Missing Relatives and Lost Friends


Author: Barnes, Robert W.
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: xx 229 pp.


Researchers on the trail of elusive ancestors sometimes turn to 18th- and early 19th-century newspapers after exhausting the first tier of genealogical sources (i.e., census records, wills, deeds, marriages, etc.). Generally speaking, early newspapers are not indexed, so they require investigators to comb through them, looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

With his latest book, Robert Barnes has made one aspect of the aforementioned chore much easier. This remarkable book contains advertisements for missing relatives and lost friends from scores of newspapers published in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia, as well as a few from New York and the District of Columbia. The newspaper issues begin in 1719 (when the American Weekly Mercury began publication in Philadelphia) and run into the early 1800s. The author’s comprehensive bibliography, in the Introduction to the work, lists all the newspapers and other sources he examined in preparing the book. The volume references 1,325 notices that chronicle the appearance or disappearance of 1,566 persons.

The notices are arranged alphabetically by the surname of the missing person. The majority of the notices mention a place of birth, date and last place of residence, and relationship, if any, to the person who posted the notice. Some go quite a bit further, citing the names and ages of family members, occupation, military service, and so forth. Many contain the reference, “to his/her advantage,” suggesting that something of monetary value was waiting for the missing person. In a number of instances, Mr. Barnes was able to enhance the original notices with additional information on the sought-after individuals. This work references about 5,000 persons, everyone of whom is named in the index at the back of the volume.

NB. Missing Relatives and Lost Friends contains no notices pertaining to runaway wives, servants, or slaves, as these were so numerous as to fill another volume.

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