.

Mrs. Hoelsken wasn’t the only person featured in ads for Germain’s Seeds. Mrs. Mary Hammons of Merced, California, is quoted and pictured in another ad along with the tag line “Seeds for Gardens at War.” This is a good example of how our ancestors and their image can appear in just about any part of the newspaper.

ad for Germain's seeds, Riverside Daily Press newspaper advertisement 24 March 1944

Riverside Daily Press (Riverside, California), 24 March 1944, page 7

Victory Garden Letters

Newspapers provide various opportunities to express an opinion, tell a story or ask a question. One of these opportunities is to write a letter either to the editor or to an advice column. During the war we find people asking questions about gardening and sharing experiences. In this, somewhat funny example sent to the editor of the Sacramento Bee in July 1943, the writer may have seen ants as a valuable help and less of a hindrance in his Victory Garden.

letter about a WWII Victory Garden, Sacramento Bee newspaper article 30 July 1943

Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California), 30 July 1943, page 22

A cutworm is actually a caterpillar who feeds at night, attacking the stem of a plant by “cutting” it down.

Some newspaper columnists used readers’ comments in their columns, as in this Illinois example from “Uncle Ray” where reader Mr. J. A. Ibbotson remarks on his experience with the English berry bushes in his Victory Garden.

letters about WWII Victory Gardens, Daily Illinois State Journal newspaper article 1 July 1944

Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), 1 July 1944, page 7

And of course there were newspaper columnists who answered questions about Victory Gardens, as in this 1943 example from Springfield, Massachusetts. This type of old newspaper column is a good example of being creative with searching on your ancestor’s name. Rarely in these types of historical articles do you see the entire name of those who provided the questions. Often they are simply identified by initials, or a first name and initials.

letters about WWII Victory Gardens, Springfield Republican newspaper article 7 December 1943

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 7 December 1943, page 6

Did your family grow a Victory Garden during World War II? There’s a good chance they did – and that effort may be found in articles from their hometown newspaper. Dig into GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives and see if you can find their stories.

Related Articles:

How to Find Ancestors’ U.S. Military Records in Newspapers

With Veterans Day approaching, people’s thoughts are turning to their family members and ancestors who served in the U.S. military. A great resource for family history research is military records in old newspapers.

For a Soldier Died Today

Source: YouTube. Just a Common Soldier. By A. Lawrence Vaincourt, narrated by Tony Lo Bianco.

America has always honored its history and the men and women who served in the military, and newspapers have printed articles and military records from the American Revolutionary War to the present day. Here are examples of some of the military records you can find by searching newspaper collections such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Veterans’ Obituaries

Newspapers printed obituaries of the nation’s veterans. America’s men and women left their everyday lives to respond to the call to serve. Often the details of their service were permanently recorded in their obituary.

veterans' obituaries from old newspapers

Source: GenealogyBank.com

War Casualty Lists

Newspapers reported on the wars and battles as they happened. War casualty reports were common in newspapers across America.

casualty list, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 6 August 1918

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 6 August 1918, page 1

Sometimes the soldier might be listed as missing-in-action and not found until years later.

Newspapers recorded information about the missing soldiers.

articles about Lt. Alvin Beethe

Source: GenealogyBank.com

U.S. Military Draft Records

War efforts require the mobilization of troops to serve. Newspapers recorded the draft details too. Genealogists often use these old newspaper articles as census substitutes, as they listed all eligible men living in the newspaper’s area of readership.

article about a draft list, Perry Republican newspaper article 26 July 1917

Perry Republican (Perry, Oklahoma), 26 July 1917, page 1

U.S. Military Reunions

After the wars were over, veterans would gather in reunions of local military units to remember their fallen comrades and to recall their permanent friendships.

These military reunions are recorded in old newspapers.

articles about military reunions

Source: GenealogyBank.com

War Stories

It is common for veterans’ families to say they asked their Dad or Grandfather to tell them what it was like during the war – but, the veterans never spoke about it.

Fortunately, newspapers recorded their war stories.

Here is an example story from the Revolutionary War from a veteran named Oliver Cromwell.

article about Revolutionary War veteran Oliver Cromwell, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 11 April 1905

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 11 April 1905, page 5

As this newspaper article noted: “though feeble, his lips trembling at every word, when he spoke of [General George] Washington his eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.”

In that interview, Cromwell told of his Revolutionary War service crossing the Delaware “with his beloved commander…on the memorable Christmas night [in] 1776.”

The old newspaper article adds that Cromwell: “took part in the battle of Trenton, and helped to ‘knock the British about lively at Princeton.’ He also fought at the battles of Short Hills, Brandywine, Monmouth and Springfield, where he was severely wounded, and saw the last man killed at York town.”

Soldiers’ Personal Letters Home

Sometimes a newspaper published the last letter a soldier sent home, like this one Lieutenant Edwin A. Abbey wrote to his parents on Good Friday, 6 April 1917 – just four days before he was killed on 10 April 1917 in WWI’s Battle of Vimy Ridge in France.

We are going up to an attack in a short time, and I am going to leave this note, to be sent to you, in case, by God’s will, this is to be my final work.

article reprinting a letter from Lieutenant Edwin A. Abbey, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 23 December 1917

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 23 December 1917, page 2

Where else would you find this soldier’s letter?

Newspapers have been published every day of our ancestors’ lives for the last three centuries. They record the stories of their lives in peacetime and wartime.

The archive of old newspapers in GenealogyBank is packed with thousands of these firsthand eyewitness accounts of military service, from the American Revolutionary War down to today, adding a personal touch to the facts of many of the military battles that they fought in.

Related Military Records Articles:

Mississippi Archives: 66 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Mississippi, whose western border is primarily the Mississippi River, was admitted into the Union as the nation’s 20th state on 10 December 1817. The 32nd largest state in the country, Mississippi is the 31st most populous.

photo of aMississippi welcome sign on Interstate 20

Photo: Mississippi welcome sign on Interstate 20. Credit: WebTV3; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your ancestry from Mississippi, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online MS newspaper archives: 66 titles to help you search your family history in the “Magnolia State,” providing coverage from 1802 to Today. There are more than 5.2 million articles and records in our online Mississippi newspaper archives!

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

Note that our Mississippi archives contain many of the very first newspapers in the state from the early 1800s, many of which were published in Natchez, MS, including the Misissippi Herald and Natchez Gazette, Mississippi Messenger, Mississippian, and the Weekly Chronicle.

Search Mississippi Newspaper Archives (1802 – 1964)

Search Mississippi Recent Obituaries (1994 – Current)

illustration: state flag of Mississippi

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

Here is a list of online Mississippi 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 MS newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range * Collection
Biloxi Biloxi Herald 01/14/1888 – 11/26/1898 Newspaper Archives
Biloxi Daily Herald 08/16/1898 – 12/31/1955 Newspaper Archives
Biloxi Sun Herald 02/12/1994 – Current Recent Obituaries
Brandon Free State 01/20/1900 – 01/20/1900 Newspaper Archives
Brookhaven Daily Leader 05/03/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Clarksdale Clarksdale Press Register 11/08/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cleveland Bolivar Commercial 11/04/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbia Columbian-Progress 11/03/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbus Columbus Packet 12/12/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbus Commercial Dispatch 05/07/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Corinth Daily Corinthian 06/12/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Eupora Webster Progress-Times 03/25/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Forest Scott County Times 08/05/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Greenville Delta Democrat Times 01/08/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Greenwood Greenwood Commonwealth 05/29/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Gulfport Daily Herald 01/01/1910 – 12/30/1922 Newspaper Archives
Hattiesburg Hattiesburg Post 09/22/2013 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hattiesburg Lamar Times 04/21/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hattiesburg Petal News 04/21/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Indianola Indianola Enterprise-Tocsin 09/16/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Clarion 01/06/1886 – 01/11/1888 Newspaper Archives
Jackson Clarion Ledger 01/19/1888 – 03/06/1890 Newspaper Archives
Jackson Jackson Advocate 02/23/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Mississippi Free Press 12/16/1961 – 08/01/1964 Newspaper Archives
Jackson Mississippi Weekly 05/18/1935 – 05/18/1935 Newspaper Archives
Jackson Mississippi Link 02/17/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Northside Sun 07/01/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kosciusko Star Herald 01/07/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Laurel Laurel Leader-Call 05/02/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Louisville Choctaw Plaindealer 02/08/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Louisville Winston County Journal 03/25/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Magee Magee Courier, The & Simpson County News 01/03/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
McComb Enterprise-Journal 12/24/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Meridian Meridian Star 02/17/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Mound Bayou Mound Bayou News-Digest 05/13/1950 – 05/13/1950 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Ariel 07/20/1825 – 07/19/1828 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Mississippi Free Trader 11/20/1844 – 03/28/1854 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Mississippi State Gazette 03/06/1818 – 05/14/1825 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Natchez Democrat 07/14/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Natchez Southern Clarion 05/13/1831 – 11/18/1831 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Southern Galaxy 05/22/1828 – 03/18/1830 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Statesman and Gazette 05/18/1825 – 10/24/1832 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Misissippi Herald and Natchez Gazette 08/10/1802 – 12/31/1807 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Mississippi Messenger 09/07/1804 – 07/07/1808 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Mississippi Republican 04/29/1812 – 12/22/1824 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Mississippian 12/08/1808 – 09/10/1810 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Natchez Daily Courier 11/20/1861 – 11/08/1862 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Natchez Daily Free Trader 01/30/1855 – 03/22/1861 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Natchez Gazette and Mississippi General Advertiser 06/20/1811 – 05/07/1812 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Washington Republican and Natchez Intelligencer 04/24/1816 – 06/14/1817 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Weekly Chronicle 07/06/1808 – 07/01/1812 Newspaper Archives
New Albany New Albany Gazette 11/20/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oxford Oxford Eagle 02/09/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
PascCCagoula Mississippi Press 08/01/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pascagoula Mississippi Press, The: Web Edition Articles 10/18/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Picayune Picayune Item 02/05/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Port Gibson Port Gibson Correspondent 01/22/1824 – 03/14/1829 Newspaper Archives
Prentiss Prentiss Headlight 11/01/2013 – Current Recent Obituaries
Starkville Starkville Daily News 03/09/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Vicksburg Daily Commercial 03/21/1877 – 12/28/1882 Newspaper Archives
Vicksburg Golden Rule 01/27/1900 – 01/27/1900 Newspaper Archives
Vicksburg Light 01/18/1900 – 01/18/1900 Newspaper Archives
Vicksburg Vicksburg Post 10/02/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Vicksburg Daily Citizen 07/02/1863 – 07/02/1863 Newspaper Archives
West Point Daily Times Leader 03/27/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Winona Winona Times & Conservative 04/02/2009 – 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 Mississippi newspaper links will be live.

Related Resource:

How to Research City Records to Find Your Urbanite Ancestors

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 provides search tips to help research your ancestors who lived in cities and large towns.

Lots of people are and were attracted to big cities in the United States. This can be for the employment possibilities, the anonymity, the concentration of like-minded or ethnically similar individuals, the amenities, the energy, or plenty of other reasons. For genealogists, researching ancestors who dwelled in big cities presents different challenges from researching ancestors who resided in more rural environments. Trying to define the identities of similarly-named city dwellers can be complicated. Here is a look at some of the unique challenges and resources for urban research.

photo of the Chicago skyline at sunrise

Photo: Chicago skyline at sunrise. Credit: Daniel Schwen; Wikimedia Commons.


In rural areas it is a little easier to untangle the 25 Smith families that lived in Boone County than it is to untangle the 750 Smith families that lived in New York City.

Urban areas also have higher concentrations of ethnic and immigrant families. The record keepers did not always speak the language of these individuals, and their names can be wildly misspelled as the overworked clerk tried to hear through the accent. This is especially applicable in port cities, although all big cities are places of movement and migration.

Single people appear more commonly in big cities than in rural areas. Without other family members appearing in the same record, it can be challenging to know which John Parker is the one you are looking for.

To identify individuals in urban areas, it becomes much more important to know their occupation. This helps to separate out identities of similarly-named individuals as well as record entries where the name has been misspelled.

Cities have occupation records. These might come in the form of employment records for large corporations, membership records for social or occupational clubs or unions, and so on. These can be somewhat tricky to track down since the records do not belong to a governmental agency.

Home Address

Knowing their home address can also help. However, it is important to keep in mind that people moved quite frequently in cities. Often people were renting and would move on when the rent increased or their landlords called the lease. The first day of May is a traditional moving day. Although they may have moved frequently, city dwellers often tried to stay in the same area where they had friends, work, and other social ties. This is where maps become especially important. What may seem like major moves across two or three enumeration districts may actually only be down the block from the previous residence.

Municipal Records & City Directories

It isn’t just the people that cause difficulties. How we use records is different between rural and urban areas, and which records are most effective changes. In rural areas, land ownership records are often vital to resolving genealogical problems. In big cities, it is much less likely that the individuals owned land. On the other hand, it is much more likely that urbanite ancestors appeared in city directories and that those directories still exist.

Big cities generate more documents and records than rural areas. They were often the first to institute death and burial records to deal with the increased health hazards that exist in cities due to pollution and overcrowding. When an epidemic sweeps through a large city, the number of affected people is much greater. The demand for cemetery space increases and these municipal cemetery records are often well kept and available. Unlike a rural area where Grandpa Simon was buried in the back forty, cemeteries were well-defined and essential services in cities.

Also, health officials were beginning to track epidemics, and death records with the cause of death became an important part of their research. They also needed to track population growth, so birth records became important. These things happened much earlier in the cities than in the country.

Church Records

Churches existed in greater abundance in cities. This means it may be more difficult to track where an urbanite ancestor attended church, but it also means that the records may have been better preserved. They are not as likely to be stored in the secretary’s attic as is sometimes the case in more rural areas. Urban churches had to function more like a large corporation in order to deal with the number of parishioners. It may help to look in a newspaper for articles about church functions that mention your ancestor’s name. This is a quick way to narrow down the search for the right church.

Newspaper Records

While newspapers in big cities didn’t run the same country gossip columns for poor and middle class citizens, they still contain a lot of valuable information about these groups of people. Legal notices and police blotters in the newspapers can lead to research in valuable court records.

Our ancestors ran ads in newspapers. Newspapers were able to set low prices because they ran paid advertising. Even a small business owner or sole proprietor could take out an ad to increase business. There are also classified advertisements, which list a person’s address. If the person was selling work-related items such as welding tools, you may be able to get clues as to their occupation. Classified ads were the Facebook posts of the day. If a person was looking for tools, equipment, or other items they may have run a “wanted” ad. If they lost something, they may have run an ad with a reward for the recovery of the item. All of these are particularly useful in urban research.

Although big city research can be challenging, it is also easier than some people might think. Be patient and methodical – discover what city records are out there, and search them carefully. Good luck finding and documenting your urbanite ancestors!

Related Search Articles:

True Ghost Stories from America’s Most Haunted Old Cemeteries?

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article – just in time for Halloween – Gena searches old newspapers to uncover eerie stories of ghostly sightings and hauntings at some of America’s oldest cemeteries.

In my work as a genealogist, I’ve been to cemeteries all over America. I’ve even written a book (Cemeteries of the Eastern Sierra) about cemeteries in the Eastern Sierra mountain range of California. And because I’ve been to so many cemeteries I’ve also had diverse experiences on these visits – from a tender scene of a deer family grazing on the morning grass, to an opened grave and its skeleton inhabitant. But I have, luckily, never seen a ghost during my various cemetery trips.

illustration of a ghost in a cemetery

Source: Ghost Horror Collections

However, there have been plenty of ghost sightings by others who visit America’s cemeteries, and some of these cemeteries are rather notorious for their paranormal activity. Have you had a supernatural experience of your own at any of these famous haunted cemeteries?

New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau

One of the more infamous New Orleans citizens was Marie Laveau. While today her name is synonymous with voodoo, it’s obvious from her obituary that she was a well-regarded citizen of her community – although there were those at the time who feared her strange priestess powers.

Her obituary reports:

On Wednesday the invalid sank into the sleep which knows no waking. Those whom she had befriended crowded into the little room where she was exposed, in order to obtain a last look at the features, smiling even in death, of her who had been so kind to them.

Known as the “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans,” Laveau willingly administered to the sick.

According to her obituary:

Besides being very beautiful Marie was also very wise. She was skillful in the practice of medicine and was acquainted with the valuable healing qualities of indigenous herbs. She was very successful as a nurse, wonderful stories being told of her exploits at the sick bed. In yellow fever and cholera epidemics she was always called upon to nurse the sick, and always responded promptly.

obituary for Marie Laveau, Times-Picayune newspaper article 17 June 1881

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 17 June 1881, page 8

Marie’s obituary concludes:

All in all Marie Laveau was a most wonderful woman. Doing good for the sake of doing good alone, she obtained no reward, oft times meeting with prejudice and loathing, she was nevertheless contented and did not flag in her work…Marie Laveau’s name will not be forgotten in New Orleans.

Not only has her name not been forgotten, some people insist her healing powers remain active. Generations of visitors to her tomb in Saint Louis Cemetery have marked an “X” on its walls and made a wish for her to grant, returning with an offering after the wish was supposedly granted. Yes, some have reported feeling a presence at her tomb or a hand on their shoulder – this “ghost story” is about what Marie does for others from the beyond.

article about Marie Laveau's tomb in New Orleans, Advocate newspaper article10 August 1976

Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 10 August 1976, page 28

However, unlike most ghost tales involving America’s old cemeteries, this one has had an unfortunate consequence. Years of those “X” marks have led to damage to her family tomb and the resulting closure of the cemetery to the public (to visit the cemetery now you must have family buried there or be part of a guided tour).

It’s now134 years later, and the last sentence of Marie’s obituary continues to ring true: “Marie Laveau’s name will not be forgotten in New Orleans.”

Celebrity Ghost Sightings

Even celebrities have been known to haunt America’s old cemeteries. Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Southern California is known for its celebrity burials. Some of the famous who reside there include Douglas Fairbanks, Jayne Mansfield, and Rudolph Valentino. As with any old cemetery it also has its share of ghost stories, including one non-resident ghost that comes to visit.

Marion Davies, film actress and longtime mistress of newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, died in September 1961 after succumbing to cancer. She was buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery in a family mausoleum that would later include her “niece” Patricia Lake.

obituary for Marion Davies, Springfield Union newspaper article 23 September 1961

Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), 23 September 1961, page 1

Hearst died almost 10 year prior to Davies and was buried in Northern California at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma. Still married when he died, Hearst had openly lived with Davies and is rumored to have fathered a child with her – Patricia Lake – who was raised by Davies’ sister. Davies played hostess and helped Hearst with financial matters, even providing him a million dollar check when his business was in trouble. All this happened while he was married to his wife Millicent, who escaped the day-to-day reality of the scandal by moving to New York to conduct her philanthropic work – out of sight of her husband’s affair.

obituary for William Randolph Hearst, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 15 August 1951

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 15 August 1951, page 1

With Hearst and Davies long gone, you’d think their story had come to an end — but not so. Some startled visitors to Hollywood Forever Cemetery have reported seeing the ghost of William Randolph Hearst haunting the gravesites of the mistress he loved and the daughter he could never publicly acknowledge.

Nevermore, Nevermore

It probably comes as no surprise that the final resting place for writer Edgar Allen Poe is haunted.

obituary for Edgar Allen Poe, Enquirer newspaper article 16 October 1849

Enquirer (Richmond, Virginia), 16 October 1849, page 4

Most people are familiar with the story of the mysterious visitor, the “Poe Toaster,” who for 75 years – starting in 1934 – visited Poe’s grave in the middle of the night on January 19 (the author’s birthday), drank a toast to him, and left three roses and the rest of the bottle of cognac.

article about the mysterious "Poe Toaster" who secretly visited Edgar Allan Poe's tomb for 75 years, Register Star newspaper article 23 January 2004

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 23 January 2004, page 25

Poe’s mysterious visitor made his last appearance in 2009, the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth. He – or it – was never identified, and perhaps never will be.

And while some have claimed that Poe’s ghost walks the cemetery catacombs, there are other ghostly residents that make Westminster Hall and Burying Ground (established in 1787) repeatedly named as one of the most haunted cemeteries.

The “Screaming Skull of Cambridge,” a head belonging to a murdered minister, is just one of the ghostly residents of this old Baltimore, Maryland, cemetery reported by visitors. The ghost story goes that his corpse would scream day and night, so his mouth was gagged in an effort to muffle the ongoing screams. When that didn’t work his body was decapitated and his skull was buried in a block of cement. Other reported ghosts roaming the old cemetery grounds include a teenage girl that can be seen praying by her grave, and a woman who spent time in an asylum who follows visitors around the cemetery. She is quite recognizable since she was buried in a strait jacket.

Ghosts in the Cemetery

Do you live by a haunted cemetery? Have you ever seen a ghost? If you want to research the cemetery you’ve visited, or learn more about the rumors you heard about a ghost sighting there, search GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

There’s no doubt that genealogists spend a lot of time walking through old cemeteries and are the most likely folks to see the supernatural. Whether you enjoy seeking out haunted experiences or would rather stay safely away from such places, have a Happy Halloween!

Related Cemetery Articles:

Genealogy Puzzle: What Do These 3 Obituaries Have in Common?

What do the obituaries of Daniel Coit Gilman (1831-1908) of Norwich, Connecticut; Richard Y. Cook (1845-1917) of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania; and James J. Lovitt (1838-1892) have in common?

montage of the obituaries of Daniel Coit Gilman, Richard Y. Cook and James J. Lovitt

Source: GenealogyBank.com

Answer: they all described their immigrant ancestors.

It is common for an obituary to name the spouse, children, parents and siblings of the deceased – but to get details about their more distant ancestral lineage is a real bonus.

Genealogy Tip: Be sure to check the obituaries of each of the relatives of the ancestor you are researching. While one might be brief, the obituary of another immediate relative just might give you family history information taking you back to the family’s immigrant ancestors.

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 Articles:

Nebraska Archives: 42 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

A land of vast prairies, Nebraska was admitted into the Union as the nation’s 37th state on 1 March 1867. The 16th largest state in the country, Nebraska is the 37th most populous.

photo of Nebraska homesteaders, c. 1888

Photo: Nebraska homesteaders, c. 1888. Credit: Nebraska State Historical Society; U.S. Department of Agriculture; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your ancestry from Nebraska, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online NE newspaper archives: 42 titles to help you search your family history in the “Cornhusker State,” providing coverage from 1854 to Today. There are more than 76.6 million articles and records in our online Nebraska newspaper archives!

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

Search Nebraska Newspaper Archives (1854 – 1983)

Search Nebraska Recent Obituaries (1996 – Current)

illustration: state flag of Nebraska

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

Here is a list of online Nebraska 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 NE newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

Did you know?

Our historical NE newspaper collection contains the Omaha Arrow which was the very first newspaper ever published in Omaha – back in 1854, when the Territory of Nebraska was first incorporated. Our NE archives also contain many old African American newspapers – for example, the Afro-American Sentinel was started by an ex-slave. Learn more at Wikipedia (see Print section).

City Title Date Range* Collection
Ashland Ashland Gazette 02/03/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Beatrice Beatrice Daily Sun 06/10/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bellevue Bellevue Leader 02/27/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bloomington Franklin County Guard 08/30/1872 – 08/13/1874 Newspaper Archives
Broken Bow Custer County Chief 10/04/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chadron Chadron Record 04/12/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbus Columbus Telegram 09/19/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
David City David City Banner-Press 09/13/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fremont Fremont Tribune 08/16/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Gering Gering Courier 11/06/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Grand Island Grand Island Independent 12/01/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Gretna Gretna Breeze 05/13/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hemingford Hemingford Ledger 11/07/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kearney Kearney Hub 05/30/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lexington Lexington Clipper-Herald 06/23/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lincoln Lincoln Journal Star 06/01/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lincoln Lincoln Journal Star: Web Edition Articles 11/04/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nebraska City Nebraska City News-Press 02/09/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nebraska City Daily Nebraska Press 08/06/1868 – 12/28/1876 Newspaper Archives
North Platte North Platte Telegraph 05/03/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Omaha Progress 03/22/1890 – 03/07/1891 Newspaper Archives
Omaha Florence Courier 09/23/1858 – 10/14/1858 Newspaper Archives
Omaha Omaha World-Herald 08/24/1885 – 12/31/1983 Newspaper Archives
Omaha Enterprise 08/10/1895 – 07/03/1897 Newspaper Archives
Omaha Omaha World-Herald 09/04/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Omaha Omaha Morning Bee-News 09/09/1935 – 09/09/1935 Newspaper Archives
Omaha Danske Pioneer 10/17/1895 – 10/10/1901 Newspaper Archives
Omaha Omaha Star 01/07/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Omaha Afro-American Sentinel 02/22/1896 – 03/25/1899 Newspaper Archives
Omaha Omaha Herald 10/30/1878 – 06/30/1889 Newspaper Archives
Omaha Tagliche Omaha Tribune 06/25/1937 – 06/25/1937 Newspaper Archives
Omaha Omaha Arrow 08/04/1854 – 10/20/1854 Newspaper Archives
Papillion Suburban Newspapers 06/29/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Papillion Papillion Times 01/27/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Plattsmouth Plattsmouth Journal 05/02/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ralston Ralston Recorder 05/06/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Schuyler Schuyler Sun 10/20/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Scottsbluff Star-Herald 04/20/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Syracuse Syracuse Journal-Democrat 03/06/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wahoo Wahoo Newspaper 02/01/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Waverly Waverly News 04/21/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
York York News-Times 03/08/2000 – 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 Nebraska newspaper links will be live.

Related Resource:

Is That My Dad? Newspapers Solve an Old Photo Mystery

Like many of you, I am actively on Facebook. I particularly like a group that posts items from the history of Springdale, Connecticut. Springdale is a section of Stamford, Connecticut; I lived and worked there for many years.

Last month a reader posted this old school photo from a play.

photo of a Springdale School play from 1936

Source: Facebook

Hmm…according to the posting, this old photo of a Springdale School play was from 1936.
I needed to look closely at this – my Dad could possibly be in this photo.

That looked like it might be him in the third row.

photo of William Kemp

Source: Facebook

So – I reached out to the extended Facebook network for their collective opinions. I posted other photos of my Dad from that time period and asked: Was it him?

Some thought yes – some thought it could be, but said the hair was too dark.

I continued to work back through the many postings on this Springdale page in Facebook – and then I found this old newspaper clipping listing the names of the pupils in the play.

an article about a Springdale School play, Stamford Advocate newspaper article May 1936

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), May 1936

This old newspaper article described a Springdale School play in May 1936. The time was right. There was my Dad’s name – misspelled – but there it was.

Hmm…and the newspaper article described a “Sunbonnet Chorus” and the “Overall Boys’ Chorus.” That accurately described the way these students were dressed.

So – could this old newspaper article be confirmation that that was my Dad in the old Facebook photo? Did the Springdale School present the Otis Carrington play Polished Pebbles every year, – or was 1936 the first and only time it was performed?

Then yesterday another old newspaper clipping was posted to Facebook.

Here was the proof.
It was my Dad in the newspaper photo – cowboy hat, dungarees and all.

photo of the pupils in a Springdale School play, Stamford Advocate newspaper article May 1936

Source: Facebook, Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), May 1936

Thanks to these old newspaper clippings I could confirm that was him, as well as the names of dozens of other students that were in the school play.

My tough old Dad – World War II hero and all – at age 13 was a star in a school play!

Great story.
Great photo of my father.

And now our family has another photo and story for our family history – and we only have it because it was preserved in the pages of old newspapers.

Dig in and find your old family stories preserved in old newspaper collections, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Related Articles:

Civil War Genealogy: Old Letters in Newspapers & Research Resources

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary expands on her earlier article about Civil War letters published in newspapers by sharing some additional Civil War research resources and tips.

A recent GenealogyBank Blog article of mine discussed personal communications of the Civil War period (see: Civil War Newspaper Research: Personal Notices & Letters). Desperate families crossed enemy lines, sent letters via flags of truce, or – more safely – exchanged messages via newspapers, especially when a loved one had become a prisoner of war.

The importance of these Civil War letters published in newspapers should not be discounted, because in many cases they are the only record of a person’s experience during the war, if not their military involvement.

photo of a group of Union soldiers of Company G, 71st New York Volunteers, 1861

Photo: group of Union soldiers of Company G, 71st New York Volunteers, 1861. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Along with those old newspaper letters, there are other Civil War resources to help genealogists with their family history research. Here are some additional considerations for searching Civil War records.

Searching for Civil War Soldiers

When searching for Civil War records, the first stop for many is the National Park Service Soldiers and Sailors Database.

Many early American military records are to be found in this database. This is a wonderful resource – but as with all genealogical military databases, it’s nearly impossible for it to be complete. During periods of upheaval, many records go astray or were lost for many reasons.

What Happened to Lucien Wheatly?

One Civil War soldier I could not locate in the Soldiers and Sailors Database is Lucien Wheatly of the Sixth Regiment Cavalry.

A letter in the Richmond Enquirer reported that nothing had been heard from him since 17 December 1863. The writer, who was not fully identified, reported that Wheatly was a prisoner of war at a prison called “Scott’s Factory,” but thought he might have been sent away.

missing person ad for Union soldier Lucien Wheatly, Richmond Enquirer newspaper advertisement 30 May 1864

Richmond Enquirer (Richmond, Virginia), 30 May 1864, page 4

This is an extremely important citation, because it pinpoints the soldier’s last known location. However, scant information is available on this prison. The website Civil War Richmond states it existed from 1862 to 1864 and that its location has never been determined.

Whenever you cannot locate a historical place, search GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives. I did an archives search, and found that there are only a few clues – but this one is important: Scott’s Factory was reportedly four or five miles from Smithfield.

article about a Civil War skirmish near Smithfield, Virginia, Richmond Enquirer newspaper article 3 February 1864

Richmond Enquirer (Richmond, Virginia), 3 February 1864, page 3

By triangulating the references in the old newspaper article (Chuckatuck Creek, Cherry Grove & Smithfield), a diligent researcher could possibly solve the prison’s location mystery, or at least narrow the possibilities. Perhaps someone more proficient in Virginia geography could use these clues to find Scott’s Factory. Google Maps shows Chuckatuck Creek to be about 12 miles south of Smithfield, and since the Union gunboat was to “go around and meet the Yankees at Cherry Grove,” perhaps one should follow the water routes.

Follow-up Searches for Lucien Wheatly

Whenever you can’t find an ancestor you’re researching, always perform a follow-up search using alternative dates. It’s not clear if there was more than one Lucien Wheatly, but I did locate the name twice in GenealogyBank’s collections, and also in several Web references.

  • Sanitary Inspector referenced in the 1890 Congressional Directory. Lived at 921 G Street N.W. (see Serial Set Vol. No.2819; 3 December 1890, Report: S.Misc.Doc. 9)
  • Cashier at an Illinois bank in 1892 (see Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield, Illinois), 26 May 1892, page 6)
  • Sales Representative from Chicago in 1911 (see The Thomas Edison Papers at Rutgers)

Follow the Letter Reprints

When a letter was published in old newspapers, there was often a reference to “please copy” elsewhere. This is a good clue that the subject of the letter had connections to the place indicated. Note that the letter concerning Lucien Wheatly shown above concluded:

Any one knowing his [Wheatly’s] whereabouts will confer a great favor on his friends by addressing, by personal in the Richmond Enquirer, J. & B. D., Daily News office.

As noted in that missing person ad from 1864, the Southern newspaper Richmond Enquirer and the Northern newspaper New York Daily News often exchanged reports. That exchange enabled soldiers’ families in both the South and the North to place ads that would be seen in the other region.

This exchange is explicitly referred to in this article from the Richmond Enquirer, which mentioned that the New York Daily News recently printed 96 personals, first published in the Richmond Enquirer, that were addressed to persons in the North. That same historical news article reprinted ads from the New York Daily News from Northerners trying to reach family in the South. Here is one from “Jack” intended for an Edward Huntley in Richmond.

Civil War missing person ads, Richmond Enquirer newspaper advertisements 30 May 1864

Richmond Enquirer (Richmond, Virginia), 30 May 1864, page 4

The message from Jack is intriguing because it reports an inheritance. Jack, whose surname was withheld to maintain anonymity, let Edward C. Huntley know how to collect his share from Aunt Sarah’s estate. Holmes was the executor. Jack shared a reference to where he was in the Catskills and mentioned he had tried to reach Richmond twice, but was unable.

Here is another old newspaper ad from a Northerner, first printed in the New York Daily News and reprinted in the Richmond Enquirer. In this ad, the mother of Samuel Livingston was seeking information about her missing son. We learn from this ad Samuel’s rank, company and regiment. The ad also makes reference to a Colonel Moore who was wounded and left on the battlefield at Oloustee [Olustee], Florida. According to research on the battle, this was Col. Henry Moore.

missing person ad for Union soldier Samuel Livingston, Richmond Enquirer newspaper advertisement 30 May 1864

Richmond Enquirer (Richmond, Virginia), 30 May 1864, page 4

Livingston appears in the National Park Service Soldiers and Sailors Database as follows.

listing for Samuel Livingston, National Park Service Soldiers and Sailors Database

Genealogy Search Tips

  • Assume that every database is incomplete or has mistakes.
  • Use historical newspapers to fill in the blanks – and when you solve a puzzle, be sure to share it with others.
  • If a paper mentions “please copy,” there is always a personal connection. The person may have lived, worked or served in that place, a relative may live there, or there could be another possibility that you have not yet considered.
  • Not every publication will report that a piece was copied (i.e., reprinted), so look to see if it exists elsewhere. Sometimes the information will have been changed or have additions.
  • During the Civil War period, we often encounter scanning issues with the early newspapers. As fortunate as we are that they survived, some text may be smeary or split across two lines, so a search engine may misread it.
  • Don’t assume relationships unless specified. Mrs. Samuel Livingston could have been a wife, daughter, in-law or other relation; we only know for certain because her ad says that any news “will be most thankfully received by his mother.”
  • Always perform a follow-up search using alternate dates. Also, vary a person’s name by title and name abbreviations.
  • Follow location trails. Many battle parks and Civil War prison sites would be thrilled to add to their list of soldiers and sailors.
  • Map your ancestor’s movements. Think about known routes via land or water if they went to visit relatives, and consider military and troop movements.
  • Enrich your genealogical experience by taking a road trip. You may find that this experience adds an important component to your knowledge.
  • As an exercise, search for related names and events in the Soldiers and Sailors Database. For example, there is quite a bit of information on the 47th New York Regiment in which Samuel Livingston served.

As an exercise, see how many prisoner of war reports you can find and reconnect to their family. Each one has a story, such as the example below about William Kean who was captured on 17 June 1864 while on picket duty. One can only imagine how that came about.

missing person ad for Confederate soldier William Kean, Richmond Enquirer newspaper advertisement 23 July 1864

Richmond Enquirer (Richmond, Virginia), 23 July 1864, page 2

Researching your Civil War ancestor? There are many good Civil War genealogy resources available online. Be sure to include old newspapers, such as those in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives. In some cases, you may find that the clue you’re searching for about your ancestor never appeared in a government record – but was contained in a letter a loved one had printed in a newspaper in a desperate attempt to get news about a missing son or husband. Their hunt for information may be just what you need for your own searches!

Related Civil War Articles:

Mayflower Genealogy: Finding Your Cousins Using Newspapers

Searching through GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives recently, I found this old newspaper announcement for Margaret (Rogers) Smith’s 81st birthday.

obituary for Margaret (Rogers) Smith, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 23 January 1938

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 23 January 1938, page 12

Margaret Anne (Rogers) Smith (1857-1943) didn’t come to America on the Mayflower ship – but according to this newspaper article her ancestor Thomas Rogers (c. 1572-Winter 1620/21) did.

Hey – I am also descended from Mayflower Pilgrim Thomas Rogers.
That makes Margaret my cousin.
What more can I learn about her?

Could it be this easy to find my Mayflower cousins?
Yes – it is.

This historical newspaper article is packed with genealogical clues and information about Margaret, her siblings and children. That would make all of them my cousins too. Armed with these clues I then need to verify and prove each member of the family as I go back generation by generation to our common ancestor: Pilgrim Thomas Rogers.

For starters, the newspaper article gives me Margaret’s photo and tells me that she “celebrated her eighty-first birthday this week at her home at Prosper [Colin County, Texas].”

Wow – her photo. A great find. Nice smile.
So, she was 81 years old in January 1938 and living in Prosper, Colin County, Texas.
That should be easy to verify.

Here is a copy of her death certificate.

death certificate for Margaret (Rogers) Smith

Source: FamilySearch, “Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-25246-83874-37?cc=1983324: accessed 3 September 2015), Death certificates > 1943 > Vol 073-079, certificates 036001-039400, Aug, Brazoria-Starr counties > image 314 of 3524; State Registrar Office, Austin.

Good, her death certificate shows that she was still living in Prosper, Texas, when she died, and it gives me her date of birth as 18 January 1857, in Colin County, Texas. Hmm… January 1857 – that was just 11 years after Texas became a state.

The old newspaper clipping also says her grandparents “were among the first settlers in this community.”

Another great genealogy clue.
So it looks like multiple generations of the family had moved from Tennessee to Texas.

The old newspaper article continues giving me the names of her surviving brothers, sisters and children. Perfect. Historical newspapers sure make it easy to research and fill in the entire family tree of my Mayflower ancestors.

My next step is to look at the records available in other newspapers in GenealogyBank, FamilySearch and other sources to verify each member of the family going back generation by generation.

Sometimes you actually can work your family tree from the top down – and in a case like this where the ancestral connection is in the surname line, you can work on your tree from the bottom up. As ever: Trust, but verify and confirm that she is in fact a descendant of Thomas Rogers of the Mayflower.

Genealogy Tip: Researching your Mayflower family lines? Use the old newspapers to find those who are self-identified as descendants of the same Pilgrim ancestors you are. Then link them back, generation by generation, to attach them to your extended Mayflower family tree.

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