07 June 2009

Read All About it....

I've been here this morning working on typing in some of the obituaries I pulled on our recent research trip/vacation. As I am working on this stuff I keep thinking about the accuracy of the newspapers.

I remember one time my grandmother telling me that it was important to read, especially the newspaper, because you "can learn so much" from there. Well I do read alot - but not so much to learn, and not so much the newspaper. Maybe my genealogy exposure to the newspapers has taught me that not everything in print is truth?

Errors & confusion seem to abound, especially in newspapers. Some things I have found -

  • Persons listed as living who have died previously

  • children left out yet we know are living

  • confusion over dates - conflicting date info

  • two papers - different info on same story, both newspapers

These are just a few of the issues I have found with newspaper research. Granted some of the info that is incorrect was reported by the persons responsible for reporting it to the newspaper.

Newspapers can be a great source for genealogical information. The social columns & social pages are full of relationships & "gossip" about who was doing what when. Great color to add to your ancestors genealogy file. I know alot about the women my grandfather dated before he married my grandmother, seems he was quite the man about town. Seeing my grandfather in those social pages/columns paints my grandfather in a much different light than the grandfather I knew. Traveling, dating, parties and more. All show me the young side of a man I called grandfather.

Family gatherings, weddings, funerals and more can be found in the social pages of yesteryear. Some of these things are things that we can find no where else, so our reliance upon them for dates & details is rather strong. And as good as they may be we still should use them with a limited amount of caution knowing that this information was provided by outside parties who may or may not have links to the family.

My great grandfather's illness and slow death were chronicled in the local newspapers. Both of them followed his slow demise, posting weekly updates on how he was doing. But when it came time to post his obituary they couldn't agree on the date or place he died.

This weekend when I wasn't out in the beautiful sunshine gardening I was working in all the items - mostly obituaries that I pulled on this recent trip. Time & time again I found inconsistancies in the date & place of death. Many times I saw, "...died yesterday..." when in fact the death date occured several days before, not yesterday as stated.

So, I encourage you to use the newspaper, for its social pages, news items, and obituaries. All things where details can be gotten that maybe we can't find elsewhere. BUT I encourage you to go there with "eyes wide open", knowing that there are errors, mispellings, and bad dates. Knowing that there are issues that if you allow them to, can take you off track or lead you to believe things are true that really aren't.

Source your material, back it up with further documentation, and read it with "eyes wide open"...

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