Don’t Search Just Names

Tip – Don’t Search Just Names

Whether you are searching old newspapers to find an ancestor as part of your genealogy research, or you are searching for an event in these newspapers as part of a classroom assignment, or for history research, these tips all apply.Many times, we get stuck in searching just names, but there are excellent alternatives that will help you hone in on articles that apply to your research.

If you are searching for a person, try these different types of searches combined with a name, or by themselves in certain cases:

  • Search for an address – if you know the address of the person, search for it.  A lot of times newspapers would include the residence of someone – so that may be a good place to try.
  • Search for a business name – if your target person owned a small business, you might be able to retrieve interesting articles by searching for that name.
  • Search for a lodge or club – if your target person belonged to or was an officer in a club or lodge or other group – search for that name.
  • Search for an occupation – if your target person had a unique occupation, try searching for that.
  • Search for the name of a sports team or school – often your target person may show up in a box score or in a list of graduates.
  • Search for the name of a military unit – if they were in the military, often the complete unit name is included in an article.
  • Search for a hobby or avocation – did Aunt Mary win ribbons at the state fair?  Or did Uncle Joe collect coins?
  • Search for a phone number – this may lead to that person being named in a classified ad.

If you are searching for an event, some of the above tips may apply, but also:

  • Search for locations (city, state, country, e.g.) related to the event, in conjunction with the keywords about the event.
  • Search with keywords of all types about the event. For example, for the Civil Rights Movement, you could search for Dr. King or other notable names, “Selma to Montgomery March”, “Birmingham Campaign”, etc.

The point here is to “think outside the box.” Using information of all types that you know or suspect about the person or event will help you uncover more relevant newspaper articles.