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From the Green Valley News, Wednesday September 29 2010, page C7

Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG

Family Secrets in Historical Newspapers

Newspapers are invaluable research aids for fleshing out your family history. Doing research in historical newspapers has never been easier than it is today. How tedious it used to be reading page after page of an old paper looking for items about a particular family. Not anymore.

Today even the smallest papers have usually been microfilmed and are available by interlibrary loan - with more and more being digitized in online databases. Millions of newspaper pages are available on the Internet. Early papers are full of information about your ancestors, people whose lives were as varied and interesting as ours today.

My favorite source for newspaper research is GenealogyBank, with over 4,400 newspapers online and more being added even as I write. Most recent additions included 50 newspapers for 26 states. An annual membership is $69.95 per year and worth every penny. Also available is a monthly rate of $19.95. If you'd just like to try it out, a 30 day trial is offered for $9.95.

To maximize your search results use the "Advanced Search" option and be sure to read the "Search Tips." To search in specific newspapers, click on the "Historical Newspapers (1690 - 2007)," then on a link listing all papers available by state and another by city. Just select the boxes of those you want searched. I find the best results are obtained by searching in one state at a time or even one city.

The following are some tidbits of family information I've found in newspapers of my ancestors' times:

Vermont Gazette (Bennington, Vt.) 30 January 1786, "Classified Advertisement," Dr. Gaius Smith advising patients who owe him money to make arrangements to pay or expect to hear from his lawyer.

Daily Advertiser (New York City) 13 August 1798, "For Charleston," Robert Mattocks, Captain of the brig Commerce, advertising his next voyage (one of many such ads he placed regularly as he sailed up and down the east coast with passengers and cargo.)

Otsego Herald (Cooperstown, N.Y.) 6 May 1808, "Sherriff's Sale," property of Susannah Arnold (wife of Stephen, bounded by Dr. Gaius Smith's lot and others in Burlington.)

Otsego Herald (Cooperstown, N.Y.) 25 March 1809, "Republican Meeting," delegates to the New York state convention include Asa Bly of Burlington, N.Y. (also the party of Thomas Jefferson so I know my ancestor likely voted for him in the presidential elections of 1800 and 1804.)

Hudson River Chronicle (Ossining, N.Y.) 5 November 1839, "Melancholy Catastrophe," an account of the accidental drowning of Samuel Coles Mott, two grandsons and their friend in the Hudson River.

North Branch Democrat (Tunkhannock, Penn.) 10 January 1855, "Marriages," Gardner Carr to Polly Vosburg on 31 December 1854, only known record of their marriage.

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) 7 December 1881, "Cold Poison," details of Frank M. Belding's suicide by laudanum (opium) overdose including text of his suicide note to his wife.

The Elyria Republican (Ohio) 28 March 1885, "Letters to the Editor," Sanford Belding, wrote extolling the virtues and economies of life in San Diego, "the Eden of America" in his words.

These are just a few samples of the types of material that may be awaiting your discovery in old newspapers. Many finds are about incidents previously unknown. Just as we read the Green Valley News to learn what's happening where we live, we need to read our ancestors' local newspapers to learn what happened when and where they lived.

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