GenealogyBank’s Historical Books Section: Another Rich Resource for Genealogists

In addition to its core of 5,850 online newspapers, GenealogyBank has other family history resources to offer genealogists.

As GenealogyBank combs through archives and repositories for the oldest American newspapers, we find many one-of-a-kind early printed items of high genealogical value. These can range from one-page keepsakes to small printed books.

We digitize these and put them in the “Historical Books” section of GenealogyBank.

Old Family Genealogy Records & Funeral Sermon

These historical books and other non-newspaper items were printed between 1800 and 1900; most of them were printed before 1840. These publications can be one page or hundreds of pages long. All of these historical printed materials are of high genealogical interest and are a permanent family treasure to be passed down and kept. Here is a list of some of the books and other printed materials you can discover in our Historical Books archive:

  • Rare books including autobiographies, biographies, genealogies and memoirs
  • Historical maps and atlases
  • Directories and subscribers lists
  • Ad cards and vintage advertisements
  • Church and funeral sermons
  • Travel literature
  • Invitations
  • Old concert and play programs

Imagine finding a copy of the actual sermon preached at the funeral of an ancestor, or the invitation to the 25th anniversary party for your 2nd great-grandparents.

Mr. & Mrs. A.W. Putnam 25th Anniversary of their Marriage Invitation

The best way to search our historical books collection is by surname.

Click on the “Historical Books” section and then enter only the surname of the family that you want to research.  For example, type in: Bristow.

Searching Surnames in GenealogyBank's Historical Books Archive

This will pull up 12 relevant results, ranging from a biography of Benjamin Bristow to the “Patriotic Concert” concert program of popular American composer George Frederick Bristow (1825-1898).

Benjamin Bristow Concert Program & Biography

Dig deeply and mine GenealogyBank for all of its valuable content.

You especially want to sift through the Historical Books collection, with its wide variety of printed ephemera.

Amazing True Story of Shipwreck Survival

Last week I spotted the unusual story of a man saved from dying in a shipwreck in the middle of the night when he spotted a floating box—it turned out to be his wife’s coffin that he was bringing home for burial!

The newspaper article containing this incredible survival story was printed by the Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York), 4 December 1855, page 2.

What an amazing newspaper article—and yet it seemed to me something wasn’t quite right about this story:

  • When and where was the shipwreck of the steamer Anthony Wayne?
  • Why no first name for the husband?
  • Why no name for the wife?
  • Did steamers travel from Chicago to Philadelphia?
  • Was there more to this story?

Digging deeper into GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives I found this article, printed by the Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus, Ohio), 1 May 1850, page 2, with this startling headline: “Awful Calamity. Explosion of the Steamboat Anthony Wayne. Forty Lives Lost!!”

 

So, the steamer ship exploded on Saturday, April 27, 1850, while en route from Sandusky, Ohio, to Buffalo, New York. The accident happened on Lake Erie, about six or seven miles offshore of Vermillion, Ohio.

I kept researching and found more details—but no names—in this newspaper article, printed by the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 30 April 1850, page 2.

Here was a contemporary account of this horrific ship explosion tragedy, but still not all the details

A gentleman “going east to bury his wife and child”:

  • Traveling with “the balance of his family, two small children”
  • Following the explosion, he “launched the coffin” as a makeshift life raft
  • Labored with “a child grasped under each arm with a most desperate struggle”
  • Sadly, he “lost his boy” and was forced to abandon the remains of “his wife and child”

As news reporting improved and more details about the survivors and the deceased were gathered, the

Newport Mercury (Newport, Rhode Island), 11 May 1850, page 2, gave more of the story.

This newspaper article has provided us with more details about the survival story:

  • Archer Brackney was the father trying to rescue his family
  • He was from Lafayette, Iowa
  • The coffin contained both corpses of “his wife and child”
  • We learn of his desperate struggle to save his “two living children”
  • Sadly, “his little boy, two years old, was drowned in his arms”
  • He managed to save his little girl, “who was clinging around his neck, crying ‘Papa! We shall drown!’”

Researching further in GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives, I uncovered more of the real story.

The coroner held an inquest and the results were published in the Sandusky Register (Sandusky, Ohio), 30 April 1850, page 2.

This verified the essentials of the survival story.

Now to dig deeper and see what more details can be found about this shipwreck tragedy and real life story of survival. It’s amazing how much information you can find in historical newspaper archives!

Elizabeth Gladys Dean (1912-2009) Last Titanic Survivor Dies

Elizabeth Gladys Dean was born on 12 Feb 1912. Her parents sold their family business in England and planned to emigrate to America like so many others from the UK before them.

Along with her mother Georgette Eva Dean, father Bertram Frank Dean and brother Bertram Dean they boarded the Titanic just a few weeks later to settle in their new home in Kansas. Her father perished in the sinking of the Titanic and the family returned to England to mourn their loss.

The newspapers of the day gave the grim listss of those that perished and those that survived.
(Boston Journal 12 April 1912)

Macon (GA) Weekly Telegraph 18 April 1912

Elizabeth Gladys Dean’s obituary appears in GenealogyBank.com

In fact GenealogyBank has the obituaries and stories of over 1,000 of the Titanic passengers that died in 1912 and the survivors that have died since.

Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) – May 31, 2009
Last survivor of the Titanic dies, aged 97

LONDON — Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the sinking of RMS Titanic, died Sunday in her sleep, her friend Gunter Babler said. She was 97.

Babler said Dean’s longtime companion, Bruno Nordmanis, called him in Switzerland to say that Dean died at her nursing home in southern England, on the 98th anniversary of the launch of the ship that was billed as “practically unsinkable.”

He said staff discovered Dean in her room Sunday morning. Babler said she had been hospitalized with pneumonia last week but she had recovered and returned to the nursing home.

A staff nurse at Woodlands Ridge Nursing Home in Southampton said no one could comment until administrators came on duty Monday morning.

Dean was just over 2 months old when the Titanic hit an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912. The ship sank in less than three hours.

Dean was one of 706 people — mostly women and children — who survived. Her father was among the 1,517 who died.

Babler, who is head of the Switzerland Titanic Society, said Dean was a “very good friend of very many years.”
“I met her through the Titanic society but she became a friend and I went to see her every month or so,” he said.

The pride of the White Star line, the Titanic had a mahogany-paneled smoking room, a swimming pool and a squash court. But it did not have enough lifeboats for all of its 2,200 passengers and crew.

Dean’s family were steerage passengers setting out from the English port of Southampton for a new life in the United States. Her father had sold his pub and hoped to open a tobacconists’ shop in Kansas City, Missouri, where his wife had relatives.

Initially scheduled to travel on another ship, the family was transferred to the Titanic because of a coal strike. Four days out of port and about 600 kilometers (380 miles) southeast of Newfoundland, the ship hit an iceberg. The impact buckled the Titanic’s hull and sent sea water pouring into six of its supposedly watertight compartments.

Dean said her father’s quick actions saved his family. He felt the ship scrape the iceberg and hustled the family out of its third-class quarters and toward the lifeboat that would take them to safety. “That’s partly what saved us — because he was so quick. Some people thought the ship was unsinkable,” Dean told the British Broadcasting Corp. in 1998.

Wrapped in a sack against the Atlantic chill, Dean was lowered into a lifeboat. Her 2-year-old brother Bertram and her mother Georgette also survived.

“She said goodbye to my father and he said he’d be along later,” Dean said in 2002. “I was put into lifeboat 13. It was a bitterly cold night and eventually we were picked up by the Carpathia.”

The family was taken to New York, then returned to England with other survivors aboard the rescue ship Adriatic. Dean did not know she had been aboard the Titanic until she was 8 years old, when her mother, about to remarry, told her about her father’s death. Her mother, always reticent about the tragedy, died in 1975 at age 95.

Born in London on Feb. 2, 1912, Elizabeth Gladys “Millvina” Dean spent most of her life in the English seaside town of Southampton, Titanic’s home port. She never married, and worked as a secretary, retiring in 1972 from an engineering firm.

She moved into a nursing home after breaking her hip about three years ago. She had to sell several Titanic mementoes to raise funds, prompting her friends to set up a fund to subsidize her nursing home fees. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the stars of the film “Titanic,” pledged their support to the fund last month.

For most of her life Dean had no contact with Titanic enthusiasts and rarely spoke about the disaster. Dean said she had seen the 1958 film “A Night to Remember” with other survivors, but found it so upsetting that she declined to watch any other attempts to put the disaster on celluloid, including the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic.”

She began to take part in Titanic-related activities in the 1980s, after the discovery of the ship’s wreck in 1985 sparked renewed interest in the disaster. At a memorial service in England, Dean met a group of American Titanic enthusiasts who invited her to a meeting in the U.S.

She visited Belfast to see where the ship was built, attended Titanic conventions around the world — where she was mobbed by autograph seekers — and participated in radio and television documentaries about the sinking.

Charles Haas, president of the New-Jersey based Titanic International Society, said Dean was happy to talk to children about the Titanic. “She had a soft spot for children,” he said. “I remember watching as little tiny children came over clutching pieces of paper for her to sign. She was very good with them, very warm.”

In 1997, Dean crossed the Atlantic by boat on the QEII luxury liner and finally visited Kansas City, declaring it “so lovely I could stay here five years.” She was active well into her 90s, but missed the commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the disaster in 2007 after breaking her hip.

Dean had no memories of the sinking and said she preferred it that way. “I wouldn’t want to remember, really,” she told The Associated Press in 1997. She opposed attempts to raise the wreck 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) from the sea bed.

“I don’t want them to raise it, I think the other survivors would say exactly the same,” she said in 1997. “That would be horrible.”

The last survivor with memories of the sinking — and the last American survivor — was Lillian Asplund, who was 5 at the time. She died in May 2006 at the age of 99. The second-last survivor, Barbara Joyce West Dainton of Truro, England, died in October 2007 aged 96.
Reprinted by permission: Copyright (c) 2009 Deseret News Publishing Company

Halvor Moorshead Retires

For more than two decades Halvor Moorshead has been in the forefront of genealogy.

Consistently on target his four publications Family Chronicle, Internet Genealogy, History Magazine and his newest title Discovering Family History are the best in the field. Readable and useful, you save each issue, mark them up and act on the suggestions, tips and ideas. I wish we could say that about every genealogy magazine.

Halvor has the pulse of genealogy. He knows where we need to be researching, the tools of the trade and the “next big thing” – and he knows how to present it. As publisher we all could see his hand in framing each issue so that it would be up to date and on target.

I personally have been grateful to know him and benefited from his candor, knowledge of the field and smiling good humor.
And hey, he’s a heck of a nice guy too.

Halvor is not leaving the stage just yet – he will be a consultant for the new publishers and he will be at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Kansas City in May. I am organizing an event there in Halvor’s honor and will post the details to this blog. Be sure to be there to wish him well.

Here is the official announcement from Halvor Moorshead:

I am retiring on Friday, 29 February 2008I wish I had the capacity to e-mail everyone with whom I do business – and my friends –individually about the following but this is not practical so I am sending out this general announcement about important changes affecting our publishing company.

I have sold Moorshead Magazines – which includes Family Chronicle, Internet Genealogy, History Magazine and the new Discovering Family History and will be retiring. The sale finalizes on Friday 29 February 2008.

This is not quite as radical as it first sounds. I am selling the company to two of the staff – Ed Zapletal and Rick Cree. They have made it clear that their main reason for buying the company is that they do NOT want any changes. There will obviously be some differences as I will be out of the picture, but there will be no staff changes. Victoria, Marc and Jeannette will be continuing in the same roles.I turned 65 in November and want time to travel and do other things with Marian (my wife) while we are still capable (I also plan on spending a lot of time researching my own genealogy!). I also want to do more lecturing.

I am intensely proud of what we have done with Moorshead Magazines – we have dedicated loyal and highly experienced staff. Ed and Rick have both been with me for 24 years – way, way before we published Family Chronicle. We work very well together and we have been pretty successful. Things are going well – Discovering Family History looks as though it will become another success story and this is important to me; I very much want to retire on a high note. Part of the sale agreement is that I will act as a consultant related to the magazines for three years so I am not entirely cut off. In addition, I plan to be at the NGS Annual Convention in Kansas City in May, largely to say good bye personally to the many friends I have made in the genealogy field over the years.

Halvor