Friday, September 23, 2011

Another "A-ha!" moment, brought to you by SHARING

They teach you to do it in kindergarten, and now as a genealogist more than 25 years later, I am reaping the benefits.

As my regular readers know, I love newspaper archives. They are by far my favorite hidden treasure for family history research. It's through newspaper archives, mostly found on, that I've been finding clues and tracing the criminal exploits of the notorious Ricklefs brothers, my family's (so far) most colorful characters.

Because they lived in the New York metro area, and have both been instrumental in my research on these two troublemakers. But John in particular spent a large part of his criminal career in prisons in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, which newspapers are sparsely archived, if at all, on those sites. A Google search of newspaper archives for each of those particular states turned up pretty much nothing.

Now today, several weeks after my Ricklefs searches stalled out, along comes a post by TCasteel over at her genealogy blog, Tangled Trees, about Wikipedia having a listing of both free and pay newspaper archive sites for various countries and pretty much every state in the U.S.

I feel the genealogy itch coming back to my fingertips...oh, how I have missed you!!

At first, I was most excited to check out the New Jersey archives for possible information on John's arrest there, but searching every spelling of his name (damn those Germans!!) proved fruitless. So? Off to Connecticut.

Pay dirt.

The Hartford Courant, a paper I'd never even heard of, has it's archives online courtesy of ProQuest (which Cousin April has told me about many times before and which I had filed away in my already over-filed brain and never used; apparently if you go to your local library, you should be able to use their version for free, though printing fees may apply) ... anyway, I had to pay to view and print copies of the stories I found, but it wasn't that expensive and the truth is you're almost always going to have to shell out something, even if it's a "donation" in order to get the good stuff in genealogy. But I found eight articles about John, from his escape from Wethersfield prison in 1919 to his return in 1936, with quite a few details about his stint in several Massachusetts prisons (including an escape attempt, of course, and solitary confinement) in between.

So I will be going through those articles this weekend. That's what a genealogist considers good, clean weekend fun.

But the point is, even when your search stalls, it doesn't mean it's over. Sometimes you need to step away for awhile just to get a new perspective or, you know, retain your sanity. And sometimes someone else will share a tip or skill they discovered or learned which will prove helpful to your own search. So make sure you pay it forward, ok?


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