Friday, February 13, 2009

Chronicling America in Newspapers

I don't need to be convinced of the genealogical value of newspapers -- I once found an entire branch of my great-great grandfather's sister's family from a two-line social note in a rural Illinois paper, just because it gave a woman's married name when she came to visit.

So, a belated hat tip to Christy Fillerup and Daniela Moneta on the transitional genealogists' listserv, for pointing us to the Library of Congress's search site for locating where newspapers have been published in the US, and where surviving copies can be found now. Another site from the National Endowment for the Humanities US Newspaper Program offers access to state-level data that may be more precise, especially in those states with newspaper projects of their own.

(I cannot forebear to mention that three of NEH's eight national-level repositories are in the Midwest: the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison, the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago, and the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland. Kansas State Historical Society is a fourth, and the rest are, um, out east somewhere.)

A chronic issue with catalog listings of old newspapers is imprecision about which dates are actually available. If the record says "1875-1877" check if there's fine print that says the issue you really really need is "wanting," i.e., not there. Or call ahead if it's a critical matter and a long trip. I also observe that some of the holdings listings appear to be 20 or more years old.

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