Finding My Relative’s Story: The Search for Madge E. Richmond

The other day I asked myself: what can I realistically find about my relatives in GenealogyBank? How many details about my family can I discover?

So I decided to find out by searching GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives for a family member we know little about: Madge E. Richmond (1866-1942).

collage of newspaper articles about Madge Richmond

Collage of newspaper articles about Madge Richmond

Her Career as a Teacher

Madge Richmond was a teacher for 25 years; almost all of those years were spent teaching at the Technical High School in Springfield, Massachusetts.

photo of the entrance to the Technical High School in Springfield, Massachusetts

Photo: Technical High School, Springfield, Massachusetts. Credit: Temposenzatempo.

Beyond that we had the family traditions of her kindness, intellect and work ethic. We knew little else about her.

The family has two pictures of her—one as a young woman.

photo of Madge Richmond as a young woman

Credit: Portrait in possession of the family

The other picture of her was taken in the years after her retirement.

photo of Madge Richmond in her retirement years

Credit: Portrait in possession of the family

Madge Richmond was an “ordinary person”—your typical relative. She was beloved by the family and the school community where she worked, but otherwise she was an unknown person to the world at large.

What could I hope to discover about her in GenealogyBank?

Would newspapers have published anything about such a plain, ordinary person?

All of our relatives are special to us but—for the most part—unknown beyond our family and friends.

The Search for My Relative Begins

In my initial search on GenealogyBank I used only my relative’s name: Madge Richmond.

That first and last name search produced 331 record matches—far too many for me to sort through them all.

So I decided to try searching for my relative again, this time narrowing my search to only the newspapers in the New England states.

I did this simply by checking all the New England states on GenealogyBank’s newspaper search page.

Selecting New England states on GenealogyBank's newspaper search page

Selecting New England states on GenealogyBank’s newspaper search page

That refined search produced 80 search results.

OK—I can work with that. I began looking through the records.

Bang.

The very first record I opened was about was about her! Even better, the article included a photograph of her! It was her retirement notice in the local newspaper.

Will Retire Today, after Long Career in Public Schools, Springfield Republican newspaper article 19 June 1936

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 19 June 1936, page 6

Look at the last line in this newspaper article, a quote from the dedication of that year’s Tech School yearbook:

“To Madge Eleanor Richmond, whose steady poise, clear vision and wise judgment have distinguished her service in this school and have marked every association with faculty and students.”

So—now I know her middle name was “Eleanor.”

I’d always assumed her middle name was Eleanor—but now I have proof.

The old newspaper article explained that Madge was the head of the mathematics department, one of the most popular teachers at the school, and was retiring after teaching for nearly 25 years.

As I looked through more of the search results, I found dozens of mentions of Madge in news articles about school events, lists of faculty and the like. All of these stories, clues and little details I found in the newspaper archives helped me learn about a relative I didn’t know very well.

Here are some of the newspaper articles I found in GenealogyBank that gave me more of Madge’s life story.

These historical newspaper articles have given me a more complete picture of Madge’s life—and a very nice portrait of her.

Here are some of the key moments and events from her life, as captured in newspaper articles.

30 June 1911

newspaper article about Madge Richmond

“Miss Madge Eleanor Richmond was also elected teacher of mathematics in the technical high school. She has been a teacher in the Dover (N.H.) high school.”

Great. I knew she was a teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts, but I didn’t know that she was also a teacher in Dover, New Hampshire.

17 April 1914

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Springfield Union 20 April 1914

Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), 20 April 1914, page 9

OK—here’s another fact new to me: Madge was principal of Ansonia High School (Ansonia, Connecticut) for 12 years prior to coming to Springfield.

July-August 1915

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Springfield Daily News 12 July 1915

Springfield Daily News (Springfield, Massachusetts), 12 July 1915, page 4

More information: in the summer of 1915 she attended Cornell University.

4 July 1916

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Springfield Republican 1 July 1916

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 1 July 1916, page 4

She liked Cornell so much that she and two friends went again the next year.

December 1917

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Springfield Republican 30 December 1917

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 30 December 1917, page 8

She spent Christmas of 1917 with her brother and his wife: Dr. and Mrs. Allen Pierce Richmond of Dover, New Hampshire.

June-August 1919

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Springfield Republican 27 June 1919

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 27 June 1919, page 3

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Springfield Republican 29 August 1919

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 29 August 1919, page 4

In 1915 Madge attended the summer session at the University of Michigan. She also visited her brother Dr. A.P (Allen Pierce) Richmond in Dover, New Hampshire, and her sister Mrs. William Jordan (Abigail May Richmond) in Lisbon, Maine.

So, she also attended the University of Michigan.

That’s good to know.

15-16 November 1919

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Springfield Republican 16 November 1919

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 16 November 1919, page 11

My grandmother— Madge’s niece—was an accountant at the American Optical Company in Southbridge, Massachusetts—and in Boston, Massachusetts?

I didn’t know that.

That’s a real find.

The social briefs in newspapers have been a real goldmine of information about Madge Richmond and the family!

21 May 1921

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Springfield Republican 15 May 1921

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 15 May 1921, page 154

In 1921 she went to study at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Springfield Republican 17 July 1921

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 17 July 1921, page 11

She left on 16 July 1921 for Colorado.

June 1929

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Springfield Republican 23 June 1929

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 23 June 1929 page 36

In 1929 she would go down to St. Augustine, Florida, traveling through the Shenandoah Valley on the trip down and along the coast on the way back. She planned to stay at the St. Augustine Hotel.

January 1934

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Springfield Republican 27 January 1934

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 27 January 1934, page 10

In 1934 she was named the Head of the Mathematics Department at Tech High School.

14 January 1942

Madge Richmond Dies in Hingham, Boston Herald newspaper obituary 20 January 1942

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 20 January 1942, page 17.

Services in Hingham for Former Teacher, Boston Herald newspaper article 22 January 1942

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 22 January 1942, page 21

newspaper article about Madge Richmond, Boston Herald 21 June 1942

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 21 June 1942, page 23

And finally, in these three old newspaper articles, we learn of her death and the funeral arrangements.

That’s an incredible amount of genealogical and family history information I found in old newspaper articles—lots of stories, lots of details about her life—that have turned Madge Richmond from just another relative (with only name, birth and death dates) on the family tree into a member of the family that we know and understand better.

Dig into GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives to see what family history discoveries you can make and bring your family tree to life!

Searching Family History: Old School Records in the Newspaper

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post timed with kids going back to school, Gena shows how valuable school records—in archives and in newspaper articles—can be in tracing your family history.

Once again it’s that time of the year when children’s parents rejoice: the start of a new school year! The beginning of a school year is also a good time for family history researchers to consider how much old school records can help them document their ancestors. Compulsory education has long been a fact of life in America, starting with the first attendance law passed in Massachusetts in 1853. As long as kids have been going to school records have been kept chronicling their school days.

Looking to find information about your ancestors when they were children? Or perhaps you want to find out more about your ancestors who were in the education field, either as teachers or administrators. Consider seeking out local and school histories, school and federal censuses, yearbooks and alumni lists, just to name a few resources. As with any research project, begin by searching your home for sources like attendance records, report cards, rewards of merit, yearbooks, autograph books, and photos. Next, consult the Family History Library Catalog. Conduct a search on the place your ancestor lived and then look for the subject heading “Schools” for microfilmed records that can be viewed at your local FamilySearch Center.

Once you have searched the Family History Library for historical school records, look for collections at a state archive, library or historical society. These school records most likely can be found in a manuscript collection. A look at the Colorado State Archives showed school records that document students as well as teachers. A search using the keyword “School” on the website Online Archive of California, a union catalog of California repositories, found over 6,000 hits including photos, dance cards, report cards, student publications, school district records, and parent association records, just to name a few.

Don’t limit your ancestral school research to just documents. School life is an important part of every community, and local newspapers print many different types of articles about schools, students, teachers and administrators. Searching an online archive of historical newspapers using school-themed keywords can turn up a surprising amount of information on your ancestors. The following examples of school-related news articles are all from GenealogyBank’s online collection.

This listing of Chicago-area schools provides a glimpse at all the students who graduated in 1895. Notice that the list is broken down by school and includes names of students who won awards. These school graduation lists continue even today, especially in small town newspapers.

End of School Year, Daily Inter Ocean newspaper article 29 June 1895

Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), 29 June 1895, page 6

School statistics can give you an idea of the school population for where your ancestor lived. Though they will not provide the names of students, these statistics give you some information about what the area was like in your ancestor’s time.

School Statistics, Jackson Citizen newspaper article 1 January 1889

Jackson Citizen (Jackson, Michigan), 1 January 1889, page 8

Individual students may have been mentioned or even photographed for a newspaper. Such newspaper clippings can provide valuable family keepsakes. Activities such as sports and student clubs are often documented in newspaper articles.

County School Boys Compete in Meet Today, Sun newspaper article 14 June 1913

Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 14 June 1913, page 7

Did your ancestor work at a school as a teacher or administrator? Don’t forget that they too could be mentioned in an old newspaper article. The following news article provides a list of school personnel and what schools they were assigned to in Dallas.

Assignments Announced for Dallas Public Schools, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 5 August 1962

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 5 August 1962, page 6

Was your ancestor a brainiac? One way kids made it into the paper was for their outstanding academic achievements.

School News and Honor Rolls from the Cobb County Schools, Marietta Journal newspaper article, 25 February 1921

Marietta Journal (Marietta, Georgia), 25 February 1921, page 7

Today we are used to hearing about school violence but it’s a mistake to believe that this is a new phenomenon. Consider this story of a 12-year-old boy who died from a school hazing incident back in 1900. While the successes of students are celebrated in the newspaper, there are also reports documenting tragedies.

Hazing Kills Young Student, Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper article 7 November 1900

Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, Michigan), 7 November 1900, page 3

Remember to include school records of all kinds when filling in details on your family tree, including articles from local newspapers. You’re likely to find information and stories about your ancestors you can’t find anywhere else, especially from their younger days.