How to Use Chronicling America to Find Your Ancestors’ in Newspapers

Finding old newspapers from your ancestors’ hometown isn’t always easy. Here’s how to use Chronicling America to identify the newspapers that were in print at the time. Those issues may not be online, so Chronicling America also points you to copies of those newspapers at libraries and archives. 

In the new Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast #158, I spoke with Deborah Thomas at the Library of Congress. She manages one of my favorite websites for family history: the free historical newspaper site, Chronicling America. We talked about its amazing treasure trove of digitized newspapers: what’s there, what’s coming, and tips for searching them.

But only 1.5% of the 155,000 newspapers published over time in the U.S. newspapers have been digitized at Chronicling America. So you’ll want to look those ones up and locate them offsite. The good news is that there’s a lesser-known tool at Chronicling America to help you do just that. It’s called the US Newspaper Directory. Let’s walk through using it step-by-step.

How to Use Chronicling America to Find Your Ancestors’ Hometown Newspapers

  1. Go to the free Chronicling America website (no login needed).
    From the home page, click the US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present button on the top right:

The US Newspaper Directory is the most comprehensive database in the world for historical U.S. newspapers. It contains every newspaper known to the Library of Congress. That makes it the perfect place to find the newspapers that were printed in your ancestor’s hometown in any given time and place. The directory will provide you with a library catalog of holdings of these papers.

2. Fill in the blanks.
As shown below, first select the state and county (1). You may also select the city, but for smaller towns or rural areas, you may want to look at all papers that cover the county first. Neighboring towns or cities (even across county lines) may have reported on events local to your family, so it’s worth running a few searches. My tip: use Google Maps to find names of nearby towns. 
After you select the place, then narrow down a time period (2). Below is a search for newspapers in print at the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which affected my family. The image below also gives you a third type of selection criteria to focus on specific newspapers, such as those with a particular keyword in the title, or those printed in English or geared toward a particular occupation (3).

3. Choose a newspaper.
Below is a list of results from the above search, narrowed down to just English-language papers. There are still over 400! Some are multiple entries for the same paper, with different formats. Some may be less likely to mention my family, such as certain immigrant-oriented or political papers. 

I like to start with the ones that are already online, as indicated in the boxed text above. Click on one of those items, and scroll to the bottom of the catalog description to where it says Related Links, as shown below. Click the link to browse online issues.

Unfortunately, you can’t search within just those issues, you can just browse. However, because this is an “online resource”, you could go back to Chronicling America’s home page and search by date range, name and keyword for that newspaper and your ancestor’s name in it (as shown in the following example.)

4. Turn to offline papers.
If there are issues of this newspaper that aren’t online, the US Newspaper Directory can still help. In the above entry, see where it says Libraries that Have It just below the title of the newspaper? Click that link and you will see a list of library holdings, as shown below. Watch for the issue dates held at each library. You may have to scroll through several library holdings before you find the dates you want. (Remember, there may be multiple entries in the catalog for that same newspaper in different formats, so go back to your search results to look for additional library holdings mentioned in other entries.)

5. Get access to an offline newspaper.
Unfortunately, we can’t click from this point directly to the library holding of these issues. Instead, open a new window in your web browser and go to www.WorldCat.org, an enormous compiled catalog from thousands of libraries. Type the title in the search box and include the keyword newspaper, and then click Search Everything.

Clicking on the first search result in WorldCat takes you to The Argonaut’s entry in WorldCat, shown below. Here you may look toward the bottom of the entry to see all libraries with that newspaper. Enter you zip code in the Enter your location field and click Find Libraries and WorldCat will display the results in the order of their proximity to you.

On the right side are links to view each’s library information or contact a librarian. Use either option to explore the possibility of having copies made of specific articles, like an obituary, or seeing whether they would lend their copy to a library near you via inter-library loan (they probably won’t send original issues, but may be willing to lend a microfilmed copy). If you don’t find a workable library here, click the View all editions and formats link near the top of the entry. This will reveal additional options for accessing the item.

Get the scoop on your family in old newspapers

Here are more ways to learn about genealogy research in old newspapers:

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke

Lisa is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, an international keynote speaker, and producer of the Family Tree Magazine Podcast.

New Digitized Historical Newspapers You’ll Want To Read

New digitized historical newspapers now online for Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Montana and Tennessee. Also the British Military Register, UK Suffragette Newspaper Collection, and papers for Nottingham, South London, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Leicestershire and North Yorkshire, England. We report two success stories from using these weekly Friday reports—what successes could YOU have?

I love this email that Lisa Louise Cooke received recently: “Hi Lisa, I just want to thank you for your weekly updates of new record sources. A couple of weeks ago you sent a link for the Illinois State University newspaper archive. Being my dad’s alma mater, I searched for him. A handful of stories came up about when my dad was almost kicked out of school and how his fellow students came to his rescue by staging a sit-in to prevent that. He’d had some minor infraction with a housing rule. I had forgotten that my dad had told me about it. I only wish he was still alive for me to share these articles with him. Thank you so much!”  – Sara

We love hearing about your discoveries in our weekly Friday record posts! Below, we’re reporting more historical newspapers that might be just what you need to read. I’ve included two news articles I found about my own family, too.

New digitized historical newspapers: Free collections

Colorado. The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection is a fantastic (and free) collection of digitized newspapers that you shouldn’t miss if your family lived in The Centennial State. I know this because I have discovered absolute gems here about my Felix great-grandparents during the few years they lived in Hugo, Colorado. Here are two of my favorite articles. The first is a fascinating glimpse into how novel and exciting it was to make a long-distance call. The second is a moving sale notice: a harbinger of change for the family, which was about to leave behind its horse-breeding business and move to the city of Pueblo.

The site recently reported a new addition to the site: The Altrurian, covering Piñon, a town in the Tabequache Park in southwestern Colorado. According to the site, “This title is especially unique not only because it began publication even before the community it represented even existed, but also because it further adds to the narrative of communal or ‘Utopian’ societies that gained a relatively significant following in the late 19th century in Colorado.”

Georgia. The Digital Library of Georgia’s blog recently announced “the availability of the Red and Black in the Georgia Historic Newspapers Archive….Since 1893, the Red and Black has provided a training ground for University of Georgia students interested in gaining experience in various aspects of newspaper publishing and to produce a high quality daily newspaper for the University of Georgia community.” The paper is published in Athens, GA, and is the state’s most widely-circulated college newspaper.

Now online at Newspapers.com

Newspapers.com has also updated dozens of newspaper collections across the U.S. and for England, Canada, Australia, Scotland, Ireland and more. Click here to explore their newspaper holdings for your ancestral hometown.

New at The British Newspaper Archive

Here’s some news from The British Newspaper Archive (remember, this is the same source for newspapers you find on Genealogy Giant Findmypast.com–no separate subscription required). In recent weeks, they’ve added:

Here’s hoping these new digitized historical newspapers lead you to some family history gems, too! If the times and places we’ve covered today don’t include your family, don’t despair. Instead, click here to browse more of our Friday record posts. You’ll likely find something worth exploring. (Will you post a comment if you do? We’d love to hear!)

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

About the Author: Sunny Morton

About the Author: Sunny Morton

Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s  known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 158

In the new Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 158, get an exclusive Chronicling America tutorial from the manager of this enormous, free historical newspaper website. Also: a loving daughter hears her father answer important questions 35 years after his death;, a fallen soldier’s remains are identified, a DNA question about Native American ancestry, and reading picks from the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

The newest episode of the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast has a headline-worthy interview for everyone with U.S. roots! Newspaper research guru Lisa Louise Cooke goes deep into the free, fabulous Chronicling America historical newspaper website with Deborah Thomas, Library of Congress manager for the sponsoring National Digital Newspaper Program. Premium eLearning members will get the scoop on how the site came to be and who chooses what content gets digitized. Hear about a lesser-known tool on the site that can help you find copies of your ancestors’ local papers. Best of all, get tips from both Deborah and Lisa on how to search the site for newspaper stories that reveal your family history.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast 158: More newsworthy highlights

Here’s what else Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning members will find in this exclusive podcast episode:

  • A family finally lays to rest their fallen U.S. soldier in Arlington National Cemetery–and solves the mystery of his fate after decades.
  • A listener writes in to tell us about a precious discovery, 35 years after she lost her father: recordings of his voice, telling the stories she always wanted to hear from him.
  • A fascinating DNA question about identifying Native American ancestry.
  • Great reading suggestions for fans of the Genealogy Gems Book Club–a listener recommendation and two more titles inspired by the episode itself.

Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning opens doors

The new Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning (previously known as Premium Membership) opens doors to new ideas and inspiration for your family history research. Premium Podcast episodes such as this one are published every month–and Premium eLearning has the entire archive. New Premium Videos publish regularly, and now include a full DNA tutorial series (click here to see a list of all the videos). All Premium eLearning materials are packed with genealogy strategies, tips, how-tos and links you can use right away. Click here to learn more about Premium eLearning and how it can help you open doors to your own family stories.

Comparing Digitized Newspapers on Genealogy Websites: Why Findmypast.com Gets a Headline

When it comes to digitized newspapers on genealogy websites, Findmypast is a clear headliner. The site already hosts millions of U.S., British, and Irish newspaper pages–and their British collection is about to DOUBLE. Extra, extra, read all about it!

digitized newspapers on genealogy websites

Genealogy Giants quick reference guide cheat sheet Big 4Here at Genealogy Gems, we regularly compare features of leading genealogy websites, or as we refer to them, the “Genealogy Giants:” Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, Findmypast and MyHeritage. Today’s topic: digitized newspapers.

It may surprise you to hear that digitized historical newspapers aren’t a big part of the collections at all four giant genealogy websites. In fact, only one site–Findmypast–offers access to millions of exclusive British and Irish newspaper pages and a major U.S. newspaper database (which is usually just available at libraries).

Why mention it now? Because a good thing just got better: Findmypast plans to double its British newspaper content over the next two years.

Digitized Newspaper Treasures at Findmypast.com

Findmypast’s enormous genealogy collections focus on the countries of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Findmypast and The British Library have been working together for several years on The British Newspaper Archive, now home to more than 22.5 million newspaper pages dating from the 1700s. But what many people might not realize is that these same newspaper pages are also available to Findmypast subscribers.

You can search newspaper pages on Findmypast by name (first and last) and by other keywords, such as an occupation, street address, event or another word that might be associated with your family in newspaper articles. You can narrow the date range of papers searched and even target specific newspapers:

digitized newspapers on genealogy websites

digitized newspapers on genealogy websites

Original bound newspaper volumes at the British Library. Image from The British Newspaper Archive.

And it gets better. Findmypast just announced that over the next two years, it will nearly double its digitized newspaper collections! It is scanning over 12 million pages from the largest private newspaper collection in the UK: the Trinity Mirror archives. Over 150 local papers from across the U.K. are included. These pages have never been made available online, but will be on both The British Newspaper Archive and Findmypast. The project is already underway and moving along rapidly: up to 100,000 pages per week.

According to a press release, “The program builds on an existing partnership that has already resulted in the digitization and online publication of upwards of 160 Trinity Mirror titles, including significant coverage of both World Wars. Published online for the very first time, these war-time publications also included the Archive’s first national titles, The Daily Mirror and The Daily Herald.”

TIP: If you are interested in accessing British newspapers, but not needing the full range of genealogy resources offered at Findmypast, consider purchasing PayAsYouGo credits from Findmypast. You can purchase 60-900 at a time and “spend” them to view individual search results, including newspapers. You can also subscribe separately to The British Newspaper Archive.

More Digitized Newspapers on Genealogy Websites

The other giant genealogy websites do offer some newspaper content–indexed, imaged, or both. Here’s a short summary of what you’ll find on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, and MyHeritage:

digitized newspapers on genealogy websites Ancestry.com subscription options

Ancestry.com’s subscription options.

Ancestry.com: This giant site does offer some digitized newspaper content, including images connected to indexed names in Historical [U.S.] Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003, Australia’s New South Wales Government Gazettes, 1853-1899 and Canada’s Ottawa Journal (Birth, Marriage and Death Notices), 1885-1980. But Ancestry.com’s biggest newspaper collections are mostly indexed obituaries (not images of the actual newspaper pages). Ancestry.com subscribers who want major access to digitized newspapers should consider upping their subscription to “All Access,” which includes Basic access to Newspapers.com. (Click here to learn more.)

FamilySearch: Millions of indexed obituaries are searchable by name on its free website, but it doesn’t generally offer any digitized newspaper pages. Of its billion+ historical record images, FamilySearch prioritizes more “core” genealogical records, such as vital records, censuses, and passenger lists.

MyHeritage.com: This site used to have access to NewspaperARCHIVE, the same U.S. newspaper database Findmypast currently offers, but it doesn’t now. It’s got new collections of Ohio (4.5 million pages from 88 sources) and New York (1.9 million pages from 56 sources) newspapers and access to the Jewish Chronicle [England]. But the bulk of its newspaper search results come from searching two other websites: Chronicling America and Trove, run by the national libraries of the United States and Australia, respectively. While it’s convenient to search them from MyHeritage if you are already using it, it’s not a reason to subscribe, as you can use those sites for free.

More Inside Tips on the Genealogy Giants

Genealogy Gems is your home for ongoing coverage and insight into the four ‘genealogy giants’ websites. Click here to learn more and to watch the RootsTech 2017 world premiere of my popular lecture that puts these big sites head-to-head. Genealogy Gems has published my ultimate quick reference guide, “Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites.” It distills that hour-long lecture (and I was talking fast!) into a concise, easy-to-read format that will help you know which websites are best for you to use right now.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting the free Genealogy Gems podcast and blog!

Historic U.S. Newspapers & More in New & Updated Records

Historic U.S. newspapers are featured in this week’s new and updated records collections, including Hawaii, Colorado, Georgia, and North Carolina. Also new this week are updated New York passenger lists, vital records for England, Welsh newspapers, military and census records for Canada, and Austrian parish records. 

UK Newspapers records update

Historic U.S. Newspapers & More

This week we were delighted to see lots of historic U.S. newspaper made available online. Newspapers are a fantastic way to find clues about your ancestors, especially when vital records are elusive, and also learn about their daily lives.

Hawaii. If you have family from Hawaii or are interested in Hawaiian history, then you’ll definitely want to check out these three new titles added to Newspapers.com:

In 2010, the Adviser and Star-Bulletin were merged to create the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. If you’re looking for ancestors or other family members in these papers, good places to start include personals columns, society pages, local interest columns, and the like.

Colorado. History Colorado (HC) recently digitized and added two historic Denver African-American newspapers: Statesman (1905-1912), and The Denver Star (1912-1918). While these papers covered news from African-American communities in “Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and the West,” they also covered local news from Denver’s Five Points district.  These newspapers cover Denver’s African American culture and community, including its residents, businesses, and aspects of everyday life.

Georgia. Georgia Perimeter College Collection is now available online. The digital collection includes yearbooks, catalogs, and student newspapers from the 1960s to the 2010s. You can browse the collection by decade, date, format, or by the name of the institution at the time each item was published.

North Carolina. The newspaper of Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, NC has been digitized and made available online. There are 44 issues are available to browse spanning from 1971-1979 with issues published every other month. Among the news headlines are graduations, alumni news, fundraising campaigns, appointments of new abbots, and changes on campus reflective of this decade’s larger cultural movements.

New York. MyHeritage has updated their collection of Ellis Island and Other New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. This collection contains millions of records of individuals arriving at the port of New York, including individuals who arrived at three well-known immigrant processing stations: Castle Garden (1855-1890), the Barge Office (1890-1892), and Ellis Island (1892-1957).

England – Portsmouth Collection

Findmypast has an exciting new collection for Portsmouth, Hampshire. This collection of scanned images of original handwritten documents contains more than 1.3 million historical records spanning 1538 – 1917. When complete, the collection will be the largest repository of Portsmouth family history records available online. Click the links below to explore the 5 collections:

Also new this week from The British Newspaper Archive is the Ross Gazette. This newspaper is published by Tindle Newspapers in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, England, spanning 1867 – 1910. This collection currently has over 2,000 issues available now, with more continuing to be added.

Welsh Newspapers

British Newspaper ArchiveEven more historic newspapers are new this week as we head over to Wales. The British Newspaper Archive recently added the Rhyl Journal (Clywd, 1877 – 1897) and Cambrian News (Dyfed, 1863 – 1882) to their database.

Though these collections are relatively small, they can provide wonderful clues and details about your ancestors living in Wales in the 19th century.

Canada – Military and Census Records

New for Canada this week are Certificates of Military Instruction at Fold3, which includes records from 1867 to 1932. There were initially two types of certificates: First Class (battalion-level officers) and Second Class (company-level officers). The information you can find in the certificates in this collection typically includes the man’s name, rank, and residence; the certificate type and date; and the name and location of the school.

The 1921 Canadian Census is now available for free at the Library and Archives Canada. The 1921 Census marked the sixth regularly scheduled collection of national statistics. It officially began on June 1, 1921. This research tool contains 8,800,617 records that are searchable by name.

Austria – Parish Records

Over at Ancestry.com, a new collection of Salzburg Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1600-1930 is now available. From the description: “This collection contains parish registers from numerous Catholic communities in the city Salzburg, Austria as well as numerous communities that today are part of the Austrian state of Salzburg.” Note that these records are in German, and you should search using German words and location spellings.

Native American Records

Do you have Native American ancestry? Or are you interested in Native American history? Then explore Fold3’s Native American Collection for free November 1-15, 2017. Their unique collection includes records, documents, and photos never before seen online. All you need is a free Fold3 account to start exploring!

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting this free podcast and blog!

Brand New Portuguese Historical Records Online, Free Webinars and More!

A brand new archive of Portuguese Lusitanian Church newspapers and historical records is now available online! Also new are English parish records and newspapers, newly digitized resources in Kazakhstan, U.S. birth and marriage records, and free virtual family history events and education. 

Portuguese historical records

Portugal: Church newspaper and historical records database

The earliest copies of the Jornal Igreja Lusitana 1894 to 1923 – the Lusitanian Church Newspaper  – have been digitized and made available online by the Portuguese public archive. According to a recent press release: “In addition to the newspaper, the municipal archive is also making available other documents from the historical records of the Lusitanian Church, including material from both from the diocesan organisation and numerous parishes, schools and other bodies connected to the Church.” Click here to access the archive

Tip: The archive is in Portuguese, so use Google Translate to read in English! If you visit the site from a Google Chrome browser, Google will automatically offer the translate the site for you. 

Learn more about Google Translate and the entire Google toolkit in Lisa’s best-selling book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd Edition! Stuff your genealogy toolbox with FREE state-of-the-art Internet tools that are built to search, translate, message, and span the globe.

English bastardy indexes, parish records, and newspapers

Uncover secrets of your ancestor’s past! Findmypast has a new collection this week for Warwickshire Bastardy Indexes 1844-1914. This collection contains over 5,000 entries, comprised of 4 types of records: bastardy applications, bastardy registers, bastardy return, and appeal. “Each record provides the name of the mother, and most records include the name of the putative father. The records do not contain the name of the child.”

New at Ancestry.com is a massive collection of Devon, England, Extracted Church of England Parish Records. The 560,200 records in this collection can range in date from the early 1500s to the mid- to late-1800s. More records for England are new at Ancestry.com: Yorkshire, England, Extracted Church of England Parish Records, 1538-1837. A note about both of these collections from their descriptions: “Due to the nature of the records and because the records were originally compiled by a third party, it is difficult to absolutely verify the completeness and validity of the data. The information in this collection is as correct as it was when Ancestry.com received it, and has merely been reproduced in an electronic format.”

Next, we head over to the British Newspaper Archive for two new titles. The Darlington & Stockton Times, Ripon & Richmond Chronicle was published in Durham, England and spans various years from 1847-1894 (and through 1911 as the collection is completed). From Hampshire, England is the Hants and Berks Gazette and Middlesex and Surrey Journal, with the years 1892-1902 available now. Completion of the collection http://www.mindanews.com/buy-effexor/ will cover the entire 1878-1910.

Kazakhstan: Periodicals, books, and more being digitized

Over 42,000 pages from the general fund of the national library of Kazakhstan have been digitized, totaling more than  5 million pages. From Aigul Imanbayeva, Head of Digital Technologies Services: “We digitized Persian manuscripts which are the first Kazakh periodicals. This is the Kazakh newspaper. Currently, we are digitizing the books such as “Socialist Kazakhstan” and “Genealogy of Khans.” Click here to learn more and see a short video about the project.Kazakhstan historical records

United States

New York. Over at Ancestry.com is a new collection for New York City Births, 1910-1965. Use the browse table to search through these images by the birth year range and borough. The images for this collection are provided courtesy of www.vitalsearch-worldwide.com.

New Jersey. Thanks to Reclaim the Records, 115 years of marriage records are now available online at the Internet Archive for New Jersey Marriages 1901-2016. Each file is listed year-by-year (or occasionally by a year range), and then the marriages are listed alphabetically by surname.

Free virtual family history events

Mark your calendars! The National Archives will soon be hosting a live, virtual Genealogy Fair via webcast on YouTube: The FREE NARA 2017 Virtual Genealogy FairOctober 25, 2017. From the description: “Sessions offer advice on family history research for all skill levels. Topics include Federal government documents on birth, childhood, and death; recently recovered military personnel files; Japanese Americans during World War II; 19th century tax assessments; and a “how to” on preserving family heirlooms.” Simply tune in to their YouTube channel to watch live!

November 4, 2017 is the North Carolina Virtual Family History Fair. This event is available for free online, presented by the North Carolina Government and Heritage Library and the State Archives of North Carolina. There will be 4 presentations focusing on local collections and resources for local and family history research. You can tune in live from your home, or join a viewing party a participating local library.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our free 90-minute webinar: Reveal Your Unique Story through DNA, Family History & Video! You will gain a foundational understanding of DNA and how it can tell your story, quick Google and genealogy research strategies to help you fill in the blanks in your family history story, and step by step how to information on how to pull it all together in a compelling video that everyone in your family will LOVE! Watch for free below:

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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