Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 8, Number 9 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 May 19, 2016
Publisher's Notes In this article, we discuss using the newspapers. It is not always easy to find the newspapers that have the information that you need, but they always have interesting information in them. I really enjoy just reading the various articles to see what is happening in the area that I am researching. There is always interesting tidbits that tell about the time and place from years ago. I also wrote about using the Newspapers last year from a different perspective if you are interested.
James L. Douthat
Newspapers One of the least used research tool is the newspaper. This is primarily due to the fact they are so temporal in nature. Unlike printed books that are meant to be around for years, the newspapers are designed to be here today and gone tomorrow. Far too many of us feel these are really second or third rate resources. They may not provide the total answer to our questions, but they can point us in the right direction to find those answers.
Today, most of the nation’s state archives have collected the records of newspapers within their area of interest and at least made them available on microfilm/digital images. Usually they are helped by the journalism classes in the state universities. Local students frequently can locate copies of long lost editions of those newspapers where officials cannot. It is great that they have them and make them available for research.
The very early newspapers are the hardest to find just the right one, but not impossible. Case in point, a number of years ago a friend and I were working on information on Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs. Colonel Meigs, a former aide to General George Washington during the American Revolution, was appointed in 1801 as Superintendent to the Cherokee. He first came from his home in Marietta, Ohio to Fort Southwest Point in present Kingston, Tennessee as his first headquarters. Next he went down the Tennessee River to establish a garrison in present Rhea County, Tennessee. Here his wife and son died and were buried in a family plot. He then traveled up the Hiwassee River to present day Calhoun, Tennessee where he established the Agency. In 1824, he died while in Calhoun. Our question was, “Where is Colonel Meigs buried?” A court case in McMinn County, Tennessee later stated that he was buried in the Calhoun Methodist Church Cemetery. My friend, a retired archeologist, questioned this. He should be buried with his family in Rhea County. A microfilm of the newspapers did not have the issue right after his death. I reasoned that this man should have a long obituary, after all he was the highest ranking Government official in the area at the time. Later we found a second copy of the microfilm, produced by a different group and there was the obituary. It stated, “Governor McMinn accompanied the body down river where he was buried beside his wife and son...” Proof!!!
A second case comes to mind. I had been working on my wife’s family for years, but could not find where or when her grandparents were married. It is a small point since they gave birth to eighteen children in their lifetime. A wedding was hoped for, but not proven. For some twenty to twenty-five years we searched every county in east Tennessee. They were all over the area in their lifetime. Finally when my mother-in-law died, we were cleaning out her papers and found two clippings, undated of course, where her mother was selected as the Mother of The Year and her father was likewise selected as the Father of the Year by the local community newspaper. In reading their story, she was in our area with her mother and step father as he was a carpenter working the coal mines as a miner, later Superintendent of those mines. This was a clue as to where they would have met. We had never looked in our own county because neither one was from here. A search of the marriage records showed they were married by a minister in our area, right under our noses. Shortly after the wedding, they went to Arkansas where several of the children were born and two died of disease. Later they returned to our area. Back and forth to Arkansas through the years, we even searched out there for the marriage record.
A fluke? No, just not in the right place at the right time. This is the plight of researching in the newspapers. Since I retired and have more free time on my hands for research, I have found that I take time and go to the library and take a roll of microfilm and just search for anything that is of interest and make notes on these and/or copy the articles and file them away. These come in handy as you work with the history of any area and at the same time you discover a great many facts that come in handy for genealogical research as well. Remember that you cannot separate genealogical research from historical research. People are involved in events and events happen because of individuals are involved.
Take some time and spend a few hours in your local library and find out who, what, when and how things really happened. You just might uncover the secret to your ancestors that will make them come more alive for you.
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