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How Historical Newspapers Have Helped in My Genealogy Research

Paul was born and grew up in Wisconsin. He is married to a Thai and living in Thailand. He has Swiss, German, and Austrian ancestry.

An Historical Newspaper


The Value of Historical Newspapers

Lately, I have found the use of historical newspapers to be of great benefit to my ancestry research. My mother's side of the family is from Marshfield, Wisconsin, and just recently copies of The Marshfield Daily Herald from 1921 through 2016 and copies of the Marshfield News and Wisconsin Hub 1889-1922 have been available on

By searching for names or addresses, I have been able to identify all of my cousins, great-uncles, and great-aunts. Furthermore, news articles from the early 1900s have revealed the most probable cause of my great-grandparents' divorce, and also answered questions about the deaths of an uncle, great-uncle, and great-grandfather. The political, economic, and social conditions of the early and middle twentieth century are also interesting to look back upon.

This article reflects on all of the useful information found in two Marshfield newspapers, and one Door County newspaper, and how they have helped in my genealogy research.

Useful Information Found in Historical Newspapers

Like many small-town papers of their time, the Marshfield newspapers have a tremendous amount of news about their residents. This news can be found in the form of engagement, wedding, obituary, and funeral announcements. One can also find court proceedings, military news, classifieds, and social announcements. In the papers, you will also see special features and news about accidents.

During the remainder of this article, I share interesting pieces of news about my mother's relations which I have discovered in various sections of Marshfield newspapers.

Engagement, Wedding, Obituary, and Funeral Announcements

By entering the names and addresses of my grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and by searching through past issues of the Marshfield Daily Herald 1920-2016, I have been able to identify many cousins and second cousins that I had forgotten or didn't know about. This information has appeared in engagements, weddings, obituaries, and funeral announcements. Also, I have learned much about these relatives' education and employment history.

Obituaries have also revealed the cause of death of many relatives. For example, I learned that one of my great-grandmothers, Anna Schmidt, died of stomach cancer and that a great-grandfather, Frank Drexler, was killed by being run over by a team of horses. My uncle, Leo, died in a nursing home from choking on food, and my great-uncle, Henry J. Schmidt, died of a heart attack while driving a car.

My aunt Sissy's wedding reception in probably 1945.  Her husband Lavern Foss was in the Army during WWII.

My aunt Sissy's wedding reception in probably 1945. Her husband Lavern Foss was in the Army during WWII.

Court Proceedings

Court proceedings have presented me with a wealth of interesting and at times shocking information about my relatives and ancestors. Announcements from the Marshfield News and Wisconsin Hub from 1913-1914 reveal the most probable cause of my great-grandparents Henry and Anna Schmidt's divorce. As early as January 1913 and up until July 1914, the Marshfield police were called in response to domestic violence attacks against Anna by Henry. In one instance, Susan Waldvogel, Henry's mother-in-law, called the police. On two occasions, my great-grandfather was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

I also learned that my grandfather, William Schmidt, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for robbing a bank in Unity, a small town outside of Marshfield, in 1929. Fortunately, he was released on parole after serving only five years.

In July 2018, I learned from a legal notice in the Door County News 1922-11-09 that my paternal grandfather Charles August Kuehn's mortgaged farm in Egg Harbor of Door County had a foreclosure date.

Many court proceedings also reveal traffic court judgments against many of my cousins for speeding, driving while intoxicated, and driving without a license.

Legal notice regarding my grandfather Charles August Kuehn mortgaged farm's foreclosure.

Legal notice regarding my grandfather Charles August Kuehn mortgaged farm's foreclosure.

Military News

I learned very much about my uncle Raymond Schmidt's military service during the Second World War and the Korean War. There were numerous short articles and some pictures in the Marshfield Herald announcing my uncle's enlistment in 1942, furloughs back to Marshfield from training sites, and duty assignments until Uncle Raymie's discharge in 1952.

There were also numerous articles about my Aunt Sissy, Anna Foss's husband, and Laverne Foss's military service during World War II. I found out that Anna and Laverne Foss married in 1945 during one of Laverne's furloughs and that a reception was held in Grandma Schmidt's home where Sissy lived.

I also found out that two of my cousins, Jerry and Darrell Foss, served in the military. Jerry was stationed in Germany with the Army, and Darrell was with the Marine Corps in Vietnam.


The classified news section of Marshfield newspapers also revealed interesting information about my great-grandparents, great-uncle, and grandparents. My great-grandparents' 80-acre farm at route one Marshfield was listed for sale in September 1911. My great-grandma, Theresa Drexler, also advertised bushels of apples for sale at $0.50 a bushel in 1946. Great-uncle Henry J. Schmidt had a 100-acre dairy farm outside of Marshfield and advertised an auction of cattle and machinery in 1936. Finally, I saw my grandparents, William and Pauline Schmidt, listing their house and lot at 903 N. Walnut St. in Marshfield for sale or willing to trade it for a farm in 1946.

Social Announcements

In addition to wedding and funeral notices, I read many other social announcements related to my grandparents and aunts. There were baptismal parties held by my aunts and also birthday parties scheduled for my aunts, Donna and Mary. I was also pleasantly surprised to see my name and the names of my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kuehn when we visited grandma and grandpa Schmidt for the holidays in December of 1944.

Special Features

While doing newspaper searches of relatives on my mother's side of the family, I found some special featured articles.

The most interesting special feature appeared in a 1976 Marshfield Herald issue. It was an article about great-uncle John Drexler's wood carvings. John devoted many years of his life carving animals, U.S. Presidents, the Mona Lisa, and even a scene from the Last Supper. These carvings occupied two whole rooms of his house. I remember mom raving about John's carvings. She was so happy to receive one of his carvings after John passed away in 1979.

Another noteworthy feature was the delinquency of my great-uncle, Ed Schmidt, at the age of 13. In 1909, Ed skipped school and forged a stolen check for $17.00. He was going to use the money to run away West, but after spending a night in the woods, he decided to go back home and confess his crime.

Another feature was an article that my Aunt Mary's husband Jim Asplin wrote about his family background in 1981.


In addition to the accidental deaths of my great-grandfather and uncle mentioned earlier in this article, I have learned about many traffic accidents involving my cousins and aunt. In a very unusual accident, a bowling ball dropped from an overpass struck the windshield of a car driven by Aunt Mary. Fortunately, my aunt was not hurt in the accident.

Articles from the Door County Advocate

Most recently, I have found interesting information about my father's side of the family by examining old editions of the Door County Advocate.

In a 1913 edition of the Advocate, my grandmother and grandfather's application for a marriage license is listed. Later, in a 1923 edition, I can confirm my grandparent's move from Door County to the Milwaukee area in October.

I also learned the cause of a great-uncle's death in 1969. According to an Advocate edition, Paul Richard Kuehn suffered a heart attack while driving a car. In the ensuing accident, great-uncle Paul lost control of his car and hit a tractor on the side of the road. A passenger riding with Paul was only slightly injured.


News articles found about my ancestors and still living relatives have livened up ancestry research and given it new meaning. Hopefully, in the future, I can find articles about my father's relatives in other historical papers.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 22, 2019:

Thank you very much for your comment, Virginia. I will have to check out Genealogy Bank.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on May 22, 2019:

I've found a valuable tool in my family history work as well. A friend subscribes to Genealogy Bank and finds it a great help. For now, I still have lots of names to search and wouldn't have time to try another search site.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 08, 2017:

Thanks for the comments. The dropping of the bowling ball was investigated, but subsequent articles couldn't identify who dropped the ball. Now if only all past issues of the Milwaukee Journal from 1900 until the present were online, I could find a lot more information about relatives on my father's side.

Mary Wickison from USA on May 07, 2017:

How exciting that must be to know more about their lives than just an entry on a family tree. Those newspapers are a great resource.

Although no one likes to think there was domestic violence or crime within their families, it is nonetheless interesting.

Did that article say, who dropped the bowling ball? Was it kids mucking around? This type of thing still goes on and yet people feel it is something new.

Interesting article which will help others look into the availability of newspapers as an additional resource for genealogy information.