From Birth to Death: Researching Your Ancestor's Vital Events Using Newspapers



No matter where you live in the world, you're constantly searching for details about your ancestor's birth, marriage, and death. Have you considered using newspapers to conduct this research as an extension of or a substitute for vital records?


Give the following newspaper research keyword combinations a try to see what you might find. Read on because I even found a Church Baptismal listing for 30 years.


Keyword Combinations To Use When Searching For Birth Articles in Old Newspapers

  • [Surname] + born

  • [Surname] + delivered

  • [Surname] + birth

  • [Surname] + christened

  • [Surname] + baptized

  • [Surname] + nursery roll


Yes, I made you read all the way down to see this cool article. In a newspaper from Abbeville, South Carolina, you can see the listings of baptisms, marriages, and deaths. All of these items were recorded by a church and printed in a newspaper. The person I was researching was born in 1852 but the paper was printed in the late 1880s.


OH! Be careful if you see the word baptized. Many older children and adults were baptized, so don't assume the date was their birth date.


News article featured in this video: Lanway Born

Watch this video.


Marriage Keyword Combinations To Use When Searching For Your Ancestors in Old Newspapers


There are a lot of terms to try out in newspapers related to a marriage, as the marriage event had many phases. Give these tested terms a try in any digitized and searchable newspaper database.

  • [Surname] + engagement, engaged, engage*

  • [Surname] + shower

  • [Surname] + wedding

  • [Surname] + bridal

  • [Surname] + eloped, eloping, elopment

  • [Surname] + anniversary

  • [Surname] + divorce, divorced

  • [Surname] + promised to

News article featured in this video: McIntosh Engage, Ostergard Shower, Riesman Wedding, and Muirhead Divorce.


The search for Ratree eloped lead me to numerous versions of the same story. This search emphasizes the need to not explore newspapers only in the area you think your ancestor lived. Check it out.


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Do Keyword Combinations Word in African American Newspapers?


If a newspaper was digitized, then the keywords work in any ethnic newspaper. The newspaper databases treat all papers the same and these vital events were reported in the general and specialty newspapers alike. Take a look at this wedding announcement from the African American newspaper called the Pittsburgh Courier.



Keyword Combinations For Your Ancestor's Death Published in Old Newspapers


Too often researchers only look at obituary indexes or search for obits. However, you would do well to search for some o the

  • [Surname] + memorium

  • [Surname] + funeral

  • [Surname] + last rites

  • [Surname] + honor of

  • [Surname] + died

  • [Surname] + killed

Here's an example of a terrific funeral announcement from Ottawa, Canada.

Give Vital Record Keyword Combinations a Try


I wish you all the best with using keywords to find birth, marriage, and death records for your ancestors in newspapers.


If I have overlooked any keyword combinations, let me know. I'll add them to the list.


More Newspaper Research Tips and Tricks


If you want to continue learning about how to use newspapers in your genealogy research, read or watch the following:

For more about newspaper keyword combinations, check out these articles:


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