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Newspaper publication usually began soon after the initial settlement of a place. Since civil registration of vital records began quite late in many parts of Canada, newspapers can be an excellent alternate source of family information. They may have notices of births, marriages, and deaths; obituaries; and local news. To find information, you will need the place and approximate date of the event. If no newspaper was published in the community at the time, check the newspaper of a nearby town. Canada also had some denominational newspapers that listed births, marriages, and deaths of church members who lived in many parts of the country.
Newspapers can also give other clues about your ancestor in biographical sketches, local history columns, and lists of incoming ships and passengers. You may find it helpful to place a notice in a current local newspaper to contact others who have information about your family.
A description of the newspaper collections at larger archives and libraries in the provinces of Canada is in Angus Baxter’s In Search of Your Canadian Roots (see Canada For Further Reading). The National Library of Canada, the provincial archives, and many large public and university libraries have some newspapers on microfilm.
Canadian Newspapers on Microform Held by the National Library is an electronic publication, which is organized by province and city. It lists more than 2,300 titles, most of which are available through the interlibrary loan system to public libraries. It is at the National Library of Canada and available on the Internet.
Find names and locations of newspapers in these printed sources available at many libraries in North America:
Newspapers in Microform: Foreign Countries. . . . Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1984. (Family History Library book 011.35 N479f 1983; seven microfiche 6085887.) This lists, by geographic location, newspapers on microform and about 210 Canadian repositories where they are available. Most can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.
Union List of Canadian Newspapers Held by Canadian Libraries. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1977. (Family History Library book 971 B35u.) This lists 5,000 Canadian original and microform versions of newspapers and 125 Canadian libraries where the newspapers are available.
Gale Directory of Publications: An Annual Guide to Newspapers, Magazines, Journals, and Related Publications (formerly Ayer Directory of Publications). Annual. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1869–. (Family History Library book 970 B34a.) This lists newspapers currently published in Canada and the United States. Most newspaper publishers will not search their files for you, but some will copy an article if you give a specific date and event.
Names and addresses of current Canadian daily and weekly newspapers are also in:
Canadian Almanac and Directory. Toronto: Canadian Almanac and Directory Publishing Co., annual. (Family History Library book 971 E4ca.)
Canadian Sourcebook. Don Mills, Ont.: Southam Inc., annual. (Family History Library book 971 B5c.) Editions before 1998 were called:
Corpus Almanac & Canadian Sourcebook. Don Mills, Ont.: Corpus Information Services, annual. (Family History Library book 971 B5c.)
For the location in Canada and content of various newspaper indexes, see:
Burrows, Sandra, and Franceen Gaudet. Checklist of Indexes to Canadian Newspapers=Liste de contrôle des index de journaux canadiens. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1987. (Family History Library book 971 B32b.)
Most provinces have guides to newspapers and the archives and libraries that hold them. The Family History Library does not collect Canadian newspapers but does acquire published indexes and abstracts of obituaries, marriages, and other vital information found in newspapers. Newspaper indexes and abstracts are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
[PROVINCE] - NEWSPAPERS
[PROVINCE], [COUNTY], [CITY] - NEWSPAPERS
[PROVINCE], [CITY] - NEWSPAPERS
Abstracts are also listed under VITAL RECORDS, and some have been published in indexed periodicals (see "Periodicals").
Newspapers are also being digitized and made available on the internet. The British Columbia Digital Library lists over 40 websites of Historical Newspapers which include newspapers in Austria, Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the United States.
Many historic newspapers are available to search and browse at Google News Archive.
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