Lesson 13 is a conglomeration of search tips and mistakes to avoid while searching and analyzing your results.
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, or downloading images, etc. Here are some tricks and tips as well as what to avoid:
- Always write down the title of the newspaper, the date of publication and the page number where you found the article - when you find the article. You don't want to have to do another search in the future to find out 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.
- If the online site you are using gives you the opportunity to correct scanning and OCR errors - please do so if you find an error (and there are many!) Pay it forward.
- 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. But the "Marriage Licenses Issued" section in the Vital Statistics part of the paper is not proof that a wedding occurred.
- Thought must go into saving the articles that you find online. Is the image large enough? Is it readable later? Are there options with the online site to download the image in different formats? Think ahead so you don't have to do the search again at a later date.
- 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 ancestor might be mentioned in that column. Furthermore, if your ancestor was well known in the community, he or she might be referred to in an article a few years after his death. This is tricky if your ancestor has a common name and 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 ancestor. 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 ancestors death. Many times the obituary is copied (and possibly altered) in newspapers in the area where your ancestor had lived previously.
A couple of useful resources are the Newspapers! Page on this website (which has links to over 12,000 online historic newspapers from all over the world), as well as some Recorded Webinars - all intended to help you become the best researcher you can be!
Good luck and Happy Hunting!