Thursday, November 06, 2008

Where to Find Obituaries

Phyllis Matthews Ziller, M.L.I.S.
Subject Area:
The Value of Archival Newspapers in Genealogy
Authors's Website:
Newspapers are perhaps the most useful yet most often overlooked resource in genealogical research. Historic newspapers chronicle the lives of our ancestors. They allow us to see the world in which our ancestors lived and offer details about the everyday life of ordinary citizens. Newspapers were the primary communication tool for our ancestors before radio and television. Daily and weekly editions were eagerly anticipated and read thoroughly.

Reading historic newspapers is like stepping back in time. The writing was prosaic. The issues of the day were quite similar to those we face today. Children rebelled and neighbors were concerned about the upkeep and appearance of their dwellings. Politics were often debated and civic issues were presented to encourage a debate. Politics was not an issue for just large cities–the small town folk, too, were interested in local as well as broader politics.

Researching historic newspapers allows us a glimpse into the daily lives and social customs of our ancestors. Reading historic newspapers from the town where my ancestors lived brought fresh new insights into their everyday lives. I learned my great-great-grandfather was an avid, and well-respected, fisherman. Of course, the largest fish always got away! My great-great grandmother was an envied cook whose sumptuous feasts were cherished by all who were privy to an invitation to her table.

Newspaper research can help chip away at brick walls by providing detailed family information in obituaries, marriage announcements, and other articles of personal interest. Family relationships can be either explicit or inferred in many newspaper articles. Family migrations can be discovered, whether across town or across the country. Newspapers can pinpoint a particular person at a particular place at a particular time.

Spend some time getting to know your ancestors' local newspapers. You might be amazed at the nuggets of genealogical information waiting to be discovered.
Phyllis Matthews Ziller, M.L.I.S.
12 August 2008
Download Obituaries.PDF
Online Obituaries Research Guide

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