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Love the local papers…

One of the great joys of being a 21st century genealogist is sitting there, at 3 a.m., in your bunny slippers, and finding out little bits and pieces about your ancestors that you never would have known any other way.

For The Legal Genealogist, that joy includes finding newspapers digitized and available online for the early years of the 20th century … particularly those from Tillman County, Oklahoma.

That’s where a bunch of my folks were living in those years: my second great grandmother Martha Louise (Shew) Baird Livingston and many of her children and their families, including her daughter and son-in-law, my great grandparents Eula (Baird Livingston) Robertson and Jasper Carlton Robertson, and their daughter, my grandmother Opal (Robertson) Cottrell.

Just looking at what was published in the month of May in various years, and just focusing on my immediate direct line folks, those tidbits of their lives are simply fascinating.

On 28 May 1909, for example, a notice for publication from the Land Office at Lawton included the assertion:

“Claimant names as witnesses: Albion Jared, W.L. Kirkpatrick, C.C. McCormick, J.C. Robertson, all of Frederick, Okla.”1

So what do I know from this? Well, how about the fact that Jasper was considered to be “of Frederick” in 1909? (It’s important not to be misled by this: that was his post office address; his actual residence was outside of town.) And how about the fact that he was serving as a witness for the homestead claim of Edwin A. Belleville? Must have known Belleville, no? And the fact that he was probably a neighbor to and knew the other witnesses as well, right? Things to add to the research list for Jasper…

Or the fact that on 3 May 1912, the paper reported:

“Bugging the gardens is the order of the day in Hollister. The big black bugs come out after dark and are working havoc with the gardens, especially the beans. Some are taking lanterns and going out and catching and burning them. Mrs. J.C. Robertson and J.A. Pritchard, whose gardens join, report having caught about 1,000 in one evening.”2

Frederick paper 1912


I’m not entirely sure just how much I want to know about big black bugs, but… there’s still quite a bit to be gleaned from this tidbit, more to add to what I know. Such as the fact that gardens were well enough advanced in Oklahoma in early May to have to worry about bugs. And that Eula — just recently widowed then — lived next door to J.A. Pritchard.

And there are just so many of these tidbits. Things that tell me who my folks were involved with, and what they were all doing at the time:

• On 10 May 1912: “H.H. Lewis and wife, Mesdames W.E. Haight, Emmett Lewis, and Misses Opal Robertson and Ora Winningham, also Misses Lela Lewis and Lynda Oakley attended the singing convention at Loveland Sunday. They report a fine time and good singing.”3

• On 31 May 1912: “Opal Robertson spent one night last week with Lela Lewis.”4

• On 2 May 1913: “Miss Mary Vinsonhaler was the guest of Miss Opal Robertson Sunday.”5

• On 9 May 1913: “Opal Robertson is attending school at Farmingdale this week.”6

• On 7 May 1915: “L. Livingston and Jacob Fleming visited the former’s sister, Mrs. J.C. Robertson, Sunday.”7

• On 7 May 1915: “Miss Maude Vinsonhaler and Miss Opal Robertson, of Frederick, were guests of the Misses Kent from Friday until Sunday.”8

• On 21 May 1915: “Miss Opal Robertson visited her mother over Sunday.”9

You have to love the fact that those local newspapers reported all these comings and goings in such detail. And then, as genealogists, we have to look to the stories they tell.

Attending school in Farmingdale in 1913? What school? Are there records?

Visiting her mother in 1915? She was just 17. Where was she living if she had to visit with her mother?

And remember these were just the ones I chose from the month of May.

The stories of a family’s life from the tidbits in the local newspapers.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “The tidbits of May,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 14 May 2022).


Note: All citations are to digital images at ( : accessed 14 May 2022); emphasis added to names.

  1. “Notice for Publication,” Frederick (Okla.) Enterprise, 28 May 1909, p. 2, col. 6.
  2. “Hollister,” Frederick Weekly Enterprise, 3 May 1912, p. 6, col. 5.
  3. “Hollister,” Frederick Weekly Enterprise, 10 May 1912, p. 6, col. 2-3.
  4. “Hollister,” Frederick (Okla.) Leader, 31 May 1912, p. 7, col. 1.
  5. “Dawson,” Frederick Weekly Enterprise, 2 May 1913, p. 7, col. 3.
  6. “Farmingdale,” Frederick Leader, 9 May 1913, p. 8, col. 5.
  7. “Farmingdale,” Frederick Leader, 7 May 1915, p. 9, col. 5.
  8. “Mounts,” Frederick Leader, 7 May 1915, p. 10, col. 6.
  9. “Farmingdale,” Tillman County (Okla.) Enterprise, 21 May 1915, p. 3, col. 5.
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