Discovering more on your ancestor from the local newspaper!
Updated: May 30, 2019
I was clearing through some paperwork on my desk recently and ran across a newspaper article about one of my great uncles Len Goerlinger. My Uncle Len was a baseball manager for a local semi pro team in the small Wisconsin town where my family grew up. The article convinced me to look for other information about this relative from other newspaper articles. I had a copy of his obituary from when he passed away in 1978. What I realized is that obituaries are usually just a capsule to the life of an individual. You might still find other facts and details about an ancestor in an article from the town where that person lived throughout their life especially if the ancestor lived in a small town. That small town paper may contain an article or newspaper account about your ancestor that might be left out in that person’s obituary. Using online sites such as Ancestry.com and Newspapers.com can help you find articles about some of your ancestors.
Len was born and raised in the town of Clintonville, Wisconsin which is located west of Green Bay. I knew my uncle well when I was growing up. During those years, my uncle Len had long since retired from the game but I was very aware of his baseball past. I knew he was a semi pro player when he was a young man in the Northern State League. Later, he was a player manager and eventually turned into a very successful manager for the Clintonville Truckers. One article discusses his success as a manager winning the pennant for the Truckers in 1938.1 He also became a major league scout for teams like the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Braves back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
I have some great memories of my Uncle Len as a kid. When I was quite young, I remember attending a game at old County Stadium in Milwaukee with my family, including my Uncle Len. After the game ended, Uncle Len took me by the hand and walked me into the Braves clubhouse. I was probably only about 5 years old at the time and didn't realize that I was meeting some of the best players in Major League baseball at the time. Many years later he and my Aunt Ellen visited us in Chicago. We attended a game at White Sox Park during their visit. Roland Hemond, who at the time was the General Manager of the White Sox, walked down to our seats to say hello to Uncle Len. The two had worked together through the years and they talked for quite some time that evening.
So when I discovered this article which dated back to the 1940s, it prompted me to find some other information about his life from other newspaper articles. Another article dated November of 1953 names him as the commissioner of the Fox River Valley District. It states that "he was an outstanding man in Valley League Baseball as a player and manager".2
The article mentions that he was returning to the role as manager and had previously helped the club win five successive pennants in the Northern State league.3
Although not all small town newspapers are available on these online sites, many are available on microfilm at the local town libraries. After reviewing some of the online newspaper sites, I was astounded to find several newspaper articles about Uncle Len. In addition to his managerial duties and Midwest scout assignments for the major league baseball teams, he was also a very respected player in his own right. I also discovered that he was associated as a scout with the Baltimore Orioles in 1954.4
The article also mentions Len's son Roger who was one of the 17 to report to further tryouts later in July. In addition to his baseball career, I also read an article about Len's bowling career that I knew nothing about prior to the discovery of the article. He apparently was quite a bowler in his day. The Appleton Wisconsin newspaper from 1931 mentions my uncle Len as the captain of the Clintonville Lions bowling team.5
These are just a few of several articles that I found online and from newspaper clippings I received from family members about my uncle Len. Although some of his baseball career is mentioned in his 1978 obituary, many of the facts and details are only found in these various newspaper articles. You can find out a lot more about your ancestors through newspaper articles in addition to an obituary. An obituary can give you a summary of an ancestor’s life. However, searching through a local hometown newspaper can give you more personal facts about an ancestor that the obituary would not contain.
1."Northern State League to Open Schedule May 7," newspaper, (Newspapers.com, Green Bay Press Gazette, Green Bay, Wisconsin, 6 March 1939, page 13), reference to Len Goerlinger to manage the Clintonville Truckers winning the pennant in 1938, accessed 8 May 2019.
2."Len Goerlinger Is Reappointed to Baseball Post," newspaper online, (Newspapers.com, Appleton Post Crescent, Appleton, Wisconsin, 14 November 1953, page 18), reference to Len Goerlinger reappointed commissioner to the Fox Valley District, accessed 8 May 2019.
3."Gloom is Thick as Truckers Lose Pair of Baseball Games," newspaper online, (Appleton Post Crescent, 28 August 1939), reference to Len Goerlinger as player manage the Clintonville Truckers, accessed 7 May 2019.
4."50 Attend Orioles' Tryout in Clintonville," newspaper online, (Newspapers.com, Appleton Post Crescent, Appleton, Wisconsin, 16 June 1954 page 23), reference to Len Goerlinger scout for the Baltimore Orioles, accessed 7 May 2019. 5."Continue Bowling in Elks' State Tourney," newspaper online, (Newspapers.com, The post Crescent, Appleton, Wisconsin, 10 March 1931, page 13), reference to Len Goerlinger as captain of the Clintonville Lions bowling team, accessed 8 May 2019.