5 Pioneering Women Doctors You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

We searched the historical papers on Newspapers.com™ to find the stories of 5 pioneering women doctors you may not have heard of before!

1. Rebecca Lee Crumpler – First Black American woman licensed as a doctor

Rebecca (Davis) Lee Crumpler (1831-1895) was the first Black American woman doctor, graduating in 1864 from the New England Female Medical College, where she was the only Black graduate.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler graduates from New England Female Medical CollegeRebecca Lee Crumpler graduates from New England Female Medical College 15 Jul 1864, Fri The Aegis & Intelligencer (Bel Air, Maryland) Newspapers.com


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.”

S. Josephine BakerS. Josephine Baker 24 Nov 1923, Sat The Star Press (Muncie, Indiana) Newspapers.com


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”).

Elisa Rivera and Anita Janer, with fellow medical student Palmira GatellElisa Rivera and Anita Janer, with fellow medical student Palmira Gatell 25 Oct 1908, Sun The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) Newspapers.com


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.”

Margaret Jessie ChungMargaret Jessie Chung 08 May 1927, Sun The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) Newspapers.com


Learn more about these 5 amazing women and many more on Newspapers.com™! And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

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March 18, 1889: The First Carnegie Library Opens in America

On March 18, 1889, the Carnegie Free Library of Braddock opened in a suburb of Pittsburgh. It was the first library donated by businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in America. From 1886-1919, Carnegie donated more than $40 million to open 1,679 libraries across the country. He also built additional libraries around the world. These libraries were in communities both small and large and opened up a world of learning, entertainment, and possibilities to millions of patrons. Carnegie was a Scottish-American immigrant who made his fortune in the railroad and steel industries. Before the end of his life, he donated nearly 90% of his fortune ($350 million) to various causes.

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.

Carnegie spent the next 50 years building his fortune, though occasionally his methods were scrutinized. He faced criticism in 1892 when workers at his Homestead Steel Mill decided to strike over low wages and better working conditions. The strike spiraled into a violent gun battle requiring a militia to restore peace. One editorial complained, “Ten thousand Carnegie public libraries would not compensate…for the evils resulting from the Homestead lockout.” Some argued that Carnegie built his fortune on the backs of poor workers. Carnegie however, believed that a library was one way that workers could improve themselves. He wanted libraries housed in beautiful buildings, with big windows and ample light. This was a change for many towns that housed makeshift libraries in churches, stables, or at the back of shops.

Carnegie Library in Perry, Oklahoma – 1909

Carnegie devised a plan to award grants for library construction for communities in need. Grants were conditional upon three conditions. First, municipalities had to own the property where the library would be built. Second, the property had to be large enough for future expansion if demand arose, and third, grant recipients had to pay 10% of the gift for building maintenance.  

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.

Carnegie Libraries in Iowa – 1917

By the time Carnegie issued the last library grant in 1919, most states had at least one Carnegie library, while other states had many (California had 142)! Some Carnegie libraries are still in use today. Others are no longer standing or have been converted into civic centers or commercial businesses.  Do you have a Carnegie library in your community? To learn more about Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie libraries, search Newspapers.com today!

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New Papers from Missouri and Kansas!

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 Star chronicled 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.  

To explore these new papers from Missouri and Kansas, and other new and updated papers, search Newspapers.com today!

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A Step-By-Step Guide to Newspaper Family History Research

14 Jul 1934, Sat The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.com


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.

23 Jan 1921, Sun The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Newspapers.com


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?)

LEARN MORE: Tips for searching with name and spelling variations in newspapers

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).

Making a clipping on Newspapers.com
Making a clipping on Newspapers.com

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.

LEARN MORE: How (and Why) to Use Our Clipping & Embed Tools

Discoveries you’ll want to document include:

  • Names, dates & locations
  • Stories & anecdotes
  • Photos
  • Local/national news events that may have affected your ancestor’s life
  • Clues that might lead you to further avenues of research

And don’t forget to save what you find to your tree on Ancestry® if you have one!

LEARN MORE: How to save a clipping to Ancestry

Step 5. Reflect on what you want to learn in the future.

When you’ve gone through all your newspaper search results, it’s time to think about what else you can do to learn about your ancestor in the newspaper.

Things to consider:

  • Are there other names or search terms you might be able to use to find your ancestor?
  • Are there any parts of your ancestor’s life that need more research?
  • Is there anything you couldn’t discover now but may want to come back to in the future?
  • Did any new questions about your ancestor come up as you were researching?
  • What next steps can you take to discover more about your ancestor?
  • Has something you’ve learned in a newspaper suggested a non-newspaper record you could search? (e.g., a marriage announcement leading you to a marriage registry)
24 Dec 1927, Sat Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) Newspapers.com


Other things to keep track of

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.

More resources

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:

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

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5 Astonishing Cats That Were Famous 100 Years Ago!

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.

1. Hindy, the Post’s cat

Tue, Dec 7, 1920 – Page 24 · Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


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.

Wed, Dec 8, 1920 – Page 7 · Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


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.

3. Napoleon, at Angell Memorial Hospital

Tue, Dec 14, 1920 – Page 9 · Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


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.

4. Squeak, the typical fireside sphinx

Wed, Dec 22, 1920 – Page 9 · Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


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.

5. Kiltie, who went through three submarine zones

Wed, Jan 5, 1921 – Page 9 · Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


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.

Want to read more of the “Famous Cats of New England” series? Search on Newspapers.com!

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February 8, 1968: Orangeburg Massacre

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.  

The next two evenings brought more protests, escalating tensions, and some arrests. National Guard troops were called in as protestors threw rocks and bricks at passing automobiles, including police cars. There were reports of broken windows, shots fired, and injuries. The bowling alley closed down, and rumors that protestors were burning buildings circulated throughout the community.  

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:

Greensboro Sit-In Protests

The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The March on Washington  

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New Papers from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin!

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!

Ellwood City Ledger: Ellwood City is located in Western Pennsylvania, primarily in Lawrence County, with a small portion in Beaver County. The city was named after Isaac Ellwood, one of the inventors of barbed wire. The Ellwood City Ledger dates back to 1921 and joins The Ellwood Citizen and The Evening Ledger providing news from Ellwood City that dates back to 1894. The Ellwood City Ledger chronicles light-hearted tidbits in history – like the time city officials confiscated an illegal still during Prohibition and locked it up in the Municipal jail. The paper also covered more somber news, like when the first local soldier from Ellwood City died during WWII. Ellwood City is near the Ohio border, so if you have ancestors from Ohio cities like Youngstown, or nearby Pennsylvania towns like Butler or Washington, you may find them mentioned in this paper. You’ll also find articles about some of the families that helped settle this area. Birth, death, and marriage announcements, anniversary celebrations, birthday announcements, and family reunions also provide wonderful content for genealogical research.

Portage Daily Register: Portage is located in the Wisconsin River Valley between the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. The Daily Register was the first daily paper in Portage and began publication in 1886. The paper reported on the people and industries that helped fuel growth in this town. One example is the local brickyards that produced distinctive Portage yellow brick. In the 1800s, settlers discovered that the white clay lying beneath the area’s river sands proved particularly well suited for making strong bricks. Several brickyards opened, and brickmaking helped Portage become an important commercial and trading center. Many homes and businesses are built from this brick, including homes in an area known as the Society Hill Historic District. This district, with its elegant, historic mansions, reflects the life of Portage’s elite. If you have ancestors from Portage, the Daily Register reported on national and world news but is particularly rich in local detail. You will find stories on those that were sick, visiting town, births, deaths, or changes in local business – like when a new store opened or another closed.

Check out these and other new papers on Newspapers.com today!

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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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January 15, 1919: The Great Molasses Flood

Does the scent of molasses linger in your home long after the holidays? The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 left residents from one city claiming they could smell molasses for decades. On January 15, 1919, a giant tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst open in Boston’s North End neighborhood. It flooded the streets creating a 15-foot wave of molasses that carved a path of destruction. The sticky quagmire killed 21 people and injured 150, paving the way for more stringent safety standards across the country.

During WWI, molasses was distilled into industrial alcohol and used to produce military explosives. The Purity Distilling Company set up shop in the densely populated North End neighborhood in Boston. The area was home to many immigrants, and the company encountered little opposition when they constructed a 50-foot tall, 90-foot diameter molasses tank, just three feet from the street in 1915.

Days before the deadly explosion, a ship delivered a fresh load of warm molasses. It was mixed with cold molasses already in the tank, causing gasses to form. With the tank filled to near-capacity, a later structural engineering analysis revealed that the walls were too thin to support the weight, and there was too much stress on the rivet holes.  

Around 12:30 p.m. on January 15, 1919, workers stopped for lunch and a group of firefighters in a nearby firehouse sat down for a game of cards. Suddenly firefighters heard a strange staccato sound. It was the rivets on the molasses tank popping off. Other witnesses described a low rumbling sound. Before anyone could react, the tank of molasses burst, sending a rush of air that hurled people off their feet. A tsunami of sticky syrup poured over bystanders and horses, and knocked buildings off their foundations. The resulting river of molasses ran through streets and passageways, filling cellars and basements. A one-ton piece of steel from the vat flew into a trestle of elevated railroad tracks, causing the tracks to buckle.

First responders rushed to help but were slowed down by knee-deep sticky molasses that had become thicker in the cold air. They labored to find survivors and recover the dead. Initially, there were concerns that the bursting tank was caused by sabotage or an outside explosion (a claim that Purity Distilling Company clung to). Officials later determined that faulty tank construction was the cause. Workers spent months cleaning the molasses mess by sprinkling sand and hosing down the streets with saltwater.

The tragedy led to many lawsuits and more than 100 damage awards. It also spurred changes in building codes with more stringent building regulations, first in Boston, then in Massachusetts, and then across the country.

If you would like to learn more about the Great Molasses Food, search Newspapers.com today!

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8 Delicious Holiday Dishes to Try This December

Looking for some vintage recipes to try this holiday season? We searched the historical papers on Newspapers.com to find these 8 recipes for delicious December dishes!

(Click on any of the recipes below to see a larger version on our site.)

1. Biscochitos (from 1967)

Biscochitos (or bizcochitos) are anise-flavored cookies from New Mexico that are popular during Christmas.

Recipe: Bizcochitos (1967)Recipe: Bizcochitos (1967) Tue, Nov 28, 1967 – Page 14 · Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico) · Newspapers.com


2. Cheese Blintzes (from 1959)

Similar to a filled pancake or crepe, cheese blintzes are a part of some Hanukkah celebrations.

Recipe: Cheese blintzes (1959)Recipe: Cheese blintzes (1959) Fri, Oct 9, 1959 – Page 5 · The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com


3. Risgrynsgröt (from 1959)

Risgrynsgröt is a Swedish rice pudding eaten during the winter months, especially around Christmas.

Recipe: Risgrynsgrot (1959)Recipe: Risgrynsgrot (1959) Sat, Sep 19, 1959 – 4 · The Herald-Press (Saint Joseph, Michigan) · Newspapers.com


4. Lebkuchen (from 1934)

Lebkuchen are a traditional German Christmas spice cookie.

Recipe: Lebkuchen (1934)Recipe: Lebkuchen (1934) Fri, Feb 2, 1934 – 2 · Iron County Miner (Hurley, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com


5. Sweet Tamales (from 1959)

Sweet tamales are a dessert made in parts of Mexico (and elsewhere), particularly at Christmastime.

Recipe: Sweet Tamales (1959)Recipe: Sweet Tamales (1959) Thu, Dec 24, 1959 – Page 6 · Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona) · Newspapers.com


6. Applesauce Cake (from 1958)

Apple-based dishes and desserts are a common feature of Hanukkah meals.

Recipe: Applesauce cake (1958)Recipe: Applesauce cake (1958) Fri, Oct 3, 1958 – Page 7 · The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com


7. Christmas Pudding (from 1896)

Christmas pudding is a boiled or steamed pudding traditionally served at Christmas in the United Kingdom.

Recipe: Christmas pudding (1896)Recipe: Christmas pudding (1896) Wed, Dec 2, 1896 – 4 · The North-Eastern Daily Gazette (Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com


8. Bonelos Dago (from 1966)

Bonelos dago (or Buñelos dagu) are yam-based fried donuts popular in Guam during the Christmas season and are typically eaten dipped in syrup.

Recipe: Bonelos Dago (1966)Recipe: Bonelos Dago (1966) Sun, Dec 11, 1966 – 9 · Guam Daily News (Agana Heights, Guam) · Newspapers.com


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