Thursday, May 31, 2012

US Historic Newspapers Finding Aid - Chronicling America's US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present

Newspapers are a great resource for family history research. They can help you fill in basic facts about ancestors, but more importantly, newspapers can "add life" to the people in your pedigree. 

In order to effectively use newspapers as a resource, you need to know which newspapers were published in the places and times your ancestors were living. Once you know the name of the newspapers, you'll want to see if copies still exist and where they are held. You'll also want to do a search for digitized copies online.

The best resource for finding all newspapers published in the United States since 1690 is "The US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present" in the Chronicling America section at the Library of Congress website. It is the authority on US newspapers. Here you can find the name of any newspaper published in the US since 1690...before we were even a nation.

*Note that the US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present is not a list of online newspaper resources. A separate tab on the Chronicling America site will take you to their digitized collection...a subject of a future blog post.

Go to Chronicling America and click on the tab labeled US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present, as seen in the image below:  

The green arrow shows the US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present. Notice the tabs for searching the digitized newspaper collection. This will be the subject of a future blog post. By the way, the Digitized Newspaper Collection at this site, while extensive,  is by no means complete.

After clicking on the US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present tab, you'll be here:

If you happen to know the name of the newspaper you're looking for, search by newspaper title as shown by the green arrow. If you want to see what which newspapers were published in a particular area at a particular time, choose from the drop down boxes as shown by the brown arrows.

After choosing a state, county and city (if desired) and a date, you'll be given a list of papers available such as this:

Next, choose one of the papers you'd like more information about. I clicked on The Martin County Herald and got the following page about the paper:

Next I clicked on the "View complete holdings information" under the heading of "Holdings". The results, below, show which issues still exist and at which libraries they can be read. Contact the libraries noted. Some may be available through inter-library loan. Unfortunately, links to digitized collections available online are not given.

Notice that not all issues are available to be read. Interesting that some of the holdings are outside the state of publication. Check for availability of inter-library loans. Also, search for digitized versions available online.

Remember, two valuable purposes of the "US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present" at Chronicling America on the Library of Congress website are: First, to tell you the location, dates of publication, and the names of newspapers published in the US since 1690. Second, to tell you the repository of the newspapers and the issues available.

Thine in the bonds of learning more than names and dates.  – Caroleen

PS - Though most of the newspapers in the US have not been digitized and will take a lot of effort to find and read, it wouldn't hurt to search for a digitized copy online. But even if you can't find newspaper articles about your ancestors the easy way, the effort you put into tracking down newspapers through the Chronicling America website will be well worth it when you discover something new.