Every genealogist and family researcher has their own favorite sources for information. An often overlooked window into the past is use of newspapers in genealogical research. Some newspapers for Marion County Missouri date back to the 1830’s and are found in state archives, libraries, and historical societies. For example, the State Historical Society of Missouri has an excellent newspaper collection. The Missouri Historical Society, Jefferson Memorial Building Forest Park, in St. Louis, MO 63112-1099 has obituary clippings dating back more than 100 years–mostly from eastern Missouri newspapers and an almost complete collection of the Missouri Republican, which began in 1808 and the Missouri Gazette, which was published until 1919.
Of all the sources of research material, nothing can compare with old newspapers. If you want to get a good feel for the lives and times of the families you’re investigating, consider reading some old newspapers.
Old Time News
History of Marion County Newspapers
Historical News Articles
- Depravity Hits County
- Obits-Whig 1851-1853
- Unclaimed Letters 1873
- Unclaimed Letters 1855
- Newspaper Abstracts – Marion County, Missouri
Digital Marion County Newspapers
- Palmyra Whig, 1846-1859
Armed with a year’s supply of print paper, Jacob Sosey commenced publication of the Palmyra Spectator in 1839 under the title Missouri Whig and General Advertiser which was shortened to the Missouri Whig a few years later. According to the “History of the County Press of Missouri,” Sosey “turned the management over to his son, Harper R. Sosey in 1859… but he still controlled it” and it became the Palmyra Courier at that time. Then, in 1863, Jacob Sosey returned to his publishing post with the Palmyra Spectator.
- Western Union, 1850-1851
In 1850, Orion Clemens bought the nine-year-old Hannibal Journal in Hannibal, Missouri, and quickly changed its name to the Western Union. Clemens would be the editor and publisher for only three years, but during his tenure, he would change the title three more times before finally returning to the paper to its original name. Under Orion Clemens’ leadership, the paper not only changed titles in rapid fashion but expanded to include weekly and daily versions. Both publications were four pages in length with the weekly being published every Thursday.
- Hannibal Journal and Western Union, 1853
Like most newspapers, the Hannibal Journal struggled to get prompt payment from its readers, and in 1852, Orion Clemens set up strict payment terms for subscribers and ran them below the masthead of the weekly Hannibal Journal: “One Dollar, if paid In Advance; if not paid within Six Months, One Dollar and Fifty Cents; if not paid within Twelve Months, TWO DOLLARS.” In March of 1853, Clemens began a daily version of the Hannibal Journal, but it would last barely six months. Despite the stricter terms, all versions of the Hannibal Journal ceased publication in 1853, and the final issue of the weekly (September 15, 1853) remarked that Mr. Clemens would excuse all subscribers who have been holding back payment and “wish to all the young men among them the highest degree of happiness.”
- Hannibal Messenger, 1854-1859
Launched in 1852, the Hannibal Tri-Weekly Messenger was the rival of the Hannibal Journal. The Messenger managed this competition comfortably, becoming a daily paper. When the Hannibal Daily Messenger commenced publication on December 7, 1858, it announced that “we deem it necessary to inform our friends that the Tri-Weekly will be discontinued from this date. We will send them the Daily, however, until the 1st of January.” The Messenger proudly went on to say that the “publication of a regular daily newspaper will be regarded as a favorable indication of the stable condition of our advancement…. Our improved appearance will be readily perceived.”
- Palmyra Spectator, 1863-1879; 1896-1956
As the Spectator took its “best bow” in its inaugural issue (April 10, 1863), Sosey writes that for “years we have been connected with the Newspaper press of Missouri, and have enjoyed a respite of some four years, during which time we have been engaged in the job printing business…. We resume our position in the editorial corps of Missouri and shall endeavor to publish as good and useful a journal as can be furnished… The Spectator will be Democratic in politics.”
- Marion County Herald, 1883-1913; 1924-1925
The Marion County Herald was established by M.P. Drummond and Philip C. Gansz in 1883. Drummond was an experienced newspaperman as he had previously worked as an editor for another Palmyra paper. With their combined expertise, Drummond and Gansz ran the paper together until 1890, when Gansz left to pursue other publications. Drummond sold the Herald in 1922 to J.W. Cox, and the paper ran until 1926.
- Marion County Standard, 1925-1941
The Cary brothers of Palmyra, Missouri began the Marion County Standard in 1933. In 1941, the Standard joined with the Palmyra Spectator to make the Palmyra Spectator and Marion County Standard. This title only lasted until 1955, when it changed its name to the Palmyra Spectator, which continues to this day.
Active Marion County Newspapers
Researching in Newspapers
A good obituary provides the genealogist a biographical sketch with factual information and some insight into the personality of the deceased. Some nineteenth-century newspapers routinely published full obituaries for local residents; others printed only brief notices unless the deceased was a prominent citizen or if the family paid to have the obit printed . Current daily newspapers of large cities usually print only a few lines about the deceased, but obituaries in small town newspapers are generally longer. Obituaries will be found in various parts of newspapers. Some papers have special pages or column headings, but most of the time you will need to scan all of the paper. Keep in mind that obituaries can appear weeks after the actual date of death. Set aside enough time for research, especially if you do not have specific information about the date.
Births were not commonly reported in nineteenth-century newspapers. During the early 1900s, the printing of birth announcements in local papers gradually became a popular custom. Most current newspapers publish notices of births, usually under that heading or placed in columns of local news.
Nineteenth-century newspapers in Missouri usually printed news concerning nuptial agreements. Marriages appeared under that caption or within columns of local news. You might find column listings for couples who had applied for marriage licenses, and separate announcements reporting marriages that had taken place. If a couple reached their 50th anniversary, this milestone may also be noted in the newspaper.
Legal notices concerning estates may indicate death dates and heirs. Court dockets, lists of taxpayers, subscribers, county fair prize winners, etc., can be helpful in establishing the residence of persons at particular times.
It is often rewarding to search several years of local news about the community where your family lived. Not only can facts be deduced (“Mr. and Mrs. Joseph C. Dover took Sunday dinner with their daughter Mrs. Ed Brown” indicates that Mrs. Brown’s maiden name was Dover), but details about the community and the lives of family members can add color and interest to a family history.
If newspapers for the time and place you need are not available, investigate the possibility that later papers printed items from their back files in 50- or 25- or 10-Years-Ago columns.
More Tips for the Genealogist
Because newspaper articles can be used as evidence to support genealogical conclusions, it is important to keep a complete and accurate citation on all copies or transcriptions. Make certain you record the title of the newspaper, its place of publication, the date of the issue, and the page number.
To preserve your own newspaper clippings for genealogical purposes, glue or tape a small piece of paper on the back extending beyond the text. Write on that paper the complete citation. Since modern newspapers deteriorate very rapidly, mount and photocopy those clippings you want to preserve.
Included below are links to help you in research in the newspapers of Missouri.
Preserving Newspaper Articles & Clippings
Dissolve a Milk of Magnesia tablet in a quarter cup of club soda overnight. Pour into a pan large enough to hold the flattened clipping. Soak the clipping for one hour, then pat dry. Do not move the clipping until completely dry. Estimated life: 200 years
Steps for Preserving Documents
The basic premise for preservation of any clipping or photo is simple. Air and light do damage. Keep the documents enclosed, preferably in sealed archival quality page protectors, then keep in a box (archival quality storage box).
DO NOT LAMINATE!!! The glue will eventually start to eat away at the document.
Newspapers (but not photos!) must be de-acidified, before you enclose them in plastic.
(Note – newspaper ink needs one full year to dry, so do not seal clippings from the past 365 days)
Enclose in an archival quality page protector (if using regular page protectors, purchase those with greatest thickness of plastic.)
Label on the outside of the page protector.
Store collection in a box, away from the light.