Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tracing Mormon Pioneer Ancestors: Newspapers

Probably the best place to find historical newspapers is the University of Pennsylvania webpage, Historical Newspapers Online. Scroll down to your state to see what collections are available online. For the purposes of tracing the Litson family, I will confine my searches to the Utah collection:


My favorite of these four databases is the Utah Digital Newspaper Project, a service of the Marriott Library at the University of Utah. It has many local newspapers throughout Utah.

When I search for "Litson," the database comes up with 558 results, which is way too many to scan, so I will search for "Richard Litson" and "Frances Litson" and other combinations of the family names.

"Richard Litson" brings up three articles of interest, all in the Deseret News. The first is a record of the Litsons' arrival in Salt Lake City:

The second is some very sad family news about the family, and in particular, Richard Litson, Jr., the son who kept such a detailed account of their crossing of the plains. This tragic event happened six years after the death Richard Litson, Sr.


Next is a note that the family's Perpetual Emigrating Fund debt has been paid.


Then, there are several articles noting Frances Matthews Litson's homestead in South Cottonwood:


And, finally, there is a notice of Frances' death:


This death notice gives a lot of information, and a hint to check the Millennial Star for her obituary. The Millennial Star did not always copy all requested obituaries, but they did for Frances, and we have already seen it in the post Using Google.

The one thing that is missing is a death notice for Richard Litson, Sr. He died on October 29, 1872, so I will search the Deseret News manually. On the first page of Utah Digital Newspapers, I select the Deseret News, and when its page comes up, I will select the year 1872. The newspaper was weekly, so the next newspaper after his death was October 30. It takes awhile to download each page and scan it, and I am trying not to get distracted by the interesting notes in the newspaper, for example: "Maine, following the example of Utah, has admitted a lady to the bar... she is said to be the first woman permitted to practice law in New England," and the account of a jury in Davis County, Utah, which included three women: "The deliberations of the jury-women were marked by quite as much dignity and self respect as ever evinced by the stronger sex, and we understand the verdict was not any less satisfactory on account of the jury not being entirely composed of the male persuasion." Page 14 contains this note from the Missouri Democrat:


But that is off topic. I do not see Richard's obituary in the two newspapers following his death and have run out of time to look further since it is possible that the family did not notify the newspaper.

One of the links in the Historical Newspapers Online is to the Library of Congress Chronicling America project. The search term "Litson" for Utah newspapers to 1890 comes up with six results, several of them mentioning Joseph Young Litson's participation in the Mill Creek and Smithfield Rifle Teams, but otherwise not applicable to our Litson family.


All in all, this was a very informative search, turning up a family tragedy that had not been mentioned in any of the family histories, and also some vital facts about the family: an obituary for Frances, the record of the family's immigration, a homesteading notice, and a note that their PEF debt was paid.

Assignment #7

Check the Historical Newspapers Online for a family of interest, whether in Utah or another state.

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