Why Newspapers Are Essential for Genealogy Research

The team over at Genealogy Bank have provided us with a helpful reminder about why newspapers are such an important tool for family historians.

Naturally, they are quite keen to get you to sign up to their service but we at Ancestorian would also point you in the direction of many free newspaper resources (more information about these will be coming soon in our community library) such as Australian newspapers at Trove, New Zealand newspapers at PapersPast and importantly, British newspapers in the British Newspapers Archive which is part of the collections at FindMyPast.

Primary Way to Stay Informed

Genealogy Bank reminds us that newspapers and periodicals were the most important source of information for our ancestors:

Our ancestors existed in a time before the Internet, electronic record keeping, social media, and in some cases centralized databases. A time of paper, ink, quills, and the printing press. Periodicals, local newspapers, and letters – not blogs or social media – were the primary way people stayed informed of the outside world.

Not only did newspapers provide stories relevant to their contemporary audience, they also included details that make them invaluable to those studying their genealogy today.

What You Find in Newspapers

There are many sections within newspapers that really stand out for family history research. Genealogy Bank helpfully lists those as follows:

  • Obituaries
  • Marriage announcements
  • Birth announcements
  • Local stories – the community’s trials and tribulations
  • Passenger lists, especially in port cities
  • Casualty or promotion lists for Armed Services
  • Event attendance announcements
  • School-related events (honor rolls, theater productions, graduations, etc.)
  • Classified advertising (ancestors’ businesses, personal ads, etc.)
  • Society news (birthday parties, club meetings and events, notable out-of-town visitors)
  • Immigration and naturalization-related events (ship sailings, naturalization ceremonies, etc.)
  • Legal notices (divorces, sales, purchases, probate, etc.)

Read their Blog in Full

Read the full Genealogy Bank post over at their website.


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