Archive for the ‘How to Research Your Family History’ Category

Finding Your Family in Old Newspapers

by Sherry Stocking Kline
19 May 2011

I just finished reading a great post “Beyond the Obituary: Researching Your Family Tree in Newspapers” on the Legacy Family Tree’s website.  It gives several excellent reasons for checking newspapers for your family, shares the different information you may be lucky enough to find, and showcases the ease of searching Genealogy Bank’s digitized and indexed records as well.

Many times I’ve bemoaned the fact that my ancestors lived in tiny little rural towns that Genealogy Bank doesn’t have in their collection. (I’m crossing my fingers that they will be added to the Genealogy Bank collection soon!)

Many of my ancestors lived or spent some time here as farmers, ranchers, and teachers in rural Sumner County, Kansas

So first I determined the town(s) that my ancestors lived near.  Many of these small rural towns in the area where my ancestors lived are about five miles apart.  For instance, Milan and Mayfield.

So my next stop was to go to the Kansas State Historical Society website and search through their newspaper microfilm lists to see what newspapers I might be able to research.   

Many times those small town happenings were included in both small-town newspapers as well as the larger newspaper(s) in Wellington, Kansas.  At some periods of time, I found anywhere from 3 to 6 newspapers that might have my ancestor’s information. 

When I typed the name “Mayfield” into the KSHS newspaper database I found the following:

Mayfield Voice  3/16/1894–2/28/1895   Mayfield  Sumner  KS  H 1639 

For a very short time, my tiny little town had its own newspaper! 

 Woo Hoo!  Better and better, my Stocking ancestors lived in rural Mayfield for approximately twenty years at that point, and even better than that, this microfilm is available locally at the Sumner County Historical and Genealogical Society Research Center (open Tuesdays from 10 to 4, closed for lunch or other times by appointment) and the Wellington Public Library.

Next, I typed in the name of Milan, and found the following results:

Title Dates Published in County State Reel Number
Milan Herald  9/1899–6/1900   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 890 
Milan Herald  9/1899–6/1900   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 1488 
Milan Mirror  1/18/1923–3/29/1923   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 886 
Milan News  1/19/1911–10/31/1912   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 887 
Milan News  11/7/1912–6/25/1914   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 888 
Milan News  7/2/1914–12/30/1915   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 889 
Milan News  1/6/1916–2/7/1918   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 890 
Milan Press  1/28/1892–6/27/1895   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 891 
Milan Press  7/4/1895–6/10/1899   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 892 

Wow!  Over the years, Milan had four different newspapers!  

While both my ancestors and my husband’s ancestors settled there before these newspapers came into being, it’s still a good way to locate many of their doings, their family get-togethers, and in some cases even the fact that they traveled with friends by train into Wellington fifteen miles away to shop for the day.

I believe that the Kansas State Historical Society  sells these microfilms or loans the microfilm out to some libraries, http://www.kshs.org.  But not all libraries have the capability (or perhaps it is funding) to to do this interlibrary loan.

I know this post may help Kansas researchers locate the newspapers they need to search for family info, and I hope that this post will help others looking for  their family in other states.

Without the indexing, it takes a lot of time to hunt through microfilm after microfilm, but the good news is that here in rural Kansas, many of my ancestor’s events, and not just their birth and death announcements, but also when they traveled, where they traveled, how they traveled, and even who they may have had for Sunday dinner may be included in those small-town local newspapers columns.

Many thanks to Taneya who left a comment on this blog post, and a link to a great resource to help find other newspaper microfilms!

You may also wish to check the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site for a directory of newspaper microfilm holdings across the country if you need to ever expand beyond Kansas: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

Old Valentine’s May Hold Clues to Family History!

Sherry Stocking Kline
first published in Wichita Eagle’s “Active Life” magazine – February 2005

This Valentine’s Day after you stuff, lick, and stamp your Valentine’s cards and drop them in the mail, don’t forget to rummage through your drawers, boxes, and attics for those old Valentines you’ve saved.

If you are a packrat (or lucky enough to have a packrat ancestor) you may find several old Valentine’s with hidden clues to your family’s history.

Old Valentine’s may contain clues…

One of Virginia Downing’s favorite genealogy classes to teach is Valentine and old letter research.

According to Downing, Education Chairman for Wichita Genealogical Society,old Valentine’s may contain clues to births, deaths, marriages, and more.

“You can find addresses of where people lived,” said Downing, “and dates on the envelopes.”

Downing bought a collection of postcards at an antique shop and said she was able to connect the dots between several members of a family even though she did not personally know them.  Downing read the postcards, checked addresses of senders and recipients and paid particular attention to the notes written inside and the way the cards were signed.

Checking addresses may yield surprising results…

Knowing where your ancestor lived at a given time allows you to do further research in area newspapers, libraries, and other town records, so checking those addresses may yield important clues for further research.

According to Ancestry.com, return addresses that don’t match the postmark location may mean the town was too small to have its own post office or your ancestor may have been on vacation or visiting relatives.

Besides learning the location of family residences, Downing said the notes or letters included often contain clues about family relationships, occupations, and daily life.  “A lot of times they may sign the card “‘Aunt Vita’ or ‘your cousin,’” Downing said. “If Aunt Vita mentions in the letter that ‘Uncle John is out feeding the cattle’ you have clues to the family’s occupation as well.”

Downing said some collectors can tell the date of a Valentine without seeing a postmark. “Some people can look and say that was an early 1900 or that was a 1930’s Valentine.” Downing said, adding that if you aren’t one of those people a little research at your library may help you narrow down the dates.

Take one more trip through your keepsake boxes…

According to Ancestry Daily News, even though you may think you have all the family information out of your own cards, one more trip through those keepsake boxes may reveal facts you forgot, photographs you missed, and memories worth preserving for future generations.

The popularity of e-mail may mean your descendants won’t have as many letters to find when they go searching through your old boxes and files according to Ancestry Daily News, so after you check out those old Valentines, be sure and save them for your genealogist descendants to find.

SNGF – My Santa Genealogy Wish List

It’s Saturday Night!  And below is the SNGF Challenge from Genea-Musings Randy Seaver!

Cue up your “Mission Impossible” music, or maybe you really ought to turn on your favorite Christmas Songs!  Either Way, Enjoy!

Welcome to SNGF — it’s Saturday Night, time for more Genealogy Fun!

We had a great response last week to our Dear Genea-Santa wish list – thank you all for posting – perhaps you can use that post as a start for the upcoming Canrival of Genealogy with the topic of “Dear Genea-Santa.” My apologies for duplicating the theme last week.

I think that we all want lots of imaged and indexed databases online for our pajama-clad viewing pleasure… so for this week’s SNGF, let’s express our wishes for databases we want the genealogy companies to bring to us:

1) Define one or more genealogy or family history databases, that are not currently online, that would really help you in your research. Where does this database currently reside?

2) Tell us about it/them in a blog post on your own blog or GenealogyWise or Facebook, in a comment to this blog post, or in a comment to this post on Facebook.

This one is really easy.

I’ve sat at my computer in sweats and jammies in the wee hours many nights  just wishing that every small-town’s newspaper where my ancestors (and my family here, for that matter!) lived in were on-line and available for research.

Just think!  You could do your census and then check for the obituaries!

Indexed, too?  Oh, be still my heart!

The problem with that is, I believe, financial. For the companies who are making this kind of wonderful technology available. Say for Ancestry.com to want to do this, they would probably want to justify the numbers.

So just how many descendants might be looking?

Many of my ancestors lived in very rural areas, and the tiny town newspaper I might be searching for might be serving a population of less than 500.  Maybe even a lot less.

I figure my great-grandfather now has somewhere between 2 and 3 hundred descendants.  If everyone in my tiny town of Mayfield, Population then about 100, (area population maybe another 3 to 4 hundred) population now about 100, (area population probably a bit lower now) had 200 descendants looking, they might only be talking about 3,000 to 5,000 individuals at the max who might be looking?

Anyone want to guess with me?

On the other hand, there are always peripheral family members researching family, so could the number looking be higher?

And my tiny town had a newspaper for less than a year, so it wouldn’t take them long to scan, so is that a plus or a minus?

On the other hand, if there were actually 5 to 6 thousand plus individuals involved what percentage of those would be researching and paying a monthly or yearly subscription to access this information.  And will those numbers ever justify scanning the small-town newspapers?  I sure hope so!

Anyhow, that’s my wish, Santa!

Anyhow, that’s my wish, Santa, so I hope you and your elves can make this happen.  (That’s Kansas, Santa, land of the South Wind, and I’ve got lots of ancestral ties to Illinois, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, too)

Dare I hope that the new Kindle-type technology that Apple and various others will soon have available might just include the capability to view this info while sitting at home or at your favorite brick and mortar library?

Dare I to dream?

If so, I may just start on my 2010 Christmas list right now….

Ten Tips to Begin Your Family History Research

Sherry Stocking Kline
November 16, 2009

Just a few quick notes to help my Twitter Friend, @Bonnie67, have some Genealogy Fun!

Everyone told me three things when I started to do genealogy research.

A.   Start with me and work backwards.

B.   Document and log my searches through census and books, even when I didn’t find anything (so I wouldn’t search the same place two or three times) and document my sources, and

C.   Get an organization system, a filing system, a notebook, etc.

I didn’t follow advice B and C as well as I should have, but I’m working to turn over a new leaf!

Ten Tips to Begin Your Family History Research

1.  The first thing you need to do is start filling out Family Sheets/Family Group Sheets. You can find a blank group sheet here.

If you have a family that has more than six children, click here to download an add-on sheet for the children.

2.  Fill out the first group sheet for your own family. Your spouse, yourself and your children.

3.  Multiple marriages?   Begin with the first spouse, and ‘tie’ children to their biological father.

4.  Fill in with everything you know. The reference(s) line refers to where the information comes from, whether it is your personal knowledge, a relatives, a death certificate, census, etc.

5.  If you have more children than blanks, add on an extra sheet.

6.  Written everything you can?   Then next fill out a family group sheet for your parents and their children (you and your siblings). Continue with your grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., as far back as you can go.

7.  When you have gone as far as you can with what you know, you need to turn to other sources. Family members, such as parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, even your older siblings may remember something that you don’t.

8.  After family, you will need to turn to paper records: wills, death certificates, obituaries, census records, newspapers, and much, much more.

9.   Want a basic free genealogy program to help you save, sort and file your info? You can find a link to download one here: Free Legacy Family Tree Software, http://www.legacyfamilytree.com/Index.asp. And another one from Roots Magic here: http://www.rootsmagic.com/Essentials/.

Randy Seaver  has written a Roots Magic Essentials review on his Genea-Musings here.

This will give you a place to begin to store your records. You do NOT  have to have a program to do  genealogy, but it does make it easier to file and manage all the information you may accumulate.

10.  Review your Group Sheets.  Someone told me once that doing genealogy was like working the world’s biggest puzzle.  And that’s what genealogists do as they research, they add one puzzle piece at a time, checking to see where it fits.  So now, you go over your Group sheets, and see what blanks you need to fill in, set your goals for future research, and start filling in the blanks!

Happy Hunting!

Downloads:

1. Family Sheets/Family Group Sheets. You can find a blank group sheet here.

2. More children than blanks in your primary group sheet? Add on an extra sheet: Extra Children Sheet.

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