#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Unusual Source

This week’s prompt in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is “Unusual Source.”

Medical Report

The most unusual source I’ve ever used for genealogy has to be a report on the 1853 Yellow Fever outbreak. I wrote a thorough post about it in 2016, before I was aware of the challenge. I found this source by doing a Google search for Daniel McKenzie, the man who I believed was my great-great-great grandmother’s father (it turns out he was her stepfather).

Title page of the "Report of the Sanitary Commission of New Orleans on the epidemic yellow fever of 1853: published by authority of the City Council of New Orleans" (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
“Report of the Sanitary Commission of New Orleans on the epidemic yellow fever of 1853: published by authority of the City Council of New Orleans” (US National Library of Medicine)

This is my favorite “unusual source” because it described where 3xG Grandmother Arminta was living, gave me a little insight into her personality, and provided amazing clues about her biological father (it didn’t name him, but I believe I now know who his parents were). I hope you will click through the link above and read the full post about everything that medical report contained.

Organizational History

Google also led me to some interesting information on my second cousin twice removed, Ed E. Reid. I knew the Reid family was in Conecuh County, Alabama, for several generations and could still be there now, so I went to Google and tried “Reid Conecuh.” That search brought up “Reid State Technical College” in Conecuh County. I wrote last year about how I determined that the school was named after my cousin. In that case, the unusual sources were an administrator at the college and an online history of the Alabama League of Cities, which Cousin Ed helped create.


I found two patents attributed to my great-great grandfather, William F. Hahn, listed on a genealogy site, probably Ancestry, but at first I wasn’t convinced that he was the inventor. There was at least one other William Hahn in Escambia County around the same time. Quite a while after first seeing those patents, I took a closer look and realized they definitely belonged to my ancestor. William’s son-in-law Charles Johansen witnessed the patent. These are the only documents I’ve found that include William’s middle name Fredrich, although he used the middle initial on his naturalization document.

My takeaway from all this is that you should never leave a stone unturned when looking for genealogical information. Use search engines and look for any reference to your ancestors. Use combinations of names and places. When you find something different, always look at it carefully, because there may be some information useful to your genealogical research, and it will also add a little to your knowledge of what went on during the “dash” between birth and death.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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