Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Newspapers Can Confuse and Lead Astray

The announcements below were both published in the same newspaper, on the same day, on the same page. The newspaper was the Butler Citizen. The date was Wednesday, December 20, 1911, and they were on page 5. These articles both came from the Butler Area Public Library Obituary Index.

I wonder how one announcement could have been so wrong. In fact, Gus Doyle and Beulah Gerner were married on December 19, 1911, so the license announcement is correct. George Doyle is Gus' uncle, though Gus may also have had a cousin by that name.

"Gus Doyle of Stoneboro and Beulah Gerner of Saxonburg."

"Miss Beulah Gerner of Saxonburg and George Doyle of Stoneboro, Pa., were married Tuesday afternoon at the Methodist Episcopal church by Dr. E. J. Knox."

This is another reminder about the unreliability of newspapers as sources for accuracy. I like to use obituaries, news articles, marriage and birth announcements, etc., as guides or suggestions. Obituaries, in particular, are sources for lots of information if you choose to research further and find documents to support what you find in newspapers. Often obituaries will give the surnames of married daughters, occasionally including the husband's first names. Obituaries also often give the name of a city where surviving children lived, which can be another lead. If there are several deaths in the family over a period of time and the names and locations of living children are given, you can see where they lived from one family death to the next. Doing that can help you know where to look for a census record or in a city directory or for other government documents.

I'll take my hints almost anywhere I can get them, but the follow-up research is so very important. Use anything you find in a newspaper with caution and search other sources of more accurate information to support or refute what you find in newspapers.

What are your experiences with newspapers? Have they helped you in your searches? Have they ever led you astray or given you just the hint you needed to put you on the right path?


  1. Great example of not believing everything you read. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. In the newspaper articles I used for a recent post, one writer could not keep the figures straight from one paragraph to the next, let alone from one column to the next. Perhaps it was the typesetters, but still ... not to be trusted!

  3. I keep re-reading but what is the mistake. if Wednesday was Dec. 20 wasn't Tuesday Dec. 19? What am I missing?

  4. Kristen, the mistake isn't with the date but with the names. In the marriage licenses article it says Beulah Gerner and Gus Doyle. In the Doyle-Gerner wedding announcement it says Beulah Gerner and George Doyle. These two people are my grandparents and it was easy to identify the fact from the fiction. In some other circumstances, if the articles were published on two different dates and I saw one and not the other, or I had no other knowledge of the family, I could have found the wrong one and spent a lot of time trying to "prove" it. Thanks for asking me to clarify.


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