Saturday, 01 October 2016 02:31

Frankie Meyer: Newspapers are great sources for researching the past


A recent survey of the “The Weekly Genealogist” showed that more than 30 percent of those responding to the survey had ancestors who lived in six to 10 states, 18 percent had ancestors who lived in 11 to 15 states, 11 percent had ancestors who lived in 16 to 20 states and 5 percent had ancestors who lived in 21 to 30 states. Genealogists need to be dedicated and patient to research so many areas.

Newspapers are a great resource to use in the search. Although newspaper articles are not considered to be primary resources, they do provide clues for further research. In newspapers, researchers can find wedding announcements, estate announcements, the names of people who moved from an area but had old letters waiting for them at the post office, residents who owed back taxes and locations where settlers lived. A researcher can also learn about local communities and towns, epidemics, droughts, floods, businesses, schools, reunions and churches.

Newspaper obituaries are amazing resources, too. They list the names of spouses, children, brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents. They often list the locations where each lived at the time of death. In addition, they often provide the name of the church the person attended and the site of his burial. A further check with the cemetery caretaker might reveal information about relatives buried there as well as information about the person who purchased the lot. A check of church records might also provide details about church leadership, as well as information about family baptisms, births, marriages and deaths.

One of the best websites to search for old newspapers is The website of the National Digital Newspaper Program is sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The site provides free access to digitized, searchable newspapers published between 1789 and 1922.

Bowling Green University also has a website that provides online, digitized historical newspapers. The site is Similar to the Chronicling America site, the search engine allows users to find newspapers for particular areas. States are arranged alphabetically. After the first letter of the name of the state is entered, the site lists historic newspapers for that state. The newspapers are arranged alphabetically by town and date of publication. Users can narrow the search by entering keywords and entering a range of years.

If you need to check a newspaper published after 1922, do an internet search to learn whether the newspaper is still active. Contact the newspaper to learn if their old issues are on microfilm and what you will need to do to obtain copies. You might need to visit the local library or historical society in that town, or you might need to go directly to the newspaper office.

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