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.

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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 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.

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Podcast Resources

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

New Online! English Genealogy Records and More

English genealogy records abound in this week’s roundup of new family history records online. Find England BMD, parish records, newspapers, and more. Also: an important addition to the British Newspaper Archive’s Irish newspaper collection,  over 1,000 years of Chinese documents and records, German vital records, parish records for Italy and Sweden, and new US collections for VA, OH and NY.
headed to England for genealogy records

English Genealogy Records Now Online

Ancestry.com subscribers can now search these English genealogy record collections:

          • Bedfordshire Petty Sessions 1854-1915 This collection includes details of over 100,000 individuals involved in petty session hearings in Befordshire. Details for each individual may include name, role in the case, date of the hearing, location of the court, and even the fines or punishments given to the defendant(s).
          • Bedfordshire Valuation Records 1838-1929 These records deal solely with the value of properties in Bedfordshire county. The volumes name the proprietor or tenant, describe or name the property and give an annual rental value. It will also sometimes give an acreage for the property.
          • Bedfordshire Land Tax Records 1797-1832 Details found within this collection include may include year of residence, name of occupier, name of owner, and parish of residence.
          • Shropshire Extracted Church of England Parish Records, 1538-1812. This collection of indexes is taken from various published versions of parish and probate records from Shropshire, England dating from the early 1500s (with some non-parish records earlier) to the late 1800s. “The records include baptisms/christenings, burials, marriages, tombstone inscriptions, obituaries, tax lists, wills, and other miscellaneous types of records,” states the collection description. “Also included are some records from non-conformist churches.”

At FamilySearch.org, you can now search a free collection of Staffordshire Church Records. In partnership with Findmypast’s expansion of Staffordshire records, this collection provides church records from 1538-1944. Nearly 5 million indexed records and over 278,000 images are included.

Over at Findmypast, subscribers can now search extensive new collections for Buckinghamshire. (The original records are held at the Buckinghamshire Archives.) New databases include:
          • Buckinghamshire Baptism Index 870,000 transcripts created from original records held at the Buckinghamshire Archives. You will also discover your ancestor’s birthplace, the date of the baptism, their father’s occupation and residence.
          • Buckinghamshire Banns Index Explore 101,000 records created from original parish registers and bishop’s transcripts. “Each transcript will reveal the name of your ancestor’s intended spouse, the couple’s residence, the dates the announcements were read and their intended date of marriage.”
          • Buckinghamshire Marriage Index Over 485,000 transcripts “will reveal the couple’s birth years, marital status, occupation, date of marriage, place of marriage, residence, occupation, father’s names, father’s occupations and the names of any witnesses.”
          • Buckinghamshire Burial Index More than 662,000 transcripts are included, created from original parish registers and bishop’s transcripts. “Each record will reveal your ancestor’s birth year, age at death, burial date, and residence. An archive reference is also included, allowing you to locate a copy of the original document.”

British and Irish Newspapers Now Online

Over 2.3 million new articles and 7 brand new titles have been added to the British Newspaper Archive’s collection of historic newspapers this month. New titles now available to search include:

  • Tenby Observer
  • Brechin Herald
  • Milngavie and Bearsden Herald
  • Alcester Chronicle
  • Abergavenny Chronicle
  • Ripley and Heanor News and Ilkeston Division Free Press
  • Eastern Daily Press and the Colchester Gazette

Click here to explore these and other historic British Newspapers.

More than 5,000 pages from the Leitrim Advertiser have been added to Irish newspapers at the British Newspaper Archive. From the description: “The paper was originally published in Mohill, Leitrim and known in later years and The Leitrim and Longford Advertiser.” The earliest issue dates back to 1886, through 1916. With this addition, the British Newspaper Archive now has a newspaper for every county in Ireland!

German Births and Deaths: Bischofswerda

Ancestry.com has added new collections for Bischofswerda births (1876-1902) and deaths (1876-1951). Bischofswerda is located about 22 miles east of Dresden at the edge of Upper Lusatia in the German state of Saxony. To local residents, it is also known as “Schiebock” and known for its large historic market square and town hall.

Italian civil registration: Padova

FamilySearch has published 42,000 newly indexed records and images in its free collection, Civil Registration Records: Padova 1621 – 1914. From the collection description: “Civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths within the custody of the State Archive of Padova. Includes supplemental documents, residency records, ten-year indexes, and marriage banns. Availability of records is largely dependent on time period and locality.”

Swedish Household Examination Books

Also at FamilySearch are 1 million indexed records and images for Swedish Household Examination Books 1880-1920. According to the collection, “Each year until 1894 the Parish Priest would visit each home in the parish and test each individual’s knowledge of the catechisms. In addition, they would collect birth, death, and marriage dates as well as where families had moved to or from and when, etc. The priest would then come back each year and update or edit the information from the previous year and note any changes in the population of the home.” (These are also online at MyHeritage.com.) Click here to read a great article for getting started on your Swedish genealogy.

Chinese Records at the Library of Congress

An exciting announcement from the Library of Congress this week! “The contents of the Asian Division’s Pre-1958 Chinese Collection, totaling more than 42,000 items, are now fully searchable through the Library’s online catalog in both Chinese characters and Romanized script. This rich and diverse collection has served researchers and general audiences for nearly 90 years; until now, however, bibliographic records for these materials were only available through a card catalog.”

United States

New York. The Vassar College Digital Newspaper Archive is now available online. Provided by the Vassar College Libraries, this archive provides access to newspapers published by Vassar College students. Earliest issues date back to 1872, and cover a wide range of topics and events on and off campus. This collection currently contains over 85,000 pages.

Ohio. New at Ancestry this week are Ohio Soldier Grave Registrations, 1804-1958. This database contains grave registration cards for soldiers from Ohio who served in the armed forces, mainly from the time of the War of 1812 up through the 1950s. Records may contain an individual’s name, date and place of birth, date and cause of death, location of burial, next of kin, military service information, and more.

Also in Ohio, Kent State University has completed the digital Daily Kent Stater Archive. It contains 90 years of Kent State student publications, dated from Feb 1926 to Dec 2016. According to the press release, “it covers several historic events as well as some great memories for the Kent State alumnae.” Check out the introductory video!
Virginia. Two million pages of the Newport News Daily Press are now searchable on Newspapers.com, with issues dating back to 1898.

 

Did you know? You can search the Genealogy Gems website for articles about your favorite genealogy categories–including records and research tips for several countries and ethnicities. Go to our home page and click on the dropdown menu under What do you want to learn about? Scroll down to see the various categories or start typing a few letters to jump down to that part of the alphabetical list.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links. Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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