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Surprises Going Through Old Newspapers

They may have been originally meant to be discarded once they were read, but having the availability of old newspapers, either in print or digital format, has proved to be a super resource in doing one’s family history.  The newspaper, from small town to the cities, has continued to serve as a window into the community, the state, nation and lifestyle of the people who lived during those times.

For decades it was just text of printed stories, but then hand-drawn illustrations were added, next advertisements became art showpieces in the paper and then actual photographs were added. Not only the advertisements, but birth, marriage, death, property, court and probate announcements are found in the papers along with news events of the community. It can be a fascinating journey to scan some of these newspapers and really thrilling when some tidbit is located about a relative.

One interesting example is my great-great granduncle, Levi L. Groff of Maryland. In The News of Frederick, Maryland, on October 10, 1887, there was a medium-sized article about Mr. and Mrs. Levi Groff and their house boarder, Capt. Alfred Schley.  It provided a good deal of information about the couple and how Capt. Schley had won the affections of Mrs. Nancy Groff, enough to run off with him.  It even described Levi’s attempt to stop them as they were ready to leave on the train. Here is the article.

October 10, 1887

Eloped With Another Man
“Mr. and Mrs. Levi Groff have lived together as man and wife in Liberty district this county, for the past 34 years. The house and property is owned by Capt. Alfred Schley, of Mexican War fame, who is well known in all parts of the county. In payment for the rent of the place Mr. Groff has been boarding Capt. Schley and a very close intimacy sprung up between the latter and Mrs. Groff. On Saturday last Mrs. Groff came to this city, with the understanding that she was to return home Tuesday (tomorrow.)

This morning Capt. Schley left his room before daylight, bundled up a number of articles and came to this city also. Mr. Groff suspected something wrong and also came to Frederick as soon as possible. When he reached here he was informed that his wife and the captain had been seen going into the Methodist church, and the supposition was that they had been married, as they immediately left for the Baltimore and Ohio depot and purchased tickets to the Monumental City. Mr. Groff reached the depot a few minutes before his train pulled out, and walking along the side of the train described his runaway wife and her new found love calmly seated in one of the cars anxiously waiting for the train to move out. Captain Schley arose in the seat at the sight of Mr. Groff and remarked that it was too late then to repair damages and Mrs. Groff shook hands with her former husband, bade him good bye and wished him success. The unfortunate husband is a brother of Capt. Joseph Groff of this city.  Mrs. Groff is 51 years old and very genteel in appearance.”

This is just one example of intriguing information that can only be found in a newspaper.

Use the free online site ‘The Olden Times’ to assist in your search. It has a variety of newspapers from across the United States and overseas in England, Scotland, Ireland and Australia. The Olden Times provides step-by-step instructions.  Not every article ever printed is available, but they have provided a surname search box to help in locating an ancestor.

Another method is using the Google search engine, just place an ancestral hometown name, the state and the keyword, ‘newspaper’ to see if they have older newspapers online. Check with a hometown museum or genealogical society, many times they have the actual newspapers or digital copies.

Such a search using any newspaper source, including the paid subscription databases, can prove to be quite enlightening.

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