A Closer Look at Newspaper Records Newspaper Research

A Closer Look at Newspaper Records #4

A Closer Look at Newspaper Records #4

What to do if you can’t find a mention of your ancestor in the old newspaper records you are searching? Just because you aren’t finding a name yet doesn’t mean it isn’t in an old newspaper somewhere. There are a lot of reasons why you may not be finding your ancestor. These are some techniques for locating your elusive ancient family.

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What do you do when you can’t seem to find any information on your ancestor in old newspaper records? While not everyone scored a mention in a newspaper in their lifetimes, it was pretty common in generations past for even the most unknown local citizens to get a passing mention every now and then. After all, the news was slow to arrive from around the world, and local news was the thing of most interest to most people who would be reading that particular paper.

If you can’t find a mention of your ancestor in the time and place you believe he or she should be, it might be that they are one of the rare ones who just never made the news for anything. It could also be that you need to deepen your search a bit. This is what to do.

Try searching under their middle name, if you know it. It was not uncommon in generations past for people to go by their middle names, especially if their first name was unusual, such as with people who were given their mom’s maiden name as a first name, or with boys who had first names that were not considered masculine. If someone’s first name was incredibly common, like Mary or John, they may also be found going by a more distinctive middle name.

Search for them using the names of their parents, grandparents, in-laws, friends, co-workers, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Anyone who was associated with them will do. It may be that they were mentioned in an article about that person, without their actual name being used. With enough descriptive words around in the article, like “son of” or “granddaughter of,” you should be able to identify the unnamed person as your ancestor.

Stretch your timeline. If you are searching in a narrow timeline, stretching it out by a few years, or even a few decades, may yield the results you seek. If you don’t know the definite dates, you may be searching just outside of the dates when your ancestor would be mentioned. Or, your ancestor may not be mentioned until their estate is being probated, or in a much later article reminiscing about the past of the town or city where your ancestor lived.

You can also try searching elsewhere. Look at newspapers in towns and cities where you know or suspect any sort of close or distant contemporary relative of your ancestor lived. You may find a mention of that person visiting said relative, as out of town visitors were often mentioned in local newspapers. You may also find your ancestor mentioned in the obituary for that person, or listed as a relative in a story on that person’s life in their town or city.

If you still can’t find your ancestor, try a nationwide search using your date parameters and your ancestor’s name. Maybe he or she traveled to another place to work, visit, or live, and you never knew about it. Discovering a mention of your ancestor in a place you never knew they went is an exciting and interesting addition to your family tree. Using old newspaper records can help you discover it.



Will founded Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has been assisting researchers for over 25 years to reunite them with their ancestors.