Canada Newspapers - Finding and Using (National Institute)
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, revised by Susanna de Groot, PLCGS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
- 1 Finding and Using the Newspaper You Want
- 2 Some things to consider
- 3 Finding Newspapers
- 4 Databases
- 5 Rural Families
- 6 Finding and Using the Newspaper You Want
Finding and Using the Newspaper You Want
A researcher who has decided to begin doing newspaper research should start by ensuring they know as much as possible about the area where the family lived. This geographic research is basic to so much other genealogical searching.
Understanding the geography means that you are able to make informed judgements about what church records, tax records, business records, sometimes even what vital records to consult. Knowledge of roads, rivers and railways will lead to records which may not immediately be of obvious value.
It is not enough to know that the family lived ‘near Bathurst’. Determine the exact location of the farm from deeds or tax records. From there, look at a map. Locate the farm and then search around it to see what towns are within easy communicating distance. Do not assume you know the area so well you do not need to look at a map. There are always new things to learn.
Use a newspaper directory to see which towns had newspapers in the period which interests you. You now have a particular newspaper to look for.
The directories also list the names of libraries or archives which hold microfilm or original copies. These listings may not be exhaustive; they may simply be representative, which means they tell some places housing copies, but not all. There may be other institutions which are more convenient to you where you can obtain the newspaper.
You may also want to see if there are indexes available, or published extracts from the newspaper which will help you in locating information about your family members.
Some things to consider
- What library or archive has the title you want? Does it have the years you need or only a partial run? What rules do the archives have for accessing the newspaper?
- In searching for the newspaper, have you kept in mind any name changes which might have occurred throughout its life?
- Is there an index or extraction, either in book form or online?
- Might the microfilm be available through interlibrary loan?
The likely places to find newspapers are at the provincial archives or libraries, most of which have large newspaper collections. They may not be the most convenient place for you to visit, but they may be a good place to start when searching for a title.
Even if they do not have the relevant newspaper in their collection, an archivist will be able to steer you toward an institution which is likely to hold it. If you live far away, you can use their email reference service to ask their advice about finding any particular title.
Secondly, a local archive or library is likely to own newspapers from their own area. These archives are also likely to know more about the history of the newspaper and its availability than anywhere else, as they do about other aspects of their local history.
Keep in mind that with the extensive microfilming projects of the past decades, even small-town newspapers can be found in large libraries elsewhere. Large-city public libraries, such as the Toronto Reference Library or the Vancouver Public Library, own newspapers from throughout their provinces, and most university libraries have newspapers from their region.
As well as the province-wide directories mentioned earlier, there might be studies examining newspaper resources for a given area. These are invaluable for the genealogist. They may be in book form, such as Bill and Marie Amell’s Reference guide to newspapers of the old Newcastle District, published by Kawartha Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. More likely, they may be in the form of articles in genealogical or historical journals. Ask locally if such a study has been published.
When examining listings of newspaper holdings, be sure to determine if there is a long run or only one or two copies or years. Researchers in a hurry often note that a particular archives has the title, without remembering that many libraries have only a single issue which someone has given them.
In one example of how to read a newspaper catalogue, the British Columbia archives had only the 13 April 1907 copy of the Bulkley Pioneer in paper copy; researchers have to go to the catalogue entry for the microform to find that the archives also owns a complete run of the microfilm.
Newspaper directories may note title changes, but also may not. Newspaper histories can be found in the provincial volumes, but histories of particular papers are also popular topics for local historical journals and for local histories.
A quick check in a local history may provide a list of all the newspaper titles over the years, which will help in searching library catalogues either for copies of microfilm or indexes.
The advent of online searching has made finding collections of newspapers much easier. Most large libraries now make their catalogues available at their websites, as do many archives. (Archival catalogue searching is more difficult because each archival item can be catalogued individually, making a huge database, while library catalogues list whole books.)
Thus you can locate an individual university website, access the catalogue and check to see if the newspaper microfilm you need is listed.
|Verify if microfilm holdings are included in the catalogue you are using. Not all libraries include microfilm in their book catalogues. There may be a separate listing elsewhere on the website. You should also be prepared to find that there is no listing available in any form, as at the University of British Columbia.|
As well as published newspaper directories, it is possible to find both microform newspapers and their indexes by using a large database.
WorldCat is a catalogue which combines the library catalogues of hundreds of libraries around the world, including the national libraries of Canada, the United States, Great Britain and Australia.
The information on WorldCat is valuable for genealogists because, by searching there, researchers can determine:
- whether microfilm of a newspaper exists
- the exact title of the newspaper, and often its years of publication
- what the preceding and succeeding titles were
- who owns the microfilm in question
Libraries listed on WorldCat tend to be large, including academic, public and specialised institutions. Do not expect a small local library to be found there.
Search on WorldCat using the name of the newspaper, if known, or the name of the place of publication as a keyword title search. It is important to remember that copies of newspaper microfilm are catalogued by libraries under the exact contemporary title of the newspaper. Each time the title changes, there will be a new catalogue entry.
These title changes should be linked in the catalogue entry by notes indicating the preceding and/or succeeding titles, but much depends on the quality of the cataloguing involved.
Read the whole catalogue entry carefully to see if you can learn anything about changes in the newspaper’s title or history which may help you in finding it for research purposes.
You may also find that groups of libraries or archives in your area may have combined their catalogues so you can make a similar search for a newspaper in those databases.
They may also have created an online list of newspapers or newspapers and other periodicals for the same purpose. This is called a Union List, which means it is a union of a number of institutions’ catalogues. Union lists are always useful for researchers.
The quickest way to determine if there is a union list or a regional catalogue of newspapers may be to ask your local public librarian. The all-Canada union list is mentioned below, under the Library and Archives Canada.
For rural families, keep in mind that they might use the newspaper of the largest close town for publishing their BMDs. Using your geographical knowledge, check those papers as well. In Nova Scotia, for example, the principal papers outside Halifax were in Yarmouth, Pictou and Sydney.
Finding and Using the Newspaper You Want
Since a good place to start searching for newspapers is the provincial archives, here is a list of them with particular emphasis on newspaper holdings.
Even if the principal provincial newspaper collection is in a neighbouring library, the provincial archives’ address is given for reference purposes, along with the relevant library:
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N4
General enquiries: 613-996-5115 or 1-866-578-7777 (Toll free in Canada and the US) Online Contact Forms
Their preferred method of receiving queries is via email, at either of the above addresses. There is a large collection of newspapers on mf at Library and Archives Canada. It published a union list in book form under the title Union list of Canadian newspapers held by Canadian libraries = Liste collective des journaux canadiens disponibles dans les bibliothèques canadiennes (National Library of Canada, 1977, with a supplementary volume in 1983). Since 1988 it has been published on microfiche only. This title is widely available in Canadian libraries of all sizes. Newspaper holdings for LAC are listed on their website:
Canadian Newspapers on Microform Held by the Library and Archives Canada
Provincial Archives of Alberta
8555 Roper Road
Edmonton, Alberta T6E 5W1
- The Legislature Library has a nearly complete collection of weeklies from 1905.
Both the Provincial Archives and Legislature Library have newspapers.
British Columbia Archives
655 Belleville Street
Victoria, British Colombia
Mailing address: 675 Belleville Street
Victoria, British Colombia V8W 9W2
Telephone Toll Free from Greater Vancouver area: (604)660-2421 (ask the operator for 250-387-1952).
From other areas in British Columbia, excluding Vancouver and Victoria: 1-800-663-7867 (ask the operator for 387-1952).
From everywhere else (250)387-1952
(please see their website for a complex and very firm note on what is required for an email query)
Their catalogue is British Columbia Newspapers on Microfilm.
“The collection does not include the major 20th century Vancouver and Victoria daily newspapers; researchers are advised to contact public libraries, university libraries, or the Legislative Library of British Columbia for these materials.”
For books and publications, researchers are referred to:
They have newspapers from Manitoba dating back to 1859 and make the microfilms available for interlibrary loan.
Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB)
Bonar Law-Bennett Building
23 Dineen Drive
University of New Brunswick Campus
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6000
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5H1
New Brunswick Newspaper Directory:
- The province’s largest collection of newspapers is at:
Harriet Irving Library
University of New Brunswick
P.O. Box 7500 Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5H5
(Street address: 5 MacAulay Lane)
Telephone: (506) 453-4740
The Legislative Library also has a large collection. They have all New Brunswick newspapers and also make clippings files by subject from the four provincial dailies “concerning public issues and the activities of the New Brunswick government” so it appears unlikely these will be of use to genealogists.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The principal repository for newspapers is the Newfoundland and Labrador Collection, which is part of the:
Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries
Newfoundland and Labrador Collection
Provincial Resource Library
Arts and Culture Centre
St. John’s, Newfoundland A1B 3A3
A good listing of their newspaper holdings can be found in Terrence Punch’s Genealogical research in Nova Scotia (New revised edition, Halifax: Nimbus, 1998).
AO has a large collection of pre-1930 newspapers. In the 1960s, Ontario universities had a cooperative programme to microfilm local newspapers, and these microfilms can be found in many university libraries. The largest collection of post-1930 Ontario newspapers in one place (aside from LAC) can be found at the:
Toronto Public Library
Toronto Reference Library
789 Yonge Street (1 block north of Bloor)
Toronto, Ontario M4W 2G8
Telephone: (416) 393-7131
Prince Edward Island
Public Archives and Records Office (PARO)
Hon. George Coles Building, 4th floor
175 Richmond Street
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Mailing address: P.O. Box 1000
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island C1A 7M4
There are many newspapers here and at the:
The Archives nationales du Québec has nine locations, each of which has the materials for its area:
Abitibi-Témiscamingue et Nord-du-Québec
27, rue du Terminus Ouest
Rouyn-Noranda, Québec J9X 293
Telephone: (819) 763-3484
Bas-Saint-Laurent et Gaspésie, Iles-de-la-Madeleine
337, rue Moreault
Rimouski, Québec G5L 1P4
Telephone: (418) 727-3500
700, boulevard Laure, Bureau 190-2
Sept-Iles, Québec, G4R 1Y1
Telephone: (418) 964-8434
225, rue Frontenac, bureau 401
Sherbrooke, Québec J1H 1K1
Telephone: (819) 820-3010
Mauricie et Centre-du-Québec
225, rue des Forges
Trois-Rivières, Québec G9A 2G7
Telephone: (819) 371-6015
535 avenue Viger est
Montréal, Québec H2L 2P3
Telephone: (514) 873-1100, option 4
855, boulevard de la Gappe
Gatineau (Québec) J8T 8H9
Telephone: (819) 568-8798
Campus de l’Université Laval
Cité universitaire, C.P. 10450
1055, avenue du Séminaire
Case postale 10450, succursale Sainte-Foy
Québec G1V 4N1
Telephone: (418) 643-8904
Saguenay - Lac-Saint-Jean
930, rue Jacques-Cartier Est
Chicoutimi, Québec G7H 2A9
The principal repository for newspapers is the:
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ)
475, boulevard De Maisonneuve Est
Montréal, Québec H2L 5C4
Toll free in Québec outside Montréal: 1-800-363-9028
Saskatchewan Archives Board
91 Murray Building, University of Saskatchewan
3 Campus Drive Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5A4
The two offices’ collections reflect their geographical location, Regina collecting for the south and Saskatoon for the north of the province, but it is possible to have things sent to the other office if that is where you will be.
This is the best source for newspapers; papers from communities north of Davidson are in Saskatoon, the rest are in Regina. The weeklies on microfilm are available on interlibrary loan.
Department of Tourism and Culture - Yukon Archives
Yukon Place - 400 College Drive
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre - NWT Archives
P.O. Box 1320
4750 - 48 Street
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories X1A 2L9
Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth
Box 1000, Stn. 800
Iqaluit, Nunavut X0A 0H0
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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