Did You Miss These Mayflower Stories?

GenealogyBank is an outstanding source for documenting your Mayflower family lines.

Painting: “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” by William Formby Halsall, 1882

Painting: “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” by William Formby Halsall, 1882. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

We have posted a number of blog articles about tracing your family history back to the Mayflower and its passengers. Take a moment and read these key articles for tips on researching your family history.

Mayflower Articles:

November Update: GenealogyBank Just Added 5 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 5 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 5 million more records were added in November

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

  • A total of 27 newspaper titles from 16 U.S. states
  • 12 of these titles are newspapers added to GenealogyBank for the first time
  • 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 Coverage Added Collection
Arizona Tombstone Daily Tombstone 06/03/1886 – 06/09/1886 Newspaper Archives
Arizona Tombstone Tombstone Daily Epitaph 06/02/1886 – 12/07/1889 Newspaper Archives
Arizona Tombstone Tombstone Daily Prospector 04/12/1889 – 11/22/1889 Newspaper Archives
Arizona Tombstone Tombstone Epitaph Prospector 04/25/1889 – 04/25/1889 Newspaper Archives
California Chowchilla Chowchilla NewsNew! 05/17/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Connecticut Ansonia, Derby, Seymour Valley Gazette, The: Web Edition Articles New! 11/05/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Idaho Lewiston Lewiston Tribune 11/28/1971 – 12/31/1973 Newspaper Archives
Indiana Crown Point Crown Point StarNew! 02/05/2015 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kansas Prairie Village Prairie Village PostNew! 10/13/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Louisiana New Orleans New Orleans Item 08/28/1911 – 08/18/1915 Newspaper Archives
Louisiana New Orleans New Orleans States 09/25/1922 – 09/25/1922 Newspaper Archives
Louisiana New Orleans Times-Picayune 04/07/1858 – 06/14/1976 Newspaper Archives
Maryland Baltimore Sun 07/20/1914 – 09/05/1914 Newspaper Archives
Massachusetts Fairhaven AdvocateNew! 02/26/2015 – Current Recent Obituaries
Mississippi Biloxi Daily Herald 10/01/1954 – 10/30/1954 Newspaper Archives
New Jersey Bergen County Cliffview PilotNew! 06/28/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
New Jersey Jersey City Jersey Journal 01/17/1966 – 12/31/1969 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Winston-Salem Winston-Salem Journal 06/23/1915 – 06/23/1915 Newspaper Archives
Pennsylvania Philadelphia Philly WeeklyNew! 12/05/2001 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pennsylvania Sanatoga Sanatoga PostNew! 11/13/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
South Carolina Charleston Charleston News and Courier 12/14/1924 – 02/28/1946 Newspaper Archives
South Carolina Charleston Evening Post 02/02/1976 – 02/28/1977 Newspaper Archives
Texas Houston Houston Chronicle 10/15/1901 – 12/31/1904 Newspaper Archives
Wisconsin Bay View South Shore NOWNew! 01/21/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wisconsin Greenfield Greenfield-West Allis NOWNew! 08/20/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wisconsin Milwaukee Packer PlusNew! 05/06/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wisconsin Muskego, New Berlin Muskego-New Berlin NOWNew! 02/04/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries

Family History Research: Finding Blue Ribbon Winners at the Fair

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary demonstrates an important genealogy search tip: stories about your ancestors can be found in all parts of the newspaper. Consider, for example, articles about blue ribbon contest winners at country fairs.

An online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is a great resource for genealogy research. But don’t just stop at the obvious choices: birth notices, wedding announcements, and obituaries. Stories about your ancestors can be found in all parts of the newspaper. Consider, for example, articles about the local, county or state fair.

It’s the rare family that didn’t attend a country fair – and many had a family member who won a blue ribbon. Perhaps the local newspaper wrote a nice article about your ancestor when he or she won the blue ribbon at the local fair.

illustration of a blue ribbon

It may have been your Aunt Be, Uncle Mo, Cousin Shirley or Grandpa Joe. Do yourself a favor and go look for these sweet tidbits of family memorabilia. They were almost always featured in old newspapers.

When researching old newspaper articles about fairs, don’t stop at the obvious keyword searches such as: livestock, quilts, and pies. Many other fun and unusual awards were bestowed. Here are some of my picks of Americana blue ribbon awards.


Starting from a very early time, country fairs offered financial prizes for horsemanship.

In 1855 there were not enough contestants for the prize at an Illinois county fair, so the judges announced there would be no financial premium (a first place prize of $50 had been offered originally).

article about a horsemanship contest at the county fair, Daily Illinois State Register newspaper article 29 September 1855

Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield, Illinois), 29 September 1855, page 2

However, the judges did present two ribbons among five ladies who rode for the honors, “accompanied by their knights.” Misses Poorman, Archer, Cass and Orr, along with Mrs. Rosette, “rode around the ring many times” in front of the spectators. Miss Cass took home the blue ribbon and Miss Poorman the red.

By the early 1920s, photos accompanied the newspaper articles about ribbon winners at the fair. This one depicts Miss Katherine Kennedy Tod riding her horse Sceptre; they won the blue ribbon “in the saddle horse class ridden by boy or girl not over sixteen.”

photo of Katherine Tod on her horse Sceptre, Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper article 23 October 1921

Colorado Springs Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado), 23 October 1921, page 42

If you search GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives as well as the Web, you’ll find that Miss Tod won a number of other prizes for horsemanship in her riding career.

Blue Ribbon Babies

Who doesn’t love a baby photo!

Many babies of yesteryear were dressed in their cutest garb and taken to the fair – and entered in contests.

photo of Anna McNamara and her daughter Nancy, Salt Lake Telegram newspaper article 1 November 1921

Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 November 1921, page 3

In 1921, Mrs. Anna McNamara displayed her two-year-old daughter Nancy at the Long Island fair.

She won for being the prettiest and healthiest of the babies out of hundreds entered – and don’t you adore the little shoes and her mama’s hat. Just an observation, but perhaps the lack of a beaming smile tells us the little girl struck too many poses that day.

Root Beer – Better than Beer

I’m sure many people from 1920 – and even today – would agree that root beer is better than beer. Becker Products won the blue ribbon at the Utah State Fair in 1920 for its root beer, and this photograph appeared in the local newspaper. This image was timely, coming as it did right before the country entered into the prohibition of liquor.

photo of the display booth for Becker Products at the Utah State Fair, Salt Lake Telegram newspaper article 10 October 1920

Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, Utah), 10 October 1920, page 15

Scientific American’s Flying Machines (Heavier than Air) Trophy

Although not a blue ribbon contest per se, when aviation fever hit the United States there were many prizes awarded. One was a magnificent trophy from the Scientific American valued at $2,500 that was awarded in 1907. The prestige of blue ribbon trophies was echoed in this article’s text:

The trophy is valued at $2,500 and its beauty at once brings to the lips the words “Blue Ribbon of the Air.”

article about an aviation trophy offered by Scientific American, Plain Dealer newspaper article 7 September 1907

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 7 September 1907, page 2

It’s thought that these prizes spurred the rapid advancement of air travel in the United States. If this is one of your interests, go look for more details in the old newspapers. There are many lovely reports, including the names of winners.

Bicycle Races

Aviation wasn’t the only transportation method of contests.

In 1901, Bobbie Walthour of Atlanta, Georgia, won a six-day bicycle race that ended at Park Square Garden. Once again, the prestige of blue ribbon trophies was echoed in this article’s text:

Hardly a foot separated Stinson from the leader [Walthour], and these two demonstrated beyond question that they were far superior to even the redoubtable foreigners who came to America for the purpose of winning these blue ribbon events of the indoor season.

article about a bicycle race, Boston Herald newspaper article 6 January 1901

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 6 January 1901, page 1

Needlework and Quilts

Let’s not forget blue ribbon quilts and needlework. Notice that in 1936, there were dozens and dozens of winners reported in this Texas newspaper. A special “Quilt of States” drew merited attention. It was constructed with blocks embroidered in state flowers with the colors and shields of each location.

Let’s hope this quilt has been lovingly preserved somewhere.

Exhibition of Needlework Is Good, Heraldo de Brownsville newspaper article 6 December 1936

Heraldo de Brownsville (Brownsville, Texas), 6 December 1936, page 14

As part of your family history research in old newspapers, include searches for articles about blue ribbon contests and award winners at country fairs. You just might discover a story about your ancestor that you won’t find in any government record, vital statistics archive, or other genealogy resource.

Have you found a blue ribbon winner in your family tree? If so, please let us know in the comments section.

Related Articles:

Researching Your Female Ancestor: Women in the WCTU

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena shows how you can research your female ancestor by searching old newspapers for articles about the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

Having trouble learning about the lives of your female ancestors? A good place to find their stories is an online collection of old newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives. Go beyond the obvious articles (birth notices, wedding announcements, obituaries) to find stories about the lives they led, causes they cared about, events they participated in, and groups they supported.

For example, what groups did 19th century women belong to? Their memberships most likely included organizations whose missions they were passionate about. One group that consisted of women who disavowed alcohol was the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded in 1873.

photo of WCTU members of the New Hampshire chapter, 1888

Photo: WCTU members of the New Hampshire chapter, 1888. Credit: Keene Public Library; Historical Society of Cheshire County.

According to the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union website, the group:

was organized by women who were concerned about the destructive power of alcohol and the problems it was causing their families and society.

Member activities included trying to convince saloon owners to voluntarily close their doors. According to their website, the WCTU is today “the oldest voluntary, non-sectarian woman’s organization in continuous existence in the world.”*

Illustration: Woman’s Christian Temperance Union logo, scanned from a 1920 WCTU temperance flyer

Illustration: Woman’s Christian Temperance Union logo, scanned from a 1920 WCTU temperance flyer. Credit: WCTU; Wikimedia Commons.

Their most well-known leader was their second national president, Frances E. Willard, who led the organization for 19 years (1879-1898). She joined the WCTU shortly after its founding and during her tenure promoted other causes that impacted women such as suffrage, equal pay for equal work, and the eight hour work day.**

photo of Frances E. Willard, taken sometime before 1898

Photo: Frances E. Willard, taken sometime before 1898. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Frances Willard was famous in her day, well-known to all, and so looked up to that a statue in her likeness was presented to Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol by Illinois in 1905. Hers was the first likeness of a woman displayed in the Hall.

obituary for Frances E. Willard, Pawtucket Times newspaper article 18 February 1898

Pawtucket Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island), 18 February 1898, page 9

The Frances Willard House and Museum in Evanston, Illinois, includes a library and archive with items of interest to genealogists. You can learn more by visiting their website.

The 19th and 20th century WCTU did more than just try to convince saloon owners to stop selling alcohol and men to stop drinking. Some of their efforts are still visible today.

Drinking Fountains

One of the first orders of business for the WCTU was to encourage the installation of drinking fountains in cities across the United States. It was thought that these fountains would provide clean water for everyone and give men a place to get a drink of water – thus avoiding the local saloon.

article about the WCTU installing drinking fountains, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 20 June 1941

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 20 June 1941, page 3

Some of these fountains still exist. A list of currently known fountains is found on the WCTU website.


As mentioned previously, temperance wasn’t the only issue the WCTU was passionate about. The WCTU lent their voices to other social ills they believed victimized women. They joined with other Protestant women to speak against the Mormon practice of polygamy. WCTU’s leader Frances Willard even wrote the introduction to the anti-polygamy tome The Women of Mormonism; or The Story of Polygamy as Told by the Victims Themselves by Jennie Anderson Froiseth (1882). It’s clear what the WCTU leader thought about this “twin relic of barbarism” when she writes:

surely it is time that the Christian women of this nation arouse themselves to organized action against this sum of all curses…***

Although the Mormon Church’s sanctioning of the practice of polygamy ended in 1890, the WCTU was still speaking against polygamy in the early 20th century. This 1906 Massachusetts newspaper article reports on a meeting of the WCTU:

As a result of one of the most startling anti-Mormon addresses ever heard in Boston, the delegates to the World’s convention of the W.C.T.U., assembled in Tremont Temple yesterday afternoon, unanimously passed a resolution placing that body on record to employ every means in its power to force the adoption of an anti-polygamy amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

article about the WCTU and the Sixteenth Amendment, Boston Journal newspaper article 20 October 1906

Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 20 October 1906, page 1

Was Your Ancestor a Teetotaler?

Your 19th and early 20th century Christian female ancestors may have taken up the cause of prohibition. Their devotion to this cause may have included membership in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union – but how do you learn more? The first place to look is their local newspapers. Newspapers listed WCTU events, and members elected to offices and committees – reports in which you may find your ancestors’ names. In some cases, their obituaries may also include mention of their membership in the WCTU, such as this example of Martha Sprague’s obituary in a 1916 New York newspaper.

obituary for Martha Sprague, Watertown Daily Times newspaper article 30 December 1916

Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, New York), 30 December 1916, page 5

Genealogy Tip: Don’t forget to search for your married female ancestor by her husband’s name, such as in the above example, where Martha Sprague is identified in the headline as “Mrs. C. H. Sprague” (her husband was Charles H. Sprague).

In this article from an 1874 Indiana newspaper, several different WCTU group members are mentioned.

article about members and meetings of the WCTU, Indianapolis Sentinel newspaper article 31 October 1874

Indianapolis Sentinel (Indianapolis, Indiana), 31 October 1874, page 3

Other Resources

A search on ArchiveGrid, an archival collection catalog, can also help you track down your female ancestors who belonged to the WCTU. Use the keyword WCTU to find relevant collections. To get the most of your search, consult their How to Search page.

Another good genealogy resource is community cookbooks. The WCTU used cookbooks to raise funds for their activities, as did other women’s organizations. You can find these cookbooks on digitized book websites like Google Books, and in library and archive collections.

The WCTU Today

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is still in existence and continues to be dedicated to issues that affect families, such as substance abuse. You can learn more at the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union website. Their website also includes links to some affiliate chapters. In the case of the California chapter, an archive page contains images and a history of the WCTU in Southern California.

Was your ancestor a member of the WCTU? Add to her life story by documenting her membership and the events she was a part of, as preserved in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.


* The Women’s Christian Temperance Union. http://www.wctu.org/. Accessed 16 June 2015.
** Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Frances Willard. http://www.wctu.org/frances_willard.html. Accessed 18 June 2015.
*** Froiseth, Jennie A. The Women of Mormonism, Or, the Story of Polygamy As Told by the Victims Themselves. Chicago: Bryan Bros. Pub. Co, 1883. Available on Google Books.p. xviii. FA902D0%40W.

Related Women’s Genealogy Articles:

Is There a Pirate in Your Family Tree?

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary searches old newspapers to learn more about pirates – their legends, and their true stories.

As long as there have been newspapers, there have been stories published about pirates. You can certainly find lots of them in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Search Tip: Use these search terms to find pirate stories in the old newspapers: buccaneer, buried treasure, corsair, freebooter, marauder, raiders and privateer.

illustration of a pirate

Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division: LC-H824-T01-240

So avast ye family historians – is there a pirate in your family tree? Some of the stories I found in old newspapers will shiver ye timbers. Read on if you want to know more about this spine-tingling topic.

Pirate John Quelch (1666-1704)

Private ship owners were often commissioned to make reprisals or gain reparations for the British crown. They were called “privateers.” When they seized an enemy ship it was called a “prize” and all was perfectly legal. Proceeds were split, so it was a lucrative undertaking. But not all excursions went well.

Ponder Captain Daniel Plowman’s story. In 1703 he was commissioned a privateer by Governor Joseph Dudley, who happens to be one of my ancestors. His ship the Charles was authorized to attack French and Spanish ships off the coast of Newfoundland and Arcadia, but his crew soon mutinied and murdered him. See Wikipedia’s article about Quelch.

John Quelch, Plowman’s lieutenant, was elected leader and turned the Charles south to plunder Portuguese ships off the Brazilian coast. Legend has it that some of the pirates’ captured gold was later buried on New Hampshire’s Star Island. After looting and plundering for ten months, they returned to Marblehead, Massachusetts, where some of them were captured. Quelch and five others were executed and the rest put in jail. After languishing for 13 months, a pardon was granted to Charles James, William Wilder, John Dorrothy, John Pittman, John Carter, Dennis Carter and Charles King. Perhaps one of them is your ancestor.

article about the pardoning of some members of pirate John Quelch's crew, Boston News-Letter newspaper article 23 July 1705

Boston News-Letter (Boston, Massachusetts), 23 July 1705, page 2

Pirate Narratives

Encounters with pirates were the tabloid sensations of yesteryear.

This gripping report describes actions with a pirate schooner, chases and even how a brig was “much cut up with musquetry.” During one encounter the captain was burned from a gun powder explosion but survived, with the fight leaving several pirates dead on the ship’s deck.

stories about pirates, Hallowell Gazette newspaper article 12 June 1822

Hallowell Gazette (Hallowell, Maine), 12 June 1822, page 2

Obituaries That Mention Pirates

Pirate encounters often followed men to their death by appearing in their obituaries.

James MacAlpine, who passed away in 1775, had been “taken by a French Pirate and carried into Rattan, where he lived six weeks entirely upon turtle…” Interestingly, this forced diet cured him of consumption which earlier had nearly killed him.

obituary for James MacAlpine, Pennsylvania Ledger newspaper article 1 April 1775

Pennsylvania Ledger (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 1 April 1775, page 2

This next obit from 1789 for Captain Luke Ryan reports that his ship Black Privateer had “captured more vessels belonging to Great Britain than any other single ship during the war.”

After being captured in 1781, Ryan was tried as a pirate and thrown into the Old Bailey prison. Although condemned to be executed on four different occasions, each time he was reprieved – though he ended up dying in prison.

obituary for pirate Luke Ryan, Massachusetts Centinel newspaper article 7 October 1789

Massachusetts Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), 7 October 1789, page 26

Famous Pirates

Ever wonder if legendary pirates were real? Even if they stretch the truth, some of the anecdotal articles you can find in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives are marvelous.

For example, there is this 1789 account of one of Blackbeard’s legends. After a swordfight that went “pell mell,” Blackbeard supposedly “received a severe stroke on the shoulder” from a lieutenant from a “British ship of war” who had challenged the old pirate to single combat. “Hah, cried he, that’s well struck brother soldier!” A stronger blow followed that “severed his black head from his shoulders.” The old newspaper article reports that Blackbeard’s head was then boiled and a drinking cup made out of his skull. The cup was presented to a “keeper of a publick house, as a cup to drink punch out of.”

article about the pirate Blackbeard, Massachusetts Centinel newspaper article 26 August 1789

Massachusetts Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), 26 August 1789, page 186

Believe It or Not

The depth of one’s imagination often runs wild when it comes to the subject of pirates.

In 1820 a man identified only as J— D— passed away, supposedly at the age of 103. He claimed to have been one of the crew of the “old noted pirate” Captain Kidd. Since Captain William Kidd (1645-1701) died 119 years earlier, it’s apparent that this claim merely came from JD’s vivid imagination.

obituaries, Concord Observer newspaper article 17 January 1820

Concord Observer (Concord, New Hampshire), 17 January 1820, page 3

Any Pirates in Your Family History?

Please share your genealogical pirate stories in the comments section.

Veterans Day: Saluting Amos Barnes, Revolutionary War Vet

Our nation has long been grateful to our veterans, starting with the American Revolutionary War.

obituary for Amos Barnes, New Hampshire Gazette newspaper article 12 January 1841

New Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 12 January 1841, page 3

When Amos Barnes died in 1840 newspapers remembered him – giving the details of his life, his family and his service to the nation in a detailed obituary.

  • He died 6 December 1840 in Conway, New Hampshire
  • He had served as a lieutenant and was a Revolutionary War pensioner
  • He was 83 years old
  • His funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. Mr. Wides, based on Job 7:16
  • He was born in Groton, Massachusetts, the youngest of 11 children
  • His father died in the French & Indian War
  • At age 6 the family moved to Concord, New Hampshire
  • At age 18 he enlisted in the Army
  • He marched to Mystic, Connecticut
  • June 1775 – he was in the Battle of Bunker Hill
  • He marched to New York; then to Canada; then to Mont Independence
  • December 1776 – he was with George Washington in Newtown, Pennsylvania
  • December 1776 – Battle of Trenton
  • His enlistment over, with an honorable discharge, he returned home to Concord, New Hampshire
  • Re-enlisted January 1778, serving with George Washington in Valley Forge
  • Served as Orderly Sergeant for the next two years
  • June 1778 – Battle of Monmouth
  • Winter 1779 – Valley Forge
  • 1779-1780 – Sullivan campaign
  • January 1780 – discharged, returned to Concord, New Hampshire
  • November 1787 – moved to Conway, New Hampshire
  • [17 July 1790] – married Polly Eastman, “second daughter of the late Richard Eastman, Esq. who, with several children, still survive…”
  • Described as “a very intelligent, industrious and honest man through life”
  • Served in “the last war [War of 1812], in defence of free trade and sailor’s rights”
  • He was a Jeffersonian Republican, “a firm supporter of Gen. Jackson and Mr. Van Buren”
  • He voted in the last election
  • Late in life “with intense anxiety and fervent prayer” he turned to a deeper faith in Christ

Compact and filled with the details of his life, his obituary – like all veterans’ obituaries – makes us pause and remember his life and his service to our country.

photo of the tombstone for Amos and Polly Barnes

Source: Find-a-Grave, Memorial # 44819194

Amos Barnes and his wife Polly were buried in the North Conway Cemetery, North Conway, New Hampshire.

Today on Veterans Day we honor and remember the efforts of all who have served our nation, from the Revolutionary War down to the troops that serve today.

Find their stories in newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives. Newspapers have recorded the lives of all Americans for the last three centuries, from 1690 to today.

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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WWII Victory Gardens: Family History & War Food Rations

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to learn more about an effort on the American home front during World War II to support the country and the troops: the planting of “Victory Gardens.”

What was your family doing during World War II? Often we remember the brave American soldiers who went “over there” and fought for freedom, but forget that those left behind on the home front were an integral part of the war effort. Families in the United States did their part by buying WWII war bonds, recycling metals, and participating in the rationing of food and other materials.

In order to supplement the rationed food they could purchase during WWII, families cultivated Victory Gardens that supplied them with fresh homegrown produce – both in the short term as well over time as they learned to preserve their harvest. This increased food production also freed up more canned food for sending to the soldiers overseas.

illustration: WWII Victory Garden poster

Illustration: WWII Victory Garden poster. Credit: Morley; U.S. Agriculture Department; Wikimedia Commons.

It might seem that learning more about your ancestors’ WWII Victory Garden would be near to impossible. After all, unless you have a diary, photos, or an interview with a family member, how would you learn more?

The answer: a collection of online newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is a great go-to place to uncover the lives of everyday people. World War II-era newspapers don’t disappoint, with articles and mentions of men, women, and children living during the war. A search for your ancestors or browsing their hometown newspaper can provide many interesting Victory Garden finds.

Victory Garden Poems & Essays

Many gardeners waxed poetic about the Victory Gardens they were growing or were planning. Adults and children alike submitted their garden poetry to newspapers. Many of these were titled, not surprisingly, “My Victory Garden.” Poetry contests at this time were full of patriotic, instructive poems encouraging everyone to do their duty.

In this example found on the “Junior” page of the Daily Illinois State Journal, 14-year-old Alice Mae Jackson of Carlinville encourages other teens to grow a garden during the summer:

Why don’t you garden a little instead of play
And help to pass your spare time away?
Also, you’ll find, some of these days
Your Victory garden really pays

WWII Victory Garden poem, Daily Illinois State Journal newspaper article 5 September 1943

Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), 5 September 1943, page 20

Young people didn’t just write poems about Victory Gardens; they also entered contests describing the gardens they planned on planting. In this winning entry from the Jordan Marsh Victory Garden Contest, Eva Solimine of Belmont, Massachusetts, won $5 for her entry that stresses the importance of these wartime gardens. She writes:

We all have a job to do, and it is everybody’s job [planting a garden]. Our men are fighting on the battlefronts, and also men and women are working in defense plants making ships, tanks and other weapons to win this war. We at home also have a job to do, and that is by buying War Saving Stamps and Bonds and by planting Victory Gardens this summer and every other summer until this war is won.

Her essay points out the shortage of food during World War II and how homegrown gardens allow more food to be sent to soldiers.

essay about WWII Victory Gardens, Boston Herald newspaper article 23 May 1943

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 23 May 1943, page 96

Victory Garden Seed Advertisements

There’s no doubt that Victory Gardens were a great marketing tool for nurseries and seed suppliers. Just like other newspaper advertisements we’ve discussed in previous articles (see links at the end of this article), they sometimes used real people to provide endorsements – complete with a photo and home address. This advertisement from Germain’s Seeds is just one of many that can be found with a community member’s photo. In this ad featuring Mrs. Dorothy Hoelsken from Oakland, California, she testifies that:

I have planted Germain’s Seeds exclusively the last two years, and my Victory Garden has been the talk of the neighborhood.

ad for Germain's seeds, Sacramento Bee newspaper advertisement 24 February 1945

Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California), 24 February 1945, page 10

Further genealogical research shows that Mrs. Hoelsken lived in the Bay Area of California for a number of years, up to her death in 2000. The advertisement’s mention of Mrs. Hoelsken’s residence allows a researcher to continue searching for her in records such as city directories.

Mrs. Hoelsken wasn’t the only person featured in ads for Germain’s Seeds. Mrs. Mary Hammons of Merced, California, is quoted and pictured in another ad along with the tag line “Seeds for Gardens at War.” This is a good example of how our ancestors and their image can appear in just about any part of the newspaper.

ad for Germain's seeds, Riverside Daily Press newspaper advertisement 24 March 1944

Riverside Daily Press (Riverside, California), 24 March 1944, page 7

Victory Garden Letters

Newspapers provide various opportunities to express an opinion, tell a story or ask a question. One of these opportunities is to write a letter either to the editor or to an advice column. During the war we find people asking questions about gardening and sharing experiences. In this, somewhat funny example sent to the editor of the Sacramento Bee in July 1943, the writer may have seen ants as a valuable help and less of a hindrance in his Victory Garden.

letter about a WWII Victory Garden, Sacramento Bee newspaper article 30 July 1943

Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California), 30 July 1943, page 22

A cutworm is actually a caterpillar who feeds at night, attacking the stem of a plant by “cutting” it down.

Some newspaper columnists used readers’ comments in their columns, as in this Illinois example from “Uncle Ray” where reader Mr. J. A. Ibbotson remarks on his experience with the English berry bushes in his Victory Garden.

letters about WWII Victory Gardens, Daily Illinois State Journal newspaper article 1 July 1944

Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), 1 July 1944, page 7

And of course there were newspaper columnists who answered questions about Victory Gardens, as in this 1943 example from Springfield, Massachusetts. This type of old newspaper column is a good example of being creative with searching on your ancestor’s name. Rarely in these types of historical articles do you see the entire name of those who provided the questions. Often they are simply identified by initials, or a first name and initials.

letters about WWII Victory Gardens, Springfield Republican newspaper article 7 December 1943

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 7 December 1943, page 6

Did your family grow a Victory Garden during World War II? There’s a good chance they did – and that effort may be found in articles from their hometown newspaper. Dig into GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives and see if you can find their stories.

Related Articles:

Scary Old Recipes from Your Family’s Past

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 find recipes that were common in our ancestors’ time – but seem a little “scary” to a modern audience.

Do you have any scary recipes in your family? No, I don’t mean that Halloween dessert decorated with ghosts and bats, but truly scary family recipes that you are afraid someone in the family will serve at Thanksgiving or your grandmother served 50 years ago. These old family recipes are scary because of their ingredients or method of preparation. I know there are a few from my childhood I hope to never be served again.

So what about your family and ancestors? What scary old recipes did they have in their recipe box? GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives are for more than just looking up biographical information about your ancestors – you can also find stories about their lives and the times they lived in, including popular and not-so-popular family recipes. Consider some of these old recipes that may have been too familiar in your family tree.

Old Jello Recipes

Ok, I come from a family that loved to make all kinds of Jello desserts. But there was a time that Jello was popular in savory dishes as well. You might be familiar with the more interesting gelatin luncheon dishes made popular in the 1950s, but those types of recipes also existed in previous decades.

This newspaper article, titled “All Members Diet Happily When Gourmets Plan Menu,” seems a bit misleading to me. While this Lime Tuna Mold is low calorie, I don’t know if I believe that the members of this group enjoyed eating this dish that is a combination of gelatin, tuna, green olives, celery, onions and a Hollandaise Sauce.

recipes, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 27 February 1964

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 27 February 1964, page 34

A 1970s-era recipe for Coleslaw Souffle isn’t as scary as jellified tuna but I had to include it here because it provides the name of the submitter and her street address. What a great family history find!

recipe for coleslaw souffle, Greensboro Daily News newspaper article 24 October 1971

Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, North Carolina), 24 October 1971, page 90

This 1923 recipe starts off like many familiar gelatin desserts – but its inclusion of Thousand Island dressing and whipped cream seems pretty scary to me.

jello and cottage cheese recipe, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 8 July 1923

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 8 July 1923, page 29

Regional American Delicacies

Today, most people are far removed from the source of their food. Meat production is something most of us would rather not think about. And it would seem that many in today’s world have strong opinions about what types of meat they will eat and what they won’t.


It wasn’t too long ago that recipes were very explicit about how to prepare certain meals. What makes some modern-day cooks squeamish was once everyday knowledge. Case in point: this 1908 recipe for Scrapple, a.k.a. Pon Haus. This dish may possibly be the first pork recipe invented in America – and today, November 9th, is National Scrapple Day. For those not familiar with this dish, it’s a combination of pork scraps, corn meal, flour and spices. It is a food that is more familiar to those in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States due to its Pennsylvania Dutch roots. (To learn more, including photos and modern-day recipes, Google the word “Scrapple.”)

Scrapple is one of those dishes that harkens to a time when meat/food was not wasted. Scrapple allows the maker to take advantage of all parts of the butchered hog, as this recipe from the column “Womanly Answers to Womanly Questions” explains.

scrapple recipe, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 8 October 1908

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 8 October 1908, page 13

Turtle Soup

While still consumed in certain parts of the country (especially in New Orleans), turtle soup was much more popular in the 19th century. Some recipes I’ve seen from the 1800s go into great length about how to dispatch the turtle prior to cooking. The following recipe from 1896 doesn’t go into great detail about killing the turtle – but is probably just enough to border on scary for modern audiences. Note the use of calves’ heads in the recipe. Calves’ heads are usually the main ingredient in mock turtle soup.

Tip: If you ever visit New Orleans, turtle soup is still served at a variety of fine restaurants including Commander’s Palace, Pascal’s and Upperline. It’s actually quite tasty.

turtle soup recipe, Irish American Weekly newspaper article 14 December 1896

Irish American Weekly (New York, New York), 14 December 1896, page 6

Squirrel Recipes

What constitutes a scary ingredient for some people is not that out of the ordinary for others. Some foods are strongly tied to a specific region. Probably the most argued about ingredient is meat. One example is squirrel. If I were to talk about eating squirrel in Southern California most people would think I was joking, but in some parts of the country and for our ancestors, it was just another protein source.

In case you need some squirrel recipe ideas, here are three from a 1900 newspaper. It’s pointed out in this set of recipes, Squirrel Pot Pie, Squirrel Pie and Baked Squirrel, that rabbit could be substituted for squirrel.

squirrel recipes, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 31 July 1900

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 31 July 1900, page 7

The Scary Price of Beauty

Multiple articles could be written about some of the scary recipes and products sold to our families in the name of cures and beauty aids. Cookbooks from the early 19th century included sections on remedies because the housewife had to know not only how to nourish her family, but how to heal them in the event of sickness. Other types of recipes like those for household cleaners and personal care could also be found.

In this 1906 example, milk baths are touted for a fine complexion. To take advantage of this, the article gives instructions that women should first clean their face with wadding soaked with a mixture of olive oil, cognac oil and cologne. Then the milk bath should be applied and allowed to dry so that you can rub raw potato or cucumbers on your face. Now so far that’s not too out of the ordinary. Some people swear by using olive oil on their skin. But it’s the warning that I find a little scary: “Women sometimes find that the milk seems to burn the face at first, but they must persevere and the good effect will soon be perceived.” You should also drink a lot of milk during the day and continue these treatments for a “long time” in order for it to work. But because this idea is said to come from Paris, it must work.

How to Take Milk Baths, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 24 July 1906

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 24 July 1906, page 5

What Are the Scary Recipes in Your Family History?

Scary recipes are an important part of family history. What makes family history interesting to everyone, not just those genealogy-obsessed, are the stories. Knowing more about the times our ancestors lived in and the food they ate help make their lives more relevant to us; it places them in context. It also can drive home important aspects of their lives. Eating foods not familiar to us today, eating almost everything, and combining unique flavors speaks to what was available, not wasting resources, frugality, and trying to make food interesting with what was available. Social history, the study of the everyday lives of people, makes family history something that will interest even the non-genealogists in your family.

What scary recipes did your family eat? Start searching for them today in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives – and tell us about them in the comments section.

Share Your Recipes with Us!

GenealogyBank has a shared Pinterest board where you can share your old family recipes. If you have a family recipe you’d like to share, send us a Pinterest group board request and you can pin your recipe on our board to share with the community.

Related Recipe Articles and Resources:

How to Find Ancestors’ U.S. Military Records in Newspapers

With Veterans Day approaching, people’s thoughts are turning to their family members and ancestors who served in the U.S. military. A great resource for family history research is military records in old newspapers.

For a Soldier Died Today

Source: YouTube. Just a Common Soldier. By A. Lawrence Vaincourt, narrated by Tony Lo Bianco.

America has always honored its history and the men and women who served in the military, and newspapers have printed articles and military records from the American Revolutionary War to the present day. Here are examples of some of the military records you can find by searching newspaper collections such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Veterans’ Obituaries

Newspapers printed obituaries of the nation’s veterans. America’s men and women left their everyday lives to respond to the call to serve. Often the details of their service were permanently recorded in their obituary.

veterans' obituaries from old newspapers

Source: GenealogyBank.com

War Casualty Lists

Newspapers reported on the wars and battles as they happened. War casualty reports were common in newspapers across America.

casualty list, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 6 August 1918

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 6 August 1918, page 1

Sometimes the soldier might be listed as missing-in-action and not found until years later.

Newspapers recorded information about the missing soldiers.

articles about Lt. Alvin Beethe

Source: GenealogyBank.com

U.S. Military Draft Records

War efforts require the mobilization of troops to serve. Newspapers recorded the draft details too. Genealogists often use these old newspaper articles as census substitutes, as they listed all eligible men living in the newspaper’s area of readership.

article about a draft list, Perry Republican newspaper article 26 July 1917

Perry Republican (Perry, Oklahoma), 26 July 1917, page 1

U.S. Military Reunions

After the wars were over, veterans would gather in reunions of local military units to remember their fallen comrades and to recall their permanent friendships.

These military reunions are recorded in old newspapers.

articles about military reunions

Source: GenealogyBank.com

War Stories

It is common for veterans’ families to say they asked their Dad or Grandfather to tell them what it was like during the war – but, the veterans never spoke about it.

Fortunately, newspapers recorded their war stories.

Here is an example story from the Revolutionary War from a veteran named Oliver Cromwell.

article about Revolutionary War veteran Oliver Cromwell, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 11 April 1905

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

As this newspaper article noted: “though feeble, his lips trembling at every word, when he spoke of [General George] Washington his eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.”

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

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

Soldiers’ Personal Letters Home

Sometimes a newspaper published the last letter a soldier sent home, like this one Lieutenant Edwin A. Abbey wrote to his parents on Good Friday, 6 April 1917 – just four days before he was killed on 10 April 1917 in WWI’s Battle of Vimy Ridge in France.

We are going up to an attack in a short time, and I am going to leave this note, to be sent to you, in case, by God’s will, this is to be my final work.

article reprinting a letter from Lieutenant Edwin A. Abbey, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 23 December 1917

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 23 December 1917, page 2

Where else would you find this soldier’s letter?

Newspapers have been published every day of our ancestors’ lives for the last three centuries. They record the stories of their lives in peacetime and wartime.

The archive of old newspapers in GenealogyBank is packed with thousands of these firsthand eyewitness accounts of military service, from the American Revolutionary War down to today, adding a personal touch to the facts of many of the military battles that they fought in.

Related Military Records Articles:

Mississippi Archives: 66 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Mississippi, whose western border is primarily the Mississippi River, was admitted into the Union as the nation’s 20th state on 10 December 1817. The 32nd largest state in the country, Mississippi is the 31st most populous.

photo of aMississippi welcome sign on Interstate 20

Photo: Mississippi welcome sign on Interstate 20. Credit: WebTV3; Wikimedia Commons.

If you are researching your ancestry from Mississippi, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online MS newspaper archives: 66 titles to help you search your family history in the “Magnolia State,” providing coverage from 1802 to Today. There are more than 5.2 million articles and records in our online Mississippi newspaper archives!

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

Note that our Mississippi archives contain many of the very first newspapers in the state from the early 1800s, many of which were published in Natchez, MS, including the Misissippi Herald and Natchez Gazette, Mississippi Messenger, Mississippian, and the Weekly Chronicle.

Search Mississippi Newspaper Archives (1802 – 1964)

Search Mississippi Recent Obituaries (1994 – Current)

illustration: state flag of Mississippi

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

Here is a list of online Mississippi 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 MS newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range * Collection
Biloxi Biloxi Herald 01/14/1888 – 11/26/1898 Newspaper Archives
Biloxi Daily Herald 08/16/1898 – 12/31/1955 Newspaper Archives
Biloxi Sun Herald 02/12/1994 – Current Recent Obituaries
Brandon Free State 01/20/1900 – 01/20/1900 Newspaper Archives
Brookhaven Daily Leader 05/03/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Clarksdale Clarksdale Press Register 11/08/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cleveland Bolivar Commercial 11/04/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbia Columbian-Progress 11/03/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbus Columbus Packet 12/12/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbus Commercial Dispatch 05/07/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Corinth Daily Corinthian 06/12/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Eupora Webster Progress-Times 03/25/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Forest Scott County Times 08/05/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Greenville Delta Democrat Times 01/08/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Greenwood Greenwood Commonwealth 05/29/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Gulfport Daily Herald 01/01/1910 – 12/30/1922 Newspaper Archives
Hattiesburg Hattiesburg Post 09/22/2013 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hattiesburg Lamar Times 04/21/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hattiesburg Petal News 04/21/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Indianola Indianola Enterprise-Tocsin 09/16/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Clarion 01/06/1886 – 01/11/1888 Newspaper Archives
Jackson Clarion Ledger 01/19/1888 – 03/06/1890 Newspaper Archives
Jackson Jackson Advocate 02/23/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Mississippi Free Press 12/16/1961 – 08/01/1964 Newspaper Archives
Jackson Mississippi Weekly 05/18/1935 – 05/18/1935 Newspaper Archives
Jackson Mississippi Link 02/17/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Northside Sun 07/01/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Kosciusko Star Herald 01/07/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Laurel Laurel Leader-Call 05/02/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Louisville Choctaw Plaindealer 02/08/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Louisville Winston County Journal 03/25/2003 – Current Recent Obituaries
Magee Magee Courier, The & Simpson County News 01/03/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
McComb Enterprise-Journal 12/24/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Meridian Meridian Star 02/17/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Mound Bayou Mound Bayou News-Digest 05/13/1950 – 05/13/1950 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Ariel 07/20/1825 – 07/19/1828 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Mississippi Free Trader 11/20/1844 – 03/28/1854 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Mississippi State Gazette 03/06/1818 – 05/14/1825 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Natchez Democrat 07/14/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Natchez Southern Clarion 05/13/1831 – 11/18/1831 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Southern Galaxy 05/22/1828 – 03/18/1830 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Statesman and Gazette 05/18/1825 – 10/24/1832 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Misissippi Herald and Natchez Gazette 08/10/1802 – 12/31/1807 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Mississippi Messenger 09/07/1804 – 07/07/1808 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Mississippi Republican 04/29/1812 – 12/22/1824 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Mississippian 12/08/1808 – 09/10/1810 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Natchez Daily Courier 11/20/1861 – 11/08/1862 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Natchez Daily Free Trader 01/30/1855 – 03/22/1861 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Natchez Gazette and Mississippi General Advertiser 06/20/1811 – 05/07/1812 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Washington Republican and Natchez Intelligencer 04/24/1816 – 06/14/1817 Newspaper Archives
Natchez Weekly Chronicle 07/06/1808 – 07/01/1812 Newspaper Archives
New Albany New Albany Gazette 11/20/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oxford Oxford Eagle 02/09/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
PascCCagoula Mississippi Press 08/01/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pascagoula Mississippi Press, The: Web Edition Articles 10/18/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Picayune Picayune Item 02/05/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Port Gibson Port Gibson Correspondent 01/22/1824 – 03/14/1829 Newspaper Archives
Prentiss Prentiss Headlight 11/01/2013 – Current Recent Obituaries
Starkville Starkville Daily News 03/09/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Vicksburg Daily Commercial 03/21/1877 – 12/28/1882 Newspaper Archives
Vicksburg Golden Rule 01/27/1900 – 01/27/1900 Newspaper Archives
Vicksburg Light 01/18/1900 – 01/18/1900 Newspaper Archives
Vicksburg Vicksburg Post 10/02/2014 – Current Recent Obituaries
Vicksburg Daily Citizen 07/02/1863 – 07/02/1863 Newspaper Archives
West Point Daily Times Leader 03/27/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Winona Winona Times & Conservative 04/02/2009 – 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 Mississippi newspaper links will be live.

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