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Ontario GenWeb Project: Newspapers
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Newspapers

What Is It

Newspapers can be a great resource for insight into the daily lives of our ancestors. They can tell us when ancestors were born, married, died, and what events may have shaped their lives. Newspapers are in some cases a sort of 'diary' of a person's life.

How Do I Find It

In the days of Upper Canada newspapers were few and far between. As the popularity of newspapers grew so does your chance of locating a newspaper that covered the area your ancestor lived.

There were also newspapers for specific politics and religions (like the Christian Guardian). These covered large areas - all of Upper Canada, eastern North America, some even had worldwide coverage.

The book "Inventory of Ontario Newspapers" (see books below) has a listing of known existing Ontario newspapers and their whereabouts.

Another option for locating newspapers is to contact the genealogy society or archives in the area your ancestors lived.

How Do I Use It

Newspapers, for the most part, can be used to obtain birth, marriage and death announcements. But they can also shed light on other aspects of living. Always check the social column. You may discover a never known cousin from ____ was visiting their 'aunt' or 'uncle'. And if you have time check the front page, featured stories and the classifieds. These areas can sometimes have information on unusual births (such as triplets) or deaths (such as in a fire or other tragic circumstance) that won't be listed in the births, marriages and deaths column.

What Does It Offer

  • News stories that will help paint a picture of the era in which your ancestor lived.
  • Advertisements of products (and their prices) that were available to your ancestor.
  • Society & gossip columns
  • Classifieds - It was not uncommon to find 'Information Wanted' ads where friends and relatives of immigrants would advertise for information regarding the immigrant with whom they had lost contact.

    Plus announcements of:

  • Birth
  • Adoption (usually under birth announcements)
  • Engagement
  • Marriage
  • Death - Obituaries are a wonderful source of information. In the 19th century (1800's) it was quite common to see lengthy obituarities that followed a person's life from beginning to end. Some would even describe the funeral, whom attended and what was worn. As you can imagine this information is valuable for genealogists today. As the 20th century progressed obituaries shortened and evolved into what you see in your daily or weekly newspaper. They state the name of the deceased and when and where they died. Some, not all, also give age or date/place of birth, as well as names and locations of surviving relations. With this information you can track down long-lost (or never known!) cousins.

    What Does It Look Like

    The example below shows a page from a newspaper. By clicking on the example you will see a larger version.

    Newmarket Era, 1898

    If you have a scan of an Ontario Newspaper (especially if different from the example above), please consider sending it in to be included as an example.

    Where Can I Find It

    The availability of a newspaper is dependent upon several factors. In the past newspaper publishers were not required to keep copies and unfortunately that means most newspapers of yesteryear are forever lost. However, some newspapers either kept copies or donated copies to facilities that have preserved them. The difficulty lies in finding out where the newspaper you are seeking may, or may not, be.

    Quote: "The National Library of Canada receives, through legal deposit, all newspapers filmed after January 1, 1988 for which more than three copies are produced. The National Library also participates in the Decentralized Program for Canadian Newspapers by acquiring and listing all newspapers filmed by the provincial/territorial institutions responsible for filming them (where funds permit and when other no institution makes the title available on interlibrary loan). Also, the National Library will attempt to acquire all newspapers filmed commercially before 1988, starting with daily newspapers. In addition, all ethnic, native and student newspapers filmed are also purchased when they do not meet the legal deposit requirements." A link to the "Canadian Newspapers on Microform Held by the National Library of Canada" can be found below.

    Is It Online?

    Yes and no. Quite a few present-day newspapers are now online but not all of them offer archives. Some that do offer archives may only do so for recent years, not the years that you may need for genealogy research. And newspapers that are currently being published may not have been during your ancestors time.

    If you're seeking newspapers prior to the internet era finding them online is hit or miss. But you may be able to locate information on how to request or find that newspaper's offline archive.

    There isn't an organized effort to bring newspaper records as a whole online. Newspapers known by OntarioGenWeb to be online are linked below.

    Alternate Resources

  • Birth Records
  • Court Records
  • Death Records
  • Local Histories
  • Marriage Records

    Related Material

  • Ontario Newspapers, Past & Present
  • OntarioGenWeb's Archives
  • Several OntarioGenWeb County/District sites use Obituary boards where you can post obituaries from newspapers. If you would like to help in this endeavour, please visit the County/District site that best suits the obituary you have to post.
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