Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.
What did your relatives experience during World War II? Look for answers with these step-by-step instructions for finding WWII newspaper content and tips for searching about the war progress in the 1940s.
We have covered so many gripping and inspiring World War II stories in recent months (such as this one), it makes me want to learn more about what happened to my own family. Newspapers are the first place I look for everyday news happenings. But for the 1940s, newspapers in the U.S. and some other places are still copyright-protected–meaning not so widely available online for free–and of course, millions of local newspaper pages are not digitized online yet.
Try these 3 steps for finding and accessing 1940s newspaper content:
1. Understand what WWII newspapers may be available online
The major U.S. site for free digitized newspaper content, Chronicling America, recently started allowing post-1922 news, but it will take a while for copyright-cleared issues to post to the site (read more here.) Various state or local collections may vary; for example, the free Colorado Historical Newspaper Collection does have some WWII-era coverage.
Outside the U.S., Australia’s site Trove (which is free) does have digitized newspapers that include articles, like the 1942 casualty list from The Daily News (Perth), shown here. So do the overlapping British Newspaper Archive site and Findmypast.com’s British newspapers collection.
2. Explore premium and institutional databases for WWII newspapers
Start with digital newspaper content at free sites and subscription sites to which you have access. Then follow up with a trip to your local library, which likely offers additional historical newspaper databases. For example, in the U.S., these may include Access NewspaperARCHIVE, America’s GenealogyBank, America’s Historical Newspapers, America’s News, Newspaper Source, and ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Sometimes, you can access these databases from home with your library card log-in; if not, you’ll have to go to the library. (Genealogy Gems Premium members: check out Premium Podcast episode #125 for more great genealogical resources at public libraries.)
In the U.S., even these databases may only have limited coverage, such as titles from major cities for the 1940s. ProQuest Historical Newspapers has the Atlanta Constitution, Baltimore Sun, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. Though these may not give you small-town details and perspectives on your own family, you will get a sense of the progress of the war from the perspective of those who were living through it, and how the public was responding.
3. Search for individual WWII newspapers
If you can’t find digitized content you want, widen your net. Search for titles of all active newspapers in your family’s city during the war. In the U.S., do that with the U.S. Newspaper Directory on Chronicling America. The same directory links to thousands of library holdings. WorldCat.org has even more; run a follow-up search here on any titles you don’t see holdings for on Chronicling America. If you’re local to where your family lived or can visit there, you may find copies at the public library. If you’re not local, you may have to try to order microfilmed copies through interlibrary loan. Ask your local Reference Librarian for assistance.
Next, Google search for individual newspaper titles online. Though no longer actively digitizing and indexing newspapers, Google News Archive can help you locate online content for specific newspapers. Click here to access its alphabetical listing of newspapers. You can also enter keyword-searches in the search box on that webpage for all the newspapers listed there.
As needed, run a follow-up Google search using the newspaper title, city, state, and date range; for the latter, use the format “1941..1945” with two periods between the dates and no spaces. This helps to filter your date range to these specific years.
Learn more about Googling your ancestors in newspapers, websites, books, photographs, and more in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.
My book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers is your ultimate guide to this topic, with tons of step-by-step instructions, online resources, and finding strategies. And, stay tuned for our up and coming post “Finding Family History in WWII Newspapers: Narrowing the Results” for more instructions on digitally searching WWII newspapers for war-related stories.
From the FGS Press Release:
“Journey through Generations” – A Conference for the Nation’s Genealogists
June 10, 2013 – Austin, TX. Discounted early-bird registration for the 2013 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference will continue only until July 1. Early registrants receive a $50 discount for the full four days, or a $20 discount for any single day. Details at http://www.fgsconference.org.
The conference will be held 21-24 August 2013 in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. This year’s conference theme is “Journey through Generations,” and the local hosts are the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) and the Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana (ACGSI). Platinum sponsors are FamilySearch, FindMyPast.com and Ancestry.com.
The conference offers opportunities for all who are interested in researching their family history, with over 160 educational sessions on records, strategies, and tools for genealogists at all levels. The exhibit hall features over 70 vendors offering a wide range of genealogical products and is open and free to the public.
Luncheons, workshops and special events provide additional opportunities for networking and learning. Make sure the get your tickets to these conference “extras” early to guarantee your spot.
See you in Fort Wayne in August!
Learn More and Stay Connected
Millions of records from around the world are new at FamilySearch this week, and are completely free! These new collections include Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, and South Africa. PERSI also got a big update this week at Findmypast, as well as new and updated records for Canada, England, and Ireland.
New collections free at FamilySearch
Australia. The new South Australia, Immigrants Ship Papers, 1849-1940 collection includes immigrants’ ships papers, containing a record of births and deaths aboard, 1849-1867 and 1873-1885. Indexed records in this collection include passenger lists arriving and departing from South Australia. (Original records in the State Records of South Australia, Adelaide.) Get started with Australian genealogy research with these tips from an expert at Legacy Tree Genealogists!
Denmark. FamilySearch has been adding census records for Denmark recently, and the latest new collection is the 1921 Denmark Census. This collection includes over 430,000 images, and these census collections were all provided by MyHeritage and previously from the National Archives of Denmark.
Finland. Church Census and Pre-Confirmation Books, 1657-1915: This collection contains church census books and pre-confirmation books kept by the Lutheran Church in Finland. These records come from a database at MyHeritage, citing Kansallisarkisto (National Archives of Finland), Helsinki.
France. Explore over half a million indexed records for Saône-et-Loire, Census, 1856, a complete indexing of the population censuses.
Italy. The Salerno, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1806-1949 collection includes civil registration (stato civile) records of births, marriages, and deaths within the custody of the State Archive of Salerno (Archivio di Stato di Salerno). Almost 6 million images are in this collection, and availability of records is largely dependent on time period and locality.
South Africa. Lastly, this collection of Pietermaritzburg Estate Files 1846-1950 is also new at FamilySearch. Records include death notices, vital records, wills, distribution accounts, and succession duty accounts.
Need help using FamilySearch? The Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org by Dana McCullough provides the guidance you need to discover your ancestors and make the most of the free site’s valuable resources. Learn how to maximize all of FamilySearch.org’s research tools–including hard-to-find features–to extend your family tree in America and the old country.
PERSI update at Findmypast
The Periodical Source Index (also known as PERSI) has had another large update at Findmypast. Almost 11,000 new articles and 30,000 new images have been added, covering Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Toronto, and Yorkshire. PERSI is an excellent resource for discovering articles, photos, and other material you probably won’t find using conventional online search methods.
Click here to learn more about PERSI for genealogy research. Genealogy Gems Premium Members can also check out Premium Podcast episode #135 for more tips on PERSI (sign-in required). Not a Premium Member? Click here to get started!
Canada – New & Updated Collections
From Libraries and Archives Canada: Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files. “As of today, 502,740 of the 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database…Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order.”
Ancestry.com updated two of their collections for Canada this week: Ontario, The Ottawa Journal (Birth, Marriage, and Death Notices) 1885-1980 and the Canada Obituary Collection, 1898-2017. Both of these collections come from microfilmed copies of the newspapers.
Recently announced on Twitter: “The General Register Office for England and Wales (GRO) is piloting a service from 12 October 2017 to provide portable document format (PDF) copies of digitized historical birth and death records. The pilot will run for a minimum of 3 months to enable GRO to assess the demand for this service over a prolonged period.” England and Wales records which are available as PDFs in this extended pilot include births (1837 –1916) and deaths (1837 –1957).
Ireland: Historical Newspaper
A new historical newspaper title was added to the British Newspaper Archive this week for Northern Ireland. The Coleraine Chronicle 1844-1910 was published by Alpha Newspaper Group in Coleraine, Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The collection features nearly 3,500 issues and over 26,000 pages.
Get the most out of your genealogy records websites subscriptions!
Use the jammed-packed Genealogy Giants cheat sheet by Sunny Morton to quickly and easily compare all of the most important features of the four biggest international genealogy records membership websites: Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com. Then consult it every time your research budget, needs or goals change. Tables, bulleted lists, and graphics make this guide as easy to use as it is informative. Available in print or digital download.
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 the free Genealogy Gems podcast and blog!
Sometimes you find yourself sorting through tons of people with the same last name to see which ones belong on your family tree. This surname research collection at FamilySearch can help you see what other researchers may have spent years compiling about thousands of family groups.
There’s a valuable free but much-overlooked online collection for surname research at FamilySearch.org. These are the family trees of nearly 3000 members of the Guild of One-Name Studies, who are studying nearly 9,000 different surnames. Their resources are strongest for the United Kingdom, where the Guild was founded, but you’ll find members all over the world.
What makes these family trees unique?
There are a couple of things that make these family trees unique:
1. These trees don’t just focus on a mostly-vertical line of ancestors for a single person. Members of the Guild collect everything they can about a particular surname and all its variants (hence the name of the organization). These efforts help organize and connect people with the same surname. Sometimes they help trace the origin of a surname. They can help people explore the variety of spellings and locations associated with different names.
2. These trees are often more fully researched and cited than your average online tree. The Guild takes pride in supporting its members in doing accurate, cited research; keeping their online databases updated; and responding to questions from others about their surname research.
Of course, always use caution when consulting others’ trees. Consider their content to be hints or suggestions until you prove them otherwise yourself. Scrutinize the sources they cite, many of which, say the Guild, aren’t available online elsewhere.
Explore the Guild Surname Research Collections
To explore this helpful free resource, follow the step-by-step instructions below:
1. Go to FamilySearch.org and click Search, then click Genealogies— not Records. (You may also click here to reach that landing page directly.)
2. Enter the surname of interest.
3. Click where it says All next to the Search button.
4. Select Guild of One-Name Studies.
5. Run the search. Click on search results to see:
A. The individual’s name, personal details and (scroll down) associated sources and citation details.
B. The individual’s place in a Guild family tree. Explore this family tree by clicking on someone’s name and seeing their information pop up to the left, where you can also click “View Tree” to see that person’s relatives.
C. Search for names within this tree.
D. This shows you what surname study the information comes from. In this case, you’re also given a link to a separate, associated website for that study.
6. Repeat to learn more about other surnames in your family.
More on Surname Research
If you are interested in learning even more about surnames research, read Social Network Your yDNA with Surname Projects by our own Diahan Southard, and learn how surname study organizations are taking their research into the 21st century with DNA surname projects.
Also, learn more about utilizing DNA in your genealogy research with these 10 DNA quick guides from Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard. They can be purchased in a bundle in either print or digital format.