Old newspaper articles are a great source of family history information for genealogists. Birth, wedding and death announcements can provide the names of parents, siblings, grandparents and cousins.
Information about various family members' participation in clubs, sports and other community activities can also be found in old newspaper articles. In some cases information about visitors and trips can be found in old newspaper articles - sometimes the names of relatives visiting a family can be found in the local town sections of old newspapers.
Here is a partial list of what can be found in obituaries and articles about weddings. The names of spouse, children, parents, grandchildren and in many cases other relatives of the deceased might be found in an obituary. The names of the parents and grandparents of the bride and groom are usually mentioned in a wedding announcement. Information about education and employment of individuals will be found in many obituaries and wedding announcements. Also an obituary might indicate events in an individual's life - such as time spent in the military or other government service.
Here is a partial list of historical events that can provide context for individual family members.
Until recently most genealogists went to their local libraries to view microfilm records of old newspaper articles and in most libraries the only choices were the local newspapers and perhaps the New York Times.
In most cases there were no indexes for the local papers and if there were indexes they usually were very limiting and so it was usually necessary to know the dates of events before scrolling an old newspaper to find an article while using a microfilm reader.
Today the contents of old newspaper articles can be searched online just like web pages can be searched using Google or any other search engines. For example a person might search for any newspaper articles that mention a particular relative during some time period. The search results will provide the names, dates and links to any newspaper articles that match the search terms. With the results from a search the user can click any of the links and then read the newspaper articles online.
See our discussion, Newspapers, Books and Optical Character Recognition (OCR), to learn more about searching Historical Newspapers.
Think of an event that is part your family history - a birth, high school graduation, college graduation, marriage, death or other event. Then find a local newspaper that was published at the time of the event.
More and more historical newspapers are now indexed by keywords including surnames. So just enter the surname for the year or other date that interests you and search the historical newspaper database.
See more Search Tips for Searching Historical Newspapers.