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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian: Newspaper Records  by Ryan Taylor. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

The Names of Newspapers

One given in the history of newspapers is that their names change. Often the changes are minute, and equally often the changes go from one thing to another and back again. It may be that the proprietor wants to renew the paper’s appeal, or simply wants a change. When ownership changes, altering the title is an obvious choice but a delicate balance might be struck between complete change and continuity. At other times, two papers merge and so do their names.

While all this happens, the populace will often not bother to change how they refer to the paper. The newspaper mentioned earlier, The Kitchener-Waterloo Record, was originally the Kitchener Record until 1948 when the elevation of Waterloo to the status of a city caused the change to The Kitchener-Waterloo Record. Recently the paper’s official name changed to The Record which is how everyone referred to it all along.

The only difficulties which this might cause the researcher is, first, that they might not know exactly what paper is being referred to, and secondly, their own bibliographic reference (footnotes) in the family history might be affected.

Since local people refer to the paper by some shorthand, whatever its name (‘The Record’), published indexes or even listings in bibliographies might use this shorter form, ignoring the changes. The newspaper names in Gilchrist’s Ontario directory are like this. A variation of this is to use the current newspaper’s name to refer to past issues, or vice versa. The Bruce & Grey Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society has published numerous volumes of newspaper indexes of the Owen Sound Sun-Times. All the volumes so far published are for a time before theSun-Times existed, when the paper was called the Times.

The only sure way for a researcher to verify a newspaper name for bibliographic purposes is to look at the masthead personally to check it. When you have the microfilm for reading, be sure to note the correct masthead name with your extractions.

Interpreting a Newspaper Bibliography

Entries in the bibliographies will be in a coded format to save space. The format should be explained in the introduction to the volume. Check it first to understand the format and the criteria used for inclusion of titles. For instance, if you are looking for a religious newspaper in a certain area, ask yourself if the compiler included religious titles. Are they in volume 3 instead of the one you have? Another advantage to reading the introduction is that it might well contain ideas which you have not considered and which will help you in your research.

Example of a Catalogue Entry from Guide to British Columbia Newspaper Collections (1988)

Notice that the original paper and microform versions of the newspaper are catalogued separately. They are often catalogued in a single entry, so researchers must be prepared to watch for them together.

Here are the contents of the entry:

w Title

w Numbering (volume 1 to volume 2) and dates (1907-1908)

w Not all newspapers are numbered, and not all have volumes. Some have individually numbered issues.

w Place of publication, publisher and dates (repeated), given in a library format.

w Frequency (d: daily; w: weekly; m: monthly)

w Note concerning changed place of publication

w Name of publisher

w Subtitle: many newspapers have a subtitle, declaration of philosophy or area of interest stated in the masthead.

w Name of editor: note the difference between ‘publisher’ and ‘editor’—one is the executive in charge (the publisher), the other does the work of determining what appears in the paper and its appearance (the editor). They may be the same person on a small newspaper, and the publisher may also be the owner.

w Note on related title, in this case the succeeding title to this short-lived newspaper. This note may indicate a title continued by this one or a title which it continues.

w Codes with years at the end are indications of holdings, that is, what libraries or archives own the title and how much of it they have. In this case, one (BVIP) has all the originals and the other (BVIPA) holds only a single issue, for 13 April 1907. The library codes will be listed in the front of the volume.

The only addition in the microform entry is the technical information for the microform itself, showing who did the filming and when (no date is given in this example), how many reels or fiche, whether positive or negative and the size. The size might be important if your library (where you will be reading the film on interlibrary loan) cannot accommodate the size involved. There are usually only two, 35mm and 16mm, and the smaller is less common. Notice that only one library is listed as holding the microfilm, and it is the same one which holds a single copy of the original paper. A researcher looking only at the first entry might think that BVIPA (the provincial archives) has that one copy and no more, but actually they own the whole run of the newspaper.

Some of the directories provide more details about the publication history of the newspapers, indicating when they were suspended or did not publish, and also list titles which are known to have existed, but for which no surviving copies are known. Here is an example from Gloria M. Strathern’s Alberta newspapers, 1880-1982:

From these two entries we learn that the Taber Free Press was published from 21 February 1907 to 25 August 1910, although the last date is uncertain. The double-slash (//) is a conventional symbol for the end of the run. It was a weekly (w.). It was run by W. A. M. Bellwood from its beginnings to 9 December 1909, when it stopped publishing until 3 February 1910, when A. N. Mowat took it on, but in August it failed and stopped publishing. The information came from an article in the successor paper, Taber Times, published in 1980, and the Canadian Almanac and Directory for 1911. The Alberta Legislature Library (AEP) has a full run of existing issues on microfilm.

The Taber Advertiser, which co-existed with the Free Press for a few months in 1910, lasted until 1911 as a weekly publication. It is mentioned in the same historical article in the Taber Times and also in a history of the town published by the Taber Women’s Institute in 1953. There are no surviving issues known. Interpretation of these two entries was accomplished by reference to the introduction to the book, where all the abbreviations and the format are explained, to the bibliography, where the source reference codes are given and to the list of libraries whose holdings are listed. An experienced researcher could probably interpret the entries on their own save for the bibliographical and holdings codes. As for newspapers where no surviving copies are known to exist, it is still possible that issues will surface from private collections, although as time passes the likelihood of this for century-old papers becomes more remote.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian: Newspaper Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.