Ethnic Newspapers, by Michael John NeillThose of us with non-English speaking immigrant ancestors are sometimes dismayed by the small amount of genealogical information found on them in local newspapers. One way to potentially overcome this problem is to utilize American newspapers in your ancestor's native language. Many large (and sometimes not so large) cities with substantial immigrant populations had newspapers printed in the immigrant's native language. Ignoring these papers could result in significant information being overlooked.
When Antje Fecht died near Carthage, Illinois, in 1900, there was no obituary in the local weekly paper. Not even a one-line death notice. Her obituary in a German language newspaper was fairly detailed and included her date and place of birth, information on her immigration, and the Bible text from which the funeral sermon was given.
Louise Mortier's 1921 obituary in the Gazette van Moline (a Flemish language paper published in Moline, Illinois) provided her exact village of birth in Belgium, but did not mention her first name, only listing her as Mrs. August Mortier.
Why the extra details in an ethnic newspaper? Because the readers knew the area and usually shared a heritage, fellow Belgians reading the Gazette van Moline would want to know where in Belgium she was born. Readers of the English-language paper were not as familiar with the country and not as likely to care.
About the Papers
A few samples:
I found these sites by searching online for:
German newpapers microfilm kansas
These searches will at least get the researcher started on their path to locating online finding aids if they are in existence. Google searches do overlook things and researchers are always advised to search card catalogs of libraries at the local, regional, and state level for such materials in addition to performing search engine searches.
regarding ethnic newspapers may also be posted to an appropriate mailing list at RootsWeb or on a
related message board at Ancestry.com.
Necessarily Published Close By
The Family History Library's Guide to reading German Gothic script was also a tremendous help. Researchers reading newspapers in other languages are encouraged to reference the Family History Library's website for online guidance in reading handwriting or to visit Cyndi's List for the specific country of interest to find links to handwriting sites.
Make certain you have included non-English language newspapers in your search for your ancestor. It may be that something published in his new home in his native language is what will take your searches back to his homeland.