The Power of the Press

news--1884There is nothing more interesting than finding a newspaper article about an ancestor. They didn’t have to be a celebrity, a hero or well-known even in their hometown. Small and middle-sized town newspapers were always writing of everyday happenings relating to citizens or even strangers in a town. This happened in larger towns / cities also. Taking the time to scan and look over vintage newspaper articles can reap quite a bit of information.

An excellent free resource of newspapers is the Chronicling America online site (done by the Library of Congress) of scanned newspapers. Using the advance search you can narrow down the state or county / city; the time period (available dates are 1836 to 1922); along with a person’s name. You will have to try several did various spellings and use of initials which was quite common practice. Try using just the surname (unless it is a very common name); this way you might come up with a family branch or individual you did not know about.

news--picAlso, look over newspapers not just from a family hometown, but any papers in that state or even neighboring states. Articles were written and shared in numerous newspapers. In the search when you call up an article the name or keyword you used will be highlighted making it very easy to find it. You can enlarge an article by clicking on it to make it easier to read. Do give it a few moments to focus in for you.

Use the scissors icon on the right to outline a specific article so it can be cropped and you can save it to your computer. Each will provide the full name of the newspaper and the date of publication.

Some of items I found in a newspaper article on a family branch, the Groffs in Pennsylvania and Maryland included that a gr. gr. grand uncle, Levi W. Groff was an outstanding farmer using many newer techniques to produce high yield crops in the 1870s. From the article I have more details on his farm, its location and that his middle initial was ‘W’.

Besides any written information, you just might hit the jackpot if there is an illustration, etching or photograph of your ancestor or of their business.

news-wedding 1887It will take time to go over the many news articles and again check several locations. Save any you find, rather than trying to find them again. Label with the newspaper’s name and full date of the article.  Check out the free Chronicling America online site.

Photos: 1884 news about a couple different family ancestors and their occupation; a portrait illustration in 1886; and 1887 wedding report on a couple in Manchester, MD.

Related genealogy blogs:

Small Town News

Newspapers Online

Tips for Searching Newspapers

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