Tracking Your Past

Doris Green

The joy of genealogy comes not only in identifying long-ago ancestors, but also in unearthing the stories that make them come to life. The Chronicling America website makes available historic newspaper pages and photos, which family historians can search at no cost from their home or library computer.
The site, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov, is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress to develop a searchable database of U.S. newspapers. The partnership, called the National Digital Newspaper Program, maintains the Chronicling America website.
To get started, go to the second search bar down from the top of the page and select a state, range of dates, and topic — such as Mineral Point, Henry Dodge or Badger Mine. When I searched for “Badger Mine” between 1882 and 1929, the second of 79 results was from the Iowa County Democrat of Feb. 1, 1912, which stated: “The Badger mine, situated near Mifflin and owned by Linden people have [sic] changed owners. The purchasers are eastern capitilists [sic].”
Federal grants to state and local organizations have funded the scanning of microfilmed and printed historic newspaper pages. The Wisconsin Historical Society received a 2015 grant to scan 100,000 pages and in 2018 received a second National Endowment for the Humanities grant to digitize and add another 100,000 pages to the database. A WHS advisory committee representing historical societies, libraries, educators and journalists selected the newspaper titles to add. These included the Baraboo News (1906-11), the Baraboo Weekly News (1912-13) and the Vernon County Censor (1898-1922).
If you are looking for a Wisconsin newspaper, you can also search the online Wisconsin Historical Society Newspaper Collection (www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS15022). It offers a state map showing towns with digitized newspapers. Click on the town to bring up the name of the town, newspaper and publication dates available. A link takes you to the paper on the Changing America site. The collection currently lists, for instance, 26 newspapers in Grant County, 21 papers in Iowa County, 14 papers in Lafayette County and 17 papers in Sauk County.
The Wisconsin Historical Society Newspaper Collection additionally offers the Wisconsin Name Index Collection, containing obituaries and newspaper clippings, and excerpts from biographical books. The Wisconsin Local History and Biographical Articles Collection contains 16,000 newspaper articles. The society’s library subscribes to several newspaper databases available on the library’s public computers. Newspaperarchive.com can also be used at home at no cost to Wisconsin residents through badgerlink.net.

Doris Green authored “Elsie’s Story: Chasing a Family Mystery” and “Wisconsin Underground: A Guide to Cave, Mines, and Tunnels.” Coming soon: “Minnesota Underground,” co-authored Greg Brick, PhD. All are available from http://henschelhausbooks.com, Amazon or your bookstore.