I attended the Bangor Family History Fair at the Bangor Family History Center last weekend. Overall, it was a good experience and worth the two-hour drive, each way. Probably, the talk I enjoyed most was by Penobscot County GenealogicalSociety president, Dale Mower who spoke about “The How and Why of Online Newspaper Research.” His talk got me to thinking more and more about my research using newspapers and my process for searching. I generally use Family Search and Ancestry to determine the who, when, and where of my ancestor’s lives, but it is newspapers that provide the what and why – the texture of their lives.
After returning, I was corresponding with someone regarding my “Angley Project.” He asked what on-line resources he could be checking, particularly newspapers. Being a process type of person, I thought about the process I use and how to explain it to others. Here are the steps I use.
· Know subject
· Know what is available
· Search my paid sites
· Search general sites
· Search for specific online site
· Search those specific online sites
· Search for Microfilm availability
· Add further research to trip list.
I use that information to help focus my newspaper research. I know it is tempting to start searching right away, but I’ve found developing an understanding of what may be available first is more productive.
Know what is available
There are two broad categories and several subcategories of newspaper record availability.
Through $ Service
Not Available on-line.
Not available anywhere
In order to be thorough, I think it is imperative to know what is potentially available, so I start with determining that.
First, I begin with with the Chronicling America – Library of Congress (LoC) http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/
On upper right-hand part of the site is: [US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present]
I select where and when a newspaper was published. For example: Pennsylvania | Luzerne. I often add English for the Language (because I don’t read any other languages adequately) and a year range beginning with the decade of birth and the decade after death. That search provides a list of newspapers that are known to have existed. If there are more than a handful of newspapers, I will export what I find into a spreadsheet so I can keep track of them as I research with each of the potential sources.
Search the paid sites.
I also have a subscription with Ancestry.com. I search the card catalog there for “Newspaper” and the state I’m researching.
Search the free sites.
as my initial free site to search. It not only searches the LoC, but also
searches several other systems including California Digital Library. At this point,
I still keep my searches focused on the state and date range I’m looking for. I
search using alternate spellings, initials, known addresses, the spouse’s name,
and even siblings or children. Sometime even the community and surname along.
For example, surname Angley and community Pringle, which is where Michael
Angley, of my Angley Project lived.
I compare what they have with the titles I found in my LoC search of newspapers with what Google News has. Google News often have gaps in their coverage,
but if you find something, it is awesome.
Search for specific online sites
Searching for other online records is more time consuming. I use Wikipedia’s List of Online Newspaper Archives and see what is available and through whom.
I also go to The Ancestor Hunt (http://www.theancestorhunt.com/), use the search box on the right site to search for the state that I’m looking for newspapers for, and note them. By the way, Kenneth Marks does an awesome job with his site, providing links to newspapers and photograph collections as well as blog lessons on how to better use newspaper resources. I highly recommend subscribing to his blog if you are interested in newspaper research.
It is also well worth it to see what Cyndi’s List (http://www.cyndislist.com) has available. From the home page, the best thing is to select the state you are searching for under the United States then select Newspapers. Not only does Cyndi’s List provide links to many free collections but it also provides links to the paid sites list of newspapers that will then show what newspapers they have. For example, the Newspaper Archives link for Minnesota, and a drill down, shows me that Newspaper Archives have two Brainerd newspapers.
o Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1901-1977)
o Brainerd Dispatch (1883-1932)
If they cover my search area, I’ll consider a membership or see if my library, or a society that I am a member of, has access to that service.
Sometimes I do a Google search for “newspaper name” AND “city,” but I haven’t had much success with doing so if I’ve followed my search methodology up to this point. Again, every newspaper I find I mark off in my research spreadsheet.
Search those specific online sites
Going hand-in-hand with searching for those sites is
searching those sites. As I find them, I search for my ancestor, using the
multiple techniques to search that I’ve learned over the years. (Name, initials
and surname, address, misspelled name, spouse, children, etc.)
Searching for availability off-line
Going back to my LoC listing of newspapers, I select the newspapers that I haven’t found online and see what libraries have it. I’ve been amazed to find a microfilm copies near me. If there is microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I have ordered a copy that to view at my local Family History Center. In addition, many libraries with both master and service copies will allow the service copy out on interlibrary loan; I’ve ordered microfilm that way, too.
Finally, I add newspaper information to my “Research Travel” wish list, which I keep in Evernote, to visit the library with that holding of that newspaper so I can peruse it when I travel or, possibly hire someone local to the archive to look for me.
As I do my on-line searches, I bookmark those sites with my browser. That helps provide a repeatable set of websites I can use to search if I need to search for other family members or otherwise extend my search parameters. I once found an article about the spinster daughter of an ancestor where she spoke about her childhood and described several things about her parents.
There are issues of newspapers that the Library of Congress doesn’t know exists. For example, I know that the Smyrna (GA) Historical and Genealogical Society has original copies of the Smyrna newspaper that don’t show up on a LoC search. Now, I’ll admit I haven’t done so yet, but I know I should also check with local historical societies and see if they might be holding old newspapers. Often times their holdings haven’t been cataloged and reported to the LoC.
My Key Newspaper Websites
A Note about Vaudeville Guides
useful are old Vaudeville guides. During the vaudeville days, traveling shows
needed to advertise at each location they played at. The vaudeville guides
provided information regarding newspapers for the various vaudeville promoters
for their advertising. For example, The
1913-1914 Cahn-Lighton Theatrical Guide (available on Google Books) tells
me that there were three major newspapers in Minneapolis at the time, the “Journal,” the “News,” and the “Tribune.” The Guide also provides each
paper’s circulation. That knowledge helps me focus on the larger papers that
are more likely to have general interest stories about my ancestors.