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Notice is hereby given …

Janet Iles hit the ball out of the genealogy research park when she asked, in a blog post yesterday, “Do you check newspaper advertisements when doing your family research?”

noticesThe retired Canadian library technician who now does genealogical and historical research as Janet Iles Consulting & Research Services went on:

You may learn more about what life was like for your ancestors and kin. What were the current fashions? Where might they have shopped? What were the prices for food? You also may be fortunate to find an advertisement for a business they owned.1


Businesses they owned, land they had to sell, buildings they had to rent. Newspaper advertisements covered them all.

And, The Legal Genealogist is compelled to add, there may be so much more in those newspaper advertising columns.

Particularly in the legal advertising columns: with the notices so many of our ancestors were required to post — or have posted to or about them — because of the law.

From notices to creditors of an estate that they had a certain time frame within which to file their claims to notices of pending court actions against absent defendants, the legal advertising columns of newspapers large and small, all across America (and beyond!), were chock full of information the law thought people had a right to know — and no other way to find out.

And from a genealogist’s perspective, they are an absolute gold mine.

Here’s just a very small sampling of what you might find:

• 8 May 1806. The (Annapolis) Maryland Gazette. “Taxes. The subscriber being again appointed collector of the taxes now due in Anne-Arundel county, earnestly requests that all persons concerned will be prepared to settle wjem called on; it will be considered a favour in any who have taxes to pay, if they will call and settle the same at the store of Lewis Duvall, in Annapolis. Zachariah Duvall, Collector.”2

• 5 July 1810. The (Raleigh) North Carolina Star. “Ten Dollars Reward. Stolen. From the Subscriber, a GRAY HORSE, about four feet 8 or 10 inches high, 6 years old last spring. He is a little hip-shot, I think on the father side. It is presumed he was taken by two young men who absconded from the neighborhood o(f) this place at the time he was missing. The men are small and slender made, and subject to get intoxicated with spirits. Their names I forbear to mention at this time — they are supposed to have gone to the Western Country, and it is not improbable they will sell of exchange the horse by the way. … Matthew Shaw.”3

• 4 October 1810. The (Raleigh) North Carolina Star. “Fifty Dollars Reward. Ran-Away from the Subscriber on the 11th of September, 1809, a Mulatto fellow named JIM. He is large and likely, about five feet eleven inches high, and aged thirty-five. His face is overrun with marks of the Small Pox, and on one side of his nose (the right side I believ) there is a scar occasioned by the kick of a horse. … Jim can read and write and I expect he will pass himself for a free man. … Robert Clark, Anson County, March 15, 1810.”4

• 6 November 1822. The Sandusky (Ohio) Clarion. “State of Ohio, Huron, SS. In the Supreme Court, of the term of June, A.D. 1822. HALSEY CLARK came and filed his petition, shewing that he was heretofore joined in marriage with Polly Clark, who had since committed adultery, treated him with extreme cruelty, and been wilfully absent from him for the term of five years; and praying said court to dissolve the bonds of marriage between them; which petition is continued until next term. Said Polly is therefore notified to appear at the next session of this court, to be holden in said county, to resist said application, if she see cause. David Gibbs, Cl’k pro tempore. E. Lane, Att’y.”5

• 17 November 1864. The Fort Wayne (Ind.) Daily Gazette. “Executor’s Notice! Letters testamentary have been ganted to the undersigned as Executor of the estate of Mrs. Elizabeth Lillie, late of Allen County, Indiana. … Sol D. Bayless, Executor.”6

The moral of this story is Janet’s lesson from her blog yesterday: “Do you check newspaper advertisements when doing your family research?”

Particularly when it comes to the legal ads, the answer for all of us should be a resounding yes.


Image: (Annapolis) Maryland Gazette, 8 May 1806, p. 5, col. 3; digital image courtesy of

  1. Janet Iles, “Check newspaper advertisements,” Janet the Researcher blog, posted 22 Sep 2014 ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
  2. “Taxes,” (Annapolis) Maryland Gazette, 8 May 1806, p. 5, col. 3; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
  3. “Ten Dollars Reward,” (Raleigh) North Carolina Star, 5 July 1810, p. 1, col. 1; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
  4. “Fifty Dollars Reward,” (Raleigh) North Carolina Star, 4 Oct 1810, p. 1, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
  5. “Notice,” Sandusky (Ohio) Clarion, 6 Nov 1822, p. 3, col. 4; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
  6. “Executor’s Notice,” Fort Wayne (Ind.) Daily Gazette, 17 Nov 1864, p. 2, col. 5; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Sep 2014).
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