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Everything You Need to Know About How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers 2012 by Lisa Louise Cooke. Manufactured in the United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. First Edition.

Other books and DVDs by Lisa Louise Cooke are available at the Genealogy Gems website at Researcher and Editor: Vienna Thomas

Disclaimer: To be clear, I am first and foremost a genealogy podcaster. My goal is to teach my listeners and readers innovative ways to use existing online tools specifically for their genealogy research.

The newspaper tools and websites discussed in this book are constantly evolving. It’s only natural that some of the websites and tools I refer to and points I mention in this book will change over time, which is out of my control. The good news is that you can tune in to the Genealogy Gems Podcast at and get the latest news. Also keep in mind that in this book we are not just covering step-by-step instructions but also overarching concepts. These concepts will serve you well even if websites or data are changed. And of course, you can always tap into the Help section of any website for specific problem solving.

About the Author Lisa Louise Cooke is the producer and host of The Genealogy Gems Podcast, and Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast. Both Internet audio shows are featured in iTunes and at She is a national conference speaker, author, podcast producer (Family Tree Magazine Podcast) and author of several articles and videos for Family Tree Magazine. A wife and mother of three grown daughters, she is devoted to helping families cultivate their place in history. Additional books by Lisa Louise Cooke: Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies available at The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox available at DVD Series Google Earth for Genealogy available at 2


This book is dedicated to my listeners. From the twenty who downloaded The Genealogy Gems Podcast that first week back in early 2007, to the thousands who have joined us since – All of you honor me with your time, Inspire me with your stories, And motivate me to get out of bed in the morning. I am living my passion thanks to you!


Chapter 1

Table of Contents

Newspapers: An Exciting and Exasperating Record Group

Chapter 2

What to Look For in Newspapers



Chapter 3

Top 10 Tips to Remember Before Starting Your Search

Chapter 4

The Newspaper Search Process



Chapter 5

How to Identify Newspapers that Meet Your Criteria: Start with the Big Picture

Chapter 6

Online Digitized Newspaper Collections: Free and Paid

Chapter 7

Portal Websites: The Key to Finding ‘Hard-to-Find’ Newspapers Online and Offline

Chapter 8

Need More Help? Here’s Who You Should Ask

Chapter 9

African American Newspapers






Chapter 10

Caring for Newspaper Clippings


Chapter 11 Putting it to Bed


APPENDIX A United States Newspaper Websites


APPENDIX B International Newspaper Websites


APPENDIX C Heritage Quest Online Participating Libraries

131 4




I would call this section ACKNOWLEDGMENT but frankly that doesn’t reflect how I feel. There are a handful of people who were absolutely instrumental in making this book possible.

Thank you Janet Hovorka

Things were a bit slow in the exhibit hall at one genealogy conference in 2011, so I got a chance to catch up with Janet Hovorka of Family Chartmasters. Janet is a kindred spirit for me. Not only are we the two tall blonde moms chatting our way from one end of the hall to the other, but we share a deep passion for not just family history, but for families and family historians. Janet has been an invaluable sounding board for me, and a cheerleader for the creation of a new book. At that conference Janet encouraged me to ask Leland Meitzler what book genealogists needed right now….

Thank you

Leland Meitzler After dragging Leland Meitzler of Family Roots Publishing over to my booth, I posed my question: what book do genealogists need right now? Being the meek wallflower that he is (NOT!) Leland turned his eyes upward to grab the answer from his encyclopedic genealogical brain, then leaned across the table with a twinkle in his eyes and emphatically whispered “Newspapers!” I instantly knew he was right. And I was excited because it’s one of my favorite topics – the one I did my very first webinar on. Leland knows books and he lit a fire under me! Now my job was clear. Write the book – quick! But I would need some super human help to get it done…

Thank you

Vienna Thomas Vienna is a librarian at heart with incredible research and editing skills. Lucky for me she is also my daughter! She’s a lot like her dad: she is a rock for me. She knows how I think, she shares my passion for quality work, and she respects deadlines. There was no reason to look any farther than my own offspring to find the perfect partner for this project. She has put in countless hours and meticulously checked my work. Even when I’m playing an indulgent game of Words with Friends on my iPad at midnight, I can see the book draft being saved once more in Dropbox by Vienna who’s working tirelessly at her house while my grandson sleeps. This book materialized because of Vienna Louise Thomas (the seventh “Louise” in our known female line!) I like that Genealogy is a collaborative sport, and I’m grateful to have people like Janet, Leland and Vienna on my team! Thank you!




Newspapers: An Exciting and Exasperating Record Group Finding your ancestor’s name reflecting back at you from an old newspaper is one of the most exciting experiences for anyone yearning to learn more about their family tree. And yet from all appearances, newspapers are one of the most underutilized record types. There are a couple of factors that contribute to family historians shying away from these valuable periodicals: Newspapers are all over the place! They can be found in towns and regions across the United States and around the world tucked in libraries, archives, historical and genealogical societies, or a locked storage unit of a now defunct daily paper. Newspapers come and go! Since the first newspaper started regularly publishing in 1704 (Boston News-Letter) newspapers have steadily grown in number. By 1950 there were 1772 daily newspapers, but that number has been on the decline since then. In 2000 daily newspapers had dropped to 1,480. Newspapers are in so many different forms! Old Newspapers may be on microfilm, transcribed into books, searched on paid and free websites, and of course there are those original old deteriorating pages themselves. If ever there was a genealogy record type that qualified as the proverbial “needle in a haystack� old newspapers are it. They are both an exciting and exasperating record group!

(Above: Newspaper feature from July 1874) 8

In fact, as I was doing research to determine whether or not there was even a need for a book like this, the problem became clear. Article after article, book after book, heartlessly made references such as “and be sure to check old newspapers!” but they rarely if ever stated “how!” What seemed to be sorely lacking was a tried and true process that anyone could follow to locate the particular paper they were seeking, regardless of its format or location. Researchers need to be able to determine exactly what is and is not available. Obviously we can’t find what doesn’t exist, and figuring out if a paper ever existed in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin in July of 1858 is half the battle. If there was no paper there at that time, we look no further. If there was (and it was called “Press”) then we need to know how to locate it today. And that’s what you will find here: a tried and true process that walks you through the steps that will lead you to those answers and the genealogical gems tucked in the pages columns. In this book you will learn how to: •

• •

Determine whether a newspaper existed for the desired time and location Locate the available copies in whatever form they may exist Make full use of the found newspaper by scouring it for every available morsel

I’m also going to arm you with the most comprehensive list of up to date newspaper resources available in the U.S., as well as a wide range of international resources. That means that many will be found online, and as with all things online, they are subject to change. However, don’t let a broken link deter you. If a website moves addresses the day after this book goes to the publisher, it may come up as a broken link when you type it into your web browser. No worries! Go to Google or your favorite search engine and search for the name of the source referenced. If you don’t find a new listing try the “cached” link that you find at the end of the results for the defunct site. If you need more help with search techniques to track down website moving targets check out my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. I hope the message of this first chapter has come across loud and clear: You 9

CAN find old newspapers, and I’m going to show you how. After all, who would want to pass up a gem like this one (image previous page) That’s my mom on January 26, 1970 on the tricycle doing her best Ruth Buzzee impression a la the sixties TV show “Laugh In.” What a riot! What genealogy gems await you in old newspapers? Let’s find out! EXTRA! EXTRA! Listen to My Podcast Episodes on Newspapers Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast episode 27 Your Ancestors in the News Part 1 Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast episode 28 Your Ancestors in the News Part 2





Top Tips to Remember Before Starting Your Search While my goal with this book is to give you a recipe for newspaper research success, there are some things you should know before you begin your search. Understanding key concepts before you invest your precious time and resources can save a lot of time and headache. TOP 10 NEWSPAPER TIPS TIP #1: Only a Fraction of Papers Are Visible Online The good news is that there are millions of newspaper pages digitized and available online. The bad news is that this is only a fraction of the available historic newspapers. Therefore, your search will almost always begin online, but in many cases it will not end there. Good old fashioned shoe leather very often needs to be applied. The research process provided in this book will help you bridge the gap. TIP #2: Stay Up to Date Even though online a fraction are being uploaded to the web daily. What did not exist online today could show up tomorrow. In order to stay abreast of new offerings you’ll need to employ a strategic plan for getting the latest news delivered to you. Here’s the game plan I recommend: •

Set up Google Alerts for topics and newspapers. Google Alerts search the web for you 24 hours a day seven days a week so you don’t have to: 1. Go to 2. Sign in with your free Google account (or sign up for one) 3. Type in your search keywords (ex. “Marion Daily Star” “Ohio” “George Sullivan”) 4. Select your search and delivery preferences 5. Click “Create Alert” 6. When Google finds a match, it will send you an email with a link to the webpage. 7. Once you start receiving results, edit your alerts to fine tune them. (You can learn much more about crafting effective Google searches in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox available through my website.)

Subscribe to the newsletters of the top websites emphasizing digital newspapers (See Chapter 6 for my recommendations of subscription websites.)

All the major record websites send me regular press releases on newly uploaded records which I report on in my show The Genealogy Gems Podcast available free at and in iTunes. 12



Chapter 4

The Newspaper Search Process In this chapter we are going to outline the process we will be using to locate your ancestors in newspapers. In upcoming chapters I’ll give you loads of resources. But right now we are going to focus on the process itself. And because it is a process, I encourage you not to skip any of the steps. The reason for this is that they are designed to ensure that: • • • •

You are set up for success You will have everything you need You are far less likely to miss something You will be able to pick up where you left off at any time

Trust me on this. It works. (If you would like to see a case study example of the process in action turn to Chapter 11.) STEP #1: PREPARE FOR SEARCH SUCCESS WITH THE RESEARCH WORKSHEET Before you jump in feet first there are a couple of things you can do to increase your odds of success. It’s just like Grandpa used to say: “The paint job is only as good as the prep work!” Here’s what you need to do first: Identify What You Want to Find This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many folks tackle newspapers hoping to just trip over something. Take a few minutes to clarify what you are looking for, and some of the peripheral items you want to keep an eye out for. Doing so will not only keep you focused, but will help you clearly and succinctly explain to a reference librarian what you are trying to find so that she can better assist you. Many times the librarian will be aware of additional newspapers and resources that you are not aware of. If she understands what you want to find, she can reveal them to you. Establish the Search Criteria • Location: • Related Locations: towns, county, state, past residences • Timeframe: 1825 • Ancestor’s Name: Collect What You Already Know It’s ideal if you can bring a copy of your database or family tree with you. If you have your family tree on consider downloading their free app to your smart phone or tablet. 14



Chapter 6

Online Digitized Newspaper Collections Once you have used the “big picture” tools in Chapter 5 and you have an idea as to which papers you are looking for, it’s time to check the wide range of free newspaper records websites. No list can truly be complete with the constant change of the Internet, but I’ve attempted to compile a list of solid and reliable websites that provide access to a significant number of digitized or transcribed newspapers, both modern and historic. Once you have exhausted these, jump to the location you are researching in the Indexes and try those websites. I have included space at the end of this chapter for you to add additional websites you come across. FREE RECORDS WEBSITES 50 States Links to over 3,300 current United States newspapers. Chronicling America Search and view newspaper pages from 1880-1922. Catalogue of American newspapers published between 1690-present.




Chapter 9

African American Newspapers There are some very good books available specifically on African American Newspapers so I won’t duplicate those efforts here. However I will share some favorite resources that you will definitely want in your toolkit. But let’s start off with a recent interview I conducted with Tom Kemp of GenealogyBank. Interview: Tom Kemp, GenealogyBank I recently met up with Tom Kemp of GenealogyBank at a conference where he was speaking on the subject of African American Newspapers. Tom agreed to sit down for an interview for my Genealogy Gems Podcast. Here’s an excerpt from that conversation: Tom Kemp: “Today I was speaking about African American newspapers in particular, and I think the thing that first-off surprised people was that those newspapers were first published in 1827 here in the United States, and (continue) right up to the present. A lot of people are surprised to find there were African Americans publishing newspapers for other African Americans that early in the country’s history. (See the Wisconsin Historical Society listed below for more information.) The first newspaper was actually published in Kansas. You’ll find that newspapers were published very early in the history of communities. It was one of the first items started, businesses started in a town. People were hungry for the news; it was what they were used to. It was just like today where you might get your cable or TV to get your news. In the old days you got it by the newspaper, and people did look forward to and read the newspaper just like today. And so it spread. African American newspapers, for example, you’ll find that they were published in almost all the states. And we have about 270 plus titles in Genealogy Bank at this point, and growing.” ONLINE DIGITAL COLLECTIONS Your research will lead you to a unique set of newspaper resources. Here I present a representative sample of online digital collections to give you a sense of what’s available. Chronicling America Website - African American Newspapers Several African American newspapers are featured on this free website. Some are digitized and some listings in your search results will lead you to offline locations. Runaway Slave Advertisements from a variety of Colonial Newspapers 18



Chapter 11

Putting it to Bed Newspaper Jargon Put to Bed: Printer’s Term for meaning all the pages of an edition are completed and the presses are ready to roll. Before I put this book to bed, I want to take you on my most recent newspaper research journey so you can see the process in action. If you have seen my Google Earth for Genealogy video series or read my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, then you are already familiar with my maternal great grandparents Charles and Ellen Burkett. Their son Al (my Grandpa) was born in San Francisco just a month and a half after the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. While I have discovered many things about this adventurous couple I have been missing one key item: the record of their marriage. Though I live less than an hour away from the San Francisco courthouse where they applied for their marriage license, it’s of little use to me. The earthquake and subsequent fires did more than take the lives of many citizens; it also took much of their courthouse records. Newspapers remain one of the few ways to find happy couples joined in matrimony prior to 1906. I’ve been meaning to get around to tracking down mention of their marriage in the papers, and it seems to me that if I’m going to publish this book I better get it done. So last night I sat down with my laptop and a copy of the book, and set to work. Follow along with me: STEP 1: PREPARE FOR SEARCH SUCCESS WITH THE RESEARCH WORKSHEET I photocopied and filled in the top portion of worksheet in Chapter 4: NEWSPAPER RESEARCH WORKSHEET Goal and Criteria What are you looking for: Record of the marriage of Charles Burkett(e) and Ellen Lynch Timeframe: 1900 - 1905 Location(s): San Francisco, California Ancestors Involved: Charles Burket / Burkett / Burkette and Ellen Lynch 20



APPENDIX A: UNITED STATES NEWSPAPER WEBSITES The rate of new websites coming online every day it would be impossible to present a complete list of newspaper related websites here. However, what you will find is an extensive list of collected websites that can go a long way to helping you in your search. This list of United States Online Newspaper Resources is presented alphabetically. It would be impossible to rate them by quality, because the “best” website is the one that leads to your ancestor on a particular page in the newspaper. As you work your way through a state’s list of websites, notice the types of sites listed. There is a heavy concentration of: • • • • •

State Library and Archives Public Library of major cities University Libraries Historical Society State Genealogical Society

If you don’t see a site listed in one of these categories for a particular state, hop over to Google and do a search for it. For example you could Google: Pacific Lutheran University historic newspapers I’ve included space after each state and country for you to add the websites that you find. And if one of those is a genealogy gem you think everyone should know about email me the name of the site and the direct URL address and I may be able to include it in a future edition of this book. Email your finds to: EXTRA! EXTRA! Don’t Cry Over Broken Links It’s a fact of life – links on the web break. There are many reasons for this but it doesn’t matter what the reason when you are looking for a particular web page! In the following index I have, whenever possible, provided links directly to the pages about newspapers within a given website. But inevitably some of these pages will move over time and the links will break. Don’t fret! All you need to do is go back to root website and follow the new links from the home page. Here’s an example of a “deep link” to a page on the Alaska State Library website: Alaska Newspapers Index at the Alaska State Library If some time in the future you head to that link and the page is no longer there simply go back to the root by eliminating the “deep linking” (bolded section of the address below): 22 This leaves you with which is the home address for the website. From there click your way through the website menus or use the search box if one is available. And if all else fails and even the home address appears to have changed, you always have Google! Google Search: Alaska State Library Online change is the one constant. Don’t let it throw you. Learn how to work around it! And speaking of change, many of these sites are adding new digitized content, links and finding resources on a regular basis. If you don’t find what you are looking for: • • •

Bookmark the site (I recommend creating a custom bookmark folder just for newspaper websites to be followed up on) Set up a Google Alert specifying the site Check back

UNITED STATES INDEX OF NEWSPAPER RESOURCES: ALABAMA Alabama Department of Archives & History Alabama GenWeb List of Alabama newspaper websites Birmingham Public Library University of Alabama, University Libraries Databases, African American Newspapers Additional Websites: ___________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________




About the Author Lisa Louise Cooke is the owner of Genealogy Gems, a genealogy and family history multi-media company. She is producer and host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, the popular online genealogy audio show available at, in iTunes, and through the free Genealogy Gems Toolbar. Her podcasts bring genealogy news, research strategies, expert interviews and inspiration to genealogists in 75 countries around the world. Lisa is the author of a variety of multi-media materials including the Genealogy Gems Premium website subscription, her books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, and Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies (paperback and digital download), and the DVD series Google Earth for Genealogy. In addition to Genealogy Gems, Lisa works closely with Family Tree Magazine as producer and host of the Family Tree Magazine Podcast, a regular article author for the magazine, and curriculum developer and instructor for Family Tree University. Lisa’s offerings are not limited to online. She is a sought after international genealogy speaker, and produces live presentations of The Genealogy Gems Podcast at top genealogy conferences. Whether in person or online, Lisa strives to dig through the myriad of genealogy news, questions and resources and deliver the gems that can unlock each listeners own family history treasure trove!


Get More Genealogy Gems! at Online: Listen to The Genealogy Gems Podcast Genealogy Gems Premium Annual Membership (Videos and Audio) Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast The Genealogy Gems Toolbar Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Archived Episodes Webinar Recordings Books: Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies (paperback and e-book download) The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (paperback and e-book download)

DVDS: Google Earth for Genealogy Volume I Google Earth for Genealogy Volume II Live Presentations, Seminars and Webinars: Email your booking inquiry to Suggested Topics:


Everything You Need to Know About How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers  

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