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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian: Newspaper Records by Ryan Taylor, revised by Susanna de Groot, PLCGS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
In addition to newspapers for certain ethnic or religious groups, there are many others aimed at organizations or special interests. These can be as varied as human life itself, and if we know that a family member was part of any given group, we might ask if there is a publication we should examine.
In people’s working lives, there are corporate newsletters, many of which include staff news, particularly about retirements or longserving employees.
Genealogists often find it difficult to obtain exact information about the working life of individuals within the family—when they first joined a company and how long they worked there. Especially for those who spent a lifetime working for the same employer, it is important to know this for their biography in the family history. Company newsletter accounts of the person’s retirement, or their receiving an award for 25 years’ service, will probably supply exactly this kind of information, and may also have some fulsome tribute from a supervisor which can be used in the biography.
Company newsletters can be found in their own archives, and sometimes in local archives also. Many corporations have placed their archives in a public institution for safekeeping, particularly universities’ special collections.
The other side of corporate newsletters are publications from unions. Because of their aim of creating a feeling of solidarity of the workers, there is a great deal of personal information about individuals in union publications. They can also provide a different point of view vis-à-vis the lives of our relatives. In Union News, the newsletter of the Sudbury Mine and Smelter Workers Union for July 1936, there is a long obituary for Gust Bystrom, who died at work. Interestingly, there is no family data, but a great many details about his involvement with the union and his work history. This would be a tremendous find for a researcher, who probably would not have this information in any other form.
Other publications might provide background information about the working lives of relatives, to give us some understanding of their situations. One very useful recent series is Echo Soundings, reprinted marine news from the Amherstberg Echo, a community newspaper in Essex County, Ontario. This series extracts information about boats on the Great Lakes passing through the area from Lake Erie to Lake Huron between Ontario and Michigan.
Many families were involved with these boats, both on the water and in the surrounding towns. Genealogists who know which boats their relations worked on will find references here which they can use, or simply background information.
The first steamer for Lake Superior ports is expected to leave Sarnia on May 1st, ice permitting. The tug Home Rule had her first wrecking job of the season on Tuesday when she released the sandsucker Ohio from Elliott’s Point. (both items from 24 April 1896)
The fact that this newspaper material has been extracted and indexed for us makes the research that much easier and more pleasurable.
The most difficult aspect of finding these specialised publications is realising that a particular title exists. It can be worthwhile simply to spend time browsing through the list of publications held at a local institution where our family lived, to see if any title catches our eye. Many of these newspapers are very small, and searching through a run of them will not take as much time as a community newspaper, but may well yield significant information.
In larger institutions, the publications list may be very long. However, periodicals lists are often produced in several formats, one of which is by place of publication. Watch for these. It is a simple matter to look through the location list, to see if there are titles unfamiliar to you from the places where your family lived. Once you know the title exists, you can look at a few issues to see if it looks likely to provide you with information.
It may also be profitable to ask the archivist in a small archives for advice: “Do you have any corporate newsletters from Timex? My grandfather worked for them for many years.” Even if the archivist has nothing in her own collection, she may know where the newsletters are available.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian: Newspaper Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at email@example.com
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.