After graduating, she practiced medicine primarily in Massachusetts and Virginia, focusing on the care of women and children. She also worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau to provide medical care to the formerly enslaved. She published A Book of Medical Discourses in 1883.
An 1894 piece in the Boston Globe described Crumpler as an “intellectual woman” who “as a physician made an enviable place for herself in the ranks of the medical fraternity.”
2. S. Josephine Baker – First American woman to receive a doctorate in public health
Sara Josephine Baker (1873-1945) graduated from New York Infirmary Medical College in 1898. Her career was largely focused on improving children’s healthcare in underserved New York communities and lowering infant mortality rates. Baker received a doctorate in public health in 1917, the first woman to do so.
Baker became known for her observation (as quoted in the New York Times in 1918) that it was “safer to be a soldier in the trenches in this horrible war than to be a baby in the cradle in the United States.”
3 & 4. María Elisa Rivera Díaz & Ana “Anita” Janer – First Puerto Rican women to earn medical degrees
María Elisa Rivera Díaz and Ana “Anita” Janer both graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Baltimore in 1909, making them the first Puerto Rican women to earn medical degrees. Both were at the top of their class, and both started medical practices shortly after graduating.
Their extremely high grades in difficult subjects earned them the 1908 newspaper description of “las más notables estudiantes de medicina en la ciudad” (“the most notable medical students in the city”).
5. Margaret Jessie Chung – First Chinese American female surgeon
Margaret Jessie Chung (1889-1959) graduated from the University of Southern California Medical School in 1916 and opened a clinic in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1920s. She provided medical care not only to the Chinese community, but also to celebrities and other prominent Californians. She became known as “Mom Chung” for the care and support she gave to hundreds of servicemen beginning in 1931.
A 1927 newspaper feature about Chung remarked that “she fought her fight until her achievements have earned for her the reputation of being both a physician and a surgeon of unusual ability.”
During the second half of the 19th century, the idea of “free” libraries began to spread. Carnegie, who was born in Scotland in 1835, immigrated to America as a boy after industrialization forced his father out of the textile business. The Carnegie family settled in the suburbs of Pittsburgh where young Andrew got a job as a messenger boy. There he met Colonel James Anderson. Each Saturday, Anderson opened his personal library and allowed young workers like Carnegie to borrow books. The books opened up a new world for Andrew who vowed that if he ever became wealthy, he would provide this generosity to others.
Initially, when an application was approved, a community could build any type of building they wanted. Carnegie felt some of the buildings were not an efficient use of space and later insisted on approving plans before construction began. He even wrote a book, Notes on Library Building, and sent it to each community that received a grant. The standards outlined in the book meant that many Carnegie libraries looked similar. They had high ceilings and spacious interiors. The exterior was often stone or brick. The high ceilings meant that access to the library from street level usually included a flight of stairs. These stairs became a hallmark of Carnegie libraries, and some claimed they represented climbing towards wisdom or working towards knowledge. The stairs, however, proved a hindrance to older or disabled patrons.
We’re excited to announce that we’ve added new papers from Missouri and Kansas to our archives!
Kansas City Star: The Kansas City Star is one of the Midwest’s most influential papers. The first issue of this Pulitzer Prize-winning paper was published in 1880 and our archives contain nearly 150 years of history from Kansas City, Missouri. The city’s population was just 55,000 when the Kansas City Star began publication. Future president Harry S. Truman worked in the paper’s mailroom in 1902, and American novelist Ernest Hemingway worked as a reporter for the paper in 1917-1918. As one of America’s great newspapers, The Kansas City Star has exceptional coverage of local, national, and international news.
You can learn about the 1887 construction of the Crystal Palace. Built to house the annual industrial exposition, the Crystal Palace contained 80,000 square feet of glass roofing and was among the most amazing buildings in the Midwest. After the expo, the Crystal palace stood vacant until it burned down in 1901. Researchers will find a treasure trove of both historical events and local family history in the Kansas City Star. One news story that gripped the nation was the Kansas City massacre in 1933. Gang members murdered four law enforcement officers and a criminal fugitive they were trying to help escape. The incident took place outside of Union Station and shocked residents. It also led to dramatic changes at the FBI, including new laws that allowed FBI agents to carry guns and make arrests. The Kansas City Starchronicled developments as officials tracked down the perpetrators.
The Wichita Eagle: The Eagle debuted in Kansas in 1884 and aimed to help Wichita become a major commercial center. At the time, Wichita was a busy cattle-shipping point (the city’s early development came from the Texas cattle trade along the Chisholm Trail), and the paper encouraged the diversification of industry. By 1890, Wichita had become the third-largest city in Kansas and the area was experiencing rapid growth.
The discovery of the Mid-Continent Oil Field brought an oil and gas boom to Wichita and The Eagle reported on locals like T. P. Hayes who discovered a gas field under his home in 1912. He used the gas to cook with and heat his home. In 1915, The Eagle reported that a buildup of gas under Hayes’s property led to an explosion in sewers around the neighborhood, and in 1916, his well began spewing oil. By 1918, The Eagle reported that Carter Oil Company had taken control of the Hayes property and drilled a well. In 1960, The Eagle bought the competing Beacon Newspaper Corp. and began publishing the morning Wichita Eagle and the Sunday Eagle and Beacon. In 1980, the two papers merged to form The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, later the name was simplified to The Wichita Eagle. Our archives contain a century of local, national, and international news. If you have ancestors from Wichita, you may find them mentioned in obituaries or stories like this one about a local family reunion.
Newspapers can be an incredible resource for family history research. Not only do they have birth, marriage, and death announcements, but they are a valuable source of stories, photos, and more.
If you’re just learning how to use newspapers to do family history research, we’ve come up with a step-by-step guide to help you get started. This guide will help you organize your research before, during, and after your newspaper search!
(Our guide is meant to provide general suggestions to help you organize your newspaper family history research. Be sure to personalize our advice to fit your own research needs. And for help learning about Newspapers.com™ site basics, visit our Help Center.)
Before you get started: Pick one ancestor to research at a time.
We recommend researching just one person at a time to help focus your research and minimize distractions. You will often need to try a variety of newspaper searches to find the ancestor you’re looking for; and when you stick to one person, it becomes easier to keep track of potential searches you want to try.
Tip: If you discover information about another ancestor while researching your focus person, be sure to clip or save that newspaper article and make a note to come back to it when you have time to research that other ancestor.
Step 1. Write down what you already know about your ancestor.
Write down the things you already know about your ancestor. Gathering the known facts will allow you to narrow your newspaper search and help you differentiate your ancestor from other people who have the same name. For example, if you already know your ancestor was born in 1880, you can filter out newspaper matches for their name in the years before their birth, making the number of search results more manageable.
Facts to write down before you start newspaper research (if you know them) include:
The person’s full name and any known nicknames
Important dates in their life (birth, marriage, death, military service, immigration)
Names of close family members or other key individuals in the ancestor’s life
Locations they lived (you’d be surprised by how many discoveries are made by searching an address!)
Step 2. Consider what you want to learn about your ancestor.
Setting goals and objectives is often helpful in family history research. So before you start searching newspapers, consider what you want to learn about your ancestor. Is their birthdate a mystery? Are you not sure of their father’s name? Is there a family story you’ve always heard and want to substantiate?
Clarifying what you want to find out will help you decide the best way to set up your newspaper search. For example, if your goal is to find your ancestor’s marriage date, you may want to start by searching for a marriage announcement in the Newspapers.com Marriage Index collection.
Examples of things you may want to learn:
Dates of important life events
Locations of important life events
Names of your ancestor or their parents/siblings/etc.
Life stories and anecdotes
The general history of the time and place they were living
Step 3. Choose strategies for how you plan to learn about your ancestor.
Now that you know what you want to learn about your ancestor from newspapers, it’s time to plan how you’re going to find it. This includes thinking about things like which specific newspapers or cities you want to search in first. Though you may need to adjust your strategy as you go along, starting out with a plan in mind will help provide structure and organization to your research.
In forming your research strategy, consider things like:
In which geographic locations am I most likely to find newspaper mentions of my ancestor? (e.g., cities, counties, states, countries)
Am I aware of a local newspaper that my ancestor is likely to be mentioned in?
What year range am I most likely to find my ancestor mentioned in?
What are alternative search terms I might need to try if my first search doesn’t work? (E.g., what are nicknames, alternative spellings, or name abbreviations that my ancestor might be mentioned under?)
Tip: Keep in mind that people can be mentioned in newspapers in locations you’d never expect and from years long after their deaths. For instance, one young woman was born in West Virginia and died in Idaho in 1893. But her marriage announcement appeared in a Pennsylvania newspaper! Her parents had lived in Pennsylvania before their deaths, and a paper there published news of her engagement.
Step 4.Document (and clip!) what you are learning from your newspaper search.
Once you begin finding newspaper mentions about you ancestor, be sure to document what you’ve learned! It would be frustrating to discover something about your ancestor, only to forget the specifics later because you didn’t document your discovery!
When researching on Newspapers.com, one easy way to document your discoveries is through our clipping tool. If you think you might want to refer to a newspaper article in the future—clip it! Even experienced newspaper researchers sometimes come across a discovery, fail to clip it, and then can’t find it again. (If you find yourself in this situation, you can select “Recently Viewed” in the dropdown box below your username to see the last few newspaper pages you viewed).
You can view all your clippings on your Clippings page (accessible under the “Clippings” tab at the top of our site, or by clicking your username and selecting “My Clippings” from the dropdown box). And if you title your clippings—which we always recommend—you can search for them on your Clippings page, making locating them again a snap. You can even filter your clippings by options such as date or newspaper. You also have the option to adjust the privacy settings on your clippings.
Other things you’ll want to keep track of while you do newspaper family history research include:
Citations! Make sure you keep track of where you found your information. Clippings and downloaded PDF images on Newspapers.com come with the newspaper title and date included, but you may want to keep track of this information separately as well.
Tech-y stuff. Did you save all your newspaper downloads in a particular file on your computer? Did you title all your clippings a consistent way so that you could search for them later? Make a note so you’ll remember.
We hope this guide has been helpful. Family history research is challenging at times, but newspapers can provide richness and depth not available with traditional records!
Here are some of our other family history blog posts that may help you in your newspaper research:
Viral cat videos and memes aren’t the only things that create feline celebrities. In the winter of 1920–21, the Boston Post spotlighted more than 30 cats in what it called its “Famous Cats of New England” series.
While some of these cats were more famous than others, all the felines came with interesting life stories—from prowling the halls of state government to sailing on a Navy ship during wartime.
Here are our favorite 5 cats from the series, found on Newspapers.comTM.
The Boston Post justifiably began its series with its own office cat, Von Hindenburg. Nicknamed “Hindy,” the feisty cat was a regular feature in the Post’s pages between 1918 and 1923.
From the article:
“He is known by name to millions, while hundreds every week recognize him on the street as the famous Post cat. He receives mail regularly from admirers and detractors. Von Hindenburg is a New England institution.” READ MORE.
2. Mike, Governor Coolidge’s cat at the State House.
Mike was a rescue kitten that started off in the boiler room of the Massachusetts State House but soon had the run of the whole building. He even laid claim to Governor (and future U.S. president) Calvin Coolidge’s chair. When a sergeant-at-arms attempted to eject Mike from the State House, one of the cat’s loyal supporters made such a strong argument that Mike got to stay.
From the article:
“Word reached the library [that Mike had to leave the State House]. Down came the librarian in fury. The State House simply could not get along without Mike. Since his arrival not a single book has had to be rebound. No rat or mouse lived long enough to set tooth in the precious tomes that contained the State’s records. Mike had seen to that. Previously hundreds of dollars had to be spent in repairing books. So Mike stayed.” READ MORE.
Napoleon was the resident cat at a local pet hospital and was known for visiting the animal patients.
From the article:
“Whether it be a horse, dog, cat, monkey, parrot or squirrel that is ill matters little to the charitable Napoleon. With equal impartiality he visits them all. […] Through every ward he goes; has particular cats and kittens with whom he stays longer times than others. Black ones seem to be his favorites. Hours at a time he sits beside Inky, a little black kitten laid up with a strained shoulder.” READ MORE.
While less famous than the previous 3 cats we’ve mentioned, Squeak went down in Lake Boon history one summer when his refusal to be left behind prompted some decidedly uncatlike behavior.
From the article:
“It was [the family dog] Michael’s custom to swim after the canoe whenever Mrs. Hayward paddled out across the lake. Squeak followed only to the shore and stood there looking wistfully out to sea—decidedly out of it. Paddling as usual one morning, Mrs. Hayward looked back to assure herself that Michael was coming along in safety when she descried a smaller series of ripples emanating from a small dark object that was battling manfully with the current. Backing until she was closer Mrs. Hayward recognized Squeak, and at the peril of capsizing pulled the valiant little cat into the canoe, where it rested perfectly satisfied with having gone Michael one better.” READ MORE.
Born in Scotland, Kiltie was adopted as a kitten by an American sailor during World War I. He was taken aboard the USS Ozama (a naval mine carrier) and crossed three submarine zones on his trans-Atlantic journey.
From the article:
“Adventure with a big “A” began for the six-day-old kitten from that day. He went through three submarine zones safely. He won the undying devotion of every gob [sailor] on board. Supplies were low and Kiltie remembers well the night when he heard there were only three cans of condensed milk aboard, and that it was to be no plain gob bill of fare, but was to be reserved for the little Scotch kitten.” READ MORE.
On February 8, 1968, police opened fire on a group of unarmed Black student protestors on the South Carolina State University campus. The students were protesting segregation at a local business. When the smoke cleared, three students were dead and 27 wounded. Nine officers were charged with excessive force and later acquitted as the Governor called the killings, “One of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina.”
The violence was the culmination of events that began earlier that week when Black students organized a protest at the nearby All-Star Bowling Lanes on Monday, February 5th. Some 200 students gathered to protest the establishment’s policy of segregating black and white patrons. Harry F. Floyd, the operator of the bowling alley, appealed to the City Council. He asserted that his private business did not fall under civil rights laws.
By the evening of the 8th, Orangeburg was a tinderbox. Once again, Black students gathered on the campus of South Carolina State University. Angry protestors, many of whom had been beaten by police in the previous days, started a bonfire on campus. Firefighters arrived to douse the flames, and highway patrolmen moved in to protect the fireman. Students responded by throwing sticks and rocks at the highway patrolmen. One protestor grabbed a heavy piece of a wooden banister, taken from a nearby unoccupied house, and threw it at the police. It hit an officer in the head, who fell to the ground injured and bleeding. Fellow officers feared he’d been shot, prompting one to fire a warning shot into the air. Hearing the noise, the other highway patrolmen thought they were being fired upon and began shooting into the crowd. Some students were hit in the back as they tried to flee. Henry Smith, Samuel Hammond, and Delano Middleton were killed and at least 27 others wounded. Cleveland Sellers was among the injured. He was an activist and state coordinator for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. The police considered him dangerous, and he was arrested and convicted of inciting a riot.
The killings came to be known as the Orangeburg Massacre, and Governor Robert E. McNair called it, “One of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina.” Prosecutors leveled charges of excessive force against nine officers, all of whom were acquitted. Meanwhile, Cleveland Sellers was sent to prison but later pardoned. The government charged the owners of the bowling alley that triggered the massacre with an anti-discrimination suit.
To learn more about the Orangeburg Massacre, start searching Newspapers.com today.
Interested in other posts related to the Civil Rights Movement? Try one of these:
We are starting 2021 with a bang! We’ve already added nearly three million new pages to our archives! In addition to new content from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, we’ve added papers from Missouri, California, and almost one million new pages to our Nebraska archives! It’s a great time to dive in and make new personal discoveries!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!