When one thinks family history research, one always tend to straightforwardly think about BMD records and in a sense one is right to do so : birth (or baptisms), wedding or death records are sources of the first importance and ones the researcher will be the most confronted to. It will also often be the first contact between the researcher and its subject by the way of any family documents in his or her possession.
There’s another source that could be of great interest to the same researcher providing he or she organises the work research in a good way and that is newspaper. For instance, you can now browse through a digital collection of 30 titles in the Belgian Royal Library, this should be online soon but for copyrights reasons, nobody really knows when.
The kind of information that can be found in newspapers is really vast : it goes from obituaries to cultural events via small ads and political articles. The quantity of it makes it compulsory to organise your search very well either by date, place or even names in case of an OCRised record.
To name just a few examples of how useful this tool can be : I could trace one of my relations, the husband of one of my paternal grandfather cousin, in the sports pages on a weekly basis because he worked in the world of horses and the races he attended were all mentioned in a newspaper. Of course,there will only be a small mention of his name and where he was at that time but it’s pieces of a puzzle that alltogether forms his career.
The same with my maternal great-grandfather. He was a musician in King Albert’s band and this band toured North America in 1929. I’ve found articles telling of their homecoming and of all social events that took place as consequences of the big adventure that this tour was ! And articles can of course be of big use if the ancestor you’re looking informations about has been involved in politics,science,academics etc.
Newspapers could not only tell you about special events in which your ancestors might have been involved in but also about the world as it went in the time of your ancestors : wars,politics all this will make the context in which your ancestor lived clearer and help you your research accordingly !
As a word of conclusion, let’s say that newspapers are a source too important not to be forgotten !
If you want to know more about online, and soon-to-be online newspapers :
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