5 Ways to Learn about Ancestors You Can’t Find in the Newspaper

Mon, May 9, 1904 – 1 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


Finding an ancestor mentioned by name in a newspaper can feel like hitting the family history jackpot. We even have a blog post with strategies for doing so.

READ MORE: Top strategies for finding your ancestor by name in the newspaper

But it’s not possible to find all our ancestors this way, either because the right newspaper hasn’t been digitized yet or because the person was never mentioned in a newspaper in the first place.

Even if you can’t find your ancestor by name, you can still use newspapers to learn about their lives. So we’ve compiled 5 ways newspapers can help you discover more about the ancestors you can’t find mentioned.

1. Learn about the area in which your ancestor lived by browsing their local newspaper.

Learning about the time and place in which your ancestors lived can tell you a lot about what their lives may have been like. Newspapers are perfect for this kind of research, since they serve as a kind of time capsule of the past. So take time to look through your ancestor’s local newspaper to find out what life was like in the neighborhood, city, or state they lived in.

Sun, Oct 15, 1922 – 21 · The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) · Newspapers.com


On Newspapers.com, an easy way to find your ancestor’s local newspaper is by going to the Papers page and searching for the city they lived in. If we don’t currently have papers from that location, try using our newspaper Map to locate the nearest paper.

Once you’ve found the newspaper you want to use, pick some issues of the paper to look at. We recommend you pick a few issues from a variety of years in your ancestor’s life. (You could even pick significant dates in their lives, such as the day they were born, started school, got married, passed away, and so on.) The more issues you look at, the more detailed your understanding will be. But if you feel overwhelmed, start by looking at just one.

Browse through national and local news stories, ads, articles about the economy, the entertainment and leisure sections, war news, transportation schedules, and more to learn about the context of your ancestor’s life. From photos, to weather reports, to letters to the editor—practically every part of the newspaper can help you envision what the city was like when your ancestor lived there.

Thu, Dec 7, 1922 – 2 · La Prensa (San Antonio, Texas) · Newspapers.com


You might be surprised at how much you can learn about an ancestor’s life from seemingly unimportant newspaper sections. A local grocery ad, for example, could tell you which foods your ancestor may have eaten based on availability and affordability.

READ MORE: Discover more newspaper sections that can teach you about your ancestors

2. Explore newspapers specific to your ancestor’s social demographics.

If your ancestor belonged to a particular religion, race, ethnicity, or other social demographic, try browsing newspapers published during their lifetime that served that community. These might include Jewish or Catholic newspapers, Black papers, or Spanish- or German-language papers—just to name a few.

Newspapers that served a specific social demographic often reported on news and issues that were left out of mainstream papers. Reading these community-specific papers can give you an entirely different perspective on what your ancestor may have experienced.

Sat, Mar 22, 1919 – Page 1 · The Kansas City Sun (Kansas City, Missouri) · Newspapers.com


Some of these papers focused primarily on local happenings, but others were national in scope. For instance, the Pittsburgh Courier and Kansas City Sun, two historically Black papers, published news about Black Americans from all over the United States, not just Pittsburgh or Kansas City.

3. Read newspaper accounts of people in circumstances similar to your ancestor’s. 

Another approach is to look for newspaper accounts of people whose life circumstances were similar to your ancestor’s.

For example, did your ancestor immigrate through Ellis Island or Angel Island? Newspapers have numerous firsthand accounts of such journeys. Were your family members farmers in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl? Newspapers extensively covered what life was like during that time. Did you have an ancestor who worked for women’s suffrage? Newspapers can tell you what that movement was like on a local, state, and national level. Did one of your family members fight in World War II? Newspapers can help you better understand wartime experiences through photos, letters, articles, and more.

READ MORE: How to find your WWII soldier’s story in newspapers

4. Look for newspaper photos.

Even if the photo isn’t of your ancestors, newspaper photos from their lifetime can help you picture them and the area they lived in. Newspaper photos (or illustrations if it was before the photo age) can help answer questions like: What were people wearing? What were the hairstyles? What did the town or city itself look like? What did local businesses, factories, and farms look like? How did a natural disaster affect the city? How did residents celebrate holidays? And much more!

Thu, Feb 5, 1925 – Page 37 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com


5. Set a search alert.

Even with the above tips, we know that you’re probably still hoping to find your ancestor mentioned by name in the newspaper. So we recommend setting a search alert on Newspapers.com so you’ll be automatically informed by email when we add a newspaper page that has results that match criteria you specify. To do this, simply set up the search you want (for example, “John Doe” in Kansas newspapers), then select the +Alert button on the search results page.

Location of the +Alert button
Location of the +Alert button

Good Luck!

We hope you find these ideas helpful! Even if you’re lucky enough to have already found your ancestor mentioned by name in the newspaper, the journey doesn’t have to stop there. Newspapers can help you piece together the stories that create a more detailed picture of your ancestor’s life! 

Start researching your ancestors on Newspapers.com! And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more helpful tips and historical content like this!

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Search the World’s Largest Archive of Historical Wedding Announcements

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the first phase of our Newspapers.com Marriage Index collection. The Marriage Index collection is a searchable archive of more than 50 million U.S. wedding announcements! We’ve teamed up with Ancestry® to train machine learning algorithms to scour more than 600 million pages of digitized newspapers to extract wedding announcements.

Wedding announcements often contain detailed genealogical information, including the names of family members, biographical details, addresses, and more. These key details can break down genealogical brick walls and open up new research avenues.

How Does it Work?

Using OCR (optical character recognition), we’ve converted our archive of newspapers into machine-readable text. We’ve trained computers to identify keywords often associated with wedding announcements. The computer then draws a text box around that announcement. If you hover over the announcement and then click on the text box, you will see a dialogue box pop up. It has the information we’ve indexed. That indexed information is searchable in our Marriage Index. Occasionally you might notice an incorrect date or misspelled names. This is a result of the OCR conversion process. You can correct the facts by clicking on “Add alternate info” within the dialogue box. Your updates will then become searchable for other users. You then have the option to electronically clip the announcement and save it or attach it to your Ancestry® tree.

The first phase of this release contains information from more than 200 million records from over 50 million lists and wedding announcements from the United States dating from 1800-1999.

  • List marriage announcements were usually a weekly list of couples that had applied for a marriage license that week. The lists usually contained the names of the bride and groom only. See an example of a list announcement here.
  • Non-list marriage announcements might contain detailed information about the bride and groom, photographs, addresses, the names of relatives, the wedding officiant, and wedding guests. See an example of a non-list announcement here.

You will soon see wedding announcement hints to your Ancestry® tree. These hints can lead to personal discoveries and genealogical breakthroughs! We will continue to update this index with additional wedding announcements and international wedding announcements in the future. Start searching our Marriage Index collection today on Newspapers.com.

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Newspaper Marriage Announcements: Using the Language of Love to Break Down Genealogical Walls

Have you found a marriage announcement on Newspapers.com that led to a genealogy breakthrough? For some of us (like me), uncovering long sought after information is like opening a gift on Christmas morning! Marriage announcements can be short and succinct or long and rich in detail. As a genealogist, I’ve spent hours poring through marriage records on Newspapers.com. I have some tips that might help you read between the lines of your marriage announcements and might help you make new personal discoveries within your family tree.

The Bride’s Maiden Name: A marriage announcement is often a great way to uncover the holy grail of genealogy for women – her birth name! A birth name can open the door to further research for the bride and her family. Here’s a marriage announcement from London revealing the bride’s birth name that dates back to 1701!

Parents’ Names: Marriage announcements often include the name of the parents for both the bride and groom. Now you can go back one more generation in your research!  

Photographs: The first photos started appearing in newspapers in the late 1800s, and by the 1900s, many papers included a picture of the bride. What a treasure to find a photo of your ancestor!

Address: It’s hard to imagine now, but it used to be common to give an address for the bride and/or groom, like in this announcement from 1875. An address allows you to search land records, census records, and nearby relatives – remember families often stuck together back then. (Pro tip: enter the address in Google Earth to see if the house still stands. If it does, you can explore the neighborhood virtually)!

Wedding Announcement 1933

The Wedding Party: I love a wedding announcement full of lots of juicy details like this one. I mean, who doesn’t want to know how many yards of silk it took to make the wedding gown? A detailed wedding announcement often mentions everyone in the bridal party, and sometimes even guests. Chances are, many of those named are relatives. I’ve gone so far as to build a tree for everyone mentioned, and each time, I have discovered new cousins and siblings. It takes effort, but if you’re up against a brick wall, it just might lead to a breakthrough. Pay special attention to those who have traveled from out-of-town to attend the wedding. They are probably family!

Who Performed the Wedding? Marriage announcements usually give the name of who officiated at the wedding. You aren’t likely to find church records in the newspapers, but if you have the name of the person who performed the wedding, you can research the congregation, and that can lead to church records. Church records often list the name of the bride and groom’s parents and sometimes the mother’s birth name. This can unlock new research possibilities.

The Seattle Star: January 18, 1917

Then and Now, Weddings Can be Full of Drama: While searching for family wedding announcements one day, I came across this dramatic clipping! It shares the story of a young immigrant who left Greece for an arranged marriage in America. The groom ended up rejecting her, and she sued him for $5,000 for breach of contract. The article is full of genealogical information for the family – both in Greece and in the United States. This article is more of an announcement for the wedding that didn’t happen!

One Final Tip: While searching for wedding announcements, we sometimes tend to search in a limited range of dates. You might be missing out on so much more. For example, I’ve come across dozens of clippings like this that describe women’s groups getting together to model old wedding dresses. These women modeled their mother’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s dresses. In many cases, they give the names of the original bride and the year she was married. Who would have thought to search for a wedding more than a hundred years after it happened? What a treasure trove of information!

Ready to dive in and find your ancestors’ marriage announcements? Start searching Newspapers.com today!

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Top Strategies for Searching for Your Ancestor by Name in the Newspaper

Tue, Mar 31, 1908 – 5 · The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) · Newspapers.com


Have you ever searched for an ancestor’s name on Newspapers.com but gotten no matches, even though you just know they must be in there somewhere? Sometimes the problem may be that you’re searching for a name or spelling that’s different from how it appeared in the newspaper—preventing our search from returning the matches you’re looking for.

So we’ve put together some strategies for uncovering name and spelling variations that you can try in your searches!

A Bit of Background

You may know how your ancestor’s name was spelled in legal documents, the census, or letters they sent, but that spelling might not be what was used in the newspaper. Why?

Sometimes it might be a spelling mistake by the journalist or typesetter. (Think how many times your own name has been misspelled by others!) Sometimes the name’s spelling was provided by a family member who didn’t how their relative actually spelled their name. Illiteracy and low-literacy rates used to be higher, so it’s possible your ancestor wasn’t sure of the exact spelling of their name. Other times, the person might have gone by a nickname or “Americanized” name, rather than their birth name.

All these reasons (and more!) mean that it’s worth trying some variations if the “correct” spelling of your ancestor’s name isn’t returning search matches!

Example of two brothers who spelled their surname differently, 1939Example of two brothers who spelled their surname differently, 1939 Thu, Jul 20, 1939 – 1 · Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas) · Newspapers.com


Name Variations

We’ll start with some name variations to try searching for:

  • Nicknames. Did you ancestor have a name that often has a nickname associated with it? Your ancestor Margaret may be in the newspaper as “Maggie.” And don’t forget that some nicknames that are no longer common may have been popular during your ancestor’s lifetime—for example, “Sally” as a nickname for Sarah. And if your ancestor was born outside the United States or came from an ethnic community within the U.S., remember to check for nicknames common to that culture as well, such as “Paco” for Francisco. Did your ancestor have a nickname that was specific to them? Search for that too. “Babe Ruth” shows up in the newspaper by his famous nickname much more than by George Herman Ruth Jr. Consider nicknames related to vocations as well. Your doctor ancestor Henry Taylor could be in the newspaper as “Doc Taylor.”
  • Middle names. Did your ancestor go by their middle name? This was (and still is) a common practice if there was a parent, grandparent, or other family member with the same given name. And don’t forget that if they did use their middle name, they may be using a nickname for that middle name on top of that. Mary Avaline Conner, for example, is found in the newspapers as “Avie Conner”—a nickname for her middle name!
  • English versions of names from other languages. Some people with names that weren’t common in mainstream American culture went by an anglicized version of their name. If your ancestor’s name was Giuseppe, try searching in the newspaper for “Joseph” or “Joe.” Similarly, it may also be worth a shot to search for direct translations of a non-English name. Your ancestor’s surname may have been Schmidt in Germany but been translated as the English equivalent “Smith” when they came to the U.S.
  • “Americanized” versions of diverse naming structures. If your ancestor came from a country, territory, or ethnic community that uses a different naming structure, this might affect what name appeared in a newspaper. For example, Maria Lopez de Vega may appear in an American newspaper as “Maria Lopez” or “Maria Vega.”


Spelling Variations

Other times, you may have the right name for your ancestor, it’s just not spelled in the newspaper the way you think. Here are some examples of spelling variations to consider.

  • Common alternative spellings. Names can be spelled in a variety of different ways, so be sure to check for common alternative spellings. Check for your ancestor Katherine under “Catherine,” “Kathryn,” or any of the other spellings.
  • Common misspellings. Your ancestor’s name, especially if it’s unusual, may have simply been misspelled in the newspaper. While it’s impossible to guess all the ways it might have been misspelled, there are some common spelling mistakes you can look for. Check for double letters added or deleted, substitution of vowels (or consonants) that sound similar, silent letters left out, etc. Try saying the name out loud and searching all possible phonetic spellings for the way it sounds—keeping in mind that the way your family pronounces the name now might not be how your ancestor (or the journalist!) pronounced it.
  • Mistakes when spelling verbally. Even if your ancestor verbally spelled out their name for the newspaper, some letters sound similar when said aloud: B and P sound similar enough that your ancestor spelling out “P-O-U-N-D” might have been misheard as saying “B-O-U-N-D.”
  • Dropped prefixes. Name prefixes like “O,” “Mc,” “Mac,” and a host of others may have been dropped, either intentionally by your ancestor or unintentionally by the person writing the article. If your ancestor’s surname was O’Reilly, try searching just for “Reilly” (and vice versa—if their surname was Reilly, check for “O’Reilly” as well).
  • Transliteration from a non-English alphabet. If your ancestor’s name was transliterated from a non-English alphabet such as Cyrillic, Arabic, or Chinese, there will be a vast number of possibilities for the way it was spelled in English—both by your ancestor and by a journalist or editor who may not have had a familiarity with the language. Some alphabets have standardized guidelines for transliteration into the English alphabet, but it’s worth trying out as many phonetic spellings for the name as you can think of.
  • Abbreviations & initials. Newspapers sometimes shortened names to save space. Try searching “Wm” for William, “Chas” for Charles, and so on. You should also try searching for them by their initials: search “J.D. Smith” for John Doe Smith, for example.


Typos & Other Errors

Sometimes, you can’t find the name due to typos or OCR error. Here are a couple to consider in your searches. (Note: OCR is the technology Newspapers.com uses to “read” a newspaper page to identify matches.)

  • Typesetting and typing mistakes. Try a search that takes into account possible typesetting errors, like transposing the first letters of a name. Search for an ancestor with the surname Wright under “Rwright,” for instance. Similarly, if your ancestor came from a time of typewriters or even computers, try searching for their name with common typos, like mistyping an adjacent letter on a keyboard (e.g., “Fryer” for someone whose name is Dryer).
  • Letters with similar shapes. Depending on the typeface used in the newspaper and the quality of the page image, OCR might misread letters in a name. Take this into consideration and try searching for a name using letters that have a similar shape: a lowercase “y” for a “g,” for example. Keep in mind that this might extend to multi-letter combinations as well. Your ancestor’s name may have been “C-a-r-r-i-e,” but the OCR might mistake this as “C-a-m-e.”

Final Tips

Here are two final tips to help you in your search:

  • Make a list of every variation of the name and spelling that you (and your family and friends) can think of. Check off each name as you complete the search.
  • Use wildcards in your Newpapers.com search to help account for spelling variations in names. Learn more about wildcards here.

Good luck on your search! Remember that “correct” spelling doesn’t count when it comes to searching for names in newspapers. It doesn’t matter so much how you think your ancestor’s name was spelled, or even really how they spelled it. What matters most is how the newspaper spelled it. Don’t automatically discount a newspaper mention of a person that seems likely to be your ancestor just because the newspaper spelled the name differently than you’re expecting!

***

Get started searching for your ancestors on Newspapers.com. And if you have any more tips, share them in the comments!

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Before Ellis Island: Entering America Through Castle Garden 1855-1890

Since the founding of America, millions of people hoping for a brighter future left their home countries and immigrated to the United States. The number of immigrants increased dramatically after the Civil War with nearly 12 million arriving between 1870-1900. More than 70% of all immigrants entered through New York City. Castle Garden opened in 1855 as the primary immigration processing center and operated as such until Ellis Island’s opening in 1892 (though from 1890-1892, the center was moved to the U.S. Barge Office). We’ve scoured our newspaper archives to find the stories behind some of those immigrants’ arrivals.

Castle Garden Opens August 1, 1855 as “Emigrant Landing Depot”

The Arrival Experience: This story, published in 1855 described the arrival experience for immigrants. They registered their names, recorded the amount of money they carried, and were shown to a bathhouse where up to 24 bathed at the same time.

The Boston Globe – September 6, 1884

Children Traveling Alone: Like many families, the Slinsbys’ couldn’t afford passage for the entire family at the same time. In 1884, Maggie and Mary, 9 and 10-years-old, arrived at Castle Garden with their names painted on heavy cardboard signs attached with a “profusion of green ribbons” to their bodies. They were reunited with their parents in Ohio. In 1887, Irish immigrants living in Cleveland were finally able to send for their children who had been staying with a grandmother. Castle Garden sent a telegraph to their parents informing them that after a rough and stormy journey, the two children, ages 9 and 11, had arrived safely. In this clipping, the Superintendent at Castle Garden tagged three children after their arrival and shipped them to their father who was living in Chicago. This 1887 clipping tells the story of a 10-year-old girl who arrived at Castle Garden from Ireland. Her mother and two brothers left her in the care of nuns until they could afford to pay for her passage to join them six years later. This final clipping tells the story of a mother desperately searching for her daughters after they arrived at Castle Garden. We’re so anxious to learn what became of them, but we can’t find any follow-up stories (maybe one of you genealogical sleuths can help).

New-York Tribune – June 14, 1884

Beware of Swindlers: Sometimes unscrupulous individuals preyed upon new immigrants. Language barriers, poverty, and fear left many immigrants vulnerable. In this clipping, a swindler sold railroad tickets to several immigrants who later learned the tickets were fraudulent. This sad story tells the tale of an immigrant who showed up at Castle Garden hoping to find a way back to Hungary after he lost his fortune of $500 in America. 

Reunion with Loved Ones: In 1890, a woman from Russia arrived at Castle Garden to reunite with her sweetheart who arrived two years earlier and sent money for her passage. The journey took more than a month and her funds ran out. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, she finally made her way to Minnesota. Read her story here. In another instance, a Prussian man prepared for the arrival of his wife and five children in 1897. He rented a home in Maryland and purchased some furniture, but sadly suffered a fatal fall just hours after they reunited. This final clipping tells the story of Michael O’Brien, an Irish immigrant, who left his family to seek his fortune in America. He sent letters and money until one day when communication suddenly ceased. His worried wife and four children sailed for America, arriving at Castle Garden in 1878. The determined woman searched for O’Brien, only to learn that he had remarried and had another child. He undoubtedly had some explaining to do.

Do you have ancestors that arrived at Castle Garden? Use historic newspapers to learn about their experiences. Search Newspapers.com today!

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10 Words to Master When Researching Women in Newspapers

Researching your female ancestors is often tricky, but historical newspapers can help you break through those frustrating brick walls. So we’re launching a 3-part series on how to do newspaper research into the women in your family tree.

Last week, we shared our top search tips for finding your female ancestor in the papers on Newspapers.com. In this final post, we’ll be focusing on some vocabulary that you’re likely to come across while researching your female relatives.

Fri, Dec 8, 1911 – 1 · The McLouth Times (McLouth, Kansas) · Newspapers.com


Have you ever been reading about a female ancestor in the newspaper and seen them called a “relict”? Learning words like this can help us wring every last bit of information from a newspaper piece we find about our relative.

Brush up on 10 genealogy vocab words you might encounter while researching your female ancestors!

  1. Consort: Spouse.
  2. Dower: A widow’s legal share of her deceased husband’s estate.
  3. Executrix: A woman appointed by the deceased to carry out the terms, directions, and requests in a will. The feminine version of “executor.”
  4. Goodwife. A title (similar to Mrs.) used before the surname of a married woman. Or, the female head of a household.
  5. Granddame/grande dame: Grandmother. Or, an influential or prestigious woman, often elderly.
  6. Matron: A married woman, often of a mature age.
  7. Nee/née: “Born.” Used to indicate a woman’s maiden name.
  8. Relict: Widow.
  9. Spinster: An unmarried woman, often older than what is considered the usual marriage age.
  10. Testatrix: A woman who has written a will. The feminine version of “testator.”

Got any more genealogy vocab words you think might be helpful? Share them with us in the comments!

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Top 5 Tips for Finding Your Female Ancestor in the Newspaper

Researching your female ancestors is often tricky, but historical newspapers can help you break through those frustrating brick walls. So we’re launching a 3-part series on how to do newspaper research into the women in your family tree.

Last week, we suggested 10 newspaper sections for finding information about the women in your family tree. In this second post, we’ll be sharing our top search tips for finding your female ancestor in the papers on Newspapers.com.

Sun, Jul 4, 1915 – Page 11 · The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) · Newspapers.com


Anyone who’s tried to research a female ancestor in the newspaper learns quickly that it’s often much more difficult than simply looking for the woman’s legal name. We wish it were that easy! But the way women were written about in old newspapers can prove a challenge to those of us doing family history today. Even though Newpspapers.com has amazing search and filtering capabilities, you have to search for the right keywords to turn up matches for the woman you’re looking for.

But don’t despair! We’ve got 5 top tips to increase your chances of finding your female ancestor on Newspapers.com!

1. Search for every variation of her name.

And we mean every variation. The name recorded on a census or other government record may or may not be the name used in the newspaper. And even if it was, the newspaper may have misspelled it!

Start off by searching for the woman’s legal name, but also try alternative spellings, nicknames, name abbreviations, initials, common misspellings, married name, maiden name, middle name . . . all of them. If she has a relatively uncommon last name, try searching by surname alone. And if she had a step-father, try searching with his last name as well, even if she didn’t legally adopt it.

Once you’ve found a name that returns the search results you want, it’s tempting to stop there. But don’t forget to go back and search the other variations! Your female ancestor may have been referred to in more than one way in the paper.

And be sure to keep a running list of what names you’ve searched for so you don’t repeat or forget searches!

Mary Avaline Conner appears in a newspaper as “Avie Conner”Mary Avaline Conner appears in a newspaper as “Avie Conner” Thu, Aug 2, 1888 – Page 3 · Medicine Lodge Cresset (Medicine Lodge, Kansas) · Newspapers.com


2. Search by her husband’s or male relatives’ names.

Because of societal expectations and traditions, married women were often written about in historical newspapers using their husband’s name (e.g., Mrs. John B. Smith) or husband’s initials (Mrs. J. B. Smith). So if the female ancestor you’re looking for was married, try searching for her husband’s name. And if she was married more than once, search for the names of all her husbands.

You should also search using the name of her father, brothers, or other close male relatives. You might find her referenced in newspaper pieces as so-and-so’s daughter, sister, or mother. Plus, looking for her father gives you the added benefit of perhaps being able to learn about your female ancestor’s childhood. Was her father in a major accident when she was a child? That would’ve shaped the life of her and her family.

Obituary in which the woman is referred to by her husband’s nameObituary in which the woman is referred to by her husband’s name Mon, May 21, 1906 – Page 9 · The Scranton Truth (Scranton, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


3. Research your non-direct ancestors.

When doing family history research, it can be easy to get caught up in only researching our direct ancestors. But when researching women in the newspaper, it can pay off to research people even in our non-direct (collateral) lines.

If you’re researching your great-grandmother, for example, don’t only look for her name in the paper; look for her siblings as well. Because even though her siblings aren’t your own direct ancestors, they were all closely related to your great-grandma, and information about her can turn up in articles about any of them.

4. Search by Address

At various points in the past, some newspapers included the address or street name of the person they were writing about. So if you know the address where your female ancestor was living, try a search using the address or street name, rather than a person’s name.  

Even if you don’t find your own ancestor mentioned, you might find something about a neighbor that helps you learn about your own family. For example, a newspaper piece about a next-door neighbor’s party may reveal that their neighbor (your ancestor!) couldn’t make it because they were in the hospital.

Plus, it never hurts to gain a better understanding of what the neighborhood where your ancestor was living was like. You may even discover information about the family that lived in the house before or after your ancestor that sheds some light on your own relatives.

Example of newspaper photo with address in the captionExample of newspaper photo with address in the caption Sat, Mar 10, 1928 – Page 6 · The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


5. Save your searches

Once you’ve found a search on Newspapers.com that returns results about your female ancestor, hit the “Save/Notify” button. Not only will this save the search so you can come back to it later, but it will also automatically notify you whenever Newspapers.com adds newspaper content that has matches for your search.

READ MORE: Learn how to save your search

Even if you can’t find a search that returns matches for the person you’re looking for, you’ll still want to save the search. This way, you’ll be notified if content is ever added to our site that does have a match.

If you prefer to check back on a search yourself, rather than being automatically notified, be sure to sort your search results by “Date Added.” By doing this, you’ll see new matches first, rather than older ones you may have already looked at.


We hope these tips give you some new ways to find information about your relatives! Come back next week to learn some common terms you might come across when doing newspaper research into your female ancestors.

Got any search tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments!

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10 Best Newspaper Sections for Researching Your Female Ancestors

Researching your female ancestors is often tricky, but historical newspapers can help you break through those frustrating brick walls. So we’re launching a 3-part series on how to do newspaper research into the women in your family tree. This is the first post in the series.

Sun, Feb 7, 1909 – Page 39 · Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


You can find women mentioned in just about any section of historical newspapers—from big front-page headlines to small back-page classifieds. But the way women have historically been perceived and written about means there are some newspaper sections that are particularly valuable for research into our female ancestors.

Here are 10 of our favorite newspaper sections for uncovering information about the lives of women:

1. Birth Announcements. Finding the newspaper birth announcement for your female ancestor can reveal information like her birthdate, birth location, maiden name, and parents’ (and even grandparents’) names. Depending on the time period, you might even find her baby photo!

But don’t stop at just the woman’s birth announcement—look for the birth announcements for all her children and even grandchildren. Each announcement may reveal something new, such as where the family was living during that particular year.

2. Engagement & Wedding Announcements. If your female ancestor was married, a newspaper announcement for her engagement or wedding can help you discover quite a bit about her. Things you might learn include the wedding date and place, bride’s and groom’s names, parents’ names, family religion, members of the wedding party, wedding guests, name of the minister, where the couple planned to live, description of bride’s dress, and details of the ceremony/reception/shower. There could even be a photo of her in her wedding dress! If the family was relatively prominent in the community, the engagement or wedding announcement can be quite long and disclose a lot of information about the woman’s life.

As with birth announcements, you should also look for the engagement and wedding announcements for a woman’s children, as these might share information about her as the mother of the bride or groom.

Sat, Jul 14, 1934 – Page 8 · The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


3. Divorce Proceedings. As much as we hope our ancestors had happy marriages, this was not always the case. Newspaper accounts of divorces can help you learn her husband’s name, when they were married, when they were divorced, were they were living, and sometimes the details of what the marriage was like. Some high-profile divorces even got full-length articles written about the proceedings.

4. Obituaries. Finding an obituary for any ancestor is like hitting the jackpot, but they’re especially priceless for the women in your family tree. While the length of obituaries varies widely, you can often learn things like death date and place, birth date and place, occupation/interests, past places of residence, notable accomplishments, names and place of residence of close family, mortuary/cemetery used, burial date, and cause of death. If you’re lucky, a photo of the woman is sometimes included!

Don’t forget to search for the obituaries of anyone closely related to your female ancestor—such as parents, husbands, siblings, and children. Any of these obituaries might reveal information about the woman you are researching.

READ MORE: Learn more about newspaper obituaries

5. Anniversary Party & Family Reunion Recaps. If you’re trying to figure out how and if your female ancestor is related to another family, newspaper write-ups about wedding anniversary parties and family reunions can be a major help. These types of newspaper content often included lists of family and friends who attended the event, which can help you straighten out your family tree—and maybe even help you find a few new names as well.

You may also learn information like her husband’s name, the date and location of the marriage, how many children and grandchildren she had, and where she was living.

Family reunion photo with info about those picturedFamily reunion photo with info about those pictured Thu, Sep 13, 1917 – Page 5 · Lansing State Journal (Lansing, Michigan) · Newspapers.com


6. Local News-In-Brief Columns. A staple of small- and mid-sized towns starting around the 1880s, these local columns captured the doings of local residents—including illnesses, injuries, vacations, guests, anniversaries, birthdays, business ventures, and surprising events. If you’re lucky enough to find a female relative mentioned in one of these columns, you might discover where she went to visit a relative, who she spent holidays with, when she was admitted to the hospital, and more.

And we can’t stress it enough—be sure to look for her relatives and spouse too. A piece about the woman’s brother might not mention her by name, but it might say he’s visiting his sister in a such-and-such a town, which then lets you know where she was living!

READ MORE: Learn about the history of News-In-Brief Columns

7. Club, Organization & Church News. Did your female ancestor belong to a club, organization, or church? Many women did, and the newspaper is a great place to learn about the activities your relative was involved in.

Even if you only find your ancestor mentioned on a membership roster or in a list of event attendees, you can search the newspaper for more news of that club or organization to learn the types of activities your relative may have participated in. And if there’s a group photo included of an event or meeting, don’t forget to check it for your ancestor’s face, even if they aren’t mentioned in the caption.

Women's fencing class photo with list of membersWomen’s fencing class photo with list of members Wed, Jul 2, 1902 – Page 1 · The Evening Review (East Liverpool, Ohio) · Newspapers.com


8. Recipe & Household Hint Sections. If the female relative you’re researching was a good cook or housekeeper extraordinaire, you just might find a recipe or housekeeping tip that she submitted to her local newspaper. How amazing would it be to find a recipe from your ancestor in the newspaper that you then can try making?

9. Classifieds. Was your female relative selling something? Trying to buy something? Looking for work? Hiring household help? Renting a room? Looking for a lost item? Trying to gain new customers for a business? Find out in the classified section!

10. Police Blotters & Criminal Trial Accounts. We may be dismayed to discover that a woman in our family tree committed a crime or was arrested, but these unfortunate situations can actually provide us with all kinds of information about the woman. Newspaper criminal accounts can reveal where the woman was living, her age, family members’ names, and more. The article can also give us some insight into the kind of life she was living at the time.

Sat, Apr 24, 1886 – Page 6 · The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) · Newspapers.com


We hope these suggestions gave you some new ideas of newspaper sections you can mine for information about your female relatives! Come back next week to learn our top search tips for finding your female ancestors in the newspaper.

Got any tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments!

Get started searching for your ancestors on Newspapers.com! And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

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Solving a WWII Mystery Using Newspapers.com and Fold3

When Erik and Sonni Bornmeier purchased Sonni’s great-grandmother’s home several years ago, they had no idea that the military footlocker stored in the basement would take them on an incredible journey of discovery to find the remains of a WWII pilot shot down in France. The Bornmeiers’ used military records from Fold3, newspaper articles from Newspapers.com, numerous other sources, and some ingenious detective work to piece together the story of Sonni’s great uncle, 2nd Lt. George F. Wilson. He died in France in 1944 and to this day his remains have not been identified. Erik and Sonni are determined to bring him home. We share their journey in hopes that the tips and strategies they’ve learned along the way can help someone else in their research. 

2nd Lt. George F. Wilson

The journey to learn more about Uncle George began on Memorial Day in 2018 when the Bornmeiers’ watched Band of Brothers. Touched by the heroics of so many young soldiers, Erik and Sonni went to the basement and dusted off George’s footlocker. Inside they found a stack of letters from George to his mother. By the time they finished the last letter, they had come to know George and wanted to know what happened to him. 

The first answers came when Erik found a Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) on Fold3. The MACR revealed that George served in the 8th Air Force, 398th Bomb Group, 601st Squadron. On July 8, 1944, George was piloting a B-17 when enemy flak hit the plane severely wounding George. The plane was losing altitude and George ordered his crew of eight to bail out.

Seven crew members were captured and taken POW, and one escaped with the help of the French Resistance. All eight returned home after the war and all reported that George was gravely injured, never bailed out, and went down with the plane.

2nd Lt. George F. Wilson and Crew

Using the witness statements from the MACR, Erik learned that the German Army created a similar report to track all planes shot down. Those reports, called Kampf Flugzeuge (KU) reports, were captured by the US military after the war. Erik also learned French priests kept detailed reports of what they witnessed during the war. Using the information in the MACR, the KU report, and a French repository, Erik triangulated potential crash sites.

One witness in the MACR described that George avoided a small town and a castle before crashing into a field. The next step for Erik was to head to France and try to find the crash site.

Page From MACR Identifying Crew Members

Erik’s quest led him to the small town of Monchy-Cayeux. The town matched the criteria in the witness statement (town, castle and nearby fields). Erik met a local journalist and with his help, they started questioning the town’s older residents. They found three eyewitnesses who were young children during the war but remembered seeing a plane crash. One said, “I remember it as if it were yesterday.” They guided Erik to a field and before long Erik started to find pieces of debris. Word traveled and the town united to help Erik. A young man showed up with a metal detector. Before long, they found parts of a fuselage, gauges, bullets, and plexiglass from a windshield. They found a crash site!

Erik’s time in France was short, but he has since returned several more times. Each time he pieces together more of the story. The residents of Monchy-Cayeux have rallied behind Erik and are anxious to help him find answers. Two brothers who still live close to the crash site gave a detailed account of locals gathering up weapons from the plane and throwing them in the river. A local diver explored the river but failed to find anything. Another report said George’s body was moved to a nearby family graveyard. A third witness remembered a priest coming to bless a grave on the edge of the field. The search to find George’s remains continues.

Debris From Crash Site

In the meantime, back home in the US, Erik and Sonni started searching Newspapers.com to find information on George’s crew. They found clippings for many of the crew members, and before long, they learned that two of George’s crew members were still alive! Erik hopped on a plane and had a wonderful meeting with them. They provided Erik with personal accounts of that day and filled in many of the gaps.

Erick and Sonni Bornmeier

The Bornmeiers’ are working with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), the government agency charged with bringing home the remains of Americans unaccounted for. They continue to research and are anxious to return to France. Residents of Monchy-Cayeux have taken ownership of this project and have begun holding town meetings to research the town’s history and the role it played in WWII. George is one of more than 72,000 Americans that remain unaccounted for from WWII. Each day, efforts are being made to bring those soldiers home. To learn the story of your WWII soldier, start your search today using Fold3 and Newspapers.com!

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Destruction of the 1890 Census

1890 United States Federal Census Fragment sample image.

Genealogists and historians have lamented the loss of the 1890 census for more than a century. When researchers inquire about the 1890 census, their questions are quickly dismissed with the explanation that a fire destroyed the records. The truth, however, is more complicated. The 1890 census records did sustain extensive smoke and water damage in two different fires (1896 and 1921), but the damaged records sat languishing in a warehouse until the 1930s when Congress ordered their destruction.

The 1890 census was unique for several reasons. For the first time, officials decided to gather data on a separate schedule for each family. Families answered questions about race, immigration and naturalization, the number of children born and living, and questions relating to service in the Civil War. It was also the first census that used punch cards and an electrical tabulation system.

After enumerators finished the 1890 census, the Department of the Interior stored portions in Washington D.C. in the basement of Marini’s Hall. On March 22, 1896, a night watchman discovered the rear of the building was on fire and notified the fire department. Firefighters arrived to find dense smoke pouring from the basement. Though they extinguished the flames before sunrise, the fire damaged or destroyed the special schedules for mortality, crime, pauperism, benevolence, special classes (e.g., deaf, blind, insane) and portions of the transportation and insurance schedules. The general population schedules, however, were safe and stored in the basement of the Commerce Building.

The Washington Post, January 11, 1921

On the evening of January 10, 1921, an employee at the Commerce Building noticed smoke rising through the elevator shaft and sounded the fire alarm. For hours, firefighters soaked the building with water to quench the flames. When the smoke cleared, archivists found 25 percent of the 1890 census schedules destroyed, while half of the rest sustained serious water damage. Government officials debated whether the burnt and waterlogged records could be salvaged.

This tragic fire spurred discussion about the need for national archives to hold public records. While awaiting funding for an archive building, Census Director William Steuart warned the damaged records would continue to deteriorate. Not much is known about what happened to the census records between 1922-1932, but in December 1932, the Chief Clerk of the Bureau of Census sent the Librarian of Congress a list of documents deemed no longer necessary and scheduled for destruction. Included in the list were the 1890 damaged census records. The Librarian approved the list and forwarded it to Congress who authorized it and the damaged records were destroyed. Ironically, just one day before Congress authorized the destruction of these records, President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone for the new National Archives Building.

In 1934, the National Archives Building opened in Washington, D.C. In 1942, officials found a damaged bundle of 1890 census records from Illinois that escaped destruction. In 1953, they also found fragments of records from Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and the District of Columbia. These rediscovered records comprise just a tiny fraction of the 1890 census, leaving 99.99 percent of the original records lost forever. Visit Ancestry.com to see the surviving 1890 census fragments, or search Newspapers.com to see more clippings about their destruction.

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