This Is the House That Sears Built: Historic Sears Kit Homes

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena searches old newspapers to learn about a building proposition our ancestors knew well: prefabricated home kits sold by Sears, Roebuck and Co.

How did you buy your last home? Was it an older home that you purchased from a family who had spent years making it their own? Did you buy it brand new, built to your specifications? Maybe because of the economic downturn in the last few years you picked up a foreclosure.

While these are the ways we purchase homes now, there was a time when you could order your home as a kit from Sears! Yes, that will surprise many people who, when they think of an old Sears, Roebuck and Co. ad, have something like this 1925 full-page newspaper advertisement in mind.

full-page ad from Sears, Roebuck and Co., Dallas Morning News newspaper advertisement 27 September 1925

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 27 September 1925, page 9

Sears, the retailer of clothing, household items, and Craftsman tools—selling home kits? Yes, and they weren’t the only retailer who offered build-your-own homes to consumers. While today we often associate Sears with the catalog which began in the 1890s, in the past your family may have bought a lot more than tools, furniture, and clothes at Sears. They may have bought a new prefabricated home delivered by train!

In a 1932 publication, Sears boasted that they were the “biggest home building organization on earth.”* According to the Sears Archives, between “1908-1940 Sears, Roebuck, and Co., sold about 70,000-75,000 homes through their mail-order Modern Homes program.” Customers could also purchase garages, farm buildings and—for those purchasing small cottages—an outhouse. The Modern Home program catalog offered consumers a range of homes from the palatial to the very simple. These Sears homes were like the Ford of their times, mass produced and shipped with everything, or almost everything, the would-be home builder needed. Because of the way the Sears houses were produced, the building and construction materials were less expensive resulting in a more inexpensive home for the buyer.

In this full-page 1926 newspaper advertisement, we not only learn more about the Sears Homes and what is offered, but we are provided a glimpse into how the homeowner can put together their home kit and reduce the costs.

full-page ad for prefabricated homes from Sears, Roebuck and Co., Plain Dealer newspaper advertisement 31 October 1926

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 31 October 1926, page 19

Innovations, such as numbering the materials to correspond with the plans, helped simplify the building process. Homes are touted as being built on the “skyscraper principle.” The Sears Archives website writes that “balloon style” framing, drywall and asphalt shingles allowed for these homes to be built relatively easier and quicker. What’s interesting is that the addition of drywall and asphalt shingles also had the added bonus of being fire resistant.

ad for prefabricated homes from Sears, Roebuck and Co., Plain Dealer newspaper advertisement 20 September 1927

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 20 September 1927, page 8

A similar historical newspaper advertisement from 1927 explains to readers that they are furnished with “free architectural service” and everything one would need “except masonry, for a complete home.” Not only that but Sears also offered, until 1933 when the program was discontinued, to lend money with a “small interest charge” so that you could afford your new Sears home. One promotional piece boasted that you could own a home for low monthly prices, just like rent.**

In 1982 this Texas newspaper “asked readers to tell us about Sears homes in Texas,” made from home kits that were described in the Sears 1908 catalog as “the greatest building proposition ever made.”

Sears Originals: Catalog Homes That Readers Have Known and Still Love, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 27 February 1982

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 27 February 1982, page 54

More than 30 readers responded, with stories about how much they loved their Sears homes. One satisfied Sears homeowner, Edith Sides of Dallas, lived in a home that was built in 1911 and sold to her stepfather in 1917. The family has owned the Sears kit house ever since. Edith, 74, told the newspaper:

You know how many times I’ve watched “Gone with the Wind”? Six times. And I always remember what Scarlett’s father told her: Keep the land. I have. And you know what? I think my house compares favorably with Tara.

Did someone on your family tree own a Sears kit home? Check historical newspapers (for the year that home was available) to find advertisements highlighting your ancestor’s style of home. You can also look for the exact home specifications from the Sears Archives website. Several books are available that are reprints of early Sears home catalogs and histories. Check out Google Books for titles and previews. You might also be interested in the book, The Houses That Sears Built: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sears Catalog Homes, by Rosemary Thornton.

Have questions about a Sears home? Sears Homes Enthusiasts are available to answer questions about these homes. You can find a list of them and their interests on the Sears Archives website.

______________

*Sears House Designs of the Thirties. Sears, Roebuck, and Co. Dover Publications 2003. pg. 2.

**Sears House Designs of the Thirties. Sears, Roebuck, and Co. Dover Publications 2003. pg. 5.

Remembering Alex Haley: ‘Roots,’ Kunta Kinte & Genealogy

History of Roots by Alex Haley

Today is the 22nd anniversary of the death of Alex Haley (1921-1992), the author who wrote the popular African American novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The publication of Haley’s novel in 1976, and the subsequent ABC television miniseries based on his book that aired in January 1977, spurred tremendous interest in genealogy in the United States.

photo of the cover of the first edition of Alex Haley’s novel “Roots”

Photo: cover of the first edition of Alex Haley’s novel “Roots.” Credit: Wikipedia.

Haley’s award-winning novel was a fictionalized account of his own African American family history, tracing his roots all the way back to an African ancestor, Kunta Kinte, who was kidnapped in the Gambia in the 1760s, shipped across the Atlantic and sold into slavery in Maryland. Haley spent ten years researching his black genealogy, relying on both oral history and documentation to support his claim that he was a seventh-generation descendant of Kunta Kinte.

Both the book and the television miniseries were enormously popular and successful. The novel was translated into 37 languages and has sold millions of copies around the world. Haley was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize for his book in 1977. The eight-part TV miniseries fascinated the American public and was watched by a then-record 130 million viewers.

Genealogy Research Suddenly Skyrockets!

After reading Roots and watching the television miniseries, Americans—both black and white—wanted to find out more about their own family roots. Requests to the National Archives for genealogical material quadrupled the week after the TV show ended. The number of genealogical societies in the U.S. skyrocketed. Libraries and government offices received a steady stream of requests to review books, official records, and microfilm collections.

In the spring of 1977 this newspaper article reported on the growing popularity of genealogy.

Many Are Climbing Family Trees, Morning Star newspaper article 19 April 1977

Morning Star (Rockford, Illinois), 19 April 1977, page 14

According to the article:

The increasing trend toward genealogical research apparently started three or four years ago, picked up stimulation in the Bicentennial year [1976] and was spurred again by Alex Haley’s “Roots” and the tremendously successful ABC television series based on his book.

That series, the most-watched ever on television, led thousands of blacks and whites alike to a search for their own roots. The National Archives reported that its mail requests quadrupled in the week after the series.

A decade later, newspaper articles such as this one were still crediting Haley for the public’s interest in genealogy.

article about Alex Haley and his novel "Roots" spurring interest in genealogy, Springfield Union newspaper article 13 October 1986

Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), 13 October 1986, page 2

Ten days before he died, Haley gave a talk at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. A local newspaper, the Afro-American Gazette from nearby Grand Rapids, published this remembrance after his death.

Alex Haley--the End of an Era, Afro-American Gazette newspaper article 1 March 1992

Afro-American Gazette (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 1 March 1992, page 1

The news article begins this way:

Alex Haley was a man of vision—a man who knew [that], as individuals and a nation, [we] must know where we have been in order to know where we are going.

And when he died…he left that vision behind as a legacy to a world starving for truth, starving for direction, starving for peace and understanding.

Alex Haley’s Obituary

This obituary, published the day after Haley died, said he “inspired people of all races to search for their ancestors” and stated:

Mr. Haley’s warmhearted and rich descriptions of his ancestors’ lives set off a wave of interest in genealogy, lasting long after the book faded from best-seller lists.

Author Alex Haley, Won Pulitzer, (Dies) at 70, Boston Herald newspaper article 11 February 1992

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 11 February 1992, page 53

To find out more about Alex Haley’s life and influence—and to begin your own search for your family roots—dig into GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, a collection of more than 6,500 newspapers featuring the largest obituary archive online. Also, search our African American newspaper collection to trace your black family history.

Beatlemania Comes to America! (7 February 1964)

Were you there when it happened—when the Beatles arrived in America and a new era began? Can you believe it was half a century ago? Part of the fun of doing genealogy research in historical newspapers is not just learning about our ancestors’ past; it is also about reliving our own past, the history that we have lived through.

photo of the Beatles arriving in America 7 February 1964

Photo: The Beatles arriving in America, 7 February 1964. From left to right: John, Paul, George & Ringo. Source: UPI photo. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The Beatles are now so established as icons—not just in rock ’n’ roll music but in popular culture overall—that it is hard to imagine a time when they were new and unknown. However, that was the case for most of the then-record television audience of 73 million American viewers who watched the Ed Sullivan Show Sunday night, 9 February 1964. That was the first time the Beatles, who had just arrived from England two days before, appeared live on American television. History was made that night, and American music and culture would never be the same.

Looking at film clips of the rapturous members of the Sullivan audience that historic night, screaming and swooning at the Beatles’ every word and gesture—as well as the throng packed outside the CBS studio clamoring to get in—it is easy to accept the conventional wisdom that the Beatles were an immediate success in America.

Enter Last Name










That was not necessarily the view of the mainstream media at the time—its embrace of the four “mop-topped” Britons was not universal.

cartoon of the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show, Oregonian newspaper cartoon 11 February 1964

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 11 February 1964, page 4

In fact, as the following six newspaper articles show, many reporters and reviewers were disdainful of the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. In reading these comments now, in light of today’s acceptance of the Beatles as the greatest rock group ever, it is startling to read such descriptions as “disquieting,” “revolting,” “unkempt, untalented noisemakers,” and “distracting bore.” One of these reviewers certainly got it right, however, with this comment: “some things may never be the same.”

And Here Comes the Beatle Bomb, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 10 February 1964

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 10 February 1964, page 26

Seattle critic C. J. Skreen included this zinger in his newspaper review:

The Beatles have relatively little talent, if their Sullivan show performance can be believed, but they appear to be a rather likeable crew in contrast to their American predecessors in our native art form.

Their success seems to be a combination of shaggy locks, skintight suits with velvet collars and a sharp press agent who has made Beatlemania the wave of the future among those groups which educators like to describe as the future leaders of our country.

He concluded by asserting that, after inflicting the Beatles on America, “the British can consider the score settled for the Revolutionary War.”

Adult Finds Beatlemania Real Puzzle, Oregonian newspaper article 11 February 1964

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 11 February 1964, page 19

New York critic Cynthia Lowry included these comments in her review:

Beatle clothes look about two sizes too small, and I’ve seen Hungarian sheep dogs with more attractive hairdos.

But thousands of squealing young girls get their message. Camera shots of panting youngsters in Sullivan’s audience were disquieting, in fact.

Maybe after two more exposures to the Beatles on television, all of us elderly people will become Beatlenuts, yeah, yeah, yeah, but I doubt it.

Enter Last Name










Oregon critic Francis Murphy was also not impressed.

review of the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Oregonian newspaper article 11 February 1964

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 11 February 1964, page 19

Nor was Cleveland critic Bert Reesing.

Beatles on TV, Plain Dealer newspaper article 11 February 1964

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 11 February 1964, page 19

Reesing’s review included these comments:

Perhaps it’s a dangerous mission for anyone older than 16 to offer an account of the initial mop-topped TV appearance of the Beatles. Shades of Elvis! The mass hysteria by Sullivan’s teenaged girl audience was nothing short of revolting.

…We’ve all heard the foot-stomping group’s recordings. In fact, it’s been nearly impossible to escape them on radio. But to see them in clothes too tight and sheepdog hair too long, and hear them sing not so good in their specialty number, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” was a distracting bore.

I missed their second appearance of the evening on the Sullivan hour. Their cavorting and the fits of ecstatic moaning by panting young persons in the audience didn’t hold my hand. I switched the dial…“yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Beatlemaniacs Squeal as Shaggy Kings Sing, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 10 February 1964

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 10 February 1964, page 3

This newspaper review concluded with this comment:

In Queens, meanwhile, a rabbi addressing a youth group inveighed against the “deplorable, immature adoration showered on the…four unkempt, untalented noisemakers” and pleaded for a return to behavior “that does not border on the fringe of lunacy.”

Beatle Fans Steal Show, Plain Dealer newspaper article 10 February 1964

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 10 February 1964, page 38

This newspaper review article emphasized the crazed reaction of the Beatles’ studio audience:

Throughout their two appearances during the show, the 721 members of the audience—mostly young girls—kept up a steady stream of squeals, sighs and yells.

The four British imports, appearing for a total of about 20 minutes on the hour-long show, may well have ended up with second billing.

Camera crews were lavish in their shots of the audience, showing young girls leaping from their seats, throwing their arms into the air and staring bug-eyed. Some appeared as if on the verge of coma, staring open-mouthed.

At one point before the program, there was some doubt that the four singers would be able to make their way into the studio through the masses of teenage fans trying for a glimpse of their idols.

But hundreds of Manhattan police, including mounted officers, shoved back the eager fans and cleared a path for the four entertainers.

If you have memories of the Beatles’ 1964 arrival at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport February 7, or their historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show February 9—or any of the Beatles’ subsequent appearances in America—please share them in the comments section.

Do you love American music? Discover song lyrics, get the details of famous musical appearances, and find out more about the lives and careers of your favorite musical artists in historical newspapers. Read news articles about several genres of music across every American era dating from the Colonial period up to modern day times in GenealogyBank’s extensive online archives.

Punxsutawney Phil: History of Groundhog Day’s Furry Forecaster

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott searches old newspapers to find stories about the history of Groundhog Day, and takes a playful look at the genealogy of Punxsutawney Phil.

Polar Vortex! Storm of the Century! Weather Advisories, Watches, and Warnings! Wind-chill!

The weather folks know all the jargon and, as the New York Times stated in a headline dated 7 September 2012, “The Weatherman Is Not a Moron”—but when it comes right down to it, we all know that the best weatherman is good old Punxsutawney Phil. He’s the legendary groundhog who comes out of his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, every February 2nd to tell us when spring will arrive.

photo of a groundhog

Photo: a groundhog. Credit: Wikipedia.

[Yesterday, for the first time in history, Phil’s big entrance coincided with the Super Bowl! To the dismay of chilled Americans throughout the U.S., Phil saw his shadow—meaning we have six more long weeks of winter before spring arrives.]

As I began writing this article the week before Groundhog Day, it was -10 degrees F just outside my office, we had 8 inches of new snow, and the wind-chill was a howling -25 degrees F. Not having any desire to venture outside into the freezing winter cold, I spent my time searching GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to see what I could find out about the genealogy of the famous Punxsutawney Phil. I wasn’t disappointed.

Candlemas Day Badger

My love of older traditions led me to focus my initial search on the tradition of Candlemas, which I remembered my grandmother telling me was the genesis of our Groundhog Day. First I discovered this 1898 article from a New York newspaper.

How to Keep Candlemas, New York Tribune newspaper article 2 February 1898

New York Tribune (New York, New York), 2 February 1898, page 5

Toward the end of this 1800s newspaper article is the following quote:

“The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day, and when he finds snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining, he draws back into his hole.”

So it seems that Phil’s genealogy may actually lead us back to a badger in his family tree! Now I am sure this comes as no surprise to any of us who have worked our own genealogy, since we often find ourselves scratching our heads and saying to ourselves “How did that gal or fellow get into our family tree?”

Pagan Imbolc a.k.a. Saint Brighid’s Day

It wasn’t long before I came upon this 1989 article from an Illinois newspaper.

Imbolc, Register Star newspaper article 24 September 1989

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 24 September 1989, page 26

While February 2nd is traditionally the date for both Candlemas and Groundhog Day, I was intrigued to see that something called “Imbolc” is also concerned with “looking for the first sign of spring.”

I have to admit that I needed to do more research in order to learn about Imbolc. I found help with my next article, from a 1996 Georgia newspaper, titled “Pagans Emphasize Love of Nature.” “Aha,” I said aloud, “Phil’s genealogy goes all the way back to the Pagans!” Quite a lineage for a fellow from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania!

Pagans Emphasize Love of Nature, Augusta Chronicle newspaper article 17 August 1996

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 17 August 1996, section B, page 2

Phil’s Weather Predictions of the Past

Next I came upon an 1875 article in an Ohio newspaper. It seems they, too, suffered through a miserably cold January—and unfortunately for them, Phil predicted another six long weeks of winter.

letter to the editor about groundhog day, Cincinnati Daily Gazette newspaper article 10 February 1875

Cincinnati Daily Gazette (Cincinnati, Ohio), 10 February 1875, page 5

My next newspaper article was from another Ohio newspaper, this one printed in 1872. The steamboatmen, no doubt tired of the thick ice on the Ohio River, were hoping that Groundhog Day would bring them good news of an early spring.

Groundhog Day, Cincinnati Daily Times newspaper article 1 February 1872

Cincinnati Daily Times (Cincinnati, Ohio), 1 February 1872, page 4

And it seems that it wasn’t only the steamboatmen who were concerned with our furry friend. I found this 1902 article in a Pennsylvania newspaper. It reported: “Many persons, especially farmers, are firm believers in the superstition of ‘groundhog’ day and plans are laid accordingly.” Some farmers’ crops have been ruined by their belief in the groundhog’s forecasting powers. By this time I realized that Phil’s ancestors were commanding quite a nationwide following throughout the economy.

Groundhog Day, Patriot newspaper article 1 February 1902

Patriot (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), 1 February 1902, page 3

Does Phil Have Native American Roots?

Then a genealogy curveball was tossed into my research by this 1916 article I found in a New Jersey newspaper. This article gives the distinct impression that Phil’s genealogy was not rooted in Pagan or Celtic tradition, but was Native American in origin.

Groundhog Day Tomorrow Based on Old Indian Weather Lore, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 1 February 1916

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 1 February 1916, page 6

Additionally, this article reports that Phil’s ancestors may well have gone by different names: “…the groundhog—who also travels under the names of woodchuck, marmot and, scientifically, arctomys monax…”

While I have encountered ancestors changing their surnames from time to time in my personal genealogy, I realize now that Phil has quite the colorful and extensive genealogy. Perhaps it was some of Phil’s female ancestors who married into the “Woodchuck,” “Marmot,” and “Arctomys Monax” families!

I think my best option at this point is to do what every good genealogist knows is the best research avenue to follow, so I am packing my bags and buying my ticket to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. I need to see Punxsutawney Phil in person to study his family history and ask if he would introduce me to his parents and grandparents, if they are around, so I can ask them a few genealogy questions.

I hope you had a great Groundhog Day! Stay warm!

NFL Family Trees: The Genealogy of 5 Famous Football Families

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott searches through old newspapers to find stories about five families that have played professional football and made a big impact on the National Football League (NFL).

Here comes the Super Bowl and—love it or not—it is one of those “happenings” that are impossible to miss in our culture. I enjoy many aspects of the game of football, but one of the ones that has always intrigued me the most is the fact that “football” often seems to run in families. In my own case, my sister married a football coach, whose father was a football coach, and now her three sons are also football coaches!

Star-Studded NFL Family Trees

Then I happened across an older article on the Internet that was titled “These players’ family trees can beat up your family trees.” While I laughed at the title it got me thinking about the subject—especially because one of the famous football Manning brothers (Peyton Manning) will be directing the Denver Broncos against the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl on February 2.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be great fun to take a look and see what I might find in the newspapers of GenealogyBank.com regarding some football family genealogy during the run-up to Super Bowl XLVIII. I was astonished at what I found—there have been a number of father-son combinations that played professional football (although not at the same time, of course).

NFL Quarterback 3fer: Archie, Payton & Eli Manning

Almost immediately I found this 1985 article from a Louisiana newspaper. I realize that these days the Manning names that trip off most folks’ tongues are Peyton and Eli (quarterback of the New York Giants), but did you know that their father, Archie, was a big-time NFL quarterback too? He spent 14 years in the NFL, most with the New Orleans Saints, but also with the Houston Oilers and the Minnesota Vikings. Check out this newspaper article and you might get a chuckle out of the part that talks about Peyton being 9 and “4-year-old Eli” going off to nursery school! I wonder if Archie suspected then what we all know now?

Archie Manning Readies for Last Season, Times-Picayune newspaper article 26 May 1985

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 26 May 1985, page 103

I bet Archie did, since only 13 years later this 1998 article from a Georgia newspaper called Eli Manning one of the top 10 prep quarterbacks in the country.

Sons of NFL Stars among Nation's Top Quarterbacks, Augusta Chronicle newspaper article 4 September 1998

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 4 September 1998, section F, page 2

Phil, Chris & Matt Simms

You will notice this news article mentions another pro NFL football lineage, since Chris Simms is also named as one of the top prep QBs. It was in 1987’s Super Bowl XXI that Chris’s father, Phil Simms (quarterbacking the New York Giants), earned the coveted title of Super Bowl MVP, as you can see in this 1987 photo from a Massachusetts newspaper. Phil Simms’s sons, Chris and Matt, both went on to play in the NFL. Chris was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played for not only the Buccaneers, but also for the Tennessee Titans and the Denver Broncos. His brother Matt played for the New York Jets.

a photo of 1987 Super Bowl MVP Phill Simms, Boston Herald newspaper article 26 January 1987

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 26 January 1987, page 1

Howie & Chris Long

I followed up my research about the Simms by searching for a Football Hall of Fame member, Howie Long. Now if you watch football on television, you know that Howie Long is currently one of the top NFL commentators. His playing career was an excellent one and he, too, wears a Super Bowl championship ring thanks to the Oakland Raiders’ win over the Washington Redskins, as you can read in this 1984 article from an Oregon newspaper.

Black Shirts Butcher Hogs 38-9 in a Super [Bowl] Rout, Oregonian newspaper article 23 January 1984

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 23 January 1984, page 49

It was interesting to also read this 2008 article from an Illinois newspaper about the signing of Howie’s son Chris Long to a long-term contract with the St. Louis Rams. The football genealogy “gene” must be really strong in the Long family too!

Rams Sign Top Pick Chris Long, Register Star newspaper article 21 July 2008

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 21 July 2008, page 16

Kellen Winslow, Sr. & Kellen Winslow, Jr.

Then I came across the surname of Winslow in my research. No look at football genealogy would be complete without including Kellen Winslow, Sr. and Kellen Winslow, Jr. You can read about Kellen, Sr. being inducted into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame in this 1995 article from a South Dakota newspaper.

NFL Hall of Fame Selections, Aberdeen Daily News newspaper article 29 January 1995

Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 29 January 1995, page 17

Then you can read about Kellen, Jr. winning the John Mackey Award for being the best college tight end in this 2003 article from an Illinois newspaper—and you can follow his continuing NFL career now.

Miami's Kellen Winslow Wins Mackey Award, Register Star newspaper article 11 December 2003

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 11 December 2003, page 27

5-Pack of NFL Stars: The Matthews

Then I found another NFL surname with quite an amazing genealogy to follow, and that is Matthews. First there are the Matthews brothers as reported in this 1983 article from a Texas newspaper. This article talks about brothers Bruce Matthews, who played for the Houston Oilers, and Clay Matthews, Jr., who played for the Cleveland Browns, meeting and playing against one another during their careers.

Brothers Matthews Hold Reunion at Astrodome, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 10 December 1983

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 10 December 1983, page 14B

The Matthews brothers are sons of Clay Matthews, Sr. who played for the San Francisco 49ers and was the son of Matty Mathews, who, while he didn’t play football, coached boxing, baseball, and track at “The Citadel” in South Carolina. Clay, Sr.’s son, Clay, Jr., was a Pro-Bowl player. His other son, Bruce, is another familial NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame member, holds the record for Pro Bowl appearances at 14, and now coaches for the Tennessee Titans. Oh and if you take a look at this 1988 article from an Ohio newspaper, you might find it interesting to see a listing for Clay III, age 1 at the time.

The Clay Matthews File, Plain Dealer newspaper article 8 January 1988

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 8 January 1988, page 34

Then you can click on http://www.claymatthews52.com and find the next generation’s football success as Clay Matthews III pursues his outstanding career with the Green Bay Packers. And wait there is more! How about Casey Matthews who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles? Yes indeed! He is from the same lineage. Now this is some kind of football genealogy and football family!

Newspaper Search Tip:

Attention sports fans—did you know that you can search from GenealogyBank’s Tables & Charts page to find old sports stats and charts for all popular American sports like football, baseball, basketball, golf and tennis? Also make sure to follow the American Sports History Pinterest board to learn more interesting facts about famous names in sports.

Share Your Football Family Story

So tell me…who have I missed in this article and what is your favorite Super Football genealogy? Do you have some football superstars in your own family tree?

27 Topeka Newspapers Online to Research Your Genealogy

Yesterday Kansas celebrated the 153rd anniversary of its statehood—Kansas Territory was admitted into the Union on 29 January 1861 as the 34th state. Throughout its state history, the capital of Kansas has been Topeka. Located alongside the Kansas River, Topeka was established in 1854 and became incorporated in 1857.

an illustration of Topeka, Kansas, in 1869, by A. Ruger

Illustration: Topeka, Kansas, in 1869, by A. Ruger. Credit: Wikipedia.

Are you researching your family history from Topeka? GenealogyBank’s online Topeka newspaper archives contain 27 titles to help you research your genealogy in this important Midwestern city, providing news coverage from 1880 to Today.

Dig in and search for obituaries and other news articles about your ancestors in these historical and recent Topeka newspapers online:

Search Topeka Newspaper Archives (1880 – 1977)
Search Topeka Recent Newspaper Obituaries (2001 – Current)

Here is our complete list of online Topeka newspapers, divided into two collections: Historical Newspapers (complete paper) and Recent Obituaries. Each Topeka 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.

Discover a variety of genealogy records and news stories in these 26 Topeka historical newspapers:

Search recent obituary records for your relatives in this Topeka newspaper:

Download the complete list of newspapers in Topeka by clicking on the image below. On the list itself, just click on the name of the newspaper to be taken directly to your newspaper title of interest.

Search Topeka Newspapers Online

125 Kansas Newspapers Now Online for Your Genealogy Research

Today Kansas celebrates the 153rd anniversary of its statehood—Kansas Territory was admitted into the Union on 29 January 1861 as the 34th state.

the official state seal of Kansas

Illustration: official state seal of Kansas. Credit: Wikipedia.

If you are researching your family roots in Kansas, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online Kansas newspaper archives: 125 titles to help you search your family history in “The Sunflower State,” providing coverage from 1841 to Today. There are more than 4 million articles and records in this online collection.

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

Search Kansas Newspaper Archives (1841 – 1981)
Search Kansas Recent Obituaries (1984 – Current)

Download the full PDF list of Kansas newspapers by clicking on the image below. Just click on the name of the newspaper to be taken directly to your newspaper title of interest.

Kansas Newspapers for Genealogy

3 Tips to Uncover Hidden Genealogy Clues in Obituaries

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena shows how useful newspaper obituaries are for your family history research—and explains clues in obituaries that even some experienced genealogists might miss.

Obituaries are the newspaper articles that most genealogists cut their research teeth on. Even so, many genealogists don’t get all the information they could out of an obituary, or recognize the clues an obituary can provide for additional family searches. Could there be more to researching an ancestor’s death than just finding the obituary? My resounding answer is YES! As you look at your ancestor’s obituary consider some of the following research tips.

Analyze Obituaries for Genealogy Clues

When you look at an obituary don’t stop at the death date, place and the survivors. Analyze what is said that could point to other records or even additional articles. Of course there are and can be mistakes in obituaries but use the obituary as a clue to other possible records.

Take for instance this obituary for a Miss Emma Farlin from Butte, Montana.

obituary for Emma Farlin, Anaconda Standard newspaper article 7 September 1922

obituary for Emma Farlin, Anaconda Standard newspaper article 7 September 1922

Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana), 7 September 1922, page 12

From this historical obituary you learn: she wasn’t married, her father founded a mine that he named after her, she was a teacher, where she taught, the names of six surviving relatives, the address of the family home where the funeral will be held, and the names of two of her classmates when she attended the Butte high school.

After reading this obituary I would put together a genealogy research plan that includes looking for employment records, searching censuses and city directories for family members mentioned in the obituary, and looking for additional newspaper articles after her death that might include information about the children she taught. I would also be curious about the mention of the two men she went to high school with long ago—why were they mentioned in her obituary? I would want to research them further to ascertain their connection to her, and see if that research helps me learn more about Emma’s life.

There’s More to Death than Just an Obituary

Although we automatically think of newspaper obituaries when we want to research an ancestor’s death, expand your search to include other types of newspaper articles that may also document an ancestor’s death. Not everyone had an obituary printed in the paper, but their name may be found in other newspaper articles such as a funeral notice, or a thank-you note from the family. Looking for a probate? Check the newspaper’s legal notices, those dense and small-typed notices found and often ignored at the end of the newspaper, for any probate notification.

Here is an example of a probate notice, from a newspaper’s legal notices section.

probate notice for estate of William Walker, Washington Bee newspaper article 9 May 1914

Washington Bee (Washington, D.C.), 9 May 1914, page 5

As you read your ancestor’s obituary, consider what other newspaper articles or official documents might have relevant genealogical information. In cases where a person died as a result of an accident or suspicious circumstances, a coroner’s inquest may be called and there may be court records available.

This newspaper article about the possible murder of a baby includes the names of the men serving on the inquest jury. In a situation like this tragic event, we can assume multiple articles about the suspicious death, and any justice served, were printed—and you’ll want to expand your search to track down all those articles.

coroner's inquest for the Wilson baby, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 18 April 1900

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 18 April 1900, page 1

Don’t Just Research That One Day

Once you find your ancestor’s obituary, don’t stop there. Depending on whether your ancestor lived in a rural area or a big city, and the time period involved, you may be able to dig up much more than just information on the actual death. Consider searching the days or even weeks leading up to their death—in cases where there was a lingering illness, or unusual circumstances, a series of articles may have been printed before your ancestor died.

This old news article gives some great information about those who were sick, many of them from the grip (flu). Details including who was hospitalized, who is feeling better, who isn’t, and the inclusion of some street addresses make this a valuable article to family historians.

list of sick people, Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article 9 March 1901

Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 9 March 1901, page 5

There’s no doubt that searching for your ancestor’s newspaper obituary is a must for every genealogist. But remember that a death can lend itself to multiple articles—and that every article is a jumping-off place for additional genealogical research.

Civil War’s Last Rebel Town Finally Rejoined the Union—in 1946!

Part of the fun of doing family history research in old newspapers is the occasional strange, unusual—and even startling—story you run across. Such certainly is the case with the tiny New York town called Town Line, which joined the Rebel Cause and seceded from the Union in 1861—and did not come back to the United States until 1946, 81 years after the American Civil War ended!

a photo of the Confederate battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

Photo: Confederate battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. A flag similar to this was flown above the blacksmith shop in Town Line, NY, during the 1946 vote on whether the town would rejoin the Union. Credit: Wikipedia.

There have been thousands of books and movies produced about the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of eager visitors flock to Civil War battlefields every year, and the nation is in the midst of commemorating the sesquicentennial of this great and tragic conflict that caused more than a million casualties.

A Northern Town Joined the Rebel Cause?!

With all this interest and knowledge, however, few people know this Civil War story: the last Rebel town to rejoin the Union after the Civil War was not south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but was in the Union state of New York.

That Northern town was a tiny hamlet called Town Line, in upstate New York near Buffalo. For reasons no one seems to know anymore, the hamlet’s eligible voters (all 125 of them) met in 1861 and, after an intense debate, voted 85 to 40 to secede from the Union! Apparently the hamlet even sent five men to fight in the Confederate army in Virginia. But as the war dragged on the secessionist fever cooled, and the locals appear to have politely decided to quietly forget about their defiant stance.

However: they never officially rejoined the United States, until the patriotic fever following victory in WWII moved the residents of Town Line to rethink this matter of secession. Their surprising story is explained in this 1945 Oregon newspaper article.

article about the secession of Town Line, NY, from the Union in 1861, Oregonian newspaper article 9 September 1945

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 9 September 1945, page 103

This historical news article’s coverage of Town Line concludes this way:

“In the years that have come between, Town Line has not officially changed its decision. Technically, by choice of its voters in 1861, it is still not a part of the United States. But the folks that live there now feel that it is time for something to be done about it. ‘If our former allies in Mississippi and Georgia feel that the Civil War is over, so do we,’ said a prominent citizen of Town Line the other day.”

A Town Barbecue Brings about Change

Someone from the town sent President Harry Truman a letter about the situation, and he cheerfully wrote back:

“Why don’t you run down the fattest calf in Erie County, barbeque it and serve it with fixin’s in the old blacksmith shop where the ruckus started? Who can tell? The dissidents might decide to resume citizenship.”

Well, they did just that, holding the barbeque in October of 1945—during which they agreed to hold a vote soon on the great matter at hand. Finally, January 1946 was chosen for the vote.

Town Line, NY Rejoins the Union

On 24 January 1946, by a vote of 90 to 23, the last Rebel town of the Civil War officially rejoined the Union.

New York Town [Town Line, NY] Rejoins Union, Greensboro Daily News newspaper article 25 January 1946

Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, North Carolina), 25 January 1946, page 7

The Union was whole at last!

Are you researching your Civil War ancestry? Read more interesting blog articles about the Civil War and follow our Civil War Genealogy Pinterest board.

27 Colonial Newspapers to Trace Your Early American Ancestry

Long-established American families have family trees that stretch back to the Colonial Era in the 17th and 18th centuries, before the United States became an independent country. Finding vital statistics and other genealogical information about these early Colonial ancestors from that time period can be difficult, as some vital records simply were not officially kept before and during the 1700s, or have been destroyed through war, accident or the passage of time.

1754 political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin about the French and Indian War

Illustration: 1754 political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin urging the British Colonies in North America to join together to help the British win the French and Indian War (the segment labeled “N.E.” stands for the four New England colonies). Credit: U.S. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Fortunately, GenealogyBank offers a rich genealogy resource for family historians tracing their family trees back to American Colonial times: an online collection of 27 Colonial newspapers, providing obituaries, birth notices, marriage announcements, and personal stories to get to know your pioneering ancestors and the times they lived in better.

Discover a variety of historical genealogy records and news stories in these 27 Colonial newspapers, listed alphabetically by state and then city. Each historical newspaper title in this list is an active link that will take you directly to that paper’s search page, where you can begin researching for your Colonial ancestry by ancestors’ surnames, dates, keywords and more.

State    City                 Title

CT       New London   Connecticut Gazette (11/18/1763 to 5/29/1844)

CT       New London   New-London Summary (9/29/1758 to 9/23/1763)

GA      Savannah         Georgia Gazette (4/7/1763 to 11/25/1802)

MD      Annapolis        Maryland Gazette (12/3/1728 to 2/16/1832)

MA      Boston             Boston Evening-Post (8/18/1735 to 4/24/1775)

MA      Boston             Boston News-Letter (4/24/1704 to 2/29/1776)

MA      Boston             Boston Post-Boy (4/21/1735 to 4/10/1775)

MA      Boston             New-England Courant (8/7/1721 to 6/25/1726)

MA      Boston             New-England Weekly Journal (3/20/1727 to 10/13/1741)

MA      Boston             Publick Occurrences (9/25/1690)

MA      Boston             Weekly Rehearsal (9/27/1731 to 8/11/1735)

NH      Portsmouth      New-Hampshire Gazette (10/7/1756 to 12/30/1851)

NY      New York       Independent Reflector (11/30/1752 to 11/22/1753)

NY      New York       New-York Evening Post (12/17/1744 to 12/18/1752)

NY      New York       New-York Gazette (2/16/1759 to 10/31/1821)

NY      New York       New-York Gazette, or Weekly Post-Boy (1/19/1747 to 12/31/1770)

NY      New York       New-York Weekly Journal (1/7/1733 to 12/3/1750)

PA       Germantown   Germantowner Zeitung (12/15/1763 to 3/19/1777)

PA       Philadelphia    American Weekly Mercury (12/22/1719 to 5/22/1746)

PA       Philadelphia    Pennsylvania Gazette (12/16/1736 to 12/27/1775)

PA       Philadelphia    Pennsylvania Journal (12/9/1742 to 9/18/1793)

PA       Philadelphia    Pennsylvanische Fama (3/10/1750 to 3/17/1750)

PA       Philadelphia    Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote (1/18/1762 to 5/26/1779)

RI        Newport          Newport Mercury (6/19/1758 to 12/30/1876)

RI        Newport          Rhode-Island Gazette (10/4/1732 to 3/1/1733)

RI        Providence      Providence Gazette (10/20/1762 to 10/8/1825)

VA      Williamsburg   Virginia Gazette (3/18/1736 to 12/30/1780)

Download our printable PDF list of Colonial newspapers for easy access to our historical archives right from your local desktop. Click the newspaper titles to be taken directly to the search landing page for that publication. Just click on the list below to start your download.

Feel free to embed our list of 1700s newspapers on your website or blog using the code below. Simply cut, paste and presto! You can easily share this fantastic collection for early American ancestry research with your visitors.

Got Pilgrim ancestry? Make sure to follow our Pinterest board about Mayflower Genealogy for tips on tracing your Pilgrim ancestry.