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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.