Genealogy

Using Newspapers in your Genealogy Research

When researching your ancestors, do you have any stories to go along with each person? This tends to be the more difficult aspect of doing genealogy as it’s so easy to go on FamilySearch, Ancestry, Find My Past, or even MyHeritage and find out when and where they were born, where they lived throughout their lives and even when they died. But figuring out who they were is a bit more challenging.

One of the ways I have learned about my family members is using newspapers. There are a variety of options available for free and with subscriptions for you to find stories about your relatives.

Free Options

Some historic newspapers are available for free (one of my favorite words). The most popular is Chronicling America ( https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) which is a joint endeavor between the Library of Congress and National Endowment of the Humanities. It has newspapers from 1789-1963 that are digitized for your use.

Another free option may be available with your library card is Newspaper Archive Academic Library Edition (my library has this and can be accessed from my house, check out to see if your library has a newspaper database similar to this).

Subscription Options

Newspapers.com is one of the larger subscription sites for newspapers available for genealogy. They are owned by Ancestry.com so if you have a tree there, it is easy to attach the articles. Some subscriptions of Ancestry now include Newspapers.com (I believe you are accessing the articles through Ancestry searches though). Newspapers.com has 2 levels of subscriptions, basic and Publishers Extra. Publisher’s Extra is the higher priced edition but seems to have most of the newspapers I truly needed to find information and obituaries on my people (primarily because of the Akron Beacon Journal – but there were some key newspapers for the different areas of Pennsylvania I needed as well).

GenealogyBank is another popular website who is also expanding out from just newspapers to adding census information and the like. They have a great blog that is emailed out monthly as well.

Things to Look For

If you are going to spend the money on a subscription site I highly recommend looking at what newspapers that are available and the published years they have. I’ll confess I accidentally signed up for a subscription site and it was of no use to me because the issues they had published didn’t really help me in my genealogical searches (for example they had the Bedford Gazette from 1854-1857 only, and I needed from 1870 on). Both Newspapers.com and GenealogyBank list what newspapers they have available and their years of publication that is available on their sites (Newspapers.com will also note which newspapers are available on their more expensive level, Publishers Extra).

All of the websites have ways to narrow your search by state, date, name to help bring to light the information you are seeking.

What Can You Find?

You may be lucky enough to find all kinds of interesting tidbits about your relatives when you do newspaper searches. They can range from everyday occurrences to being a bit on the juicy side (older newspapers use to have sections detailing who checked in to the local hotels, and just good old “gossip” sections).

Below is one of my favorites that I discovered on a free weekend of Newspapers.com last Spring that actually convinced me to purchase a subscription. It is an article from The Potter Enterprise from the Thursday, February 11, 1904 edition:

The_Potter_Enterprise_Thu__Feb_11__1904_

Orienta (Gustin) Warner is my 3rd-Great-Grandmother on my mother’s side. They have her daughter’s name mis-typed here, it’s listed as Nellie but her nickname was Nettie. Her name is Jeanette Warner and she is my 3rd-Great-Aunt. I am assuming the fatherless child is her son, Thomas who was born in 1904.

In keeping with the same family, here is another article from The Potter Enterprise from August 14, 1913 edition – this actually lists my 2nd-Great-Grandmother (Mazie Warner Dunbar) twice, and her daughter (Myrtle Dunbar) once.

The_Potter_Enterprise_Thu__Aug_14__1913_

I’ve also learned that using newspapers can give you the full story on tragedies in your family as well. On my dad’s side, my 2nd-Great-Uncle, Charles Peter Childers, had 2-children die in a house fire. Going off stories typed up on Ancestry it makes it seem that half of his 13 children died in this fire, but when reading the newspaper headlines (along with finding the death certificates) you know it was only 2-children, Eva Childers, age 9 (the article is incorrect and have her listed as age 11) and Ralph Childers, age 2. This article I found using the library website. The below clippings (they were on 2-pages of the newspaper) is from the March 27, 1939 edition of the Altoona Mirror:

When I found the following article from the Akron Beacon Journal about my grandfather, Harold Fairhurst, my aunt proceeded to add to the story about how my grandfather had won a year’s supply of Pepsi for his hole in one, which jogged my memory of my mom telling me the same. It is from Thursday, September 17, 1964 edition:

The_Akron_Beacon_Journal_Thu__Sep_17__1964_

I continue to learn a lot about my family members by using newspapers. If nothing else, they are a wonderful source for obtaining obituaries so I am able to fill in the burial date and cemeteries in my genealogy program if I don’t have a death certificate.

If you have never taken the time to investigate your family in newspapers, I recommend checking it out. The weekend Newspapers.com was free last year was amazing me for me as I found so much interesting information. Now, if it could only make it easier to find George Blair in Blair County, PA, then I’d be set (FYI – anytime Blair for the County is mentioned I get a ding so when I searched just now there are 1,299,020 possibilities in Pennsylvania alone).

If you find or have found any interesting stories using newspapers, please share in the comments!

Genealogy

How to use PERSI

Are you in the same boat as me and really get befuddled on how to use PERSI?  In case you are unaware of what PERSI is, it is the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI for short).  Ever since I took my first class at my local library about genealogy I have heard nothing but wonderful things about PERSI.  Trouble is – I can never seem to have any success with it myself.  So today’s goal is to learn what PERSI is, and how to use it.

What is PERSI?

So I know I already told you it is the PERiodical Source Index but what is it really? Organized by the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center (ACPLGA) and Find My Past, PERSI connects you with thousands of articles for genealogy and local history.  Though initially just an index relaying articles and their locations to users, the ACPLGA and Find My Past are working to digitize the articles to give family historians instant gratification.

How to Use PERSI

I’ve always understood what PERSI is, my trouble has been actually using it.  So here are some tips I’ve accumulated in my search.

How to Find PERSI

PERSI can be found by going to Find My Past, then using the toolbar at the top of the screen select “Search” and then when the pull-down menu appears select “Newspapers and Periodicals”.

Search for PERSI

On the left-hand side of the screen near the top you will see a heading “Choose from Our Collections”, fill in the dot next to “PERiodical Source Index” and you’ll be ready to go!

PERSI Screen

PERSI is Subject Based

It does not search the text of articles, it searches the terms or keywords assigned to articles by the people who created PERSI.  For example, you may come across an article that is all about your family, but if the person who indexed the article just assigned it “Bedford County” (where your people may have lived) searching for your family name will give you 0 hits. For best results you are better off to use the “Where” or “What Else” options on the search bar.

PERSI Search

Lots of Filters

PERSI provides you with nine different filters to help narrow the number of results you receive.  These filters include: last names, country, state, county, town/city, subject, keyword, and database title. These are located down the left-hand side of the screen.

Since the world knows I have family in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, I went ahead and did a search on Bedford.  By just putting Bedford County, Pa in the “Where” box (see above), I ended up getting 4,359 hits. This included places in England, Massachusetts, etc., which was amazing as I had Pennsylvania as part of my where.

By filling in the country, state, and county fillers along the left-hand side of the screen, I lessened my hits to 1,350.  Here is a screenshot:

PERSI Screen

Please Note

If you click on an article, it is not going to take you to the page you are seeking.  You will most likely have to read/skim through a book/paper/article to find the information you are seeking.  Try to be optimistic, this may be a good thing as you may find more information than you bargained for which is a big YAY!

Remember, not all articles/books/papers have been digitized so some books you may have to do an interlibrary loan to see.  I know earlier today I found an article from the Bedford County Historical Society that was done on my 5x Great Grandfather, Peter Morgart, in their newsletter.  I am attempting to see if they have past newsletters online, or if I need to pay for a copy of that 1994 newsletter.  I’ll keep you posted, it’s presently a Saturday and they are closed.

Lastly, you are able to search PERSI for free but to view records you do need a subscription to Find My Past.  I know I don’t always have a subscription for all the different sites for genealogy but I know my local library (at least my Main Library) has the library edition of  Find My Past for free where you can view the documents that are digitized. If you find an item that isn’t digitized, you would already be at the library and maybe you can set up an inter-library loan.

I’ll probably update this in the future.  I presently have a simple subscription to Find My Past from when I joined my state genealogical society.  It goes bye-bye in December so I am going to try to focus some of my research endeavors on here so I can utilize it before it’s gone (I say simple as I have learned many documents I need to view for my English ancestors are a higher subscription than the free one I received for signing up with my state society).

Just another valuable tool to maybe help you get the final piece of a puzzle for your ancestors.  Good luck searching!