It is my opinion that of all the resources and records available to research – newspaper articles are most critical, because of the richness and variety of their content.
For example, I had found my great great grandfather Louis Marks early on, but knew nothing of his siblings or parents. Louis was the first who immigrated to America so his parents and siblings were significantly more difficult to discover.
I began to get clues that he had a brother Emil. I had found a newspaper clipping about an Emil Marks, who had been hit by a train and killed in Oakland, California.
Is Emil His Brother?
From a naturalization log and naturalization index cards from 1864, they were suspiciously next to each other in the log, had the same naturalization date and had the same witness at their naturalization “hearing.”
Two years later, I found an entry in the 1875 San Francisco City Directory, which cites a company named “Louis Marks and Bro” and names both Louis and Emil. Not proof, but certainly enough for me at that juncture to claim their brotherhood.
So now we have brothers Louis and Emil.
Is Fanny His Sister?
A few years later I received an email from a descendant of Fanny Lust. A newspaper article stated that Fanny was suing the railroad company, as she was handling Emil’s estate. This potential cousin had asked if I thought that Emil and Fanny were brother and sister. He had heretofore not known anything about Emil or Louis.
After a bit more research, including the California Death Index, it was discovered that Fanny’s maiden name was indeed “Marks” and it was likely that Emil and Fanny were brother and sister, although they could have been cousins. Fanny’s Death Certificate was ordered and it showed that her maiden name WAS Marks.
But – The Story Doesn’t End – Because of….. A Newspaper!
And There’s More!
We have a lot of clues, but nothing that really ties Emil, Louis and Fanny together more tightly. Until I later found an obituary in the newspaper and it was for Emil – and it was a fantastic find!
This obituary confirms the brotherhood of Emil and Louis – but who are Mrs. S Lust and Mrs. I Schudmack, their sisters? Well we know from many records that have been accumulated, that Fanny was married to Simon Lust, who coincidentally was also killed by a train. And Emil and Simon were business partners in the 1860s as we also discovered.
But who is Mrs. I. Schudmack? Another sister! Thus, Lottie Marks Schudmack was discovered – only via a newspaper article.
Old newspaper articles are a thread through all of this research and critical to establishing these relationships. Use newspapers in your research. You will be glad that you did!
About Kenneth R. Marks
Kenneth R. Marks is the author of The Ancestor Hunt, which is one of the best resources for historical newspaper research available in the online genealogy community. His Twitter handle is @marksology
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