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Let’s reconsider the example of an obituary for a person from a small town. A couple of things to note:

• Not all individuals have an obituary. However, one is much more likely to have been written if the person lived in a small town as opposed to a city. One reason why is that big-city newspapers often charge a considerable sum to print obituaries, an expense that your ancestors may have decided to forego.

• City obituaries also tend to be more sparsely written because big-city newspapers typically charge by the word.

• The person at the small-town newspaper preparing the obituary may have personally known the deceased. These obituaries tend to have more useful content than in the city.

• Obituaries rarely dwell on the shortcomings of the deceased. An obituary would not mention, for example, that the deceased was the proverbial village idiot. However, read a couple of articles in a small-town newspaper mentioning the deceased and you could probably quickly draw such conclusions.

print block from an historic small-town newspaper

This is just one small example of how a typical small-town newspaper would generally provide a richer and deeper source of information on your ancestors than a big-city newspaper.

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