Genealogy Help: Two Captain Elisha Smiths—Which Is My Ancestor?

I was recently doing some family history research, looking for information about my ancestor Captain Elisha Smith—when I ran into a dilemma that genealogists occasionally face: two men with the same name from roughly the same time period.

Here’s how it happened, and here’s what I did to solve this riddle.

I was looking for my ancestor Captain Elisha Smith (1755-1834) who served in the American Revolutionary War.

Hmm…

Family records show that he was born in 1755, died in 1834, and lived in New Hampshire.

A quick search in GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives—Bingo—there he is.

obituary for Captain Elisha Smith, New Hampshire Patriot newspaper article 7 July 1834

New Hampshire Patriot (Concord, New Hampshire), 7 July 1834, page 3

OK. This old death record seems to fit.

He did live in New Hampton, New Hampshire.

The age is about right: “in the eightieth year of his age.”

Captain, and “soldier of the Revolution.”

Yes, that all fits my ancestor’s profile.

He’s called “a republican of the Jeffersonian school” and “a firm supporter of the present administration.”

OK, I have no idea what his politics were, but it is interesting to know that he was such a strong supporter of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.

“He was among the first settlers of the town in which he lived.”

OK, that fits. The family lived in New Hampton, New Hampshire, for generations.

He’s called “an enterprising and industrious farmer.”

OK; good testimonial to his character and work ethic.

So—this seems to be the old obituary of my ancestor.

“Hey, wait a minute…”

As the doctor said when my twin brother and I were born: “Hey, wait a minute, there’s another one.”

I found another historical obituary for a person named “Capt. Elisha Smith.”

Is this my “Captain Elisha Smith” ancestor that I was looking for?

Did I have the dates and places for him wrong?

obituary for Captain Elisha Smith, American Advocate newspaper article 16 April 1825

American Advocate (Hallowell, Maine), 16 April 1825, page 3

The name in the death record is the same, so is his title.

So that fits.

This Capt. Elisha Smith died in 1825 “aged 74.”

He was 74 years old in 1825, so his dates are approximately 1751-1825.

This could be a record for my ancestor—maybe the dates/places I had were wrong and this is the correct Elisha Smith.

He has the title “Captain.” Given his age he probably served in the American Revolutionary War; a local militia or other military role.

This Elisha Smith died in Lyman, Maine.

Lyman, Maine?

Hmm… that doesn’t fit as well.

As you can see from this map, Lyman, Maine, is about 70 miles from New Hampton, New Hampshire.

map showing distance between New Hampton, New Hampshire, and Lyman, Maine

Map showing distance between New Hampton, New Hampshire, and Lyman, Maine, from Google Maps

Was he traveling in Lyman, Maine, when he died?

I decided to see what else I could find about “Captain Elisha Smith,” so I Googled his name.

Bang. Up came a book written in 1915 by Mary Elizabeth Neal Hanaford: Family Branches of the Hanaford, Thompson, Huckins, Prescott, Smith…and Allied Families. (Rockford, Illinois: Author, 1915).

collage of pages from Mary Hanaford's 1915 book "Family Branches of the Hanaford, Thompson, Huckins, Prescott, Smith…and Allied Families"

Collage of pages from Mary Hanaford’s 1915 book “Family Branches of the Hanaford, Thompson, Huckins, Prescott, Smith…and Allied Families”

Genealogy Research Tip: Google has digitized hundreds of thousands of local histories and genealogies just like this one. Use Google Books as a quick source to see what conclusions other genealogists and local historians have made. It’s free, and can really help you with your own family history research.

Hanaford’s book is terrific. She published her research almost 100 years ago, in 1915, and she included a section on Captain Elisha Smith.

Hmm. She makes no mention of Lyman, Maine, for her Elisha Smith.

On page 145 she states: “Elisha Smith went to New Hampton [New Hampshire] from Brentwood Corner [New Hampshire] and settled at the foot of Beech Hill, in 1834.” Since he died 28 June 1834, he moved to New Hampton within weeks of his death. Perhaps it was his advancing age and possible ill health that prompted the move to New Hampton, to be closer to other family members.

Hanaford’s book has pages of references and citations that give more details on his life and that of the other members of the family.

I still need to check out those references, but with the additional corroboration in Hanaford’s book I can reasonably conclude that the first obituary I found in GenealogyBank for “Captain Elisha Smith,” the one published in the New Hampshire Patriot, is for my target ancestor Captain Elisha Smith that I was researching.

Mexican-American War Soldier Records & Military Casualty Lists

If your ancestors fought in the Mexican-American War (1846-48), then old newspapers are a great way to find records about them. Especially helpful are the troop and casualty lists many newspapers published during the war that can be found in our historical archives.

Newspapers routinely reported on our soldiers, as in this article from an 1847 newspaper.

Palmetto Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers in Mexican-American War, Charleston Courier newspaper article 24 June 1847

Charleston Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), 24 June 1847, page 2

In this old newspaper article we read about the Palmetto Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers, which was encamped “near Jalapa, Mexico” during the Mexican-American War. This report provides troop strength totals and a military casualty list giving the names of the dead, the sick and the deserters.

Palmetto Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers in Mexican-American War, Charleston Courier newspaper article 24 June 1847

Charleston Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), 24 June 1847, page 2

This news report also gives a status update noting that the South Carolina soldiers were most recently on a reconnaissance mission to Alvarado and were not involved in the Battle of Cerro Gordo. At this important American victory General Winfield Scott, though outnumbered by the Mexican troops, caught Mexican General Santa Anna so totally by surprise that he had to flee—without his artificial leg! That prosthetic limb was confiscated and is still on display at the Illinois State Military Museum.

The New Orleans Picayune reported the captured trophy of Santa Anna’s cork leg in an 1847 newspaper article reprinted by the Alexandria Gazette.

A Trophy--Santa Anna's Cork Leg, Alexandria Gazette newspaper article 03 June 1847

Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia), 3 June 1847, page 2

Dig into GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives today to find out more about your Mexican-American War military ancestors and discover the legendary stories of our country’s colorful history.

Oliver Cromwell: An African American Revolutionary War Hero

Oliver Cromwell was no ordinary soldier of the American Revolution. This military hero’s discharge was signed by General George Washington “stating that he was entitled to wear the badges of honor by reason of his honorable services.”

Cromwell’s story first appeared in a newspaper interview conducted when he was 100 years old by a reporter of the Burlington Gazette (Burlington, New Jersey) in 1905, which was reprinted by the Trenton Evening Times. As the newspaper article noted: “though feeble, his lips trembling at every word, when he spoke of [General George] Washington his eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.”

The archive of old newspapers in GenealogyBank is packed with thousands of these firsthand accounts of military service in the Revolutionary War, adding a personal touch to the facts of many of these early American military battles.

In that 1905 interview, Cromwell told of his Revolutionary War service crossing the Delaware “with his beloved commander…on the memorable Christmas night [in] 1776.”

The old newspaper article adds that Cromwell: “took part in the battle of Trenton, and helped to ‘knock the British about lively at Princeton.’ He also fought at the Revolutionary War battles of Short Hills, Brandywine, Monmouth and Springfield, where he was severely wounded, and saw the last man killed at York town.”

interview with African American Revolutionary War veteran Oliver Cromwell, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 11 April 1905

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 11 April 1905, page 5

A few days after Cromwell’s death, the local Burlington Gazette published an editorial calling for the erection of a monument in honor of the Revolutionary War hero.

“And thus, one by one, the men who purchased with their blood the liberty we now enjoy, are going off the stage…We suggest whether it would not be proper to erect some suitable monument over his grave…it will be pleasant to know that the people of Burlington felt sufficient interest in him, to mark the spot where his ashes are buried.”

The reprint in the Trenton Evening Times notes: “Unfortunately no such monument was ever erected and there is nothing to indicate the last resting place of Oliver Cromwell.”

Oliver Cromwell lived in a different time and place, and life was more difficult than it would have been for him now. He was African American, one of the many that served in the American Revolution. Though honored by General Washington, his pension was revoked by a local pension agent. “Tears fell from his eyes when he told of his discharge being taken from him by the pension agent.”

In 1984, this plaque was placed on the property where his home once stood.

plaque indicating spot where African American Revolutionary War veteran Oliver Cromwell's house once stood

Photo from the official Burlington County, New Jersey, website

His grave has been located in the cemetery at Broad Street Methodist Church in Burlington, New Jersey. The local historical society was named in his honor in 1983.

Oliver Cromwell (1752-1853), one of “the men who purchased with their blood the liberty we now enjoy,” was “respected by our citizens” then and remembered to this day.

See what other American Revolutionary War veterans’ stories you can find in GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives. There are many more stories of Revolutionary War heroes like Oliver Cromwell waiting for you to discover.

Thomas Hill—American Revolutionary War Minuteman Hero Gone

“Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.”

—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In searching through early 19th Century newspapers, time and again we find historical obituaries about the passing of “Revolutionary Heroes,” as America’s newspapers recorded the honored service of those who fought to secure this country’s freedom from England.

This 1851 American Revolutionary War soldier’s obituary of Thomas Hill is a good example.

Thomas Hill Revolutionary War Hero Obituary - Massachusetts Spy Newspaper 1851

Massachusetts Spy (Worcester, Massachusetts), 15 July 1851, page 3.

This soldier’s obituary says of Thomas Hill: “He was in the battle of Concord, and was on Bunker Hill, but not in the engagement.”

Wait—he was there at the battle but didn’t fight?

Why was he given a pension by the U.S. federal government and called a “Revolutionary Hero” in this historical obituary if he was there at the battle but not engaged in the fighting?

Digging deeper in GenealogyBank I found this old newspaper article profiling Thomas Hill when he was 89, one year before he died. It was published in the New Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 23 April 1850, page 2, giving more details about his military service.

Thomas Hill New Hampshire Gazette NewspaperSo he was at the Battle of Concord as a 14-year-old boy and also at the Battle of Bunker Hill “with his father and eldest brother Abraham.” They were part of “the volunteer minute men who fought.”

Thomas Hill went on to fight in “two campaigns in the Jerseys and New York.”

Thomas Hill was honored along with “four other survivors, being all that could be found in the country around who were active in the scenes of 1775.”

And honored he was—the historical newspaper article went on to say:

Thomas Hill New Hampshire Gazette Newspaper 1850We can picture the old Revolutionary War veteran being escorted by the grateful citizens of West Cambridge over the same route used by the British when they attacked Lexington and Concord.

It calls to mind the words of the poet Longfellow:

“Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.”

Longfellow’s immortal words were published in January 1861, 11 years after the 1850 tribute to Thomas Hill. Perhaps he was inspired by this celebration honoring Hill and the other four remaining men “who remembered that famous day and year.”

GenealogyBank gives us the key opportunity to dig in and find the details of the thousands who served as soldiers in the American Revolutionary War. Search GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives and document your ancestors—don’t let their stories be lost.

Civil War Find: The “Fighting” 1st Tennessee Cavalry’s Reunion

The nice thing about newspapers is that they record everything that happens: births, deaths, and everything in-between. A lot of that “in-between stuff” are the stories of our ancestors’ lives that help us get to know them better.

In general, Americans are a social people. We form groups, make plans, organize, and hold meetings. Milestones are often celebrated with anniversary gatherings and reunions.

Fighting First, Reunion of the First Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, Knoxville Daily Journal, 01 September 1895

Knoxville Daily Journal (Knoxville, Tennessee), 1 September 1895, page 13

These reunions—like the ninth annual reunion of the First Tennessee Cavalry held in 1895—were reported in the local newspaper.

Here is one such reunion story about a gathering of former veterans from that famed Tennessee Civil War regiment that fought in the Union army. This long newspaper article was published in the Knoxville Daily Journal (Knoxville, Tennessee), 1 September 1895, page 13.

This historical news article covers the basics, such as the names of the Tennessee regiment’s officers and the order of the activities in the meeting.

Reading down the article, we find that the “secretary was ordered to prepare a complete roster of the survivors of the regiment, together with rank and post office address.”

Great! Note to self: track down a copy of that roster.

The last half of the old newspaper article is a “very brief history of the First Tennessee Cavalry.” This historical news article provides great genealogical information we can use to trace our military ancestry, gives a glimpse into these Tennessee Union soldiers’ lives, and provides some Civil War history.

brief history of the Civil War's 1st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, Knoxville Daily Journal, 01 September 1895

Knoxville Daily Journal (Knoxville, Tennessee), 1 September 1895, page 13

Genealogy Search Tip: Did your ancestor serve in the Civil War or other American wars? Then search in GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives for newspaper articles and military records about the unit your veteran ancestor served with: its campaigns, reunions, history, etc.

Newspapers are packed with the stories of our ancestors’ lives.

Today in History: 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812

In September 1783 the newly-formed United States of America and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Paris, formally ending the American Revolutionary War. Less than 29 years later, however, the two countries were fighting once again when the U.S. declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812, beginning the three-year conflict known as the War of 1812.

Despite a much-smaller regular army and navy, the U.S. once again defeated the world’s superpower—aided by the fact that Great Britain was busily fighting the French during the Napoleonic Wars at that time. Having twice asserted its independence, the United States in the decades following the War of 1812 built itself up into one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world.

On this day in history that marks the War of 1812 bicentennial, we remember the brave American soldiers that have served our country throughout its history, fighting to protect our liberty. Historical newspapers are a terrific resource for finding information on your military ancestors and other ancestors who lived in times of war. You can not only find specific details about their individual lives, you can also read about the times they lived in and what wars and other current events were affecting their thoughts and actions.

If your ancestors were living in America on June 19, 1812, then they may well have picked up their local newspaper and read the following article about the U.S. declaration of war against Great Britain—no doubt with keen interest, and perhaps a mixture of excitement and apprehension:

article from the Alexandria Gazette newspaper, 19 June 1812, about the U.S. declaring war on Great Britain: War of 1812

Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia), 19 June 1812, page 3

GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives contain more than 6,100 newspapers from all 50 states, from 1690 to the present: over one billion articles to help with your family history research!

Search these historical newspaper archives and see what you can discover about your ancestors—and the times they lived in.

Last Veteran of the War of 1812, Hiram Cronk—Died in 1905!

In the month of May we celebrate Memorial Day, a time to honor the men and women who died fighting our country’s wars—and, by extension, all veterans. During this week back in 1905 America was celebrating the remarkable story of a very special veteran—for on 13 May 1905, Hiram Silas Cronk died, the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812.

Hiram Cronk Featured in Duffy’s Whiskey Ads

On the day the old American solider turned 105, two weeks before his death, a whiskey company used Cronk’s longevity to help market its product. This newspaper advertisement was published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 29 April 1905, page 2:

newspaper ad for Duffy's whiskey featuring Hiram Cronk, Evening Press newspaper 29 April 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 29 April 1905, page 2

The Death & Funeral of Hiram Cronk

The now famous Hiram Cronk died as he had lived, quietly on his farm in New York, but his death and funeral were reported in newspapers all across the United States. The city of New York lavished a state funeral on the venerable veteran, with full military honors. Tens of thousands paid their respects by filing past Hiram Cronk’s body lying in its coffin in the rotunda of New York City Hall.

Cronk’s death was seen as the passing of an era, for his lifetime embraced almost the entirety of the country’s history. He was born in 1800 during the administration of the nation’s second president John Adams; fought in the War of 1812; lived the entire length of the 19th century as the U.S. became a world power and one of the richest nations on earth; and died just nine years before the outbreak of World War I—with all its modern weaponry including tanks, airplanes and poison gas.

The Life & Family of Hiram Cronk

Until almost the very end of his life, Cronk received little publicity or fame for his U.S. military service in the War of 1812. After the war he earned his living as a shoemaker, then later bought some land in New York and became a farmer. In 1825 he married Mary Thornton; the couple had seven children and were married 60 years, Mary dying in 1885. He had 14 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren at the time of his death. One of his descendants, Jane, lived to over 100 years of age as well, making the two “serial centenarians.”

Cronk Finally Becomes Famous for His Good Genes

It was not until 1900, when the start of a new century coincided with his 100th year, that newspapers began to pay Hiram Cronk much attention. Typical of the notices that ran that year is this pension notice, published by the Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 4 May 1900, page 11:

notice about Hiram Cronk being 100 years old, Springfield Daily Republican newspaper, 4 May 1900

Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 4 May 1900, page 11

When Cronk was 101 the following article was published, emphasizing that he was the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812, and giving some interesting personal information—such as the fact that longevity ran in his family, and that he had used tobacco and strong liquor all his life!

This newspaper article was published by the Inter Ocean and reprinted by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 3 June 1901, page 4:

article about Hiram Cronk being the last survivor of the War of 1812, Daily Picayune newspaper, 3 June 1901

Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 3 June 1901, page 4

The news article goes on to report further on Cronk and his family’s genealogy:

“At the age of 101 years Mr. Cronk is still hale and hearty and, all things considered, remarkably active. He lives within a short distance of his birthplace. Except for his absence during the war, he has seldom left the vicinity.

“Cronk’s family is locally famous for longevity. Four brothers and a sister lived to be over 90 years old, and one to the age of 98. A family reunion was held on Hiram Cronk’s 100th birthday. It was attended by over 100 descendants and relatives.

“The veteran is a lifelong Democrat. He cast his first vote for Andrew Jackson and his last for Grover Cleveland. When asked why he has not since voted the old gentleman remarks good-naturedly: ‘When I got down to Grover I calculated it was time to quit and call it a half day.’

“From a very early age Cronk has been a habitual user of tobacco. He both chews and smokes. Recently he has threatened to break the habit. He is afraid, he says, that the use of the weed may become a habit with him. He has drunk strong liquor throughout his life, but always in moderation.

“The veteran has every attention and bids fair to live for some time yet. He makes his home with his youngest daughter, a mere chit of a girl of 80.”

Three days after Cronk turned 104 this newspaper article was published by the Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 May 1904, page 6:

article about Hiram Cronk turning 104, Boston Journal newspaper, 2 May 1904

Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 May 1904, page 6

Note that last line, a theme that reverberated when Cronk passed away the next year: “With his death will be broken a link that binds us to a glorious past.”

Publicity for Hiram Cronk—and the resulting fame—really increased in the winter of 1904-05, when the old man became seriously ill and death seemed imminent, as reported in this news article published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), on the front page of its 24 December 1904 issue:

article about Hiram Cronk dying, Evening Press newspaper, 24 December 1904

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 24 December 1904, page 1

The article about the old soldier goes on to say:

“He had run the whole gamut of personal and business vicissitude, has found some consolation in the lean years and a greater joy in the last years, and was a cheery old optimist through all. Since last April the sluggishness has made itself felt and a natural sleep has, from day to day, taken up a greater number of the hours. Now he is sleeping his life away to the last sleep of all.”

Conk’s Funeral Is Arranged while He Is Still Living!

Alarmed at Cronk’s deteriorating condition, New York City’s Board of Aldermen took the unusual step of arranging a grand funeral for the aged veteran—even though he was still alive! This newspaper article was published by the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota) on the front page of its 21 December 1904 issue:

article about arranging funeral for Hiram Cronk, Duluth News Tribune newspaper, 21 December 1904

Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 21 December 1904, page 1

The news article goes on to say:

“…in the state of New York and in view of his honorable part in many battles of the War of 1812, it would be fitting that the chief city of the Empire State lead in honoring him by a soldier’s burial and that his remains lie in state in the City Hall.

“Alderman McCall said that while he approved of the spirit of the resolution he thought it would be better to wait for the hero to die before providing for his funeral. The resolution finally was adopted by the following amendment:

“ ‘That in the event of the death of Mr. Cronk, the president of the Board of Alderman take cognizance of the fact and appoint a committee to provide for a public funeral and other honors of the dead hero.’”

As you might expect, this business of arranging a funeral for a man still living was much remarked upon in the nation’s press, as the following humorous notices show.

This notice was published by the Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 6 January 1905, page 13:

“The New York Board of Aldermen are planning to give a public funeral to Hiram Cronk when he dies. He is the only survivor of the War of 1812 in New York. The news of such an honor may prove so exciting to the old man that it will kill him.”

This notice was published by the Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 23 April 1905, page 6:

“Hiram Cronk, the last survivor of the War of 1812, was 105 last Wednesday [correction: his birthday was April 29], but he refuses to die, although the New York aldermen have voted him a public funeral when he will accept. With such an inducement one would expect a rush for the tomb.”

This notice was published by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 25 April 1905, page 6:

“Some months ago the New York Board of Aldermen voted to give Hiram Cronk, the last survivor of the War of 1812, a public funeral. In spite of this inducement to die, Mr. Cronk decided to remain among us a while longer, and celebrated his 105th birthday on Wednesday last [correction: his birthday was April 29]. He won’t lose the State funeral by declining to accept it at this time; he can have it whenever it will be convenient to him.”

There was a big celebration on April 29, 1905, when Cronk turned 105, as explained in this newspaper article published by the Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 30 April 1905, page 8:

article about celebrating Hiram Cronk's 105th birthday, Sunday world Herald newspaper, 30 April 1905

Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 30 April 1905, page 8

The news article goes on to say:

“Hiram Cronk, the only survivor of the War of 1812, was one hundred and five years old on April 29 and a patriotic celebration took place at his home at Ava, Oneida County, New York.

“Every society in the United States of the Sons and Daughters of the War of 1812 sent a delegation to Ava, and all patriots’ military bodies and American citizens sent him greetings, gifts or tokens to show that his services for the country were and are appreciated.

“Mr. Cronk was so weak during the winter that he was not expected to survive and elaborate funeral arrangements had been made, but he recovered thanks to Duffy’s Pure Malt Whiskey. By a special act of the New York City administration his remains, when he dies, will be interred in Mount Victory, a soldiers’ plot in Cypress Hills Cemetery.”

Hiram Cronk Dies at Age 105

Exactly two weeks after his 105th birthday, Hiram Cronk died. This newspaper article was published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 13 May 1905, page 9:

article about the death of Hiram Cronk, Evening Press newspaper, 13 May 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 13 May 1905, page 9

The news article goes on to say:

“The body of Mr. Cronk will lie in state in the City Hall of New York and will be buried in Mt. Victory, Cypress Hills Cemetery, in Brooklyn, where more than half a hundred of his fellow soldiers in the War of 1812 have been laid at rest.”

The nation mourned the death of Hiram Cronk, recognizing it truly was the passing of an era, as expressed in this newspaper article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), May 15, 1905, page 8:

article about Hiram Cronk's death being the end of an era, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, 15 May 1905

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), May 15, 1905, page 8

The news article goes on to say:

“It calls to mind the brevity of our national existence. The [nineteenth] century-born Cronk was born during the Presidency of the elder Adams, when the total population was about that of Pennsylvania today, and when the cost of government was far less than the total appropriations just signed by Governor Pennypacker. He fought in the ranks against the troops of the same George III who ruled when the Revolution took place, a fact which so many intelligent people seem to have forgotten. He completed his career as a soldier before Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and at a time when this nation was still an experiment.

“Who could have imagined that this country would develop in wealth in the lifetime of a single man until it should become the richest on earth? That the population should grow to be the greatest of all non-Oriental nations, for we must place Russia essentially among the Eastern peoples? Who could have supposed that the life of one man would span that development in human activities which covered a period almost from the birth of steam as an active agent in human affairs?

“In view of these things what may not be the possibilities of the future?”

This comment was published by the Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 15 May 1905, page 6:

“The world of sentiment and patriotic affection seems poorer through the death of Hiram Cronk, the last pensioner of the War of 1812, and undoubtedly the final survivor. The one human link that bound us of today with that struggle for the defense of our rights on the sea has gone. Now let us carefully cherish the naval relics that are left to us.”

A grand parade escorted Hiram Cronk’s body to New York City Hall on May 17 so that it could lie in state for mourners to pay their respects, as reported in this newspaper article published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 17 May 1905, page 10:

article about Hiram Cronk's body lying in state, Evening Press newspaper, 17 May 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 17 May 1905, page 10

The news article goes on to say:

“New York, May 17.—The body of Hiram Cronk, who lived to be the last survivor of the War of 1812, was brought here today from Boonville, N.Y., and will be laid away in Cypress Hills Cemetery with full military honors. The funeral will be held tomorrow and in the meantime the body will lie in state in the City Hall. Accompanying the body were Mr. Cronk’s three surviving sons and one daughter. They were Philander Cronk, 81 years old; William, 72 years old; John, 66 years old; and the daughter, Mrs. Sarah Rowley, 71 years old.

“As the funeral cortege moved from the Grand Central Station to the City Hall it afforded an imposing and unusual spectacle. Led by a police escort of mounted officers, a detachment from the United States regular Army, the Society of 1812 and the Old Guard in uniform, came the hearse bearing the old warrior’s body. Around it, in hollow square formation, marched the members of the U.S. Grant Post, G.A.R. Then followed the Washington Continental Guard from Washington, D.C., the Army and Navy Union, and carriages with members of the Cronk family. Carriages with Mayor McClellan and members of the city government brought up the rear.”

Details of Hiram Cronk’s body lying in state, as well as his funeral the following day on May 18, were reported in this newspaper article published by the Pawtucket Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island) on the front page of its 18 May 1905 issue:

article about Hiram Cronk's funeral, Pawtucket Times newspaper, 18 May 1905

Pawtucket Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island), 18 May 1905, page 1

The news article goes on to say:

“New York, May 18.—The body of Hiram Cronk, the last veteran of the War of 1812 to pass away, was buried today in Cypress Hills Cemetery with impressive military honors. Nearly threescore other soldiers who fought in the war of almost a century ago had lain for many years in the cemetery where their oldest comrade was placed today.

“Since yesterday, when it was brought from Boonville, the body has been in the City Hall. All day yesterday, last evening and this forenoon there was a constant stream of men, women and children moving past the flower and bunting-covered casket in the city building—the first which had rested there since the body of Gen. Grant lay in state. One hundred and fifty policemen were required to keep the crowd moving and to keep clear the plaza in front of the building.

“From the City Hall to the cemetery the body was escorted by a detail of mounted police, the Fourteenth Regiment, and a troop from the Second Brigade, National Guard of New York; delegations from U.S. Grant Post, G.A.R., and carriages containing relatives of the dead soldier and a committee from the Board of Aldermen representing the city. All along the route over which the funeral cortege passed the streets were lined with people. At the cemetery Marcus B. Taylor, chaplain of the Veteran Corps, conducted the burial service according to the Grand Army ritual.”

With a volley of military gunfire and the playing of taps, Hiram Cronk was finally laid to rest, as reported in this newspaper article published by the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), 19 May 1905, page 2:

article about Hiram Cronk's funeral, Belleville News Democrat newspaper, 19 May 1905

Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), 19 May 1905, page 2

The news article goes on to say:

“More than 50,000 New Yorkers, with bared heads, filed past the flower-covered bier in which the dead soldier lay in the City Hall. The expenses of the unusual, but befitting honors to him, are borne by the city.

“The catafalque rested in the rotunda of the City Hall, draped with flags and flowers, while the building was draped in black. It was the first time since the death of Gen. Grant that a body has laid in state in the City Hall.

“After the body had been lowered into the grave, at Cypress Hills Cemetery, a squad of soldiers fired a volley over the grave and a bugler sounded taps. Hiram Cronk was with the army of the dead.”

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Here’s a genealogy question we just received.

GenealogyBank Member Question:

My grandfather Hugh Cornwell was born in Prairie Grove, AR, 4/6/1883. I have been searching for a birth record for the past 20 years with no luck. Any suggestions?

“Ask the Genealogist” Response:

Arkansas vital records do not begin until 1914.

So, while you can possibly obtain a church baptismal certificate, you won’t be able to find a government birth certificate for your grandfather.

I found your grandfather’s California death certificate, which does give his date of birth along with the family surnames of his father and mother. His death certificate is available online on the FamilySearch website at https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VPW3-9Q3.

There is another record for your grandfather in the 1900 census, which also states that he was born in April 1883. His census record is available on FamilySearch.org at https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M9PK-R7K.

Here is a third document with genealogical information about your grandfather: his World War II draft registration card, also showing that he was born on April 6, 1883. You can view your grandfather’s military record at https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/V48Y-54Q.

So, while you cannot get a formal birth certificate—here are three U.S. government documents, created over the past 112 years, that give his date of birth. That should be the evidence you are looking for.

Let’s see how we can help you make progress in your own family history research.

All the best in your genealogy research.

Researching Records for Solomon Titus: A Revolutionary War Veteran

With its large collections of newspapers, historical books and documents, and government records, GenealogyBank provides a wealth of genealogical resources to help you research your family history.

One handy genealogy resource in GenealogyBank is the register of Revolutionary War Burials. The Daughters of the American Revolution issued a report every year of the burial sites of military veterans that served in America’s war for independence.

For example here is the military register entry for Solomon Titus, taken from the Forty-eighth report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, April 1, 1944, to April 1, 1945, page 228.

burial report for Revolutionary War veteran Solomon Titus from Daughters of the American Revolution 1944-45 report

Graves of the soldiers of the Revolution, from 1944-45 Daughters of the American Revolution burial report

This DAR report tells us that Solomon Titus was:

  • A private in the Revolutionary War
  • In the Battle of White Plains (October 28, 1776)
  • In the Battle of Monmouth (June 28, 1778)
  • Buried in the Pennington, New Jersey, Presbyterian Churchyard
  • There is a file on him at the Veteran’s Administration (now at the National Archives)
  • W-2491

    casualty list from the Revolutionary War Battle of White Plains, published by the Freeman's Journal newspaper on December 3, 1776

    Casualty list from the Revolutionary War Battle of White Plains, published by the Freeman's Journal (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 3 December 1776, page 2

We can then dig into GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives and find articles about each one of the military battles Titus fought in as the Revolutionary War unfolded. Historical newspaper articles such as this one, providing a summary of the soldiers killed at the Battle of White Plains, published in the Freeman’s Journal (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 3 December 1776, page 2.

Or the many old newspaper articles about the pivotal Battle of Monmouth, such as this one providing George Washington’s own account of the famous military battle, published in the Continental Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 23 July 1778, page 1.

collage of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Monmouth, featuring a newspaper article from the Continental Journal newspaper and a painting of George Washington by Emanuel Leutze

Collage of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Monmouth, featuring a newspaper article from the Continental Journal newspaper and a painting of George Washington by Emanuel Leutze

(Painting, Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth, by Emanuel Leutze. Wikimedia Commons.)

GenealogyBank is the only genealogy website complete enough to let us read about our ancestor’s experiences—like those of Solomon Titus in the Revolutionary War—day by day.

The Daughters of the American Revolution report said that the U.S. government had a file on Solomon Titus, and in the last column it gives the reference number W-2491.

W-2491. What does that mean?

It means that the widow of Solomon Titus applied for a military pension based on his service in the Revolutionary War. We learned in this report that he died on 19 December 1833. Looking in GenealogyBank we find that his wife applied for a widow’s pension and that it was approved in 1839.

page from the December 2, 1839, Journal of the House of Representatives showing recipients of Revolutionary War pensions

Page from the December 2, 1839, Journal of the House of Representatives showing recipients of Revolutionary War pensions

(Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States: being the first session of the Twenty-sixth Congress, begun and held at the City of Washington, December 2, 1839, in the sixty-fourth year of the independence of the said states on page 175.)

So, now we know that his wife’s name was Susannah Titus. A quick search of the early New Jersey marriages shows that her name was Susannah Read and that she and Solomon married in April 1779 in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

We can see a copy of Solomon’s military personnel file, available from the National Archives. Use “Standard Form 180” to make your request.

National Archives military records request form 1080

National Archives military records request form 1080

National Archives pension application request form 85

National Archives pension application request form 85

We can also request a copy of Susannah’s pension application by using Form 85. Be sure to include the pension number: W-2491.

We can gather so much information about our ancestors in the Revolutionary War era!

The Daughters of the American Revolution report also told us that Solomon Titus was buried in the Presbyterian Churchyard in Pennington, New Jersey.

 

A quick search on Google locates a wide-angle photo of that cemetery on flickr.

grave of Revolutionary War veteran Solomon Titus, buried in the Presbyterian churchyard in Pennington, New Jersey

Grave of Revolutionary War veteran Solomon Titus

Searching Google more, we find a photo of his grave on the website Find-A-Grave.

(Photo by Therese Fenner Boucher on Find-A-Grave.)

13th Amendment Ratified, Abolishing Slavery in America

Our online archive of old newspapers is a great resource to help with your family history research, filling in details on your family tree. It’s also a good way to learn about the times your ancestors lived in, and better understand their lives.

For example, if your ancestors were alive on Dec. 6, 1865, then you know one of the major news topics they were discussing around the supper table. For on that day, the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, forever abolishing slavery in the United States.

The next day, Americans saw in their local newspapers something very similar to what New Yorkers were reading about the newly-ratified constitutional amendment marking the abolition of slavery:

Slavery Forever Dead New York Herald Newspaper Article December 07, 1865

New York Herald (New York, New York), 7 December 1865, page 1.

Some people today think President Abraham Lincoln banned slavery when he issued his Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War, but that was not the case. Using his War Powers, President Lincoln only did what he could legally do: free the slaves in Confederate-controlled parts of the country. Slavery itself remained legal in the U.S.— slaves were not freed in the four border states that did not secede from the Union: Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri.

It would take an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to legally ban slavery in the United States, and when the Georgia Legislature approved the 13th Amendment—becoming the 27th state to do so—the necessary approval of ¾ of the states was reached and the amendment was ratified.

13th Amendment Newspaper Article Lowell Daily Citizen & News 1865

Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts), 8 December 1865, page 2.

The American Civil War was fought over two main preservation issues: whether the Union should remain intact, and whether slavery should be preserved. After four terrible years of military fighting that killed over 600,000 soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands more, the nation had its answers: the Union would remain whole, and slavery was ended.

What a tumultuous year 1865 was for America! At the beginning of the year the Civil War was still raging. During April General Robert E. Lee surrendered the main Confederate army—and five days later U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by a Southern sympathizer. By that summer the fighting had ended and the American Civil War was finally over.

And all during that long year the process of ratifying the 13th Amendment to ban slavery in America was slowly winding its way through the state ratification process. While this was of great interest to all Americans, of course, it is safe to say the outcome of the constitutional amendment’s ratification was especially important to African Americans, as the following three newspaper articles show (all from GenealogyBank’s African American newspapers collection).

The Duty of Colored Men in Louisiana Black Republican Newspaper 1865

Black Republican (New Orleans, Louisiana), 15 April 1865, page 2.

This newspaper article was published on the day President Lincoln died, and reminds its African American audience that ending the Civil War and freeing the slaves is but a first step toward a society where all members are free, educated, and equal participants with full legal protections. The old newspaper article warns that it is prejudice itself that must be overcome:

There are many remnants of the past guilt yet polluting the soil and the atmosphere. There are cruel and dangerous prejudices that must be outlived. The sting of the serpent of slavery is in the hearts of the people. They may die with it, but justice and righteousness will live forever, and with them we must and shall succeed.

Our Country Black Rights Article South Carolina Leader

South Carolina Leader (Charleston, South Carolina), 21 October 1865, page 2.

These are powerful words in an African American newspaper from South Carolina—the first state that seceded from the Union and where the Civil War’s first battle was fought—published just months after the war ended. The historical newspaper article goes on to say:

We are confident of a change, because satisfied that the present policy is a failure. No cause can long prevail unless founded in absolute justice to all men. With such implicit faith in the justice of our cause, let us give our unqualified support to the President, and press steadily on for the accomplishment of the great purposes of our country—the moral rights, the intellectual privileges, and the physical liberties of mankind.

At the end of December 1865, following ratification of the 13th Amendment, this newspaper article was published with the title “What Is a Man?”

What Is a Man? Black Equality Article Colored American Newspaper

Colored American (Augusta, Georgia), 30 December 1865, page 2.

This old newspaper article concludes with these stirring words:

But these laws are dead, and we are glad of it. Fate has torn down the shutters and broken the locks of the temple of knowledge, and the great problem of advancement has commenced, and if, in its solution, it should give birth to men in the full sense of the term; we hope and trust that the boundary lines of color and race shall be obliterated from the map of common sense, and every man shall stand on his own merits as a man, and the world shall behold the consummation of the poet’s [i.e., Robert Burns] highest hope, that

Man to man the world o’er

Shall brothers be, an’ a’ that.

Good luck with your family history research, and enjoy browsing through historical newspaper archives such as the ones GenealogyBank offers. You’ll find many details, and possibly even maps, photographs or other illustrations, to learn more about your ancestors—and the times they lived in.

If you are researching your black American ancestry you may find our special African American newspaper archive to be particularly helpful.