United States Biographies and Historical Items in Newspapers (National Institute)

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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 US: Newspaper Records  by Rhonda McClure. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Biographical Sketches and Historical Items

There are many times that you will find biographical sketches on those who have been in a community for a long time. In some instances the sketch comes as a result of the death of the individuals being talked about, and as such it is important to remember that such information is sometimes flawed or not completely accurate. It is based on the memories or information given to the person writing the sketch. The same can be said of historical items, even when they are written by the individual involved, may have some discrepancies. However the valuable information shared in any type of article far outweighs the potential for error. It doesn’t mean that the information shouldn’t be verified, but because it has been compiled for you, it makes that verification all the easier, provided the information is basically accurate. You never know what you might find in a biographical sketch, but usually there is information about the individuals birth, including date and place, along with names of parents, at the least the father. There is usually some time spent describing childhood or other experiences that appeared to mold the individual in question. And then you can expect some space to be devoted to what made the individual important, either at large or to the community in question.

                                                              Tyrone Power
Thanks to Dublin Magazine and the late manager of the Dublin Theatre, we have at length some accurate record of the career of poor Tyrone Power. Mr. Calcraft, who knew him intimately, commences a brief biographical sketch in the present number, and the article, though incomplete, will be read with avidity far and wide. Our worthy manager’s chief fault is his haste to anticipate—at times skipping onwards with a startling abruptness, and telling things before the proper time. But this is a minor defect, and will but slightly interfere with the pleasure experienced in reading his facts and intelligent remarks. More than eleven years have passed since the loss of the President, but the brilliant actor who was so suddenly swept away is far from being forgotten. Power, it seems, was born in 1797, near Kilmacthomas, in County of Waterford—a “soil” declared b Mr. Calcraft to be “favorable to the growth of theatrical genius,” seeing that it has given birth to Dorothea Jordon and Charles Kean. His father, an Irish gentleman, died in America, where he had repaired in the hopes of bettering his fortune, leaving his young widow and infant, who had remained in Ireland until he felt his way with some certainty, to rely on very slender means for future support. His mother settled at Cardiff, and it was by witnessing the performances of a company of strolling players, at a theatre in that town, that young Tyrone became inoculated with the dramatic fever. He determined to be an actor, and, hopeless of obtaining his mother’s consent, secretly escaped from home, and joined the traveling corps. …The New York Times
October 1, 1852
New York City

This article actually goes on for a couple of columns of the newspaper, and details the meeting of and marrying of his wife, and much about his life. If this was your ancestor, then you would have a lot of information with which to work in expanding this research with more traditional records.

Historical sketches are often the memories of someone who was involved in an event or a reporter’s interest in an historic event. There may be factual evidence cited, especially if the article is written by a reporter, but usually when it is the memoirs of an individual, you must just take the story apart and begin to use other resources to verify the story as a whole, though not all memoirs of this type are easily verified.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course US: 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 wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.