Using Newspapers in
by Lisa South, Certified
My husband handed me a family record and
scribbled to the side were the words “Joe Atkinson
died mine explosion, McCalister, Oklahoma, April
30, 1905.” My first thought was “how can I get my
hands on a copy of an old McClaister
Newspapers are very valuable in family history
research. They can be used to:
1. Advertise for genealogical information. This
is particularly helpful in small communities.
2. Locate an obituary once a death date has
3. Obtain a copy of any pertinent newspaper
article(s). Many newspapers have a column called
50 years ago, or 100 years ago or something
similar. I found a fascinating account about my
2nd great-grandmother in such an article. If
something newsworthy occurred to your ancestor,
such as my husband’s Joe Atkinson, newspaper
research is definitely indicated. Birth and
marriage notices should be checked. I even
remember an article in the local newspaper when I
visited my grandmother, so be sure to check out
the “gossip” columns.
Three good references to help locate newspapers
1. The internet – old newspapers are being put
on the Internet daily.
2. Gale’s “Directory of Publications of
Broadcast Media” gives addresses for newspapers in
each state. This directory should be available at
any public library.
3. Clarence Brigham's “History and Bibliography
of American Newspapers, 1690-1820” - lists where
old newspapers are located.
Libraries, historical societies and State
Archives are often repositories for old
The McCalister newspapers I was searching for
were on microfilm at the Oklahoma State Library.
Day after day the tragic story of the search for
my husband’s great-great grandfather and twelve
other trapped miners unfolded. It was difficult
reading, but this ancestor who was only a name
scribbled on a piece of paper has now become very
real to us.