One Hundred Years of Social Media


An interesting thing has happened in the last few years: the explosion of social networking and social media. We have been able to be constantly updated about the activities of our friends and relatives like never before…but it’s only a 21st Century manifestation of our tendency to spy on each other.
In historical newspapers, many of which are available at Ancestry.com, you will often find a column labeled “Personal” or “Society” or equivalent, in which many events, trivial and otherwise, are recorded forever about the lives of our ancestors. Here are links to two examples from 1912, one hundred years ago next month (subscription to Ancestry required):

Sheboygan (Wisconsin) Press, 3 January 1912, “Personal Pickups”

The Daily Courier, Connellsville, Pennsylvania, 1 January 1912, “Personal” on column 4 (also see the “Social Calendar”)

Translated to Facebook or Twitter parlance, they don’t seem too far out of place!
“In Milwaukee today!” – @Jbitter1912
“It’s a girl!!” – @MrandMrsJosephMeyer1912
“Love spending time with family!” – @MissLucileMooneyofGlenbeulah1912
“back in madison for another semester” – @HerbertMaurer1912
“Back east for 2 months it will be awesome!” – @MissMarySinclair1912
“Bridge party Thursday” – Mrs. John F. Torrence
(Will you be attending? [ ] Accept [X] Ignore)

You can learn all kinds of stuff, even if a lot of it is simply announcements of who is in town and who is visiting who. You could learn birthdates, a maiden name, a person’s hometown, whether a relative was still living by a certain date, and so on.
There are hundreds of thousands of newspaper images online, and on microfilm in local libraries. Don’t forget about this valuable resource!

An interesting thing has happened in the last few years: the explosion of social networking and social media. We have been able to be constantly updated about the activities of our friends and relatives like never before…but it’s only a 21st Century manifestation of our tendency to spy on each other. In historical newspapers, many of which are available at Ancestry.com, you will often find a column labeled “Personal” or “Society” or equivalent, in which many events, trivial and otherwise, are recorded forever about the lives of our ancestors. Here are links to two examples from 1912, one hundred years ago next month (subscription to Ancestry required): Sheboygan (Wisconsin) Press, 3 January 1912, “Personal Pickups” The Daily Courier, Connellsville, Pennsylvania, 1 January 1912, “Personal” on column 4 (also see the “Social Calendar”) Translated to Facebook or Twitter parlance, they don’t seem too far out of place! “In Milwaukee today!” – @Jbitter1912 “It’s a girl!!” – @MrandMrsJosephMeyer1912 “Love spending time with family!” – @MissLucileMooneyofGlenbeulah1912 “back in madison for another semester” – @HerbertMaurer1912 “Back east for 2 months it will be awesome!” – @MissMarySinclair1912 “Bridge party Thursday” – Mrs. John F. Torrence (Will you be attending? [ ] Accept [X] Ignore) You can learn all kinds of stuff, even if a lot of it is simply announcements of who is in town and who is visiting who. You could learn birthdates, a maiden name, a person’s hometown, whether a relative was still living by a certain date, and so on. There are hundreds of thousands of newspaper images online, and on microfilm in local libraries. Don’t forget about this valuable resource!

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