Using Newspapers: Advertisements

We often think to look for the obituaries, birth announcements, legal notices, and general articles to add to our genealogical research and family stories. Did you ever consider advertisements for products? I hadn’t until I came across this advertisement for Paine’s Celery Compound with a testimonial by my 3rd great grandfather, Samuel Cook Dimick:

St. Paul Daily Globe, Minnesota, February 18, 1893, p. 5.

What is great about this article is the picture of my ancestor, S.C. Dimick. Up until this article was located, I did not have any photographs of him. I had never considered an advertisement could be so useful. Who does not like finding an image of a long-gone ancestor?

Samuel Cook Dimick is one of my favorite ancestors to research because he seemed to live a very full life, and all the time I am finding new bits of information about him. For example, I learned that he worked for one year as the farm superintendent on an Indian reservation in Minnesota from his biography in the county history for Wood County, Ohio. That led me to looking at records in Minnesota. I discovered that his father, Chester Dimick, purchased 15 different sections of land in Minnesota from the Federal Government that encompassed over 1600 acres! I have not done the follow-up to find the deeds indicating where he sold the land. As far as I knew, they never actually lived in Minnesota.

I’d read the text of the advertisement before, but to be honest, was hyper-focused on the image. Rereading it today, I did not remember that it states that to help his health condition he “…decided to try a change of climate, and spent nearly three months in Minnesota.” This leaves me with several questions. Did the family keep that Minnesota land for a longer time than I previously thought? I had assumed this was a money-making plan and they bought the land cheap from the government and then likely sold it for more later, but had not done the research to confirm it. Did they keep a home in Minnesota, like a vacation home? I really need to get into those deeds!

Two points here. First, don’t overlook the advertisements section. They can have clues and sometimes pictures of ancestors. And second, you have to go back and reread your documents from time to time. Most likely, when I first read this advertisement, the Minnesota piece didn’t stick out to me because I had not learned about all the land they owned there. Rereading documents with new things you’ve learned in mind will shine a spotlight on previously overlooked clues.

And a third point: Newspapers are more than the obituaries!

3 thoughts on “Using Newspapers: Advertisements

  1. Yes, advertisements are a good source of information about ancestors. I have used them myself. However, I have never been fortunate enough to find a photograph of an ancestor in the advertisement – what a extra bonus!

  2. Love that you found a photograph of an ancestor in an advertisement! I have also used them for several bits of a family’s history. I have found a couple of them advertising the sale of a business to and from different family members. I have also found the advertisements for the exact sailing of the ships that several ancestors came on.

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