MAIN IDEA NO.2
CAN YOU BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ?
Information you find in newspapers, just as in any other record, can be incorrect. Family history detectives need
to evaluate the information found in all sources. Just because you find a birth date for your great-grandmother in
a newspaper obituary doesn't mean that the date listed is correct. You should always check for original records
to compare the information.
In the Ancestors companion instructional guidebook entitled, A Guide to Discovery: Key Principles and
Processes of Family History Research, author Jim Tyrrell suggests the following criteria when evaluating
Information you find is most believable when it is:
- recorded by an eyewitness, meaning someone who had first-hand knowledge or experience
with an event, relationship or some other matter in question.
- preserved in its original format
- preserved in a clear and certain way so that it is directly understood, such as "John
Ballard married Mary Kee on 17 November 1789"
- consistent with the presumed facts that are found in one or more other sources.
Look at a contemporary local newspaper. Ignore the advertisements and the articles about famous people and
politicians and look for notices, announcements and quotes from ordinary, every day people. What types of
information do you find? What facts are included, and how do you know they are believable? What facts could
the reporter have better explained? What might he or she have left out?
Next, go to the library and look up old papers from the early 1900s. What differences do you notice
between old newspapers and the papers of today?
Cyndi provides links to modern-day newspapers as well as columns on genealogy at CyndisList.com.
The Newspaper Collectors Society of America offers tips on what makes old newspapers valuable and how
to collect them.
Select a part of a newspaper, such as the obituary or social pages. Write an entry for a paper of today, and
then the same information in an entry as it would have appeared in the early 1900s.
WHAT HAVE I LEARNED AND . . .
Newspapers can be a valuable source of family history information. Though you may find many clues to your
family history, detectives should be sure to evaluate the information and confirm it against original documents
. . . WHAT'S NEXT?
Though it may sound odd, your ancestor's death is a wonderful source of information on your family. Many
ancestors wrote wills and the directions in the wills had to be legally carried out. This process generated a
lot of paper that can add unique details to your ancestor's life and death.
Dailies: A term indicating that a newspaper is printed every day.