17 November 2012

Did You Hit the Ad's?

One of the joys I find in genealogical research is digging through historic newspapers. It's fun! Yes, we can gain a great deal of insight and real life experiences of our ancestors from these incredible resources, but there is more. Scanning the headlines, reading the quick notices, the short articles; all of that comes together to create an astonishing experience  placing yourself in that moment in time.

Breckenridge, Colorado, Summit County Journal, 1917, Gough, advertisement, newspaper, historic document, genealogy, family history, ancestry, historic newspaper, research
Summit County Journal, Breckenridge, Colorado.
1 Sep 1917, Page 8.

One thing I make sure to look for in newspaper searches is the advertisements. Have you stopped to investigate these as genealogy source? Just this advertisement for the Rogers Furniture & Undertaking Company from Breckenridge, Colorado tells you so much information: location, what they did, note the Proprietress is Mrs. J. GOUGH, and the year the business began. Knowing what I do about Breckenridge history, the date given of 1880 makes sense; the town was created in 1859 and by 1880, it was thriving. Now I know where else to look: 1880 Federal Census, 1885 Colorado State Census, cemetery records (because they acted as Undertakers and Funeral Directors), etc.

Consider the other aspects as well. As a business, they were doing well enough to afford a reasonably sized advertisement in the local paper, but not well enough to get it on the first page (it was found on page 8). In 1917, Mrs. Gough felt confident enough in her role to list herself as the "manager"; or was it that she felt a feminine touch was necessary in this particular industry?

Try a series of dates to learn more!  We can use Robert "Bob" Lott, former resident of Breckenridge, as a fantastic example. When he passed away in 1913, his friends in the community gathered to give him a proper headstone, in the "Pauper Section" of Valley Brook Cemetery. His headstone was so fascinating, it absolutely demanded more attention:

Copyright Jen Baldwin, Ancestral Journeys, 2011.

Although there is little mention of Mr. Lott in standard newspaper articles of the time period, and even less in community historical documents, there are a lot of ad's. I have learned that he went from catering - delivering meals to your home - to owning his own restaurant, partnering with at least three other men in town of varying degrees of status and luck, finally moving back to his original spot in town, where he ran a successful steak house for several years. He was the only African American living in Summit County, Colorado at the time of his death (per his obituary). Just from the newspaper pieces alone, I have been able to establish a decent timeline of his adult life, leading to further investigation. I hope to someday have his life story; where he came from, and how he ended up in the mountains of Colorado. His is one story of our community that deserves to be remembered, and its up to me, since he left no descendants. 

I have to wonder: Oysters or "Rocky Mountain Oysters"?
Summit County Journal, Breckenridge, Colorado.
5 Jan 1907, Page 5.

Have you gained invaluable data from newspaper articles? Do you have one to share? Please let me know! Leave a comment or a link, and I'll be sure to connect with you.