Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fact, Fiction and Newspaper Headlines

Just in case you don’t already know it, I’m going to repeat one small aspect about myself that you need to remember: I highly distrust newspaper reporting.

Then why do I use newspapers in family history research? Because I can.

If you approach genealogy from the standpoint of realizing anyone can make mistakes—government officials tasked with completing death certificates, engravers hired to etch a name in a headstone, reporters facing an editorial deadline, and yes, even bloggers with unreliable eyesight—you realize that any research you do needs to have a multitude of documents backing up any factual assertion you make.

Newspapers, thus, become merely one small part of that verification process.

You’ll see today why, after developing that healthy distrust of news reporting as I have, it helps to have that fall-back of fact-checking via multiple resources.

If you’ve been with me through this family history blogging process, you’ve seen multiple errors reported in newspapers. I come by this doubting characteristic honestly—I’ve seen wrong stuff promoted as truth too many times.

When I ran across a doubtful report printed on page four of The Fort Wayne News, it did, at first, seem to be one of those instances. The March 24, 1900, entry asserted
Police Sergeant Stevens received a telegram last night from Lafayette, stating that his nephew, Raphael Kruse, had been run over by a wagon and killed while on his way to school.
While you may consider this an unfortunate piece of news, that was not my first reaction, years ago, upon finding that article among the newspaper collections at Ancestry.com.

My first thought?

John Kelly doesn’t have a nephew named Raphael Kruse.”

Or could he?

Naturally, the first step in exploring that possibility was to review what I already knew about John Kelly Stevens’ family constellation. And since John Kelly actually had two families—he was raised by a step-mother—that meant doing twice the work, just to make sure. After all, maybe I missed something.

Since exploring John Kelly Stevens’ family tree also suits our larger purposes of tracing our way back, ultimately, to the Stevens family roots in Ireland, this is an appropriate stepping-off point to pursue these dual purposes. We’ll begin tomorrow with a review of what we know about John Kelly’s siblings and parents, then follow that on Thursday with some details on his half-sisters and their mother, to test our hypothesis on whether Raphael Kruse was a relative of our John Kelly Stevens.


  1. Oh! Another Laura Carrier like mystery! (Never did get to the bottom of that one!)

    Just a stray thought on the way to work today (I read this when I woke up) and that some of these "who are they?" cousins and nephews and such might well be "semi-adopted" children that never made it to the Census or other records since they weren't "official".

    I've a 2nd cousin that lived with my dad's parents for years - she was essentially "semi-adopted" - her own grandmother "took care of" one of her brothers - and one of my grandfather's other sisters took care of the remaining brother when the biological parents weren't able to. None of this is to be found "in the records." Just photos of them in these ...inexplicable or odd groupings at things like birthday parties.

    1. Iggy, I've heard of that before, from stories I've read, and from others' family research. That is always a possibility to keep in mind!

  2. Say it isn't so..giggle. In an area where only one newspaper was published we take what we can get and hope for the best:)

    1. Those newspapers are enough to make me tear my hair out sometimes :(

  3. I'll be interested in the sequel. Whoever Raphael Kruse was, I'm sorry that he was run over by a milk wagon as a little tyke on his way to school.

    1. Mariann, it was sometimes a sobering reminder of what life was like back then, when I read some of these newspaper reports.

  4. Very interesting! Great blog, can't wait to see more!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Danni! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


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