After Julia's marriage to Jacob Wermuth ended, she didn't wait long to remarry. But again, she found herself married to a man old enough to be her father.
Just four days after she appeared in the 1860 census in her father’s house, Julia was married to Percival Monroe.[i] He was about 40, she just 18. The start of the marriage might have been a bit rocky – the following year Percival Monroe was declared insolvent, discharged in San Joaquin county court from the payment of his debts and liabilities.[ii]
I have found few records for Julia in the 1860s. It is curious to me that while she and Percival were married in 1860, the first child I can find from their union was not born until 1873. And while the marriage may have lasted twenty-some years, it does not appear that it was a bed of roses. In 1883, Percival was arrested at Stockton on a charge of libel preferred by his divorced wife, Julia A. Monroe.[iii]
This would not be Julia’s last foray into the court system. The following year, she sued her father. Before Hester Withee Brannack’s death in 1869, Lyman and Hester had engaged in some real estate transactions in which property was deeded to Hester. After Hester’s death, Julia and her siblings, as heirs of Hester, brought suit against Lyman to inherit certain parcels. The court ruled, however, that the parcels in question were not Hester’s separate property, and instead belonged to Lyman.[iv]
Nor was this Lyman’s only brush with a court. After Hester died, he married a woman named Sarah. They lived in Santa Cruz, California where he was on the city council[v], resigning 11 March 1885.[vi] He was involved in various ventures including shipping and lumber in Santa Cruz. A lawsuit was brought against him in 1889 by Alfred H. Fitch for the non-fulfillment of a contract to deliver shingles. An entire trial was held, Brannack called many witnesses, the case went to the jury which deliberated for a short while when they received word that Brannack and Fitch had settled, Fitch agreeing to withdraw the suit and pay the court costs, and Brannack agreeing to donate to the YMCA $150, a sum about equal to the court costs.[vii]
Much as Julia struggled to maintain a happy marriage with Jacob Wermuth and Percival Monroe, her father, Lyman’s marriage to his second wife Sarah might not have been a bed of roses. More next week about Lyman’s 1889 trip to Pontiac, Michigan where he makes a new friend.
[i] Ancestry.com. Marriage records of San Joaquin County, California [database on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004. Original data: Marriage records of San Joaquin County, California : August, 1850-December, 1865. Stockton, Calif.: The Society, 1969., “Register of marriages no. 1”, page 20 accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
[ii] Stockton Daily Argus, 14 May 1861, accessed through Newspaper Abstracts, http://www.newspaperabstracts.com/link.php?id=31769, 30 January 2013
[iii] San Francisco Bulletin, 7 March 1883, page 1, “State News in Brief”, accessed through Genealogybank.com 30 January 2013
[iv] The Pacific Reporter Volume 4, page 488, West Publishing Company, “Brannock v. Monroe”, accessed through Googlebooks 30 January 2013 http://books.google.com/books?id=3ek-AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA488&lpg=PA488&dq=Hester+Brannack+the+pacific+reporter&source=bl&ots=fZZp96WxFY&sig=iSNFOCy5yt3-g8ilBclNmCmrUwo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=g7YJUY_5NOGjigL-0oCgDQ&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Hester%20Brannack%20the%20pacific%20reporter&f=false
[v] Santa Cruz Local News Index, 15 April 1884, “Elected to City Council”, http://www2.santacruzpl.org/history/oldnews/full.php?record=1835&term=brannack, accessed 30 Jan 2013
[vi] Website – City of Santa Cruz Common Councils and Mayors, 1876-1906, http://scplweb.santacruzpl.org/history/gov/sc2.shtml accessed 30 Jan 2013
[vii] Santa Cruz Daily Surf, 12 February 1889, page 1
More of the continuing saga of Julia. Newspaper accounts led me to her stormy first marriage…
Jacob Alexander Wermuth and Julia Ann Brannock were married in San Joaquin County 1 January 1857. Julia was 14, and Jacob was about 20 years her senior. Son, Millard, was born just ten months later. Two days before her second wedding anniversary, Julia ran off with another man. The Weekly Stockton Democrat tells the story:
"ABDUCTION of a WIFE -- On Thursday, the 30th ult., a man by name of HANNA, who had been employed on a ranch near Henderson's, on the Mokelumne, eloped with the wife of J.H. WORMUTH. HANNA had formerly been suspected of improper intimacy with WORMUTH's wife, from which cause he had returned her to her parents, with whom she lived until a reconciliation took place, when she returned to her husband.
"On Thursday, the 30th ult., upon pretext of visiting her parents, she left home but did not return at night, which fact created some suspicion. On the following morning her husband went in search of her, and learned to his surprise that she had not visited her parents, and that the latter knew nothing of her whereabouts.
"HANNA, who has for several weeks past resided in this city, obtained a buggy from the Centre St. Livery Stables on Friday, and in company with WORMUTH's wife arrived in town as the boat was leaving for San Francisco, upon which they took passage, registering their names as Mr. & Mrs. BROWN.
"The father of the runaway wife, Mr. L.H. BRANNOCK, a gentleman much esteemed by his neighbors, arrived in the city yesterday, and obtained a warrant for the recovery of about $200 in coin and a quantity of jewelry in the possession of his daughter, and left on the boat last evening.
"The marriage of Mr. WORMUTH with his wife occurred about 2 years since, at which time she was 14 years of age. They lived happily until the appearance of HANNA upon her father's ranch as a hired man, when she repeatedly gave evidence of improper intimacy with HANNA.
"A child about a year old, the issue of the marriage, is left motherless and disgraced at her father's house; while the husband, a young man of intelligence and much respected by all who know him, has been made miserable through the heartless desertion of his wife.
"HANNA is a Canadian, with nothing prepossessing in his personal appearance, and uneducated; and while wanting in everything that elevates the man, his conduct has been uniformly that of one who would stoop to whatever was low and debasing in human character to accomplish the objects of his animal nature. Although the laws do not hold criminally responsible for the part he has taken in the abduction of a wife, it is to be hoped they may prove effectual in securing the return of the property, in obtaining which he undoubtedly performed the part of an accomplice, in order that his designs might be the more successfully carried ou"t.
The San Francisco Bulletin continues the story on January 12:
"More of the Abductor of the Girl-Wife - The San Joaquin Republican says:
One Hugh Hanna was brought before Justice Brown, at Stockton, on 10th January, on charges of stealing a silver watch, valued at $16, and $16.50 in coin, from Mr. Wormuth, on the Mokelumne river. Hanna, who is a Canadian, had been at work for the father of a Mrs. Wormuth, a respectable gentleman named Brannock, and succeeded in seducing his daughter, a girl of some fourteen or fifteen years. She was married to Mr. Wormuth, who discovered her intimacy with the fellow even after marriage. A separation ensued, but the husband was induced to receive the girl back. About a week since, the wife eloped with Hanna, and was pursued and overtaken by the father of the young woman about 150 miles south of San Francisco. They were taken to Stockton, and the foolish child-wife was saved from the shame, disgrace and certain ruin of living with Hanna, by being re-admitted to her father's house. Unfortunately, the theft of Mr. Wormuth's property could not be proved upon the accused, and the District Attorney was compelled to enter a nolle prosequi. He gave the fellow a severe lecture, concluding by advising the rascal to leave these parts. If he is wise, he will heed the advice."
In April of 1859, Jacob Wermuth was granted a decree of divorce, the allegation of desertion being sustained. On the 12th of September, 1859, Fred Wermuth was born. Given the timing of his birth in relation to Julia’s elopement with Hugh Hanna and her divorce from Jacob Wemuth, it may give a clue to suspicions about his paternity that Fred lived with Julia, and Millard stayed with Jacob.
More next week…
 Western States Marriage Index, Jacob Alexander Wermuth and Julia Ann Brannock, San Joaquin, Vol M, pg 85 http://abish.byui.edu/specialCollections/westernStates/westernStatesRecordDetail.cfm?recordID=1487551, accessed 30 January 2013
 California death index, Millard W. Wermuth, Birthdate 4 Nov 1857, Death Date 30 Dec 1954, Source Citation: Place: Sacramento; Date: 30 Dec 1954. accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 The Weekly Stockton Democrat, Sunday 9 January 1859, http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/casanjoa/2006-03/1143565203, accessed 30 Jan 2013
 “More of the Abductor of the Girl-Wife,” The San Francisco Bulletin, 12 January 1859, page 3, column 4, from GenealogyBank.com accessed 15 January 2017
 The Weekly Stockton Democrat, 24 April 1859, http://www.newspaperabstracts.com/link.php?id=25303 accessed 30 January 2013
 California death index, Millard W. Wermuth, Birthdate 12 Sep 1859, Death Date 3 Apr 1950, Source Citation: Place: Santa Cruz; Date: 3 Apr 1950, Social Security: 548073697. accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
More than ten years ago while researching the death of my great-great uncle’s wife, I stumbled upon a character who has fascinated me ever since. I’ve researched Julia and her family in newspapers, census records, city directories and coroner’s inquests, and each story I find makes me want to dig deeper and learn more…
I originally wrote the post below as part of an article I aspired to publish in a Calfornia genealogical society periodical in the hopes that one of Julia's descendants might stumble upon it and want to connect with me. However the publisher felt the proposed article (at 5000+ words) was too long and I struggled with editing out any of the many good parts, so it was never published.
Two days ago, however, I had the most delightful email from Linda, Julia's great-great granddaughter who found the family tree I posted about Julia on Ancestry.com. We've had a couple of long phone conversations and she even sent me a picture of Julia. Linda is happy to have this information about Julia and her family out there,warts and all. In the coming weeks, as my Sunday Stories blog posts, I will run all the sections of those 5000+ words I wrote. Enjoy!
I first met Julia in 1901. Even then, I wasn’t sure what her name was. It might have been Achard, it might have been Shiland. It took me years to figure out which was the right one – and why there might have been any question in the first place.
I encountered Julia from the newspaper articles about Sarah Ahern’s death.
“The Bulletin says ‘With her lips sealed as to who gave her the medicine which caused her death, Mrs. Sarah Ahern of Tiburon died suddenly Friday. The circumstances surrounding the case are such that arrest may follow the investigation made by the coroner.’” Before her death, Sarah “…would say nothing other than that a friend had given her medicine. After her death, however, Mr. Ahern found a small box and some cards bearing the name of Mrs. J.A. Achard of 415a Third Street, San Francisco. Coroner Eden was notified and held an inquest. The facts as above stated were brought out, and Dr. W.J. Wickman, the coroner's physician made an autopsy, finding that the woman was a victim of malpractice and that death was due to septicema. James Ahern, the husband, remembered seeing Mrs. Shiland visiting his wife. Mrs. Shiland was called as a witness, and was put through a rigid examination. She admitted calling on Mrs. Ahern, but denied giving her any medicine or attending her. This is the second time she has been called before the coroner's jury. Three years ago she was a witness in a San Francisco case. The jury was given the case and returned a verdict that Mrs. Ahern came to her death from blood poisoning, due to causes unknown.”
Another article indicated that the box contained pills, and that the doctors who treated Sarah after Mrs. Achard left “stated their belief that she was suffering from the effect of medicine given her by a malpractitioner.”
What were these pills? I suspected that Sarah might have committed suicide. Her fifteen-month-old daughter, Agnes Jane, had drowned February 15, 1900, after wandering into a tidal lagoon behind the family home. Could Sarah have secured some pills which would put an end to her personal grief and perhaps her guilt? Perhaps if I could find Mrs. J.A. Achard I might learn something about what those pills might have been.
More next week…
 For more about Sarah Ahern, see my blog posts from January 2016, “Suffer the Little Agnes Ahern,” “One Loss Leads to More,” and “Discover Leads to Understanding” at http://www.mkrgenealogy.com/searching-for-stories-blog/archives/01-2016
 The Marin Journal, 16 May 1901
 San Francisco Chronicle 12 May 1901, page 11 “Died of Septicaemia”
 San Francisco Call, 16 February 1900, page 4, “Mother Finds the Body of Her Child”
4, “Mother Finds the Body of Her Child”
I’ve been working on a timeline of a potential relative, Anthony Graham. He’s not a direct ancestor, and he may or may not be a relative, but I’m hopeful that tracing him will help me learn more about my great-great grandmother, Jane Graham Ahern. (Long story about why I think he might be related. I’ll save that for another blog post.)
I’ve been trying for years to come up with a specific birthplace for Anthony. I have some census records that have a mix of “Ireland” and “Scotland” as a birthplace. I can find him on the 1850, 1860 and 1880 US Federal census and all of them show he hails from Ireland, but on the 1880, 1900 and 1910 censuses, most of his children report that their father was born in Scotland. And one daughter, Jennie, can’t seem to make up her mind – in 1880 her father is born in Scotland and her mother is born in Ireland, while in 1900 Da’s from Ireland and Ma’s the Scot. Anthony’s death notice in the San Francisco paper indicates he was a native of Scotland, but obviously he didn’t write that, and due to the 1906 earthquake and fire, no death certificate exists to provide additional information.
And then I found it! Another obituary, from the Los Angeles Herald. “Death of a Pioneer… Mr. Graham was a native of Glasgow, Scotland.”  A city! There were more details. He “… landed in New York when quite young. He afterward became engaged in the construction of the railroad across the Isthmus of Panama, and finally came to California in 1850.”
Now it was time for me to enter these items on his timeline. And that’s when the whole thing fell apart.
Anthony’s timeline shows four children born in New York - Francis in 1846, Ann Eliza on 23 November 1847, Jennie on 18 February 1850 and Anthony Daniel in 1853. The sentence construction in the obituary infers he was engaged in the construction of the Panama Railroad prior to his arrival in California in 1850. If that is true, it is unlikely that he could have fathered Jennie in 1850 and Anthony Daniel three years later if they were born in New York.
When I looked at the timeline of the Panama Railroad, even more inconsistencies arose. Construction of the railroad did not effectively begin until May 1850 and the railroad was not completed until 27 January 1855. It would have been difficult for Anthony to become engaged in the construction of this railroad if he were in California by 1850.
Integrating the Los Angeles Herald obituary details into the existing timeline I had for Anthony points out some problems with the information provided. Since the dates seem “off” I have to question the other details in the obituary. I don’t know who provided the details to the Herald, but it was likely his son Frank who is mentioned in the article. Based on his census records, Frank seems clear that his father was born in Scotland, but if Frank is wrong on the dates of Anthony’s movements, could he be wrong on the birth place as well?
Try using a timeline in your own research. It might help you to see some inconsistencies in your data for your own ancestors as well. How have timelines helped you? Please leave a comment below.
 1850 U.S. census, Orange County, New York, population schedule, Newburgh, p. 106 (stamped), dwelling 1402, family 1584, Anthony Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 573, page 106A, image 218.
 1860 U.S. census, San Francisco County, California, population schedule, San Francisco, p. 218 (penned), dwelling 1851, family 1876, Anthony Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 67, page 383, image 383.
 1880 U.S. census, Tulare County, California, population schedule, Visalia, p. 21 (penned), dwelling 226, family 230, Anthony Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 85, page 48A, ED 098, image 482.
 1880 U.S. census, Los Angeles County, California, population schedule, Los Angeles, p. 10 (penned), dwelling 92, family 95, Frank Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 67, page 224B, ED 025, image 151
 1880 U.S. census, Merced County, California, population schedule, Merced, p. 11 (penned), dwelling 110, family 113, Edward Tobin; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 68, page 345C, ED 043, image 711.
 1900 U.S. census, San Francisco County, California, population schedule, San Francisco, p. 5 (penned), dwelling 72, family 79, John O’Gara; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 105, page 5A, ED 0204.
 “Died (Graham),” (San Francisco.) Daily Alta California, 4 August 1888, p. 7, col. 6.
 “Death of a Pioneer,” Los Angeles (California) Herald, 4 August 1888, p. 2, col. 3.
 1850 U.S. census, Orange Co., New York, pop. sch., p. 106, dwell. 1482, fam. 1584, Anthony Graham; 1860 U.S. census, San Francisco Co., California, pop. sch., p. 218, dwell. 1851, fam. 1876, Anthony Graham
 Baptismal record for Ann Eliza Graham, St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Newburgh, Orange, New York
 Baptismal record for Jane Graham, St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Newburgh, Orange, New York
 1850 U.S. census, Orange Co., New York, pop. sch., p. 106, dwell. 1482, fam. 1584, Anthony Graham; 1860 U.S. census, San Francisco Co., California, pop. sch., p. 218, dwell. 1851, fam. 1876, Anthony Graham
 “Panama Canal Railway,” Wikipedia.org (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Canal_Railway : accessed 28 September 2016).
When you’re searching in online newspapers do you seek out alternate sites with the same newspaper? Maybe you should.
Different newspaper sites, for example Chronicling America (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) and the California Digital Newspaper Collection (CDNC) (http://cdnc.ucr.edu/) have some of the same newspapers, including the San Francisco Call. But they don’t necessarily use the same Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software so one paper may read a string of printed newspaper text as one set of characters and another site may read it differently. If you’ve searched for a word or a phrase, one search engine may find it, but another one may not. You’ve got better odds of finding what you’re searching for if you check out both sites.
But there’s an even more important reason than just the straight-up OCR software used. Some newspaper sites allow readers to correct the text. If you search for the phrase “Wife Wants a Divorce” in the San Francisco Call on 10 December 1904 using the California Digital Newspaper Collection you’ll find an article with the headline “Wife Wants A Divorce from Charles O. Huber.” But if you search for “Wife Wants a Divorce” on the same date in the same paper using Chronicling America, you’re out of luck.
Why? Because someone (me) edited the text on CNDC but not on Chronicling America. I’ve captured a series of images to explain what I’m talking about.
This first image is my search and the results of that search on CDNC. I got a hit!
The next image is my search for the correct spelling on Chronicling America and the following image shows the results. Zip. Nada. Zilch.
But the next two images show my search and results for an alternate spelling. "Aviite avants a divorce." Ah, that pesky OCR! To my ear, it reads a little like Zsa Zsa Gabor ending yet another marriage… “A vife a vants a divorce.” And when Zsa Zsa asks, Chronicling America listens! I got a hit for the article.
The final two images show the text now as it now appears on CDNC after my correction, along with the image of the article. And following that is the text as Chronicling America read it.
Admittedly, I set this example up. But can you be certain that the words you’re searching for in a newspaper appear the same way on two sites? What if someone corrected the text to show how your ancestor’s name was spelled in the article but you didn’t check that site? Instead, you searched in the one with the sketchy OCR mistakes. Are you willing to take that chance? I’m not.
On Saturday 24 September 2016, I'll be presenting "A Nose for the News" at the Kelowna and District Society Harvest Your Family Tree Conference. (http://kdgsconference2016.blogspot.ca/) I hope to see you there!
I might need to add a subtitle to my Searching for Stories blog. I’m thinking “Journeys Down the Rabbit Hole.”
Searching city directories for examples of what information can be found in them in preparation for an upcoming presentation, I discovered that Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936 contained something I hadn’t seen in other directories – a two-and-a-half page “Chronology of Local Events, January 1, 1935 to April 1, 1936.”
I was fascinated with the detail. “May 2, 1935 – Three killed by lightning – storm causes $80,000 damage to city.” “May 15 – Fire causes $25,000 damage at St. Joseph’s Orphan’s Home; 208 children led to safety.” “June 18 – Federal Government announces plans to build vault at Camp Knox for safe-keeping of substantial part of its gold supply.” “Aug. 29 – Stone lifted from Mammoth Cave mummy; ancient man in poor condition.” Story after story to investigate.
And then I saw this – “Oct 11 – Mrs. Ella Rogers held legally dead.” I had to know. In a coma? Removed from life support? Who was she? What happened to her? My subscription to GenealogyBank.com called to me. My 90-minute trip down the rabbit hole led to nearly 25 articles in newspapers from Lexington, Kentucky to Portland, Oregon, about the mystery disappearance of a pretty young widow.
After a trip to Chicago, she returned to her swanky Louisville apartment. She didn’t even unpack her suitcases, but had friend, Hal Harned, to dinner on October 7, 1928. Just as he was leaving, a taxi waiting for him in the street, the lights in her apartment went out. Harned offered to help, but she insisted she could take care of it herself. Ella was never seen again.
Harned tried to reach her the next day and made repeated telephone calls on the days following. Not hearing back, he contacted her father-in-law.  When the police investigated they found no trace of the woman. The dishes from her dinner with Harned were still on the table. Her suitcases still unpacked. Only her purse and the key to her apartment were missing.
The janitor of her building was investigated but eventually released due to lack of evidence. Police dragged a nearby pond but found nothing. Dead ends abounded – suspicious ash found in the building furnace was determined to be not from bones, but from coal. The “blood spots” on a wrench turned out to be rust. Theories of suicide, kidnapping and even death at the hands of hired thugs were floated, but nothing panned out.
Eventually, after seven years with no trace, no contact, no activity in her bank account, Ella McDowell Rogers was declared legally dead.  To this day the case remains unsolved.
I’m not sure why I like to chase rabbits like Ella Rogers down the hole. But It sure beats anything I can find on TV. How about you – any of you get sucked into an afternoon of research on a complete stranger? Feel free to share what you find in the comments section.
 Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936, (Louisville, Kentucky: Caron Directory Company, 1936), 11. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, accessed 4 September 2016
 Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936, (Louisville, Kentucky: Caron Directory Company, 1936), 12. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, accessed 4 September 2016
 “Mystery Cloaks Missing Widow,” New Orleans States, 17 November 1928, p. 2, col. 6.
 “Believe Young Widow Victim of Foul Play,” Omaha [Nebraska] World Herald, 28 December 1928, p. 2, col. 4
 “Suicide Hinted Now in Case of Missing Widow,” Lexington [Kentucky] Leader, 24 November 1928, p. 1, col. 8.
 “The Mystery of the Vanishing Lady,” The [Portland] Oregonian, 28 October, 1945, page 109
 “Court Rules Woman Dead,” Lexington [Kentucky] Leader, 11 October 1935, p. 27, col. 7
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
My father was a great one for clipping things out of newspapers. Every time I’d go to visit him there’d be a stack, thoughtfully curated. Something for me about genealogy he’d seen in the San Francisco Chronicle, something for my husband about science education from the Wall Street Journal. And speaking of the WSJ, every Friday he’d cut out the crossword puzzles and save them for me. I’d come home with a sheaf of them, and tuck them in a drawer or in my big book of New York Times Crossword puzzles. I’ve done most of them, but occasionally I’ll find an unsolved one and it’s like a little gift from Dad, eight years since his passing.
One of the most precious newspaper clippings, however, didn’t come from Dad, it came from Mom. When I was about ten, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. The surgeon who performed the hysterectomy thought he got it all, but what did doctors really know about cancer in 1970? Apparently not enough, and a few years later, the cancer came back with a vengeance, riddling her body. For two years, she fought the good fight, trying to beat her foe with round after round of chemotherapy, the most unfriendly of allies.
At some point Mom knew what was coming. And she knew she would not be there for her husband and children to hold our hands and wipe our tears, to give a hug and tell us we’d be okay, we’d get through it. Mom had experienced this kind of loss before, having buried both her parents and her first husband. I’m sure she remembered how hard those first few days and weeks are, the time you most need the support of your mother or spouse, as you struggle to make sense of the hole in your life. So Mom clipped a poem out of the newspaper and tucked it in her purse for Dad to find, something she thought might give voice to the words she would not be able to say.
Shortly after her death on April 3, 1977, my dad found the clipping, and made a lovely tribute to Mom of it, a framed piece with her picture and the poem. I think all of my siblings still have our copies framed in our homes. I treasure mine.
Recently I ran across a box of Dad’s things, and in it was that original clipping Mom tore out of the paper, jaggedy edges and all. I’ve often wondered - just when did Mom see that poem and know it would be needed? Days before her death? Weeks? Months? As I sit her in 2016, 39 years after she died, and just a few days before what would be her 94th birthday, the detective in me came out. I spent some time with the clipping, with the few words of the editorial on the back side of the scrap of yellowing paper, and with a digital newspaper database, searching for the issue. I found my answer.
Three months. She knew, even if we didn’t. December 30, 1976, Mom tore out the clipping, knowing that the moment so eloquently described by Emily Dickinson would come to pass in her own home before too long. And she left us something to help us get through it.
The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is the solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth –
The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
[i] “The Bustle in a House” by Emily Dickinson
Searching for people in the newspaper by name is a good place to start. But be sure to search for your ancestor’s address as well. By and large newspaper reporters and typesetters probably scored above average on their Seventh grade spelling test, but even those standout students would be more likely to struggle with a name like Krotoszyner than they would with the address, 995 Sutter Street.
Here are three articles, each telling about a member of the Krotoszyner family who lived in San Francisco in the early 1900s. Note that each of these articles use a slightly different spelling of the surname, but all have the correct residential address of the family at 995 Sutter Street. I was aware of the spellings of "Krotoszyner" and "Krotozyner" in the first two articles, but I'm pretty sure the spelling in the third article, "Krotozner," is not a variant I would have thought of. I'm glad I expanded my newspaper searching to more than just names!
It’s a great idea to search by name, but make sure you also search by your ancestor’s address as well. You never know what might pop up.
I’m a knitter and I love one scene written by Annie Proulx. It cracks me up every time. "I can tell you about the time buddy was ripping along down the Trans-Canada knitting about as fast as the truck was going when this Mountie spies him. Starts to chase after him, doing a hundred and forty km per. Finally gets alongside, signs the transport feller to stop, but he's so deep in his knitting he never notices... Mountie flashes his light, finally has to shout out the window, 'Pull over! Pull over! So the great transport knitter looks at the Mountie, shakes his head a bit and says, "Why no sir, 'tis a cardigan.' " The book is of course, The Shipping News.
Reading the shipping news in the newspaper might not be quite as giggle-inducing, but could provide some wonderful details to include when writing your family story. Do you have ancestors who sailed from Europe to the New World or perhaps from Boston or New York, bound for California? If you’ve got a date and a ship’s name for such an adventure you may find some specifics about the voyage.
I knew from my great-grandmothers application to Native Daughters of the Golden West, a California lineage society, that she arrived in San Francisco in May 1867 aboard the vessels Ocean Queen and Sacramento. With the month and year and ship names, I scoured the newspaper looking for either of those ships arriving in San Francisco, and on page 3 of the Daily Alta California of May 25, 1867 in the Shipping Intelligence column, “Arrived, May 24, Stmr Sacramento, Cavarly, 14 days 2 hrs from Panama.”  But wait, there’s more! (Oh, yes… always read the entire paper!) On page 1 I found “From Panama: Arrival of the Steamer ‘Sacramento,’” a 1000+ word article providing details of the Sacramento’s latest round-trip San Francisco-Panama voyage. She “left Panama May 10th at 3:56 p.m. with 590 passengers” and assorted freight, mail and baggage. She stopped at Acapulco, Manzanillo, and Cape St. Lucas on her northward journey, and “experienced fine pleasant weather the entire voyage. Passengers and crew all well.” Among those 590 passengers were “Miss M. Hearn and bro,” my great-grandmother, Mary Agnes Ahern and her brother, Henry.
Further details from the account told me that the Sacramento was carrying freight from the Ocean Queen from New York, and in a “Passengers Sailed” column in the New York Times on page 8 of the May 2nd issue, I found two exciting names – “Miss Mary Hearn and brother.” OK 1 ½ exciting names – poor Henry! memorialized in two newspapers as “brother.”
I was lucky that my great-grandmother traveled first class on these ships so her name was listed in the newspaper, but even if she’d been in the nameless hundreds in steerage,, the shipping news columns could tell me much about her journey. Read The Shipping News (book) and the shipping news in the paper. Search for “Passengers Sailed,” “Arrivals,” “Marine Intelligence,” and more. It’ll help to fill out more stories of your ancestors’ lives.
 The Shipping News: A Novel, Annie Proulx, Simon and Schuster, 2008
 Daily Alta California, Volume 19, Number 6280, 25 May 1867, page 3, accessed 19 April 2016 from the California Digital Newspaper
 Daily Alta California, Volume 19, Number 6280, 25 May 1867, page 1, accessed 19 April 2016 from the California Digital Newspaper
 “Passengers Sailed” New York Times 02 May 1867, page 9, accessed 19 April 2016
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.