Genealogy Tip: Newspaper Articles about Visiting Grandparents

Introduction: In this article, Mary Harrell-Sesniak provides a genealogy tip to help you find your sometimes-elusive female ancestors in old newspapers. Mary is a genealogist, author, and editor with a strong technology background who has written and collected some of the funniest, quirkiest, or most touching sayings about genealogy that she’s encountered in her career as a family historian. Please attribute this article if sharing.

An oft-overlooked way of identifying and verifying a female ancestor is by reports of granddaughters visiting their grandmothers or grandfathers. It enables you to literally skip a generation, link resident locations and, if the surname is different, get valuable clues as to the maiden name of the mother.

Photo: “Estes Children & Grandmother,” c. 1892
Photo: “Estes Children & Grandmother,” c. 1892. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Vary the Query

These visits were big news when family had moved away, and local newspapers covered these visits with articles that can provide a surprising amount of family information. Just look at the results GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives returned from this simple query: “visiting her grandmother.”

Photo: a screenshot of GenealogyBank's newspapers search page

Yes, that’s right – over 25,000 newspaper articles exist – some brief, and some more extensive. My first observation is that the grandmother is generally named formally as a Mrs., but that piece of info can fill in the dots, especially when it’s in the maternal line. In addition, if you vary the query to, say, “visit from her granddaughter (or grandson)” or “visiting his (or her) grandparents” or “visit from grandparents,” imagine how many more you’ll find!

Different Home Towns

Most of these newspaper articles report residences, such as this example. Miss Sallie Booker was from Missouri, and was visiting her grandmother Mrs. Mary W. Lydy in Cincinnati, Ohio.

An article about visiting a grandmother, Cincinnati Daily Gazette newspaper article 17 January 1879
Cincinnati Daily Gazette (Cincinnati, Ohio), 17 January 1879, page 3

And here is a report of an adult grandson, Mr. A. Johns, visiting his grandfather, Mr. Aaron Cox. In this brief account, we learn of Mr. Johns’ occupation, and find references to three cities: Washington, D.C. (where Mr. Johns and his wife resided); Blanchester (where Mr. Cox resided); and Hillsborough (where his wife had relatives). These are great clues for follow-up research!

An article about visiting a grandfather, Highland Weekly News newspaper article 23 August 1877
Highland Weekly News (Hillsborough, Ohio), 23 August 1877, page 5

Visits Tell Stories

In this account dating to 1870, we learn that Miss Nellie Rogers was the granddaughter of Mrs. B. B. Coggeshall of Bristol, Rhode Island. We also uncover an interesting, but sad, tale about her dying betrothed leaving her a substantial legacy (inheritance) of $10,000.

An article about visiting a grandmother, Providence Evening Press newspaper article 2 February 1870
Providence Evening Press (Providence, Rhode Island), 2 February 1870, page 2

Sign of the Times

One of the fun aspects of genealogy research is observing how times have changed. Would you ride your bicycle to visit a family member, much less “only” walk the remaining five miles after a bicycle wreck?

An article about visiting a grandfather, Bryan Daily Eagle newspaper article 8 December 1899
Bryan Daily Eagle (Bryan, Texas), 8 December 1899, page 5

Reasons for the Visit

Although many newspapers simply published that a visit was occurring or had occurred, sometimes you’ll uncover a specific reason for the visit. Perhaps the elder family member was ill, or – as in this case – a surprise party was planned.

An article about visiting a grandmother, Daily Inter Ocean newspaper article 24 February 1877
Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), 24 February 1877, page 8

Great Grandparents

Before wrapping up this blog article, let me remind our readers that all types of visits were reported in local newspapers, including visits to great grandparents. When you find them, as in the case of Miss Bessie Archibald and Mrs. George Burr, you literally skip two generations and make a fourth-generation connection!

An article about visiting a great-grandmother, Newtown Bee newspaper article 30 September 1892
Newtown Bee (Newtown, Connecticut), 30 September 1892, page 3

So, there you have it. Newspaper articles reporting visits with grandparents are important cogs of our research journeys. And don’t forget to look in your family photo albums for visits to or from your grandparents! Here’s one of mine with my mother and sister behind me and my maternal grandmother during one of her first visits from out of town.

Photo: Mary Harrell-Sesniak in the arms of her grandmother
Photo: Mary Harrell-Sesniak in the arms of her grandmother. Credit: Mary Harrell-Sesniak.

If this blog article has assisted you in finding a report of a family grandparent visit in the newspapers, please leave me a comment.


4 thoughts on “Genealogy Tip: Newspaper Articles about Visiting Grandparents

  1. Excellent article. Other relationships and pronouns are to be considered also: “his uncle,” “her granddaughter,” etc.

    1. Steven,

      Thank you for the nice feedback and the reminder to search for other relationships beyond what my article referenced.


  2. It never occurred to me that doing searches on words like “visiting” could be so valuable. I’ll be looking for opportunities to do those kinds of searches in the future. Thank you!

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