Dec 8, 2014
In this episode I'm going to share a personal story from my own family history just recently uncovered, and pull from it 3 powerful strategies that you can start using right away to further your own genealogy research in newspapers.
My husband's grandfather, Raymond Harry Cooke, was born March 6, 1894 in Tunbridge Wells, England.
Ever since I first started researching his family I have been aware that Raymond's mother, Mary Ann Cooke, died at a young age, around 40 years old. What I didn't realize was that in the back of my mind I sort of made some assumptions about what happened to her.
I knew she had lost one child in child birth, and had one living child, Raymond. Though the answer as to her exact date and cause of death have been elusive, I haven't been in a big hurry to find the answer, because I guess deep down I assumed that she had lost her life in a third pregnancy. So it remained one of those genealogy projects I put off for a rainy day.
This hypothesis was unexpectedly shattered last week!
Not long ago I posted on the Genealogy Gems blog about BritishNewspaperArchive.com hitting over 9 million digitized pages. Last Wednesday evening I decided to take an hour out for my own genealogy (which I rarely get to do these days) and do some digging to see if I could find anything about Mary Ann's death.
With the site's powerful advanced search engine I located the answer within minutes. And it was devastating. (Image left)
3 Tips for Finding Family History in Newspapers:
Look for "Search" Clues in the Articles You Find
After absorbing the story of Mary Ann's untimely death, there was still work to be done. I went back through the article with a fine tooth comb making note of every unique details that could possibly be used in a future database search such as addresses, name variations, neighbors, friends, occupations, etc. This will lead you to:
Look Beyond Known Names
In my case, I noticed that Mary Ann Cooke was referred to as "Mrs. Cooke" in one article, and "Mrs. Cook" in another, so I omitted her first name and ran searches under both options, resulting in even more articles. And in the article about "Mrs. Cooke", her son Raymond was referred to as "Master Cooke". Indeed even more articles existed under that name as well.
Go Beyond People
Search for the addresses of locations where they lived. And don't necessarily include their name. Simply searching the address can give you a kind of "house history" set of search results, revealing who lived there before, descriptions of the home and its contents and who moved in after your ancestors left. In my case, I located an article about the Cooke home (by the address) being up for sale several years before they owned it. That article included a fairly detailed description of the property. The final article found in the British newspapers was also found only by address (as the Cooke name wasn't mentioned) and it detailed the contents of their household up for sale. The auction was held in prepartion for their move to Canada.
Resource: How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers by Lisa Louise Cooke
GEM: Interview with Emma Brockes, Author of She Left Me the Gun: My Mother's Life Before Me, and More Reading Recommendations
"When a parent dies, you the child, your relationship with that history changes almost over night. It suddenly becomes much more relevant to you. because you feel like you're the only one left in a position to remember it. So, having never wanted to know anything about my mother's life, suddenly after her death it seemed imperative to me to find out absolutely everything. And to remember her that way. It felt to me that I couldn't, how does one put it, I couldn't stake out the parameters of what I had lost, until I knew everything there was to know about her, and of course there was this huge black hole in her background which I knew nothing about." Emma Brockes
Read Sunny's blog post Genealogy Gems Book Club: MORE Great Books Recommended to find out about two more excellent books for genealogists.
GEM: Your DNA Guide at Genealogy Gems: Ancestry DNA Update
Read Diahan's blog post AncestryDNA Review and Breaking News! Updates Launched at the Genealogy Gems blog.