The MyHeritage Newspaper Collection Helped Me Identify and Profile All the People in a Photo Album from 1890

The MyHeritage Newspaper Collection Helped Me Identify and Profile All the People in a Photo Album from 1890

Strolling across the Sandwich, Massachusetts Bazaar Flea Market on a Wednesday morning in September 2021, I noticed a big e-book throughout the best way on a vendor’s desk. An avid collector of ephemera, I hustled over to the desk to look at the merchandise.

The e-book, which turned out to be a photograph album, was about 2 inches thick and the previous brown leather-based cowl was crumbling. Opening the quilt, I used to be amazed to seek out web page after web page of cupboard playing cards of individuals about the identical age. After rigorously eradicating a number of to examine them, I requested the vendor for the worth. He stated $40 US; I supplied him $30 US, he accepted, and I headed to the automobile with my treasure.

Who have been these individuals?

Inside a few hours, I’d photographed all of the pages of the album, eliminated and scanned every of the images, and decided there have been 47 cupboard playing cards of people that have been all nearly the identical age. 42 of the images had names on the again and all however one of many images have been taken in New Bedford, Massachusetts by 3 completely different photographers. Just a few of the photographs have been dated 1890. 

Discovering the frequent thread

My first intuition was that the album belonged to a photographer, however I shortly dismissed that principle after I understood that the playing cards have been taken by a number of completely different photographers. Maybe a graduating class, then?

I turned to newspaper web sites to see if any had a New Bedford newspaper from 1890 the place I might search for clues. The primary two didn’t — one had a paper from Fall River, which is about 15 miles away, in order that was one thing I famous, however I stored trying.

Most individuals don’t consider MyHeritage as a newspaper web site, however it seems that MyHeritage has an ideal newspaper assortment and an excellent easy-to-use interface. I gave them a attempt to — jackpot! The MyHeritage newspaper assortment had the New Bedford Night Normal and The Night Journal, masking the years 1860–1920. 

I carried out a quick search of 1890 (publication date actual), New Bedford, Massachusetts (publication place actual), and the key phrase “commencement” (key phrases are within the + button on the precise). The second article that appeared within the search outcomes was “Class of ‘90,” and it contained a good looking description of the commencement workouts and included a number of of the names on the images. 


Class of ‘90,” newspaper article, The Night Normal (New Bedford, Massachusetts), 28 June 1890, p. 2, col. 6.Focusing my search on the category of 1890, I discovered a commencement program in a report the college district revealed annually. The entire names on the photographs have been listed.

Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of New Bedford, with the Superintendent’s Annual Report, for the Year 1890 (New Bedford : Mercury Publishing Company, 1891), p. 23, New Bedford High School Graduating Class of 1890.

Annual Report of the College Committee of the Metropolis of New Bedford, with the Superintendent’s Annual Report, for the Yr 1890 (New Bedford : Mercury Publishing Firm, 1891), p. 23, New Bedford Excessive College Graduating Class of 1890.

Researching the category members 

The method of researching and creating narratives for every of the individuals within the album started. For every narrative, I created a webpage and added the data I discovered from quite a few web sites to the narrative’s Endnotes, which is a mix of sources, abstracts, and notes. My analysis for every pupil usually included their mother and father, and if relevant, their partner and kids. As I accomplished the analysis for every of them, I wrote their narrative and linked every assertion to the corresponding endnote. Just a little over two months later, when the entire narratives have been full, I created public bushes on MyHeritage and different web sites and uploaded the photographs and knowledge so descendants of the album members might entry the data and photographs.


With regard to the analysis, whereas the fundamentals — delivery, marriage, loss of life — are an apparent analysis requirement, the tens, if not tons of, of bits of data that may typically be present in newspaper articles, metropolis directories, and small, native publications present perception into the life and pursuits of the individual. Whereas precious any time, that info is very useful for filling within the 20-year hole between 1880 and 1900 the place U.S. census information don’t exist.

A number of of the category members died very younger with few information obtainable, corresponding to Alice Maria Purrington (1872–1894). Her loss of life report gives a little bit of details about her loss of life, however her obituary tells us a lot extra.

“Funerals, Miss Alice M. Purrington,” obituary, The Evening Standard (New Bedford, Massachusetts), 6 Dec 1894, p. 2, col. 2.

“Funerals, Miss Alice M. Purrington,” obituary, The Night Normal (New Bedford, Massachusetts), 6 Dec 1894, p. 2, col. 2.

Past the obit 

Whereas an ideal obituary generally is a treasure, native information articles fill in each the large and little items of data in an individual’s life. 

Take the case of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Maria Briggs. A delivery report exists itemizing her mother and father and he or she was enumerated as their daughter within the 1880 and 1910 censuses, however in 1900, Lizzie was listed as an adopted daughter. This inconsistency was cleared up when her mom’s will was contested in 1915 and a New Bedford newspaper article referred to Elizabeth M. Briggs as a “daughter by adoption.”

“Briggs Will Contest,” newspaper article, The Evening Standard (New Bedford, Massachusetts), 28 July 1915, p. 1, col. 8

“Briggs Will Contest,” newspaper article, The Night Normal (New Bedford, Massachusetts), 28 July 1915, p. 1, col. 8

Flip-of-the-century newspapers also can rival any of in the present day’s social media websites for occasions and journey updates. It feels like Lillie Ann Heap (1872–1897), who additionally died very younger, had a beautiful 13th birthday…

“Birthday Surprise, 13th Birthday of Miss Lillie A. Heap,” newspaper article, The Evening Standard (New Bedford, Massachusetts), 17 Dec 1885, p. 4, col. 4.

“Birthday Shock, thirteenth Birthday of Miss Lillie A. Heap,” newspaper article, The Night Normal (New Bedford, Massachusetts), 17 Dec 1885, p. 4, col. 4.

Between his time in New Bedford and beginning his new place as headmaster of the Cambridge English Excessive College, Ray Greene Huling, who was New Bedford Excessive College’s principal in 1890, traveled to Rhode Island, Canada, and visited the World’s Honest in Chicago.

“Personal, Ray Green Huling,” newspaper article, The Evening Standard (New Bedford, Massachusetts), 28 June 1893, p. 2, col. 4.

“Private, Ray Inexperienced Huling,” newspaper article, The Night Normal (New Bedford, Massachusetts), 28 June 1893, p. 2, col. 4.

The MyHeritage Newspaper Assortment was a goldmine for researching the 1890 photograph album I discovered. These are only a few examples of how MyHeritage’s newspaper assortment helped carry to life the personalities and lives of the members of the New Bedford highschool class of 1890. 

Kimberli Faulkner Hull is a genealogist, creator, photographer, and writer of Cool Adventures. On Twitter @KimberliHull.

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