Thursday, January 21, 2010

52 Weeks of Genealogy Sources: Week 3, Letters to the Editor

When most genealogists think of researching the newspaper they think of  obituaries. Afterall, obituaries can be a great source of information about our ancestors.  They can include birth, marriage and death information, family names, accomplishments, memberships, cemetery information and more.  But there is much more to newspaper research than looking for an obituary.  And for that matter there is more to researching an ancestor's death than just an obituary.

There is so much information you can find in the newspaper about your ancestor, everything from articles about special events in their lives, "gossipy" bits of news about their comings and goings, and legal notices having to do with the end of their lives.

But what about the Letters to the Editor?  According to Wikipedia (and no, I'm not saying Wikipedia is a great research website) there have always been Letters to the Editor in American newspapers.  It would seem that we Americans have always had an opinion about something. (For more about Letters to the Editor, you can check out the Wikipedia article at

Maybe your ancestor had an opinion about something.  Maybe they didn't like the way their local government was run.  Maybe they wanted to air their grievances before their community.  Now, you may have better luck with finding an ancestor's Letter to the Editor if they lived in a smaller area but my point in spotlighting this source is to encourage you to  research the newspaper beyond the obituary.  Look at the whole newspaper for clues to the life of your ancestor.

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