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January 20, 2001


Virginia Newspaper Dates

I have been scanning stories from an issue of the Richmond Daily Whig and Advertiser for a couple of weeks now. At first, I looked at the masthead and used the date printed there:  April 15, 1873.  I usually do these one story at a time: scan, make up the page for the image, index the names, upload to the server, and add to the "What's New" page. Otherwise I'd get mixed up!

So it went for a few stories....then, to my horror, I looked at the date again (this time on the inside of the front page), and saw April 15, 1878!  I nearly fell out of my chair! I scrambled to change the dates on the stories I'd already posted, and vowed to look at the dates more carefully in the future.

Then this morning, I glanced at the top of the masthead again, and there it was: April 15, 1873.

Well, I don't know whether to be relieved that I hadn't been careless in assuming either 1873 or 1878, that both dates were indeed printed in the newspaper...or whether I ought to be mad that I have to go back and change stories again!

I guess I'll be relieved.  Yes, it's annoying to have to go back & change dates on previously posted stories (again), and other than posting this notice, I have no way of notifying anyone who might be using a wrong date in their research as a result of my confusion.  And I'd rather spend my limited spare time uploading new stories from other regions of the U.S. and other time periods. But that's the way it is today.

While I'm focusing on the logistics of correcting pages, I don't want to miss an opportunity to point out something you should always keep in mind when reading these or any newspapers:  just because it's in print, it isn't Gospel!  

Use a critical eye, whether you're reading about today's current events in one of our major metro dailies, or reading something that's here in The Olden TimesNo newspaper story, today or yesterday,  is without some bias, however subtle... and that's just one end of the spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum is outright error of factual reporting:  wrong dates, wrong names, wrong events, etc.  In genealogical research we tend to be more concerned about the latter. But in our daily "modern" media consumption, we should remember  to be more aware of the former.

I appreciate your patience and hope for your good humor as you watch me learn as I go along.  I expect that you hope that one of these days, I'll get to your home town newspaper, or your folks' old news.  Obviously, I can't find them all, nor could I afford them if I could find 'em, but I promise: I'll keep at it!

Take care, and keep warm!


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