For the 12 Days of Christmas: 12 Types of Newspaper Articles for Genealogy Research, Part I

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena gives examples of six types of newspaper articles that can help with your family history research.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…Well if you’re like most of us your family history gift would be finding more mentions (or perhaps just one mention) of your ancestry. Instead of geese a-laying or the partridge in a pear tree, you want to go straight to the genealogy happy dance where you celebrate finding that newspaper article about your family.

The ways in which your ancestor could be listed in the newspaper are endless – but there are some go-to articles you should be regularly looking for. It’s important to be knowledgeable about what newspaper articles can assist in your search so that you know what is available and what you should expect. Will your ancestor be mentioned in each type of newspaper article listed below? No, many factors determine whether a person is mentioned in any one type of article, but you should still keep your eye out for the following article types.

In honor of the 12 Days of Christmas, this article will take a look at 12 genealogically rich newspaper article examples – starting with these first 6 that provide the basic facts about a person: their birth, marriage, and death. Tomorrow, in Part II, we’ll look at 6 more types of newspaper articles that can help with your family history research. All of these examples were found in the pages of GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

1) Birth Notices

A person is born and the newspaper publishes an announcement, right? Well, sometimes.

birth notices, Republic newspaper article 5 January 1909

Republic (Rockford, Illinois), 5 January 1909, page 4

In some cases a birth notice at the time of the birth might be found in the newspaper. However, even though newspapers report current events, in some cases a birth notice may not appear until sometime much later than the actual birth. At first read that doesn’t appear to make much sense, so let me explain.

One example is the case of delayed birth certificates, when a notice appeared in the newspaper notifying the public that a person had filed for one – and that notice included their birth date. What is a delayed birth certificate? These are a type of birth certificate issued to those who were born before the mandatory use of birth certificates, or for those whose birth was not registered at the time of the event. Obtaining a delayed birth certificate was especially important after the implementation of Social Security and during World War II.

Look at some of the samples in this article. In the first one, the person was born in 1898 – yet was requesting a birth certificate in 1944!

article about delayed birth certificates, Macon Telegraph newspaper article 29 December 1944

Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), 29 December 1944, page 12

Genealogy Tip: Birth announcements are likely not to include the name of the child, so search instead for the parents’ names or just the last name.

2) Engagement Notices

An upcoming nuptial may lead to numerous mentions in the newspaper, starting with an engagement notice. These notices may or may not include photos and will likely provide a little bit of information about the prospective bride and groom.

This 1922 Alabama newspaper column of engagement notices includes an example showing how much family information these notices sometimes provide: the Hertz-Friedman announcement reports the place of residence for the bride’s father, the groom, and the groom’s mother – both her current and former locations.

Engagement Announcements, Montgomery Advertiser newspaper article 4 June 1922

Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama), 4 June 1922, Society Section, page 16

Genealogy Tip: An engagement notice might be in several newspapers, including the newspaper where the bride or groom live and the newspapers where their parents live. So make sure to not limit your search to a single city.

You never know what kind of information you will find in the newspaper. I particularly like this appraisal of the bride and groom found in the above notice for the Knowles-Johns engagement:

Miss Knowles is a popular member of the younger set and endeared herself to her friends by her charming personality. Mr. Johns is well known in Montgomery and holds a responsible position with the A. C. L. railroad.

Remember that an engagement notice – like the issuance of a marriage license – does not mean that a wedding actually took place. It’s important to continue your search and seek out proof that the wedding occurred.

3) Wedding Announcements

We sometimes get so used to the way a newspaper is laid out that we may miss newspaper articles that appear to be something else entirely. For example, this 1919 Nebraska newspaper article is entitled “Festive Bridal Array Again Here.” At first glance this appears to be an article about wedding fashion – but it is really a wedding announcement for two couples that begins with a comment about the return of festive wedding attire since the end of World War I. The announcement goes on to tell us about the two couples and where they currently reside.

wedding announcements, Omaha World-Herald newspaper article 2 February 1919

Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 2 February 1919, page 29

4) Anniversary Announcements

Celebrations for couples that have been married for 25, 50 and even more years are often documented in the newspaper. The great thing about these articles is they may include the wife’s maiden name as well as the names of the couple’s children and grandchildren. Frequently, photos of the happy couple accompany the article as in this example from a 1955 North Carolina newspaper which includes the couple’s street address, the number of children they had (though unfortunately not their names), and the bride’s father’s name.

article about the Elkins' 50th wedding anniversary, Greensboro Record newspaper article 25 October 1955

Greensboro Record (Greensboro, North Carolina), 25 October 1955, page 13

5) Divorce Notices

Birth and marriage are a fact of life – and so too is divorce. All types of court actions can be found in the newspaper, including notices about divorce cases. Think divorce is a modern-day issue? Nothing could be further from the truth. In the United States, the first divorce occurred in colonial America. If you think people didn’t do that back in the “good old days” – yet your research shows a spouse that suddenly “disappeared” – consider the possibility of a divorce.

The name of the divorcing couple might be found in a newspaper article listing court cases to be heard, or in a legal notice seeking a hard-to-find defendant. While only the most notorious or infamous of divorce cases warranted a longer newspaper article, these smaller mentions are important because they can lead you to further research in court records.

divorce notices, Columbus Daily Enquirer newspaper article 29 October 1922

Columbus Daily Enquirer (Columbus, Georgia), 29 October 1922, page 8

6) Obituaries

Obituaries are a staple in genealogy research. One of the first sources many family history researchers check, obituaries can be a hit or miss proposition. When you can find them they can range in length from a single line to multiple paragraphs with a photo.

obituary for F. Lenwood Scott, Augusta Chronicle newspaper article 28 January 2001

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 28 January 2001, section B, page 7

A few tips are in order when looking for obituaries. Remember that in some cases the obituary may have been preceded by notices involving the illness of the deceased or reports of an accident. These types of mentions would be more common in small communities. If the death was due to an accident or crime, search for articles detailing that event and then the coroner’s inquest or court trial that presumably followed. Like engagement notices mentioned above, obituaries may be found in multiple newspapers including where the deceased lived and the city they were from originally. Also take into consideration that a close relative may have also decided to place the obituary in their local newspaper as well.

So were you familiar with these six types of newspaper articles? These are just some of the newspaper articles where your ancestor might appear. In tomorrow’s article we will explore six other types of newspaper articles that fill in the details of your ancestor’s life.

Related Articles:

Genealogy Tips for Baby Research

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog post, Mary provides search tips to find information about babies in your family history research.

If you think about it, genealogy isn’t about ancestors—it’s about babies, because without progeny or descendants, genealogy simply couldn’t exist.

graphic illustrating the saying "Babies are the key to making us ancestors."

As the new grandparents of baby Eliza, my husband and I are thankful for this, as new family members are the key to making us ancestors!

photo of Mary Harrell-Sesniak's granddaughter Eliza

Photo: Baby Eliza with Grandpa Tom. Credit: Mary Harrell-Sesniak.

Fortunately, GenealogyBank has an entire section of its Historical Newspaper Archives devoted to research of these little family blessings. To access this content, select the Birth Records category on the newspaper search page.

screenshot of GenealogyBank's newspaper search page showing the Birth Records category

Sometimes you may not find a hoped-for newspaper birth announcement, so I’d like to share some genealogy search tips for better research success.

Civil Registration Laws

Family history researchers are often disappointed when a courthouse doesn’t have a birth record. Mainly this is due to civil registration laws, which were instituted at varying times. Even when required by law, many parents and physicians did not comply by registering babies, so early newspaper birth announcements are important resources.

Enter Last Name










Newspaper Announcements Placed by Parents

Most birth announcements are placed by parents or hospitals. They often divulge the day of the blessed event, along with details about the parental names and family address. If you are lucky, you may also locate a notice of baptism. In either case, if the announcement was published shortly after birth, then the baby’s name may not be included—so this is a clue to locating an elusive notice.

Genealogy Search Tip: If you can’t find a birth announcement by searching on the child’s name, try searching the parents’ names, the family’s home address—or the date of the birth.

For example, notice that in these birth announcements from 1912 the parents’ names and home addresses are given, but not the babies’ names—in each case the child is only called “a daughter” or “a son.”

birth announcements, Oregonian newspaper article 6 August 1912

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 6 August 1912, page 12

Notice that this birth announcement for Nora Maria Meyers states that her baptism was performed at the hospital.

birth announcement for Nora Meyers, Anaconda Standard newspaper article 3 February 1921

Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana), 3 February 1921, page 3

Genealogy Search Tip: Contrary to popular belief, not all baptisms were performed in churches or religious institutions.

Newspaper Announcements by Others

Don’t be surprised to find birth announcements placed by members of the family other than the parents, or even a mention of a new birth in a family reunion notice or obituary. As you see from this classified advertisement from 1969, the proud grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents had the birth announcement published to welcome little James into the world.

birth announcement for James McCoy, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 24 January 1969

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 24 January 1969, page 4

Expand Searches to Other Locations

Most researchers limit searches to a home town, but as seen in the example above, it’s entirely possible that a notice might be placed in a city newspaper where the child was not born. James was born at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, California, but his birth announcement was published in Dallas, Texas. If the query had been limited to California, the announcement would have been missed.

Genealogy Search Tip: If you can’t find a birth location, consider if the parents were stationed elsewhere by the military.

Enter Last Name










Small Town vs. Large Town Newspapers

Although there are exceptions, small town or city newspapers are able to include expanded details about births that larger publications have to eliminate. Some smaller newspapers many even include notices from surrounding areas, such as these birth announcements from a Fort Wayne, Indiana, newspaper published in 1918 that have birth news from the towns of Angola, Waterloo and Warsaw.

birth announcements, Fort Wayne News Sentinel newspaper article 26 September 1918

Fort Wayne News Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana), 26 September 1918, page 11

Genealogy Search Tip: If you can’t find a birth announcement in your ancestor’s home town, consider if a neighboring town’s newspaper may have published one.

Search Terms in Foreign-Language Newspapers

If your ancestor’s family was an immigrant family or lived in a multicultural community, try incorporating foreign terms in your newspaper search for birth announcements. Long ago, many immigrant communities published local newspapers in Old World languages. For example, this 1928 announcement from Maine was published by a French-language newspaper, and reports the births of two sons (indicated by “fils”). I found this birth announcement by searching for the French word “naissance,” which translates into English as “birth.”

birth announcements, Justice de Sanford newspaper article 25 October 1928

Justice de Sanford (Sanford, Maine), 25 October 1928, page 6

Genealogy Search Tip: To learn the equivalent terms for the word “birth” used in foreign-language newspapers, search glossaries or use a translator such as Google Translate.

This Google service will translate the word “birth” into a variety of foreign languages. Now enter the translated word into GenealogyBank’s search box and select the Birth Records category.

Interesting Facts about Babies Found on the Web

  • A baby is born into the world about every three seconds.
  • The U.S. sees over four million arrivals every year.
  • Babies have more bones than adults, who have 206. Several of a baby’s bones fuse over time, which results in the smaller adult number.
  • Babies have more taste buds than adults. Some appear in different places of the mouth, but eventually disappear.
  • Babies do not have kneecaps.
  • Babies born in May are the heaviest.
  • The heaviest baby reported to have survived was a 22-pound 8-ounce Italian baby born in 1955. In 1879, a woman in Canada gave birth to a 23-pound 1.92-ounce baby that died shortly after birth. These weights are typically what a one-year-old might weigh! (See the newspaper article below for a fun report.)

Giant Baby

If you search historical newspapers you’ll find reports of many unique baby records, including this article from 1893—when a baby weighing 23 ¾ pounds was born to “giants.” He reportedly was 2 ½ feet in length and had a “cute little pink foot” measuring 5 ½ inches. Perhaps this report was a slight exaggeration, as we notice that neither the parents nor the child was named in the article.

The Largest Baby Ever Born, Plain Dealer newspaper article 21 April 1893

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 21 April 1893, page 4

For more fun baby facts, see the Online Nurse Practitioner Schools’ Website at http://onlinenursepractitionerschools.com/40-truly-amazing-facts-about-babies/

More Massachusetts, North Carolina & Virginia Newspapers Coming Online!

Newspapers are a great source for obituaries, as well as birth notices, marriage announcements, family reunion stories, and local news reports—providing great information to help with your family history research.

collage of birth notices, wedding announcements and obituaries

Collage of birth notices, wedding announcements and obituaries

Every day GenealogyBank adds more newspaper back issues online, filling in the gaps in our content coverage. These daily expansions can range from one newspaper issue—like the 1 January 1986 issue of the Greensboro News and Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)—to over 4,730 back issues of the Boston Daily Record (Boston, Massachusetts).

Here is a list of some of the additions we will be adding to GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives soon, including two MA papers, four NC papers, and one from VA. This addition alone will provide 9,203 more newspaper back issues to help you discover your “Bay State,” “Tar Heel State,” and “Old Dominion” ancestry.

list of Massachusetts, North Carolina and Virginia newspapers being added to GenealogyBank's online historical newspaper archives

List of Massachusetts, North Carolina and Virginia newspapers being added to GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives

From a handful to warehouse full of old newspapers, we are busy putting more newspapers online everyday for you.

Look for these additional newspapers to be added in the coming weeks on our new content page. This is just a small slice of the millions of genealogy records that GenealogyBank adds every month to help you trace your family tree.

Using Newspaper Birthday Announcements for Genealogy Research

Genealogists spend years getting to know their sources. We learn the ins and outs of archives and their collections of genealogical records, looking to get the maximum amount of information on our ancestors.

birthday bulletin for Israel W. Durham from the philadelphia inquirer newspaper 24 October 1903

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 24 October 1903

In combing through the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper archives I noticed that they ran a regular feature called the “Birthday Bulletin,” starting in 1903. Generally these newspaper birthday announcements ran on page 2 or 3 and included a brief biography and an etching or photograph of the featured person.

In this example, published 24 October 1903, page 2, an Israel W. Durham is featured. The newspaper article includes his photo, and a brief biography gives us his date and place of birth: “He was born in this city (Philadelphia) October 24, 1856” along with a sketch of his public service and a portrait etching.

Some of these shout-out newspaper birthday announcements are much briefer, like the following four-panel “Birthday Bulletin” published 29 August 1922, page 3, which featured the birthdays of four area businessmen. In this example we can get their date of birth, occupation and a photograph. It can be very difficult locating a photo of our ancestors so it is a real plus when they were published in a newspaper.

birthday bulletins from the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper 29 August 1922

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 29 August 1922, page 3

These “Birthday Bulletins” focused on acknowledging the birthdays of established business and public figures in the community. The Philadelphia Inquirer also routinely published “Births” announcing the arrival of newborn infants, such as the following birth announcement, published 5 April 1911, page 10.

birth notice from the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper 5 April 1911

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 5 April 1911, page 10

We expect newspapers to publish information about the area’s births, marriages and deaths. It is a bonus when a newspaper creates an additional local interest feature like these “Birthday Bulletins” that is so helpful to genealogists.

When you approach the old newspapers for your local area, take the time to become familiar with them.

Flip through the newspapers and see what features were unique to that paper. Doing so can help you uncover hidden gems to aid in your genealogy research.

The newspaper is your friend—get acquainted.

In my experience we can find genealogical information throughout a newspaper, from the front page to the classified ads.

D73FCRRRYRTP

Birth Announcements – newspapers are packed with them

Newspapers have been announcing births since the 1700s.

It is common to see birth notices in newspapers all across the country, like this one for triplets born to “Mrs. Rust of Wolfeboro, NH” in 1796. It appeared in the Massachusetts Mercury 14 Oct 1796.
You’ll find millions of births recorded in newspapers on GenealogyBank from the colonial period right up to recent times.
Newspapers often had regular columns for all area births. Sometimes these were listed by the name of the hospital. These notices often give the names of the child, parents and even grandparents.

Some are written in a fun, familiar style – as this one from the Dallas Morning News 1 June 1967 – “She’ here…” and went on to give the details of their new daughter.

This 1918 birth notice from the Belleville (IL) Democrat 8 March 1918, gave three generations of genealogical information including the name of the grandmother, the mother’s maiden name and the name of the parents – but not the name of the baby!

Other newspapers simply gave the essential facts of their area births. Like these births from the San Francisco (CA) Daily Evening Bulletin 12 August 1856.

But no matter how much detail the newspaper included, genealogists will find GenealogyBank a practical tool for uncovering the birth notices for their relatives.

Since the name of the child is not always given, search for them by the name of the parents or simply the surname. You may limit your search by date or place to see if the birth of the children you are looking for was published in the newspaper.

For a complete list of the newspaper titles and dates of coverage click here.

Newspapers are a great source for finding the historical records that document our family tree.