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The Shermans Made the Papers

Have you ever used newspapers in your genealogical research? Most of us routinely look for obituaries, but newspapers often include other information about our ancestors. These great resources can really flesh out their stories, if we can locate them.

During my early years of genealogy, our large local genealogy library carried reference books that spelled out the names and dates of historic newspapers for most locales. For my research, I found that I usually needed to make a trip to view a relevant newspaper for the mostly-rural locations of my ancestors. This, of course, was an expensive undertaking, and I did it only a couple of times. One of those trips, to the Nebraska Historical Society in search of newspapers from southwestern Nebraska, yielded nothing useful.

As time went by, more papers were microfilmed. In theory, one could get these films on interlibrary loan. This was less expensive, but still awkward. Sometimes the process did not work very well.

One year, I tried to get the newspaper from Charleston, Illinois via inter-library loan. Imagine my amazement when it came in for me—8 rolls of microfilm for a newspaper from that small town! Unfortunately, I soon realized they had sent me the newspaper from Charleston, South Carolina, not Charleston, Illinois.

Last year, I decided to take another chance on finding newspaper articles. A more modern tool has become available to me. I subscribed to When I looked at it, I was delighted to find that it has databases for papers from rural areas in Illinois and Indiana where my ancestors lived.

These papers are searchable, and I have found several articles of interest about my ancestor, Thomas Sherman, and his family:

  • Accounts of marriages of his nieces Cynthia and Mary Sherman in Ninevah, Indiana,
  • Reports of out-of-town travel and letters waiting for another niece, Laura Sherman, also of Ninevah,
  • A story about a shower of gifts for local widows in Ninevah, including Thomas’ sister-in-law, Sarah Jane Sherman,
  • Notice of an Illinois court order requiring Thomas’ sons George and Claude to each contribute $1.50 a week to the support of their elderly father,
  • Week-by-week updates about the health of elderly residents of Coles County, Illinois, including Thomas Sherman.

Another surprising article from Mattoon, Coles County, Illinois contains the story of one Thomas Sherman who had confessed to counterfeiting and had been jailed. The article says the authorities searched the man’s shop and found metal ready for casting. My ancestor was a blacksmith, had a shop, and certainly worked with metal. Was the counterfeiter my ancestor? More than one man named Thomas Sherman resided in Illinois at the time, so this merits further investigation.

Obviously, local newspapers contained all sorts of interesting information. If you are persistent, you will have the opportunity to search one and discover something new about your ancestors.

One Response to “The Shermans Made the Papers”

  • Lois:

    I have been searching for my great great great great grandmother Nancy Elizabeth SHerman Chapman for years. I just found her maiden name this week. I stumbled across your webpage and was wondering if you have photos of her family? I am willing to share information I have on my end. Thank you so much. Lois

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