Nothing is more frustrating to an author, researcher or individual with a passion for a place or a historical period than to discover that the records they want to see are stored in a university or historical society library where they are classified in terms of linear feet. Internet searches that yield such hits are a real barrier to learning more, finding family histories, or finishing a book.
Fortunately, more and more organizations and units of government are funding the creation of searchable databases of digitized records. If you know anyone searching for their great great grandparents on Ancestry.com, then you’ve probably heard that new material is becoming available daily.
Now, Chronicling America is bringing old newspapers into the modern world by scanning them into a publicly accessible database with full-text search capabilities via names, topics, places and keywords. Called the National Digital Newspaper Program, the project represents a joint effort of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC).
The Montana Historical Society noted in the current edition of “Montana, the Magazine of Western History,” that issues of the Anaconda Standard, Butte New Age, The Colored Citizen, Daily Yellowstone Journal, Fergus County Argus, Helena Independent, Mineral Argus, Montana News and Montana Post in the late 1800s are now available. Many more papers and issues will come online between now and 2013.
As a fan of Glacier National Park, I found an immediate number of hits for materials I’d never had access to before unless I was willing to pay a researcher or staff member at a library several dollars per page to Xerox and snail mail me materials out of a collection—and then hope I guessed right about the dates and page numbers.
Your special places may be covered by newspapers that are already available. The searches are easy and free. Of, if you’re just browsing, the site’s homepage displays old newspapers from the current date.