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The Importance of Old Newspapers in Genealogical Research

The Kilted Ancestors prompt for October 2023 in line with the Annual Genealogy Challenges & Triumphs topic was in relation to Newspapers.


As Genealogists we have become so used to online databases & subscriptions websites & despite the fact that newspapers for many of us now seem like something from a bygone era (I can’t remember the last time I purchased one!) they can actually provide us with a goldmine of information!


One point to remember is that not all Newspapers have been digitised so you many need to visit your local studies centre or archive to access the collection you wish to research.


A very unique window!  Old Newspapers offer the researcher a unique window on the past & the day to day lives of our Ancestors.  These might include birth, marriage or death announcements or mentions in society columns.


Local news.  Each newspaper provides us with details of what was going on in the area where our Ancestors lived, this might involve social events, pandemics, new housing being built etc.  It is good to get a flavour of what their lives were like within that town or village.


Unexpected Discoveries?  There is always the possibility you might discover something you did not expect!   Was your Relative charged with a crime?  Did they write a letter to the Editor?  Win a Competition?



Immigrant Relatives.  Newspapers in both countries may detail stories in relation to Immigration.  This may reveal who has moved to an area & where they came from or how they settled into their new community.  But, remember to check newspapers from the area they moved from…I have seen newspapers cover news stories in relation to the goings on in their new town such as sports days or social events.


Separating Fact from Fiction.  Stories are passed down in most families, but working out what is true from what is not can be tricky.  As an example, if a family member was said to have met someone famous can you find out is that famous person visited their town by searching the local newspapers?  


Can I fill in some gaps?  We all encounter Brick Walls!  Can an article in a newspaper fill in that missing information for us?  Perhaps it can fill in a marriage date you didn’t already know?


Carrying out Newspaper Research.  Search as many different newspapers as you can, they may give different accounts.  Use Digital Archives as well as what is in your Local Studies Centre.  Document what you find in in your software & don’t forget to note down your sources.


A couple of years ago I published an article on how British Newspaper Archives could assist you Genealogy Research – why not check this out now & visit some of the free ones on offer!


 

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