Tag Archives: newspapers

Many Paths to Sources: Newspapers, Part 3b

So, what do we do when newspapers are not digitized, like those I mentioned in the last post that are on microfilm at the Wood County (Ohio) District Public Library? There are some options, not all are going to work for each case. Each library will have different services, policies, etc. that might interfere with some of my suggestions. Your task is to figure out which might work with your situation.

  • Does the library offer any kind of look-up or research service that you can take advantage of? Sometimes they will have a free (for a limited amount) or a free service if you have enough information to point them to a few days in a newspaper. If the service they offer is free, please send a small donation as a thank you!
  • If the library does not offer a look-up service, does the library work with a local genealogical or historical society who might do look-ups? Check the library website for such a connection. Also, look at the local society websites as well. Some societies have look-up/research services for a fee to earn some money for their society. Again, consider adding a donation to your fee as a thank you for this service.
  • Is interlibrary loan a possibility? Before you assume it isn’t for newspapers on microfilm, let me point to you to the Ohio History Connection website. They offer interlibrary loan on their newspapers on microfilm! I don’t see this option often, so my point is: LOOK at what services are available for a given repository.
ILL section at the Ohio History Connection website.
  • You may locate a professional genealogist in the area to do your research for you. Sometimes the local genealogical and historical societies, archives, and libraries might offer a list of researchers available for hire for a particular repository. For example, when I lived near Austin, Texas, I was on the list of proxy researchers for the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Look for such a list at the repository you are needing to access. There are also directories available from both the Association of Professional Genealogists, Board for Certification of Genealogists, and International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGEN) that might offer a genealogist in your area of need.
  • Finally, as the world opens up to us again and travel becomes safer, consider taking a trip to these locations. I know that this is not always feasible, you may only need one newspaper article in one far-flung area. I keep lists of things I need in various locations, and if it isn’t a critical piece for a project, I wait. When that list gets “big enough” and perhaps I can conjure up another reason to go visit that location (or nearby), I like to take trips. I like to do the research myself. If waiting to take a trip is not going to work, then one of the other suggestions will, I hope.

I have been able to access just about everything I need using one of the methods described above. I’d also like to point out that usually there is more than one run of those microfilm in other locations. For example, the Daily Sentinel Tribune from Bowling Green, Ohio is also available on microfilm at the Center for Archival Collections on the Bowling Green State University Campus.

CAC Newspaper list showing the Sentinel-Tribune.

CAC also offers interlibrary loan.

CAC website showing Interlibrary Loan as an option.

If one library or archive does not have what you need, look at another. At some point you will find a way to access what you are looking for.

Many of the principles shared in the last several blog posts are going to apply to any resource. However, we will look at some other types of resources and ways to access them. The biggest favor you can do for yourself, is to keep looking. Just because you get stopped at one repository does not mean there aren’t other options. Keep looking.

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.

Many Paths to Sources: Newspapers, Part 2

Last time we looked at some of the big and obvious sources for finding online newspapers. But there’s more out there. You just have to have a lot of persistence and a little bit of luck. I’m talking about not stopping at just the major sites I shared last week. That is literally the tip of the iceberg. There are so many digital collections that are separate, part of a small local project, and just not known to the larger outside world. Here’s where you start (one of these, not in any particular order):

  • Local public libraries, especially if they have a local history collection
  • Local historical societies and museums
  • Local genealogical societies (“local” might mean regional, look at the next biggest town)
  • Nearest university (and then the next, etc.)
  • Town, city, county, state (and whatever the jurisdiction setup is in other countries) repositories such as an archive, library, historical and genealogical society, and so on

To learn about these you could do a simple Google search (‘Wood County Ohio public library,’ for example) or you could use other resources such as Cyndi’s List or the FamilySearch Wiki for genealogically specific information. Let’s look at an example.

I had a client who’s ancestors were from Glengarry County, Ontario but one of a set of sisters had moved to New York City where she became a nurse. I needed to prove that the particular sister was in New York City at the right time to have given birth to my client’s grandmother. Of course, this is between census years; city directories were not easily available for the right years for the right borough; and etc. I was also unable to find mention of this sister in any newspaper in New York City and vicinity. However, I found a treasure trove of digitized newspapers at the Glengarry County archives.

Glengarry County Archives – Browse Local Newspapers

Lo and Behold! I found articles describing when the sister went to New York for nursing school, when she came home for visits, her progress, her graduation, her new job in a New York hospital, and more. I was able to prove that she was in New York City at the right time and place. This is not a collection that is highly visible through other sites. These digital images are not a part of a large subscription service.

I found this resource that helped solve my client project because I have a list of places I start looking when the “big” sites fail. That list is the bullets listed above: libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, universities, county and state level archives. This method has worked too many times for me not to follow it. If it helps, make a sticky note with that list on it and keep it near your computer.

Whatever you do, don’t give up when those major sites do not provide what you are looking for. You can’t give up until you’ve exhausted those and this list. Next time, we will discuss what to do when you’ve exhausted both of those. Keep searching!

Many Paths to Sources: Newspapers, Part 1

First, let’s take a look at newspapers. Newspapers are one of my favorite subjects to speak about. Finding your ancestors in the newspaper gives you a nice, albeit often short, snapshot into their lives and gives their lives extra flavor. It helps turn them into real people that existed rather than just names on a document.

There are some fantastic online options for finding newspapers. The big three sites for subscriptions:

And there is not one that is better than the other. They all have different collections, so the one that is right for you, is the one that has the series of newspapers with your ancestors in them. Be sure to check their catalog for coverage before buying a subscription. All of these sites let you do that, so don’t skip this step and then get disappointed if they don’t have the papers you needed.

There are many free sites for newspapers across the U.S. Many states have a state digitization project and corresponding website. Here are just a few:

Of course, there is the Library of Congress’s collection of digitized newspapers:

Internationally, there are also some free digital newspaper sites as well. I know of a couple where I’ve done research:

Then there are link sites such as:

The above, is a lot. But is is literally just scratching the surface of what you can do with newspaper research. In Part 2 we will look more closely at finding newspapers online. In Part 3, we will delve into finding and accessing newspapers offline.

Research in the Equality State: Newspapers

Newspapers are one of my absolute favorite sources when it comes to genealogy. Nothing gives you a better spotlight into a community and or a person’s life quite like a newspaper does. Wyoming had a fair number of newspapers throughout the state over time, and there are a number of excellent resources for finding them.

Of course you are going to want to examine some of the usual sites, such as Newspapers.com, NewspaperArchive, and GenealogyBank. It is just good practice to see what newspaper coverage those sites have for the area you are researching. Also, check with Chronicling America from the Library of Congress, which currently has five digitized newspapers available for Wyoming:

Chronicling America catalog of digitized newspapers for Wyoming.

However, the best resource for digitized newspapers from Wyoming is the Wyoming Digital Newspapers Collection. This website is provided by the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming State Archives and contains newspapers back to 1849 and over 1.1 million pages of digitized content. We are going to conduct a search for our female homesteader Susan Baily:

We found 72 items for the phrase Susan Baily.

Our search for Susan Baily, without any other filters, returned 72 hits. As you can see, you can filter your search by exact phrase, date, county, city, and title. The first result is an article about a dance that was held in Centennial, Wyoming.

From the Wyoming Digital Newspaper Collection.

Digging a little further, we find an article about Susan’s sister, Philena Baily marring Willie Conners.

From the Laramie Republican, 16 March 1910

The state newspaper site is fantastic, and full of wonderful Wyoming newspapers. Have fun exploring!

Building a Locality Guide: More on Records, Newspapers

The next section I include in my locality guide lists the newspapers available for a particular county. There are several ways I find this information.

  • Chronicling America – I utilize their “US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present” to determine what newspapers existed for the area of focus.
  • Bowling Green State University’s LibGuide for “Finding Current and Historical Newspapers” – This list is for ALL newspapers, not just Ohio.
  • Examine the online catalog for the local library(ies) for the area of focus. They may have a list of what is available there either digitally or on microfilm.
  • Examine the state archives, state library, state historical society, and other state-level resources for newspaper availability.
  • Examine the catalogs of the online subscription sites such as Newspapers.com, GenealogyBank, Newspaper Archive, and Ancestry.
  • Utilize the FamilySearch Wiki and Cyndi’s List.

From these resources, I build a list of my own making in my locality guide, with live links and short descriptions. Here are some example sections:

Example from my Ohio Locality Guide.
Example from my Wood County, Ohio Locality Guide.
Example from my Wyoming Locality Guide.

Basically, just start building. When I start a new guide, I hit some of the basics, but then I add as I find more resources.

Next up, we will look at some more record types and how I include them in the guides.

Beginning Principles: Important Records

If you are a beginner, you might not have a good idea of all of the different types of records one can find for their ancestors. As you gain experience, take classes, read blogs and books, watch webinars, and so on, you will gain a greater knowledge of some of the details you can really find. However, let’s start with some of the basics.

  • Vital Records – These include birth, marriage, and death records. What a beginner might not know is that they are a construct of the 1900s for the most part, especially what we think of now as a “birth certificate” or a “death certificate.” Those were not required by states until the early 1900s. And even then, it took quite some time for various counties to become completely compliant with those laws. However, you may get lucky and find births and deaths registered even earlier depending on the time and place. I do a lot of Wood County, Ohio research. They have birth and death records back into the 1870s. Baptism records will be found if your ancestors were members of a church that conducted infant baptism AND recorded those baptisms. Marriage records, on the other hand, have been recorded for quite some time, this is one record type that you will find going back to the 1600s in the U.S. not only in civil records, but also in church records.
  • Census Records – These are quite possibly the best record for quickly putting together family groups, and sometimes, several generations. Federal census records began with the U.S. Constitution. The first federal census was conducted in 1790 and every 10 years thereafter. However, not all survive. What most beginners don’t know is that nearly the entire 1890 census was lost in a fire. Only a few scraps remain. Some states conducted state censuses usually on the years ending in ‘5’ and only for a time.
  • Newspapers – And in particular, obituaries, are one of the best records for getting started with your family history. Obituaries usually give a good biographical sketch of an ancestor, who he/she married, who their children were, who their parents were, etc. Other newspaper articles are helpful too. Items in the “gossip column” or “social news” section can pin family members down in a time and place. If something bad happened, an accident or intentional event, that usually made the front page.
  • Cemeteries – Tombstones and cemetery records are quite useful in tracking down ancestors. When I first started, Find A Grave was only about famous people. I did a lot of cemetery visiting across the U.S. Now, I don’t have to (though I still like to) since Find A Grave has expanded to try to catalog all burial in the world.

These are some of the “basics” when it comes to records for the beginning genealogist. I will discuss some of the more “advanced” records to be found next week.

Using Newspapers: When They Aren’t Online, What Do I Do?!?

What do you do when the newspapers you need are not online? Normally, I’d encourage you to take a trip to the local public library or archive that holds microfilm of those newspapers. However, there are other ways to get access to far-off newspapers.

  1. Ask a librarian. Often, local public libraries will do quick look-ups for you. So if you know the date that an event occurred, reach out to the public library and ask if they can send you a scan or copy of the page.
  2. Ask a local genealogical society. Some libraries are too busy or don’t offer look-up services. If that is the case, see if there is a local genealogical or historical society that does.
  3. Ask a volunteer. There are sites to find genealogical volunteers such as Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (raogk.org)
  4. Message Boards. These still exist! At Ancestry, look under the “Help” tab at the top and you will find Message Boards. (www.ancestry.com/boards/)
  5. Inter-library loan. Some repositories allow their microfilmed newspapers to be used via interlibrary loan. See if that option is available for your project.
  6. Hire a researcher. If you need someone to skim several weeks or months for a particular article, hiring a professional is worth it. And it will be cheaper than traveling. Use a directory such as that from BCG (bcgcertification.org) or APG (www.apgen.org) to find a qualified researcher.
  7. Take a trip. Of course, when we can travel and visit repositories again, this is the most fun option. But even then, it is not always the most efficient or cost-effective.
My daughter on a research trip with me a million years ago.

Do not think that just because the newspaper you need is not digitized and available online, that it is not accessible. It just takes more work. The above methods generally get me what I need. The biggest problem is that I have to practice patience!

Using Newspapers: My Favorite Newspaper Sites, FREE

While I am not opposed to paying for a service that gets me the records I need, I am also all for saving some bucks when I can. And the good news is, there are a whole host of free newspaper sites available for genealogists. Most of the free sites tend to be state-based newspaper projects hosted by a state archive, library, historical society, university, or some other interested state entity. There is also the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America which holds digitized newspapers and a directory of newspapers from all over the United States. So here is a list of some of my favorite, free, sites for finding or accessing newspapers online.

Directories and Lists of Newspapers:

My Favorite Digitized Newspaper Sites (this is by no means an exhaustive list, it’s just a few of the sites I’ve used frequently and have found quite useful):

And I recently had the chance to do some research in New Zealand (online of course) and found this fantastic digitized newspaper site, Papers Past, that helped me find many answers and clues for the project I was working on.

Like I said, this is not an exhaustive list. When I find myself in a new area, I usually head over to one or more of the list sites mentioned first to find out what is available for that place in what time frames. There are so many small projects out there, small public libraries, universities small and large, museums, genealogical and historical societies, and so on that are digitizing their own collections as well. Be sure to do some looking around. You will be surprised by what you find!

Using Newspapers: My Favorite Newspaper Sites, Commercial

This week, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite newspaper resources and websites. There are free and commercial sites. I’m not going to say I prefer one commercial site over another, because the truth is, the one YOU should subscribe to is the one that has newspapers that cover areas you are researching. If you do a lot of research, you might need more than one subscription. Check with your local public library to see if you can access any newspaper sites using your library card.

Commercial sites:

  • Newspapers.com, with Publishers Extra. I see a lot of people complain about getting a hint from Ancestry that there is an obituary but when they click on it, “they” just want you to buy another subscription. Well, yes, Ancestry and Newspapers.com are businesses, so of course they are marketing and trying to find ways to get more subscriptions. That’s the nature of business. BUT, the Publishers Extra subscription is full of newspapers that are still under copyright, so they have had to pay for extra licensing to be able to put those digitized newspapers online. So, yes, there is more cost involved. Let me tell you, I use it ALL THE TIME. If you don’t use it because you are not researching in more modern newspapers, then you don’t need to subscribe, but I love it.
  • GenealogyBank. There is not a lot of overlap between GenealogyBank and Newspapers.com. Often if I can’t find it on one site, I can find it on the other.
  • NewspaperArchive. Same as above. I don’t find a lot of overlap between the sites.

Each of the “big three” commercial sites for newspapers have their pros and cons. I find some of their filters, search functions, and image viewers to be better than others. But for the value of being able to view so many newspapers from the comfort of my own home, I am more than willing to put up with a little bit of frustration. Each of these sites allow you to view their titles and year ranges before you subscribe, so be sure to do that. Do not subscribe and then complain that they don’t have what you need. Be sure to check first.

Next week I will share my favorite non-commercial FREE websites for finding newspapers. There are some great resources out there!