One of the most underutilized, yet most readily available
sources in American genealogical research is the local newspaper. As
the American newspaper approaches its 300 year anniversary (the first
regularly issued newspaper began in Boston in 1704), it is time that
family historians paid more attention to these daily and weekly diaries
of local and national events.
Newspaper Research Beyond Obituaries
Unfortunately, most family historians think only of
obituaries when they consider newspapers in their research. Of course,
we have already discussed using obituaries to track immigrant origins
in a previous lesson. However, there are many other ways in which newspapers
can help us in our research, and yes, even in learning more about our
obscure immigrant ancestors including:
- Finding lost relatives
- Learning more about "Chain Migrations"
- Advertising for friends
- Obtaining copies of passenger lists
- Tracking down servants
- Departure lists in foreign newspapers
- Biographical details from supportive documents
Throughout their life in their new country, immigrants
may well have been mentioned in the local newspaper for a variety of
reasons. Usually they did not initiate the mention of themselves. Rather,
other persons were looking for them.