Monday, June 29, 2020

Introverts, Extroverts, Newspapers, and Ancestors

newspaper article about Fred Gerner having his fingers amputated in Butler Citizen, September 9, 1918, p. 3, col. 5advertisement for J. I. Case sulky plowI am always thrilled to find snippets of information about my ancestors in newspapers.  Not long ago I found a tiny news article in the September 8, 1918, issue of the Butler Citizen that told me my great-grandfather, Fred Gerner, had caught his hand in a sulky plow which required amputation of some of his fingers.  Ouch!  It's not an accident you'd hope for anyone but interesting information to learn.

Other than a brief notice that Fred Gerner's will was being probated (which was in a newspaper in an adjacent county) this article about his accident with the plow is the only other time I've found Fred Gerner's name in a newspaper.  Fred and his wife Elvira had plenty of experiences when they could have been in the paper.  With 15 children you'd think they would have been mentioned in news articles about marriages.  Or, when two of their little girls died, one of poisoning, you'd think there would have been something in a newspaper about that.  Many old newspapers, as far as I can tell, were magnets for sensational news stories.  But no, nothing about my great-grandfather Fred Gerner.  Not even an obituary.

When I told my daughter about this article and the accident, her response was something like, "Oh, how awful to have been published in a newspaper, especially for an accident like that!"  She and I are both introverts and generally private about our personal affairs.  I agreed it would be awful to be in the newspaper for that reason, or almost any reason.  And then I began to wonder how much I could tell about whether an ancestor leaned toward being an introvert or an extrovert based on newspaper articles.  Perhaps not much.  But, on the other hand, maybe at least a little.

Henry Meinzen's big radish in Steubenville Herald-Star on October 15, 1898Henry Meinzen's 12' corn stalk mentioned in Steubenville Herald-Satr, September 7, 1899 I've found more in newspapers about my Meinzen ancestors than any other family line.  There were accidents, marriages, obituaries, and two articles about my great--grandfather, Henry Meinzen showing off vegetables he grew.  At the time of the articles, right, he was a gardener living outside of Steubenville proper.  When he grew several plants to great size, a six pound radish and a 12 foot corn stalk, he toted them to the newspaper office in the nearby city where they were put on display and announced in the local newspaper, the Herald-Star (on Oct. 15, 1898, and Sept. 7, 1899).  Those are the actions of an extrovert!

My daughter reminded me of the time my husband sampled an insect at the state fair which resulted in a paragraph in a local newspaper.  He is positively an extrovert.

If I were to base personality on the number of times I see ancestors in newspaper articles I would have to say that most of my ancestors were introverts, or leaned that way, because it is rare to find news articles about them.  In reality that's probably not a fair basis for knowing an ancestor's personality.  Many ancestors lived in rural areas where small, local news items may not have been collected and published or where there may not have been local newspapers.

The idea of personality traits among my ancestors, including being an introvert or extrovert, is fascinating to me.  Would we have become friends?  Would we have enjoyed each others' company?  The only real resources to determine personality are from those who knew ancestors, someone who was a contemporary or a younger person who remembers the ancestor, or from someone who'd heard stories passed down.  That's a rare occurrence in my family.

If searching newspapers for articles about ancestors, be sure to determine whether the locale where they lived had more than one newspaper.  If so, pay attention to which newspaper was the gossipy one, the one that published snippets of who visited whom, who was courting whom, etc.  With today's OCR it's easier than ever to search for news articles about ancestors.

Do you have stories or news articles about ancestors that suggest his or her personality?



  1. I love using newspapers for research and have found many wonderful stories in their pages, for both my family and my husband's. My favourite, though, is about my great-uncle who stole a milk-van in London in the 1930s - it was a horse-drawn one and in court he told the judge “I had never driven a horse and van in my life, and wanted to see what it was like. I did it for fun.” He only went a few blocks... The result of his trial?:

    "Mr. Claud Mullins, the magistrate, dismissed the charge, saying : 'I cannot conceive the theft of a van marked all over with the owner’s name. I am satisfied that the man had no intention of stealing.'"

    This tells me a great deal about great-uncle William :)

    I also found a great series of articles about my great-grandfather (William's father) and his work as an auctioneer during a difficult period in time - I've blogged about those. They were full of amazing details, in-depth descriptions, and gave me a much fuller picture of my great-granddad and his personality.

    1. Teresa, you found some wonderful articles in newspapers about your ancestors. Your Uncle William sounds like a fun and adventurous person. And how great to have a g-grandfather who was an auctioneer. I wonder if many of his auctions were advertised in newspapers (as auctions are these days). Lucky you!
      I was going to read your blog don't know how to find it. Maybe you could give me the link?

  2. You raise such a good point! I have noticed that some ancestors appeared in their small-town newspapers more often than others, even in the same place and time, and never thought about it in terms of introversion versus extroversion - but it makes so much sense. My ancestor who volunteered as an auctioneer? Definitely an extrovert!

    1. Thanks, Melanie. I'm sure there are other reasons why people may be in newspapers often but the introvert/extrovert idea makes sense to me as at least a part of the reason. How fun to have an auctioneer ancestor! You probably find lots of newspaper ads for his auctions.

  3. I have not thought about personalities, but I have wondered why some lines living in the same vicinity make the personals columns while others didn’t. I guess maybe it’s a case of who you know.

    1. Yes, I think who you know is another reason some people are in the paper more than others, Wendy. I'm sure there are lots of reasons, not just introvert/extrovert personality traits.

  4. I love finding ancestors in newspapers too! And you're right about the sensational stories. Some of the things published in old newspapers would today result in a lawsuit or their offices being torched.

    1. That's the truth, Ellie. We would feel like our privacy had been totally invaded now if some of the old news articles were published these days.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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