Why You Should Always Check The Second Newspaper

Why You Should Always Check The Second Newspaper

by Kerry Scott on 24 January 2011

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Kids, here’s something you probably didn’t know:

Back in the olden days, people used to read newspapers.  In fact, so many people read newspapers that many cities had two major daily newspapers.  Crazy, huh?  This is important to know if you’re a genealogist, because you really need to check BOTH of those newspapers when you’re looking for obituaries.  You’d be amazed at what you might find.

Take Ottilie Scheiber Emmerling, for example.  She died in Milwaukee in August 1934.  I checked the morning Milwaukee Sentinel first, since that’s usually the more reliable one in terms of obits for this period.  I found this (1 September 1934, page 4, columns 6-7):


Private funeral service at the home will be conducted Monday for Mrs. Frederick H. Emmerling, wife of a Milwaukee dentist, who died yesterday.  Burial will be in Forest Home cemetery. Besides her husband, who resides at 2939 W. Kilbourn avenue, she is survived by a son, Hans. F., of Milwaukee, and two daughters, Mrs. Kent Lighty of New York, and Mrs. William Newman of Pine River, Minn.  Mrs. Emmering was the daughter of Frederick Scheiber, attorney and court commissioner here years ago.  She formally was a member of the Milwaukee College Endowment Association and the Milwaukee Art Institute.

Now, that’s a decent obit, right?  There’s lots of good stuff there.  For a woman in the 1930s in a large city, that’s pretty good luck, research-wise.

Then I checked the afternoon paper, the Milwaukee Journal, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.  I found this (31 August 1934, page M2, column 1)

Long Ill, Wife of Dentist Dies

Mrs. F. H. Emmerling Was Active in [sic] Behalf of College and Music

After an illness of three years, Mrs. Ottilie L. Emmerling of 2939 W. Kilbourn av[e]., the wife of Dr. Frederick H. Emmerling, died Friday morning.  Mrs. Emmerling was born in Milwaukee, the daughter of Frederick Scheiber, attorney and court commissioner here years ago.  She attended the old Engelmann school which later became the Milwaukee University school.  Forty-0ne years ago she was married to Dr. Emmerling.  Besides her husband, she is survived by a son, Hans. F., of Milwaukee, and two daughters, Mrs. Kent Lighty of New York and Mrs. William F. Newman of Pine River, Minn.  Mrs. Lighty, the former Margaret Emmerling, and her husband are the authors of a book, “Shanty Boat,” dealing with their experiences on the Mississippi River.  Mrs. Emmerling was formerly a member of the Milwaukee College Endowment Association and of the Milwaukee Art Institute.  She was deeply interested in music.  Funeral services, to be held at the home on Monday, will be private.  Burial will be in Forest Home cemetery.

Now, what if I hadn’t checked the afternoon paper?  I would have missed her first name, how long she’d been married, what school she’d gone to, and the fact that her daughter had written a book.  I found the book online not long after I pulled the obit, and it’s fantastic.  I never would have known it existed if I hadn’t seen the second obit.

This family was well-known enough to rate a staff-written obituary, but I’ve seen many cases where less wealthy families chose to only place paid obituaries in one paper (clue:  obituaries are expensive).  I have a whole stack of obits that appeared in the Minneapolis Star but not the Minneapolis Tribune (or vice versa).

That’s why you should always check BOTH newspapers when you’re looking for your ancestors.

Photo by katerha

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna January 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Wow, I’d be happy if I could only find one obit in one paper once in a while. My ancestors have no obits in no newspapers…lol. Nice find!


Denise Coughlin January 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

So true! My family research is concentrated in 2 rural counties in upstate NY but I’m able to find an obit in 2 different papers in the 2 counties. Locally I’ve been adding photos & memorials to Find-A-Grave and in the local paper the AM edition would have a detailed obit & then the PM paper would have the names of pallbearers, etc.

Remember the days of a morning and afternoon paper?? Boy, I’m getting old…time to color the gray :)


Susan Tiner January 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm

That’s interesting, and good to know. I’m gearing up to start researching my mother’s side of the family, so this tip will come in handy.


Marian Pierre-Louis January 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm

I love the examples you used. Great stuff.


Caroline Gurney January 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Very interesting post, Kerry. Thank you. I believe obituaries were also copied from one paper to another. When my 3x great uncle, George Lowe, died in Buffalo, NY in 1915, his obituary in the Buffalo Daily Courier ended with the words, “Cleveland Ohio and Hamilton Ontario papers please copy”. I knew he had lived in Canada before moving to Buffalo but was previously unaware of any connection to Cleveland, Ohio.


Kerry Scott January 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I’ve seen that notation too—it’s a really helpful clue.


Eric Kraus January 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm

I don’t know if you noticed or if anyone else noticed, but the two papers you sited are 3 years apart. I am assuming it is just a typo of one or the other……just thought I would let you know.


Kerry Scott January 24, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Ugh. I am a lousy typist. Thanks for letting me know—it’s fixed now.


Amy January 24, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Check more than one newspaper, check several days either way (in case they publish a long obit once and then shorter ones), and check the foreign language papers if applicable.

On that note, do you have access to any German Milwaukee publications from 1900-1912 range? If so, I may need your services. LMK, thanks.


Kerry Scott January 25, 2011 at 8:19 am

I’m actually going to the main Milwaukee library this weekend to look at what’s currently available (it’s been a while and their holdings have changed a bit). I’ll let you know.


larry January 25, 2011 at 7:47 am

As said before good examples of checking for other sources.
Side comment: Yes Obits are expensive, I wrote my Mom’s obit; I wrote it like an “old-fashioned” one, you know with all the good stuff in it.
Obit cost $125 for a one day run, then I had to purchase 5 copies.
Second side comment: Glad you are back after the two week hiatus from posts.


Travis LeMaster January 26, 2011 at 5:30 am

Some papers had both morning and evening editions of the same paper. Unfortunately, when microfilming, many libraries chose to only microfilm one edition.

When possible, I try to check the newspaper where the relatives died, as well as where they grew up for alternative obituaries. Don’t forget the society notes, where it may mention that ‘so and so’ was traveling to a nearby city for the funeral of their brother, etc.

I love reading the old newspapers at Ancestry.com. If you think politics today are nasty, you need to go back 100+ years and read the commentaries there.


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