Newsworthy Death Story

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If your ancestor died in a tragic or sensational way, the story might have been printed in the newspaper. We are looking at newsworthy death stories to expand our family tree in this article.

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What Makes the News?

Just like in the news media today, stories that were shocking, tragic, sensational or otherwise unusual are what made the news in our ancestor’s times. Only they received their news in a printed newspaper. What genealogy clues can be found in these newsworthy death stories?

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Caught in the Crossfire

This first example is from a man named Francis Thomas Donahue, also known as Frank or FT. In the early 1860s, he disappeared from all the records in the Kentucky county where he lived. He did not appear in any death or cemetery record, although thorough death records were not kept in this area at this time. I wanted to find out what had happened to him.

A newspaper search was performed for him within the years when he disappeared, to see if he was mentioned in any way. The search required the use of variant spellings and versions of Frank’s name. Finally, a tragic but useful article was found.

The Louisville Daily Courier (Louisville, Kentucky), 3 Mar 1868, accessed at

Malfunction at the Feed Store

A distant cousin shared another news article about the tragic accidental death of our grand-uncle. His article reads half as a news report and half as an obituary with many life and family details:

Oklahoman, 17 Oct 1953

Did Your Ancestor’s Death Make the News?

As genealogists, it is sometimes hard to learn about tragedies that happened to people in our family tree. However, those are the realities of life just like they are in our time.

If you have found any record that mentions an unusual death circumstance of your ancestor, if they died in a catastrophe or natural disaster, or if they simply disappear and you can’t figure out what happened to them, it’s worth a look in the newspaper to see if they suffered a newsworthy death.

Have you found a tragic newsworthy death event in your family tree?

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