You already know to use newspapers to search for things like obituaries, birth announcements, marriage announcements and misc. stories involving you ancestor but there is something else you need to be doing with newspapers.
Newspapers are a great way to really get a feel for what was going on during a specific time period. Taking the time to read the local newspapers will give you some real insight. What was the political climate like? Were there any natural disasters or disease in the area? How were the businesses doing? What was going on with the local churches?
What was going on in the community probably influenced some of the things your ancestor did. If your ancestor suddenly up and moved, take a look in the paper. Was there a drought with reports of widespread crop failure? Did a local factory close down causing unemployment? Was there a war going on and how was it affecting the community?
I have to say that one of my reasons to read old papers is just because I enjoy the way they wrote back then. They had a flair for flowery and descriptive language. They didn’t have television or radio so they had to make the written word come alive.
Not Dead, but Sleepeth
Died, in Columbia county, on the 26th day of January, in the 25th year of his age, Mr. Calvin R. Lewis. Gifted with a rare combination of attractive qualities, this devoted man adorned the circle in which he moved, and by the warmth of his affection, and the unchanging fidelity with which he sustained his relations in life, enshrined himself in the hearts that now mourn that they shall see his face no more; crowning a faithful life by a death -- no, not by a death -- a passage from earth to Heaven, brilliant with celestial glory. The shadow of death rested not upon him, but only upon the stricken hearts that could not soar with him amid the unfolding glories of immortality, that in the trying hour opened to his enraptured vision, and made the chamber of his departure a place not far from Heaven, leaving a wife and two small children.
The Christian Index please copy.1
Was Calvin really like this? I will never know but it is still a beautiful tribute.
1 "Not Dead, but Sleepeth," The Augusta Chronicle, 16 Feb 1851, p. 3, col. 2.
Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis