Thursday, May 24, 2012

To finish the job, go off-line

Experienced genealogists frequently admonish novices, "Not everything is on line." We're usually thinking of manuscripts, or the wall-high shelves of books in county offices, many not even microfilmed yet. But we can't even complete as simple a task as locating old newspapers entirely on line.

Recently I needed to locate newspapers published in November 1915 in three adjacent Indiana counties: Blackford, Delaware, and Jay. None of these are on line anywhere that I have looked.

Always my first place to check is the Indiana State Library's "Indiana Newspapers Holdings Guide," and I found a total of FOUR titles, just waiting for me the next time I get to visit the biggest collection of Indiana newspapers on earth.

Piece of cake, right? Not if I had stopped there.

Next I went "across the street" (as if I were in Indy!) and found a FIFTH title at the Indiana Historical Society.

Then I went to my own listing of newspaper microfilms held at the Mishawaka Penn Harris Public Library Heritage Center and found a SIXTH (significantly closer to home than Indianapolis for me).

Nothing more at the Library of Congress.

Done yet? Not so much. Then I went off-line.

I remembered that in her new book on Indiana research (part of the NGS series on Genealogy in the States) Dawne Slater-Putt mentioned a book, Indiana Newspaper Bibliography. This book is not on line; I had to check it out of my local public library. Sure enough, the compilers had located a SEVENTH title, held only at the Blackford County Historical Society (whose web site is not specific about what dates they hold) -- and an EIGHTH, held only at the Jay County Recorder's office.

Of course, Indiana Newspaper Bibliography was published in 1982, and the papers may have migrated since. But as far as I know, no on-line resource for Indiana newspapers matches this 30-year-old book.

Genealogy doesn't get a lot simpler than looking up where old newspapers are. But in order to do the job right -- in order to find 100% of what I was looking for instead of just 75% -- I couldn't rest content with the information available on line.

John W. Miller, Indiana Newspaper Bibliography (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1982).

Harold Henderson, "To finish the job, go off-line," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Judy G. Russell said...

Great post, Harold! It's that "reasonably exhaustive search" all over again!!

Harold said...

Thanks, Judy -- actually I was thinking of your article in the March 2011 NGSQ: "Don't stop there!"

DianaR said...

Great illustration of the point! It's one thing to just say "everything is not online" but this is a great post to point beginners to that will explain what that means!!