Article by Crestleaf.com
Newspapers have been around for centuries and are a wonderful tool for genealogy research. The very first newspaper ever printed in America was edited and published by none other than Benjamin Franklin’s older brother James. Before that, European nations printed weekly or monthly gazettes and other publically distributed publications, each with their own unique terms and wording. Newspapers have always helped to document everything from birth announcements and deaths to weddings, local gossip, legal notices, and transfers of real estate. We might even be able to find some long lost photos of family relatives hidden within their pages.
Obituaries and Deaths
Although death notices are usually published rather quickly in today’s newspapers, this was not always the case. In newspapers of centuries past, it is not uncommon to find an obituary printed in a local paper several weeks after the funeral has actually occurred. Be patient and keep looking because obituaries can provide a massive amount of historical information, including names of siblings, sons, daughters, and parents as well as the date and location of birth, any records of military service, the relative’s occupation, the location of the burial site, and even the church in which the funeral was held.
Birth announcements and christenings did not begin to appear in newspapers until the 20th century, but one of the more important pieces of information that we can find might include the legal or “real” names of the person who we are researching. There are times when one of our relatives might have been known to members of the family by their middle name or a nickname that is completely different from the name on their birth certificate. If you are having trouble finding historical information on a particular member of your family tree, locating the birth announcement may prove that you have actually been unknowingly researching for the wrong name all along.
Society News, Weddings, and Local Gossip
Many local newspapers printed prior to the 1850’s might not include a designated section for wedding announcements like we have today. Instead, some of this information might be hidden within the local society news stories. Silver and golden wedding anniversaries might also be posted as well as brief mentions of relatives applying for marriage licenses. Prior to the Civil War, there may be stories of runaway slaves, forced land sales, and people moving to another town. There can even be stories of school activities that can provide some value information or photos of our relatives as young children, or we might find news stories of military heroes returning from war.
Odd Definitions of Relationship Terms
When our genealogy research begins taking us back to the late 17th or early 18th centuries, we might begin to notice some rather odd terminology used in the newspaper articles.
- Bans or Banns: This is an old term used to define a marriage. A Banns Proclamation was a type of matrimonial announcement that would typically run in the newspaper for three weeks, every Sunday, prior to the actual wedding ceremony. It is still used today in some countries.
- Consort or Relict: These are other antiquated terms for the husband or wife left behind after the death of a spouse. You might also find the words “spinster” or “bachelor”, referring to an unmarried woman or man, respectively.
- Instant: This is a term used to define an event that was taking place in the current month of the newspaper’s publication. For example, the story might read, “Margaret Smith died on the 8th instant from tuberculosis.”
- Proximo: This is a term used to define an event that was taking place a month in the future or next month. An example might be, “The wedding of Ted and Mary will take place on the 10th”
- Ultimo: This is a term used to define an event that was took place a month before the newspaper was published. An example might be, “Jones Mercantile opened its doors for business on the 26th”
Managing the Newspaper Articles
Locating these newspaper articles and clippings is going to be difficult enough, but what do we do with them once we find them? After all, we probably don’t want to take a pair of scissors to these old documents, many of which will be found in libraries and county clerks’ offices. We could make photocopies, if we can actually find a Xerox machine nearby, that is.
The Flip-Pal mobile scanner is ideal for gently scanning those fragile news articles, death and birth certificates, marriage licenses, deeds of ownership, tax records, and old personal photos. The high-resolution scans will have perfect detail. And, any size original can be scanned in sections and then reassembled with the EasyStitch software. Watch this video to learn more.
Enjoy sifting through the wealth of information for genealogy research in newspaper articles!
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