The First Daily Newspaper in the US Wasn’t Exactly Objective

historical newspapers

A selection of American newspapers from 1885, with portraits of their publishers. Original image at the Library of Congress, no known restrictions. Digital image from Wikipedia (click to view).

The first daily newspaper in the US, The Pennsylvania Evening Post, appeared in Philadelphia on this day in 1783. It was short-lived as a daily, but gained traction as a semi-regular paper by 1775. How did publisher Benjamin Towne make it work? By not having a lick of journalistic objectivity, apparently.

“Towne was able to survive through the War for Independence by supporting the side in power,” says this post at FamousDaily.com. “In 1775 his Evening Post was vocal in opposition to the British; but when Philadelphia was occupied briefly by the British troops, Towne welcomed them with open arms. Then when the Patriots took back the city, Towne published a special ‘patriotic’ edition of his paper in honor of their return.”

What a great story! His success heralded more to come. According to a post at the U.S. Census website, “Americans’ hunger for news was such that by 1850, there were some 250 dailies. The number of newspapers peaked around a hundred years ago, when there were 2,600 dailies published across the nation, with a circulation of over 24 million.”

Available at http://genealogygems.com

Newspapers are one of the best places to learn more about our ancestors’ everyday lives, their vital events and happenings that affected them. Learn more in Lisa Louise Cooke’s book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. Here you’ll find inspiring stories about what’s IN newspapers, step-by-step instructions, worksheets and checklists, tons of free and worth-a-few bucks online resources, and a massive amount of location-specific websites for international and U.S. historical newspapers.

 

 

Getting the scoop from old newspapersWould you rather learn by watching? Genealogy Gems Premium members and subscribing genealogy societies can enjoy Lisa’s two-part video series, “Getting the Scoop on Your Ancestors in Newspapers.”  You’ll learn what key family history information may be found in historical newspapers; how to identify newspapers that likely covered your ancestors; websites that have digitized collections of newspapers; Lisa’s top search tips and cool tech tools; how to use Evernote in your newspaper research; and more about African-American Newspaper Research (bonus download!). Genealogy Gems for Societies Video Classes

Click here to learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium membership, and (NEW!) click here to see how your genealogy society can watch these and other Premium videos at their meetings!

 

What Made You a Genealogist? Margaret Linford’s Story

To be the family historian in a clan is an honored role. But to fulfill it effectively, you must include all stories–including your own. So here’s a prompt and a story to get you started: What led you to become a genealogist?

What made you a genealogist

“Your stories are the family history of your descendants,” is something you’ve heard me say on the Genealogy Gems Podcast. In her first article here at Genealogy Gems, I’ve asked genealogist Margaret Linford to share one of her own stories with you: how she came to be a genealogist. I’m anxious for you to get to know Margaret because she has some wonderful gems in store for you in the months ahead. Grab your favorite cup of tea and enjoy!” -Lisa Louise Cooke

What Made Me a Genealogist?

Grandma Overbay 1974 with MargaretGrandma Overbay 1974 with Margaret

Grandma Overbay in 1974 with baby Margaret. Photos courtesy of Margaret Linford.

I can remember, as a little girl, walking in after school. The aroma of freshly baked biscuits or bread always filled the air and enveloped anyone who walked through the door. The house was spotless. The bed linens were crisp.

This was the home of my Grandma Overbay. She was completely devoted to her family. Her home was a refuge for many when they found themselves struggling through life. No one was turned away and she made sure that those who entered her house always felt welcome.

My answer to the question, “What made me a genealogist?” can be traced back to this one woman and my countless experiences with her.

The Greatest Gift

I can remember many lazy summer evenings on the porch, listening to stories of her childhood, accompanied by the rhythmic sound of crickets. Through Grandma’s stories, I was transported back in time. In my mind’s eye, I could see her as a little girl picking blackberries on a mountaintop and following the local doctor from house to house as he treated patients. She lived in a small community, where it was a common practice, in that time, for doctors to make house calls. She had an insatiable curiosity, which prompted these tag-along visits. I imagine it was on these “house calls” that she came to love hearing stories. I loved being able to envision her as a carefree young girl, being taught life lessons, as she served as an unofficial intern to this kind community doctor.

you live as long as you are remembered

A younger version of Grandma Overbay

She painted pictures on the canvas of my mind and introduced me to my ancestors. With each story she told, she was “downloading” some of her memories into the brains of her children and grandchildren. This was one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me: the gift of her time and her stories.

“With each story she told, she was ‘downloading’ some of her memories into the brains of her children and grandchildren. This was one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me: the gift of her time and her stories.”

I don’t think my grandma realized how important her stories would be to creating a strong family narrative. But her legacy lives on, thanks to the time she invested in a budding family genealogist.

The Master Storyteller

I feel fortunate to have been the granddaughter of this master storyteller.  She created characters and made my ancestors come to life.  They had traveled the path of life that I was just beginning, and had much wisdom to pass down to me. My grandma was deliberate in her attempts to transmit this wisdom.

Life lessons were always embedded within the stories. She often told a story that was related to her by her father. He had elected to disregard some of his mother’s wise counsel with regard to a person he wanted to date. He later learned that his mother truly knew what was best and he could have been spared an agonizing experience if he had chosen to heed her counsel. This theme of “honoring father and mother” was woven into many of her stories.

I learned from her that everyone has something to teach us–if we choose to take time and listen to the people we encounter on a day-to-day basis. Grandma believed in devoting her full attention to people. She would stop everything she was doing to lend an ear to someone who needed to talk. In these moments, she was offering her friendship and genuine concern. She was a listener, always sifting through the seemingly mundane to discover bits of wisdom and life lessons she otherwise may not have learned. She taught me, in word and by example, that life can be enriched as we take time to hear each other’s stories.

Pearls of Wisdom

Margaret Poston Overbay early 1970s

Margaret Poston Overbay in the early 1970s

Through the successes and disappointments of my ancestors, they left their children and grandchildren pearls of wisdom. These pearls are strung together, as we remember stories of the past. The greatest “heirloom” I ever inherited was this “string of pearls,” given to me one story at a time.

Six years ago, when I was asked to begin writing a bi-weekly column for my hometown newspaper, this heirloom is what prompted me to christen it “String of Pearls.” There is an even deeper meaning tucked into the name for me. I share the name “Margaret” with my grandmother and great-grandmother. I grew up often resenting being given such an “old” name. As I have matured, I have come to love it. To my delight, I have found that the name, which means “pearl,” has been used for many generations in my family. I am but one in a long string of “pearls.”

There are people like my grandma within each family. They are the keepers of the family stories. They seem to have a special calling to pass along the wisdom and knowledge of previous generations. There is an old proverb that says, “You live as long as you are remembered.” We are remembered as long as our stories are told, and it starts with you telling your story.

Questions Worth Asking

What is it that ignites the spark within someone’s heart to possess a love of family history, to take their rightful place as the “keeper” of the stories? What motivates certain individuals to be so dedicated to searching out their ancestors? What made my Grandma so intent on transmitting these family stories to future generations? I never had the opportunity to ask her that question. I had no way of knowing that her presence would be snatched away so soon. I often find myself repeating the phrase, “if I had only asked.”  Perhaps you have, upon occasion, had the same thought with regard to your own family members.

Though we may have some regrets about unanswered questions, it’s never too late for us, as family historians, to start answering these questions ourselves.  What inspired you to delve into your family’s history? Was it a grandparent, a photograph, or a family mystery that you wanted to solve? What prompted you to first seek out your ancestors?

As I answered these questions for myself, I was reminded of the emotional connection to my Grandma. A flood of memories came back to me, serving to remind me that these family ties last long after death. Our ancestors live on through us and through the stories they left behind. The image of my Grandma sharing her stories on the front porch will be the image that comes to mind the next time someone asks me what made me a genealogist.

Genealogy Origins

In recalling my own “genealogy origins,” I made a startling discovery. I realized that my children are well acquainted with stories of their grandparents and great-grandparents, but know little about the early life experiences of their own mother and father. I have become so focused on telling them stories from previous generations, that I have entirely neglected to tell them my own! After all, it as important to capture our own memories and experiences as it is to save our ancestors from being forgotten. Now I have a renewed commitment to preserve these stories and emotional connections for my own children and future grandchildren.

More to Come

I look forward to sharing more of my stories here with you at Genealogy Gems, as well as some good old tried and true research strategies to help you on your genealogical journey. In this first post, thank you for letting me share my genealogy origins story with you. I invite you to take some time to reflect on your own genealogy origins and go back in your mind to a place and time when you first felt the desire to search out your own ancestors. Who was it or what was it that ignited this spark within you? “What made you a genealogist?”

Share Your Story

Leave a comment below to share your own “genealogy origins” story. Or, if you’re ready to capture more of your life stories, consider purchasing the life-story writing guide, Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy by Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton. It’s packed with journaling prompts for every phase of life–from childhood to retirement–and opportunities to reflect on the relationships and experiences that have shaped you. Give future generations the gift of your life’s stories and lessons: the pearls you have to pass on.

Chilling Historical Video Footage Found in Online Archive

Eastland disasterA determined graduate student found some chilling historical video footage of a ship that capsized in Chicago. It was in an online archive–but he still had to dig deep for it!

Recently Gems fan Kathy sent us a story about an amazing video footage find. The subject line of her email caught my eye: “Gems can’t always be found by ‘panning:’ sometimes we have to ‘dig!'” She went on to say:

“You’re always stressing the importance of looking in the less obvious places but this is one of the best examples. Attached is an article about a horrific tragedy that happened in Chicago 100 years ago….It explains how video footage [about this disaster] was found in a British online newsreel–but it was not referenced under “Eastland,” the name of the ship, or “Chicago,” the location. We all like the easy way of finding things but finding gems sometimes takes digging and you just can’t pan for it.” (Click here to see the footage, though it may not be something everyone wants to watch.)

Thank you, Kathy! I often encourage people to dig for historical video footage (see Resources, below). Old footage shows us the past so compellingly! Also, did you notice that the video for a Chicago disaster was found in a British archive?? Not even the same country! Not too long ago, we blogged about how the media often picks up out-of-town stories. We may discover coverage about our relatives in newspapers and newsreels far from their homes. Just a tip to help YOU find more gems.

 

Resources:

My Most Amazing Find Ever: Family History on YouTube (No Kidding!)

Find Your Family History in the 1950s (tips for finding video footage)

6 Tips for Using YouTube for Family History

How to Share Family History with the Non-Genealogists in Your Family

How can you share family history stories and memories without boring your relatives? Catch this free video preview of a new Premium video class that inspires YOU on how to inspire THEM!

Inspiring Ways to Captivate the Non-Genealogist; how to share family history

If you are researching your family tree but haven’t shared it with your family in a way that sparks their interest, then you are only experiencing half of the joy of genealogy! And if your descendants don’t grasp the importance of their heritage, your hard work may tragically find it’s way to the city dump when you are gone.

New Video Filled with Inspiration

Don’t just collect your family history and store it away in binders and files! In her newest Genealogy Gems Premium video, Lisa Louise Cooke shares several projects–displays, multimedia shows, crafts–even a sweet treat to eat! The World War II display shown here is just one of her ideas.

military heritage display

She’ll inspire YOU on how best to inspire your family’s interest in your heritage.

Watch the free preview below on how to share family history with the non-genealogists in your life. ( Genealogy Gems Premium website members can watch the whole thing here (along with more than 2 dozen videos) as a perk of their membership. Premium website members also have access to our monthly Premium podcast and all archived episodes. Click here to learn more! And keep scrolling down to click on more blog posts with great ideas for sharing your heritage.

Additional Resources

Thanks for sharing this post with others who will want a little more inspiration on how to share family history with loved ones. Just email the URL or post this article on your favorite social media channel.

 

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU