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These Genealogists Already Struck Gold on OldNews.com

Since the moment we announced the launch of OldNews.com, our new website for exploring historical newspapers, we’ve been receiving enthusiastic responses from people who have made incredible discoveries on the site.

Below are just some of the stories we’ve received from very experienced genealogists who made breakthroughs and uncovered amazing nuggets of information about their ancestors from just a few minutes of searching on OldNews.com.

What have you discovered on OldNews.com? If you haven’t tried it yet, visit now and see what you find!

A years-old brick wall broken in minutes

Paul Jones says he was eating a sandwich and checking out OldNews.com on his iPhone shortly after its release, and it occurred to him to see if he could find anything about an unresolved mystery he had been wondering about for years. “Somewhere between my second or third bite,” he reports, a newspaper article he hadn’t known about appeared and solved the mystery in an instant.

Several years ago, Paul had come across the strange case of a man named John Mikedis from Imperial County, California. “Greek by birth and a baker in business with his brothers Mike and Louis, John worked first in San Diego then in Calexico in the Imperial Valley until his odd disappearance in the spring of 1920,” says Paul. “This disappearance was reported in the Imperial Valley Press on July 23, 1920, then revisited four days later when John’s brother Louis stated that a corpse found on Coronado Beach near San Diego was not that of his missing brother. I could find no further press reports about the matter. The only other mention was a ‘look-back’ item from the June 21, 1935 issue of the same paper: ‘The mystery surrounding the disappearance of John Mikedis still remains unsolved.’ Did that mean the mystery remained unsolved in 1935? Or did it mean that the mystery remained unsolved on the same date 15 years earlier?”

The thing is, Paul knew from other records that John was not actually missing at all. “He went to France, then returned to the U.S., ultimately settling in Fresno, California,” says Paul. “In the course of researching his namesake in a different state, I had acquired plenty of information on the post-1920 John Mikedis from California. Despite this, had he remained on the books as a missing man in Imperial County? I contacted the local media but nobody seemed much interested. I also reached out to the police, also without reply. Admittedly, as cold cases went, this one wouldn’t rank with the Golden State Killer. More like the Golden State Gallivanter.”

Well, thanks to OldNews.com, Paul discovered that John Mikedis had actually resurfaced in Imperial County. “In a hitherto undiscovered item from the Imperial Valley Press on October 1, 1925, he was reported as having joined the Refreshments Committee for a high-profile Masonic-related Order,” says Paul.

The clipping from the Imperial Valley News, October 1, 1925, that solved the mystery

The clipping from the Imperial Valley News, October 1, 1925, that solved the mystery (Source: OldNews.com)

“As there were no men with names remotely similar to his in either the 1920 or 1930 censuses for the Imperial Valley, we can be fairly confident that this is our man,” says Paul. “As a publicly-named participant in a high-profile local society receiving media attention, his disappearance in 1920 was surely no longer a matter of mystery. A lame conclusion to the story perhaps, but a conclusion all the same.”

Paul explains that the find is especially significant because this article was actually already present on other major newspaper databases, but when searching for John Mikedis, none of the other databases locate this article. “I have just replicated my searches today on all of them for John Mikedis in California. Unlike OldNews.com, none of these databases picks up the article from October 1, 1925, although I have verified that every database does include this issue. Why the oversights? I suspect the problem has to do with the conventional (and not very good) OCR that has hobbled most newspaper sites from day one. They just miss things, unlike, it would seem, the AI-enhanced OCR at OldNews.com.”

Paul’s story is an excellent illustration of why the superior OCR technology used to generate the content on OldNews.com can be a game-changer!

A motive for migration

Bruce Holm discovered the reason his great-grandfather moved from Melbourne to Korrumburra, Australia before the birth of his second daughter. “My great-grandfather sailed from New Zealand around 1890 and married in Melbourne,” Bruce explains. “In early 1892, my grandmother was born. A search of Australian birth records showed a second daughter born in 1893, but not in Melbourne; she was born in Korrumburra, which was a new area being opened up for coal mining. Unfortunately this daughter died in Melbourne in 1894 of Rachitis. What I did not know was the purpose of my great-grandfather’s sojourn in Korrumburra or the reason he possibly returned to Melbourne. They returned to New Zealand later in 1894.”

Bruce ran a search for his great-grandfather’s name on OldNews.com focusing on Australia during the year range 1892–1894. “Imagine my surprise to find articles relating to a fire that ripped through the town and burned down four cottages, one of which his family lived in. They were left with nothing.”

The Age, February 10, 1893, describing the bush fire that destroyed his great-grandfather's home

The Age, February 10, 1893, describing the bush fire that destroyed his great-grandfather’s home (Source: OldNews.com)

“I am impressed with the quality of the scanning and will be furthering my research with this wonderful resource,” says Bruce.

The history of the farm where his grandparents lived

“I’ve been tinkering around with the new historical website OldNews.com by MyHeritage and right off the bat, with my first search I scored GOLD!” says Thomas MacEntee on his blog, Genealogy Bargains. Thomas explains that he’s been working on a biographical sketch for his paternal grandfather, Abraham MacEntee, and wanted to know more about where Abraham lived during certain periods of his life. He searched for Abraham’s father Elmer in New York, and found a birth announcement for his great-uncle, John Elmer Craig MacEntee. “What really caught my attention?” says Thomas. “The fact that my grandparents lived on what was called the ‘Borden Home Farm.’”

Thomas had never heard of Borden Home Farm, despite having grown up in the Orange and Ulster County areas of New York. “Was it a working farm? Was it perhaps similar to a poor house for those who could not take care of themselves and their family?” Thomas wondered.

That’s when he found this story in The Daily Saratogian, published November 25, 1893, complete with a sketch of the place:

Part of an article from The Daily Saratogian, November 25, 1893, about the Borden Home Farm (Source: OldNews.com)

Part of an article from The Daily Saratogian, November 25, 1893, about the Borden Home Farm (Source: OldNews.com)

Thomas learned that the farm was started by Gail Borden, who invented condensed milk in 1853, and that it was located in Saratoga Springs, New York.

“I can’t wait to do more research on OldNews.com, since it is easy to use and easy to save newspaper pages as part of my genealogy records collection,” says Thomas.

More cool discoveries

Roberta Estes of DNAeXplained said she found some information about her mother she’d never known before: that she’d had a tonsillectomy shortly after graduating high school and that she spent the summer in Philadelphia studying ballet and tap dancing when she was 19. “I had heard rumblings that she studied with a ‘prima ballerina’ at the School of American Ballet,” says Roberta. “Guess where that is? Yep, Philly.”

“I discovered SO much,” says Maureen Taylor, a.k.a. The Photo Detective. “The history of the 3 generation house decorating business revealed itself in a series of obituaries. I didn’t know it operated in two locations and when it began. I found an adorable news notice about a first cousin’s third birthday party with my Mom mentioned as being a child in attendance. Testimony of an ancestor and his daughter in a notorious late nineteenth century divorce case. And more.”

David Allen Lambert says he found an article about a car crash in 1945 involving his own father and his father’s cousin. “They were luckily rescued unconscious from a burning automobile!” says David. “I heard a rumor of this near-tragedy but never found the story! How close I came to not existing in history!

Angie Wilderman reports that she found her great-great-grandmother’s death notice in a Georgia newspaper: “Actually there were two one line items about her death, but one mentioned which church she belonged to and her birth place in North Carolina,” says Angie. “The other death notice included that information and mentioned ‘the 5th inst.’ so I had the date in 1872.”

“I love old newspapers,” Angie adds. “You never know what you will find.”

Robin Foster says his great-great-grandfather, Rev. Lafayette Franklin Vance, came up in many results on OldNews.com. “He lived in South Carolina, and he traveled all over,” says Robin. “I discovered some that I never found before.”

Marian B. Wood at Climbing My Family Tree found some incredible material on her husband’s great-uncle, the renowned Canadian bandmaster Capt. John D. Slatter: “Among other results, up popped a truly wonderful result from the Daily Mail and Empire, Toronto, which I have never seen,” says Marian. “It’s the origin story of how Capt. Slatter came to be hired as bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders of Toronto. Best of all, it confirms that this illustrious ancestor of my husband did, indeed, live in Detroit (briefly), played with the Grand Opera orchestra there, and was indeed a member of John Philip Sousa’s famous band. Wow! I’m thrilled.”

Katharine Andrew says: “I’ve found so many great snippets of my family history on OldNews.com… Not only have I found interesting tidbits of their lives, but I’ve also found countless relatives’ marriage announcements, birth announcements, and obituaries.” She also finally found out why her great-great-grandfather moved to Ashtabula County, Ohio: he invested in farm land and real estate. “Previously the archivist/historian of Ashtabula County told me ‘there’s no reason whatsoever that anyone would have moved here at the time.’”

Jenny Hawran found many mentions of her great-great-grandfather:

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And Tracie Boyle found an obituary she’d been searching for:

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Have you made any discoveries on OldNews.com? Let us know in the comments below! And if you haven’t tried it yet, visit OldNews.com now and start discovering!

The post These Genealogists Already Struck Gold on OldNews.com appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.

Source: My Heritage

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