Old newspapers provide more than a venue for opinionated editors or advertisement. They are a time capsule of the daily life of our ancestors. They were a focal point for communication in communities.
While many of the original newspapers have become brittle and have crumbed to dust, we are all fortunate to have the “Texas Newspaper Collection” which is apart of the “Eugene C. Barker Texas History Collection” at the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. The Barker Collection was created in 1945 and contains the most extensive collection of Texas history material, including, books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, photographs, and recorded sound.
The Texas Newspaper Collection is one of the largest newspaper collections in the United States, containing original editions of some of the earliest published Texas newspapers and includes over 3,000 locally published newspapers from nearly 254 counties of the State of Texas. In addition, the collection contains more than 100 Czech, German and Spanish language newspapers.
One of the best finding aids to the Texas Newspaper Collection is an Internet database where you can search by county or city to see if they have newspapers for the area and time-period you are researching. The database is located at: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/tnp/
The collection manages the Texas portion of the U.S. Newspaper Project. This project is a major program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to locate, catalog, and preserve on microfilm historically valuable newspapers in the State of Texas.
Unfortunately, the Texas Newspaper Collection microfilm is not available through inter-library loan. To view microfilm, the collection is located in the Sid Richardson Hall, Unit 2, on the eastside of the University of Texas at Austin campus adjacent to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library. Ample public parking is available directly east of the Center. Public hours are 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday throughout the year. I strong recommend calling before you visit to ask questions: 512/495-4538.
You can also find old Texas newspapers on microfilm at the Texas State Library and Archives at 1201 Brazos Street, Austin. Microfilm newspapers are available for on-site viewing in the Reference/Documents Collection (Room 300), Monday-Friday, 8 am to 5 pm or through inter-library loan. For a list of newspaper available at the State Library and Archives: http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ref/abouttx/news.html.
When you read old newspapers, there is no set pattern for conducting a search for stories, obituaries, etc. Many articles do not have headlines and only consist of one or two sentences.
Recently, I was reading an April 21, 1904 edition of the “Cameron Herald” newspaper. I was hoping to find an obituary for my great-great-great-grandmother, Martha Cave Knight Carver who died on April 16, 1904. Instead, I found only a short sentence in the “Local” column stated, "Last Saturday morning (April 16th) a blizzard reached this section of Texas, and the cold nearly reached the freezing point." While this short sentence did not tell me anything about Grandma Martha, it did tell me about the day she died.
Learning to search old newspapers is not something anyone can teach you. You can only learn by doing and making mistakes. All you can do is just pick-up a roll of microfilm and start reading. However, you might luck-out and find someone has already abstracted and/or index the newspapers your hope to find information. Check the card catalog for your local library and ask your librarian to help search the card catalog of other libraries.
A good friend, John Dorroh, searched for over 10 years to find information on the town of Freezeout, Milam County, Texas, where his grandfather was born. After a search of the “Handbook of Texas Online,” he had the information in less than 20 seconds. The “Handbook of Texas Online” is an encyclopedia of Texas history, geography and culture. It is an online version of the “Handbook of Texas.” The website contains more than 23,000 articles on people, places, events, historical themes, institutions, famous and notorious Texans, military units, towns and counties and a variety of other topics. This searchable database is a gold mine of information for genealogists and historians. Most importantly the encyclopedia will be a useful tool for school students. To begin your search, go to: http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/.
In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.
Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This webpage was last created on 20 Aug 1999 and was last revised on 8 Sep 1999, 9 Jan 2000, 15 Nov 2001
Copyright © 1999, 2000 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604