10 Famous African Americans in 18th & 19th Century History

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, to celebrate February being Black History Month, Mary searches old newspapers to find information about 10 African Americans who achieved notable “firsts” in American history

So rich is the history of persons of color, that when GenealogyBank asked me to research historical African American accomplishments, it was difficult to narrow the choices.

As a result, this article focuses on just a few famous African American women and men of the 18th and 19th Centuries. This list includes transformational leaders, authors, inventors and the people behind many of the “firsts” in American history. At the conclusion of this article, follow the links to further broaden your knowledge of these famous African Americans, as well as other notable people who could not be featured in this short piece.

For researchers of Black history who know these earlier achievers as household names, take this handy quiz—which you are welcome to share with others.

For everyone else, read on to learn more about these individuals, with information gleaned from GenealogyBank’s online Historical Newspaper Archives.

quiz about 10 famous African Americans from the 17th and 18th centuries

1) Benjamin Banneker (9 Nov. 1731 Baltimore, MD – 9 Oct. 1806 Baltimore, MD)

Early newspapers described Banneker as “a noted Negro mathematician and astronomer”—but he was also a farmer, clock-maker and self-taught scientist. In addition, he was the first African American to author an almanac.

Banneker was chosen to assist Major Andrew Ellicott with his project to survey the borders of the District of Columbia. Known to be a voluminous writer of letters, Banneker became involved in the movement to establish the colony of Liberia in Africa. He was never enslaved, as his parents, Mary and Robert, were free.

(See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Banneker.)

article about Benjamin Banneker, Omaha World Herald newspaper article 29 August 1926

Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 29 August 1926, page 64

2) James Derham (1757 Philadelphia, PA – 1802)

Although he did not hold a degree, James Derham became the first African American man to formally practice medicine, a skill he learned during the Revolutionary War while serving with the British under his master, Dr. George West. Derham was fluent in French, English and Spanish. As someone taught to compound medicines, he was an early pharmacist. His medical business in New Orleans, Louisiana, reportedly earned him $3,000 per year.

This 1789 newspaper article presented a biography of James Derham.

article about James Derham, New-Hampshire Spy newspaper article 3 February 1789

New-Hampshire Spy (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 3 February 1789, page 120

In this 1828 newspaper article, a local New Orleans doctor expressed his admiration for James Derham’s medical knowledge:

‘I conversed with him on medicine,’ says Dr. Rush, ‘and found him very learned. I thought I could give him information concerning the treatment of diseases, but I learned more from him than he could expect from me.’

article about James Derham, Freedom’s Journal newspaper article 14 November 1828

Freedom’s Journal (New York, New York), 14 November 1828, page 2

3) Jupiter Hammon (17 Oct. 1711 Lloyd Harbor, NY – before 1806)

Hammon was an abolitionist, the first published African American poet, and is largely considered to be one of the founders of African American literature. Enslaved by the John Lloyd family and never emancipated, he was allowed to write and even served in the American Revolutionary War.

One of his poems, “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries,” was published as a broadside (i.e., a paper printed on a single page).

(See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter_Hammon.)

article about Jupiter Hammon, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 24 April 1924

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 24 April 1924, page 6

For more information about his life, see: Authentication of Poem Written by 18th Century Slave and Author, Jupiter Hammon (Cedrick May, University of Texas at Arlington).

4) Absalom Jones (1746 Delaware – 13 Feb. 1818 Philadelphia, PA)

Born into slavery, Absalom Jones was a noted abolitionist who became the first ordained African American priest of the Episcopal Church, in 1795. Early newspapers depict him as an articulate and educated man, who worked to establish a free colony of former slaves in Africa. In the Episcopal Calendar of Saints, 13 February is celebrated as “Absalom Jones, Priest 1818.”

(See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absalom_Jones.)

article about Absalom Jones, Amherst Journal newspaper article 26 September 1795

Amherst Journal (Amherst, New Hampshire), 26 September 1795, page 3

5) Jarena Lee (c. 1783 Cape May, NJ – unknown)

A noted Evangelist, Jarena Lee was the first African American woman to publish an autobiography.

portrait of Jarena Lee

Portrait: Jarena Lee. Credit: Library of Congress.

The earliest mention of Jarena Lee in a newspaper was in 1840, when she was listed as a member of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society from Pennsylvania.

article about Jarena Lee, Emancipator newspaper article 29 May 1840

Emancipator (New York, New York), 29 May 1840, page 18

Another report from an 1853 newspaper mentions Lee involved in a discussion about the Colonization Society.

article about Jarena Lee, Liberator newspaper article 9 December 1853

Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts), 9 December 1853, page 195

6) Mary Eliza Mahoney (16 Apr. 1845 Dorchester, MA – 4 Jan. 1926 Boston MA)

After working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, Mary Eliza Mahoney became the first African American woman to be accepted into nursing school, at the age of 33. It took 16 months, after which only 3 of the 40 applicants graduated. By 1908 she had co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) with Ada B. Thorns. She went on to be an active participant in other nursing organizations, along with holding titles as a director. When women gained their voting rights in 1920, Mahoney was the first woman in Boston to register to vote. Several prestigious nursing awards are given in her honor.

(See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Eliza_Mahoney.)

article about Mary Eliza Mahoney, Milwaukee Star newspaper article 13 July 1968

Milwaukee Star (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 13 July 1968, page 5

7) Judy W. Reed (c. 1826 – unknown)

Judy W. Reed is often hailed as the first African American woman to hold a patent, for her dough kneader.

illustration of Judy Reed's dough kneader

Illustration: Judy Reed’s dough kneader. Credit: United States Patent & Trademark Office.

Not much is known about her life, but this 1900 newspaper article reports that she and several other women received their patents in 1899.

(Note: Google patents reports that they were earlier. See: https://www.google.com/patents.)

article about Judy Reed, Evansville Courier and Press newspaper article 11 June 1900

Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, Indiana), 11 June 1900, page 5

8) Alexander Lucius Twilight (26 Sep. 1795 Corinth, VT – 19 June 1857 Brownington, VT)

Twilight was a licensed Congregational minister, a teacher and politician. In 1823 he became the first African American to earn a bachelor’s degree when he graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont. He also became the first state-elected official when he joined the Vermont General Assembly in 1836.

(See: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/twilight-alexander-1795-1857.)

article about Alexander Twilight, American Repertory newspaper article 28 August 1823

American Repertory (St. Albans, Vermont), 28 August 1823, page 3

9) Phillis Wheatley or Phillis Wheatley Peters (8 May 1753 Senegambia, Africa – 5 Dec. 1784 Boston, MA)

Hailed in this 1773 newspaper as “the ingenious Negro Poet,” Phillis Wheatley was the first African American female poet to be published.

article about Phillis Wheatley, Connecticut Journal newspaper article 7 May 1773

Connecticut Journal (New Haven, Connecticut), 7 May 1773, page 3

Captured at the age of seven in the present-day regions of Gambia and Senegal, Africa, Phillis found herself enslaved by the John Wheatley family of Boston, who taught her to read and write. At the age of 20, this talented woman published Poems of Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, which was showcased in America and England. After the death of John Wheatley, she was emancipated and decided to marry John Peters. The family struggled financially, and after Peters was sent to prison for debts, Phillis became ill and died at the young age of 31.

(See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillis_Wheatley.)

article featuring a poem by Phillis Wheatley, Boston-News Letter newspaper article 13 May 1773

Boston-News Letter (Boston, Massachusetts), 13 May 1773, page 4

10) Harriet E. “Hattie” Adams Wilson (15 Mar. 1825 New Hampshire – 28 June 1900 Quincy, MA)

Born to an African American “hooper of barrels” and a washerwoman of Irish descent, Hattie was raised by her parents until her father died. As a young girl, she found herself abandoned and bound out as an indentured servant on the farm of Nehemiah Heyward, Jr. After completing her indenture, she worked as a seamstress and servant. Some of her other occupations were: clairvoyant physician, nurse and healer. In 1851 she married Thomas Wilson, an escaped slave and lecturer. He soon abandoned her, but later returned to rescue her and her son from a poor farm.

(See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_E._Wilson.)

Harriet is credited with writing the first African American novel published in the U.S. Although copyrighted, “Our Nig: or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, was published anonymously in 1859 and rediscovered by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in 1982. Although a work of fiction, the book is thought to describe her life as an indentured servant. I couldn’t find any early newspaper articles to document her life or her novel, but I did find several recent articles discussing her work—including this one from 1982.

article about Harriet Adams Wilson, Omaha World Herald newspaper article 15 November 1982

Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 15 November 1982, page 6

For more information, see: African American Registry.)

Additional African American Research Resources

For more complete biographies on these and other noteworthy African Americans, see:

First Lady Edith Wilson & Her Ancestor Pocahontas

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post—in celebration of November being Native American Heritage Month—Gena searches old newspapers to find stories about First Lady Edith Wilson and her connection to her famous Native American ancestor, Pocahontas.

When we think of great Native American leaders throughout U.S. history, names like Cochise, Geronimo, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull come to mind. But what about Native American women? Most Americans know the names of only two Native American women: Pocahontas and Sacagawea. Pocahontas, whose mythology was immortalized in a song sung by Peggy Lee and a Disney movie, might be the most familiar Native American woman because she left a sizable number of descendants through her son Thomas Rolf.

Who can claim descent from Pocahontas? At least one First Lady, numerous politicians, and even Confederate General Robert E. Lee, to name just a few. It was estimated in the 1980s that Pocahontas’ descendants probably numbered around 250,000. According to genealogist Gary B. Roberts, those who claim this lineage are through the Bolling line, which are the only known descendants traced beyond the early 18th century.*

Mrs. Woodrow Wilson’s Native American Ancestry

One American whose Pocahontas lineage was well reported was Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, the second wife of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. From the time she became engaged to the president, her family history was a frequent topic in the newspapers.

photo of First Lady Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, married to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson

Photo: Edith Bolling Galt Wilson. Credit: Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library.

This 1915 newspaper article provides some information about Edith’s family history. It reports that ever since the engagement was announced “there has been a live inquiry for the correct data.” The article provides that data by tracing Edith’s direct line to Pocahontas and proclaims Edith Bolling Galt the ninth in descent from Pocahontas. [Note: the article erroneously states that Pocahontas married Thomas Rolfe; her husband’s name was John Rolfe, and their son’s name was Thomas.]

Fiancee of the President Is Undoubtedly a Direct Descendant of Pocahontas, Idaho Statesman newspaper article 14 November 1915

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 14 November 1915, page 5

In writings about Edith’s foremother, emphasis was placed that someone with “Indian blood” would now reside in the White House. This announcement about Edith’s lineage was also the catalyst for impromptu history lessons found in newspapers across the country. The short life of Pocahontas has been retold often, and—as with any well-told story—inaccuracies creep in. This old newspaper article provides readers with information and images reportedly of Pocahontas.

Unhappy Pocahontas, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 24 October 1915

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 24 October 1915, page 43

The widow Edith Bolling Galt married President Woodrow Wilson in December 1915. Undoubtedly, any presidential wedding results in gifts from a diverse range of well-wishers. The Wilson wedding was no different.

According to this 1916 newspaper article, one item that Edith received was a Pocahontas statuette presented by the Pocahontas Memorial Association. The article points out that Edith Bolling Wilson was related to Pocahontas through her paternal line.

Indian Statuette for Mrs. Wilson; Figure of Pocahontas, Her Ancestress, a Bridal Gift, Broad Ax newspaper article 8 January 1916

Broad Ax (Chicago, Illinois), 8 January 1916, page 3

The news article included this picture of the Pocahontas statuette.

photo of a statuette of Pocahontas given to her descendant, First Lady Edith Wilson

The statuette was not the only Pocahontas-related gift that Edith received while in the White House. Other gifts related to her Native American ancestry included dolls and a portrait of her ancestress presented by the heritage membership organization Colonial Dames.

Pocahontas' Picture Gift; Private Copy of Original Portrait to Be Sent Mrs. Wilson, Oregonian newspaper article 3 March 1919

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 3 March 1919, page 14

When Edith Wilson visited England in 1918, this Duluth newspaper article heralded the visit of a descendant of Pocahontas—pointing out it was a little over 300 years since her ancestor made a similar trip. The newspaper article claims: “Only one other American woman [Pocahontas] ever has been received in England with the social and official courtesies which will be lavished upon Mrs. Woodrow Wilson.” The news article goes on to trace Edith’s roots to Pocahontas and even to her early Bolling English roots.

To Be Greeted as Was Pocahontas in 1616; England Prepares for President's Wife, Duluth News-Tribune newspaper article 3 December 1918

Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 3 December 1918, page 12

Pocahontas Research Resources

Are you a descendent of Pocahontas? You may be interested in the book Pocahontas’ Descendants: A Revision, Enlargement, and Extension of the List as Set Out by Wyndham Robertson in His Book Pocahontas and Her Descendants (1887), by Stuart E. Brown, Jr., Lorraine F. Myers, and Eileen M. Chappel (the Pocahontas Foundation, 1985).

Gary B. Roberts’ article Notable Kin: Some Descendants and Kinsmen of Descendants of Pocahontas: An Excursion into Southern Genealogy on the American Ancestors website has additional sources you may be interested in.

Whether or not you have Native American ancestry, dig into GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives to find out more about your ancestors, discovering the stories that help fill in the details on your family tree.

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*Notable Kin: Some Descendants and Kinsmen of Descendants of Pocahontas: An Excursion into Southern Genealogy by Gary B. Roberts. American Ancestors. 1986. http://www.americanancestors.org/an-excursion-into-southern-genealogy/ accessed 11 November 2013.

Top Genealogy Websites: North Carolina Genealogy Resources for Records

It’s exciting to see the daily growth of North Carolina newspapers and genealogical resources going online.

Here are two key websites you need to be familiar with and rely upon for family history information from the “Tar Heel State”: GenealogyBank and FamilySearch.

a collage of images showing North Carolina genealogy records from GenealogyBank and FamilySearch

Credit: GenealogyBank and FamilySearch

GenealogyBank’s North Carolina Newspapers Collection

GenealogyBank has North Carolina newspapers covered from 1787 to Today.

Our North Carolina newspaper archives contain more than 130 newspapers to cover the history of the Southern state and its people (see the complete list at the end of this article).

Access the North Carolina newspapers with these two links:

Search North Carolina Newspaper Archives (1787 – 1993)

Search North Carolina Recent Obituaries (1988 – Current)

You can also use the nifty map below. Just click on the dots in your NC area of interest to get a popup containing the listing information for that title. Click the hyperlink in the listing to go directly to the newspaper search page. You can also get the full screen version of the map.

Searching through these North Carolina newspapers, you can pull up a news article giving all of the details about special family occasions, such as a wedding. You’ll find information about your family tree that just can’t be found anywhere else.

This 1911 wedding announcement is a good example. It gives a detailed, personal story of the couple’s wedding, as reported that day by the family to the press.

Crutchfield-Stainback wedding announcement, Charlotte Observer newspaper article 4 August 1911

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 4 August 1911, page 7

We can learn about their wedding and celebrate it, now that it’s preserved online.

North Carolina Marriage Registers at FamilySearch

FamilySearch is adding to the celebration by putting up the old North Carolina marriage registers from 1762-1979 online. See: https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1726957

photo of North Carolina marriage registers available through FamilySearch

Credit: FamilySearch

According to FamilySearch’s website, this collection contains the “name index and images of marriage records from North Carolina county courthouses. These records include licenses, marriage applications, marriage bonds, marriage certificates, marriage packets and cohabitation registers. Currently, portions of the following counties are represented in this collection: Alamance, Alexander, Anson, Ashe, Beaufort, Bladen, Buncombe, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Camden, Carteret, Caswell, Catawba, Chatham, Cherokee, Chowan, Cleveland, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Davidson, Davie, Duplin, Durham, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Gates, Granville, Halifax, Hanover, Hyde, Johnston, Lincoln, Macon, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Northampton, Pitt, Richmond, Rowan, Surry, Wilkes. This collection is 46% complete. Additional records will be added as they are completed.”

These online NC newspapers and marriage registers are powerful genealogy research tools.

It is a great day for North Carolina genealogy!

Here is the complete list of all 133 North Carolina newspapers in GenealogyBank’s online collection.

Discover a variety of genealogy records and news stories in these 26 North Carolina newspapers:

Search recent obituary records for your relatives in these 107 North Carolina newspapers:

Click on the image below to download a printable list of the North Carolina Newspapers in GenealogyBank for your future reference. You can save to your desktop and click the individual titles to go directly to your newspaper of interest. Simply go to the file tab and click print.

graphic for GenealogyBank's North Carolina newspapers collection

Remembering James Dean, Woody Guthrie & Janis Joplin with Newspapers

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott looks up profiles, news stories and obituaries in old newspapers to learn more about these three famous entertainers who died this week in American history.

During this week in history (30 September to 4 October) America lost three of its most iconic entertainment personalities. America, and indeed the whole world, lost film actor James Dean in 1955, singer Woody Guthrie in 1967, and singer Janis Joplin in 1970.

Newspapers are filled with obituaries and profiles that help us better understand the lives of our ancestors—and the famous people who lived during their times. The following newspaper articles about these three famous Americans are good examples.

James Dean (1931-1955)

Although he only starred in three movies in his short lifetime, James Dean was already being compared to Marlon Brando when he died. In 1955 Dean shot to stardom as a result of his starring role of Cal Trask in East of Eden, which earned him the first-ever posthumous nomination for an Academy Award. For most of us today, James Dean is best known for his role as Jim Stark in Rebel without a Cause. At the time of his death, Dean had just finished filming his now-famous role as Jett Rink in the film Giant, and had set off in his Porsche sports car to indulge in his passion for car racing at a racetrack in Salinas, California, in the upcoming weekend. Dean never made it to Salinas.

How did James Dean die so young? As you can read in this article from a 1955 Texas newspaper, a tragic automobile accident claimed the life of James Dean at the age of only 24.

Car Collision Kills Actor James Dean, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 1 October 1955

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 1 October 1955, page 1

Then just two days later, the Dallas Morning News again reported on the Dean tragedy, this time focusing on his funeral to be held in Dean’s home town of Fairmount, Indiana.

Funeral Services for Dean Planned in Indiana Saturday, Dallas Morning News newspaper article, 3 October 1955

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 3 October 1955, page 18

This newspaper article not only provides a fascinating look at the early life of James Dean, but also reports the stark reactions of his costars such as Elizabeth Taylor, who “took it the hardest” and was “crying unashamedly.”

I always thought James Dean was buried in Hollywood; now that I know he lies at rest just a couple hours from my home, I will be taking a future road trip to pay my respects to this marvelous actor and icon of youth angst. Interesting note: this same small Indiana town is also the hometown of another American cultural icon, Jim Davis, the cartoonist and creator of “Garfield.”

Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)

While some folks reading this might be more familiar with Arlo, the son of Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie, many musicians and music historians would agree with the claim in this 1971 New Jersey newspaper article that Woody is “generally considered America’s greatest balladeer.”

Okie Folk Poet [Woody Guthrie] Loved Underdog, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 27 June 1971

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 27 June 1971, page 102

Woody Guthrie wrote more than 1,000 songs, of which more than 400 are preserved in the Library of Congress (and dozens of which populate my iPad). He also wrote an autobiography Bound for Glory(also on my iPad), and has been acknowledged as a major musical influence on such modern-day musicians as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, and dozens of others. His best known musical piece might well be “This Land Is Your Land.”

When he succumbed to his 15-year battle with Huntington’s disease on 3 October 1967, the news of Guthrie’s death was carried from coast-to-coast. This obituary from a 1967 Louisiana newspaper makes note of a fact still true about Woody today: “Many persons heard Guthrie’s songs without ever knowing his name. Among those who have recorded Woody’s songs are Bing Crosby, Harry Belafonte, Frank Sinatra, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.”

Folk-Singer [Woody] Guthrie Dies, Times-Picayune newspaper obituary, 4 October 1967

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 4 October 1967, page 8

Being a born and raised Clevelander (home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), it was especially nice to read a 1987 news article from my hometown Cleveland newspaper that reported the 1988 Class of inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: not only was Woody Guthrie being honored—but also a singer whom he greatly influenced, Bob Dylan.

Lads, Boys, Girls, Bob [Dylan] in Hall, Plain Dealer newspaper article 28 October 1987

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 28 October 1987, page 83

Oh, and just in case you are a fan of the website FindAGrave.com, I’ll let you in on a “secret.” There may be a memorial stone to Woody in his hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma, but Woody’s not there. His ashes were actually spread at Coney Island, New York.

Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

The year was 1970. America was at war; the Vietnam War was raging in its 11th year. The fight over the war raged across our nation’s home front. The divisions that this war caused throughout America were evident in families, public protests, college campuses, and beyond. Rock and roll music was a boiling caldron fueled by many of these divisions (for instance my parents would not allow rock and roll in my house). Into this scene burst some of America’s most noted rock artists.

One of these was one of my personal favorites, Janis Joplin. Her name is forever welded to “Mercedes Benz” in my mind, a song she recorded just two days before her untimely death in 1970 at the age of only 27. As you can see it was Page One news in this 1970 article from a Texas newspaper.

Singer Janis Joplin Found Dead in Hotel, Dallas Morning News newspaper obituary 5 October 1970

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 5 October 1970, page 1

As you can imagine there followed numerous articles that mourned the loss of this one-of-a-kind singer. Other newspapers seized the occasion to rail away at the excesses of America’s youth.

This 1970 article from a North Carolina newspaper reported that Janis had signed her will only three days before her death, and left half her estate to her parents and one quarter each to her brother and sister.

Janis Joplin Left Estate to Family, Greensboro Daily News newspaper article 22 October 1970

Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, North Carolina), 22 October 1970, page 11

Janis had a unique voice and style. In this 1969 article from a California newspaper, reporter Carol Olten had this to say about Janis: “Janis Joplin never leaves doubts in anyone’s mind about being THE rock ’n’ roll woman. Any musicians who appear on stage with her have been more or less reduced to mashed potatoes.”

Janis Joplin Here Saturday, San Diego Union newspaper article 28 September 1969

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 28 September 1969, page 78

Janis was indeed quite the woman of rock and roll. As reported in this 1994 article from an Illinois newspaper, she was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the 1995 Class of inductees.

[Janis] Joplin, [Frank] Zappa Join Hall of Fame, Register Star newspaper article 17 November 1994

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 17 November 1994, page 35

By the way, whenever you are in Cleveland, Ohio, pay a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Famewhere you can see some of Janis’s memorabilia and a whole lot more. From personal experience, I suggest you allow at least two days for your visit!

Obituaries provide personal details about someone’s life that we can’t find elsewhere—whether they are our ancestors or famous people we’re interested in. GenealogyBank features two collections of obituaries:

Dig into these obituary archives today and see what you can discover about your family and favorite celebrities!

4th of July Holiday: A Time for Family Reunions & Genealogy Fun

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott celebrates the Fourth of July holiday by researching old newspaper articles to discover some July 4th reunions celebrated in times past.

I love holidays and I especially love the 4th of July! Fireworks, picnics, and family reunions! What a great combination for all of us, and especially those of us who are genealogy “infected”! All my life July 4th was a time to gather family around and have a wonderful long weekend while celebrating the birth of the United States!

I hope you and your family had fun this past holiday weekend celebrating our great nation and enjoying quality time together.

When I began planning my picnic menu for this year’s 4th of July party (should I go with hamburgers, hot dogs, or brats?) I decided to spend a few moments searching GenealogyBank.com’s historical newspaper archives to see what some of the past July Fourth celebrations were like that “made the papers.”

The first article I found in my search, published in the “Society” column of a 1912 Pennsylvania newspaper, really perked up my interest as a genealogist. The historical news article listed the names of dozens of the reportedly more than 100 family members of three of the oldest families of the county who gathered for their annual 4th of July reunion. Seeing all those persons’ names and hometowns made me wish I were related!

Three Families in July Fourth Reunion, Patriot newspaper article 6 July 1912

Patriot (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), 6 July 1912, page 3

Next, I enjoyed another family reunion article and wished I had ancestors who lived in Mason, Fleming, and/or Lewis counties in Kentucky. This 1912 Kentucky newspaper reported on a nice assortment of many of the “Old Settlers” of the area.

Old Settlers Will Meet July Fourth, Lexington Herald newspaper article 22 May 1912

Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 22 May 1912, page 2

I became a bit envious when I read an article from a 1913 Oklahoma newspaper. This piece explained that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had changed his mind and agreed to go to the Gettysburg battlefield and address the Veterans Encampment there. Can you imagine being at Gettysburg and walking amongst Civil War veterans, hearing their first-hand stories? Wow, what a 4th of July that would make for anyone who loves genealogy and history!

Wilson to Visit Gettsyburg Vetson July Fourth, Daily Oklahoman newspaper article 29 June 1913

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), 29 June 1913, page 1

Then I got a good chuckle from an article in an 1875 Ohio newspaper. This enjoyable item recounted the 4th of July festivities surrounding the annual gathering of telegraphers. I enjoyed reading that this group knew “how to have a frolic in a sensible and respectable manner” and sported badges with coded messages. Despite their apparent good manners and fun times, I’d be willing to bet that this is a group that doesn’t meet anymore.

Reunion of the Cleveland, Buffalo, Toledo and Erie Telegraphers, Plain Dealer newspaper article 6 July 1875

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 6 July 1875, page 4

Of course reading all these wonderful old newspaper articles about 4th of July family reunions and gatherings only made me pine a bit for some of my family reunions in times gone by. The last several decades or so have found us in a cabin in the north woods of Minnesota where we enjoy the holiday, often in its weather extremes. I have great memories ranging from the incredibly HOT 4th of July when the beach sand was so burning we couldn’t walk on it barefoot to get to our clambake fire—all the way to the other extreme of the 4th of July in 1996, when we all watched the fireworks in winter jackets, hats, and mittens after trimming a small, nearby pine tree with Christmas lights to celebrate the cold!

Before wrapping up my Fourth of July reunion research, I took a few more minutes to look in our old family photo albums for some more memories of the holiday. Aside from a whole lot of my really bad photos of fireworks that didn’t quite work out (thank goodness for digital photography now), I did find two photos that really took me back. One is of my dad and mom enjoying the 4th in their favorite place—a swimming pool.

photo of Scott Phillips' parents celebrating July Fourth by a swimming pool

The second photo was from a 1986 4th of July reunion with my in-laws in northern Minnesota.

photo of Scott Phillips celebrating July Fourth with his in-laws in northern Minnesota

Both these family photos bring memories of happy, happy times gone by. I hope you enjoy them; I have included them here as my way of saying: I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July holiday—and Happy Birthday to the United States of America!

By the way—what did you grill this 4th of July? Tell us in the comments.

Heber Springs, Arkansas, ‘Jacksonian’ Is Rich in Family Stories

Heber Springs, Arkansas, may be only seven square miles in size and have a population just a little more than 7,000, but this small town is big enough to have its own newspaper, the “Jacksonian”—and GenealogyBank has it available online to help with your family history searches in “The Natural State.”

photo of the welcome sign for Heber Springs, Arkansas

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The newspaper articles and obituaries in these historical small town newspapers often give genealogical details not usually found in the big city newspapers.

For example, let’s look at the wealth of family history detail found in Mary A. (Gennoe) Moore’s obituary.

obituary for Mary Moore, Jacksonian newspaper article 19 January 1893

Jacksonian (Heber Springs, Arkansas), 19 January 1893, page 5

From this old obituary we learn these vital statistics:

  • Name: Mary A. Moore
  • Maiden name: Gennoe
  • Date of death: Thursday, 12 January 1893
  • Place of death: at her home in Heber Springs, Arkansas
  • Date of birth: 18 February 1832
  • Birthplace: Tennessee
  • Husband: I. R. Moore
  • Date of marriage: 22 February 1857

We also learn the following personal details about her life:

  • Both she and her husband grew up in the same community
  • They had known each other since childhood
  • In November 1857 the married couple moved near Springfield, Missouri
  • In January 1866 they moved to Boone County, Arkansas
  • In 1884 they moved to Yell County, Arkansas
  • Around 1889 they moved to Heber Springs, Arkansas
  • They had eight children, seven of whom survived Mary
  • Children: J. R. B., T. C., and I. W. Moore, and Mrs. Nancy E. Wilson lived in Heber Springs
  • Children: Mrs. P. D. L. Baity, Mrs. Sarah P. Hastings, and J. F. Moore lived in Dardanelle

The rest of this old obituary described the funeral and the deep feelings everyone in this small community had for “Grandma Moore.”

Where else but in newspapers can we find this much detail about the lives of our ancestors?

Sure—we probably have the tradition passed down that they were born in Tennessee, and later moved to Heber Springs. But, would we know that they also lived in Springfield, Boone County and Yell County? Would we know the dates of Mary’s birth and marriage, or the names and places of residence of her seven surviving children?

So much family history information in just one historical obituary!

Find and document your family’s history in GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives. Preserve and pass down the information to the rising generation.

GenealogyBank search form for the "Jacksonian" newspaper

GenealogyBank search form for the “Jacksonian” newspaper

Find out the details of your ancestors’ lives by searching this old Heber Springs newspaper online. Search the Jacksonian newspaper archive now.

Record Your Family Stories: How Did Your Parents Meet?

How did your parents meet? My Dad told me recently how he met Mom over 70 years ago at the University of New Hampshire.

photo of Bill and Ellie Kemp

Tom Kemp’s parents Bill and Ellie. Photo from the author’s collection.

The students were going to Thanksgiving dinner. Since it was a special occasion, they had the men and women eat together. They each filed in separately, sat down—and there she was, his bride-to-be, seated across the table from him! It happened again the next month. For Christmas the same process took place and in they filed, separately: men on one side and the women on the other. And there she was again, seated directly across from him! Given their series of serendipitous encounters they knew their love was meant to be and a courtship began. When the nation was attacked at Pearl Harbor, my Dad enlisted. Following World War II they married—and a few weeks ago they celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary.

Newspapers have preserved the stories of our lives—including Bill Nye’s interesting story of when he first met his parents.

Bill Nye Visits His Birthplace, Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper article 12 June 1885

Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, Michigan), 12 June 1885, page 3

Mid-1800s American humorist and newspaper columnist Edgar Wilson Nye, aka Bill Nye, remembered the day when he first met his parents—“a casual meeting” that over the years forged itself into a “powerful bond” between his parents and himself. Read his poignant and humorous account here: http://bit.ly/12wNaMx

Bill Nye was having fun with his audience, but it does raise the question: how did you meet the family members you love? And how did they meet? How did your parents meet?

Record your family stories, and pass them on to the rising generation.

And share your family stories with us. Tell us how your parents or grandparents met, or when you first met your parents, in the comments.

50 Tennessee Newspapers Online for Your Genealogy Research

GenealogyBank has put more than 50 Tennessee newspapers online making it even easier for genealogists to find their old family stories and detailed information for their family tree.

Search millions of Tennessee newspaper articles in our online TN newspaper archives, including birth announcements, marriage notices, obituaries, and local news stories, to find out more about your ancestors from “The Volunteer State.”

collage of the Tennessee state seal and the Tennessee Herald masthead

Collage of the Tennessee state seal and the Tennessee Herald masthead

Click and start researching your ancestry now (each title is a link that will take you directly to that newspaper’s search page):

City Newspaper Date Range Collection
Athens Daily Post-Athenian 1/11/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Carthage Carthage Gazette 8/13/1808 – 7/1/1817 Newspaper Archives
Carthage Western Express 11/21/1808 – 11/21/1808 Newspaper Archives
Chattanooga Chattanooga Courier 2/10/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chattanooga Chattanooga Daily Rebel 8/9/1862 – 4/27/1865 Newspaper Archives
Chattanooga Chattanooga Times Free Press 4/1/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chattanooga Justice 12/24/1887 – 12/24/1887 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Clarksville Gazette 11/21/1819 – 12/23/1820 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Tennessee Weekly Chronicle 1/27/1819 – 6/7/1819 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Town Gazette 7/5/1819 – 11/8/1819 Newspaper Archives
Clarksville Weekly Chronicle 2/18/1818 – 9/16/1818 Newspaper Archives
Cleveland Cleveland Daily Banner 10/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Columbia Daily Herald 1/8/2002 – Current Recent Obituaries
Cookeville Herald-Citizen 4/12/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crossville Crossville Chronicle 9/1/1996 – Current Recent Obituaries
Crossville Glade Sun 6/2/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Dayton Herald-News 1/6/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Greeneville Greeneville Sun 9/14/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Jackson Jackson Headlight 1/27/1900 – 1/27/1900 Newspaper Archives
Kingston Roane County News 1/14/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Daily Journal and Journal and Tribune 4/1/1888 – 12/31/1896 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville Enlightener 1/31/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Knoxville Gazette 12/7/1793 – 10/29/1806 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Knoxville News Sentinel 1/4/1991 – Current Recent Obituaries
Knoxville Negro World 10/15/1887 – 11/26/1887 Newspaper Archives
Knoxville Wilson’s Knoxville Gazette 9/1/1818 – 9/1/1818 Newspaper Archives
Lafayette Macon County Times 10/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
LaFollette LaFollette Press 11/21/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Lenoir City News-Herald 9/27/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maryville Blount Today 2/1/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Maryville Daily Times 1/1/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Commercial Appeal 1/1/1968 – 12/31/1969 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Commercial Appeal 6/27/1990 – Current Recent Obituaries
Memphis Memphis Daily Avalanche 1/1/1866 – 4/30/1869 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Memphis Triangle 11/17/1928 – 7/27/1929 Newspaper Archives
Memphis Tri-State Defender 2/3/2011 – Current Recent Obituaries
Murfreesboro Murfreesboro Union 6/6/1939 – 6/6/1939 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Colored Tennessean 8/12/1865 – 7/18/1866 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Impartial Review 1/18/1806 – 8/16/1806 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Gazette 5/26/1819 – 2/14/1827 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Nashville Post 1/21/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville Nashville Scene 11/23/1995 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nashville National Banner and Nashville Whig 1/1/1834 – 12/30/1836 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Review 11/10/1809 – 5/3/1811 Newspaper Archives
Nashville Tennessee Gazette 2/25/1800 – 5/30/1807 Newspaper Archives
Newport Newport Plain Talk 7/1/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oak Ridge Oak Ridger 2/17/1997 – Current Recent Obituaries
Paris Paris Post-Intelligencer 7/5/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rogersville Rogersville Review 12/16/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Rogersville Western Pilot 8/19/1815 – 8/19/1815 Newspaper Archives
Sevierville Mountain Press 10/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Shelbyville Tennessee Herald 12/19/1817 – 3/8/1820 Newspaper Archives
Sweetwater Advocate and Democrat 6/12/1998 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tazewell Claiborne Progress 10/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Wartburg Morgan County News 12/19/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries

Firsthand Stories of the Civil War’s 1864 Battle of Nashville

This decisive battle of the Civil War was fought in and around Nashville, Tennessee, 148 years ago, on 15-16 December 1864. Union General George H. Thomas, the “Rock of Chickamauga,” commanded the Federal troops who soundly defeated the Confederate army under the command of General John Bell Hood.

The Battle of Nashville was the last major clash in the Western Theater of the Civil War. After suffering more than 6,000 casualties the Confederate Army of Tennessee was badly weakened, no longer strong enough to threaten the much-larger Union forces in the area.

photo of the Battle of Nashville, 16 December 1864. Credit: Library of Congress.

Battle of Nashville, 16 December 1864. Credit: Library of Congress.

GenealogyBank gives you the news as your ancestors lived it, providing more context to your family story than is available from other genealogy sources. Newspaper coverage of the Civil War was extensive and vivid, with many reporters giving first-hand accounts of battles they witnessed from up close. Newspapers also published actual Civil War battle reports from the officers, and letters from the soldiers in addition to their own personal war stories.

For example, here are three first-hand accounts of the Battle of Nashville directly from the battle field.

This historical newspaper article featured General Thomas’s official report of the battle.

Battle at Nashville, Washington Reporter newspaper article 21 December 1864

Washington Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), 21 December 1864, page 2

“I attacked the enemy’s left this morning, the 15th, and drove it from the river below the city, very near to the Franklin pike, a distance of about eight miles. I have captured Chalmer’s headquarters and train, and a second train of about twenty wagons, with between eight hundred and one thousand prisoners, and sixteen pieces of artillery. Our troops behaved splendidly, all taking their share in assaulting and charging the enemy’s breastworks.”

Read the entire news article: Battle At Nashville Official Dispatch from General Thomas–The Enemy to be Again Attacked.

This old newspaper article included further stories from the battlefield.

Great Battle at Nashville, New York Herald-Tribune newspaper article 17 December 1864

New York Herald-Tribune (New York City, New York), 17 December 1864, page 1

“The western telegraph lines are working very badly, on account of the snowstorms prevailing. Just returned from the battle field. Battle severe and terrific. Our forces victorious…

“Hood has fallen back, and is apparently doing his best to get away, while Thomas is pressing him with great vigor, frequently capturing guns and men. Everything so far is perfectly successful, and the prospect is fair to crush Hood’s army.”

Read the entire historical newspaper article: Great Battle at Nashville. Decisive Union Victory. Rebel Army Defeated, He is Trying to Escape.

This old news article about the Civil War presented a reporter’s exciting description of the fighting.

Battle before Nashville, Plain Dealer newspaper article 19 December 1864

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 19 December 1864, page 3

“Our own troops were disposed in the following order: Wilson’s cavalry on the extreme right; Schofield’s 23d corps consisting of Couch’s and Cox’s divisions, at first held in reserve, but before the main battle opened had taken position on the left of the cavalry thus forming the right of our infantry line; A. J. Smith’s 16th corps, consisting of the divisions of McArthur, Garrard and Moore, came next on the left of Schofield. On the left of Smith the magnificent 4th corps of T. J. Wood, consisting of the divisions of Kimball, Elliott and Sam Beatty was formed in close order of battle and partially massed. Steedman with Cruft’s division and two brigades of colored troops held the extreme left…

“Longer, perhaps, than any troops ever remained in such a position, they stood and fired fast and furiously at the enemy, but they could not remain there and live, and a few gave way and fled in disorder. The whole line staggered, and had the rebels done nothing more than keep up their deadly fire we should have been driven back, but they made a movement to shift their artillery, which our men received as an indication that they were about to abandon their line and retire. Raising a loud shout, the division, with fixed bayonets, rushed impetuously forward and, swarming over the works, captured such rebels as hadn’t fled. They had time to get away two guns, but the rest fell into our hands.”

Read the entire old newspaper article: Battle Before Nashville. Interesting Particulars. 5,000 Prisoners and 37 Cannon. Complete Route of the Enemy.

Dig into GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives of more than 6,400 titles to find out more about your Civil War-era ancestors.

Fred Q. Bowman (1916-2009) Genealogist, Author

Fred Q. Bowman (1916-2009)
Frederick Quimby Bowman, 93, passed away in Albany, NY earlier this week. Well known genealogist and author – Fred was a relied upon source of early New York vital records. He was a genealogist who made a lasting difference.

Obituary: Times Union (Albany, NY) – November 9, 2009
See: http://bit.ly/5gmzM7

He is survived by his wife, Eleanor (Wickham) Bowman; a son, Ronald Bowman (Janice); daughter-in-law, Yvonne and her daughter Arlene; two grandchildren, Lisa Wilson (David) and Michael Bowman (Jill Tierney); four great-grandchildren, Kayley and Brenna, Cody and Kyle; also several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by two sons, Raymond W. and Kenneth Bowman; a granddaughter, Brenda Bowman; a sister, Martha Schmidt; and a brother, William Bowman. Condolences may be sent to them c/o the A.J. Cunningham Funeral Home; 4898 SR81; Greenville, NY 12083.

He was the author of:
7,000 Hudson-Mohawk Valley (NY) vital records, 1808-1850
Index to 7,000 Hudson-Mohawk Valley New York vital records, 1808-1850

10,000 vital records of eastern New York, 1777-1834
Index to 10,000 vital records of eastern New York, 1774-1834
8,000 more vital records of eastern New York State, 1804-1850

10,000 vital records of central New York, 1813-1850
Index to 10,000 vital records of central New York, 1813-1850

10,000 vital records of western New York, 1809-1850
Index to 10,000 vital records of western New York, 1809-1850

Landholders of northeastern New York, 1739-1802
Directory to collections of New York vital records, 1726-1989, with rare gazetteer
New York’s detailed census of 1855 : Greene County