Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Newspapers - Another 'often forgotten' Resource!






The history of newspapers if actually fasinating. According to Wikipedia, "earlier publications played into the development of what is known today as 'the newspaper' which began around 1600." There were earlier similar types of publications but to talk about the newspapers as similar to what we use today is closer to the 1600s. Some may say there were other similar publications that were much earlier which is true to a point, however, in comparison to the types of newspapers seen today the 1600s would be closer.

The news in these publications varied according to the locale and definitely provides clues as to the life styles of different time periods. One of the major issues with newspapers is how they are used. Even today, many are slanted one way or another depending on who is the writer and/or the publisher.

The first official (allowed by the govenor of the time) newspaper in the United States was in 1704 and called "The Boston News-Letter" and came out weekly. The London Gazette started on 7 November 1662 and was originally called The Oxford Gazette.

Newspapers provide a wonderful resource not only for genealogists and family historians but also historians in general. Most newspapers have been microfilmed and are usually located at a local library for viewing on a microfilm reader.

Since about the late 1980s, newspapers started to be digitized and so it is possible to look for an obituary of an individual who died after the ditizing began in that area and obtain a copy for a small fee. There are online databases of various newspapers, some are free and some are fee-based and/or can be viewed with a personal subscription or only through a local library.

ProQuest Newstand is an online database of newspaper articles produced by ProQuest. Another online database is GenealogyBank which is always adding new collections and is fee based. A free database is available from the Internet Archives which is the same group that provides the WayBack Machine which allows an individual to view websites as they were over a long period of time.

It's easy to check to see if the newspapers are online in your own area by doing a browser search with the additional word of 'online' to the title of the newspaper. It is also a good idea to check with your local library, historical society or a genealogical society in the area as this resource can and often has aided in breaking through brick wall pedigree situations.

Recently, the New York Times published an article on the physical archive of the internet archives in hopes of growing their collections to include more books, newspapers, etc. I have used obituaries to locate funeral homes which can lead me to the original papers filled out at the time of a death in a family. Additionally, there are often other family members listed who may have additional information. For instance, in the obituary below:


If the individual who cut this out of the newspaper also cut out the date or wrote it down, one would have to use another source to locate the actual date. A help here would be the funeral home as they may list them in their databases by the name of the deceased.

Additional clues are the surviving members of his family and a telephone directory would be a big help in locating these individuals if that was a necessary step.

If this is your own family member you may have had a relationship with the descendants in years past and contacting them again could be like renewing a past friendship or establishing a new one. I have found it to be rewarding to be able to share genealogical finds with other cousins I had not been in touch with for a long period of time.

Sometimes births are also recorded in a newspaper, however, one may not get the actual name of the child but only the parents as is shown in the example below:




Even though this provides limited information it is a begining to get more information as the hunt continues.

One should try and remember that events are what makes the news and individuals enjoy learning about all that is happening in their area.

If you'd like to share a success story about how newspaper clippings like these aided your research please do so!


Comments and Suggestions are always welcomed!

Building Bridges for All Generations!

Claire (*)
Timeless Genealogies
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