Genealogists and historians have lamented the loss of the 1890
census for more than a century. When researchers inquire about the 1890
census, their questions are quickly dismissed with the explanation that a fire
destroyed the records. The truth, however, is more complicated. The 1890
census records did sustain extensive smoke and water damage in two different
fires (1896 and 1921), but the damaged records sat languishing in a warehouse
until the 1930s when Congress ordered their destruction.
After enumerators finished the 1890 census, the Department
of the Interior stored portions in Washington D.C. in the basement of Marini’s
Hall. On March 22, 1896, a
night watchman discovered the rear of the building was on fire and notified
the fire department. Firefighters arrived to find dense smoke pouring from the
basement. Though they extinguished the flames before sunrise, the fire damaged
or destroyed the special
schedules for mortality, crime, pauperism, benevolence, special classes
(e.g., deaf, blind, insane) and portions of the transportation and insurance
schedules. The general population schedules, however, were safe and stored in
the basement of the Commerce Building.
Do you know your ancestors’ names but not their stories? Historical newspapers are an important resource for discovering who your ancestors were beyond names and dates. But if you’re not sure where to start, read on to learn how to use Newspapers.com to piece together your ancestors’ life stories.
1. Build a basic timeline with the facts you already know.
Before you start
searching for your ancestor’s story in newspapers, it helps to have at least a
rough knowledge of when and where they lived. These basics will serve as the
backbone for the story that you build and help guide you in your newspaper
One way to do this is by locating
your ancestor in as many state and federal censuses as you
can. Write down the year of the census and the city/county/state where the
person was living. It may also be helpful to note their occupation (if
provided) and who else was living in the household at the time. These facts can
help you identify your ancestor when you begin your newspaper search. You can
also use dates and locations pulled from other records, such as those for
birth, marriage, and death.
2. Begin your
Enter your ancestor’s name into the Newspapers.com search bar. Scroll through some of the results to see if there are any likely hits for your ancestor. If there are too many results for people who aren’t your ancestor, try adding date, location, and other filters to narrow down the possibilities.
Remember, however, that people didn’t always appear in
newspapers by their legal name. Try searching for your ancestor using
nicknames, alternative names, initials, and misspellings. In older newspapers,
men were often referred to by initials or abbreviations, and women were often
referred to by their husbands’ names (e.g., Mrs. John Smith).
And here’s a tip: When you find a search that returns
results for your ancestor, use the Save/Notify feature to be automatically
alerted when we add new newspaper pages that have matches for your search.
It’s often easiest to
understand how the events of a person’s life tie together when you learn about
them in the order they happened—just like reading a biography. So once you’ve
found search results for your ancestor, sort the results chronologically. This
will help you see more easily how the newspaper articles you find fit with the
timeline you made in Step 1.
default for search results on Newspapers.com is “Best match,” but you can
easily order them chronologically by choosing to sort them by “Paper date
(oldest first),” which is found under “Sort” in the upper left of the search
4. Start reading!
You’ve got your search results, so now it’s time to start
reading! Using the image thumbnails on the search results page as a reference,
open up articles that seem like they might be about your ancestor. The timeline
you made before you started searching will help you determine which articles
are about your ancestor and which are not. As you find articles about your
ancestor, you’ll become more familiar with their life, making it easier to spot
which other articles are about them too.
5. Clip the articles
When you find articles about your ancestor, use our clipping
tool to save them to your Newspapers.com account.
It’s important not
only to clip the article but also to title the clipping in a way that will make
it easy to find again. For example, the clipping’s title could include your
ancestor’s name and a brief summary of the article. Then when you need to find
that article again, you can simply go to your clippings page and search for the
person’s name to quickly pull up all the articles you’ve clipped about them.
When making a clipping, you can also use the “Add more
details” field to make notes about the clipping. For example, you could use
this field to indicate details in the clipping you want to research further or
to specify how the clipping ties into a larger story.
Another great feature of clippings is that you can easily share them on social media or via email. So if you find an article about your ancestor, you can post it to social media and ask your family members if they know anything else about the story. You can also save clippings to your Ancestry® tree.
As you start reading newspaper articles about your ancestor,
they’ll likely spark ideas about other people or topics to research. Make sure
to take plenty of notes about these so you can come back and search them later.
It’ll be tempting to research them right away, but that can lead you down a
rabbit hole that takes you far away from the person you were originally
researching. So instead make a note to return to it in the future.
It’s also a good idea to take notes about ways you could
adjust your search terms. For instance, if you find an article that uses an
alternative spelling of your ancestor’s name, make a note to come back later
and search using that alternate spelling.
7. Branch out.
Once you learn
everything you can about your ancestor’s life by searching for their name, try
searching for their family member’s names. People don’t exist in isolation, so
learning about the stories of their family members can help you understand your
ancestor. For example, your ancestor might not be mentioned by name in an
article about a tragic death in the family, but it nevertheless likely had a
direct impact on their life.
Searching by family members names
(particularly parents’ names) is especially key to learning about your ancestor’s
early life, since adults are more likely than children to be mentioned by name
in a newspaper. By doing this, you might find out that their family moved when
your ancestor was young or that their father was injured in an accident—events
that would have shaped your ancestor’s childhood.
8. Explore the social
history of your ancestor’s life.
Learning about the time and place in which your ancestors lived can also help you understand their life. Take time to look through their local newspaper to find out what life was like in the town or city they lived in. Try browsing through national and local news stories, ads, articles about the economy, the entertainment and leisure sections, war news, transportation schedules, and more to learn about the context of your ancestor’s life.
Social history research is also helpful if you weren’t able
to find much about your ancestor when you searched for them by name.
Researching the world around them can give you a pretty decent idea of what
their life may have been like.
It’s a testament to the lasting power of Nancy Drew that yet another screen reincarnation of the beloved book sleuth is on her way. The character may be closing in on 100 years of existence, but many readers today still fondly remember following Nancy through many mysteries. Not all have loved Nancy Drew from the beginning. But she couldn’t be taken down, thanks in part to the teenage girls who channeled their heroine and saved the day.
Not Just Nancy Drew
In the early 1900s, a literary war was being waged on “nickel novels.” Mostly aimed at boy scouts, these novels were considered by librarians to be a “menace of mediocrity.” Rather more graphically, they were thought to “blow out, shoot to pieces, or burn out boy’s imaginations.” It was thought the average 10-year-old ought to turn their sights to higher literature.
Nancy Drew would not be published until 1930, but this was just the beginning of a controversy that would dog series books for decades to come.
The instant popularity of Nancy Drew novels painted a target on the series’ back. By 1933 there were already ten titles to her name, and young girls loved them. But these .50 novels, considered successors to the nickel and dime novels, were still being fought against primarily by librarians. One even called them “devices of Satan.” This article from 1944 shows librarians left them out of the stacks because of too-similar plots and impossible situations:
The 60s saw another wave of parent and librarian disdain for the popular series, while readers continued to be infatuated with Nancy’s cleverness and moxie. When papers shared negative opinions about the “literary garbage” that was Nancy Drew, readers gave back as good as they got:
The books were still removed from many libraries, but they could not be kept away from eager readers completely. In time the fervor of fans and changing attitudes toward literature would soften the fight for reform.
Ultimately, it’s hard to argue with the evidence of pure enjoyment, as this columnist found. Nancy Drew books got people reading; they were simply a good time. Decades have passed, times have changed, and now reading for fun is not so often considered a moral failing. In fact, Nancy has become a role model for many women across generations.
There have been 5 feature films made about Nancy Drew, and October 9th’s new CW series will be the third attempt to bring Nancy to life on television. It just goes to show that 89 years has done little to dampen the love for literature’s favorite teenage sleuthing lass. Are you a fan?
Notice the Clues?
If you like solving puzzles and decoding clues, give this one a try to find a clipping of a real-life Nancy Drew situation on Newspapers.com:
1. Unscramble the bold letters in the “Not Just Nancy Drew” section for the month and date to search.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
2. Unscramble the bold letters in the “Nancy Comes to Life” section for the year and the name of the paper. (Hint: each paragraph contains one word)
_ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ | _ _ _ _ _ _ | _ _ _ _
3. Unscramble the bold letters in the “Nancy Drew Endures” section for the Find/Search term to look for on Page 7. (Hint: each paragraph contains one word)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ | _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(Click here to skip the clues and go straight to the clipping.)
And If you liked this post, try one of these next:
On October 2, 1835, ongoing clashes between American
settlers in Texas and the Mexican government escalated
into an open rebellion called the Texas
Revolution, or the War of Texas Independence. Texas colonists led by Sam
Houston fought against Mexican forces led by Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
of Mexico. The war resulted in Texas declaring independence from Mexico and the
founding of the Republic of Texas which was later annexed by the United States.
Additional battles were fought including the Battle of the Alamo, where Gen. Santa Anna’s forces overpowered a group of volunteer Texas soldiers occupying a mission near present-day San Antonio killing close to 200; and the Goliad Massacre, where more than 400 captured soldiers were executed by Santa Anna’s troops. The cruelty of the killings acted as a rallying cry for Texas troops who shouted, “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!” during the final battle of the revolution, the Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836. The battle lasted just 18 minutes. Texas soldiers captured Gen. Santa Anna as he tried to flee, and his army retreated south. Held prisoner, Santa Anna was forced to sign the Treaty of Velasco recognizing Texas as an independent republic. In 1845, the United States annexed Texas and it became the 28th state. If you would like to learn more about the Texas Revolution, search Newspapers.com today.
To see more headlines from Texas history, see our Newspapers.com topic page.
If you love to cook, historical newspapers are a great place
to find recipes. But we’ll admit that sometimes the ingredients and flavor
combinations in old recipes can be less than appealing to the modern palette.
So we searched the newspapers on our site to find 5 vintage recipes you’ll
actually want to try this autumn.
Beneath the original recipe, we’ve written it out in a way
that’s a bit easier to follow. We’ve also used brackets to indicate our best
estimates for cooking times, temperatures, and measurements when not provided
by the original recipe.
Our archives contain great stories to help you piece together
your family tree. For example, this
1909 story in the Spokane Chronicle tells the story of a father
reuniting with his son after 47 years! The two became separated during the
Civil War and had no way of contacting one another. One day, the son met a man who
shared his last name and soon discovered it was his uncle. He was delighted to
learn that his father was 79-years-old and living in Nebraska. Later, the two
were joyfully reunited.
This weekend’s release of the new Downton Abbey film will bring fans back to the sweeping grounds and grand halls of England’s Highclere Castle. This stunning edifice serves as the real-life setting of the fictional Crawley home. And if walls could talk, Highclere Castle would tell a few compelling stories of its own—especially about its best-known occupants: George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, and his wife, Almina.
Highclere was almost entirely rebuilt in 1842-1849 on the bones of an older house, which in turn was built on the foundations of a medieval palace. The castle, on it’s 5,000 acres of beautiful park-like land, serves as the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon. Here George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon was born. Perhaps his birth was accompanied by the Highclere tradition where 500 gallons of beer are brewed to remain unopened until the heir “attains his majority. (The clipping below refers to the birth of George Herbert’s son, Henry Herbert.)
Lord Carnarvon married Almina Wombwell—the illegitimate daughter of millionaire Alfred de Rothschild—on June 26, 1895. Her connections left her with plenty of wealth, which would play a significant role throughout her life. Downton Abbey watchers may recognize Cora Crawley—an heiress who marries into a titled family—is loosely based on Almina. And the similarities don’t end there.
At the start of World War I, just as in the show, Highclere Castle was converted into a hospital.
But later wealth came, as it so often does, with scandal. In the mid-1920s, shortly after her husband’s death, Lady Carnarvon married a Colonel Dennistoun. Dennistoun’s ex-wife drew the wealthy Almina into a high-profile court case, demanding Dennistoun pay the alimony he owed her from their divorce. The case was splashed across papers for months, and every move Lady Carnarvon made was scrutinized (as seen by the clipping below). In the end, the jury ruled that no payment was required from the new couple.
The most sensational story in this history is that of Lord Carnarvon. He was an avid Egyptologist who–with the help of his wife—funded the expedition that would discover Tut’s Tomb. Lord Carnarvon traveled to Egypt in late 1922. He was one of the first in modern times to see it opened, and to enter within.
Five months later he was dead, the victim of a bad mosquito bite gone wrong. But with his recent visit to Tutankhamen’s tomb on everyone’s minds (and with a little help from a certain superstitious author), the idea of a mummy’s curse entered popular culture. And Lord Carnarvon was its unfortunate poster child.
Lord Carnarvon himself may not be directly mirrored in any of the show’s characters, but his love of Egypt is. All of the fictional Lord Grantham’s four-legged companions have Egyptian names.
The history of Highclere Castle is, of course, much longer and more complicated than anything shared here. Perhaps the Downton Abbey film will provide further glimpses into the non-fictional past of its iconic castle backdrop and the real-life people who walked its halls.
Have you ever read an old newspaper article and wondered
what happened to the people mentioned in the story? Then check out the new
Newspapers.com and Ancestry® podcast, “Behind the Headlines of History”!
Join hosts Brad Argent of Ancestry® and historian Michala
Hulme of Manchester Metropolitan University as
they share intriguing newspaper articles from the past, before putting on their
genealogy hats and scouring records to find out more about some of the
people involved in the stories.
In the first episode, Brad and Michala discuss the love story behind the Great Bullion Robbery of 1855 and
also reveal how the theft of some hazelnuts in 1877 is linked to Downton Abbey!
Host Brad Argent shared his thoughts:
“Historic newspapers are a treasure trove of great stories, and a fantastic resource for family historians to find out more about the details of their ancestors’ lives. With this podcast, we wanted to bring this to life, sharing weird, wonderful and sometimes tragic historic news stories to find out who these people were, where they came from and what happened next. Join us as we go behind the headlines of history!”
We’re excited to share “Behind
the Headlines of History” with you! Whether it’s on your commute, at the gym,
or while cleaning the house, this fun and fascinating podcast is a perfect way
to pass the time!
“Behind the Headlines of History” will be released each week on Tuesdays for 10 weeks, beginning September 3. It is available on a range of platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts and more.
doctors in Vermont noticed
a strange illness spreading throughout the state. Symptoms included fever,
sore throat, aches, and difficulty breathing. In some instances, the disease
or even death. The virus attacked the nervous system and seemed to hit small
children especially hard. The outbreak resulted in 18 deaths and 132 cases of
permanent paralysis in Vermont that year. After careful study, doctors
finally identified the culprit as poliomyelitis – or polio. Polio ravaged
the country and terrified Americans for more than fifty years until a 1955
vaccine promised an 80-90%
success rate in preventing the disease. However, within two weeks of being
inoculated with the new vaccine, six
children developed paralysis and the vaccine was found defective. This
incident, known as the Cutter
incident, led to changes including increased government oversight in the
manufacture and regulation of vaccines.
Advances in polio treatment led scientists to develop the iron
lung in 1928.
Some patients lost the ability to breathe on their own when polio paralyzed their
chest muscles. The iron lung acted as a respirator
using air pressure to expand and contract a patient’s diaphragm, essentially
breathing for them at the rate of 16 times a minute. In 2008, America’s
longest-living survivor in an iron lung passed away after a power outage
shut down her iron lung and a backup generator failed.
In the 1930s, early efforts to create a polio vaccine were
unsuccessful. By the 1950s, Dr. Jonas Salk experienced
a breakthrough and successfully developed a vaccine using an inactivated
strain of the poliovirus (IPV). His vaccine was based on three virulent strains
of the virus that were inactivated using a formaldehyde solution. Salk was so
confident in his work that in 1953, he vaccinated his own family. A larger
trial began in 1954 that provided vaccinations for more than 1
million children, and in April 1955, authorities announced the trial was a
success and mass
vaccinations could begin. That meant the vaccine needed large scale
production and the pharmaceutical industry stepped up to help.
The cheers and relief experienced by Americans quickly turned to shock when within two weeks of receiving the vaccine, six children became paralyzed. Officials discovered that all six children had been inoculated using a vaccine created by Cutter Laboratories in California. The Cutter vaccine was recalled but not before 380,000 of the company’s doses had been administered. It was discovered that the formaldehyde solution Cutter Laboratories used was defective and did not inactivate the virus. Instead, the vaccines administered contained the live poliovirus. The defective vaccine led to 220,000 new infections and caused 164 to become severely paralyzed. Ten children died. The Cutter incident led to a dramatic change in government oversight of vaccine production and also changed medical liability lawsuits when Cutter was found guilty and liable without fault during the trial. Despite the tragic Cutter incident, Salk’s vaccine was successful in the fight against polio. However, the Salk vaccine was replaced in the 1960s when Albert Sabin introduced an oral polio vaccine (OPV) that relied on a weakened poliovirus and proved highly effective.
Do you have family members that suffered from polio? Learn
more about polio and the development of a polio vaccine on Newspapers.com.
Love it or hate it, pumpkin-spice season is here again. But
do you know how this autumn flavor got its start?
Let’s head to the historical papers on Newspapers.com to see what we can learn. Click on any of the links in the post to see newspaper clippings that document the history of pumpkin spice!
“Pumpkin spice” is
usually a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and/or cloves. Since some
combinations of these spices date back to ancient days, for the sake of time,
let’s jump forward to the 18th century United States.
By this time, spices were available in the U.S. and were being used in cooking and baking. A 1734 Pennsylvania newspaper advertisement, for instance, shows that spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice were being imported to the U.S. And a newspaper recipe for “soft cakes” from 1825 New York confirms that spices (nutmeg and cinnamon in this case) were used in early American baking.
For the Love of
So it’s clear that the spices in “pumpkin spice” were used
together, but where does pumpkin come in?
Americans have been flavoring their pumpkin dishes with spices for a long time. In fact, the first American cookbook (“American Cookery” from 1796) includes a pumpkin recipe that uses mace, nutmeg, and ginger.
But most of all, Americans loved pumpkin pie, and spices were an important part of the flavor of the dish. A 1839 newspaper recipe, for example, calls for cinnamon and ginger in the pie filling.
“Pumpkin Pie Spice” Proliferation
But when did this traditional spice combination become known
as “pumpkin spice”?
In 1930, a spice company called Thompson & Taylor (T&T) introduced what they called “Pumpkin Pie Spice,” which combined all the spices a home baker needed to make pumpkin pie. Now, as the ads claimed, making pumpkin pies at home was more convenient and the pies themselves would be more consistent in flavor.
The idea of selling a pre-mixed pie spice caught on, and over the next few years more and more companies introduced their own pumpkin pie spices. The mix best-known today, by McCormick, went on the market in 1934.
With an increasing number of companies selling pumpkin pie spices, newspapers were inundated with ads around Thanksgiving time. As newspapers tried to save space, the mix was sometimes referred to simply as “pumpkin spice” instead of “pumpkin pie spice,” as you can see in this ad from 1931.
Around this same time, “pumpkin spice” began appearing in the names of recipes published in newspapers. For instance, based on the papers currently on Newspapers.com, recipes for “Pumpkin Spice Cake” began showing up in newspapers around 1935, though we found a brief mention in an ad from 1934.
From this time on, ads and recipes for “pumpkin spice” flavored foods appeared with increasing frequency in newspapers, and it became well-established as its own flavor in the decades that followed.
But, of course, despite pumpkin spice’s long history, the current flood of pumpkin-spice products can largely be traced back to Starbucks, which first introduced its popular Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003. Spiced coffee has its own extensive history, but Starbucks’ branding of its new beverage as “pumpkin spice” kicked off a trend that seems to have taken over the autumn season. Whether you like it or not.