Start Saving Those Family Photos & Stories – Now – One at a Time!

So, you’ve been researching and documenting your family history for a few years now and have a long list of places to visit and facts to track down.

Where should you start? What are the most important things that you should do first?

For me, the two most urgent items that you should act on – now – are: 1) scanning all of your old family photos; and 2) finding & writing down your family stories.

photo of an old photograph being scanned

Source: FamilySearch.org

Why? Because these are in your control.

Global services like GenealogyBank and FamilySearch are putting millions of original records online. They are there ready for you 24/7 as you have time to do the research.

What is not online – and not preserved – are your old family photos and stories.

Family Photos

Your old family photos are unique to you. You might have the only surviving copy of that photo – and only you can identify the people in the image, provide the context, and tell why they are important to your family’s history.

Genealogy Tip: Organize yourself and decide to scan and upload a few photos every day. Maybe it’s three per day – maybe you can do more. You decide, and go to work.

Family Stories

You know the stories: start now to write them down.

Here’s a tip: pace yourself. Write down one story at a time.

I was talking with my brother over the weekend and he mentioned the time when we were both stationed in the Navy on the USS Albert T. Harris in the 1960s. As we talked the memories came back. After we spoke I took a moment to grab a photo of that ship from Wikipedia and write up a brief story of our memories of that experience while they were fresh in my mind – just a few paragraphs.

photo of the USS Albert T. Harris (DE-447)

Photo: USS Albert T. Harris (DE-447). Source: Wikipedia.

Looking at the old photo of the ship brought back memories of being on board and the experiences we had. I was surprised to learn from Wikipedia that the ship was decommissioned in 1968 and destroyed in 1969.

Now I had one more story written down.

I didn’t try to write the entire story of everyone in the family all at once. But I am finding that by writing one piece of the story at a time, I am painlessly pulling together a more complete family history.

Over months of now and again writing up each story, I am in fact pulling together what will become our family history.

There are family stories that I don’t know – but I am finding those in the old newspapers in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Time and time again I’ve found a piece here and a piece there to pull together our family history over the past 300 years.

montage of family history records

Source: Thomas Jay Kemp

What details are in the obituaries of my relatives; in their wedding announcements? Newspapers covered every day of their lives: the milestone dates they celebrated and all of the days in between.

I have learned so much about the family – and used each newspaper clipping to generate the “story” that goes with it. Carefully sift through the newspapers and find the articles about your family.

By using the old newspaper articles and old family photos to trigger your memories, you can pace yourself and write up your family’s stories – one episode at a time.

Start now and soon you’ll be surprised at just how complete and interesting your family history is.

Related Articles:

User Success Story: Debby Abad Breaks Through Her Brick Wall!

Every genealogist has experienced it: hitting the dreaded “brick wall” – when you reach a dead end in your family history research, unable to find any more records to fill in the missing names, dates or places of your ancestor’s story.

On the other hand, few genealogy stories are more encouraging than hearing of someone smashing through their brick wall, finally getting the answers they spent years searching for with equal measures of determination and frustration.

photo of a brick wall

Photo: brick wall. Credit: Pawel Wozniak; Wikimedia Commons.

It took Debby Abad 15 years, but she finally broke through her own brick wall. Here’s how she did it.

As Debby explains:

I have been searching for information on my great grandmother Nannie Willis, and my great uncle Cary Sprouse, for the last 15 years. Without a date, I could not apply for a death record.

Debby had been a member of GenealogyBank and found information about other members of her family, but after thoroughly searching its Historical Newspaper Archives could not find any articles about Nannie or Cary’s deaths – so she didn’t renew her membership.

Two years later, Debby learned that GenealogyBank is constantly adding new content every single day, adding millions more genealogy records and newspaper articles every month. Having been frustrated everywhere else she had looked, Debby decided to come back and give GenealogyBank one more try – and was glad she did!

As Debby wrote to us:

You can imagine my surprise when these articles popped up! I now had dates and could locate death records for my uncle and grandmother!!

Imagine her delight when she did a new search on her great grandmother Nannie Willis – and up popped the elusive record she had spent years looking for: her great grandmother’s obituary.

obituary for Nannie Willis, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 9 February 1951

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 9 February 1951, page 34

Finally she knew the date of Nannie’s death: 7 February 1951. Not only did this obituary give her this important information, it was filled – as obituaries often are – with many more family history clues: the names of Nannie’s three surviving sons and the married names of her two surviving daughters, plus the fact that Nannie had 24 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren. Armed with this information, Debby now had many more directions in which to pursue her family history research.

Perhaps even more dramatic was what happened when Debby searched for her great uncle Cary Sprouse, trying once again to find out when – and how – he died. When this article popped up, Debby at long last had her answers.

obituary for Cary Sprouse, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 13 August 1917

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 13 August 1917, page 7

There it was, the long-sought date of Cary’s death: 11 August 1917. And, like Nannie’s obituary, this article gives other family history clues: Cary was survived by his wife and three children, and his surviving brother and two sisters are named along with the cities where they lived. Now Debby had even more directions to pursue her family history research.

This article about her great uncle’s death makes an important point about using old newspapers for family history research: government records can give names and dates, but to learn something about our ancestors as people, and the individual lives they lived, we need their stories – and these stories are found in old newspapers.

Sometimes the stories we learn about our ancestors are not pretty, but they are real – and they’re our ancestors’ stories. In this case, Cary died a gruesome death by electrocution while trying to locate and fix a live wire that had fallen to the ground. The article gives some grisly details of Cary’s death, including the poignant detail of his having been found “lying prone upon his face with fingers on both hands dug into the ground” due to the agony of the electricity burning through his right foot and leg.

Not a comforting picture. But now, as Debby looks at Cary’s name and dates on her family tree, she at least knows the story of his death and can take comfort in the fact that he died doing his job, trying to restore power to his community.

Our congratulations to Debby for breaking through her genealogy brick wall, and our thanks for sharing her story with us and giving us permission to tell that story to our readers.

As we often remind readers here in the GenealogyBank Blog, it pays to redo your searches periodically in GenealogyBank. Just because you didn’t find something a week, month, or several months ago, doesn’t mean we don’t have something on your ancestors now. There is a feature on the newspapers’ search box that lets you search just on the content added since a certain time:

screenshot of GenealogyBank's newspaper search box showing the "added since" feature

GenealogyBank adds millions of new records monthly, so keep searching. And good luck!

Have you had success breaking through a genealogy brick wall in your family history research? If so, please tell us about it in the comments section.

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 Brick Wall Articles:

Family Holiday Traditions

Many of us have holiday traditions that have persisted for years – and have even been passed down through the generations.

Dr. Charles Crouch and his family of Petersburg, Virginia, had a long-running family tradition: they sent the Abner T. Holt family of Macon, Georgia, a fruit cake every Christmas – for 57 years!

article about a fruitcake tradition between the Crouch and Holt families, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 21 December 1919

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 21 December 1919, page 12

It was a tradition that began during the Civil War when Abner T. Holt fought at the Battle of Gettysburg while serving in Company C of the 2nd Battalion of the Georgia Infantry.

According to the National Park Service Soldiers & Sailors Database:

“2nd Independent Infantry Battalion was assembled at Norfolk, Virginia, in April, 1861. The unit contained four companies; two from Macon, one from Columbus, and one from Griffin. It served in North Carolina, then returned to Virginia during the Seven Days’ Battles and fought at Malvern Cliff under General J.G. Walker. Transferred to A.R. Wright’s Brigade, the battalion was active in the campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia from Fredericksburg to Appomattox. It reported 2 killed and 26 wounded at Chancellorsville and lost more than forty-five percent of the 173 engaged at Gettysburg. The unit surrendered 8 officers and 74 men in April, 1865. Its commanders were Majors Thomas Hardeman, Jr., C.J. Moffett, and George W. Ross.”

This holiday tradition between the Crouch and Holt families captured the public imagination. One year when the fruit cake went missing it was a breaking story in the local newspaper.

article about a fruitcake tradition between the Crouch and Holt families, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 5 January 1908

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 5 January 1908, page 8

We use GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to find our ancestor’s obituaries, birth notices and wedding announcements. We can also use it to find their traditions and stories too!

Related Holiday Articles:

Kentucky Archives: 102 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Kentucky became the young nation’s 15th state when it joined the Union on 1 June 1792. Famous for its horse farms, horse racing, and bourbon distilleries, Kentucky is the 37th largest state in the country and the 26th most populous.

photo of a horse farm in bluegrass country, south of Paris, Kentucky

Photo: horse farm in bluegrass country, south of Paris, Kentucky. Credit: Peter Fitzgerald; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your ancestry from Kentucky, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online KY newspaper archives: 102 titles to help you search your family history in the “Bluegrass State,” providing coverage from 1794 to Today. There are more than 43.5 million articles and records in our online Kentucky newspaper archives!

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

Search Kentucky Newspaper Archives (1794 – 1984)

Search Kentucky Recent Obituaries (1984 – Current)

photo of the Kentucky State Capitol Building, Frankfort, KY

Photo: Kentucky State Capitol Building, Frankfort, KY. Credit: RXUYDC; Wikimedia Commons.

Here is a list of online Kentucky 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 KY newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range * Collection
Ashland Daily Independent 05/12/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Barbourville Mountain Advocate 09/13/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bardstown Kentucky Standard 09/29/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bardstown Western American 09/06/1803 – 12/21/1804 Newspaper Archives
Bardstown Bardstown Repository 06/29/1814 – 10/30/1816 Newspaper Archives
Bardstown Candid Review 07/14/1807 – 08/27/1810 Newspaper Archives
Bedford Trimble Banner 09/29/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bowling Green Daily News 07/02/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Campbellsville Central Kentucky News-Journal 10/03/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Carrollton Carrollton News-Democrat 07/14/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbia Adair Progress 04/27/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Corbin News Journal 01/04/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Corbin Times-Tribune 05/15/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Covington Kentucky Post 04/02/1990 – Current Recent Obituaries
Covington Kentucky Post 07/01/1895 – 04/17/1920 Newspaper Archives
Cynthiana Cynthiana Democrat 10/08/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Danville Advocate-Messenger 08/01/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Danville Mirror 09/03/1804 – 10/24/1804 Newspaper Archives
Danville People’s Friend 01/30/1819 – 01/30/1819 Newspaper Archives
Elizabethtown News-Enterprise 04/30/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Frankfort Frankfort Argus 02/03/1808 – 11/12/1834 Newspaper Archives
Frankfort Guardian of Freedom 06/19/1798 – 05/26/1804 Newspaper Archives
Frankfort Kentucky Journal 12/05/1795 – 12/05/1795 Newspaper Archives
Frankfort Palladium 12/25/1798 – 09/06/1816 Newspaper Archives
Frankfort Western World 07/07/1806 – 06/08/1810 Newspaper Archives
Frankfort Commentator 07/10/1818 – 02/15/1831 Newspaper Archives
Franklin Franklin Favorite 02/23/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Georgetown Georgetown News-Graphic 09/08/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Georgetown Telegraph 09/25/1811 – 12/22/1813 Newspaper Archives
Glasgow Glasgow Daily Times 02/09/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Grayson, Olive Hill Journal-Times 07/05/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Harlan Harlan Daily Enterprise 11/17/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Harrodsburg Kentucky People 03/18/1870 – 08/25/1871 Newspaper Archives
Hazard Hazard Herald 06/28/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Henderson Gleaner 04/14/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hodgenville Larue County Herald News 11/26/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
LaGrange Oldham Era 10/17/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lancaster Political Theatre 11/18/1808 – 07/26/1809 Newspaper Archives
Lawrenceburg Anderson News 01/02/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lebanon Lebanon Enterprise 11/20/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Leitchfield Grayson County News Gazette 10/17/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Leitchfield Record 08/20/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lexington Kentucky Gazette 03/15/1794 – 12/28/1837 Newspaper Archives
Lexington Lexington Herald 03/20/1904 – 12/31/1982 Newspaper Archives
Lexington Lexington Standard 01/27/1900 – 01/27/1900 Newspaper Archives
Lexington Morning Herald 01/01/1896 – 03/19/1904 Newspaper Archives
Lexington Lexington Herald-Leader 01/25/1984 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lexington Lexington Herald-Leader: Blogs 05/08/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lexington Reporter 03/12/1808 – 06/15/1831 Newspaper Archives
Lexington Stewart Kentucky Herald 07/14/1795 – 09/15/1801 Newspaper Archives
Lexington True American 06/03/1845 – 10/21/1846 Newspaper Archives
Lexington Western Monitor 08/03/1814 – 12/20/1817 Newspaper Archives
Lexington American Statesman 07/20/1811 – 08/14/1813 Newspaper Archives
Lexington Independent Gazetteer 04/19/1803 – 11/16/1805 Newspaper Archives
Lexington Lexington Leader 06/16/1901 – 09/15/1981 Newspaper Archives
Lexington Lexington Public Advertiser 03/13/1822 – 10/09/1824 Newspaper Archives
Lexington Lexington Herald-Leader 03/01/1951 – 01/15/1984 Newspaper Archives
Liberty Casey County News 08/27/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
London Sentinel Echo 09/18/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Louisville Bulletin 09/24/1881 – 09/24/1881 Newspaper Archives
Louisville Louisville Anzeiger 03/28/1923 – 05/31/1928 Newspaper Archives
Louisville Louisville Times 09/01/1913 – 09/04/1913 Newspaper Archives
Louisville Ohio Falls Express 07/11/1891 – 07/11/1891 Newspaper Archives
Louisville Louisville Eccentric Observer 04/21/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Louisville Weekly Courier-Journal 05/19/1879 – 07/29/1889 Newspaper Archives
Louisville Western Courier 11/16/1813 – 09/26/1816 Newspaper Archives
Louisville Daily Louisville Public Advertiser 01/22/1830 – 12/28/1830 Newspaper Archives
Louisville Louisville Correspondent 05/11/1814 – 06/28/1817 Newspaper Archives
Louisville Louisville Daily Courier 01/19/1853 – 10/26/1868 Newspaper Archives
Madisonville Messenger 05/14/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maysville Eagle 01/19/1815 – 01/14/1846 Newspaper Archives
Maysville Ledger Independent 07/11/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maysville Tri-weekly Maysville Eagle 03/12/1845 – 12/15/1846 Newspaper Archives
Middlesboro Middlesboro Daily News 06/01/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Monticello Wayne County Outlook 07/03/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Morehead Morehead News 08/31/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Castle Henry County Local 10/09/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nicholasville Jessamine Journal 10/08/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Owensboro Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer 09/01/1988 – Current Recent Obituaries
Owenton Owenton News-Herald 01/12/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Paris Western Citizen 12/24/1808 – 12/27/1815 Newspaper Archives
Paris Rights of Man 08/30/1797 – 01/10/1798 Newspaper Archives
Prestonsburg Floyd County Times 07/21/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Richmond Globe 01/24/1810 – 10/17/1810 Newspaper Archives
Richmond Richmond Register 07/15/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Richmond Luminary 01/18/1812 – 03/08/1816 Newspaper Archives
Russellville Mirror 11/01/1806 – 01/05/1809 Newspaper Archives
Russellville News-Democrat & Leader 12/13/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Russellville Weekly Messenger 01/26/1819 – 12/29/1827 Newspaper Archives
Shelbyville Sentinel-News 10/10/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Shepherdsville Pioneer News 10/08/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Somerset Commonwealth-Journal 08/05/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Springfield Springfield Sun 07/08/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Stanford Interior Journal 08/31/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Taylorsville Spencer Magnet 07/18/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Washington Republican Auxiliary 08/15/1807 – 08/15/1807 Newspaper Archives
Washington Union 03/08/1814 – 05/09/1817 Newspaper Archives
Washington Weekly Messenger 06/23/1803 – 10/06/1803 Newspaper Archives
Whitley City McCreary County Record 06/07/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Williamstown Grant County News and Express 04/15/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Winchester Winchester Sun 08/25/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Winchester Winchester Advertiser 08/05/1814 – 06/28/1817 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 Kentucky newspaper links will be live.

Related Resource:

Mayflower Hat Maker: Degory Priest

Are you a descendant of Mayflower passenger Degory Priest?
If you are, then please tell us your line.

Painting: “The Mayflower Compact, 1620,” by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Painting: “The Mayflower Compact, 1620,” by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1899. Source: Library of Congress.

According to Wikipedia, Degory Priest:

was a hat maker from London who married Sarah, sister of Pilgrim Isaac Allerton in Leiden. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact in November 1620 and died less than two months later.

Searching in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, I can easily find hundreds of articles about descendants of other Mayflower Pilgrims such as Thomas Rogers, Stephen Hopkins or Dr. Samuel Fuller – but, articles about Degory Priest descendants – not so much.

I only found six persons who mentioned their descent from him in their obituaries, such as this one for Patricia Sayward.

obituary for Patricia Sayward, Amesbury News newspaper article 17 March 2009

Amesbury News (Amesbury, Massachusetts), 17 March 2009

Patricia A. (Woodward) Sayward’s (1929-2009) obituary tells us that “she was a descendant of Degory Priest” and that she had two ancestors who fought at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. She was active in both the Mayflower Society and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Here are the other five individuals I found whose obituaries mentioned that they were descendants of Degory Priest:

If you are a descendant of Degory Priest – or any other Mayflower passenger – please tell us about it in the comments section.

Related Mayflower Genealogy Articles:

Did You Miss These Mayflower Stories?

GenealogyBank is an outstanding source for documenting your Mayflower family lines.

Painting: “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” by William Formby Halsall, 1882

Painting: “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” by William Formby Halsall, 1882. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

We have posted a number of blog articles about tracing your family history back to the Mayflower and its passengers. Take a moment and read these key articles for tips on researching your family history.

Mayflower Articles:

November Update: GenealogyBank Just Added 5 Million More Records!

Every day, GenealogyBank is working hard to digitize more newspapers and obituaries, expanding our collection to give you the largest newspaper archives for family history research available online. We just completed adding 5 million more U.S. genealogy records, vastly increasing our content coverage from coast to coast!

screenshot of GenealogyBank's home page showing the announcement that 5 million more records were added in November

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

  • A total of 27 newspaper titles from 16 U.S. states
  • 12 of these titles are newspapers added to GenealogyBank for the first time
  • We’ve shown the newspaper issue date ranges so that you can determine if the newly added content is relevant to your personal genealogy research

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

State City Title Coverage Added Collection
Arizona Tombstone Daily Tombstone 06/03/1886 – 06/09/1886 Newspaper Archives
Arizona Tombstone Tombstone Daily Epitaph 06/02/1886 – 12/07/1889 Newspaper Archives
Arizona Tombstone Tombstone Daily Prospector 04/12/1889 – 11/22/1889 Newspaper Archives
Arizona Tombstone Tombstone Epitaph Prospector 04/25/1889 – 04/25/1889 Newspaper Archives
California Chowchilla Chowchilla NewsNew! 05/17/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Connecticut Ansonia, Derby, Seymour Valley Gazette, The: Web Edition Articles New! 11/05/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Idaho Lewiston Lewiston Tribune 11/28/1971 – 12/31/1973 Newspaper Archives
Indiana Crown Point Crown Point StarNew! 02/05/2015 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kansas Prairie Village Prairie Village PostNew! 10/13/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Louisiana New Orleans New Orleans Item 08/28/1911 – 08/18/1915 Newspaper Archives
Louisiana New Orleans New Orleans States 09/25/1922 – 09/25/1922 Newspaper Archives
Louisiana New Orleans Times-Picayune 04/07/1858 – 06/14/1976 Newspaper Archives
Maryland Baltimore Sun 07/20/1914 – 09/05/1914 Newspaper Archives
Massachusetts Fairhaven AdvocateNew! 02/26/2015 – Current Recent Obituaries
Mississippi Biloxi Daily Herald 10/01/1954 – 10/30/1954 Newspaper Archives
New Jersey Bergen County Cliffview PilotNew! 06/28/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Jersey Jersey City Jersey Journal 01/17/1966 – 12/31/1969 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Winston-Salem Winston-Salem Journal 06/23/1915 – 06/23/1915 Newspaper Archives
Pennsylvania Philadelphia Philly WeeklyNew! 12/05/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pennsylvania Sanatoga Sanatoga PostNew! 11/13/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
South Carolina Charleston Charleston News and Courier 12/14/1924 – 02/28/1946 Newspaper Archives
South Carolina Charleston Evening Post 02/02/1976 – 02/28/1977 Newspaper Archives
Texas Houston Houston Chronicle 10/15/1901 – 12/31/1904 Newspaper Archives
Wisconsin Bay View South Shore NOWNew! 01/21/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wisconsin Greenfield Greenfield-West Allis NOWNew! 08/20/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wisconsin Milwaukee Packer PlusNew! 05/06/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wisconsin Muskego, New Berlin Muskego-New Berlin NOWNew! 02/04/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries

Genealogy Research: Conquering Your File Cabinets

Here’s a tip for you.
I have five multi-drawer file cabinets packed with correspondence and genealogical notes gathered over the past 50 years.

Keeping this old genealogical correspondence in just one spot means that I am the only one with access to it. I decided that it’s time to get it online and, where appropriate, available to everyone.

photo of genealogy correspondence

Source: Thomas Jay Kemp

I want to make the change from paper files to online files – and where possible, to go paperless.

Where to start?
I started with the first file drawer – evaluating the files, one folder at a time.

Looking at the information I quickly decided on a few guidelines:

  • Only post material of lasting value
  • Don’t post correspondence from living people
  • Don’t post notes, data about living people

Online family tree sites let you post scanned items as photographs and as PDF documents. So – I can scan and post a one-page letter as a JPEG file, or – if I have multiple pages – I can scan and save them all in one file as a PDF document.

photo of a genealogy letter

Source: Thomas Jay Kemp

I can take that compact PDF file and add it to my online family tree, attaching it to the person who wrote the letter to me as well as to the historical persons mentioned in the correspondence.

screenshot of a genealogy letter online

Source: FamilySearch.org

That correspondence is now preserved and is instantly discoverable by me and by anyone else researching the same family lines.

Once I have the file scanned – and online – I can then decide if I need to keep the original paper copy or if I can opt to go paperless and toss the paper copy.

Genealogy Tip: Put your old family history notes online – preserve them and make them available to others. You’ll be glad you did.

Related Articles:

Family History Research: Finding Blue Ribbon Winners at the Fair

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary demonstrates an important genealogy search tip: stories about your ancestors can be found in all parts of the newspaper. Consider, for example, articles about blue ribbon contest winners at country fairs.

An online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is a great resource for genealogy research. But don’t just stop at the obvious choices: birth notices, wedding announcements, and obituaries. Stories about your ancestors can be found in all parts of the newspaper. Consider, for example, articles about the local, county or state fair.

It’s the rare family that didn’t attend a country fair – and many had a family member who won a blue ribbon. Perhaps the local newspaper wrote a nice article about your ancestor when he or she won the blue ribbon at the local fair.

illustration of a blue ribbon

It may have been your Aunt Be, Uncle Mo, Cousin Shirley or Grandpa Joe. Do yourself a favor and go look for these sweet tidbits of family memorabilia. They were almost always featured in old newspapers.

When researching old newspaper articles about fairs, don’t stop at the obvious keyword searches such as: livestock, quilts, and pies. Many other fun and unusual awards were bestowed. Here are some of my picks of Americana blue ribbon awards.

Horsemanship

Starting from a very early time, country fairs offered financial prizes for horsemanship.

In 1855 there were not enough contestants for the prize at an Illinois county fair, so the judges announced there would be no financial premium (a first place prize of $50 had been offered originally).

article about a horsemanship contest at the county fair, Daily Illinois State Register newspaper article 29 September 1855

Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield, Illinois), 29 September 1855, page 2

However, the judges did present two ribbons among five ladies who rode for the honors, “accompanied by their knights.” Misses Poorman, Archer, Cass and Orr, along with Mrs. Rosette, “rode around the ring many times” in front of the spectators. Miss Cass took home the blue ribbon and Miss Poorman the red.

By the early 1920s, photos accompanied the newspaper articles about ribbon winners at the fair. This one depicts Miss Katherine Kennedy Tod riding her horse Sceptre; they won the blue ribbon “in the saddle horse class ridden by boy or girl not over sixteen.”

photo of Katherine Tod on her horse Sceptre, Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper article 23 October 1921

Colorado Springs Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado), 23 October 1921, page 42

If you search GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives as well as the Web, you’ll find that Miss Tod won a number of other prizes for horsemanship in her riding career.

Blue Ribbon Babies

Who doesn’t love a baby photo!

Many babies of yesteryear were dressed in their cutest garb and taken to the fair – and entered in contests.

photo of Anna McNamara and her daughter Nancy, Salt Lake Telegram newspaper article 1 November 1921

Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 November 1921, page 3

In 1921, Mrs. Anna McNamara displayed her two-year-old daughter Nancy at the Long Island fair.

She won for being the prettiest and healthiest of the babies out of hundreds entered – and don’t you adore the little shoes and her mama’s hat. Just an observation, but perhaps the lack of a beaming smile tells us the little girl struck too many poses that day.

Root Beer – Better than Beer

I’m sure many people from 1920 – and even today – would agree that root beer is better than beer. Becker Products won the blue ribbon at the Utah State Fair in 1920 for its root beer, and this photograph appeared in the local newspaper. This image was timely, coming as it did right before the country entered into the prohibition of liquor.

photo of the display booth for Becker Products at the Utah State Fair, Salt Lake Telegram newspaper article 10 October 1920

Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, Utah), 10 October 1920, page 15

Scientific American’s Flying Machines (Heavier than Air) Trophy

Although not a blue ribbon contest per se, when aviation fever hit the United States there were many prizes awarded. One was a magnificent trophy from the Scientific American valued at $2,500 that was awarded in 1907. The prestige of blue ribbon trophies was echoed in this article’s text:

The trophy is valued at $2,500 and its beauty at once brings to the lips the words “Blue Ribbon of the Air.”

article about an aviation trophy offered by Scientific American, Plain Dealer newspaper article 7 September 1907

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 7 September 1907, page 2

It’s thought that these prizes spurred the rapid advancement of air travel in the United States. If this is one of your interests, go look for more details in the old newspapers. There are many lovely reports, including the names of winners.

Bicycle Races

Aviation wasn’t the only transportation method of contests.

In 1901, Bobbie Walthour of Atlanta, Georgia, won a six-day bicycle race that ended at Park Square Garden. Once again, the prestige of blue ribbon trophies was echoed in this article’s text:

Hardly a foot separated Stinson from the leader [Walthour], and these two demonstrated beyond question that they were far superior to even the redoubtable foreigners who came to America for the purpose of winning these blue ribbon events of the indoor season.

article about a bicycle race, Boston Herald newspaper article 6 January 1901

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 6 January 1901, page 1

Needlework and Quilts

Let’s not forget blue ribbon quilts and needlework. Notice that in 1936, there were dozens and dozens of winners reported in this Texas newspaper. A special “Quilt of States” drew merited attention. It was constructed with blocks embroidered in state flowers with the colors and shields of each location.

Let’s hope this quilt has been lovingly preserved somewhere.

Exhibition of Needlework Is Good, Heraldo de Brownsville newspaper article 6 December 1936

Heraldo de Brownsville (Brownsville, Texas), 6 December 1936, page 14

As part of your family history research in old newspapers, include searches for articles about blue ribbon contests and award winners at country fairs. You just might discover a story about your ancestor that you won’t find in any government record, vital statistics archive, or other genealogy resource.

Have you found a blue ribbon winner in your family tree? If so, please let us know in the comments section.

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Researching Your Female Ancestor: Women in the WCTU

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena shows how you can research your female ancestor by searching old newspapers for articles about the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

Having trouble learning about the lives of your female ancestors? A good place to find their stories is an online collection of old newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives. Go beyond the obvious articles (birth notices, wedding announcements, obituaries) to find stories about the lives they led, causes they cared about, events they participated in, and groups they supported.

For example, what groups did 19th century women belong to? Their memberships most likely included organizations whose missions they were passionate about. One group that consisted of women who disavowed alcohol was the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded in 1873.

photo of WCTU members of the New Hampshire chapter, 1888

Photo: WCTU members of the New Hampshire chapter, 1888. Credit: Keene Public Library; Historical Society of Cheshire County.

According to the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union website, the group:

was organized by women who were concerned about the destructive power of alcohol and the problems it was causing their families and society.

Member activities included trying to convince saloon owners to voluntarily close their doors. According to their website, the WCTU is today “the oldest voluntary, non-sectarian woman’s organization in continuous existence in the world.”*

Illustration: Woman’s Christian Temperance Union logo, scanned from a 1920 WCTU temperance flyer

Illustration: Woman’s Christian Temperance Union logo, scanned from a 1920 WCTU temperance flyer. Credit: WCTU; Wikimedia Commons.

Their most well-known leader was their second national president, Frances E. Willard, who led the organization for 19 years (1879-1898). She joined the WCTU shortly after its founding and during her tenure promoted other causes that impacted women such as suffrage, equal pay for equal work, and the eight hour work day.**

photo of Frances E. Willard, taken sometime before 1898

Photo: Frances E. Willard, taken sometime before 1898. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Frances Willard was famous in her day, well-known to all, and so looked up to that a statue in her likeness was presented to Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol by Illinois in 1905. Hers was the first likeness of a woman displayed in the Hall.

obituary for Frances E. Willard, Pawtucket Times newspaper article 18 February 1898

Pawtucket Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island), 18 February 1898, page 9

The Frances Willard House and Museum in Evanston, Illinois, includes a library and archive with items of interest to genealogists. You can learn more by visiting their website.

The 19th and 20th century WCTU did more than just try to convince saloon owners to stop selling alcohol and men to stop drinking. Some of their efforts are still visible today.

Drinking Fountains

One of the first orders of business for the WCTU was to encourage the installation of drinking fountains in cities across the United States. It was thought that these fountains would provide clean water for everyone and give men a place to get a drink of water – thus avoiding the local saloon.

article about the WCTU installing drinking fountains, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 20 June 1941

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 20 June 1941, page 3

Some of these fountains still exist. A list of currently known fountains is found on the WCTU website.

Polygamy

As mentioned previously, temperance wasn’t the only issue the WCTU was passionate about. The WCTU lent their voices to other social ills they believed victimized women. They joined with other Protestant women to speak against the Mormon practice of polygamy. WCTU’s leader Frances Willard even wrote the introduction to the anti-polygamy tome The Women of Mormonism; or The Story of Polygamy as Told by the Victims Themselves by Jennie Anderson Froiseth (1882). It’s clear what the WCTU leader thought about this “twin relic of barbarism” when she writes:

surely it is time that the Christian women of this nation arouse themselves to organized action against this sum of all curses…***

Although the Mormon Church’s sanctioning of the practice of polygamy ended in 1890, the WCTU was still speaking against polygamy in the early 20th century. This 1906 Massachusetts newspaper article reports on a meeting of the WCTU:

As a result of one of the most startling anti-Mormon addresses ever heard in Boston, the delegates to the World’s convention of the W.C.T.U., assembled in Tremont Temple yesterday afternoon, unanimously passed a resolution placing that body on record to employ every means in its power to force the adoption of an anti-polygamy amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

article about the WCTU and the Sixteenth Amendment, Boston Journal newspaper article 20 October 1906

Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 20 October 1906, page 1

Was Your Ancestor a Teetotaler?

Your 19th and early 20th century Christian female ancestors may have taken up the cause of prohibition. Their devotion to this cause may have included membership in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union – but how do you learn more? The first place to look is their local newspapers. Newspapers listed WCTU events, and members elected to offices and committees – reports in which you may find your ancestors’ names. In some cases, their obituaries may also include mention of their membership in the WCTU, such as this example of Martha Sprague’s obituary in a 1916 New York newspaper.

obituary for Martha Sprague, Watertown Daily Times newspaper article 30 December 1916

Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, New York), 30 December 1916, page 5

Genealogy Tip: Don’t forget to search for your married female ancestor by her husband’s name, such as in the above example, where Martha Sprague is identified in the headline as “Mrs. C. H. Sprague” (her husband was Charles H. Sprague).

In this article from an 1874 Indiana newspaper, several different WCTU group members are mentioned.

article about members and meetings of the WCTU, Indianapolis Sentinel newspaper article 31 October 1874

Indianapolis Sentinel (Indianapolis, Indiana), 31 October 1874, page 3

Other Resources

A search on ArchiveGrid, an archival collection catalog, can also help you track down your female ancestors who belonged to the WCTU. Use the keyword WCTU to find relevant collections. To get the most of your search, consult their How to Search page.

Another good genealogy resource is community cookbooks. The WCTU used cookbooks to raise funds for their activities, as did other women’s organizations. You can find these cookbooks on digitized book websites like Google Books, and in library and archive collections.

The WCTU Today

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is still in existence and continues to be dedicated to issues that affect families, such as substance abuse. You can learn more at the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union website. Their website also includes links to some affiliate chapters. In the case of the California chapter, an archive page contains images and a history of the WCTU in Southern California.

Was your ancestor a member of the WCTU? Add to her life story by documenting her membership and the events she was a part of, as preserved in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

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* The Women’s Christian Temperance Union. http://www.wctu.org/. Accessed 16 June 2015.
** Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Frances Willard. http://www.wctu.org/frances_willard.html. Accessed 18 June 2015.
*** Froiseth, Jennie A. The Women of Mormonism, Or, the Story of Polygamy As Told by the Victims Themselves. Chicago: Bryan Bros. Pub. Co, 1883. Available on Google Books.p. xviii. FA902D0%40W.

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