Newspaper Advertisements Help in Research

By Brenda Joyce Jerome, C.G. 1997-2017. Retired 2017

I love using newspapers in my research – not just for the births, deaths and marriages that are often published, but, also, for the advertisements that tell me things I might never find in public records. Below are a few examples of advertisements that can tell you so much about where people shopped, what they did during their leisure time and the concerns dealt with in their daily lives.

Mr. M. Lyon was one of the subjects of a research project I did a number of years ago and continues to be a person of interest. He was a tailor and was the first ready-made clothing merchant in Evansville before his death in 1893.(1) From this newspaper advertisement in the Evansville Daily Journal,(2) I learned that he provided military uniforms and equipment in his store during the Civil War. Hmmm. Where else would I have found this information?

M Lyon Card 1863Advertisement for M. Lyon, Clothier, 1863


(1) “A Brief Illness,” Evansville Courier, 25 May 1893, p. 2, Obituary of Michael Lyon.
(2) “A Card,” The Evansville Daily Journal, Tues., 2 June 1863, p. 3.


It is always interesting to find out how our ancestors spent their leisure time. Then, as now, churches and food festivals seemed to go hand in hand. In this advertisement for a Strawberry Festival,(3) given by the Walnut Street Presbyterian Church in 1863, not only will they have strawberries, but ice cream was also served. And I thought ice cream was a treat not enjoyed until many years later! I wonder how they kept it frozen. Something else I did not know.

Strawberry Festival ad 1863Advertisement for Strawberry Festival, 1863


The next advertisement is sad and a little puzzling. John E. Wood offered a “One Cent Reward”(4) to inform the public that his 14-year-old apprentice, William Stanfield, had run away. Wood was warning the public not to take in his apprentice and anyone “harboring the boy would be dealt with according to law.” Notice it does not state that John E. Wood wanted the boy returned to him; he just did not want anyone else to take him in. I hear anger in this advertisement. What prompted William to run away? So many questions

(3) “Strawberry Festival,” The Evansville Daily Journal, Tues., 2 June 1863, p. 2.
(4) “One Cent Reward,” Evansville Journal, Sat., 13 Dec 1845, p. 4


One Cent Reward 1845Advertisement for Lost Apprentice, 1845

These advertisements allow us to take a peek at life of yesterday and beyond. Even if our ancestors are not mentioned, we can learn about life in their community.


Brenda Joyce Jerome is a longtime member of the Tri-State Genealogical Society. She has served as president of the society and for many years was editor and publisher of The Western Kentucky Journal. She was active as a Certified Genealogist from 1997 until her retirement in 2017. She currently writes the Western Kentucky Genealogy BlogSpot.



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