Free online German-language newspapers published in the United States are invaluable resources for genealogists. If you’re searching for ancestors from Germany, Austria, and Prussia who emigrated to America, 19th- and 20th-century German-language newspapers can hold important clues not found in English-language records.
Published in areas with large enclaves of German-speaking immigrants, these newspapers fostered communities and neighborhoods. According to the Library of Congress, by 1890 more than 1,000 German newspapers were being published in the United States.
Chronicling America is a Library of Congress website offering access to newspapers published in the United States between 1836 and 1922. Nearly eight million newspaper pages from 32 states and the District of Columbia are digitized and available.
Here are 19 historic German-language newspaper titles available for free at Chronicling America. Click on the hyperlinks in the titles to start your research.
Want to know more? The National Endowment for the Humanities has an interesting article on their website about the challenges of making German-language newspapers published in Fraktur searchable.
The many angles, breaks, frills, and different weights used in Fraktur, compared to more common square typefaces, makes the writing in these papers particularly difficult to analyze with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, the primary tool for creating searchable text. While Fraktur typesetting was quite common in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it is seldom used today. Until recently, software tools that could easily read modern German were not equipped to read texts printed in Fraktur.
In 2008, the European Union embarked on a three-year program called IMPACT, which brought national libraries together with software development companies to improve access to historic texts. By the final IMPACT conference in 2011, the program had produced several outcomes in text recognition that led to revision of the Library of Congress’s technical guidelines to incorporate non-English language publications. These outcomes included improved recognition tools for Fraktur text as well as other European languages. Taking advantage of these, Chronicling America has added indexing and stemming systems—tools that understand the dictionary and grammar of a particular language and enable searching in it—for German, French, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Swedish. The Library continues to work with state partners and software vendors to refine searchability and add new languages to Chronicling America.
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