Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Crisis facing our small town newspapers

We genealogists all appreciate the small town papers from days of old. We use them as sources for births, marriages and deaths occurring before vital records were kept in all locations. From obituaries we glean clues of maiden names. Many times we can get a "died before" date of death by finding a relative listed as having gone before the decedent in an obituary. Because the small town news reported nearly everything, reading that Aunt Tilly came to visit from out of town helps us discover the origin of the family.


And, this delightful little notice found in the "Connecticut Journal" both 24 Jul and 31 Jul of 1772 made me wonder what business Salmon Agard had between Mansfield and New Haven when he was born in Litchfield, baptized in Torrington, and found in Litchfield with family in 1790?

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Sources: The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records (1994-2002; Baltimore, MD; Genealogical Publishing Co), Litchfield VR Vol 1 p 3.; Samuel Orcutt, History of Torrington, Connecticut: from its first settlement in 1737, with biographies and genealogies (J Munsell; Albany, NY; 1878), p 298; 1790 Census of Litchfield, Litchfield, CT; p 345]

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What treasures might be lost to future generations if these small town papers do not survive? Can it be that electronic media will successfully replace this function? Ah, but what of the relaxing value of just kicking back and having a nice, relaxing read? Many of our Dutchess County local weeklies have vanished recently. New papers are struggling to fill that gap. Their success depends in large part upon our support. The "Crossroads" column in the launch issue of Historic Towns of Dutchess County will feature comments from these newspapers about their hopes for the future and their obstacles to success.

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