Planning Your Genealogy Trip: Summer Vacations for Genealogists

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena gives advice and provides online resources for planning your summer genealogy vacation.

What do you have planned this summer? Taking a vacation? How about a genealogy vacation? While it may be hard to convince the rest of your family that a vacation composed of genealogical research is a good idea, there are trips and tours to satisfy everyone’s interests and budget. Whether you want to focus on just genealogy research or you also want to see the world, there is something for you.

photo of a cruise ship

Photo: cruise ship. Credit: David Ortega.

Heritage Tours

Ever consider traveling to your ancestral home? Whether that’s here in the United States or “across the pond,” there may be a heritage tour that can help you see the sights and take in some family history research.

For example, Genealogy Tours of Scotland run by genealogist Christine Woodcock is an opportunity to do onsite research in Scotland, with assistance from local archivists and researchers. This annual trip includes 10 days of research at ScotlandsPeople Centre, the National Library, and more—as well as time for touring and experiencing the Scotland of your ancestors.

Various heritage tours exist worldwide. To find one in the area of your ancestor’s hometown, try Googling the name of the country and the phrase “heritage tours.” Some travel companies offer several heritage tours including the company Family Tree Tours.

Enter Last Name










Going to the Promised Land

OK, maybe Salt Lake City is not “the” Promised Land, but it comes pretty close for family historians. Many genealogists dream of an opportunity to go to Salt Lake City to research in the Family History Library. It can be intimidating to go to a place and do family research when you’ve never been there before. A retreat might be the answer to help you not only navigate your way around the Library and maximize your research time, but also to benefit from the expertise of those who are familiar with the Library and Salt Lake City.

The Salt Lake Christmas Tour, sponsored by Family Roots Publishing, is in its 30th year and features genealogy professionals providing educational lectures and assistance at the Family History Library. This tour attracts a large group and many attendees participate year after year.

Want to go to Salt Lake but still be able to ask someone for help? Consider taking professional genealogist Michael John Neill’s annual Library Research Trip. For a nominal fee you can join Michael at the Family History Library for a week, with an optional morning educational presentation and assistance as you research throughout the day. You can read more about this year’s trip and plan for the 2015 trip at http://rootdig.blogspot.com/2013/10/salt-lake-family-history-library.html.

Genealogy Cruises

Where do you want to sail? A cruise is a great vacation idea—and when you add a vacation destination with a genealogy education you have the perfect get-away.

There are several genealogy cruises that you may want to consider. United States software company Legacy Family Tree’s yearly cruise combines exotic locales with speakers on a variety of topics. This year’s genealogy cruise is unique: it’s a back-to-back cruise opportunity with the first leg of the cruise, two weeks, starting in Japan and making its way to Hong Kong. On the second leg of the tour, you can concentrate on vacationing with stops at ports in Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. As of this time, classes and speakers have not been announced but you can read more about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on their website. If you’re unsure about being out to sea for two weeks to a month, then maybe a shorter cruise would be of more interest to you. Legacy announced that in 2015 they will have a one-week Western Caribbean cruise.

Another genealogy software company, Wholly Genes (the makers of The Master Genealogist), has its annual cruise this year in the late Fall. Organized by Heritage Books, this year’s cruise will leave from Los Angeles and visit the Mexican Riviera. You can learn more about the speakers on this cruise by visiting their website. This cruise will feature 17 hours of “genealogy, technology and DNA instruction.” I’ve been on a cruise to the Mexican Rivera in November and it’s a great time to leave the cold and enjoy some Mexican sunshine.

Are you a seasoned cruiser? Looking for more frequent genealogy cruise opportunities? Consider Australian-based Unlock the Past’s cruises. With multiple cruises each year, Unlock the Past and their international team of genealogy professionals has something for everyone. Cruises for the next three years include trips to the British Isles, Australia to the Baltic, and a Transatlantic voyage. If you’re not sold on the benefits of a genealogy cruise, I would suggest their web page 20 Reasons to Join an Unlock the Past History & Genealogy Cruise.

Enter Last Name










Planning a Family Research Trip on Your Own

Maybe you like to strike out on your own. You might want to consider putting together your own genealogy trip that combines visiting your ancestral homeland with research opportunities.

How do you start? Make a list of all the travel details you will need to sort out, including transportation to your destination and transportation while you are there, as well as lodging and food. You may want to plan those details on your own with the help of a discount site like Kayak. For genealogy vacation destination ideas, be sure to check out our Genealogy Travel board on Pinterest.

Follow Genealogy Bank’s board Genealogy Travel on Pinterest.


Next, figure out what family history research can be done while you are there. Identify nearby libraries, archives, and museums and what resources they have. Make sure to exhaust online digitized items that you are able to access from home so as to not waste your time while you are there. Email librarians and archivists with questions about on-site research. You might even consider contacting a local genealogist in the area for a consultation, or to get help navigating repositories while you are there. There is a real benefit from working with someone who knows all of the ins and outs of an area and the repositories.

However you decide to take your next genealogy trip, plan ahead to make the most of what is offered. And most of all plan to have lots of family research fun!

Travel Tip: When I’m taking a genealogy trip I try to pack as light as possible just in case I pick up some books or other research materials along the way. A SmartPhone or Tablet is a must. With this one tool you can take photos, scan images, audio or video record your travels or interviews, refer to your family tree through an app or via a cloud storage site like Dropbox, take notes, refer to research plans, get directions, and surf the Internet.

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

70th Anniversary of WWII’s D-Day (6 June 1944)

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 find out more about the Allied attacks on German-held beaches in France on D-Day.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of World War II’s D-Day, which happened on 6 June 1944. D-Day was the long-awaited invasion by the Allies of Nazi Germany’s “Fortress Europe.” The massive assault was also known by the codename “Operation Overlord.”

It is estimated that America is losing some 550 World War II veterans each and every day now. Of the approximately 16 million U.S. men and women who served in World War II, only about 1.2 million are still alive today. Personally, I know that my father landed on Omaha Beach, and he has passed away. Now his WWII experiences are only stories others remember, not first-hand experiences he’s around to share with us. It was with this in mind that I decided to search GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to review this historic day.

It did not take me long to find this front-page news coverage of D-Day. General Dwight Eisenhower and the Allies had amassed the greatest amphibious invasion force in history. The old news article reports a one-sentence communiqué issued at 3:32 A.M. Eastern War Time:

Under the command of Gen. Eisenhower, Allied naval forces supported by strong air forces began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France.

By the time this “Extra” edition of the newspaper hit the streets, Operation Overlord had become an immense battle across five Normandy beaches whose code names now are seared into our memory: Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword, and Utah.

front-page news about the Allied invasion of France on D-Day during WWII, Boston Herald newspaper article 6 June 1944

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 6 June 1944, page 1

During the months of D-Day preparations, the actual landings, and even continuing into the first weeks of battles, there was an equally important operation taking place by the name of “Operation Fortitude.” This two-part operation of “Fortitude North” and “Fortitude South” was one of the supreme acts of deception of all time.

Enter Last Name










It took a while for all the details to be revealed, but this 1965 newspaper article presents a very good review of this “secret of D-Day.”

article about D-Day and the secret “Operation Fortitude” during WWII, Boston Herald newspaper article 10 December 1965

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 10 December 1965, page 15

Four years later, this 1969 newspaper article again focuses on the use of deception that paved the way for the Allies’ success at D-Day. This historical news article reports the reminiscences of General Omar Bradley, who commanded the American troops attacking the Normandy coast. Bradley related not only his firsthand memories regarding the D-Day invasion, but also the big deception that was created to convince the Axis powers that the actual invasion was still coming at Pas de Calais—and that the Normandy landings were actually just a distraction.

article about WWII's D-Day and General Omar Bradley, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 1 June 1969

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 1 June 1969, page 32

The incredible fighting, bravery, and staggering losses of D-Day have been frequently reported, but I found a 1979 article on this subject that was particularly interesting to me. It was written by Robert E. Cunningham, a U.S. Army Captain, and relates his experiences while landing at Omaha Beach that fateful day. His story is almost too intense to read.

At Omaha Beach, D Day, June 6, 1944, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 3 June 1979

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 3 June 1979, page 135

Several years ago, my family was on vacation in Europe. We were in France, my mother was driving and my father was dozing in the car. My mom saw a sign for “Omaha Beach” and decided it would be a nice surprise to go there for my dad. My father didn’t wake up until we parked the car. He was incredibly shocked to see where we were as he sat in the car looking out at the acres and rows of crosses. For quite some time he refused to leave the car. Finally he joined us as we walked the now silent beach, seeing the cliffs, concrete pillboxes, old rusting guns, and shipwrecks still in the surf.  It was later, while walking hand-in-hand with his family through those crosses that he said, in a voice that was only a whisper, that he had spent the first months after D-Day on graves registration detail and it was the worst duty he had ever pulled.

Enter Last Name










The War continued for almost a year after D-Day with fierce fighting all across Europe (and in the Pacific for even longer), as shown in this 1944 newspaper with a full page of articles covering battle after battle being waged from France and Italy to the Pacific.

articles about WWII battles, Oregonian newspaper articles 23 June 1944

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 23 June 1944, page 4

Now it is 70 years after D-Day and the successes of that fateful day continue to be recognized across Europe as communities everywhere celebrate their liberation. As a matter of fact, just a couple of months ago I was contacted by a woman who is coordinating the celebration of the liberation of the town of Dinan, France, which was accomplished by the forces of the 83rd Infantry. She was seeking photographs that might be a part of that town’s celebration. As any good family historian and genealogist would do, I was happy to share what I had for the display during their celebration this summer.

The small leather satchel in this photograph is the one my father carried across Europe during the fighting. He carefully noted each town he found himself in, one of which was Dinan.

photo of a leather satchel carried by Scott Phillips's father across Europe during the fighting of WWII

Photo: leather satchel carried by the author’s father across Europe during the fighting of WWII. Credit: from the author’s collection.

As my contact in Dinan said to me: “Oh my, Scott, this satchel tells a story all by itself.”

I can only add my thanks to all who served our country in WWII and especially those who fought on the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago on D-Day.

photo of Scott Phillips'sfather having lunch somewhere in Normandy with his squad during WWII

Photo: The author’s father (right rear) having lunch somewhere in Normandy with his squad during WWII. Credit: from the author’s collection.

Do you have any D-Day veterans in your family or your family tree? I’d like to hear about them if you do; please post something in the comments section below.

ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

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.
Enter Last Name










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

banner ad for gift subscriptions to GenealogyBank

Come Join GenealogyBank at RootsTech 2014! (Conference Tips for Those Attending—and Those Watching Online)

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena gives advice on how to get the most out of RootsTech 2014, the largest genealogy conference in the U.S.

RootsTech is the largest gathering of family historians in the United States and promises to be THE place to be, even virtually, in February.

graphic announcing GenealogyBank's booth #817 at RootsTech genealogy conference

An estimated 10,000 genealogists will gather at the Salt Palace Convention Center this February 6-8, 2014, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Another 20,000 worldwide are projected to watch streaming video of this premier genealogy conference from their homes.

photo of the Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah

Photo: Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Luana Darby.

GenealogyBank will once again be at RootsTech, staffing a booth to greet you and answer your most pressing genealogy questions.

Whether you are going to RootsTech in person or following along at home, here’s how you can get the most out of this important family history event.

Download the Free RootsTech App

Prepare for attending RootsTech by downloading the free app. With the RootsTech conference app you can create your class schedule, learn more about the presenters and exhibitors, and network with others. The conference app is available for both Apple and Android mobile devices. Don’t have a mobile device? No problem! You can use the web version of the app on your desktop PC or Mac.

Stop by the GenealogyBank Booth #817

A must for any conference experience is a stroll or two around the Expo Hall, and RootsTech will be no different. It’s in the Expo Hall that you can view new products and services, ask questions, and learn what’s new in the world of genealogy.

While you’re in the Expo Hall, stop by the GenealogyBank booth (#817) and say hello. We will have computers and friendly staff to help you learn more about using GenealogyBank.com, help you search for ancestors, and give you genealogy tips and tricks to help you succeed.

Set a Conference Course of Action

One of the comments I hear most at conferences is how exhausting it can be. It can be exciting to have the opportunity to learn so much over the course of a weekend but it can also be overwhelming.

Make a plan before you get to the RootsTech conference and decide on your priorities. What are your must-attend lectures, who do you need to speak to in the Expo Hall, and who do you need to network with? And while you may feel like you want to “get your money’s worth,” make sure to schedule down time (time to reflect and rest).

Don’t forget to plan out your meals and bring snacks and water with you. In the excitement of being around all that genealogy, it can be easy to forget to eat. Make a plan for meals before you get there and decide whether you are going to eat from the snack bar or one of the conveniently located restaurants within walking distance of the Salt Palace. For those who are not from Utah, Salt Lake is a dry climate so make sure to drink lots of water to keep hydrated.

photo of Assembly Hall, inside Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah

Photo: Assembly Hall, inside Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Gary W. Clark.

To learn more about where to dine, as well as attractions to see and things to do in downtown Salt Lake City, see the Visit Salt Lake website.

photo of Handcart Pioneer Monument, inside Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah

Photo: Handcart Pioneer Monument, inside Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Gary W. Clark.

Follow the RootsTech Social Media Buzz

Not able to attend RootsTech in person? Whether you are physically there or participating from home, use Twitter to follow along. The RootsTech Twitter account is @RootsTechConf. Participants will be tweeting and tagging images on Instagram using the #RootsTech hashtag. You can also follow along on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RootsTech.

One of the innovative aspects of RootsTech is their commitment to provide free video streaming sessions so that more people around the world can benefit from their family history and technology conference. From their website you can watch selected conference presentations live. Not able to watch the presentation at the scheduled time? No problem, each streamlined presentation is archived so that you can view it at your convenience. To learn about what presentations will be viewable from home see the free online broadcast schedule. Currently, you can view presentations from the 2013 conference.

Did You Know Salt Lake Has a Library?

Obviously the answer to that question is “of course!” Probably one of the biggest benefits of attending a conference in Salt Lake City is the opportunity to visit the Family History Library in person. I’ve written previously about visiting the Family History Library in my GenealogyBank Blog article Planning a Trip to Salt Lake City for Your Family History Research?

photo of the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Photo: Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Luana Darby.

My biggest piece of advice about going to the Family History Library is this: do your homework before you leave home. Utilize the Family History Library Catalog and look up what you want to research so that you can be more efficient while you’re at the Library. If you have limited time to search during your visit, stick to resources that do not circulate to Family History Centers such as books and some microforms.

Going to RootsTech 2014? Have a great time! Genealogy conferences are exciting and energizing. You will definitely come away with ideas and resources to help you in the search for your ancestors. And be sure to stop by and say hi at GenealogyBank’s booth #817. We look forward to seeing you in Salt Lake soon!

Death, Horses & Meteors: My McNeil Family History Discoveries

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 to find some details about the daily life of her ancestor John C. McNeil.

Some of my favorite things about researching family history in old newspapers are the surprises you can find about an ancestor’s daily life. Take for example my McNeil ancestors, John C. McNeil (1823-1909) and his wife Mary Ann Smith McNeil (1853-1944) (actually his 3rd wife; he was a polygamist and had two other wives simultaneously). I’m always interested in researching their lives and learning more about how history impacted them as they separately immigrated to the United States and lived in various states and countries, including Utah, Arizona and Mexico.

The McNeils are a family that I actually know quite a bit about, not just because of my own searching but from the research I inherited from my maternal grandmother (John and Mary Ann were her grandparents), my aunts, and my cousins. One of the future family history projects I’ve planned is to take the family history narratives that have been compiled about this McNeil family and add much-needed source citations. Obviously historical newspaper research can help with this.

James Hibbert McNeil’s Death Notice

For example, one family history narrative I inherited mentions their infant son James Hibbert McNeil dying during a scarlet fever epidemic in 1886. I found a short mortuary notice in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives that confirmed that he died of scarlet fever. Although the family was living in Arizona at the time, I found the death notice in a Utah newspaper.

death notice for James Hibbert McNeil, Deseret News newspaper article 1 September 1886

Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 1 September 1886, page 528

Horse Thievery at the McNeil Farm

I’ve written previously on the GenealogyBank Blog about Mary Ann and how her name was published in newspapers across the United States due to her numerous descendants fighting in World War II. (For my previous article, please see The Polygamist’s Wife: The Story of My Favorite Ancestor Mary Ann.) I started to wonder what other newspapers articles I could find for this family. Were there surprises yet to be uncovered?

So I started on my research quest. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can find family history information in any part of a newspaper: letters to the editor, advertisements, even weather bulletins. Newspaper advertisements, for example, can contain much more information than simply marketing a product to consumers—they can include the names of our ancestors. In this case I made a marvelous discovery: I found a newspaper advertisement that included where John was living at the time. This ad describes three horses “taken up” (stolen) from the McNeil’s farm in Bountiful, Utah.

ad for stolen horses, Deseret News newspaper advertisement 13 October 1869

Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 13 October 1869, page 432

Old Weather Reports Include Meteors!

Continuing on with my family search in Utah and Arizona newspapers (places where I know they lived), I was surprised to find some articles that provided John’s weather reports for Show Low, Arizona. These weather reports were very brief mentions of how the local weather was, included in a larger state weather report published in the newspaper. Several men in various parts of Arizona worked as weather reporters for their area and provided these reports—and my ancestor John McNeil was one of them.

weather report for Show Low, Arizona, Weekly Phoenix Herald newspaper article 24 February 1898

Weekly Phoenix Herald (Phoenix, Arizona), 24 February 1898, page 4

But amidst a few seemingly common weather reports from John, I found this old one from February 1897 in which he reports seeing a meteor. Other witnesses in this report also provided a description of this anomaly.

report of a meteor from Show Low, Arizona, Weekly Phoenix Herald newspaper article 25 February 1897

Weekly Phoenix Herald (Phoenix, Arizona), 25 February 1897, page 2

I imagine reporting on the weather every month may not have been very exciting, but a meteor! That would have added a little excitement to John’s routine.

I was curious about this meteor and continued my search in GenealogyBank’s Arizona newspapers. I soon found other descriptions of that meteor, including this one from a Prescott, Arizona, newspaper. The article reports about the meteor: “It was very near the earth and lighted up the entire heavens. It was accompanied by a roaring noise.”

report of a meteor from Arizona, Weekly Journal Miner newspaper article 27 January 1897

Weekly Journal Miner (Prescott, Arizona), 27 January 1897, page 3

Unexpected Finds in Newspapers

There’s no doubt that newspapers provide us a glimpse of our ancestors that we won’t find in other records. What do I like best about newspapers? You can find the unexpected. You come face to face with the everyday lives of your ancestors and this only keeps getting better as more newspapers are digitized. Can’t find anything about your ancestor’s story? Keep looking; one day you will be surprised at what you find out about your family’s past.

Genealogy Search Tip: Don’t always go into newspaper research expecting to find a certain type of article. Instead, search on a time period. If you only look for obituaries, most likely that’s all you will find. As I searched for John McNeil I searched in the states where he lived and for the years he was alive, not expecting to find just one type of article.

And sure enough, I was not disappointed. In a newspaper obituary, an advertisement, and some weather reports, I got some of those precious glimpses into John’s life that help us get to know the names on our family tree as real people with real lives.

Start searching GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives today, and see what small details about your own ancestors’ lives you can find!

Top Genealogy Websites: Utah Genealogy Resources for Records

Are you researching your family roots in Utah? Here are two good sources of Utah genealogy information online—GenealogyBank and vital records put up by the state itself—to help with your family history research in the “Beehive State.”

collage of genealogy records from the Utah Division of Archives & Records Service

Credit: Utah Division of Archives & Records Service

Utah county and state genealogical records are going online. The state’s Division of Archives & Records Service is putting up indexes and digital copies of original records ranging from birth certificates to probate records, and all types of records in between.

Utah has put up a wider variety of records than perhaps any other state in the U.S.

Utah Death Records

Utah has digitized and is in the process of putting online their death records from 1904-1961. These are Series 20842 (Index to Series 81448).

According to its website there are also these records. (Note: the series without links are not available online, but can be searched in person at the Utah Division of Archives & Records Service office.)

  • Reports from Summit County (Utah). County Coroner, Series 3716, contains the death certificates that are associated with the individual deaths investigated in this coroner record.
  • Military death certificates from the Department of Administrative Services. Division of Archives and Records Service, Series 3769, includes death certificates for military personnel killed in World War II and the Korean War, whose bodies were transported back to Utah for burial.
  • Death certificates electronic index from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 20842, is a computerized index for the death certificates.
  • Burial record from Vernal (Utah)Series 25360, contains death certificates from Uintah County beginning in 1905.

Utah Birth Records

Utah has an index to Birth Certificates 1905-1906 and has additional Birth Certificates 1907-1912 that are not indexed but can be browsed.

According to its website there are also these related birth records online:

  • Birth certificates from Weber County (Utah). County Clerk, Series 20896, includes all live births occurring in the state of Utah as recorded by the Office of Vital Records and Statistics.
  • Birth certificate indexes from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81437, indexes the birth certificates (1904-1934) by Soundex code number.
  • Out-of-state births from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81442, are birth certificates from other states sent to the Utah Office of Vital Records and Statistics for statistical compilation of Utah residents that were born in other states.
  • Native American birth certificates from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81444, are a separate file of birth certificates issued for Indians.
  • Delayed certificates of birth from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81445, are birth certificates that are registered with Vital Records a year or more after the date of birth.
  • Amendments to birth records from the Department of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81446, are forms used to change information on birth certificates, either through error, name change, or subsequent sex change.
  • Birth registers from Emery County (Utah). County Clerk, Series 84038, contains birth certificates filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics beginning in 1904—but do not become public until 100 years after birth. The researcher should contact the agency.
  • Birth and death records from Weber County (Utah). Vital Statistics Registrar, Series 85146, contains the official copy of birth certificates.

More Utah Records for Genealogy

Utah has also put an extensive collection of records online ranging from cattle brand registration books to naturalization records to probate records. See its complete list of records here.

Utah Newspapers for Genealogy

GenealogyBank has an extensive collection of Utah newspapers online dating from 1851 to 1922 & 1988 to Today.

Search Utah Newspaper Archives (1851 – 1922)

Search Utah Recent Obituaries (1988 – Current)

Discover a variety of genealogy records and news stories in these 8 Utah newspapers:

Search recent obituary records for your relatives in these 15 Utah newspapers:

Click on the image below to download a printable list of the Utah newspapers in GenealogyBank for your future reference. You can save to your desktop and click the titles to go directly to your newspaper of interest.

Utah Newspaper Archives at GenealogyBank

Feel free to share this list of Utah newspapers on your blog or website using the embed code provided below.

Embed This Image On Your Site (copy code below):

2013 Family History Expo Conference in St. George a Great Success

Over 700 genealogists packed the lecture halls at the Dixie Center in St. George, Utah, this past weekend to get training and sharpen their genealogy research skills at the 2013 Family History Expo.

Family History Expos logo

Family History Expos logo

James Tanner’s opening keynote remarks, “Top 10 Techniques,” made it clear that newspapers are critical to documenting our family history.

photo of James Tanner

Photo: James Tanner. Credit: Family History Expos.

That same point was made again and again by speakers at this year’s Family History Expo. With conference sessions like: “Newspaper, Critical Resource to Document Your Family Tree” by Thomas Jay Kemp; “Preservation Techniques for Documents, Newspapers and Photos” by Sharon Monson; “Tracing Colonial Immigrants” by Nathan Murphy; and “Obituaries—Clues to Look For” also by Tom Kemp, the importance of newspapers to genealogy research was made clear. All the conference talks were popular and well attended.

Among the dozens of presentations there were some new services announced, like the new FamilySearch Photos service that is available online in a Beta release. This new family tree tool allows users of the free Family Trees on FamilySearch.org to incorporate photos into their online tree. This feature allows genealogists to upload images of their ancestors, tag/identify ancestors in the photos, and associate the tagged ancestors in the photos to the Family Tree.

The family history conference covered a wide variety of sessions ranging from: German, French, Scandinavian and English genealogy research; to preparing your family history, letters and documents for publication in print or online.

One novel approach to genealogy was discussed during Marlo E. Schuldt’s presentation “It’s Time to Do a Slideshow Biography.” The slideshow biography format may be the answer you have been looking for. It’s an easy way to share a life sketch or family history that is online and visual, and can engage people in their heritage in a new way.

Here are links to download the PowerPoint decks Tom covered at the FH Expo:

Newspapers: A Critical Resource to Complete Your Family Tree
Top Genealogy Websites for the 21st Century

GenealogyBank Is Growing Rapidly!

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a great day for genealogy.

Location Newspaper

Issues

Pages

Start

End

Albany, NY Albany Evening Journal

           51

        209

1856-01-29

1875-03-03

Annapolis, MD Maryland Gazette

              6

           25

1824-03-11

1829-01-15

Augusta, GA Augusta Chronicle

              1

              3

1792-01-07

Baltimore, MD American and Commercial Daily Advertiser

    1,518

    6,220

1844-06-10

1853-12-31

Baltimore, MD Baltimore American

              9

        130

1903-04-18

1911-05-03

Bangor, ME Bangor Weekly Register

              1

              5

1831-06-21

Beaumont, TX Beaumont Enterprise

              6

        123

1906-05-04

1910-04-26

Beaumont, TX Beaumont Journal

              1

           28

1910-09-11

Bellows Falls, VT Bellows Falls Gazette

           21

           87

1841-01-30

1851-03-28

Benicia, CA California Gazette

              1

              4

1852-02-07

Bennington, VT Vermont Gazette

              1

              4

1874-09-05

Biddeford, ME Justice de Biddeford

           18

        122

1896-08-06

1905-04-06

Boston, MA American Traveller

           24

           98

1825-07-26

1835-12-29

Boston, MA Boston Courier

              1

              4

1845-05-05

Boston, MA Boston Daily Advertiser

              1

              4

1874-01-22

Boston, MA Boston Herald

              5

           96

1864-04-28

1897-03-14

Boston, MA Boston Post

              6

           24

1858-07-12

1865-09-28

Boston, MA Repertory

              4

           16

1822-01-22

1823-03-15

Boston, MA Weekly Messenger

              4

           19

1829-01-15

1831-03-31

Brattleboro, VT Vermont Phoenix

              1

              4

1866-09-28

Camden, SC Camden Journal

              4

           16

1841-03-24

1841-09-08

Charleston, SC Charleston Courier

              3

           12

1808-01-23

1808-10-24

Charleston, SC Charleston News and Courier

        552

    2,271

1873-03-20

1886-04-10

Charleston, SC South-Carolina State-Gazette

              6

           48

1801-10-22

1801-12-31

Cherry Valley, NY Cherry-Valley Gazette

           42

        191

1821-01-02

1825-07-12

Chillicothe, OH Scioto Gazette

        103

        429

1835-04-29

1837-12-14

Cincinnati, OH Cincinnati Daily Times

        162

        654

1875-11-02

1876-12-30

Columbia, SC South Carolina State Gazette

              4

           17

1823-11-28

1829-02-28

Concord, NH New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette

              2

           12

1879-10-09

1888-04-05

Egg Harbor City, NJ Egg Harbor Pilot

        480

    2,777

1872-08-03

1904-12-24

Emporia, KS Emporia Gazette

        104

        653

1912-06-01

1912-09-30

Exeter, NH Freeman’s Oracle

           25

        140

1786-08-29

1789-08-04

Frankfort, KY Guardian Of Freedom

              5

           22

1798-06-19

1804-05-26

Galveston, TX Galveston Weekly News

              1

              8

1881-10-13

Grand Rapids, MI Grand Rapids Press

           11

        226

1901-02-26

1922-12-07

Hallowell, ME Hallowell Gazette

              2

              9

1860-11-03

1861-04-06

Harrisburg, PA Patriot

           11

        104

1885-02-21

1917-01-16

Harrisburg, PA Unparteyische Harrisburg Morgenroethe Zeitung

        926

    3,794

1799-03-12

1840-11-05

Hartford, CT Connecticut Courant

           79

        326

1851-01-04

1876-12-21

Hartford, CT Connecticut Courant

              6

           24

1842-01-15

1843-09-16

Jackson, MI Jackson Citizen Patriot

              9

        158

1903-10-31

1922-08-02

Jonesboro, AR Jonesboro Daily Tribune

              1

              8

1921-03-02

Jonesboro, AR Jonesboro Evening Sun

              2

           12

1905-12-16

1921-04-23

Lancaster, PA Lancaster Journal

           17

           69

1817-11-03

1817-12-10

Litchfield, CT Litchfield Republican

           11

           44

1855-06-07

1856-06-13

Miami, OK Miami District Daily News

        180

    1,444

1917-09-05

1923-01-12

Morristown, NJ Genius of Liberty

        136

        552

1798-05-31

1801-03-26

Natchez, MS Ariel

              1

              8

1826-09-29

Nebraska City, NB Daily Nebraska Press

              3

           12

1873-12-03

1875-10-27

New Bern, NC North Carolina Sentinel

              7

           28

1827-07-14

1830-10-16

New Haven, CT Columbian Register

           71

        286

1826-02-11

1874-02-21

New Haven, CT Connecticut Herald

              2

              8

1831-06-21

1832-09-04

New Orleans, LA Courrier de la Louisiane

              1

              4

1823-12-08

New Orleans, LA Times-Picayune

              5

        132

1907-03-20

1914-01-23

New York, NY Commercial Advertiser

              4

           16

1843-05-29

1848-12-29

New York, NY Courrier des Etats-Unis

        702

    3,308

1876-07-09

1891-03-31

New York, NY Evening Post

           62

        267

1821-01-02

1874-05-30

New York, NY Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

           71

    1,156

1867-07-13

1869-03-13

New York, NY Morning Telegraph

              1

              8

1872-11-17

New York, NY National Advocate

              9

           36

1822-01-01

1826-08-15

New York, NY New York Herald

              1

           12

1875-08-10

New York, NY New York Herald-Tribune

           51

        514

1874-11-19

1896-05-09

New York, NY Statesman

              2

              8

1824-04-23

1824-06-29

Newark, NJ Centinel Of Freedom

              2

              8

1863-01-13

1869-08-24

Newark, NJ Newark Daily Advertiser

    2,143

    8,729

1850-01-02

1857-12-31

Northampton, MA Hampshire Gazette

        165

        670

1830-03-10

1843-12-26

Norwich, CT Norwich Courier

        448

    1,849

1834-01-08

1876-08-16

Pensacola, FL Pensacola Gazette

              6

           24

1829-11-21

1840-12-19

Philadelphia, PA National Gazette

              2

              8

1831-11-08

1840-11-10

Philadelphia, PA Public Ledger

              4

           16

1859-07-19

1859-11-15

Pittsburg, PA Commonwealth

           33

        135

1805-09-14

1808-03-02

Portland, ME Portland Advertiser

              3

           12

1833-10-22

1834-10-25

Portland, ME Portland Daily Press

           22

           88

1872-02-07

1882-02-09

Portland, OR Daily Oregon Herald

           23

           92

1871-02-12

1872-10-09

Providence, RI Manufacturers’ and Farmers’ Journal

              2

           12

1869-01-28

1869-05-13

Richmond, VA Richmond Times Dispatch

              1

           50

1921-07-10

Richmond, VA Richmond Whig

              3

           17

1864-06-21

1872-06-07

Richmond, VA Virginia Patriot

              2

              8

1815-06-14

1815-10-25

Salem, MA Salem Observer

        784

    3,204

1824-01-03

1874-01-10

Salem, MA Salem Register

              6

           24

1853-11-07

1873-03-10

Salem, NJ Salem Standard and Jerseyman

              6

           24

1821-10-10

1829-03-11

Salt Lake City, UT Salt Lake Telegram

        752

    8,358

1902-01-30

1922-01-29

San Francisco, CA Weekly Pacific News

              2

              8

1850-03-01

1851-02-01

Saratoga Springs, NY Saratoga Sentinel

              1

              5

1829-01-27

Savannah, GA Georgian

              1

              4

1822-05-04

Schenectady, NY Cabinet

              8

           32

1818-09-23

1819-12-01

St. Albans, VT St. Albans Advertiser

              1

              4

1875-08-03

St. Albans, VT St. Albans Daily Messenger

           44

        346

1879-07-19

1922-05-31

St. Albans, VT St. Albans Messenger

              3

           16

1848-01-26

1891-11-12

St. Augustine, FL Florida Herald and Southern Democrat

              7

           28

1829-07-15

1839-05-09

Steubenville, OH Steubenville Herald

              2

              8

1816-06-21

1817-07-04

Trenton, NJ Trenton Evening Times

        136

    3,350

1902-06-22

1922-12-31

Trenton, NJ True American

              1

              4

1808-12-12

Tulsa, OK Tulsa World

              1

           20

1922-05-17

Utica, NY Columbian Gazette

              4

           16

1807-08-18

1811-05-14

Washington, DC Washington Sentinel

        101

        431

1853-10-02

1854-02-09

Washington, PA Washington Reporter

              4

           16

1847-05-01

1863-05-27

Washington, PA Washington Review and Examiner

              1

              4

1853-09-17

Waterford, NY Waterford Gazette

              2

              8

1804-04-03

1804-04-24

West Springfield, MA American Intelligencer

           13

           52

1796-05-10

1797-06-27

Wilmington, DE Delaware and Eastern-Shore Advertiser

              1

              4

1795-04-25

Wilmington, DE Mirror of the Times, and General Advertiser

              2

              8

1800-02-05

1800-02-08

Worcester, MA National Aegis

              1

           16

1873-08-23

Recent Obituaries Coming Online for 25 Newspapers!

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

screenshot of GenealogyBank home page showing link to obituaries search form

Screenshot of GenealogyBank home page showing link to obituaries search form

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

Cordova Times (Cordova, AK)

  • Obituaries:  04/27/2011 – Current

Juneau Empire (Juneau, AK)

  • Death Notices:  03/03/2011 – Current

St. Augustine Record (St. Augustine, FL)

  • Death Notices:  02/16/2002 – Current

Chicago Journal (Chicago, IL)

  • Obituaries:  09/30/2009 – Current

South Bend Tribune (South Bend, IN)

  • Obituaries: 1/1/1994 – 1/1/2006

AnnArbor.com (Ann Arbor, MI)

  • Death Notices:  08/05/2012 – Current

Bay City Times (Bay City, MI)

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

Flint Journal (Flint, MI)

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

Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, MI)

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

Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, MI)

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

Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, MI)

  • Death Notices:  08/05/2012 – Current

Muskegon Chronicle (Muskegon, MI)

  • Death Notices:  08/07/2012 – Current

Saginaw News (Saginaw, MI)

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

Columbus Packet (Columbus, MS)

  • Obituaries:  12/12/2010 – Current

Citizen (Auburn, NY)

  • Obituaries:  07/09/2002 – Current

Daily Reporter (Columbus, OH)

  • Obituaries:  01/09/2002 – Current

Bridgeville Area News (Monroeville, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/06/2012 – Current

Murrysville Star (Monroeville, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/20/2012 – Current

Norwin Star (Monroeville, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/20/2012 – Current

Penn Trafford Star (Monroeville, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/13/2012 – Current

Sewickley Herald (Sewickley, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/13/2012 – Current

Signal Item (Carnegie, PA)

  • Obituaries:  09/19/2012 – Current

Valley Voice (Hellertown, PA)

  • Obituaries:  07/13/2012 – Current

Uintah Basin Standard (Roosevelt, UT)

  • Death Notices:  04/03/2009 – Current

Bainbridge Islander (Bainbridge Island, WA)

  • Obituaries:  11/11/2006 – Current

The Polygamist’s Wife: The Story of My Favorite Ancestor Mary Ann

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena writes about her favorite ancestor Mary Ann, a Mormon who married a polygamist when she was 15 years old, in 1868.

Do you have a favorite ancestor? Maybe it’s that one ancestor you love to research because of all the great documents you find about his or her life. Or perhaps it’s a more recent ancestor that was alive when you were a child.

old photographs from the author's collection

Old photographs from the author’s collection

When someone asks me about my favorite ancestor it’s hard for me to choose just one. But there is one ancestor that is responsible for me loving family history as a child and my eventual career as a genealogist.

My maternal grandmother’s paternal grandmother, Mary Ann Smith McNeil, has always been important to me. My grandmother told me stories of her grandmother’s life, a life story that rivals any Hollywood movie. Maybe that’s why my grandmother spent time telling me about Mary Ann. Perhaps my grandmother knew that it would ultimately plant a seed that would continue to grow within me and lead me on a genealogical journey.

Let me tell you a little about Mary Ann’s life. She was born on 2 July 1853 in Newton Heath, England, to William Smith and Mary Hibbert Smith. At the age of two years she sailed to America along with her family and other English Mormon converts. When Mary Ann was nine years old they migrated across the United States to Utah. She was married at age 15 years to a polygamist who was 45 years old. At the age of 16 she became a mother.

Polygamy is a controversial subject. My grandmother would tell me about Mary Ann’s life as a polygamist’s wife and suffice it to say it was difficult. The stories of this life (please remember that the Mormon Church ceased practicing polygamy in 1890) captivated me as I thought about what it must have been like to have been so young and married.

But this isn’t a story about polygamy. That’s an article for another time. This is the story of a woman who was just an everyday ancestor. Just like most of your female ancestors, Mary Ann was an everyday person; some would label her “just a housewife.” But she left a great paper trail.

That paper trail starts with the obvious records: marriage records, a death certificate, and birth certificates for children. Like many women, Mary Ann’s work for her church was important, and so her name is found in church histories and records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ female auxiliary, the Relief Society.

But here’s the great thing about living in the modern age of Genealogy 2.0. Digitized genealogy records are always being added online. This means continued, reasonably exhaustive Internet searching is crucial in order to find the latest information available about your ancestor.

One of the family stories I had heard was that during World War II, Mary Ann appeared in newspaper articles touting the large number of descendants she had serving in the war. A biography compiled by her great-grandson Herbert A. Hancock describes newspaper articles that appeared nationwide reporting on her 5 grandsons and 17 great-grandsons serving in the war (later the number of her descendants serving in the military would grow to a total of 25). These newspaper articles about her family’s patriotism started appearing around the celebration of her 90th birthday and were picked up by a number of newspapers nationwide proclaiming her family’s “great contribution to the cause of freedom.”(Legacy of Faith, compiled by Herbert A. Hancock, pg. 364.)

I was always curious about these old newspaper articles. Prior to digitized newspapers being made available online, it was very difficult to find them. However, a search today on GenealogyBank shows some of these articles, one of which appeared in a newspaper not too far from where I, her great-great granddaughter, live.

Nonagenarian 'Ancestor," San Diego Union newspaper article 4 June 1944

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 4 June 1944, page 31

Sometimes it’s the human interest stories that get our seemingly everyday ancestor written up in the newspaper. GenealogyBank’s search engine allows us to search for ancestors whether they are mentioned in a hometown newspaper or in several papers around the country. These articles are something I would miss if I limited my search to where Mary Ann lived in Arizona. Her life is a great reminder that ordinary people, including housewives, had stories written about them and that these stories can provide us wonderfully rich information about our families.

Not too bad for a woman who was “just a housewife.”