Finding a newspaper article about your ancestor can be exciting. But if you stop looking after you find that article, you might be stopping too soon. Here's how researching a tragedy highlighted the importance of continuing the search.
In 1920, Eddie Moore was a 19-year-old living with his mother and stepfather in Marion, Grant County, Indiana. His ex-wife (who might not have been actually an "ex") and young child were living in Ohio. By 1925, Eddie was dead.
Eddie killed himself in Springfield, Ohio on 14 October 1925. The cause of death: "Strangulation by hanging: suicidal." (Eddie Moore death certificate, certificate number 55440 (1925), Ohio Dept. of Health, image on FamilySearch.org.)
During this time period, a suicide would have been newsworthy, so my attention turned to finding newspaper accounts of Eddie's death.
The Newspaper Research
Using the search terms Eddie Moore hanged and limiting the search to 1925 on Newspapers.com, I got several hits.
The Circleville (Ohio) Herald reported, "Jealousy over his woman companion, Mrs. Marie Shoup, 17 led Eddie Moore, 25, Marion, Ohio to hang himself in a tourists' camp near here Thursday night, authorities believe. Mrs. Shoup, who said she had a husband in Marion, was the object of attention of other men, police said. ..."
This wire service article tells us a lot more about the circumstances of young Eddie's death. It's tempting to skip the articles from the other newspapers since none of them were in Springfield and likely just reprints from the wire service.
However, newspapers didn't always print the entire story from the wire, nor did they necessarily print it "as is." Newspapers would omit some detail to fit available space or combine stories from different wire services.
Let's see how other newspapers reported Eddie's death.
Mansfield (Ohio) News-Journal:
Marysville (Ohio) Journal-Tribune:
(Coshocton, Ohio) Tribune:
Where the Newspapers Agree... and Where They Don't
The four articles agree on the following:
- Eddie Moore hanged himself in a tourist camp in Springfield
- The body was discovered by his "companion" Mrs. Marie Shoup
- Marie Shoup had a husband "in Marion."
The four articles disagree on the following:
- Eddie's age. Three said he was 25; one said he was 24.
- Marie's age. Two said she was 18; two said she was 17.
- Where Eddie was from. One said Marion, Ohio; two said Marion, Indiana; one just said "Marion." NOTE: There is a Marion, Ohio.
Because Eddie was living with his mother and stepfather in Marion, Indiana in 1920, I suspect that the reports of him being from Marion, Indiana are correct. He's also buried in Marion, Indiana. My next steps are to follow up with the Marion (Ind.) Public Library to get copies of records they have for him in their History and Genealogy Database. I also want to look at newspapers from October 1925 from Springfield, Ohio to see if they have any articles about the event.
Different newspapers can have different versions of the same event, even when they take the article from a wire service. Whenever you find an article or an obituary for your ancestor, keep looking in other newspapers. You might find more (or different) information. (If you're stumped as to what newspapers existed where your ancestor lived, check out my article "Finding Newspapers From Your Ancestor's Hometown."
Amy, I love your blog, as it covers interesting subjects such as this one on newspapers in a simple but very illuminating way. Besides, I know from your lectures you had relatives around Lancester Co., Ohio where my Bowens lived in the early 1800’s. I had a cousin married in 1883 in Henry Co., Ind. that was said to have killed his wife and committed suicide, but year not exact. Could not find a record in Henry Co. for several years but newspapers were the answer. It was carried in Cincinatti and Cleveland and finally found in Delaware Co., Ind. where the event occurred in 1892. Each article had some different facts, The murdered wife’s death was not recorded in the Delaware Co. death records.
Thanks for the kind words, Thomas! Interesting that her death wasn’t recorded in Delaware County. I can imagine how the “facts” were reported by the various newspapers. It seems the more sensational the event, the more liberties were taken with how it was reported.
Amy, you are SO right about looking at what other newspapers have about any given event. With obituaries, I look far and wide for any mention of the deceased. In a few cases, newspapers further away from where the person lived had more details, i.e. maiden names, relatives listed, etc. than the newspaper(s) from the town where the person lived. That always surprises me!
Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with us!
I happened to be checking newspapers in Michigan and found an article from upper Michigan (where my dad was serving on a ship) that my dad was notified of the death of his father and was sent home to Toledo Ohio on leave from the Navy to attend the funeral. This was back in Nov 1910. There was no obituary in the Toledo papers.
Just a note about your comment, “A suicide would have been newsworthy…” I worked many years in a newsroom and it was policy that suicides were private matters, unless they occurred in public places — as the old editor said, “unless the man hanged himself from a light pole on Main Street.” Well, in the case you write about, the tourist camp might be considered public, but since most newspapers don’t report on suicides when they happen in a home, a researcher is not likely to find a news story about it.
While it is true now that newspapers generally do not report on suicides unless they happen in a public place, that was not true in the early 1900s. I’ve seen numerous accounts of suicides in newspapers in that time period. I’ve even seen suicide notes reprinted in the hometown newspaper. They really did follow the adage of “If it bleeds, it leads.” I’ll edit the above to be clearer.
I found an old article about a suicide and found it interesting that the newspaper reported used the term “suicided” instead of the now more common term of “commented suicide.
I’ve seen that, too. It’s so interesting to see how language changes.
I have an Great Uncle who was killed when he fell into a hole in Columbus, Ohio while they were building the freeway through town. Someone forgot to replace a barrier and he walked off the side.
He was found the next day as the people began to work. His brother was killed in the 1930’s when the fishing boat he was in capsized. My Great, Great Grandfather on the other side of my family hung himself and I have newspaper articles for all three.
Thanks Amy for sharing.
I discovered some articles concerning my 2nd great grandfather who had a run in with the law because he was drinking. On the two occasions that this happened to him he was taken to court. But both occasions he was left off as he had a good character.
I didn’t even know about this until I looked at newspaper archives. I should though go back and see if there are any court records that have survived. It would be interesting if there are any more details to these two cases.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Newspapers are good for leads, but as your examples show, they are told by reporters or staff writers for the newspaper, who were often informed by informers. All the more reason to dig further.
For those just starting their family searches, many concern themselves with just the BMDs and NEVER give thought to newspapers. I’ve always looked at newspapers, and even it may not give “juicy” stories it gives the reader/researcher a sense of daily happenings for that time frame. BTW my “juicy” gleanings have been of the “defrocking” of my irish 2nd Great-Grandfather as a Vicar in England for drunkenness at some baptisms, funerals and marriages and the abduction of my great-grandfather as a 12 year old boy. Newspapers can be wonderful sources!!!