Tips from the Pros: Reading Your Ancestor’s Newspapers

I suspect many of you begin your day like I do, browsing through my local newspaper over breakfast. I know some of my ancestors did the same thing. I can remember my grandparents coming to visit and poring over every item in the newspaper, exchanging sections, and discussing items of interest. In a letter he wrote home during World War I, my grand-uncle requests that my great-grandfather send him copies of the local newspaper to read while he was stationed in France.

These days we not only have the current news available online, we can travel through time and read the same news that our ancestors sat down and read over their morning joe. doubled the size of its Historical Newspaper Collection last year and it includes not only newspapers from the U.S., but also from Canada, England, and Scotland.

Next time you sit down and browse through the local news, take a few extra minutes and browse through a local paper from an ancestor’s era. If their hometown paper isn’t available, look for the newspapers of nearby towns or larger cities. They’ll still carry the same national stories and discuss the latest trends, and you may run across stories relevant to your ancestor’s lives.

Click here to search the Historical Newspaper Collection at Ancestry.

6 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Reading Your Ancestor’s Newspapers

  1. Old newspaper are an excellent source of genealogical information. In addition you get a lot of history from the local perspective. To night I learned about WW I. In the past I have found the original reports on General Custer’s Indian problems in 1876. You also can find some good information on you ancestors in the wedding, death, and land transfer announcements.

  2. I have had so much luck with the Historical Newspapers on First looking for my grandfather who was one of the leading jockeys back in the 1912 to 1930 era. I would get great hits by using his name then adding the word “jockey” or even “horseracing”…. It was amazing as these races were in papers across the country…
    For other family members, I have found obituaries and even birth announcements…
    I can’t thank Ancestry enough for this great feature ….

  3. How do you find out the name of a newspaper that was published in 1840 in a certain county?

    I have been looking for an obit for my 5th great grandfather Samuel West, who was listed on the 1840 Census special enumeration of living Rev War vets as being 103 years old. This was in Marshall County, Alabama. He is living with Butcher West, who I assume is his son. Samuel’s daughter Lavina married a Moses Carpenter, whose name appears a few lines above Butcher West.

    I have been trying to find an obit for him. I think that the death of a 103-year-old man would be as newsworthy back then as it is now. Don’t you?

    Linda Brammer

  4. Coming from a long line of printers in multiple lines, I’ve spent many hours in libraries reading the newspaper microfilm. Great genealogy, great local history, and the most amazing human interest stories.

    “Few people ever stop to think what a history of their town is contained in the files of their home newspapers or more people would save them. — J. G.. Copeland, Editor, The Baxter Bulletin, February 20, 1903”

    From the beautiful Ozarks

  5. Against the odds, I located three advertisements in the Paris, TN, newspapers for my ggg grandfather’s grocery store from 1848, 1851, and 1854. The newspaper collection was not even complete. Reading the microfilms for two hours sure paid off. I learned that Amos owned the first grocery store, he loaned money to his son John to purchse the store from him, and John bought out his father and added a partner. The ads are most interesting. In addition, the town librarian helped me locate the property Amos owned across from the courthouse. The store is still there, but not a grocery now. I also located Amos’s will in the library with the librarian’s assistance. Amazingly the courthouse in Henry Co, TN, never burned. The one day I spent in Paris, TN, helped me to come away with 50 pages of great research.

  6. I was looking for information about my father’s family and found a newspaper article giving information about my mother’s 16th Birthday party to which my father was invited. She is now 84 and thought this was a hoot! Brought my grandchildren closer to their great-grandmother who could not imagine that she had ever been 16 years old.

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