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Dec 2023 RTOM: Finding Ancestors through Newspaper Social Announcements & Feature Articles

12/17/2023 4:27 PM | Rick Smith

Vol. VI, No. 12

Contributor:  Sylvia Abrams, PhD, JGSC Past President

Many newspapers have digitized their back issues into searchable archives that are aggregated into databases. The best known is, owned by Ancestry and requiring a paid subscription. A free site for historical newspapers is, a searchable repository of historic newspapers published in New York State and the United States between 1795 and 2007, frequently updated. It also includes a handful of international newspapers. The Library of Congress' Chronicling America is another free resource that provides historical newspapers.

Those who live in Northeast Ohio can access newspapers through the Cuyahoga County Library system using their library cards. Currently available are the historical Plain Dealer, historical NYTimes among others. The Cleveland Memory Project at Cleveland State University houses the Cleveland Press Collection.

The Cleveland Jewish News Digital Archive includes not only all the CJN papers since its founding in 1964, but also all its predecessor papers:

• The Hebrew Observer
• The Jewish Independent
• The Jewish Review
• The Jewish Review and Observer
• The Jewish World

I’ve been fortunate to have located family information from several of these sites.

Imagine my surprise to find a feature article in the April 2, 1907 Plain Dealer about my husband’s great grandfather, Jacob Green, noting that he was naturalized that day!  The article provided us with a date for locating his missing naturalization, date of arrival (which was 1879) and town of origin in Hungary. 

As part of my research on this family branch, I located an article in the July 31,1931 Jewish Independent about the 50th wedding anniversary of Ignatz Green, Jacob’s brother. It provided not only his marriage date of 1881, but also his arrival date of 1883 and the names of all his children as adults, including the married names of his daughters.

I used to search the Buffalo, NY papers for information on my maternal family.

I knew that my mother’s birth name in English was Nita, and that she was listed as Annie on the ship manifest when she came to the US as a toddler from England. I had no idea that she was called Anna in school until I came across a Hutschinson High school honor roll list from the December 14,1923 Buffalo Courier. This discovery helped explain why she used the more American sounding first name Ann as an adult, which I found on her engagement announcement in the October 10,1940 Buffalo Evening News. 

I also had been told that my maternal grandfather, Benjamin Hanf, had died in the flu epidemic. I was able to confirm this fact through an article in the December 5,1920 Buffalo Times that listed his name as one of those being remembered in an Elks lodge memorial program.   

You may have luck confirming family names or stories through newspapers. With patient searching you can fill out genealogical facts to make ancestors feel more real than a line on a census or a name on a manifest.

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