Joel Munsell – a genealogist & publisher who went to jail to protect his sources

Joel Munsell was an active genealogist, publisher, printer and journalist. He’s always been one of my “heroes” for his legendary contributions to genealogy and local history. (Photo – Munselle’s Picassa Gallery)

I was looking on GenealogyBank and found his marriage to Jane Caroline Bigelow (1812-1854)

17 June 1834 Independent Inquirer 28 Jun 1834

And here is his obituary – (New York Herald – 17 Jan 1880).

Look at this article from the New York Herald – 28 Feb 1845.

Munsell published a small pamphlet in 1845 – Pulpit Sketches, or Dreams of a Pew Holder. The author was not identified. The pamphlet by innuendo subjected prominent citizens to “libelous ridicule”.

Real controversy erupted and following a Grand Jury Munsell was found in contempt and had a “choice to pay two hundred and fifty dollars or stand the imprisonment” …. all for not revealing the author’s name. He went to jail.

This case is held up as one of the early cases where journalists went to jail rather than reveal their sources.

But dig a little deeper.

This pamphlet was pointed and barbed – on page 27 the new chapter compares “Rev Dr. J.N.C. to “Judas Iscariot”. Tough stuff.

Who was the Rev. Dr. J.N.C.? Why attack him?

As in our day when the President’s team had moral problems they called on the minister’s of the day to resolve the issue. In Andrew Jackson’s day his cabinet was deeply involved with a scandal involving Peggy Eaton – that drove cabinet members to resign.

The President called on the Rev. John Nicholson Campbell (1798-1864) to examine the situation and counsel with the parties involved. Read the details here in the San Jose Mercury 3 May 1903.

Those actions in 1831 resulted in Munsell’s pamphlet in 1845.

But, who was the author?

Librarians and historians have concluded that the author was Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1937). So it was a 13 year old boy who wrote this pamphlet attacking the most learned and respected clergy of his day.

My question is: Did Joel Munsell refuse to say who the author was from journalistic zeal to protect his sources or because his source was a 13 year old boy? Or – was someone else the author of that pamphlet?

Write me and tell me what you think.


I am looking for my family tree. Can you tell me how to find it in GenealogyBank?

GenealogyBank – is an online library of resources – millions of them. Like a library it has an index – in our case an index on every word making it easy to find references in each of the issues of the newspapers, books etc. It has over 1 billion names.

Illustration: Wikipedia Commons)
Documenting your family tree is a lot like putting up the family Christmas tree. You have the bare tree and now you need to look in the boxes of Christmas decorations and put up each one.

It takes time to pick out and put the items in just the right place on the tree – but when you’re done – wow – it always looks great.

So – let’s get started on putting together your “family tree”.

What do you know about the family?

Who are you looking for?

For example – what are your grandparents or great-grandparent’s names?

When and where were the born?
When, where were they married?

So – you’ll see who you are looking for and with the when/where of their birth, marriage and death – you can decide where in GenealogyBank will I be likely to find that information.

If they died in say, 1982 – then look in the Social Security Death Index and in the America’s Obituaries section.

If they served in the Revolutionary War – then we’ll look in the early newspapers for articles and in the Revolutionary War Grave Index in the “Historical Documents” section.

Tell me more about your family and we’ll start researching in GenealogyBank to discover the original sources that document their lives.

Taking the time to gather together the facts to document your family tree is worth it – just like it is to take the time to put together the family Christmas tree each year.

We can do this.
Tell me more about your family.


The Old Cemetery – a tour in 1822

Newspaper articles can tell us about our ancestors and also the details of the cemeteries where they were buried.

“English names often startled us
as we walked through
the alleys of tombstones…”

I found this article giving a detailed tour of the Père Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetière du Père-Lachaise) written in 1822 – one of the oldest and most visited cemeteries in Paris if not the world.

Click Here: to read the complete article published in the 30 April 1822 Eastern Argus (Portland, ME).

By foreign hands thy dying eyes were clos’d,
By foreign hands thy decent limbs compos’d,

By foreign hands thy humble grave adorn’d,
By strangers honour’d, and by strangers mourn’d!
Alexander Pope “Elegy To The Memory Of An Unfortunate Lady. 1717”

Discover your heritage, preserve it and pass it on!

Be a part of
GenealogyBankSign up Now.

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


Michael Jackson (1958 -2009) You’ll Only Find Him on GenealogyBank’s SSDI

If you’re looking for Michael Jackson in the SSDI – you’ll only find him on GenealogyBank‘s copy of the Social Security Death Index.

Because GenealogyBank is the ONLY site that updates the SSDI every week.

Be a part of GenealogyBank – Sign up Now.

Find and document your ancestors in GenealogyBank – the best source for old newspapers on the planet.
Thank you to Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak for alerting me.

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.

John Fuller longtime leader in Internet Genealogy has passed away.

I was alerted to John Fuller’s passing by DearMYRTLE. Others in the genealogy community have sent me items to include in writing about him. His complete obituary will be posted later this weekend.
John Fuller was well known in the genealogy community for his landmark website – Genealogy Resources on the Internet – that made it easy to find “Genealogy Mailing Lists” and other resources online. He started that site back in 1995. That seems so long ago now.

A viewing and visitation will be held this coming Tuesday, June 23 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm at the
Murphy Funeral Home; 4510 Wilson Blvd.; Arlington, VA

Per his sister Cynthia, “John would not want flowers” – she suggested memorial gifts to the American Cancer Society.

(Photo supplied by the family – John was a career Navy Officer in the Submarine Service)

"I sank the Bismarck"

The London Daily Telegraph (9 June 2009) is reporting that it was John Moffat, an RAF pilot, who dropped the torpedo that led to the sinking of the Bismarck on May 28, 1941.

(Click here to read the entire article Dallas Morning News 31 May 1941).

The sinking of the Bismarck is a powerful story. The US was not in the war yet – but the headlines of the war in Europe and Asia had gripped the country for years. Pearl Harbor would not be attacked for another 7 months.

(Dallas Morning News 8 Dec 1961).

Songs were sung about that day.

Whether you are researching your ancestor’s in World War II or the Revolutionary War you will depend on GenealogyBank to get the job done.

Over 3,800 newspapers, all 50 States, 1690-Today
Join with us today!

Thank you to History News Network for alerting me to this story.

Columbia University puts Tibetan newspaper online

Columbia University Libraries has placed a new digital library of 97 issues of the Tibet Mirror (Tib. Yul phyogs so so’i gsar ‘gyur me long) online for scholars to consult and study. Click here to see this collection.

(Image: Yul phyogs so soʾi gsar ʾgyur me long (Kālimpong : G. Tharchin, 1925-<1963>)

The digitized newspapers date from 1933 to 1961, and offer a total of 844 scanned pages drawn from the rich collections of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library.

This Tibetan-language newspaper was published from 1925 to 1963 in Kalimpong, India, and chronicles the most dramatic social and political transformation to have occurred in Tibet during a time when vernacular writing was relatively scarce, and a Tibetan media otherwise non-existent. Columbia’s holdings represent about 30% of the paper’s full run.

“The recent digitization of large portions of the Tibet Mirror is a welcome and significant advancement in the study of modern Tibet,” said Gray Tuttle, Leila Hadley Luce Assistant Professor of Modern Tibetan Studies at Columbia University. “This Tibetan language resource was a key source of news of the world to Tibetans in the middle of the 20th century. As such, it demonstrates that at least some Tibetans were well aware of international developments, from the spread of Communism from Russia to China to the price of wool in Indian markets.”

“To date, no serious study of the contents of this important resource has been published. Having used the existing collections in the past, I am very excited to see how easy it is to navigate around, read and download from this online resource. The contributors Paul Hackett and Tina Harris, Columbia’s Tibetan Studies librarian Lauran Hartley, and all the Columbia staff who made this beautiful site a reality have made an immense contribution to modern Tibetan Studies worldwide,” continued Tuttle.

The digitized newspaper is a cornerstone of the Starr Library’s “Tharchin Collection,” which features the papers of Gegen Dorje Tharchin (1889-1976), a Tibetan Christian convert and the renowned editor of the Tibet Mirror. The Tharchin Collection, which is being readied for public access this year, was acquired with support from the Columbia University Libraries’ Primary Resources Acquisitions Program. In addition to final and draft publications (in both modern and traditional formats), the Collection also includes correspondence; accounts from 1918-1924, and later years; receipts and financial statements; an imprint of a seal designed for the “Future Democratic Tibet Government;” Tibetan hymnals and bibles; scattered photographic prints; advertising solicitations; a list of cotton licenses; and a “Certificate for Traders, Muleteers and Porters.”

The newspapers were a recent gift to C.V. Starr East Asian Library from Dr. Paul G. Hackett, who donated 75 issues, and CUNY graduate student Tina Harris, who donated 22 issues of the paper. The digitized library was created as joint project of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library, the Preservation and Digital Conversion Division, and the Libraries Digital Program Division. For more information about the project, contact Hartley at

The C.V. Starr East Asian Library is one of the major collections for the study of East Asia in the United States, with over 820,000 volumes of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, and Western language materials, as well as some holdings in Mongol and Manchu, and over 6,500 periodical titles. The collection, established in 1902, is particularly strong in Chinese history, literature, and social sciences; Japanese literature, history, and religion, particularly Buddhism; and Korean history. The Library’s website is located at:

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 25 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 550 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries at is the gateway to its services and resources.

This collection is not on GenealogyBank. adding more content for 16 states is adding 8,122 back issues — newspapers from 16 states – filling in gaps; 12 new titles.

This new content will go live on this week.

New titles are indicated by an asterisk *

Berkeley, CA. Grito. 1 Issue. 6/1/1970
Los Angeles, CA. Amigo del Pueblo* 1 Issue. 1861-11-30
Los Angeles, CA. Clamor Publico. 5 Issues. 1856-01-12 to 1857-02-14
Los Angeles, CA. Eco Mejicano* 1 Issue. 1885-10-29
Los Angeles, CA. Heraldo de Mexico. 1 Issue. 11/17/1927
Oakland, CA. Mundo. 99 Issues. 1/7/1971 to 4/2/1975
Sacramento, CA. Post (El Informador)* 2 Issues. 11/4/1967 to 12/2/1967
San Francisco, CA. Hispano America. 7 Issues. 11/22/1919 to 11/27/1920
San Francisco, CA. Nueva Mission* 22 Issues. 11/27/1967 to 10/1/1969
Santa Barbara, CA. Gaceta. 2 Issues. 1879-11-01 to 1881-06-25

Colorado Springs, CO. Gazette-Telegraph. 3 Issues. 11/23/1913 to 6/28/1915

Chicago, IL. Latin Times. 1 Issue. 4/23/1960
Chicago, IL. Vida Latina. 1 Issue. 6/21/1961

New Orleans, LA. Times Picayune. 277 Issues. 1861-12-10 to 1897-02-01
New Orleans, LA. Times Picayune. 364 Issues. 12/20/1902 to 8/20/1920

Boston, MA. Boston Journal. 458 Issues. 1874-01-01 to 1889-12-31
Boston, MA. Liberator. 2 Issues. 1897-03-21 to 1897-04-04

Baltimore, MD. Baltimore American. 4 Issues. 9/9/1905 to 1/7/1912

Portland, ME. Gazette of Maine. 104 Issues. 1825-01-01 to 1826-12-26

Grand Rapids, MI. Grand Rapids Press. 869 Issues. 1893-01-11 to 12/26/1922

Trenton, NJ. Trenton Evening Times. 1,509 Issues. 1883-09-15 to 12/26/1922

Las Cruces, NM. Flor del Valle. 14 Issues. 1894-02-03 to 1894-10-11
Las Cruces, NM. Gaceta Popular. 1 Issue. 12/1/1919
Las Cruces, NM. Tiempo. 81 Issues. 9/20/1902 to 11/13/1909
Las Vegas, NM. Chronicle* 1 Issue. 1886-10-19
Las Vegas, NM. Las Vegas Daily Optic. 1 Issue. 1893-05-04
Las Vegas, NM. Revista Catolica. 3 Issues. 1888-10-14 to 1893-02-26
Maxwell, NM. Maxwell Mail* 53 Issues. 1/7/1915 to 12/30/1915
San Marcial, NM. San Marcial Bee. 1 Issue. 1893-04-29
Santa Fe, NM. New Mexican Mining News* 1 Issue. 1881-12-21
Wagon Mound, NM. Combate. 4 Issues. 10/31/1914 to 11/21/1914

Albany, NY. Albany Evening Journal. 125 Issues. 1854-04-11 to 1874-06-29
New York, NY. Cuba Libre. 3 Issues. 1895-07-27 to 1895-09-12
New York, NY. Estrella de Cuba* 9 Issues. 1870-04-16 to 1870-06-29
New York, NY. Grafico. 1 Issue. 5/21/1917
New York, NY. Hodge’s Banknote Reporter* 65 Issues. 1861-01-01 to 1863-01-15
New York, NY. Iberica. 4 Issues. 1/15/1956 to 12/15/1964
New York, NY. New York Herald. 723 Issues. 1867-05-24 to 1870-12-24
New York. NY. New Yorker Volkszeitung* 2, 561. Issues. 1889-01-06 to 1898-12-31
New York, NY. Nueva Democracia. 3 Issues. 1/1/1922 to 12/25/1933
New York, NY. Papagayo. 1 Issue. 1855-03-16

Cincinnati, OH. Cincinnati Commercial Tribune. 419 Issues. 1879-09-01 to 1887-04-30

Philadelphia. PA. Public Ledger. 270 Issues. 1859-01-01 to 1869-11-26

Brownsville, TX. Cronista del Valle. 1 Issue. 10/28/1926
Brownsville, TX. Heraldo de Brownsville. 2 Issues. 9/29/1937 to 2/25/1940
Corpus Christi, TX. Weekly Labor Herald. 1 Issue. 6/19/1942
El Paso, TX. Clarin del Norte. 3 Issues. 11/17/1906 to 2/9/1907
El Paso, TX. Continental. 2 Issues. 3/4/1960 to 3/5/1960
El Paso, TX. El Paso Daily News* 6 Issues. 2/11/1901 to 7/3/1902
Kingsville, TX. Eco. 1 Issue. 12/1/1934
Laredo, TX. Cronica. 1 Issue. 12/28/1911
San Antonio, TX. Prensa. 2 Issues. 3/19/1932 to 3/21/1932
San Antonio, TX. Prensa. 8 Issues. 8/13/1925 to 8/8/1948
San Antonio, TX. Regidor. 13 Issues. 11/24/1910 to 10/31/1912
San Antonio, TX. Revista Mexicana. 1 Issue. 7/13/1919

Salt Lake City, UT. Salt Lake Telegram. 1 Issue. 2/23/1904

Milwaukee, WI. Milwaukee’r Socialist* 3 Issues. 1876-09-22 to 1877-09-21

US Navy Register Online – A Genealogist Writes

Yesterday the GenealogyBank Blog wrote about the US Navy Register going online. It has been very popular. Today I received this note from a genealogist about what she found:

I just spent a couple of hours pulling up and printing out [pages from the US Navy Register] from 1922 to 1947 for my father-in-law. What a treat, my husband will be thrilled.

Only missing one year, 1945, but that may be an OCR problem. I’ll work on it later.

Then, just for chuckles, I pulled up my husband’s first ten years — but the server’s timing out on me. Hmm. Guess this is really popular right now!

Thanks Tom!

In Tucson