Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Family History in Newspaper Articles

The topic for the 57th Carnival of Genealogy is:
I read it in the news! Newspapers can be a wonderful source of family history information. Share some aspect about your family history that you learned about in a newspaper. Articles, advertisements, obituaries, classified ads, photos... all are fair game if they appeared in a newspaper.
I've written several times in the past about newspaper items.

I found out about my great grandfather, Melvin Van Every's, Cheese manufactory in Ancestry.com's newspaper databases.

And while I originally found out about my great grandfather, Selig Feinstein's, service to the community in a book, the book cited several newspaper articles that I was able to research on microfilm.

I also found out about my grandfather, Melvin Newmark's, participation in the Veterans of Future Wars at Ancestry.

Newspaper obituaries have provided the greatest advancements in my family tree, helping me to find the names of distant cousins. Such an obituary led me to 100 Dudelsack cousins back in May.

However, a few months ago, I received a copy of the obituaries for my great grandparents, Herman and Anna Feinstein. Here's Herman's:

Most of the information wasn't new. I did learn the name of the Masonic Lodge to which he belonged. However, the obituary was in an unusual location. At the bottom of a death certificate:

This isn't the death certificate I would get if I ordered it from the State of Missouri. It's from the funeral home. I'm pretty sure it is identical, except for the bottom section which contains the notes for the funeral home. Often the Diagram of the Lot, and the location of the burial, this funeral home inserted a newspaper clipping of the obituary along with the name of the Rabbi who officiated over the funeral.

Herman Feinstein died in 1963, so his death certificate won't be available for download from the Missouri State site until 2013. It would cost $13 from the State Vital Records office, and it's not clear they would provide the certificate to a non-immediate family member. The person who sent me copies of the death certificates, obtained from the funeral home likely at a minimal copying fee, was an independent researcher who was completely unrelated.

This is a useful tool to remember when you run across states with heavy restrictions on their copies of the death certificates. If you can find the obituary, it often includes the name of the funeral home.

Finally, a slight digression. The Rabbi who officiated over my great grandfather's funeral: Rabbi Jerome Grollman. He was also the Rabbi who officiated at my Bar Mitzvah back in 1982, and over many family bar mitzvahs, weddings, brises and funerals. A Rabbi at United Hebrew Congregation in St. Louis since 1948, he passed away on August 9th at the age of 86. A few quotes from the St. Louis Post Dispatch article:
In 1960, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a guest of Rabbi Grollman and members of the congregation. King had just been released from jail and was exhausted prior to his speech to the congregation. He napped in a chair in Rabbi Grollman's study and then gave a passionate speech. Rabbi Grollman never parted with that chair.
"He was a passionate civil rights advocate, and participated in so many efforts," recalled the rabbi's second cousin, Bernard Lipnick, rabbi emeritus of B'nai Amoona. "He was very courageous and a disciplined person. He took positions that were not popular with all, such as the state of Israel. He expected Israel to act in moral ethical ways; he did not hesitate to criticize the Israeli government."
Every year since I was a toddler, when I've attended High Holy Day services at the synagogue, he would be on the bimah, leading the congregation in prayer. His role has diminished over the years as he was promoted to 'Rabbi Emeritus'. but he has still been there. Last night was the start of Rosh Hashana, and I could feel his absence.

He has been a major part of my family's lives for decades. I learned a lot about him from several newspaper obituaries I wish I had known beforehand. In August I enjoyed talking with my parents about their recollections, as they remember King's speech well.

No comments: