The Use of Newspapers in Genealogical Research

Tracing beneficiaries can pose many seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Promising leads can become entangled in a web of uncertainty. It is then one must use different methods to trace individuals. A method we have found particularly efficacious in instances such as these is the use of newspaper archives.

There are an array of newspaper archives available to genealogical researchers. Some of the archives that we use regularly are found on FindMyPast and When our research takes us abroad, we can utilise more niche archives such as the Irish Newspaper Archives and the digitalised records of the National Library of Australia. At first, the sheer volume of records available may seem daunting, but with persistence, cases that previously seemed insurmountable become solvable.

Local and national newspapers have detailed births, deaths, and marriages for centuries. This can prove a resource of unparalleled importance for linking individuals with wider family trees. They also often provide addresses, which can situate people in specific places at specific times. This allows us to piece together a detailed mosaic of someone’s life and background. For example, a single obituary can name all members of a family, something that might otherwise have taken months to piece together through more traditional records-based sources. This is perhaps the key benefit of using newspaper archives, as they can prove to be a much richer source of information than the comparatively binary transcripts that form the core of most genealogical research.

For instance, in one case we were unsure whether the deceased we were trying to locate had provided accurate information regarding his past. This meant we were unsure if we were following leads that would be inconclusive. However, searching his name through newspaper archives provided us with a treasure trove of information, opening up avenues of research that ultimately allowed us to solve a case that had remained stagnant for years.

Another example that comes to mind is for a case that was based in Ireland. The case had been worked on by various people for some time, with no major breakthroughs being made. For Ireland specifically, newspaper archives are a simply invaluable source due to the lack of official civil registration records, and this proved to be true for this case.

Until this point, only pieces of the larger picture had been uncovered, with nothing concrete linking them. However, by putting in the name of the missing beneficiary into various newspaper archives, a myriad of articles were returned, giving information that we probably never would have found otherwise. There were birth, marriage and death announcements for most members of his family, right down to obscure announcements regarding the sale of property. Together, these various articles allowed us to build a complete family tree, as well as allowing us to decipher the area where the family lived for generations to a single street.

Time and time again we have benefited from the fruits of this archived material. Newspapers truly can open up cases and provide the core pieces necessary to complete the puzzle that is genealogical research.

Conor Corder
Research Administrator

Samuel Till
Research Administrator

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