Friday, September 26, 2008

Extra! Extra!: My Ancestors In The News ...

The topic for this upcoming edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is on finding ancestors in the newspapers. Have I found any of my ancestors listed in the local newspapers where my ancestors lived? Yes, but I wish my ancestors had appeared in those newspapers more than they actually did. In most cases, my ancestors were mentioned in the newspapers either when they got married or when they died. Only on a few occasions did my ancestors get mentioned in the news for something other than getting married or having passed away.

As I stated before, most of the times that my ancestors were mentioned in the newspapers was due to their dying. Usually, their deaths would be given maybe a line or two in a death notice section of the local paper. Very little information was given for these ancestors who died in the Nineteenth Century. For my ancestors who died in Detroit in the Twentieth Century, their deaths were listed under the death notice section (Obits were different, apparently.). Although these were not obituaries, these death notices listed the name of their spouse, the that they lived at address, their children, the time and date of the funeral, and and if there were any other relatives living besides the children. As for the death notices of other distant relatives, the listing of names of the decedent's survivors has helped me sort out who each person's children were, especially in the case of my ancestors, Anton and Caroline, and their relatives, where several of the survivors shared the same names. In short, these death notices provided much more detail than their Nineteenth Century counterparts.

Of course, that does not mean that those older death notices did not contain clues. In one death notice, an alternative cause of death was given that was completely different from the cause of death listed in his death registration. As you may remember, I wrote about my ancestor's remarriage to a woman young enough to pass for his daughter last year; however, I did not mention the cause of his death. Or at least the two different causes of death that I have. Jacob Detwiler's death registration lists that he died on 21 December 1879 from lung fever. (In a quick search done on the internet of archaic medical terms, I came upon this site, and it lists lung fever was a term for pneumonia.) The death notice in the local newspaper, however, gives his date of death as 22 December 1879 and states he died from complications due to a fall at his home the week before. So, now the question becomes, "Which one is correct?" The newspaper entry was published within a few days after his death since it mentioned the name of the minister who would be conducting the funeral service. As for the death register, one of the Librarians working in the genealogy section of the Library of Michigan told me that the deaths were collected once a year at that time, and when I looked back at the date the death record was entered, I realized it was entered about six months or so after the his death. So, it could easily be that the death registration is incorrect. Or the possibility could be that both the death notice and registration were correct. As for the date, Jacob could have passed away in the night, and that would explain why there are two death dates given. As for the cause of death, the only reasonable conclusion I can make - and I'm speculating about this - is that Jacob could have injured himself in an accident, and while he was trying to recover from his injuries, he could have very easily developed pneumonia. Jacob was in his sixties when he died, so it would not be to difficult to believe that an old, weakened man had died of pneumonia after being injured.Of course, I cannot say exactly for sure, if one could find that much from a death notice in most cases, but in my case, that has been been the most information that I have gotten out of a death notice.

Another way I have been able to determine when an ancestor has died is through the probate notices listed in the newspapers. Of course, the probate notice will not give me the date of an ancestor's death, but it will help me narrow done when he or she may have died. This notice will also list where this ancestor died, who was managing the estate, and when the noticed was first published. (There will be a date in the lower corner that gives when the notice was submitted or first printed in the paper.)

As for marriage notices, I have not been able to get any more information than the names of the couple who were married, who married them, when and where they were married, and the residences of the couple. At the most, the marriage will not take up much more space than a sentence with all of the information listed in that sentence. (Yes, you read that correctly. One sentence.) Of course, with the marriage notices there are usually more than just one marriage listed in that section. Sometimes the notice might list the father of the bride, but so far, I have not been that lucky. I have had to use other sources to determine the who parents of the couple were.

As for the few other times that I have found my ancestors mentioned in the news, I really only have two examples. (Well, three if I count one of my ancestor's siblings.) In one of those cases, I found my ancestor listed in a newspaper report of those who had won prizes at the county fair (or festival). Apparently, my ancestor had entered one of his animals in one of the contests, and he won the first prize in the category of best 2-year old cow (at least from what I can remember off the top of my head). The article also listed the prize he won, and in his case, his prize was two dollars. (For the moment, I'm going to guess that a two dollar prize was a pretty good one in the 1860s.) Another time I found an ancestor's younger brother listed in the newspaper along with their uncle. This article was also published in the 1860s, and it listed the names of the men who had enlisted in a volunteer regiment, in this case, the 25th Michigan Volunteer Infantry. Of course, it was just a listing of the local men who had enlisted, but still, if I had not already found information on these two men's service in the Civil War, this newspaper article would have been a clue. As for my last example, this newspaper article deals with Civil War veterans, but it is much more intriguing for me. The article mentions the names of the members of the Rockford, Illinois delegation to elect the new president of the G. A. R. in 1894:
" ... The Rockford delegation, headed by Col. Lawler, consisted of the
following: G. S. Roper, C. C. Jones, J. H. Sherrett, W. D. McAffee, T. W. Cole,
G. A. Sealey, N. C. Burroughs, H. D. Potter, Jeff Abbott, J. T. Savage, W. D. E.
Andrus, David Sautell, C. F. Briggs, James Williams, M. J. Burroughs, B. F.
Butler, O. J. Cummings, Adam Oswalt, C. W. Butler, C. H. D. Noel, J. D. Norris,
... [and many others]" -Taken from the Chicago Daily, 10 September 1894, page 1.

For me, I find this piece of information intriguing because it was something I did not expect to find. I knew my ancestor, Adam, had lived in Rockford, Illinois from the late-1880s to the late-1890s from his Civil War pension file, but I did not know he participated in the G. A. R. (At least I could not find any records of his participation in any of the Michigan branches in the records held by the state archives of Michigan.) For me, this might be another way for me to find out more information on Adam. If anyone knows of any Rockford sources on the G. A. R. or newspapers about this delegation, please let me know. Thanks.

So, as you can see, I have found some information on my ancestors and possible hints for other areas to do research on my ancestors. Of course, I wish my ancestors had been mentioned more in the newspapers, but I guess what I have so far is pretty good.

1 comment:

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Finding records for the GAR post to which my family belonged has so far been fruitless. I have found many tidbits in newspapers about who attended what meeting. Perhaps you'll be luckier than I was at the Sons of Union Veterans site.