01 May 2009

A Capital Idea! [Quick Tips]

I was sitting at my computer in my home in California the other day, ruing my lack of digital access to a certain year-span of Charleston, South Carolina newspapers. I had been making good progress researching a particular family of Charleston (we'll call it family "A"), but realized that my goal of searching on family members in newspapers was impeded by the gap in digital coverage. Frustrated, I decided to shift gears and pick up on some research on a different family (family B) living 155 miles away in the state's capital, Columbia.

As I was poking around in a very robust archive of Columbia papers, which included the year-span I was ruing just moments before, I decided to give in to a whim and searched on the surname of family A in the Columbia paper archive.

Imagine my surprise when the search yielded five results from 1908, all pertaining to an ancestor who had been arrested and tried for embezzlement during his work with a railroad company! Needless to say, I hadn't heard about this mini-scandal from family members, so the articles took me completely by surprise. As the ancestor was eventually acquitted of all charges, it was probably a case of "best left to forget", which the family tried to do, and moved on accordingly.

Days later, when doing a search in a newspaper archive for Augusta, Georgia, I tried the same family A surname, and found another article on the arrest and trial, this time with more details than even the Columbia papers offered. The embarrassment for the family was obvious--I could almost hear them moaning, "how many papers are they going to print this in?!?" The re-occurrence of the articles has led me to plan on making a thorough search in national-scope databases for occurrences of this ancestor's name in this time period. It's something I had never thought to do before, but armed with this new knowledge, I am excited to see what tidbits and details other articles may mention. At the very least it will keep me busy until the day I have access to those Charleston papers... either in-person or via the internet.

So what's the lesson here? Obviously, not everyone we're researching "makes the paper" in other states (for better or worse), but who's to say that they didn't? Papers in a state capital often include items of interest from all over the state- so there's a perfect place to start on searches when you don't have access to the papers in the town or time that you need. Think outside of the geographic box when performing your digital newspaper searches; you may just find something of intrigue and import which you never even thought would be there!

1 comment:

Taneya said...

oh yes! definitely look outside the geographic region. I'm glad you found items of interest! Stories definitely do get picked up and distributed, so it's always a treat when you find something in a location other than what you'd expect :-)