Historical Newspapers: Do You Know Them?

This article is excerpted from the Richmond PLANET newspaper. There were numerous articles in many papers of the day that were similar in subject. People searching for their people.

Let’s see what we can learn and glean from this article.

Richmond Planet, Volume 40, Number 3, 25 November 1922

Do You Know Them?


Harrison Mason, son of Squire Mason born in Hick’s Ford, Va., wishes to locate his brother Andrew and sister, Susan or other relatives.

Please write, Harrison Mason, 524 N. 58th Street, Philadelphia, Pa.

From Aug 5, 1922 publication of the Richmond PLANET, page 5

The Five W’s of this topic will help us to trace the history and gather information on this topic.

WHO: The author of this query is Harrison Mason, son of Squire Mason. His stated siblings are Andrew and Susan. Other relatives are also sought.

🧩Who is Harrison Mason? Harrison stated that he was born in Hicksford, Greensville County, Virginia and that he’s the son of Squire Mason. Indeed, historical records confirm that information.

WHAT: This article is a request by Harrison Mason to locate information on his family members.

🧩 After emancipation, many Black people took to various newspapers in efforts to find their missing family members.

LAST SEEN: Finding Family After Slavery This important website offers an opportunity to read and transcribe the many stories of people searching for their people.

WHEN: This item was published on August 5, 1922.

🧩For context, here’s what was happening on that date. Some of the events of the day involved a Rudolph Valentino movie premiere and Albert Einstein boarding a plane out of Germany. My Man, as performed by Funny Girl Fanny Brice herself, was the #1 song of the year and Warren G. Harding was president of the United States.

WHERE: Harrison Mason’s location was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The location of the newspaper was Richmond, Virginia. Harrison and his family lived in Hicksford, Greensville County, Virginia.

🧩 The Richmond PLANET, a weekly newspaper, began in 1883 and ended publication in 1938. By 1904, the paper had a circulation of 4200. Richmond is about 66 miles distance from Emporia (Hicksford). Lots of folks would have been reading this paper, increasing the likelihood that a family member or someone who knew them would be able to see and hopefully answer Harrison’s clarion call.

🧩Harrison Mason’s residing in Philadelphia speaks to The Great Migration.

“The Great Migration refers to the relocation of hundreds of thousands of African Americans from the rural areas of the South to urban areas in the North during the years between 1915 and 1930. Although many of those who left the rural South migrated to southern urban areas, most migrants moved to cities in the North. It was the largest movement northward and into cities that had occurred among African Americans to that point in history.”

WHY: Harrison Mason was looking for his family members.

🧩 It’s very possible and probable that Harrison Mason placed this request to find family with a sense of urgency. Indeed, and sadly, Harrison passed away about four months after his newspaper ad. According to his Pennsylvania death certificate, he succumbed to tubercular emphysema on December 16, 1922. Harrison Mason would have known that his condition was worsening months earlier, in August, when he placed that news item looking for his family.

Harrison Mason’s Death Certificate, Dec 1922, Philadelphia, PA

A bit about Harrison Mason’s family in Philadelphia. He had married Mary Johnson Wilkerson (1866-1947) in 1891 and they had at least seven children: Charles Mason (1884-1949), Eva J. Mason (1892-1928), Clarence D. Mason (b.1897), Pearl Mason (1898-1908), Mary E. Mason (1900-1906), Theodore Mason (b.1903), Esther Mason (b.1913). Census records indicate that Harrison worked as chauffeur to a private family. While records show that Harrison’s son, Charles D. Mason, married Emma Webb in Philadelphia in 1926, I do not yet see documentation of progeny for them.

Even so, as we approach the centennial anniversary of Harrison Mason’s newspaper plea, his legacy remains. There are several users on Ancestry that have Harrison Mason’s family profiled in their family trees. In these trees, one can see that Harrison’s siblings had descendants. Specifically, Harrison’s sibling, Laura, is profiled in an Ancestry family tree with descendants (grandchildren) living to 2009 and beyond.

The mystery of whatever happened to the siblings that Harrison Mason mentioned in his newspaper plea, Susan and Andrew, remains a mystery for now, as does the mystery of whether his attempt to find his family was successful. We can only hope that it was.

Closing out, it is vital to remember the desperate pleas and efforts of those separated from family, for whatever reasons, and important as ever to review the evidence of their plight in these rich historical newspapers.

Thank you for stopping by.

Then as in now, we have a situation. We need to find our people…

The Genealogy Situation Room

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