Newspaper items can enhance your family history research by adding social context and local history. The stories captured by newspapers give glimpses into our ancestors’ lives like few other sources do. When I got started doing genealogical reserach, I began by researching obituaries. I was self-taught, as many of us are, and I thought about what kinds of sources I could access. When I began researching my family history, Ancestry was just barely coming online, census records were barely digitized and they most certainly were not indexed when I started. And MOST definitely, there were no digitized newspapers available when I got started. I spent a lot of time visiting the library back in Wood County, Ohio where my ancestors are from and cranked my fair share of microfilm!
My research began primarily with obituaries. I collected those of my grandparents and great-grandparents. Then I used the clues in their obits to identify their family groups, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, and so on. Then I looked up those folks’ obituaries… and on and on. Pretty soon, I had over 500 obituaries in my research collection!
When scrolling through those newspapers, I was often distracted by other headlines, a name would catch my eye, a picture, diagram, advertisement, and so on. I learned so much about the location, events that were happening, issues affecting the community, the weather, and so on. Stories found in newspaper articles can give clues for further research paths and strategies.
In this next series I’m going to highlight some of the newspaper items other than obituaries that I have found and have helped me with my research. I have come across some very interesting tidbits and hope you will have fun seeing some of these items.
Sadly, some couples find their lives too difficult to continue living, for a variety of reasons. This phenomenon of the suicide pact is not new. The couple below were engaged to be married yet decided to commit suicide by strychnine ingestion:
Suicide pacts are not just for the young. The following older couple decided to commit suicide together because of financial difficulties and ailing health.
Probably the most tragic are the murder-suicide incidents. This young man felt that he would never be enough to marry the girl he loved and was so distraught that he felt that the only solution was to kill her and then himself.
Sometimes love is so strong and so mind-bending that logical and clear thought seems to escape some. Of course we can’t know for sure what was going on for these couples but their love tied them together even to death.
I don’t know about you, but it seems like there are a lot of couples who die very closely together. It could be coincidence, it could be they were both equally unhealthy at the end, it could be just my romantic notion that sometimes people are just so in love that they can’t live without each other. Who knows, but here is another example:
Charles Urban died just two weeks before his wife of 30 years:
Samuel Cook Dimick moved to Wood County, Ohio from Lyme, New Hampshire in the 1870s. He married his wife, Mary Marshall in Lyme in 1860 and they spent the next 41 years building a life together. Their family only brought them 2 children, both sons, one who sadly died at age 19. Mary died at the end of April 1901. According to Samuel’s obituary he died just one week later: “He said that he had planned everything for his wife’s comfort and pleasure and now that she was gone he had no desire to live longer.”
They are the reason we are here. A man and a woman came together and made babies and from that day forward genealogists everywhere have been having a hey day putting the long forgotten family puzzles back together. Of course we all know that they didn’t have to be married for the baby to be made. However, some of my favorite obituaries concern couples who were married for a long time. I have also enjoyed finding newspaper clippings concerning marriages, finding love, courting, and the like. It makes the names and dates and the imaginings we all get about our ancestors a little more real, a little more fun, a little more like us.
This next series of posts will involve things having to with love, marriage, couples and unfortunately, the inevitable: death.