Obituaries – Don’t Make This Rookie Genealogy Research Mistake

This is a typical newspaper obituary.
It gives the usual genealogical information, including her name (Ella M. Crofoot), age, & date and place of birth.

obituary for Ella M. Crofoot, Stamford Advocate newspaper article 17 February 1970

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 17 February 1970, page 6

I could easily transcribe this information and move on to the next relative to research in my family tree – but that would be a mistake.

Why?
I have her obituary – isn’t that what I came for?

Historical newspapers often published two items about the deceased: the obituary and the more compact “death notice.”

Death notices come in all shapes and sizes, and vary from newspaper to newspaper – but, you must look for them while doing your genealogy research or you will miss important clues.

For example: on the same page of that newspaper, further down along the far right column, there is Ella’s “death notice.”

death notice for Ella M. Crofoot, Stamford Advocate newspaper article 17 February 1970

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 17 February 1970, page 6

Comparing both news articles, we quickly see that additional relatives are named in the death notice:

Aunt of Lawrence T. Kemp, Mrs. Olive Skinner, Mrs. Hazel Randall, and Mrs. Ruth Brush.

Good thing we checked or we’d have missed four family members.

Genealogy Tip: Always check for both the Obituary AND the Death Notice. You’ll likely be glad that you did.

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from recent and historical obituaries searchable online. The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million U.S. newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to the present.  Find out more at: http://www.genealogybank.com/family-search/

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Searching the Archives for Rufus, I Found Little Eugenie

Eugenie Caroline Kemp (1842-1845) was only three years old when she died – and until recently, I didn’t even know she had existed. I discovered her when I was doing a search in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives about one of my ancestors.

I was searching for information about Rufus Crosby Kemp (1813-1856). My research notes said that he was born in Maine in 1813 and died in 1856 in New York City. So – he lived in at least two U.S. states: Maine and New York.

Looking for him in GenealogyBank’s archives, I knew by experience that typing his full name into the search box probably wouldn’t get me the record results I wanted.

But, let’s try that full name archive search anyway and see what we can find about Rufus.

screenshot of GenealogyBank’s search box showing a search for Rufus Crosby Kemp

Nothing.

Genealogy Search Tip:

Typing in the first name, middle name and surname was just “too much information.” In the early 19th century, newspaper editors rarely referred to individuals in print by their full names – they shortened the name to what fit the character space available in that day’s newspaper.

So – I searched for Rufus in the newspaper archives again, this time typing in his name as Rufus C. Kemp to give a wider scope of possible articles, and I limited the search date range to 1810-1870.

screenshot of GenealogyBank’s search box showing a search for Rufus C. Kemp

OK. That search returned 24 record results.

screenshot of GenealogyBank’s search results page fora search for Rufus C. Kemp

Let’s see what they tell us.

Looking at the first result…
Hmm – that’s not good news.

Business Troubles

It seems that he and his business partners Benjamin L. Mann and Albert Whitney were having a tough go in their business – “Whitney, Kemp & Co.” was insolvent.

article about the insolvency of Whitney, Kemp and Co., Boston Daily Advertiser newspaper article 22 March 1841

Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts), 22 March 1841, page 3

This newspaper article gave key new information: in 1841 Rufus Kemp was living in Boston, Massachusetts, and operated a business in the area.

What did the next search result, an obituary, show?

Obituary for Rufus Kemp

obituary for Rufus C. Kemp, New York Tribune newspaper article 23 October 1856

New York Tribune (New York City, New York), 23 October 1856, page 7

OK. This is also our target Rufus Kemp.

His obituary tells us that by 1856 he was living in New York City at 259 Fourth Avenue (which is by Union Square) and that he died on Monday, 20 October 1856.

The obituary gives his age (“43d year of his age”) and tells us that he was a member of the Olive Branch Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, No. 31.

Business Ad

The next newspaper article gives us more information on his business.

ad for Rufus C. Kemp's Clothes Warehouse, Boston Daily Advertiser newspaper advertisement 2 January 1833

Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 January 1833, page 1

This advertisement tells us that his business was well located, next to the Eastern Stage House – an important Boston hotel in the early 19th century.

Marriage Announcement

The next search result also gives me key information that I didn’t have: the exact date of his marriage to Ann Maria Moynihan (1815-1907).

wedding notice for Rufus C. Kemp and Ann Moynihan, Columbian Centinel newspaper article 6 September 1834

Columbian Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), 6 September 1834, page 2

We now know that they were married on Wednesday, 3 September 1834 in Boston.
Great – I can add that information to my family tree.

Obituary of Rufus’s Daughter

I kept opening up each search result – and then I found this: the obituary notice of little Eugenie Caroline Kemp (1842-1845).

obituary for Eugenie Caroline Kemp, Weekly Messenger newspaper article 31 December 1845

Weekly Messenger (Boston, Massachusetts), 31 December 1845, page 3

Who was she?
I had no record of her – but there she was.
She was 3 years and 7 months old when she died on 29 December 1845.

Now I have a new member to add to our family tree!

If I had given up after my first newspaper archive search attempt, I wouldn’t have found her. Also, if I had stopped looking at the articles after finding Rufus Kemp’s obituary and marriage announcement, I wouldn’t have found her. It was by adjusting my ancestor search from her father’s full name, Rufus Crosby Kemp, to Rufus C. Kemp, and by continuing to look at every article, that I found more information – and critically – that I found Eugenie Caroline Kemp.

Genealogy Tip:

Keep searching the historical archives and be flexible in how you search for your ancestors. If you search only using your target ancestor’s full name, you might miss the key articles you need to document your family tree.

Better to search the archives using several variations: with only the surname; the first and last name; or first name, middle initial, and last name.

And – when you get your search results – be sure to open and read each one of them. You just might find a new twig on the Family Tree – like little Eugenie Caroline Kemp (1842-1845).

Related Search Tip Articles:

My Ancestor’s Trip to America: Newspapers Tell the Story

I knew my ancestor William Kemp had come to America – but I didn’t know anything about the trip itself. What was it like for him as an immigrant traveling by passenger ship across the ocean to the new frontier?

Could GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives help me find the answer?

I knew that William came to America on board the ship Benjamin Adams, arriving 21 October 1853. He left from Liverpool, England, and arrived in New York City.

painting: “The Bay and Harbor of New York” by Samuel Waugh (1814-1885)

Painting: “The Bay and Harbor of New York” by Samuel Waugh (1814-1885). Source: Wikipedia.

Since I knew that shipping was big business, I wondered if newspapers could tell me more about the movements of the Benjamin Adams and William’s trip to America.

In testing my search I found that the name of the passenger ship appeared multiple ways in various newspaper articles – so I strategized that I needed to search every possible variation for any mention of the Benjamin Adams, from the spring to the fall of 1853, to make sure I didn’t miss any articles.

To find all of the articles I needed to search GenealogyBank’s archives using:

  • Benjamin Adams
  • Adams
  • Benj. Adams
  • Benj Adams
  • B. Adams
  • B Adams

This should give me all references to the passenger ship and William’s voyage to America.

Here’s what I found.

This Maine newspaper told me that by 23 August 1853, the passengers had boarded the Benjamin Adams and the ship was positioned “outward bound” in the Mersey River in Liverpool.

shipping news about the ship "Benjamin Adams," Portland Weekly Advertiser newspaper article 13 September 1853

Portland Weekly Advertiser (Portland, Maine), 13 September 1853, page 3

This Massachusetts newspaper gave me the critical fact that the ship sailed the next day – 24 August 1853. Wow – good to know.

shipping news about the ship "Benjamin Adams," Daily Atlas newspaper article 10 September 1853

Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), 10 September 1853, page 2

Next I looked for reports of the passenger ship arriving in America.

Here it is – this New York newspaper reported that the ship had docked in New York on 21 October 1853.

shipping news about the ship "Benjamin Adams," Weekly Herald newspaper article 22 October 1853

Weekly Herald (Albany, New York), 22 October 1853, page 344

The trip to New York took 56 days. There were 620 passengers – but here’s where the news turned more somber.

The old newspaper article reported:

Sept. 10, while laying to under a close reefed topsail in a heavy gale from the NW, lost all three topgallant masts, closed reefed mizzen topsail, foresail, mainsail, stern boat, and received other damage.

The ship was damaged in a fierce storm just 17 days after leaving Liverpool. The passengers must have been terrified – wondering if they were going to make it.

But there was more bad news:

Had 15 deaths on the passage.

Significant storm damage to the ship and 15 people died?
What?
Fifteen people died?
Wow. Was that normal on these trips? Why did so many die?

William was lucky to make it safely to America!

In a follow-up article a week later, the Weekly Herald explained why so many had died on the passage. These passengers just didn’t die of random causes – they died from an outbreak of cholera, which struck  many ships.

…it is pretty certain that the disease which carried them off was cholera. ….The sickness on the Benjamin Adams was decidedly cholera.

shipping news about the ship "Benjamin Adams," Weekly Herald newspaper article 29 October 1853

Weekly Herald (Albany, New York), 29 October 1853, page 350

This was a tough trip.

GenealogyBank’s newspapers continued to tell me more about William’s trip.

This New York newspaper mentioned that the ship Benjamin Adams had arrived “from Syria.”

shipping news about the ship "Benjamin Adams" and cholera, Albany Evening Journal newspaper article 22 October 1853

Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York), 22 October 1853, page 2

From Syria?
I thought they left from Liverpool?

They did – but before arriving in Liverpool, the ship had been in Syria.

This Massachusetts newspaper told me that the Benjamin Adams had docked in Beirut, Syria, on 25 July 1853, before it went to Liverpool to pick up William Kemp and the other 619 passengers.

shipping news about the ship "Benjamin Adams," Daily Atlas newspaper article 1 September 1853

Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), 1 September 1853, page 2

The reason for the trip to the Holy Land was explained in this Massachusetts newspaper. The Benjamin Adams picked up artifacts there to display at the World’s Fair:  “an Arab plough and other agricultural implements for the World’s Fair…canes from the banks of the Jordan, branches from the Mount of Olives and cedars of Lebanon…” and apparently somewhere along the way it picked up cholera.

shipping news about the ship "Benjamin Adams," Springfield Republican newspaper article 25 October 1853

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 25 October 1853, page 2

GenealogyBank doesn’t just give you the names, dates and places for your family tree – it gives you the stories of our ancestors’ lives.

You know when your ancestors arrived in America – dig in GenealogyBank and find out the rest of their stories.

Genealogy Tip: Search Wide Geo Areas

Did you notice a pattern with the newspaper articles in this blog post?

There were newspapers in Maine, New York, Massachusetts and beyond that reported on the Benjamin Adams. You want to search for this type of article and for the articles about your ancestors across all 8,000 of GenealogyBank’s newspapers. To find these articles, you cannot limit your search to only the newspapers of one or two states. If you limit your search geographically, you might miss an article critical to the telling of your ancestor’s story.

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Newspapers Can Find Relatives You Didn’t Know You Had

I think I’ve discovered two relatives I never knew existed – in the city where I grew up!

I’ve been doing Genealogy for a long time and thought I had “met” them all at one point or another, and then I came across this old newspaper article.

Yale & Towne Dramatic Society to Give Play, Stamford Advocate newspaper article 1 May 1929

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 1 May 1929, page 15

In May of 1929, employees from the Yale & Towne Manufacturing company came together to put on a production of the play “Arnold Goes into Business.”

Look closer at this enlargement of the main cast.

Yale & Towne Dramatic Society to Give Play, Stamford Advocate newspaper article 1 May 1929

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 1 May 1929, page 15

Who are these guys: John and Mrs. Marie Anna Kemp?
Mrs. Marie Anna Kemp plays the part of Irma’s mother, Catherine Gleason,
and
John Kemp plays the part of Irma’s father H. A. Cooper.

Now if this surname was Smith or Brown, I wouldn’t have noticed it – but Kemp is a fairly unusual name. I like to research all Kemp ancestral lines to run them back a few generations to see if we are related or not.

If these are my relatives, I have never heard of them. I asked my 91-year-old father if he had any idea who they were, and he had never heard of them either.

According to the old news article: “Every member of the cast…is a Yale & Towne employee.” That tells me they must live in or near Stamford.

My grandfather, Willard H. Kemp, did work for Y&T and his father was John Henry Kemp – but in 1929 he was 63 years old and was employed full-time in the Post Office. He didn’t retire until 1931 when he was 65 years old, and he never worked for Y&T. So this John Kemp could be him – but he doesn’t match the other clues given in the article or the other facts in his personal history.

So – who were John Kemp and “Mrs. Marie Anna Kemp”?

I looked in the 1920 and the 1930 census – no mention of any other John or Marie Anna Kemp living anywhere in the state of Connecticut.

So – just when I thought I’d tracked them all down, here is a newspaper article alerting me to two more possible relatives in our Kemp family tree.

I’ll have to dig deeper into GenealogyBank’s archive of 1.7 billion records to find out more about them. And it’s the same for you: you have ancestors that are waiting to be discovered. Sign up today and begin your search!

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Ship Records for Genealogy: Newspapers & Passenger Lists

Every family historian wants to know the ship their ancestor came over on and the date that it arrived.

Along with Thanksgiving, tomorrow we’ll be celebrating the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620.

That trip took 66 days. Remarkably, when my ancestor William Kemp came to America 233 years later that trip still took a long time: 56 days.

Genealogists often can find the date and the name of the ship their ancestor came over on—but is there more to the story?
Is there a way to find out more details about our ancestors?

Yes—we can find the rest of the story and, importantly, pass it down in the family. We can find it in GenealogyBank’s 3 centuries of newspaper archives.

Stories from the Mayflower Voyage

In the case of the Pilgrims coming to America, the old newspapers fill in the story, reporting that the Mayflower voyage was very difficult. The Boston Herald tells us that “halfway across the ocean, the point of no return, the Mayflower ran into the first of ‘many fierce storms.’”

article about the Mayflower's cross-Atlantic trip in 1620, Boston Herald newspaper article 25 November 1970

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 November 1970, page 26

One violent storm at sea cracked and buckled the main beam. The news article reports that the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower were terrified. Luckily they had brought along nails, screws and other items for building homes in the New World, and were able to use a “great iron scrue” to “force the beam back into place.”

What about My Ancestor’s Story?

I have always wanted to know exactly when my ancestor William Kemp came to America, and I finally found that date and the name of the ship on the free Internet site CastleGarden.org.

William arrived in America on 21 October 1853, a passenger on the ship Benjamin Adams.

There it is in the ship passenger list: the name of the ship and the date of his arrival!
Done.

With this information, I did a search on FamilySearch and found confirmation.

screenshot of New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891

Source: FamilySearch “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1891” https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/275L-W4Z

screenshot of New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891, showing the listing for William Kemp

Source: FamilySearch “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1891” https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/275L-W4Z

But, Was There More to William’s Story?

The name of the ship and the arrival date are good to know, but I wanted to find out more about William’s story—and old newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, are a good resource for finding our ancestors’ stories.

Searching GenealogyBank by the name of the ship—not the name of my ancestor—I found this article in the American and Commercial Daily Advertiser reporting that the Benjamin Adams left Friday 26 March 1852 on its maiden voyage from Bath, Maine, to Baltimore, Maryland.

shipping news, American and Commercial Daily Advertiser newspaper article 1 April 1852

American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, Maryland), 1 April 1852, page 3

Advertisements for “the splendid ship Benjamin Adams” highlighted its comfortable accommodations of 6 to 8 cabins above deck and another 75 to 80 accommodations in steerage below deck.

article about the accomodations on the ship "Benjamin Adams," American and Commercial Daily Advertiser newspaper article 28 April 1852

American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, Maryland), 28 April 1852, page 1

Once William Kemp made his decision to emigrate he would have taken a steamship from Ireland to Liverpool, England, arriving at Clarence Dock along the Mersey River in Liverpool.

Liverpool has a series of docks along the banks of the Mersey River. It was one of the major hubs of immigration to America.

According to Liverpool and Emigration in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Information Sheet number 64:

By 1851 it had become the leading emigration port in Europe with 159,840 passengers sailing to North America, as opposed to the second port, Le Havre, [France] with 31,859.

This would have been the scene in mid-19th century Liverpool when William arrived to wait for his ship to America.

painting: “Liverpool Docks from Wapping,” 1870, by John Atkinson Grimshaw

Painting: “Liverpool Docks from Wapping,” 1870, by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893). Source: original is at the Liverpool City Library, Liverpool, England.

The Preparation and Movement of Ships

Here is a newspaper article reporting that the ship Benjamin Adams had moved from the dock and into the Mersey River ready to head outbound—waiting to move up the river with the aid of a tugboat that will direct it safely to the open ocean.

shipping news, Portland Weekly Advertiser newspaper article 13 September 1853

Portland Weekly Advertiser (Portland, Maine), 13 September 1853, page 3

The big day arrived: the Benjamin Adams set sail on 24 August 1853 bound for New York City.

shipping news, Daily Atlas newspaper article 10 September 1853

Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), 10 September 1853, page 2

Ship Arrival Times

It was announced in the Weekly Herald newspaper that the Benjamin Adams arrived in New York City on 21 October 1853.
They made it.

shipping news, Weekly Herald newspaper article 22 October 1853

Weekly Herald (New York City, New York), 22 October 1853, page 344

News Stories of Trouble at Sea

Newspapers can tell us just how difficult the cross-Atlantic trip was for our ancestors. That Weekly Herald article gave more details on the trip. The voyage took 56 days with 620 passengers on board. The ship was hit by a storm, suffering major damage:

Sept. 10, while laying to under a close reefed topsail in a heavy gale from the NW, lost all three topgallant masts, closed reefed mizzen topsail, foresail, mainsail, stern boat, and received other damage.

The old news article also reported: “Had 15 deaths on the passage.”

A week later the Weekly Herald told us why so many had died.

Great Mortality in Emigrant Ships, Weekly Herald newspaper article 29 October 1853

Weekly Herald (Albany, New York), 29 October 1853, page 350

Cholera was killing passengers on ship after ship:

…it is pretty certain that the disease which carried them off was cholera, that fatal malady which is making such havoc among the shipping in Europe…The sickness on the Benjamin Adams was decidedly cholera.

Cholera was a major problem in England and Europe in the mid-1800s. In 1853-1854 it killed more than 31,000 people in London alone. It would be another year before the pioneering work of John Snow, M.D. (1813-1858) discovered the cause and cure for the repeated cholera epidemics.

The Albany Evening Journal had this report about the arrival of the Benjamin Adams.

article about the ship "Benjamin Adams," Albany Evening Journal newspaper article 22 October 1853

Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York), 22 October 1853, page 2

Passenger Ship Routes

Wait—the Benjamin Adams arrived “from Syria” bringing “a Jerusalem plow and other articles from the Holy Land, for the Crystal Palace at New York”? Notice that it stopped in Boston, Massachusetts, before continuing on to New York City.

When was the ship in Syria?

Digging deeper into GenealogyBank’s old newspapers—there it is.

The ship was in Beirut on July 25th before going to Liverpool to pick up William Kemp and the other 619 passengers.

shipping news, Daily Atlas newspaper article 1 September 1853

Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), 1 September 1853, page 2

The Springfield Republican gave more details.

article about the ship "Benjamin Adams," Springfield Republican newspaper article 25 October 1853

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 25 October 1853, page 2

In addition to the “Arab plough,” the Benjamin Adams brought:

…canes from the banks of the Jordan, branches from the Mount of Olives and cedars of Lebanon, and husks that the “prodigal son” would have eaten if he had had them to eat.

Conclusion

When I began searching for the name of the ship and the date that William Kemp arrived in America, I only knew that William was born in Corradownan, County Cavan, Ireland. I did not know any additional details about William’s cross-Atlantic trip.

Thanks to CastleGarden.org and FamilySearch.org, I learned that he came over on the ship Benjamin Adams and that he arrived in New York City on 21 October 1853.

Those were the basic facts, but it took the old newspapers in GenealogyBank’s deep newspaper archives to fill in the rest of the story. These newspapers gave me the details of how dangerous the trip was, reported that it took an incredible 56 days, provided a description of the ship’s accommodations, and listed the interesting ancient relics it was bringing from Syria to the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations—the World’s Fair—held in 1853 in New York City.

Old documents give us the names, dates and places, but newspapers have the stories that give life to our ancestors and make their experiences memorable and unforgettable.

Old Family Photos Reveal More about Our Family Stories

Here’s a tip for your family history research: Use old photos of your ancestors to generate family stories.

photo of John and Mary (Brown) Kemp

Photo: John and Mary (Brown) Kemp. Source: Kemp family records.

Start the Conversation

This past weekend I took this old family photo off the wall to scan it and add it to my family history collection online.

It shows my great-grandparents John and Mary (Brown) Kemp and was taken in the late 1930s. I asked my Dad what he could tell me about this old photo of my ancestors.

He described his grandparents and the old black and white photo—even where the bench was in the backyard in Stamford, Connecticut. He said that the gate on the left side of the photo opened up to Frank Street and added:

Behind the low bushes in the background is a driveway leading to their garage. I don’t know why they had a garage—my grandfather never owned a car. He rode a bicycle to work.

Wow—my great-grandparents never owned a car!
That seems odd in modern society.

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My Dad went on:

On the right is one of the several cherry trees that were along the tall back fence that separated their property from the playground field of the Rogers Junior High School. When I walked over to visit my grandparents I would climb that fence and play with the kids in the playground.

Still looking for your old family photos? Be sure to check GenealogyBank’s “Search Photos” search page to find photos of your family.

Show those old photos of your ancestors to your relatives and see what additional family details and stories you discover.

Please write in and tell us what surprises you find out in your genealogy research.

Related Articles about Genealogy & Family Photos:

Using Obituaries to Pay It Forward: Boomerang Effect

I am always looking at Kemps, wanting to know if they are related to me or not.

Since Kemp is a pretty rare surname, I like to pull recent “Kemp” obituaries and trace back their family line to see if the person is a relative of mine. If he is—terrific; I’ll add his line to my family tree. But if he’s not I am still glad I took the time since the more “Kemp” family trees I can plant, trace and put online, the faster I will have found and documented my family and at the same time made it easier for other Kemps to discover their family history.

It will take a while, but I’d like to think that I can organize and account for all Kemps—and by putting the genealogical information I find online, I am making a lasting contribution for further genealogy research, sort of creating an extended Kemp family forest.

Researching Further with Recent Obituaries

Here’s what I do.

I go to GenealogyBank’s Recent Newspaper Obituaries collection and pull a recent Kemp obituary to see which Kemp line that person belongs to.

For example, here is the obituary for Fred Benny Kemp, who died one week ago.

obituary for Fred Benny Kemp, Avenue News newspaper article 29 August 2014

Avenue News (Essex, Maryland), 29 August 2014

I took this recent Kemp obituary and plugged the information into my online family tree. Looking at the old newspapers, the census and similar sources, I quickly pulled together his family tree.

No, Fred Benny Kemp is not related to my Kemp line—but the tree is planted online so future family historians can build on the family tree I started.

Digging Deeper into the Kemp Story

But wait—there’s more.

Fred Benny Kemp was in World War II—a gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber.

Hey—so was my Dad.

Maybe there is a connection after all.

Googling for more information, I found this video interview on YouTube uploaded by WBAL – Baltimore, Maryland, in 2012:

http://youtu.be/LLmG3dqBC5c

Here is the key quote:

In World War Two I flew a B-24 with the 450 Bomb Group, 722nd Bomb Squadron.

Hey—that sounds familiar.

I double checked, and my Dad was in the 450 Bomb Group—but in the 723rd Squadron. Both were stationed in Manduria, Italy.

Had their paths in life ever crossed?

Had they met each other?

Almost—but they didn’t meet.

According to the video interview, Fred Kemp’s B-24 left his air base in Manduria, Italy, on 25 February 1944, when he was shot down and remained a POW for the duration of the war. Since my Dad was transferred to Manduria four months later on 11 June 1944 they never met.

Search All Your Surname Obituaries

Using GenealogyBank’s obituaries to research “all” Kemps who have lived in America is a fun way to pay it forward and help other genealogists. It was also good to see that these two Kemps—though not related—had similar experiences in the war. If I hadn’t picked his obituary at random, I never would have learned the rest of this story.

Do you ever research your extended family tree using obituaries? If so, what nuggets have you found? Please share with us in the comments.

Related Obituary Research Articles & Video Tutorial:

What Do You Plan to Do with Your Old Family Heirlooms?

Maybe you have an old cedar chest, or other large object, as one of your prized family heirlooms.

photo of a cedar chest

Source: Abernethy’s

We have an old chest that was owned by my grandmother, Adelaide Mildred (Wright) Kemp (1893-1949), and it was said that it had been passed down to her mother, Ida Estelle (Smith) Wright (1873-1963).

Now if the only family heirloom we had was one object, we might be able to handle that—but wait, there’s more.

Much more.

There are also old photos—large ones, framed—and dishware, glasses, books, and on and on.

What do you do when your home has become the designated family museum—and you start looking to the future wondering what will become of these treasured heirlooms?

Start by taking a photograph of each heirloom and upload that to your online family tree. Record which relative owned the object and tell the object’s story. What is it? Who owned it? And why is it important to the family?

That’s a start.

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But, as you look to the future, what is your plan if other family members are not interested in these old heirlooms?

What is the best way to preserve these pieces of your family history?

What solutions do you have for heirloom preservation?

What is your plan?

Please share and give all of us the benefit of your best thinking on this.

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Family History Fact Finding: True Family Stories in Newspapers

GenealogyBank has really been great for finding the personal stories of each family member.

I have been systematically going through the old newspapers looking for my Revolutionary War ancestors, and the other day I decided to look for my more recent ancestors and cousins.

A quick search found this article.

article about an accident at the St. John Wood Working Company, Stamford Advocate newspaper article 12 November 1886

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 12 November 1886, page 2

The historical newspaper article reports:

A young man named Kemp, employed at St. John, Hoyt & Co.’s planing mill, got his right arm badly injured by an accident on Tuesday last [9 November 1886]. It got caught in a dove-tailing machine, which lacerated the flesh and broke the bone. It is said the arm will be saved, though perhaps in a more or less disabled condition.

I recognized that this was my cousin George Andrew Kemp (1864-1935) even though the article did not give his full name.

Enter Last Name










illustration of the St. John Wood Working Company, Hardwood and Cabinet Department

Image: St. John Wood Working Company, Hardwood and Cabinet Department. Source: “Picturesque Stamford – 1892,” Stamford Historical Society.

Digging deeper I found this follow-up newspaper article.

article about an accident by George Kemp at the St. John Wood Working Company, Stamford Advocate newspaper article 18 February 1887

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 18 February 1887, page 2

According to the 1800s news article:

George A. Kemp, who about three months ago had his arm badly lacerated, has through the surgical treatment of Drs. Hungerford and A. M. Hurlbutt, and under the skillful care of Dr. Geib, come out with a magnificent arm, with a new joint which will answer for an elbow. He is now able to resume his work at the same place—the St. John Wood-Working Co.

Confirmation.

Enter Last Name










Great—it was George Andrew Kemp, and the second article gave information about the surgical procedure and the physicians who performed it.

We have a family story that George had hurt his arm and was handicapped for the rest of his life.

Thanks to these articles in old newspapers, we have confirmation and more of the details of his personal story. We did not know that he was only 22 years old at the time of the accident, or that this handicap would last for the rest of his adult life.

Family history also tells us that while he was no longer able to work in the wood shop, the accident didn’t slow him down. He opened his own business and sold goods as a traveling salesman, delivering kerosene and doughnuts with his horse and wagon for the next 49 years. He died in 1935 at age 71 years of age.

It’s OK to Plant Trees in Winter—Family Trees, That Is

Let’s make 2014 the Year of the Tree: family trees.

I encourage you to plant new family trees every month in this New Year.

photo of a frozen tree

Credit: Wikipedia

Like you, growing my family tree and documenting each person in it keeps me busy. More and more information is constantly going online for us to search and add to our family histories. For example, every week GenealogyBank adds millions of additional records including obituaries, birth notices, marriage announcements and other useful articles.

My family tree easily has over 20,000 different names. As I find obituaries for others with the same surnames I am working on, it is interesting for me to see if that person is related to my family.

In a typical day, I’ll pick an obituary for any random “Kemp” or “Varney” and trace back that person’s lineage, chaining through obituaries, marriage and engagement announcements, and the census records to see if they hook into my family tree.

I take that information and plant it on several of the online family tree sites, putting all of my research notes and links online. This makes it easy for me to navigate my sprouting forest of family trees so that I can quickly refer back to them.

In time I can see if any name on these growing sprouts is related to me or not. Having all of the information online also allows other researchers on the same family lines to collaborate by adding to and documenting these lines with sources and photographs. It is essential that we put everything we can online. I limit this to only the deceased members of my family tree, and do not put information about my living relatives online in order to protect their privacy.

Perhaps a certain “Kemp” I found is a relative or not. As I chain back in time the number of individuals and surnames double and double again and again. While this person might not be related to me at first glance, by looking deeper I might find that this person is a cousin through another side of the family tree.

This is especially true in smaller geographic areas. For example, I have found that today I am related to almost everyone that lived in pre-1820 eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire. While they were not all related at that time, adding in the generations over the past 200 years has multiplied the odds that there is now a direct relationship to all of them today on my family tree.

By taking the time to organize, document and sprout mini-family trees online, I increase the odds of my linking up all of my extended family members over time.

Play it forward and plant more family trees online throughout the year. It will benefit you and all of your genealogy colleagues.

Make 2014 the Year of the Tree.