Newspaper researchers beware – never never never assume anything about newspapers on microfilm!
Several years ago I requested the obituary for my great-great grandmother, Mary Devlin Fields, from the Amador County (California) Public Library. They wrote back indicating that they couldn’t find an obituary in the paper, but there were some missing issues and it might be that the issue with her obituary was lost and never microfilmed. Rats! But not without precedent.
Monday I was researching in Jackson, the county seat, and I thought I’d take a look at the microfilm myself. Maybe I could find it. I plopped the microfilm reel labeled “Amador Ledger, Nov 25, 1882 – Mar 30, 1894 (gap 10/27/1883 – 12/1889) into the machine. Mary Fields died 1 April 1890[i], and that wasn’t within the stated microfilm gap, so I scrolled forward to the year 1890. The newspaper, generally four pages, was published once a week on Saturdays. Soon I found myself in the March issues. March 8, March 22 (no March 15!), March 29, May 10. The entire month of April missing!
OK, there was another obituary I wanted – Mary’s granddaughter, Mary A Hardy, died 7 June 1890 at age 10 months, 16 days[ii]. Scroll forward. May 17. May 31… July 26. Really??!! Did my people purposefully die on just those dates where the newspapers would disappear??!!! Grrrr…..
I pressed the rewind button on the microfilm reader. Nothing happened. Forward button worked. Backward button didn't. Great! And since it’s an electric winding mechanism, there wasn't even a crank to turn to rewind the microfilm. I got to hand turn the microfilm reel. Turn turn turn turn turn. Turn turn turn turn turn. Hoping against hope that the label on the box was wrong, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could at least find a birth announcement for little Mary A Hardy, sometime in July of 1889, After a few more turns I began to read the dates on the newspapers. May 17, 1890. May 10, 1890. May 3, 1890… Wait! What? I’ve been rewinding this microfilm and I’m still in 1890? More hand rewinding. April 26. April 19. April 12, 1890. And there I found it…
“Died. In Amador City, April 1, 1890. Mrs. Fields, a native of Ireland, aged 69 years. Deceased had been a resident of Amador City since 1858. About 20 years ago she met with a serious accident by fracturing her hip bone, which could never be set properly, consequently she has been suffering ever since. But she bore the affliction with fortitude. The remains were interred in the Catholic cemetery at Sutter Creek on Thursday of last week. Deceased was a loving wife, a kind and affectionate mother, and a generous, warm-hearted friend. Her death is sincerely mourned by her aged husband, her daughter, and a host of friends.”[iii]
Backward and forward again, I found neither birth nor death notice for Mary A. Hardy. Those issues seem really truly missing. But thank goodness for that broken button on the microfilm reader, for making me rewind slowly!
[i] Sutter Creek Catholic Cemetery (Sutter Creek, Amador, California), Mary Fields momumental inscription, ready my M. Roddy, 28 August 2016. Monument is standing marker with four sides, three of which are inscribed.Mary Fields is on the side facing the burial plot.
[ii] Sutter Creek Catholic Cemetery (Sutter Creek, Amador, California), Mary Devlin Fields momumental inscription, ready my M. Roddy, 28 August 2016. Mary A. Hardy’s inscription is on the left hand side of the same marker as Mary Fields.
[iii] “Died,” Amador Ledger, (Jackson, Amador, California), 12 April 1890, p. 2, col. 4
California), 12 April 1890, p. 2, col. 4
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.