John M’Donogh – Loyal American Patriot ’till Death

Deemed an upstanding citizen by the Salem Gazette, two-time American war veteran John M’Donogh passed away, losing a long fight with disease on 19 March 1809.

M’Donogh is noted for serving directly under a young General George Washington during the French & Indian War. M’Donogh fought during British General Braddock’s failed expedition in 1755 against the French, in which a 23-year-old Washington led troops, including M’Donogh, into battle on the Monongahela River.

obituary for John McDonogh, American and Commercial Daily Advertiser newspaper article 22 March 1809

American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, Maryland), 22 March 1809, page 2

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M’Donogh also served for the Maryland 3rd Regiment during the Revolutionary War, under Captain Cox. “One of the patriotic band of Baltimore,” Captain Cox led M’Donogh and other troops into battle at Germantown and Brandywine. M’Donogh survived, and went on to lead an exceptional life in Baltimore.

obituary for John McDonogh, Providence Gazette newspaper article 8 April 1809

Providence Gazette (Providence, Rhode Island), 8 April 1809, page 3

GenealogyBank makes it easy for me to learn about John M’Donogh and other Revolutionary War heroes; see what’s inside the archives on your ancestor’s story. Start your 30-day trial now!

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Gershom Beach Dead at 77 – the Forgotten Paul Revere

Gershom Beach, a blacksmith in Rutland, Vermont, was 77 when he passed away on 2 September 1805, according to his obituary.

obituary for Gershom Beach, Middlebury Mercury newspaper article 5 February 1806

Middlebury Mercury (Middlebury, Vermont), 5 February 1806, page 3

Born 24 September 1728 in Cheshire, Connecticut, Gershom Beach was credited as being one of the original settlers of Rutland, Vermont.

Beach is most noted for his Paul Revere-style message delivery for Colonel Ethan Allen at the battle for Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolutionary War, described in an article published by the Rockford Republic (Rockford, Illinois), 14 March 1930, page 6.

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Beach rallied the famous Green Mountain Boys by covering 60 miles of country in one day, carrying Colonel Ethan Allen’s message. According to the article: “He walked and ran 60 miles in 24 hours.” He went from town to town calling on the men in each town to join Col. Allen to take Fort Ticonderoga: “Even when he reached Hands Point, the rendezvous, ahead of the men he had summoned, he slept only a few hours.”

His life proved one man can make a difference. Beach’s heroic ride was detailed in a 1939 poem “Vermont’s Paul Revere” that describes this major turning point in the Revolutionary War.

The poem begins this way:

poem about Gershom Beach, Boston Herald newspaper article 29 June 1939

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 29 June 1939, page 14

And ends like this:

poem for Gershom Beach, Boston Herald newspaper article 29 June 1939

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 29 June 1939, page 14

Genealogy Tip: Gershom Beach’s brief obituary is just a few lines long, but with a small amount of digging in GenealogyBank you can find the rest of Beach’s interesting life story.

GenealogyBank has over 1.7 billion records and adds more newspaper archives daily. Interested in learning more about what GenealogyBank knows about your ancestors? Sign up today at GenealogyBank.com

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Nikola Tesla, Electrical Genius, Inventor & Eccentric, Dies

Ask most people who was the late 19th and early 20th centuries’ electrical genius and master of inventions, and they will answer: Thomas Edison. However, on 7 January 1943, all alone in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel in New York City, an eccentric 86-year-old man died who was the true wizard of electricity: Nikola Tesla. Not only was Nikola Tesla the father of modern radio, he perfected alternating current (AC) electrical power, invented the Tesla coil, and made breakthroughs in a staggering array of fields including radar, X-rays, robotics and nuclear physics.

photo of Nikola Tesla in 1890, age 34

Photo: Nikola Tesla in 1890, age 34. Credit: Napoleon Sarony; Wikimedia Commons.

At the height of his powers Nikola Tesla was recognized as the equal of Thomas Edison (the two once worked together, but became bitter rivals), but in his later years he became so strange that the public increasingly ignored him, contributing to his lack of fame and recognition today. There is no doubt Tesla was a genius, fluent in eight languages, with an astonishing ability to receive visions in which he saw inventions so specifically that every detail was clear in his mind before he ever set pen to paper.

There is also no doubt that the man grew increasingly bizarre, obsessed by such things as the number 3 (he would walk around a block three times before entering a building), pigeons, and a deathly fear of having contact with dirt. Despite making over 700 inventions in his lifetime and some of the most important breakthroughs in the history of science, Nikola Tesla died broke and heavily in debt. He was the very definition of the eccentric genius, or “mad scientist,” yet modern life is dependent on many of the brilliant ideas that sprang from this strange man’s mind.

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This old newspaper obituary gives many details of Tesla’s life, career and numerous inventions, and includes this comment from the “Wizard of Electricity”:

There are too many distractions in this life for quality of thought, and it’s quality of thought, not quantity, that counts. ~ Nikola Tesla

obituary for Nikola Tesla, Seattle Times newspaper article 8 January 1943

Seattle Times (Seattle, Washington), 8 January 1943, page 26

Tesla’s obituary reads:

New York, Jan. 8.—Nikolai [sic] Tesla, 86 years old, the electrical genius who discovered the fundamental principle of modern radio, was found dead in his hotel room last night. He died in bed sometime yesterday. Gaunt in his best years, he had lately been wasting away.

Tesla was never married. He had always lived alone, and it is not believed he had any near relatives.

Despite his more than 700 inventions, Tesla was not wealthy. He cared little for money; as long as he could experiment he was happy. Much of the time he did not even have a laboratory, and worked where he lived.

Tesla was the first to conceive an effective method of utilizing alternating current, and in 1888 patented the induction motor which converted electrical energy into mechanical energy more effectively and economically than by direct current. Among his other principal inventions are lighting and the Tesla coil.

“The radio, I know I’m its father, but I don’t like it,” Tesla once said. “I just don’t like it. It’s a nuisance. I never listen to it. The radio is a distraction and keeps you from concentrating. There are too many distractions in this life for quality of thought, and it’s quality of thought, not quantity, that counts.”

Evidently, he did a lot of thinking that never materialized. It was his custom on his birthday—July 10—to announce to reporters the shape of things to come.

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On his 76th birthday, he announced: “The transmission of energy to another planet is only a matter of engineering. I have solved the problem so well I don’t regard it as doubtful.”

On another birthday, Tesla predicted that power would soon be projected without wires through the stratosphere.

When he was 78, Tesla announced he had perfected a “death beam” that would bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy planes 250 miles from a nation’s borders and make millions of soldiers drop dead in their tracks. His beam, he said, would make war impossible.

Tesla was born at Smiljan, Croatia, when it was part of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. His first electrical invention was the telephone repeater, which he perfected in 1881 while working for the Austrian government.

Three years later, Tesla came to the United States, became a citizen and an associate of the late Thomas A. Edison. Later he established the Tesla Laboratory in New York and devoted himself to research.

Tesla had lived at the hotel where he died for years, and amused himself by feeding pigeons in the nearest park. Several years ago, he hired a boy to take five pounds of corn twice a day and feed it to the pigeons. He said he had found it “more convenient” to use the boy.

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from 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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The Life & Death of the Legendary Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt

Early in the morning of 6 January 1919, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the nation’s 26th president (1901-1909), quietly died in his sleep. His death ended one of the most remarkable lives and careers in American history. Ranked by historians as one of the nation’s greatest presidents, Roosevelt had also been a state legislator, police commissioner and governor (of New York), assistant secretary of the navy, and vice president (under William McKinley). In addition, Roosevelt was a war hero, gaining fame for leading the heroic charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

photo of ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, 1915

Photo: ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, 1915. Credit: Pach Brothers photography studio; U.S. Library of Congress.

Along with all those accomplishments, Roosevelt was also a naturalist, author, editor, orator, explorer, horseman and big-game hunter. Roosevelt was born 27 October 1858 into great wealth to a long-established, aristocratic family. He went on to fight for reform and progressive causes during his long political career. A weak and sickly child, he built himself into a strong, vigorous man through strenuous activity.

Posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2001 for his bravery on the battlefield, he was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for helping to end the Russo-Japanese War. In short, Roosevelt was a larger-than-life figure, one widely respected and admired in America and worldwide.

article about the death of Theodore Roosevelt, Belleville News Democrat  newspaper article 6 January 1919

Belleville News Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), 6 January 1919, page 1

Teddy Roosevelt’s obituary, published on the front page of the Belleville News Democrat on 6 January 1919, included these details of the many attributes and accomplishments of this great man’s incredible life:

The death of Col. Theodore Roosevelt is a shock to the entire nation. Outside of the White House, he was easily the first citizen of the United States. His name is a household word in every civilized country, and Roosevelt made a secure place for himself in the history of nations.

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Col. Theodore Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 27th, 1858. He was of Dutch descent, being a member of one of the old aristocratic families of New York City and State. He traced his lineage back to the Revolution and long before that period on American soil. His parents were wealthy and belonged to the capitalistic or aristocratic class, although Roosevelt himself was always extremely democratic in his ways and principles. Roosevelt was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, but never played religion very strongly.

photo of Theodore Roosevelt, age 11, 1870

Photo: Theodore Roosevelt, age 11, 1870. Credit: U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

He entered Harvard College in 1876 and was graduated in the class of 1880.

He took up the study of law, but in 1881 was elected to the New York Legislature, and was twice re-elected.

In his second term in the Legislature, he was the candidate of his party for speaker, the majority of the assembly, however, being democratic.

During his third term he served as chairman of the committee on cities and of the special committee which investigated the abuses in the government of New York City.

He early took a stand for good government and honest and clean and decent politics.

He was a delegate to the state convention in New York State in 1884 to choose delegates to the Republican National Convention, and was selected as one of the four delegates-at-large from New York to the National Convention.

Later in the same year, he went to North Dakota and spent most of his time there for several years on a ranch, engaged in cattle raising. The change was made in the interests of his health. He had been weak and sickly and was advised by his physician to go west and live in the open air and sunshine and live the simple life.

photo of Theodore Roosevelt, 1885

Photo: Theodore Roosevelt, 1885. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

He adopted the habits of the cowboys and roughed it, according to the customs which prevailed in those days in the wild and wooly West. He acquired the art of riding on horseback, and became an expert rifle and revolver shot. During most of his waking hours he lived in his saddle. This life on the margin of civilization was too slow for him, however. Regaining his health and becoming robust and strong, he yearned for the streets and avenues of his native city, where the bright lights burn.

In 1886 he was the Republican nominee for mayor of New York City.

He was appointed a member of the United States Civil Service Commission in May, 1889, by President Benj. Harrison.

He resigned this position in 1895 in order to accept the Presidency of the Police Commission of New York City under Mayor Strong.

In April, 1897, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President William McKinley.

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Upon the outbreak of the war with Spain in 1898, he resigned his post and became Lt. Col. of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry.

He now began to cash in on the apprenticeship which he had served in the Wild West. He raised the regiment known as the Rough-Riders.

He was promoted to the colonelcy of the regiment, and was popular with the rank and file of men who reposed great confidence in his leadership.

photo of Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, 1898

Photo: Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, 1898. Credit: B. J. Falk; U.S. Library of Congress.

He was in the fights at Las Guasimas and San Juan. His name as a fighter was won at the battle of San Juan Hill.

He was mustered out with his regiment at Montauk, Long Island, in September, 1898. He was nominated shortly afterwards as the Republican candidate for governor of New York and elected in November, 1898.

He was unanimously nominated for Vice President of the United States by the Republican National Convention of 1900 and elected. He succeeded to the Presidency upon the death of President McKinley, by assassination, in Buffalo, on September 14th, 1901.

Painting: President Theodore Roosevelt; official White House portrait by John Singer Sargent, 1903

Painting: President Theodore Roosevelt; official White House portrait by John Singer Sargent, 1903. Credit: The White House Historical Association.

He was nominated for President by the Republicans in 1904 and was elected by a tremendous popular and electoral majority. He beat Alton B. Parker, the Democratic nominee.

While Roosevelt was President the Panama Canal was built and the war between Japan and Russia was fought. He took a hand in the settlement of that bloody conflict and was awarded a Noble Peace Prize for his activities.

The country was rent by panics and strikes during the Roosevelt administration, and he gained notoriety by successfully winding up a coal miners’ strike in the anthracite regions in Pennsylvania which threatened to drag the country into civil war.

Roosevelt was a forceful character and an aggressive man. He believed in the policy of maintaining a big standing army and a powerful navy in our country. He was an advocate of the strenuous life and lived it.

He lived every minute of his life. He split the Republican Party in two in 1912 because the Republican National Convention of that year refused to nominate him for President instead of Taft. He organized the Bull Moose Party on a progressive platform and later closed up the breach by returning to the original fold.

Roosevelt was distinctly a physical force man. In his opinion nature and destiny achieve their purposes through the strongest agency. He had no use for weak men and detested half-hearted measures. He fought the Wilson administration on the ground that it was too slow.

He believed that we should have entered the European War against Germany four years ago.

He was a physical culture expert, having built himself up from a sickly child to a man whose vigor and virility challenged the respect and admiration of the world.

His children were of the same type.

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He was a historian. He wrote many books on history. His “History of the Naval War of 1812” was written while he was yet a Harvard student.

He was a biographer. He wrote a biography of “Oliver Cromwell,” his own autobiography and others.

He was an essayist. He wrote more books than many authors whose fame rests upon their writings alone. His essays, in particular, and later his orations, were always a key to his actions.

He was a great critic. He raised hell most of the time. He knew where to hit and hit hard.

He was a good hater and had a good command of English. The results are well known.

He was a natural scientist, a big-game hunter, and explorer and discoverer. His achievements in natural science alone were enough to make him a man of note. He killed lions and tigers and elephants in the wilds of Africa, and discovered the River of Doubt in South Africa.

He was the holder of more than a dozen college degrees, and won fame as an editor on the “Outlook” and the “Metropolitan Magazine.” During the last year he has been an editorial writer for the “Kansas City Star.”

He was a practical reformer, a veteran colonel of cavalry, a former Governor, a former Vice President and a former President.

photo of the grave of President & Mrs. Roosevelt in Youngs Memorial Cemetery, Oyster Bay, New York

Photo: grave of President & Mrs. Roosevelt in Youngs Memorial Cemetery, Oyster Bay, New York. Credit: Shadow2700; Wikimedia Commons.

His death marks the end of a notable career, and the most strenuous life in America has reached its illustrious close. The whole nation mourns the loss of Theodore Roosevelt. Had he lived to see the day he might have been the next Republican nominee for President of the United States, and it is not improbable that he would have been re-elected.

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from 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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New Mexico Archives: 161 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

New Mexico, which became American territory in 1848 at the close of the Mexican-American War, waited 64 years before finally being admitted as the 47th state of the Union on 6 January 1912. One of the western Mountain States in the U.S., New Mexico is the 5th largest state in the country—yet only the 36th most populous.

photo of the Wheeler Peak mountain group, New Mexico

Photo: Wheeler Peak mountain group, New Mexico. Credit: David Herrera; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your family roots in New Mexico, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online New Mexico newspaper archives: 161 titles to help you search your family history in the “Land of Enchantment,” providing coverage from 1844 to Today. There are currently more than two million newspaper articles and records in our online NM archives!

Dig deep into our archives and search for obituaries and other news articles about your New Mexico ancestors in these recent and historical NM newspapers online. Our New Mexico newspapers are divided into two collections: Historical Newspapers (complete paper) and Recent Obituaries (obituaries only).

Search New Mexico Newspaper Archives (1844 – 1973)

Search New Mexico Recent Obituaries (1994 – Current)

Here is our complete list of online New Mexico newspapers in the archives. Each newspaper title in this list is an active link that will take you directly to that paper’s search page, where you can begin searching for your ancestors by surnames, dates, keywords and more. The NM newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Alamogordo Alamogordo Daily News 9/10/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Albuquerque Albuquerque Journal 1/2/1906 – 12/31/1922 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Albuquerque Morning Democrat 1/1/1886 – 12/31/1898 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Albuquerque Citizen 2/10/1887 – 12/31/1900 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Bandera Americana 8/10/1901 – 5/13/1909 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Albuquerque Weekly Press 1/20/1863 – 7/12/1864 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Nuevo Mundo 5/1/1897 – 9/20/1900 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Opinion Publica 7/2/1892 – 3/2/1907 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Defensor del Pueblo 6/27/1891 – 5/28/1892 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Indito 11/24/1900 – 4/4/1901 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque News 1/23/1886 – 12/6/1886 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Morning Journal 11/9/1884 – 12/3/1886 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Daily Times 6/14/1893 – 6/14/1893 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Industrial Advertiser 12/23/1899 – 12/23/1899 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Hormiga de Oro 11/7/1903 – 11/7/1903 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Revista 12/5/1881 – 12/5/1881 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Union de Albuquerque 1/20/1893 – 1/20/1893 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Combate 7/7/1892 – 7/7/1892 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Voz de Nuevo Mexico 9/1/1894 – 9/1/1894 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Estrella Mejicana 10/11/1890 – 10/11/1890 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Estrella Mexicana 10/4/1890 – 10/4/1890 Newspaper Archives
Albuquerque Albuquerque Journal 1/6/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Albuquerque Albuquerque Tribune 1/1/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bernalillo Agricultor Moderno 3/23/1916 – 3/23/1916 Newspaper Archives
Bernalillo Espejo 3/8/1879 – 3/8/1879 Newspaper Archives
Bland Bland Herald 12/30/1898 – 6/6/1902 Newspaper Archives
Carlsbad Carlsbad Current-Argus 1/28/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chama Northwestern New Mexican 6/10/1893 – 6/17/1893 Newspaper Archives
Chloride Black Range 12/29/1882 – 8/6/1897 Newspaper Archives
Columbus Columbus News 7/9/1909 – 5/26/1911 Newspaper Archives
Deming Deming Herald 4/2/1901 – 3/10/1903 Newspaper Archives
Deming Deming Headlight 1/24/1891 – 2/18/1899 Newspaper Archives
Deming Deming Tribune 12/25/1884 – 12/25/1884 Newspaper Archives
Deming Deming Headlight 6/3/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Eddy Eddy Argus 6/30/1893 – 6/30/1893 Newspaper Archives
Eddy Eddy County Citizen 6/13/1893 – 6/27/1893 Newspaper Archives
Elizabethtown Mining Bulletin 1/4/1900 – 8/11/1900 Newspaper Archives
Estancia Estancia News 9/1/1905 – 7/5/1907 Newspaper Archives
Farmington Daily Times 2/16/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Gallup Gallup Independent 10/11/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Grants Cibola County Beacon 6/20/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hillsboro Sierra County Advocate 9/25/1886 – 11/26/1897 Newspaper Archives
Kingston Kingston Weekly Shaft 4/16/1887 – 7/15/1893 Newspaper Archives
Kingston Kingston Clipper 3/8/1884 – 3/8/1884 Newspaper Archives
La Mesilla Defensor del Pueblo 3/7/1891 – 3/28/1891 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Estrella 2/1/1911 – 5/18/1935 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Labrador 9/8/1896 – 6/14/1912 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Tiempo 11/9/1882 – 7/8/1911 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Dona Ana County Republican 3/11/1897 – 2/15/1902 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Mesilla Valley Democrat 9/2/1886 – 12/2/1890 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Eco del Valle 11/18/1905 – 5/6/1916 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Las Cruces Progress 2/22/1902 – 1/1/1904 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Las Cruces Democrat 2/3/1892 – 11/29/1899 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Las Cruces Daily News 3/5/1889 – 11/23/1889 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Borderer 7/24/1872 – 1/10/1874 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Mesilla Valley Bulletin 2/2/1934 – 10/21/1938 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Flor del Valle 2/3/1894 – 10/11/1894 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Thirty-Four 4/16/1879 – 11/3/1880 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Democrata 6/2/1894 – 11/24/1894 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Empresa 9/26/1896 – 6/12/1897 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Eco del Rio Grande 2/12/1876 – 3/2/1882 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Verdad 9/16/1890 – 4/9/1898 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Promotor Escolar 9/12/1891 – 2/16/1892 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Observador Fronterizo 9/11/1888 – 10/30/1888 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Las Cruces Daily Times 5/8/1889 – 5/10/1889 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Newmans Semi-Weekly 4/2/1881 – 4/20/1881 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Gaceta Popular 10/24/1919 – 12/1/1919 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Fronterizo 4/29/1875 – 4/29/1875 Newspaper Archives
Las Cruces Las Cruces Sun-News 2/15/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Las Vegas Las Vegas Daily Gazette 7/27/1880 – 1/31/1886 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Revista Catolica 1/8/1888 – 2/10/1895 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Grito del Norte 8/24/1968 – 7/1/1973 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Las Vegas Daily Optic 3/8/1884 – 10/31/1900 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Misionero Bautista: Organo Oficial de la Convencion Bautista Hispano-Americana de Nuevo Mexico 12/21/1943 – 8/21/1951 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Las Vegas Weekly Optic 10/23/1880 – 10/30/1880 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Voz del Pueblo 6/4/1892 – 12/13/1904 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Sol de Mayo 5/1/1891 – 7/24/1891 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Hispano Americano 4/21/1892 – 10/15/1892 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas New Mexico Herald 6/25/1879 – 7/30/1879 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Las Vegas Record 1/29/1901 – 4/12/1902 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Campaign Bulletin 8/25/1880 – 8/27/1880 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Daily Examiner 8/30/1895 – 8/30/1895 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Chronicle 10/19/1886 – 10/19/1886 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Clarin Mexicano 10/30/1890 – 10/30/1890 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Political Comet 11/4/1882 – 11/4/1882 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Cachiporra 10/19/1888 – 10/19/1888 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Boletin de Anuncios 1/19/1878 – 1/19/1878 Newspaper Archives
Las Vegas Las Vegas Optic 11/7/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lordsburg Western Liberal 6/23/1893 – 4/12/1901 Newspaper Archives
Los Alamos Los Alamos Monitor 9/27/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Magdalena Magdalena News 2/28/1918 – 3/10/1918 Newspaper Archives
Magdalena Magdalena Mountain Mail 4/5/1888 – 4/5/1888 Newspaper Archives
Maldonado Estrella 1/30/1897 – 1/30/1897 Newspaper Archives
Maxwell Maxwell Mail 1/7/1915 – 12/30/1915 Newspaper Archives
Mesilla Mesilla News 2/1/1879 – 2/9/1884 Newspaper Archives
Mora Mosquito 12/3/1891 – 6/30/1892 Newspaper Archives
Mora Cronica de Mora 6/13/1889 – 11/2/1889 Newspaper Archives
Mora Gaceta de Mora 8/28/1890 – 8/28/1890 Newspaper Archives
Mora Mora Echo 9/16/1890 – 9/16/1890 Newspaper Archives
Mountainair Independiente 1/26/1918 – 12/25/1920 Newspaper Archives
Raton Relampago 5/21/1904 – 8/6/1904 Newspaper Archives
Raton Weekly News 5/6/1904 – 6/24/1904 Newspaper Archives
Raton Union 2/26/1898 – 9/10/1898 Newspaper Archives
Raton Raton Range 6/22/1893 – 8/29/1895 Newspaper Archives
Raton Raton Reporter 7/12/1893 – 7/12/1893 Newspaper Archives
Raton Amigo del Pueblo 1/8/1896 – 1/8/1896 Newspaper Archives
Rincon Rincon Weekly 8/29/1895 – 5/11/1897 Newspaper Archives
Roswell Roswell Record 7/14/1893 – 7/14/1893 Newspaper Archives
Roswell Roswell Daily Record 1/3/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ruidoso Ruidoso News 12/1/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
San Acacio Comercio 7/11/1907 – 7/11/1907 Newspaper Archives
San Marcial San Marcial Bee 4/29/1893 – 3/29/1902 Newspaper Archives
San Marcial San Marcial Reporter 4/14/1888 – 3/8/1890 Newspaper Archives
San Marcial Libertad 4/15/1896 – 4/15/1896 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Santa Fe Daily New Mexican 4/15/1871 – 6/27/1905 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Santa Fe Weekly New Mexican and Livestock Journal 4/25/1863 – 8/30/1906 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Nuevo Mexicano 8/16/1890 – 5/9/1908 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Boletin Popular 4/1/1886 – 5/30/1895 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Voz del Pueblo 4/27/1889 – 6/15/1889 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Guia de Santa Fe 10/2/1886 – 10/16/1886 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Cachiporrota 10/8/1890 – 10/28/1890 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Gato 5/23/1894 – 8/24/1894 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Registro de Nuevo Mexico 5/2/1916 – 5/2/1916 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe New Mexican Mining News 12/21/1881 – 12/21/1881 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Santa Fe Weekly Express 7/2/1887 – 7/2/1887 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Gauntlet 6/25/1894 – 6/25/1894 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Santa Fe Weekly Sun 6/17/1893 – 6/17/1893 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Capitol 9/14/1901 – 9/14/1901 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Clarin Mejicano 8/10/1873 – 8/10/1873 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Verdad 9/12/1844 – 9/12/1844 Newspaper Archives
Santa Fe Santa Fe New Mexican 9/12/1994 – Current Recent Obituaries
Santa Rosa Santa Rosa Sun 10/31/1919 – 5/28/1920 Newspaper Archives
Silver City Southwest Sentinel 10/19/1886 – 12/27/1887 Newspaper Archives
Silver City Silver City Enterprise 9/17/1886 – 8/23/1895 Newspaper Archives
Silver City Silver City Independent 8/3/1897 – 11/5/1901 Newspaper Archives
Silver City Eagle 8/28/1895 – 8/28/1895 Newspaper Archives
Silver City Mining Chronicle 3/3/1881 – 3/3/1881 Newspaper Archives
Silver City Herald 4/1/1876 – 4/1/1876 Newspaper Archives
Silver City New Southwest 1/7/1882 – 1/7/1882 Newspaper Archives
Silver City Grant County Herald 6/15/1878 – 6/15/1878 Newspaper Archives
Silver City Silver City Daily Press & Independent 4/19/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Silver City Silver City Sun-News 3/2/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Socorro Defensor del Pueblo 3/30/1906 – 4/9/1943 Newspaper Archives
Socorro Progreso 5/17/1887 – 8/9/1887 Newspaper Archives
Socorro Industrial Advertiser 6/10/1893 – 8/24/1895 Newspaper Archives
Socorro Hispano Americano 11/17/1891 – 1/9/1892 Newspaper Archives
Socorro Socorro Bullion 4/24/1886 – 9/11/1886 Newspaper Archives
Socorro Estrella de Nuevo Mexico 8/7/1896 – 3/26/1897 Newspaper Archives
Socorro Combate 1/3/1898 – 1/15/1898 Newspaper Archives
Socorro Bullion 3/1/1884 – 3/1/1884 Newspaper Archives
Socorro Republicano 3/16/1901 – 3/16/1901 Newspaper Archives
Socorro Golondrina 2/12/1898 – 2/12/1898 Newspaper Archives
Springer Colfax County Stockman 7/8/1893 – 12/27/1913 Newspaper Archives
Springer Estandarte de Springer 6/27/1889 – 6/15/1893 Newspaper Archives
Springer Sentinel 2/8/1901 – 12/27/1901 Newspaper Archives
Taos Revista de Taos 2/20/1904 – 2/20/1904 Newspaper Archives
Taos Taos News 2/15/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wagon Mound Combate 12/6/1902 – 11/2/1918 Newspaper Archives
White Oaks White Oaks Eagle 8/22/1895 – 8/22/1895 Newspaper Archives
White Oaks Lincoln County Leader 6/24/1893 – 6/24/1893 Newspaper Archives
White Oaks New Mexico Interpreter 11/15/1889 – 11/15/1889 Newspaper Archives

*Date Ranges may have selected coverage unavailable.

You can either print or create a PDF version of this Blog post by simply clicking on the green “Print/PDF” button below. The PDF version makes it easy to save this post onto your desktop or portable device for quick reference—all the New Mexico newspaper links will be live.

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Nellie Tayloe Ross: the Nation’s First Female Governor

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to learn more about one of the pioneering women in American history: Nellie Tayloe Ross, the first woman governor in U.S. history.

It would seem fitting that the first U.S. state to inaugurate a female governor was Wyoming. Wyoming, whose motto is the “Equality State,” approved female suffrage prior to statehood in 1869. In 1924, after the untimely demise of her husband, then-Wyoming governor William Ross, Nellie Tayloe Ross was asked by the Democratic National Committee if she would run for governor.

photo of Nellie Tayloe Ross, 1922

Photo: Nellie Tayloe Ross, 1922. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

While she was discouraged by others close to her, in the end Nellie – who had two sons to support and bills to pay – decided to add her name to the ballot. The race would be tough for a Democratic woman since Wyoming was largely a Republican state and many did not see politics as a place for women. On top of that, her campaign relied largely on friends and advertisements since the recent widow was not ready to actively promote herself.

However, Nellie won the election on 4 November 1924 and was inaugurated on 5 January 1925.

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Two Women Running to Be Nation’s First Governor

During that 1924 election year, Wyoming wasn’t the only state looking to elect a female governor. In Texas, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson was also campaigning to become the nation’s first female governor.

This article from the Evening Star reminds readers that Wyoming was first in granting women’s suffrage: “Thirty-four years ago, Wyoming Territory felt sufficiently grown up to put on the long pants of statehood, and the strangely assorted group of cowmen, homesteaders, prospectors, and lawyers who framed her progressive laws cudgeled their brains for some gesture with which to demonstrate their superiority over the backward and decadent East.”

article about Nellie Ross and the Wyoming election of 1924, Evening Star newspaper article 18 October 1924

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 18 October 1924, page 4

In the 1924 election, Texas’ Ma Ferguson was elected governor in her state’s race. Interestingly, her husband had also been governor years earlier but was impeached. That didn’t stop Miriam from winning her race and becoming the first female governor of Texas. However, Nellie was inaugurated in Wyoming 15 days before Ferguson was in Texas, giving her the title of the nation’s first woman governor.

Nellie, the Governor

After her overwhelming win, Nellie continued to work on some of her husband’s projects including enforcement of prohibition. In addition she promoted her own agenda that included “…requiring cities, counties, and school districts to have budgets; stronger state laws regulating banks…obtaining more funds for the university; improving safety for coal miners; protecting women in industrial jobs; and supporting a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would cut back on child labor.”*

Nellie’s brief stint as Governor of Wyoming (she was governor for two years) was not without its detractors. One might expect that many men who believed that politics was no place for women would be hyper vigilant to point out her foibles and mistakes, but women were also among those who were unhappy with her performance. Their complaints included that she had not done enough to assist women in the political sphere, including her lack of female political advisors.**

One issue that women’s clubs had with Nellie was her position on prohibition. In this article boldly titled “California Women Snub Nellie Ross” about a Southern California chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), they had “by resolution…declared Mrs. Nellie Tayloe Ross inconsistent in avowing herself a prohibitionist and at the same time campaigning in the California presidential primary in behalf of the candidacy of Governor Al Smith, of New York.” They want on to say: “We deplore the position taken by Mrs. Nellie Tayloe Ross, former governor of Woyming [sic], who is now in California proclaiming herself a prohibitionist and in favor of enforcement of the prohibition laws of the United States and yet is speaking publicly in support of the presidential candidacy of Governor Al Smith, of New York, whose record on nullification of the prohibition law and whose personal sentiments in opposition to prohibition are well known to the people of the entire nation.”

article about Nellie Ross and prohibition, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 20 April 1928

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 20 April 1928, page 1

Public Life after Being Governor

After Nellie served two years as governor, she continued a high-profile life that included the lecture circuit. In this 1930 South Dakota engagement reported by the Aberdeen Daily News, she was addressing the issue of women in politics. She said: “Political emancipation in the 19th amendment gives recognition of women as thinking, intelligent human beings.” She went on to talk about the fact that it wasn’t easy for women to enter roles that had been traditionally held by men. She stated that “men have felt the responsibility resting upon them for so many years…that it is hard for them to allow women to enter in.”

article about a speech by Nellie Ross, Aberdeen Daily News newspaper article 27 June 1930

Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 27 June 1930, page 7

Nellie went on to be the vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee and then, in 1933, was the first woman appointed to head the U.S. Mint, a job she held for 20 years until 1953.

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There’s no doubt that Nellie enjoyed many firsts in her life. She was written about in newspapers throughout the United States for the various events and activities she took part in. She also made the news in 1976 when she turned 100 years old.

article about Nellie Ross turning 100, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 26 November 1976

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 26 November 1976, page 2

Nellie died at 101 years of age in Washington D.C. Although she had been Wyoming’s governor for only two years, her title of first woman governor was one that was repeated in almost every newspaper article about her throughout her life – including her obituary.

obituary for Nellie Ross, San Diego Union newspaper article 21 December 1977

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 21 December 1977, page 36

Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from 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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* Rea, Tom. The Ambition of Nellie Tayloe Ross. WyoHistory.org. http://www.wyohistory.org/essays/ambition-nellie-tayloe-ross. Accessed 28 December 2014.

** Ibid

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Historical Italian American Newspapers Online

Per favore, provalo!

photo of street vendors in Manhattan’s Little Italy

Photo: street vendors in Manhattan’s Little Italy. Source: Wikipedia.

See: Street vendors at the Feast of San Gennaro in Manhattan’s Little Italy.

GenealogyBank is pleased to announce that these historical Italian American newspapers are available in our online archives.

State City Newspaper Start End
CA San Francisco Corriere del Popolo 1916 1962
NY New York Cristoforo Colombo 1892 1893
NY New York Eco d’Italia 1890 1896
NY New York Fiaccola Weekly 1912 1921
NY New York Progresso Italo-Americano 1884 1889
PA Philadelphia Momento 1917 1919

This collection of online newspapers is a terrific resource for Italian American genealogists.

Whether you’re looking for an old Italian marriage announcement or an obituary, GenealogyBank’s deep historical newspaper archives are your source.

collage of articles from Italian American newspapers

Two examples from GenealogyBank: a marriage notice from
Progresso Italo-Americano (New York City, New York), 2 August 1889, page 1 and an obituary from Corriere del Popolo (San Francisco, California), 25 December 1947 page 8

Please – give it a try!

Per favore, provalo!

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Descendant of Texas Declaration of Independence Signer Dies

Martha F. Fenstermaker (1943-2014) recently passed away, and in her published obituary it mentioned that she was “a direct descendant of Samuel Augustus Maverick, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence.” Her obituary also states she was a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

obituary for Martha F. Fenstermaker, Laredo Morning Times newspaper article 4 December 2014

Laredo Morning Times (Laredo, Texas), 4 December 2014

Her ancestor’s last name “Maverick” is where we get that word from, based on his tendency to be “individually minded.” He refused to brand his cattle—and in Texas, unbranded cattle came to be called mavericks, and the term stuck.

photo of Samuel Augustus Maverick

Photo: Samuel Augustus Maverick. Source: Wikipedia.

Genealogy Tip: Don’t only search obituaries looking for your known relatives—you also want to do a search using an ancestor’s name who died long ago. It just might be that a cousin unknown to you has mentioned a mutual ancestor in their obituary.

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Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from 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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A 1941 News Article Reminds Us of the Real Meaning of Christmas

Introduction: Duncan Kuehn is a professional genealogist with over eight years of client experience. She has worked on several well-known projects, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and researching President Barack Obama’s ancestry. In this blog post, Duncan shares an old newspaper article she found recently while doing family history research, which presents one man’s discovery in 1941 about the meaning of Christmas.

While doing some family history research recently in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, I ran across an article written by Channing Pollock in 1941.

photo of a candle on a Christmas tree

Photo: candle on a Christmas tree. Credit: Gerbil; Wikimedia Commons.

His article is so wonderful that I transcribed every word to share with our readers.

I Ran Away from Christmas, by Channing Pollock, Boston Herald newspaper article 21 December 1941

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 21 December 1941, page 16

I Ran Away from Christmas

By Channing Pollock

It was four or five years ago that my wife and I wearied of Christmas and decided to “get away from it all.” We had had a couple of very dull holiday dinners with relatives who didn’t think of us much – or think much of us – the other 364 days, and we had revolted against the janitor and the delivery boys and what-not along the avenue of itching palms.

“I’m tired,” my wife said, “of fighting crowds in shops, and wrapping things in tissue, and addressing hundreds of envelopes. I’d like to go where we could just have each other, and something really resembling ‘peace on earth.’”

“There is an ancient and honorable hymn,” I reminded her, “that runs, ‘Peace, perfect peace, with the loved ones far away.’”

So we spent that Christmas in Taormina – and we shall always remember it as the drabbest, loneliest, most generally wretched 24 hours of our lives.

Not that we didn’t get all we bargained for – and then some. Taormina, near the foot of Mount Aetna, is one of the quaintest, loveliest towns in the world. It has, or had, a palatial hotel that used to be a monastery, and is the coldest, most utterly impersonal of all possible places to spend the Yuletide. My wife and daughter and I rose at the usual hour and wished one another Merry Christmas – but there was no merriment, or anything that even remotely suggested Christmas. When we said Merry Christmas to the waiters and chambermaids, and crossed their palms with silver, they thanked us impersonally. Secretly we longed for our postman, who always rang twice at Christmas, and for the delivery boys, and for the two or three old servants who used to have Christmas dinner in our kitchen.

Nobody phoned, of course. At 10 o’clock we went to church in the biggest, most impersonal church I ever saw, with only strangers about us, and the service in a strange tongue. By then we were fairly aching for contacts with those we loved, whether or not we loved them or they us the other 364 days. So we strolled down the main street and sent yearning cables to all our sisters and cousins and aunts. No one replied; we had told them we wanted a quiet Christmas, and we got our wish. We opened the gifts we had bought (missing all the foolish tissue and tinsel and mess) and it seemed somehow odd and idiotic to be giving things to one another in big, empty, stone-floored rooms.

By night we felt like God’s step-children, and we sat alone at a huge table in a vast dining room, ate antipasto and ravioli and duck with olives, and listened to a string quartet. On the way out, at the other end of the hall, we saw a Christmas tree, trimmed and lighted and surrounded by a gay group of holiday-dressed children and grown-ups. “That’s nice of the hotel,” we thought, and rushed for the tree as though it were an oasis in a desert. We were within a few feet of it when the doors were closed in our faces; this was a private celebration, and no strangers wanted. After that, none of us troubled to hide our depression. We clung to, and were glad – so glad – we had one another.

For the rest of our lives we shall spend the Yule season shopping, and wrapping, and calling Merry Christmas to everyone we see, and being warmed and happy that they call Merry Christmas to us.

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The truth of the matter is that we all need the hurly-burly of Christmas, when the world is open-house, and gay and open-hearted. Those other 364 days we are remote from most of our fellows, thinking of ourselves and our business and humdrum preoccupations. We have been thinking of dreadful things, too, those 364 days – of marching men, and dead and dying men, and desolate and hungry women and children. For one day, it is blessed to retreat into childhood, and simple faith, and kindness and generosity, and all the memories and traditions of a festival born with the gentle Jesus. Scrooge may call it “a shopkeepers’ holiday,” but you and I know that something more precious than money goes into those shops, and something more wanted and needed than socks and slippers and rings and perfume comes out. The things we wrap in tissue and tinsel are not toys and ornaments, but tenderness and love and the wish to bring happiness to others.

All the spirit of Christmas, to me, is in that exquisite story of O. Henry’s, “The Gift of the Magi,” about the man who sold his watch to buy side combs for his wife’s beautiful hair, while his wife was selling her hair to buy a gold fob for his treasured watch.

Since our own cheerless Christmas journey, I’ve found a good many other people who have tried to spend Christmas in Taormina, in some manner of speaking. But I’ve never known one who will ever try it again. A dear, wise woman I know had a letter from a friend who said he’d decided “Christmas is a nuisance” and was asking all his friends to ignore him on that occasion. At Christmas, the woman wrote him: “I’m disregarding your request, so that you may have one message of love and remembrance on what you are going to find the emptiest day you have ever experienced.” Before night, she received an almost tearful telegram saying she was right.

Christmas, when you come to think of it, is an annual miracle: an annual rebirth of Christ. At the sign of clock and calendar, millions of us who give little thought to religion the rest of the year find ourselves remembering the Star and the Wise Men. For a time, the meanest of us become generous, the most relentless become forgiving. Even the men in tanks and bombing planes pause, if only an instant, to remember home – to realize that there are such things as homes.

No, Christmas in Taormina is no good, unless you belong in Taormina and your heart dwells there. That goes for Timbuktu, Tasmania and Tillamook, Oregon, too. For when you really escape Christmas, you escape humankind.

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A 1930s Secret Santa: the Christmas Story of Mr. B. Virdot

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to learn more about a wonderful Christmas story from the midst of the Great Depression: one man in Canton, Ohio, decided to do something to help his struggling neighbors that Christmas. And he did it anonymously.

There’s no doubt the sting of the Great Depression years was felt by families of all socio-economic levels in the United States. The severe economic downturn was a great equalizer and affected everyone – from the formerly well-off, country club member business man to the common laborer. That pain of crushing poverty would have felt even harsher during the holidays.

In 1933 one man in Canton, Ohio, decided to do something to help his neighbors at Christmas. Secretly under an assumed name, this man placed a newspaper ad, opened a bank account with $750, and proceeded to give away this money to those in need. While many families after the fact wrote letters thanking him, it wasn’t until 70 years later that the identity of this mysterious “Secret Santa” and the full impact of his generosity were uncovered through family history research.

The Christmas Gift

A week prior to Christmas, on 18 December 1933 in the Canton Ohio Repository, an advertisement was published titled “In Consideration of the White Collar Man” that invites those having financial difficulties to receive a check by sending a letter to B. Virdot, General Delivery, providing information about their circumstances.

an ad to help people financially struggling at Christmas during the Great Depression, Repository newspaper advertisement 18 December 1933

Repository (Canton, Ohio), 18 December 1933, page 3

That newspaper advertisement was not the only mention of this holiday gift in the paper that day. On the front page, a story about B. Virdot provides more information about the advertisement which ran only that one day. It begins:

A Canton man who was toppled from a large fortune to practically nothing but whom returning prosperity has helped fight back to wealth and comfort, has a Christmas present waiting for 75 deserving fellow townsmen.

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The old news article continues on to say that this Christmas gift is one with no “strings, no embarrassment,” $10 to 75 families in need.* The holiday gift is meant for “men, like the giver, have once held responsible positions, have been deprived of their income through general economic conditions, but who hesitate to knock at charity’s door for aid.” The historical news article explains that the name “B. Virdot” is fictitious but the donor is a local businessman who has known financial difficulties and, with the help of others, has recovered and now wants to share that gift with others.

Man Who Felt Depression's Sting to Help 75 Unfortunate Families, Repository newspaper article 18 December 1933

Repository (Canton, Ohio), 18 December 1933, page 1

News of this Christmas gift was carried in other newspapers, with coverage continuing well after the fact. For example, in the early part of 1934 notice of B. Virdot’s generosity was printed in this Pennsylvania newspaper.

Once Hit by Hard Times, He Now Opens His Purse, National Labor Tribune newspaper article 24 February 1934

National Labor Tribune (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 24 February 1934, page 5

The Family History

Normally, the touching Christmas story would end there: impoverished families receive generous gift from anonymous donor. What more could be said, in a case like that with no real name to track down? Letters written requesting assistance are ephemeral, and easily thrown away once read.

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Fast forward 70 years when Ted Gup, a writer and newspaper reporter, was given a suitcase by his mother. The suitcase, belonging to his maternal grandfather, held family history documents that were of interest to Gup. But once opened, he also found letters from 1933, written by 150 people whose surnames he recognized as coming from his hometown  of Canton, Ohio, and all addressed to B. Virdot – a name unknown to him.** Why did his grandfather have these letters?

Through research and talking with his mother, Gup learned the magnitude of those letters. The true identity and miraculous secret kept all those years was that “B. Virdot” was his grandfather, Sam Stone, a Jewish Romanian immigrant who knew all too well about hardship. Amazingly, his selfless act not only helped people he didn’t know but also helped once-wealthy businessmen who were his acquaintances – but they never knew the identity of their benefactor.

Gup’s book, A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness – and a Trove of Letters – Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression (2011), tells the story of not only his own family but also the present-day families of those helped by the B. Virdot checks. The research used to piece together these stories includes methods familiar to family historians: oral interviews, vital records, land records, and of course newspapers.

Another Lasting Legacy

Often when we research family history its impact is felt by us and those family members that we share it with. One of the big lessons of the story of B. Virdot/Sam Stone and the research done by his grandson is that it’s a mistake to not take into consideration our ancestor’s community. Friends, neighbors and acquaintances all had an impact on their lives. Ted Gup, by following up with the descendants of those check recipients, many of whom knew nothing about that aspect of their ancestor’s life, also gave back something important to those families, as his grandfather had done 70 years ago. He gave them the story of an event in the family’s life. By providing them the information from the letter, written in their ancestor’s own words, and the research of what happened after the gift, those families received something much more valuable.

You can read more about Ted Gup’s book at his website A Secret Gift. Copies of some of the letters can be found on the website. The letters and Gup’s research were donated to the Stark County Historical Society at the William McKinley Presidential Library in Canton. A list of the letter writers can be found on their Curator’s Corner blog.

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* Originally the checks were to be $10 to 75 families, but because of the demonstrated need, 150 families received a $5 check which still was generous for the time.
** Gup’s book explains that the letters in the suitcase represent everyone who received a check. It is not known if there were other letters from people who were not chosen to receive a check.

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