Girl Collides with Moving Auto. Read about it in the Newspaper.

Two newsgirls selling papers. Location: Wilmington, Delaware. May 1910 Repository: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

As family historians, we have many records and sources in which we can find our family story. The Censuses and DNA testing being two of the most popular. While I have made good use of these sources, I find myself going more and more to online newspaper archives. No other source has put more flesh on the bare bones of the genealogy facts of birth, marriage, and death. The following is a small example of how newspaper research can tell a story.

My mother often told the story of how a little girl ran into the road and struck her moving car. The girl was then thrown to the pavement where another car ran over her. My mother told how the other driver attempted to drive away, but she confronted the man and told him he was not going anywhere and that she had his license plate number. In short order, police and medical help were on the scene. My mother always pointed out that she was never ticketed and that the little girl recovered. Then she would end by saying to always look both ways before crossing a street and never run into the road. While doing some research on my mother, I came across the news article regarding the accident. While I know my mother’s story after the accident, I became curious about the little girl. That was the beginning of my investigation using archived online newspapers.

Plattsburgh Press Republican, March 31, 1952. Plattsburgh N.Y.

Above is the newspaper article telling about the accident. At the time of the accident, I was less than one year old. My mother was only 27. The driver of the other car was Mr. Hormidas Rousreau, and the little girl is Patricia Ann McDonough. In this article, we learn that Patricia has suffered a broken leg and possible internal injuries and shock. Patricia’s condition was given as serious at Champlain Valley Hospital. Later that week, in an article in the April 5, 1952, Plattsburgh Press-Republican, we learn that Patricia is improving and that she also suffered a broken shoulder as well as a broken leg and internal injuries. Below is the headline and the small part of the article that concerns our story. It seems Matthew McDonough, Patricia’s father, was bringing everyone to court regarding the accident. I learned through the newspapers that Mr. McDonough was a man who wore many hats. He was at one time or another a funeral director, school bus driver, sheriff deputy, chief of the Keeseville Fire Department, and a justice of the peace. I was not able to find out how the court case was settled. I do not recall my parents ever speaking about it.


Part of a long news article in the Plattsburgh Press Republican. Nov. 11,1952. Plattsburgh, N.Y.

In a September 1963 article in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, we learn that Patricia has entered the Champlain Business College at Burlington, Vermont. Below I found a news story a few years later that tells of Patricia’s successful completion of her college studies.

Plattsburgh Press Republican, June 17, 1965. Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Patricia also met Robert Fisch while at Champlain College and were married in 1966. Their wedding story, as it appeared in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, is below.

Plattsburgh Press Republican, December 13, 1966. Plattsburgh, N.Y.



Patricia was married almost 49 years before her death in 2015 at the age of 70. I found two obituaries for her one in The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, CA. the other in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, of Plattsburgh, N.Y. Patricia, at the time of her death, had two sons and four grandchildren. She and her husband Robert moved to California in the 1970s, where she worked in several technology companies. Using the information I was able to gather through the newspapers, I was able to make contact with Patricia’s sister Susan. She was kind enough to give me a little more of the story and to send me the picture of a very young Patricia. The picture is dated June 1955, and the inscription on the back says in part, “Pat’s last stage of recovery from her accident.”

Patricia McDonough about age ten. Photograph Courtesy of Susan Giroux..

In order to gather the information on Patricia, I used two pay subscription sites, Newspaper.com, and Genealogy Bank. I also used the free site NYS Historic Newspapers, which is a must-go-to site if you are researching family in New York State. NYS Historic Newspapers is easy to use and covers every county in the state. I recommend that everyone make online archive newspapers a must for all their family research. I found many different articles regarding Patricia and her family that assisted me in learning her story. My advice is to use these newspapers whenever you can. They will give you a much more complete family story.

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29 Responses to Girl Collides with Moving Auto. Read about it in the Newspaper.

  1. dlpedit says:

    You’ve spun another intriguing tale here! I especially liked the phrase you used to describe your discovery: putting “flesh on the bare bones.”

    • chmjr2 says:

      I wish I could take credit for the phrase “flesh on the bare bones.” but it is one used often in genealogy. History is story and we all should do the best we can to find it.

  2. How fascinating that you were able to piece together a more human and complete story from an anecdote that had been with you for so long. Thanks for taking the time to share your process.

  3. Robbie says:

    Great story, Charles. I love newspaper research and we are very lucky to have Trove in Australia – a free resource hosted by the National Library Australia. Link – https://trove.nla.gov.au/

    • chmjr2 says:

      I used the link you provided and all I can say I wish we had something like that here in the U.S. Thank you for your comment and sharing the link.

      • Robbie says:

        It’s a great facility and service and I don’t think I would be remiss in calling it a world leader in this. Many Australian Genies and historians contribute to its success by voluntarily providing text corrections to the newspaper articles, contributing to fund raising for scanning of newspapers and magazines (especially in regional areas) and creating specialised lists of articles that can be freely accessed by other researchers.

  4. Eilene Lyon says:

    Great story! Was it difficult to get Susan to talk with you?

  5. This is great. I’ve been lost in the British Newspaper Archive for the last few weeks finding stories that help give my ancestors some “personality “.

  6. What a unique and interesting story Charles! Amazing that you could follow it up for years! I love using newspaper archives also– through the articles, I felt I got to know ancestors that I never knew, like one of my great-grandfathers. I agree with you that itis rewarding! Helen

  7. Sharon says:

    Totally enjoyed your posting and what a gift to have gotten the photo with noted recovery of her injuries from her sister Susan. Wonderful piece of research with a great reminder to use our newspaper subscriptions to ‘flesh out our stories’ – enjoy the holidays and I’ll be looking for more great posts in the coming year ~ Sharon

    • chmjr2 says:

      I also wish you the best in this holiday season and into the new year. Newspapers are a great and perhaps the best way we have to learn about the life our ancestors lived.

  8. Amy says:

    I wonder how long it take (perhaps forever) for your mother to recover from the shock of that accident. Today we talk about PTSD, but back then it probably was just dismissed by other; I bet she suffered though. Her sharing the story with her own children is evidence of the last impact.

    I also recently blogged about the importance of newspapers for researching family history. I think those newspaper databases are my favorite genealogy tool.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I know it was something which she never forgot and had to have been reminded of it often. Hitting anyone with a car let alone a child is every person’s nightmare to be avoided.

      • Amy says:

        I agree. I once hit a cat that ran in front of my car (and I love cats). I still can’t drive past that location without thinking about it and seeing it all over again.

  9. Thanks, I will use Newspapers more. They really do put meat on the bones. The meat is what brings the story to life.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    This is the second recommendation in a week to use newspapers more in my research. I began many years ago and had to go to the source to look at microfilm of papers. So many things have changed and are easier. Thanks for the nudge. I will subscribe to the Newspaper.com and definitely check out the New York site.

  11. Jim McKeever says:

    Wonderful story, Charles, all the way around. Excellent work! I wonder if Patricia was influenced by her stay at the hospital to choose a career in the medical field. I will definitely look into the free NYS newspaper site. Thank you.

  12. Fantastic sleuthing! Newspapers are a great resource. I work for a university and can access many archives through institutional subscriptions. I am currently tracing my 2x great grandfather’s naval journey using his service record and naval reports in the Hampshire newspapers. Fascinating stuff!

  13. Thanks for looking at my site. Newspaper resource is good as you say. In the UK we have to pay for this service unless you live near a big town and the library has this facility.

    • chmjr2 says:

      We have a mix of paid sites that I think are really good and worth the money. Also we have some excellent free sites which at times can be hard to find and use. However if they are in an area where your family settled they can (and have for me) be a gold mine.

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