Many biographers, stuck for a more clever title, have simply called their books The Life and Times of [their subject here]. It’s not terribly creative, but it does convey an important idea for every biographer or family historian to remember: every life comes with a historical context.
A person’s life story is shaped by the time and place in which he or she lived. What social, cultural, technological and political forces might have had an impact upon the subject of your research? For family historians exploring those larger forces can seem like a huge endeavor tacked onto canvasing family and vital records to gather the essential facts about a family member.
That task just got a lot easier. The Associated Press and Ancestry.com have announced a partnership that will make more than one million stories from the AP newswire available in a searchable database.
AP, founded in 1846 by five New York City newspapers got together to fund a pony express route through Alabama in order to bring news of the Mexican War north more quickly than the U.S. Post Office could deliver it has often been called the “Marine Corps of journalism”—always first in and last out. It is a not-for-profit cooperative, owned by 1,500 U.S. newspapers, which are both its customers and its members.
The material made available by the partners and searchable by name, date and subject includes:
This collection includes index cards that were used to catalog AP stories by subject from 1937–1985.
This collection includes AP news stories (1937-85), which were selected by news librarians for microfilming to create an internal news archive of over 700 reels.
Intended for both AP staff and member newspapers, the magazine has documented the work of AP journalists, described technological innovations in news transmission from the Speed Graphic camera to High Definition video and spotlighted coverage of major stories, such as World War II, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the Moon Landing. The magazine has also featured bureau profiles and company news, including governance and operational changes, staff achievements and historical pieces.
The Service Bulletin was published from September 1904 through July 1927 with the purpose of communicating the “General Orders” of AP’s General Manager. The Service Bulletin offers a wealth of information about AP’s organization, staffing and operation in the early 20th century.
The collection will provide researchers with what American Heritage Magazine used to call an eyewitness to history. Quinton Atkinson, Director of Content Acquisition for Ancestry.com said “It represents a fantastic set of material for our family historians who are researching the news of an era, and gives incredible historical context for the world their ancestors lived in.”
Family history writing will only grow richer and more interesting as family historians have the opportunity to incorporate its rich content into their stories of ancestors’ lives.