What’s Black and White and Read all over…Sometimes Even a Century and a Half Later? By Dean Guarnaschelli

Historical researchers have a lot to gain from archived newspapers. At first glance, newspapers seem to offer a predictable ‘type’ of information, namely reports on affairs both at home and on an international in scope. What becomes noticeable during research is that the age of a newspaper tells us a great deal about the balance between local and global news reported during a given era.

The concept of a newspaper is rather stable. This makes old newspapers an invaluable source for research aimed at finding out more about human perception over time. One such example would be the section papers have in which they offer their readers advice. Focusing on these features can reveal a lot to the historian about the subscribers and their expectations during that time.

From a genealogical point of view, birth announcements and death notices provide many facts, but newspapers from the turn of the twentieth century and even prior quite often contain immigration material that can lead to findings about groups en route to their new life.

Foreign language newspapers printed in the United States are perhaps the most informative about immigration to America. Besides reporting on home country events, these papers were ways for relatives to find one another back in a time when letter writing, a costly and slow-paced medium, was the only alternative.

Using digitally archived newspapers to temporarily reverse the unfortunate but also inevitable ‘extinction’ of New York City’s original foreign language newspapers opens up a world that tells stories of hope, reunification, tragedy and laughter that let us know how valuable our current tales will be to future researchers.


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