Sea Genes

Family History & Genealogy Research

Newspaper research tip

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One of my great grand uncles died in a small town. His obituary was picked up by the Associated Press wire service. It appeared in the New York Times and the Seattle Daily Times. He didn’t have any real connection to either place. He was a Mainer. He was born in and he died in Maine. He lived there, and in California and Hawaii.

Another person I’ve researched a bit, George A. Radford, lived in Seattle, Washington most of his life. His obituary appeared in both the Seattle Daily Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The article in the PI has a great deal more information than the piece in the Times. The latter only briefly mentioned his funeral arrangements while the PI gave information about his family and affairs.

"G. A. Radford Found Dead in Bed," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle, Washington, 1 January 1940, page 10, column 2.

"George A. Radford Funeral," Seattle Daily Times, Seattle, Washington, 2 January 1940, page 23, column 7.

Why so much in one paper and not the other? They’re both in the same city and should have the same coverage, right? Not necessarily. There are a number of reasons an event is covered in one but not the other. A major reason is business, another reason is politics, a third reason is interest from readers for certain kinds of information. A fourth, and increasingly popular reason, is entertainment coverage, which beats out coverage of the everyday events of our lives. Yet another reason, related to the business of newspapers, is selling advertisements.

Successfully researching a person’s history beginning with only a newspaper article, as I did with Mr. Radford, depends on how much information is given in the article, or articles, which cover the person. If I had only relied on the Times article I wouldn’t have had much to go on and would need to have used a great many other sources. Because Mr. and Mrs. Radford didn’t leave children, where would I look without references to their family as it appeared in the PI article?

Is there more than one newspaper for an area? Use them.

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Written by N. P. Maling

19 November 2011 at 10:12

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