Finding Microfilmed Newspapers

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Newspapers, especially obituaries, are one of my favorite genealogical tools. They are typically filled with family information, sometimes tell is about a person's education and career, tell us what church the person attended and where they are buried. But sometimes finding the newspaper you need can be difficult. There are some on-line resources: Proquest for large cities (New York, Chicago) and NewspaperArchive for many smaller cities. But these only scratch the surface; for the vast majority of cities and towns in the U.S. we must depend on microfilm.

And how do we find the microfilm? We typically have (if we are lucky) a place and a date. Library catalogs usually give us options for searching that include Title, Author, Subject, and Keyword; not very useful. But there is a relatively new network of library catalogs called WorldCat, a network of library catalogs. You can read more about it here. It is also the repository for the U.S. Newspaper Program and, as such, contains information about a huge number of microfilmed newspapers.

OK, you ask, exactly how do we go about using WorldCat to find newspapers? Back to the local library; almost all provide access either directly to WorldCat or through FirstSearch. If you go into your library’s web site and find only FirstSearch you will get a page that looks like this; click on WorldCat (circled in red).

FirstSearch Home Page
Now you are into WorldCat, but be sure that you are in Advanced Search, as shown here (again, circled in red).
At this point you are ready to do a search. Go down the page a bit and enter the name of the town of interest in the top search box. I have selected a small town in Minnesota where my mother was born.
Now, just to the right is another box, usually with “Keyword” filled in. Go just to the right, where you see two small arrows, one pointing up and the other pointing down. Click on one of the arrows and a menu will open, and here you see the difference between FirstSearch and other library catalogs: most provide the option to search by title, author, subject, or keyword; FirstSearch provides many more options. Go down the menu a bit and select “Publisher Location.”