Book Review: How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, by Lisa Louise Cooke

Prepared by Gena Philibert-Ortega.

When I think about how my grandmother did genealogy 30-plus years ago, I can't imagine that she used many newspapers. She didn't use them not because they lacked importance but because she would have had limited access to them in the pre-Internet years. Her only ability to find newspapers would have been to travel to scattered repositories where her ancestors lived (too expensive) or to somehow find out what repositories had the newspapers she needed and could lend them on microfilm ( that's if she could find a listing and if they were on microfilm). But genealogists today have little excuse for not using newspapers.

While newspapers can still be a challenge to find, that is changing rapidly with state newspaper digitization projects, private digitization projects, genealogy subscription websites, the availability of newspapers on microfilm, online library catalogs and volunteer look-up projects. As with using any research tool, it's important to understand the tool, where it is located and what it can tell you. That's where Lisa Louise Cooke of the Genealogy Gems podcast's new book comes in handy. "How to Find your Family History in Newspapers" is 155 pages of information of what you can find, where to locate, and how to search newspapers. In her disclaimer to the book, Cooke writes "I am first and foremost a genealogy podcaster. My goal is to teach my listeners and readers innovative ways to use existing online tools specifically for their genealogy research." This book delivers on that goal.

One of my favorite pages in the book is a Newspaper Content Checklist that provides a list of the types of articles that a researcher should check. While most researchers tend to concentrate on obituaries exclusively, the newspaper offers so many other places to find an ancestor. This checklist includes content in the categories of Advertising, Births and Deaths, Legal Notices and Public Announcements, Lists, News Articles, School Events and Social News. The advantage to the reader is that when you realize all of the places that can name your ancestor you more likely to expand your research beyond the obituary. A Newspaper Research Worksheet is also included that the reader will want to copy and use for the ancestors/locations they are researching.

Appendices in this book include lists of United States Newspaper Websites and International Newspaper Websites.

One of the problems with a book about the Internet is that it is often out of date once it is published. One of the things that Cooke has done with her book is that she has made it interactive by providing space for adding websites and notes. This ensures that the book becomes a reference workbook that the researcher can refer to repeatedly as they research.

"How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers" can be purchased from the Genealogy Gems website .

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