When I first started researching ancestors, I found researching them in newspapers daunting. I stuck with it though and found some gems in the society pages of past newspapers.
Hmmm…..society pages. Galas, parties, who was seen with whom. What could possibly be in that section of the newspaper that could help in my genealogy research?
Society pages in older small town and community newspapers covered who went visiting and who came visiting, details of weddings and just about anything (including a 500+ pound hog!) that might be happening in the community.
Let’s look at some examples of items found in the society pages of The Elkin Times. (Elkin, NC is located in Surry County, North Carolina.)
This little snippet tells the researcher that Miss DeEtte Benham and Miss Clyde Worth were cousins and that Miss Worth was married in December 1902. Just how are Miss Benham and Miss Worth cousins? A Worth researcher will find a collateral line of Benham located in Creston in 1902. This one sentence provides several avenues of research for the genealogist to pursue.
The Ring family researcher will find this little item interesting. According to this, Maud Ring was living in Greensboro [NC] in December 1902. She was related to the Ring family of Elkin. A researcher interested in Maud would now know to check records in Elkin (Surry County) and in Greensboro (Guildford County). State Normal refers to what is today the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Early records for State Normal would be potential sources of information on Maud Ring as well.
This snippet will certainly benefit the Boone researcher. Clues to T A Boone show that he arrived in Elkin in December of 1902. Being a Methodist preacher, both local church records and Methodist conference records could provide more information on Rev. Boone and his family.
In addition to finding clues to your ancestors and generating new avenues of research, you’ll find just plain fun community news such as…..
I don’t think my trip to the dentist last month made it in the newspaper!
I don’t know much about hog farming, but that sounds like a large hog to me!
The above are just a few examples from one small newspaper to give you an idea of the wealth of information a researcher can find. Even when specific information on your ancestor is not found, new avenues of research can certainly be derived. Reading newspapers from an ancestor’s time period also provides a social history. You can learn what was important to the individuals of a community in a specific time.
Where do you find newspapers to research? Many newspaper databases can be found online.
- North Carolina Newspapers
- North Carolina Newspaper Digitization Project
- Chronicling America
- Virginia Newspapers (many re-direct to Chronicling America)
- NewspaperArchives.com ($)
- GenealogyBank.com ($)
- Newspapers.com ($)
- Ancestry.com ($)
- Check with your local county and state archives and the local library in the area you are researching. These may not be online, but may be available for on-site research.
Your Assignment: Read the society pages for several editions of the newspaper in your ancestor’s locale.