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Genealogy: Finding and using newspapers, periodicals

By Barry Ewell

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Feb. 1 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

Newspapers and periodicals are often overlooked resources that can provide extensive value in genealogy research.

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Newspapers and periodicals are often overlooked resources that can provide extensive value in genealogy research.

Newspapers

Newspapers can contain a multitude of genealogical information — obituaries; notices of births, marriages, and deaths; legal notices; estate transactions; biographies; military service; and immigration.

They also provide insight into life as it was at a given moment in time. It answers questions like, What world events shaped their lives? What neighborhood happenings occurred? What fashions were being advertised, and what was their cost? What were the brands of food and other household items used and their cost? What were the forms of entertainment on a Saturday night? What opportunities were there in the want ads? Was there a letter waiting at the post office?

Many current newspapers are online and an increasing number of older newspapers are being digitized or portions transcribed and put online. If one can't find what he or she needs online one stands a good chance of finding a microfilmed copy that can be obtained through interlibrary loan.

Periodicals

Through periodicals, researchers can begin to gain access to data contained in vital records; court records; maps; family bibles and day books; declarations of intention and naturalization certificates, local census and tax lists, church records and cemetery inscriptions, as well as the dozens of unique local items.

Genealogical society publications: City, county, regional and state genealogical societies write and publish journals, newsletters and quarterlies that focus on the area of interest to the genealogical organization. These periodicals are published monthly, quarterly and annually and range from a few pages to hundreds of pages. They tend to index, abstract and transcribe the records of the region where they are published. The types of articles you will find include the following:

  • Genealogical sources and resources in specific geographic areas
  • Indexes and abstracts of source materials
  • Ancestor charts and group sheets of members
  • Lists of upcoming seminars significant to family historians
  • Acquisition lists and holding statements of area libraries and archives
  • Names of officers and directors of the organizations who can be used as research contacts
  • Unique and forgotten sources of information
  • Important research tips for the area
  • Such items as genealogies, transcripts and abstracts of local records, probate records, church records and cemetery records
Historical society publications: Society publications can be a significant aspect of immigrant research. Any local record may be the subject of publication by a local society. Whenever one contacts a genealogical or ethnic society, be certain to inquire about their publications. Even when such publications do not identify an immigrant's hometown, they may provide further identification about his or her immigrant, or may instruct a researcher on additional sources specific to a locality or ethnic group.

City, county and regional historical society publications document the local geographic area, the activities of organizations and institutions, the lives of the leaders of the community, the impact of major events such as war and depression, and the impact of major trends such as migration and settlement patterns. Researchers will also find indexes and abstracts of records found in the area.

State historical society publications contain articles that chronicle the lives of the rich and famous, unusual scientific or religious movement, or detailing a Civil War regiment.

Ethnic society publications provide an excellent resource of articles that are focused on the ethnic culture (e.g., Historical Society of Germans from Russia). They help trace and discuss ancestry, share sources of data and common findings across the group.

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