Crossing bridges and connecting the dots

Researching the life of my subject has been fraught with trials. While research is rarely easy my particular problem is that  he died a few years before the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. This catastrophe destroyed San Francisco’s Hall of Records, a repository that contained the paper proof of vital occurrences such as births and deaths, divorces and medical records. The fire also destroyed thousands of homes and business that contained the other kinds of records one desperately needs to reconstruct a life: business documents, diaries, photographs, personal artifacts and letters. Fortunately the really big events (especially if you were famous) were often covered by the local newspapers so I have been able to reconstruct the benchmarks to some degree. What has...

Looking for “Little Bit”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, these days I spent an extraordinary amount of time reading old newspapers – mostly online using the California Digital Newspaper collection but I certainly put in my time in front of a microfilm reader looking at the more exotic papers. Newspapers from the middle 19th century (I’m currently reviewing the 1850’s to 1860’s) are quite entertaining to read albeit different than contemporary journalism. Aside from the “news”, 19th century papers contained a hodgepodge of local activities, occurrences, travel accounts, poems, and amusing short pieces that I am inclined to describe as doggerels for lack of a better word. They also had, as one would expect, letters to the editor from readers and from “correspondents”. Who are these...