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In last week’s episode, actress Valerie Bertinelli explored the past of her family, inquiring about the history of both her paternal and maternal lines. The adventure took her through Pennsylvania, Italy, and England, and learned a great deal of her family; stories she had never known before.

One of those stories featured an intriguing story of her great grandparents on their Pennsylvania farm in 1931. It was a reported suicide: the husband attempted to murder his wife, and after she played dead, he then turned the gun to himself. It was reported a suicide by the deputy coroner in Lackawanna County in the Titusville Herald among others. And it is an ideal example of how important newspaper research can be.

Identifying the local newspapers in the area of your family can be essential in obtaining information about their day to day lives. One thing you can do to make this easier is to create a list of all newspapers that existed during the time frame you are interested in; identify them at the local, county, and state level for the best results. Also take into consideration moments in history, such as when news started spreading via telegraph, and highlight the local stories that may have made national papers.

Search these newspapers for other clues to continue the research journey, as well. For example, just based on the information found in the newspaper clipping, we can identify that Valerie Bertinelli’s great grandparents, Gregorio and Maria Mancia, resided in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania during the 1930s. From there, it is relatively easy to find the family in the 1940 Census, with Maria listed as a widow, of course. Her household then included her son Domonic and his wife, Anna, and two other children, John and Ida. These resources lead to many more questions; how did the attempted murder and suicide effect young John, who would have been only five years old at the time of his father’s death?

Another story in her family revolved around James Claypoole, a Quaker in 17th century England. His journey to Pennsylvania seeking religious freedom likely rings familiar with many of us who have early American ancestors. James Claypoole was well documented in early Pennsylvania history, and his story is laid out for us in the various resources found in genealogical and historical publications. In PERSI, you can find material on his family, information on Bible records, and even articles that include his personal letters. Published by a variety of organizations, including the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, these articles are based on searching for the man alone. The waterfall of available articles on this family surges when you search for the area they were living.

As the 2014 season of Who Do You Think You Are? continues, the lessons for all family historians also continue. It is essential to search a variety of sources to build your family story.

Bring your own family history to life, and create a unique experience to share with Who Do You Think You Are? Story.

For more stories on tracing your Irish heritage from Findmypast click here.