5 Top Tips for Searching at Newspaper.com

5 top tips newspaper research for genealogy

Learn how to find more about your family history in old newspapers at Newspapers.com. In this video Jenny Ashcraft from Newspapers.com joins me. She will share not only her 5 best search strategies, but also some amazing stories and items she’s found that will inspire you!

Show Notes 

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Vital records like birth, marriage and death records are critical for family history research. But newspapers can also provide the stories and the context that helps bring your ancestors experiences to life. Here’s my interview with Jenny Ashcraft from newspapers.com.  (Please note: This interview transcription has been minimally altered for ease of reading and clarity.)

Types of Information Found in Old Newspapers

Lisa: Newspapers can require a bit more effort to search than other genealogical records. Before we jump into your search strategies, why you think that newspapers are worth the effort?

Jenny: Newspapers really were the social media of their day. They were the number one source for news.

When the civil war started, people found out through the newspapers. When a huge 1859 solar storm hit planet earth, nobody had any idea why the sky was filled with colorful auroras so bright that the middle of the night turned bright as day, until they read the newspaper. And newspapers reported on local news, like who was visiting from out of town and who was on the sick list. They reported on tragic accidents and deaths and births and marriages and family reunions. Newspapers provide details about your family history. That for me brings such a sense of gratitude. I have learned things about my ancestors through newspapers.com that just amaze me. I stand in awe of the challenges they faced and each time I search, I’m reminded that I drink every day from a well that I did not dig.

Genealogy Gems Found in Newspapers

(2:00) Lisa: That’s so true. I bet you found a lot of gems in your job, which is probably just a dream job for most genealogists, working at newspapers.com. What kinds of things have you found?

Jenny: You’re right, it is kind of a dream job. It’s so fun. Let me share a quick personal story.

My third great grandfather and his brother immigrated to the United States in 1866. They were just 16 and 20 years old. As they were boarding their ship in Germany, the first ship became overcrowded, and hey ushered some of the passengers onto a second ship. In that chaos, these two brothers became separated and ended up on different ships. They would not see each other again for years.

Carl Fink arrived here in the United States alone at just 16 years old. He made his way to Illinois, where he eventually became a farmer. He got married, he had nine children, and I just learned a lot about his life through newspaper articles. He died in 1918. But I had never seen a photograph of him. I have searched newspapers.com, and I thought I had seen every available story about Karl Fink. But one day I came across a photograph, and it was printed in a 1966 paper, nearly 50 years after his death. The photo was originally taken in 1885, and it shows Carl Fink and his four oldest sons with their horses. It was published under a headline Sketches from Yesterday. Well, you can just imagine what an absolute thrill to find the only photograph that I have ever seen of this ancestor!

Newspaper article

The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Illinois, 28 Mar 1966, Mon., Page 4

Lisa: That’s amazing! Oh my gosh, you must have been doing a genealogy happy dance all over your house!

Top Strategies for Searching at Newspapers.com

(4:02) You have whetted our appetites! I’d love to hear what some of your best strategies that you use when you’re doing your newspaper research.

Jenny: Well, I think the best thing to do is just start on the homepage. Type your ancestors name in the search box.

Tip #1: Search Name Variations

One thing you have to remember is to use the name as it would have appeared in the newspaper. If your ancestor was named, let’s say Charles Ellis Roper, he may be referred to as:

  • Chas. Roper
  • Roper
  • Ellis Roper

Try all kinds of variations until you find success.

Tip #2: Narrow Results by Location

Next, try to narrow your results by location. Did Charles live in South Carolina? You can narrow the results by the state, the county, the city, even a specific newspaper and you can also filter those results by dates.

Once you have found your ancestor, then the magic begins. The connections just start to flow. Back then families tended to stick together. So, you will often find relatives living nearby.

Tip #3: Search for Female Ancestors

Newspapers are a great way also do identify our female ancestors. As genealogist know, researching women can be hard! They were often referred to by their husband’s names, like in this particular clipping about Mrs. Mitchell and Mrs. John Weamer.

Newspaper article: Mary Miller Mitchell

The Indiana Progress, Indiana, Pennsylvania, 23 Mar 1876, Thu, Page 13

 

But you know, through my research, I have learned that Mrs. Mary Mitchell is really my direct ancestor who was Mary Miller, she married James Mitchell. In this clipping we learned that she died in the home of her sister, Mrs. John Weamer. Well, I know that this is Martha Miller Weamer, my third great aunt.

Tip #4: Search the Obituary and Wedding Indexes

One of the most amazing ways to learn about our ancestors is through obituaries and wedding announcements. Using machine learning algorithms, Newspapers.com has developed a technology to identify 250 million obituaries, and 67 million marriage announcements in our archives. You may have seen hints for these on your ancestor trees. You can now go to Newspapers.com and search for all of your ancestors in either the obituary index, or the wedding index.

These records are full of wonderful family details and relationships. Let me just show you how this works.

For example, that newspaper clipping talked about Mrs. John Weamer. Well, I know that Mrs. John Weamer is my third great aunt, who was Martha Miller Weamer. So, I want to go to the obituary index and search for Martha.

To do that, I just typed in her name to see what I could find. I came up with 16,000 results. Now that’s going to take some time to go through. But one thing so cool is that we can click on the Result Type filter below the search box and click on Obituaries. Now I’m in the obituary index, and it looks like I got four results. In this case, the dates of the articles are all the same. I found four obituaries for my ancestor Martha Weamer!

Lisa: Fantastic. And can you also click on the map? Will that also narrow the location?

Jenny: Yes. When I first came up with those results for Martha Weamer there’s also a map of the United States.  On the map, you will see that there’s different shades of pinks, and reds. This means that the lighter color states has articles mentioning Martha Weamer but maybe a fewer number. In this case there were five in Colorado, and nine in Wyoming. Well, Martha is from Pennsylvania. When I over hover Pennsylvania it tells me that there are 5000 mentions of Martha Weamer. So that state of Pennsylvania has been highlighted as red to show you that there’s a concentration of her name found in newspapers in Pennsylvania.

Lisa: That’s really handy. And it’s also handy if by chance she was from another state originally or had a lot of family in another state because then you there’s a possibility that her obituary could be shared in a newspaper from her previous hometown.

Jenny: That happened all the time. And as a matter of fact, on this woman, Martha Weamer, she actually moved from Pennsylvania to Idaho. And when she died, these obituaries were printed in the Pennsylvania paper where she came from and not in the Idaho papers.

Tip #5: Search for Emigration Details

(9:41) Lisa: One of the things that folks often have trouble with is passenger lists immigration information. Newspapers could be a source for that too, could it not?

Jenny: Absolutely! Newspapers is a great source for that. You know before air travel became more common in the 1950s, ships were the primary mode of intercontinental travel. And one of the most important records we know for tracking our immigrant ancestor is a passenger list. Well, passenger lists include things like the name, their origin, where the voyage originated, a passenger’s birth date, departure date, and arrival date. What is so cool is that you can take those details that you find on a passenger list over to Newspapers.com and learn all types of insights about their journey.

For example, what if you wanted to know Why did my ancestor emigrate? What caused them to come? Well, a search of newspapers might provide insights into events that led to your ancestor’s emigration.  For example, if you look in our Irish newspapers, in the 1840s, you’re going to find heartbreaking stories about the potato famine. I found a clipping reporting in a specific parish the number of deaths in that parish. It says, “number of seen to be known to be occasioned by the famine, about 200. And several instances have occurred in this parish, where almost all the members of families being carried off from the effects of the famine.” So, this can help you understand why your ancestor may have chosen to emigrate to begin with.

Newspaper Artice: Potato famine claims lives in Ireland

The Freeman’s Journal Dublin, Ireland, 27 Apr 1847, Tue page 4

Lisa: Absolutely! I’ve even had success using the name of the ship and searching for that. The article may not mention my ancestor specifically, but I could find information potentially, about the voyage.

Jenny: You absolutely can. I also love when I have the name of the ship, which is on the passenger list, and I can take that information and the coordinating dates, and start searching for that ship. What was the voyage like? Were there rough seas? Did people die during the journey? Newspapers would often report on conditions of the passage, illness on the ship, weather, and deaths.

Occasionally, we might even find dramatic stories. One of them that comes to mind was the Ocean Monarch. The Ocean Monarch was an immigrant ship that departed from Liverpool in 1848 bound for Boston. During the journey a fire broke out on the ship, and it just started to engulf the ship. The passengers jumped into the ocean, and 180 of them perished. The newspapers are just filled with dramatic survivor accounts. And some of them just broke my heart. I remember reading one about a mother who was clinging to her little baby, hanging onto some debris, as the ship is burning beside her. A wave crested over and she lost grip of the baby and lost the baby into the waves. Talk about bringing a story to life! If this is your ancestor, you can kind of get an understanding of what their experiences were during that voyage.

Lisa: Amazing. Newspapers really are one-of-a-kind sorts of records, aren’t they?

Jenny: They really are because you’re not going to find those kinds of details in a passenger list. They are not going to have interviews with somebody that just landed on the shores, or they’re not going to describe a joyful reunion between a brother and sister. I just read an immigration article just the other day where a brother and a sister reunited in New Orleans. They hadn’t seen each other for 12 years! It describes this joyful reunion and they didn’t recognize each other because it had been so long. These are just wonderful, rich stories that can really help you put together your ancestor’s story.

Lisa: And we could find newspaper articles at the port of arrival as well, couldn’t we?

Jenny: Oh, that is such a great tip. Let’s just think of an example here. If you had an ancestor that arrived in New York City in August of 1906, and you went to the New York papers, you will learn that the city was experiencing a terrible heatwave. It was like 106 degrees. And the New York Tribune reported that there were ships that arrived at Ellis Island. They arrived on a Sunday and Ellis Island port of arrival was closed. So, the passengers had to wait in the sweltering holds of the ship and wait for Ellis Island to open. The paper reported that by the time that Ellis Island reopened the following day, these mothers and children were disembarking and coming out of the holes of the ship and collapsing in the heat. Now, if this is your ancestor, you suddenly have this whole story and narrative. You connect, and you realize the sacrifices and what these immigrant ancestors endured to come and emigrate, and now we stand on their shoulders.

newspaper article Ellis Island Heat Wave

New-York Tribune New York, New York, 07 Aug 1906, Tue • Page 2

(15:54) Lisa: You’re right, where else would you hear that!

Well, I know that you write for Newspapers.com and you help people use the website and learn more about these kinds of stories. Where can folks find you?

Jenny: You can check out our blog, which is called Fish Wrap. If you Google fish wrap, you will find our blog. We try to fill that blog with amazing tips and stories, and things that would be interesting for people who are learning to use newspapers or experienced newspaper users.

Lisa: And everybody can become an experienced newspaper user because you guys have a free trial, is that right? So, they can just go in and sign up for an account and use it for seven days for free?

Jenny: Absolutely. You can sign up for a seven day trial. Check it out, see if you can find your ancestor.  See if you can locate some of those gems that will help you break through those genealogical roadblocks. This is a great way to enrich the story that you’re trying to tell with your vital records.

Learn More about Using Newspapers.com with Lisa

 I hope that whetted your appetite for using old newspapers for finding your family history. The next step is to join me for a special deep dive into using the website. Genealogy Gems Premium Members can join me for a special live show, which includes the live chat, on February 3, 2022 at 11:00 am CT. It will be followed up by a video replay that members can watch on demand. Look for more details in our next newsletter.

premium session

If you’re not a premium member yet, oh my gosh, what are you waiting for? I hope you’ll join us. Just click here to learn more about what we have to offer. It is a full year’s access to all the premium content.

Resources

 

Genealogy Websites: #1 – 4 of our 25 Websites for Genealogy!

VIDEO & SHOW NOTES: In this video, my guest presenter Gena Philibert-Ortega covers 4 of the biggest genealogy websites that are must-have for family history research. This is a great chance for you to discover some new online tools as well as refresh your memory about terrific sites that may have fallen off your radar. This video is part of a 5 part series totaling 25 essential websites for genealogy. 

Websites 1 through 4 of Gena’s 25  Websites for Genealogy

I’m Gina Philibert Ortega, and welcome to 25 Websites for Genealogy, What I’d like to do is talk to you about websites that are must-haves for your genealogical research. 

Some of these websites will be new to you, and others are going to be very familiar to you. In talking about the familiar websites, I want to get you thinking about them differently, explain a little bit more about what you can do at these websites, and how to get the most out of them.

In this series of 25 Websites for Genealogy, we’re going to be looking at websites in different categories. Our first category is the big genealogy websites (#1 through 4). So let’s go ahead and get started!

Download the ad-free Show Notes cheat sheet for this video here. (Premium Membership required.)

Websites #1: FamilySearch

https://www.familysearch.org

The number one website for me is always Family Search. Why is it number one? Well, first of all, Family Search is free. And it’s always nice to find free stuff, right? We want to exhaust what’s free, and what’s available, before we spend money or travel or do anything like that. So for me, the first place you should always go is Family Search.

Learn more: Deep Dive FamilySearch Wiki!

 

Website #2: Ancestry

https://www.ancestry.com

as of the time of this video, Ancestry had 33,000 databases that can help you in your genealogy research! Remember to move beyond the search engine and dig into that Card Catalogue to find all the available gems. 

Learn more about using Ancestry effectively with our videos:

 

Website #3: Findmypast

https://www.findmypast.com

Even though Findmypast is based in England and is heavily focused on British research, you don’t have to have British ancestors to find it useful. It has records from the United States and other countries as well. If you haven’t been using Findmypast, I suggest you go on the website and sign up for a free account. This will allow you to see what they have. You can also go to a FamilySearch center near you and possibly use it for free as many of these genealogy websites have library editions.

You may remember that find Findmypast has PERSI, the periodical source index. Although no longer have PERSI, you can find it at the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center website. Check out our videos below to learn more about using PERSI at the Genealogy Center, and a terrific photo collection at Findmypast. 

Learn more about using Findmypast effectively with our videos:

 

#4: MyHeritage

https://www.myheritage.com 

Like Ancestry and Findmypast, MyHeritage also provides a platform for building your family tree, and has a card catalog called the Collection Catalog featuring over 7000 collections. You can even order a DNA test or upload results from other companies. Use the filters to filter collection, and then by location.

Learn more with our video about 10 of the best features at MyHeritage:

MyHeritage 10 “Don’t Miss” Features You Need

Resources:

Download the ad-free Show Notes cheat sheet for this video here. (Premium Membership required.)

Not a Premium Member yet? Discover the benefits and join today. 

Family History Episode 37 – Your Genealogy Questions Answered, Part 2

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished June 24, 2014

Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.

https://lisalouisecooke.com/familyhistorypodcast/audio/fh37.mp3

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 37: Your Genealogy Questions Answered, Part 2

Today’s show is all about YOU!  Just like Episode 36, this episode is made up completely of your emailed questions, comments and stories. Joining me on today’s episode to read your emails again is my daughter, Lacey Cooke.

Question: Is there a way to get iTunes to download all of the podcasts instead of just the most recent ones? I thought I saw it on the website somewhere but now I can’t find it. –Melanie Armstrong

Answer: (updated since the podcast originally aired): In your iTunes LIBRARY, on the line where the Genealogy Gems Podcast is listed click the GET ALL button. This will download all the past episodes to iTunes on your computer, to be listened to at your convenience. Downloading will take several minutes.  You will see a little spinning orange circle to the left of the podcast name as it downloads.  Once the episode is downloaded the text will turn from gray to black.  Double click the episode and it will start to play after a moment or two.

Question: I use the free forms at Family Tree Magazine’s website. Do you keep your old Family Group Sheets on file so you can double check them later? – R. Butler

Answer: I love all those free forms at Family Tree Magazine! I’ll tell you the truth, I decided to throw mine away. I transcribed everything into my database and threw away the paper. Everything is properly sourced there, which is key. I avoid duplicating efforts, which has happened to me when looking back at old paper forms. If I need to double-check things, I do it from the actual sources—the birth or death certificate or interview—not from the family group sheet. The only exception is if the group sheet is part of a brick wall case file that I haven’t solved yet. I keep them until the case is solved, and then the cited answers go into the database.

Question: How do you know when records/indices are complete? I have been looking for immigration records for my family and cannot find them.

They came in large family groups, so you would think it would be easy to find. Even though the name (Mauge) is often misspelled (Mange, Mauga) I cannot find them at Ellis Island, Steve Morse’s website, The National Archives or through my Ancestry.com subscription. The years span 1880 through 1885. Are these immigration records complete or am I looking in the wrong place? -Anne-Marie Eischen

Answer: There are many factors involved here, and many avenues to pursue. Based on other information you told me about your family’s arrival, here are some ideas:

  • The Family History Library has microfilm of the Baltimore Passenger lists between 1920 and 1897 – and it lists the main author as the U.S. Dept of the Treasury, Bureau of Customs. Passengers are indexed by soundex and the soundex code for Mauge would be M200.  But considering the variations you have found of the name you’ll want to arm yourself with the soundex codes for all those variations. The M200 names are on Film # 417302 which I found in the Family History Library catalog and familysearch.org and you can just go to your closes Family History Center and order the film for under $10 and they will send it to you to view at the center.
  • Check the at the Immigrant’s Ships Transcribers Guild website.
  • Click here for a great summary of Baltimore passenger lists by Joe Beine online.
  • You will also find an index for Baltimore passenger lists between 1820 and 1897 at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN.
  • Look closely at your source for the port information, and see if you can locate any other verification of that. Maybe she actually arrived through another port.
  • Usually I would tell you to check departure lists, but in this case, departure lists for Bremen for that time period are not available.
  • Here’s a great book recommendation for you: Finding Your Chicago Ancestors by Grace DeMelle.

Question: I wanted to share the results of my Google Alerts. My father had red hair and was called “Red” most of his life. So when I ask for “Red” Browning in my alerts, I have received information on the red Browning sweater (the Browning clothing line), a red Browning rifle case (they make guns) and recently the Cincinnati Reds Tom Browning went to jail (the Red’s Browning…). Alas, nothing yet on my Dad! Another family name is Gorry – you can imagine what I got last Halloween! I do love the alerts though – and have added eBay alerts too, thanks to you. Keep encouraging us and thanks for the great tips! -Joan Ketterman

Answer: I’m not sure how much I can help with that one – keep playing with the “plus” and “minus” signs in your searches to refine what you’re looking for. And I’m glad you’re using those eBay alerts. Learn more about eBay alerts in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 140. Note: Genealogy Gems Premium Members can learn more about Google Alerts in Premium Podcast Episode 28.

Comment: On the podcast you recommended using Google Books. I have a “gem” for you….I have a link where the LDS church has archived loads of family history books: http://www.familyhistoryarchive.byu.edu. Follow the link and type in the surname of your choice. I have found some wonderful stories there about my ancestors. – Susan in West Palm Beach Florida

Note: The BYU Family History Archive she references has migrated into the Family History (Digital) Books collection at FamilySearch along with the digital book collections of other repositories/ They are now searchable at FamilySearch.org.

Question: This is just something that bugs me. WHICH is the correct pronunciation of Genealogy??? GEEN-e-alogy (with a long “e” at the beginning) or Gen-e-ology (with a short “e” at the beginning)?

Answer: I’ve heard it both ways and I’ve pronounced it both ways. But when I went to Dictionary.com, they actually have an audio pronunciation and they say, GEEN-e-alogy, with a long “e” at the beginning. However you pronounce it, it’s a barrel of fun!

Question: How can I learn more about the Freedom of Information Act?

Answer: Listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 20 and Episode 21. It’s also covered in my book Genealogy Gems Ultimate Research Strategies.

Question: Hello, I just finished listening to the June Family Tree Magazine Podcast. I have been wanting to write to you for months now to ask you this question: Who is the musician playing the guitar music during the podcast?  My husband is a big Chet Atkins fan and I thought it could be Chet but my husband says no just from listening to it. Can you please provide me with the musicians name?  -Melissa Roberge

Listen to this episode to find out the answer!

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 247

Filling in the Blanks of a Genealogy Research Plan

You will find the complete show notes for the topic discussed in this episode at the show notes page here

Sometimes we just a need a little help with a brick wall. That was certainly the case with the Irish line of my family tree. In episode 18 of my YouTube video series Elevenses with Lisa I enlisted the help of professional genealogist Kate Eakman of Legacy Tree Genealogists. In that 45 minute consultation she broke things wide open on my Irish family lines and gave me the information and resources I needed to make substantial progress. It’s the best investment I’ve made in my genealogy in a long time. They have experts in all areas. Learn more about how easy it is to book a consultation here.

Watch the video of Elevenses with Lisa Episode 18. During the consultation we spent significant time digging into Irish genealogy websites. However, I think you’ll find Kate’s approach to brick walls helpful and informative even if you don’t have Irish ancestors. (The consultation doesn’t lend itself to an audio podcast because we spent a lot of time digging into websites. )

After my consultation I updated my research plan and got to work collecting more genealogical evidence. In this episode. In this episode you’ll hear the audio from Elevenses with Lisa Episode 19 called Filling in the Genealogy Blanks. Watch the video and get the full show notes here on my website

I’ll take you through how I went about filling in the blanks in my genealogy research plan. I hope it inspires you to take on your own brick walls, and provides you with a pathway to success. We’ll explore a variety of genealogical records and I’ll share some of my favorite tips along the way. 

Click below to listen: 

Genealogy Gems Premium Members can download the handy PDF show notes for each of these Elevenses with Lisa episodes. Simply log into your membership, and then in the menu under “Elevenses” click “Elevenses with Lisa Video and Show Notes.” Click the episode and scroll down to the Resources section of the show notes.

Become a Genealogy Gems Premium Member

Premium Members have exclusive access to:

  • Video classes and downloadable handouts
  • The Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast
  • Elevenses with Lisa downloadable show notes PDF

Become a member here.

Getting Your Family History Digitized

I use Larsen Digital and have been extremely pleased with the service and results. The folks at Larsen Digital have put together special and exclusive discounts for Genealogy Gems listeners and readers. Click here to learn more and receive exclusive discounts and coupon codes.

Genealogy Gems Podcast App

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Podcast Resources

Download the episode mp3
Show Notes: The audio in this episode comes from Elevenses with Lisa Episode 19. Visit the show notes page here

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