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February 15, 2018

Ancestor Hunts, Ancestry, and Newspapers

Ancestor Hunts, Ancestry, and Newspapers

By: Nancy Massey

Have you ever wondered who your ancestors were, what kind of work they did, how did they live, from where did they come, and why did they move around so much?  I did.  When I was in high school, I wondered who my grandparents and great grandparents were.  I had no idea of how to begin my search except to ask my mother and father.  Surely, they would know!

Granny was my great grandmother. When I asked my mother, what Granny’s name was, she said, “Granny!” When pressed, she said that she did not know her by any other name.  After years of research, I finally discovered that Granny was also known as Etta Matilda “Tillie” Barkley Snell Tillapaugh Van Horn.  No wonder, everyone simply called her Granny!

When I started working with genealogy patrons in the Indiana Room, I realized how many of us want to know our ancestors. That is genealogy.  More than that, we want to know who they are, what they did, why they moved where they moved, and how we became a family.  That is family history!

Visit me in the Indiana Room, if you are curious about your family’s roots.  I have great ‘how to started” books including my first and favorite one “Unpuzzling your Past: the Best-selling Basic Guide to Genealogy” by Emily Anne Croom (Call Number 929.1 CRO 2001) Ms. Croom taught me how to start tracking my family by starting with myself and going back one generation at a time.

Have you already started your ancestor hunt? Allow me to introduce you to Ancestry Library Edition, our subscription to Ancestry.com.


You may have seen the commercials claiming that one click leads you to your ancestors.  Well, it does take more than a click or two, but the collections at Ancestry.com are amazing. Start with the census records and use those clues to discover birth, death, and marriage information.

Newspapers.com is another great resource. Sometimes our beloved ancestors tell us their story through their obituaries.  But wait!  Newspapers are quite a bit more than obituaries!  There are birth and wedding announcements, advertisements, and those wonderful gossip columns! You can find the links to both Ancestry.com and Newspapers.com here.

We recently sent our microfilmed newspaper reels, all 271, to Newspapers.com to be digitized and indexed.  If you have any Hamilton County ancestors, you only need to visit the Indiana Room and start your journey through our free portal to Hamilton County newspapers.  These reels start with The Newspaper 1837 and go through The Noblesville Ledger 2008.

I spent several hours researching Granny and finally pieced together her full name.  During my research journey, I discovered so much more about her story.  She was one of the first female conductors on the elevated railroad in New York.  When she moved to Michigan as a young widow with a young child in hand, she managed a hotel and served as postmistress for the Interlochen post office.  In Flint and Detroit, she worked on the railroad.  She outlived three husbands dying in 1970 at the age of 101 years old.

When you are ready to start your ancestor hunt, my coworkers and I would be happy to show you how to begin your journey using the invaluable resources waiting for you in the Indiana Room.