How To Use Historical Newspapers For Family Research

A very old, partially torn newspaper

Newspapers are one of the most underrated sources for genealogy research; many people don’t realize the value they add to family trees. Most of the other records you explore will help you find the full names of people and where they lived; you’ll also find dates and other important information in these.

In the census, church records, and other official documents, our ancestors seem like little more than numbers and statistics. Because of this, you may struggle to picture them as regular people living regular lives, similar to yours, but in a different era. Newspapers from the time can help you give context to their lives by giving us a wider view of the local community and events at that time.

Here’s how you can use historical newspapers for family research.

Choose One Ancestor at A Time and Strategize

When you’re looking at newspapers from a specific location, for instance, your ancestors’ hometown, you may consider looking for information on that entire family branch. We don’t recommend casting such a wide net.

Ideally, it’s best to focus on just one ancestor and try several searches for them alone. If you do come across information about a different ancestor while searching for one, just clip it for later.

Also, make sure to strategize your newspaper research instead of going into it without a plan. So, for example, you should make a list of the newspapers you want to explore and in what order. This also means listing the towns and other geographical locations you want to find newspapers from. And, of course, you also need to figure out which period you’ll find your ancestor in.

A very old, partially torn newspaper

Make Sure To Document It All

This goes without saying, but you have to document everything you find. Sifting through newspapers isn’t anybody’s idea of fun, and trust us, you don’t want to do it twice. So, make sure you clip and document everything you find that is necessary for your research.

We suggest that you also clip and bookmark any information, stories, or articles you think may be useful but aren’t sure about. This is important because if it really is helpful, and you forget to clip it, you may not be able to find it again.

Find Leads within the News Stories

While obituaries and any personal stories you find will obviously be directly helpful, it’s important to keep your eye out for any other local stories that may help the research process.

The kind of information you should look for is school announcements, travel-related news, probate, and legal news, land transactions, and any other community events. This is especially important if you’re exploring local town newspapers or newsletters.

All that being said, we know researching historical newspapers for family research can be incredibly taxing. So, if you need help, let us know.

At DavisDNA And Family Research, we offer family history research services and can help you explore and analyze historical newspapers for your family tree.

Check out our services!