Monday, May 7, 2018

Methodology Monday~Ancestors in the News

Newspapers are a rich source of information about your family. Many valuable pieces of information can be found helping you to put flesh on the bones of your ancestors.

Have you searched for the obituary of your ancestor and stopped there? Take another look, you may be surprised. Even the poorest of families may be mentioned.

What Can You Find?
Typically the first thing we look for when searching in a newspaper. Besides a death date and place of burial, clues to family members may be included.
These pieces written to honor the passing of a loved one may be found to commemorate a certain amount of years since someone passed. 
3-Legal Announcements
From the sale of property after death to a lawsuit pending against someone, the legal columns in the paper can provide dates, family names and other information.
4-Jury, Pension, Club and Community Lists
No matter the financial situation, your person of interest was part of a community. Lists of persons involved in events are often listed. Not only will you discover what types of things they were involved in, but it will set them in a time and place.
Our ancestors made the news in many ways. Were they victims of a crime or a natural disaster? Did they get in trouble with the law or help someone in the community in some way? Papers had to fill the columns and stories we wouldn't think newsworthy were published.
6-Social Columns
If your person went somewhere, had visitors or attended an event in town or elsewhere, it may have ended up in the social column. These little gems provide names of extended family and friends we can research to find even more information. They also are fun to read a catch up on the gossip of the day about our family!

The Watchman and Southron (Sumter, South Carolina)23 Jul 1910, Page 6, col 5, digital images, Chronicling America 
( accessed May 6, 2019)

7-Community and Church Columns
Read about what was happening in the community and churches your ancestors belonged to. They may not be mentioned by name, but you will have an idea of things going on in their lives.
8-Weather and News
Could weather or news events have affected your family? These can e-be clues as to why they may have made the choices they did. What about large events like the circus or a fair coming into town?
Even small rural farmers may have made an effort to bring their families.
9-Sales Ads
What stores were available to your ancestors? What were the styles of clothing or foods listed for sale? What were the prices? Be sure to check out the want ads too.
Many newspapers ran serial stories. In a time with no TV or radio, these stories became a favorite family activity as they would sit together to read the latest installment. 
What was entertaining your ancestors? 

There are many newspaper sites online. People often ask which is the best. The answer is whichever one has the papers you need!
Look for the help section and understand how the search function works to make sure you are getting the most out of the results.
You may find you have to look through original papers or microfilm.
With all searching remember that names can be spelled a variety of ways. Woman are often listed as Mrs. so and so and not with her first name. Initials may be used for either a man of woman's first name.

Articles including obituaries may have been picked up by other newspapers from around the area or county. Try expanding your search to places your ancestor may have previously lived or may have other family members. If the event was big enough, such as a natural disaster, it might appear country of worldwide. The story may be just as it was written in the hometown paper or more or different information may be included in other papers.

Newspapers can be a boon of information leading you to understand your ancestors.
Don't stop at the obituaries, look or any mention and enjoy what you may find!

Have you discovered your ancestors in the news?

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Helping you climb your family tree,


  1. "Which ever one has the papers you need," is the best answer to which newspaper site is better. I'm still waiting for Columbus, Ohio papers to flood a site. There are some online, but not many.

    1. It's so frustrating when the ones we need are not online. Maybe you can get someone in Ohio to look at microfilm or originals for you? Thanks for taking the time to read my post and leave a comment!

  2. You're right about social columns being a good source of information about our ancestors, particularly for details of daily life, friends, and relations. I had to smile when I read your post because I was reminded of the social column in my hometown newspaper (or "the local rag," as my dad called it), Roaming Richford with Rhoda.

    1. They are so much fun to read and give us lots of social information on our families. Thanks so much!