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

John Fuller longtime leader in Internet Genealogy has passed away.

I was alerted to John Fuller’s passing by DearMYRTLE. Others in the genealogy community have sent me items to include in writing about him. His complete obituary will be posted later this weekend.
John Fuller was well known in the genealogy community for his landmark website – Genealogy Resources on the Internet – that made it easy to find “Genealogy Mailing Lists” and other resources online. He started that site back in 1995. That seems so long ago now.

A viewing and visitation will be held this coming Tuesday, June 23 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm at the
Murphy Funeral Home; 4510 Wilson Blvd.; Arlington, VA

Per his sister Cynthia, “John would not want flowers” – she suggested memorial gifts to the American Cancer Society.

(Photo supplied by the family – John was a career Navy Officer in the Submarine Service)
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A soldier’s last letter ….

What have I done I asked myself, to deserve to be remembered by strangers in a town in which I had never been…”

You can almost hear him ask that now, over 100 years later as we remember him.

Corporal Wilson Mcpherson Osbon (1877-1899) wrote the letter on 28 Dec 1898, in gratitude for a Christmas care package of food and goodies sent from Mrs. R.S. Gleason of Aberdeen, SD. She had sent it to him and the three other young men who were serving in the Philipines from Howard, South Dakota in Company F – among them was his brother Orman King Osbon (1874-1903).

Portion of his letter – Aberdeen Daily News 22 Feb 1899

This would be the last letter Wilson Osbon would write back home. He was killed just a few weeks later on 15 Feb 1899.

I found his story in the Aberdeen (SD) Weekly News.
In looking into it further, I quickly pulled more than a dozen articles about him and his family in GenealogyBank.
It was gripping to read his last letter.

Even more gripping to read in the old newspapers that his brother Orman was also killed in the Philippines just four years later in a fight leading a group of 22 men against a band of local thugs – in Bolinao, Philippines.

Going beyond the historical newspapers I found Orman Osbon’s obituary in a 1903 report of the War Department. It was there that I learned one more key family detail – Orman Osbon had married in the Philippines and his wife, Antonia Osbon resided in Manila.

Annual reports of the War Department for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1903. Volume VII. Report of the Philippine Commission –
Serial Set Vol. No. 4634, Session Vol. No.858th Congress, 2nd SessionH.Doc. 2 pt. 7. p. 719.
I checked the other popular online sources – none of them give these details that filled in the family tree.

I could only find the complete record in GenealogyBank – dozens of articles and reports that gave the crucial details of this family and their loss of two sons in the service of the country on the other side of the world.

The handy search box made it easy – I entered the name and it searched all 219 Million records and documents – making it quick and easy to find the details of the family tree.

Give it a try right now – there is a special give it a try rate of $9.95.