This methodology tip is brought to you by Kim Ashford from Twigs and Branches.

One of my favorite resources for researching my family, are newspapers.  Especially when your ancestors lived in a small town, the local newspaper can be filled with lots of information that adds to the stories of your family history.  For my German relatives, I have often found their place of birth or marriage in Germany or date of immigration in various articles.

Obituaries, Event and Anniversaries

The first types of articles that we think about for research are obituaries, but they are not the only ones.  Events and celebrations such as birthdays, marriages and wedding anniversaries may include further details about the family.  Legal announcements about probate cases, divorces, and lawsuits are sometimes forgotten about because they are often written in very small print.  But they can lead you to additional records and details and are worth reading.  I love reading the town news sections in a newspaper because they record the travels of people connected to the area, which can be very helpful in tracing family movements.

Digitizing and Searchability

With more and more newspapers being digitized and searchable it is easier to find some of the more unusual articles.  It is also becoming easier now that Optical Character Recognition software, while not perfect, can index newspapers and even some in the German Fraktur print that the German language newspapers used.  Ethnic newspapers covered a much larger area and often include news from multiple states or across the country.

Names and Places

Information contained in German language newspapers will more likely have names and places spelled as you would find them in German speaking areas.  Ernest may be Ernst, William may be Wilhelm even though in other records in the United States they will spell it the other way.  This will change how you search for them. Also, in English language newspapers foreign place names are frequently misspelled, but in a German language newspaper they are more likely to be identified correctly.

Locating Newspapers

German newspapers take some effort to locate.  I like to use the ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov website for American newspapers to search for titles and places.  Some are also digitized.  Some societies may have indexed some of the newspapers already and have indexes available.  It can be difficult to read these newspapers. Perhaps you can locate someone in a German Genealogy Society or organization to assist you. Researching in newspapers is certainly worth the effort.

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