The Evening World (New York, NY), Sept 10, 1900, Evening Edition, Page 2. Digitized image from Chronicling America.
If you research ancestors in the U.S., you’ve probably already used the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website for searching digitized newspapers. Now they’ve added a new feature: you can subscribe to receive “old news” on many of your favorite historical topics!
Here’s how it works. You can sign up for weekly notifications that highlight interesting and newly-added content on topics that were widely covered in the U.S. press at the time. (Click here to see a list of topics.)
My favorite family history-related topics are natural disasters (like the Chicago fire or Galveston flood), war topics (from Appomattox to World War I) and civil and human rights events (from the Railroad Strike of 1886 to Ellis Island to coverage of Pullman porters). But there are a lot of topics that might relate to your family: industrialization (electric cars!), arts, sports (think Babe Ruth and the Boston Marathon), major crimes and trials, politics, holidays and public celebrations and public works and technology marvels (like the Panama Canal or Titanic).
To subscribe, just use the icons at the bottom of the Chronicling America home page.
Learn more about finding your ancestors in the newspaper in Lisa’s book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. She walks you through the process of determining which newspapers might mention your ancestors and where to find those papers (both online and offline). You’ll learn in detail about Chronicling America and more about other free and subscription options for searching online newspapers. Best of all, Lisa shares mouthwatering examples from her own research that show you why newspapers can be such a valuable source of information on our family history.
Do you have German roots in the U.S.? Have you ever looked for them in newspapers?
The folks who run Chronicling America, the most comprehensive free collection of digitized U.S. newspapers, have published a new article on historical German newspapers. Here’s an excerpt:
“For decades, Germans were the largest non-English-speaking immigrant group in America. Between 1820 and 1924, over 5.5 million German immigrants arrived in the United States, many of them middle class, urban, and working in the skilled trades, and others establishing farming communities in the West. Their numbers and dedication to maintaining their language and culture made Germans the most influential force in the American foreign-language press in the 1880s – the 800 German-language newspapers accounted for about 4/5 of non-English publications, and by 1890, more than 1,000 German newspapers were being published in the United States.” (Click here to read the whole article, which includes fascinating facts about how they retooled OCR technology to read Fraktur.)
Chronicling America currently includes 23 German-language titles from 9 states. You can search German newspapers in America (or other foreign languages) by going to the Advanced Search page. Under Language, select German (or another language):
Are you interested in learning more about newspaper research, online or offline? Read Lisa’s How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, available as an e-book or in print. Or ask for it at your local library (if they don’t have it, they may be willing to purchase it–librarians are always looking for new titles their patrons want).
Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.
Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished April 15, 2014
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 27: Find Your Family History in Newspapers, Part 1
Newspapers offer such a unique perspective on history in general, and our ancestors specifically. You can find everything from birth, marriage and death announcements, to school and club event, crime stories, land transactions, sports activities and just about any other activity that your ancestors were part of that made the news. So let’s get started and “Read all about it!”
In this episode, you’ll hear from Jane Knowles Lindsey at the California Genealogical Society. She is currently the president there and often teaches on this subject. Our conversation on newspaper research continues in next week’s episode!
Here are some take-away thoughts from this episode, along with some updates:
- Determine which newspapers existed for your ancestor’s hometown and time period. Look for ethnic and neighborhood papers, too. The most comprehensive U.S. newspaper directory is at Chronicling America. This site does let you search by language, ethnic background, labor group and more.
- Look for these newspapers at digitized newspaper sites, starting with the free ones. In the U.S., this means starting with Chronicling America and state digital newspaper project sites (search on the state name and “digital newspapers”). These sites came out of the government digitizing program mentioned in the show.
- Digitized newspaper searching is done with OCR (optical character recognition), which doesn’t pick up everything in tough-to-read historical print. Try searching with different spellings, a first name in a particular timeframe, or other people or terms that may have been mentioned.
- Ancestry has put lots of newspapers on their website—but not everything, and for only limited time periods. Notice what time period is covered for a specific newspaper. Ancestry has since launched Newspapers.com.
- If you’ve found the name of a newspaper that probably covered your family, but you haven’t found it digitized, search the name of the newspaper in your favorite web browsers. Most newspapers are on microfilm somewhere and web directories will likely list holdings. Also, some newspapers have also been indexed on USGenWeb or other sites.
- State archives and libraries are often a great resource for newspapers. Local libraries may have unique clippings files or scrapbooks.
- Several websites and databases now focus on obituary content. You can target a search for these.
Available at http://genealogygems.com
I loved this topic so much I ended up writing a book on it! How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers walks you through the process of finding and researching old newspapers. You’ll find step-by-step instructions, worksheets and checklists, tons of free online resources, websites worth paying for, location-based newspaper websites and a case study that shows you how it’s done.
More Newspaper Links
Some of the digital newspaper collections mentioned in the episode are available by library subscription, like The Early American Newspapers collection the and 19th century Newspaper Collection from The Gale Group. Check with your local library.
Fold3.com (formerly Footnote.com)
Godfrey Memorial Library
New England Historic Genealogical Society (by subscription only)
Small Town Papers
Originally published Fall 2008
Republished November 26, 2013
by Lisa Louise Cooke
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 8: Best Genealogy Websites, Part 2
In a follow up to last week’s episode about subscription genealogy records website, in my first segment our guest is Yvette Arts, Director of Content Partnerships at World Vital Records. She tells us about exciting developments at the website that have helped make it a success.
In our second segment we look at five organizations that provide free online access to genealogy records for those with North American roots: FamilySearch, the National Archives of the United States, Ellis Island Foundation, the National Archives of the United Kingdom, and Library and Archives Canada.
Now for some updates on these sites and MORE since the show first aired:
- FamilySearch.org is still free and growing exponentially. It captures records from all over the world, not just North America and the U.K. It is now home to over 3.5 billion names in searchable databases, with over 35 million new records added every month. In addition, they’ve added over 60,000 digital books to the site. The layout of the website has changed dramatically since I described it in the original show. Click on Search to get to their databases, then enter an ancestor’s name and, if you can, a life event (birth, marriage, residence or death). A significant portion of new online records are browsable but not yet indexed. So now, after you search for individuals in their databases, scroll down to the Browse section below the search fields. There you’ll be able to see what records you can browse for a locale (choose the international region, then you can choose more specific locations). You can still order microfilmed records at the Family History Library to a satellite FamilySearch library near you. From the Search screen, choose Catalog, and you can search for and order available records by location.
- The National Archives (U.S.), also known as the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) also offers more on its website now. The portal for genealogists looks a little different now but still helps you see how to search and use the site for genealogy. There’s a direct link to the 1940 census, with images, maps and descriptions. Remember that Footnote, the subscription site I mentioned that’s digitizing military records, is now Fold3, which we talked about in Episode 7.
- EllisIsland.org still offers free access to the passenger records of those who landed at Ellis Island. In addition, you can still look at ship information (click on Ships from the home page). The Immigrant Experience and timeline I mention can be found by clicking on the Ellis Island tab.
- The National Archives (U.K.) links from the home page to resources for ordering birth, marriage and death certificates for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Read about updating order information, including costs, at these sites. There is still a portal for genealogists from which you can learn all about the various record groups I mention in the podcast and more.
- Library and Archives Canada continues to add more valuable genealogical data to its site, including census data! Start from its Genealogy and Family History page. In addition to the features I mention in the show, they’ve improved their online indexes: scroll down on the above page and you’ll find the Ancestors Search (Databases) link to a main search engine and individual databases for vital records, censuses, immigration, land, military and several directories.
- Cyndi’s List and U.S. GenWeb are still fantastic online resources, but add to your list these ones as well:
- DeadFred, a photo identifying and sharing site;
- Google, for searching across the Internet for everything from individual ancestor’s names to maps and local histories (especially through Google Books at www.books.google.com);
- The Library of Congress family of websites, including the mega-newspaper site, Chronicling America;
- WorldCat, an enormous card catalog for more than 10,000 libraries worldwide.
- Find a Grave and Billion Graves, home to cemetery inscriptions for millions of tombstones.
- Of course, there are many, many more websites for genealogists, but these will certainly keep you busy to start!
Newsboys or “newsies” used to sell the news. But for a time in American history, they were the news!
Newsboy. Little Fattie. Less than 40 inches high, 6 years old. Been at it one year. May 9th, 1910. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. Wikimedia Commons image, original at Library of Congress.
You’d know them by their common call: “Read all about it!” It was their job to sell stacks of inexpensive newspapers on every street corner that would support them. The Library of Congress has posted a fascinating page about the history of newsies, including their own appearance in the papers.
In 1899, newspaper prices rose–and that cut into the profit margins of boys who had very little profit to begin with. In New York City, many newsboys refused to sell papers published by Pulitzer and Hearst. Over the next few years, the newsboys didn’t exactly unionize, but they did organize. Eventually they formed the National Newsboys’ Association, which evolved into today’s Boys Club and Girls Club.
It’s interesting to read how the newspapers reported the doings of the boys who were essentially their salespeople. I bet it was a tricky place to be caught: a newspaper couldn’t afford to totally alienate their own best salesmen. Those salesmen were actually children, whom nobody wants to be accused of targeting. But their activities were aimed at driving down prices. In some cases, you see newspapers taking “the high road” and reporting charitable efforts to help these boys, like this story from the 1909 Washington Herald:
Click here to read this full story on Chronicling America. And click here to “read all about” newsboys and their role in American newspaper life.
Remember, stories like these are the kind that shaped our ancestors’ lives. Whether we find our relatives mentioned directly in the paper or we just see what life was like around them, we can learn so much from reading the same newspapers they did. Learn more from my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers–and Genealogy Gems Premium Subscribers can check out “Getting the Scoop on Your Ancestors in Newspapers” in the Premium Videos section.