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How to Find Your Female Ancestors Using Newspapers

16 November 2016

Newspapers are often underutilized because many people think that their ancestors weren't famous enough to make it into the papers, but the chances of finding one of your ancestors in the papers are actually very likely. Local newspapers often covered events that would seem trivial to us now, but were surprising when they happened. It isn't uncommon to see a newspaper announcement about a family's summer visitor from another town. So, if you're thinking that your ancestor won't appear in a newspaper, you might be surprised.

Newspapers can be a valuable resource for finding your female ancestor's maiden name and for learning more about the women in your family tree. There are many key life events that your ancestor may have made the papers for, including marriage announcements, birth announcements, and obituaries, not to mention other life events if your ancestor was a troublemaker or well-known in her town.

Below are more clues to finding your ancestor's maiden name in newspapers.

Marriage announcements are a great place to find your ancestor's maiden name. Not only do marriage announcements detail the bride and groom, but they often also detail information on the wedding party, which might include cousins or sisters with the same maiden name. Marriage announcements also often include the parent's names of both the bride and groom's family.

If you can't find your ancestor's marriage announcement, try searching for her friends, if you have this information, or her children's marriage announcements. She could've been in a wedding party or mentioned in her child's wedding announcement.

Findmypast - London office

Found in Centralia Chronicle January 1, 1908

Don't forget to search the newspapers for birth announcements. They will include the parent's name which may or may not include your ancestor's maiden name, but sometimes they also provide details such as grandparent's names or names of other relatives which you can then use to help with your search to uncover that missing maiden name.

Findmypast - London office

This birth announcement not only provides information about the child's birth, but also gives clues about the maternal grandmother, giving this person more to search! Found in Kingsport Times July 3, 1938

Obituaries are a great place to learn more about the women in your family tree. An obituary often provides more context around the life your ancestor lived and can provide clues to uncovering more about their past. Obituaries often include the woman's maiden name, but if not, they often include the name of her parents or surviving members of the family, which could be sisters or brothers or even aunts and uncles to help you figure out her maiden name. Or, you may find your female ancestor's husband's obituary and sometimes they include the maiden name, such as the example below.

Findmypast - London office

Found in Walla Walla Union Bulletin June 8, 1965

If your female ancestor was a socialite or involved with societies or organizations, then there's a possibility that she'll be mentioned in the newspapers through one of the announcements or in an article covering an event the society was associated with. If your ancestor was a well-known socialite, she may even be featured in the gossip column. As always, be sure to save any article that mentions your ancestor, no matter how unimportant it may seem, those little revisited details are what help break through brick walls later on.

Findmypast - London office

Found in Anaconda Standard October 7, 1900

If you're struggling with locating those elusive women in your family tree, try searching the newspapers next for more clues that could lead you to other records and sources. You never know what you may discover!

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