Thursday, April 03, 2008


Newspapers have long been a great genealogical resource; however, the newspaper, as we know it, is dying. Here's an interesting article from the New Yorker about the demise of the newspaper.

So, what are the three things that you would miss most if newspapers ceased to exist, and what do you think would "replace" these things?

I'll attempt to answer my own question, but I invite others to express their opinion in the comments or in a blog post of their own. (Please share the link to your post in the comments.)

  1. Obituaries - I think that funeral homes provide links to these and that many will be archived on They will only be free for a short period of time. After that we will pay a small fee to access them. There are obituary projects out there, but most have been very limited in their success. These projects are only as good as the volunteers. Coverage tends to be very spotty--some areas have great volunteers; others don't. Ultimately, I think with its feeds coming from funeral directors is going to be a better solution.
  2. Marriage & Birth Notices - In this category, I'm also including those anniversary notices which are often printed with the marriage notices. The marriage notices have provided some wonderful photos of the bride and sometimes the groom over the years. The birth notices, supplied by the hospital, will give date of birth and the parents' names. Marriages can still be located in county records offices. Births can be located with state offices. (I refuse to be more specific because different states call these different things.) Some hospitals already offer birth information on their web sites, but it's often fairly secure. I think that some of the photo functions can be replaced by Web photo albums; however, if an individual is in charge of editing his/her own album, we all know what is going to happy if the divorce comes along. I don't think I have a good solution outside the permanent records in governmental offices, and many of these come with so many restrictions that it makes it difficult to obtain the information. Newspapers have been very helpful to many researchers when record access is limited.
  3. Small Town News Complete with Photos - I will miss the small community papers for the articles about the community itself--which students were in the county spelling bee (along with their photos), the officers of the local garden club (complete with photos), the scholarship recipients (with their photos), the new bank manager (with an article about his past experience and his photo), etc. The big town papers sometimes print this information in brief form, but they rarely have the intimiate photos of the small town paper. They rarely get down to the minute detail that the local papers have. I think that most of this information will likely move to blogs. The schools (and school organizations) can easily create their own blogs that tell how the band did in the recent competition, provide a picture of the band marching in the parade, show the students who competed at the state level for FBLA, show the officers of the club, etc. Community organizations can get in the act with their own blogs. The local bank can place the press release on its own website or provide a blog with news to its customers. To be as effective as the local newspaper, community blogs need to be linked to each other so that folks get a comprehensive report of the community. Blog rolls are perfect for doing this.

1 comment:

Thomas MacEntee said...

Interesting topic! I have not read a "hard newspaper" as I call them in over two years. I read 5 different newspapers online each morning but right now the manner in which newspapers function on the Internet, doesn't allow me to peruse certain items. One that I miss is, believe it or not, advertisements.

Internet ads are rife on most newspaper sites, but I rather enjoy having those print ads especially for stores. Right now I can pull up a pdf of the Lowville-Journal Republican from 60 years ago and see what people paid for eggs, butter, milk etc. Or look at ads announcing the return of nylon stockings after WWII. Much of this information helps a family historian get a sense of "what the times were like" for a relative. I can't see that happening in the 21st century - how do you capture information such as ads when they seem to change each time you refresh a webpage?