Archive for May 19th, 2011

Finding Your Family in Old Newspapers

by Sherry Stocking Kline
19 May 2011

I just finished reading a great post “Beyond the Obituary: Researching Your Family Tree in Newspapers” on the Legacy Family Tree’s website.  It gives several excellent reasons for checking newspapers for your family, shares the different information you may be lucky enough to find, and showcases the ease of searching Genealogy Bank’s digitized and indexed records as well.

Many times I’ve bemoaned the fact that my ancestors lived in tiny little rural towns that Genealogy Bank doesn’t have in their collection. (I’m crossing my fingers that they will be added to the Genealogy Bank collection soon!)

Many of my ancestors lived or spent some time here as farmers, ranchers, and teachers in rural Sumner County, Kansas

So first I determined the town(s) that my ancestors lived near.  Many of these small rural towns in the area where my ancestors lived are about five miles apart.  For instance, Milan and Mayfield.

So my next stop was to go to the Kansas State Historical Society website and search through their newspaper microfilm lists to see what newspapers I might be able to research.   

Many times those small town happenings were included in both small-town newspapers as well as the larger newspaper(s) in Wellington, Kansas.  At some periods of time, I found anywhere from 3 to 6 newspapers that might have my ancestor’s information. 

When I typed the name “Mayfield” into the KSHS newspaper database I found the following:

Mayfield Voice  3/16/1894–2/28/1895   Mayfield  Sumner  KS  H 1639 

For a very short time, my tiny little town had its own newspaper! 

 Woo Hoo!  Better and better, my Stocking ancestors lived in rural Mayfield for approximately twenty years at that point, and even better than that, this microfilm is available locally at the Sumner County Historical and Genealogical Society Research Center (open Tuesdays from 10 to 4, closed for lunch or other times by appointment) and the Wellington Public Library.

Next, I typed in the name of Milan, and found the following results:

Title Dates Published in County State Reel Number
Milan Herald  9/1899–6/1900   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 890 
Milan Herald  9/1899–6/1900   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 1488 
Milan Mirror  1/18/1923–3/29/1923   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 886 
Milan News  1/19/1911–10/31/1912   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 887 
Milan News  11/7/1912–6/25/1914   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 888 
Milan News  7/2/1914–12/30/1915   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 889 
Milan News  1/6/1916–2/7/1918   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 890 
Milan Press  1/28/1892–6/27/1895   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 891 
Milan Press  7/4/1895–6/10/1899   Milan  Sumner  KS  M 892 

Wow!  Over the years, Milan had four different newspapers!  

While both my ancestors and my husband’s ancestors settled there before these newspapers came into being, it’s still a good way to locate many of their doings, their family get-togethers, and in some cases even the fact that they traveled with friends by train into Wellington fifteen miles away to shop for the day.

I believe that the Kansas State Historical Society  sells these microfilms or loans the microfilm out to some libraries, http://www.kshs.org.  But not all libraries have the capability (or perhaps it is funding) to to do this interlibrary loan.

I know this post may help Kansas researchers locate the newspapers they need to search for family info, and I hope that this post will help others looking for  their family in other states.

Without the indexing, it takes a lot of time to hunt through microfilm after microfilm, but the good news is that here in rural Kansas, many of my ancestor’s events, and not just their birth and death announcements, but also when they traveled, where they traveled, how they traveled, and even who they may have had for Sunday dinner may be included in those small-town local newspapers columns.

Many thanks to Taneya who left a comment on this blog post, and a link to a great resource to help find other newspaper microfilms!

You may also wish to check the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site for a directory of newspaper microfilm holdings across the country if you need to ever expand beyond Kansas: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

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