How to begin piecing together your grandmother’s story from old newspapers

For many people, the details about the lives of their ancestors are fuzzy or even unknown, leaving many unanswered questions about a family’s history and legacy.

Some information may be handed down in stories shared by parents and others, but there is always more to each person’s story. A quick search in old newspapers can help find those stories.

A grandmother’s obituary, for example, likely includes names of her siblings and other relatives not known previously, and countless other details that may lead to other discoveries.

Unlike today, when newspapers are offering less and less information about births, graduations, weddings, sports teams and other important life events affecting ordinary people, these milestones were frequently covered in years past. These old newspaper accounts offer rich details about many aspects of the lives of loved ones that can be useful for anyone trying to piece together a family story.

A grandmother’s obituary also offers other names that can be used to search for more details about her brothers and sisters, her parents, even her grandparents. Those searches might discover other interesting details about family businesses or even local disputes that involved relatives and neighbors.

More searches using your grandmother’s name could reveal her wedding announcement, the name of her maid of honor or other attendees, or the church where she was married. You might also find touching details about her high school and college graduations, academic or social clubs she joined, and special honors she may have received. A birth announcement may reveal the hospital where she was born, or perhaps a birth town that is unfamiliar to the family. 

There are also times when more specialized, detailed articles can be found that focus on her, maybe a profile of a business she helped create, a community program she started, or volunteer work in a local church that attracted greater attention. In more prosperous times when newspapers paid more attention to local matters, the possibilities of discovery are endless.

Start a search for details about your grandmother’s life today in the millions of papers found at

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