How Newspaper Archives Can Enhance Your Genealogy Research

The process of conducting genealogical research is a tedious one. We tend to gravitate toward “one-stop shop” resources that can quickly provide a great deal of information in one place. Things like census records and courthouse files can certainly do that.

But there are some things that are lost with research like that. You get the facts and figures, of course, but you lose a lot of the personality. Researchers who are interested in finding out more than just names, birth dates, and death dates will find themselves feeling rather hollow when they populate an entire family tree with nothing more than that.

The great news is that it is possible to have the best of both worlds. Reviewing obituary records won’t just advise you of when your great-great grandparents were born and died. It will provide you with newspaper obituaries that will reveal a lot more about our ancestors, including all the things that you expect from those newsprint codas to our lives.

It will tell you occupations, places of residence, education, and religion. As an added bonus, it will probably provide the names of siblings and children, as well as the most helpful data of all: the names of their parents, which is key to continuing your progress back in time through your family history.

The question becomes just how to access those powerful records. Let’s consider some of the ways that newspaper obituaries are stored.

Online Databases

A helpful development is that other people have already done a lot of work for you. A GenealogyBank obituary search contains all the same elements of viewing the actual newsprint, but it’s already neatly organized and searchable online.

The greatest benefit of these resources is their geographical coverage. If your ancestors frequently moved from place to place, it could take years of well-organized traveling to cover all the ground it takes to get the whole story. Conversely, a small investment in a membership and some quality hours at the computer can cover thousands of miles and dozens of years with minimal expense and effort.

The Source Itself

There’s no one more likely to have old newspapers than the newspapers themselves. Publishers like to hold on to their old issues, so unless there’s been a change of ownership or a disaster like a flood or fire, there are likely to be old issues available at the local office.

What’s really nice about this option is that they may have multiple copies of past issues, especially in more recent years. Rather than continue to use up space hanging on to them, they may be glad to share a copy with you permanently. Not only will you get information in this situation, you’ll also get a fantastic relic of your family’s past, as well as the history of the communities where they lived.

Other Archival Options

When you’re doing family research, it’s important to remember always that you aren’t the first person to search for these artifacts. For that reason, many different entities have made a point of storing old newspapers for the use of people just like you.

Libraries come to mind immediately. Most have subscriptions to a number of newspapers and other periodicals that they hang on to as long as they are usable, and they make them available to people researching news, history, and their families.

There are also historical societies in almost every town in America, right down to the smallest. These are often meticulously organized because they’re such small storehouses compared to statewide archives. Funeral homes, churches, and civic clubs may also assemble collections of old newspapers.

Genealogical research is exciting. It isn’t simply the byproduct of lives that spanned certain years. It’s really the color in the illustration of your life. The more information you can gather, the deeper that color is, and newspaper obituaries can provide a lot of data for you.


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