Using Newspapers In Genealogy
by Lisa South, Certified Genealogist
The following article was written in the August 26, 2005 OneGreatFamily newsletter. Since Lisa is no longer writing for us, we are featuring some of our favorite articles written by her.
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 newspaper?”
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 been established.
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 are:
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 newspapers.
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.