Have you ever had everything coming your way so fast and furiously that you found yourself reverting back to childhood mode and crying, “Uncle!!!”?
After my comments yesterday on trying to trace a distant branch of the Samuel Bean family in San Mateo County, California, I was left with no less than ten—yes, count them, ten—obituaries that I needed to find in order to uncover the fates of Sam’s daughter Blanche Bean Watrous’ family members. Still.
Needless to say, I wasn’t having much luck.
For one thing, I am still bemoaning the search capabilities of Ancestry.com’s historic newspaper collection. I find it rather tedious. And clunky—if you can use that adjective to describe a computer database’s search engine.
Not that I’m a one trick pony. I do have subscriptions to other historic newspaper outlets (although, admittedly, I haven’t yet paid much attention to Ancestry’s newest bright shiny spin-off, Newspapers.com). Let’s just say they don’t have what I’m looking for.
What I am looking for is a resource that will give me a portal to the Wild West—or, at least, its semi-tamed version in northern California in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Not colonial New England. Not east coast cities. All I’m asking for is access to a consistent stretch of dates for the main places around the Bay Area. How hard can that be?
I know I sound spoiled. After all, wasn’t it a few years ago (well, okay, twenty) when I had to drive to the state capital and pick my way through dusty index files, myself? Researching from the comfort of home, using nothing more than a computer screen and keyboard, would have been such a dream only a couple decades ago.
The trick, of course, is finding the online resource that provides access to newspapers for the geographic location I’m seeking—during the years I need them.
Thanks to a device as simple as Twitter (you are on Twitter, aren’t you?) and the audience pull of a few dedicated genealogy researchers, it turns out I found my answer in a postscript to last week’s “GenChat” with co-hosts Jen Baldwin, Stephanie Pilcher Fishman, and Terri O’Connell.
Last Friday night’s GenChat was focused on Researching Newspapers, a timely topic for me—although not a good time for my schedule. Thankfully, I saw Jen tweet a follow-up to let everyone know that she had posted a transcript of the evening’s chat on Storify.
I’m not much of a speed reader, but flipping through 140-character Tweets can turn anyone into a fast reader. I started scrolling through the transcript, and stopped still when I got to @JLRoessler’s entry about a great California newspaper resource:
I’m thankful I read all the way to the end of the transcript, because Jodi Roessler came back with just the thing I needed: a link! Better yet, a free link!I've used a great one for California I heard from on google+ but being on my phone, no link sorry.
I wasted no time loading that link in my browser. Opening up my genealogy database, I began honing in on those Bean and Watrous family names.Found it! California Digital Newspaper Collection - FREE cdnc.ucr.edu/cdnc
That’s when I started getting that overwhelming feeling that I’ve gone from being the proverbial kid in the candy shoppe to being the kid on the short end of an impromptu wrestling match: I felt like hollering, “Uncle!”
I’m finding all sorts of articles that will round out my understanding of the dynamics in the extended Bean family—and, tantalizingly enough, I’m locating mentions of family members I had no idea even existed.
Take this entry, found in the San Francisco Call on October 6, 1895:
Unless there is another Mrs. Harry G. Watrous in the Bay Area, that would be Leon Bean’s sister, Blanche. Which leads me to question: what cousin Laura?!CARRIER--In Oakland, October 4, 1895, Laura Carrier, cousin of Mrs. Harry G. Watrous, a native of Wisconsin, aged 26 years 4 months and 26 days. Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend the funeral THIS DAY (Sunday), at 10:45 a.m., from the parlors of Halsted & Co., 948 Mission street. Interment Cypress Lawn Cemetery, by train leaving Third and Townsend streets at 11:45 o'clock a.m.
With all these newspaper articles coming fast and furious in my direction, I’ve got my work cut out!
And I’m quite okay with that.