Finding Newspapers From Your Ancestor’s Hometown

Finding newspapers

Newspapers are an incredible resource for genealogy. But with all of the mergers of newspapers over the years (not to mention those that have gone out of business), how can you find what newspapers were published in your ancestor's hometown when he or she lived there? Fortunately, there's a directory to help us out with finding old newspapers.More...

Library of Congress' Chronicling America

The Chronicling America website is known primarily for its collection of digitized newspapers. With more than 11 million digitized pages from 2,100 newspapers, it's definitely something we should include in our newspaper research. However, Chronicling America has more.   

It also has the US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present, which currently lists more than 154,000 titles. (Yes, you read that right: 154,000 titles.)

It isn't just the "regular" daily newspapers that are included. The Directory includes everything from daily to weekly to bimonthly to monthly papers (even some in that "unknown" category). 

What I really like is the broad range of the types of newspapers. Sure, it has the ones that you would expect, but it also includes foreign-language newspapers. (Looking for a U.S. newspaper that was published in Albanian? They have those. What about Welsh? Yes, there are some of those, too.) 

I point out the foreign-language newspapers because they often contain news of recent immigrants and other who strongly identify with a particular ethnicity that isn't covered in what we think of as the "mainstream" newspapers of the time. Can't find an obituary in the English-language newspaper? Try looking in the appropriate foreign-language newspaper in the area. 

To get started using the directory, go to the Chronicling America website and click the button "US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present."

Once you're in the Directory, you can search by location, language, labor press (did I mention it includes labor newspapers? It does.), as well as narrow it down by date range. 

Recently, fellow blogger Devon Noel Lee had a German-language obituary that she thought was published in a newspaper in Columbus in 1896. I did a search for Columbus, Ohio newspapers published between 1890-1900 and were in German. Here is the list I got:

Chronicling America - finding newspapers in your ancestor's hometown

When you're in the Directory, you can click on a title of interest to get more information, including what libraries and archives the Library of Congress thinks has copies. 

(Thank you, Devon, for letting me use your example!)

Finding the Newspaper

Just because it's listed in the US Newspaper Directory doesn't mean that it's been digitized on Chronicling America (or anywhere else, for that matter). The Directory is just a listing of known newspapers. We need to take the next step to finding a copy.

As I noted, you can click on the title in the Directory and get a list of the libraries and archives that the Library of Congress thinks has a copy. This information may or may not be complete. Contact the libraries that are listed to see about availability. 

Other ways to check for availability:

  • Check with the local libraries and historical societies in the area to see if they have copies. (The Library of Congress's listing often isn't complete.)
  • State libraries and state historical societies often have newspaper collections.
  • Look for the title on WorldCat.org.
  • Check the holdings of major newspaper databases such as Newspapers.com and NewpaperArchives.com to see if they've digitized it. ​(If you aren't a subscriber to one of these sites and they do have the title you want, check with your local library to see if they have a subscription.)
  • The Ancestor Hunt maintains a list of digitized newspapers. Click on the state you're interested in. 

Go take a look in the US Newspaper Directory and let me know what surprising titles you find!

Finding Newspapers from Your Ancestor's Hometown

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Finding newspapers from long ago can be tough. Here is a resource to help you identify them along with steps to locating them.

5 thoughts on “Finding Newspapers From Your Ancestor’s Hometown

  1. Don’t forget your state library or state historical society. Many states, for years, have microfilmed the newspapers. And some of the libraries have an online listing of the newspapers and if they are available for inter-library loan.

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