Just when was that published anyway?
Genealogists all know about publication dates.
So many of the resources we use are published items where we need to carefully record the publication date.
Just as one example, The Legal Genealogist‘s favorite resource, Black’s Law Dictionary, was first published in 1891, and so we would carefully note that fact — as it is noted in the footnote here.1
And we do that whole bit about carefully recording the publication date because it’s part of the essential information we need to cite our sources,2 and citing our sources is the second element of the Genealogical Proof Standard.3
And so some years back when I downloaded a page of the Wichita Daily Times, Wichita Falls, Texas, containing a family obituary, I carefully noted the date printed at the top of the page. There is no question as to what that date says. It was the 24th of January 1913.
And therein lies the tale.
It’s a tale that gets told now because I just spent some time reviewing the work that a volunteer research team did for me this past week as I was honored to be one of the guests in the 2021 WikiTree Challenge.
WikiTree is a collaborative online tree maintained by volunteers.4 And for 2021, it’s running the WikiTree Challenge: “Each week in 2021, a team of WikiTreers is collaborating on the tree of a special genealogy guest star. Our challenge is to make their genealogy here more accurate and complete than it is anywhere else.”5
So… poking around I saw this comment posted by one of the challenge folks, Maddy Hardman, on the profile for my second great grandmother Martha Louisa (Baker) Cottrell, called Louisa, with respect to her death in January 1913: “Searched in newspapers.com’s Wichita Falls Daily Times edition on January 24 for her obituary (referenced in the pamunkeybakers website) without success.”6
Now… I know the reference is right. The Pamunkey Baker website is one that I created, and it’s my source citation. I have a digital copy of the obituary — a digital copy, in fact, of the entirety of page 6 of the Wichita Daily Times, Wichita Falls, Texas. And it was published, the heading at the top says, on January 24, 1913.
But I also knew that obit was buried at the bottom of a page and sometimes the indexing isn’t quite right, so I pulled up my subscription to Newspapers.com and went to the January 24, 1913 edition they have there and…
The obit wasn’t there.
Now I no longer subscribe to the website where I originally got that obit, so I went to check on another website that I knew had this newspaper digitized and …
The obit wasn’t there.
How can I be sitting here looking at page 6 from a digitized newspaper that says it was published on January 24, 1913, containing the obituary — and yet be looking at page 6 from the same newspaper published on the same day on two different online newspaper sites — and it’s different — the obituary being conspicuously absent?
Theory Number 1: this newspaper must have published different editions for different areas. After all, the two pages look very much alike. Both have the same big ad at the top for the Floral Heights subdivision and the same big correction at the bottom about the prizes won by the Belle of Wichita. Part of the difference in between is the local news. One has the entry entitled “Iowa Park Notes” that begins with Louisa’s obituary. The other has entries for news from Thornberry and Huff — areas in the opposite direction of Wichita Falls from Iowa Park.
Except for one simple fact. The whole county only had a population of about 16,000 or so in 19107 — and replating parts of a news page for towns so small that at least one of them (Huff) doesn’t even exist today8 — well, let’s just say it isn’t terribly likely.
So… scrap theory number 1.
And theory number 2 was … um … er … uh …
Okay, just how could I be sitting there looking at page 6 from a digitized newspaper that says it was published on January 24, 1913, containing the obituary — and yet be looking at page 6 from the same newspaper published on the same day on two different online newspaper sites — and it’s different???
How’s about if it actually wasn’t published on the same day?
How’s about if what I’m looking at is actually — sigh — a typo?
In fact, if you go right this minute to Newspapers.com (or to NewspaperArchive.com, where I’d originally gotten the obituary, or to FindMyPast.com, which also has that newspaper in digitized format), and you look at the issue for January 23, 1913, you’re going to find something verrrrrrrry interesting.
The masthead on page 1 of the January 23 issue reads “Wichita Falls, Texas, Thursday, January 23rd, 1913.” And the running dateline at the top of page 2 reads: “Wichita Daily Times, Wichita Falls, Texas, Jan. 24, 1913.” It says “Jan. 24, 1913” on pages 3-8 as well.
So is it a typo, or is there a problem with the digitization?
I’m voting for typo, and here’s why.
First, on page 4 of every issue of the Wichita Daily Times in January 1913, there’s a box with publication information. It names the newspaper, says how often and by whom it was published, gives the subscription rates — and gives the date of that issue. And on every publication day in January 1913, the date given in that box matches the date given in the running dateline at the top of the page — except one.
On the day Louisa’s obituary appeared in the Wichita Daily Times, the box on page 4 read: “Wichita Falls, Texas, Jan. 23, 1913.” And the running dateline at the top of that same page 4 reads: “Wichita Daily Times, Wichita Falls, Texas, Jan. 24, 1913.”
Second, just about every business day in January 1913, a little item appeared in the Wichita Daily Times with the headline: “Today’s Market Report.” And every time that item appeared in the Wichita Daily Times in January 1913, the date on the report items matched the date in the running dateline at the top of the page where the item was — except one.
On the day Louisa’s obituary appeared in the Wichita Daily Times, the items in the market report all had the date of January 23rd. But the running dateline at the top of that page reads: “Wichita Daily Times, Wichita Falls, Texas, Jan. 24, 1913.”
And third, every datelined item on every page of the issue dated Wednesday, January 22, 1913, carried the dateline of “Jan. 22.” Every datelined item on every page of the issue dated Friday, January 24, 1913, carried the dateline of “Jan. 24.”
But on the day Louisa’s obituary appeared in the Wichita Daily Times, every datelined item on every page of the issue identified on the front page as January 23, 1913, carried the dateline of “Jan. 23” even if the running dateline at the top of the page said “Jan. 24.”
One more thing to check in genealogical dating.
Dating a typo.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Dating a typo,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 18 Feb 2021).
- Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891). ↩
- See Standard 5, “Citation elements,” in Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards 2d ed. (Nashville, TN: Ancestry, 2017), 7. ↩
- Ibid., Chapter 1, “Genealogical Proof Standard,” at 1-2. ↩
- See “Help:About WikiTree,” WikiTree.com (https://www.wikitree.com/ : accessed 17 Feb 2021). ↩
- Ibid., “Help:WikiTree Challenge.” ↩
- Ibid., Profile, Martha Louisa (Baker) Cottrell (1832 – 1913). ↩
- See Wikipedia (https://www.wikipedia.com), “Wichita County, Texas,” rev. 25 Jan 2021. ↩
- See ibid., “Huff, Texas,” rev. 10 Sep 2018. ↩