Missing Person Ads in Old Newspapers Describe Missing Ancestors

If you are tracking down a missing person and want others to help your search, you need to describe the missing person well. That’s what they did in this old runaway slave ad published in 1828.

$25 Reward: runaway slave ad, North Carolina Sentinel newspaper article 9 August 1828

North Carolina Sentinel (New Bern, North Carolina), 9 August 1828, page 2

Gilbo was a “Negro man” from the area “New Bern” who is described as being “between 25 and 30 years of age, light complexion, about five feet high and has an impediment in his speech when closely interrogated.”

So, not very tall.

The runaway slave ad said that he was wearing “an Osnaburghs shirt and trowsers, and cloth round Jacket.”

What does that look like?

Perhaps similar to this 19th century woodcut, in which a slave is wearing the exact same type of shirt, round coat and pants described in the 1828 missing slave advertisement:

19th century woodcut illustration of a slave

19th century woodcut illustration of a slave. Image credit: Eco.Soul.Intellectual.

According to Florence Montgomery (Textiles in America), osnaburg was made in blue, white, brown and white, with stripes, checks or solid colors.

This was known as “Negro cloth” and was coarse, unbleached or brown-colored cotton similar to today’s osnaburg. See the discussion on the Hart Cottage Quilts site: http://ugrrquilt.hartcottagequilts.com/rr5.htm

The missing slave advertisement said that Gilbo might be near the William Barrows plantation, on the road to Pembroke, since his wife was a slave on that plantation.

These small missing person ads can give a lot of descriptive information about our ancestors. Keep an eye out for these old advertisements when researching your family history in a newspaper archive!

Genealogy Advice from Charles K. Bolton: Go Beyond Names & Dates

More than one hundred years ago the renowned Boston Athenaeum librarian and author Charles Knowles Bolton (1867-1950) counseled genealogists to document their family histories by putting the generations in the context of their times.

Of the New Genealogy, Springfield Republican newspaper article 3 November 1909

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 3 November 1909, page 15

At what generation was “white sugar” a staple in the family diet?

What were their political views?

What about the economics of their lives—“Farming out the paupers, paying the minister in produce, co-operation in building and in reaping, the work of the middle man in buying and selling cattle…”?

Today Charles K. Bolton might have asked when the family got a car, a radio, or a television. Who was the first to go to college? What were their occupations? Did they live in multi-generational households or as separate families? Did they serve in the wars? How were they impacted by the hurricane? What color was their hair? What was the color of their eyes?

Birth, marriage, and death records, the census—all of these key genealogy records give the facts as they stood on one day of our ancestors’ lives. Newspapers can provide more, giving the context of every day of their lives: the family details that Bolton was advising family historians to include.

Bolton called on genealogists to put their family history in context, encouraging us to write about our family not as “saints” but as the people that they were and the times that they lived in.

“To know of right living in our ancestors encourages us to higher ideals. To learn of ancestral weakness or disease prepares us to work intelligently to overcome unfortunate inheritances.”

Some of Bolton’s writing style is archaic today, but the core message is still relevant. When you write your family history, tell who each person was and what life was like in their times. Make it seamless and put their lives in context.

We can do this deeper and more meaningful genealogy research and GenealogyBank can help, with more than 1.3 billion online records to provide the family details and context you need.

To read Bolton’s remarks, click the link below:

Bolton – Genealogy Talk

Upcoming BYU Family History & Genealogy Conference in Utah

Throw a dart at a map and you’ll find a genealogy meeting pretty much every week of the year.

One of the key upcoming conferences is the 44th Annual Conference on Family History & Genealogy, held on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah. If you’d like to attend this year’s event here are the BYU conference details:

Conference Dates: July 31 to August 3, 2012

Website: http://ce.byu.edu/cw/cwgen/

Phone number: 1-801-422-4853

The theme of this year’s genealogy conference will be “Strengthening the ties that bind families together through family history.” It will offer classes for genealogists of all skill levels.

Noncredit registration for the four-day family history event, including a CD syllabus, is $180. Family history consultants will receive a $25 discount on general conference registration. The for-credit cost for the conference (including two credits of History 481R—Family History-Directed Research—and a CD syllabus) is $440. To register, call 1-877-221-6716 or visit http://ce.byu.edu/cw/cwgen/

Key BYU Conference Speakers

  • Richard E. Turley, Jr.: under his direction, FamilySearch.org was launched in May 1999.
  • John Titford: English writer, broadcaster and genealogical consultant.
  • Rod DeGiulio: Director of FamilySearch data operations.

These conference classes will explore: family trees, FamilySearch, international research, German research, youth and genealogy, computers and technology, and methodology.

Two hands-on workshops will be offered. A “German Gothic Handwriting Workshop,” taught by Warren Bittner, will be held from 9:45 a.m.–noon Tuesday. Participants will learn to decipher the German Gothic handwriting used on many genealogical records in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Scandinavia.

The second hands-on workshop, “Building a Genealogy Website” held on Tuesday from 1:30 to 5 p.m., will teach participants how to make their research available to the world by creating their own family history website using Google Sites. It will be taught by Rebecca Smith, Noel Coleman and Hannah Allan.

GenealogyWallCharts.com is offering conference attendees a free black-and-white fan chart of their family trees. To take advantage of this offer, order the chart online and then pick it up at the conference at no charge.

Men’s and women’s housing, which includes lunch each day of the genealogy conference, is available on the BYU campus for $100. Conference participants who are not staying in BYU campus housing can buy a $25 lunch card that covers hot lunches, a salad bar, drinks and dessert at the Morris Center each day of the conference.

Researching Records for Solomon Titus: A Revolutionary War Veteran

With its large collections of newspapers, historical books and documents, and government records, GenealogyBank provides a wealth of genealogical resources to help you research your family history.

One handy genealogy resource in GenealogyBank is the register of Revolutionary War Burials. The Daughters of the American Revolution issued a report every year of the burial sites of military veterans that served in America’s war for independence.

For example here is the military register entry for Solomon Titus, taken from the Forty-eighth report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, April 1, 1944, to April 1, 1945, page 228.

burial report for Revolutionary War veteran Solomon Titus from Daughters of the American Revolution 1944-45 report

Graves of the soldiers of the Revolution, from 1944-45 Daughters of the American Revolution burial report

This DAR report tells us that Solomon Titus was:

  • A private in the Revolutionary War
  • In the Battle of White Plains (October 28, 1776)
  • In the Battle of Monmouth (June 28, 1778)
  • Buried in the Pennington, New Jersey, Presbyterian Churchyard
  • There is a file on him at the Veteran’s Administration (now at the National Archives)
  • W-2491

    casualty list from the Revolutionary War Battle of White Plains, published by the Freeman's Journal newspaper on December 3, 1776

    Casualty list from the Revolutionary War Battle of White Plains, published by the Freeman's Journal (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 3 December 1776, page 2

We can then dig into GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives and find articles about each one of the military battles Titus fought in as the Revolutionary War unfolded. Historical newspaper articles such as this one, providing a summary of the soldiers killed at the Battle of White Plains, published in the Freeman’s Journal (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 3 December 1776, page 2.

Or the many old newspaper articles about the pivotal Battle of Monmouth, such as this one providing George Washington’s own account of the famous military battle, published in the Continental Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 23 July 1778, page 1.

collage of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Monmouth, featuring a newspaper article from the Continental Journal newspaper and a painting of George Washington by Emanuel Leutze

Collage of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Monmouth, featuring a newspaper article from the Continental Journal newspaper and a painting of George Washington by Emanuel Leutze

(Painting, Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth, by Emanuel Leutze. Wikimedia Commons.)

GenealogyBank is the only genealogy website complete enough to let us read about our ancestor’s experiences—like those of Solomon Titus in the Revolutionary War—day by day.

The Daughters of the American Revolution report said that the U.S. government had a file on Solomon Titus, and in the last column it gives the reference number W-2491.

W-2491. What does that mean?

It means that the widow of Solomon Titus applied for a military pension based on his service in the Revolutionary War. We learned in this report that he died on 19 December 1833. Looking in GenealogyBank we find that his wife applied for a widow’s pension and that it was approved in 1839.

page from the December 2, 1839, Journal of the House of Representatives showing recipients of Revolutionary War pensions

Page from the December 2, 1839, Journal of the House of Representatives showing recipients of Revolutionary War pensions

(Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States: being the first session of the Twenty-sixth Congress, begun and held at the City of Washington, December 2, 1839, in the sixty-fourth year of the independence of the said states on page 175.)

So, now we know that his wife’s name was Susannah Titus. A quick search of the early New Jersey marriages shows that her name was Susannah Read and that she and Solomon married in April 1779 in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

We can see a copy of Solomon’s military personnel file, available from the National Archives. Use “Standard Form 180” to make your request.

National Archives military records request form 1080

National Archives military records request form 1080

National Archives pension application request form 85

National Archives pension application request form 85

We can also request a copy of Susannah’s pension application by using Form 85. Be sure to include the pension number: W-2491.

We can gather so much information about our ancestors in the Revolutionary War era!

The Daughters of the American Revolution report also told us that Solomon Titus was buried in the Presbyterian Churchyard in Pennington, New Jersey.

 

A quick search on Google locates a wide-angle photo of that cemetery on flickr.

grave of Revolutionary War veteran Solomon Titus, buried in the Presbyterian churchyard in Pennington, New Jersey

Grave of Revolutionary War veteran Solomon Titus

Searching Google more, we find a photo of his grave on the website Find-A-Grave.

(Photo by Therese Fenner Boucher on Find-A-Grave.)

Amazing Survival Stories of Last Moments on the ‘Titanic’ Ship

This week, the world is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the British passenger liner RMS Titanic. The massive ship went down at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic shortly before midnight. There weren’t enough lifeboats for everyone on board, and 1,517 passengers and crew lost their lives.

Another passenger ship, the Carpathia, picked up the Titanic survivors and brought them to New York City, docking on April 18. It was then that the world began to learn details of the disaster from some of the survivors, whose stories were published in the newspapers.

Here’s a newspaper article with some amazing survival stories from the last moments on the Titanic. This copyrighted news article was published by the Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 19 April 1912, page 1:

Graphic Stories of Real Heroism charlotte observer newspaper article April 19 1912

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 19 April 1912, page 1

Graphic Stories of Real Heroism

Many of the Survivors Tell of Last Moment on Titanic

Skippers Were Told

Conduct of John Jacob Astor Deserves Highest Praise as He Gave His Life for His Wife

New York, April 18.—E. Z. Taylor of Philadelphia, one of the survivors, jumped into the sea just three minutes before the boat sank. He told a graphic story as he came from the Carpathia.

“I was eating when the Titanic struck the iceberg,” he said. “There was an awful shock that made the boat tremble from stem to stern. I did not realize for some time what had happened. No one seemed to know the extent of the accident. We were told that an iceberg had been struck by the ship. I felt the boat rise and it seemed to me that she was riding over the ice. I ran out on deck and then I could see ice. It was a veritable sea of ice and the boat was rocking over it. I should say that parts of the iceberg were 80 feet high, but it had been broken into sections probably by our ship.

“I jumped into the ocean and was picked up by one of the boats. I never expected to see land again. I waited on board the boat until the lights went out. It seemed to me that the discipline on board was wonderful.”

Saved at Last Moment

Colonel Archibald Gracie, U.S.A., the last man saved, went down with the vessel but was picked up. He was met tonight by his daughter, who had arrived from Washington, and his son-in-law, Paul H. Fabricius. Colonel Gracie told a remarkable story of personal hardship and denied emphatically the reports that there had been any panic on board. He praised in the highest terms the behavior of both the passengers and crew and paid a high tribute to the heroism of the women passengers.

“Mrs. Isidor Straus,” he said, “went to her death because she would not desert her husband. Although he pleaded with her to take her place in the boat she steadfastly refused, and when the ship settled at the head the two were engulfed in the wave that swept her.”

Colonel Gracie told of how he was driven to the topmost deck when the ship settled and was the sole survivor after the wave that swept her just before her final plunge had passed.

“I jumped with the wave,” said he, “just as I often have jumped with the breakers at the seashore. By great good fortune I managed to grasp the brass railing on the deck above and I hung on by might and main. When the ship plunged down I was forced to let go and I was swirled around and around for what seemed to be an interminable time. Eventually I came to the surface, to find the sea a mass of tangled wreckage.

“Luckily I was unhurt and casting about managed to seize a wooden grating floating nearby. When I had recovered my breath I discovered a larger canvas and cork life raft which had floated up. A man, whose name I did not learn, was struggling toward it from some wreckage to which he had clung. I cast off and helped him to get onto the raft and we then began the work of rescuing those who had jumped into the sea and were floundering in the water.

At Break of Dawn

“When dawn broke there were thirty of us on the raft, standing knee deep in the icy water and afraid to move lest the creaky craft be overturned. Several unfortunates, benumbed and half dead, besought us to save them and one or two made an effort to reach us but we had to warn them away. Had we made any effort to save them we all might have perished.

“The hours that elapsed before we were picked up by the Carpathia were the longest and most terrible that I ever spent. Practically without any sensation of feeling, because of the icy water, we were almost dropping from fatigue. We were afraid to turn around to look to see whether we were seen by passing craft and when someone who was facing astern passed the word that something that looked like a steamer was coming up one of the men became hysterical under the strain. The rest of us, too, were nearing the breaking point.”

Col. Gracie denied with emphasis that any men were fired upon and declared that only once was a revolver discharged.

“This was for the purpose of intimidating some steerage passengers,” he said, “who had tumbled into a boat before it was prepared for launching. This shot was fired in the air, and when the foreigners were told the next would be directed at them they promptly returned to the deck. There was no confusion and no panic.”

Contrary to the general expectation, there was no jarring impact when the vessel struck, according to the army officer. He was in his berth when the vessel smashed into the submerged portion of the berg and was aroused by the jar. He looked at this watch, he said, and found it was just midnight. The ship sank with him at 2:22 a.m., for his watch stopped at that hour.

“Before I retired,” said Colonel Gracie, “I had a long chat with Charles H. Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railroad. One of the last things Mr. Hays said was this: ‘The White Star, the Cunard and the Hamburg-American lines are devoting their attention and ingenuity in vying with them to obtain supremacy in luxurious ships and in making speed records. The time will soon come when this will be checked by some appalling disaster.’ Poor fellow; a few hours later, he was dead.”

Conduct of Colonel Astor

“The conduct of Colonel John Jacob Astor was deserving of the highest praise,” declared Colonel Gracie. “The millionaire New Yorker,” he said, “devoted all his energies to saving his young bride, nee Miss Force of New York who was in delicate health. Colonel Astor helped us in our efforts to get her in the boat,” said Colonel Gracie. “I lifted her into the boat and as she took her place Colonel Astor requested permission of the second officer to go with her for her own protection.

“‘No, sir,’ replied the officer, ‘Not a man shall go on a boat until the women are all off.’ Colonel Astor then inquired the number of the boat, which was being lowered away and turned to the work of clearing the other boats and in reassuring the frightened and nervous women.

“By this time the ship began to list frightfully to port. This became so dangerous that the second officer ordered everyone to rush to starboard. This we did and we found the crew trying to get a boat off in that quarter. Here I saw the last of John B. Thayer, second vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and George B. Widener, a capitalist of Philadelphia.”

Colonel Gracie said that despite the warnings of icebergs, no slowing down of speed was ordered by the commander of the Titanic. There were other warnings, too, he said. “In the 24 hours’ run ending the 14th,” he said, “the ship’s run was 546 miles, and we were told that the next 24 hours would see even a better record posted. No diminution of speed was indicated in the run and the engines kept up their steady running. When Sunday evening came we all noticed the increased cold, which gave plain warning that the ship was in close proximity to icebergs or ice fields. The officers, I am credibly informed, had been advised by wireless from other ships of the presence of icebergs and dangerous floes in that vicinity. The sea was as smooth as glass, and the weather clear, so that it seems that there was no occasion for fear.

No Indication of Panic

“When the vessel struck,” he continued, “the passengers were so little alarmed that they joked over the matter. The few that were on deck early had taken their time to dress properly and there was not the slightest indication of panic. Some of the fragments of ice had fallen on the deck and these were picked up and passed around by some of the facetious ones who offered them as mementoes of the occasion. On the port side a glance over the side failed to show any evidence of damage and the vessel seemed to be on an even keel. James Clinch Smith and I, however, soon found the vessel was listing heavily. A few minutes later the officers ordered men and women to don life preservers.”

One of the last women seen by Colonel Gracie, he said, was Miss Evans of New York, who virtually refused to be rescued, because, according to the army officer, “she had been told by a fortune teller in London that she would meet her death on the water.”

A young English woman, who requested that her name be omitted, told a thrilling story of her experience in one of the collapsible boats which had been manned by eight of the crew from the Titanic. The boat was in command of the fifth officer, H. Lowe, whose actions she described as saving the lives of many people. Before the lifeboat was launched, he passed along the port deck of the steamer, commanding the people not to jump in the boats and otherwise restraining them from swamping the craft. When the collapsible was launched, Officer Lowe succeeded in putting up a mast and a small sail. He collected the other boats together; in some cases the boats were short of adequate crews and he directed an exchange by which each was adequately manned. He threw lines connecting the boats together two by two, and all thus moved together. Later on he went back to the wreck with the crew of one of the boats and succeeded in picking up some of those who had jumped overboard and were swimming about. On his way back to the Carpathia he passed one of the collapsible boats which was on the point of sinking with thirty passengers aboard, most of them in scant night clothing. They were rescued just in the nick of time.

Whether you had ancestors directly involved with the Titanic disaster or simply want to learn more for your own interest, historical newspapers provide stories and details you cannot find anywhere else. GenealogyBank’s online archive of more than 5,850 newspapers is full of interesting survival stories, family history facts and more!

How to Do Genealogical Research: Damon Family Case Study

Sometime during the next few weeks, as we continue to add new content to our online archives, GenealogyBank will reach a milestone: we will have 1 billion more records than the total we launched our website with five years ago. Wow, that’s a lot of additional genealogy records!

I wanted to see what I could find in GenealogyBank with all this added material—so I chose a family at random and set out on a genealogical research investigation.

Researching the Family of Minnie M. Damon

I picked Minnie M. Damon who married James W. Wright on 31 December 1890 in Keene, New Hampshire. With Christmas still in the air and New Year’s Eve approaching, the couple was married by the Rev. C. E. Harrington.

A search in GenealogyBank found their marriage announcement in the New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 7 January 1891, page 8.

wright damon marriage notice new hampshire sentinel newspaper january 7, 1891

New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 7 January 1891, page 8

This marriage announcement is a great genealogical find. It gives terrific details about the wedding.

And—what about those “white silk slippers” the bride wore, the same ones her mother wore when she got married 38 years before? Does someone in the family still have them?

Hmm…they were married “at the home of the bride’s mother.” Why no mention of the father? Had he died? Was there a divorce?

Genealogical Research Find 1: George Damon (Minnie’s Father)

The next step in our genealogical research is to find out even more about Minnie’s dad. Digging deeper into our online archives I found the death notice of the bride’s father. He had died just six months earlier.

george damon death notice new hampshire sentinel june 4 1890

New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 4 June 1890, page 8

George Damon was “aged 68 years 8 months and 27 days” when he died on 2 June 1890.

Next we want to subtract those figures from his death date to see when he was born.

George’s date of birth works out to 6 September 1821.

There is a handy site for calculating these dates: see TimeandDate.com

time and date calculator

Time and date calculator

Genealogical Research Find 2: Lucy Bowker/Damon (Minnie’s Mother)

Digging deeper into our historical newspaper archives I found the marriage record of her parents: George and Lucy (Bowker) Damon.

damon bowker marriage notice weekly eagle newspaper september 20, 1852

Weekly Eagle (Brattleboro, Vermont), 20 September 1852, page 3

Their marriage announcement was published in the Weekly Eagle (Brattleboro, Vermont), 20 September 1852, page 3.

Whoa—hold on: their marriage announcement was published in the Weekly Eagle, a Brattleboro, Vermont, newspaper?

But they lived in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. The newspaper even said that they were “all of” Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire.

So, why did a Vermont newspaper publish the announcement of their wedding?

map of fitzwilliam new hampshire

Map of Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire

Because newspaper editors wanted to sell papers, that’s why.

Brattleboro is only 40 miles from Fitzwilliam, and the Weekly Eagle was regularly bought and read by the residents there.

Genealogical Research Find 3: Elijah Bowker (Minnie’s Maternal Grandfather)

And here is a newspaper article about Lucy Bowker’s father, Captain Elijah Bowker, praising his life of service. It was published in the New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 28 June 1877, page 1.

elijah bowker tribute new hampshire sentinel newspaper june 28, 1877

New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 28 June 1877, page 1

What else could I find out about the Damon family in my genealogical research?

Branching Out the Damon Family Tree

I decided to do a broader genealogy search by searching on only the surname (Damon) and their hometown (Fitzwilliam).

screenshot of genealogybank's search form

GenealogyBank search form

Both “Damon” and “Fitzwilliam” are uncommon words. It is likely that all Damons from Fitzwilliam are related, but we need to sort them out to make sure.

This broad genealogy search produced a few hundred surname record results.

That is a reasonable amount of genealogy records to sift through, so I started reading through all of them.

Genealogical Research Find 4: Martha Damon (Minnie’s Aunt)

One death record in particular caught my eye. It was published in the New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 28 April 1826, page 3.

martha damon death notice new hampshire sentinel newspaper april 28, 1826

New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 28 April 1826, page 3

There in the third paragraph: “In Fitzwilliam, an infant daughter [Martha Damon, 1825-1826] of Mr. Geo. Damon.”

This little girl was the aunt of Minnie M. (Damon) Wright—the woman I started my investigation with.

Genealogical Research Find 5: George Damon and Deacon Oliver Damon (Minnie’s Paternal Grandfather and Her Paternal Great-Grandfather)

The “Geo. [George] Damon” named in this death notice was Minnie’s paternal grandfather [George Damon, 1796-1840] and the “Deacon Oliver Damon” [1758-1837] also named was her paternal great-grandfather.

OK. This newspaper obituary was for a two-year-old infant, and it would be easy to assume that such a notice would have minimal genealogical clues. But, I like to read every document.

As it turns out this obituary gives us lots of critical genealogical information:

“Deacon Oliver Damon and wife have lived in Fitzwilliam 42 years, and this [is] the first instance of mortality that has occurred in his family or among his descendants, (25 in all) during that time. Printers for Massachusetts are requested to notice this death.”

As of 1826, there were 25 descendants of the family in that area and none of them had died over the previous 42 years.

Digging deeper into GenealogyBank’s online archives I found more details in Deacon Oliver Damon’s obituary, published by the New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 9 November 1837, page 3.

oliver damon obituary new hampshire sentinel newspaper november 9, 1837

New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene, New Hampshire), 9 November 1837, page 3

He was a Deacon of the Congregational Church, and he fought in the Revolutionary War. Clearly there is more genealogical research that we can do on this family.

Do you remember seeing in these obituaries the phrase “Printers in Mass. are requested to notice this death”? This note from the newspaper’s editors gives a strong indication that the Damon family has a family connection to Massachusetts.

So, the next steps in our genealogical investigation are to sort through all of the “Damon” references in and around Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, and extend that search out to Massachusetts.

Damon?

The only “Damon” I ever heard of is the actor, Matt Damon.

I wonder if Minnie M. (Damon) Wright and Matt Damon are actually related.

Tracing the Damon family tree: to be continued…

Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron: Baseball Superstar, Humanitarian—& Gentleman

As regular readers of this blog know, GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives are a great resource to research your family history and fill in details on your family tree. These newspapers are also a terrific window into the past, letting us learn more about important people and events in our nation’s history.

For example, let’s see what these old newspapers have to tell us about one of the outstanding athletes in American history: Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron, the superstar who played baseball in Milwaukee and Atlanta for 23 seasons, from 1954 to 1976. Aaron is famous as the baseball player who broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record of 714—and, as expected, there is plenty of newspaper coverage of his historic home run and other baseball exploits.

The newspapers also tell us much more about his life than this: in addition to being a rare and gifted American athlete, Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron was a humanitarian—and a true gentleman.

The sports media and baseball fans were whipped into a frenzy as Hank Aaron approached Babe Ruth’s magical number in the 1973 Major League baseball season. Although 39 years old that summer (an age when most baseball players have retired) Hank Aaron was on target, hitting 40 home runs…but ended the year with 713 home runs, still short of the goal of 715. He had to wait all winter for another opportunity to break baseball’s home run record the next spring.

When the 1974 season began, Aaron wasted no time. He hit the record-tying 714th home run on his first at-bat that year, in Cincinnati. On April 8 the Atlanta Braves returned to Atlanta for their home opener, and 53,775 wildly cheering fans attended the game hoping Aaron would get the record that night. Hammerin’ Hank did not let the crowd down, hitting home run number 715 in the fourth inning. He received a thunderous standing ovation from the Braves’ baseball fans while fireworks lit up the sky above the stadium.

Hank Aaron hammers historic 715 homerun

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 9 April 1974, page 1.

In addition to details of the baseball game itself and Aaron’s record 715th home run, the newspaper article provides this detail:

Aaron broke away from his mates and rushed to a special box adjacent to the Atlanta dugout where he clutched his wife, Billye, and parents, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Aaron, of Mobile, Ala.

“I never knew she could hug so tight,” Aaron said of his mother.

The following newspaper article tells us something about the character of Hank Aaron. Although he was one of the greatest American baseball players ever, he kept his ego in check; Aaron was widely recognized as a good teammate and a quiet, respectful man—a true gentleman.

Hank Aaron kept his word on the 715th homerun

Wichita Times (Wichita, Kansas), 2 May 1974, page 5, (African American Newspapers).

As this newspaper article relates, Hank Aaron was sensitive to the disruption his teammates had to endure while the press thronged around him night after night in 1973-74 covering his chase of the home run record. When it was finally over and the champagne celebration in the Atlanta locker room after the game was ready, Aaron thought immediately of his teammates:

The Braves had opened the champagne and were ready to pour, but Hank Aaron had something he wanted to say first to all his teammates.

“Thank you for being patient,” he said, his sincerity moving them. “Thank you for putting up with all that you have—the newspapermen, the photographers and all the other distractions. I know how difficult it was sometimes, and I appreciate the patience you’ve shown.”

Hank Aaron doesn’t make many speeches. Everybody in the room knew he meant this one.

Away from the spotlight and the glare of media publicity, Aaron had another career: he was a great humanitarian. He devoted countless hours to helping others, especially children, as shown in the following newspaper article.

Hank Aaron Goes to Bat for Easter Seals

Milwaukee Star (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 9 August 1973, page 8, (African American Newspapers).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newspaper archives provide all sorts of surprising stories about the life of the person we’re researching. How many people know that Henry Aaron was once a mayor?

All Black Alabama Town Makes Hank Aaron Mayor

Wichita Times (Wichita, Kansas), 13 March 1975, page 1, (African American Newspapers).

Hank Aaron was born in Alabama, and in 1975 he was:

…sworn in as honorary mayor of Hobson City during ceremonies in which 75-year-old northeast Alabama all-black town dedicates new Town Hall.

There was a dark side to Hank Aaron’s pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record—and the newspapers covered that as well: racism raised its ugly head. Throughout the 1973 Major League baseball season, during the offseason, and again in 1974, Aaron received hate letters mixed in with the supportive letters that were pouring into the Atlanta Braves’ mailbox. Some even sent him death threats.

What pursuit of baseball homerun record has meant for Hank Aaron: People listen

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 9 April 1974, page 11.

In the above very revealing newspaper article, Hank Aaron opens up about the threats he’d been facing:

Aaron’s hero off the field is Dr. Martin Luther King. “He could walk with kings and talk with presidents,” said Aaron. “He wasn’t for lootings and bombings and fights but he wasn’t afraid of violence, either. He was 20 years ahead of his times.”

King’s death by assassination cannot, of course, be forgotten by Aaron. Sometimes Aaron wonders about that, too. He says that among the hundreds of letters he receives weekly, many are threats on his life.

“But I can’t think about that,” he says. “If I’m a target, then I’m a target. I can only worry about doing my job, and doing it good.”

This same newspaper article says of Aaron:

He has recently become identified with black causes. For example, he is now a close personal friend of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a leading young black spokesman. Aaron, in winter, now is the organizer of a celebrity bowling tournament in Atlanta with proceeds going to research on sickle cell anemia, a disease that afflicts black people.

And this:

Aaron is also outspoken on the progress, or lack of it, for blacks in baseball. He says that blacks are stagnating. “Whatever so-called progress there is—like blacks staying in the same hotels with the white players—this came about from civil rights legislation, not from any leveling action by baseball,” says Aaron.

“Why aren’t there even no black managers? Why aren’t there even no black third base coaches? There are token first base coaches—a few. But what does a first base coach do? He has no duties. No responsibilities. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He’s not expected to have any intelligence.”

Aaron still feels some of the clichés of being black. He remembers that once blacks were considered “too gutless” to be able to take the pressures of day-in, day-out major league baseball.

“Jackie Robinson changed a lot of those beliefs,” says Aaron. “His courage and intelligence showed what the black man could be made of.

Hank Aaron’s stance on black rights is explored further in the following newspaper article.

Hank Aaron: Baseball Still Not Doing Enough To Give Equal Opportunities To Minorities

USA Monitor (Fort Worth, Texas), 1 March 1993, page 17, (African American Newspapers).

As you can see, newspaper archives are filled with stories you may never have heard before. You can discover little known facts, view pictures and learn more about the personal lives of famous people and your family members with newspapers.  Have fun searching our newspaper archives for details about celebrities and your own ancestors—you never know what you might find!

 

Tracing Famous ‘Mayflower’ Passenger Peregrine White’s Family Tree

Newspapers tell the story of the everyday lives of our ancestors. GenealogyBank is the best genealogy resource for online newspapers available anywhere, with a massive collection of content spanning nearly 400 years of American history.

The historical newspaper article in the upper right is an obituary of Peregrine White, “the First Englishman born in New England”—he was born on board the Mayflower in Cape Cod Harbor in November 1620! Peregrine White’s obituary appeared in the Boston News-Letter (Boston, Massachusetts), 24 July-31 July 1704, page 2. The newspaper article below it is about a family reunion including four generations of Peregrine White’s descendants who gathered in McMinnville, Oregon. This family reunion newspaper article was published in the Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 30 May 1915, Section 3, page 9.
Peregrine White’s descendants were understandably proud to have such a famous ancestor, a Mayflower ship passenger, in their family tree. This past summer, when Mary Alice (Haskell) Morey (1928-2011) died, her obituary prominently mentioned that she was a direct descendant of Peregrine White.Her obituary was printed by the Natick Bulletin & TAB (Natick, Massachusetts), 22 July 2011, page 18. Read her complete obituary in GenealogyBank.

With over 250,000 newspaper articles at GenealogyBank related to the Mayflower you can learn so much more about Peregrine White and his descendants, as well as discover who the other Pilgrims were that arrived in America as passengers on the famous ship. Research Mayflower ship passenger lists and explore our Pilgrim ancestors’ lives with newspaper articles about Plymouth Colony. Maybe you have ancestors who arrived on the Mayflower too?

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all genealogists around the world!

Genealogy Boot Camp: Getting Started

OK Team – it’s time to get down to basics and make sure we haven’t missed clues and information that would help us to accurately document our family tree.

Welcome to Genealogy Boot Camp: Core training

Day 1. Home Sources
OK recruits – you will need the basic equipment.

First – get that old laundry basket and let’s put it to good use.
Put this laundry basket where you will see it every day – but where it will be safe. Perhaps a room you don’t use everyday – like the dining room – that should be a good place – or perhaps on the bed in the spare bedroom.

Now, here is your first assignment:
Begin gathering the family history information that you have in your own home.

“But – I don’t have any information about my family!”

OK recruit: put your laundry basket in a visible, safe place and let’s see what we can find in your house.

Step One: Go from room to room in your home looking for items that have clues about your family. As you see something of value – take it and put it in the laundry basket. You should expect to spend one week on this task – do NOT try to do it all at once.

- Photo albums
- Family mementos
- School yearbooks
- Family Bible
- The envelope with family clippings
- Grammie’s recipe book
- The old wooden spoon
- Dad’s World War I medal
- The box with the old family letters and photos
- Baby books
- Old family cups, plates
- History of Gilmanton, NH – Why do we have that?

“I have an old cedar chest with some old clothes & a comforter made by my great-grandmother – I don’t want to move them.

If some of your family treasures are too large or fragile to move – write down a quick description on a 3×5 card and put that in the laundry basket.

Tips

Why should this take one week?

You’re busy. Don’t burn yourself out. During this week as you go around the house in your normal daily routine – be thinking about clues. What do I have in my home that would tell me more about the family? Pick it up and put it in the laundry basket. By the end of the week you’ll have plenty of clues.

Back in the early 1960s I drove over to White Plains, NY to visit my cousins: Genevieve and Burt Shaw (Genevieve M. (Smith) Shaw 1871-1967) – Burton C. Shaw 1866-).

When I arrived Burt was off getting a haircut – Cousin Gen said that he would be right back. We spoke about the family and got caught up on current events.

But, still – no Burt.

As I asked about the family history – Cousin Gen was so apologetic that she didn’t know more about the family history. But as we waited I asked her about the things in the living room. There were framed pictures and photos on most of the shelves and tables. Who were they? She was a steady stream of detail about the family.

And what about the old piano; the old rocking chair; the painting in the corner. Everything had a story and a family connection.

I had written down pages of notes – all the while she repeated that she could no longer remember the details of the family history.

Cousin Burt never did come home that day – but she was a goldmine of information.

So - Step One – Gather Your Home Sources. Once you have them – in hand start to write down the facts and clues and document your family history.

Native American Tribal History