How to Research Legal Notices in Newspapers for Genealogy

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena shows how legal notices published in old newspapers are a great genealogy resource, providing a wealth of family history information.

When doing your family history research, have you ever given much thought to those legal notices found at the back of the newspaper? Legal notices in newspapers have an important purpose: they notify the public about government and individual actions so that readers may take action if necessary. The publishing of these public notices dates back to 1789, when Congress “required all bills, orders, resolutions and congressional votes to be published in at least three publicly available newspapers.”*

According to the genealogical text, The Source, legal notices may include: “land sales for payment of taxes, administration in probate, proving of wills, heirship determination and the settlement of estates, pending divorce proceedings, sales of properties of insolvent estates, and more.”**

Have you looked for your ancestor in these public notices published in newspapers? These legal articles can lead you to additional sources stored in courthouse archives, county government offices, and beyond. Let’s look at a few examples.

Probate & Estate Notices to Creditors

One genealogically rich source of information is the Notice to Creditors for estates being probated.

At the very least these probate notices provide the deceased’s name, such as this example found in an Arizona newspaper following the death of Mary J. Griffin.

This legal notice is a good reminder to not make assumptions about female ancestors. We often assume women in earlier times didn’t leave behind wills, but they may have – and if so, legal notice of that will or testament might have been published in the local newspaper. Legal notices are a wonderful source for researching female ancestors.

a legal notice for Mary Griffin, Tucson Citizen newspaper article 26 July 1915

Tucson Citizen (Tucson, Arizona), 26 July 1915, page 5

Legal notices will often include a family member’s name who was administering the estate. This notice to creditors article example from an Idaho newspaper includes the name of the deceased, S. F. Beery, and the name of the executor who was most likely a relative, David Beery.

legal notice for S. F. Beery, Idaho Statesman newspaper article 26 June 1905

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 26 June 1905, page 5

Court Actions & Case Files

Notices of court actions in the newspaper include everything from divorces to individual lawsuits, delinquent tax issues, and foreclosures on property. Consider this example from a Minnesota newspaper that not only notifies the defendants about the court action, it mentions the land that is at the heart of the case.

legal notice for Elizabeth Field, Duluth News-Tribune newspaper article 11 January 1910

Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 11 January 1910, page 11

Let’s face it, even our ancestors had money troubles – and that’s nowhere more obvious than in the Notice of Summons for delinquent taxes. This example from a North Carolina newspaper published during the Great Depression is an entire page of delinquent tax notices, and includes the names of married couples as well as individuals.

legal notices, Greensboro Record newspaper article 22 August 1932

Greensboro Record (Greensboro, North Carolina), 22 August 1932, page 12

Divorces can be found in various parts of the newspaper (see Divorce Records in Newspapers: Genealogy Research Tips) including the legal notices section. In this example from an Oregon newspaper, Loretta Gates believed her husband John W. Gates to be dead, so a notice was published in the newspaper giving him the opportunity, if alive, to respond to her divorce petition. It states:

SIR: PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that a petition has been presented to this court by Loretta Gates for dissolution of your marriage on the ground that you absented yourself for five successive years, last past, without being known to her to be living, and she believes you to be dead, and that pursuant to an order of said court, entered the 22d day of December 1949, a hearing will be had upon said petition at Supreme Court…

legal notice for Loretta Gates, Oregonian newspaper article 12 February 1950

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 12 February 1950, page 39

This notice ran in the newspaper for at least three consecutive Sundays, providing ample time for a living Mr. Gates to read it.

Enter Last Name


Government notices in the newspaper may provide you a better understanding of an event, or even an occupation, that affected your ancestor. In this legal notice from a Mississippi newspaper, the city of Gulfport in 1936 was taking bids from those who wanted to feed prisoners.

legal notice, Daily Herald newspaper article 31 December 1936

Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), 31 December 1936, page 3

It’s important to remember that newspaper articles may report on activities that impacted your ancestor’s life, but they won’t be specifically named. Search the census and city directories for your ancestor’s job and then turn to the newspaper to learn more about how they may have acquired that job.

And Then This…

I have to admit that when I think of legal notices, I think of a certain type of notice such as those I’ve highlighted above. But you never know what you might find, including this one from a San Quentin prisoner published in a California newspaper.

legal notice for Charles Cupp, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 9 January 1927

San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 9 January 1927, page 73

This pardon notice for Charles S. Cupp surprised me – though I guess it shouldn’t have. His seeking a pardon would have been of interest to the community, and its publishing provided the community – and the victim of his crime – with notification so that they could then respond. Cupp had been convicted of shooting at a police officer.

Did You Know?

GenealogyBank has a special category for legal records, probate records and court case files. Explore legal records now >>

Genealogy Tip: Don’t limit your newspaper search to just one type of article. Make sure to examine all kinds of newspaper articles, including legal notices that mention your ancestor by name or involved activities that impacted their lives.


* “Public notice and the role Oregon newspapers play.” Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. Accessed 3 May 2015.
** “Newspapers” by Loretto Dennis Szucs, FUGA, and James L. Hansen, FASG in Szucs, Loretto D, and Sandra H. Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Provo, UT: Ancestry, 2006.

Related Legal Notices Articles:

Vermont Archives: 88 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Many Americans may not know this, but Vermont was actually an independent country before becoming part of the United States. Originally territory disputed between New Hampshire and New York, Vermont was not one of the 13 colonies that formed the United States. Instead, the Vermont Republic was founded in 1777 and retained its independence for 14 years. Finally, in 1791, Vermont became the first addition to the young country when it was admitted into the Union as the 14th state. Today Vermont is the 6th smallest state in the nation and the 2nd least populous.

photo of the Vermont State Capitol building in Montpelier

Photo: Vermont State Capitol building in Montpelier. Credit: Jared C. Benedict; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your ancestry from Vermont, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online VT newspaper archives: 88 titles to help you search your family history in “The Green Mountain State,” providing coverage from the 1700s to Today. There are more than 12.5 million articles and records in our online Vermont newspaper archives!

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

Search Vermont Newspaper Archives (1781 – 2006)

Search Vermont Recent Obituaries (1999 – Current)

illustration of the state flag of Vermont

Illustration: state flag of Vermont. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Here is a list of online Vermont newspapers in the historical 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 VT newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

Did You Know?

The Rutland Herald is the oldest family-owned newspaper in ongoing operation in the U.S., as well as the second largest in circulation in Vermont. You can explore Rutland Herald news articles and obits from the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s through to today in the VT archives.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Barre Times Argus 03/07/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bellows Falls Vermont Intelligencer 01/01/1817 – 12/30/1822 Newspaper Archives
Bellows Falls Bellows Falls Gazette 12/01/1838 – 05/30/1851 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Bennington Banner 11/18/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bennington World 10/19/1807 – 03/27/1809 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Vermont Gazette 05/04/1847 – 10/10/1850 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Vermont Gazette 03/17/1847 – 12/27/1848 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Ploughman; or, Republican Federalist 07/27/1801 – 02/01/1802 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Vermont Gazette 12/14/1872 – 12/22/1876 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Tablet of the Times 01/05/1797 – 08/31/1797 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Bennington News-Letter 03/25/1811 – 08/14/1815 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Green-Mountain Farmer 04/17/1809 – 06/10/1816 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Vermont Gazette 06/05/1783 – 02/16/1847 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Epitome of the World 02/10/1807 – 10/12/1807 Newspaper Archives
Bennington Bennington Banner 02/27/1841 – 12/31/1885 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Semi-weekly Eagle 08/10/1847 – 12/09/1852 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Brattleboro Reformer 06/07/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Brattleboro Brattleboro Messenger 12/24/1821 – 08/29/1834 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Federal Galaxy 01/06/1797 – 01/17/1803 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Vermont Phoenix 10/24/1834 – 12/29/1882 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Independent Inquirer 09/14/1833 – 09/06/1834 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro American Yeoman 02/04/1817 – 01/27/1818 Newspaper Archives
Brattleboro Reporter 02/21/1803 – 12/05/1820 Newspaper Archives
Burlington Burlington Gazette 09/09/1814 – 01/28/1819 Newspaper Archives
Burlington Burlington Mercury 06/03/1796 – 03/24/1797 Newspaper Archives
Burlington American Repertory 09/28/1821 – 03/25/1823 Newspaper Archives
Burlington Vermont Centinel 03/19/1801 – 07/12/1850 Newspaper Archives
Chelsea Vermont Advocate 01/12/1830 – 07/30/1834 Newspaper Archives
Chester Chester Telegraph 03/29/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chester Green Mountain Palladium 06/22/1807 – 04/12/1808 Newspaper Archives
Colchester Colchester Sun 01/27/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Danville North Star 01/08/1807 – 01/26/1889 Newspaper Archives
Essex Junction Essex Reporter 12/30/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Manchester Manchester Journal 04/06/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Columbian Patriot 09/01/1813 – 08/23/1815 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury Addison Eagle 08/03/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Christian Messenger 11/06/1816 – 11/23/1819 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury Middlebury Mercury 12/16/1801 – 07/04/1810 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury Middlebury Campus, The: Middlebury College 01/16/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury New Market Press 08/03/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Addison County Independent 12/27/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Christian Herald 09/25/1816 – 10/30/1816 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury Green Mountain Outlook 08/05/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Vermont Mirror 09/30/1812 – 09/18/1816 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury Valley Voice 02/28/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Middlebury Religious Reporter 04/08/1820 – 09/30/1820 Newspaper Archives
Middlebury National Standard 08/30/1815 – 12/26/1820 Newspaper Archives
Milton Milton Independent 10/18/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Montpelier Argus and Patriot 07/09/1863 – 12/30/1908 Newspaper Archives
Montpelier State Journal 10/25/1832 – 10/25/1832 Newspaper Archives
Montpelier Vermont Precursor 11/22/1806 – 11/13/1807 Newspaper Archives
Montpelier Freemen’s Press 08/25/1809 – 08/27/1812 Newspaper Archives
Montpelier Watchman 11/20/1807 – 12/31/1873 Newspaper Archives
Newport Newport Daily Express 07/24/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Northfield Northfield News 09/25/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Peacham Green Mountain Patriot 02/23/1798 – 01/27/1810 Newspaper Archives
Putney Argus 03/16/1797 – 02/26/1799 Newspaper Archives
Randolph Weekly Wanderer 01/24/1801 – 04/06/1810 Newspaper Archives
Royalton Vermont Advocate and White River Advertiser 11/21/1827 – 03/11/1829 Newspaper Archives
Rutland Rutland Herald 12/08/1794 – 12/29/1818 Newspaper Archives
Rutland Herald of Vermont 06/25/1792 – 09/10/1792 Newspaper Archives
Rutland Rutland Herald 10/01/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rutland Farmers’ Library 04/01/1793 – 11/29/1794 Newspaper Archives
Rutland Vermont Mercury 03/29/1802 – 03/12/1804 Newspaper Archives
Rutland Vermont Courier 07/25/1808 – 05/30/1810 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans Vermont State Paper 06/23/1835 – 04/26/1836 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans St. Albans Messenger 12/04/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
St. Albans St. Albans Messenger 01/25/1838 – 10/12/1933 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans St. Albans Daily Messenger 04/24/1861 – 04/29/2006 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans Franklin County Advertiser 07/26/1810 – 10/29/1810 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans St. Albans Adviser 03/10/1808 – 01/28/1809 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans St. Albans Advertiser 12/19/1873 – 07/05/1878 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans Champlain Reporter 05/11/1809 – 06/28/1810 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans American Repertory 05/15/1823 – 12/26/1833 Newspaper Archives
St. Albans St. Albans Transcript 03/22/1873 – 07/30/1874 Newspaper Archives
St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record 01/05/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
St. Johnsbury St. Johnsbury Republican 08/07/1907 – 08/07/1907 Newspaper Archives
St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record 09/03/1918 – 12/31/1926 Newspaper Archives
St. Johnsbury Caledonian 08/08/1837 – 03/13/1918 Newspaper Archives
Vergennes Vergennes Gazette and Vermont and New-York Advertiser 08/30/1798 – 10/08/1801 Newspaper Archives
Westminster Vermont Gazette or Green-Mountain Post-Boy 04/02/1781 – 09/27/1781 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Morning Ray, or, Impartial Oracle 11/15/1791 – 09/25/1792 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Vermont Republican 01/02/1809 – 10/09/1834 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Spooner’s Vermont Journal 08/07/1783 – 11/04/1826 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Washingtonian 07/23/1810 – 01/22/1816 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Post-Boy 01/01/1805 – 03/31/1807 Newspaper Archives
Windsor Vermont Journal 06/20/1844 – 10/20/1877 Newspaper Archives
Woodstock Woodstock Observer 01/11/1820 – 06/05/1832 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 Vermont newspaper links will be live.

Related Resource:

Will You Mention Your Ancestors in Your Obituary?

Have you noticed how many obituaries include details about the ancestors of the deceased?

George Green’s obituary summarizes his life, compactly detailing his accomplished life in a paragraph or two – and prominently, we learn that he “had deep roots in Michigan.”

According to his obituary:

He was officially recognized as a direct descendant of a Michigan Sesquicentennial Pioneer, William Weaver, who came by ox car in 1835 from Hartland, Niagara County in upstate New York with wife, Mary Earl Willets and settled in what became Somerset two years prior to official statehood.

These are terrific genealogical details.

George Green’s obituary is a good example of a well written, informative genealogical biographical sketch.

obituary for George Green, Detroit News newspaper article 19 July 2015

Detroit News (Detroit, Michigan), 19 July 2015

Esther Mary (Blair) Crane’s obituary tells us in the opening sentences that she was a descendant of John Alden of Mayflower fame.

obituary for Esther Crane, Commercial Appeal newspaper article 18 July 2015

Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), 18 July 2015

Esther Crane – I didn’t know her, but right away I know that she was my cousin because of her link to John Alden – and I want to know more about my newly discovered deceased relative. I want to make sure that she is included in our family tree and that her story is remembered and told.

I truly appreciate it when these genealogical details are included in an obituary, making it easier for me to trace the members in our family tree.

I can quickly see that Detroit native George Green had roots in Niagara County, New York, and that Esther was my cousin.

Don’t you wish that every one of your relatives’ obituaries gave this many genealogical details?

What does this say about your obituary?
What are your plans?
Do you want to have the details of your heritage included in your obituary?

Tell us what you’re thinking of including in your obituary.

Related Obituary Articles:

Tennessee Archives: 78 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Originally part of North Carolina, Tennessee was admitted into the Union as the nation’s 16th state on 1 June 1796. It is the 36th largest of the United States, and the 17th most populous. So many volunteer soldiers from Tennessee fought for the young U.S. during the War of 1812 with Great Britain – especially at the famous Battle of New Orleans under the leadership of Andrew Jackson – that Tennessee earned the nickname “The Volunteer State.”

photo of the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville

Photo: Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. Credit: Kaldari; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your ancestry from Tennessee, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online TN newspaper archives: 78 titles to help you search your family history in “The Volunteer State,” providing coverage from 1793 to Today. There are more than 3.7 million articles and records in our online Tennessee archives!

Dig deep into our archives and search for historical and recent obituaries and other news articles about your Tennessee ancestors in these TN newspapers online. Our Tennessee newspapers are divided into two collections: Historical Newspapers (complete paper) and Recent Obituaries (obituaries only). Note that GenealogyBank’s expansive collection includes rare publications that date back to the late 1700s and early 1800s, including Tennessee’s first newspaper: the Knoxville Gazette.

Search Tennessee Newspaper Archives (1793 – 1982)

Search Tennessee Recent Obituaries (1990 – Current)

illustration of the state flag of Tennessee

Illustration: state flag of Tennessee. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Here is a list of online Tennessee 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 TN newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Athens Daily Post-Athenian 03/28/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Carthage Western Express 11/21/1808 – 11/21/1808 Newspaper Archives
Carthage Carthage Gazette 08/13/1808 – 07/01/1817 Newspaper Archives
Chattanooga Chattanooga Times Free Press 04/01/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chattanooga Chattanooga Courier 02/10/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chattanooga Chattanooga Daily Rebel 08/09/1862 – 08/30/1863 Newspaper Archives
Chattanooga Justice 12/24/1887 – 12/24/1887 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Clarksville Gazette 11/21/1819 – 12/23/1820 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Weekly Chronicle 02/18/1818 – 09/16/1818 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Town Gazette & Farmers Register 07/05/1819 – 11/08/1819 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Tennessee Weekly Chronicle 01/27/1819 – 06/07/1819 Newspaper Archives
Cleveland Cleveland Daily Banner 05/05/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbia Daily Herald 01/10/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cookeville Herald-Citizen 04/12/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crossville Crossville Chronicle 09/01/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crossville Glade Sun 06/02/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Dayton Herald-News 08/28/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Elizabethton Elizabethton Star 04/08/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Erwin Erwin Record 02/16/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Greeneville Greeneville Sun 09/14/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hartsville Hartsville Vidette 07/06/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Jackson Headlight 01/27/1900 – 01/27/1900 Newspaper Archives
Johnson City Johnson City Press 06/30/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jonesborough Herald & Tribune 02/01/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kingsport Kingsport Times-News 01/10/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kingston Roane County News 10/31/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Knoxville Register 08/10/1816 – 10/22/1839 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Negro World 10/15/1887 – 11/26/1887 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville News-Sentinel 01/01/1940 – 12/31/1982 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville Journal 04/01/1888 – 12/31/1896 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville News Sentinel: Blogs 06/01/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Press and Messenger 01/08/1873 – 12/15/1875 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville Gazette 12/07/1793 – 10/29/1806 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville News Sentinel 01/04/1991 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Knoxville Gazette 09/01/1818 – 09/01/1818 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville Enlightener 03/23/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lafayette Macon County Times 10/08/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
LaFollette LaFollette Press 11/21/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lebanon Lebanon Democrat 07/06/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lenoir City News-Herald 09/27/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maryville Blount Today 02/01/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maryville Daily Times 12/12/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Commercial Appeal 01/01/1968 – 12/31/1969 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Commercial Appeal, The: Web Edition Articles 05/19/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Memphis Triangle 11/17/1928 – 07/27/1929 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Commercial Appeal 06/27/1990 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Memphis Daily Avalanche 01/01/1866 – 04/30/1869 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Tri-State Defender 08/03/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Memphis Evening Post 04/27/1868 – 05/31/1869 Newspaper Archives
Mt. Juliet Mt. Juliet News 07/06/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Murfreesboro Murfreesboro Union 06/06/1939 – 06/06/1939 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Clarion 02/16/1808 – 08/29/1821 Newspaper Archives
Nashville City Paper 01/09/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Nashville Scene 11/23/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Colored Tennessean 08/12/1865 – 07/18/1866 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Pride 01/02/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville National Banner and Nashville Whig 09/16/1834 – 12/30/1836 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Tennessee Gazette 02/25/1800 – 05/30/1807 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Post 01/21/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville National Banner and Daily Advertiser 01/01/1834 – 09/15/1834 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Impartial Review, and Cumberland Repository 01/18/1806 – 08/16/1806 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Murfreesboro Vision 01/15/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Nashville Republican 01/16/1835 – 01/16/1835 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Examiner 09/29/1813 – 05/25/1814 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Republican 08/07/1824 – 10/16/1833 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Gazette 05/26/1819 – 02/14/1827 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Review 11/10/1809 – 05/03/1811 Newspaper Archives
Newport Newport Plain Talk 07/01/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oak Ridge Oak Ridger 02/17/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Paris Paris Post-Intelligencer 07/05/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rogersville Western Pilot 08/19/1815 – 08/19/1815 Newspaper Archives
Rogersville Rogersville Review 12/16/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sevierville Mountain Press 10/03/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Shelbyville Tennessee Herald 12/19/1817 – 03/08/1820 Newspaper Archives
Spring Hill Advertiser News 05/14/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sweetwater Advocate and Democrat 06/12/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tazewell Claiborne Progress 11/18/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wartburg Morgan County News 12/19/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries

*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 Tennessee newspaper links will be live.

Related Articles:

Truly Personal Obituaries from the Recent Obituary Archives

Introduction: Duncan Kuehn is a professional genealogist with over nine years of client experience. She has worked on several well-known projects, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” In this blog post, Duncan searches GenealogyBank’s recent obituaries collection and discoveries some truly interesting – and sometimes funny – passages in some of these obituaries.

Writing an obituary can be a painful and unexpected event. It can also be a healing one. More and more families are rejecting a dry, formulated writing style for their loved one’s obituary, taking instead a more personalized approach. It is challenging to compact a person’s life into a few lines. It is even more difficult to try to convey that person’s unique sense of being onto the printed page. Here are some marvelous examples of more personalized obituaries; I found these while browsing in GenealogyBank’s Recent Obituary Archives.

passage from Donna Smith's obituary urging people to be kind to one another

Humorous Life Philosophy

Sometimes an obituary shares a person’s philosophy.

Donna Smith’s obituary passed on this humorous life philosophy:

Do what’s right and do what’s good. Be kind and help others. The world can always use one more kind person. And if you can take it one step further, please do it for people grandpa’s age.

Donna Smith

obituary for Donna Smith, Salt Lake Tribune newspaper article 18 December 2014

Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah), 18 December 2014

Jokes Help

The family, or even the person themselves, may try to lighten up the situation by making a joke.

In his obituary, Aaron Joseph Purmorts’s family stated that he:

died peacefully at home on November 25 after complications from a radioactive spider bite that led to years of crime-fighting and a years long battle with a nefarious criminal named Cancer, who has plagued our society for far too long. Civilians will recognize him best as Spider-Man, and thank him for his many years of service protecting our city. His family knew him only as a kind and mild-mannered Art Director, a designer of websites and t-shirts, and concert posters who always had the right cardigan and the right thing to say (even if it was wildly inappropriate).

Aaron Joseph Purmort

obituary for Aaron Joseph Purmort, Star Tribune newspaper article 30 November 2014

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 30 November 2014

Unusual Final Requests

Others leave behind unusual requests in their obituaries.

B. H. Spratt’s family suggested:

In lieu of flowers, tune-up your car and check the air pressure in your tires – he would have wanted that.

B. H. Spratt

obituary for B. H. Spratt, Florida Times-Union newspaper article 23 October 2011

Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Florida), 23 October 2011

Lisa Schomburger Steven’s family asked:

that you spend time with your children, take a walk on the beach with your loved ones and make a toast to enduring friendships lifelong and beyond. That is what Lisa would wish for you.

Lisa Schomburger Stevens

obituary for Lisa Schomburger Stevens, Charlotte Observer newspaper article 19 December 2005

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 19 December 2005

Tom Taylor Jr.’s family stated:

One of his last requests to his good friend Scott, was to contact the Cremation Society to ask for a refund because he knew he weighed at least 20 percent less than when he paid for his arrangements.

Thomas J. Taylor Jr.

obituary for Thomas J. Taylor Jr., Sun News newspaper article 27 August 2008

Sun News (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), 27 August 2008

Tom Brady Fan

To make an obituary more personal, family members sometimes add a line about a person’s passions or strongly held beliefs.

Enter Last Name

Patricia M. Shong was a fervent New England Patriots fan. Her family stated this wish in her obituary:

She would also like us to set the record straight for her; Brady is innocent!

Patricia M. Shong

obituary for Patricia M. Shong, Worcester Telegram & Gazette newspaper article 24 May 2015

Worcester Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Massachusetts), 24 May 2015

Patricia’s defense of Tom Brady put a smile on everyone’s face, as reported at the end of her obituary.

obituary for Patricia M. Shong, Worcester Telegram & Gazette newspaper article 24 May 2015

Worcester Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Massachusetts), 24 May 2015

Another Football Fan

Michael Sven Vedvik’s family did their best to lighten things up by saying in his obituary:

We blame the Seahawks lousy play call for Mike’s untimely demise. Mike was greatly loved and will be dearly missed.

Michael Sven Vedvik

obituary for Michael Sven Vedvik, Spokesman-Review newspaper article 5 February 2015

Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), 5 February 2015

The Dog Ate It

Norma Brewer’s obituary contained this humorous remark:

Norma Rae Flicker Brewer, a resident of Fairfield, passed away while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. She never realized her life goal of reaching the summit, but made it to the base camp. Her daughter, Donna, her dog, Mia, and her cats, came along at the last minute. There is suspicion that Mrs. Brewer died from hypothermia, after Mia ate Mrs. Brewer’s warm winter boots and socks.

Norma Brewer

obituary for Norma Brewer, Connecticut Post newspaper article 31 January 2015

Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Connecticut), 31 January 2015

Losing a loved one is never easy. Helping others to see that person the way you did can help ease your sorrow at their passing. You may even consider helping your family out by writing your own obituary!

Do you have a touching or funny obituary you’ve come across in your genealogy research? If so please share your obituary finds with us in the comments.

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Genealogy Tip: Search a Wide Date Range in GenealogyBank

Newspapers often published commemorative articles celebrating milestones. Take for example the 50th wedding anniversary of Elizabeth Kern and Valentine Humburg. They were both born in Germany, married 3 April 1854 in New York, and settled in San Jose, California, six years later.

article about the Humburgs celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, San Jose Mercury News newspaper article 3 April 1904

San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, California), 3 April 1904, page 2

This detailed newspaper article names their five children and their nine grandchildren – and, as a bonus, includes photographs of the couple.

If you were searching just on the marriage date of the Humburgs in the 1854 newspapers in New York City, you would not find this great article about their marriage printed 50 years later in a newspaper across the country.

Genealogy Tip: After you’ve tried a search on a specific date in GenealogyBank’s archives for an important event in your ancestors’ lives, search on a wide date range to see if a commemorative article was published many years later about that same important event.

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July 2015 Update: GenealogyBank Just Added 8 Million More Records!

Every day, GenealogyBank is working hard to digitize more newspapers and obituaries, expanding our collection to give you the largest newspaper archives for family history research available online. We just completed adding 8 million more U.S. genealogy records, vastly increasing our content coverage from coast to coast!

screenshot of GenealogyBank's home page showing the announcement that 8 million genealogy records were added in July

Here are some of the details about our most recent U.S. newspaper additions:

  • A total of 22 newspaper titles from 13 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia
  • 9 of these titles are newspapers added to GenealogyBank for the first time
  • Newspaper titles marked with an asterisk (*) are new to our online archives
  • We’ve shown the newspaper issue date ranges so that you can determine if the newly added content is relevant to your personal genealogy research

To see our newspaper archives’ complete title lists, click here.

State City Title Date Range Collection
Arizona Phoenix Phoenix New Times* 01/29/2007–Current Recent Obituaries
California Hollister BenitoLink* 04/01/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
California La Jolla La Jolla Village News* 04/18/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
California Lakeport Lake County News* 12/21/2006–Current Recent Obituaries
California Mission Beach, Pacific Beach Beach & Bay Press* 04/17/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
California Redding Searchlight 1/1/1910–12/30/1917 Newspaper Archives
California Redding Weekly Searchlight 10/3/1899–12/27/1923 Newspaper Archives
District of Columbia Washington (DC) Washington Times 6/4/1982–11/27/1989 Newspaper Archives
Florida Ormond Beach Ormond Beach Observer* 04/11/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
Idaho Boise Idaho Statesman 7/14/1957–2/15/1971 Newspaper Archives
Idaho Idaho Falls Idaho Falls Times 11/16/1970–11/30/1970 Newspaper Archives
Indiana Elkhart Elkhart Truth 5/18/1905–5/18/1905 Newspaper Archives
Indiana Evansville Evansville Courier and Press 7/1/1933–12/31/1937 Newspaper Archives
Kentucky Lexington Lexington Herald 10/1/1957–10/31/1957 Newspaper Archives
Kentucky Lexington Lexington Leader 3/3/1912–11/30/1977 Newspaper Archives
Michigan Grand Haven Grand Haven Tribune* 01/02/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Minnesota Virginia Hometown Focus* 01/08/2010–Current Recent Obituaries
Mississippi Biloxi Daily Herald 1/2/1947–7/20/1955 Newspaper Archives
Missouri Kansas City Kansas City Star 5/26/1945–7/13/1945 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Bryson City Smoky Mountain Times* 02/06/2004–Current Recent Obituaries
Pennsylvania State College Centre Daily Times 3/8/1983–9/30/1994 Newspaper Archives
Washington Bellingham Bellingham Herald 10/1/1947–10/1/1947 Newspaper Archives

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 newspaper links will be live.

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Apollo 11’s Moon Landing: ‘One Giant Leap for Mankind’

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), founded in 1958, has been America’s leading government agency for space exploration and scientific and aeronautics research for 57 years. The highlight of NASA’s history occurred on 20 July 1969 when the Apollo 11 space flight successfully landed the first humans on the moon.

photo of astronaut “Buzz” Aldrin on the Moon’s surface, with the lunar module “Eagle” in the background

Photo: astronaut “Buzz” Aldrin on the Moon’s surface, with the lunar module “Eagle” in the background; photo taken by fellow astronaut and moon-walker Neil A. Armstrong. Credit: NASA; Wikimedia Commons.

Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin thrilled Americans and the world with their two-hour walk on the moon’s surface while astronaut Michael Collins piloted the command module orbiting above the lunar explorers.

photo: portrait of the prime crew of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. From left to right they are: Commander, Neil A. Armstrong; Command Module Pilot, Michael Collins; and Lunar Module Pilot, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr.

Photo: portrait of the prime crew of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. From left to right they are: Commander, Neil A. Armstrong; Command Module Pilot, Michael Collins; and Lunar Module Pilot, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. Credit: NASA; Wikimedia Commons.

The Apollo 11 mission left an American flag, a plaque, several scientific instruments, and some abandoned equipment on the moon’s surface, and brought back scientific data and 47.5 pounds of rocks. The successful mission also created a proud legacy for the NASA space agency. However, in today’s difficult economic conditions some people are doubting NASA’s value, feeling the agency is bloated, expensive, and purposeless. The significance of what Apollo 11 accomplished eludes much of the American public today.

front page coverage of Apollo 11's moon landing, Seattle Daily Times newspaper 21 July 1969

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 21 July 1969, page 1

Many people seem to have lost the sense of wonder, even awe, that gripped America – and the whole world – when Armstrong and Aldrin stepped on the surface of the moon 46 years ago today. For many observers at the time, however, it seemed like the greatest achievement in the history of humankind, a breakthrough proving the limitless capacity of human imagination and ingenuity. That feeling of euphoria and amazement comes across clearly in the following newspaper article.

The Seattle Daily Times’s lead story gave the riveting details of the moon landing:

article about Apollo 11's landing on the moon, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 21 July 1969

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 21 July 1969, page 1

Man Walks on Moon

U.S. Astronauts Open New Era

By William W. Prochnau, Times Staff Reporter

Houston—There was life on the moon yesterday. Man placed it there and seemed destined now to spread it all through the heavens.

It happened, this first landing of men on the moon, with all the predictability of the computerized clockwork that got them there. Yet it was as unreal as a B-grade science-fiction movie.

An eerie, spidery spaceship swooping down into the desert of the moon…

A shadowy, dangling leg swinging down to settle into the moondust and change man’s fate…

Then two men were there, cavorting, kangaroo-hopping, frolicking in a place called the Sea of Tranquility…

And the President of the United States was telephoning the moon from the White House…

It was all a little too much, even in this era of Buck Rogers-come-true. It was well within reach of man’s technology but a little beyond reach of his comprehension.

“A groovy trip,” said a hippie youth 250,000 miles away in San Francisco.

“That’s one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind,” said Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, as his boot landed on the surface.

Where that giant leap would take us all was anyone’s guess. But it did promise to be a groovy trip. The bonds were cut now. Never again would there be a last frontier.

Armstrong took his fateful step at 7:56 p.m., Seattle time. It came more than three hours ahead of schedule and after a crater-hopping ride down to the Sea of Tranquility in the spaceship Eagle.

He was joined on the surface of the moon 18 minutes later by his fellow astronaut, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin. Armstrong remained on the surface for 2 hours and 13 minutes, Aldrin about 30 minutes less.

“Now, I want to back up and partially close the hatch,” Aldrin said as he stepped out on Eagle’s ladder down to the moon. “Making sure not to lock it on the way out.”

“A good thought,” Armstrong acknowledged from below.

The two astronauts, tight-lipped and laconic during the quarter-million-mile trip across space, were playful now, exhilarated in the strange buoyancy of the moon’s weak gravity.

They were expected to play it cool, take no chances. Instead, as one grounded astronaut said in Houston, they bounced around the moon “like a couple of Texas jackrabbits.”

It all was watched by millions of earthbound television viewers, just one in the string of fantastic events that took place on July 20, 1969. It was, surely, the oddest of all television shows.

There were those men, grotesque and dome-headed in their spacesuits, darting across the face of the moon. They guessed beforehand that they would be able to walk 10 miles an hour. But they were running, cutting like football fullbacks.

But if the astronauts were playful now, they also got almost all of their work done on the moon. They deployed three key scientific experiments that should record moon quakes, precisely measure the distance to the moon and capture solar rays.

They gathered up around 60 pounds of lunar rock—not all they wanted—and stowed it in their spaceship.

It would be months, maybe years, before scientists would know exactly what they discovered in their barren lunar sea. But their major goal was just to get there—and, of course, get back.

Apollo 11’s mother ship, Columbia, with Mike Collins aboard, spent the historic day in orbit, waiting for the return.

Eagle touched down on the moon at 1:17 yesterday afternoon. The decision to make the moon walk ahead of schedule was made after it was determined that the astronauts were well-rested. The earlier plan had called for them to sleep four hours before leaving their craft.

Outside, the astronauts surveyed the bleak, boulder-strewn moonscape and found it more attractive than they expected.

“It has a stark beauty all its own,” Armstrong said. “It’s like much of the high desert of the United States. It’s different but very pretty out here.”

And Aldrin’s first words on the moon were, “Beautiful, beautiful.” Less well-planned than Armstrong’s well-honed statement for the history books.

The surface of the moon, they observed from inside the spaceship, was white to gray, chalky and almost colorless. But outside, they found more—chocolate sands, a purple stone, crystalline rock formations. The surface was firm but covered with dusty sand that gave way to make footprints and smudged their gloves.

The landing pods of Eagle sank into the soil only two or three inches. Their footprints were just one-eighth inch deep.

The astronauts were fascinated by it all. Armstrong had planned his first historic words carefully and meaningfully. But, with hardly a pause, he felt compelled to go on and describe the strange sights.

“The surface is fine and powdery,” he said. “I can pick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere in fine layers like powdered charcoal to the sole and sides of my boots. I only go in a small fraction of an inch. Maybe an eighth of an inch. But I can see the footprints of my boots and the treads in the fine sandy particles.”

The men were not particularly surprised by anything they found. But the mobility they had in the one-sixth gravity of the moon was more than expected. Both were 165-pounders on earth, 27-pound gazelles now on the moon.

“You do have to be rather careful to keep track of where your center of mass is,” Aldrin said, sprinting in front of the cameras. “Sometimes it takes about two or three paces to make sure you’ve got your feet underneath you. But about two or three or maybe four easy paces can bring you to a nearly smooth stop.”

And often they were in awe of what they were doing, just as most of the distant earth was, too.

Even before he walked on the surface, Aldrin felt the need to send a message back to earth.

“This is the L. M. pilot,” the astronaut said, “I would like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”

Men would try to contemplate it all, of course. There were men, brilliant men here, saying Armstrong’s step was the most significant event since life first crawled out of the seas. Others thought it was groovy.

Then there was President Nixon, calling the moon.

“Neil and Buzz,” he said, “I am talking to you by telephone from the Oval Room at the White House.”

The two men stood there at attention in the Sea of Tranquility, distorted moon puppets, strangers from the future, flanking the American Flag they had planted, in front of the plaque that said they had “come in peace for all mankind.”

“Because of what you have done,” the President said, “the heavens have become a part of man’s world.”

And where did all this begin? In Galileo’s child-like toyings with the first telescope? In the fantasies of Jules Verne?

Who could say? But a dream was being fulfilled—and beginning anew—yesterday as the ungainly spaceship Eagle and its two passengers settled down into that lunar sea.

It might well be that the biggest moment in the flight of Apollo 11—and one of the biggest in the history of man—occurred when Armstrong stepped down off that ladder’s final rung.

Man was on the moon, treading on alien soil, one foot in the future.

But in sheer drama no moment was bigger than the instant when the machine of Apollo 11, the spaceship Eagle, set its talons into moonsoil. No one had any serious doubts here that man, the strange and adaptable creature who had devised all these miracles, would have any real trouble walking on the moon. But first he had to get there.

And the trip down, those final few thousand feet, was harrowing indeed. Inside the spaceship alarm lights were flashing their danger signals from overworked computers and Eagle was four miles off course, heading into a boulder-strewn crater.

There was every indication later, in fact, that an unmanned spacecraft might have crashed in the same situation. But it seemed almost fitting that men should take over from their machines on this, of all flights.

So Armstrong, peering down into those threatening lunar boulders just 250 feet below, took control and steered his spaceship beyond to safety.

Armstrong is an inward man, a man who controls himself rigidly and his voice betrayed no emotion as he lowered himself into history.

“…coming down nicely, 200 feet,” the voice crackled across the void.

“…75 feet, everything’s looking good…light’s on…40 feet, kickin’ up some dust…four forward, drifting to the right a little…”

Then: “Contact light?” The voice excited, now, in a jubilant question to Aldrin. “OK, engines stopped?”

These were the first words from the moon, “contact light,” this test pilot’s affirmation that the greatest test of them all had been made and it had worked.

Then the words from Houston: “We copy you down, Eagle.”

“Houston?” came the voice of Armstrong again. “Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

“Roger, Tranquility, we copy you on the ground,” Apollo Control said exuberantly. “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue here. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”

“Thank you,” replied Armstrong in a voice that meant thanks for the $22 billion, thanks for the computers, thanks for the Von Brauns, the Goddards, the Keplers, the Galileos. He was their beneficiary now, their emissary, in a way; our emissary, too.

This strange young man, Armstrong, the symbol of the beginning of an era that even the most visionary of men can’t comprehend. He wanted to be made of steel now and he kept the steel in his voice. But the machinery that got him there also gave away his secret.

The sensors pasted to his chest, those wiretaps on his heart, beamed back the truth: at touchdown, at contact light, Armstrong’s heart was jumping at a furious 156 beats a minute, more than twice the normal rate.

But could there be any wonder at that?

Moments later, relaxing now, his heart rate down to 90, Armstrong matter-of-factly described the approach.

Eagle came in, he said, over a “football-field-sized crater with a large number of big boulders and rocks for about one or two crater diameters around it and it required us to fly manually over the rock field to find a reasonably good area.”

If that was a rather understated way of saying that Eagle almost bounced in among the boulders, it is Armstrong’s way.

Moments later Collins, the loneliest astronaut, orbiting in Columbia high over his departed buddies, called down to see how things were going.

“Sounds like it looks a lot better than it did yesterday,” Collins said in a reference to their earlier sightings from orbit. “It looked rough as a cob then.”

“Tell you what, Mike, it really was rough over the target area,” Armstrong radioed back. “It was extremely rough, cratered and large numbers of rocks, probably many larger than five or ten feet in size.”

“Land down, land long,” Collins observed, with good pilot’s advice.

“Well, we did,” Armstrong replied.

Down there—or up there—at last, the astronauts were somewhat lost. They had landed on the edge of their long-chosen landing zone, landing down and landing long by about four miles.

“Those guys who said we wouldn’t be able to tell precisely where we are, are the winners today,” Armstrong told Houston. “We were a little worried about program alarms and things like that in the part of the descent where we would be normally picking out our landing spot.”

The astronauts quickly assured Houston that they were having no trouble with the moon’s one-sixth gravity—a fact they would exhibit convincingly to the world a few hours later, with their bounding and cavorting in the Sea of Tranquility.

Then they peered out their spaceship windows at scenes men never had seen before—of a strange pock-marked plain, a chalky lunar landscape, an earth suspended, half-moon half-earth home, in the sky.

“There are no stars,” Armstrong said, “but out my overhead hatch I’m looking at the earth. It’s big and bright and beautiful.”

They were sitting in a “relatively level plain, cratered with fairly large numbers of craters from the 5 to 30-foot variety and some ridges, small, 20, 30 feet high…”

There was a moon hill, perhaps a mile away, halfway to the curving horizon and “some angular blocks out several hundred feet in front of us that are probably two feet in size and have angular edges.”

Aldrin, the bookish astronaut, looked out at the moonscape and saw a “collection (of rocks) of just about every variety of shapes, angularities, granularities, about every variety of rock you could find.”

A quarter-million miles away, the geologists could hardly wait.

Up above it all, in Columbia, Collins was getting a little antsy, too. He was just about the only interested earth man who couldn’t watch it all. And he kept calling down to Houston, imploring them to improve his radio communications so he could “follow the action.”

On each pass over the landing area, he squinted down in a fruitless attempt to catch a sun-reflected glimpse of Eagle.

The President talked to Armstrong and Aldrin, but he forgot about Collins. Not very political, that.

When Houston radioed congratulations down to the men in the Sea of Tranquility, Collins interjected, “and don’t forget the one in the command module.”

“OK,” Armstrong told him, joshingly, “you just keep that orbiting base up there ready for us.”

He would and it was Collins, three hours before the landing, who had started Armstrong and Aldrin on their way.

The two craft were separated in orbit, just behind the corner of the moon and out of radio contact, when Collins pushed a button that gently nudged Eagle away from Columbia.

When the two craft popped around the moon’s corner, Armstrong reported that “the Eagle has wheels.”

It was an orbit later before Eagle was really diving for the moon. A 30-second engine burn, again on the back side of the moon, propelled the landing craft into an orbit that brought it to less than 50,000 feet above the surface.

Once again, the anxious men back on earth didn’t know how it had worked until the two spacecraft rounded the corner.

The command module cruised out first and Collins broke the silence: “Listen, baby, everything’s going just swimmingly. Beautiful.”

“Roger, we’re waiting for Eagle,” Houston replied.

“He’s coming along.”

And then it was all clear for the final move, 12½ minutes of retro-fire from Eagle’s descent engine.

“Eagle, you are go for power descent,” the voice came up from Houston.

And Eagle was go for history.

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Walt Elias Disney’s Fantasy Made Real: Disneyland Opens

Walt Elias Disney had a problem. With the success of his popular cartoons and movies, letters were pouring in from people wanting to visit the movie studio. The problem was – there really wasn’t much to see at the studio. His two daughters Diane and Sharon loved amusement parks, and that gave Walt his brilliant insight: he decided to build a Disney-themed amusement park to delight children and parents alike.

photo of the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Photo: Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, Anaheim, California. Credit: Tuxyso; Wikimedia Commons.

On 17 July1955, with a gala opening broadcast nationwide on the ABC Television Network, Walt’s dream became a reality when more than 20,000 invited guests poured into Disneyland to gawk and gaze in wonder. Sixty years and hundreds of millions of visitors later, they’re still coming to experience America’s most famous amusement park.

Disneyland was extravagant and dazzling, unlike anything that had been created before. It cost $17 million and a frenetic year of construction to build after Walt Disney bought 160 acres of an orange grove in Anaheim, California, and tore down the 11,000 orange trees. The sprawling amusement park featured four main areas: Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, and Fantasyland, to represent Walt’s dream of celebrating the past, the future, and the power of the imagination. Disneyland opened with 18 attractions.

As Walt Disney told the nationwide television audience in his dedication speech on 17 July 1955:

To all who come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.

photo from the opening ceremony for Disneyland, Oregonian newspaper article 18 July 1955

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 18 July 1955, page 30

This old Oregon newspaper article describes Disneyland’s grand opening.

Disneyland Opens Gates, Oregonian newspaper article 18 July 1955

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 18 July 1955, page 29

This historical newspaper article reports:

Anaheim, Cal. (AP) – The $17,000,000 Disneyland, a combination world’s fair and Arabian Nights dedicated to the delight of children, opened Sunday.

A year ago these 160 acres contained 11,000 orange trees. Sunday 22,000 invited guests swarmed through the gates and were dazzled by the wonders of yesterday and tomorrow, concocted by the imagination of Walt Disney and his fellow creators.

“It was nip and tuck but we made it,” sighed Disney. Dressed appropriately for the hot weather, he greeted arrivals in light blue slacks, white shirt with red polka dots and Tahitian straw hat.

Rush in Last Minute

Everywhere there were signs of the last minute rush. A painter put final touches on the marquee of the Disneyland opera house. Workers unloaded crates in the turn-of-the-century stores along Main street and a crane hovered over the mad tea party ride.

Among the notables ogling the sights: Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Irene Dunne, Gale Storm, George (Superman) Reeves, Robert Cummings, George Gobel, and, of course, Fess Parker, who played Tennessee’s Davy Crockett in the Disney TV series.

Among the dignitaries on hand for the nationwide telecast of the opening were two governors, Goodwin Knight of California and Frank Clements of Tennessee.

Fittingly enough, the guests were greeted by a floral pattern outlining Mickey Mouse, the star who started Disney’s empire.

The guests walked into a city square of the 1900 era, bounded by an old-time railroad station, city hall and fire station, opera house and other vintage merchant houses.

Boats Carry Visitors

Walking further into the city square, the previewers came to the hub of Disneyland, from which extend its four great realms. In one direction was Adventureland, dominated by a large Tahitian hut containing a dining room. Nearby the guests piled aboard such riverboats as the Amazon Belle, Ganges Gal and Nile Princess for a spine-tingling ride past wild hippos, elephants and crocodiles, all plastic replicas. The ride ended with a dash under a waterfall and emptied the passengers outside native bazaars.

A huge wooden log stockade guards the entrance to Frontierland. Here the onlookers were impressed by Davy Crockett’s museum, an Indian village with real redskins, a Golden Horseshoe frontier saloon and an outdoor New Orleans café. At a dock alongside a realistic river was the 103-foot paddle-wheeler, the Mark Twain.

Tomorrowland offered the aspects of a world’s fair with its cascading fountains and futuristic buildings. The guests saw imaginative exhibits of the world of tomorrow and children drove tiny gasoline-powered autos on a miniature freeway. They were also whisked on a rocket trip to the moon via a realistic movie.

Swans Sail Quietly

But, as Disney himself agrees, the greatest of the realms is Fantasyland. There the Disney creators have lavished their most vivid imaginations. Children passed over the moat, in which swans sailed serenely, and through the towering sleeping beauty’s castle.

Inside the courtyard was a splash of color and more delights than a child can imagine.

A King Arthur’s carousel of 72 leaping horses whirled in the center and all around were rides featuring famed Disney characters. There was a flying circle of Dumbo elephants, Mr. Toad’s motor car ride, Casey Jr.’s ride, etc.

photo of Walt Elias Disney, 1938

Photo: Walt Elias Disney, 1938. Credit: Alan Fisher, New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.
~ Walt Disney

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Anniversary of the Birthday of Ida B. Wells, Civil & Women’s Rights Activist

Today is the 153rd anniversary of the birth of famed African American journalist, speaker, civil rights activist and suffragist Ida Bell Wells.

photo of Ida B. Wells, c. 1893

Photo: Ida B. Wells, c. 1893. Credit: Mary Garrity; Wikimedia Commons.

As a journalist, Wells wrote for the Chicago newspaper the Daily Inter Ocean. She gained fame for her investigative reporting of lynching in the U.S., demonstrating that in many cases African Americans were being lynched as a means of punishing blacks who “didn’t know their place,” rather than as punishment for a specific crime. And, of course, she pointed out that rarely was any evidence used to justify a lynching even when a crime had been committed.

In a harrowing story she wrote in 1893 titled “The Brutal Truth,” Wells chronicled the lynching of African American Sea J. Miller for allegedly murdering two while girls. There wasn’t a shred of evidence linking Miller, who was apprehended in Illinois, of the crime that had been committed in Kentucky – but, as Wells pointed out, the mob in Kentucky of about 300 unruly men had spent the day draining 30 barrels of beer while authorities were looking for a suspect, and the crowd was out for blood.

article about the lynching of Sea J. Miller, Daily Inter Ocean newspaper article 19 July 1893

Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), 19 July 1893, page 1

After describing in horrific detail the brutality of Miller’s lynching – being first hung, then shot repeatedly, mutilated, and his body burnt – Wells concluded her article:

Thus perished another of the many victims of lynch-law, but it is the honest, sober belief of many who witnessed the scene, that an innocent man has been barbarously and shockingly put to death in the glare of the nineteenth century civilization, by those who profess to believe in Christianity, law, and order. These and similar deeds of violence are committed under the protection of the American flag and mostly upon the descendants of the negro race. Had Miller been ever so guilty under the laws, he was entitled to a fair trial. But there is absolutely no proof of his guilt…

How long shall it be said of free America that a man shall not be given time nor opportunity to prove his innocence of crimes charged against him?

Ida Wells originally wrote for the Daily Inter Ocean, and later for the Conservator. Dig in and read her articles in both of these Chicago newspapers in GenealogyBank’s historical archives.

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