Old News Is Still News to Me
February 04, 2014
Do you ever feel like your ancestors are just names and dates on a chart? I thought nothing exciting happened to my ancestors until I started researching them in newspapers. As I was searching through the library’s newspaper databases, the headline "Another Lunatic Asylum Case" caught my attention. With a headline like that, I had to read it. I could not believe my eyes when I realized the article was about my ancestor. It explained that my ancestor, MVP Cooke, the owner of the Sunnyside Hotel, was a former circus clown better known as Joe Cooke. The article told of how he was abducted and taken to an asylum for five weeks while his brother-in-law tried to poison his family. I kept searching for more newspaper articles and found a letter to the editor written by the brother-in-law claiming that the story was false. According to his side of the story, Cooke suffered from “mental derangement” as a result of his "excessive indulgence in intoxicating liquors," and that he was only helping at the request of Mrs. Cooke, who felt her life was in danger.
I continued to search for more, but I was unable to find any information about the strange story. I found an obituary for Mrs. Cooke a few months later, but I do not know the cause of death. I was never able to find an account of an arrest of the brother-in-law, and he died about three years later. Although the story is still a mystery to me, I never imagined that my ancestors, in a big city such as New York City, would ever end up in the newspaper. Even though all these events took place over150 years ago, old news is still news to me.
Midwest Genealogy Center