Many Paths to Sources: Newspapers, Part 3a

(I know these titles are getting a little bit ridiculous, but there are a couple of steps to this third part and I figured I’d break it down into bite-sized chunks.)

The last two posts talked about online options for finding newspapers. You’ve got the “bigger” websites such as Newspapers.com, but there are also smaller, lesser-known projects out there to discover as well. Now, once you’ve exhausted every online resource you have been able to discover, what then?

I know this might come as a shock to some, but it isn’t all online. I know it seems like it is, because so much is! But it’s not. So, what do you do when you’ve discovered that there are no online options for what you are hoping to find in terms of newspapers. You have to jump in to what I refer to as “two-step” research. The first step is to determine if and where an offline record exists, and most of this first step can be done online or from home with some phone calls. The second step is determining how best to access those offline newspapers.

The first step of this I also call the “pre-research.” If you’ve listened to any of my lectures, I use this phrase a lot. It is the research you have to do to be able to do the research. Make sense? Clear as mud? Well, let’s clear it up. I have a perfect example. I conduct a lot of research in Bowling Green, Wood County, Ohio. That’s where I was born. Many generations of my ancestors lived in Wood county since at least the 1840s. Newspapers from Wood County are only slightly digitized and available online. The main newspaper for Bowling Green is not. So, what’s a researcher to do.

My first stop when looking for any newspaper in the United States is Chronicling America’s “US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present.” The Library of Congress has put together this directory of newspapers published in the United States since 1690. The best part is that it tells you what newspapers existed for a time and place, AND how to access them.

Chronicling America’s US Newspaper Directory

Selecting Wood County, Ohio shows that there are 104 titles in Wood County. The one I most want to access is the Daily Sentinel-Tribune (in red below).

Clicking on that link provides you with a nice informative screen about that particular newspaper, including when it was published and preceding and succeeding titles.

If there were a digitized version at Chronicling America, there would be a calendar view of available issues in the large white space to the right of the catalog entry. In this case, there is not. If you want to see other titled in that city, county, or state, there is a button for that. However, the most valuable button on this catalog is the “Libraries that Have It” link at the top. I issue a word of caution, however. This particular entry does not list the Wood County District Public Library in Bowling Green, which I know for a fact holds the entire run on microfilm. I’ve spent countless hours there going through the films.

My point here is to not stop looking… again. Just because the LOC doesn’t list a local library for a source for newspapers, do not stop looking. ALWAYS, ALWAYS check that local public library for the possibility that they hold the records you are looking for.

The Wood County District Public Library Website for Local History and Genealogy

If I hadn’t already known that the WCDPL holds those microfilms, I may have stopped there and assumed that the newspapers did not exist anywhere. Which is not unreasonable. Newspapers were not printed on acid-free paper and stored in temperature and humidity-controlled rooms until sometimes it was too late.

Newspaper crumbles, photo taken by author

Do you see what I mean by “pre-research”? You have to research where the sources are before you can access them. Next up, how to best to access the newspapers that are not online.

3 thoughts on “Many Paths to Sources: Newspapers, Part 3a

  1. The best explanation on how to do this I’ve read. The good news for the future, if a newspaper is on microfilm, it will likely to be digitized sometime. Our county in California had no newspapers available digitally until recently. Now the early runs are available at the library’s website. I’m finding more and more libraries hosting their own digital images.

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