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|Proformat News ISSN 1833-9514
Privacy and Irish
In this issue:
However, you will still be faced with a number of issues not least of which
will be the multitude of newspapers available (in South Australia there have
over 500 different publications since 1836) and the fact that very few are indexed
or available outside remote libraries. You will not find many available on the
web because their very nature does not lend them to successful electronic scanning
with OCR facilities. Unfortunately these barriers have ensured that newspapers
remain the great untapped resource for family historians.
Prior to World War 2 many regional towns, political groups and religious denominations maintained newspapers. The demise of many came with the improved communication that allowed major city papers to be distributed quickly and the development of radio and later television news broadcasts.
As a rule of thumb, the researcher should look for the appropriate regional or church newspaper rather than the major dailies published in the capital cities. A staunch supporter in a small church in a country town who worked hard all their life in the community is going to be recognised by the local community.
The best way to locate newspapers is through the state libraries all of which specialise in collecting the published newspapers for their state. Usually this means a visit to the library concerned because unless you know the name of the newspaper concerned you will need the help of a librarian to track it down as most online catalogues cannot assist.
A list of South Australian newspapers from 1836 sorted by region is available on the Graham Jaunay's web site.
Family historians will find two particularly useful sections within newspapers:
• personal notices and especially births, deaths, marriages and funeral notices
Personal notices reached their zenith in the twentieth century when personal incomes and classified advertisement charges reached a level that allowed average people to post a notice. Of the personal notices, in SA the most useful are the death/funeral notices which often name the members of the family but more importantly the cemetery which cannot be found in death certificates until 1948. Of course all personal notices come into their own once a researcher comes to the embargoed period for modern births, marriages and deaths. Earlier notices of births and marriages have lost much of their usefulness with the advent of the excellent indexes from SAGHS which are so informative.
In earlier times the costs often prevented the placement of a notice and I suspect with the falling popularity of newspapers today we will see a corresponding decline in notices being posted. There are a few indexes available and those that are available are more likely to relate to the papers in larger towns and cities. In South Australia only a handful of papers have been indexed and all indexes are partial only.
The importance of obituaries cannot be under estimated. Many nineteenth century obituaries will fill that black hole created by the lack of detail in shipping records and may allow the researcher to determine their ancestor's origins as well as interesting aspects of their lives. Obituaries are very much the result of the contribution the deceased has made to their society. The rich and famous will often feature but readers should not discount that many people made contributions to their community who then saw fit to submit an obituary. Readers should attempt to trace the small regional and religious newspapers for an improved chance of finding these records.
A list of a number of published obituaries (about 4500) in South Australian newspapers is available on the Adelaide Proformat web site. These have been compiled incidentally over the last decade while undertaking newspaper-based work for clients when a note has been made of obits sighted. In the past month these have all been checked against the SA Death Index and then published on the web site. While this index will indicate an obit exists you will need to pay a fee to get the precise edition details or a transcription.
The other feature of newspapers is of course the news. While your family is unlikely to be featured in the news columns, you can still get an indication of their life experiences by reading their local newspapers. Sometimes the event being reported may be significant and affect the whole community and although your family may not be named, they certainly would have experienced the event. A typical example (and topical since we have just celebrated the 50th anniversary) has to be the 1956 Murray floods that devastated every community along that mighty river. In other sections of the newspaper you will find people named in court proceedings and not necessarily for anything other than being a witness or victim of a crime.
Newspapers are indeed a great resource for family historians.
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