I am not finding my great-grandfather, what do I do now?

The steady flow of newspapers, records and documents going online on GenealogyBank gives family historians a lot to search and comb through.

These newspapers and documents were published over the past 3 centuries – so sometimes it takes a little detective work to find our ancestors.

Here are a few tips:
1. First search for the person by name. Put in the person’s last name and first name. Examine the results and see if you are able to quickly spot your relative. I had a person write me and ask why he couldn’t find his relative Gayla Marie Jackson. By repeating the search & using only the first name: Gayla and last name: Jackson – her obituary came right up. TIP: Limit your search to only the first name and the surname.

2. If you don’t find a person after the first or second attempt – step back and search on just the surname and slowly add additional facts.
I recently helped a person with the surname: Suárez.
Clearly that is a common surname and will produce too many hits – over 27,000 articles and records. So repeat the search and limit by the year of death. I did that for Suárez 1934 and was able to quickly spot his relatives. Funeral del joven Ricardo Suárez – Prensa (TX) 25 Aug 1940.

We have very few genealogists that write us saying that they cannot find their relatives but we are here to help. If you’re not finding your relatives – alert me right away at: gbfeedback@genealogybank.com. Let me see what I can do to help you uncover your relatives and document your family tree.

We want you to have success in documenting your family and wish you all the best in using GenealogyBank.
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I can’t find my ancestor – what am I doing wrong?

For most searches on GenealogyBank it is easy to find your ancestor. You type in their name and in an instant you spot them in the search results list.

So - what do you do when your ancestor’s name doesn’t come right up in the search hits?
Just like any other genealogical resource you need to step back and see what your options are and try various ways to search on the site.

Consider your search strategy.
1. Sometimes less is more.
Be careful how you type in your ancestor’s name.
His full name might have been: Willard Jacob Teskey …. but the newspaper article may have simply called him:

Willard Teskey
Willard J. Teskey
W.J. Teskey
Bill Teskey
or only: Teskey

Try typing in variations of the person’s name.
I have found that typing in only the surname can quickly get you the best results.

Tip: You almost never want to type in a person’s “middle” name. Newspapers rarely use a person’s full name.

Be Careful How You Limit Your Search
It is tempting to limit your search to only one state or even to one newspaper. That can often be the most appropriate search strategy. However, if your searches did not locate the obituary or article about your ancestor – try your search again and this time do not limit your search geographically.

If that produces too many hits – then repeat your search and limit it by the likely starting and ending years when your ancestor. Be sure add a few years in both directions so you will bring up the most possible hits.

Tip: Newspapers often published brief biographies and articles years after a person died. So be careful how you limit your search or you might miss the articles you are looking for.

GenealogyBank brings together newspapers, books, reports and documents from over 300 years. During that time printers had access to varying qualities of newsprint; pieces of type and printing presses.

1. Newspapers have been printed on newsprint paper of varying quality. Some are smooth and some pages are rough.

2. Printers had only so many pieces of type and the newspaper had a deadline. It would be easy when they set the type for the day’s newspaper to swap in an “m” for a “w” or switch a “d” and a “p” or a “1″ and a “l”. The reader in 1843 would hardly notice the difference. But a modern computer might struggle to interpret each word if the piece of type was a different letter or had been damaged.

Let me give you a similar example that has circulated on the Internet for years:

Cna yuo raed tihs?
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotui t a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

This is an extreme example that shows the problems that computers have reading the old newspapers and documents. Individuals reading an old newspaper quickly adjust to the look, feel of the newspaper and learn how to read it. GenealogyBank has been working on these issues for years and improved and enhanced our OCR capability.

GenealogyBank uses state of the art OCR software and we have teams of indexers that review and tag each item – focusing on names, obituaries, births, marriages and other data of high importance to genealogists.

3. Still can’t find your ancestor? Then, its time to dig in and search the target newspapers, page by page. GenealogyBank makes it easy to bookmark a specific newspaper, combination of newspapers or locations. You could then go through the newspapers – month by month – clicking from page to page to quicly see if your ancestors were mentioned.

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Joel Munsell – a genealogist & publisher who went to jail to protect his sources

Joel Munsell was an active genealogist, publisher, printer and journalist. He’s always been one of my “heroes” for his legendary contributions to genealogy and local history. (Photo – Munselle’s Picassa Gallery)

I was looking on GenealogyBank and found his marriage to Jane Caroline Bigelow (1812-1854)

17 June 1834 Independent Inquirer 28 Jun 1834

And here is his obituary - (New York Herald – 17 Jan 1880).

Look at this article from the New York Herald – 28 Feb 1845.

Munsell published a small pamphlet in 1845 – Pulpit Sketches, or Dreams of a Pew Holder. The author was not identified. The pamphlet by innuendo subjected prominent citizens to “libelous ridicule”.

Real controversy erupted and following a Grand Jury Munsell was found in contempt and had a “choice to pay two hundred and fifty dollars or stand the imprisonment” …. all for not revealing the author’s name. He went to jail.

This case is held up as one of the early cases where journalists went to jail rather than reveal their sources.

But dig a little deeper.

This pamphlet was pointed and barbed – on page 27 the new chapter compares “Rev Dr. J.N.C. to “Judas Iscariot”. Tough stuff.

Who was the Rev. Dr. J.N.C.? Why attack him?

As in our day when the President’s team had moral problems they called on the minister’s of the day to resolve the issue. In Andrew Jackson’s day his cabinet was deeply involved with a scandal involving Peggy Eaton – that drove cabinet members to resign.

The President called on the Rev. John Nicholson Campbell (1798-1864) to examine the situation and counsel with the parties involved. Read the details here in the San Jose Mercury 3 May 1903.

Those actions in 1831 resulted in Munsell’s pamphlet in 1845.

But, who was the author?

Librarians and historians have concluded that the author was Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1937). So it was a 13 year old boy who wrote this pamphlet attacking the most learned and respected clergy of his day.

My question is: Did Joel Munsell refuse to say who the author was from journalistic zeal to protect his sources or because his source was a 13 year old boy? Or – was someone else the author of that pamphlet?

Write me and tell me what you think.

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Most times I’m looking for just an obituary notice. How do I limit my search to just those articles?

Yes – you can do that on GenealogyBank.

Step 1. Start your search. For example let’s say your are researching the surname: Clapper. Press Search

Step 2. Limit your search results to: Obituaries. Click on the blue highlighted category: Obituary.

Your results will then be limited to only the obituaries for the name that you are searching.

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Obituaries – Routinely Published in Government Reports & Documents

Get the most out of GenealogyBank!


The annual reports of the Department of the Interior are in
GenealogyBank. They were published annually as part of the US Serial Set.

I didn’t know that was in GenealogyBank!

What the Commissioner of Education did was publish the obituaries of teachers and educators at all levels. See this example of the obituary of Jeremiah Root Barnes (1809-1901).


What did we learn from this obituary?
Full Name: Jeremiah Root Barnes
Date/Place of Death: 1 Jan 1901 – Marietta, Ohio
Date/Place of Birth: 9 March 1809 – Southington, CT
Education: Yale College, 1834; Yale Theological Seminary – 2 years; Honorary Degree – Yale (1892).
Career: Pastor: Evansville, IN; Salem, IN; Piqua, OH; young ladies seminary (1850) suburbs of Cincinnati; founder of Carleton College in Northfield, MN; publisher of: Western Magazine
Military: Civil War – in the Freedmen’s Bureau 1861-1865.

Tip: Obituaries were published not only in newspapers but also in government documents and reports.
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This example is from: Annual reports of the Department of the Interior for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1902. Report of the Commissioner of Education. Volume 1. Date: 1903-01-01; Publication: Serial Set Vol. No. 4464, Session Vol. No.25; Report: H.Doc. 5 pt. 5.1

Cincinnati Volksfreund, 1863-1904, now online – early Ohio German language newspaper

GenealogyBank adds Cincinnati Volksfreund (1863 -1904) an early Ohio German language newspaper.

Click here to Start searching Cincinnati Volksfreund

An Obituary from the Cincinnati Volksfreund – 9 July 1890.

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African American Funeral Program Collection Online

Hat’s off to the: East Central Georgia Regional Library. They have put their African American Funeral Program Collection online.

This impressive collection has more than 1,000 funeral programs from the greater Augusta, Georgia area. They date from 1933 to 2008, with the bulk of the collection starting from 1960 to 2008.

According to the website:

The programs typically contain a photograph of the deceased, an obituary, a list of surviving relatives, and the order of service. The collection provides extensive genealogical information about the deceased, including birth and death dates, maiden names, names of relatives, past residences, and place of burial. Alongside this genealogical information, the obituaries provide a rich source of local history about African Americans. Many of the people included in this collection were prominent in their communities, and many were involved locally in the struggle for civil rights.

The African American Funeral Programs from the East Central Georgia Regional Library is a project of the Digital Library of Georgia in association with the East Central Georgia Regional Library as part of Georgia HomePLACE. The project is supported with federal LSTA funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Georgia Public Library Service, a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.
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Funerals

I attended a funeral today for an old family friend that we have known for over 44 years, Axel Ohrn. Seeing people I have not seen in decades Axel’s funeral was a reunion as family and friends gathered from around the state of Connecticut to remember and honor him. He was 98 years old.


Newspapers over the past three centuries routinely carry obituaries and death notices that alert us that a person has died. They also routinely carry news accounts of the funerals themselves. GenealogyBank has more than 130 million obituaries, death notices, published funeral news accounts and sermons.
Here are some examples from the 29 May 1905 Montgomery (AL) Advertiser.





In the 1700s and 1800s it was common for families to print a copy of the funeral sermon as a keepsake and remembrance of the deceased.

GenealogyBank has many funeral sermons online like this one printed in 1804 on the death of Jonathan Homer, Jr. (1783-1804).
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Daily New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM) newspaper 1871-1887

GenealogyBank has added the Daily New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM) 1871-1887.

GenealogyBank has over 3,800 newspapers from all 50 States, going from 1690 to Today.

Search the Daily New Mexican for specific obituaries, marriage or birth announcements as well as news articles of the day.
I used to live in New Mexico and was interested to see the details avialable in the newspaper.

This obituary for Gentry Floyd caught my attention. The 1870 Census listed a “John” Floyd – living in Tierra Amarilla, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. It gives his age as 80 and states that he was born in Kentucky. (FamilySearchLabs.org)

This could be our “Gentry” Floyd. His obituary gives more details of his life and death.

That he was born in 1798 in Christian County, Kentucky; joined the Christian Church and was baptized by Alexander Campbell who founded that church. That he taught school at the Indian Pueblo.

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GenealogyBank adds Dutchess Observer (Poughkeepsie, NY) Newspaper

GenealogyBank has added the Dutchess Observer – 1816-1821 – an historical newspaper published in Poughkeepsie, NY.

This early American newspaper includes local news, obituaries and birth announcements.


Find and document your ancestors in GenealogyBank – the best source for old newspapers on the planet.

Period!