Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Something you need to know when researching in newspapers


This is a follow-up post to Thank you ACPL and PERSI.  My dilemma is finding a marriage record in South Carolina, a state that didn’t bother to record marriages at the county level until 1911.  The two best places to find marriages in South Carolina are church records (the last post) and newspapers (today’s post).

There some great online sources of newspapers, some are free, some are subscription:

If you limit your newspaper search to what is available on line you will probably miss something. There are a lot of newspapers out there that are on microfilm at the state archives and within the university and public library systems that are not online.  There are also many that are original papers that haven’t even been microfilmed.  How do you find these?  The Library of Congress has a wonderful tool:

Search U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present 

This site will tell you EVERY newspaper that was in print in a certain location and in a certain time period AND where you can find them. 

Here is an example.  I want to know what papers were in publication in Georgetown, Georgetown County, South Carolina between 1780 and 1790.

There is only one hit, The Georgetown Chronicle and South-Carolina Weekly Advertiser.  It was in publication from 179?-1797 (the exact starting date is unknown because as you will see below not many issues have survived time).  The search picked this paper up because I had entered 1790 and the first date could be 1790.

Now I can see a list of repositories that have this paper and not only that, it will tell me exactly what years/issues they have. 

American Antiquarian Soc, Newsp Proj, Worcester, MA
Dates: 1796:3:22 Original

Harvard Univ, Houghton Libr, Cambridge, MA
Dates 1797:1:19 Original

Univ of S Carolina, Columbia, SC
Dates: 1796: 3:22, 1797:1:19 Microfilm

You can see that only two papers have survived.  The American Antiquarian Society has one and Harvard has the other.  The University of South Carolina has microfilmed these two papers and they hold the microfilm.

This was a very limited example.  Now I will give you one that has a few more hits.  This time I will do the search for Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina for 1780 – 1790 (same 10 year span, different city).  Charleston was an important port city so I expect to see more hits and I do. There were TWENTY-SIX papers in publication during this time! Some of these are overlaps but still.

1. The South-Carolina & American general gazette [microform]. (Charlestown [S.C.]) 1764-1781
2. The Royal South-Carolina gazette [microform]. (Charles-Town, S.C.) 1780-1782
3. Charleston gazette. (Charleston, S.C.) 1778-1780
4. The South-Carolina gazette and general advertizer. (Charlestown [i.e. Charleston, S.C.]) 1783-1784
5. South Carolina state gazette and daily advertiser. (Charleston, S.C.) 1784-1785
6. The Columbian herald, or The Patriotic courier of North-America. (Charleston, S.C.) 1784-1785
7. The Charleston morning post, and daily advertiser. (Charleston) 1786-1787
8. The state gazette of South-Carolina. (Charleston [S.C.]) 1785-1793
9. The city gazette, and the daily advertiser. (Charleston) 1787-1803
10. The Columbian herald, or, The Independent courier of North-America. (Charleston, S.C.) 1785-1792
11. The Gazette of the state of South-Carolina. (Charles-town [S.C.]) 1777-1785
12. The South-Carolina weekly advertiser. (Charlestown [i.e. Charleston], S.C.) 1783-178?
13. Chronicle of liberty, or, The republican intelligencer. ([Charleston, S.C.]) 1783-178?
14. The royal gazette. ([Charleston] S.C.) 1781-1782
15. The South-Carolina & American general gazette. (Charlestown [S.C.]) 1764-1781
16. The Royal South-Carolina gazette. (Charles-Town, S.C.) 1780-1782
17. The Charlestown gazette. (Charlestown, S.C.) 1778-1780
18. South Carolina state gazette, and general advertiser. (Charleston [S.C.]) 1784-1784
19. The Charleston evening gazette. ([Charleston, S.C.]) 1785-178?
20. The South-Carolina weekly gazette. (Charlestown [i.e. Charleston, S.C.]) 1783-1784
21. The South-Carolina gazette, and public advertiser. (Charleston [S.C.]) 1784-1786
22. The South-Carolina gazette, and the general advertiser. (Charleston) 1786-1786
23. The South-Carolina weekly chronicle. (Charleston, S.C.) 1787-1787
24. The City gazette, and the daily advertiser [microform]. (Charleston [S.C.]) 1787-1803
25. The Charleston morning post and daily advertiser [microform]. (Charleston, S.C.) 1786-1787
26. The city gazette, and the daily advertiser [microform]. (Charleston [S.C.]) 1787-1803

Nice!  Each one of these has its own list of repositories.  I will only show you #3, the Charleston Gazette, 1778-1780.

There is only one place you can find this paper and that is at Wagner College on Staten Island, NY (why does NY have a SC paper?  I have no clue). Here are the issues they have:

1778: 11:3
1779: 1:26, 3:23, 11:23
1780: 1: 11, 18

These are on microfilm.  Since the original papers are not listed at any repository it is assumed they have been destroyed. 

I am sure that you can see from these very simple examples that there are a gazillion papers out there that you will never see if you only rely on online newspaper sites.


Copyright © 2015 Michèle Simmons Lewis


  1. Always, always your blog is sucgh a good read...thank you.

  2. Great post... and microfilm can almost always be obtained through interlibrary loan. And for a more complete listing or repositories for a title, a search in World Cat might turn up additional owners. Your librarian can help you figure out how to get hold of a newspaper that is on microfilm.

  3. In addition to lists of newspapers you can search if you can locate them, many public libraries have compiled every-name indexes to some or all that they hold (on paper or microfilm).