Feature Article: Mayflower Genealogy: Finding Your Cousins Using Newspapers

Searching through GenealogyBank's Historical Newspaper Archives recently, I found this old newspaper announcement for Margaret (Rogers) Smith's 81st birthday.

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 23 January 1938, page 12

Margaret Anne (Rogers) Smith (1857-1943) didn't come to America on the Mayflower ship – but according to this newspaper article her ancestor Thomas Rogers (c. 1572-Winter 1620/21) did.

Ding!
Hey – I am also descended from Mayflower Pilgrim Thomas Rogers.
That makes Margaret my cousin.
What more can I learn about her?

Could it be this easy to find my Mayflower cousins?
Yes – it is.

This historical newspaper article is packed with genealogical clues and information about Margaret, her siblings and children. That would make all of them my cousins too. Armed with these clues I then need to verify and prove each member of the family as I go back generation by generation to our common ancestor: Pilgrim Thomas Rogers.

For starters, the newspaper article gives me Margaret's photo and tells me that she "celebrated her eighty-first birthday this week at her home at Prosper [Colin County, Texas]."

Wow – her photo. A great find. Nice smile.
So, she was 81 years old in January 1938 and living in Prosper, Colin County, Texas.

That should be easy to verify.

Here is a copy of her death certificate.

Source: FamilySearch, "Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-25246-83874-37?cc=1983324: accessed 3 September 2015), Death certificates > 1943 > Vol 073-079, certificates 036001-039400, Aug, Brazoria-Starr counties > image 314 of 3524; State Registrar Office, Austin.

Good, her death certificate shows that she was still living in Prosper, Texas, when she died, and it gives me her date of birth as 18 January 1857, in Colin County, Texas. Hmm…January 1857 – that was just 11 years after Texas became a state.

The old newspaper clipping also says her grandparents "were among the first settlers in this community."

Another great genealogy clue.
So it looks like multiple generations of the family had moved from Tennessee to Texas.

The old newspaper article continues giving me the names of her surviving brothers, sisters and children. Perfect. Historical newspapers sure make it easy to research and fill in the entire family tree of my Mayflower ancestors.

My next step is to look at the records available in other newspapers in GenealogyBank, FamilySearch and other sources to verify each member of the family going back generation by generation.

Sometimes you actually can work your family tree from the top down – and in a case like this where the ancestral connection is in the surname line, you can work on your tree from the bottom up. As ever: Trust, but verify and confirm that she is in fact a descendant of Thomas Rogers of the Mayflower.

Genealogy Tip: Researching your Mayflower family lines? Use the old newspapers to find those who are self-identified as descendants of the same Pilgrim ancestors you are. Then link them back, generation by generation, to attach them to your extended Mayflower family tree.

 

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