I have never done much newspaper research for my family genealogy. I always assumed that since most of my relatives were farmers, they wouldn’t have done much that would have landed them in a local newspaper story.
However, I have learned during my genealogy research that newspapers served a somewhat different function 100 years ago than they do today. The local newspaper often was the repository of the stories about the local community – marriages, deaths, special events, interesting tidbits of local life.
I purchased a six month membership on ancestry.com so I could do research at home. Part of the membership was access to newspapers.com so I decided to try newspaper research again, hoping for better luck and knowing that stories about farmers did indeed often end up in the local newspaper.
I jumped in by researching my father’s family and, as usual, had no luck. However, I put in the name of another g-g-grandfather even thought it was just a shot in the dark since I had never found much about him. Surprise! Up came an article about a medal that he had received fighting in the Napoleanic Wars under the Duke of Wellington (my ancestor was born in England). My relative was then sent to Canada as part of the British Army to fight the Americans in the War of 1812 and ended up staying in Canada.
I finally understand why newspapers are great resources for genealogists. They can often provide information you didn’t have about your ancestors but, more than that, they help you understand your ancestors’ lives in a very real way. I was thrilled and resolved to do more newspaper research.
If you don’t have access to newspapers.com, don’t despair. There are many free historic newspaper resources available. If you are researching in the US the Library of Congress has a wonderful service called Chronicling America (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov) which is a database of historic newspapers from 1789-1963 that can be searched. Additionally, if you search for the phrase “free historic newspapers” many other options will pop up. Good luck and happy research!