Why the Heck Aren’t You Researching Old Newspapers – The Third Dimension

I have to admit to a huge bias here – but I will say it – Searching old newspapers for articles about my ancestors is without question the most fulfilling research about my family history. Period!
Everyone has different motivations for genealogy research. Some are name collectors, some want to be tied to someone famous; some want to get the exact BMD dates for each person in their tree. These are the popular ones.
But for me, going in-depth on selected ancestors is just the best. Sure, finding a new relation in a census record, or going back another generation is fantastic. I remember when I found a new great-grandmother that I knew nothing about (didn’t even know her name!).  That made my day.
Who are these people?  How did they live?  What did they do? Sure, finding out that a great great Uncle pimped out his stepdaughter was interesting, to say the least.  And finding out that another great great uncle was a state senator and San Francisco city supervisor was also satisfying.  These are the things that fill out what I call the third dimension of genealogy – Newspapers.​
  • The first dimension is their name.  
  • The second dimension is their dates and relationships.  
  • And the third dimension is their life story.  
I like the life stories the best.
And with newspapers you certainly can attain a bunch of information about their stories – that’s for sure – and in most cases that is the ONLY way you can discover their story.
But newspapers can also help you with the first and second dimension.  You can discover the name of a previously unknown sister or child in an obituary.  And you can discover their relationships in obits and other types of articles as well.
The fact is that if you are not making the research into old newspapers a mainstay in your research, then you are truly missing out.
My main goal with this website these days is to help you make newspaper research a big part of your ancestor search. Please check out the Newspapers page on this site for tips, links, and resources to help you.
I suggest falling in love with the third dimension – you won’t regret it.
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2 Comments

  1. I totally agree! It’s unbelievable the things I’ve been finding in newspapers. It’s so much more than names, dates & places. How about murders, attempted lynchings, crazy accidents & more. Not to mention finding new family members!
    Thanks for all you do to keep us informed!

    1. I found a article about my mother’s uncle. She is 94yo today. We are native american. The article was funny but demeaning and words we do not use today like squaw. My brother who is a journalist could only reply “such bad journalism” but another bro and myself had a good laugh.

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