Sunday, January 07, 2007

Family History in the News

Newspapers can be very good sources of information about your ancestors. A newspaper is like a diary of what is going on in the community. Some of the valuable information you can glean from a newspaper is:
  • Obituaries - newspapers are inconsistent about the information included in an obituary, but some of the information you can find is place and date of birth; names of siblings, parents, and other surviving relatives; occupation; military service; and even the church where the funeral was held. When searching for an obituary keep in mind that an obituary can appear several days after the date of death.
  • Birth Announcements - became popular after 1900.
  • Wedding Announcements - are inconsistent also in the amount of information they report. They range from the bare minimum to lavish accounts of the decorations and what the wedding couple as well as their parents were wearing.
  • Anniversary Announcements - usually have quite a bit about the couple and their accomplishments. Usually it's the 50th anniversary, but just about any anniversary after the 50th could be announced.
  • Society News and Local Gossip - often included birthday announcements, illnesses, job promotions, wedding announcements, visitors to the community, and other news of a more personal nature.
  • Public Announcements and Advertisements - Livestock, farm equipment, and even personal property were often sold at public sales which might be found listed in small classified advertisements. Advertisements and announcements concerning insolvent debtors, forced land sales, professional services, runaway slaves, and missing relatives are also particularly relevant for the genealogist.
  • Legal Notices - Some judicial actions, such as proving of wills, land sales for payment of taxes, divorce proceedings, proving of heirs, and the settlement of estates, cannot be concluded without public notice. Local newspapers are often a good source for such legal announcements.
  • Transfers of Real Estate - Local columns often kept area residents informed on who was going and coming in the neighborhood. More recent newspapers usually list real estate transactions in the classified or legal notices section.
  • Unclaimed Mail Lists - Periodically published by smaller newspapers, these are lists of letters, often sent by anxious relatives, which went unclaimed at the post office. Useful for potentially identifying ancestors who pulled up stakes and moved to a new location.
  • Church Announcements - Many churches submitted lists of new members, baptisms, confirmations, and other church news to local newspapers for publication.
  • Military News - Items about hometown boys and girls heading off to war, along with news when they wrote home, commonly found their way into print.
  • School News and Activities - can include lists of students who made the honor roll, awards won by area students, school board minutes, school events, and detailed coverage of annual graduation ceremonies.

You would be amazed at the information you can find in newspapers.

Dale L. Edwards

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