Monday, March 9, 2009

Amazing Grace

I’ve spent a lot of hours looking for ancestral information in old newspapers over the past few weeks. Some of the articles brought Joy. Others made me Sad. Thank goodness that these treasures weren’t lost when the newspapers were discarded years ago.

I knew that one of my great grandfathers had experienced a nervous breakdown after spending years in a particularly nasty work environment, but didn’t realize how badly he was affected. Reading article after article about his problems made me ache over the impact his problems had on his wife, children, parents and extended family. The articles provided answers to many questions I’ve entertained for decades about his life. The Huggard Hyrum James Factory Injury  10Jun1904situation was worse than I’d imagined.

Bless great-grandma. Bless grandma. Now, coupled with the articles, my mothers notes about the details she’d heard as a child provide windows into scenes that I wouldn’t have imagined.

Today, when I think of great grandma, the song Amazing Grace comes to my mind alongside her photo.

My continued newspaper research quest revealed articles about the sad story surrounding the death of my great uncle, Hyrum Huggard. My mother told me that her father’s brother was killed in an accident in Idaho. She’d said that grandpa and his brother were very close and that he had grieved over the loss of his brother for years. Other than knowing the date and place of Hyrum’s death, I didn’t have any other knowledge about the accident. Thanks to the digital newspapers that the University of Utah has online, I now have at least part of the story.

Hyrum James Huggard was the oldest son of Hyrum and Annie Featherstone Huggard. Born in 1883, in American Fork, Utah, he decided that there was little future on the family farm and went to Sugar City, Idaho to work in the sugar mill when he was twenty. Less than a year later, he was dead.

The news articles describe the accident. A steel beam fell from an upper floor in the plant “severing half of his ear and cutting a very ugly hole in his head”. He survived the train trip to Salt Lake City, but died shortly after arriving at St. Mark’s Hospital.Huggard Hyrum Jr Obituary 14Jun1904

His body was brought home for burial and after the memorial service, he was laid to rest in a plot that his parents purchased. Later, his parents, several sibling and their spouses and their children would be buried surrounding his grave.

Today, days into my latest foray into the old newspapers, I have copies of numerous obituaries, military draft notices, articles about life events and work events of my ancestors and their families. Without the digital images, all of this information would be lost to time.

Are you using the Internet to search for similar articles and notes about your family? If not, you are missing a treasure trove that literally resides at your finger tips. To access them, you can pay for subscription sites or you can search the free sites that many universities have established using funding that is awarded by the federal government every year.

Check out the U. S. Newspaper Program site to see if there are digitized newspapers that cover your area of interest. If not, check out the Newsbank subscription site and others like it. You’ll also want to talk to your local library and see if they have logon credentials for digital libraries and newspapers. In most cases, they will provide login information at no cost to residents in their city / county / township.

Late evening hours seem to produce the best results in my own ancestral news article quest. Maybe it is because the noise of the day has settled to a rippling layer on the floor by then. Find your own ‘sweet spot’ slice of time and give these resources a try. You’ll be well rewarded for your effort.


Greta Koehl said...

Thank you for listing some centralized sources for checking for newspaper archives. I am aware of some of these sources, but need to have a centralized list for all newspaper-type subscriptions. I'm starting with your information here!