Saturday, November 2, 2013

Getting the word out

Mr. Peter Jenkins is very ill; also Mrs. Alex Bush.  We hope they will be on the road to good health soon.1

Peter Jenkins died the next day.2

The fastest way for Peter’s family to announce his grave condition was the newspaper.  I can imagine Peter’s wife Keziah agonizing not only about her husband’s imminent death but also being worried about how to get the word out to their family and friends.  We don’t have that problem today.

The newspaper’s social column is a window into our ancestors’ day to day lives.  You will see who was visiting whom, who had a get-together/party, who got engaged/married and in this case who was sick.  These columns were usually divided up by community so you can also see where someone was living.  In Peter’s case I now know that he was living in the Bush area of St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana at the time of his death. 

I have people in my file where I have found 40 or more such notices.  They may seem trivial but I record every single one.

1  "Bush notes," The St. Tammany Farmer, 04 March 1911, p. 5, col. 4; digital images, Library of Congress ( : accessed 01 November 2013). 

2  Find A Grave, digital images ( : accessed 01 November 2013), Peter Jenkins marker, Memorial #36842281, photograph by Belford Carver. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. I once found one of these notices that said my grandmother was quarantined for scarlet fever as a child. I asked her about it and she didn't even remember it.

  2. Don't forget other kinds of newspaper articles as well - advertisements, society news, general "looking for ..." notices and court cases all can give date and place locations for relatives. Even if the court case does not relate to the relative - their name and location may be mentioned by a witness or other participant even if the relative is not called to be present.
    And, none of them are trivial, they all form a part of the larger picture of the relative, and can give some indication of the character of a person as well.

    1. One of my favorites was when I ran my 2nd great aunt's address in the newspaper search box. I got the address from her death certificate. She had moved to Denver because she had TB. When I ran her address I found that it was a rental. It was advertised as available less than a month before my aunt died at that address. What was interesting was that it was specifically advertised to those people with heath issues because it had a "sleeping porch" so that you could get good air.