Solved! The mystery of my grandfather’s birthplace

daveadamsbirthannouncementI’ve been frustrated by a little mystery surrounding the birth of my grandfather, David Adams. I knew from the Social Security Death Index that he was born on November 12, 1904. According to census records, he was born in Oregon. In the 1900 census, the family was living in Sacramento, Kentucky. In the 1910 census they were Quinault, Washington, where my great grandfather, Elmer Adams, worked as a farmer.

I visited my parents earlier this month and I asked my father why the family moved from Kentucky to Washington. He said it was never discussed, so he had no idea. When I told him that the census records indicated that his father had been born in Oregon, he was surprised. He had never known the family to live in Oregon. We guessed that perhaps they traveled to the big city of Portland for the birth. That gave me an idea: Why not search for a birth announcement in the Portland newspaper?

Today, I finally had a chance to do that. Thanks to the State Research Guide for Oregon put out by Family Tree Magazine, I was easily able to find the Historic Oregon Newspapers website. A search on the words “Elmer Adams” within five words of one another, limited to newspapers published in 1904, garnered seven results. Only one of those articles was published after November 12. A click later, I saw it: a birth announcement for a son born to Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Adams on November 12. It appeared in the November 30 edition of the Portland, Oregon, Daily Journal. The two-line announcement also gave a street address. Apparently, they were living in Portland when they first moved west! (My grandfather’s sister, Dora, was born in Kentucky in 1902, so the move west must have taken place  a year or two before my grandfather’s birth.)

Without a place of birth, I’d been unable to request a birth certificate for my grandfather. But now, knowing he was born in Portland, I visited the state archives’ website and was able to order his birth certificate. This should arrive in just a few days.

I’m very excited! It’s been bothering me that I didn’t know where my grandfather was born and I can’t wait to get my hands on his birth certificate.


Fun with old newspapers

I was researching my great great grandparents (my maternal grandmother’s grandparents) this weekend and was on a quest for their death certificates. Alas, I have not found the death certificates yet (they died in Colorado, which doesn’t seem to want to share copies of death certificates with people as distantly related as I am). But I did do a search on the Pueblo, Colorado, library systemand located a citation for my great great grandmother’s obituary, which was published in the Pueblo Chieftain on November 5, 1945. I haven’t been able to put my hands on that obituary yet.

Newspaper article from Kit Carson County Record

From the Kit Carson County Record, August 15, 1912

The search for the obituary put me on a quest for copies of any newspaper articles about them and I found the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. It provides  images of Colorado newspaper articles from 1859 to 1923. That’s too early to find my great great grandparents’ obituaries, but I did find a few mentions of my people, including one that was kind of valuable.

I had seen on unverified family trees that my grandmother’s grandmother’s maiden name was McAdams (she was married to J. B.  Ruberson), but I had yet to verify that. But I found this fun little article about a visit from her nieces, whose last names are both McAdams, visiting her. (Ah, small town life.) To me, that provides some confirmation of the assertion that her maiden name was McAdams.

I’ve found several other places to read old newspapers (and I’m sure there are more). One is Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, from the Library of Congress. Another is Genealogy Bank, a paid service. And there’s, another paid service. Don’t overlook the power of Google (which is how I found the Colorado Historic Newspapers, I think). And it’s also worth looking at the online public library systems in the area the newspaper was published in.

One of the things I love about family history research is the peek it provides into history. And looking at old newspapers is another great window into another time.

When names become people

I wrote a month ago about finding my grandmother on the 1920 census and being surprised that at the age of 13 my grandmother was classified as a farmer. I noted that her brother, Wilson, also a farmer, was 7 and didn’t know how to read or write. I noticed that in the 1930 census, after they’d moved to Washington state, Wilson was in school and could read and write. That seemed like an achievement.

Just now I discovered that Wilson is William Wilson Rasco, aka my father’s Uncle Bill. I remember him when I was a child. He was loads of fun and would howl in pretend pain when my brothers and I would give him “Indian burns” (i.e. rub his wrist in a twisting motion that’s supposed to hurt.) I knew he was a minister, but he never seemed like one to me, because he was so much fun.

As part of my family history research, I came across an obituary for Uncle Bill, in the Seattle Times. He died in 1996 and was a very accomplished and prominent leader in the United Presbyterian Church in Washington, North Idaho and Alaska.

So thanks to the joys of family history research, this person has gone from the name of a seemingly illiterate boy farmer in Texas to an influential minister with a doctorate in divinity. And a man whose infrequent visits delighted me as a little girl.

Incidentally, the obituary contained this nugget:

A 1978 Seattle Times story noted that Rev. Rasco’s fate was sealed at a young age. His mother, wife of a Yakima County orchardist, almost died in childbirth and vowed to commit her son to the ministry.

Since I’m not directly descended from this William Rasco, I haven’t been researching him. But finding his obituary led me to a newspaper story that let me know my great grandmother almost died in child birth and that my great grandfather was an orchardist. Of course, I need to verify this information, but it’s just another tantalizing thing to look into.