Digital Newspapers Provide Genealogy Surprises

I’ve spent a lot of hours looking for ancestral information in old newspapers over thenewspapers past few weeks.  Some of the articles brought Joy.  Others made me Sad.  Thank goodness that these treasures weren’t lost when the newspapers were discarded years ago.

I knew that one of my great grandfathers had experienced a nervous breakdown after spending years in a particularly nasty work environment, but didn’t realize how badly he was affected.  Reading article after article about his problems made me ache over the impact his problems had on his wife, children, parents and extended family.  The articles provided answers to many questions I’ve entertained for decades about his life. The situation was worse than I’d imagined.

Bless great-grandma and her family including my grandmother.  Now, the articles and the notes my mother recorded about the details she’d heard as a child provide windows into scenes that I wouldn’t have imagined.

Today, when I think of great grandma, the song Amazing Grace comes to my mind alongside her photo.

My continued newspaper research quest revealed articles about the sad story surrounding the death of my great uncle, Hyrum.  My mother told me that her father’s brother was killed in an accident in Idaho.  She’d said that grandpa and his brother were very close and that he had grieved over the loss of his brother for years.  Other than knowing the date and place of Hyrum’s death,  I didn’t have any other knowledge about the accident.  Thanks to the digital newspapers that the University of Utah has posted online, I now have at least part of the story.  

Hyrum was the oldest son of Hyrum and Annie.  Born in 1883, in American Fork, Utah, he decided that there was little future on the family farm and went to Sugar City, Idaho to work in the sugar mill when he was twenty. Less than a year later, he was dead.

The news articles describe the accident. A steel beam fell from an upper floor in the plant “severing half of his ear and cutting a very ugly hole in his head”.  He survived the train trip to Salt Lake City, but died shortly after arriving at St. Mark’s Hospital.

His body was brought home to American Fork for burial and after the memorial service, he was laid to rest in a plot that his parents purchased.  Later, his parents, several siblings, their spouses and their children would be buried surrounding his grave.

I’m now several days into another research foray in the old newspapers.  I’ve found copies of numerous obituaries, military draft notices, articles about life and work events of my ancestors and their families.  Without the digital images, all of this information would be lost to time.

Are you using the Internet to search for similar articles and notes about your family? If not, you are missing a treasure trove that literally resides at your finger tips. To access them, you can pay for subscription sites or you can search the free sites that many universities have established using funding that is awarded by the federal government every year.

Check out the U. S. Newspaper Program site to see if there are digitized newspapers that cover your area of interest.   If not, review subscription sites like Newsbank and others like it. You’ll also want to talk to our local libraries and see if they have logon credentials for digital libraries and newspapers. In most cases, they will provide login information at no cost to residents in their city and those who hold their library card.

Late evening hours seem to produce the best results in my own ancestral news article quest. Maybe it is because by then, the noise of the day has settled to a rippling layer on the floor. Find your own ‘sweet spot’ slice of time and give these resources a try. You’ll be well rewarded for your effort.


About Lee Drew

Family history research is a favored avenue of relaxation. It is a Sherlock-like activity that can continue almost anywhere at any time. By leveraging a lifetime involvement in technology, my research efforts have resulted in terabytes of ancestral data, earning me the moniker of Lineagekeeper. And yes - We are all related to Royalty.