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 28: Find Your Family History in Newspapers, Part 2
Newspapers offer such a unique perspective on history in general, and our ancestors specifically. In Part 1 of this 2-part series, we talked about finding historical newspapers. In this episode, Jane Knowles Lindsey at the California Genealogical Society shares inspiring stories about the kinds of family items she’s found in newspapers. She offers a dozen more fantastic tips on researching old newspapers.
Jane mentions these family history finds from old newspapers:
crimes involving relatives as victims, perpetrators, investigators, etc.
profiles of jurors
probate items and transcriptions from court cases, like divorces
Here are 12 more tips for researching newspapers and organizing your discoveries:
If you print out newspaper content found online, make sure you note where you found it. Source citation information may not be included in what you print.
Look for probate and “bigger” news items in newspapers that have wider coverage than the town: a neighboring larger city or a county-wide paper. Also look at the map to see whether the nearest big paper is out-of-county or even out of state.
Social calendar items (family visits, etc) were most popular up to the 1960s and 1970s. Newspapers today don’t look at local and personal news items.
Sometimes death notices for more prominent people are accompanied by a much larger article about them that runs within a week before or after the obituary.
There may have been both a morning and afternoon newspaper in some areas. Learn what papers were in town.
Transcribe short newspaper articles into your family history software. Transcription helps you catch details you may otherwise miss, if you’re not reading very carefully.
Nowadays with OCR and scanning, you can actually keep a digital copy of the article itself.
Look for ethnic newspapers in the advanced search at the U.S. Newspaper Directory at Chronicling America.
Any mention in a newspaper can point you to other records: court files, immigration and naturalization papers, military documents, cemetery records and more.
Google! See the link below for the updated Google News resource (for historical newspapers).
Newspapers can act as a substitute or supplement for records that have been lost in courthouse fires and floods or other records.
Like today, not everything we read in the newspaper is true!
Updates and Links
Some of the digital newspaper collections mentioned in the episode are available by library subscription, like The Early American Newspapers collection the and 19th century Newspaper Collection from The Gale Group. Check with your local library.
My You Tube channel now has several videos on newspaper research and on using Google’s powerful tools for your family history research. However, Google discontinued the Google News Timeline mentioned in this episode.
Check out the benefits of Genealogy Gems Premium Membership–including all those great video classes mentioned in the episode–here.
Finally, don’t forget this Genealogy Gems resource: How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers walks you through the process of finding and researching old newspapers. You’ll find step-by-step instructions, worksheets and checklists, tons of free online resources, websites worth paying for, location-based newspaper websites and a case study that shows you how it’s done.
Hands up, how many of you have ever created (or considered creating) an album or scrapbook to showcase your family history finds, life story, career or hobbies – or those of a loved one? Well, the Library of Congress has posted a new FREE video about how to create and properly preserve digital or traditional archival scrapbooks.
It’s a 72-minute video by various experts with a downloadable transcript on these topics:
basic preservation measures one can do at home for long-lasting albums and scrapbooks;
pros and cons of dismantling old scrapbooks and albums in poor condition;
how to address condition problems;
preservation considerations for digital scrapbooks and albums
how to participate in the Library’s Veterans History Project.
You can now see New York City street views from the late 1800s and early 1900s as Google Earth street views. Take a virtual visit to the Big Apple as it was 100 years ago! Or travel back even further in time to an 1836 map of NYC conveniently overlaid on a modern Google Earth view. These are just two of the many ways to use Google Earth for genealogy—and for fun.
Vintage New York City Street Views on Google Earth
Over 80,000 original photos from the late 1800s and early 1900s have been mapped into Google Earth to provide what’s essentially a Google Street View map of old New York City!
As you can see from this overview map (below), the old photos are concentrated in the areas of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Lower and Upper Manhattan. Dots represents historic photos that have been overlaid on Google Earth’s modern map (satellite view is also available).
You can zoom in to click on individual dots, which will bring up one or more individual photos of certain neighborhoods or street fronts:
Select the photos that match up best with your family history interests, such as a shot of your family’s old store front or apartment building. Or choose images that represent the time period in which your relatives lived in the area, so you can get a flavor of what their neighborhood would have looked like. (Click here for some ideas about where to look for your family’s exact address during the late 1800s or early 1900s.)
According to this article at BusinessInsider.com, a developer Dan Vanderkam worked with the New York Public Library to plot all the photos onto Google Earth. (A hat-tip to Genealogy Gems listener and reader Jennifer, who sent me this article because she knows how much I love old maps and data visualization!)
Another Old NYC Street View: 1836 Map
While we’re on the subject, I also want to mention another cool tool for visualizing old NYC street views. At the Smithsonian.com, there’s a cool historic map overlay of an 1836 New York City map in Google Earth. Use the scrolling and zooming tools to explore the parts of NYC that were already settled–and to compare them to what’s there today. You can also swap views to see the 1836 map with just a little round window of the modern streets.
The accompanying article quotes famous map collector David Rumsey about the 1836 map, which is his. He describes how you can see that much of the topography of Manhattan has changed over the years—did you know Manhattan used to be hilly? And I love how he calls out artistic features on the old map, too.
Smithsonian NYC street view 1836
Unfortunately, the old map doesn’t show much in the way of residents’ property lines or buildings. But you can clearly see the street layouts and where the parks and hills were. Comparing these areas with Google Earth’s street view today can help you better understand what things looked like in a much older version of one of the world’s great cities.
Use Google Earth for Your Genealogy
There are so many ways to use Google Earth for genealogy! My free video class will get you started. After a quick tutorial on downloading and navigating Google Earth, see how to utilize its powerful tools to identify an old family photo, map out addresses that may have changed and even plot an old ancestral homestead.
The Dallas Genealogical Society 2017 Summer Seminar is fast approaching on August 4-5, and will feature the entire Genealogy Gems Team! Join us for two fun-filled days devoted to Sources, Storytelling & DNA! Sunny Morton is coming in from Ohio, and Diahan Southard from Florida, to join Lisa Louise Cooke in her own “backyard” of Dallas, Texas at the Dallas Central Library.
When: August 4 & 5, 2017
Time: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Where: Dallas Central Library, 1515 Young Street, Dallas, Texas
Who: The Dallas Genealogical Society
The Genealogy Gems ladies will be delivering a variety of carefully curated sessions to help boost your ability to locate solid sources, incorporate genetic genealogy, and then pull all of your findings together in a compelling story:
Friday, August 4, 2017
Session 1 Sources: Google Tools & Procedures for Solving Family History Mysteries – Lisa Louise Cooke
Session 2 Story: Write Your Life Story – Sunny Morton
Session 3 DNA:Genetic Genealogy: Here’s What you Need To Know – Diahan Southard
Session 4 Sources: Get the Scoop on Your Ancestors with Newspapers – Lisa Louise Cooke
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Session 1 Sources: Why We Care Where Grandma Went to Church: An In-Depth Look at U.S. Religious Records – Sunny Morton
Session 2 Sources & Story: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy with Video – Lisa Louise Cooke
Session 3 DNA: The Combined Power of YDNA and Autosomal DNA: A Case Study – Diahan Southard
Session 4 Story: How to Create Exciting Interactive Family History Tours with Google Earth – Lisa Louise Cooke
I’ll be there with special discounts just for this event on our best products!
If you’ll be in the Dallas area on August 4-5, 2017, I hope you’ll join us at this fabulous event!
If you can’t make it to Dallas (we’ll miss you!) and you need a speaker for your next event, Click here for information about booking Lisa!
And there’s another great way to keep your genealogy society members engaged with quality programming that’s exciting, educational, and best of all, affordable! Click here to learn about our Genealogy Gems for Societies package.
Great news for those searching for ancestors in Canada and Mexico! FamilySearch has partnered with Library and Archives Canada (LAC) to publish the 1926 Census of Prairie Provinces, available to search for free online now. Also new this week are massive updates to...