A Second Look

The copy editor in me prompts some quirky reactions to old newspapers: “Ewwww…. Futura! I hate that font!” (By the way, did you know there’s an entire documentary about Helvetica?)

But as we all know, newspapers are about more than type fonts. They give us big genealogy discoveries. Today is about a sequel to one of them.

A while back I wrote about the treasure trove of family nuggets I found through keyword searches of the Troy (N.Y.) Times-Record.  I pawed through this impressive pile of clips in drunken abandon, updating my notes like mad.

Several months later, I’m regarding my impressive pile of clips with more wariness. Like censuses, newspaper items can contain a lot of information to cross-check. Did I get everything right? And what did I miss?

As part of Operation Database Cleanup, I began updating the database card of my great-great-aunt Mary Ann (Mamie) Haigney Walker (1872-1956). She had been a minor part of the Big Newspaper Trove, but it did contain her obituary, where I found the names of her husband and son. My current task was doublechecking these names. I didn’t have much else planned.

The names checked out fine against the obituary. But it occurred to me that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to cross-check these names in the rest of the newspaper items in my files – purely as a precaution. I just knew I had seen everything there was to see about this surname.

Except this:

Mrs. Mary Walker of Kelly Road recently celebrated her eightieth birthday. At the time she was at the summer home of her sons in Far Rockaway and was surprised with a large dinner party of relatives and friends. Mrs. Walker was honored with a large birthday cake. Four generations of Walkers were represented by Mrs. Walker, her son, Edward, grandson and great-granddaughter.

OK, class, what is of interest here?

(A) The phrase “home of her SONS.”

(B) The phrase “FOUR GENERATIONS of Walkers were represented.”

(C) The headline font may be Futura.

Very good, it is both A and B!  We see that Mrs. Walker might have had more than the one son listed in her obituary. She also had a grandson and great-granddaughter. Perhaps they are mentioned by name elsewhere in the clips? Perhaps it would be a good idea to look?

After further examinations of the clips, I think “sons” might be a typo, as I have found only one son mentioned by name in subsequent articles. But I certainly went back to the rest of the clippings in a chastened and more careful state of mind. I realized I hadn’t really been paying a lot of attention to the Walkers – I had been too busy looking for clues about the Haigney surname.

As a result of renewed hunting I have added two grandchildren to the list I’m investigating for Mamie’s family group, plus a woman with a surname different from Walker who might be a married granddaughter or great-granddaughter. All of these names were scattered throughout my collection of newspaper snippets, but because I wasn’t really scanning for them, I read right over them.

A clear case of read in haste; re-read (and research) at leisure. Consider me abashed.


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