Search Tip When Searching For A Person

Tip – Search Tips When Searching for a Person

When researching old newspapers, there are many things that you need to know and many mistakes that can be made when drawing conclusions about the articles you find.  Here are some tricks and tips as well as what to avoid when you are doing genealogy research, or searching for a person:

  • Always write down the title of the newspaper, the date of publication and the page number where you found the article – at the time that you find the article. You don’t want to have to do another search in the future to find out where you found it. Or worse yet forget where you found it.
  • Sometimes the final resting place is not accurate in the obituary. Maybe the family changed their minds or maybe the cemetery closed and all the graves were moved to another cemetery.
  • Divorces Filed and Interlocutory Decrees are not Divorces. Only Divorces Granted count.
  • Issuance of a license is not a marriage. Maybe the wedding didn’t take place or wasn’t recorded. Being listed in the “Marriage Licenses Issued” section in the Vital Statistics part of the paper is not proof that a wedding occurred.
  • I would not limit your search for newspaper titles to just the city of residence. Span out a bit and include the newspaper for the county seat. There is likely to be different types of information published in the newspapers for that likely larger populated area.
  • If your target lived near the state border, check out neighboring state newspapers. For example, if they lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa, check out the Omaha, Nebraska papers. Or if they lived in Camden, New Jersey, try the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania newspapers.
  • Unique human interest articles were copied all over the country and world. One of my ancestors was given Geronimo’s knife in the 1880’s in California and the article was published in papers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Indiana and London, England as a human-interest story. So, take that into consideration.
  • Don’t just search for articles for the dates that the ancestor was alive. Often, newspapers had a column that featured stories from 10 years ago, 25 years ago, etc. and your person might be mentioned in that column. Furthermore, if your person was well known in the community, he or she might be referred to in an article a few years after their death. This is tricky if your person has a common name, so date ranges are important to narrowing the number of search results.
  • When searching for obituaries, include a couple of weeks after the death of the person. Many times, the obituary publication was delayed, but more importantly, some obituaries were changed after their original publication because of errors, modifications, or additions. So, don’t just stop searching after you have found the first one.
  • Regarding obituaries, don’t just limit your search to the location of the person’s death. Many times, the obituary is copied (and possibly altered) in newspapers in the area where your ancestor had lived previously.

Use these tips and you will not only find more articles, but also some of the conclusions you make about the content of the articles will be more accurate.