When you are researching your family history, you undoubtedly look at census rolls, birth and death records, and marriage documents. But don’t forget to check out local newspapers.
Newspapers can provide a wealth of information. They can give you a picture of life when and where your ancestors lived. You can also gain an understanding of important issues of the time and place your ancestor within the specific historical context.
Take a look at the advertisements. What were the stores in town and what did they sell? How much did everyday items cost? The classifieds might also provide some interesting insights.
For some, society pages could also be helpful. In the early 20th century, society pages not only described weddings with minute detail, but they also included tidbits on who attended what party, a list of out-of-town visitors and who they were visiting, and stories about charities and their endeavors. If your family was featured in the society pages, you might find these newspaper sections to be very valuable.
Obituaries, of course, often can provide important biographical information, including birth and death dates and other relatives. If the obituary is detailed, it might provide professional or occupational information, religious affiliation, civic and charitable endeavors, and possibly even immigration information for those born outside the United States. Obits can provide new avenues for you to explore.
If you are lucky, you might even find actual news accounts that tell a story about your ancestor. These news stories can be real goldmines and finding them may result in your ability to build a fulsome and rich history of your ancestor.
With the age of the internet, our ability to access newspaper archives is easier than ever before. There are several websites that offer searchable publications, which can be a handy tool. These sites, though, are typically only available for a fee. Still, some local newspapers are available on-line for free, albeit usually without the search feature. But don’t forget to check out the local library and/or archives. These repositories typically hold in their collections back issues of all the local publications on a variety of formats and are invaluable to your search.
Taking the time to peruse your ancestor’s local newspaper is an investment that can provide you with information not found in other traditional documents.