Old News Is Good News

Newspapers, we use them for all sorts of reasons. My wife will read the obituaries before she reads anything else. I like the comics the best. We both like to look for garage and estate sales. The daily paper is a good source of what events are coming up in the community , and of course for both local and national news. However, once read a newspaper has little use and is quickly tossed in the recycling bin.
A day old paper is stale and of little use. So what use would be a paper that’s 25 years old, or 50 years old, or even a 100 years old? Plenty if you happen to be a genealogist.

The newspaper clipping shown at the top is of Robert Lyon, my wife’s father. This is a great picture of him at work. This clipping was discovered by doing research in old newspapers. We all look for obituaries, weddings, and birth announcements in newspapers. But that leaves out so many news items that we can find our ancestors in. Here are just some of the items that we are missing in our research. Business news is one. Many of our ancestors were in business for themselves. They need not be an attorney like my father-law pictured above. Many were shop owners, farmers, bankers, clergy, blacksmiths, auto sales and repair, restaurant owners, and the list could go on and on. Most papers covered school news as in sports and academic achievements. Church news was also covered in detail in most towns. Not too many years ago you could find a society or gossip page in every newspaper. They would cover anything from a dance, to who had visitors from out of town. In fact, I was able to learn about the existence of some ancestors by finding their names in these articles. Lets face it our ancestors were human just like us. So do not over look reports of accidents, disputes, and crime. Here is one I found regarding my Mother. I was very surprised to learn about this.


A six-year-old Keeseviile girl who
ran into the side of an automobile
and in turn was run over by another
car is in serious condition at
the Champlain Valley Hospital.
Patricia Ann McDonough, daughter
of Mr. arid Mrs. Matthew McDonough,
suffered a fracture of her
right leg,- possible Internal injuries
and shock when, according to state
police, she ran into the side of an
automobile driven by Veronica
Moore, 27, of 7 Battery Street, was
knocked to the pavement and struck
by a car driven by Hormidas Rous-
reau, 52 of 119 Portland Avenue,
Sherbrooke, Que.
The accident occurred at the
junction of Routes 9 and 22 at
Keeseviile shortly after two o’clock
yesterday afternoon. Trooper R. E.
Donnelly of the state police substation
at Keeseviile investigated.

We have many ways to get this type of information without ever leaving our homes. We have many paid subscription sites that we could use. All you have to do is pick where you wish to search and put in your ancestor’s name and sit back and watch all those great newspaper articles appear on your computer screen. I belong to Genealogy Bank and Newspapers.com., both have their strengths and weaknesses. There are many more fee base sites for you to use. The good news is that you have many free newspaper sites that have digitized local, regional and state wide newspapers. To help you find some of these you may want to consult with one of these web sites. The first is the Rural West Initiative at Stanford University. You can go on line for this at:

Another good site would be Chronicling America, which you can find at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

I will warn you now these sites will have you hooked and you will find that you can spend hours just looking over their collections and information. Perhaps the best way to find out about far away newspapers is to telephone that area’s local library. The reference librarian, most of the time can give you information on the local newspapers and if they have been digitized. Also for a small fee or many times for free they will copy a news article and send it to you. However, you should know the date and which paper the article is in.

As you can see not only are you able to get interesting stories about your ancestors but you are able to gather facts at the same time. Just from that article regarding my mother you are able to learn her address and approximant year of birth. You also have learned the name of a local hospital. This is information we all can use in our genealogy endeavors. I hope I have given you some fresh ideas in your genealogy efforts. I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing from you.

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29 Responses to Old News Is Good News

  1. amybesscohen says:

    Great post! I subscribe to both GenealogyBank and Newspapers.com, but so far have had no luck finding anything terribly relevant to my family. Maybe I am looking at it too narrowly—as you point out, there is a lot to learn about the times from those papers. Any tips on how to learn how to use those sites more effectively for genealogy research? Thanks! And thanks also for following my blog.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks for reading my blog and your comments. I am not sure I do anything different than you, but here is a few things I will do. Try different combinations of the name. For example I have a Abraham you also could try Abram for the first name. If the first name is not common you could search just for that name. I have a grandmother named Elzada, I have put just that name with good results. At times just putting in the last name has given me good results. Also try putting in their address if you know it. You could put in 129 Pine St., or just Pine Street. I have had good results doing that also. I guess I just keep mixing it up until something works.

      • amybesscohen says:

        Thanks—that’s very helpful, and I will try those suggestions. I think, for better or for worse, my family just stayed out of the newspapers! They didn’t have much money so probably never ran obits. But I haven’t even had luck with people who I know DID have obituaries or were in the paper, so I must be doing something wrong. Thanks again!

  2. gaphodoc says:

    Newspapers are a favorite source of mine, too. Remember to use search terms in several ways, a name + a keyword, sometimes keyword only – you will get different results & find things you did not expect!

  3. My father in law was in the Army in World War 2. Before he died we were talking and he was trying to tell me a story about an incident he was in. Because of his advanced age at the time, he was having a tough time remembering- or at least articulating , his story. After he passed away I was going through some of his things, and came upon the newspaper article regarding that same incident. Seems he was interviewed at the time and the article was of that interview. A treasure of info.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks for your comments. I am sure that finding that article was exciting for you. I am sure it will help tell the story of your father in law. That is why we do genealogy.

  4. safia says:

    What a great post! I remember sitting in the library for hours poring over the old microfiche records of the local papers in order to research the former occupants of my very old house in Ireland. The results were astounding and led to many interesting connections of which I would otherwise have been unaware.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks for reading my blog and your comments. I also have spent hours and hours going over old newspaper microfiche. Now I find myself spending hours doing the same thing on my computer.

  5. annabeldoyle says:

    That’s awesome! I’m very interested in Genealogy…perhaps ‘obsessed’ is a better word. And tips for finding out about Native American Indian ancestors? I know because of the prejudice of the times against them it’s rare to find any documents identifying them as being Native American but I’m really having a hard time finding some of my ancestors. I’ve looked for marriage licenses, census info, death certificates and so on. Most of them are from Canada. Any tips would be GREATLY appreciated! Oh…and thanks for liking my post. I think your blog is awesome!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Hello and thanks for your comments. I really do not have much in the way of tips for you. I had often been told that my great grandfather had married a Native American but never had any proof besides the old family story. They also came to New York State from Canada. In fact many of my older relatives spoke French Canadian very well. However when I got my DNA results from ancestry.com I had 3% Native American. So must have been some truth in that story.

      • annabeldoyle says:

        It is difficult to find Native Ancestors. I haven’t thought about looking for obituaries but I’m going to try that today. A lot of my family who was Native American is from Canada and a lot of them were born at the tail end of the French-Indian War with the U.S. and The Eugenics in Vermont so there wasn’t a whole lot of reason for them to WANT to be classified as Native Americans. I doubt I’ll ever find a specific tribe but I hope to at least find a little bit about where they came from before coming to Vermont. Thanks so much for your reply! I’ll keep looking at this blog for tips!

  6. Agreed! Only some of my local newspapers’ years are on microfiche and it would be neat if the whole collection could be digitized. We need a grant!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks for reading my blog. Best of luck getting that grant. But you never know what will happen. More and more newspapers are getting digitized every day.

  7. Wow. I’ve been doing ancestry research for several years and never even thought about news stories as a source. Thank you so much. 🙂

  8. I am like your wife. I always read the obituaries first, too. 😉

    • chmjr2 says:

      My wife says she discovers “life’s that are lived well” by reading them. I do agree with her, but would rather see them printed up as a feature article before they are dead. Thanks so much for reading my blog.

  9. karenskqq says:

    You have a very informative blog! My husband has been dabbling in looking into his family history with some pleasant unexpected results. He has had conversations with newly found distant relatives, and reacquainted with a cousin he hadn’t been in contact with in 50+ years. They are going to come stay with us for a weekend in the near future.
    I also have a family historian cousin who might benefit from the tips in your blog. I am going to tell both of them to check out your blog.

  10. Reblogged this on The Best and the Brightest and commented:
    Here’s some interesting information about using newspapers in your research.

  11. locksands says:

    Over here in the UK many local libraries have local papers on micro-film. Of course, you can’t search for a name, but your hunting can lead you off into different areas and you can get a feel for the era of the paper.
    We were 100% thrilled to come across adverts for Great Grandfather’s shop in the Cornubian newspaper which we looked at in the Cornish Studies Centre in Redruth.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Many if not most libraries here in the U.S.A. also have local papers on micro-film. I often get lost while reading these old newspapers either at the library or on the internet. So much good reading and so much to learn. Thank you for your comment and hope you have more to say as I post new articles on this blog.

  12. jenvanhut says:

    I love my family history. Luckily a few relatives have done much research, but there is more to be done. It never really occurred to me to go such a general route and that historical media might tell me some stories I’ve never heard. Wonderful news on your other post about finding a relative too. It’s inspiring to keep looking, researching, uncovering!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you for your comments. You are very lucky that relatives have already done much research. I wish that others had either done some research or at lest kept photographs and family records to pass on.

  13. rose2852 says:

    Great post, has renewed my interest in old newspapers and how to get access.

  14. dave says:

    Great post! The chronicling America site looks wonderful. I haven’t had too much luck with newspapers.com or genealogybank.com, they never seem to have the newspapers from the places my people lived in. But, it’s always good to search anyways. I recently found a short article about my great grandfather in a paper from Phoenix, AZ and he lived in Miami, FL! I’ll have to write a blog post about that one. Looking forward to reading more.

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