Ephemera: A Surprisingly Fertile Genealogical Resource

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena writes about an unusual—but a personal favorite—source of family history information: ephemera.

As I research my family history I look forward to finding unusual sources that reveal different aspects of my ancestor’s life beyond what an online index provides. One unusual source I find myself searching for is ephemera. In fact, I LOVE ephemera.

What’s ephemera you ask? Well one of the official definitions is “paper items (such as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles” (from Miriam Webster). At first glance that may seem to refer to only a few items but, according to the Ephemera Society of America, the Encyclopedia of Ephemera lists 500 categories of ephemera. Vintage ephemera can provide details of your ancestor’s life, even vital record information, or a specific place and time for them.

ephemera example: wedding anniversary invitation

Ephemera example: wedding anniversary invitation. From the author’s collection.

In genealogical terms it can include everything from your grandparents’ World War II ration books, a Christmas card your great-grandparents sent out, newspaper clippings of obituaries and marriage announcements, to the letters your 4th great-grandfather wrote from the battlefield during the Civil War. But it’s even more than that. In some cases it may be tidbits that provide social history information like a World War I recruitment poster or a menu from the first restaurant in your hometown.

ephemera example: restaurant menu

Ephemera example: restaurant menu. From the author’s collection.

Not everyone fully embraces ephemera in genealogical research. Why? These types of historical records can be difficult to find. In searching for ephemera that has your ancestor’s name on it you will need to start with home sources. When I refer to a home source, I’m not just suggesting looking for items in your home. Ask your family members about any types of items they may have inherited. In some cases family members may not realize what genealogical treasures they have. It might take several discussions where you reminisce or conduct an interview before they remember some of the items they have been holding on to.

I recently blogged about a letter I found in my childhood stamp collection that was given to me by my maternal grandmother. She had given me the letter to keep because of its interesting stamp. As I read this long-forgotten letter, I realized it contained important genealogical information from her own research on an English family line from the 1800s.

Cast your genealogical fishing line far and wide, and reach out to a distant unknown cousin who may have an heirloom or a forgotten item in their home. Utilizing social media can help get the word out about your research. Consider using a blog, website, Twitter or Facebook as just some of the ways to help other researchers find you.

ephemera example: graduation exercises brochure

Ephemera example: graduation exercises brochure. From the author’s collection.

Ephemera can also be found in collections housed at archives, libraries, societies and museums. One way to find these types of historical collections is to search either the repository’s catalog or a union catalog (one that includes multiple repositories), such as ArchiveGrid or the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC). When researching collections, search on the place your ancestor was from to find materials that might have originated with an acquaintance or neighbor. Also consider groups and organizations your ancestor was a member of when searching through collections.

ephemera example: postcard

Ephemera example: postcard. From the author’s collection.

Do you have ephemera from your family or someone else’s? Consider sharing this by scanning and posting it on the Internet. Several non-genealogy blogs share ephemera they have found or collected. Check out Forgotten Bookmarks, Paper Great, and Permanent Record for ideas of how others are sharing ephemera. By sharing their genealogical finds and collections they make it possible for descendants to be reunited with their family history.

More Massachusetts, North Carolina & Virginia Newspapers Coming Online!

Newspapers are a great source for obituaries, as well as birth notices, marriage announcements, family reunion stories, and local news reports—providing great information to help with your family history research.

collage of birth notices, wedding announcements and obituaries

Collage of birth notices, wedding announcements and obituaries

Every day GenealogyBank adds more newspaper back issues online, filling in the gaps in our content coverage. These daily expansions can range from one newspaper issue—like the 1 January 1986 issue of the Greensboro News and Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)—to over 4,730 back issues of the Boston Daily Record (Boston, Massachusetts).

Here is a list of some of the additions we will be adding to GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives soon, including two MA papers, four NC papers, and one from VA. This addition alone will provide 9,203 more newspaper back issues to help you discover your “Bay State,” “Tar Heel State,” and “Old Dominion” ancestry.

list of Massachusetts, North Carolina and Virginia newspapers being added to GenealogyBank's online historical newspaper archives

List of Massachusetts, North Carolina and Virginia newspapers being added to GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives

From a handful to warehouse full of old newspapers, we are busy putting more newspapers online everyday for you.

Look for these additional newspapers to be added in the coming weeks on our new content page. This is just a small slice of the millions of genealogy records that GenealogyBank adds every month to help you trace your family tree.

Treasured Discovery: Only-Known Photos of Ancestors Found in Old Newspapers

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott tells about finding the only-known photos of two of his ancestors in old newspaper wedding announcements—and a surprising engagement notice that told him something he never knew about his own mother!

Summertime! The livin’ is easy and traditionally it is the time for weddings. My bride and I just celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary a short time ago and it got me to thinking about how much I have gained in my family history and genealogy work from searching for engagement notices and wedding announcements in GenealogyBank.com.

Mr. & Mrs. Scott Phillips Wedding Photo 1975

The author’s wedding photo from 1975.

As many of us go about developing and nurturing our family trees, I think you’ll agree that one of the best aspects of that work is discovering photographs of our ancestors. Let me tell you, few places that I have found beat newspaper engagement and wedding stories for personal photos—sometimes the only picture anyone in the family has of a particular ancestor. I have had terrific success in my family tree with these types of articles.

A great example was the newspaper article I recently found when researching my Havlic branch. I discovered the wedding announcement for Eleanor Anna Havlic as reported in the Plain Dealer on 30 September 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio. Not only was I thrilled that there was a picture of my ancestor, but it showed some lovely period dress for a 1928 wedding. Additionally, I was treated to the names of parents, spouse, in-laws, addresses of both, the new couple’s home address, bridal party members, wedding date, and the name of their church.

Mrs Louis J Beran Old Marriage Announcement

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 30 September 1928, page 50.

Another nice find for me was the wedding story of another cousin, Margaret Tager, again in the Plain Dealer (27 August 1961) in Cleveland. Once more I was excited to find an old wedding photo that illustrated the current fashion, this time of the early 1960s, plus addresses, parents’ and in-laws’ names, the name of the church where the ceremony was held—and there was even a mention of where both the bride and groom attended college. As an added treat, the newspaper article explained where the couple honeymooned.

Margaret Ann Tager Marriage Announcement

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 27 August 1961, page 108.

In the case of both of the above family members, the old newspaper articles provided me with the only photos I have of these particular ancestors, which make them all the more important to my work, my family, and our family tree.

Oh, and don’t forget that every so often you just might find one of those “ah-ha” moments we all enjoy so much in genealogy. I had one myself not long ago.

After working on one of my grandparent’s branches I was having some fun searching different family surnames to see what I could find. As I was running my grandmother’s married name lo and behold I found an engagement announcement! I clicked on the article to find…my mother had been engaged one time before becoming engaged to, and then marrying, the man who was to become my father. This was a fact that had not been a topic of discussion in my life ever before.

Thank goodness my mom made the choice she did or I wouldn’t be here writing this today!

That was a close call…and a really fun discovery.

Using Newspaper Marriage Records for Genealogy: Free Webinar Download

Newspapers are the next big thing for genealogists, with news stories that can flesh out the names and dates on your family tree so that you can better know your ancestors. With over 1.2 billion  genealogy records online, GenealogyBank is the best source for mining old newspapers for engagement, wedding, and anniversary announcements—as well as for divorce records.

GenealogyBank search form for marriage records and engagement announcements

GenealogyBank search form for marriage records and engagement announcements

Download Tom Kemp’s latest genealogy webinar on marriage records to learn handy tips and search strategies, as well as what kinds of marriage records you can expect to find in newspapers:

http://slidesha.re/MKseIt

Practical and timely, this informative presentation will show the research skills you need to get the most out of GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives.

Best Source for Finding Old Marriage Records!

GenealogyBank is your best source for finding old marriage records.

Newspapers regularly published marriage announcements – like this one from the Weekly Pelican (New Orleans, LA) 26 Oct 1889.

Whether you’re looking for a wedding announcement published in 1802, 1862 or 1962 – GenealogyBank is your most comprehensive source.

TIP: Focus your search by the type of article.
In this example in the Historical Newspapers section – limit your search to only the marriage notices. Click on the highlighted topic and only the wedding and marriage announcement articles will appear in your search – saving you time.

Find and document your ancestors in GenealogyBank – the best source for old newspapers & documents on the planet.

Period!

GenealogyBank adds 1,800+ Newspapers

This has been a landmark month for GenealogyBank.

It has added more content for over 1,800 newspapers – including more than 100 new newspaper titles not previously in GenealogyBank.

That’s over 17.6 million articles – including obituaries, marriage announcements and more. New content was added for all 50 States.

And we’re not done yet!

That is just too many titles to list all of them here.
So, here is a tip.

To see what new historical newspapers have been added that document your family tree – use the drop down menu and narrow your search to only the newspapers “added since April 2010″.


This handy feature lets you search only the recently added content saving you time.

GenealogyBank keeps on growing.

Search it now!
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Here comes the bride …

Newspaper marriage announcements can give you important clues for your family history.

This one tells us where & when the marriage took place; the name of the minister; the names of the bride & groom and where they were from.

This marriage notice from the Public Ledger 23 March 1863 states that Mary A. Middleton was the second daughter of Robert C. Middleton and that Annie M. Smith was the youngest daughter of the late Col. Kenderton Smith.

Here is a good example of 4 Generations of a family gathering for a wedding.

And then there is this example of a wedding announcement that includes too much information. (Idaho Statesman 28 Oct 1922).
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A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y

I am often asked: Do you have Canadian newspapers in GenealogyBank?

Well, no we don’t – but that’s not the question you want to ask. GenealogyBank has over 3,800 newspapers – all of them published in the United States – but it has several million articles, records and documents on Canadians.

Tip: I have been researching my family tree for 45 years and I can tell you that you’ll find the information on your family where you least expect to find it.

Here’s a wedding announcement for Alexander James Ross of Winnipeg, Manitoba and Mary Moore McArthur of Picton, Nova Scotia – they were married in Chicago 6 March 1882. (Inter Ocean 14 March 1882).

Newspapers were published – every day.
And every day editors had to fill the next day’s paper & they wanted to sell papers.

So they pulled “news” from a wide circle of influence. Birth announcements, marriage announcements, and obituaries from small town and big city newspapers.

Just like CNN or Fox News – the daily newspapers had to fill their pages with hard news. News that people wanted to read and that would sell subscriptions.

If you are researching Canadian genealogy then
GenealogyBank is an essential online tool.

Eastport, Maine is a small town on the Maine coast right on the border with New Brunswick, Canada.

As you would expect the Eastport Sentinnel regularly carried birth, death and marriage announcements for individuals and families from the Canadian side of the border.

Look at this example of marriage notices published in the
29 March 1828 Eastport (ME) Sentinnel. Look at the places mentioned “Lubec” – “Dennysville” – “St. Andrews” – “Antigua” – “St. Stephens” and “Charlotte”. Towns on both sides of the border. “Antigua” refers to the island nation of Antigua.

Nothing unusual here – just a typical day with a newspaper editor packing his paper with the information his readers wanted to read.

Just like GenealogyBank – everyday we pack in more resources that genealogists need and rely on. You’re not finished with your research until you’ve searched the newspapers in GenealogyBank.
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GenealogyBank adds new search tools

GenealogyBank has added new search capabilities to speed up your research.

These new features let you:
1. Limit your search to only the most recently added content
2. Search multiple states at the same time

3. Search multiple cities at the same time
4. Search one newspaper or multiple newspapers at the same time
5. Narrow search by article category


1. Limit your search to only the most recently added content.
This feature let’s you limit your search to the content added in the last 3 months. Simply select from the drop down menu to search only content added in February through today; in January through today or in December 2008 through today. This handy feature let’s you search only the most recently added content.

2. Search multiple states at one time
Previously you could limit your search to one state – now you may limit your search to any number of states. Simply check the states that you want to search.

3. Search multiple cities at one time
This handy features allows you to narrow your search to all of the newspapers published in a specific town or towns. Simply click on the state and a new map and list of cities will appear. Check the city or cities that you want to search. You may search one or multiple cities from the same state.

4. Search one newspaper or multiple newspapers at the same time
This new feature let’s you search only a specific newspaper or select multiple newspapers that you want to search. This feature let’s you focus your search and saves you time.

5. Narrow your search by article category
I have saved the best for last. Once you have done a search in the Historical Newspapers – a new column appears on the left side of the screen. This featue let’s you select out only the article categories that you are looking for. For example you could select: Birth Notice – and then see only your “hits” that were birth announcements. Or you could select to see only the advertisements; shipping notices; marriage announcements etc.

To see how this works – take the tour below or go directly to GenealogyBank and start searching.

Genealogy Bank – New Features Added Feb 2009

Best source for old newspapers online

GenealogyBank is the best source for early US newspapers on the planet.

Last week I wrote about digging in GenealogyBank and finding articles about my early American ancestors in Maine.

I had found family death and marriage announcements – this week I kept digging for more information about William Garcelon (1763-1851) his wife Maria (Harris) Garcelon (1763-1850) and his father Sea Captain James Garcelon (1739-1813) – and I found it!

Wow – in GenealogyBank I found this article from the Maine Gazette 22 July 1799

reporting that William Garcelon lost a horse in 1799 – “a black mare, with a white face and two white hind feet, about 15 years old” – it adds the key fact that he was living in Freeport, Maine in 1799.

Looking further I found a shipping article in the Essex (MA) Gazette (1769) stating that [Captain] J[ames] Garcelon had set sail on the Schooner Alexander for Bilbao, [Spain].

By family tradition we knew that he was a sea captain but here was proof and details of this voyage in 1769 – just 10 years after he had settled in America.

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Wow – A newspaper published in 1769?

I didn’t know that newspapers that old had survived – let alone that they were digitized and easily searchable online.

Tip: GenealogyBank has old newspapers going back to 1690 – easy to search, read, print and save!

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Then in the 25 Feb 1811 issue of the Maine Gazette was the advertisement that James Garcelon’s farm was for sale. It gives a terrific description: 150 acres, 20 of them wooded, “handsome young orchard”, a “very pleasantly situated” two story house and more. Wow, you could almost picture the property.

Why was James Garcelon (1739-1813) selling his home and property? Were he and his wife, Deliverance (Annis) Garcelon (1735-1828), moving in with one of his children? At age 72, had he become infirm and unable to manage the property? Probably so.

We get another clue from the probate notice in the 24 Jan 1814 Maine Gazette.

Sea Captain James Garcelon had died 17 November 1813. His son [Rev.] James Garcelon was the executor.
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Tip: GenealogyBank is a goldmine.

No other source has this many early US newspapers.

Only newspapers give this level of detail about the lives of Colonial Americans.
Wow – over 3,700 newspapers – the best newspaper site on the planet.

Search GenealogyBank now.
What will you find? _____________________________________________________