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Find Your Family - The Value of Community Newspapers

Article Date: 
4 April, 2014 (All day)

When I purchased the newspaper about four and a half years ago I did not understand the genealogical value of community papers. Unlike the large daily newspapers that are struggling to stay alive, community newspapers are, in general, doing well. They provide content that can be found nowhere else. There is very little content online or being written, other than in social media, about the events at a local level. This is the staple of community newspaper content.
I often joke that the goal of community newspapers is to write about every person in the community every year so that they will subscribe. While it is a joke, there is a grain of truth in it. Community newspapers write about elementary, middle school and high school events. The Morgan County News has published the names of every graduate of Morgan High School for many years. They provide recognition for community members who earn awards. They cover community events and community service. They publish who wins the local 5K at the Fourth of July event, and who recently turned 50.
Most genealogical training that I have taken only focuses on obituaries from newspapers. The community newspaper content, however, tells the stories of our ancestors from when they were young in school to when graduated, when they married, and many other events. I have learned so many things about my ancestors who lived in Morgan from the old issues of this  newspaper. I had stories left from my grandmother, but I have added to what I know from information in The Morgan County News.
We have been running the front page of issues of the newspaper  from eighty years ago for the past year and a half.  There have been many individuals who have come into the newspaper office requesting additional copies or asking about the full newspaper because there are stories of their ancestors in the pages.  This is true for communities all over the world.  Community newspapers are a treasure trove of genealogical content.
If you are looking for a rich source of information about your ancestors that is more than just names and dates, or if you haven’t been able to find information about an ancestor in the traditional sources, have a look in the community newspaper in the area in which they lived. You will likely find information about your ancestors that you didn’t know and will often find stories about you ancestors that will add to your understanding of their lives.
Most of the issues of The Morgan County News from about 1930 up to about 1954 have been digitized and published online by the University of Utah at digitalnewspapers.org.
 
Don Anderson is a Sr. Vice President for FamilySearch and has responsibilities for family history centers worldwide, including The Family History Library in Salt Lake.  Read more from him online at findyourfamily.me .