Cat Poem by Ethel Maude Colson Shows Her Love

Family historians want more than just vital statistics. Yes, birth, marriage and death dates are important to genealogy – but once you’ve filled your family tree with names and dates, how much do you really know about your ancestors as real people with individual lives?

To get to know your ancestors, you need their stories – and there is no better place to find those stories than in a collection of old newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s online Historical Newspaper Archives.

Here in the pages of old newspapers, you’ll find your ancestors’ stories in every part of the paper, from news reports to ships’ passenger lists to classified ads. Your ancestor might turn up in a way you never expected, such as a letter to the editor, a recipe submitted in a contest – or a poem.

Here’s a poem published in an 1895 newspaper. Imagine if Ethel Maude Colson was your ancestor, and you knew little about her. Then you find this poem in an old newspaper – and suddenly you know she was a poet, with a heart filled with such love for her cat “Tom” that when he died, she poured her overflowing feelings into verse.

photo of an unidentified woman with her cat

Photo: unidentified woman with her cat. Credit: iStock Photo.

Her opening stanza sets the tone:

Poor Tom is dead, and my sad heart grieves,
And his memory many a thought receives,
And many a tear I shed the day
When Tom was laid in the earth away,
For he was faithful to me, and that
Earns love alike in a man or cat.
And not always those we expect love from
Are one-half so trusty as poor dead Tom.

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Her fourth and final stanza sums up her feelings on her “poor dead Tom” beautifully:

They tell me his life for good is o’er,
That I never shall see him or know him more,
But I scarce believe it; the power that made
Him faithful alike in the sun and shade
Will know how we loved each other, and when
My life is ended, I fancy then
We’ll meet, for the law of love is that
Which binds me close to my poor dead cat.

poem Ethel Maude Colson wrote to her cat, Daily Inter Ocean newspaper article 4 August 1895

Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), 4 August 1895, section 3, page 35

April is National Poetry Month. Did you know GenealogyBank’s newspaper collection has a special search category for Poems & Songs? Come take a look today and see what poetic gems you can find.

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Iowa Archives: 59 Newspapers Online for Genealogy Research

Iowa, located in the heart of the Midwestern U.S., is an integral part of the country’s Corn Belt, with agriculture long being the base of the state’s economy – although recent decades have seen the flourishing of a more diversified economy including manufacturing and information technology. The 26th largest state in the Union, Iowa is the nation’s 30th most populous state.

illustration of an Iowa farm, Muscatine County, Iowa, 1875

Illustration: Iowa farm, Muscatine County, Iowa, 1875. Credit: Alfred Andreas; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your family roots in Iowa, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online IA newspaper archives: 59 titles to help you search your family history in “The Hawkeye State,” providing news coverage, family stories and vital statistics from 1837 to Today. There are currently more than one million newspaper articles and records in our online Iowa archives!

photo of an 1872 poster advertising land for sale in Iowa and Nebraska

Image Credit: Library of Congress Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 134, Folder 13, 1872

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

Search Iowa Newspaper Archives (1837 – 1902)

Search Iowa Recent Obituaries (1992 – Current)

Here is a list of online Iowa 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 IA newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Adel Dallas County News 4/19/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Algona Algona Upper Des Moines 8/7/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ames Tribune 11/7/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ames Iowa State Daily 6/20/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Atlantic Atlantic News Telegraph 1/3/2006 – 1/6/2011 Recent Obituaries
Bettendorf Bettendorf News 2/5/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Boone Boone News-Republican 11/9/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Burlington Iowa Territorial Gazette and Burlington Advertiser 7/10/1837 – 12/15/1838 Newspaper Archives
Burlington Hawk Eye 1/1/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cedar Rapids Gazette 1/4/1992 – Current Recent Obituaries
Centerville Ad Express & Daily Iowegian 11/29/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Charles City Charles City Press 8/1/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Clarinda Clarinda Herald-Journal 10/5/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Clinton Clinton Herald 8/14/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Corning Revue Icarienne 11/1/1878 – 4/1/1888 Newspaper Archives
Council Bluffs Weekly Council Bluffs Bugle 1/12/1855 – 1/2/1861 Newspaper Archives
Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil 12/23/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Creston Creston News-Advertiser 3/19/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Davenport Davenport Democrat and Leader 10/1/1857 – 12/31/1857 Newspaper Archives
Davenport Wochentliche Demokrat 1/2/1902 – 1/2/1902 Newspaper Archives
Davenport Quad-City Business Journal 4/25/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Davenport Quad-City Times 1/1/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Decorah Decorah Newspapers 9/6/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Denison Denison Bulletin & Review 6/14/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Des Moines Daily Iowa State Register 1/3/1866 – 8/31/1869 Newspaper Archives
Des Moines Iowa State Bystander 11/13/1896 – 12/28/1900 Newspaper Archives
Des Moines Iowa Baptist Standard 5/21/1897 – 5/21/1897 Newspaper Archives
Des Moines Weekly Avalanche 1/20/1893 – 1/20/1893 Newspaper Archives
Dubuque Telegraph Herald 8/28/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Forest City Forest City Summit 3/20/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Forest City Britt News Tribune 3/20/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fort Madison Daily Democrat 5/28/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Glenwood Opinion-Tribune 12/9/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hamburg Hamburg Reporter 10/5/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Independence Independence Conservative 3/3/1859 – 8/16/1860 Newspaper Archives
Kalona Kalona News 3/4/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Keokuk Daily Gate City 6/16/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Knoxville Journal Express 8/15/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Logan Logan Herald-Observer & Woodbine Twiner 6/14/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lone Tree Lone Tree Reporter 5/4/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Mason City Globe Gazette 1/10/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Muscatine Muscatine Journal 10/1/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nevada Tri-County Times 6/16/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nevada Nevada Journal 6/5/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Hampton New Hampton Tribune 3/8/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Newton Newton Daily News 1/2/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Osage Mitchell County Press-News 3/2/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Osceola Osceola Sentinel-Tribune 10/14/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oskaloosa Oskaloosa Herald 10/27/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ottumwa Ottumwa Courier 5/17/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pella Pella Chronicle 5/15/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Perry Perry Chief 6/6/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Red Oak Red Oak Express 12/5/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Riverside Highland Review 12/15/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Shenandoah Valley News Today 3/17/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Sioux City Sioux City Journal 1/3/1872 – 8/20/1900 Newspaper Archives
Sioux City Sioux City Journal 3/2/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Story City Story City Herald 6/11/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Waterloo Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier 1/4/2001 – 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 Iowa newspaper links will be live.

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Linus Lounsbury, Revolutionary War Veteran

I found this obituary for Linus Lounsbury, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, by searching in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

obituary for Linus Lounsbury, Columbian Register newspaper article 23 July 1836

Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), 23 July 1836, page 3

He died on 15 July 1836.
He was a pensioner.

He was in the Siege of Fort Johns in Newfoundland, Canada – 17 September 1775 to 3 November 1775, and was in the Battle of White Plains on 28 October 1776.

Great information.

photo of a two-cent stamp depicting the Revolutionary War Battle of White Plains

Image Credit: Battle of White Plains 1926 Issue 2c, U.S. Post Office, 20 February 2010

Here is the confirmation of his death, as reported in the 1838 Pensioners List on the page showing deaths of Connecticut pensioners.

photo of a Revolutionary War pension list showing that Linus Lounsbury has died

Publication: Pensioners — pension agents. Letter from the Secretary of War, transmitting the information required by a resolution of the House of Representatives of 26th March last, in relation to pensioners and pension agents, and the payment of pensions. June 22, 1838. — Referred to the Committee on Revolutionary Pensions. June 27, 1838. — Ordered to be printed, as per resolution of the Committee herewith. Date: Wednesday, June 27, 1838. Serial Set Vol. No.331-1; Report: H.Doc. 444. Source: GenealogyBank.com

Continuing my newspaper search on Linus, I found this notice from 1817 reporting that there was a letter for Linus at the post office.

list of people who have letters waiting for them at the Woodbridge, Connecticut, post office, Columbian Register newspaper article 19 July 1817

Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), 19 July 1817, page 1

It would be great if we had that old letter.

Re-reading his obituary, I like that last line about his character:

He truly possessed the spirit of ’76 as long as he lived.

It makes me think of the George M. Cohan chorus from “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” as found on Wikipedia:

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle, do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,
Born on the Fourth of July.

Find the life story of your ancestors – search GenealogyBank today. Start your 30-day trial now!

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Note: FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank are partnering to make over a billion records from recent and 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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Hard to Believe – but True – Stories from Old Newspapers

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” They say truth is stranger than fiction – and in this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to find stories that seem unbelievable, yet really happened.

Every once in a while something happens that defies explanation. For our ancestors, what seemed like something supernatural might easily be explained with today’s advances in knowledge and technology. Other things remain inexplicable.

Old newspapers reported not only the incidents that happened but also people’s reminiscences and first-hand accounts – and reading those newspaper articles tells us about our ancestors’ experiences and the times they lived in. Whether reporting on a weather anomaly or a person exhibiting supernatural powers, newspapers documented our ancestors’ stories.

Here are a few examples: an extraordinary weather event, and some tales of incredible strength under duress.

New England’s Dark Day

It’s easy to understand how, in a time before modern technology and a comprehensive knowledge of meteorology, that a strange weather phenomenon might be seen as supernatural – especially when you don’t have the ability to easily communicate with people and places more than a few miles away. One such example is New England’s “Dark Day,” which occurred on 19 May 1780. On this day it was so dark at noon that candles had to be used. People reported all kinds of unusual occurrences, including animals acting strangely. The darkness didn’t lift until the middle of the next day. Other physical manifestations that something was amiss included reports in the days before the darkness of the moon appearing red.

More than 50 years after the Dark Day, Wheeler Martin reminisced in his local newspaper:

The darkness at 11 o’clock was so great, that a candle was lighted and placed upon the table; the fowls went to roost; the sheep all huddled around in a circle, with their heads inward.

article about New England's Dark Day, Newburyport Herald newspaper article 4 January 1831

Newburyport Herald (Newburyport, Massachusetts), 4 January 1831, page 1

Martin added this story detail:

article about New England's Dark Day, Newburyport Herald newspaper article 4 January 1831

Newburyport Herald (Newburyport, Massachusetts), 4 January 1831, page 1

Nearly 230 years after the Dark Day, researchers at the University of Missouri, looking at written records as well as evidence left behind by tree rings, concluded that the eerie, intense darkness during that day was the result of massive wildfires in Canada.*

The Dark Day wasn’t the only time the skies darkened during daytime. In this article about a tornado on 23 September 1786 in Woodstock, Vermont, there is a reporting of:

…a Tornado, or hurricane, more extraordinary than has been known in that place at any time before. About five o’clock in the afternoon a very dark cloud appeared in the western hemisphere, which whirled and moved with unusual velocity to the eastward. The whole horizon was so obscured, & the darkness equalled, if not exceeded that of the dark day in 1780.

The old news article goes on to say that barn roofs were blown off, trees came crashing down and “many cattle were killed.” There was even mention of a child picked up by the storm and carried a great distance, and a wagon deposited on top of an apple tree.

article about a tornado, Vermont Gazette newspaper article 25 September 1786

Vermont Gazette (Bennington, Vermont), 25 September 1786, page 3

Amazing Feats of Strength

Weather phenomena aren’t the only time that unusual occurrences are mentioned in the news. In some cases, maybe because of adrenalin or the crisis of the situation, some people are able to exhibit amazing acts of strength.

While a muscular man might be able to lift a car off someone, an average mom weighing 120 pounds lifting a 2,000-pound car off her son is seemingly miraculous – but it really happened.

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Moms have shown “super-strength” when their children are in danger. That is exactly the case in this incident: after an accident, Mrs. Norbert (Margaret) See lifted the family car off her 11-year-old son Mark. Mrs. See stated:

I knew my boy was under the car and I had to get him out. I didn’t notice the weight of the (Ford) Pinto.

Mother Lifts Car to Save Her Son, Register-Republic newspaper article 27 January 1972

Register-Republic (Rockford, Illinois), 27 January 1972, page 43

While Mrs. See modestly said it was “nothing” that she lifted a car off her son, an early 20th century woman’s story of saving a loved one is perhaps even more dramatic. This 1909 newspaper article reports:

“Terribly injured in an automobile accident, almost blinded by blood streaming from two long deep gashes in her head, Mrs. J. T. Donaldson of Blakely, without aid, lifted an overturned car from the unconscious form of her husband, pulled him from underneath, walked a mile” to get help repairing the car – and ended her adventure by driving her injured husband 10 miles to see a doctor!

Desperately Injured Mrs. Donalsono Drives Husband to Physician, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 14 March 1909

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 14 March 1909, section 2, page 1

Did your ancestors live through something that was highly unusual? Were they written about because of something they did that was out of this world? Please tell us about it in the comments section.

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* Mystery of Infamous ‘New England Dark Day’ Solved by Tree Rings http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2008/0609-guyette-tree-ring-fire-release.php. Accessed 11 March 2015.

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Passing on Family Heirlooms

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary gives practical tips on how to document and preserve your precious family heirlooms.

Passing on cherished heirlooms is a time-honored tradition – one that predates all of us for as long as history has been recorded. Your belongings may become the heirlooms of tomorrow, but only if you take care of them.

Unfortunately, many family heirlooms become lost through the ages, mostly due to:

  • lack of proper care
  • exposure to harmful substances and environments
  • incomplete provenance
  • overlooking the need for the provenance
  • providing only an oral, not a written history

My Family Heirloom: Box of Lace & Handicrafts

A good example of a family heirloom is a box of lace and handicrafts handed down in my family. The box is full of charming little handicrafts which I adore – and luckily for me, the items have been well preserved.

photo of the contents of a family heirloom box

Photo: contents of the family heirloom box. Credit: from the author’s photo collection.

This vintage heirloom box contains dozens of small treasures, some even with the original price tag. The bundle of dainty lace at the top of the photo has a tag reporting six yards that cost $3.50 from McCutcheon’s of New York. Some of the frilly handicrafts in the box were handmade. There are two crazy quilt blocks consistent with a larger quilt made by my 2nd great grandmother and other garment parts – some partially completed, and others which appear to have been removed from existing clothing. Then there is a lovely little unsigned note which reads:

I bought this Maltese lace in Australia 1900.

When you read a note like this from one of your ancestors, you immediately long for more details.

Luckily I recognized the handwriting, and from other family documents determined which ancestors sailed to Australia in 1900. It was my maternal great grandparents – and fortunately for us, there are several heirlooms and stories connected to their trip.

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Research Your Heirloom in Old Newspapers

I was intrigued about the note, but didn’t know which object in the box was the “Maltese lace.” So I turned to the old newspaper archives to do further research.

A query of Genealogy Bank’s Historical Newspaper Archives showed that by 1904, this type of adornment had reached the height of popularity. For example, this 1904 newspaper fashion article features a photo of a stylish silk suit. The woman’s garment is decorated with “a narrow edging of gray Maltese lace defining the yoke.”

fashion article about Maltese lace, Omaha World Herald newspaper article 19 June 1904

Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 19 June 1904, page 18

I found a good description of Maltese lace in another 1904 newspaper article:

Maltese lace is finely wrought, but very open in pattern, so that the decorative design stands boldly, if delicately, out from a background of fairy-like stitches in an open mesh. Made of the finest of silk threads, it has a creamy glow about it that is exceedingly becoming to the face, and it is peculiarly harmonious when worn with silk and velvet.

article about Maltese lace, Evening Star newspaper article 2 January 1904

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 2 January 1904, page 20

With these clues, the choice of which object in the box is the Maltese lace became obvious. I just looked for something with fairy-like stitching that might also be a scarf or mantilla. Although this picture doesn’t do it justice, I believe this is it.

photo of Maltese lace

Photo: Maltese lace from the family heirloom box. Credit: from the author’s photo collection.

Research Tip: While newspapers are a great resource to research your ancestors directly (their stories as well as their vital statistics), newspapers can also be used to research other aspects of their lives (such as their personal items, their communities, and the times they lived in).

Enhancing the Provenance of Family Heirlooms

Appraisers advise that provenance (establishing the origin of an object, and its past owners) adds value to an antique or heirloom, and a large component of this is writing down the object’s history.

So don’t make the mistake made by many families – if you know the heirloom’s story, don’t just tell it, write it down! Document the heirloom’s time period and ownership, and list yourself as the recorder. Add a note in your own handwriting – or if typed, include an original signature. Here are some suggestions for documenting your heirloom:

  • This (description of the item) was given to me (your name) on or about (date) by (name), who was my (relationship).
  • I was told by (name) that this heirloom was made by (name).
  • This heirloom was passed down through the (maternal or paternal) side of my family and given to me on (special occasion).
  • This heirloom did not pass through the family. I found it at an antique shop in (place) around (year). I love it because (description).
  • This note is believed to have been written by (name) of (location), as the writing is similar to a (letter, will, etc.) written on (date).

Don’t forget that you are part of the provenance. My heirloom lace in the box now has a second note:

This piece of Maltese lace was identified by Mary Harrell-Sesniak, in February of 2015.

Care and Handling of Family Heirlooms

Don’t neglect to learn about the proper care of your family heirloom. If something has broken, make sure modern materials won’t harm it before attempting a repair. Get an expert to fix it, or learn how to use traditional materials for your own repair.

As my family learned with an early American antique chest, it is better to use a traditional, natural glue than more modern products that might contain acid or wood-destroying chemicals.

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Library of Congress Has Heirloom Preservation Tips

The Library of Congress is the keeper of many of our country’s treasures. As such, they have accumulated much expertise, and have created numerous guides about preservation of works of art, documents, and other objects that might be in your family heirloom collection. Many heirloom preservation tips are found in the Collections Care section of their website.

Here you will learn about determining the material and condition of your heirloom. The material it is made from will determine much of its care. There are different guidelines for different materials, whether they are artwork, paper, textiles, photographs, metal, wood, ceramics or other fine materials.

In general terms, however, there are a few universal guidelines: avoid

  • uneven temperatures
  • materials with acid
  • handling without gloves (your fingers can damage items)
  • light

As the Library of Congress notes in their guide Why should you care about light damage:

Light causes permanent and irreversible damage that affects the chemical composition, physical structure, and, what is usually most obvious, the appearance of the collection item… There are no conservation treatments that can undo light damage.

Expert Advice for Documenting & Preserving Your Family Heirlooms

In addition to the ideas in this Blog article about documenting and preserving your heirloom, be sure to network with experts for further advice – and never underestimate the power of social media. Look for special pages on Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ about family heirlooms. You’ll often encounter an expert commenting on the same social media pages you frequent.

Sources for additional heirloom advice:

  • antique experts
  • appraisers
  • curators
  • fine auction houses
  • historical societies
  • reference guides
  • social media groups

I’ll conclude with this photo of a very fine collection of silverware:

photo of silverware

Photo: silverware. Source: Library of Congress.

Tell us about your own family heirlooms in the comments section, especially any advice you have about documenting and preserving your cherished items.

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Dad’s Hole in One Story Featured in the Newspaper

Going through Dad’s old papers I found that he had shot a hole-in-one playing golf. In fact he had certificates for four of them. How he liked to golf.

I wondered if these perfect shots were written up in the newspapers – yes, they were.

article about golf, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 20 August 1982

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 20 August 1982, page 31

In the Dallas Morning News, golfer Doris Gray was asked what was “her secret” for shooting nine holes in one. She said: “I just aim for the flag.”

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93-year-old Ralph Blake (1914-2008) had a successful career in banking and was a decorated war hero who fought in World War II. But, look closer and there in his obituary is a long, full mention of his multiple holes in one.

obituary for Ralph Blake, Republican American newspaper article 8 January 2008

Republican American (Waterbury, Connecticut), 8 January 2008

Everybody has a story.
Big ones – little ones – memorable ones.

GenealogyBank helps you find your family’s stories – all of them.
Find the stories of your ancestors.

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103rd Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic

Today is the 103rd anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, a maritime disaster that horrified people when they first got the news in 1912 – and has fascinated the public ever since. The immediate horror was the grim news that more than 1,500 people died when the Titanic sank at 2:20 a.m. on 15 April 1912 after hitting an iceberg on her maiden voyage. The shock was that this supposedly unsinkable, absolutely huge ship (at more than 882 feet long, the Titanic was the largest ship in the world when it was launched) was entirely sinkable after all.

Illustration of the RMS Titanic

Illustration: RMS Titanic. Credit: Boris Lux, Lux’s Type Collection, ocean liners; Wikimedia Commons.

The fascination with the infamous shipwreck ever since has been in trying to imagine what the Titanic’s crew and passengers went through that awful night, with some of the survivors telling stories of incredible heroism – and acute suffering. The Titanic’s hold on the public was cemented by the overwhelming achievement of James Cameron’s film Titanic in 1997 – a runaway success that won 11 Oscars at the Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and earned a staggering $2.18 billion at the box office.

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Here are four articles we’ve published on the GenealogyBank blog, providing some interesting stories, insights and information about the Titanic disaster.

1) Amazing Survival Stories of Last Moments on the ‘Titanic’ Ship

survivors' stories after the sinking of the Titanic, Charlotte Observer newspaper article 19 April 1912

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 19 April 1912, page 1

2) Tracing ‘Titanic’ Genealogy: Survivor Passenger Lists & More

photo of the Titanic departing Southampton, England, on 10 April 1912

Photo: the Titanic departing Southampton, England, on 10 April 1912. Credit: F. G. O. Stuart; Wikipedia.

3) Eating on the ‘Titanic’: Massive Quantities of Food on the Menu

photo of the First Class Reception Room on the Titanic

Photo: First Class Reception Room on the Titanic. Credit: National Maritime Museum, Flickr: The Commons.

4) Elizabeth Gladys Dean (1912-2009) Last Titanic Survivor Dies

photo of Elizabeth Gladys Dean signing autographs at the British Titanic Society Titanic Convention, Hilton Hotel, Southampton, U.K., 1999

Photo: Elizabeth Gladys Dean signing autographs at the British Titanic Society Titanic Convention, Hilton Hotel, Southampton, U.K., 1999. Credit: Stephen Daniels; Wikimedia Commons.

Did you have any ancestors aboard the Titanic? Please share your family stories with us in the comments.

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Washington Archives: 87 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Washington, which joined the Union as the nation’s 42nd state in 1889, was named in honor of the country’s first president, George Washington. It is the 18th largest state in the country and the 13th most populous, with more than half of the state’s population living in the Seattle metropolitan region.

photo of Seattle, Washington

Photo: Seattle, Washington. Credit: Joshulove; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your family roots in Washington, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online WA newspaper archives: 87 titles to help you search your family history in “The Evergreen State,” providing news coverage, family stories and vital statistics from 1889 to Today. There are currently more than 67 million newspaper articles and records in our online Washington archives!

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

Search Washington Newspaper Archives (1889 – 1984)

Search Washington Recent Obituaries (1985 – Current)

Here is a list of online Washington 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 WA newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range* Collection
Aberdeen Daily World 1/20/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Arlington Arlington Times 10/4/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Auburn Auburn Reporter 2/11/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bainbridge Island Bainbridge Island Review 1/29/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bainbridge Island Bainbridge Islander 11/11/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bellevue Bellevue Reporter 7/13/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bellevue King County Journal 1/8/2003 – 1/20/2007 Recent Obituaries
Bellevue Eastside Journal 12/4/1999 – 1/13/2003 Recent Obituaries
Bellingham Bellingham Herald 10/2/1903 – 3/31/1952 Newspaper Archives
Bellingham Bellingham Reveille 2/1/1905 – 2/4/1905 Newspaper Archives
Bellingham Bellingham Herald 9/4/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bellingham Bellingham Herald, The: Blogs 1/15/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bonney Lake Bonney Lake & Sumner Courier-Herald 2/5/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bothell, Kenmore Bothell-Kenmore Reporter 3/2/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bremerton Kitsap Sun: Web Edition Articles 8/27/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bremerton Kitsap Sun 1/2/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bremerton Kitsap Sun: Blogs 3/18/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bremerton Bremerton Patriot 3/11/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Brewster Quad City Herald 10/6/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Camas Camas-Washougal Post-Record 6/14/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cashmere Cashmere Valley Record 8/8/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Centralia Chronicle 10/31/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
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Enumclaw Enumclaw Courier-Herald 1/29/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
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Olympia Morning Olympian 3/15/1891 – 5/30/1952 Newspaper Archives
Olympia Olympia Daily Recorder 5/13/1902 – 1/5/1923 Newspaper Archives
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Oroville Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune 10/6/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
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Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, a.k.a. Mrs. Bess Houdini

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 discover interesting stories about the life of Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, a.k.a. Mrs. Houdini – the wife of the famous magician.

Even if you have no interest in magic, chances are you have a passing knowledge of the master of magic himself, Harry Houdini (1874-1926). Popularized by film and known for his logic-defying tricks and escape stunts, Houdini is synonymous with magic. But how much do you know about his wife, Bess Houdini? Chances are very little.

Born Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner (1876-1943), Bess was interesting in her own right but spent most of her life in the shadow of her famous husband.

photo of Bess Houdini, c. 1900-1910

Photo: Bess Houdini, c. 1900-1910. Source: Findagrave; Wikipedia.

Newspapers are a great resource for finding the stories of your ancestors, whether they were famous or obscure. Here are six things you may not know about Bess Houdini, all discovered by searching GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

1) She assisted her husband throughout their marriage.

It’s fairly well known that Bess assisted her husband during his magic act. It’s less well known that she also assisted him when he conducted shows debunking the work of spiritual mediums – people who claimed they could communicate with the dead.

article about the magician Harry Houdini, Charlotte Observer newspaper article 5 March 1924

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 5 March 1924, page 4

2) She was a performer before she met Houdini – and carried on after his death.

However, Bess’s talent was not limited to helping her husband with his act; she was an entertainer prior to her marriage and continued on after Houdini’s death. She started her career in a song and dance act on Coney Island known as “The Floral Sisters.” It was while doing this act that she met Harry’s younger brother Theo, and then Harry himself. They were married on 22 June 1894 when Bess was 18.

Enter Last Name

Bess continued performing after her husband’s untimely death in 1926. In this 1928 newspaper article she is said to “…take up the magician’s wand laid down by her husband’s dying hand.” One of the tricks she performed was where “she ‘froze’ an Indian ‘medicine man’ in a cake of ice.” It took 26 minutes to freeze the man in the ice block using solidified carbon dioxide gas, and he remained in that state for 15 minutes before the ice was chopped away to expose his face.

Mrs. Houdini to Continue His Craft, Rockford Republic newspaper article 13 January 1928

Rockford Republic (Rockford, Illinois), 13 January 1928, page 18

3) Newspaper articles about her are numerous, including those with her marital advice.

In this 1928 newspaper article, Bess gave some of her relationship advice and stories from her own marriage. Mrs. Houdini’s relationship revelation was that she kept some secrets from Harry – including the fact that she did not know how he did some of his magic tricks.

Magicians' Wives Like Magic Pretty Well, Plain Dealer newspaper article 5 August 1928

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 5 August 1928, page 103

She elaborated the point in another 1928 newspaper article:

Mrs. Houdini admits that while it is the magician’s business to mystify an audience it is the wife’s business to mystify the magician to the extent of convincing him that she understands his tricks whether she does or not.

article about Bess Houdini, Evening Tribune newspaper article 23 August 1928

Evening Tribune (San Diego, California), 23 August 1928, page 14

4) She tried to contact Houdini from the grave.

If there’s one thing most people know about Bess, it is her yearly attempts to contact Harry from the grave. A supernatural skeptic, Harry had promised Bess that if it was possible to contact the dead he would appear to her. So Bess tried for 10 years to contact Harry after his death. Not only did Bess try, but others also tried – including one who claimed success (see the 1929 newspaper article below). However, all attempts failed, and eventually Bess called it quits.

Four years into her yearly ritual, under the defeatist headline “Mrs. Houdini Gives Up,” Bess said of communicating with Houdini beyond the grave:

If I had succeeded in communicating with Houdini I would shout it from the housetops,” she told [the] Associated Press, “and I would carry a message of hope to all burdened souls, but I have none. There is nothing there.

article about Bess Houdini, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 23 March 1930

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 23 March 1930, page 6

Despite that 1930 headline, Bess kept trying to contact Harry from beyond the grave for another six years. Finally, in 1936 – ten years after her husband’s death – she made her last attempt. That final séance on the roof of a Hollywood hotel ended with Bess remarking: “He has not come. I turn out the light.” (Referring to an electric light that she had kept lit since his death 10 years prior.)

article about Bess Houdini, Augusta Chronicle newspaper article 2 November 1936

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 2 November 1936, page 1

A more light-hearted comment about her repeated attempts to communicate with her dead husband is quoted in one of Bess’s obituary notices:

Ten years is long enough to wait for any man.

Mrs. Houdini's Futile Trysts with Her Husband's Ghost, Oregonian newspaper article 7 March 1943

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 7 March 1943, page 51

5) While she couldn’t contact the deceased Harry Houdini, someone else claimed to have succeeded.

Arthur Ford, a minister from the First Spiritualist Church, claimed success in contacting Houdini more than once. One such claim came during a séance where John W. Stafford, an assistant editor of the Scientific American, and Mrs. Houdini were present. Ford claimed he had received the secret code that Harry Houdini had confided to Bess he would use to verify it was he who was contacting her from beyond the veil. Ford provided that code during the séance, part of which was a name from a song that Bess used to sing in her act, “Rosabelle.”

Enter Last Name

According to the report in this 1929 newspaper, Ford said to Bess:

The same man who came Saturday night is coming again. He says, Hello, Bess, my sweetheart. He says he wants to repeat the code you used in your mind reading act with him.

First of all, he says, Rosabelle. Do you know what that means?

Mrs. Houdini replied in a weak voice, Yes.

Then the words of the code came through Ford: Answer tell pray answer look tell answer answer tell.

Houdini's Spirit Talks to Widow, San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram newspaper article 9 January 1929

San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram (San Luis Obispo, California), 9 January 1929, page 3

At the time Bess confirmed that Ford had indeed contacted Harry and provided the correct code. Later though she recanted, perhaps due to friendly reminders that the “secret” message had been published previously in a biography about Houdini.

6) She died en route to New York aboard a train.

Bess Houdini died on 11 February 1943 aboard a train traveling through Needles, California. In ill health, she was hoping to make it to New York before her demise. Knowing that she was gravely ill, just prior to her death, she granted a last interview to journalists where she talked of hoping to see Harry Houdini again after death – and put a premature stop to anyone who would later claim supernatural contact with her.

obituary for Bess Houdini, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 12 February 1943

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 12 February 1943, page 17

She made that point emphatically at the end of the interview:

obituary for Bess Houdini, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 12 February 1943

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 12 February 1943, page 17

While the love story of Harry and Bess is sometimes held up as one of the greatest of all time, the couple was ultimately denied the right to be laid to rest next to each other. Harry was buried, along with members of his family, in the Jewish cemetery Machpelah in Ridgewood, New York, while Bess, a Catholic, was buried at Gates of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, New York.

Genealogy Tip: The research I did into Mrs. Houdini’s life in newspapers was a good example of searching by trying all variations of a woman’s name. I found articles with her listed as Mrs. Houdini, Beatrice Houdini, and Bess Houdini.

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Quilting & Genealogy: Treasured Family Heirlooms

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary writes about a family treasure of particular interest to genealogists: heirloom quilts.

Heirloom quilts and coverlets are comfort for the soul. They tell many a tale of family history, so it comes as no surprise that genealogists and quilting go hand in hand.

Perhaps an heirloom quilt has passed down through your family, as some have in mine.

Emalena’s Quilt

One such quilt in my home was made by Emalena, our family baby sitter.

She was a single woman who remained single until late in life. She treated us like her own children, and gave us many of her beautiful quilts. This one, fashioned in the traditional wedding ring pattern, became a present for my parents.

photo of a family quilt from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

Photo: family quilt from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

One has to assume she made a quilt for the kind widower she married. Perhaps one of her quilts “sealed the deal” with the marriage proposal. We certainly hope so!

Jacquard Coverlets

Two family treasures that came through my family were matching Jacquard coverlets.

Notice that this one, which belongs to my aunt, has the name Sophronia W. Seymour inscribed on it, along with the year 1834. Sophronia was my second great grandmother, and in 1834 would have been 20. Perhaps it was part of her trousseau, an old tradition in which items were collected for a girl to take into her marriage.

photo of a family coverlet from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

Photo: family coverlet from the Harrell-Sesniak photo collection

For many years, I thought that a family member had been a talented weaver – but now I know from historical research that this was probably not the case. Around 1820, a special loom was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard which truly revolutionized the world of weaving.

article about the Jacquard loom, Evening Post newspaper article 29 October 1833

Evening Post (New York, New York), 29 October 1833, page 2

As Jacquard’s loom was programmable, it was much like an early computer. Intricate fabric patterns were made much quicker than before, and often in a double weave motif. The coverlet above, and another matching eagle and heart patterned example that also came through the family, are black on white on one side, and white on black on the other.

Not every quilt or coverlet contains names and dates – but when they do, they are wonderful genealogical gems (click this link for examples.)

Jacquard died in 1834, and it is a shame that so many people today do not realize the impact his loom had on the world.

obituary for Joseph Jacquard, Daily Atlas newspaper article 29 October 1834

Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), 29 October 1834, page 2

Textile Research

Newspapers offer a fine opportunity to research heirloom quilts and coverlets. Many of the newspaper articles are rich with detail. Not only can they help you date your treasures, but you can even find patterns to help you make your own family heirlooms.

One of the earliest newspaper reports that I could find regarding a quilt dates to 1752.

Margaret Rogers, a young girl apprenticed to Alice Dodd of Philadelphia, ran away. The runaway ad detailed Margaret’s garments, along with a light blue homespun quilt that she took with her.

runaway ad for apprentice Margaret Rogers, Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper article 12 October 1752

Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 12 October 1752, page 7

Looking through 19th century newspapers you’ll find various quilting and sewing advertisements, some even detailing the machines our ancestors used.

ad for sewing machines, New Orleans Tribune newspaper advertisement 23 October 1866

New Orleans Tribune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 23 October 1866, page 3

By the 20th century, quilting had become all the rage. Quilting patterns appeared in newspaper articles, including this pretty Star Center Quilt block “stolen” from a neighbor’s laundry line. News articles frequently detailed color patterns and tips to assemble the quilts. For this one, red, white and blue were suggested:

Any house w[h]ere there are many children would be apt to furnish easily the blues and whites, and even if the red had to be bought for the purpose the cost would be very slight.

quilt block pattern for the Star Center Quilt, Broad Ax newspaper article 18 July 1903

Broad Ax (Chicago, Illinois), 18 July 1903, page 3

A favorite of modern quilters are patterns, of which there is no shortage in newspapers. Many of the famous Laura Wheeler designs were published, including this basket applique quilt design from 1936.

quilt patterns by Laura Wheeler, Heraldo de Brownsville newspaper article 15 January 1936

Heraldo de Brownsville (Brownsville, Texas), 15 January 1936, page 3

This 1937 newspaper article detailed the activities of Miss Minnie Eldridge, a home demonstration agent from Texas. She educated various Louisiana farm women on how to fashion quilts and taught them about the flower pot pattern fashionable among the mountaineers of Tennessee.

article about quilting, State Times Advocate newspaper article 11 August 1937

State Times Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 11 August 1937, page 13

Quilting is no lost art in Louisiana, not even a decadent one, if the enthusiasm and interest registered by hundreds of farm women at a quilting lecture Wednesday morning may serve as a basis for determining the quilting status in the state.

Other Resources for Quilting Examples

Don’t forget to explore social media, and in particular Pinterest, for quilting examples. A favorite of mine is the Library of Congress, where I found this lovely picture of quilters in Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

photo of Jorena Pettway sewing a quilt, Gees Bend, Alabama, c. 1937

Photo: sewing a quilt, Gees Bend, Alabama, c. 1937. Shown are an unidentified girl, Jennie Pettway, and quilter Jorena Pettway. Credit: Arthur Rothstein; Library of Congress.

Hope this inspires you to research your textiles, quilts and coverlets in newspapers. Be sure to share your finds in the comments.

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