Researching with Newspapers 6

Researching family becomes an obsession to most of us. There is most likely nothing we would rather do with a few spare minutes than make a great find. To each genealogist, that great find can be something different; a vital record that gives a new name to add to the tree, or a census record that shows the family together. For me, it is completely different. Donʼt get me wrong - those are great finds, and I have done many happy dances with each of those finds. But, my favorite find is... a living family member.

It is easy to lose a connection with family, it could have happened a few generations back. The question is, how do we find the living family members? Let me share my experiences doing this.


My favorite records to help me find living family is the newspaper. There are many different web sites that can help a genealogist find their living family. My first experience with finding living family was in October 2008. I had been following census records following the family of my great-great aunt, Catherine OʼConnell. I turned to Newspaper Archives and searched for Catherineʼs family. (Due to living family, I am withholding Catherineʼs married name.) I found so many mentions of the family in different areaʼs of the paper. I found obituaries, marriage announcements, and birth announcements. I was able to bring this family forward four generations within a week's time.


Once I had names of children that should still be living, I used the White Pages to find home addresses. With that, I mailed off letters to a few of the family members and prayed that someone would answer me. A few weeks later, I got my first response from an older gentleman who confirmed that we were related. He was older and said he really does not remember much about the family connections and that I should write his sister. So, I did, and I patiently awaited her reply. She actually phoned me, and we had a brief conversation about family. I told her I was looking to travel to see where our ancestors were from and would love to meet them.


She told me to let them know when we would be in town and we could all get together. It took me a few years to make the trip, but I was finally able to meet these cousins - cousins that had lost connections with the family. Their mom moved away from the family as did my grandfather and his mom. So, it was natural that they had no contact. To be honest, they had never met. I was honored to be there to meet these siblings who were my grandfathers first cousins. I felt a sense of closeness to my grandfather who had passed when I was a small child.


The clues to find the living are out there in the papers local to where your family lived. You just need to search them out. Besides Newspaper Archives, there is Genealogy Bank (both of are subscription-based websites). For those of you with New York ancestors, I highly recommend Fulton History. Something you should never overlook is your public library. Through ours I can access ProQuest which has a historical collection and recent papers as well. Using ProQuest will depend on the area your family lived in, but do not overlook it. Be sure to check your local library to see if ProQuest is available to you.


About Terri O'Connell

Terri O’Connell is a professional genealogist in the Chicago area, focusing on Midwestern United States Genealogy, with a main focus in Illinois and a special interest in Irish research. She is also the owner of Cruise Planners – O’Connell Cruise and Travel (, a full service travel company. Their mission is to encompass the full family: vacations, reunions, and history travel. Terri is a travel enthusiast with a passion for genealogy and enjoys bringing the two together to assist her clients in their travel needs. You can find Terri online at, or you can find her at for all things genealogy. Terri is the Executive Director of The In-Depth Genealogist.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

6 thoughts on “Researching with Newspapers

  • Kenneth Marks

    Thanks for this post. Well written and informative.I too have found an astounding amount of information on living relatives from newspaper articles and many fun stories as well.

    I would also recommend using Facebook to find living relatives. I have found quite a few. I have written a blog post about using FB to find relatives:

    Thanks again for the post.

    Kenneth Marks (marksology)

    • toconnell Post author

      Thanks for stopping by and reading! We appreciate it. Personally, I have not had any luck tracing lie people on Facebook, yet. I have never gotten a reply from of the messages I have sent out. I am glad that others have had better luck and will have to try again!

  • Bob Smith


    Thanks for the article. Searches had brought me to the Newspaper Archives site a couple of times but I wasn’t sure it was entirely legit. Some sites make you think they have all kinds of information on people and, when you join, there’s nothing really there except a name from the SSDI. Since you were using it I thought I would take a chance and it paid for itself in information in the first 10 minutes. I’ve found obituaries that I had searched all over for and wonderful family “tidbits” and articles.

    Folks should pay attention when they sign up on the website – they do force you into an automatic renewal and show a much higher annual cost for the following year. They also “pre-check” some sort of monthly charitable contribution that you must “uncheck” before purchasing. Those are the kind of things that make me hesitate on signing up on these web-sites.

    Thanks for the lead!

    Bob Smith

    • toconnell Post author

      Bob, I am so glad that you had good results right of way. Nothing is better than that!

      I agree that you have to be careful with what you sign up for, and I usually talk with someone before I move forward on a new to me site. Thanks for the heads up on all the things that they are doing to subscribers. I am sure our readers appreciate it!

      Happy searching!


  • Mariann Regan

    Thank you, Terri. I copied the website for comprehensive newspaper archives. The newspaper searches on have been disappointing so far. I’m trying to find living relatives, and I’ve made it through the 1940 census, but none of the first names in the white pages look really familiar. Newspapers sound hopeful — you were able to bring a family forward four generations in a week! I’ll make a note of Proquest also. I’m interested that you mailed letters instead of using the telephone, but I’m thinking that was probably less intrusive to the prospective family members. Good advice!