Newspapers can fill in the gaps to the long-lost stories of your ancestors. These tips will help you narrow your search in digitized WWII newspapers for experiences directly relating to the war and to the lives of your ancestors.
In this previous post, I provided step-by-step tips for locating WWII-era newspapers. Those tips helped you locate the actual newspapers. In this post, I’ve got 7 tips for to help you focus on narrowing down a large list of results in search of war-related family stories.
Tip 1: Try Various Name Combinations in WWII Newpapers
If you are keyword searching in digitized newspapers, remember to try different name combinations. A man may be identified by just his first initial and last name. During the 1940s, a woman might be referred to as “Mrs. Ted Johnson” instead of Barbara Johnson.
Tip 2: Search for Addresses
You might find a family identified as “the Johnson’s of 132 Cherry Lane,” so try using street addresses in your searches, remembering that “Lane” might be spelled out or abbreviated. You may also find the family listed by their town or township. An example of this might be “the Johnson’s of Brown township,” or “the Johnson’s of Conover.”
Tip 3: Expand Your Search to Events and Organizations
Use any search terms you already know about for your family in World War II: a military unit, a battle or local service organization, or a war effort project that the folks back home may have helped out with. Do family stories mention rationing, air raid drills, bomb shelters, blackout rules, or one of the women getting a job at a certain factory? All these make excellent search terms.
Tip 4: Take Time to Browse
Browsing the pages will give you a sense of how the war affected everyday life at home. You may find recipes that make the most of ration allowances and reminders about blackout rules and curfews. You may even find tips on how to conserve gasoline or how to be fashionable without silk stockings!
Almost every news item on the front page of this Jan 8, 1943 issue of the Euclid News Journal (OH) has to do with the war. It’s easy to see how the war affected everyday life of this small Ohio city on the shores of Lake Erie. Issues of this paper are searchable at the Euclid Public Library website (click image to view more issues.)
Tip 5: Be Aware of Newspaper Stoppages
If your family lived in an area that came under attack or was occupied, the local newspapers may have stopped printing. In that case, search other papers to see if they reported what was going on in your ancestor’s town.
Tip 6: Keep an Eye on the Homefront
For relatives who served in the military, watch for updates in local papers about how they were faring on the fronts during the war. Watch for casualty lists of the wounded, dead, and missing. Here’s something cool: newspapers also printed maps showing the progress of the war on the various fronts.
Tip 7: History Provides Hints
If you’re looking for reports about soldiers’ bodies returning home and funeral services, it will help to know that according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the War Department didn’t start bringing back remains until the fall of 1947 because of the huge logistical challenges involved. Over 93,000 American soldiers who died in World War II are buried overseas in one of the American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries.
Making the Most of Newspapers for Family History
Find more tips like these in my book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. You’ll find step-by-step instructions for my foolproof research process, along with everything you need for success: worksheets and checklists, tons of free online resources (and websites worth paying a few bucks for), a massive amount of location-specific websites (U.S. and international)–and a case study that puts it all to the test!
Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones could be the key to busting your genealogy brick walls? New this week? Vital records for Delaware, South Dakota, Illinois and Texas. Italy civil registrations. Newspapers from Indianapolis, Louisville KY and San Bernadino CA. Immigrant passenger lists for Mississippi ports.
DELAWARE VITAL RECORDS. Over a million images of vital records from Delaware (1650-1974!) have been added to a 3-million strong collection you can browse at FamilySearch. Images of birth, marriage and death records for the city of Wilmington, Delaware are also newly browsable on FamilySearch. These date mostly to 1881. Birth records end in 1919; marriages and deaths in 1954.
ILLINOIS BIRTH CERTIFICATES. Over 370,000 births from Cook County, Illinois (home to Chicago) are now indexed at FamilySearch. These span 1878-1938; more records will be added on an ongoing basis.
ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATION. FamilySearch continues to churn out newly-digitized Italy civil registrations to its free site. They’re not indexed yet, but these are newly browsable: Arezzo (back to the 1300s!), Bergamo, Cremona, Enna, Imperia (San Remo) and nearly a million images for Pescara. Birth, marriage and death records may all contain important genealogical information.
U.S. NEWSPAPERS. Newspaper.com subscribers now have access to over 200,000 pages (1868-1922) from The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), over 107,000 pages (1907-1922) from The Indianapolis Star (IN) and 1.3 million pages (1894-1998) from The San Bernadino County Sun (CA)
U.S. IMMIGRATION–MISSISSIPPI PORTS. Indexed images of passenger arrival records at the ports of Gulfport (1904-1964) and Pascagoula (1903-1935, 1955-1964) are now available to Ancestry subscribers. According to the database description, “they typically include the name of the vessel and arrival date, ports of departure and arrival (as well as future destinations on a ship’s itinerary), dates of departure and arrival, shipmaster, full name, age, gender, physical description, military rank (if any), occupation, birthplace, citizen of what country, and residence. For military transports, you may find the next of kin, relationships, and address listed as well. Later manifests may include visa or passport numbers.”
SOUTH DAKOTA BIRTHS AND MARRIAGES. Nearly 700,000 indexed records comprise this new FamilySearch collection. The collection spans 1843-2014.
TEXAS MARRIAGES. About 1.3 million indexed records and related images have been added to a Texas county marriage records collection at FamilySearch.
Please help us spread the word about these new genealogy records online! Thank you! You are a gem!
Did you know that FamilySearch has an interactive map to help you find English parish boundaries in 1851?
Daniel Poffenberger, who works at the British desk at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, showed me this map gem. He says this map was about 7 years in the making!
English parish boundaries: map on FamilySearch.org.
Before you click through to the map, you should know:
- Use the main Search interface to search by a specific location.
- Click on layers to indicate whether you want the map to show you boundaries to parishes, counties, civil registration districts, dioceses and more.
- Click and drag the map itself to explore it.
- Wales is also included here but the Welsh data doesn’t appear to be entirely complete (try it anyway–it might have what you need).
- The map isn’t yet permanently operational. It does go down sometimes, possibly because they’re still working on it. It doesn’t print easily. It’s suggested that if you want to print, you hit “Ctrl-Print Screen” and then paste it into Word or another program that accepts images.
Click here to see the FamilySearch England & Wales 1851 Parish map.
Want to learn more about using maps? Premium members can check out my video, “5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps.” Not a Premium member yet? Click here to learn more.
Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with genealogy buddies or societies that might be interested!
AUSTRALIAN CONVICTS. A variety of convict records for New South Wales and Queensland, Australia, are now searchable on Findmypast. The NSW records include certificates of freedom and death records beginning in the 1820s. Queensland data includes convict indexes from 1824-1936.
CALIFORNIA DEATHS. Over 2 million deaths in California from 1905-1939 are now searchable for free on FamilySearch. “The index is arranged alphabetically by the name of the deceased, initials of spouse, age, and date of death. Place of death or county of death is coded.”
IRISH COURT RECORDS. Nearly 22 million records appear in the new FamilySearch database, Ireland Petty Sessions Court Registers 1828-1912. According to FamilySearch, “Most records contains name, address, the date in court, and whether the person was a witness, complainant or defendant. It might also contain other information to the specific case. These records were originally filmed at the National Archives of Ireland and the index was created by FindMyPast.com.”
IRISH MILITARY. Ireland’s National Army Census of 1922 is now searchable at Findmypast. Taken in the midst of the Irish Civil War, it “includes details pertaining to where soldiers were stationed, their ages and their next of kin,” according to the collection description.
KENTUCKY VITAL RECORDS. Nearly 10 million names appear in the new FamilySearch index, Kentucky Vital Record Indexes 1911-1999. The database includes “indexes of births, marriages, and deaths from January 1911 to July 1999. These indexes were created by the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives from data files obtained from the Office of Vital Statistics.”
Here’s a tip: if you live far from your ancestors’ hometown, why not make a virtual visit? Google Earth is a powerful, free, interactive 3D map of the world. Use it to “fly” over a hometown or even drop down into a Street View that lets you see what’s there now. Maybe you’ll find an old home, neighborhood, school, courthouse, church, cemetery or other landmark relating to your family. Learn more in our free Google Earth for Genealogy video. Click here to watch it!