July 3, 2020
Do you have ancestors in Colorado, Utah or Wyoming? If you do, you’re lucky because all three of those states have great newspaper projects. I’ve written about what wonderful genealogy gems can be found in the pages of old newspapers before, but I want to emphasize state historic newspaper projects today. After receiving a recent research request where the requester had never heard of the Colorado Historic Newspaper Project, even though she was a fairly experienced researcher, I suspect a lot of folks are still missing out on this invaluable resource. Since I have so many western states ancestors, I want to focus specifically on Colorado, Utah and Wyoming in particular because their newspaper offerings are so extensive. And, did I mention they’re free? With so many of the modern genealogy websites, including the most popular newspaper ones, costing three figures for a year’s subscription, it’s great that there are still quality, free to everyone, genealogy websites.
The newspaper websites for Colorado, Utah and Wyoming are basically similar with a large number of titles from various years and areas available. The Colorado Historic Newspaper Project is at https://www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org/; Utah Digital Newspapers are at https://digitalnewspapers.org/, and Wyoming Newspapers are at https://newspapers.wyo.gov/. Each site is arranged differently, so it’s worth spending a little time reading the instructions before searching (I know it’s a temptation to dive right into searching, but try to restrain yourself) to make sure you’ll get the full benefit from the site.
Once you are on the sites, you’ll find the usual obituaries, wedding announcements and legal announcements, but don’t stop there. Many of the newspapers are from the smaller towns throughout the region and are full of the sorts of articles that add color to a family history. For example, there was the article I found in the Davis County Clipper from Utah which described the bicycling craze that was sweeping northern Utah and causing all of the young men and boys to neglect their chores, much to the chagrin of my great grandfather, who was quoted as saying he wished his sons would put as much effort into working on the farm as they did into their bicycles. Then there was the article from the Laramie Boomerang (one of the all time great newspaper titles!) reporting that a young man was visiting his parents in Laramie. Not exactly an earthshaking revelation, except that the newspaper article went on to say that the young man currently lived in Fairbanks, Alaska – a place where no one had thought to look for this long lost member of the family. Since the family had a very common name, learning where the young man had moved proved key to finding more records for him.
These newspaper projects are definitely worth checking out; for some of the titles covered, these projects seem to be the only place that carries them. In particular, the Colorado site is the only place that I have found that carries any early Larimer County newspapers. The biggest drawback to these sites is that they don’t cover every newspaper in each state or every time period. They also typically only cover up until about 1923 in most cases due to copyright restrictions.
If you’re one of those unfortunates who don’t happen to have Colorado, Utah or Wyoming ancestors, all is not lost. Many other states have historic newspaper projects, as well. The best way to see what’s out there is to Google “historic newspapers” plus the name of the state. Happy hunting!
Researcher/Director at Large