Tarbell Sisters’ Civil War Feud Finally Ended—in 1922!

While many genealogical records can provide names and dates for your family tree, newspapers give you something more: actual stories about your ancestors’ lives, so that you can get to know them as real people and learn about the times in which they lived.

Here’s an example of a newspaper preserving a remarkable family story: the two Tarbell sisters, although they dearly loved each other, carried on a feud for 61 years sparked by a disagreement over the American Civil War!

Hatchet Buried by Oldest Twins, Lexington Herald newspaper article 11 June 1922

Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 11 June 1922, page 1

Mae and Bell Tarbell were twin sisters born in Camden, Maine, in January 1839. The girls remained deeply attached to one another—and nearly inseparable—for the next 83 years. In the late 1850s, when the sisters were teenagers, the family moved to Missouri—at a time when pro- and anti-slavery violence along the Missouri-Kansas border was so extreme that people referred to the conflict as “Bleeding Kansas,” a precursor to the Civil War.

The differences tearing the nation apart almost separated the Tarbell sisters as well. Mae married a Virginia man who joined the Confederate army, while Bell married a Connecticut man who fought for the Union. This difference in allegiance began the feud between the twins, even though they continued to live together throughout the long war—as they have their entire lives. Their two husbands went off to fight the war, “leaving the twins at home”:

Hatchet Buried by Oldest Twins, Lexington Herald newspaper article 11 June 1922

Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 11 June 1922, page 1

As Mae explains in this historical newspaper article: “Bell is a mighty sweet girl, always has been, and we lived together fine, or did until that horrid war came along. We were both from Maine, but we stuck to our husbands’ states. Bell and I would not be separated from each other and yet we would not agree on anything in that war. Only once were we apart, and that was when Bell’s husband was captured. She went to the Southern camp and, although officers there tried to get her to come home, she wouldn’t do it without her husband, and, being persistent, she finally got him. Well, the war ended and our husbands came back, and we all went together to California, but Bell and I still argued about the war. That was the only thing we did argue about. Our husbands said they wished there never had been any war, if it was going to result in such a long quarrel, but what could we do? We’re from Maine, and neither of us would give in.”

And so it went, this long family feud that stretched over 61 years between these two stubborn yet loving sisters, long after the Civil War had ended and both of their husbands had passed away.

Then one day in 1922, the 83-year-old sisters were out in the yard making a kettle of lard when they had the following conversation. Mae again tells the story:

“‘Bell,’ I said, ‘I believe we’re getting old.’ ‘Yes, Mae,’ she said, ‘I suppose we are getting along.’ ‘How long ago did this here Civil War begin?’ I asked. ‘Just tell me that,’ and Bell added a minute or two and said: ‘Sixty-one years ago.’ ‘Seems to me that you and I have said about all there is to say about that war,’ I declared. ‘Doesn’t make any difference if we are from New England. Life’s too short to worry over something that happened that long ago. I want to take things quietly from now on, and besides the papers say there ain’t going to be any more war. If you’ll stop and not mention the war again, I’ll do the same. I think you’re part right anyway.’

“Well, Bell looked at me kinda funny and smiled, and said: ‘Why, Mae, I’ve been wanting to stop talking about that blamed war all these years, but I just hated to give in. One side was about as right as the other anyway, and I’ll quit if you’ll quit. There’s nothing in war anyway.’”

What a great family story! Can’t you just see the two elderly sisters, out in that back yard stirring a pot of lard, smiling at each other and finally agreeing to bury the hatchet? A marvelous moment in your ancestors’ lives, captured and forever preserved in an old newspaper article, just waiting for you to discover and add to your family history.

Along with the emotional satisfaction of this story, look at all the important genealogical information we get from this one old newspaper article:

  • The twins’ names: Mae (Tarbell) Peake and Bell (Tarbell) Billings
  • Their birthplace and date: Camden, Maine, in January 1839
  • Mae’s husband: Dr. W. Peake, from Virginia, a Confederate veteran, who died in 1904
  • Bell’s husband: John Billings, from Connecticut, a Union veteran who was a prisoner-of-war held in a Southern camp, who died in 1906
  • The twins’ movements throughout their life: from their birthplace in Maine to Keokuk, Iowa, in 1854; to Missouri in the late 1850s; to California after the Civil War; to Clint, Texas
  • Mae has 13 children and 26 grandchildren
  • Bell had no children
  • The twins’ mother lived to be 103
  • They trace their ancestry back to the days of the witchcraft trials in Salem, Massachusetts

If you are related to the Tarbell sisters, this historic newspaper article has not only given you a great family story but lots of genealogical clues to continue your family history research.

There are a lot more family stories like this one in GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives. Search now, and find the tales about your Civil War ancestors and more!

Genealogy Tip: Research Every Clue in Newspapers, Including the Social Columns

When using newspapers to find family history information, look at the entire paper—don’t stop with just the obvious articles such as obituaries and marriage notices. Look at all of the articles.

Genealogy is everywhere in a newspaper: even in the social columns, as in the following example.

social column, Times Picayune newspaper article 28 August 1917

Times Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 28 August 1917, page 4

Briefs, Locals, Chatter—social columns have different headings in newspapers around the country.

They often are just quick notes—passing comments, really, giving locals an update on the activities of their friends and neighbors in the community.

Although brief, these social updates can provide a surprising amount of family history. Look at the genealogical clues in the above newspaper article example from the Times Picayune social column:

  • Names: Marion Monroe, along with the name of her sister’s husband, her father and her brother.
  • Places: Biloxi, Mississippi, where Marion’s sister lived; New Orleans, Louisiana, where Marion and her parents lived; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and Corpus Christi, Texas, where her brother had been stationed.
  • Details: Marion’s father was a judge in New Orleans; her brother was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Engineering Corps; the Monroe family lived on Philip Street in New Orleans.

Genealogists, like any detective, gather clues and track down all possible leads to learn everything they can about the target person.

Search newspapers thoroughly for your ancestor: read every clue.

How to Do Genealogy Research with German-Language Newspapers

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary writes about resources and techniques to help you find family history information in foreign-language newspapers, even if you’re not familiar with that language.

GenealogyBank’s recent announcement that it is adding Italian American newspapers in 2013 is a welcome addition—but it may also concern family history researchers who are nervous about navigating foreign languages.

However, there are certain resources and techniques you can use to find valuable genealogical information in foreign-language newspapers, even if you have limited—or no—familiarity with the language, as this article explains.

My roots include a number of German immigrants who settled in various parts of Pennsylvania. By using specific techniques, I have been able to locate information about these ancestors from the German American newspapers in GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives.

Some of these German-language newspapers include:

  • Cincinnati Volksfreund (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • Der Wahre Amerikaner (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
  • Der Zeitgeist (Egg Harbor City, New Jersey)
  • Deutsche Porcupein (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
  • Egg Harbor Pilot (Egg Harbor City, New Jersey)
  • Highland Union (Highland, Illinois)
  • New Jersey Deutsche Zeitung (Newark, New Jersey)
  • Nordwestliche Post (Sunbury, Pennsylvania)
  • Reading Adler (Reading, Pennsylvania)
  • New Yorker Volkszeitung (New York, New York)
  • Northumberland Republicaner (Sunbury, Pennsylvania)
  • Unparteyische Harrisburg Morgenroethe Zeitung (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)

When presented with a language hurdle in your genealogy research, try not to be intimidated.

By employing a free language translator such as Google Translate and consulting foreign genealogical word lists, you may be able to determine the gist of a notice, such as the two death notices shown in the following illustration. They report that the decedents died (“starb”) on last Sunday night (“Sontag Nacht”), and on last Monday morning (“Montag Morgen”), respectively.

death notices from German-language newspapers

Death notices from German-language newspapers

Some of my family’s notices were published in the Reading Adler (Reading, Pennsylvania), which published alternately in both English and German.

Daniel Miesse obituary, Reading Adler newspaper article 14 April 1818

Reading Adler (Reading, Pennsylvania), 14 April 1818, page 2

This particular German-language obituary relates to my ancestor Daniel Miesse (28 January 1743, Elsoff, Germany to 1 April 1818, Berks County, Pennsylvania), who died in Bern Township in the 76th year of his age. This death notice was a bit more challenging to understand, since several German terms did not translate directly. For example, the first word (“Berstarb”) stumped me, but I was able to figure out that it corresponded to the term “verstarb” (died).

An interesting explanation of the interchangeability of Germanic letters can be found in Family Search’s German Word List.

Its explanation notes that “spelling rules were not standardized in earlier centuries,” so variations are common. It is best to substitute letters, if you cannot make a definitive translation, or to do a reverse look-up by querying obvious terms. For example, choose a word in English that you might assume to be in a foreign notice. Then, translate it into your target language (e.g., German).

This blog article would not be complete without noting that search engines are often type-face-challenged; being persistent and varying your queries is central to finding ancestral notices in foreign-language newspapers.

While researching my genealogy, I sometimes query with German terms whose meanings I have learned over the years: “taufe” or “taufen” helps locate christenings; “heiraten” finds marriages; and husband or wife can be found by searching on the terms “mann,” “ehermann” and “gatte,” or “ehegattin,” “frau” and “gattin.”

Generally, search software does a fine job in responding to queries, by employing sophisticated “optical character recognition” (OCR) techniques—which is the process by which the computer makes an electronic conversion of scanned images.

However, it sometimes does not produce the desired results. Reasons vary, but foreign publications often used different type styles, such as German Fraktur, Blackletter and Gothic type, and foreign languages may include letters of the alphabet which do not exist in English.

And even old English presents a unique situation—since archaic spellings changed over time. The classic example is the interchangeable use of ff and ss, as seen in this 18th century spelling of possessed.

the word "possessed" as spelled in an 18th century newspaper

The word “possessed” as spelled in an 18th century newspaper

Hopefully, by employing these techniques, you will be able to successfully navigate a variety of foreign-language newspapers. Don’t be intimidated! Plunge right in—you may be agreeably surprised by what you find out about your family history.

Fact or Myth: Did Horace Greeley Really Say ‘Go West Young Man’?

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary explains how research on her ancestor led her to investigate if Horace Greeley really said “Go West young man.”

Whether your forebears have roots to the Mayflower, settlements on the western frontier, or Ellis Island, your ancestral migration patterns are certain to fascinate you as you research your family history—and at the same time, be a puzzlement.

Did they migrate to avoid religious persecution, serve the military (ex. Hessian soldiers paid during the American Revolution), find freedom from slavery—or were they simply seeking a new life or quick fortune, such as during the California Gold Rush (1848-1859)?

Whatever factors influenced your ancestors, newspapers are a resource rich in information that can clarify or debunk misconceptions about how or why your ancestors lived their lives. You can use historical news articles not only to discover the truth about your ancestors’ lives, but also to validate the facts surrounding events and other items relevant to your family history.

Take, for example, Horace Greeley (1811-1872), the influential newspaper publisher of the New York Tribune, and the famous quote attributed to him: “Go West young man.” I have a special connection with Greeley, as my great great grandmother, Mary Jane (Olmstead) (King) (Hanks) Stanton, tutored his children as a way to support herself after being widowed.

Greeley reportedly inspired America’s massive westward expansion in the second half of the 19th century by urging: “Go West young man; go West and grow up with the country.”

My ancestor Mary Jane heeded his advice and visited California around 1869-1870 with her second husband, Jesse Turner Hanks, a successful gold miner. He later became a superintendent of a gold mine, which paid him $5,000 a year in gold. He unfortunately died in 1872 and the money disappeared, so she began authoring books and returned east. She joined the suffrage movement, associating herself with suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the other well-known champions of women’s voting rights in Willamantic.

Mary Jane and her third husband, newspaper business manager A. P. Stanton (distantly related to the above), settled in California, where she became a successful author on phrenology (a pseudo science no longer accepted) and continued her work for women’s voting rights. She did not live long enough to see the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment on 18 August 1920. However, her obituary from the San Francisco Chronicle notes she lived long enough to witness the success of suffrage in her adopted state.

Devoted Life to Woman's Suffrage, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 12 March 1914

San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 12 March 1914, page 9

From time to time I continue to search for specific evidence of her life events, but what generally happens is that I uncover unexpected items in my genealogical research. That is how, one day, I began exploring the factual validity of Horace Greeley’s well-established quote, “Go West young man; go West and grow up with the country.”

Some writers report that Greeley’s famous quote is from the New York Tribune of 13 July 1865, in which he allegedly said:

“Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.”

That claim will stump you, as the attribution has been misapplied: that quote does not appear in the 13 July 1865 edition of the New York Tribune. GenealogyBank’s archives show that a more likely source for Greeley’s quote is from a 13 December 1867 editorial expressing opposition to a wage increase for federal government clerks. Rather than increasing their salaries, Greeley suggests they should emigrate to a better life out West. Greeley stated:

“Washington is not a nice place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting, the mud is very deep, and the morals are deplorable. But on a farm in the West these dissatisfied young men could not only make money, and live decently, but also be of some use to the country.”

Note nowhere does he say “Go West young man” or “grow up with the country.”

Horace Greeley editorial, New York Herald-Tribune newspaper article 13 December 1867

New York Herald-Tribune (New York, New York), 13 December 1867, page 4

The response to Greeley’s controversial statement was immediate, particularly in the Evening Star—which put an editorial on its front page the very next day rebutting Greeley and taking the position that the workers were deserving of a wage increase.

Twenty Per Cent., Evening Star newspaper article 14 December 1867

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 14 December 1867, page 1

The Evening Star’s rebuttal is worth quoting in its entirety:

“We regret that the New York Tribune should so persistently oppose the twenty per cent. increase of the salaries of the Government clerks in this city. The last article on the subject in that paper, in which the editor advises them, if they cannot live here, to emigrate to Kansas or Nebraska [correction: Nevada], is an unfortunate one for the opponents of “20 per cent.,” because the assertions that “Washington is not a nice place to live in,” and that “the rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting, the mud is very deep, and the morals are deplorable,” would, if they were true, be the strongest possible arguments why those so unfortunate are to be compelled to live and labor here should be well paid for their work. The proper and prompt administration of the affairs of the Government requires the services in this city of a great number of intelligent employees. These duties must be performed by some one, and if all who are competent go to farming, what will become of the public business! We are told that if the clerks are dissatisfied with their pay they can leave, as there are others who will take the places for the pay. No doubt. So there are plenty of needy men who would undertake to make a watch or run an engine for good pay, who know nothing of the construction of either. There are now in the Departments here, many gentlemen and ladies of great intellectual ability occupying responsible positions, whose services save the Government thousands of dollars annually, and whose salaries are totally inadequate. They cannot save a cent, and advising them to go west to till the soil, is very much like the advice of another New York paper to starving laborers in that city, to buy small farms and raise vegetables for the city markets.”

It is reported that Greeley disavowed ever making the “Go west” statement, but the myth is perpetuated to this day.

Some feel that the statement originated with others, such as John B. L. Soule from the Terre Haute Express of 1851. This claim can also be debunked, as it is predated by a report in the Irish American Weekly in 1850 that states: “Yes, the advice is right—come West, do something, and ‘grow up with the country.’”

Good Advice to Those Who Think of Coming West, Irish American Weekly newspaper article 29 June 1850

Irish American Weekly (New York, New York), 29 June 1850, page 4

However, even this 1850 newspaper article cannot be the source, as proved by this even earlier 1846 quote by South Carolina Senator John Caldwell Calhoun (1782-1850). He was interviewed by Sarah Mytton Maury, an English writer who spent a winter in Washington and later published a book quoting Calhoun urging her sons to come to America: “let them grow up with the country.”

“I have eight sons in England.”

“Bring them all here; we are an exulting nation; let them grow up with the country; besides, here they do not want wealth. I would not be rich in America, for the care of money would distract my mind from more important concerns.”

—Maury, Sarah Mytton: The Statesmen of America in 1846. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1847, p. 182.

So what is the lesson learned from this fact-finding investigation?

The lesson is to follow this sound genealogy advice: always seek confirming sources for any record, including family provenance—and be sure to indulge your curiosity by reading historical reports from actual time periods.

You will undoubtedly be able to debunk many myths about your own family history!

Gin Marriages, Gretna Greens & Your Ancestor’s Marriage Records

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena explains why gin marriage laws and Gretna Greens may have something to do with your ancestors’ marriage records appearing in unexpected newspapers from the 1920s and 1930s.

Where did you get married? Was it a town near where you lived? Did you run away to get married?

We often feel frustrated when we can’t find our ancestor’s marriage records in the most obvious place: the town they lived in. But let’s face it, not everyone gets married where they live. Maybe your ancestor chose to go to a “Gretna Green.”

What’s a Gretna Green?

Named after a city in Scotland, Gretna Greens are cities where couples run off to get married. According to the website The Gretna Wedding Bureau, Scotland historically has had lax requirements for marriage: a couple only had to be over 16 years of age and declare themselves husband and wife in front of witnesses. Because it was easy to get married in Scotland, people from neighboring countries flocked to marry there. Gretna Green was the first post along the route from England to the Scottish border, so it was a convenient wedding destination for eloping couples. Even today, Gretna Green, Scotland, continues to be a popular wedding destination.

There are Gretna Greens all over the United States. One of the most popular Gretna Greens is Las Vegas, NV. But even less glitzy places are popular wedding destinations for a whole host of reasons, especially places where couples can get married quickly without the requirement of blood tests, medical examinations or a marriage license. A Gretna Green might be the answer for couples who want to skip the hassle and expense of a traditional wedding and any disapproving family members.

Some people don’t want to wait to get married—for a variety of reasons.

Typically there is some time involved between the excitement of getting engaged and the actual wedding date. However, born out of a belief that those who married hastily, and perhaps while under the influence of alcohol, were more likely to divorce, some states enacted waiting periods between the time a marriage license was filed and the day the wedding could take place.

One state that enacted such a law was California. In 1927 California passed a “gin marriage” law. This law required a three-day waiting period from the time the couple purchased their marriage license until they could actually tie the knot.

Couples Must Give Notice of Bans, San Diego Union newspaper article 21 May 1927

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 21 May 1927, page 11

As with any good intention there were some unanticipated results with this marriage legislation. While the law stopped couples from marrying quickly in California, it drove them to nearby out-of-state Gretna Greens such as Yuma, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada, where they could secure “quickie” weddings. During one year of enforcement of California’s marriage law, Yuma—then a town of 5,000 residents—recorded 17,000 marriages! During the years of California’s gin marriage law, both Yuma and Las Vegas became the hip place for Hollywood stars and everyday people to get married.

Government officials started becoming wise to couples crossing state borders to marry in states with no gin marriage laws. In reaction, more laws affecting marrying couples were passed. Some of those laws required blood tests to check for venereal disease, as in the following example.

Gin-Marriage Ban, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 30 January 1939

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 30 January 1939, section 2, page 4

Here is another historical newspaper article about a gin marriage law, this one in New York.

Gin Marriage Law Reduces Gretna Green's Dawn Rites, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 26 May 1938

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 26 May 1938, section 1, page 11

This old newspaper article points out how effective the gin marriage law has been in curbing drunken couples from impulsively getting married in the middle of the night:

“At last the 3 a.m. marriage evil became intolerable. Dozens of young squirts with a snootful of bubble-water were wont to shoot to nearby Gretna Greens toward dawn, rout out sleepy but fee-hungry clerks and Justices, and become spliced before they had any notion what day it was, if any at all. This made dandy copy for the gaudier press, but it distressed the quieter element who still believed that marriages were not properly made in a tub of Scotch and soda.

“Jane Todd acted with her bill, and the law soon read that seventy-two hours had to elapse between license and the vows. Now a quick checkup reveals that it works fine.”

Can’t find an ancestor’s marriage record from the late 1920s or the 1930s? Maybe they decided to elope to a nearby Gretna Green. After all, who wants to wait when you’re in love?

Genealogy Research Tip: Dig Deep into Records to Uncover Clues

Genealogy Research Tip: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Carefully read every genealogy record of your ancestor’s life—you never know what you will find. I recently made some surprising discoveries about the Morse family after digging deep into genealogy records online.

I found the obituary of Daniel Morse, published in the Cherry Valley Gazette (Cherry Valley, New York), 15 June 1819, page 3. It’s a simple obituary, just one line: “At Herkimer in an apoplectic fit, Daniel Morse, Esq. formerly of Brookfield, Mass. aged 60.”

Daniel Morse Obituary - Cherry Valley Gazette Newspaper June 15, 1819

Cherry Valley Gazette (New York), June 15, 1819

Then I found another version of Morse’s obituary, published the next day in the Commercial Advertiser (New York City, New York), 16 June 1819, page 2.

Daniel Morse Obituary - Commercial Advertiser Newspaper June 06, 1819

Commercial Advertiser (New York City, NY), June 16, 1819

This obituary is even shorter than the first one, omitting the cause of death and his age, simply stating: “At Herkimer, N.Y. Daniel Morse, Esq. formerly of Brookfield, Mass.”

Another New York City newspaper ran Morse’s obituary two days later. That death notice appeared in the Spectator (New York City, New York), 18 June 1819, page 3.

Daniel Morse Obituary - The Connecticut Mirror Newspaper June 21, 1819

The Connecticut Mirror (Hartford, CT), June 21, 1819

Three days after that, the exact same death notice was published in a newspaper from a neighboring state, The Connecticut Mirror (Hartford, Connecticut), 21 June 1819, page 3.

Again, no mention of the cause of death, but his age is included: “At Herkimer N.Y. Daniel Morse, Esq. aged 60, formerly from Brookfield Ma.”

So here we have four obituaries, and from them we have some basic genealogical facts:

  • His name
  • His age
  • Where he died
  • A hint about his occupation (“Esquire” often meant lawyer)
  • His former place of residence

But we don’t know more about him—or his family—than that.

Digging deeper into my genealogy research with GenealogyBank, I wanted to see if there is more information about him.

There is.

Daniel Morse Funeral Sermon Outline June 04, 1819

A Sermon of the Funeral of Daniel Morse, June 04, 1819

I found a copy of the sermon preached at his funeral.
Wow—the actual funeral sermon?
Yes, word for word.

What a terrific genealogical find this turns out to be—a document packed with family history information.

For starters, we learn that the funeral service was held on 4 June 1819, led by Rev. Hezekiah N. Woodruff, A.M., Pastor of the churches of Herkimer and Little Falls, New York. This gives us a good clue where we might find church records about Daniel Morse and his family.

This 16-page funeral sermon outline pamphlet includes extensive biographical material about Morse, as well as information about his family.

On page 13 of the funeral sermon outline pamphlet I read that:

  • Daniel was born on 2 August 1759
  • His wife was Lois Groat, born 18 March 1758
  • Both were born in Massachusetts
  • They married in August 1782 and had “several children”
  • They moved to Herkimer, New York, in 1800
Clipping from Daniel Morse Funeral Sermon - Married Lois Groat

The narrative goes on to describe the final days before he died 4 June 1819.

Clipping from Daniel Morse's Funeral Sermon - Dies of apoplectick fit

Reading more, I discovered that the pamphlet also contained a lengthy extract of the funeral sermon for his wife Lois (Groat) Morse! Suddenly, the second paragraph just leapt off the page at me: Lois died just a few weeks after her husband because of a fit of her own, a “paralytick” one.

Clipping from Daniel Morse Funeral Sermon - Lois His Wife Dies

Wanting to know more, I turned to a new search in GenealogyBank, looking for her obituary.

I found it in the New York Columbian (New York City, New York), 6 July 1819, page 2.

Lois Morse Obituary - New York Columbian Newspaper July 06, 1819

New York Columbian (New York City, NY), July 6, 1819

Now we know much more about Daniel Morse and his wife.

When I started searching I quickly found Daniel’s death notice. It was a lucky break that GenealogyBank also had scanned in his funeral sermon.

But, don’t judge a book by its cover. The title page states that it is the funeral sermon of Daniel Morse—it does not say that it also includes the funeral sermon of his late wife, Lois (Groat) Morse.

Daniel Morse Funeral Sermon Outline June 04, 1819

A Sermon of the Funeral of Daniel Morse, June 04, 1819

I had no idea that his wife Lois died less than four weeks after her husband. And since the title page of his funeral sermon made no mention of his wife, it was only by carefully reading the entire funeral sermon pamphlet that I learned the rest of the story.

The brief biographies of both of the Morse’s, Daniel’s funeral sermon, along with a lengthy extract from the sermon preached at Lois’s funeral, are welcome additions to the family record.

So now we not only know when and where the Morse’s died, we learned the tragic circumstances of how close in time their deaths were. They’ve become more than just names and dates on a family tree—we’ve come to know something about them as real people.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Always be prepared to go beneath the surface—dig deeper with your family history searches and find as many genealogy records about your ancestors as you can. And then read them all, thoroughly. You never know what you’ll find!

Amazing Survival Stories of Last Moments on the ‘Titanic’ Ship

This week, the world is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the British passenger liner RMS Titanic. The massive ship went down at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic shortly before midnight. There weren’t enough lifeboats for everyone on board, and 1,517 passengers and crew lost their lives.

Another passenger ship, the Carpathia, picked up the Titanic survivors and brought them to New York City, docking on April 18. It was then that the world began to learn details of the disaster from some of the survivors, whose stories were published in the newspapers.

Here’s a newspaper article with some amazing survival stories from the last moments on the Titanic. This copyrighted news article was published by the Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 19 April 1912, page 1:

Graphic Stories of Real Heroism charlotte observer newspaper article April 19 1912

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 19 April 1912, page 1

Graphic Stories of Real Heroism

Many of the Survivors Tell of Last Moment on Titanic

Skippers Were Told

Conduct of John Jacob Astor Deserves Highest Praise as He Gave His Life for His Wife

New York, April 18.—E. Z. Taylor of Philadelphia, one of the survivors, jumped into the sea just three minutes before the boat sank. He told a graphic story as he came from the Carpathia.

“I was eating when the Titanic struck the iceberg,” he said. “There was an awful shock that made the boat tremble from stem to stern. I did not realize for some time what had happened. No one seemed to know the extent of the accident. We were told that an iceberg had been struck by the ship. I felt the boat rise and it seemed to me that she was riding over the ice. I ran out on deck and then I could see ice. It was a veritable sea of ice and the boat was rocking over it. I should say that parts of the iceberg were 80 feet high, but it had been broken into sections probably by our ship.

“I jumped into the ocean and was picked up by one of the boats. I never expected to see land again. I waited on board the boat until the lights went out. It seemed to me that the discipline on board was wonderful.”

Saved at Last Moment

Colonel Archibald Gracie, U.S.A., the last man saved, went down with the vessel but was picked up. He was met tonight by his daughter, who had arrived from Washington, and his son-in-law, Paul H. Fabricius. Colonel Gracie told a remarkable story of personal hardship and denied emphatically the reports that there had been any panic on board. He praised in the highest terms the behavior of both the passengers and crew and paid a high tribute to the heroism of the women passengers.

“Mrs. Isidor Straus,” he said, “went to her death because she would not desert her husband. Although he pleaded with her to take her place in the boat she steadfastly refused, and when the ship settled at the head the two were engulfed in the wave that swept her.”

Colonel Gracie told of how he was driven to the topmost deck when the ship settled and was the sole survivor after the wave that swept her just before her final plunge had passed.

“I jumped with the wave,” said he, “just as I often have jumped with the breakers at the seashore. By great good fortune I managed to grasp the brass railing on the deck above and I hung on by might and main. When the ship plunged down I was forced to let go and I was swirled around and around for what seemed to be an interminable time. Eventually I came to the surface, to find the sea a mass of tangled wreckage.

“Luckily I was unhurt and casting about managed to seize a wooden grating floating nearby. When I had recovered my breath I discovered a larger canvas and cork life raft which had floated up. A man, whose name I did not learn, was struggling toward it from some wreckage to which he had clung. I cast off and helped him to get onto the raft and we then began the work of rescuing those who had jumped into the sea and were floundering in the water.

At Break of Dawn

“When dawn broke there were thirty of us on the raft, standing knee deep in the icy water and afraid to move lest the creaky craft be overturned. Several unfortunates, benumbed and half dead, besought us to save them and one or two made an effort to reach us but we had to warn them away. Had we made any effort to save them we all might have perished.

“The hours that elapsed before we were picked up by the Carpathia were the longest and most terrible that I ever spent. Practically without any sensation of feeling, because of the icy water, we were almost dropping from fatigue. We were afraid to turn around to look to see whether we were seen by passing craft and when someone who was facing astern passed the word that something that looked like a steamer was coming up one of the men became hysterical under the strain. The rest of us, too, were nearing the breaking point.”

Col. Gracie denied with emphasis that any men were fired upon and declared that only once was a revolver discharged.

“This was for the purpose of intimidating some steerage passengers,” he said, “who had tumbled into a boat before it was prepared for launching. This shot was fired in the air, and when the foreigners were told the next would be directed at them they promptly returned to the deck. There was no confusion and no panic.”

Contrary to the general expectation, there was no jarring impact when the vessel struck, according to the army officer. He was in his berth when the vessel smashed into the submerged portion of the berg and was aroused by the jar. He looked at this watch, he said, and found it was just midnight. The ship sank with him at 2:22 a.m., for his watch stopped at that hour.

“Before I retired,” said Colonel Gracie, “I had a long chat with Charles H. Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railroad. One of the last things Mr. Hays said was this: ‘The White Star, the Cunard and the Hamburg-American lines are devoting their attention and ingenuity in vying with them to obtain supremacy in luxurious ships and in making speed records. The time will soon come when this will be checked by some appalling disaster.’ Poor fellow; a few hours later, he was dead.”

Conduct of Colonel Astor

“The conduct of Colonel John Jacob Astor was deserving of the highest praise,” declared Colonel Gracie. “The millionaire New Yorker,” he said, “devoted all his energies to saving his young bride, nee Miss Force of New York who was in delicate health. Colonel Astor helped us in our efforts to get her in the boat,” said Colonel Gracie. “I lifted her into the boat and as she took her place Colonel Astor requested permission of the second officer to go with her for her own protection.

“‘No, sir,’ replied the officer, ‘Not a man shall go on a boat until the women are all off.’ Colonel Astor then inquired the number of the boat, which was being lowered away and turned to the work of clearing the other boats and in reassuring the frightened and nervous women.

“By this time the ship began to list frightfully to port. This became so dangerous that the second officer ordered everyone to rush to starboard. This we did and we found the crew trying to get a boat off in that quarter. Here I saw the last of John B. Thayer, second vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and George B. Widener, a capitalist of Philadelphia.”

Colonel Gracie said that despite the warnings of icebergs, no slowing down of speed was ordered by the commander of the Titanic. There were other warnings, too, he said. “In the 24 hours’ run ending the 14th,” he said, “the ship’s run was 546 miles, and we were told that the next 24 hours would see even a better record posted. No diminution of speed was indicated in the run and the engines kept up their steady running. When Sunday evening came we all noticed the increased cold, which gave plain warning that the ship was in close proximity to icebergs or ice fields. The officers, I am credibly informed, had been advised by wireless from other ships of the presence of icebergs and dangerous floes in that vicinity. The sea was as smooth as glass, and the weather clear, so that it seems that there was no occasion for fear.

No Indication of Panic

“When the vessel struck,” he continued, “the passengers were so little alarmed that they joked over the matter. The few that were on deck early had taken their time to dress properly and there was not the slightest indication of panic. Some of the fragments of ice had fallen on the deck and these were picked up and passed around by some of the facetious ones who offered them as mementoes of the occasion. On the port side a glance over the side failed to show any evidence of damage and the vessel seemed to be on an even keel. James Clinch Smith and I, however, soon found the vessel was listing heavily. A few minutes later the officers ordered men and women to don life preservers.”

One of the last women seen by Colonel Gracie, he said, was Miss Evans of New York, who virtually refused to be rescued, because, according to the army officer, “she had been told by a fortune teller in London that she would meet her death on the water.”

A young English woman, who requested that her name be omitted, told a thrilling story of her experience in one of the collapsible boats which had been manned by eight of the crew from the Titanic. The boat was in command of the fifth officer, H. Lowe, whose actions she described as saving the lives of many people. Before the lifeboat was launched, he passed along the port deck of the steamer, commanding the people not to jump in the boats and otherwise restraining them from swamping the craft. When the collapsible was launched, Officer Lowe succeeded in putting up a mast and a small sail. He collected the other boats together; in some cases the boats were short of adequate crews and he directed an exchange by which each was adequately manned. He threw lines connecting the boats together two by two, and all thus moved together. Later on he went back to the wreck with the crew of one of the boats and succeeded in picking up some of those who had jumped overboard and were swimming about. On his way back to the Carpathia he passed one of the collapsible boats which was on the point of sinking with thirty passengers aboard, most of them in scant night clothing. They were rescued just in the nick of time.

Whether you had ancestors directly involved with the Titanic disaster or simply want to learn more for your own interest, historical newspapers provide stories and details you cannot find anywhere else. GenealogyBank’s online archive of more than 5,850 newspapers is full of interesting survival stories, family history facts and more!

Genealogist Shares Her Genealogy Research Success Story!

With GenealogyBank adding more records at the rate of 10 documents a second, we hear from genealogists every day sharing their excitement about their family history discoveries.

Here is a genealogy research success story we received today from GenealogyBank member Michele Lewis.

Deaths in Louisiana Article - New Orleans Item Newspaper

New Orleans Item (Louisiana), 4 September 1911, page 2, column 4

Michele wrote us:

Here is a newspaper success story for you.

My great, great Aunt Ida Perry was born in Purvis, MS, in 1884. She and two of her sisters became nurses. All three graduated from the Charity Hospital School of Nursing in Shreveport, LA. Two of the three contracted TB and died and one of those was Ida. The American Journal of Nursing had printed a blurb about Ida in the March 1906 issue: “Miss Ida Perry has resigned her position of the charity Hospital, Shreveport, La., and will engage in private nursing.” On the 1910 census she is living in Eunice, LA, with her sister Mary (who happens to be the other sister that died of TB). She is listed under her maiden name and as single. That is the last official record we had of Ida. Our only other clue was a picture postcard (undated) that Ida had sent to her brother from Denver, CO, that stated:

“Dear Bro, I am feeling fine. Had this made to show you all how fit I’m getting.

With love to all from ‘Jack’” [Jack was her nickname.]

So we knew that Ida had gone to CO for health reasons, which was common with TB patients. On the back of the picture it stated “Ida Perry Faust” so now we knew she had also gotten married.

We had checked EVERYTHING.

Colorado couldn’t find a death certificate or marriage license and neither could Louisiana. I had run her name through GenealogyBank (of course) and got nothing. We couldn’t determine when and where she had died. We couldn’t find her grave. It was very frustrating.

Yesterday I decided to run her name through GenealogyBank again since I know you regularly add papers and I got a hit! Apparently you had added the New Orleans Item since the first time I ran her name through.

New Orleans Item (Louisiana), 4 September 1911, page 2, column 4

Mrs. Ida Perry Faust

EUNICE, La., Sept. 4—A telegram from Denver (Colo.) brings the news of the death of Mrs. Ida Perry Faust, sister of Mrs. J. N. Adams of this city. The remains will be interred at Purvis (Miss.), the girlhood home of the deceased.

So we finally know! She did die in Denver as we suspected but she died earlier than we thought. She got married, moved, and died in the span of one year (she was still in LA and unmarried on the 1910 census) which means her husband knew she had TB and married her anyway. We are still searching for him. We assumed she had died in Denver but were surprised to see that they brought her back to Mississippi! We know which cemetery she would have been buried in (where the rest of the family is) but there is no marker for her. We might have to rectify that.

If I hadn’t run her name through again I wouldn’t have found this. Unfortunately, I can’t find her in any of the Colorado papers you have (including the Denver ones). I am assuming that the death of a TB sanitarium patient from another state didn’t warrant an obituary.

Congratulations to Michele for this family history success story!

Have you had a similar genealogy research discovery you’d like to share?

Amazing True Story of Shipwreck Survival

Last week I spotted the unusual story of a man saved from dying in a shipwreck in the middle of the night when he spotted a floating box—it turned out to be his wife’s coffin that he was bringing home for burial!

The newspaper article containing this incredible survival story was printed by the Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York), 4 December 1855, page 2.

What an amazing newspaper article—and yet it seemed to me something wasn’t quite right about this story:

  • When and where was the shipwreck of the steamer Anthony Wayne?
  • Why no first name for the husband?
  • Why no name for the wife?
  • Did steamers travel from Chicago to Philadelphia?
  • Was there more to this story?

Digging deeper into GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives I found this article, printed by the Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus, Ohio), 1 May 1850, page 2, with this startling headline: “Awful Calamity. Explosion of the Steamboat Anthony Wayne. Forty Lives Lost!!”

 

So, the steamer ship exploded on Saturday, April 27, 1850, while en route from Sandusky, Ohio, to Buffalo, New York. The accident happened on Lake Erie, about six or seven miles offshore of Vermillion, Ohio.

I kept researching and found more details—but no names—in this newspaper article, printed by the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 30 April 1850, page 2.

Here was a contemporary account of this horrific ship explosion tragedy, but still not all the details

A gentleman “going east to bury his wife and child”:

  • Traveling with “the balance of his family, two small children”
  • Following the explosion, he “launched the coffin” as a makeshift life raft
  • Labored with “a child grasped under each arm with a most desperate struggle”
  • Sadly, he “lost his boy” and was forced to abandon the remains of “his wife and child”

As news reporting improved and more details about the survivors and the deceased were gathered, the

Newport Mercury (Newport, Rhode Island), 11 May 1850, page 2, gave more of the story.

This newspaper article has provided us with more details about the survival story:

  • Archer Brackney was the father trying to rescue his family
  • He was from Lafayette, Iowa
  • The coffin contained both corpses of “his wife and child”
  • We learn of his desperate struggle to save his “two living children”
  • Sadly, “his little boy, two years old, was drowned in his arms”
  • He managed to save his little girl, “who was clinging around his neck, crying ‘Papa! We shall drown!’”

Researching further in GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives, I uncovered more of the real story.

The coroner held an inquest and the results were published in the Sandusky Register (Sandusky, Ohio), 30 April 1850, page 2.

This verified the essentials of the survival story.

Now to dig deeper and see what more details can be found about this shipwreck tragedy and real life story of survival. It’s amazing how much information you can find in historical newspaper archives!

The Story of Perkins Swain: A Genealogist’s Online Research Discoveries

Online genealogy research is endlessly fascinating—you never know what you will find. I was doing some family history research in GenealogyBank’s newspaper archive when this double obituary caught my eye. Baltimore Patriot (Baltimore, Maryland), 25 July 1834, page 3.

Just a short, simple notice, 4½ lines long—and yet what a sad story it tells.

Sally Swain, 27-year-old wife of Perkins Swain, died on 17 June 1834 in Gilmanton, New Hampshire. Her husband, Perkins Swain, age 37, “was in [his] usual health at the funeral of his deceased wife”—but abruptly died seven days later. No doubt, of a broken heart.

Can you imagine the grief of the pallbearers? They were probably family members, or at least friends and neighbors, who sadly carried the body of young Sally Swain to her grave on June 17th while her grieving yet healthy husband, Perkins, stood nearby. And then suddenly, just seven days later, those same pallbearers were carrying the body of her husband to join Sally’s gravesite.

Who were this couple struck down by tragedy? This story of a perfectly-healthy husband dying seven days after his young wife’s funeral made me want to research more about them and learn about their lives.

Digging deeper into my genealogy research online, I found a marriage announcement that Perkins Swain married Sally Weymouth in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, in a November 1823 newspaper. Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 15 November 1823, page 3.

Looking at the free collection of New Hampshire marriage certificates online at FamilySearch, I quickly found their marriage certificate. They were married on 23 October 1823 by the Rev. William Blaisdell. FamilySearch.org is a handy genealogy site. It has put up the entire U.S. Census, as well as birth and marriage certificates from all 50 states and many foreign countries. This free website by the Family History Library is well worth a visit to find great genealogical information that can aid in your research. Checking further in GenealogyBank, I found a newspaper probate article showing that Perkins Swain had known tragedy earlier in his life, when he and his brother Gorham were orphaned at age 5 and 4 respectively. The Sun (Dover Gazette & County Advertiser) (Dover, New Hampshire), 21 December 1805, page 4.
Enlarging the first paragraph, we find some interesting details about Perkins Swain’s life.
In this probate notice, Thomas Balch is acting as guardian for the young orphans. We discover that their father was William Swain, “late of Gilmanton,” a tailor who died without leaving a will. Did he die unexpectedly? And why is there no mention of the mother? These are tantalizing questions that require further family history research.

This probate notice also tells us that the two young boys have inherited an estate of 100 acres in Gilmanton.

Continuing to look further in GenealogyBank’s newspaper archive for details about Perkins Swain, I found this public auction notice that perhaps completes the story of his life.
New Hampshire Patriot (Concord, New Hampshire), 19 October 1835, page 3.

A year after his death, the homestead farm of Perkins Swain is being publicly auctioned on Nov. 2, 1835. This farm is a 100-acre parcel in Gilmanton, New Hampshire—the same piece of land we learned about in the probate notice of 1805.

Isn’t it amazing how many details we’ve found out about Perkins Swain, who died in 1834? We have found his marriage and death notices, his marriage certificate, the probate notice when he was orphaned at age 5, and the public auction notice of his farm after his death. With more online genealogy research, we could no doubt uncover even more details about Perkins Swain and his family.

There are so many digitized newspaper articles, historical documents and government records available online today—terrific research resources for genealogists.

This is a great day for genealogy.