Newspapers from the late 1800s and early 1900s can be valuable tools in tracing one's ancestry, said Sharon Debartolo Carmack, a professional family historian.

DeBartolo Carmack spoke about the importance of using newspapers to trace ancestors at the 1998 Utah Genealogical Association conference held at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City Saturday.Newspapers in the late 1800s and early 1900s contain a lot of information on the social history of people as well as ordinary people in everyday life. Newspapers can provide information on costs of consumer goods, describe or picture fashions and reveal economic conditions. Through headlines and classified ads, they also provide information on the community.

`Newspapers portray intimate details of everyday life,' DeBartolo Carmack said.

The first step in tracing ancestors is finding out what newspapers were around at the time. This information can be found in county histories, city directories and historical societies.

The next step is finding copies of the newspapers. Since newspapers are among the best preserved information sources, one can usually access old newspapers at the local library using microfilm. Interlibrary loan programs can also make copies of newspapers from other areas available, Debortolo Carmack said.

According to DeBartolo Carmack, the best way to trace ancestors is collecting obituaries from the newspapers because obituaries provide detailed information on the person's family. If useable obituaries are not available, people can scan newspapers for background on what life was like at a particular time.