Newspapers are a gold mine of information for genealogy research. Facts, context, photographs — what more could you ask for? But if you’re stopping with the “regular” daily and weekly newspapers where your ancestor lived, you might be stopping too soon. Here are 3 other types of newspapers that every genealogist should know.
Generations Cafe Podcast, Episode 42
Before we get started, I have to give a shout-out to one of the best sites with links to free digitized newspapers of all kinds: The Ancestor Hunt.
1. Foreign-Language and Other Ethnic Newspapers
Did your ancestor identify as part of an ethnic group? Be sure to check out newspapers that were published for that ethnicity. They carried news not only of the local area, but of people who used to live there. Because of their smaller audience, they often have stories and obituaries that weren’t included in the larger hometown daily newspapers.
Of course, if the ethnic group you’re interested in didn’t speak English as its first language, the newspaper is likely to be in a different language. How common were foreign language newspapers in the United States? The Library of Congress estimates that there were more than 1,000 German-language newspapers were published in the US by 1890. (The number of German newspapers in the US dwindled rapidly with the start of WWI.)
The obituary below is from the Scranton (Pennsylvania) Wochenblatt (Aug. 16, 1917, p. 4). In English: “August Diesing of Prospect Avenue, 72 years old, died last Thursday night. He is survived by the widow, two sons and two daughters. The funeral took place on Sunday in the Forest Hill Cemetery.”
If you do any African American research, you must look at African American newspapers. Like foreign-language newspapers, they cover not just the local news, but also news of people who used to live in the area, people who have relatives in the area, and give a different perspective on regional and national news.
For example, the Lexington (Kentucky) Standard carried a column from Cincinnati, Ohio which included news items and obituaries, such as this one:
Look for ethnic newspapers at Chronicling America, as well as state libraries and state historical societies.
2. Religious Newspapers
Ledgers of baptisms and weddings aren’t the only things that some denominations record. Some actually publish their own newspapers. For example, the Archdiocese of New Orleans published the Morning Star and Catholic Messenger, a weekly newspaper. Here are the obituaries from the April 14, 1878 edition. They’re short, but the pack a lot of information!
Look for religious newspapers in church archives, state libraries, and state historical societies.
3. School Newspapers
Though we usually think of school newspapers as an exercise in helping students with their writing and photography skills, school newspapers (especially from residential schools) can have lots of biographical tidbits. This could be in the form of student essays or the school equivalent of a society column.
Here’s a bit out of the May 12, 1898 Silent Hoosier, the student newspaper from the Indiana School for the Deaf:
Don’t stop with just the schools that your ancestor attended. Think about the schools that his or her siblings attended. You never know what you’ll find!
You’ll find school newspapers in school archives, state historical societies, and local historical societies. For state schools, also look at state libraries and state archives.