Items and articles of genealogical usefulness found in newspapers can be grouped under the following headings:-
News– significant events and disasters
Personal– Birth, death and marriage notices, inquests, obituaries, funeral notices, memorial notices, biographies, marriage items, kitchen teas, work and community farewells etc.
Social– dances, association meetings and gatherings, visitors, and general gossip columns
Business and Commerce– advertisements of opening of business, goods for sale, bankruptcy and insolvency notices and reports, business partnerships.
Legal– Probate notices, divorce cases, formation and dissolution of business partnerships, advertisements of bailiff sales, police and court proceedings.
Education– concerts, P & C Meetings, prize giving ceremonies, class lists, examination result lists (Leaving Certificate)
Sports– Team fixtures, reports of events, team lists, sporting career biographies
Identifying and Locating Newspapers
The above list of newspapers might generally be grouped into Historical Newspapers and Current Publications.
Bibliographies and Union Lists for collections of many nations and states have been published either in printed, microform or on-line, describing where original and microfilmed copies of surviving newspapers can be located. To locate these family and local historians might have to search many catalogues of libraries and institutions throughout the country.
Access to Historical Newspapers
Hardcopy and Microfirm
In Australia, the National and State Libraries have the responsibility of tracking down and collecting newspapers published, even today. They have many volumes of bound hardcopies of both Overseas and Australian newspapers. These can be located through their catalogues.
Regional and Community Libraries, historical societies and museums may also have original hard-copy or microfilm copies of newspapers, particularly those of the local area. You may have to travel to these local institutions to access these newspapers or you may be able to make arrangements for someone to view them on your behalf. There maybe costs and fees associated with this service.
On-line Digital Access
In the past, it could be said that local and family historians did not use newspapers in their research because of poor accessibility, but this is no longer the case. Over the last couple of years, millions of pages of newspapers throughout the world have been scanned and digitized, and made available on-line to the public, through commercial ventures of subscription web sites, such as ancestry.com and findmypast.com, as well as historical document programs in National and State Archives and libraries.
Perhaps the most important source for Australian 19th Century and early 20th Century newspapers on-line are through the National Library of Australia, in their Historical Newspapers program, 1803-1954 at http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper and the historical journals, and magazines program through the Australian Periodical Publications 1840-1845. This is part of the Australian Co-operative Digitization Project, which can be found at http://www.nla.gov.au/ferg/.
Between these two sites more than two hundred titles are offered. These are in pdf format and can be searched by word or phrase, which makes them a very accessible resource. The history and use of these records are well described on the above mentioned websites.
Abstracts,Excerpts and Indices as Aids.
Previous to these digitized programs, the difficulty of access to newspapers was recoginized by
Historical and Family Histories as well as private individuals. In some areas these groups and individuals selectively indexed, transcribed or abstracted items from local newspapers and published them in book, microfiche, Cd or on-line format to aid local and family historian in their research.
I have privately published several series:
Births,Deaths and Marriages in Sydney Newspapers 1830-1840 in Volumes 1-6.
Index of Passengers and Crew In and Out of Sydney 1830-1841 in Volumes 1-7.
Clarence River Registers Volumes 1-12.
These are more fully explained in later articles, and may be purchased in book or ebook format on this website.
Other newspaper index details may be found by on-line Google searches.
Modern Day Newspapers
Todays newspapers all have an on-line presence and can be found through Google. The on-line content varies, but most have useful sections for contacting living persons.
Present day newspapers can be used to connect with people who are working on the same family lines or to locate living descendants of a common ancestor.
General Tips on Using Newspapers for Family History Research.
(1) Historical Newspapers
1) Generally the smaller the area covered by the newspaper the more effective it will be for family history research.
2) If no newspaper existed or survived for the time period, look at a regional newspaper for the District News.
3) If more than one paper survives for the area and time period, look at each, They may have different coverage. For example many regional newspapers were weekly. If more than one newspaper was published they would be published on different days.
4) When looking at a newspaper get to know its design particularly if you need to search hardcopy or microfilm. Local news items, notices and advertisements often appeared on the same page and often the same column of each issue.
5) Watch for abbreviations used in dating events in newspapers-for example. Married on the ’30th ult.’ (Latin for ‘ultimo’ or last) refers to a date last month. Died on the ‘2nd inst.’ (means ‘instant’ which refers to a date this month. Terms seldom used these days such as ‘the relict of the late John Smith.’ -means the widow of the deceased John Smith.