Historical Newspapers and Genealogy

Historical newspapers are a great resource for genealogists. In addition to the birth, marriage, and death announcements, other useful items include legal and court notices, advertisements, community and social events, and local news. The minutiae of everyday life take on greater significance 100 or so years after publication. Newspapers often published lists of names, whether for letters left at the post office, passenger lists, hotel registrations, or military lists. These small threads of information may seem trivial or incidental to the casual reader, but for the genealogist they enrich the fabric of family histories.

List of letters at post office
Southern Standard [McMinnville, TN]. August 13, 1887.
The local news section can often provide family historians with intriguing anecdotes about their forebears. I was recently invited to write a short piece for the Warren County Genealogical Association Bulletin. Editor Chris Keathley shared an interesting piece about a WCGA member’s ancestor:

Nashville Union and American. July 1, 1873.
Nashville Union and American. July 11, 1873.

TNGenWeb Coordinator (and TNDP Advisory Board member!), Taneya Koonce, has created the Historical News Portal specifically for sharing and indexing historical news about individuals in Tennessee. “Items on this site are selectively chosen from various newspapers with focus on items of genealogical & family history relevance such as births, marriages, and deaths and interesting stories.” Articles such as the one below give a wonderful glimpse into the social life of our early 20th century ancestors:

Surprise Party article
Nashville Globe. January 18, 1907.

The TNGenWeb’s Historical News Portal provides a transcription of the article, along with a link to the item in Chronicling America, and a list of names appearing in the article (which can be cross-referenced, if they appear in other articles). The site also allows for comments, so genealogists can leave useful information for others. Check out the portal, and its parent site TNGenWeb.