Showing posts with label newspapers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label newspapers. Show all posts

Friday, June 29, 2018

My Family (Isn't) In the Newspapers

Nov. 7, 1917 New York Tribune headline
This Nov. 7, 1917 New York Tribune
headline is my grandfather's story.
I've tried using historic newspaper websites for my family tree research. I never seem to get anywhere.

My ancestors were not in the society pages. They weren't captains of industry. All I've ever found are some of my great grandfather's real estate transactions.

Today I tried a different approach. I learned more about my ancestors' lives by examining one important historical event.

I turned to the free, online resources of the Library of Congress. Their "Chronicling America" project gives you access to historic American newspapers from 1789 to 1963.

To get started, choose a state and a range of years. You can also try adding some keywords to your search.

How I Chose My Historic Event

Last month while visiting Italy I saw and photographed my grandfather's World War I military record. I know the name and dates of the major battle in which he was captured and imprisoned for a year.

He had been in New York before the war. He'd joined a few of his first cousins in Manhattan and was working as a shoemaker.

At the Italian archives in Benevento.
A dream come true! Visiting the Italian
archives to see my grandfather's records.
When his Italian Army regiment called him up for duty, he sailed back home. He was in the infantry in 1915. He was promoted to Corporal on January 1, 1917.

Then, like a few hundred thousand other Italian soldiers, my grandfather was captured in the Battle of Caporetto. The German Army imprisoned him in Mauthausen, Austria, for a full year.

Using the Library of Congress, I searched the New York Tribune newspaper for the dates of the Battle of Caporetto. I watched the story unfold on the front page of the paper day after day.

I read about the prisoners, the casualties and the devastating losses.

Did my grandfather's first cousins—the ones who stayed in New York City—read this too? Did they wonder if their cousin Adamo was part of this epic battle? Did they wonder if he'd been killed or captured?

Now It's Your Turn

Today we get our news so fast, it's hard to imagine waiting for the newspaper to tell you what's happening in the war overseas.

Here's how you can put these free, digitized newspapers to work for you. Choose an event from history that was a huge news story during your ancestor's lifetime. Something they would have heard about nearly every day.

Using the Library of Congress online archives
Get started search American newspapers from the Library of Congress.
Narrow your search to a single year. Click the checkbox to show only front pages. You'll see much more at a time, and the biggest stories will be on the front page. Search the images' captions for the most important date for this event. Then click that image.

You can view the newspaper page by page, zoom in and out, and save any page as an image or a PDF. If your story is really big news, click to go to the next issue.

By looking at several issues' front pages, I saw the story of my grandfather's World War I battle unfold day by day. This battle has great significance for my family history.

What were the big stories that changed your ancestors' lives?


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Friday, December 22, 2017

What Are Your Genealogy Goals for 2018?

Is your family tree research more productive when you focus on one person? Or do you happily follow leads and create new branches all the time?

You can fortify your family tree by filling in the blanks for your closest relatives. Then you can move on to those tempting new branches.

If you have a few moments to yourself this holiday season, think about your specific genealogy research goals for the new year. Working your way down your list of specific goals will make your tree stronger, faster.

Here are some suggestions for creating your genealogy goals for 2018.

My grandparent chart shows me exactly who's missing.
My grandparent chart shows me exactly who's missing.
Find Specific Ancestors

Create a chart or spreadsheet of your direct-line ancestors to see which sets of great grandparents are missing. See How to Visualize Your Ancestor-Finding Progress for a spreadsheet you can use.

My grandparent chart showed me that I needed the most work on my mother's mother's family. When I saw how much further I'd gotten with every other branch of my tree, I decided to focus on Grandma's line. I made great strides! See Today I Demolished My Family Tree's Only Brick Wall.

Your chart can show you where your tree needs the most work. Your goal might be "Find my 4th great grandparents in my paternal grandfather's line."

My document tracker shows me which documents I have and don't have.
My document tracker shows me which documents I have and don't have.
Fill in What's Missing

A few years into my genealogy research, I had a big collection of downloaded documents: census forms, ship manifests, draft registrations cards, and more. My filing system is very logical, so I can find what I need in a heartbeat.

But with such a big collection, it was hard to know if I was busy searching for something I had already. See Haven't I Seen You Before?

My document tracker spreadsheet gives me a quick way to see what I have for a person and what I'm missing.

Another of your goals for 2018 could be to "Find every missing 1940 census for the people in my tree."

Request Official Documents

I wish every document I needed for my family tree were online. But sometimes you've got to request a marriage certificate from the state, or buy a copy of a death certificate from the Department of Health.

If some of your ancestors died not so long ago, it's unlikely you'll find their death records online. You've got to find out how to order a copy from the state where your ancestor died.

I wanted a copy of my grandfather's 1992 death certificate to learn his exact cause of death. My brother, my cousins, and I knew it was two types of cancer, but we weren't sure which types. As his direct descendants, we thought we should know.

Since my grandfather died in New York City, I had to request a copy in a certain way. If he'd died somewhere else in New York state, or in another state, I would have had to follow a different procedure.

P.S. They did not send me his full death certificate, so I still don't know his official cause of death.

Your goal for 2018 might be "Get copies of birth, marriage and death records for my grandparents and great grandparents."

Confirm or Debunk Family Lore

I have two pieces of family lore that are so vague, I may never be able to confirm or debunk them.

One story says that my great grandfather's brother, Agostino, left the Bronx and moved to Chicago because he was involved in a fight that left a man dead.

I can try to pinpoint when he left the Bronx, and then search newspapers for a story about a man dying in a big brawl.

Another story says that my great grandfather Pasquale left New York and moved to Ohio because of an injury. He and his brothers-in-law worked for the railroad. One of the men let his son into a restricted area. The boy did something stupid and lost a few toes in an accident. To avoid getting fired, they packed up and moved.

The men continued working for the railroads. I suspect the railroad in Youngtown, Ohio, needed workers. They may have gotten an incentive to go work there.

But if the story were true, there might be some documentation of the boy with the missing toes.

Newspaper research could be what you need to confirm or debunk your family stories. Your goal might be "Find proof for my cousin's claim about our ancestor."

Aim for five or six goals that will provide the most bang for your research buck. If you achieve these goals, imagine how much family tree research you will accomplish in 2018!

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Friday, October 27, 2017

1925 Death Photo Holds a Clue to My Ancestor's Life

Last time, I wrote about the long and winding journey of my great great grandfather, Antonio Saviano. Since then, I've been trying to find out something more about his life in the Bronx, New York. He lived there with this family from 1898 until his death in 1925.

1912 New York City newspaper clipping
My great grandfather Giovanni Sarracino did
business with 2 Bronx breweries.
I found some newspaper clippings from 1912, 1913, and 1922, but they were not about Antonio. They were about my great grandfather, Giovanni Sarracino. Giovanni was the son-in-law of Antonio.

Giovanni's news clippings were about real estate transactions. They each involved the building he owned at the corner of Morris Avenue and East 151st Street in the Bronx. I knew that building. My mom was born there, and it was her parents' home until the 1970s.

In these real estate transactions, Giovanni seems to be selling the building, or part of it, to the Westchester County Brewing Company of Pelham, NY. But then he's selling it again as the "agent" of the Ebling Brewery.

a ribbon from an Italian mutual-aid society
My great great grandfather Antonio
Saviano wore this ribbon in his coffin.
I'm confused. I'm going to have to locate details about those business dealings in some city archive.

I was hoping to find that Antonio Saviano was somehow involved in these sales, but I have no proof of that.

So, once again, I'm fixated on the ribbon pinned to his suit as he lay in this coffin in 1925. This is the only photograph I have of Antonio.

Today I rescanned that 1925 photo at 1200dpi—the highest resolution my scanner can do.

I think it's clear enough to read his ribbon now. I used Google to fine-tune what I thought I saw, and find something that matches.

Here's what I found: Societá Fratellanza Contursana Di Maria S.S. Delle Grazie.

On the ribbon, you can see Societá at the top. Then there are some initials, then Maria S.S., and finally Delle Grazie, Bronx, NY.

In 1931, after Antonio died, Societa Fratellanza Contursana Di Maria S. S. Delle Grazie, Inc. filed as a domestic not-for-profit corporation. They could have been in existence long before they incorporated in 1931.

I learned today that Italians who came to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s formed local mutual-aid societies. These societies helped new immigrants adjust.

When I was a little girl, I remember the old Italian men sitting on the sidewalk in the Bronx, playing cards around a folding table. My mom said they belonged to a men's club. Now I feel pretty sure their men's club may have been the mutual-aid society.

Antonio's 1925 trail is kinda cold. But I'm hopeful there may be a crack in this case soon!


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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Where to Find Free Historical City Directories and Newspapers

Have you ever subscribed to an online newspaper archive website? I've tried them twice, but I never found anything about my relatives.

Those sites may be worth the subscription fee if your ancestors were important businessmen or socialites. Or if they were involved in a crime or a train wreck. But I never found my folks.

This directory shows me when Antonio's
son James starting working.
I've had better luck with a free newspaper website (see Fulton History below). There I found some real estate transactions by my great grandfather and his brother-in-law. The information was sparse, but it helped me piece together some of his business dealings.

City directories, on the other hand, have been a great help in locating an ancestor in between census years. (See How To Squeeze Everything Out of the Census.) This can help you when you discover your ancestor is not living at the same address in 1930 as he was in 1920. The city directories between 1920 and 1930 can show you where he moved.

This directory tells me exactly when Antonio died!
Here are a few free websites (also see Free Genealogy Resources) where you can search for your ancestors. If you find them, you can add more data points to their timeline, giving you a more complete view of their lives.

Some of these free sites may have an unfriendly interface or have no search function. You get what you pay for.

Tip: When opening a city directory, look at the table of contents so you have a rough idea of which pages to view.

Free Newspaper Websites

  • Fulton History. What began as "Old Fulton NY Post Cards" now contains over 39,328,000 historical newspaper pages from the United States and Canada. The site includes a good search feature and highlights your search terms on the resulting pages. This is where I found my great grandfather's business transactions.
  • Internet Archive. Type newspaper in the search box, then narrow down your results in the left column. There is so much available on this website that I may devote an entire article to it soon.
  • Library of Congress: Chronicling America. This website contains digitized newspapers from 1789 through 1924 in 13 languages. That's 2,234 newspapers. The search functionality is very helpful.

Free City Directory Websites


This real estate directory tells me my great grandfather
owned one building and lived in another.
Subscribers to Ancestry.com have access to their city directories collection. I've used these to locate certain ancestors in between census years. A directory helped me figure out where my grandfather went to live and work upon entering the United States. Directories can show you when a grown son left his parents' household and moved nearby, possibly helping to estimate his marriage date.

A city directory may provide a missing piece to the puzzle for you.