MyHeritage's US genealogy advisor, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, describes how historic newspapers add life to our family trees.
Old newspapers are treasure troves of family information. If your family lived for a long time in one location, then local papers likely hold information about your relatives.
Such details include birth, marriage and death announcements. If your ancestors owned businesses, there may be legal records or advertisements. Social announcements, real estate records, school graduations, athletic events and even the costs of consumer goods at the time can provide a glimpse into your family and also provide a backdrop as to what life was like for them at a certain point in history.
In the Spanish American (published in Roy, Mora County, New Mexico) page 12 of the February 6, 1906 edition offers local notes such as these (see left). We learn who went where and why, business announcements and who was sick. If your family is one of those mentioned, here’s a very personal look into what happened around that time.
No matter where you live around the world, local historic newspapers provide fascinating information available nowhere else.
Although current events and major historic events are of great interest, it is the personal and cultural reporting that may be of more interest to family historians. Consumer goods are only one area of life detailed in historic newspapers, and those published in major ports (such as San Francisco and New York City) published ship arrivals, the cargo carried, as well as passengers.
We search through census and index records. We check postcards and old letters for hints. We view old photographs, paying attention to details such as dress, style of posing, or design of the studio. We will do anything to find clues about the time period that our ancestors lived in.
Family history research is all about discovering previously unknown information.
Most of our time is focused on locating interesting family facts and following clues to diverse records. Sometimes, however, we make an incredible discovery that reveals something completely new and unexpected.
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