Making the news makes family history

This post was going to be about bringing together disparate sources to build a picture, but has evolved into one on the increasing availability and usefulness of newspaper archives.

The British Newspaper Archive website went live late 2011, but while I have yet to use this, cuttings are increasingly adding to the data available. And the new series of Who Do You Think You Are? has featured newspaper extracts in each of the three episodes so far, with a particularly strong impact on Patrick Stewart’s view of his “angry” and abusive father when a cutting mentions shell-shock during evacuation from Cherbourg in 1940.

Ancestry has partnered with to provide access to mainly American newspapers. The Ancestry hints and search facilities don’t just bring up funerals and obits, but plenty of snippets on work and leisure, as well as wedding notices and reports. Here’s some found in the last little while {1}:

  • Second cousin James Neal married Mylene McAlpine in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, 1964. (Brandon Sun)
  • Flowerday second cousins (once removed) in Nebraska – Judith Diane married Gene Nagel 1961, Beth married Maurice Hoffschneider 1971, Marilyn Rae married William Colyer 1961, Maureen Joy married Lynn (or Larry) Dunn 1967.

    Marilyn Rae
  • Dale Flowerday, again a 2nd cousin once removed (at times his full name of Albert Dale Flowerday is used), studied agriculture at University of Nebraska at Lincoln and was the first superintendent of the Northeast (Nebraska) Experiment Station at Concord. A Google search found his 1957 PhD thesis – ‘Influence of some environmental and cultural factors on the availability of fertilizer phosphorus to agricultural crops’ – available on digitalcommons. He was made an honoree of the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement in 2009 (University of Nebraska item as Nebraska Farmer cutting no longer online?) – and is in the ‘American Men & Women of Science’ biographical directory from the 13th edition in 1976.
  • Orville Ramsay (husband to 2nd cuz x1 removed Thelma Jean Jeary) was secretary-treasurer for the Seward Municipal Band for several years. No mention of what instrument he played, though.
  • First cousin 2x removed (!) Edwin Flowerday seems to change job from Lincoln T&T area manager to area plant supervisor in 1959, and back again a few months later, but the reporter could have got muddled. He is on the committee of the Independent Telephone Pioneer Association in 1961.
  • A more distant Flowerday relation, Cecil born 1915, appears under Situations Wanted in 1931 – “Two boys want work on a farm, experienced”.
  • Back to 2nd cousins, the top scoring left-handed 6 foot 2 high school basketball player Jim Flowerday in Beaver Crossing 1964/65 would appear to be the person at the First National Bank of Lincoln talking about gold prices in 1974. (No marriage notice found yet.)

Most of these individuals are likely to still be enjoying life, so maybe they will be able to add to the newspaper reports at some stage.

Newer news in the UK

Back in Britain, the online versions of more current newspapers have played their part – see Getting excited by an obituary for instance. A trail starting from a ‘Member Connect’ hint on Ancestry has just led to another.

The Feek family connects via a Watts cousin, and the hint provided some more detail on funerals for second cousins born in the early 20th century. But this gave me a prompt to look further at more recent generations. With one relation, David Anthony Feek born in the 1940s but sadly dying in 1990, I wondered if I could find a funeral or perhaps more about his wife.  At the top of a Google search list were various entries from {2}, usually not a lot of use, but against her entry (in Wisbech, which tallies with previous info) her son also appears under ‘Other Occupants’ along with a seemingly unrelated female. Given that there is no marriage record for the son, could this be his partner?

A further search on her reasonably distinctive name (Dunsmuir) turns up a newspaper article – her child had been involved in a collision with a car when cycling home from school in (the town of) March, in March 2011. Not a happy story for the family, with a leg in plaster, but a lucky break for me (sorry, bad joke, hope you are fully recovered Lucy and back on your bike).

The child’s name and age was given, a birth registration could be found and her mother’s maiden name discovered. Ah, and that showed two children, registrations under both Feek and Dunsmuir. Time to say hallo to third cousin once removed Richard and family – Natalie, Sam and Lucy.


1. Most of the newspaper extracts were from Lincoln Evening Journal, Lincoln Sunday Journal or Lincoln Star. Lincoln is the state capital for Nebraska. Seward, the county town of Seward county, is about 20 miles west.

2. is an online directory – people, businesses, places.

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