As a librarian – and as one who specializes in media-tracking and news monitoring – I am well aware of the value of newspapers as sources of information both past and present. Over the last couple of weeks I have been using online newspapers to fill in gaps in my knowledge about ancestors and to enhance my understanding of the times and places they lived.
I have spent time searching through the Times of London to find more information on my Ansted ancestors. Within its (virtual) pages, I have found auction details as far back as 1793 for my ancestors’ fruit brokerage (Clark & Ansted). I have found birth, marriage and death notices for a variety of Ansted and Northeast ancestors. Most of those notices simply confirmed details I already knew, but it is still impressive to see your ancestor’s name in print (particularly in such a venerable publication!) You can access the Times of London archives for a fee here or check your local library. Many of them, including mine, provide access to this and other historical newspapers. I was able to search through the Times from the comfort of my own home!
I also recently discovered the Plattsburgh (NY) Sentinel has online archives. These and other New York State newspapers are available as part of the Northern New York Library Network. My Fee family spent some time in Plattsburgh and I have been trying to figure out when exactly they returned to Canada. A quick search of the Sentinel turned up the answer.
It turns out that May 1st was annual moving day in Plattsburgh, as it was in other parts of New York. (For more information on Moving Day, check out Wikipedia’s article here. Interestingly, although New York’s Moving Day moved into history after World War II, Quebec continues a similiar tradition today. Moving Day in that province is July 1.) In any event, the May 1, 1885 edition of the Sentinel had a column detailing all the various moves people were making around the town. Towards the bottom of the column I found this:
John Fee and family removed to Montreal on Monday of this week and the house formerly occupied by him on Peru street, is now occupied by J. V. Howe, who moved from the Orvis house, on Hamilton street, and William Rivers will move to the Orvis house.
It’s a comparatively minor detail, but I’m pleased to have found it.
I found some other interesting items in the Sentinel, including one from November 2, 1928, titled “King’s Case is Adjourned to November 7.” The story deals with one Howard J. King of Glen Elm, Quebec, who was charged with smuggling aliens into the United States. King testified that on the night of September 13, he stepped from the porch in front of Joseph Ouimet’s store on the border near Chateauguay. He said he was on Canadian soil when a Canadian officer approached. Then three American officers arrived and, through a sequence of events, forced him off Canadian soil, arrested him and charged him with alien smuggling. While a clerk in Ouimet’s store corroborated King’s story, an engineer and surveyor testified that only a small portion of the store’s porch was in Canada.
The most interesting part of the story for me is that King’s attorneys, L.M. Kalle and John A. Sullivan, K.C. of Montreal, said that another witness, John Fee of Canada, was to appear at court but he was forced to turn back at the US border by immigration officers at Trout River.
Not only does this story read like it was ripped from today’s headlines, but “John Fee of Canada” was my great-grandfather!
The main piece of knowledge I am going to take away from these findings is to always search the newspapers that are local to my ancestors. Who knows what else I will find!