Country Newspapers are Wonderful!

Many years ago I had trouble finding the death of my great, great, great grandmother Sarah Matilda Collins, formerly Merchant, nee Neal. It was in the days of handwritten indexes and I simply couldn't find her.

However, quite unexpectedly the local newspaper, The Tenterfield Star came to the rescue. I knew the date of the death of her son, Thomas Hugh and his death was reported thus.

The Tenterfield Star, Tuesday Morning, 2nd December, 1902.
Local and General News
News was received on Saturday of the death of Mr Thomas Merchant of Drake, whose illness we reported in the last issue, as also did we report the death of his eldest son in West Australia.  Deceased leaves a wife and family in Tenterfield.

I had lost trace of his son Albert (who by the way wasn't the eldest son), so naturally went to the previous week's news.

The Tenterfield Star, Friday Morning, 28th November, 1902
Local and General News
We much regret to record the death of a promising young native of Tenterfield on the Westralian goldfields, Mr Albert Merchant - whose grandmother, Mrs Collins, was buried last week, and whose father is now ill at Drake - has succumbed to an attack of pneumonia following upon fever.  We extend our sympathy to the relatives.

BINGO! Here was the answer to my problem.

The Tenterfield Star, Friday Morning 14th November, 1902
Funeral Notice
COLLINS - The friends of the late Mrs WILLIAM COLLINS are invited to attend her funeral to move from her late residence, Vine Cottage, Vineland, at Noon today.
J R Day, Undertaker.  

The Late Mrs William Collins
The mournful tolls of the Christ Church bell early yesterday morning announced the death of one of the oldest inhabitants of the district in the person of Mrs William Collins, of Vine Cottage, Vineland.  The sad event took place on Wednesday night, the primary cause of death being senile decay, with failure of the heart's action.
Deceased was the daughter of the late Mr and Mrs William Neild, and she was born at London, England, on 11th June, 1924, and was therefore 78 years and 5 months of age at the time of her death.  She was married in England, in 1839, to the late Mr James Merchant, with whom she left Gravesend (England) for Sydney (NSW) by the ship FLEETWOOD and FRANCES (Capt. Dove) landing at the latter place on 11th March, 1852.  From Sydney the late couple visited Braidwood, Tuena, near Goulbourn, and Rocky River near Uralla.  In 1858 the late Mr and Mrs Merchant arrived in Tenterfield, and proceeded to the Timbarra goldfields, where they settled and where Mr Merchant died on 21st May 1865.  The issue of this marriage was 5 sons and 4 daughters namely Mr Thomas Hugh Merchant of Drake, Messrs James Henry, Joseph and George Merchant of Tenterfield, and Mr William Merchant of Stanthorpe, Mrs W Ford of Hillgrove, Mrs George Smith of Pretty Gully, Mrs F Brauer and Mrs John Melling of Tenterfield.  There were also 4 other children, since deceased.  Mrs Merchant came to Tenterfield in 1868, and on the 27th July the following year she was married in the local Wesleyan Church, by the Rev Corner, to Mr William Collins, who died at Tenterfield on the 9th September 1885.  There was no issue from the marriage.  The deceased lady leaves a number of relatives including 9 children, 53 grand children and 42 great grandchildren.  The funeral takes place today being timed to leave the late residence of the deceased at 12 o'clock noon.  Mr J R Day has charge of the mortuary arrangements and the Rev H G Smith will officiate at the graveside.
To the bereaved ones, our deepest sympathy us extended.

I have found that country newspapers tend to have much better obituaries than city papers. Almost everyone in the country had more than a passing reference to their death mentioned in the local paper. Like this one, they can be a goldmine of information which can be checked against other sources.

If you live in country NSW like me, Dixson Library at the University of New England in Armidale is a wonderful source for microfilmed copies of newspapers from northern NSW. Hopefully some of these newspapers will appear on Trove before too long and I'll be able to find these gems from the comfort of my home.


  1. Well said! I have been amazed at how many relatively trivial stories from country papers were repeated in capital city newspapers. My WEBSTER relatives attended a birthday party in Cunnamulla (outback Queensland) and the story was repeated in the Brisbane Courier. The party was just for ordinary folk - not local VIPs.

  2. Thanks for the reminder.
    Sitting in front of a Microfilm reader can make us both physically dizzy and dizzy from the happiness of a great find.

  3. Judy, some of my best finds have been in the Courier. My grandfather was kicked by a horse, a great grandfather chopped off his finger, another was dragged along after he had fallen from a horse. Like your family they lived in a small country town in Queensland. Without Trove many of these stories would only be serendipitous finds. I can't wait for more small town papers to be digitised!


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