Or "Rednecks, Obits and Gossip Columns"
by Uncle Hiram
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
Over the weekend I was over at the 7th annual German John's Fish Fry and Parts swap with Elmer Joe Cox and Cousin Tyrel. We were lookin for parts to fix Cousin Tyrel's 67 Ford Pick Up (He thinks its a classic). As we were munching on German John's world famous Jalapeno Breaded Catfish we got to talking about Genealogy and Newspapers.
Elmer Joe was telling Cousin Tyrel how important it was to check the local newspapers for the area that your ancestors lived in. Finally, I asked "Elmer Joe you are always talking about the papers but I don't really see alot you can get out of them."
Elmer Joe smiled and said "Hiram you gotta think outside the box. Just look at all the area's that an old newspaper can help you."
Lets take a look at this weeks Pottsboro Press (Oct 19, 2000) as an example. On Page one there are eight articles. There are individuals named in all eight articles. You can use this as a secondary source to establish that our ancestor was in that area on that day. It will also give you specifics about what they were doing. For Example we know the Homecoming Queen candidates were Lorina Lillie, Kandis Adams, Jessica Oliver, MIchelle Martin and Cheryl Barker. Now you can pull information like this from all the articles in the newspaper.
Look at the advertisements. Most of them list the owners of the companies, particularly in small town papers. This is another good secondary source for placing your ancestors in a certain area at a certain time. If your ancestor is listed as the owner of one of these companies you can write that company to see if it still exists and if it is still owned by part of your family.
Check out the want adds and personals. You might get lucky and find a reference to one of your ancestors buying or selling something. Again a secondary source but every scrap of info helps.
Lets turn to the Obits. This will tell you not only who died, but in many cases the names of the survivors, their relationship to the deceased and the pallbearers. This is an excellent source for the following items: Birth and Death dates of the deceased, names of brothers and sisters and grandchildren. It can also be used to verify death dates of the surviving relatives. For example if you have Uncle Tutor dying in 1923 but you have a 1930 obit listing him as a survivor you know you have an error in your death date. Since the Pallbearers are frequently family friends instead of family members you need to check all of the obits to see if they can help you place an ancestor in a certain time and place.
If you are chasing a 20th century ancestor the addition of sports pages in small town papers can be an untapped gold mine. For example the 1946 sports section of the Pottsboro Press during the football season is going to list the names of all the players. It will also list the names of the players on the opposing teams that made big plays. This will not only help you place Uncle Bert in Pottsboro in 1946 but it will also give you an interesting fact about him I.E. that he played for the football team. Again I wanna stress these are secondary sources, but they help to flesh out your family history.
I wanna suggest you look in the newspapers around elections. They will list not only the candidates that won but the candidates that lost. Losing candidates have a tendency to fade into the background but the fact that Uncle Tutor ran for Mayor in Pottsboro in 1924 will tell you some sold things about him. 1) He was a resident of Pottsboro in 1924 and 2) He had been in Pottsboro long enough to fulfill the residence requirements. 3) there are legal documents out there with his name on them, specifically the forms he used to get on the ballot.
This brings us to the end of another Adventure in Genealogy. What we have learned (Hopefully) is to check those newspapers.
- Adios and Keep Smiling!
- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)