Genealogy: Finding and using newspapers, periodicals

Finding and using newspapers, periodicals-Newspapers and PeriodicalsBy Barry J. Ewell

Newspapers and periodicals are often overlooked resources that can provide extensive value in genealogy research.

Newspapers can contain a multitude of genealogical information — obituaries; notices of births, marriages, and deaths; legal notices; estate transactions; biographies; military service; and immigration.

They also provide insight into life as it was at a given moment in time. It answers questions like, What world events shaped their lives? What neighborhood happenings occurred? What fashions were being advertised, and what was their cost? What were the brands of food and other household items used and their cost? What were the forms of entertainment on a Saturday night? What opportunities were there in the want ads? Was there a letter waiting at the post office?

Many current newspapers are online and an increasing number of older newspapers are being digitized or portions transcribed and put online. If one can’t find what he or she needs online one stands a good chance of finding a microfilmed copy that can be obtained through interlibrary loan.

Through periodicals, researchers can begin to gain access to data contained in vital records; court records; maps; family bibles and day books; declarations of intention and naturalization certificates, local census and tax lists, church records and cemetery inscriptions, as well as the dozens of unique local items.

Genealogical society publications: City, county, regional and state genealogical societies write and publish journals, newsletters and quarterlies that focus on the area of interest to the genealogical organization. These periodicals are published monthly, quarterly and annually and range from a few pages to hundreds of pages. They tend to index, abstract and transcribe the records of the region where they are published. The types of articles you will find include the following:

  • Genealogical sources and resources in specific geographic areas
  • Indexes and abstracts of source materials
  • Ancestor charts and group sheets of members
  • Lists of upcoming seminars significant to family historians
  • Acquisition lists and holding statements of area libraries and archives
  • Names of officers and directors of the organizations who can be used as research contacts
  • Unique and forgotten sources of information
  • Important research tips for the area
  • Such items as genealogies, transcripts and abstracts of local records, probate records, church records and cemetery records

Historical society publications: Society publications can be a significant aspect of immigrant research. Any local record may be the subject of publication by a local society. Whenever one contacts a genealogical or ethnic society, be certain to inquire about their publications. Even when such publications do not identify an immigrant’s hometown, they may provide further identification about his or her immigrant, or may instruct a researcher on additional sources specific to a locality or ethnic group.

City, county and regional historical society publications document the local geographic area, the activities of organizations and institutions, the lives of the leaders of the community, the impact of major events such as war and depression, and the impact of major trends such as migration and settlement patterns. Researchers will also find indexes and abstracts of records found in the area.

State historical society publications contain articles that chronicle the lives of the rich and famous, unusual scientific or religious movement, or detailing a Civil War regiment.

Ethnic society publications provide an excellent resource of articles that are focused on the ethnic culture (e.g., Historical Society of Germans from Russia). They help trace and discuss ancestry, share sources of data and common findings across the group.

Society onference syllabi: Historical societies hold annual conferences that usually publish a syllabus. These provide insights, tips, and research strategies specific to the area of interest.

Special interest publications: These focus on groups that have a common experience or shared interest among the group of patriotic, military and heraldic society publications (for example, the B-26 Marauder Historical Society, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Daughters of the American Revolution and Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.) They provide data on individuals that participated in the common or shared experience, a rich profile of records available from local to national levels, genealogies, profiles of units and groups and insights into daily life.

Family publications: These are also known as surname publications and focus specifically on a family and are full of family group sheets, individual histories, details of family reunions, photographs, documented genealogies, and lists of publications that contain family information. These types of publications include the following:

  • Help to set research in the proper historical context
  • Useful information for citation analysis (for example, constructing the widest possible data pool in which to look for ancestors)
  • In-depth information of individuals, communities, and so on to which our ancestor belonged
  • Items such as genealogies, transcripts and abstracts of local records, probate records, church records, and cemetery records
  • Unique and forgotten sources of information
  • Important research tips for the area
  • Indexes and abstracts source materials
  • Help to focus on the articles that will have the greatest value

Related posts

Join Genealogy by Barry Newsletter