The Year Was 1899

Street in Harlem, New York City, after the blizzard of Feb. 13, 1899The year was 1899 and the Spanish-American War had just ended. However, peace would not last. The U.S. had purchased Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines from Spain for $20 million. In the Philippines, the Filipino forces (former allies in the Spanish-American War) had begun to resent American forces. After finally becoming free of Spain, they did not want another occupation, and on 4 February the Philippine-American War began and would continue for three years at a terrible cost of lost Filipino lives.

In Africa, another war was beginning as the British and the Boers began the Second Boer War, where again the forces of imperialism and nationalism clashed in bloody conflict. For years, Uitlanders (foreigners) had been flocking to the Transvaal (South African Republic) following the discovery of gold in 1886. Threatened by the newcomers, the government restricted the vote to naturalized citizens and began taxing mining interests.

In New York City, another battle was being fought–this time against newspaper moguls who had raised the price of newspaper bundles by ten cents. This price hike hit hard for newsboys who hawked the papers on street corners. These boys, many of whom lived on the streets, counted on the profits made selling these newspapers to survive. They had to pay for the bundle of papers up front and with the price hike, more papers had to be sold to turn a profit. To make matters worse, following the end of the Spanish American War, readership was down and newsboys frequently found themselves taking a loss on unsold papers. In July of 1899, newsboys went on strike against The Evening World and The Evening Journal in New York. With no newspaper system of distribution to replace the newsboys, the owners compromised and agreed to buy back unsold papers, although the price remained at sixty cents a bundle. News of the success spread and similar strikes were eventually held in other cities. These strikes helped to bring attention to the plight of children forced into labor and eventually led to reform. Continue reading

Photo Corner

Augusta Dorthea Koehn (1890-1941) is the baby, John Carl Martin Koehn (1856-1922) and Elizabeth Louise Koehn (1870-1941). Contributed by Bob Holtz, Rochester, New York
This photo was taken in January of 1891. My grandmother, Augusta Dorthea Koehn (1890-1941), is the baby of about seven months and the adults are my great-grandfather, John Carl Martin Koehn (1856-1922) and my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Louise Koehn (1870-1941). They arrived from Mecklenburg, on the “Weiland,” at New York on 1 November 1890. This photo was taken soon after they arrived at their permanent farm home in Lockport, Niagara County, New York.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

James Merle Gill and twin John Mervin Gill, Wabash Township (very edge of the town Montezuma), Parke County, Indiana, 1929Contributed by Arnie Gill, Santa Clarita California
My father, James Merle Gill, is on the left with the clinched fist and his fraternal twin, Uncle John Mervin Gill, is on the right–both age two. The photo was taken in the summer of 1929 on the Gill farm, Wabash Township (very edge of the town Montezuma), Parke County, Indiana. The twins’ grandfather, James Madison Gill, migrated from Pulaski County, Kentucky, to Parke County, Indiana, for work during the glory years of railroading. Celebrates Stories of America’s Everyday War Heroes as “The War” Remembers WWII Veterans

Ancestry____logo1.bmpLargest Online Family History Web Site Enables Families to Record Oral Histories and Create Personal Biographies of Military Ancestors for Free

PROVO, UTAH – September 21, 2007 – As the highly anticipated Ken Burns documentary “The War” premieres,, the world’s largest online resource for family history, encourages Americans to honor the legacies of their family members or loved ones who served in WWII by preserving their unique stories online. For the 81 percent of Americans who say they have had a family member or loved one serve in the military*, provides a wide range of services to archive and explore their family’s military history, such as recording oral histories with its new audio storytelling service.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, America loses approximately 1,000 WWII veterans every day. Their vanishing legacies have sparked a growing consciousness to capture their stories, even as Ken Burns and PBS showcase the “everyday WWII American heroes” in the upcoming 14-hour long documentary “The War.” is the perfect venue for honoring these everyday heroes and preserving their extraordinary stories.

On, individuals can create family trees with biographical profiles dedicated to remembering the personal experiences of their ancestors, including those who served in the military. As part of these profiles, users can upload photos, create a timeline of life events, write stories and add scanned images such as letters written from the battlefront, service awards and other precious documents. Now, users can initiate audio recording directly from their family tree, recording conversations over the telephone or through a computer microphone. The new audio tool provides a free, easy method to create and preserve family oral histories. With a webcam, an individual can also record and archive video. Continue reading

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, 07-11 January 2008

Utah Genealogical AssociationWhat do you have on your calendar to improve your genealogical research skills?  How about the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, January 7-11, 2008?  The Utah Genealogical Association will again be holding its very successful Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah.  This is a week-long educational experience for people interested in learning the “how” to break through those genealogical “brick walls.”

Expert genealogists teach at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy in nine specific courses or the coveted Course 10, a “one-on-one-problem-solving” course for those who need help on their tough family history problems. 

Classes finish by early afternoon each day allowing time for research at the Family History Library, located just two blocks away.  In addition (or if you can’t get away during the day), there are evening classes on relevant genealogical topics offered Tuesday (January 08), Wednesday (January 09), and Thursday (January 10).  Continue reading

Skeleton in Your Family’s Closet? What are the Odds?

If you’ve been tracing your family history for any length of time, there’s a good chance you’ve run across a shady character or two. But what are the odds? Apparently someone has been checking into it. According to a Yorkshire Post article,

An estimated 1.4 million people have made contact with previously unknown family members, whose existence comes to light via the 730 million UK records held online and five billion international records.

The most common discoveries are illegitimate children (19 per cent of researchers discover one), family members whose names have changed (14 per cent), family members who were secretly convicted criminals (7 per cent).

One woman, Shirley Griffin of York, has discovered that her forebear, Frederick Parker, was 27 when he became the last man to be hanged at York Prison in April 1868.

Many people discover a secret adoption within their family (6 per cent), missing family members (6 per cent) and royal blood connections (4 per cent). Around 23 per cent have confirmed connections to the aristocracy, famous historical figures or rich landowners.

What kind of stories have you found? Share them in the comments section below.

Chicago to Host “Festival of Maps”

chicago skyline.bmpI found a neat article in today’s Chicago Tribune. Thirty-seven Chicago institutions will be particpating in a “Festival of Maps.” The exhibition is a collaboration of institutions like the Newberry Library, the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Polish-American Museum, Northwestern University Library, and the University of Chicago, Special Collections Research Center. According to a Chicago Tribune article,

“The Field Museum will stage the centerpiece exhibit for the festival from Nov. 2 through Jan. 27. That exhibit, “Maps: Finding Our Place in the World,” features many of the 100 “greatest” maps among the 130 artifacts it has pulled together, borrowing from collections held by the Vatican, the British royal family, libraries and other collectors around the world…

“The Newberry Museum will trace the rise of the American West, beginning with very early exploratory maps. The exhibit shows Chicago’s growth from a tiny dot into a metropolis and key transportation center. The Chicago History Museum will show off historic mapping techniques that recorded population densities, changing infrastructure and transit systems through Chicago’s history.”

As a self-professed map enthusiast, I’m already looking at days off so my daughter and I can go see some of the exhibits! You can learn more about the events at the festival website,

New York Times Archive Online

I was browsing through some online blogs this morning and ran across a post in Megan Smolenyak’s RootsTelevision blog regarding an archive of the New York that is now available for free searches. There are actually two archives–one covering from 1981 to the present, and the other covering 1851-1980.

P.S. Apparently the years 1923-86 are not free. Only pre-1923 and post-1986 articles are available free. To access 1923-86 articles, a single article costs $3.95 or you can purchase a ten-article pack for $15.95 (but the pack expires after thirty days). 

You can search the archives from the home page of the New York Times. Next to the search box is a drop down box that defaults to search the NYT Archive Since 1981. You can also choose to search NYT Archive 1851-1981. Once you’ve done a search, an advanced search option appears that allows you to search for keywords, headlines, author, and to specify a date range. The results can then be sorted by the closest match, oldest articles first, or the most recent articles first. Full text articles appear as PDF files that you can print or save.

As Megan said in her blog, let’s hope other newspapers follow the trend!

Weekly Planner: Your Ancestor’s Place in History

Last week’s to-do item was to create a timeline of your life and record your memories. This week, choose an ancestor and plot his or her life on a historical timeline. Check out online resources like this Chicago Timeline online at the Chicago Public Library website and local history books to learn about local events that would have impacted your ancestor’s life. Then write short narratives that you can later include in your family history. In addition to livening up your family history, seeing your ancestor in the context of the times and places in which they lived can also give you new clues for your research.

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