Grandfather with his dog

Discover the story of your grandfather’s life in old newspapers

If you’ve ever wanted to know more about your grandfather but don’t know where to begin, the best place to start your research is in the pages of old newspapers.

There is a wealth of information available in newspapers, where so many things were published through the decades about local communities. That includes everything from birth notices to graduations, wedding announcements, job promotions, and obituaries. And there are many other published items that can provide information you’ve been searching for about your grandfather.

Any information you already have will be helpful to you in refining your search as much as possible. Things such as dates, geography, occupation, and names of other relatives can help aid in your search. You can create a search with your grandfather’s name, for example, and limit it to the state where you know he was born and during a timeframe in which you already know he lived. That search will give you many more opportunities to keep digging. For example, if you know your grandfather’s date of birth, you can search around that time frame for birth announcements published in the newspaper. While children rarely were named in the published announcements, the parents were and that could give you useful information to build on future searches.

Your initial search may identify articles where your grandfather’s name is listed on school sports rosters or among winners of academic competitions, even religious events like baptisms or confirmations that sometimes were included in newspaper announcements. Other useful newspaper items include death notices that identify relatives, and marriage and divorce announcements that name spouses.

There are also a number of other useful items that were published in newspapers that identified people, which provides more opportunities for you to find information about your grandfather:

  • Newspaper advertisements offering testimonials about products
  • Minutes from local government meetings that include lists of speakers and their comments
  • Church announcements welcoming new members
  • Classified advertisements identifying business owners seeking workers
  • Military notices providing information about those serving in the armed forces

Of course, there will be fascinating articles that include your grandfather’s name and more information about him, like those in the society section that described galas, events and celebrations, often naming and quoting the attendees. Some also include photos. There could be stories profiling your grandfather’s business or a cause he pursued that caught the attention of the local newspaper. Also, be on the lookout for any mentions in the opinion section that include letters to the editor that your grandfather may have written.

There are also traditional newspaper articles that may appear in the results of your search, including the crime section that may identify victims and suspects of crimes, political stories that identify campaign contributors and activists, and feature stories that may have referenced your grandfather as a source for the subject covered.

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