Sunday, October 14, 2007

Looking for early newspapers in New York State?

Read any good newspapers lately?

Here are some ideas and places to search for information on early newspapers in any area of New York State.

First I go to the New York State Library Newspaper Project website and catalog at: . You can see what the library has on microfilm in their collection, all of which may be ordered for your own use through inter-library loan (IIL.) There is also a way that you can purchase any of these microfilms, at a fairly reasonable rate.

The NYS Library has been VERY serious about locating and filming any holdings of early NYS newspapers. They have scoured museums and archives all over, as well as private holdings that desired to have their papers preserved. Many of these films were created by the state library and some were purchased as duplicates of other original film holders. The above website is very helpful to see what is EASILY available.

Next I go to French's NYS Gazetteer of 1860, (which is the VERY best tool for NYS research IMHO,) and in the footnotes at the start of each county section is a very detailed description of all of the newspapers that were known to have ever been published for each county to the knowledge of Mr. French or his canvassers, as of 1860.

If you do not have your own copy of French's in your personal library yet, shame on you \grin/, you may download a free digital version from I keep it on a thumb drive on a lanyard around my neck when I'm traveling, no kidding!

Now the chances of some runs of a newspaper, or even some holdings of individual newspapers that are not in the above catalog "might" still exist. One or two issues might have been found in an old trunk, or lined the bottom of a bureau drawer, or hopefully not a parrot cage. But you get the idea, you will have to search for them.

Try google for the paper's name in quotes, which you get from French's, or search for the publisher's name, or go on the county GenWeb site. You can get to every county GenWeb site very easily by going to my website at and clicking on "NY COUNTIES & CENSUS," and then when you click on each county name it takes you directly to that county website. You will have to keep digging and don't give up. They are out there.

Another massive collection of all early newspapers from anywhere, are at the American Antiquarian Society, in Worcester, Mass. You can go there and actually handle the originals if you want the real warm and fuzzies. Better though, many of their holdings are also now being microfilmed and being made available for public use, usually through subscription based services like, genealogybank, and probably more. Do a search for "early American newspapers." Be sure also to check the Family History Library in Salt Lake City at Click on their library/library catalog. Hey, you never know!

Always check the county GenWeb site or the rootsweb message boards also. If you do make any fantastic discoveries of films that are not at the NYS Library, please let me know and I will blog about my new best friend.

Have fun!

Dick Hillenbrand
Upstate New York Genealogy

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