by Shannon Combs-Bennett, student
Who loves history? I do! I know you probably do too. Which is why Module 1 of the US: Newspaper Records course was absolutely amazing to read. Most of the module covered the history of newspapers in the US as well as an overview of the information you can discover. There was so much excellent information in those pages.
Many people don’t know that there were regular newspapers in the Americas dating all the way back to the 1600s. As the colonies grew, so did the number of newspapers. Not all of them were successful, but the ones that we are lucky enough to still have today are a great insight into life during that time. Which is one of the things that excites me most about old newspapers.
A window into the past, that is what I like to think of newspapers. You can see exactly what was happening in a community during a specific day, week, or even month. It is one of the purest ways to study the social history of our ancestors.
The course author includes a section about advertising in the newspapers. Advertisements are great, not only for the social history aspect, but also to give you clues about your ancestors if they were in business. For instance, one of the best advertisements I found in a newspaper was for my 3rd great grandmother’s hotel in my hometown. Because of that advertisement, I learned the cost of a nightly rate plus the price of dinner in the dining room. This is the same woman who just a few years later was in the newspaper as a person who was being reimbursed by the county for aiding the court. She housed jurors in that hotel while they were in town for a trial. Without a newspaper listing I may have never known that about her.
We learned in this course that by 1860 there were about 3,000 newspapers across the US. While that may not seem like a lot today, it was actually pretty impressive for that time frame. Especially since by 1914 there were more than 15,000 being published in the US. With those numbers every one of us should find something of interest to our family history!
To make sure we all understand what the newspapers are telling us our instructor provided a glossary at the end of Module 1. It contains all of the terms describing parts of a newspaper which make us sound more knowledgeable about the subject. Of course there is also a section about citing newspapers correctly for genealogical use. Something we all must know how to do!
See you online!