Major Historical Fires in the U.S.—Save Your Genealogy!

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this blog post, Scott searches old newspapers to learn more about some of the major fires in our country’s history—including one he and his family lived through—and reminds genealogists how important it is to make copies of your family history research so that a natural disaster doesn’t destroy years of work.

Fire, fire, fire raging all about. Who’ll call the fireman to put the fire out?
—first line of a children’s song

If you grew up in the 1950s you may well recall this song. Details of the author, full lyrics, etc., seem to be lost to time, but after reading about a fire recently in the newspaper I began to research fires and their possible effect on our genealogy and family history work.

Iillustration of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, by John R. Chapin, originally printed in Harper’s Weekly, showing people running for their lives over the Randolph Street Bridge

Illustration: the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, by John R. Chapin, originally printed in Harper’s Weekly, showing people running for their lives over the Randolph Street Bridge. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Personally, I remember all too well the fire that ravaged my in-laws’ home. Although the house was saved the damage was extensive, and many heirlooms, pictures, etc., were lost forever as a result. It was a good lesson that taught me: genealogists should back up all their family history work and keep a copy of that backup somewhere other than in their home, unless they have a fireproof vault!

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Great Chicago Fire of 1871

It is hard to look at famous fires throughout U.S. history and not begin with the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. One of the more detailed articles I discovered in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives was from this 1871 Massachusetts newspaper. This detailed news story covers almost a full page and reports: “…over 10,000 buildings are in ruins. The fire is still raging…” The article also reports that no one was spared, from “the dwellings of the mass of the German population of the city” to “some of the oldest and best residences of the city.” More than 100,000 people were left homeless by the two-day inferno. Finally on the second night a heavy rain did what the fire fighters—whose water supply had been cut off by the blaze—could not. The rain put the Great Chicago Fire out, but not before more than 17,000 buildings were destroyed at an estimated loss of over $200 million in property—in 1871 dollars!

article about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, National Aegis newspaper article 14 October 1871

National Aegis (Worcester, Massachusetts), 14 October 1871, page 1

San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906

It was in the early morning hours of 18 April 1906 when the earth rumbled, heaved, and shook terribly beneath the city of San Francisco. I found details in this 1906 Arkansas newspaper. As I read this article, I was struck by the fact that while I certainly recalled learning about the San Francisco earthquake in history class, I was not aware that fire raged across the city for three days afterward and actually caused most of the damage. Broken water mains prevented firemen from dousing the flames, and allowed the fire to move unhindered—eventually consuming over four square miles of the city. The earthquake and fire resulted in more than 3,000 deaths, left some 225,000 people homeless, and destroyed 28,000 buildings.

article about the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906, Jonesboro Evening Sun newspaper article 18 April 1906

Jonesboro Evening Sun (Jonesboro, Arkansas), 18 April 1906, page 1

As I researched the news about this famous fire more, I found a very interesting article published in a 1907 Michigan newspaper. While the headline writers make it seem as though the San Francisco earthquake and fire was the year’s worst disaster, this extensive article admits this may be only “in the interest of the people of the United States” since “Hongkong” (sic) was ravaged by a three-day typhoon that devastated the city and cost an estimated 5,000 lives; a major earthquake destroyed Valparaiso, Chile, and damaged nearby Santiago causing the loss of between 1,500 and 2,000 lives; and in Italy, Mount Vesuvius erupted killing more than 2,000 and obliterating four towns and several villages. Natural disasters know no boundaries and can reach us in huge cities or tiny towns—and all this was just in the one year of 1906.

article about natural disasters, Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article 1 February 1907

Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 1 February 1907, page 8

Cerro Grande Fire of 2000

Not many years ago, my family and I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During our time there we witnessed the “Cerro Grande” fire. I found a good article about this fire in a 2000 Illinois newspaper. Not only did this major fire force the closure of the famed Los Alamos National Laboratory, but it resulted in the evacuation of every one of the town’s 11,000 residents. While the nuclear materials at the Laboratory were all safe within fireproof facilities, many homeowners were not so lucky.

Fire Forces Evacuation of Los Alamos, N.M., Register Star newspaper article 11 May 2000

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 11 May 2000, page 3

A year later, there was a follow-up article in this 2001 Connecticut newspaper. This old news article begins poignantly with this:

The tears come for Lucy Thomas when she thinks about the family Bible and other precious possessions that burned in the Los Alamos fires a year ago.

Ms. Thomas was not alone either. The article reports that more than 220 structures were destroyed by the fire leaving more than 400 families homeless; the fire destroyed or damaged a further 115 buildings at the Laboratory; and burned over 43,000 acres of timberlands.

A Year after Fire, Los Alamos Residents Rebuild Their Lives, Daily Advocate newspaper article 6 May 2001

Daily Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 6 May 2001, page 20

Each morning during that fire, I well remember waking up to smoke throughout our yard, ash over an inch deep covering everything in sight, and the air quality monitor the EPA put at the end of our driveway. Shortly after the fire I had a meeting in Los Alamos and, while driving through the town, I was stunned at the complete and total destruction of so many houses. This brought the threat closer to home than we would have liked, but it also acted as a warning that fire can happen anywhere—and we had better be prepared for the possibility of the worst happening.

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Capitan Fire of 1950

My newspaper research then brought me to an article regarding fires that could finally make me smile. It was in a 1954 newspaper from Washington, D.C. This story was about the famous Smokey Bear, who was rescued by firefighters during the Capitan fire in New Mexico in May of 1950.

article about Smokey the Bear, Evening Star newspaper article 13 June 1954

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 13 June 1954, page 153

An early news report of this fire in a 1950 Nebraska newspaper was headlined: “Central New Mexico Forest Fire Unchecked.” That news reporter couldn’t have known that a national treasure would be found, with singed paws and legs, clinging to a burned pine tree!

Central New Mexico Forest Fire Unchecked, Omaha World Herald newspaper article 9 May 1950

Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 9 May 1950, page 8

As the examples in this article have shown, old newspapers are a great way to learn about the major events that impacted our ancestors’ lives, and the news that affected them. And these reports of the devastating power of fire and the overwhelming destruction it can cause serve as a powerful reminder that no home—and no collection of family records, documents and photos—is ever completely safe. Be sure to digitize your material and store it safely online, preferably on at least two different websites!

Related Articles about Records Preservation:

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8 Million More Genealogy Records Just Added to GenealogyBank!

Every day, GenealogyBank is working hard to digitize more newspapers and obituaries, expanding our extensive historical collections to give you the largest newspaper archives for family history research available online. We just completed adding 8 million more U.S. genealogy records, vastly increasing our content coverage from U.S. coast to coast!

screenshot of GenealogyBank's home page showing announcement that 8 million more genealogy records have been added

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

  • A total of 35 newspaper titles from 20 U.S. states
  • 17 of these titles are newspapers added to GenealogyBank for the first time
  • Newspaper titles marked with an asterisk (*) are new to our online archives
  • We’ve shown the newspaper issue date ranges so that you can determine if the newly added content is relevant to your personal genealogy research

To see our newspaper archives’ complete title lists, click here.

State City Title Date Range Collection
Alaska Anchorage Anchorage Daily News: Web Edition Articles* 12/17/2007–Current Recent Obituaries
Arizona Rivers Gila News Courier* 09/12/1942–09/05/1945 Newspaper Archives
California Newell Newell Star* 12/31/1944–11/26/1945 Newspaper Archives
California San Francisco Corriere del Popolo 03/14/1916–12/20/1962 Newspaper Archives
California San Francisco San Francisco Chronicle 4/1/1917–8/27/1939 Newspaper Archives
Georgia Marietta Marietta Journal 2/22/1990–8/30/1998 Newspaper Archives
Idaho Boise Idaho Statesman* 1/1/1934–6/30/1987 Newspaper Archives
Idaho Hunt Minidoka Irrigator* 01/01/1944–07/28/1945 Newspaper Archives
Indiana South Bend South Bend Tribune: Web Edition Articles* 03/10/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
Kentucky Louisville Louisville Anzeiger* 03/28/1923–05/31/1928 Newspaper Archives
Massachusetts Boston Boston American 4/30/1953–11/14/1960 Newspaper Archives
Michigan Flint Flint Journal 8/19/1915–8/31/1915 Newspaper Archives
New Jersey Egg Harbor City Egg Harbor Pilot 10/08/1864–10/08/1864 Newspaper Archives
New Jersey Jersey City Jersey Journal 11/4/1914–11/4/1914 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Arbeiter Zeitung 12/12/1874–11/01/1895 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Cristoforo Colombo 07/28/1892–07/28/1892 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Eco D’Italia 01/12/1890–11/19/1896 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Fiaccola 04/11/1918–04/11/1918 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Fur Worker 10/17/1916–04/01/1930 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Gaelic American* 10/07/1905–09/28/1907 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Jewish Messenger 03/07/1879–01/21/1898 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Ognisko* 07/14/1887–06/22/1889 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Progresso Italo-Americano 04/08/1886–12/15/1889 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Vorwarts 01/18/1919–01/18/1919 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Charlotte Charlotte Observer* 8/1/1928–3/22/1929 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Greensboro Greensboro Daily News 3/16/1974–3/16/1974 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Greensboro Greensboro Record 11/29/1929–11/29/1929 Newspaper Archives
North Dakota Grand Forks Evening Times 1/14/1910–3/7/1914 Newspaper Archives
Oregon St. Benedict St. Josephs-Blatt* 01/03/1938–01/03/1938 Newspaper Archives
Pennsylvania Philadelphia Momento* 01/27/1917–12/27/1919 Newspaper Archives
South Carolina Murrells Inlet Waccamaw Times* 05/30/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
South Dakota Yankton Dakota Freie Presse* 02/24/1920–02/24/1920 Newspaper Archives
Texas Corpus Christi Corpus Christi Caller-Times: Web Edition Articles* 05/22/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Wisconsin Milwaukee Milwaukee Herold* 01/01/1921–01/01/1921 Newspaper Archives
Wyoming Heart Mountain Heart Mountain Sentinel* 08/25/1942–10/23/1945 Newspaper Archives

More Articles about GenealogyBank’s Newspaper Archives:

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GenealogyBank Just Added 6 Million More Genealogy Records!

Every day, GenealogyBank is working hard to digitize more newspapers and obituaries, rapidly expanding our content to give you the most comprehensive newspaper archives and largest obituary collection for family history research available online. We just completed adding 6 million more U.S. genealogy records, vastly increasing our content coverage from coast to coast!

screenshot of GenealogyBank's homepage announcing the addition of 6 million more genealogy records

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

  • A total of 42 newspaper titles from 19 U.S. states
  • 21 of these titles are newspapers added to GenealogyBank for the first time
  • Newspaper titles marked with an asterisk (*) are new to our online archives
  • We’ve shown the newspaper issue date ranges so that you can determine if the newly added content is relevant to your personal genealogy research

To see our newspaper archives’ complete title lists, click here.

State City Title Date Range Collection
Alabama Birmingham Birmingham Courier* 08/19/1899–09/12/1903 Newspaper Archives
Alabama Cullman Nord Alabama Colonist* 07/01/1881–07/01/1881 Newspaper Archives
Alaska Anchorage Alaska Dispatch News* 07/10/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Alaska Anchorage Alaska Dispatch* 10/15/2009–Current Recent Obituaries
California Marin Sausalito Marin Scope* 09/16/2009–Current Recent Obituaries
California Novato Novato Advance* 08/26/2009–Current Recent Obituaries
California San Francisco Corriere del Popolo 01/04/1916–07/25/1935 Newspaper Archives
California San Francisco San Francisco Chronicle 12/5/1908–9/1/1927 Newspaper Archives
California San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram 4/6/1934–12/31/1937 Newspaper Archives
California San Rafael San Rafael News Pointer* 03/10/2010–Current Recent Obituaries
Connecticut Stamford Stamford Advocate 4/5/1829–12/31/1841 Newspaper Archives
Georgia Macon Macon Telegraph 5/1/1932–5/20/1934 Newspaper Archives
Georgia Marietta Marietta Journal 4/14/1871–11/15/1990 Newspaper Archives
Georgia Toccoa Toccoa Record, The* 06/24/2004–Current Recent Obituaries
Idaho Boise Idaho Statesman 8/16/1931–12/31/1933 Newspaper Archives
Iowa Perry Perry Chief* 06/06/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Iowa Story City Story City Herald* 06/11/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Kentucky Lexington Lexington Herald 10/4/1929–12/31/1930 Newspaper Archives
Louisiana New Orleans New Orleans States 6/1/1920–6/1/1920 Newspaper Archives
Mississippi Biloxi Daily Herald 1/21/1937–3/27/1937 Newspaper Archives
New Jersey Egg Harbor City Egg Harbor Pilot 06/22/1872–07/20/1872 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Arbeiter Zeitung* 11/28/1874–05/19/1878 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Cristoforo Colombo 02/04/1892–08/20/1892 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Eco D’Italia* 01/01/1890–12/31/1896 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Fiaccola* 09/05/1912–02/10/1921 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Freiheit* 12/26/1903–12/26/1903 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Fur Worker* 09/01/1917–04/01/1931 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Progresso Italo-Americano 01/09/1886–12/27/1889 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Vorwarts 01/02/1915–10/29/1921 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Charlotte Charlotte Observer 6/1/1928–5/31/1929 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Greensboro Greensboro Record 5/6/1908–5/6/1908 Newspaper Archives
Ohio Cleveland Sendbote* 01/05/1927–06/26/1952 Newspaper Archives
Oregon Cannon Beach Cannon Beach Gazette* 05/02/2008–Current Recent Obituaries
Oregon Hermiston Hermiston Herald, The* 02/28/2001–Current Recent Obituaries
Oregon Seaside Seaside Signal* 03/25/2010–Current Recent Obituaries
South Dakota Aberdeen Aberdeen American 11/5/1924–11/21/1924 Newspaper Archives
South Dakota Aberdeen Aberdeen Daily News 6/29/1911–1/23/2000 Newspaper Archives
South Dakota Aberdeen Aberdeen Journal 3/3/1922–3/3/1922 Newspaper Archives
South Dakota Eureka Eureka Post* 06/06/1912–06/06/1912 Newspaper Archives
Vermont St. Albans St. Albans Daily Messenger 3/31/2006–3/31/2006 Newspaper Archives
Washington Bellingham Bellingham Herald 5/2/1935–6/29/1937 Newspaper Archives
Wisconsin Milwaukee Milwaukee Herold und Seebote* 01/01/1901–01/01/1901 Newspaper Archives

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GenealogyBank Just Added 7 Million More Genealogy Records!

Every day, GenealogyBank is working hard to digitize more newspapers and obituaries, expanding our collection to give you the largest newspaper archives for family history research available anywhere online. We just completed adding 7 million more U.S. genealogy records, vastly increasing our content coverage from U.S. coast to coast!

screenshot of GenealogyBank's home page announcing addition of 7 million more genealogy records

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

  • A total of 52 newspaper titles from 21 U.S. states
  • 19 of these titles are newspapers added to GenealogyBank for the first time
  • Newspaper titles marked with an asterisk (*) are new to our online archives
  • We’ve shown the newspaper issue date ranges so that you can determine if the newly added content is relevant to your personal genealogy research

The list of our new newspaper additions is directly below. Also, see our entire list of newspaper archives by state to see all of our archived collections.

State City Title Date Range Collection
Arizona Tucson TucsonSentinel.com* 01/28/2010–Current Recent Obituaries
California Barstow Desert Dispatch* 03/16/2007–Current Recent Obituaries
California San Francisco Corriere del Popolo 09/05/1922–12/20/1945 Newspaper Archives
California San Francisco San Francisco Chronicle 9/19/1881–4/30/1915 Newspaper Archives
California San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram 4/2/1934–3/30/1937 Newspaper Archives
California Santa Monica Santa Monica Mirror* 01/07/2010–Current Recent Obituaries
Colorado Bayfield Pine River Times* 02/21/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Colorado Denver Denver Rocky Mountain News 5/1/1908–5/31/1908 Newspaper Archives
Florida Lake City Lake City Reporter* 11/01/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
Georgia Elberton Elberton Star & Examiner, The* 08/02/2004–Current Recent Obituaries
Georgia Hartwell Hartwell Sun, The* 01/05/2012–Current Recent Obituaries
Georgia Lavonia Franklin County Citizen* 01/02/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Georgia Marietta Marietta Journal 1/29/1964–12/13/1991 Newspaper Archives
Idaho Boise Idaho Statesman 8/16/1929–12/30/1933 Newspaper Archives
Illinois Highland Highland News Leader* 04/03/2014–Current Recent Obituaries
Kentucky Lexington Lexington Herald 10/1/1929–1/31/1930 Newspaper Archives
Louisiana Lafayette Acadiana Advocate, The* 12/13/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
Louisiana New Orleans New Orleans Item 9/19/1911–9/19/1911 Newspaper Archives
Louisiana New Orleans New Orleans States 10/25/1922–10/25/1922 Newspaper Archives
Maryland Baltimore Katholische Volkszeitung 04/08/1871–09/02/1871 Newspaper Archives
Massachusetts Hopkinton Hopkinton Independent, The* 05/16/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
Massachusetts Millbury Millbury-Sutton Chronicle* 05/03/2007–Current Recent Obituaries
Michigan Ann Arbor Ann Arbor News 4/16/1909–5/31/1917 Newspaper Archives
Michigan Detroit Herold 01/27/1911–01/27/1911 Newspaper Archives
Michigan Flint Flint Journal 1/26/1900–5/17/1920 Newspaper Archives
Michigan Muskegon Muskegon Chronicle 4/30/1880–5/26/1917 Newspaper Archives
Michigan Saginaw Saginaw News 12/23/1893–5/24/1895 Newspaper Archives
Mississippi Biloxi Daily Herald 1/1/1937–6/30/1942 Newspaper Archives
New Jersey Bridgeton Bridgeton Evening News 9/1/1896–5/7/1921 Newspaper Archives
New Jersey Egg Harbor City Egg Harbor Pilot 04/12/1862–07/27/1872 Newspaper Archives
New Jersey Jersey City Jersey Journal 7/14/1891–10/6/1922 Newspaper Archives
New Jersey Trenton Trenton Evening Times 12/30/1922–2/1/1946 Newspaper Archives
New Mexico Carlsbad Carlsbad Current-Argus* 01/28/2005–Current Recent Obituaries
New Mexico Deming Deming Headlight* 06/03/2006–Current Recent Obituaries
New York New York Cristoforo Colombo 08/28/1892–08/22/1893 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Jewish Messenger 04/29/1870–06/05/1891 Newspaper Archives
New York New York New Yorker Volkszeitung 05/25/1920–11/25/1922 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Progresso Italo-Americano* 09/21/1884–12/11/1889 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Sozialist 02/16/1889–02/16/1889 Newspaper Archives
New York New York Vorwarts 09/02/1893–12/30/1922 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Charlotte Charlotte Observer 7/1/1927–7/31/1927 Newspaper Archives
North Carolina Spruce Pine Mitchell News-Journal* 06/12/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
Ohio Bellevue RFD News* 10/01/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
Ohio Cincinnati Catholic Telegraph, The* 03/06/2009–Current Recent Obituaries
Ohio Cleveland Cleveland Leader 9/5/1862–4/3/1885 Newspaper Archives
Ohio Cleveland Plain Dealer 1/1/1923–6/5/1923 Newspaper Archives
Ohio Fredericktown Knox County Citizen* 12/11/2013–Current Recent Obituaries
South Dakota Aberdeen Aberdeen Daily News 10/29/1925–5/19/1996 Newspaper Archives
Washington Bellingham Bellingham Herald 1/1/1935–6/30/1937 Newspaper Archives
Washington Olympia Morning Olympian 6/24/1940–12/30/1941 Newspaper Archives
Wisconsin Appleton Appleton Volksfreund 10/02/1919–02/17/1921 Newspaper Archives
Wisconsin La Crosse La Crosse Volksfreund 07/11/1906–07/11/1906 Newspaper Archives

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33 San Francisco Newspapers for Genealogy Research Online

First settled in 1776, San Francisco’s population exploded in 1849 when the California Gold Rush began. “The City by the Bay” has remained a thriving cultural and financial center—not just of California but of the entire United States—ever since.

photo of the skyline of San Francisco, California

Photo: skyline of San Francisco, looking over the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands. Credit: Paul.h; Wikipedia.

Are you researching your family history from San Francisco? GenealogyBank’s online SF newspaper archives contain 33 titles to help you research your genealogy in this important California city, providing news coverage from 1849 to Today.

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

Search San Francisco, California, Newspaper Archives (1849-1972)
Search San Francisco, California, Recent Newspaper Obituaries (1985-Current)

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Here is our complete list of online San Francisco newspapers, divided into two collections: Historical Newspapers (complete paper) and Recent Obituaries (obituaries only). Each San Francisco 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 31 San Francisco historical newspapers to explore your ancestry:

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Search recent obituary records for your relatives in these 2 San Francisco newspapers:

You can either print or create a PDF version of this Blog post by simply clicking on the green “Print/PDF” button below. The PDF version makes it easy to save this post onto your desktop or portable device for quick reference—all the newspaper links will be live.

More Articles about San Francisco:

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Extra! Extra! 5 Million More Newspaper Articles Recently Added!

Every day, GenealogyBank is working hard to digitize more U.S. newspapers and obituaries, expanding our online archives to give you the largest newspaper archives for family history research available on the web. We just completed adding 5 million more newspaper articles to the online archives, vastly increasing our news coverage of life in America from coast to coast!

screenshot of GenealogyBank's home page announcing that five million more newspaper articles have been added to its historical newspaper archives

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

  • A total of 51 newspaper titles from 22 U.S. states, with many newspaper additions from Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania
  • 25 of these titles are newspapers added to GenealogyBank for the first time
  • Newspaper titles marked with an asterisk (*) are new to our online archives. Note that many of these totally new archive additions are German American newspapers.
  • We’ve shown the newspaper issue date ranges so that you can determine if the newly added content is relevant to your personal genealogy research. Note that some of these newly added newspapers date back to the mid-1800s.
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To see our newspaper archives’ complete title lists, click here.

State    City                 Title                                                    Date Range

AL       Mobile             Alabama Staats-Zeitung                     1/10/1900 – 10/11/1902

AZ       San Manuel     Pinal Nugget*                                     3/5/2013 – Current

CA      Riverside         Riverside Daily Press                          10/1/1938 – 12/31/1945

CA      San Francisco  California Chronik*                            4/28/1866 – 11/3/1866

CA      S. L. Obispo    San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram        7/1/1915 – 9/30/1921

CT       Bridgeport       Connecticut Post                                 9/21/2001 – 6/30/2002

GA      Atlanta               Emory Wheel: Emory University*      8/25/2002 – Current

GA      Augusta           Augusta Chronicle                              11/26/1983 – 11/22/2003

GA      Columbus        Columbus Daily Enquirer                   2/25/1926 – 4/10/1930

GA      Macon             Macon Telegraph                                11/6/1925 – 12/31/1928

ID        Boise               Idaho Statesman                                 2/16/1925 – 9/30/1927

IL        Alton               Telegraph*                                          1/1/2010 – Current

IL        Belleville         Belleviller Post und Zeitung*             1/11/1899 – 1/11/1899

IL        Chicago           Chicagoer Freie Presse*                      2/6/1872 – 2/6/1872

IL        Chicago           D.A. Burgerzeitung*                          12/30/1921 – 12/30/1921

IL        Springfield      Daily Illinois State Journal                  8/1/1942 – 3/31/1950

IN        Elkhart              Elkhart Truth                                       1/2/1902 – 12/30/1920

IN        Evansville        Evansville Courier and Press              1/23/1936 – 12/31/1937

IA        Davenport       Wochentliche Demokrat*                   1/2/1902 – 1/2/1902

KY      Lexington        Lexington Herald                                11/1/1924 – 5/31/1927

MD      Baltimore        Katholische Volkszeitung*                 2/10/1872 – 7/8/1876

MD      Baltimore        Sun                                                      1/27/1916 – 3/4/1916

MA      Boston             Boston American                                4/11/1952 – 9/30/1961

MA      Boston             Boston Herald                                     2/17/1974 – 9/28/1975

MA      Springfield      Springfield Republican                       2/1/1853 – 9/2/1875

MI       Detroit             Herold*                                               4/14/1911 – 11/24/1911

NJ        Woodbury       Woodbury Daily Times                       9/20/1900 – 3/16/1922

NY      Binghamton    Binghamton Univ. Pipe Dream*         11/1/2005 – Current

NY      New York       Jewish Messenger                               7/3/1857 – 12/28/1883

NY      New York       New Yorker Volkszeitung                  5/1/1919 – 12/31/1922

NY      New York       Sonntagsblatt Der NY Volkszeitung*            1/29/1928 – 1/29/1928

NY      New York       Sozialist*                                             4/11/1885 – 12/14/1889

NY      New York       Vorwarts                                             12/10/1892 – 7/29/1916

NC      Charlotte         Charlotte Observer                              11/1/1924 – 3/31/1926

NC      Greensboro      Greensboro Record                             10/11/1950 – 10/12/1950

NC      Win.-Salem     Winston-Salem Journal                       10/1/1921 – 8/31/1927

OH      Cincinnati        Cincinnati Republikaner*                   12/1/1858 – 3/23/1861

OH      Columbus        Lutherische Kirchenzeitung*              1/1/1910 – 1/1/1910

OH      Englewood      Englewood Independent*                  10/23/2012 – Current

OH      West Union     People’s Defender*                             11/12/2013 – Current

PA       Harrisburg       Christlicher Botschafter*                    1/3/1935 – 1/3/1935

PA       Philadelphia    Daily Pennsylvanian: U. of Penn.*     3/19/1991 – Current

PA       Pittsburgh        Volksblatt und Freiheits-freund*       11/3/1934 – 11/3/1934

PA       Pittston            Sunday Dispatch*                               10/12/2013 – Current

PA       State College   Centre Daily Times                             1/2/1973 – 11/29/1974

PA       Wilkes-Barre   Weekender*                                        10/8/2013 – Current

TX       San Antonio    Freie Presse fur Texas*                       5/12/1915 – 5/12/1915

UT       Salt Lake City Salt Lake City Beobachter*                4/6/1930 – 4/6/1930

WA     Bellingham      Bellingham Herald                              1/1/1926 – 12/31/1928

WA     Seattle             Seattle Daily Times                             4/2/1912 – 1/9/1916

WI       La Crosse        Nord Stern*                                        4/10/1908 – 4/10/1908

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Researching the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 in the News

It was early on a Wednesday morning, with most of the residents of San Francisco peacefully sleeping, when disaster suddenly struck the City by the Bay. At 5:13 a.m. on 18 April 1906 an earthquake tremor for about 20 seconds was followed by a major 7.9 magnitude earthquake that shook the city for over 40 seconds, jolting terrified residents awake as buildings collapsed around them.

photo of the massive flames that engulfed San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake

Photo: massive flames engulf San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake. Credit: Harry Sterling Hooper; Wikipedia.

Earthquake Leaves 80% of San Francisco Destroyed

Worse still, the powerful quake twisted and broke gas and water lines across San Francisco. Huge fires erupted and burned continuously for three days. Without water, firefighters were helpless to stop the blazing inferno. In their desperation they resorted to dynamiting buildings to create firebreaks, but these explosions caused additional fires, causing more harm than good.

photo of the fires raging after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Register Star newspaper article 18 April 2005

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 18 April 2005, page 3

At the time of the disaster San Francisco was the greatest city on the West Coast America’s ninth largest with a population of 410,000, a bustling center of commerce and art. Three days after the earthquake of 1906 struck, 500 city blocks—over 25,000 buildings—had been smashed or burned; the earthquake and fire combined to destroy over 80 percent of the city.

Because so many bodies burned in the fierce, towering flames that leapt from building to building, the actual death toll will never be known, but it is estimated that more than 3,000 people died in the tragedy. Around 300,000 people, or nearly three out of every four residents, were left homeless after the smoke cleared. San Francisco would of course rebuild, but many beautiful buildings and civic treasures, and thousands of residents, were gone forever.

photo of San Francisco burning after the 1906 earthquake; view from the St. Francis Hotel

Photo: San Francisco burning after the 1906 earthquake, view from the St. Francis Hotel. Credit: Library of Congress.

News of the S.F. Earthquake Hits the Headlines

News of the earthquake flashed over the telegraph wires before the city’s telegraph buildings were destroyed, and made the front pages of newspapers everywhere.

article about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Cincinnati Post newspaper article 19 April 1906

Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, Ohio), 19 April 1906, page 1

This news report was published by a Rhode Island newspaper.

Earthquake Levels San Francisco, Evening Times newspaper article 18 April 1906

Evening Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island), 18 April 1906, page 1

As this historical newspaper article reports:

Shortly after daylight, while the residence portion of the city was slumbering and the streets were practically deserted save for those whose duties required their presence at the break of day, there came a rumbling that startled the sleepers from their beds and in a moment more the buildings were crumbling about their heads.

Pandemonium ensued. Half-clad men and women rushed from their houses, many of the latter dragging shrieking children by the arms. In many cases the refugees met death in the streets.

Earthquake Survivors Tell Their Personal Stories

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After some of the refugees had gotten safely out of San Francisco their stories started to appear in the press, providing many grim details of the death, destruction and panic caused by the massive earthquake and fire. This personal account of the earthquake was published by a North Carolina newspaper.

article about a survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Charlotte Observer newspaper article 20 April 1906

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 20 April 1906, page 1

This first-person account provides the following details:

I returned to my room and got my clothing; then walked to the offices of the Western Union in my pajamas and bare feet to telegraph to my wife in Los Angeles. I found the telegraphers on duty, but all the wires were down. I sat down on the sidewalk, picked the broken glass out of the soles of my feet and put on my clothes. All this I suppose took 20 minutes. Within that time, below the Palace Hotel, buildings for more than three blocks were a mass of flames, which spread to other buildings.

People by the thousands were crowded around the ferry station. They clawed at the iron gates like so many maniacs. They sought to break the bars, and failing in that turned on each other. After a maddening delay, we got aboard the boat and crossed the bay.

Looters Pillage the City

This old news article reports that, sadly, some unscrupulous people took advantage of the earthquake victims, looting in the aftermath:

article about looters pillaging San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake, Charlotte Observer newspaper article 20 April 1906

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 20 April 1906, page 3

This newspaper article provides these details:

The scene at the Mechanics Pavilion during the early hours and until noon, when the injured and dead were removed because of the threatened destruction of the building by fire, was one of indescribable sadness. Sisters, brothers, wives and sweethearts searched eagerly for some missing dear one. Thousands of persons hurriedly went through the building inspecting the cots on which the sufferers lay, in the hope that they would find some loved one that was missing.

The dead were placed in one portion of the building and the remainder was devoted to hospital purposes. After the fire forced the nurses and physicians to desert the building the eager crowds followed them to the Presidio and the children’s hospital, where they renewed their search for missing relatives.

Were your ancestors impacted by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires? Along with news reports of the disaster, another way newspapers can help you research  your ancestors is the steady stream of casualty reports and lists that were published for weeks after the earthquake struck.

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Earthquake Casualties

This report, published in a Texas newspaper, tells of the fate of locomotive engineer William Burnip, 55, whose “remains were dug from the ruins of the house by his son.”

article about the casualties from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Beaumont Journal newspaper article 22 May 1906

Beaumont Journal (Beaumont, Texas), 22 May 1906, page 1

Earthquake Survivor Stories Continue to Run

Long after the disaster, newspapers published stories about the survivors. San Francisco long marked the earthquake’s anniversary with a dawn ceremony, to which all of the earthquake survivors were invited.

As the following newspaper article reports:

…the annual observance that culminates with a dawn wreath-laying at Lotta’s Fountain, a landmark that served as a meeting point for those trying to find families and friends after the disaster.

This article shows a picture of Herbert Hamrol, a survivor of the 1906 earthquake who was 102 years old in 2005.

article about the survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Register Star newspaper article 18 April 2005

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 18 April 2005, page 3

If your ancestors were alive during a great historical event, tragedy, or natural disaster, old newspapers such as GenealogyBank’s online Historical Newspaper Archives are a great way to learn more about the times your ancestors lived in—and possibly learn details about their actual personal experiences.

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Researching Our Old Family Vacation Destinations with Newspapers

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott reminisces about a wonderful vacation at a Wyoming ranch his family enjoyed when he was 11—and supplements his memories by searching in old newspapers for articles about the R Lazy S ranch.

My mom passed away recently and as a son and genealogist, you must know that I have been doing a lot of reminiscing. Most often I have found myself thinking of all the things my mom taught me in life. She was a woman who moved with urgency and purpose, enjoying a wide variety of interests, and she cultivated those traits in my older sisters and me.

One of the memories that came back to me was of one of our quintessential “family car vacations.” This one happened to be what the family still refers to as “Scott’s Summer Vacation.” My folks decided that my sisters and I needed to see the grand sites of the Western United States. I was bouncing-off-the-ceiling happy that our vacation destinations included such places as the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, several more U.S. National Parks, and concluded with a week at a “Dude Ranch.” Now, I will admit right here that my sisters were hoping more for Western sights such as Las Vegas and San Francisco, but off we went in the family station wagon—complete with the third seat facing rearward.

The dude ranch was truly the highlight of the trip for me. For a boy of about 11, “real” cowboys, outhouses, a potbellied stove in my cabin, learning to rope a calf, and riding into the Grand Tetons every day simply could not be beat. Finally from my memory banks came the name of the ranch we stayed at: the R Lazy S. The brand, I still recall, was an upright “R” with an “S” on its side.

photo of the sign for the R Lazy S ranch, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Photo: sign for the R Lazy S ranch, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Credit: courtesy of the R Lazy S ranch.

I wanted to find out more about this boyhood memory of mine, so I did a quick check of GenelaogyBank.com to see if there might be something.

To my delight and surprise, on my first search in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives I got results!

The first article I opened was published by a Wyoming newspaper in 1920. This old news article gave me far more background about the R Lazy S ranch than I had known (or perhaps recalled) from our long-ago visit. It turns out the R Lazy S ranch had quite a storied history to it. The property was once owned by Owen Wister, who wrote The Virginian and other works set in Wyoming. Wister sold the ranch in 1920 to the R Lazy S “outfit.”

Owen Wister Tires of His Old Ranch; Parts with It, Wyoming State Tribune newspaper article 1 March 1920

Wyoming State Tribune (Cheyenne, Wyoming), 1 March 1920, page 1

Smiling from this find, I looked further into my results and quickly found a 1958 travel article from my Cleveland, Ohio, hometown newspaper. Immediately I wondered if my mother had read this article—had it been the genesis of the plans for our family vacation? I had a good laugh when I read this author’s description of the R Lazy S ranch that included “luxury cabins.” Now perhaps I was in the wrong cabin, but mine was outside the gate, had only a potbellied stove for heat, and the outhouse was a good 200 yards away. But perhaps “luxury” is in the eye of the beholder!

Bainbury's Western Diary, Plain Dealer newspaper article 8 July 1958

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 8 July 1958, page 8

Next I discovered a newspaper article from 1982, again in the Plain Dealer, explaining that Mr. Howard F. Stirn, then chairman of the R Lazy S ranch, was in Cleveland to present a photographic exhibit of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the surrounding area. I’m wondering if perhaps there was a connection between the R Lazy S ranch and my hometown. This may be one of those many questions in our family histories that we are never able to fully answer (and is a good reason why preserving our stories and memories onto our family trees is so crucial).

Jackson Hole Nature Photography, Plain Dealer newspaper article 10 January 1982

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 10 January 1982, page 116

With my head full of wonderful memories and our crazy family song (which we all made up along the way and called “Touring Our Country: Monuments and Parks”), I searched Google to see if the R Lazy S ranch is still in existence.

Guess what—it is! You can see at http://rlazys.com that they are indeed alive and kicking like a bronco.

Hmm, maybe it is high time for a family vacation…back out to Wyoming and the R Lazy S ranch with our grandsons.

I do believe, as a proper grandfather, I need to share my memories with my grandsons in person, especially since the Ranch looks far less “rustic” than back in my day!

What were your favorite family vacation destinations growing up? We’d love to hear your personal vacation stories. Share them with us in the comments.

‘Gencaching’ Challenge: Find Historical Maps in Old Newspapers

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary shows some of the unique historical maps that can be found in old newspapers, and proposes a fun “gencaching” game to find more of these maps.

Some of the greatest tools of genealogical research are historical maps—but one place we often forget to search for them is old newspapers.

Perhaps it is because we don’t expect to find historical maps in newspaper archives. Some old maps, such as the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (published 1867-2007), and one by Waldseemüller (the first to name the continent as America), are mentioned in historical newspaper articles but not shown.

notice about map-maker Waldseemüller, Irish World newspaper article 20 February 1892

Irish World (New York, New York), 20 February 1892, page 7

However, many other historical maps were published in newspapers. So what types of old maps can we expect to find in newspapers?

Delve into GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives and you’ll note an extraordinary and unique set of cartographic images used to illustrate articles and advertisements.

These historical maps include—but are not limited to—battles, explorations, relief expeditions, and transportation routes, along with proposed and completed municipal, state and national projects. The renditions offer an exciting opportunity to further your family history research, as the majority of these maps printed in old newspapers were not published in books.

Since they were often overlooked, newspaper maps were usually not indexed or cataloged by libraries and historical societies.

“Gencaching” Game to Find Historical Maps

For me, newspaper map searching is a bit like geocaching, the popular activity of treasure hunting using a GPS (global positioning system) to find items hidden away by others—only what you are looking for was placed by the newspaper publishers of yesterday.

To extend this concept to a lineage society or genealogy friend activity, try constructing a “find and seek, or gencaching” game by using GenealogyBank’s search engine to create clues regarding map treasures, such as landmarks that are no longer existent.

If you find some unusual treasure maps, we invite you to share your “gencaching” finds on our blog page in the comments section. Historical map finds that you share with us may be the subject of a follow-up GenealogyBank blog post.

Here are some of the historical maps—and mentions of maps—that I found in GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives.

The Great San Francisco Conflagration

San Francisco suffered a massive fire on 3-4 May 1851, as noted in this California newspaper article.

The Effect of the Conflagration, Weekly Pacific News newspaper article 15 May 1851

Weekly Pacific News (San Francisco, California), 15 May 1851, page 1

This massive fire devastated an area known as the Burnt District, and articles and maps were published across the country about the disaster, including this one from a New York newspaper. In this historical San Francisco map, one sees a simple and clear presentation of the burned areas showing the specific street names.

map of the 1851 San Francisco fire, Spectator newspaper article 23 June 1851

Spectator (New York, New York), 23 June 1851, page 1

Historical Military Maps

One can find military skirmish and old battle maps published in newspapers during times of war, including this one from the American Civil War published in an 1864 Pennsylvania newspaper.

map of the 1864 Civil War battle at Spotsylvania, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 14 May 1864

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 14 May 1864, page 1

This old Civil War map depicts the “Scene of the Great Battle of Tuesday, May 10th, between Generals Grant and Lee” at Spotsylvania during the Great Virginia Campaign. Note that the basic layout shows landmarks, such as the church and old court house, along with the Po River.

This next example, from a 1918 Oregon newspaper, is a historical map of a battle line from World War I. The sector occupied by the American Army in the Lorraine region of France was noted as being close to the German border.

map of WWI battle line in France, Oregonian newspaper article 4 February 1918

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 4 February 1918, page 4

Expeditions and Exploration Maps

As our ancestors explored unchartered territories, expeditions were exciting news. You’ll find numerous newspaper articles about these adventures and explorers, including this piece mentioning the Duke of Abruzzi, Amundsen, Cook, Hedin, Nansen, Perry, and others.

Filling in Blank Spots on the World's Map, Oregonian newspaper article 23 August 1908

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 23 August 1908, page 2

So, it should not surprise us that in 1879 a ship named the Jeanette departed San Francisco Bay with 10,000 people waving and cheering. Perhaps your ancestors were in that enthusiastic crowd—or explorers aboard the ship?

If so, they saw Lt. Commander George Washington DeLong and his small crew of 33 civilians, officers and enlisted men take off for the North Pole—not knowing that only a few of those brave explorers would make it back two years later.

The jubilant sending-off of the Jeanette—and an explanation of the purpose of the voyage—were reported in this 1879 New York newspaper article.

Off to the Pole, New York Herald newspaper article 9 July 1879

New York Herald (New York, New York), 9 July 1879, page 3

Once in the Arctic, the crew became shipwrecked and suffered great hardships.

What a harrowing experience it must have been to be stuck in the ice, and even more horrifying when the ice’s crushing weight destroyed the Jeanette’s hull. They were forced to transport three small lifeboats with equipment and supplies overland, with a plan to sail for the Lena River Delta on the Siberian coast. Despite becoming separated and suffering more hardships, some members of the ship’s crew survived. During a return trip, they were able to locate important items, including the log book.

This 1881 Massachusetts newspaper article is one of many that tell the story.

The Jeanette: Her Shipwrecked Crew Heard From, Worcester Daily Spy newspaper article 21 December 1881

Worcester Daily Spy (Worcester, Massachusetts), 21 December 1881, page 1

You’ll also find numerous newspaper articles and maps pertaining to Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first expedition leader to traverse the Northwest Passage, as well as the first to reach the South and North Poles.

Amundsen Off on Air Jaunt to North Pole, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 12 May 1926

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 12 May 1926, page 1

Civic Project Proposals

When researching civic projects read all the discussion pieces you can find in the newspapers, and complete follow-up research to verify project rejections and changes. Whenever proposals adversely affect an area, opponents typically offer counter-proposals—and you’ll find their arguments covered in the newspapers as well.

One of the advantages of project proposal newspaper articles is that they may describe earlier time periods, as seen in this 1860 series from a New York newspaper titled “Sketch of Building Operations in Progress in the City.”

Sketch of Building Operations Now in Progress in the City, Commercial Advertiser newspaper article 9 July 1860

Commercial Advertiser (New York, New York), 9 July 1860, page 1

Maps of Transportation Projects

As railroads, steamships and other transportation systems expanded, newspapers provided maps. One of the lesser-known projects was Philadelphia’s 1872 Moyamensing Avenue Railroad project, as shown in this map from a Pennsylvania newspaper.

map of the 1872 Moyamensing Avenue Railroad project in Philadelphia, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 4 March 1872

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 4 March 1872, page 7

Other Types of Maps in Newspapers

In addition to the examples of newspaper maps shown in this blog article, you’ll find historical maps showing the results of natural disasters, aerial views, reliefs, and even tourist attractions—such as this 1922 map of Pikes Peak and the city of Colorado Springs from a Colorado newspaper.

map of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper article 20 August 1922

Colorado Springs Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado), 20 August 1922, page 25

The more noteworthy or unusual the event or place, the more likely it is that you will find a newspaper article with an accompanying map.

So head to GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives and start researching historical maps and articles about maps. You may wish to limit the query to the Photos & Illustrations category, and add keywords such as the type of map (aerial, relief, illustration, etc.).

GenealogyBank also offers a newspapers search page specifically for Historical Maps.

GenealogyBank's Historical Maps search page

GenealogyBank’s Historical Maps search page

Good luck with your map searches and remember to share your unique finds with us. Your map just might get featured in an upcoming blog post. Happy hunting!

My Ancestor’s Menu: Researching Food History in Newspapers

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena searches through historical newspaper archives and finds old menus—and shows how these provide social history that helps us better understand our ancestors’ times.

When was the last time you ate out? How often did you eat out as a child? While for some of us eating in a restaurant was a rare treat growing up because of where we lived or finances, eating out in today’s world is a more common occurrence. For modern families whose time is overscheduled, sitting down to a meal that mom prepared (with love) can seem like something out of the 1950s. Increasingly we are relying on restaurants to help with our cooking chores. Although it can seem like going out to eat is more of a recent phenomenon, the truth is that our ancestors, depending on circumstance, may have enjoyed a meal out once in a while.

Probably not surprisingly, restaurants originated in France in the 18th century and catered to upper class patrons. Early Americans, typically men, had the opportunity to “eat out” as they traveled and stayed in taverns and inns. One restaurant that opened in the early 19th century and still exists today is the New York institution Delmonico’s, which originally opened in 1827 as a pastry shop. Early customers of Delmonico’s were treated to a vast selection of foods; its 1838 menu was 11 pages in length and included French dishes with their English translations.

Gossip from Gotham: Delmonico's--The Most Fashionable Restaurant of the Continent, San Francisco Bulletin newspaper article, 19 January 1884

San Francisco Bulletin (San Francisco, California), 19 January 1884, page 4

One surprising aspect of researching ancestral food history in newspapers is that your assumptions may be proved wrong. A good example of this can be found in this 1898 newspaper article. It reports on Thanksgiving being served at local Cleveland (Ohio) hotels. Today, some families would never think of going to a restaurant for Thanksgiving, labeling it “untraditional”—and you might assume our ancestors felt that way, too. However, judging from this article it seems that eating Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant was something many of our ancestors did. This article states that “Hundreds of guests were entertained by the hostelries yesterday, for many Clevelanders preferred to dine down town rather than at their own homes.” The article goes on to provide names of those who dined at those hotels. What a great genealogical find to see the name of an ancestor and where they were eating on Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving at the Hotels, Plain Dealer newspaper article 25 November 1898

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 25 November 1898, page 10

Restaurant menus found in newspapers show the types of food available to your ancestors. In this example of a 1909 Sunday dinner menu from South Dakota, 25 cents buys quite a meal!

Sunday Dinner at the Model Restaurant, Aberdeen American newspaper article 18 April 1909

Aberdeen American (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 18 April 1909, page 5

This 1903 Sunday dinner menu from Wichita, Kansas, costs 20 cents and includes dishes such as Irish Stew and Prime Beef.

Menu at the People's Restaurant, Colored Citizen newspaper article 31 October 1903

Colored Citizen (Wichita, Kansas), 31 October 1903, page 3

One great aspect of newspaper research is the reminder that fads can and do make comebacks. Case in point: calories printed on menus. Think that the printing of calories is a new idea to get all of us to make healthier food choices? Consider this article about the appearance of calories on menus—in 1918! Makes you wonder why the reporting of calories eventually fell out of favor. My guess is people want to enjoy their meal out without guilt.

Aha! A New One--Restaurants Put Calories Count on Menu, Times-Picayune newspaper article 12 May 1918

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 12 May 1918, page 9

Although today we are familiar with calories and how much is too much, the idea of watching your calories was a new one at the beginning of the 20th century. This article concludes with suggested total amounts of calories needed for different types of people, including laundresses who needed 3000 calories versus a secretary who needed just 2000.

Newspapers provide researchers with rich social history and help us better understand our ancestors’ times. Take an afternoon and peruse the food history printed in the newspaper of your ancestors’ hometown. You just might be surprised at what you find.