Chronicling America: A Quick Tour

By Sunny Jane Morton

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Chronicling America is a free online portal to US newspaper content. Hi, I’m Sunny Morton here with a quick tour of this fantastic resource.



The Chronicling America website is a free portal to finding and exploring historical US newspapers. It’s a long-term investment by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities that means to bring us, over time, access to news print that represents the diverse stories and viewpoints of the past.


There are two main areas on the Chronicling America website I want to point you to. First is the US newspaper directory, with nearly 140,000 entries for every historical newspaper known to the Library of Congress and to libraries that hold copies of these newspapers.



Access the US newspaper directory from the Chronicling America home page. Use it to discover what newspapers were in print in the time and place your family lived.


I’m going to scroll down here so you’re not distracted by the search box that we’ll get to in a minute.


Here in the US newspaper directory, you can browse by a newspaper title, but usually genealogists are in search of newspaper titles, so go down and run a search by state, county, and city, sometimes city.


If your family was in a rural area, you may want to look across the entire county or even in neighboring counties for newspapers that may have covered their hometown.


Then narrow the timeframe. Here’s the tool for doing that.


I’m going to look between 1920 and 1930.


I typically run a search at this point to see what exists, but I do have other options here if I want to look for newspapers in other languages or supporting other ethnicities, or for a certain type of worker. I can do that here, but I’m going to go ahead and run this search.


And here I find some that are not going to be relevant for the time period I’m interested in, maybe, because sometimes they don’t know the full run of the newspaper. And then some also—you’re going to find duplicates for because the newspapers sometimes changed names. So, click on a search result to look at one that might be interesting to you.


Here I can see information about the name, the place, the geographic coverage, the publisher, how often it was published, and then if I scroll all the way down I am also going to see other related titles that this paper went by different names, and then most importantly here, I can click to view the complete holdings so that I can see various libraries that have this particular newspaper and what format they have it in and which issues they have.


Once you see this, you can plan your strategy for accessing newspaper content either by visiting the library that’s most accessible to you, or hiring a researcher to visit for you, or asking for look up services.


The other thing you look for on Chronicling America is digitized newspapers and hopefully some of the newspapers that you find that are of interest to you may have been digitized.


Not all of the newspapers in the directory have been digitized.


Don’t we wish they were?


Rather, they have had responsible groups from each state select digitized pages that represents a state’s regional history, geographic coverage, diverse communities, and notable events.


Nearly 19 million digitized newspaper pages have become searchable online so far since 2016.


The site has been adding content spanning 1690 to 1963, but as you can see here from this table, the bulk of the coverage ramps up in the late 1800s and is highest for about 1900 to the 1920s, meaning that you’re most likely to find newspaper coverage between the late 1800s and early 1900s.


Most of the newspapers are in the English language and are meant to reach either a general or a white audience, but there are digitized papers that represent several different ethnic groups on Chronicling America, including African Americans and German speakers.


Back here on this site I routinely bypass the basic search box here because I like the advanced search.


Otherwise, I get way too many search results for not as a specific of search.


So now I’m going to repeat the search process that I used earlier.


I don’t know the newspaper title I want, but I’ll look for Colorado and now I can narrow down even further the date range I want. I’m interested in finding newspaper coverage about the 1921 Pueblo, Colorado flood.


You can look for a specific date range if you want.


If you’re looking for something specific and there are other factors you can use to limit here.


In this case, I’m going to say: flood and Pueblo,


within five words of each other, looking for any coverage about a flood in Pueblo.


When I run the search, I find some fantastic coverage, including pictures, and you better believe I’m going to jump right to that page right there and zoom in and look at these pictures.


You can see I’ve got nice tools here for zooming in and zooming out, and even for going full screen. I can go back and forth in this issue and even between issues if they’ve been digitized on the site.


And then I have options here for looking at the computer-generated text on this page, for downloading a PDF version of this page, or an image version of this page.


I could also make a digital clipping of it if I wanted to.


So those are the two most important areas on the site to get you started.


Now go check it out:

Last updated, December 2021.

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