When you think about your ancestry, you probably think about dates, places, occupations, military service, surnames. But sometimes we have to ask the serious questions, including: Did your ancestors have dogs?

Historic images of dogs and their humans in the 1900s!

Among my favorite discoveries is one of the simplest. Finding out in the newspaper that my great-great-grandfather, Jacob Westermeyer, had a dog in 1908 when he was just 19! Right about my age. The Meriden Daily Journal newspaper reported the breaking news.

The Meriden Daily Journal listing my great-great-grandfather as a dog owner in Meriden, CT, on June 6, 1908.

This discovery made me smile. 1908 was undoubtedly a tough time for Jacob. His father died from tuberculosis in 1905, leaving his wife, Barbara, with Jacob and 7 other children to support. Barbara’s parents lived with them, too. At just 19, Jacob was already the man of the house. There must’ve been immense pressure on his young shoulders. It’s nice imagining Jacob coming home after a long day and de-stressing with his dog! 

Jacob (top right), his mother Barbara (top left), and his grandparents (Andrew and Annie). Jacob’s dog must have been running around! 

How can you find out if your ancestors had dogs? One way is by using the newspaper archives. Meriden published this list of dog owners in 1908 for the city, and one of them was my great-great-grandfather. Check and see if the city your ancestor lived in did the same! You can do so on newspapers.com, hosted by Ancestry. 

Jack Palmer has done genealogy research since he was ten years old and loves writing about it for family, friends, and anybody else who might enjoy research stories and advice. He graduated from Duke University in May 2023, majoring in History and Psychology, and is the author of Helen & Frank: A Biography, a biography about his great-grandparents.

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