Archive | Family History

This blog is about family history / genealogy. From the beginning of time, people have sensed a need to belong – to be connected with others. Genealogy is a unique and personalized form of history, transferring photos, documents, medals, personal letters, and oral history from one generation to the next.
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Using Newspapers in Genealogy Research

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Newspapers have been around for centuries and are a wonderful tool for genealogy research. The very first newspaper ever printed in America was edited and published by none other than Benjamin Franklin’s older brother James. Before that, European nations printed weekly or monthly gazettes and other publically distributed publications, each with their own unique terms and wording. Newspapers have always helped to document everything from birth announcements and deaths to weddings, local gossip, legal notices, and transfers of real estate. We might even be able to find some long lost photos of family relatives hidden within their pages.

Obituaries and Deaths

Although death notices are usually published rather quickly in today’s newspapers, this was not always the case. In newspapers of centuries past, it is not uncommon to find an obituary printed in a local paper several weeks after the funeral has actually occurred. Be patient and keep looking because obituaries can provide a massive amount of historical information, including names of siblings, sons, daughters, and parents as well as the date and location of birth, any records of military service, the relative’s occupation, the location of the burial site, and even the church in which the funeral was held.

Birth Announcements

Birth announcements and christenings did not begin to appear in newspapers until the 20th century, but one of the more important pieces of information that we can find might include the legal or “real” names of the person who we are researching.   There are times when one of our relatives might have been known to members of the family by their middle name or a nickname that is completely different from the name on their birth certificate. If you are having trouble finding historical information on a particular member of your family tree, locating the birth announcement may prove that you have actually been unknowingly researching for the wrong name all along.

Society News, Weddings, and Local Gossip

Many local newspapers printed prior to the 1850’s might not include a designated section for wedding announcements like we have today. Instead, some of this information might be hidden within the local society news stories. Silver and golden wedding anniversaries might also be posted as well as brief mentions of relatives applying for marriage licenses. Prior to the Civil War, there may be stories of runaway slaves, forced land sales, and people moving to another town. There can even be stories of school activities that can provide some value information or photos of our relatives as young children, or we might find news stories of military heroes returning from war.

Odd Definitions of Relationship Terms

When our genealogy research begins taking us back to the late 17th or early 18th centuries, we might begin to notice some rather odd terminology used in the newspaper articles.

  • Bans or Banns: This is an old term used to define a marriage. A Banns Proclamation was a type of matrimonial announcement that would typically run in the newspaper for three weeks, every Sunday, prior to the actual wedding ceremony. It is still used today in some countries.
  • Consort or Relict: These are other antiquated terms for the husband or wife left behind after the death of a spouse. You might also find the words “spinster” or “bachelor”, referring to an unmarried woman or man, respectively.
  • Instant: This is a term used to define an event that was taking place in the current month of the newspaper’s publication. For example, the story might read, “Margaret Smith died on the 8th instant from tuberculosis.”
  • Proximo: This is a term used to define an event that was taking place a month in the future or next month. An example might be, “The wedding of Ted and Mary will take place on the 10th
  • Ultimo: This is a term used to define an event that was took place a month before the newspaper was published. An example might be, “Jones Mercantile opened its doors for business on the 26th

Managing the Newspaper Articles

Locating these newspaper articles and clippings is going to be difficult enough, but what do we do with them once we find them? After all, we probably don’t want to take a pair of scissors to these old documents, many of which will be found in libraries and county clerks’ offices. We could make photocopies, if we can actually find a Xerox machine nearby, that is.


Click image to watch video of scanning a newspaper article with stitching

The Flip-Pal mobile scanner is ideal for gently scanning those fragile news articles, death and birth certificates, marriage licenses, deeds of ownership, tax records, and old personal photos. The high-resolution scans will have perfect detail. And, any size original can be scanned in sections and then reassembled with the EasyStitch software. Watch this video to learn more.

Enjoy sifting through the wealth of information for genealogy research in newspaper articles!



With over 90 Million family records in the United States alone, is a leading provider of free genealogy information and free online collaboration tool for families to document their family history – create family trees, digitally preserve family photos, documents and oral traditions.

Down an English Genealogy Lane

[Editor’s note: Flip-Pal Ambassador Anne Bradshaw visits with her mother after traveling to England to see her.]

In November this year, I took a trip down an English genealogy lane. I flew to England to visit my mother, Eve Tozer, who is nearly 102-years-old. Eve suffered several mini-strokes late October, and was confined to bed after some 37,105 days of mobility. I expected brief conversation and lack of concentration. Imagine my surprise when I brought out my iPad to show Mum a short video made for her 100th birthday, and she began tapping the screen like a pro! I suspect she’d have been a genealogy techie if born in a later era. Although her legs no longer work, Eve’s mind is all there.

Genealogy Journey

What began as a farewell visit soon became a journey into family history.

Some days, my sister Susan came with me to see Eve. Other days, I was on my own. Both situations opened up the past in unique ways. One visit, our combined memories had Mum singing, laughing, and even trying to whistle. She used to whistle tunes in her youth, in a day when it was an un-ladylike thing to do. She still recalls her father telling her an old phrase, “A whistling woman and a crowing hen, are neither fit for God nor men.” It didn’t stop her. She continued to whistle throughout her life.

Another day, Mum suddenly began talking to me about giving birth to triplets, not twins, when my siblings Susan and Malcolm were born. She said the third child died within hours of birth and wasn’t given a name. Susan and I are now investigating that snippet of valuable information. The births took place during World War II in a remote village hospital with no modern medical resources. My mother and the twins nearly died. For whatever reason, my parents never mentioned this extra boy to me or my brother and sister as we grew up. If Eve had died years ago, this new fact would have remained unknown.

As we showed Mum old photographs of ancestors, she recognized each one and named most without hesitation. At one point, she told us all the names of her 12 siblings from memory, in the right order, and fast. Impressive! She is the last remaining member of her family and is excited to join them all when her life on earth ends.

In between visits to my mother, my husband and I explored other local places from our own and our children’s past, such as towns and parks (see below). When we told Mum about these places, the memories multiplied.

Knutsford-1 web



Old Hollow Tree, Rectory Park, Sutton Coldfield

Yay for my Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner!

While at my sister’s house, I had access to a treasure trove of old family photographs, certificates, records, news clippings, and more. Because I had my little Flip-Pal with me, I was able to quickly scan everything, and return to the USA with excellent copies of documents I hadn’t seen before, which are now digitally preserved for future generations. I even scanned larger documents with no problem, using Flip-Pal’s stitch feature.  A few of these are included below.


Gt. Grandpa William Pattison, Old Brightlingsea Newspaper Clipping


Grandmother’s Death Certificate



Mum marrying Fred Tozer, 1937

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Mum and me, 1944














Fred Tozer (2nd seated) Mayfair Football Team, 1932

A Bonus

A final bonus occurred the night before we flew home from Manchester airport. After a week of strong family feelings, my husband, who hadn’t seen one of his brothers for 16 years, knocked on his brother’s door in Manchester. We spent a great evening catching up and reminiscing.

There’s something about extended family ties that is hard to ignore. Venturing down genealogy lane gave me back a unity and sense of belonging I’ve missed after living away from England all these years.

Last Goodbye

I shall forever carry a mental picture of the last goodbye wave from my sweet mum. I stood in the open doorway waving back at her and said, “Remember, when you’re in heaven and you want to get my attention, just whistle and I’ll know it’s you.” She smiled and nodded, looking peaceful and wise. We blew kisses and I shut the door. Thank you and God bless you, Eve Tozer, for being my dear mother.


Eve trying to whistle

Shall Our Gratitude Sleep? Remembering Our Veterans

RobertSAustin[Editor’s note: Genealogy expert Thomas MacEntee discusses how you can memorialize the military service and achievements your ancestors.]

“When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?” (—George Canning) represents the sentiments of many when it comes to honoring those who gave their lives in military service. We often feel a duty not just to remember our military ancestors, but also to make sure future generations never forget their sacrifices.

Most of us will mark Veterans Day or Remembrance Day on November 11th in different ways: attending a memorial service at a military cemetery, watching a parade or simply noting the day with our own thoughts and memories of family members who served.

And some will take time to work on projects devoted to memorializing the military service and achievements of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and generations on end.

Gathering Records, Photos and Mementos

Before you create any tribute, take time to gather as much information about the veteran as you can. Here are some obvious and not-so-obvious hiding places:

  • Photos: Family photo albums and scrapbooks; also ask relatives if they have any related photos. These should be scanned using your Flip-Pal mobile scanner and digitized so you always have a secure copy.
  • Medals and Patches: Medals awarded in combat during military service; patches worn on jackets and other items of clothing; dog tags and other ID items. These can be scanned as well and incorporated in digital or online tributes.
  • Letters and Diaries: Letters from the veteran sent home and vice versa, from loved ones to the veteran if they were saved. If the veteran or people mentioned in the documents are still alive, make sure you get permission to use the items. And again, don’t forget to scan these letters and diaries!
  • Interviews: If your veteran family member is still living, take time to conduct an interview about their service. The Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress has sample interview questions on their website: Record the audio or video interviews and transcribe the text as well.

Create a Lasting Tribute

There are various creative ways you can remember family members past and present that served in the military. Many of these projects involve photos—both printed and digital—as well as the use of medals, ribbons, patches and even written diaries and letters. Some inspiring ideas:

  • Create an Online Memorial Page: There are many sites such as Fold3 where you can create a multi-media online tribute to a veteran. Most are free and don’t require a membership or subscription.
  • Build or Fill a Shadow Box: If you have several 3-dimensional items such as medals and patches or dog tags along with photos, you might choose to build a shadow box, which is basically a deep-framed box with a glass door. You can also choose to purchase a shadow box and then fill it with various items you’ve collected.
  • Publish a Memory Book: Once photos and documents are scanned, they can easily be uploaded to various publishing vendors to create a quick and easy photo book. Include quotes and scans of medals as well.
  • Create a Military Family Tree: Many families have generations of veterans who served in various wars and engagements. Consider creating a family tree chart listing names and dates of service along with photos.
  • Write A Story: Use letters, diaries and interviews, as well as other items gathered through research, to write the story of a veteran. Make sure you include ways to share your written tribute including blog posts, a printed book or even an e-book.

Any tribute you create will help tell the story of that veteran and their service and allow you to pass the story down to future generations.

Image: Robert S. Austin, abt. 1918. Photo in possession of Thomas MacEntee. Used by permission.