Veterans Day Special: How to Trace Your Veteran Ancestors

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post—in celebration of today being Veterans Day—Gena searches old newspapers to help fill in the story of an ancestor’s military service during World War I.

As our thoughts on this Veterans Day turn to the nation’s military personnel, you may be thinking about one of your ancestors who was a veteran—and wondering how you could find out more about him or her.

Quick question: if you are researching a soldier where should you search? Your most immediate answer might include searching a familiar genealogy subscription website or ordering military and pension records. While those are important places to start, have you considered searching old newspapers?

Hometown newspapers provide information about young men and women who have gone off to war. In some cases these mentions of people can be numerous. Search for these old newspaper articles to add to the official military records you have already gathered to help tell your ancestor’s story.

As an example, let’s look at the military life of Sgt. Ernest L. Clayton from Blackwells, Georgia. Sgt. Clayton was a World War I soldier serving in France. His WWI draft registration card from 1 June 1917 indicates that he was a college student prior to his service.

Fast forward to April 1918 and we see from the local news section of the Cobb County Times that Sgt. Ernest Clayton, from Camp Gordon, spent his Sunday in town with his friends. Camp Gordon, now known as Fort Gordon, is in Augusta, Georgia, and was established in 1917.

a notice about Sergeant Ernest Clayton, Cobb County Times newspaper article 11 April 1918

Cobb County Times (Marietta, Georgia), 11 April 1918, page 4

It’s important to remember that many times these smaller city newspapers did contain short mentions of the comings and goings of community members. In those hometown newspapers you can find details of the soldier and his or her family.

Think of older newspapers as the Facebook of their time. Just as we would now share important news of our family through Facebook posts, our ancestors shared their highlights with the local newspaper. It wasn’t too long ago that newspapers even printed the letters that families received from their military-serving family members. The following article is a letter from Sgt. Clayton to his sister, and has a photo of him in uniform.

Letter from Home Folks Adds Much to Life of a Soldier [Ernest Clayton], Cobb County Times newspaper article 24 October 1918

Cobb County Times (Marietta, Georgia), 24 October 1918, page 1

As an introduction to the letter, the newspaper editor let the community know that Clayton was a part of Battery B, 320th Field Artillery, and that he fought in the Battle of Saint Mihiel on 12-15 September 1918. This introduction indicated that he was already in the military when he filled out his draft registration, having entered in May 1917.

In his letter written from France, Clayton talked about how letters from home helped keep his spirits up. He wrote: “You know we soldiers grow tired and weary and if we don’t have any greetings from home and dear old America sometimes, we feel like death would be sweet. But when we are so discouraged and ‘all in’ as we call it, a bunch of mail encourages us very much, and we feel just like singing that dear old song: ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty.’”

There’s no doubt that having a soldier fighting in a war could be nerve wracking for family members on the home front. Not knowing how their son or daughter was doing, especially in a time when communication methods were limited, was an enormous stress. Receiving erroneous news must have been even more difficult to recover from.

World War I on the Western Front ended on 11 November 1918 with the signing of the armistice in France between the allies and Germany. That day was originally commemorated as Armistice Day (it became known as Veterans Day in the U.S. after World War II).

That fateful day took on special meaning for the Clayton family after Sgt. Clayton was unofficially listed as killed in action during the last days of the war. To the family’s great relief, that news of his death turned out to be erroneous!

They received a letter (which the family shared with the local newspaper) that Clayton wrote them on 23 November 1918—after the war had ended, and after he was supposedly dead. He wrote the letter from a hotel room in France, where he was enjoying some rest after 100 days on the firing line. He wrote that he anticipated arriving back home from the war in January 1919.

Sgt. E. L. Clayton Was Not Killed in Action, Cobb County Times newspaper article 19 December 1918

Cobb County Times (Marietta, Georgia), 19 December 1918, page 1

This Veterans Day, spend some time looking for your veteran ancestor in old newspapers. Remember that military service information can be found in more than just the official government military records! You can often find much more information about your veteran ancestor in letters, photos, draft lists, pension lists and other types of articles published in old newspapers.

Genealogy Tip: Make sure to search various versions of a person’s name when using a search engine. In searching for Sgt. Clayton, I searched on just the surname Clayton, as well as E. L. Clayton, Ernest Clayton, and other variations. I also searched for the names of his parents and sister.

How Old Newspapers Can Help You Search U.S. Census Records

Like detectives, we approach family history by gathering all of the clues and making a case for who our relatives were: their names, when and where they were born, pushing through all of the activities of their lives until their deaths.

Pulling all of the facts and clues together helps us rediscover who each one of our relatives really were. What happened while they were alive—what do we really know about them?

The U.S. census is a terrific tool—basic for building an American family tree. It gives us a snapshot of our family at the time of recording. The census looks in on them one day of their lives, every ten years, over their lifetime. Couple this census information with old family letters, perhaps a journal, and birth, marriage & death certificates, and we begin to discover the basic facts about each person.

Add newspapers to our research and we can go beyond the basic genealogical facts: we get to learn their stories.

Newspapers were published every day. They tell us what happened each day in their town, their state, in the world. Old newspapers tell us what was happening in our relatives’ lives every day of their lives.

Since a census record is a one-day look at the family, we complement those basic facts with newspaper articles to fill in the details and get the rest of their stories, as shown in the following two examples.

William T. Crow (1802 – )

Here is the listing for William T. Crow and his wife Elizabeth Crow (1806- ) in the 1880 census.

photo of the 1880 census listing for William and Elizabeth Crow, from FamilySearch.org

Credit: FamilySearch.org

Digging deeper into GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, I found this old 1800s newspaper article about William Crow.

notice about William T. Crow, Aberdeen Weekly News newspaper article 2 October 1885

Aberdeen Weekly News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 2 October 1885, page 2

This article fills in more of the details of their lives:

  • He was a judge
  • Her maiden name was Elizabeth Blackwell
  • They married on 26 February 1826
  • They were close to the 60th anniversary of their wedding day
  • They had 6 children and 47 grandchildren living in 1885
  • 1 daughter died during childhood
  • 2 sons “sleep in soldiers’ graves”
  • They lived near Carnesville, Georgia, and all of the children lived within 1½ miles of the family home

That’s a lot of family information packed into one short paragraph. Marriage records in newspapers are a fantastic resource to trace your family tree.

Hannah Lyman (1743-1832)

Hannah (Clark) Lyman lived in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Her census record gives us a start at her story.

Here she is in the 1830 census, living in Northampton, Massachusetts.

photo of the 1830 Census listing for Hannah Lyman, from FamilySearch.org

Credit: FamilySearch.org

She is there—and the check marks tell us that there were others, unnamed, living in the house with her at that time.

Once again I turned to GenealogyBank’s historical newspapers to get more of her story, and found this 1800s news article published just two years after the census was taken.

obituary for Hannah Lyman, Hampshire Gazette newspaper article 21 March 1832

Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, Massachusetts), 21 March 1832, page 3

Like the trendy saying “it takes a village,” it takes multiple genealogical resources to fill in the details of the lives of our ancestors.

And wow—do newspapers deliver!

This newspaper article from GenealogyBank’s deep backfile of historical newspapers builds on her brief mention in the census, and tells us the core facts of her life along with a terrific family story of her memories of the “great earthquake of Nov. 18, 1755.”

Details—stories.

Newspapers tell us so much about our family history.

Angela Cavallo Saves Her Son’s Life with Her Supermom Strength

We are all grateful for our mothers—but Tony Cavallo of Lawrenceville, Georgia, has been especially grateful for his mom, Mrs. Angela Cavallo.

She Lifted a Car to Save Her Son, Springfield Union newspaper article 14 April 1982

Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), 14 April 1982, page 25

Friday 11 April 1982 was a day like any other. Tony Cavallo was in the driveway fixing his 1964 Chevy Impala. Suddenly the jack collapsed and he was knocked unconscious, pinned under the car.

His mother came to the rescue with superhuman strength: with a prayer in her heart she reached down and lifted the car while the neighbor boy, Johnny Edwards, ran calling for help. “I was kicking him, saying ‘Get out, get out,’” while waiting for help to arrive, she said in an interview. Quickly the neighbors rushed to help and pulled Tony to safety.

Wow—with her phenomenal supermom strength she picked up the car and kept it off her son until help arrived. Now that’s the power of a mom’s love!

Genealogy Search Tip: Expect Family History in Unexpected Places

One thing genealogists quickly learn is to expect the unexpected. Information about your ancestors may not be where you expected to find it—and may appear in places you never thought to look.

For example, obituaries appear in newspapers across the United States, not just in the area where the person died. Local newspapers carry marriage announcements from across the state, and sometimes from neighboring states.

The following old funeral sermon is an example of family history information turning up in a place you wouldn’t expect.

Lucinda Coleman, the first child of Mr. and Mrs. John B. Coleman of Georgia, died at age 5 on 28 August 1830.

What is unexpected about this?

The text of the funeral sermon for this Georgia girl was published in a Connecticut newspaper!

funeral sermon for Lucinda Coleman, Religious Inquirer newspaper article 8 January 1831

Religious Inquirer (Hartford, Connecticut), 8 January 1831, page 369

Genealogy Search Tip: Be flexible when searching for information about your ancestors. Expect the unexpected, and cast a wide net. You might find a treasured family story, like this funeral sermon, published by a newspaper in a part of the country you never would have thought to look.

Augusta, Georgia, Newspapers Now Online: Coverage from 1700s Forward

GenealogyBank has newspapers from Augusta, Georgia, online from 1792 to today. Wow—that’s a lot of newspapers recording the history of the Garden City in the heart of Dixie.

city seal and logo for Augusta, Georgia

Illustration: Augusta city seal and logo. Credit: Wikipedia.

You can learn so much more than just the basic facts about your family tree when you research your genealogy in these historical and recent Augusta newspapers. Discover your Southern ancestors’ marriage announcements, obituaries, and personal stories—everything that tells us the fabric of their lives.

Dig into our online archives and discover your GA ancestry now!

Newspaper Date Range Collection
Augusta Chronicle 1/7/1792 – 11/30/2003 Newspaper Archives
Augusta Chronicle 1/1/1994 – Current Recent Obituaries
Augusta Herald 7/17/1799 – 12/28/1815 Newspaper Archives
Augusta Union 1/27/1900 – 1/27/1900 Newspaper Archives
Colored American 12/30/1865 – 1/13/1866 Newspaper Archives
Daily Constitutionalist 3/19/1833 – 12/31/1869 Newspaper Archives
Loyal Georgian 1/20/1866 – 2/15/1868 Newspaper Archives
Southern Centinel 11/28/1793 – 5/31/1798 Newspaper Archives

How to Find Georgia Marriage Records

It is easy to find copies of your Georgia ancestors’ marriage certificates and records using two basic online genealogy tools: GenealogyBank.com and FamilySearch.org. If your ancestors lived in Georgia, let’s see how we can find information about them.

marriage certificate for Walter B. Dense and Mamie T. Thornton found using FamilySearch's Georgia marriage records

Marriage certificate for Walter B. Dense and Mamie T. Thornton found using FamilySearch’s Georgia marriage records. Credit: FamilySearch.

FamilySearch.org has put Georgia marriage records from 1785 to 1950 online.

You may search for these old marriage records online here: https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1927197

A typical search will produce a marriage certificate like this one for Walter B. Dense and Mamie T. Thornton.

marriage certificate for Walter B. Dense and Mamie T. Thornton

Marriage certificate for Walter B. Dense and Mamie T. Thornton. Credit: FamilySearch.

Image Credit: “Georgia, County Marriages, 1785-1950,” index and images, FamilySearch: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KXVC-7NK Accessed 19 March 2013, Walter B. Dense and Mamie T. Thornton, 1879.

This historical marriage certificate tells us that they were married by the Rev. Walker Lewis on 10 September 1879 in Bibb County, Georgia.

Marriage certificates can be brief and to the point. As genealogists we are thrilled to have them and to look at them—but we want to know more about the couple and their wedding.

Newspapers can give us even more details on the lives of our ancestors.

Let’s start searching the marriage records that were published in Georgia newspapers.

Let’s strategize this search.

In this case the groom’s surname, Dense, is a common word—but the surname itself is not very common. The word “dense” could possibly appear in a marriage announcement, but it is not likely to come up except as a surname.

By searching on the “Georgia Marriage Records” page in GenealogyBank I can focus my search results to bring up just marriage announcements that were printed in Georgia newspapers.

GenealogyBank search page for Georgia Marriage Records & Engagement Announcements

GenealogyBank search page for Georgia Marriage Records & Engagement Announcements

Search Georgia marriage records at GenealogyBank here: http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/newspapers/explore/USA/Georgia/?type=marriage_engagement

GenealogyBank search box and search results page for Dense wedding

GenealogyBank search box and search results page for Dense wedding

That worked: their wedding announcement was the first of ten search results.

Marriage in First Street Methodist Church, Macon Daily Telegraph newspaper article 16 September 1879

Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 16 September 1879, page 4

The historical newspaper article is giving us a lot more detail about the wedding then the basic facts recorded on the marriage certificate—so many details that we can almost picture the wedding in our minds.

Marriage in First Street Methodist Church, Macon Daily Telegraph newspaper article 16 September 1879, page 4

Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 16 September 1879, page 4

  • For example, we learn that the couple was married at the First Methodist Church in Macon, Georgia.
  • The church, “crowded to its utmost capacity,” was “tastefully decorated with evergreens” at half past eight in the evening when the wedding began.
  • The old newspaper article named the members of the wedding party and chief guests.
  • The Rev. Walker Lewis performed the wedding ceremony “in a clear and distinct manner.”
  • At the end of the ceremony “Professor Coley played the wedding march.”

Think about it—the details, the setting…picture the wedding scene in your mind.

The end of the old newspaper marriage announcement gives us even more details about the family and their occupations, and describes the reception and supper that followed at the bride’s father’s (Reuben Thornton) home on Second Street.

Marriage in First Street Methodist Church, Macon Daily Telegraph newspaper article 16 September 1879, page 4

Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 16 September 1879, page 4

Details about special life events like this are only found in historical newspapers.

These are two great genealogy resources for finding your Georgia marriage records: the certificates on FamilySearch, and the newspaper marriage announcements in GenealogyBank with the details about the couple and the wedding.

Oh, the newspaper editor added one more comment about this wedding.

Marriage in First Street Methodist Church, Macon Daily Telegraph newspaper article 16 September 1879, page 4

Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 16 September 1879, page 4

The editor had described the packed church and the beautiful wedding and added “At the close Professor Coley played the wedding march, and the dense audience dispersed.”

It’s great to not only learn about the details of our ancestors’ lives and weddings— it’s also fun to see the wry humor of the times.

It’s a great day for genealogy!

23 Million Newspaper Records for all 50 U.S. States Just Added!

Did you realize that every day GenealogyBank adds more records from over 3,000 newspapers from all 50 states? Our archivists and digital experts are gathering and digitizing more of America’s newspapers and putting them online continuously.

In the past month alone we added over 23 million newspaper records—that is more than 5 million records every week!

Here is a glimpse of just some of the new newspaper content that has recently been added to GenealogyBank. Since we can’t list all 3,000 newspapers here, we have selected a representative sample to give you a sense of GenealogyBank’s dynamic growth. Dig into our rapidly expanding newspaper archives and uncover your family history now!

Newspapers marked with an asterisk (*) are new to GenealogyBank.

State City Newspapers

Date Range

Collection

Alaska Anchorage Anchorage Daily News

1/2/1971–12/30/1972

Newspaper Archives

California San Diego Evening Tribune

9/2/1912–9/29/1936

Newspaper Archives

California San Diego San Diego Union

4/20/1881–12/23/1930

Newspaper Archives

California San Francisco Bay Citizen, The*

06/01/2010–Current

Recent Obituaries

Colorado Denver Denver Post

7/4/1903–5/22/1917

Newspaper Archives

Colorado Denver Denver Rocky Mountain News

11/30/1890–10/1/1898

Newspaper Archives

Colorado Golden Arvada Press*

08/30/2012–Current

Recent Obituaries

Colorado Golden Golden Transcript*

06/07/2012–Current

Recent Obituaries

Colorado Golden Wheat Ridge Transcript*

05/12/2012–Current

Recent Obituaries

Colorado Lakewood Lakewood Sentinel*

05/18/2012–Current

Recent Obituaries

Colorado Thornton Northglenn-Thornton Sentinel*

05/18/2012–Current

Recent Obituaries

Colorado Westminster Westminster Window*

05/18/2012–Current

Recent Obituaries

District of Columbia Washington Daily Union

05/01/1845–12/31/1853

Newspaper Archives

District of Columbia Washington (DC) Evening Star

4/11/1877–12/31/1922

Newspaper Archives

Georgia Marietta Marietta Journal

1/15/1961–12/8/1978

Newspaper Archives

Idaho Idaho Falls Post Register*

01/24/2013–Current

Recent Obituaries

Illinois Belleville Belleville News-Democrat: Blogs*

05/22/2009–Current

Recent Obituaries

Illinois Chicago Chicago Sun-Times: Blogs*

02/20/2008–Current

Recent Obituaries

Illinois Elburn Elburn Herald*

10/09/2008–Current

Recent Obituaries

Illinois Springfield Daily Illinois State Register

1/1/1856–1/14/1892

Newspaper Archives

Louisiana Baton Rouge Advocate

10/1/1943–5/15/1958

Newspaper Archives

Louisiana Baton Rouge State Times Advocate

3/3/1933–9/15/1969

Newspaper Archives

Louisiana New Orleans NOLA Defender*

03/13/2010–Current

Recent Obituaries

Maryland Baltimore Sun

8/9/1922–9/3/1922

Newspaper Archives

Massachusetts Boston Boston Herald

7/2/1855–9/19/1972

Newspaper Archives

Massachusetts Boston Boston Herald: Blogs*

10/28/2006–Current

Recent Obituaries

Massachusetts Boston Boston Traveler

9/1/1855–8/7/1951

Newspaper Archives

Massachusetts Springfield Republican, The: Web Edition Articles*

11/16/2012–Current

Recent Obituaries

Massachusetts Springfield Springfield Daily News

1/24/1914–11/6/1919

Newspaper Archives

Massachusetts Springfield Springfield Republican

01/18/1920–01/18/1920

Newspaper Archives

Massachusetts Westfield Westfield News, The*

12/13/2011–Current

Recent Obituaries

Michigan Ann Arbor Ann Arbor Daily Argus

11/17/1898–12/31/1906

Newspaper Archives

Michigan Ann Arbor Ann Arbor Daily Times

10/5/1907–4/7/1908

Newspaper Archives

Michigan Ann Arbor Michigan Argus

10/31/1879–12/20/1907

Newspaper Archives

Michigan Ypsilanti Ypsilanti Commercial

3/11/1864–8/18/1898

Newspaper Archives

Mississippi Hattiesburg Petal News, The*

04/21/2011–Current

Recent Obituaries

Nebraska Omaha Omaha Star*

01/07/2011–Current

Recent Obituaries

Nebraska Omaha Omaha World Herald

11/1/1981–11/30/1983

Newspaper Archives

Nevada Boulder City Boulder City Review*

11/05/2009–Current

Recent Obituaries

New Jersey Leonia Leonia Life*

01/22/2010–Current

Recent Obituaries

New York Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry Rivertowns Daily Voice*

08/02/2011–Current

Recent Obituaries

New York New York Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

04/01/1871–10/21/1871

Newspaper Archives

New York New York New Yorker Volkszeitung

02/18/1894–02/28/1900

Newspaper Archives

New York Westchester County Newsday: Westchester County Edition*

05/02/2012–Current

Recent Obituaries

North Carolina Charlotte Charlotte Observer, The: Blogs*

11/09/2006–Current

Recent Obituaries

North Carolina Greensboro Greensboro Daily News

4/14/1945–9/30/1977

Newspaper Archives

North Carolina Greensboro Greensboro Record

2/22/1950–4/10/1981

Newspaper Archives

North Carolina Reidsville Eden Daily News, The*

02/13/2013–Current

Recent Obituaries

Ohio Cincinnati Cincinnati Post

1/7/1886–6/4/1920

Newspaper Archives

Oregon Hood River Hood River News*

08/09/2001–Current

Recent Obituaries

Pennsylvania Philadelphia Philadelphia City Paper*

06/29/2006–Current

Recent Obituaries

South Carolina Charleston Charleston Courier*

8/14/1860–2/15/1861

Newspaper Archives

South Carolina Charleston Charleston News and Courier

11/04/1897–07/16/1913

Newspaper Archives

South Carolina Charleston Evening Post

9/29/1914–8/29/1921

Newspaper Archives

Texas Fredericksburg Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post*

08/07/2002–Current

Recent Obituaries

Vermont Middlebury Addison County Independent*

12/27/2006–Current

Recent Obituaries

Vermont St. Johnsbury Caledonian

8/12/1854–6/25/1897

Newspaper Archives

Vermont St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record

11/25/1908–1/14/1925

Newspaper Archives

Virginia Richmond Richmond Times Dispatch

2/1/1948–12/31/1986

Newspaper Archives

Washington Bellingham Bellingham Herald, The: Blogs*

01/15/2008–Current

Recent Obituaries

Washington Forks Forks Forum*

12/15/2010–Current

Recent Obituaries

Wisconsin Chippewa Falls Chippewa Herald, The: Blogs*

06/21/2012–Current

Recent Obituaries

Wisconsin Milwaukee Wahrheit

09/05/1896–09/05/1896

Newspaper Archives

Macon, Georgia, Genealogy Resources Online

Are you researching your family history from Georgia? If you have ancestors from the “Peach State,” a good place to start looking is the city of Macon, located right near the geographic center of Georgia.

photo of Macon, Georgia

Photo: Macon, Georgia. Credit: Wikipedia.

GenealogyBank’s online newspaper archives have Macon, Georgia, covered from 1826 to today. That is well over 2.5 million articles about your Southern American ancestors. That’s a lot of birth, marriage and obituary newspaper articles—with the genealogical details about your ancestry you are looking for. There are also many local news stories in the newspapers that you can read to find out more about your ancestors’ lives and the times they lived in.

Here is the list of Macon, GA, newspapers currently available for researching in GenealogyBank:

Newspapers Coverage Collection
Macon Daily Herald 5/8/1865 – 5/8/1865 Newspaper Archives
Macon Sentinel 1/27/1900 – 1/27/1900 Newspaper Archives
Macon Telegraph 2/1/1860 – 3/11/1923 Newspaper Archives
Macon Telegraph 8/18/1994 – Current Recent Obituaries
Macon Weekly Telegraph 11/1/1826 – 6/3/1895 Newspaper Archives

In addition to the newspaper archives that GenealogyBank has put online, FamilySearch.org has put some of Georgia’s vital records online including:

Births
Georgia, Births and Christenings, 1754-1960 Index only
Marriages
Georgia Marriages, 1808-1967 Index only
Deaths
Georgia, Deaths, 1914-1927 Index and images
Georgia, Deaths 1928-1930 Index and images
Georgia, Death Index, 1933-1998 Index only

1800s Newspaper Ad: Reward for Army Deserters

Fort Johnson in South Carolina was no different from Army bases across the country. From time to time soldiers deserted, as these men did on 3 January 1810. Captain A.B. Armistead wanted them back—and so he ran a newspaper ad offering “ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD for six Deserters, who deserted from this post on the 3d instant” and promising to pay “all expenses.”

reward ad for Army deserters, City Gazette & Daily Advertiser newspaper article 6 January 1810

The City Gazette & Daily Advertiser (Charleston, South Carolina), 6 January 1810, page 1

Armistead’s reward ad provided descriptions of the Army deserters.

description of Army deserters, City Gazette & Daily Advertiser newspaper article 6 January 1810

The City Gazette & Daily Advertiser (Charleston, South Carolina), 6 January 1810, page 1

In a note at the end of his 1800s newspaper reward ad, Armistead asked all of the newspapers in Georgia, North and South Carolina to print “this advertisement six times” and to send him the bill.

reward ad for Army deserters, City Gazette & Daily Advertiser newspaper article 6 January 1810

The City Gazette & Daily Advertiser (Charleston, South Carolina), 6 January 1810, page 1

Here are some of the descriptions of the Army deserters:

  • Charles Merul was “a native of South-Carolina, twenty three years of age, five feet ten inches high, has light complexion and dark hair; went off in citizens clothes”
  • Daniel Holloway was “a native of Virginia, twenty three years of age, five feet nine inches high, has fair complexion, blue eyes, and dark hair”
  • John Wynne “was born in Georgia”; the ad gives  a physical description of him, but the key identifiers were the pistols he was carrying, described as: “uncommon, particularly with respect to the locks and the fixing of the ramrod”

Old newspaper reward ads like this one, published in an attempt to reclaim military deserters, can be rich sources of genealogical information—often providing the names, origins, ages and physical descriptions of the missing soldiers. Historical newspapers had all the news of the day. Every day I am surprised by what I find doing genealogy research in the archives!

Newspaper Genealogy Research: Finding the Hames Family Stories

So few family stories are passed down and preserved by folks today. People are busy earning a living and dealing with the demands of 21st century lives. In addition, many families now find themselves spread across the country. It can be difficult for the rising generation to hear the old family stories from their grandparents.

Fortunately newspapers published many of these interesting family stories from yesteryear, and they can be found online today.

Here’s a great story preserved in an old newspaper: the trip the Hames brothers made in 1910 to visit for the first time the grave of their 2nd great-grandfather John Hames.

brothers find grave of ancestor John Hames, Marietta Journal newspaper article 29 July 1910

Marietta Journal (Marietta, Georgia), 29 July 1910, page 2

After a train ride, the two brothers took “a buggy across the country to Sardis” where they saw the grave where their ancestor was buried in 1860.

Today, a gravestone marks the spot where John Hames was buried. The 1910 newspaper article stated that “his grave will be properly marked” by the visiting brothers to honor their ancestor. What’s there now is a standard military gravestone supplied by the government. Did the two brothers arrange for it to be placed in the cemetery?

photo of the gravestone of John Hames, buried in 1860

Photo: gravestone of John Hames. Credit: Waymarking.com.

Reading further into the old newspaper article about the brother’s gravesite visit, we find that when John Hames died he was known as the oldest man in the country: 108 years old.

Look at all the family history we learn from this one newspaper article:

  • W.J.M. Hames and D.C. Hames were brothers living in Marietta, Georgia
  • Their 2nd great-grandfather, John Hames, served in the Revolutionary War and was buried in Sardis, Georgia
  • John married Charity Jasper, the sister of Sergeant (William) Jasper—another hero of the Revolutionary War. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Jasper
  • The brothers took the Western & Atlantic train to Tilton, Georgia, then went by buggy to the cemetery at Sardis, Georgia
  • There they saw their ancestor’s grave and met John Beemer (who helped to bury the old soldier) and John Shannon (who made his coffin)
  • In 1860 when he died, John Hames, at 108, was considered to be the oldest man in America
  • The brother’s father was Hamlet C. Hames
  • Their grandfather was William Hames
  • Their great-grandfather was Charles Hames, the son of their Revolutionary War ancestor
  • They enjoyed their trip and spent time fishing in the Connasauga River
  • They visited Fort DeSoto
  • They visited the jail where John Howard Payne was imprisoned. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Howard_Payne
  • They also visited the home of Chief James Vann, the Cherokee Indian leader
photo of Cherokee Chief James Vann’s house

Photo: Cherokee Chief James Vann’s house. Credit: Georgia State Parks: http://www.gastateparks.org/ChiefVannHouse.

As this one historical newspaper article shows, newspapers provide information about your ancestors you can’t find anywhere else. More than just the names and dates you can get from other genealogy records, newspapers tell stories about the experiences your ancestors had, the people they met, and the times they lived in—these family stories help you get to know them as real people.