• Devon Noel Lee

Best Tips for Finding Your Female Ancestor in the Newspaper


How to find female ancestors in newspapers

Ladies are often difficult to find in historical newspapers, but only if you do not know how to search for them. Try out these tips for finding your female ancestors in the printed press.


What Newspaper Sections Document Female Ancestors?


While gender doesn't prevent women from appearing in front-page stories, you'll often find your ladies lurking in the following typical newspaper sections.


1. Bridal News


One story that will nearly always mention a female ancestor in the news occurs when she marries. Be advised. There is a variety of marriage-related information that you can find. Some of these include:

  • marriage bans

  • marriage licenses

  • engagement announcements

  • bridal showers

  • ceremony recaps

  • bridal photos


For more tips on finding the marital announcements, be sure to check out this blog post which highlighted keyword combinations you'll want to try.


Don't limit yourself to the wedding announcements of your ancestor alone. They were often named in the articles featuring their children, siblings, and high school chums!


Be sure to use the Newspaper Marriage Index on Ancestry.com for a filtered newspaper search.


2. Obituaries


All good things come to an end. Women died just like the men. Thus, an obituary will often help us locate our female ancestors. The number of column inches allocated to an obituary varies for various reasons, but the longer, the better when we want to trace our ladies!


Obituaries may document the life of the specific female you're researching. You may also find your lady mentioned due to her role as mother, child, sister, aunt, child, niece, grandmother, granddaughter, and even ex-wife.


When seeking out obituaries, be sure to use a surname + death-related keyword search. This search should help you locate as many obituaries as possible.


Also, utilize the Obituary Index on Ancestry.com for its targeted newspaper search.



Watch this video about finding female ancestors in newspapers to see some newspaper examples.





3. Orpah's Court Announcements


Court proceedings frequently appeared in the press. One favorite find involves orphan's court announcements. When minors were left without living parents who happened to have property and wealth, their inheritance and care required a legal guardian. Likewise, legal issues required court proceedings. Those proceedings often appeared in the local paper.


Orphan court announcements come in handy when you have a female that doesn't seem to have parents. Sometimes, you may discover an appointment of a guardian in the press and learn two things (1) a possible relative and (2) when and where to search court records for more details.


4. Society News


Humans are social creatures, and ladies do a lot of socializing. Therefore, you should become very familiar with the society columns. In addition, ladies will often appear in news nuggets of attending parties, falling ill, traveling to visit family, arriving in town for a stay, hosting events, and so much more.


For more tips on searching the society news, check out this blog post.


If at any time you would like the assistance of an experienced genealogist, check out our friends over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. and tell them Devon Noel Lee referred you.

5. School News


Do you have an educator in your family tree? Or, did your female relative attend school?


You might be surprised just how many articles about educators and their students appear in the newspaper. Search for the hiring, salary increases, presentations, and retirement of your female teachers. Also, look for enrollment, presentations, graduation, and honors for the female students. Female athletes also received ink regarding the competitions in which they participated.


For more places to search for your female ancestors, be sure to check out this terrific blog post by Newspapers.com.


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How Do Ladies Appear in the Newspapers?


Knowing is half the battle. Thus, besides knowing where to look for a female ancestor, we must know how their names may appear.


1. Her Name May Be Misspelled


Did your ancestor have any name other than Sally Smith? If so, chances are her name will appear incorrectly at times. For instance, one female ancestor appears as:

  • Marymae Titus (correct name)

  • Maime Titus

  • Mary May Litus

  • Mariame Titan


Be open to having your ancestor's name appear not as it should.


2. Her full name may not appear


Newspapers rarely had enough space to fully document all the news fit to print. Thus, editors used many tricks to truncate names. Additionally, cultural practices might also prefer a female appear as Mrs. Robert Bolton rather than Mrs. Camilla Bolton, who happened to be married to Robert.


Therefore, search for your female ancestors by:

  • maiden surname only

  • married surname only

  • surname + initials

  • surname + given name abbreviations (Eliz for Elizabeth)


3. Her Name May be Incorrectly Scanned


Since you will discover more stories in the newspapers using searchable databases than browsing page by page, you have to know this next limitation.


Compares scanned newspapers to create digital images. Then programs will generate text that we can search using forms on Newspapers.com, GenealogyBank, and Chronicling America.


Those optical scans often misread the text, especially when the physical page has any flaw, such as inkblots, warped text lines, and more.


Become familiar with using OCR substitutes in your online newspaper search strategies. You can find those search variations by clicking here.


For more tips on searching newspapers for your females, check out this blog post.





More Tips for Genealogy Research Newspapers


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