Thursday, September 16, 2010

Newspapers: a glimpse into the daily lives of our ancestors

In most cases, I think newspaper stories related to our ancestors are limited to birth, marriage, and death announcements. But every now and then you get the juicy, scandalous story of a bank-robbing relative. And every now and then you get family who lived in a small, suburban/rural town where the local paper covered the mundane, daily activities of the local citizenry, and while for the general public these minutiae might not be interesting, for the genealogist, it can give a very real, full picture of what every day life was like for your ancestors - selling property, going to work, going to parties, visiting friends, getting sick, serving on juries, adding on to their homes, doing well in school, just living life, the way we all do every day.

Ancestry.com has a large selection of newspapers indexed on their site. For me, http://www.fultonhistory.com/ is more useful because most of the newspapers are for the New York City/Long Island region, although it also has an extensive upstate collection as well as a few papers from the rest of the United States. But also don't forget your local library - many of them have old, local newspapers available for you to look at. And it's the small, local newspapers that are going to be your best bet to find information on any of your relatives who never really made it to the national spotlight :). Oh, and it's also fun to look at old ads for products that are no longer in existence or to see how ridiculously cheap everything used to be...

Here are just a few examples of what I've found on my own family:

From The Long Islander:
Friday, August 17, 1917 - Under Hicksville news: "Allan Dauch, who is employed with the General Electric Company at Schenectady, N.Y. is spending a two week vacation at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Adam L. Dauch."

Friday, February 23, 1912 - Under Hicksville news: "Mr. and Mrs. John Dauch, old residents of this village, celebrated their golden wedding at their home Sunday afternoon and evening, February 18, in the presence of their six children, five grandchildren, and several intimate friends of the family. At 5 o'clock supper was served in their spacious drawing room, which was elaborately decorated with carnations, ferns, and palms, the tone of the room being golden yellow. The celebrating couple received many beautiful gifts of china and gold..."

Friday, January 5, 1906 - Under Hicksville news: "John Dauch while cutting wood recently made a miss and chopped off part of his finger."

Friday, June 26, 1930 - Under Hicksville news: "The Dauch homestead on Cherry Street has received a fresh coat of paint."

Friday, December 7, 1917 - Under Hicksville news: "A very enjoyable time was spent at the home of Mr. and Mrs. A.L. Dauch on Friday evening. The hours were passed in games and music. A splendid luncheon was served, the table being decorated  with red, white, and blue."

From The Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Sunday, January 6, 1918 - "Mr. and Mrs. Theodore P. Berg of Hempstead, L.I. are located here for the season after a pleasant motor trip from Jacksonville."

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