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