Today’s post is about the sleuthing librarians and archivists who are finding, sharing, and saving historic newspapers. It can be frustrating to look for a newspaper needed for research and not find a digital version online. But this post explains some of the behind-the-scenes work.

U.S. Newspaper Directory

I’ve written before about the joint NEH-Library of Congress project, Chronicling America, which offers free digitized historic newspapers from many U.S. states. But it’s easy to overlook the work being done to compile the U.S. Newspaper Directory 1690-Present, a database locating existing copies of newspapers in repositories throughout the United States. The U.S. Newspaper Directory 1690-Present is part of the Chronicling America site, but it’s not too obvious either that it exists or what it can do for your research.

And if you’re an archivist, before you can save a newspaper, you have to find out where it exists.

This directory contains a list of virtually all of the newspapers published in America since 1690. Compiled by LC librarians, it helps you identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access these newspapers. Not all of them are digitized yet, of course. But the directory will tell you which repositories hold the newspaper in question. At this writing, there are 153,029 different newspapers in this database.

Saving Historic Newspapers

A recent NEH article, Uncovering Historic Newspapers In the Unlikeliest of Places, documents the work being done in Pennsylvania to find newspapers previously thought lost:

As our field work commenced throughout 67 Pennsylvania counties, more titles were found for every county, revealing that the number of newspapers had been underestimated by as much as 200%.  Field workers canvassed historical societies and museums; county court houses; academic, public, special and school libraries; newspaper publishers; owners of defunct newspapers; antique dealers; and any private collectors who could be identified.

We discovered that many private citizens held short runs or scattered single issues that later proved invaluable in our attempt to fill gaps before microfilming. Moreover, extensive holdings were also in the hands by private collectors. Within the first year, the Penn State staff was astonished to learn that sixteen private individuals collectively held 725 years of Pennsylvania newspaper history!

Search Strategies

When you search U.S. Newspaper Directory 1690-Present database, structure your query using these categories alone or in combination:

  • Location
  • Time period
  • Keywords
  • Frequency
  • Language
  • Ethnic newspapers
  • Labor newspapers
  • Material type
  • Library of Congress Catalog Number (LCCN)

Search results list specific newspapers with individual entries containing:

  • Title
  • Place of publication
  • Geographic coverage
  • Publisher
  • Dates of publication
  • Description
  • Frequency
  • Language
  • Subjects
  • Notes
  • LCCN (Library of Congress Catalog Number)
  • OCLC (Online Computer Library Center Number)
  • Preceding Titles

Stay tuned to learn more about finding, sharing, and saving historic newspapers for genealogy research. New finds are being made all the time!