Thursday, August 20, 2009

Most times I'm looking for just an obituary notice. How do I limit my search to just those articles?

A: Yes, you can do that on GenealogyBank.
Here's how.

Step 1. Start your search.
For example let's say that you are researching the surname: Clapper
Enter that surname & press enter

Step 2. Limit your search results to just the obituaries
Click on the blue highlighted category: Obituary

Your search results will then be limited to only the obituaries for the name you are searching.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My grandfather had a WWI pension - he wasn't wounded - why did he have a pension?

Q: I have my grandfather's World War I payroll records and his discharge. However, I know that he collected a veterans' pension until his death in1973, and then my grandmother received a widow's pension until she died in 1976. Since his discharge clearly states that he was not wounded in the war, I would like to see his pension records to determine on what basis he collected a pension. Since he served 1918-1919, those records are not available through NARA. How can I access them?

A: Pension benefits for World War I veterans evolved over the years. Basically the rule of thumb for a pension was having served for 90 days. See: Veteran's Administration guidelines.

The National Archives has set up a special site for requesting these records. The son or daughter of a WWI veteran should use that site to request his records.

As the granddaughter, you may access the records of retired veterans from World War I to the present at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO.

You need to use Standard Form SF-180 Military Records Request Form to request those records. Click on the link to get a copy of that form. Simply complete the form and submit it to the appropriate mailing address listed on the form.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I am looking for my family tree. I thought when I signed up I would find it already prepared. What do I do now?

A: GenealogyBank - is an online library of resources - millions of them. Like a library it has an index - in our case an index on every word making it easy to find references in each of the issues of the newspapers, books etc. It has over 1 billion names.

(Illustration: Wikipedia Commons)
Documenting your family tree is a lot like putting up the family Christmas tree. You have the bare tree and now you need to look in the boxes of Christmas decorations and put up each one. It takes time to pick out and put the items in just the right place on the tree - but when you're done - wow - it always looks great.

So - let's get started on putting together your "family tree".
What do you know about the family?
Who are you looking for?
For example - what are your grandparents or great-grandparent's names?
When and where were the born? When, where were they married?

So - you'll see who you are looking for and with the when/where of their birth, marriage and death - you can decide where in GenealogyBank will I be likely to find that information.

If they died in say, 1982 - then look in the Social Security Death Index and in the America's Obituaries section.
If they served in the Revolutionary War - then we'll look in the early newspapers for articles and in the Revolutionary War Grave Index in the "Historical Documents" section.

Tell me more about your family and we'll start researching in GenealogyBank to discover the original sources that document their lives. Taking the time to gather together the facts to document your family tree is worth it - just like it is to take the time to put together the family Christmas tree each year.

We can do this.
Tell me more.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How do I limit my search to only the "List of Private Claims" volumes?

A: We are working on making it possible to bookmark each one of our historical documents. When we have that enhancement in place you will be able to search only one book at a time.

For now - you need to fine tune the search by adding the term "List of Private Claims" in the include keywords with search terms box and adding 1880 to the date field.
That will narrow your searches to just those two volumes. See the attached example.

You may then add the surname of the family or name of the individual you would like to research.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I am looking for the parents of Michael and Catherine (Lyons) Rafferty. Where should I look next?

Here's what I know:
I found my grandfather Michael Rafferty in the 1910 Census in Boston - living with his wife Catherine and family. It indicates that he was born in about 1872, was a Motor-man on a street car, was married around 1900 and immigrated in 1895.

Since Michael was not in the 1920 census and Catherine is listed as a widow, it is reasonable to conclude that he died somewhere between 1910 and 1920. My brother believes he died in 1914-1915.

The 1900 Census shows a Michael Rafferty born in 1873, emigrated in 1893, was a motorman and was living in a boarding home with a Thomas Rafferty.

The 1910, 1920 and 1930 census lists the brother of Michael Rafferty, Thomas Rafferty, as living with the family.

Catherine Rafferty (my grandmother, maiden name Lyons):

The 1920 and 1930 census shows that Catherine immigrated from Ireland in 1892. She was naturalized in 1897. She lived at 272 Corey Rd in Boston. She was living at 78 Hichborn St in Brighton at the time of Thomas Sr's wedding (according to newspaper clipping). She died approx 1950.

A: OK. I would suggest several approaches. First that you look for their death certificates.

FamilySearchLabs has been putting all of the Massachusetts death certificates from 1841 through 1915 online but at this point that project is only 58% complete. That is a terrific free resource - you will want to check back as more certificates are added.

You also want to contact the Massachusetts State Archives. They hold the original Massachusetts vital records from 1841 to 1915. They have put up a searchable index to these records from 1841 to 1910.

You also have several clues in the research that you have already done.

Look again at the 1900 Census. You have them identified in Boston Ward 25, Precinct 7.

Click Here to see the full census page

TIP: You may search the 1900 census for free at:

Notice that there is a Timothy Rafferty living on the same street, just a few houses down from them.

Look closely at the lines for Timothy and his wife Bridget.
It says that Timothy has been married for "42" years - getting married in approx. 1858.
The record shows that Bridget has been married for 27 or 28 years (notice the two numbers written in that column) in approx. 1872 when she was 44 years old. Notice further that the record indicates that she had no children.

The census taker should have indicated how many times they have each been married. Since the record indicates that Timothy was first married in 1858 and Bridget first married in 1872 - there was certainly another marriage for one or both of them.

But, look again at line 84 for Timothy. What is the 8/12 written after the marriage? It is possible that this represents the number of children that Timothy had with his first wife - 12 children and that 8 of them are still living. Spacing 12 children from a marriage date of 1858 - could indicate children born from 1859 to the early 1870s.

Just an idea, but could Timothy be Michael Rafferty's father or uncle?

I would suggest that you keep searching the Massachusetts and Irish vital record indexes.

In searching the Civil Registration Indexes for Ireland for 1845 to 1958 I do find a Timothy Rafferty married in Castlebar, County Mayo in 1870. The Civil Registration Indexes are also free on the site.

Here is the citation:
Name: Timothy Rafferty
Registration district: Castlebar
Record type: MARRIAGES
Registration date - quarter and year: 1870
Film number: 101251
Volume: 4 Page: 144
Digital GS number: 4179384 Image number: 00313
Collection: Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes 1845-1958

Looking further at the Irish Civil Registration Index there is an entry for a Michael Rafferty born in Castlebar, County Mayo in 1873. You should get a copy of this birth certificate to see if this person was also born in November 1873 - giving you a strong indication that you have a match.

Name: Michael Rafferty
Registration district: Castlebar
Record type: DEATHS
Registration date - quarter and year: 1873
Estimated birth year: 1873
Film number: 101586
Volume: 19
Page: 69
Digital GS number: 4200218
Image number: 00501
Collection: Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes 1845-1958

I did not find an entry for Thomas Rafferty born January 1870 in Ireland.

Be sure to also search for the naturalization records of Michael, Thomas and Timothy Rafferty - to see what clues these give you. Contact the National Archives Regional centers in Massachusetts for these records. Click here to see their online guide.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y

I am often asked: Do you have Canadian newspapers in GenealogyBank?

Well, no we don't - but that's not the question you want to ask.

Tip: I have been researching my family tree for 45 years and I can tell you that you'll find the information on your family where you least expect to find it.

Here's a wedding announcement for Alexander James Ross of Winnipeg, Manitoba and Mary Moore McArthur of Picton, Nova Scotia - they were married in Chicago 6 March 1882. (Inter Ocean 14 March 1882).
GenealogyBank has over 3,800 newspapers - all of them published in the United States - but it has several million articles, records and documents on Canadians.

Newspapers were published - every day.

And everyday editors had to fill the next day's paper & they wanted to sell papers.

So they pulled "news" from a wide circle of influence. Birth announcements, marriage announcements, and obituaries from small towns and big cities were included.

Just like CNN or Fox News - the daily newspapers had to fill their pages with hard news. News that people wanted to read and that would sell subscriptions.

If you are researching Canadian genealogy then GenealogyBank is an essential online tool.

Eastport, Maine is a small town on the Maine coast right on the border with New Brunswick, Canada.

As you would expect this newspaper regularly carried birth, death and marriage announcements from the Canadian side of the border.

Look at this example of marriage notices published in the 29 March 1828 Eastport ME) Sentinnel. Look at the places mentioned "Lubec" - "Dennysville" - "St. Andrews" - "Antigua" - "St. Stephens" and "Charlotte". Towns on both sides of the border and "Antigua" refers to the island nation of Antigua.

Nothing unusual here - just a typical day with a newspaper editor packing his paper with the information his readers wanted to read.

Just like GenealogyBank - everyday we pack in more resources that genealogists need and rely on. You're not finished with your research until you've searched the newspapers in GenealogyBank.

Q: Is there any chance that the Philadelphia Inquirer will extend from 1922 into the 1940s? Is there an index to obituaries from that era?

A: GenealogyBank actively partners with the publishers of thousands of newspapers from across the country - including the Philadelphia Inquirer. Many of our newspaper runs stop at 1922. Because of copyright laws publishers often weigh their options about digitizing and putting online their newspapers after that because of the New York Times Co. vs. Tasini case in 2001. That ruling requires newspaper publishers to pay writers, photographers for the republication of the articles that they wrote or the pictures that they took since 1922. This can be very difficult for newspapers to find these writers decades later. As newspaper publishers work out those arrangements we work with them and put their newspapers online.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has the clipping file from the Philadelphia Public Ledger - by finding the obituary there you could then check for an obituary appearing in the Philadelphia Inquirer at that same time. They also have indexes to other local Philadelphia newspaper obituary and marriage notices. I would suggest that you contact them about any indexes for that later period.

Monday, June 29, 2009

In Sweden his name was Lars Fredrik Pettersson - but he changed the spelling of his name in the US. What do I do now?

A: It is common for immigrants coming from other heritages to standardize the spelling of their names.

In this case: Lars Fredrik Pettersson .... you will want to search indexes for all of the spelling options for his name.

Fredrik: Could be spelled Frederick or even the short form: Fred
Pettersson: Could be spelled several ways: Petterson; Peterson; Pederson; Petersen; etc.

His complete name might have been written as:
L.F. Peterson
Lars F. Peterson
Lars Peterson
Frederick Peterson
Fred Peterson
Fred L. Peterson

Genealogists learn through trial and error the various ways that individuals and record keepers might have spelled their names.

Keep this in mind when you search newspapers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How can I find more information on my grandfather?

A: First I need more background information on the family.

Hi Tom,
Thanks for getting back with me. I know this is a tough one because we are talking civil war days and OK Indian Territory.

My grandfather Frank Elijah Jackson was born in Sherman TX in 1865 to a Chickasaw women by the name of Lydia Love (maiden name) or Jackson (married name). He died in 1953 or 4 in Los Angeles, CA this I'm sure of.

I spoke with archives in Austin TX no birth record of him. He worked for the Santa Fe railroad in Topeka Kansas how long I don't know. He had to have a ssn# to work I would guess and if so he had to have a birth certificate.

I'm trying to establish our Indian heritage, and to find out his father's background who was Calvin Jackson believed to be an Irishman. Another name that is tied in is Calvin Jackson Grant born 1861 in Sherman, TX. They both resided in Berwyn, OK when it was a territory which is prior to 1906. Any suggestions would surely be appreciated.


Several quick points Frank.
1. California records show a Frank Elijah Jackson - born 23 Feb 1866 in Texas who died in Los Angeles, CA on 9 Jun 1953. I'd suggest that you write to the California Office of Vital Statistics for a copy of his death certificate to confirm that this is your grandfather. That should give you more details on his father.

2. Social Security Number. Today when you register for a Social Security number you need proof of your identity and your birth certificate. When the Social Security program was organized in the 1930s the process was much more informal. People simply registered. The requirement for people to show a birth certificate and other documentation when they got a job is also a recent requirement. Nothing like that was required in the 1800s when he was working for the railroad. Railroad workers also came under a separate "social" program to protect them in their retirement years - the Railroad Retirement Benefits program was actually created the year before the Social Security Administration. An index to the deaths of individuals in the Railroad benefits program is also included in the Social Security Death Index. While the SSDI has death records back to 1937 - the coverage in the Department's index becomes increasingly more comprehensive after 1962 - because that is when the Department began to computerize its index.

3. It's not uncommon for State vital records offices to not have 19th Century birth certificates. So - you need to build your family history from multiple sources. For example - the 1925 Kansas State Census shows his family living in Shawnee, Kansas - and according to that census he was born in Texas and had moved to Kansas from Oklahoma.

4. A search of the 1870 census does show Calvin Jackson Grant born 1861 living in Sherman TX - but no mention of Frank Elijah Jackson.

5. Jackson is a common name. I'd suggest that you continue to look through the state and Federal census records. In the later census years it gives the place of birth of the parents. That should give you a good clue if his father - Calvin Jackson - was born in Ireland.

Frank - I will continue to look into this for you and let you know what else I find for you.


Friday, June 19, 2009

How do I find articles on Blacks in GenealogyBank?

A: Interesting question. You will need to use specific names and keyword search terms associated with Blacks over the past 300 years.

Search for specific individuals by name like "Martin Luther King". Click here to read the Dallas Morning News 5 April 1968 when he was killed.

TIP: Put names in quotes - "Martin Luther King" - so that your search will focus in on just articles where the person you are searching for is mentioned.

When former slave John Wiley died in 1918 it was a banner headline and a front page story in the Belleville News Democrat (20 May 1918). Click here to read the article.

You should also use keyword search terms that were used over the past 300 years. For example terms like: slave, slavery, African-American, NAACP, AME Church; and Civil Rights Movement will generate millions of hits in GenealogyBank.

You will then want to narrow down your search results by state, specific newspaper or by date range.

Please let me know if this answers your question.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'm wondering how you choose which newspapers to add to the collection? I would like to see more coverage for Idaho. How do I request them?

A: John, yes we welcome your suggestions for more newspapers that you would like to see added to - please send all of your newspaper suggestions to us at

GenealogyBank's parent company - NewsBank - works closely with newspapers and archives across the country partnering with them to provide the online newspapers that you see in GenealogyBank.

GenealogyBank currently has more than 3,800 newspapers from all 50 States from 1690 to Today online. We have contracts for thousands of newspapers that are in various stages of production waiting their turn to go online.

Juggling that many titles can be impacted by special opportunities like adding over 360 Hispanic Newspapers from 1808 to 1980; or the discovery of new resources that need to be digitized to protect them from further deterioration.

Each month we usually add more issues from 50 newspapers - often over 4 million additional articles every month.

Please keep sending in your suggestions - we will try to quickly respond to the research interests of our members.

John, please let me know if this answers your question.

Why aren’t the date ranges listed for each newspaper?

A: Jennie - we do list the date ranges for all of the 3,800+ newspapers in GenealogyBank. Here's how you can see the date range for all of our newspapers:

1. Click on the "Title List" for the newspapers
2. Click on the State where the newspaper was published to find the titles and date ranges for your search area of interest.
Let me know if this answers your question.

All the best,

What was added for the Philadelphia Public Ledger? I don’t seem to see anything new.

A: We added 270 more back issues of the Public Ledger in May.
It is easy to search ONLY the 270 issues that were added in May 2009.

To search only the 270 back issues that were added to the Public Ledger do the following:
Tip: We have set-up a search page for each of the thousands of newspapers on GenealogyBank.

1. Go to the Public Ledger search page. Click here to go to that page.

2. Then narrow your search to the most recent content added - the 270 back issues added in May 2009. See image below:
3. Use the drop down menu and select May 2009

4. Now that you have narrowed your search - Enter your search terms and Begin searching.

Let me know if this answers your question.

All the best,

Friday, June 12, 2009

Is this newspaper listed in the right city?

I am doing research in the 1850s and noticed that you have the Daily Globe newspaper listed in the wrong city. The Daily Globe was published in San Francisco, not Washington DC as your hit results indicate. Thought you might want to know.

A: Actually - these are two different newspapers - both with the same name, published in two different cities on opposite ends of the country. GenealogyBank has both of them.

Click Here to Search the Daily Globe (San Francisco, CA)
Click Here to Search The Daily Globe (Washington, DC)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can I search with the dates in order? In other words, oldest first, etc. - Nancy

A: Yes. Look at the illustration below. Use the drop down menu to select the order that you want your search results to be displayed.

You can display them starting with the oldest or the newest articles first.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How can I find out about this Federal Court case and Greene's stay at the Detroit House of Correction?

(Photo of Gene Greene from:
Let's review what you know.
From your letter:
I'm writing a biography of an old vaudeville singer named Gene Greene {Eugene Delbert Greene born: 6-9-1881, died: 4-5-1930). I had reached an impasse in my research because he disappeared from the stage during the period of March 1925 to December of 1926. I didn't know what became of him. I recently found the following article in an online newspaper archive:

The April 11, 1926 issue of the Sioux City Journal printed this article: Gene Greene in Detroit Prison. Vaudeville Actor Serving Sixty-Day Sentence for Selling Liquor. Gene Greene, a former favorite with Sioux City vaudeville patrons, who has been proprietor of the G & G Toasty Tasty Sandwich Shoppe, in Detroit, is spending 60 days in the Detroit House of Correction for violation of the Volstead act. Greene pleaded guilty in procession and sale before Federal judge C.W. Sessions. Federal prohibition agents alleged they purchased two quarts of liquor from Greene. Greene claims the agent represented himself as a friend of an actor friend of his and wanted some thing for a little party. Greene further claims that he did accommodate the friend, but just out of friendship.

My question for you is do you have any idea of how I could find out about this Federal Court case and Greene's stay at the Detroit House of Correction?

Answer: I would suggest that you examine the court records on file with the National Archives. They have an online guide to the Records of the U.S. Circuit and District Courts, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division (Detroit) see:

Notice in particular that this record group has:
Criminal Records, 1851-1971
Criminal Docket Books, 1851-1953 (40 vols.)

Index of Criminal Bonds and Witness Bonds, 1929-1931 (1 vol.)
Criminal Case Files, 1851-1971 (550 cubic feet)

It could be that your case is described there.

These records are on file at the:
National Archives Regional Branch in Chicago, IL.
Telephone: 773.948.9001

You should also contact the:
Detroit City Archives
65 Cadillac Square Suite 1600
Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: (313) 628-2055; Fax: (313) 628-2057.

They can advise you if they have other records for the Detroit House of Correction.

All the best in your research,

Early Image of the Detroit House of Correction

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You don't have any newspapers for Gilmanton, NH. Why do I need GenealogyBank?

A: That's a terrific question. Newspaper editors understood that their papers would be read beyond their immediate town. Editors want to get the news out beyond their town to inform and extend their reach and increase their subscriber base. They routinely carried news from the wide surrounding area and beyond.

Tip: Search all of GenealogyBank for the specific surname you are looking for and limit it by the distinctive name of the town where they lived, like "Gilmanton".

Let's see what we have for families from Gilmanton, NH.
I did an initial search and found more than 8,000 "hits" ranging from articles in the old newspapers to recent deaths in the town. I picked one article/family at random just to see what I could find on this family.

Here is an example of a typical "probate" legal announcement with a Gilmanton connection. (Published, NH Sun 21 Dec 1805).

It concerns the minor (under age fourteen) sons of the late William Swain: Perkins and Gorham Swain. It states that they have land in Gilmanton (likely their father's farm) and that their guardian Thomas Balch recommended that the land be sold and the money put at interest for the care of the two boys.

A quick search of GenealogyBank showed more articles about Gorham Swain and Perkins Swain.
Here is the wedding announcement of Gorham Swain and Sophronia N. Ranlett. (Published 26 March 1825. Portsmouth (NH) Journal of Literature & Politics). Notice that in this article his surname is spelled Swaine.

And here is the marriage of his brother Perkins Swain to Sally Weymouth. (Published 15 Jan 1823 - Portsmouth (NH) Journal of Literature & Politics.

The next article I found was the sad news that Sally (Weymouth) Swain had died on 14 Jun 1834 and that although he was in his "usual" good health at her funeral, he died a few days later on 24 June. The article ends with the words: "They were carried to the grave by the same bearers". (Published 25 July 1834 - Baltimore (MD) Patriot).

The Concord, NH newspaper the New Hampshire Patriot (21 July 1834) added that "Elder Knowles of Gilford preached at the funeral of each."

Newspapers around New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and even far away Maryland carried this poignant story.

Newspapers make it as real as today's news and give us the details we just won't find anywhere else.
Here is the advertisement for the auction for their farm on 2 November 1835. (Published New Hampshire Patriot 2 November 1835).

Bottom Line: Don't limit your search to only the "local" newspaper.

Newspapers from around the state and country may have picked up the stories of your ancestor's lives.

GenealogyBank is the best source of old newspapers on the planet. Period!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Can I get a list of the newspapers in GenealogyBank before I sign-up?

A: Yes, you can see the list of newspapers in GenealogyBank anytime.
Click here to see the complete list of newspapers. has more than 3,800 newspapers from all 50 States, dating from 1690 to Today.