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Using Newspapers in Family History Research
Column published: 08 July 2006. Updated 12 July 2006
By: Shirley Gage Hodges Biography & Archived Articles
Newspapers are of tremendous value to the historian and genealogist. The newspapers chronicle current events and the people involved in them. Unfortunately, genealogists in search of their ancestry all too often overlook this valuable source. Even though we read the newspaper daily we forget that our ancestors were often mentioned in these earlier gazettes. Newspapers that were published during the time that our ancestors lived can provide important background on our families. We can learn not only about the communities in which they lived, but also about the churches and associations they attended or had memberships in. Sometimes those little snippets that we find in the newspaper are the only thing we can find that will help us place our ancestor in a certain place at a certain time. The accounts from the old newspapers can help us flesh out the stories about our ancestors.
We have to remember that the newspapers of old left nothing to the imagination when they published their stories. Fortunately for us, they felt that every "juicy" story deserved to be told. They certainly didn't understand the concept of being politically correct. Sometimes the details can be rather appalling, revolting or just rather humorous when we can view them with the comfort of the distance of time.
We can read all of the history and social history books available, but we can certainly better understand the lives of our ancestors when we find their stories in the old newspapers. You can really get a better sense of what your ancestors were experiencing after reading about an event or a time or place in history when you read it in a newspaper that was printed there and then.
The denominational newspapers should not be overlooked as they were also full of births, deaths and marriage information. They also included editorials on how you should vote and feel about every subject imaginable.
Some of the best features of the newspapers are the "Fifty Years Ago This Week" or columns of that nature. Sometimes you will find a reference to a person who is now deceased or information about an event that happened long ago.
Types of items to be found in newspapers:
Until next time :)
Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Global Genealogy & History Shoppe web site, and their physical bookstore in Campbellville are loaded with Canadian newspaper transcriptions and genealogical extracts, printed in book form. There are two methods to locate newspaper transcription books.
1. Go to the Global Genealogy CANADA section. You will find the newspaper transcriptions listed within the book listings for the province or county that you select.
2. Use our search engine. Once on the search page, enter the word "newspapers" or "newspaper" in the search box, then click on search. If you receive too many results, restrict your search by adding the name of the place where the newspaper was published, to the search box.
Check out the resources at GlobalGenealogy.com: