Paper of record is, in short, a term used to define a newspaper that functions as the legal organ of an area; that is, the newspaper is responsible, whether officially or unofficially, for publishing public notices required by law for certain instances, such as rezoning efforts or changes to statute.
For genealogists, the paper of record can be a goldmine of information as it contains legal notices that might be missing from court records, for whatever reason (e.g. the court minutes were destroyed). This includes notices to debtors and creditors for an estate, notice of two parties divorcing, and notice of sheriff’s sales, or any other instance where public notice was required by law.
In Rabun County, the current paper of record is The Clayton Tribune. While the Tribune has been published off and on from 1897 to the present, it wasn’t always the paper of record for Rabun County. During the late 1910s and early 1920s, the Tri-County Advertiser, published in Clarkesville, Habersham County, Georgia, was the paper of record for Rabun County.
Before the Tribune was published, other newspapers served as Rabun County’s legal organ. During the 1850s, the Southern Banner out of Athens, Georgia filled this function. From at least 1878 to the time the Tribune was first published, the Gainesville Eagle, published in Hall County, was the paper of record, although the Clarkesville Advertiser, the Tri-County Advertiser’s precursor, and the Clayton Argus may have been used as the paper of record during the 1890s. Issues of the Tri-County Advertiser, the Gainesville Eagle, and the Clayton Tribune are still on file in the Probate Judge’s office at the county courthouse in Clayton.
A little research into local historical newspapers can yield a great reward for the family historian. Recent efforts to preserve these papers have resulted in the formation of newspaper projects by large universities and state libraries. The University of Georgia’s Georgia Newspaper Project was the first such project I learned of and used. For information on other state historical newspaper collections, see the United States Newspaper Project, courtesy of the National Endowment for the Humanities.