Is a Newspapers.com Subscription Worthwhile?
Should You Try Newspapers.com?
I kept seeing offers to subscribe to Newspapers.com as part of my Ancestry subscription. Would it be worthwhile, I wondered? I already was spending a good amount of money on my genealogy research. What if I paid for a subscription but then didn't find any useful information for my family history? However, I took the plunge and gave it a try.
Wow! I'm becoming addicted to sleuthing out tidbits about my ancestors using the Newspapers.com search capability. Finding the usual social announcements was a little ho-hum but finding details about my grandmother's wedding in 1910 and a great-aunt's spouse going to prison for murder added excitement to my genealogy work.
No longer is it just the dry details of dates, names, places. My family tree now contains fascinating news about sudden deaths, remarriages, tributes, and other newsy bits about my ancestors.
Tip: Women are rarely mentioned by their first name in articles.. Search for "Mrs. _____" to get more results if you aren't finding it with her first and last name. Also search by Widow and the last name.
Things I've Discovered About My Ancestors from Newspapers.com
- My grandmother's older sister had to be committed to an insane asylum at age 18 after having typhoid. She remained there for 66 years.
- My grandfather's 15-year-old brother was killed in a farm accident. The newspaper story gave a lot of detail about how it happened.
You will discover information on moves from one area to another, of accidents, of illnesses, and even deaths (particularly of infants) that you have never discovered before. Sometimes there's a mention of an adoption that you may not have found formal records of.
Newspapers reveal property transfers, political ambitions, farm sales, church affiliation, business ownership, and other information about people on your family tree. Many of these are not going to show up in any other source.
You might find mention of cousins or the mother-in-law visiting and from that gather a maiden name that you didn't have before. It's just a starting point since the last name could be from a 2nd marriage, but it gives you something to search further on.
Savings from Having the Subscription
I've saved hours of pouring over old newspapers on microfilm in libraries and archives. Now, with one search on Newspapers.com, I get the benefit of hundreds of newspapers in just a short time. It brings up the actual newspaper on the screen and you can clip the article that you want. That gets saved to your subscription and you can check it later.
You can also:
- attach it to an individual (or several names) on your family tree in Ancestry
- email it to yourself or to someone else
- post it to Facebook
- save the clipping to your computer to use in blog posts
Having the subscription also saves me vacation time that I might previously spent traveling to locations where I might find such information in local libraries or research centers. I still like to visit actual locations where my ancestors lived, but it cuts off hours of sitting in a building hunting for clues.
Now, I can search at my own convenience at home from my computer.
Tip for Getting the Most Information
Try variations of a name ( like "David Greacen Kennedy," "D.G. Kennedy," or just "Kennedy") within the region where you know the person lived.
Learning More About the Way People Lived in My Ancestors' Time
What was it like living in a small Kansas town in 1910? How isolated and primitive was farm life in the mid to late 1800s in the Midwest? What difficulties did they encounter? What was their social life like?
Some of these questions had not even occurred to me until I started researching in the newspapers.
- After my cousin mentioned wolf hunts from the 1940s, I researched that activity to find that it was popular on weekends from the 1800s onward. I'll be writing an article on this soon.
- I discovered my grandmother's sister was suddenly widowed with 5 children to raise when her husband had a stroke. A newspaper article said that friends and family held a "pound party" for her. I had no idea what that was but was able to find other mentions of it in early newspapers and understand how the community came together to aid her.
- I learned a lot about chivarees, that odd custom from the Midwest, of disrupting the newlyweds first night together.
- I found out that in the small town where my great-grandfather lived, there was resistance to having Black workers brought in for the local brick factory in the early 1900s.
Tip for Getting More from Newspapers.com
Once you locate one article about your ancestor, run a search in just that newspaper for the last name. Some will be duds, but you may find some bits of gold.
Learn from the Advertisements
Along with articles about the weather, political news of the time, trends, and social activities, I caught glimpses of advertisements while searching for my ancestors.
If your ancestor had a business, the ads relating to that are a treasure to find. Aside from that, ads aimed at the housewife interested me. It showed what great-grandma's kitchen looked like. The clothing store ads help you picture what your family members would have worn.
Sample Advertisements That I've Found
Besides saving the clipped article, you can bring it up as text. It is handy then to use the text in blog posts or in other ways instead of just having the visual of the clipping. It's optical character recognition (OCR), so it's sometimes imperfect but better than having to transcribe the whole article yourself.
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.
© 2018 Virginia Allain