GENEALOGY WITH JANICE: Small town newspapers are a...
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Aug 13, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

GENEALOGY WITH JANICE: Small town newspapers are a boon for family historian

City Centre Mirror

My mother grew up in the tiny rural Ontario village of Hampton, one of a handful of villages and a small town served by the Canadian Statesman newspaper.

When I discovered the newspaper has been digitized - all the way back to 1868 - I was ecstatic! My mother’s family didn’t arrive there until 1918, so the earliest editions aren’t relevant to me, but the rest, Oh my. What a treasure trove for a family historian.

Just by typing in mom’s name, I got 58 “hits”. The first was her baptismal announcement. The last was a detailed account of her bridal shower. In between I found articles about carnival contests, public speaking contests, school concerts, girl guide awards, high school variety shows, piano exams, visits to relatives and weekend visits to her parents while she attended university.

Some of these events and activities I already knew something about. I had known, for example, that her mother was a Girl Guide captain and she was an active and prominent member herself, becoming a Girl Guide leader by the time I was old enough to join. I also knew she took piano lessons and became a fairly accomplished performer.

What I didn’t know was she actually won public speaking contests! As an adult, she was terrified of speaking in public and here she was at age 11 giving a speech about “the Butter Industry of Ontario”. The topic, of course, was no surprise, as her father was a butter maker!

I also didn’t know she was one of two Grade 12 students from Bowmanville High School who attended a United Nations Seminary at Queen’s University to learn about the role and importance of the United Nations.

Apparently, each of the 75 students from across Ontario and New York had to role play representing one of the participating countries. Mom was the U.N. representative for Turkey. On her return, she gave a speech to the Bowmanville Lions Club about the experience.

Wow! I knew my Mom was a “cool” kid, but now I’ve got the newsprint to prove it.

If you have family or relatives who lived in a small town - check out the local newspapers! So many are now online, it’s easy. And lots of fun.

Here are a few places to start: (Ontario) (Ontario) (Alberta) (Manitoba) (all over)


Author of ‘Crime and Punishment in Upper Canada: A Researcher’s Guide’ and ‘York’s Sacrifice: Militia Casualties of the War of 1812, Janice Nickerson lives and breathes genealogy. She believes that we all have interesting ancestors, we just need to learn their secrets. Find her online at and

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