NEWSPAPER RESEARCH CLASS
Los Angeles Family History Library
Instructor -- Jon Schweitzer
Revised 8 November 2011
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This is a Website companion to the class.
Unless stated otherwise, the books and their call numbers mentioned below are in this Library.
SOME IMPORTANT REASONS TO DO RESEARCHThe newspaper might be the only primary source of information if they were before church or government records started or if the records were destroyed.
My grandfather was born in 1871 in Hollister, Monterey County, CA. That was 2 years before the area was made San Benito County and 2 years before birth records started. I found his birth notice in the newspaper and it was the only way that I was able to "prove" his birth. There are no church records for that period. The town was very young at that time. The information found in the newspapers may be more than on the other records. Your research might uncover such things as birthplace, birthdate, names of brothers and sisters, names of deceased and surviving relatives, wife's maiden name, life history, military history, burial place, parents' names and photographs. The newspaper might contain the only information ever placed on any piece of paper about your ancestor.
The newspaper will describe the happenings and lifestyles of the persons in the community. You will need this information to better understand the lives of the ancestors and to write the family histories about them.
TYPES OF RECORDS FOUND IN A NEWSPAPER
Marriages most often were performed in the area where the bride lived. First, look in the newspapers for the notice where the bride resided.
The date of the anniversary might be wrong if their first child was illegitimate or conceived less than 9 months before they married.
Obituaries and Death Notices
They were the most common of the vital statistics published. These might supply you with the best information. Age, birthplace, parents' names and children's names might be some of the best information found. You also might find the names of deceased and surviving relatives. You might find other leads to follow, such as names of churches, morticians and clubs. There might be many errors. Look for articles before and after the funeral for relatives that are arriving and leading town. See a sample obituary HERE
Store advertisements, slave sales and new businesses. See a sample HERE
Delinquent real estate and personal taxes, adoptions, land sales, divorce proceedings, probate proceedings, civil cases and sheriff sales. See 4 samples HERE
Gossip Columns and Society Items
These items might list the parents, brothers, sisters, other relatives and the names of their hometowns. See sample HERE
Sports, fairs, market days, band concerts, out-of-town visitors, parties, family reunions, and trips to relatives. See sample HERE
Shows, parades and meetings.
Military and War Notices
See 3 samples HERE
Search newspapers for lists of passengers entering at port cities.
Search newspapers for persons who filed their "First Papers" or Declarations of Intentions and their "Final Papers" of Naturalization. Both events might not have occurred in the same place.
A spouse or relative might have placed an obituary and other notices in other newspapers in other locations where the subject lived, died, had lived, was well-known or where the spouse or relative lived.
COSTS OF NOTICES
A fee was frequently required for the newspaper to print an obituary or other personal notices. If your ancestor was dirt poor, there will be less chance of finding an obituary or other notice about him.
You can have great confidence that the event took place but there may be some errors. Watch for incorrect information, wrong dates and misspelling of names and places. The information was only as good as the person giving it. The parent, subject person, or spouses were the best sources.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE NEWSPAPERS IN THE UNITED STATES
Ethnic or foreign language newspapers may contain larger amounts of information about your immigrant ancestor in the obituary or other notices. Researching these newspapers is a must if you are looking for a birthplace in a foreign country.
THE POLITICAL AFFILIATION OF NEWSPAPERSNEWSPAPER INDEXES
There were Republican, Independent and Democratic newspapers. If your ancestor was a Democrat, then, by all means, look in the Democratic newspaper first, then the Independent and last in the Republican newspaper. In this example, a Republican newspaper did not want to report on a Democrat unless it was negative reporting.
Many local public libraries have card indexes for the local newspapers that indexed the births, marriages and deaths. They made the cards daily when they received their newspapers. Use the 2 volume set of "American Library Directory" (Ref 973 J54a) to obtain the names and addresses. Write them and ask them if they have the newspaper card indexes and would they please check to see if your ancestors are listed and in what newspaper and what date(s) and what pages and would they send you copies.
There are also published lists of who has indexes. The best United States index of indexes is the "Lathrop Report on Newspaper Indexes". The index is at the UCLA University Research Library Reference Area (Z 6293 L37) and the Los Angeles Central Library in the Literature Section (070.02 L355 folio). See 2 sample pages from the above index of indexes HERE
Consult the "Redbook" (Ref 973 D27rb or JGS 973 D27rb or 973 D27rb) for general information and publications about the newspapers in each state. Look under "Newspapers" in "Redbook" for newspapers on microfilm in largest repositories. usually they are the only places that you may order the interlibrary loan of the newspapers on microfilm. See "(ILL)" below.
WHERE TO FIND THE NEWSPAPERS LISTED
The big red book titled "American Newspapers ... Union List..." or "Union List of Newspapers" by Winifred Gregory, 1937, (Ref 970 B33a) is the place to start. This is a very comprehensive book. Use this book to search for a town that has newspapers in the same county that was the closest to where they lived. Increase the radius search until you reach the town that was the county seat.
WHERE TO FIND THE NEWSPAPERS
Best places - State Historical Societies and State Libraries or Archives Write for a list of their current holdings of microfilm of newspapers and a list of their missing holdings (issues) of newspapers for the town you are researching by using the "Redbook" (Ref 973 D27rb or JGS 973 D27rb or 973 D27rb) for each state or the "American Library Directory" at a public library to obtain the names and addresses for each state.
Other Locations of Newspapers
Local Public Libraries
County Historical Societies
Local colleges and universities
NewspaperARCHIVE.com claims to be the world's largest online searchable newspaper archive. I think it's the best. Look at it at http://access.newspaperarchive.com but you can not use it.
The wonderful NewspaperARCHIVE.com or Access Newspaper Archives with searchable and printable newspaper items may NOW be accessed from the Los Angeles CITY Public Library's (LAPL) website at: http://databases.lapl.org/ You need a Los Angeles CITY Public Library card number to access the Access Newspaper Archives website. It's the first one at the top of the list. Click on it and enter your card number and the last 4 digits of your phone number you have on file with the LAPL.
Use the Library of Congress "Search Pages" or "Advance Search" to find persons at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ Click PDF near top and copy and paste text you want into your notes in your genealogy program. The Library of Congress "Search U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present" is at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/search/titles/
Of about the 25,000 historic papers that have been published in the US, Ancestry.com has only 1000 searchable newspapers from the US, UK and Canada at http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/periodicals/news/ Ancestry.com is free at the LAFHL.
Other places that have online newspapers: http://www.neh.gov/projects/usnp.html
Present Day Newspapers
Recent obituaries from hundreds of newspapers are searchable at Ancestry.com at http://www.ancestry.com/search/obit/ and
INTERLIBRARY LOAN (ILL) OF MICROFILMS
You should be able to obtain newspapers on microfilm from at least 25 states. In general, the state historical societies, state libraries and state archives are the best places to obtain the microfilms on ILL. Write them using the "Redbook" (Ref 973 D27rb or JGS 973 D27rb or 973 D27rb) for each state or the "American Library Directory" at a public library to obtain the names and addresses for each state. Ask for a copy of the list of newspapers they have for the town you are researching and a list of the missing issues of the newspapers. Also ask them for their lending costs and policies.
Place your loan order at a smaller town main library such as Burbank or Glendale with working microfilm readers and printers. Don't order from the Los Angeles Public Library.
CURRENT PUBLISHERS OF THE NEWSPAPERS
If the newspaper is in a small town, the fastest and easiest way to obtain an obituary is to write the same newspaper and request a copy of the obituary. Send the name and date of death of the person and a check for "Not to exceed ten dollars" that is shown at http://www.encinojon.com/nottoexceed/
Fill out the check except leave the two lines blank where you would write in the amounts. Write the line "Not to exceed six dollars" under the line where you would normally write out the amount in words. Use the older publication, "Gale Directory of Publications" (maybe 970 E4ay) in other libraries to possibly locate the same newspaper that was published for the time period of your research or for the newspaper that bought or merged with the old newspaper. The latest information is found in the new two-volume publication, "Gale Directory of Publications" at a larger public library.
Write the newspaper and ask them if there is a file in their file morgue for your research subject or ancestor.
ADVERTISING FOR RELATIVES
Place an ad in only the small town newspaper: "Relatives of John Doe ... details ... please write Jim Doe at 1234 Main St., Anytown, USA". Use the "Gale Directory of Publications" (970 E4ay) at other libraries to determine the name and address of the newspaper. Write the newspaper and ask them for a advertising rate card and sample of their newspaper before trying to place an ad.
If the person was a town pioneer or famous person, write a letter to the editor of the town newspaper and tell him you are trying to do family research on the person and would he write a short article on the person and request that people contact you. You could also write a very short, interesting article on the person and ask him to "run it" and tell the editor he may rewrite your article.
If you are traveling to that small town, try placing an ad in the newspaper that reads: "Relatives of John Doe...MANY DETAILS...please meet me on the corner of 6th and Main at noon on July 12...".
FOREIGN COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
You will have to search for directories of newspapers in your selected countries by searching the Family History Library Catalog. Write foreign country archives and libraries for lists and availability of newspapers. Ask for suggestions from persons and organizations that are experienced with the country. See http://xooxleanswers.com/newspaperarchiveseurope.aspx and http://xooxleanswers.com/newspaperarchives7.aspx for some sources.
RESEARCH SUGGESTIONS WHEN RESEARCHING A MICROFILM IN A LIBRARY
1. Bring a soft cushion for the library chair.
2. Bring a lunch and 3 drinks.
3. Bring rolls of change and/or small bills for the machines.
4. Start your research when the library opens.
5. Mondays might be the quietest day.
6. Don't leave the expensive loaned microfilm(s) or anything at the reader when you go on a break.
7. For a medium-sized town daily newspaper in about 1880, you will require about four hours to search each entire year.
8. The newspaper normally has the international, national and state news on the front pages and the ads in the back and someplace in the middle is the local news.
9. Become familiar with the layout or format of the newspaper so you can quickly jump to the local news section.
10. If there is a shortage of microfilm readers and another library patron wants to use your microfilm reader to find one item, I suggest you do the search for them. You might complete the search in three minutes and the patron might take half an hour. If you help the patrons in this way, you'll get back to your research quickly and the librarians will appreciate and respect you and might not kick you off the microfilm reader every 15 minutes.
11. Be clean, neat and quiet in your area. Turn off your cell phone.
12. Bath, dress nicely and be well groomed.
13. Be very polite to the librarians. They receive low wages. They should at least receive respect for their superior intelligence and knowledge.
14. 10., 11., 12. and 13. will bring you greater respect from the librarians.
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