Fortunately, for those of us who live far from the residence states of our ancestors, there are a lot of online repositories that provide the opportunity to find relevant newspaper articles. Of course, if you are close to the places where your ancestors lived, you can always visit state repositories and local libraries to pore through old newspapers. In either case it is a very fun exercise.
Beyond finding obituaries, marriage announcements and birth announcements, I have been quite fortunate to find hundreds of articles about my relatives and ancestors.
As an example of the types of stories that I have found, below are some samples. It might provide some inspiration to you to search for articles that may provide the color and what I call the 3rd dimension – those articles that describe the events in our ancestors lives that prove that they are human and much more than three dates and locations.
I can tell you that I did not know that any of these events had occurred prior to finding them in newspapers.
- Great Great Uncle Max was nearly murdered in his barber shop because he had sold a prior business to a couple who thought he had defrauded them, and who within a day of the attempted murder, committed suicide.
- Then there was Great Great Uncle Henry, who with his wife, pimped out his step-daughter and her friend and ended up spending almost a year in prison as a result.
- And I didn’t know that my Great Great Grandfather Louis had invented anything until I saw a newspaper article complimenting him on his gas illumination machine invention in the 1880s. That inspired me to search Google Patents to find the actual patent.
- On more than 2 occasions I discovered that there were a couple of husbands and wives that deserted their spouses – all found via newspaper articles.
- One of my distant cousins sued her fiancée for breach of contract after he impregnated her in 1899 and refused to marry her. She did not win the betrayal case but he was held in jail for several months pending trial.
- Another Great Great Uncle Max was handling the estate of the parents of his wife and her four sisters. He gambled all the money away on the Chinese lottery in Oakland and unable to pay his debts, took an excess amount of morphine in 1895 to end his life.
- The newspaper article above even has my Great Grandfather hawking some quack medical elixir in an advertisement.
All this information discovered via old newspapers. And the list goes on and on. Below are some sample headlines – all from searching newspapers for stories about my ancestors:
So, my recommendation is:
Go For It! It is likely to be the MOST fun that you will have researching!
Check out the Newspapers Page on this website to get tips and hints on newspaper research and find free online newspaper resources that you can use to find your remarkable ancestor stories.