How to Find Your Ancestor’s Divorce Records in the Newspaper

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena describes how old newspaper articles about your ancestor’s divorce can provide valuable family history information to help with your genealogical searches.

I am always surprised when people assume life was so much better generations ago. After all, there was no divorce, drunkenness, or crime, right? Well the great thing about newspapers is that they document all of life: the good, the bad and the ugly. And yes, that ugly included events happening in the “good old days.”

Need proof that yesteryear wasn’t so grand all the time? As long as there has been marriage, some couples have regretted the day they said “I do” and looked for ways to sever that tie. One way to examine American divorce statistics is through U.S. census data. The following newspaper article provides statistics for marriages and divorces based on U.S. census data for the years 1887-1906. In that 20-year period there were 12,832,014 marriages and 945,625 divorces.

Startling Divorce Statistics Given by Census Bureau, Morning Olympian newspaper article 22 December 1908

Morning Olympian (Olympia, Washington), 22 December 1908, page 4

Divorces are recorded in several ways in the newspaper, providing useful clues for further genealogy research. Some examples of divorce records that you can find in newspapers include notices to an absent party in the legal advertisements section, short articles about the outcome of a divorce trial along with other court actions, or even a longer article with detailed descriptions of the allegations, the trial, and the outcome.

The following old news article about divorces heard in the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) court makes it obvious that “the divorce business is on the increase” because of some apparent reasons, such as domestic violence and adultery. Consider the treatment of this unhappy woman: “A long story of extreme cruelty was related by Mrs. Caroline Pavlikofsky as a ground for divorce from Gotlieb Pavlikofsky.” It’s reported that in one year of marriage he had “frequently beaten her…drove her out of the house, threw a burning lamp at her, threatened to beat her brains out with a heavy pan, and such things.”

Divorce Grind, Plain Dealer newspaper article 20 May 1893

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 20 May 1893, page 4

A boon to genealogists are the newspaper articles that list the full names of all the parties involved in divorce court cases, including the judge.

20 Divorce Suits Are Dismissed, Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper article 4 February 1908

Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas), 4 February 1908, page 3

Once a genealogy researcher finds mention of their ancestor’s divorce in the newspaper they should then search the Family History Library Catalog or consult with the relevant county’s courthouse to find additional divorce records. If you have never researched court records I recommend studying the book Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures by Christine Rose, as well as The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood.

In some cases you may get much more than just confirmation of your ancestor’s divorce from the newspaper. In the old divorce article example below you also get some additional information and perhaps motives. Historical newspaper articles about divorce cases can also include other important data like marriage date, some possible motivations to marry, and the complaints against the spouse.

Divorce Docket Day, St. Louis Republic newspaper article 25 June 1889

St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, Missouri), 25 June 1889, page 12

Not everyone lived happily ever after. Divorce in your ancestor’s time period was a reality just as it is now. Search newspapers for references throughout your ancestor’s life in your genealogy research and you might be surprised by what you find out about your family history.

How to Use Old Newspapers to Research Family Stories & Photos

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott searches online newspapers to figure out who the companions are that appear with his grandmother in an old family photograph.

Recently my awesome Mom (God bless her as she is 92, still going strong, and loves to help me with our family history) gave me a couple of old family photographs. One was a photo of my paternal grandmother, Ina Cottle Phillips, with the notation on the back “On the Boardwalk with the Wades.” As you can guess, as a genealogist I was off and running trying to discover the “Wade” portion of that note. Who were these companions of my grandmother?

Photo of Ina Cottle Phillips on the Boardwalk with the Wades

Ina Cottle Phillips, seated in the rear, “On the Boardwalk with the Wades.” Photo from the author’s collection.

First, I did what every genealogist should do: ask the elders! I asked my mom, who had a recollection that when my grandmother first arrived as an immigrant in Cleveland, Ohio, she got a job with a Wade family. Ah ha! Next, I reviewed my family tree notes and found that I had a reference, long forgotten, that said my grandmother was the “traveling companion” of one Mrs. Wade of Cleveland. Now this story was getting interesting! I wondered who might, in the early 1900s, have had a “traveling companion.”

Next stop was searching the old newspapers at GenealogyBank.com. It wasn’t long before a fun story began to unveil itself. First I happened across a vast number of references to Wade families in Cleveland, but one in particular stood out. An old newspaper article published in the Cleveland Leader explained that one Wade family gave substantial donations around Cleveland, including a large piece of land for what, still to this day, is known as Wade Park.

The Gifts of the Wades, Cleveland Leader newspaper article 10 May 1902

Cleveland Leader (Cleveland, Ohio), 10 May 1902, page 6

I dug deeper into the historical newspaper archives and soon found a beautiful drawing from the Plain Dealer showing the Wade Memorial Chapel in Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery.

illustration of the Wade Memorial Chapel, Plain Dealer newspaper article 25 December 1898

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 25 December 1898, page 1

Sensing that I might be on to something I started looking for obituaries, and sure enough found an exceptionally informative one in the Chicago Herald that gave quite a biography of Jeptha Wade. The old obituary’s lead was that Mr. Wade was the man who saw the true value in a newfangled device called the telegraph, and started a company known to this day: Western Union. This obituary also tied in Cleveland and Wade Park.

Demise of Jeptha E. Wade, Chicago Herald newspaper article 10 August 1890

Chicago Herald (Chicago, Illinois), 10 August 1890, page 11

Next I sharpened the focus of my genealogy research to include both the Wade and Cottle names and got a hit, but when I opened the newspaper article I was surprised to find that the Cottle was not my grandmother: it was an obituary for her brother George. I learned that he, too, had a connection to the Wade family. The obituary stated that my great uncle George worked for the Wade family in their Wade Realty Company for 35 years. A fun aside was discovering that he was also a gardener for John D. Rockefeller, but that will have to be a different story for a later time!

George B. Cottle, Plain Dealer newspaper article 27 January 1966

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 27 January 1966, page 61

Now the pieces were beginning to fit. Brother George immigrated first and got a job with the Wade family. Could he possibly then have vouched for my grandmother and helped her get a job as traveling companion for Mrs. Wade? Perhaps on one of their trips someone took the old photos of her that I now hold in my hands.

It has been tremendous fun learning about this aspect of my Cottle ancestors and beginning to understand the possible history of those photographs my Mom gave me. Now to finish the task! Thanks to some more genealogy detective work I have located the living descendants of the Wade family and have reached out and asked them if they might review the old photographs. Hopefully, they can identify my grandmother’s companions in the photos—and if I am really, really lucky, they just might.

Now…I wonder if anyone out there needs a “traveling companion” today. I’d sure be happy to apply for the job!

GenealogyBank Is Growing Rapidly!

Every day we add more newspapers to GenealogyBank’s online newspaper archives, updating our coverage for more than 3,000 newspapers.

Rain, snow, it doesn’t matter—we digitize and post daily papers published today across America, as well as newspapers published 300 years ago. Millions of records are added every month to our archives.

We add new titles and expand the date ranges of newspapers already in our collection.

When we add a back run of a newspaper we may not yet have tracked down every issue ever published by that newspaper. However, we digitize and put online all the issues we can find, while continuing to track back issues with the goal of someday getting every possible issue online.

Here is just a partial list of what we have been working on in the past few weeks. I think it will give you a sense of the enormous scale of the service that GenealogyBank is bringing to genealogists online. Notice that we found one more issue of the Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia) and over 1,500 issues of the American & Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, Maryland): as we find back issues we digitize and index them, then put them online.

It’s a great day for genealogy.

Location Newspaper

Issues

Pages

Start

End

Albany, NY Albany Evening Journal

           51

        209

1856-01-29

1875-03-03

Annapolis, MD Maryland Gazette

              6

           25

1824-03-11

1829-01-15

Augusta, GA Augusta Chronicle

              1

              3

1792-01-07

Baltimore, MD American and Commercial Daily Advertiser

    1,518

    6,220

1844-06-10

1853-12-31

Baltimore, MD Baltimore American

              9

        130

1903-04-18

1911-05-03

Bangor, ME Bangor Weekly Register

              1

              5

1831-06-21

Beaumont, TX Beaumont Enterprise

              6

        123

1906-05-04

1910-04-26

Beaumont, TX Beaumont Journal

              1

           28

1910-09-11

Bellows Falls, VT Bellows Falls Gazette

           21

           87

1841-01-30

1851-03-28

Benicia, CA California Gazette

              1

              4

1852-02-07

Bennington, VT Vermont Gazette

              1

              4

1874-09-05

Biddeford, ME Justice de Biddeford

           18

        122

1896-08-06

1905-04-06

Boston, MA American Traveller

           24

           98

1825-07-26

1835-12-29

Boston, MA Boston Courier

              1

              4

1845-05-05

Boston, MA Boston Daily Advertiser

              1

              4

1874-01-22

Boston, MA Boston Herald

              5

           96

1864-04-28

1897-03-14

Boston, MA Boston Post

              6

           24

1858-07-12

1865-09-28

Boston, MA Repertory

              4

           16

1822-01-22

1823-03-15

Boston, MA Weekly Messenger

              4

           19

1829-01-15

1831-03-31

Brattleboro, VT Vermont Phoenix

              1

              4

1866-09-28

Camden, SC Camden Journal

              4

           16

1841-03-24

1841-09-08

Charleston, SC Charleston Courier

              3

           12

1808-01-23

1808-10-24

Charleston, SC Charleston News and Courier

        552

    2,271

1873-03-20

1886-04-10

Charleston, SC South-Carolina State-Gazette

              6

           48

1801-10-22

1801-12-31

Cherry Valley, NY Cherry-Valley Gazette

           42

        191

1821-01-02

1825-07-12

Chillicothe, OH Scioto Gazette

        103

        429

1835-04-29

1837-12-14

Cincinnati, OH Cincinnati Daily Times

        162

        654

1875-11-02

1876-12-30

Columbia, SC South Carolina State Gazette

              4

           17

1823-11-28

1829-02-28

Concord, NH New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette

              2

           12

1879-10-09

1888-04-05

Egg Harbor City, NJ Egg Harbor Pilot

        480

    2,777

1872-08-03

1904-12-24

Emporia, KS Emporia Gazette

        104

        653

1912-06-01

1912-09-30

Exeter, NH Freeman’s Oracle

           25

        140

1786-08-29

1789-08-04

Frankfort, KY Guardian Of Freedom

              5

           22

1798-06-19

1804-05-26

Galveston, TX Galveston Weekly News

              1

              8

1881-10-13

Grand Rapids, MI Grand Rapids Press

           11

        226

1901-02-26

1922-12-07

Hallowell, ME Hallowell Gazette

              2

              9

1860-11-03

1861-04-06

Harrisburg, PA Patriot

           11

        104

1885-02-21

1917-01-16

Harrisburg, PA Unparteyische Harrisburg Morgenroethe Zeitung

        926

    3,794

1799-03-12

1840-11-05

Hartford, CT Connecticut Courant

           79

        326

1851-01-04

1876-12-21

Hartford, CT Connecticut Courant

              6

           24

1842-01-15

1843-09-16

Jackson, MI Jackson Citizen Patriot

              9

        158

1903-10-31

1922-08-02

Jonesboro, AR Jonesboro Daily Tribune

              1

              8

1921-03-02

Jonesboro, AR Jonesboro Evening Sun

              2

           12

1905-12-16

1921-04-23

Lancaster, PA Lancaster Journal

           17

           69

1817-11-03

1817-12-10

Litchfield, CT Litchfield Republican

           11

           44

1855-06-07

1856-06-13

Miami, OK Miami District Daily News

        180

    1,444

1917-09-05

1923-01-12

Morristown, NJ Genius of Liberty

        136

        552

1798-05-31

1801-03-26

Natchez, MS Ariel

              1

              8

1826-09-29

Nebraska City, NB Daily Nebraska Press

              3

           12

1873-12-03

1875-10-27

New Bern, NC North Carolina Sentinel

              7

           28

1827-07-14

1830-10-16

New Haven, CT Columbian Register

           71

        286

1826-02-11

1874-02-21

New Haven, CT Connecticut Herald

              2

              8

1831-06-21

1832-09-04

New Orleans, LA Courrier de la Louisiane

              1

              4

1823-12-08

New Orleans, LA Times-Picayune

              5

        132

1907-03-20

1914-01-23

New York, NY Commercial Advertiser

              4

           16

1843-05-29

1848-12-29

New York, NY Courrier des Etats-Unis

        702

    3,308

1876-07-09

1891-03-31

New York, NY Evening Post

           62

        267

1821-01-02

1874-05-30

New York, NY Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

           71

    1,156

1867-07-13

1869-03-13

New York, NY Morning Telegraph

              1

              8

1872-11-17

New York, NY National Advocate

              9

           36

1822-01-01

1826-08-15

New York, NY New York Herald

              1

           12

1875-08-10

New York, NY New York Herald-Tribune

           51

        514

1874-11-19

1896-05-09

New York, NY Statesman

              2

              8

1824-04-23

1824-06-29

Newark, NJ Centinel Of Freedom

              2

              8

1863-01-13

1869-08-24

Newark, NJ Newark Daily Advertiser

    2,143

    8,729

1850-01-02

1857-12-31

Northampton, MA Hampshire Gazette

        165

        670

1830-03-10

1843-12-26

Norwich, CT Norwich Courier

        448

    1,849

1834-01-08

1876-08-16

Pensacola, FL Pensacola Gazette

              6

           24

1829-11-21

1840-12-19

Philadelphia, PA National Gazette

              2

              8

1831-11-08

1840-11-10

Philadelphia, PA Public Ledger

              4

           16

1859-07-19

1859-11-15

Pittsburg, PA Commonwealth

           33

        135

1805-09-14

1808-03-02

Portland, ME Portland Advertiser

              3

           12

1833-10-22

1834-10-25

Portland, ME Portland Daily Press

           22

           88

1872-02-07

1882-02-09

Portland, OR Daily Oregon Herald

           23

           92

1871-02-12

1872-10-09

Providence, RI Manufacturers’ and Farmers’ Journal

              2

           12

1869-01-28

1869-05-13

Richmond, VA Richmond Times Dispatch

              1

           50

1921-07-10

Richmond, VA Richmond Whig

              3

           17

1864-06-21

1872-06-07

Richmond, VA Virginia Patriot

              2

              8

1815-06-14

1815-10-25

Salem, MA Salem Observer

        784

    3,204

1824-01-03

1874-01-10

Salem, MA Salem Register

              6

           24

1853-11-07

1873-03-10

Salem, NJ Salem Standard and Jerseyman

              6

           24

1821-10-10

1829-03-11

Salt Lake City, UT Salt Lake Telegram

        752

    8,358

1902-01-30

1922-01-29

San Francisco, CA Weekly Pacific News

              2

              8

1850-03-01

1851-02-01

Saratoga Springs, NY Saratoga Sentinel

              1

              5

1829-01-27

Savannah, GA Georgian

              1

              4

1822-05-04

Schenectady, NY Cabinet

              8

           32

1818-09-23

1819-12-01

St. Albans, VT St. Albans Advertiser

              1

              4

1875-08-03

St. Albans, VT St. Albans Daily Messenger

           44

        346

1879-07-19

1922-05-31

St. Albans, VT St. Albans Messenger

              3

           16

1848-01-26

1891-11-12

St. Augustine, FL Florida Herald and Southern Democrat

              7

           28

1829-07-15

1839-05-09

Steubenville, OH Steubenville Herald

              2

              8

1816-06-21

1817-07-04

Trenton, NJ Trenton Evening Times

        136

    3,350

1902-06-22

1922-12-31

Trenton, NJ True American

              1

              4

1808-12-12

Tulsa, OK Tulsa World

              1

           20

1922-05-17

Utica, NY Columbian Gazette

              4

           16

1807-08-18

1811-05-14

Washington, DC Washington Sentinel

        101

        431

1853-10-02

1854-02-09

Washington, PA Washington Reporter

              4

           16

1847-05-01

1863-05-27

Washington, PA Washington Review and Examiner

              1

              4

1853-09-17

Waterford, NY Waterford Gazette

              2

              8

1804-04-03

1804-04-24

West Springfield, MA American Intelligencer

           13

           52

1796-05-10

1797-06-27

Wilmington, DE Delaware and Eastern-Shore Advertiser

              1

              4

1795-04-25

Wilmington, DE Mirror of the Times, and General Advertiser

              2

              8

1800-02-05

1800-02-08

Worcester, MA National Aegis

              1

           16

1873-08-23

GenealogyBank Search Tip: Search U.S. Newspapers by City or State

Want to search the local newspapers from only one state, city or town? It is easy to do that in GenealogyBank.

GenealogyBank's list of U.S. states for selecting newspapers to be searched

GenealogyBank’s list of U.S. states for selecting newspapers to be searched

In the middle of GenealogyBank’s homepage is a list of all 50 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia. Simply pick the state you want to focus your genealogy research on.

In this example I will use Ohio. Once I click on the Ohio link, it brings me to a page listing all 131 Ohio newspapers currently in our online archives. The newspapers are divided into two main collections: Newspaper Archives and Recent Obituaries.

GenealogyBank landing page to access its 131 Ohio newspapers

GenealogyBank landing page to access its 131 Ohio newspapers

Click on the top link, Search Ohio Newspaper Archives (1801 – 1991), to search all of the back issues of our Ohio digital newspaper archives.

search form for GenealogyBank's Ohio newspaper archives

Search form for GenealogyBank’s Ohio newspaper archives

Use these search forms from the U.S. state newspaper archives to search newspapers from only the specific state you are researching your family history in.

Want to search newspapers at the city or town level?

That type of local newspaper search is also easy to do in GenealogyBank. Each state search page lists all the cities and towns in that state for which we have newspapers.

Simply click on the name of the city or town. In this example I will pick Cincinnati, OH.

search form for GenealogyBank's Cincinnati newspaper archives

Search form for GenealogyBank’s Cincinnati newspaper archives

Now you may search all of Cincinnati’s local newspapers as a group, or check the boxes to search only the newspapers that you select.

Use this approach to narrow down your search geographically when there is a specific state, city or town where you want to concentrate your genealogy research.

 

Got Burnout? Go Play in a Genealogy ‘Playground’

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott explains what he does to refresh himself when experiencing genealogy burnout after hitting a brick wall in his family history research.

One of the most common concerns I hear from genealogists is burnout. It can happen to anyone, especially after a difficult period of hitting a “brick wall” in your family history research. This got me to thinking about what I did at times in my life when I felt a case of burnout coming on. Most frequently, I recalled, it seemed to attack me in elementary school…almost every day, in fact. Then I remembered recess and the playground!

When I was a youngster in school, recess was my favorite time of day—next to dismissal when the school day ended. At recess I’d race to the playground just to see what was exciting, what was new, who was there, and what fun I could have. I’d come back in for the afternoon refreshed and ready for schoolwork again.

For me, GenealogyBank.com sometimes functions as my “Genealogy Playground.” In addition to being one of my primary “Go To” genealogy resources, it is also the place I love to go just to see what I can find, learn, have fun with, and almost always discover something to add to my family tree. Plus, the knowledge of history that I gain from GenealogyBank’s large newspaper archive helps me better understand the times and world of my ancestors.

In just half an hour of genealogy play time, I can find some great stuff! In my most recent case of “30-minute recess” I found fascinating articles simply by searching on the terms “immigration statistics,” “Berea, Ohio,” and “WPA Writers’ Project.”

In my first search I discovered some interesting statistics on immigration from the fiscal year ending June 30, 1896.

Italy Heads the List, Emporia Gazette newspaper article 18 July 1896

Emporia Gazette (Emporia, Kansas), 18 July 1896, page 1

This historical newspaper article listed the countries of origin and the numbers of immigrants to the United States from each country. I was surprised to learn that Italy was first in total number of immigrants that year, and found it enlightening that from the total number of hopeful immigrants, over 3,000 were rejected for being “paupers,” “convicts and laborers,” “idiots,” “insane,” and/or “diseased.”

Then I came across a fun historical gem about my own hometown. I always knew that Berea, Ohio, was called “The Grindstone City,” but I knew next to nothing beyond the fact that as a boy I enjoyed swimming in the abandoned quarries that had filled with water.

Letter from Berea, Ohio, Cincinnati Daily Gazette newspaper article 2 June 1869

Cincinnati Daily Gazette (Cincinnati, Ohio), 2 June 1869, page 1

This old news article explained to me the whole business of quarrying, making, and marketing the famous Berea Grindstones.

Since I am a fan of, and interested in, the Works Public Administration (WPA) and especially its Writers’ Project, I conducted that search in the archives next. I am fascinated as a genealogist and family historian that this project employed some incredible writers and also created significant and priceless Americana. With a quick online search I found (among the more than 350 newspaper articles) an interesting story.

Schools Carry Out WPA Writers' Project, Oregonian newspaper article 3 May 1936

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 3 May 1936, page 3

This historical news article intrigued me as it explained that a teacher, in partnership with the WPA Writers’ Project and its United States Guides series, created a school history project. The old article states: “Pupils of these schools collected information relative to local Indians, pioneer characters and incidents, and buildings and sites of historical interest.” How I would love to read those stories about those Indians and pioneers! I bet they held some priceless insights and information, especially from the perspective of youngsters.

So, in spending just half an hour playing in GenealogyBank I had some great experiences, was refreshed, and gained some great knowledge.

My advice for genealogists experiencing burnout? Don’t forget how fun and invigorating recess can be!

Recent Obituaries Coming Online for 25 Newspapers!

GenealogyBank is constantly expanding, putting more newspaper records online to help with your family history research.

screenshot of GenealogyBank home page showing link to obituaries search form

Screenshot of GenealogyBank home page showing link to obituaries search form

Over the next week we will be adding more coverage from 11 states, with 25 titles ranging from Alaska to Florida, adding these newspapers to our Recent Obituaries collection. Michigan will expand by a whopping 8 new newspaper titles and Pennsylvania by 6 titles, significantly increasing our obituary coverage for genealogy researchers exploring their ancestry in the U.S. Midwest and Northeast. Here are the details of our recent obituaries additions:

Cordova Times (Cordova, AK)

  • Obituaries:  04/27/2011 – Current

Juneau Empire (Juneau, AK)

  • Death Notices:  03/03/2011 – Current

St. Augustine Record (St. Augustine, FL)

  • Death Notices:  02/16/2002 – Current

Chicago Journal (Chicago, IL)

  • Obituaries:  09/30/2009 – Current

South Bend Tribune (South Bend, IN)

  • Obituaries: 1/1/1994 – 1/1/2006

AnnArbor.com (Ann Arbor, MI)

  • Death Notices:  08/05/2012 – Current

Bay City Times (Bay City, MI)

  • Death Notices:  7/17/2007 – 1/31/2012; 8/10/2012 – Current

Flint Journal (Flint, MI)

  • Death Notices:  9/5/2007 – 1/31/2012; 8/5/2012 – Current

Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, MI)

  • Death Notices:  5/12/2010 – 2/1/2012; 8/2/2012 – Current

Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, MI)

  • Death Notices:  9/11/2007 – 2/1/2012; 8/5/2012 – Current

Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, MI)

  • Death Notices:  08/05/2012 – Current

Muskegon Chronicle (Muskegon, MI)

  • Death Notices:  08/07/2012 – Current

Saginaw News (Saginaw, MI)

  • Death Notices:  7/30/2007 – 1/31/2012; 8/8/2012 – Current

Columbus Packet (Columbus, MS)

  • Obituaries:  12/12/2010 – Current

Citizen (Auburn, NY)

  • Obituaries:  07/09/2002 – Current

Daily Reporter (Columbus, OH)

  • Obituaries:  01/09/2002 – Current

Bridgeville Area News (Monroeville, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/06/2012 – Current

Murrysville Star (Monroeville, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/20/2012 – Current

Norwin Star (Monroeville, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/20/2012 – Current

Penn Trafford Star (Monroeville, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/13/2012 – Current

Sewickley Herald (Sewickley, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/13/2012 – Current

Signal Item (Carnegie, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/19/2012 – Current

Valley Voice (Hellertown, PA)

  • Obituaries:  07/13/2012 – Current

Uintah Basin Standard (Roosevelt, UT)

  • Death Notices:  04/03/2009 – Current

Bainbridge Islander (Bainbridge Island, WA)

  • Obituaries:  11/11/2006 – Current

Want to Get the Younger Generation into Genealogy? Pass Down Your Old Family Stories

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott tells how he got his grandsons interested in genealogy by enhancing his family stories with articles from old newspapers.

When I was growing up, I was blessed to be in a family that told lots of stories. Looking back, I believe that this storytelling is one of the key reasons I became intrigued with genealogy later in my life. As a young boy, I was frequently being regaled with stories by one family member or another. The stories often involved growing up in “the old country,” sometimes about how much life had changed. Many were family stories that, while based in truth, were often embellished with more than a bit of exaggeration.

I recall very well my Aunt Gladys telling stories of the trouble she constantly found herself in due to the schemes hatched by my mother, and the story of the eye in the back of her head. There was my grandfather telling stories about being a “lad” in Cornwall.  Then there was my Uncle Jim—family storyteller extraordinaire! He was always willing to tell his stories about his time fighting in three wars as a member of the United States Navy, getting marooned on a deserted South Seas island, his various tattoos, or how he was chosen to accompany the giant telescope mirrors manufactured by Warner and Swasey Company from Cleveland all across America on the railroads.

Years later it came as no surprise to me that, as my children were growing up, I took on the role of family storyteller.

Just a week ago, I found myself sitting with my grandchildren and wondering how I could “talk some genealogy” with them. They were visiting us from their home that happens to be practically in the shadow of Disney World, Epcot, etc. It now seems so simple, but at the time it struck me like a bolt of lightning: I should be telling them our family stories! So I began by telling my grandsons all about my favorite amusement park. It was named Euclid Beach Park, located in Cleveland, Ohio, and as a kid it was heaven-on-earth to me.

photo of the author's grandmother and family having a picnic at Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland, Ohio

Scott Phillips’s grandmother Ina and some of her family having a picnic at Euclid Beach Park, date uncertain. Family photo is from the author’s collection.

Going to Euclid Beach Park for family gatherings was clearly the most special event of my year! We’d make a day of it from opening to well after dark, complete with a picnic lunch of my Cornish grandmother’s famous pasty and sausage rolls. As I wove the story, I could tell my grandsons were having a hard time buying into my excitement about what a special place Euclid Beach was. So what could I do?

I grabbed my iPad and off we clicked to GenealogyBank.com to see what I could show the boys about Euclid Beach Park. By the time I was done, everyone in the house was clustered around my grandsons and me. They were all rapt and enjoying the journey back in time, complete with my family stories to enhance them. Yep, the newspaper articles I found were that good.

I was overjoyed to see three generations enjoying what got me excited about genealogy so many decades before: family stories, but this time vastly improved through technology and GenealogyBank.com.

As I clicked, the first story—in a cache of hundreds—was about the season opener of the park in 1905, the crowds that attended, and what a significant event this was.

Euclid Beach Park Opened, Plain Dealer newspaper article 28 May 1905

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 28 May 1905, page 6

Plus, since it is true that “boys will be boys,” my grandsons were especially enjoying the “action” stories I soon found and read to them about famed naval aviation pioneer Glenn H. Curtiss’s attempt to set a naval aviation record from Euclid Beach Park, a trapeze artist falling to his death from an aerial balloon, and ferry boats smashing into one another.

Steamers Crash Together in River, Plain Dealer newspaper article 17 June 1901

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 17 June 1901, page 1

Then even I got excited! I found an old article that showed, nice and close up, my very favorite (still to this day) amusement park ride in the world, “The Flying Turns.” The historical newspaper article was complete, showing younger riders in all stages of happiness as they rode this amazing ride, which was a rollercoaster set inside 2/3s of a wooden tube with no rails! Centrifugal force took care of keeping you inside and it was quite the ride.

Crazy Days of Summer, Plain Dealer newspaper article 26 July 1964

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 26 July 1964, page 107

I was so happy! With just a few easy clicks there we were and Euclid Beach was staying alive for another generation of the Phillips family. Even better, my grandsons were enjoying genealogy without even realizing it. Sometimes stories passed down from generation to generation can be the best!

GenealogyBank Has More Newspapers Going Online in October

In October, GenealogyBank will be adding nearly 176,000 pages of digital newsprint to its archives from seven U.S. states: Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.

That’s 3,619 issues from these eight newspapers, spanning 1920 to 1987.

State City Newspaper

Issues

Pages

Start

End

Louisiana Baton Rouge State Times Advocate

18

1,037

7/19/1944

5/31/1970

Massachusetts Boston Boston Herald

1,073

82,291

11/16/1957

10/4/1983

Nebraska Omaha Omaha World Herald

1

39

10/2/1981

10/2/1981

North Carolina Greensboro Greensboro Daily News

1,769

37,159

1/13/1923

2/28/1936

North Carolina Greensboro Greensboro News and Record

212

21,596

10/4/1984

11/9/1987

Ohio Cincinnati Cincinnati Post

1

16

1/22/1920

1/22/1920

Tennessee Memphis Commercial Appeal

235

16,455

4/3/1968

12/14/1969

Virginia Richmond Richmond Times Dispatch

310

17,336

10/2/1952

6/30/1968

Totals

3,619

175,929

GenealogyBank makes it easy to search 1.3 billion genealogy records online.

 

Sinking of the ‘Athenia’: Mythical Family Survival Story Proves to Be Reality

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott tells how old newspaper articles confirmed his uncle’s incredible WWII survival story—a tale that Scott, as a boy, used to question.

One of the first precepts of genealogy that my mentor (Ginger Simek, president of the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International) taught me, was to always work hard to find out if the family stories I had heard over the years were mythology or, in fact, reality. Mythology may be fun and exciting, but genealogy is all about reality and the truth as we can document it. Recently, I found myself employing this rule.

I have to say that I was basically blessed with a great childhood. However, I have always found myself harboring a serious regret—one that, as a genealogist and our family’s historian, continues to haunt me to this day. This regret is that I never listened closely enough to far too many family stories when they were proffered to me by my elder family members.

However, just a short time ago I found hope for abolishing, at least in part, this regrettable behavior of my youth. Here’s the story.

photo of the Edwin and Margaret Cottle family taken in Launceston, Cornwall

Only known photograph of the whole Edwin and Margaret Cottle family, taken in Launceston, Cornwall, on a date unknown. The author’s Uncle George Bellemy Cottle, the subject of this blog post, is the fourth from the left in back, sporting the black tie. Family photo from the author’s collection.

As a child, I found that by pleading with my Uncle George Cottle using my best smile, my saddest eyes, and/or my finest “please,” he could be coaxed into telling the story of when he and his wife were on a ship that was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in the Atlantic Ocean, and how they barely escaped with their lives. The trouble is I was always focusing on the submarine part (to this day I still love submarines) and not listening closely for the details of this amazing survival story, such as which ship they were on, when they sailed, where they were going, why, etc.

When I began researching the life and times of my Uncle George for our family tree, I decided I needed to find out if “the torpedo story,” as we all called it, was true or simply a family myth. Naturally, I found myself searching GenealogyBank.com for help.

Using the search terms Cottle, torpedo, ship, and a few others I found that good old Uncle George was indeed telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! I found the ship’s name was the Athenia. Upon adding this name to the search terms, BINGO, I found myself reading about the sinking of the Athenia in over 300 newspapers from the Heraldo de Brownsville published in Spanish in Brownsville, Texas, to the Oregonian published in Portland, Oregon, and from the San Diego Union published in San Diego, California, to the Greensboro Record, published in Greensboro, North Carolina. I was also learning that the 1,347 passengers and crew were bound from the United Kingdom to New York in September 1939.

I found myself being entranced by the newspaper articles about the sinking of the S.S. Athenia in WWII, such as one in the Richmond Times Dispatch that reported the attempts by Nazi propaganda minister, Paul Josef Goebbels, to smear British Prime Minister Winston Churchill over the event.

Goebbels Charges Churchill Sank Athenia, Challenges Britisher to Reveal the Truth, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 23 October 1939

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 23 October 1939, page 8

As I began honing in on Cleveland, Ohio, George’s home, I found a truly fantastic set of newspaper articles in the Plain Dealer from that city.

There I was looking at an old photo showing Uncle George and his wife Laura in a lifeboat on their rescue vessel, the Knute Nelson.

photo of George and Laura Cottle being rescued after the sinking of the Athenia, Plain Dealer newspaper article 11 September 1939

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 11 September 1939, page 20

This old photo brought a flood of family memories, and suddenly I was hearing my Uncle’s voice again as he related how he and Aunt Laura, after donning their lifejackets several decks below, headed up to their assigned lifeboat—where they were shoved out of the way by others clambering to get into any lifeboat they could to survive the attack. My Aunt and Uncle moved on to luckily find another lifeboat, the last one to leave the Athenia. They then spent more than seven hours at sea in their leaking lifeboat before their ordeal ended. As they were being rescued, they were horrified to see their originally-assigned lifeboat pulled into the propellers of the Knute Nelson and destroyed with a significant loss of life.

Here is Uncle George’s obituary. Notice that it mentions the sinking of the Athenia.

obituary for George B. Cottle, Plain Dealer newspaper article 27 January 1966

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 27 January 1966, page 61

In my memory, I can still hear my Uncle George telling his survival story of the sinking of the Athenia, and it makes me smile. He would always end this story by remarking “it was the first time in 28 years I went on the ocean, and I am not going again”—although he actually used a bit more colorful language!

She’s Been Workin’ on the Railroad! Researching Railway Records

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott discovers his centenarian cousin once worked for the U.S. Railway Mail Service—and delves into some railroad history.

As a genealogical historian, one of the aspects of family history I love the most is discovering something new about an ancestor. Then I can take some time off from working on my family tree and spend it learning about this new aspect, or area, that I have uncovered. So it was recently as I found myself once again working on my Bohemian (Czech) ancestors in Ohio.

This time I was delving into one of my first cousins, twice removed, Theresa (Sluka) Armstrong. I was reading her obituary in GenealogyBank.com and among all the other tidbits of great information I was finding, I came upon the statement that she was a retiree of the United States Railway Mail Service.

As you can see by reading my cousin’s obituary, Theresa was 100 years old when she passed away. She must have loved the city as she was the wife of a Cleveland policeman and the sister of Frank and Albert Sluka, who were also both Cleveland policemen. (You can read about the tragic murder of Albert Sluka in my previous GenealogyBank.com blog article found at http://blog.genealogybank.com/author/scottphillips.)

obituary for Theresa Sluka Armstrong, Plain Dealer newspaper 19 February 1991

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 19 February 1991, page 11

The more I thought about it, the more intriguing this organization called the United States Railway Mail Service became to me. Additionally, I found it quite interesting that my female cousin worked for them. Having never heard of it before, I began investigating her occupational history with the railroad almost before I realized it.

Still on GenealogyBank.com, I began searching on “U.S. Railway Mail Service” and was instantly treated to amazing railroad background and historical information.

Unbeknownst to me, in about 1863, the United States Postal Service began outfitting and utilizing specially-designed railway cars to accommodate the collecting, sorting, and distributing of mail aboard railroad trains as they traversed across the United States as an integral part of the early postal system. This efficient railway system was even designed so that at many locations, usually smaller, rural towns where the train did not stop, mail pouches were hung by the railroad tracks where a special “arm” attached to the train would snag the bag while moving. Then the postal clerks on board would retrieve the pouches, open their locks, and sort and process the mail as the train roared along. The train never slowed down or missed a beat!

Quickly I was treating myself to multiple stories about the development, history, and operations of the United States Railway Mail Service. One of my early favorite stories was from an 1891 newspaper article that not only explained the functioning and design of this delivery service, but even contained a drawing of what the mail pouch pick-up looked like.

Mail on the Rail, Plain Dealer newspaper article 25 October 1891

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 25 October 1891, page 13

Then I really found myself hitting pay dirt with a 1909 newspaper article from North Dakota. This historical article is an entire page of the newspaper explaining in detail the U.S. Railway Mail Service and containing six extraordinary photographs of the working areas of these specialized train cars. It even contains the names of the postal clerks working that run. Lists of employee names are always a treat for genealogists and family historians!

U.S. Railway Mail Service in North Dakota, Grand Forks Herald newspaper article 24 January 1909

Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 24 January 1909, page 16

I am now engaging in a full pursuit of finding the employment and pension records for my cousin, which for the U.S. Railway Mail Service are held at the Civilian Personnel Records Department of the National Personnel Records Center, housed at the National Archives and Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

I am keen on discovering more about the employment history of my centenarian cousin and finding out if her working career involved actually “riding the rails” or staying on the solid ground at the station in Cleveland.