How to Research Old Newspaper Headlines for Family History

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog post, Mary shows how searching for headlines in old newspapers turns up articles that provide a glimpse into our ancestors’ world and their daily lives.

From iconic happenings of the past to lesser-known events, reading old newspaper headlines helps us share the day-to-day experiences of our ancestors. Reading the news that they read is one way to walk in their footsteps.

For example, imagine being in Vermont on 8 November 1860, picking up your local paper, and seeing this newspaper headline announcing Abraham Lincoln as the new president.

Glorious News! Abraham Lincoln Elected President!! St. Albans Messenger newspaper article 8 November 1860

St. Albans Messenger (St. Albans, Vermont), 8 November 1860, page 2

So why not become a newspaper headline hunter and query GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to see what was happening in your ancestors’ lives? Knowing the events that were happening that affected their lives, and the news that they were talking about with their family and friends, helps provide a glimpse into their world and into the past.

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Abolishing Slavery

Headline hunters weave fascinating circumstances into life stories. They’re constantly on the search for a bold or unusual newspaper headline that leads to something interesting.

In their search for headlines, they select major historical events, along with what was happening in the outside world during particular time periods. Sometimes they’ll stumble on a major event they never heard of, leaving one to wonder why it is not included more in history books.

For example, manumission (the freeing of slaves) occurred in many parts of the world long before the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution (adopted 6 December 1865) abolished slavery in the U.S.—and the movement continued long after.

For example, a search on the terms “slavery abolished” pulled up this 1794 newspaper article about the French Colonies.

article about slavery being abolished in the French Colonies, Farmers’ Library newspaper article 13 May 1794

Farmers’ Library (Rutland, Vermont), 13 May 1794, page 3

That search also found this 1879 article about African King Mtesa (or Mutesa) of the Kingdom of Buganda abolishing slavery throughout his dominions.

Slavery Abolished in Africa, Cincinnati Commercial Tribune newspaper article 13 September 1879

Cincinnati Commercial Tribune (Cincinnati, Ohio), 13 September 1879, page 2

Women’s Suffrage

Another movement not fully addressed in history books is women’s suffrage, underscoring the importance of newspaper research to clarify historical events.

A search on the term “suffragettes” found this old newspaper headline.

article about suffragettes being arrested in Great Britain, Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper article 1 March 1908

Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas), 1 March 1908, page 5

This headline reports that women were humiliated, harassed and often treated as criminal offenders. Imagine how a young girl of today would feel if she learned that her great grandmother was jailed, merely for wanting to vote!

These two headlines introduce articles reporting that California granted females the right to vote in 1911, but the quest for national equality took until 26 August 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted.

Suffrage Wins in California, Boston Journal newspaper article 13 October 1911

Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 13 October 1911, page 12

Tennessee Approves Suffrage Amendment, Bellingham Herald newspaper article 18 August 1920

Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Washington), 18 August 1920, page 3

For an interesting timeline of how the women’s suffrage movement progressed, see the National Women’s History Museum’s Woman Suffrage Timeline (1840-1920).

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Timely Timelines

You can locate many interesting timelines in newspapers, either as feature articles or related to historical events. Search for them using the keywords “timeline,” “this day in history” or “famous headlines.”

article about historical newspaper headlines, Boston Record American newspaper article 29 October 1961

Boston Record American (Boston, Massachusetts), 29 October 1961, page 39

You may wish to construct your own timeline with historical newspaper headlines. Pick a subject and locate pertinent newspaper headlines and their corresponding articles. Categories are only limited by your imagination.

  • Art & Artists
  • Civil Rights
  • Disasters (Hindenburg, Titanic, volcanoes, etc.)
  • Famous People (explorers, presidents & first ladies, the rich & famous, etc.)
  • Laws (age of majority, child labor, education, immigration, manumission & slavery, suffrage, etc.)
  • Entertainment (movies, music, plays, etc.)
  • Eras (Roaring Twenties, Victorian Age, etc.)
  • Genealogy Research (Alex Haley’s Roots, lineage societies, technological advances, etc.)
  • Great Discoveries (gold, medical advances, vaccines, etc.)
  • Migrations (immigration, westward expansion)
  • Sports & Events (competitions, Olympics, World Series, world fairs, etc.)
  • States, Territories & County Formations
  • Wars & Military Events

Here’s a timeline of important events that the Charlotte Observer published in 1907.

timeline of important historical events, Charlotte Observer newspaper article 30 May 1907

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 30 May 1907, page 8

Your genealogy software may have overlays or add-ons to create a timeline, or you can make one in a spreadsheet or with one of the free tools found on the Web. Many timeline “how-to” articles are written for teachers, but the concept applies equally to family historians.

Here are two helpful timeline articles:

Before & After Headlines

An effective tool for teaching family history is to compare before and after newspaper headlines.

For example, here is a newspaper ad from the steamer company White Star Line, advertising cross-Atlantic voyages on its huge new ship Titanic (misspelled as “Titantic”), just two months before the steamer’s ill-fated maiden voyage.

cruise ad from the White Star Line for their new steamer "Titanic," Evening Star newspaper advertisement 13 February 1912

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 13 February 1912, page 17

By contrast, here is one of the many shocking headlines the world saw after the “unsinkable” Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in the early morning hours of 15 April 1912.

Ship's Band Plays "Nearer My God to Thee" as Titanic Sinks, Winston-Salem Journal newspaper article 19 April 1912

Winston-Salem Journal (Winston-Salem, North Carolina), 19 April 1912, page 1

Here is another jarring example of contrasting old newspaper headlines. The first is a straightforward headline about the “famous dirigible navigator” Dr. Hugo Eckener arriving in America for a series of conferences on expanding dirigible service between Europe and the U.S. Eckener announced that the Hindenburg dirigible would soon resume its transatlantic flights, and declared:

By the end of the summer, I am certain we will have convinced anyone who has any doubts about the safety of Zeppelin flights across the Atlantic.

Eckener Arrives on Air Mission; Will Visit Akron, Repository newspaper article 10 January 1937

Repository (Canton, Ohio), 10 January 1937, page 3

Less than four months after Eckener made his remark, the world saw headlines such as this in its newspapers.

Fire Wrecks Hindenburg, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 6 May 1937

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 6 May 1937, page 1

Please share with us any of your favorite or surprising historical newspaper headlines found at GenealogyBank!

Related Articles about Newspaper Research for Family History:

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African American Slave Trade: Ships & Records for Genealogy

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena searches old newspapers and other online resources to learn more about the African slave trade in early American history.

Throughout the course of the Atlantic Slave Trade, an estimated 12 million Africans were captured in their homeland and forcibly shipped across the Atlantic, on more than 35,000 voyages, starting in the 17th century* The African Diaspora scattered Africans throughout the Caribbean and Americas. The first slave ship to land in Colonial America went to Jamestown, Virginia, in August 1619. Eighteen years later, the first American slave ship, Desire, sailed out of Massachusetts. This forced migration caused the displacement, torture, enslavement and murder of many Africans.**

African slaves brought to the Americas were part of the “Middle Passage,” a voyage that began in Europe, stopped in Africa to unload supplies and pick up enslaved human cargo, and then traveled to American ports on the eastern coast to trade that human cargo for goods that were then shipped back to Europe.

History of the African Slave Trade in Early America and the United States Infographic (Note: the article continues after this infographic.)

History of the African Slave Trade in America

This troubling part of American history—and important part of African American history—can be uncovered and explored with patient historical research, including searching in old newspapers such as GenealogyBank’s online Historical Newspaper Archives.

Laws Slow—but Don’t Stop—the African Slave Trade

It would seem that the African slave trade to America would have been stopped by a law passed by the U.S. Congress in March 1807 that stated:

“That from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, it shall not be lawful to import or bring into the United States or the territories thereof from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, with intent to hold, sell, or dispose of such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, as a slave, or to be held to service or labour.”***

Genealogy Tip:

Read more about U.S. legislation in the 1800s regarding slavery in GenealogyBank’s Historical Documents section which contains The American State Papers and more.

However, the Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves and a similar law passed in the United Kingdom didn’t end the practice of the slave trade. Slave ships illegally continued to bring their human cargo to U.S. ports, and American newspapers continued reporting on the occasional capture of a slave ship into the 1840s. (Two ships, the Wanderer and the Clotilde, are reported to have brought slaves to the United States well into the 1850s.) As with the passage of most laws, those who would break the law don’t end their criminal deeds; instead a black market thrives.

Slave Advertisements in Newspapers

Eighteenth-century newspapers found in GenealogyBank’s archives report of the comings and goings of slave ships, when the African slave trade was still legal. From advertisements to shipping news articles, researchers can find mentions of slave ships, names of their captains, and descriptions of the people on board.

In some cases advertisements for the upcoming sale of slaves included information on the ship they would be arriving on. In this example from a 1785 South Carolina newspaper, Fisher & Edwards advertise that the ship Commerce, under Captain Thomas Morton, will be arriving from Africa’s Gold Coast with “upwards of 200 prime slaves” for sale.

ad for a slave auction, South-Carolina Weekly Gazette newspaper advertisement 6 August 1785

South-Carolina Weekly Gazette (Charleston, South Carolina), 6 August 1785, page 3

An earlier South Carolina advertisement proclaims that the slaves aboard Captain Buncombe’s ship Venus are “mostly stout men.”

ad for a slave auction, South-Carolina Weekly Gazette newspaper advertisement 17 July 1784

South-Carolina Weekly Gazette (Charleston, South Carolina), 17 July 1784, page 4

Slave Ship “Shipping News” in Newspapers

Articles under “Shipping News” or “Marine List” headlines are a good place to start searching for information about slave ships, crew, and cargo.

In this example from a 1799 New York newspaper, we see updates on various ships including information about deaths on ships. We also see that the Gurbridge and Mary were bringing slaves, and to whom they were being brought.

shipping news, Commercial Advertiser newspaper article 31 July 1799

Commercial Advertiser (New York, New York), 31 July 1799, page 3

Where to Find Records on the African Slave Trade & Slave Ships

  • After exhausting your research in newspapers, learn more about a particular slave ship by consulting the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database website, which houses information about slave ships from 1514 to 1866.

The National Archives (NARA) houses resources that can assist in your research:

African American Slave Trade Infographic Research Sources:

These online websites can be helpful, but research on the name of a slave ship should begin with historical newspapers. It’s in their advertisements and news articles that you will find mentions of the slave ships’ cargo, crew, and destination.

You are free to share the History of the African Slave Trade in Early America and the United States Infographic on your blog or website using the embed code below.

__________________

* The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. http://www.slavevoyages.org/tast/index.faces. Accessed 23 February 2014.

** “March 2, 1807.” This Week in History, March. http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/images/peacehistorymarch.htm. Accessed 23 February 2014.

*** “An Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves into any Port or Place Within the Jurisdiction of the United States, From and After the First Day of January, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eight.” The Avalon Project. Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/sl004.asp. Accessed 23 February 2014.

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, aka Frederick Douglass

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott searches old newspapers to learn about one of the great figures in American history: the African American abolitionist, Frederick Douglass.

I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.

—Frederick Douglass

Exactly 119 years ago today, on 20 February 1895, America suddenly and unexpectedly lost one of its most impressive abolitionists, reformers, orators, writers, statesmen, and advocates for equal rights of all people: Frederick Douglass.

photo of Frederick Douglass

Photo: Frederick Douglass. Credit: Wikipedia.

Wanting to know more about this great African American, I turned to GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to look for old articles to learn about his life and times. I was not disappointed with my research findings.

This obituary of Frederick Douglas appeared in an 1895 New York newspaper. All of us genealogy fans can always appreciate a well-written obituary, and this certainly is one.

Death of Frederick Douglass, Irish American Weekly newspaper obituary 25 February 1895

Irish American Weekly (New York, New York), 25 February 1895, page 4

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey

Born about 1817 as an African American slave on the eastern shore of Maryland, Frederick Douglass was born with the name of Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He proceeded to spend his life breaking just about every mold people tried to force him to fit.

Runaway Slave & Man of Many Names

Douglass tried to escape slavery twice before he was finally successful, but once free, he was a wanted man. As a result, he had to change his name from Bailey, to Johnson, and then to Douglass—and as genealogy fans we can appreciate Douglass writing his autobiography, which helps us understand his changing name history.

Rising to Be a Famous American Abolitionist

Just how impressive was Frederick Douglass? Take a look at this article from a 1909 Chicago newspaper with its subheading calling Douglass “…One of the Sublimest and Most Noble Characters…”

The 92nd Anniversary of the Birth of Frederick Douglass, Broad Ax newspaper article 13 February 1909

Broad Ax (Chicago, Illinois), 13 February 1909, page 1

Douglass rose from the hardship of being born into slavery and the cruelty of being removed from his mother’s care as an infant (which was a customary practice in slavery at the time), to finally managing to escape to freedom—and became, at the time, America’s premier African American voice against slavery. One of my favorite quotes by Douglass is captured in this article from a 1952 Kansas newspaper. It is short, but really powerful:

I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity.

Frederick Douglass' Statement, Plaindealer newspaper article 11 July 1952

Plaindealer (Kansas City, Kansas), 11 July 1952, page 7

Facing Abolitionist Opponents

While we all wish this was the case throughout American history, we all know it certainly was not. For an unvarnished view of just how challenging Frederick Douglass’s anti-slavery stand was, I strongly suggest that you look up and read this article from a 1930 Kansas newspaper.

The Truth about the Great Frederick Douglass, Plaindealer newspaper article 30 August 1930

Plaindealer (Topeka, Kansas), 30 August 1930, section: illustrated feature section, page 3

Running an entire page, this article often graphically relates what kinds of perils Douglass faced in his quest to speak out against slavery. Here is one horrifying example:

At Pendleton, Ind., the mob tore down the platform on which he was speaking. When the mob attacked him, he defended himself with a club until his arm was broken and he was battered into unconsciousness. When he regained it, with is arm in a sling, he insisted on speaking again.

Strong Advocate for Women’s Rights

Slavery was not the only cause that Frederick Douglass fought for. As you can read in this article from an 1848 Washington, D.C., newspaper, he supported the Women’s Rights Movement as well. Douglass spoke (he was the only African American invited to speak) at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, where he continued his strong advocacy for equal rights for women.

article about Frederick Douglass speaking at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, Daily National Intelligencer newspaper article 16 August 1848

Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.), 16 August 1848, page 2

Frederick Douglass Meets President Lincoln

This article from an 1864 Louisiana newspaper reported on Douglass meeting with President Abraham Lincoln. In a speech he gave afterward, Douglass said:

Now, you will want to know how I was impressed by him [Lincoln]. He impressed me as being just what every one of you have been in the habit of calling him—an honest man.

article about Frederick Douglass meeting President Abraham Lincoln, New Orleans Tribune newspaper article 26 July 1864

New Orleans Tribune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 26 July 1864, page 2

This old article from an 1891 Nebraska newspaper reported that Frederick Douglass advised President Lincoln on the Emancipation Proclamation, and was appointed the U.S. Minster to Hayti (now Haiti).

He (Frederick Douglass) Advised the (Emancipation) Proclamation, Omaha World Herald newspaper article 7 August 1891

Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 7 August 1891, page 4

His Home a National Historic Site

Moving toward more current times, the Douglass family home, known as Cedar Hill, became a National Historic Site and a part of our National Park Service, as you can read in this article from a 1972 Wisconsin newspaper.

(Frederick) Douglass Honored, Milwaukee Star newspaper article 24 February 1972

Milwaukee Star (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 24 February 1972, page 10

Frederick Douglass’ Newspaper

Note: one of the historical newspapers in GenealogyBank’s collection is the very newspaper edited and published by Frederick Douglass himself! It is the Frederick Douglass’ Paper (Rochester, New York), where you can read entire issues of this newspaper from 1847 to 1860.

I’d encourage you to take some time, delve into the newspapers of GenealogyBank’s online collection, and really investigate Frederick Douglass, one of America’s finest!

102-Year-Old Ex-Slave Once Shook Abraham Lincoln’s Hand

I ran across this interesting obituary in an old newspaper today. It ended with this line: “She once shook hands with Abraham Lincoln.”

In 1912, or even today, it would be impressive to know someone who shook hands with a President—especially one of the stature of Abraham Lincoln.

There were, no doubt, many highlights over the course of Mrs. Catharine Pride’s 102 years. She was born an African American slave in Virginia in 1810, and after the Civil War had lived in Germantown, Pennsylvania, for more than 40 years.

Now—put that in context. She was born an African American slave and she had the opportunity to meet and shake hands with Abraham Lincoln, the man who freed the slaves. It must have been a very powerful moment.

Catherine Pride Obituary - 102 year old slave shook hands with Abraham Lincoln

Reclaim your ancestors’ stories and make sure the family knows the details of your ancestors’ lives, like this obituary of Mrs. Catharine Pride published in the Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 19 January 1912, page 7.

You can discover a wealth of information in our full historical newspaper archives or explore only your African American ancestry in our African American newspapers collection.

13th Amendment Ratified, Abolishing Slavery in America

Our online archive of old newspapers is a great resource to help with your family history research, filling in details on your family tree. It’s also a good way to learn about the times your ancestors lived in, and better understand their lives.

For example, if your ancestors were alive on Dec. 6, 1865, then you know one of the major news topics they were discussing around the supper table. For on that day, the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, forever abolishing slavery in the United States.

The next day, Americans saw in their local newspapers something very similar to what New Yorkers were reading about the newly-ratified constitutional amendment marking the abolition of slavery:

Slavery Forever Dead New York Herald Newspaper Article December 07, 1865

New York Herald (New York, New York), 7 December 1865, page 1.

Some people today think President Abraham Lincoln banned slavery when he issued his Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War, but that was not the case. Using his War Powers, President Lincoln only did what he could legally do: free the slaves in Confederate-controlled parts of the country. Slavery itself remained legal in the U.S.— slaves were not freed in the four border states that did not secede from the Union: Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri.

It would take an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to legally ban slavery in the United States, and when the Georgia Legislature approved the 13th Amendment—becoming the 27th state to do so—the necessary approval of ¾ of the states was reached and the amendment was ratified.

13th Amendment Newspaper Article Lowell Daily Citizen & News 1865

Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts), 8 December 1865, page 2.

The American Civil War was fought over two main preservation issues: whether the Union should remain intact, and whether slavery should be preserved. After four terrible years of military fighting that killed over 600,000 soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands more, the nation had its answers: the Union would remain whole, and slavery was ended.

What a tumultuous year 1865 was for America! At the beginning of the year the Civil War was still raging. During April General Robert E. Lee surrendered the main Confederate army—and five days later U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by a Southern sympathizer. By that summer the fighting had ended and the American Civil War was finally over.

And all during that long year the process of ratifying the 13th Amendment to ban slavery in America was slowly winding its way through the state ratification process. While this was of great interest to all Americans, of course, it is safe to say the outcome of the constitutional amendment’s ratification was especially important to African Americans, as the following three newspaper articles show (all from GenealogyBank’s African American newspapers collection).

The Duty of Colored Men in Louisiana Black Republican Newspaper 1865

Black Republican (New Orleans, Louisiana), 15 April 1865, page 2.

This newspaper article was published on the day President Lincoln died, and reminds its African American audience that ending the Civil War and freeing the slaves is but a first step toward a society where all members are free, educated, and equal participants with full legal protections. The old newspaper article warns that it is prejudice itself that must be overcome:

There are many remnants of the past guilt yet polluting the soil and the atmosphere. There are cruel and dangerous prejudices that must be outlived. The sting of the serpent of slavery is in the hearts of the people. They may die with it, but justice and righteousness will live forever, and with them we must and shall succeed.

Our Country Black Rights Article South Carolina Leader

South Carolina Leader (Charleston, South Carolina), 21 October 1865, page 2.

These are powerful words in an African American newspaper from South Carolina—the first state that seceded from the Union and where the Civil War’s first battle was fought—published just months after the war ended. The historical newspaper article goes on to say:

We are confident of a change, because satisfied that the present policy is a failure. No cause can long prevail unless founded in absolute justice to all men. With such implicit faith in the justice of our cause, let us give our unqualified support to the President, and press steadily on for the accomplishment of the great purposes of our country—the moral rights, the intellectual privileges, and the physical liberties of mankind.

At the end of December 1865, following ratification of the 13th Amendment, this newspaper article was published with the title “What Is a Man?”

What Is a Man? Black Equality Article Colored American Newspaper

Colored American (Augusta, Georgia), 30 December 1865, page 2.

This old newspaper article concludes with these stirring words:

But these laws are dead, and we are glad of it. Fate has torn down the shutters and broken the locks of the temple of knowledge, and the great problem of advancement has commenced, and if, in its solution, it should give birth to men in the full sense of the term; we hope and trust that the boundary lines of color and race shall be obliterated from the map of common sense, and every man shall stand on his own merits as a man, and the world shall behold the consummation of the poet’s [i.e., Robert Burns] highest hope, that

Man to man the world o’er

Shall brothers be, an’ a’ that.

Good luck with your family history research, and enjoy browsing through historical newspaper archives such as the ones GenealogyBank offers. You’ll find many details, and possibly even maps, photographs or other illustrations, to learn more about your ancestors—and the times they lived in.

If you are researching your black American ancestry you may find our special African American newspaper archive to be particularly helpful.

How do I find articles on Blacks in GenealogyBank?

I received an interesting question this morning. How do I find articles on Blacks in GenealogyBank?

I have read thousands of articles on Blacks in the old newspapers, books and documents. But, what would be the best search strategies to focus on just those articles?

It would be to look for specific names and keyword search terms associated with Blacks over the past 300 years.

Search for individuals by name like “Martin Luther King”. Click here to read the Dallas Morning News 5 April 1968 when he was killed.

TIP: Put names in quotes – “Martin Luther King” – so that your search will focus in on just articles where the person you are searching for is mentioned.

When former slave John Wiley died in 1918 it was a banner headline and a front page story in the Belleville News Democrat (20 May 1918). Click here to read the article.

You should also use keyword search terms that were used over the past 300 years. For example terms like: slave, slavery, African-American, NAACP, AME Church; and Civil Rights Movement will generate millions of hits in GenealogyBank.

Since funerals are often held at churches – a search term like “AME Church” brings up tens of thousands of obituaries for funerals held at one of the many African-Methodist Episcopal churches across the country.

You will then want to narrow down your search results by state, specific newspaper or by date range.

Whether you are searching for your ancestor’s in today’s newspaper or the last century you will depend on GenealogyBank to get the job done.

Over 3,800 newspapers, all 50 States, 1690-Today

Join with us today!

Your support makes it possible for us to add more newspapers every month!
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Genealogist, Mary Sue Green Smith (1933-2009)

Prominent Nashville, TN genealogist, Mary Sue Green Smith (1933-2009) has passed away.

She was President of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society. She published eight books between 1994 and 2006; mostly reference works to be used in tracing one’s roots in Nashville. She indexed tens of thousands of pre-Civil War civil court records, which added to standard genealogical resources, many families whose names don’t otherwise appear in records.

Tennessean, The (Nashville, TN) – April 25, 2009
SMITH, Mary Sue Green Age 76 of Nashville, TN, died Friday, April 24, 2009. She was a genealogist, whose contributions helped African-American families with Nashville roots to trace their families back before the Civil War.


She was preceded in death by her husband, Burrell G. Smith and one of her sons, Robert Shelton Smith, who died in 1972. She is survived by three sons, John Kennedy Smith and wife Barbie of Indianapolis, Stephen Thomas Smith and wife Barbara Ann Mech of Nashville, and Richard Douglas Smith and wife Julie of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Her surviving grandchildren are John R. Smith of Big Bear, CA, Michael B. Smith, midshipman at the Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, Thomas Shelton Smith and wife, Anne Kindt Smith of Knoxville, Katherine Holly Smith of Nashville, Andrew Kennedy Smith of Nashville, Jennifer Sue Smith of Fairbanks and Robert Elias Smith of Sault Ste. Marie, MI.

Her surviving sisters are Dorothy Strange of Loudon, TN, Barbara Butler of Nashville and Pam White of Nashville. Mary Sue Smith was a native of Nashville.

She graduated from David Lipscomb High School and attended David Lipscomb College, where she met Burrell G. Smith, who had served in the Army paratroopers in World War II. They were married in April, 1950. Hers was the first wedding in the newly built Otter Creek Church of Christ, at the corner of Otter Creek Road and Granny White Pike. Her father, the late Sam Kennedy Green, was an elder there.

The couple raised a family in Bellaire, MI. Burrell was an educator and a social worker. Sue served as clerk of the Antrim County Selective Service Board during the Vietnam War. She served on the mental health board of the county. After Burrell’s death, Sue returned to Nashville in 1986.

Sue was a genealogist and had served as President of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society. She published eight books between 1994 and 2006, mostly reference works to be used in tracing one’s roots in Nashville. She indexed tens of thousands of pre-Civil War civil court records, which added to standard genealogical resources, many families whose names don’t otherwise appear in records.

Her work made it possible for many African-American families to trace their parentage back into the years when persons held in slavery were listed, as property, in wills.

Memorial services will be conducted Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 3 p.m., at Woodbine Funeral Home, Hickory Chapel, 5852 Nolensville Road, by Tommy Daniel. Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of your choice. Visitation will be Sunday from 1 – 3 p.m., at WOODBINE FUNERAL HOME, HICKORY CHAPEL Directors, 615-331-1952; Still Family Owned.

Copyright (c) The Tennessean. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.

Key Historical Newspapers Online at GenealogyBank.com

With over 3,500 newspapers on GenealogyBank it might be difficult to be familiar with all of them.

GenealogyBank is packed with obituaries, birth records and marriage announcements – but here are some quick facts you might not know about some of our historical newspapers.

Baltimore Gazette and Daily Advertiser (Maryland)
Although this prominent paper published some of Edgar Allen Poe’s earliest poetry, Poe was unable to secure a job on its staff as he had hoped. Includes 3,619 issues published between 1826 and 1838.

Blackfoot Register (Idaho)
The Register covers the Idaho mining boom and the run up to statehood. Publisher William Wheeler used his persuasive writing skills to bolster the population of the then-struggling Idaho Territory. Includes 255 issues published between 1880 and 1886.

Boston Journal (Massachusetts)
One of the first newspapers to conduct a census of its readers, the well-known Journal offered a balance of businessnews and general interest stories, especially those that focused on life in New England. Includes 14,438 issues published between 1870 and 1917.

Daily Alaska Dispatch (Juneau)
The Dispatch offers detailed coverage of shipwrecks, volcano eruptions and other dangers that settlers faced in the harsh northern lands. Includes 5,724 issues published between 1900 and 1919.

Frankfort Argus (Kentucky)
One of the first newspapers west of the Appalachians. Includes 283 issues published between 1808 and 1821. Alternate Title: Argus of the Western World.

Frederick Douglass’ Paper (Rochester, New York)
Including its predecessor the North Star, this powerful anti-slavery newspaper had a circulation of 4,000 readers worldwide. Includes 136 issues published between 1847 and 1860.

Hobart Republican (Oklahoma)
Founded the year Oklahoma achieved statehood, the Republican reflects conservative middle-American views on World War I and the Russian Revolution. Includes 7,438 issues published between 1907 and 1920.

Hokubei Jiji or The North American Times (Seattle, Washington)
This was the first Japanese newspaper in the Pacific Northwest. Includes 57 issues published between 1916 and 1918.

Jeffersonian (Thomson, Georgia)
The Jeffersonian was the official mouthpiece of Georgia’s controversial fire-brand Populist and former presidential candidate, Thomas E. Watson. Will include issues published between 1909 and 1914.

Milwaukee Sentinel (Wisconsin)
The Sentinel provides national and international coverage as well as a glimpse into the northern fur trade. Includes 5,929 issues published between 1837 and 1866.

New-Bedford Courier (Massachusetts)
This important weekly newspaper from the U.S. whaling capital covers the industry at its height. Includes 181 issues published between 1827 and 1833.

New York Tribune (New York City)
For much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Horace Greeley’s newspaper was one of the most powerful and successful in America. Will include issues published between 1856 and 1922.

Prescott Daily Courier (Arizona)
This early daily covered Arizona in the years before statehood, after the Desert Land Act significantly increased the territory’s population. Includes 2,173 issues published between 1891 and 1908.

Steamer Pacific News (San Francisco, California)
One of the most popular California newspapers, the Pacific News was shipped east during the height of the Gold Rush. Will include issues published between 1849 and 1851.

St. Louis Republic (Missouri)
This respected daily provided firsthand coverage of Midwestern events such as the Great Tornado of 1896 and the death of Sitting Bull. Includes 3,955 issues published between 1888 and 1900.

Territorial Enterprise (Virginia City, Nevada)
Nevada’s most important early newspaper featured articles written by young staffer Samuel Clemens, later known as Mark Twain. Will include issues published between 1874 and 1881. It will be loaded soon.

Texas Gazette (Austin)
The first English-language newspaper in the state, this important but short-lived title set the standard for frontier journalism. Will include issues published between 1829 and 1832. It will be loaded soon.

Die Washingtoner Post (Washington, Missouri)
This German-language title portrayed the lives of immigrants along the Mississippi River in the 1870s. Will include issues published between 1870 and 1878. It will be loaded soon.

Click here to see the complete list of newspapers on Genealogy Bank.

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