AmericaGen Study Group
Chapter 12 Homework
Reference: Greenwood, Val D. “Compiled Sources and Newspapers.” In The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 4th ed.,255-78. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2017.
I love newspaper research. I've found a wealth of information on my family from newspapers. Don't limit your newspaper research to marriage announcements and obituaries. Newspaper articles can help pinpoint where an ancestor lived at a particular time, provide details about a family's activities, and give context to historical events.
Here are some of the things I've learned about my ancestors from newspaper articles:
- Dead letter lists: These are notifications to local residents that they had letters at the post office that needed to be picked up. I've often wished these lists gave more than just a name - like who was the letter from? But even though the list is just a name, it does give you a time and place to look for other documents about your ancestor.
- Prior residences: Sometimes a newspaper article will provide the only documentation of a person's prior residences. Griffin Mashburn, my great-great-grandmother's brother, was the subject of a brief article in the Pell City Progress. In it, Griffin stated he was born near Jameson's Mill in Talladega County. This tidbit helped me identify both a father and other siblings. (For more information, read my blog posts: Martha "Blind Granny" Mashburn: Identifying Siblings and Martha Golden Mashburn: Who is her Father? Eliminating the Possibilities.)
- Military leave: My great-graandfather served during the Spanish-American war. His military record shows he was given leave to go home because one of his siblings was critically ill and not expected to live. The local newspaper confirmed his visit home and the sibling's illness.
- Occupations: My Beem family worked for one of the railroad companies in Mattoon, Illinois. The local paper reported on workers' activities including promotions and days off for illness or other reasons.
If your ancestors lived in a rural area that did not have a newspaper, check newspapers of the closest city. In addition to obituaries, marriages notices and news of other major events, look for the "local news" articles. These columns are my favorite, as they provide details into our ancestors' social lives that often isn't available anywhere else. They often tell who visited a community and who they stayed with - confirming relationships and building an ancestor's FAN club.
The author mentioned Chronicling America as a resource for newspaper articles. That collection is now available at MyHeritage. The collection includes The Palatka News, one of two papers to carry such articles about Melrose, where my family lived. Using the MyHeritage search form, I searched for articles about Allen Price, my great-great-grandfather and added "Palatka, FL" as the location.
One of the hits was titled, "Keuka," published on January 16, 1914 in The Palatka News. Keuka is a very small village (if you can call it that) in northern Putnam County. Three of the first four paragraphs were about my family.
|"Keuka." The Palatka (Florida) News, January 16, 1914, p. 4, column 4.|
From this article I learned that Allen and Carolina Price visited their son, who my grandmother called "Uncle Henry," when he lived in Keuka. Keuka is about 13 miles from where the Price family lived in 1914. Today that trip would be about a 15 minute drive, but in 1914 it would have taken much longer as they would have traveled by horse. I know from prior research that Uncle Henry moved to Palatka and owned a grocery store there, but I now know that he did not make that move before January 1914.