Tips from the Pros: Small Town Newspapers

Lou SzucsIt’s been a while since I have lived “at home.” I still have a subscription to my hometown weekly newspaper. Frankly, it gets read more quickly than the local newspaper printed in the town where I work. It is a great way to keep up on the local happenings, particularly who died, who got married, and who reproduced. And every so often the editor prints a “letter to the editor” from someone looking for relatives who used to live in the county where I was born and raised.

Of course, large metropolitan daily papers will not publish such notices, but a smaller, weekly newspaper just might. A letter briefly (very briefly) outlining your family member who used to live in the area may reach the attention of relatives or others who may know of your family. These people might not be genealogists or family historians per se, but upon seeing your letter it might jog their memory and one may contact you. The best part of all is the cost:
only a postage stamp and the time to create an actual letter (some papers might accept e-mail, but paper mail is less likely to get lost in an inbox).

Google searches, online yellow pages, and USGenWeb sites are great places to learn of such newspapers. And you can always post a message to the genealogy bulletin boards at RootsWeb to ask what newspapers are published and read in your area of interest.

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9 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Small Town Newspapers

  1. Your article on newspapers prompted me to revisit the historical newspapers database (successfully!). I happened upon this advertisement in the Ft. Wayne News — 4 June 1919 p. 20. If you’re like me you wonder sometimes what those census takers qualifications were….
    Wanted – Census Clerks – 4,000 needed. $92 month, age 18 upwards, experience unnecessary, for free particulars of examinations write Raymond Terry (former Government Examiner) 427 Continental Building, Washington.

  2. Yes, this works! In 2000 I sent information to a German newspaper and they published it. Not long after, I received e-mail from three of my German relatives! One of them was from my Grandmother’s family and two were from my Grandfather’s family. We have corresponded by e-mail and snail mail through the years and we have filled each other in on past and present day family. They found records for me and we sent pictures to each other. I was able to send a picture to one of my cousins of his father’s family that he had never seen before. He was able to identify pictures of family members that my Grandmother had never put names on before she died in 1955.

  3. I enjoy reading what is written, but at times the writer gets so caught up in “wordiness” the piece becomes boring and I quickly become lost. I want to jump right to the meat of the purpose of the piece and start learning, forget all else, I’m not here to judge what has been written, I just want to learn, not cut my way through so many words, know what I mean?

  4. As noted, many of the smaller newspapers can be accessed online. Obiruaries from recent years are often accessible at those sites and may yield important clues regarding parents, siblings, offspring and specifics of life events (marriage, residency, occupation, etc.). I’ve used my hometown newspaper in this way to find out things about ancillary family members that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought to ask.

  5. Another way we found long lost relatives by writing the post master in the last town that we knew asking for information about the relative, asking him to forward the self-addressed stamped envelope with a letter in it to our cousin! Had good luck several years ago.

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