FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #5: Newspapers – Our Grandparents’ FaceBook
“The past is a chatty companion, I can tell you.” -Ari Berk
Working on your family’s history is a bit like going on an adult Easter-egg hunt and I’m not kidding at all… This month I’d love to share with you my love of newspapers — the online newspaper sites in particular. Add up all the little stories that your ancestors might have been mentioned in so many years ago along with the searching capabilities now available and you come up with the possibility of lots of little tidbits to help bring your ancestors to life.
I’ve started a re-boot with my own research that spans some 18 years and I decided to pick it up with my paternal grandparents since I’ve done so many layouts featuring them. This time around, I’m really slowing down and taking a magnifying glass look at each document — really pulling every bit of information I can get out of it into my tree.
What do I mean? Well, around 1927, my grandfather moved close to 90 miles away from his home town to Auburn, Indiana for his work with Sinclair Oil Company right before the Great Depression here in the United States.
Chatty is good
The newspapers from the early 1920’s – 1950’s here in Indiana had columns devoted to surrounding areas and let’s just say that they were very chatty. It is the kind of chatter that you would think of with two people meeting up in town and kind of catching up on all the “goings-on” that they had missed out on. Luckily for me, his hometown newspaper is online at NewspaperArchive and I can access it at home through my local library’s subscription! When I searched on his name, I could literally get a birds-eye view of important trips and events that had happened to him. What caught me off-guard is just how many times he traveled back to his hometown to visit his parents and especially his grandparents.
I found out he had “lost” a horse. (I’m not sure what that really meant, but I’m sure he was greatly upset.) I found out that he had become the manager of a brand-new gas station that had been built with fancy “new” lighting that allowed the area to look like it was daylight during the night time. I found out that he would bring family members back to Auburn with him to stay for the week and then tote them back the next weekend only to bring another relative and family back with him for another stay! I found out that his sister had indeed traveled up to Auburn, Indiana because she would ride back to their hometown together for family events.
I could go on and tell you even more, but I know that it isn’t nearly as interesting to non-family members as it is to me, but my point in telling you what I had found is that each little bit of information I found either added to his “story” of how he came to live up near Auburn in the first place, how much his family truly meant to him and how he eventually became the man/grandfather that I knew and loved so much. It all made so much more sense… HE made so much more sense!
As I have added it to his profile information, it starts to really fill in his time line which helps when I start to look for land records for him. I won’t need to be looking in years where I found him still at home, right?
Here’s a huge tip for anyone starting their research: Make note of where you found anything that you use as a document for your family history. If it is a book, then get a picture of the title page as well as the actual page with the information. You can never have too much information on where it is all found! Even make a note where you found the document. Was it online or in a book? Where did you find the book?
Should you accept it…
Your mission this month is to check your local library to see if they have a subscription to either NewspaperArchive.com or Newspapers.com and then just start searching for each one of your grandparents. If your library doesn’t carry a subscription, think about doing a trial period with either one or both of the newspapers I mention. Before you do, I would recommend that you look around to make sure that they hold copies of the newspapers that would have been around where your family lived.
My paternal grandparents can be found in both online services, but my maternal side is really only available right now on Newspapers.com. If you do locate them, I recommend that you start a Genealogy Folder with a folder inside titled Locations. (My newspaper clippings of my grandpa are found in C:My Genealogy/United States/Indiana/Fulton County.) Then I title them so they follow along these lines [Bennett, Stella Walters – 1950 19 Dec – Logansport Pharos Tribune – pg6 Col 6] which gives me the name of the ancestor, the date of the newspaper, the name of the newspaper and the page and column information. That way if I ever want to go back to it or share the information with a relative, I have it already contained in the title. (And yes, this sounds obsessive, but take it from experience, more is better!)
You can save a clipping in PDF format or just crop it your own way and save in JPG or PNG, but I would also recommend saving the entire page so you have access to peruse the entire page at some point and possibly snag some of the advertisements for use in your layouts! I’m just saying… Usually any publications prior to 1923 are safe as far as copyrights and there are some great illustrations that would make fantastic brushes to layer in the background of your layouts!
I’ve shared some of the interesting things I’ve found, so please share if you find something that you can use to fill in your family’s story!
And my layout? Well, through a distant cousin that has made contact with me, I learned of the heritage book that Anna Aspnes has been working on with her mother and it has been like the sky opened up and the sun shone down on me. I have been trying to put together a sense of what I wanted to see on my pages and bring them to life, but they have all been falling short to some extent and I have found myself frozen with not much getting finished except for the genealogy research.
I have always envisioned a book that is beautiful and full of color that makes the reader want to spend some time just looking around at not only the pictures but the little visual cues and stories that I want to add. I can’t say that my style is Artsy but I might be changing my tune as I continue to pull together my own booklet on my grandparents.
So, I am happy to say that I have the first page of a 2-pg spread done in my new Artsy style and I’m showing you, with giddyness in the article photo. I am using the ArtPlay Palette Bravura from www.annaaspnesdesigns.com for my layout. (Her designs can be found at O’Scraps or DesignCuts.) I’ve been replaying the Scrapaneers Champions Course: Module 7 / Page Strategy 11 as well to “brush up” on my brushwork. It’s a start and I can’t wait to see how my layouts progress as I learn this new style and complete my grandparents’ book!