Sunday, January 23, 2011

Genealogy Tips When Searching Newspapers

You would never think that an article about the famous Mark Twain would help someone find the birth information of their ancestor!  But it was true, as Jason Harrison, certified genealogist, explained in his class at the Arizona Family History Expo this weekend.  This insightful class included many tips to help you find your ancestors using historical newspapers.

I have had quite a bit of success myself with newspapers.  In fact, I even found a newspaper article proving that indeed I was hit by a car when I was three.  I had no idea that this event made the paper.  And, I had no idea the event occurred around Christmas, and that the driver was a hit-and-run driver.

So, to help you find success in searching newspapers, the following are a few tips from Jason's class.  If you ever get a chance, take Jason's class!  Look for upcoming expos sponsored by the Family History Expos, coming to a city near you.
  1. Newspapers are excellent sources for finding women.  Also search by husband's name, as some women were listed as "Mrs. William F. Butler." 
  2. Just don't search birth or death information, search milestone events such as anniversaries.  You might even find a 50-year wedding anniversary celebration complete with a photo.
  3. Don't forget newspapers when searching for African-American ancestors who may have been slaves.  Many slave owners would publish information about runaways, captures, and would also provide physical descriptions.
  4. Be creative in your word searches.  Some newstypes might not have converted properly to text when they were OCR'd (scanned and converted to text via optical character resolution).  Example:  Worley could have been OCR'd as Warley.
  5. Find out how many newspapers were published for the locality you are searching.  You might find more information in one newspaper than you'll find in another.
  6. If you know your ancestor died of an accident or some other unusual means, it may have made the news.  Check for articles about the event. 
  7. Newspapers are "secondary" sources, so be sure and find "primary" sources to back up your work (i.e. birth and marriage certificates, etc.)
    Online Resources

    Here's a few online sites to get you started:
    Happy researching!



      1. I appreciate your listing for online resources for locating newspapers. Just recently, I've been using a few for obituaries and have great luck. Thanks for this post.

      2. Great tips. I shared on twitter and with my friends. Thanks.

      3. Nice tips for searching the newspapers, things we may often forget!

      4. Newspapers are one of my favorite resources for genealogy research. You can find out so much more than hust names and dates. My ancestor when a girl of 7 or 8 was badly attacked by a dog in the 1870s. I would never have known this if it wasn't for newspapers.

        Regards, Jim
        Newspaper Genealogy at Hidden Genealogy Nuggets



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