Monday, September 22, 2014

Check newspaper advertisements

Owen Sound Advertiser 7 April 1870

Do you check newspaper advertisements when doing your family research? You may learn more about what life was like for your ancestors and kin. What were the current fashions? Where might they have shopped? What were the prices for food? You also may be fortunate to find an advertisement for a business they owned.

The above ad is for Mrs. E.W. Bishop's millinery business in Owen Sound, Ontario. It appeared in the Owen Sound Advertiser on 7 April 1870. The date on the ad is the date when the ad first appeared.

While doing research on another project, I discovered this ad. Who was Mrs. E. W. Bishop? She was the wife of Eleazer Wilson Bishop, son of Elizabeth Helmke and Avery Bishop. Her maiden name was Sarah Sophia Kilbourn and she was the daughter of Hiram Kilbourn, Jr. She was the grandmother of Billy Bishop.

No mention of Sarah's business is given in her obituary. It is not known how long she operated this business. Her husband tried his hand at different occupations. In the 1865 Directory of the County of Grey, Eleazer was operating a hotel and tavern near the Swing Bridge. In the 1871 census, he is shown to be a harness maker.

So what was sold in her shop?
Millinery - Bonnets, hats, feathers, flowers, ribbons and laces
Wools -- Fleecy's, Fingering, Berlin and Zephr.
Silk and cotton flos, gloves, woolen scarfs, breakfast shawls, sontags, and other fine goods.

Some of these terms are not familiar to me.
Were fleecy's - socks like those worn by ballerinas to keep their legs warm or were they something else?
Fingering - The craft yarn council states that fingering weight and sock weight yarn are the same.
Berlin - a fine worsted yarn for knitting and embroidery according to Merriam Webster online dictionary.
Zephr would appear to be delicate soft yarns, fabrics, or garments, usually of wool
Breakfast shawls
Sontag  appears to be  a triangle style shawl that has long tails that meet at the wearer's back waist.

Mrs. E. W. Bishop ad for millinery and fancy goods in The Owen Sound Advertiser 7 April 1870.
1865 Directory of the County of Grey ( 
Sarah Sophia Bishop Ontario death registration #003271 (4 August 1903); digital image, ( : accessed 22 September 2014), citing microfilm MS 929 Reel 109, Archives of Ontario, Toronto
Obituary "Death of Mrs. E. W. Bishop" undated, unnamed newspaper from the Bruce Grey Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society's Surname Collection #1 (clippings that are on microfiche organized by surname).

© 2014 Janet Iles Print


  1. I love looking at the ads when searching for ancestors in old newspapers. I've found that OCR doesn't usually pick up words in ads. I don't know why that is except possibly the size is different from regular text.

    What a wonderful find to put your ancestor in time and place.

    1. I was looking at microfilm when I found this ad. The Owen Sound newspapers are not digitized. When going page by page you do make interesting discoveries.

  2. Janet,

    I want to let you know that your wonderful blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!


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