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16 September 2012

Read Your Ancestor's Paper

When you locate that obituary or death notice for your ancestor, consider reading the entire thing--the newspaper that is.

Reading an entire issue (or two) of a newspaper may give you some insight into the time in which your ancestor lived. At the very least you might learn about the weather and who knows what real details are waiting for you in those other pages.

You might even get a historical clue that explains something else in your research.

Don't just copy the obituary and head back to your searching. See what other news is waiting for you in the paper.


  1. where do we search for obituary or death notice for our ancestors? how do we know if there are any?

    1. Generally in the local newspaper, but they can also sometimes be found in the church records, a club they belonged too.
      Check with distant relatives, close friends, someone may have saved one. They may not know who the person is, but saved it. Most may be found in items of the deceased, a family bible,etc.
      It will be a hit and miss to know if there is one, Sometimes the family could not afford to place one in the local newspaper, if the paper charge for one. If you check start with 1-2 days after the death, it may not be there until even after the person was laid to rest, again depending on the size of the town, paper, etc. I will count myself as a lucky one, a distant cousin sent me the WHOLE newspaper of my great-great grandfather's, the paper is not cut. Other wise most of mine are just the notice.

  2. link to a website i created about searching newspapers

    newspaperarchive.com is great site
    in wisconsin it is free to cheeseheads and people with a
    wisconsin library card

    there is good stuff at google

  3. Great tip! I am lucky enough to live in a NH city where there were at various times as many as 3 newspapers, and they have been consigned to microfilm (unfortunately not indexed). It can be tedious, but a session at the library with those rolls of film almost always pays off in big dividends. For example, I noticed in the local directories that at a certain date many relatives changed their job description or even moved out of town? Why? I could guess, but "reading the papers" made guessing unnecessary: an important local mill packed up and moved because of stiff competition from southern mills located nearer the cotton fields that supplied the raw material.

    One other thing. Once you've read the obit, and if you can, go ahead to the paper describing the funeral a few days later. Note especially who the pall bearers were and the list of family members from out of town, almost always very complete. That can lead to valuable indications in faraway places you hadn't even suspected.