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Using Newspapers!
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Making the Most of Newspapers and a PLOY!

Introduction: The Fianna Guide is an ongoing project which is being compiled by a group of Irish genealogical researchers who are taking online genealogy classes at Virtual University. This term our instructor, Marthe Arends, completely revised the class and added some new and interesting material. I really enjoyed all the lessons presented in the new format, but my favorite lesson was one which was not included in the original syllabus. In response to questions generated by the previous lesson., Marthe introduced a lesson on using newspapers in genealogical research with an emphasis on online sources.

As I worked with this lesson, I became more and more enthusiatic, and kept bombarding the other Fianna members with my homework, each time assuring them that this was truly the final installment of the Rigfennid's homework. Finally I decided to temporaily abandon my other Guide projects and write a brief article on the role of newspapers in genealogical research including the online resources I had discovered.

The following material may seem overly oriented to my own research. I live in the northwest corner of Missouri close to the Kansas, Iowa,and Nebraska borders. I am currently researching my paternal ancestors, Irish famine immigrants, who settled briefly in the eastern part of the United States before migrating here to the midwest in the years immediately before and after the Civil War. However, I am only trying to give you a brief overview of the resources I have found. Please try to think of ways to apply these techniques to your own research. Marthe Arends, our VU instructor, used examples from her research on her German ancestors in the lesson. I used her suggestions to locate other online newspaper sources which were applicable to my own interests.

Newspaper Resorces in Genealogical Research

First of all what information can you find in newspapers? Most genealogists immediately think of obituaries or birth and marriage notices. In areas where no vital records were kept before the 20th century, the use of newspapers is essential in genealogical research. Even in areas where vital records once existed, the records have frequently been destroyed by fire or other disasters. Many southern records were lost when the county courthouses burned. The Great Chicago fire in 1871 destroyed all the Cook County Illinois Public Records so newspapers are essential components in early Cook County genealogical research. In the county where I live many early cemeteries have disappeared or been lost to the Missouri River. The state of Missouri did not achieve 90% statewide registration of deaths until 1911. Often the funeral notice or orbituary from the local newspaper is the only information available on the death (or birth) of an ancestor.

The role of newspapers in genealogical research is not limited to vital statistics, however. As Loretto Szucs says in The Source, "While records of birth, marriage, and death are the most commonly used and the most consistently helpful, only the genealogist's imagination and resourcefulness limit the paper's usefulness in supplying clues.."1 Newspapers included advertisements, legal notices, editorial commments, local news, high school graduation lists, arrest reports, and "gossip".

A recent article in Family Chronicle mentions other newspaper resources. Newspapers in port cities often printed lists of ships that were arriving or departing. These reports included the ship's name, its captain, the type of vessel and the port of origin, or in the case of an outbound vessel its destination. Sometimes the names of the persons importing the cargo and the cargo itself were identified. If the ship was carrying cargo then the names of the passengers might have been included. Information on ships appeared in a section of the paper called 'Marine Intelligence." Other lists might include travellers who were registered in hotels, newly naturalized citizens or persons who had unclaimed mail waiting for them at the post office. In California lists of stage coach passengers were printed in the newspapers.2 (Around the turn of the century every little town in this county had a train station, and travelling by rail was often the fastest and best way to get to the neighboring town. The local newspapers gave the names of those traveling to Corning, or Craig etc. on the "noon" train.)

Unfortunately most newspapers are not indexed. Also as Val Greenwood cautions, they are not always accurate.3 (Although as far as my own research goes I have found that newspaper obituaries are often more accurate than census records. Also newspapers seem to be a good place to for those of us who are doing Irish research to find the county in Ireland where the immigrant was born. Finding a townland on an obituary is rare. On the other hand, although I have read that counties and townlands can occasionally be found on a census, I have never found a county on a census much less a townland.)

"Newspapers on Microform" (3 vols) tells which issues and what newspapers were published near the town and the time period your are searching in order to identify the correct newspaper and it can be found on LDS microfilm #1145942. If none exist, then check for newspapers from the county seat. When you find a newspaper you are interested in, read the source code that is a "key" to where the microfilm is available. From the source code determine the name of the organization that has the microfilm and make arrangements for an interlibrary loan request at your local library.

It can be difficult to locate old newspapers for genealogical research. The Ayer Directory is useful in locating newspapers which are still being published. Both Emily Croom's The Genealogist's Companion & Sourcebook and Ancestry's The Source have long lists of further sources. (See my Bibliography) This is just a very abbreviated list:

American Newspapers, 1821-1936: A Union List of Files Available in the United States and Canada, Winifred Gregory, ed. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1937.

The Ayer Directory of Newspapers and Periodicals, Philadelphia, N.W. Ayer and Sons, annual.

Brigham, Clarence S., History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820. 2 vols., Worcester, Mass., American Antiquarian Society, 1947.

Newspapers in Microform, United States, 1948-1983, Washington D.C., Library of Congress, 1984, 2 vol..

Resources on Line

The internet can be a helpful tool in locating newspaper archives. The State Historical Society of Missouri has the largest collection of state newspapers in the country. There is a description of their holdings online The Special Collections Section of the Kansas City Public Library is putting selected clippings from Kansas City newspapers up at their website.

HomeTown Free Press provides links to local newspapers around the world. Just click the world region you want; then hone down to find the specific location that interests you. The USA section logically organizes the links by state and then lists links alphabetically by city. The USA page also includes a link to an index of college and university Web sites.

In addition to using the internet to locate archived newspapers so that you can peer at the them through the microfilm and fiche readers readers that we genealogists are so attached to, (smile) you can actually find some historic newspapers on line. I have spent the past few months researching the Irish Famine, and have found an incredible amount of online material. Below you will find a link to newspapers published during the famine. When researching a historical topic, don't forget to check modern newspapers for information on your subject. A special famine supplement which ran in the St. John's, British Columbia Times Globe is on the web. In the course of researching this project I searched on "famine" at the Dublin Irish Times website and found some interesting material
Views of the Famine
Excerpts from newspapers published during the famine.

It is fairly easy to locate online newspapers. I am going to cover finding newspapers on the web in some detail later. Unfortunately it is difficult to tell what information a given online newspaper contains (just like offline newspaper sources) without actually visiting the website. To a certain extent search engines on the web are helpful in solving this problem. However, I still think there is an incredible amount of information online that we researchers are missing.

While working on this project I made some really fortuitous (and accidental) "finds". I found a link to the Kansas City Star at Cyndi's Site and realized that the Star was not in our bookmarks.. When I went to the site I noticed a link "digital history":
The Digital History Project contains local history pages created through the combined efforts of Missouri and Kansas schools and local history groups.

On to what Marthe Arends, our instructor, calls "the ploy". I am not going to duplicate Marthe's instructions here since her lessons are her property. Members of Marthe's class and other VU classes are not supposed to post VU material on other websites or duplicate it for any other use. The original technique is not new to those involved in genelogical research. It is the ploy "honed to razor sharpness" that is unique to Marthe. VU is in the process of contructing a free web site. Eventually we may be able to link to Marthe's lesson here.

Genealogists have long used newspapers to locate living relatives in the area their ancestors came from. You can of course place a classified ad. They are inexpensive, and if you include enough information to identify the famiily you are seeking, you might get a response. It is even better to get your query placed in the letters to the editor column. Most sources I checked agreed that you are more likely to get your letter placed in a weekly rather than a daily newspaper.

Basically the homework that got me so excited was using the web to locate newspapers in a geographical area that we were interested in. I really didn't find what I was looking for at first. I did enjoy the assignment and bookmarked the sites that were included in the lesson. I emailed my study group the sites I had found, and told them I thought it was a fun project, but that I didn't find that much of benefit to my own research. However, the more I thought about it the more determined I became to find some papers that could have potential value for my own genelogical research. I kept finding more and more newspaper indexes. Here is the list of sites I eventually accumulated. Remember you might have to visit several indexes before you locate a paper of interest. Also some links at a particular site might not be working. I find it easier to move to another index than to go to a search engine, and find the new URL Although I do have a favorite, The Ultimate Collection of Newslinks. You might also want to check Cyndi"s newspaper page

Newspapers Online

Editor && Publisher

U.S. Newspaper Program National Union List

The Ultimate Collection of News Links

AJR News Link

My Virtual Newspaper

Next I located some newspapers in the United States where I might try to contact long lost relatives. For example my maternal anestors came from Morristown, TN. I want to start searching on my maternal lines when I get done with my Irishmen (If I ever get done with my Irishmen!). I used a newspaper index (The Ultimate Collection of Newslinks), and found the folowing paper.

The Morristown Tn Citizen Tribune
(classified ads and an email address where you can contact the newspaper)

Irish Newspapers

Irish National Newspapers on Microfilm

Norman Ross Publishing Inc. for 18th and 19th century
Irish newspapers on microfilm from the British Library

Irish Newspapers and Journals at Memorial University of Newfoundland

Newspapers at The National Library of Ireland

Irish Media Contacts

OnLine Papers - Ireland

Irish Regional Newspapers Online - RMBI Irish Newspapers Media Bureau

I found a number of Irish newspapers.. I am just going to discuss the ones that have the most value for genealogical research. However, no matter whether the editor welcomes genealogical material or not, the newspaper is not going be of much help in locating living relatives if it is a County Cork regional newspaper and your ancestors came from County Antrim. You can find a map of Ireland at:

Most sites will tell you what their circulation is and what area they cover. Remember you will probably have a better chance of getting your letter printed in a provincial newspaper (especially a weekly publication). However I have included links to some large national dailies with a wide circulation because they include some items of interest to Irish genealogical researchers.

star star star The Western People (County Mayo)
The Western People is another weekly. They have put their obituaries on line. A Fianna member has actually had letters published in this paper! Three stars!!

The Mayo NewsObituaries online

The Connaught Telegraph (County Mayo)

The Munster Express
Classifeds, The X-Waterford Pages with names and email addresses,

The Limerick Post
(A Limerick Newspaper! One of the reasons I kept on searching through newspaper indexes)
If you click on the link at the bottom of the page you can go to E-News Clare

The Clare Champion

Another regional weekly. They have a "Times Past" column.

The Kerryman

Kerry's Eye
A weekly tabloid published in Tralee, County Kerry. Obituaries for Kilkenny, also.

The Kerryman

Cork Examiner and Evening Echo covers Cork and Limerick. Address:
The Editor
The Examiner
Acadamey Street

The Nationalist and Leinster Times
A South Leinster Newspaper - Carlow, Kildare, and Laois

The Belfast Telegraph

The Irish News
There is a Family Notices Page here, but it is devoted to memorials, obituaries, funeral notices, sympathy notes, (which is of course of some genealogical value) After searching on the site, I was leaving when I noticed a small link at the bottom of the page "messages". There is a message board on the site. You could post a query here.

The Echo
South Dublin County

Kilkenny People

The Limerick Post

Limerick Leader
Longford Leader

The Galway Advertiser
classifieds, letters to the editor (these seem to be mostly about local affairs or politics)

The Irish Independent Online

The Irish Times (Dublin)
Probably not a good spot for the ploy, but there is an Irish Language page. (Those of us who are trying to pick up some Gaelic via the web could practice here.)


1. Szucs, Loretto Dennis, "Newspapers", The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, Arlene Eakles and Johni Cerny, ed. Ancestry Publishing Company, Orem, Utah, 1984, p. 407.

2. Carr, Peter, "Old News is Good News", Family Chronicle Magazine, Sept/Oct, 1997. pp. 41-43.

3. Greenwood, Val D., The Researchers Guide to American Genelogy 2nd Edition, Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. Baltimore, Maryland, 1990, p. 145.


Carr, Peter, "Old News is Good News", Family Chronicle Magazine, September/October, 1997.

Croom, Emily Anne, The Genealogist's Companion & Sourcebook, Better Way Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1994.

Everton Publishers, [email protected], "How Newspapers Can Help with your Research", Online., 1997.

Greenwood, Val D., The Researchers Guide to American Genealogy 2nd Edition, Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, 1990.

State Historical Society of Missouri, "Using Newspapers for Genealogical Research", Online.URL. Accessed 24 February 1997.

Szucs, Loretto Dennis, "Newspapers", The Source:: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, Arlene Eakles and Johni Cerny, ed., Ancestry Publishing Company, Orem, Utah, 1984.

Rigfennid 3

Rosemary Ffolliott has published an Index to Biographical Notices Collected from Newspapers, Principally Relating to Cork and Kerry, 1756-1827. This "index" is actually a transcription of the complete notices in alphabetical order. The National Library and the Cork City Library have copies of this index. It has also been filmed by the LDS.

In the 1997 Clogher Record, one can read abstracts of Death Notices and Personals for Counties Monaghan, Fermanagh and Cavan, and Tyrone, 1848-1873

There were advertisements in several Eastern USA newspapers for much of the 18th and 19th centuries. Some have been indexed and are published as Missing Friends.

Much like MISSING FRIENDS from the Boston papers, The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania has published Philadelphia Newspaper Abstracts 1791-1870 which could be of value to many, noting that Philadelphia was a port, or stepping off point, for immigrants. There are death notices and personals here. Some of these notices were from persons in other than Pennsylvania.

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