Using vintage newspapers from hometowns or neighboring communities, is so essential to gather information on individuals, families or towns when collecting data for your family tree. There are some key tips you should follow in doing newspaper research.
First one, most important, write down the source, the name of the newspaper, the full date of the issue and even if located, what page the article appears on. You don’t want to repeat a search for that same article.
Second, if you find printed that a license was issued for an ancestor, great. However, it doesn’t mean 100% the couple actually had a wedding. That has happened several times, for whatever reason, the couple had issued a legal license but never actually got married.
Third, same idea for divorces. Papers for a divorce can be filed and listed in the newspaper, but only a court can grant a divorce. So be careful how it is worded.
Fourth, when searching for a specific surname or individual, don’t try just the hometown but also neighboring counties, towns and even if the hometown is close to a state’s border, check out the newspapers there for that surname.
Fifth, obituaries are a great resource, but never limit yourself to the first one found. Many times in a couple days or after a funeral there might be additional information placed in a follow-up obituary. Or there could have been mistakes in the first printed one, so another with the correct information is printed. Check again neighboring towns or counties, an obituary could have been placed there also. If your ancestor lived in a couple towns over their life, an obituary could appear in each.
Sixth, many of the online newspaper sites allow you to download to your computer the paper you are viewing or even clip out just the article you want so that can be saved. If the article is on microfilm, make a print copy of that.
Seventh, if your ancestor had any claim to fame, even just locally, information about them can appear in other newspapers, hundreds of miles away and be featured as a human interest article. One lady had reached the age of 110 and featured, including her life story, in numerous newspapers of the day.
Eighth, newspaper like to run newspaper articles that originally appear 10, 25, 40, 50, 60 years ago, a type of reflecting on the town’s history. So even if an ancestor passed away in 1925, that specific newspaper may not have been available now but a much later edition, say in 1975 is carrying an article about your ancestor 50 years later. Also rare photos are located and printed decades later in a newspaper.
Lastly, never overlook the advertisements for businesses, some may have been owned or operated by a relative. Also seeing those vintage ads, gives you an idea of the popular clothing, household items, foods and medicine of that era. Making copies of those are great to include in a family history book.
Photos: Newspaper article about Alfred and Jakobine Hobbs in the 1950s using an old London taxi to travel around the world over a 4 year period; rare print of 1873 photo with names of employees of the London Free Press newspaper; auto and rockets in this 1950s advertisement in an issue of The Marlborough News.
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