After reading the Online Newspapers Web Guide that appeared in the March/April issue of Family Tree Magazine, I decided to pilot a subscription to GenealogyBank.com. I haven't taken full advantage of online newspapers to help flesh out my family history stories, and I was curious if there were archived articles about my family.
Remember back in January when I profiled Thomas K. Stevens - my 3rd great-grandfather who was killed in a mining explosion with his eldest son and namesake? I decided I would plug his name in first to see if I could learn anything more about his violent death. Sure enough, a December 1886 article from the Denver Rocky Mountain News popped up (click at right and enlarge).
The article provided more insight into the cause of the explosion - it's believed that Thomas' son, Thomas H. Stevens, improperly assembled the charge that ignited prematurely. The article spares no details in illustrating the horrendous injuries to both men. I'm not kidding - no details spared! Check it out.
While I was interested in gaining a better understanding of what went wrong, I was particularly struck by the article's final paragraph. It talked about the grieving family that Thomas left behind, including his wife and four children. But here's the real kicker! The article says he also leaves behind "an aged mother who also resides here [Idaho Springs, Colorado]." I've been stuck on the question of his parents' identities and had no clue that his mother was still alive, let alone living in the same tiny mining town!
However, I'm still trying to figure out her name. She's not living with the family in the 1880 census and I don't see her with Thomas' widow in the 1900 census. Seriously, I could really use the 1890 census right about now - sheesh!
I do have a candidate that I'm eyeing. In the 1880 census, there's a 63 year-old Margaret Stephens (sic) widowed and living with a son Edward in South Park, Colorado. She was born in England and Edward was born in Canada. This aligns with the information I have on Thomas from the 1880 census - his parents are both born in England, and he meets his wife Susan in Canada. Perhaps this Margaret has moved to Idaho Springs by the time of the 1886 explosion? Curiously, I can't find the Edward after the 1880 census.
Lastly, the Idaho Springs Cemetery register for the plot that Susan bought lists a handful of names buried in alongside Thomas and his son. Among them is a Margaret Stevens who is interred September 27, 1906. Is this Thomas' mother? Colorado didn't routinely keep death records until about 1910, so the odds aren't good that a death record exists (no record exists for Thomas' 1886 death). Nonetheless, I may reach out to the state and see if the vital records office has anything for her on file.
I'm excited that an archived article generated the clue to locating the next branch of the family. Clearly, the case for incorporating newspaper archives into my research has been made.
****Update August 23, 2014****
I am still on the lookout for the 63 year-old Margaret Stephens who appeared in the 1880 census. Although the search continues, I believe the case has been strengthened by this new piece of the puzzle. The fact that Frank Stevens named his daughter Margaret could suggest a tribute to his mother (if she was in fact Margaret).