7 Tips on How to Find Elusive Ancestors in Newspapers

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary provides seven practical tips for searching hard-to-find ancestors in old newspapers.

While reading my mother’s Book of Ancestors recently I noticed she had little to say about one of our ancestors, because that person had kept himself out of the public records.

Forebears who didn’t hold public office, own property, or were married in churches or synagogues with lost or private records, are difficult to document. These elusive ancestors can also be difficult to find in historical newspapers, but sometimes they can be found in creative ways. This article gives seven search tips to help find those tricky ancestors in old newspapers.

illustration of Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass

1) Pay Attention to “Please Copy” Notices

When something noteworthy occurs such as a birth or death, news is first printed locally.

If that person has ties to other areas, then other newspapers may carry the story. Newspapers may do this either on their own accord, or at the request of the original publisher. What you want to watch out for is a “please copy” notice, which can be a valuable clue that your ancestor had ties to another part of the country where you might find additional articles or records about him or her.

In the newspaper article below from New Orleans, Louisiana, we see many examples of “please copy” notices.

  • Jesse Sands, formerly of Pittsburg, and his wife Jessie M. Olmsted, passed away within two days of each other. The end of their death notice says: “Newburg, N.Y. and Pittsburg, Pa. papers please copy.” So for these two ancestors, you want to include New Orleans, Newburg and Pittsburgh in your searches.
  • J. West Murphy died in Louisiana, but was described as “late of Philadelphia.” The end of his death notice says: “Philadelphia papers please copy.”
  • The end of Virginia B. Harrison’s death notice says: “Philadelphia and Cincinnati papers please copy.”
  • The end of John Gunderman’s death notice says: “St. Louis papers please copy.”

Because these death notices were originally published in a New Orleans newspaper, you want to search that area for more news about your ancestor. But thanks to these “please copy” notices, you are given additional locations for further searching.

death notices, Times-Picayune newspaper article 23 August 1853

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 23 August 1853, page 2

2) Know Your Resource: Understanding the Differences between Small Town & Metropolitan Newspapers

Depending upon the population of a town or city, news will vary. Reasons include:

  • Unless a person was well known, there may be inadequate space to present long articles in newspapers from areas of high population.
  • In smaller towns this is not the same issue, so there is a tendency toward longer descriptions of events such as weddings and arrests.
  • In smaller towns, you may also see more “gossipy” news.
  • If a lengthy feature was carried in a hometown paper, another may feel it only deserves minimal coverage, or the opposite may be true. Minimal coverage in one newspaper may result in extended details in another.
  • Some publishers may wish to sensationalize or downplay news. Once while researching a hometown newspaper, I found that a neighboring town paper was happy to publish the lurid details of a person’s arrest. It was not published in his hometown newspaper, perhaps to protect the family.
Enter Last Name

3) Name Variations

People are usually known by a variety of monikers, both formal and informal. Keep in mind that this is the rule, rather than the exception, so don’t ever limit searches to just one version of a name. Include titles, nicknames, initials, middle names without first names, and other variations. For example:

  • John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith
  • J. J. Smith or J. J. J. Smith
  • Jacob or Jingleheimer Smith
  • Mr. Smith or simply Smith
  • Thomas Edison or Mr. Edison
  • The Wizard of Menlo Park
  • Mary Stillwell
  • Dot Stillwell (her childhood nickname)
  • Thomas Edison’s first wife
  • Mrs. Edison
  • Mina Edison or Mina Miller
  • Thomas Edison’s second wife

4) Spelling Variations and Name Changes – Consider Using a Wildcard

One of the most vexing issues occurs with spelling variations, which occur all too often.

An example can be noted with my husband’s birth surname of Szczesniak. Since others were prone to misspelling it, the family had it legally shortened to Sesniak. Unfortunately, that didn’t work as typos are frequent. One of the most common is to change the ending to “ck,” rather than “ak.”

Name changes can be informal. A woman I know was named Jane. It’s a fine name, but prone to various putdowns, including “plain Jane.” Rather than be labeled with this throughout her life, she elected to change the spelling to Jayne.

We see similar variations in the given name of Mary. I use the traditional spelling, but there are many variations including:

  • Mamie, Maria, Mariah, Marie, May, Meg, Merry, Merrie, Moll, Mollie, Molly, Pollie, Polly, etc.

If you wish to search newspapers and databases for similar spellings, sometimes a wildcard will work.

There are two types: an asterisk “*” which searches for any number of characters in a name; or a question mark “?” which replaces just one letter. For example:

  • Merr* would query the database for any name beginning with Merr, such as Merry or Merrie, followed by any combination of letters. If a woman were named Merriweather, it would also find it.
  • Sebasti?n would return both Sebastian or Sebastien.

Also see prior articles on ancestor name research tips for tips on searching for first names, surnames, name spelling variations and more.

5) Overcoming Language Barriers in Foreign-Language Newspapers

Many online collections of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, contain foreign-language newspapers. GenealogyBank, for example, has some newspapers in French, German, Italian and Spanish.

What do you do if you find your ancestor’s name in a foreign-language newspaper, but are not sure what the article is saying about him or her?

There are a number of free online translators available, where you can type in the text from the foreign-language newspaper and receive an English translation.

For example, what if you found this article about your ancestor Georg Clifforeye?

Heiratete seine Grossmutter.

CALAIS, Me., 28 Oktober. Der 18 Jahre alte Georg Clifforeye heiratete seine Grossmutter Rebecca Louise Garnett von St. Stephen N.B., Canada, und begab sich dann mit ihr nach seiner Wohnung, aber kaum war er dort angelangt, erschien Rev. Gaucher, der has liebende Paar getraut hatte und verlangte den Trauschein, wobei er ihm die $10 Traugebühren retournierte und die Heirat für illegal erklärte, wegen der…

By plugging this text into Google Translate or Bing Translator, we uncover a startling story about the young man attempting to marry his grandmother!

wedding announcement, New Yorker Volkszeitung newspaper article 29 October 1922

New Yorker Volkszeitung (New York, New York), 29 October 1922, page 2

6) Social Notices Provide Many Clues

Many newspapers carried social notices, such as the below example from the Dallas Morning News, reporting the comings and goings of many friends and relatives.

Enter Last Name

These social columns in newspapers provide wonderful research clues to track your ancestor’s activities as well as personal relationships.

social column, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 18 June 1904

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 18 June 1904, page 10

7) Broaden Your Searches

Lastly, if you are in the habit of narrowing ancestor searches with specific dates, get in the habit of broadening the ranges.

Marriage details can extend for months, if not years. Look for engagement notices, bridal showers, banns notices, wedding descriptions, honeymoon reports and even “the happy couple has returned” articles.

Death reporting can also extend over long time periods. Right after passing, you’ll find death notices and obituaries, but some may be published long afterward. I’ve seen an obituary as long as one year after someone died. Also watch for legal notices pertaining to probate, which can occur many years after your ancestor died.

Don’t forget to think outside the box. Some reports are made in error. Even with their mistakes, they can contain valuable personal information. One of my favorite examples was addressed in my article The Lessons of Daniel Boone’s Obituary: Check and Double Check.

I hope these seven search tips will help you break through some brick walls and find those elusive ancestors who didn’t leave many records behind – but may well be found in the pages of old newspapers. Good luck with your family history research!

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Pearls of Life Wisdom from Pink Mullaney’s Obituary

Introduction: Duncan Kuehn is a professional genealogist with over eight years of client experience. She has worked on several well-known projects, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and researching President Barack Obama’s ancestry. In this blog post, Duncan shares some of the funny and at times insightful comments from the obituary of Mary “Pink” Mullaney about a life well-lived.

Sometimes you read an obituary and mourn that you didn’t get a chance to know the person who died. Such is the case with Mary “Pink” Mullaney. Her well-written obituary helps the reader come to know her – and she sounds like a fantastic person to know!

The quirky opening line of her obituary sets the stage: “If you’re about to throw away an old pair of pantyhose, stop.” You immediately know that this isn’t going to be an ordinary obituary, which is good because Pink Mullaney was no ordinary person.

Never throw away old pantyhose. Use the old ones to tie gutters, childproof cabinets, tie toilet flappers, or hang Christmas ornaments.

The obituary for Mrs. Mullaney ran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Her six children must miss her terribly. Surely there was rarely a dull moment growing up with her as a mother!

obituary for Mary "Pink" Mullaney, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper article 4 September 2013

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 4 September 2013, page 5

Put picky-eating children in the box at the bottom of the laundry chute, tell them they are hungry lions in a cage, and feed them veggies through the slats.

Pink lived for 85 years. She outlived her husband, Dr. Gerald L. Mullaney, and six of her nine siblings.

Keep the car keys under the front seat so they don’t get lost. Make the car dance by lightly tapping the brakes to the beat of songs on the radio. Offer rides to people carrying a big load or caught in the rain or summer heat. Believe the hitchhiker you pick up who says he is a landscaper and his name is “Peat Moss.”

She had 17 grandchildren at the time of her death. If other descendants have been born since, they truly missed out on knowing such a lovely person.

Let a dog (or two or three) share your bed. Say the rosary while you walk them. Go to church with a chicken sandwich in your purse. Cry at the consecration, every time. Give the chicken sandwich to your homeless friend after mass. Go to a nursing home and kiss everyone.

obituary for Mary "Pink" Mullaney, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper article 4 September 2013

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 4 September 2013, page 5

Pink trusted everyone in ways that many of us would find shocking in today’s society. However, her old-fashioned ways seemed to have served her well in life, and she must have been well-loved by all who knew her.

Give to every charity that asks. Choose to believe the best about what they do with your money, no matter what your children say they discovered online. Allow the homeless to keep warm in your car while you are at Mass.

Take magazines you’ve already read to your doctor’s office for others to enjoy. Do not tear off the mailing label, “Because if someone wants to contact me, that would be nice.”

obituary for Mary "Pink" Mullaney, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper article 4 September 2013

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 4 September 2013, page 5

Friends (and strangers she would love to have met) can visit with Pink’s family at the Feerick Funeral Home on Thursday.

When Pink died, her family asked that donations in her honor be made to the Dominican High School or Saint Monica Parish, or “any charity that seeks to spread the Good News of Pink’s friend, Jesus.”

Truly the world lost a bright light on 1 September 2013, when Pink passed away.  But how good it was that a bit of her personality was captured by her family and shared in this funny and thought-provoking obituary. At first, we laugh at some of Pink’s odd behaviors and insights. And then we realize just how right she was. Thank you, Pink.

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/

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Virginia Archives: 147 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Virginia has long played a prominent role in American history. The first permanent English settlement in the New World was established in Virginia in 1607 (Jamestown), Virginia was one of the original 13 states that formed the United States, four of the nation’s first five presidents came from Virginia (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe), and the state’s current capital was once capital of the Confederate States of America (Richmond).

photo of a Virginia state welcome sign featuring the state bird (cardinal) and state tree and flower (dogwood)

Photo: a Virginia state welcome sign featuring the state bird (cardinal) and state tree and flower (dogwood). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your family roots in Virginia, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online VA newspaper archives: 147 titles to help you search your family history in the “Old Dominion,” providing news coverage, family stories and vital statistics from 1736 to Today. There are currently more than 54 million newspaper articles and records in our online Virginia archives!

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

Search Virginia Newspaper Archives (1736 – 1986)

Search Virginia Recent Obituaries (1985 – Current)

Here is a list of online Virginia 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 VA newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Abingdon Washington County News 2/1/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Alexandria Alexandria Gazette 7/11/1808 – 12/30/1876 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Alexandria Herald 6/3/1811 – 6/29/1825 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Alexandria Daily Advertiser 12/8/1800 – 7/9/1808 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Times; and District of Columbia Daily Advertiser 4/10/1797 – 7/31/1802 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Alexandria Expositor 11/26/1802 – 6/1/1807 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser 2/12/1784 – 5/21/1789 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Alexandria Expositor for the Country 12/1/1803 – 3/4/1805 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Columbian Mirror and Alexandria Gazette 12/5/1792 – 12/6/1800 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Columbian Advertiser and Commercial, Mechanic, and Agricultural Gazette 8/2/1802 – 11/22/1802 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Virginia Gazette and Alexandria Advertiser 9/3/1789 – 8/1/1793 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria People’s Advocate 4/11/1876 – 9/9/1876 Newspaper Archives
Alexandria Vienna-Oakton Connection 2/26/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Alexandria Mount Vernon Gazette 2/13/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Alexandria Alexandria Gazette Packet 2/26/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Alexandria Centre View 2/21/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Altavista Altavista Journal 10/8/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Amherst Nelson County Times 3/19/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Amherst Amherst New Era Progress 3/10/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Appomattox Times-Virginian 10/8/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Arlington Arlington Catholic Herald 9/28/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Arlington Arlington Connection 2/26/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ashburn Farm, Ashburn Village, Landsdown, Bluemont Ashburn Connection 2/26/2002 – 5/21/2009 Recent Obituaries
Bedford Bedford Bulletin 11/25/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Boydton Midland Express 3/3/1893 – 3/3/1893 Newspaper Archives
Bristol Bristol Herald Courier 12/27/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Broadway North Fork Journal 6/27/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Brookneal Union Star 10/2/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Burke Burke Connection 2/26/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cascades, Countryside, Potomac Falls, Sterling Cascades Connection 3/26/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Charlottesville Jeffersonian Republican 4/19/1855 – 12/22/1880 Newspaper Archives
Charlottesville Daily Progress 4/17/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chase City News-Progress 2/23/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chatham Star-Tribune 10/2/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Culpeper Culpeper Star-Exponent 1/26/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Danville Danville Register & Bee 1/29/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Dayton Shenandoah Journal 11/13/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Dumfries Virginia Gazette and Agricultural Repository 10/13/1791 – 12/19/1793 Newspaper Archives
Elkton Valley Banner 6/28/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Emporia Independent-Messenger 7/8/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fairfax Fairfax Connection 2/26/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fairfax Station, Clifton Fairfax Station-Clifton Connection 2/26/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fincastle Fincastle Mirror 7/11/1823 – 2/18/1825 Newspaper Archives
Fincastle Herald of the Valley 9/17/1821 – 7/4/1823 Newspaper Archives
Fincastle Fincastle Weekly Advertiser 5/8/1801 – 7/10/1801 Newspaper Archives
Fincastle Herald of Virginia and Fincastle Weekly Advertiser 12/5/1800 – 12/5/1800 Newspaper Archives
Floyd Floyd Press 7/19/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Franklin Tidewater News 10/3/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fredericksburg Virginia Herald 9/6/1787 – 11/25/1829 Newspaper Archives
Fredericksburg Virginia Express 11/17/1803 – 7/12/1804 Newspaper Archives
Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star 1/1/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Front Royal Warren Sentinel 9/17/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Galax Galax Gazette 11/18/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Goochland Goochland Gazette 6/4/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Great Falls Great Falls Connection 2/26/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Harrisonburg Northern Augusta Journal 11/20/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Harrisonburg Daily News-Record 6/10/1993 – Current Recent Obituaries
Herndon Herndon Connection 2/26/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hillsville Carroll News 4/30/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Independence Declaration 1/24/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
King George Journal Press 5/20/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Laurel Hill Laurel Hill Connection 2/26/2002 – 6/10/2009 Recent Obituaries
Lawrenceville Brunswick Times-Gazette 7/8/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Leesburg Genius of Liberty 1/11/1817 – 12/26/1820 Newspaper Archives
Leesburg Washingtonian 2/6/1810 – 7/16/1811 Newspaper Archives
Leesburg True American 12/30/1800 – 12/30/1800 Newspaper Archives
Leesburg Leesburg Today 8/29/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lexington Virginia Telegraphe 1/10/1804 – 2/3/1808 Newspaper Archives
Lexington Rockbridge Repository 8/21/1801 – 8/6/1805 Newspaper Archives
Lexington News-Gazette 12/10/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Luray Page News and Courier 1/13/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lynchburg Lynchburg Press 5/13/1809 – 4/24/1818 Newspaper Archives
Lynchburg Lynchburg Weekly Gazette 10/13/1798 – 7/20/1799 Newspaper Archives
Lynchburg Lynchburg Weekly Museum 8/21/1797 – 5/19/1798 Newspaper Archives
Lynchburg News & Advance 3/11/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Madison Madison County Eagle 3/26/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Manassas Prince William Today 2/21/2013 – Current Recent Obituaries
Manassas News & Messenger 5/2/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Marion Smyth County News & Messenger 1/31/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Marion Bland County Messenger 4/1/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
McLean Fairfax Sun Gazette 5/6/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
McLean McLean Connection 2/26/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Mechanicsville Mechanicsville Local 7/27/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Merrifield Arlington Sun Gazette 4/3/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Newport News Daily Press 1/1/1989 – Current Recent Obituaries
Norfolk American Beacon 8/7/1815 – 12/30/1820 Newspaper Archives
Norfolk Norfolk Gazette and Publick Ledger 7/17/1804 – 9/17/1816 Newspaper Archives
Norfolk Virginia Chronicle 7/28/1792 – 12/18/1794 Newspaper Archives
Norfolk Commercial Register 8/16/1802 – 1/11/1803 Newspaper Archives
Norfolk Norfolk and Portsmouth Journal 9/28/1787 – 5/6/1789 Newspaper Archives
Norfolk Norfolk and Portsmouth Chronicle 9/26/1789 – 6/2/1792 Newspaper Archives
Norfolk Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald 10/8/1807 – 6/19/1820 Newspaper Archives
Norfolk Norfolk and Portsmouth Gazette 9/23/1789 – 10/8/1789 Newspaper Archives
Norfolk Virginian-Pilot 4/1/1990 – Current Recent Obituaries
Orange Orange County Review 3/3/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Petersburg Petersburg Daily Courier 9/21/1814 – 6/22/1815 Newspaper Archives
Petersburg Petersburg Intelligencer 5/29/1798 – 9/22/1815 Newspaper Archives
Petersburg American Star 6/23/1817 – 12/23/1817 Newspaper Archives
Petersburg National Pilot 2/1/1900 – 2/1/1900 Newspaper Archives
Petersburg Progress-Index 10/31/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Powhatan Powhatan Today 4/2/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Reston Reston Connection 2/26/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Richlands Richlands News-Press 1/6/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Richmond Richmond Times Dispatch 1/27/1903 – 12/31/1986 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Enquirer 5/9/1804 – 8/22/1876 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Richmond Whig 6/22/1824 – 12/29/1874 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Richmond Enquirer 10/25/1844 – 4/28/1870 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Richmond Examiner 4/8/1861 – 8/29/1866 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Virginia Argus 5/9/1795 – 10/19/1816 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Virginia Patriot 12/26/1809 – 8/3/1819 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Richmond Commercial Compiler 12/18/1816 – 4/20/1820 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Southern Illustrated News 9/13/1862 – 9/10/1864 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Richmond Chronicle 5/23/1795 – 8/27/1796 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Virginia Gazette, and General Advertiser 12/7/1791 – 7/14/1809 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Impartial Observer 5/1/1806 – 7/2/1807 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Virginia Star 5/11/1878 – 12/23/1882 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Virginia Gazette and Weekly Advertiser 3/2/1782 – 3/4/1796 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Richmond Daily Whig 12/27/1833 – 2/15/1882 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Richmond Planet 2/21/1885 – 1/13/1900 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Recorder 11/10/1802 – 8/6/1803 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Spirit of ‘Seventy-Six 9/20/1808 – 7/11/1809 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Reformer 1/27/1900 – 1/27/1900 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Richmond Times-Dispatch 8/19/1985 – Current Recent Obituaries
Roanoke Roanoke Times 1/1/1990 – Current Recent Obituaries
South Hill South Hill Enterprise 1/7/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Springfield Springfield Connection 10/15/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Stafford Stafford County Sun 4/17/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Stanardsville Greene County Record 3/3/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Staunton Staunton Eagle 8/14/1807 – 10/3/1810 Newspaper Archives
Staunton Staunton Political Censor 6/22/1808 – 2/22/1809 Newspaper Archives
Staunton Staunton Spy 9/21/1793 – 2/1/1794 Newspaper Archives
Staunton Political Mirror 6/3/1800 – 8/11/1801 Newspaper Archives
Staunton Observer 8/4/1814 – 8/18/1814 Newspaper Archives
Staunton Spirit of the Press 5/18/1811 – 5/18/1811 Newspaper Archives
Strasburg Northern Virginia Daily 12/17/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Suffolk Suffolk News-Herald 10/2/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Warrenton Palladium of Liberty 8/23/1817 – 12/22/1820 Newspaper Archives
Waynesboro News Virginian 2/3/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Williamsburg Virginia Gazette 3/18/1736 – 12/30/1780 Newspaper Archives
Winchester Republican Constellation 7/20/1811 – 7/31/1819 Newspaper Archives
Winchester Winchester Virginian 4/18/1828 – 9/6/1836 Newspaper Archives
Winchester Winchester Gazette 6/27/1798 – 1/15/1820 Newspaper Archives
Winchester Philanthropist 3/25/1806 – 2/28/1809 Newspaper Archives
Winchester Winchester Star 4/30/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wirtz Smith Mountain Eagle 10/6/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Woodstock Shenandoah Valley-Herald 6/24/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wytheville Wytheville Enterprise 2/1/2011 – 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 Virginia newspaper links will be live.

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Great Advice from an Interview with a Very Old Man

I like newspaper articles where the oldest person in town is interviewed and gives their best advice for living well to an old age. They tell it as they lived it.

Here is the advice Sam Cox (1819-1922) gave on his 102nd birthday as “he sat in his home yesterday afternoon smoking a cigar and shaking hands with those who called.”

interview with Samuel Cox, Sunday Herald newspaper article 28 August 1921

Sunday Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 28 August 1921, page B1

He said:

“…A man ought to live as long as he can and do all the good possible for his neighbors.”

“Live moderately, work hard, but don’t overdo.”

“Be moderate in the use of tobacco and intoxicants.”

“Eat plenty of good, hearty food.”

“Abstain from sweets.”

“Keep out in the open air; take long walks and don’t be afraid to expand the lungs in song.”

“Above all, don’t worry.”

“Be happy and make others happy.”

“Get plenty of sleep, and be up early in the morning for the day’s work.”

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Great advice.

Newspapers are not only a great way to find your ancestors’ vital statistics – they are a tremendous resource for discovering great advice and the stories of their lives as well. Dig into GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives and find your ancestors’ stories. Start your 30-day trial now!

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Solve the Robert ‘Believe It or Not!’ Ripley Ancestry Brick Wall (Part II)

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary follows up on an article she wrote back in January 2013 and, thanks to helpful suggestions from some of her readers, tries to uncover more of the Robert Ripley genealogy mystery.

Early in 2013, the GenealogyBank Blog published my article on Robert L. Ripley (see Solve the Robert ‘Believe It or Not!’ Ripley Ancestry Brick Wall), and – believe it or not – we’re still working on his ancestry. Knowing that Ripley’s family history was a mystery, in that 2013 article I asked readers to help break through a brick wall in the Ripley family tree. Their answers were informative, although much of his ancestry continues to be elusive.

What I want to do now is provide an update to this genealogical quest to uncover Ripley’s family history. First, I suggest you click on the link to read my previous Ripley article, to see what clues I could present to my readers at that time. Next, read the comments several readers left at the end of that article, providing additional clues. Let’s look at some of those follow-up clues now, to make what progress we can in smashing through this Ripley brick wall.

photo of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley, c. 1940

Photo: Robert Ripley, c. 1940. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Ripley Brick Wall

As I explained in my 2013 article about the Ripley genealogy mystery:

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

Prefers “Robert” to “Leroy”

Leroy Robert Ripley (c.1890-1949), (who went by “Robert” or “Robert L.”), did many things in his career, including work as a cartoonist, a sportswriter and amateur anthropologist.

article by Robert Ripley about Honus Wagner and Larry Lajoie, Evening Star newspaper article 18 October 1914

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 18 October 1914, page 64

Conflicting Birth Dates

Ripley’s World War I draft registration reports that he resided at 136 W. 65 Street in New York. He was 25 and recorded his birth on the registration form as 15 February 1892 in Santa Rosa, California. What is interesting about this is that, at other times, he reported his birth date as 25 December 1890 and 26 December 1890 (thought by some genealogists to be his real date of birth). Wikipedia reports Ripley’s birth date as 22 February 1890.

Enter Last Name

Ripley described himself as an artist, writer and cartoonist working for associated newspapers at 170 Broadway. As his mother had died several years earlier, he reported that he supported a brother and was single. He signed his name as Robert LeRoy Ripley. Although recording errors are common, it would be interesting to find his birth record to confirm the actual day and year on which he was born.

article about Robert Ripley, Oregonian newspaper article 29 November 1936

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 29 November 1936, page 62

No Descendants

Ripley was married briefly to Beatrice Roberts in 1919. She was only 14 at the time of their marriage, and the couple separated after just three months. They finally divorced in 1926, and had no children. Ripley never remarried, and died childless.

obituary for Robert Ripley, San Diego Union newspaper article 28 May 1949

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 28 May 1949, page 1

Ripley’s Parents

Robert Ripley was the son of Isaac Davis Ripley (1854-1904) and Lillie Belle Yoka, Yocka or Yocke (1868-1915). His parents married on 3 October 1889 in Sonoma, California (California County Marriages 1850-1952, database at familysearch.org) and are buried at Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery in Santa Rosa, California (see findagrave.com).

Ripley’s Father

In 1870, the Belpre (Washington County) Ohio Census reports that Isaac was possibly residing in the household of Jason and Phelia A. Stubs (or Stubbs or Stutes). Isaac was 16 at that time and attended school. (See http://ohgen.net/ohwashin/OMP-2.htm, Ohio Historical Society, Newspaper Microfilm Reel # 38487 – marriage license for Jason Stubbs and Phelia A. Hunter of Belpre on 8 May 1865.)

Once he reached California, various Great Registers (see familysearch.org) report that Isaac Davis Ripley worked as a carpenter. His birth place is consistently reported as Ohio, which is confirmed by the 1900 Santa Rosa (California) Census reporting him being born in Ohio in September of 1854.

His Mother and Maternal Grandparents

Lillie Belle was the daughter of Nancy Yocke (1828-?) and an unknown father from Germany.

In 1880, Lillie lived with her widowed mother, according to the Analy (Sonoma County) California Census. Her mother was listed as a housekeeper. She had been born in Tennessee and her parents were both from North Carolina. Lillie was the only child in the household. Her birth was shown as Missouri and her parents as having been born in Tennessee and Germany.

At the time of Lillie’s marriage to Isaac Davis Ripley in 1889, he was 35 and she was 20.

One of the readers of my 2013 article, Donna Bailey, wrote:

Well, this article [Miami News (Miami, Florida), 13 May 1962, from Google News Archives] helps explain a little. It states that Lillie Belle was born on the Santa Fe Trail in a covered wagon on the way to California. And Isaac ran away from home at age 14, which explains why he is at the Stutes home in 1870 already on his way to California, which he does show up in voter lists in Yuba in 1874.

Donna later wrote again, adding more information:

Some more clues. There is a marriage record for a Phillip Yoka and a Nancy A. Card, married in Washington Township, Johnson County, MO, on 4 Dec. 1870. According to her grave at Find a grave [Sebastapol Memorial Lawn Cemetery], Nancy’s middle name was Ann, so this could be our Nancy.

I checked the marriage record and it seems consistent with other records. It does note that the officiant was Justice of the Peace William Fisher, so it is unlikely that a church record exists. I also checked the Miami News article. It gives us the clue that Isaac Davis Ripley was born of old American stock in West Virginia, which differs from records reporting Ohio. Perhaps his roots were from that state.

His Two Siblings

When Robert Ripley died on 27 May 1949, he left the bulk of his estate in trust to his two siblings, Douglas and Ethel “Effie” Ripley. Effie (1885-1965) married Fred Marion Davis (1884-1957) and is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Francisco next to her husband, who was a veteran of World War II. We still have not located the final resting place of Douglas.

Enter Last Name

His Sister

Another reader named Mallory wrote:

Ethel (Effie) Davis was married to Fred Davis – she was alive in 1947 and apparently in 1949 when she and her husband flew back to NY from the funeral of her brother [Robert Ripley]. She and her other brother Douglas inherited the majority of the estate. Effie was dead before 1971. The family home still exists… Ethel was born in 1893, her brother Douglas in 1904. The father Isaac died in 1905. Robert (Leroy) had to work to help support his mom and sister. There are two nephews named Robert and Douglas (not sure who their parents were) – they show up in local newspaper clippings.

The Renewed Ripley Brick Wall Challenge

So readers, there you have it.

With the genealogy research we’ve done since my 2013 article was posted, we have learned that Robert Ripley’s father, Isaac Davis Ripley, ran away from home – and we have learned the probable identity of his Yocke grandfather, a German named Philip.

But that’s about it – so I am opening up the Ripley brick wall challenge again. Can any of our readers help us get back further on Ripley’s family tree?

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BOGO: Search for One Relative & Find Another One as a Bonus

I was searching for newspaper articles about my cousin Cyrus Lane (1824-1911) from Sanbornton, New Hampshire, and quickly found an announcement of his marriage

wedding announcements for Cyrus Lane and Sarah Plummer, also for Oliver Piper and Judith Lane, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette newspaper article 30 November 1848

New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord, New Hampshire), 30 November 1848, page 3

But wait – there’s more.

Here was an added bonus.

Following the report of Cyrus’s marriage to Sarah H. Plummer on 25 October 1848, there is this next announcement: “also, Oct. 30, Mr. Oliver P. Piper to Miss Judith C. Lane, all of S.”

Enter Last Name

This refers to his sister, Judith Clifford Lane (1826-1899).
Wow – that must have been a time of family gathering and joy with two weddings within a week.

Newspapers reported the news of our ancestors.
Dig in to GenealogyBank and find your ancestors’ stories.

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Legendary Lives: Car Manufacturer Henry Ford

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 discover more about the life and accomplishments of automobile magnate Henry Ford.

For many Americans who are familiar with the Ford Motor Company, the name Henry Ford (1863-1947) is synonymous with his innovations. While his implementation of the assembly line (a more streamlined process in factory work), and introduction of the affordable Model T automobile, are well-known – he also implemented ideas that better served his employees.

Portrait of Henry Ford, c. 1919

Illustration: portrait of Henry Ford, c. 1919. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Admiration for Thomas Edison

For the interested researcher, perusing newspaper articles about Henry Ford printed during his lifetime does not disappoint. Just searching for news articles about him published in 1914, the year he introduced his employee profit-sharing plan, nearly 1,700 articles can be found in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives – including quite a few that mention his association with inventor Thomas Edison. One such article includes a quote from Henry Ford proclaiming that Thomas Edison is the “greatest man of the times.”

Thomas A. Edison [Is] the Greatest of Men, Says Henry Ford, Head of the Automobile Kingdom, Tulsa World newspaper article 25 January 1914

Tulsa World (Tulsa, Oklahoma), 25 January 1914, section 2, page 1

Profit-Sharing Plan for Ford Employees

In 1914 he raised the daily salary of workers to $5 via a profit-sharing plan that increased 90% of his employees’ pay from the previous level of $2.34 per day. Ford not only increased wages, he shortened the work day to eight hours.

Henry Ford Gives $10,000,000 to His 26,000 Employees, Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper article 5 January 1914

Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, Michigan), 5 January 1914, page 1

Henry Ford, Birdwatcher?

Birdwatching? Well, everyone has a hobby and not surprisingly, Ford was mentioned numerous times in the newspaper for his hobby (he was an avid birdwatcher) and the bird preserve he established near Detroit, Michigan.

article about Henry Ford's bird preserve in Michigan, Duluth News-Tribune newspaper article 7 July 1912

Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 7 July 1912, page 7

The story of how his bird preserve came to be is recounted in the following 1914 newspaper article. Ford had invited Jefferson Butler, Secretary of the Michigan Audubon Society, to his Michigan farm and asked how he could make the lives of birds happier. According to the article:

“Ford wanted to share profits with the birds who were saving the crops of the farmers from destruction [by eating insects] and making it possible for mankind to get something to eat.”

Enter Last Name

That meeting led to Ford creating a bird preserve where he provided shelters, food and even “tepid water” via electric heaters for the birds.

article about Henry Ford and his love of birdwatching, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 24 May 1914

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 24 May 1914, page 5

Hi! My Name Is Henry Ford

Not all of the newspaper articles about Henry Ford are related to his accomplishments, hobbies, or even automobiles. Just as today, our ancestors enjoyed reading celebrity stories. Everyone loves a story where two people share a common name but are not related, especially when one of those people is famous. In the following newspaper article from 1914, the meeting of two Henry Fords from Michigan – one the industrialist millionaire and the other an editor of the Galesburg Argus newspaper – is documented.

Michigan's Two Henry Fords Meet at Popular Florida Winter Resort, Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article 15 March 1914

Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 15 March 1914, page 2

And as all good genealogy researchers know, same name doesn’t mean same family. The last sentence of this old news article clarifies that these two Fords are not related.

Henry Ford’s Death

Toward Henry’s later years, his son Edsel was at the helm of the Ford Motor Company – but after Edsel’s death in 1943, Henry returned to running the company. The elder Ford, suffering from ill health, finally relinquished control of the company to his namesake grandson in September 1945. Less than two years later, Henry Ford died on 7 April 1947. His obituary, like that of any well-known figure, named his accomplishments – but also listed his perceived failings including an unsuccessful attempt to stop World War I.

obituary for Henry Ford, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 8 April 1947

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 8 April 1947, page 1

Henry Ford’s Genealogy

The Ford family tree is online.

Newspapers = Stories

As these historical articles have shown, newspapers are a great way to find not only someone’s vital statistics, but the stories of their life as well. Dig into GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives and find your ancestors’ stories. Start your 30-day trial now!

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Native American Newspapers for Genealogy Research

When births, marriages and deaths occur, Native American families make sure that they are written up and documented in their local newspapers. Family and tribal historians want to data mine GenealogyBank’s entire Historical Newspaper Archives looking for these events by searching on the names of the individuals – but also by searching on the tribal affiliations of the persons involved.

montage of newspaper articles about Native Americans

Genealogy Tip: Search for your Native American ancestors using not only individual names, but also the names of their tribal affiliations to locate all articles about your family.

As part of its online collection of deep back runs digitized from more than 7,000 different newspapers spanning 1690 to today, GenealogyBank has a specific collection of Native American newspapers, fantastic for researching Indian roots from several tribes, from all around the country.

Currently, our Native American newspaper titles include:

Genealogy Tip: Make sure to begin searching for your Native American ancestors with a wide search of our entire archives, then narrow down to specific locations and newspapers – including our collection of Native American newspapers – to increase your chances of success.

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Free Guide for Irish Genealogy to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Got Irish roots? Since March is Irish American Heritage Month and we are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day today, everyone is feeling a wee bit Irish this time of year. For Irish Americans, however, that sentiment is year-round, as feeling connected to Ireland is part of their family history.

photo of a pasture near Ballyieragh, County Cork, Ireland

Photo: pasture near Ballyieragh, County Cork, Ireland. Credit: Pam Brophy; Wikimedia Commons.

Have you been tracing your Irish genealogy, looking for good research sources for Irish genealogy records? If so, here is a free research guide to help you discover and document your Ireland genealogy.

Simply click the link below to download your PDF.

Free Irish Genealogy Research Guide

Irish Genealogy Brick Wall

The brick wall that most Irish American genealogists hit is: trying to figure out where in Ireland your Irish immigrants came from. There are a lot of free Irish genealogy records available online, but first you need to know where in Ireland to concentrate – and that exact location is often hard to discover. Most U.S. census records, for example, only state that someone was from “Ireland” without specifying exactly where.

This free Irish Genealogy research guide will help you.

Irish American Newspapers

For one thing, it offers links to online Irish American newspapers, which published birth notices, marriage announcements, and obituaries that often give exact Irish locations. These newspapers also published Irish vital statistics years before official civil registration began in Ireland in 1864.

Ireland Civil Registration Records

The guide also provides links to these online collections of Irish vital statistics:

  • Irish Birth & Baptismal Records 1620-1881 (Church & Government)
  • Irish Marriage Records 1619-1898 (Church & Government)
  • Irish Death Records 1864-1870 (Church & Government)
  • Records from the General Record Office in the Republic of Ireland
  • Records from the General Record Office in Northern Ireland

Additional Resources for Irish Genealogy

In addition, the guide has links to these genealogy records:

  • U.S. Federal Census 1790-1940
  • U.S. State Census Records
  • 1901 & 1911 Irish Census Records
  • Tithe Applotment Books from Ireland
  • Griffith’s Valuation and the Ordnance Survey Maps

So download your free copy of the Guide to Research Sources for Irish Genealogy Records today and get a big boost for your Irish family history research! Just click the link below to start your PDF download:

Free Guide for Irish Genealogy Research >>

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Maine Archives: 48 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Yesterday Maine celebrated the 195th anniversary of its statehood – it was admitted into the Union on 15 March 1820 as the 23rd state. Originally part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Maine is the largest of the six New England states – but is only the 39th largest state in the country, and the 41st most populous.

photo of the coast of Maine near Acadia National Park

Photo: the coast of Maine near Acadia National Park. Credit: Someone35; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your family roots in Maine, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online ME newspaper archives: 48 titles to help you search your family history in “The Pine Tree State,” providing news coverage, family stories and vital statistics from 1785 to Today. There are currently more than 2 million newspaper articles and records in our online Maine archives!

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

Search Maine Newspaper Archives (1785 – 1950)

Search Maine Recent Obituaries (1992 – Current)

Here is a list of online Maine 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 ME newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Augusta Age 1/6/1832 – 8/29/1861 Newspaper Archives
Augusta Kennebec Gazette 9/11/1801 – 7/31/1805 Newspaper Archives
Augusta Herald of Liberty 2/13/1810 – 9/2/1815 Newspaper Archives
Augusta Kennebec Journal / Kennebec Journal Sunday 11/14/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bangor Bangor Weekly Register 11/25/1815 – 6/21/1831 Newspaper Archives
Bangor Bangor Daily News 12/14/1992 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bath Maine Gazette 12/8/1820 – 12/29/1820 Newspaper Archives
Belfast Waldo Patriot 12/30/1837 – 12/21/1838 Newspaper Archives
Belfast Hancock Gazette 7/6/1820 – 12/28/1820 Newspaper Archives
Biddeford Justice de Biddeford 5/14/1896 – 3/2/1950 Newspaper Archives
Brunswick Maine Intelligencer 9/23/1820 – 12/29/1820 Newspaper Archives
Bucksport Gazette of Maine Hancock Advertiser 7/25/1805 – 4/10/1812 Newspaper Archives
Castine Eagle 11/14/1809 – 3/19/1812 Newspaper Archives
Eastport Eastport Sentinel 8/31/1818 – 8/15/1832 Newspaper Archives
Falmouth Falmouth Gazette and Weekly Advertiser 1/1/1785 – 3/30/1786 Newspaper Archives
Hallowell American Advocate 8/23/1809 – 1/28/1835 Newspaper Archives
Hallowell Maine Cultivator and Hallowell Gazette 10/4/1839 – 3/10/1870 Newspaper Archives
Hallowell Hallowell Gazette 2/23/1814 – 12/26/1827 Newspaper Archives
Hallowell Kennebec Gazette 11/14/1800 – 8/28/1801 Newspaper Archives
Kennebunk Weekly Visiter 6/24/1809 – 6/30/1821 Newspaper Archives
Kennebunk Annals of the Times 1/13/1803 – 1/3/1805 Newspaper Archives
Kennebunk Eagle of Maine 7/1/1802 – 9/30/1802 Newspaper Archives
Lewiston Sun-Journal 1/29/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Madawaska St. John Valley Times 8/6/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Paris Jeffersonian 7/11/1827 – 6/14/1831 Newspaper Archives
Portland Eastern Argus 9/8/1803 – 12/30/1880 Newspaper Archives
Portland Portland Daily Press 9/3/1870 – 3/9/1882 Newspaper Archives
Portland Portland Advertiser 1/3/1824 – 1/30/1864 Newspaper Archives
Portland Daily Eastern Argus 1/1/1863 – 3/17/1888 Newspaper Archives
Portland Gazette 4/16/1798 – 12/30/1828 Newspaper Archives
Portland Portland Daily Advertiser 8/13/1840 – 8/23/1898 Newspaper Archives
Portland Eastern Herald 1/2/1792 – 12/27/1802 Newspaper Archives
Portland Cumberland Gazette 7/20/1786 – 12/26/1791 Newspaper Archives
Portland Freeman’s Friend 9/19/1807 – 6/9/1810 Newspaper Archives
Portland Oriental Trumpet 12/15/1796 – 11/5/1800 Newspaper Archives
Portland Independent Statesman 7/14/1821 – 5/6/1825 Newspaper Archives
Portland Jeffersonian 2/24/1834 – 7/25/1836 Newspaper Archives
Portland Herald of Gospel Liberty 4/27/1810 – 6/21/1811 Newspaper Archives
Portland Maine Sunday Telegram 3/6/1994 – Current Recent Obituaries
Portland Portland Press Herald 3/1/1994 – Current Recent Obituaries
Saco Freeman’s Friend 8/21/1805 – 8/15/1807 Newspaper Archives
Sanford Justice de Sanford 2/26/1925 – 12/27/1928 Newspaper Archives
Sanford Sanford News 1/21/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Waterville Morning Sentinel / Sunday Sentinel 11/14/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wiscasset Lincoln Intelligencer 11/1/1821 – 10/24/1822 Newspaper Archives
Wiscasset Wiscasset Telegraph 12/10/1796 – 3/9/1799 Newspaper Archives
Wiscasset Lincoln Telegraph 2/15/1821 – 10/18/1821 Newspaper Archives
Wiscasset Wiscasset Argus 12/30/1797 – 1/13/1798 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 Maine newspaper links will be live.

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