Happy July 4th: Enjoy Free Access to U.S. Newspapers

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In honor of July 4th, we are delighted to announce FREE access to all U.S. Newspaper collections on MyHeritage’s SuperSearch™, for a limited time.

From July 3, 2018 through July 8, 2018, we are providing free access to all 33,591,658 U.S. Newspaper records – no data subscription required!

Newspapers are essential resources for genealogy and family history research. In addition to providing birth, marriage, and death notices, society pages contain stories rich with information on persons of interest, as well as various community activities and events.

Search our U.S. newspaper collections on SuperSearch™

The U.S. Newspaper collection currently holds newspapers from the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, Maine, New York, Kentucky, Indiana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware. In addition to the newspaper collections organized by state, we are also providing free access to Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, 1836-1922 collection. This collection encompasses 10,186,650 pages drawn from newspapers throughout the entire United States from 1836-1922.

In honor of July 4th this year, we decided to explore the origins of one of the most recognizable U.S. national emblems — the Bald Eagle.

Excerpted from our Pennsylvania Newspaper Collection was this page featuring the Bald Eagle, from The Gettysburg Times, June 12, 1982.

The Bald Eagle featured in The Gettysburg Times

While the symbol is ubiquitous and quite recognizable, it can be found on currency, both bills and coins, an official U.S. passport, as well as numerous government buildings, the story of its origins is less well known.

On July 4th, 1776, after independence was declared, the Continental Congress established a committee to create a national emblem for the newly founded United States of America. After several failed designs and 6 years later, on June 20,1782, the Continental Congress approved this Bald Eagle symbol created by the Secretary of the Continental Congress, Charles Thomson.

Charles Thomson’s original Bald Eagle symbol

Irish born Charles Thomson became a leader in Philadelphia during the American Revolution and ultimately the Secretary of the Continental Congress. He chose the Bald Eagle as the national symbol as they are a bold, strong and determined species who also happen to be a unique species to North America. The Bald Eagle is holding a shield and in one talon has an olive branch and in its left, a bundle of 13 arrows, as Thomson writes that these represent “the power of peace and war.” In the Eagle’s beak, is a script with the first committee’s motto, “E Pluribus Unum” —  “Out of Many, One.” For the crest above the Eagle’s head, Thomson used the constellation of thirteen stars suggested by a previous committee. He described the light rays as “breaking through a cloud.”

In addition to creating the Bald Eagle symbol, Thomson along with John Hancock were the signers of the original Declaration of Independence, depicted on the back of the $2 bill. As his final act as the Secretary of the Continental Congress, Thomson was chosen to notify George Washington that he had been elected President.

Portrait of Charles Thomson (1729-1824)

Washington had a deep appreciation and respect for Thomson and his service to his country. In a letter to Thomson on July 24, 1789, Washington writes:

“I have to regret that the period of my coming again into public life, should be exactly that, in which you are about to retire from it. The present age does so much justice to the unsullied reputation with which you have always conducted yourself in the execution of the duties of your Office, and Posterity will find your Name so honorably connected with the verification of such a multitude of astonishing facts, that my single suffrage would add little to the illustration of your merits. Yet I cannot withold any just testimonial, in favor of so old, so faithful and so able a public officer, which might tend to soothe his mind in the shade of retirement. Accept, then, this serious Declaration, that your Services have been important, as your patriotism was distinguished; and enjoy that best of all rewards, the consciousness of having done your duty well.”

Thomson replied,

“I cannot find words to express the feelings of my heart, on the receipt of your favour of yesterday, at this repeated instance of your goodness.”

Thomson died on August 16, 1824. In an obituary published in Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser on August 18, recalled “the venerable CHARLES THOMSON, Esq.”:

He was one of the most virtuous, steadfast, energetic and useful patriots of the Revolution. Few names connected with the history of American Independence deserve more honour than his in reference both to his public and private merits. He enjoyed, as sole Secretary of the Revolutionary Congress, the highest confidence of that body and of the country, and the personal friendship of the best and greatest of the Americans. He stood among them like the personification of probity, firmness, and regularity. He possessed a mind naturally strong and perspicacious, which he enriched with various learning, ancient and modern, that became a constant source of gratification and employment to him in his retirement.”

Through our genealogy platform, we were able to find and locate Charles Thomson’s 6th great grand nephew, Michael Thomson. Upon learning of his genealogy and relationship to Charles Thomson, he expressed that he is truly honored to be a descendant and plans to take this July 4th holiday as an opportunity to reflect on what Charles Thomson has contributed to the country.

Are you a descendant of a revolutionary? What will you research in the U.S. newspaper collection?

This holiday weekend, take advantage of the FREE access to the U.S. newspaper collection in SuperSearch™ and share what you find in the comments below!

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  • kim majors


    July 3, 2018

    Thank you

  • Bobbie Thompson


    July 4, 2018

    Thanks