Newspapers offer a window to the past. They are the real-life recordings of our ancestors’ history. Unlike history books, family histories written years later, or memoirs, newspapers were recording the news at the time it was actually happening.
One of the reasons that many researchers do not investigate what newspapers may be available is because they often assume that searching the newspaper requires going page by page and issue by issue. This is not always the case; there is a method to the arrangement of the newspaper. Like any genealogical resource, it is important that you take the time to become familiar with it.
Remember that the purpose of the newspaper was to disperse information to its readership. The editor’s job was to keep the town or city informed of not just what was going on in the world, but also in the country, state, county and city. Small town newspapers, and those begun during the early settlement of a town or county, may often contain more personal news about its residents than larger cities. Newspapers are one way to get some insight into the life of your ancestors.
As genealogists we want information about our ancestors. When we can’t find a birth, marriage, or death record, we may turn to the newspaper to see if we can find an announcement of the event. In addition to vital records, there are many miscellaneous items in the newspaper that may hold tidbits of information about the families you are seeking. You may find mention of the following:
- Family news
- Voter list
- Jury list
- Social events
- Political meetings
- Legal notices
Newspapers record the news at the time it was happening as well as revealing society’s manners and attitudes for a given moment in time. With the United States: Newspaper Records course you will maneuver the arrangement of these useful resources.