Discovering Thanksgiving Family History in Newspaper Articles

From the earliest days of the nation our presidents and governors have proclaimed annual days of “publick Thanksgiving and Prayer” in gratitude for their families, lives and success in the New World.Then as now we pause as families gather to give thanks.
Lucky for us many of these holiday family gatherings were recorded in newspapers, providing a valuable genealogical resource to trace our family histories and fill in details on our family trees.

Here is a newspaper article about a family gathering for Thanksgiving the year the American Civil War finally ended. It was originally printed by the Providence Press and reprinted by the New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 28 December 1865, page 1.

This terrific newspaper article describes four generations of the McIntyre family that gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving Day in 1865, providing many family details. For example, we learn about the physical stature and ability of 82-year-old Daniel McIntyre of York, Maine (Only 72 pounds! No gray hair! Still works the fields! Still reads the newspaper without glasses!) and his good wife (“his bigger and better half”) who was more than three times his size. The newspaper article supplies interesting details such as the fact they had 12 children, 11 of whom were still living and 10 that attended the Thanksgiving gathering along with their children.

A quick search of familysearch.org shows that it was their first child, Nancy McIntyre (c. 1811-1838) who was the child mentioned in the newspaper article that had passed away. The newspaper article also speaks of Mary (Staples) McIntyre’s good cooking that was greatly enjoyed by the grandchildren. Clearly she liked her own cooking—and for those of you who might be thinking of cutting back over Thanksgiving, consider that Mary at 225 pounds outlived her good husband of 72 pounds by 11 years!

GenealogyBank has more articles about the McIntyres from York, Maine—there is Rufus McIntyre who served in Congress, and a George S. McIntyre whose “reputation for mathematics” caused him to be called a “born mathematician.” Guess over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend I’ll sort out how all of these McIntyres are related.

It is really amazing what you can find in GenealogyBank’s newspapers archive, with its 5,700 newspapers from all 50 states. With hundreds of millions of newspaper articles all digitized and easily searched, you can start uncovering your own family reunion articles: documenting each member of the family, the old family stories, the details of their lives, perhaps even some favorite family recipes!

A Good Woman Can be Hard to Find…

It can be very difficult to find women in the early 19th Century – finding sources that actually give their names and genealogical details. It was common in the 19th century for genealogical sources to be brief and give only the basic information about a household in the census – or an entry in a birth register.

The 1800 – 1840 census – only named one person in the entire family – the head of the household – while that could have been a single woman who never married or was widowed – it was most often the husband. Most American’s men and women were not named in the census.

Birth and church registers often record brief information – with entries like:

1812 July 28. A son, to Walter Hickenlooper.
What was the son’s or the mother’s name?

So researchers become experts in tracking down records that give more information – that fill in the missing details of our family trees.

Genealogists write me all the time with their success stories in finding their elusive ancestors using GenealogyBank.

GenealogyBank is particularly strong on pre-1850 newspapers – with over 1,300 titles.

GenealogyBank has over 3,700 newspapers – that range from 1690 to today ….. you can find the details about women in GenealogyBank – information that is just not in the census and often not found in other early 19th century sources. Newspapers you just won’t find on other sites.

I have been working on my Brundage line and documenting all of the grandparents; aunts and cousins in Westchester, New York and the family members that have spread across the country.

I found this Brundage obituary notice (Hudson River (NY) Chronicle 8 Oct 1839) that illustrates the point –


In the 1820 Census – John Brundage is living in Bedford, NY – with his wife (unnamed) and family. By the 1840 census – neither one of them was listed. Why?

This obituary article tells us that John has died and that his “widow” – Rachael Brundage died on 26 Sep 1839 at age “about 44 years” – well before the 1840 census. I now knew what had happened to them.
Clue #1 – Name: Rachael Brundage: a widow of John Brundage; her age; her date & place of death
Clue #2 – Name of husband: John Brundage – and that he had predeceased her

In addition to the details about Rachael & John Brundage – the article has two other obituaries.

Look at the facts that we find about these women: Harriet Sutherland and Deborah Cornwell.

Harriet Sutherland

The article tells us that Harriet Sutherland died on 25 Sep 1839 at “Middle Patent” – (North Castle, NY) – the widow of John Sutherland. It gives her age as “aged about 46 years”.

Clue #1 – Name: Harriet Sutherland: a widow of John Sutherland; her age; her date & place of death
Clue #2 – Name of husband: John Sutherland- and that he had predeceased her

And in the third obituary in this article we learn that “Miss Deborah Cornwell, daughter of the late Jonathan Cornwell” died 6 Sep 1839 in Henrietta, Monroe County, NY at the “fiftieth year of her age” and that she was “formerly of New Castle (NY).”

Clue #1 – Name: Deborah Cornwell: a daughter of Jonathan Cornwell; her age; her date & place of death; that she formerly lived in New Castle, NY.
Clue #2 – Name of father: Jonathan Cornwell- and that he had predeceased her

It can be difficult to find a good woman in the early 19th century – but newspapers are a terrific source and GenealogyBank has more of them than you will find anywere else.

Click here and search GenealogyBank right now and see what you will find.