Newspapers, despite being a major source of genealogical information,
are often overlooked by researchers. This is primarily due to the
difficulty involved with finding out what was published and whether
copies still exist today. This issue is now being addressed from a
national level to the benefit of genealogists and historians alike with a
massive project called the U.S. Newspaper
Program. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the
project’s goal is to identify all newspapers ever published, microfilm
all extant copies, and catalog them. The cataloged records are kept
locally and uploaded to the national database maintained by the Online Computer Library Center
(OCLC). OCLC is the most commonly used cataloging source for public
and private libraries. Because this is a consortium project, the
microfilms will be available to anyone at their local library through
inter-library loan. The project includes all fifty states, the District
of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Vermont was the
last state to join, though as a small state, the project is already
The “Vermont Newspapers Project” was a cooperative effort
between the University of Vermont Libraries and the Vermont Department
of Libraries – caretakers of the two largest collections of Vermont
newspapers. Staff members working on the project searched public and
academic libraries, historical societies, archives, publishers, and
private collectors. Between 1994 and 2000 the effort led to the
identification of 900 Vermont newspapers and the microfilming of 260,000
pages. The Vermont
Newspaper Project website features a catalog of all known newspapers
and a list of the 100 repositories in which the collections are kept.
The catalog can be searched by repository, by alphabetical list of
titles, or via a search engine that allows title, place, or Boolean
keyword searches. The official repository for the microfilms created by
the project is the Vermont State Law Library in Montpelier.
newbie by settlement standards of the east coast, Vermont has an early
history of printing. The oldest newspaper was the Vermont Gazette,
published in Westminster from 1781 to 1783 by Alden, Spooner, &
Green. Interestingly, the printing press used was the first one brought
to the colonies from England in 1683. The oldest continuously published
family-owned newspaper in the country is the Rutland Herald,
covering the entire state since 1794. Newspaper publishing was centered
in four locations: Bennington, Brattleboro, Rutland, and Burlington.
Most towns in Vermont had their own local newspapers by 1830, which
corresponds with the peak population of rural Vermont towns.
2000 census showed that Vermont’s ethnic population made up only two
percent of the total. In terms of their newspapers, however, the
immigrant population was well represented over the past two centuries.
The first French-Canadian newspaper published in all of New England was La
Révolution canadienne from Burlington in 1838. The North
American was founded in Swanton in 1839 and sold throughout the
state. The lumber, marble, and granite industries attracted Italian,
Slavic, Irish, Scottish, and Finnish immigrants to the state. By the
turn of the twentieth century there were eight Italian-language
newspapers being published in Vermont. A brief history of the early
newspapers can be found in Clarence S. Brigham’s two-volume History
and Bibliography of American Newspapers 1690-1820 (American
Antiquarian Society, 1947) [Z6951.B86 - Call numbers in brackets for
this volume and others to follow identify the location in the NEHGS
library. If they list “+ loan,” then members can borrow them from the
NEHGS circulating library].
Before the advent of modern vital
records laws in 1857, newspapers may have the only record of when and
where a marriage or death took place. Obituaries (as opposed to death
notices) were an invention of the late nineteenth century. Prominent
citizens could receive detailed biographical write-ups that can help
round out the story on your ancestor’s life. Scanning local newspapers
could reveal business enterprises or a local history event that included
your family. Court and legal notices could uncover issues that explain
why your ancestor was so hard to find. When a married couple separated
(prior to legal divorce), the husband or wife (and sometimes both) would
publish a notice of abandonment denying responsibility for the other’s
debts. Newspapers gathered news from all kinds of sources. There could
be a story about a fiftieth anniversary event that listed all the
relatives who came. Gossip columns often told who was visiting from out
of town and if a local person went traveling. News items were commonly
reprinted from other papers around the country. Local newspapers loved
to print stories of native sons’ exploits elsewhere.
the main problem in using this valuable resource. The only online
sources are for the modern period of newspapers. The Burlington Free
Press and the Rutland Herald are the two largest newspapers
in the state. Middlebury College maintains an online index to these two newspapers that starts in
1984. The Ancestry.com paid service has the Bennington Evening Banner
from 1955 to 1957 in fully searchable text. Many current newspapers are online:
The World website has an archive of each weekly issue back to
2001, complete with obituaries and birth notices. There is no search
Barre/Montpelier. The Argus Times website has
obituaries, engagements/weddings/civil unions, and births, since 1999.
Bennington. The Bennington Banner website has the
last fifteen days of the paper with obituaries archived back to August
Bradford. Journal Opinion website has the current
issue with obituaries. There is no archive.
has the last fifteen days of the paper with obituaries archived back to
Burlington. The Burlington Free Press website has
an archive of the past week and an obituary archive of the past month.
Dover [West]. The Deerfield Valley News website has the current
weekly edition only and no obituaries.
Mountain Times website
has the current weekly issue only and no obituaries.
Addison County Independent website has
an obituary archive that appears to go back to at least 1999.
The News & Citizen website has an archive of the weekly issues back to
February 2003 but does not have any obituaries.
Herald of Randolph website
has the current issue with obituaries. There is an archive that appears
to go back to at least 1999.
Rutland. Rutland Herald website archives
all parts of its online newspaper since October 1999, including
obituaries, engagements/weddings/civil unions, and births.
Albans. Messenger website has the main story archived for the previous
month and obituary archives back to February 2001.
The Caledonian-Record website has an archive for the entire contents back to
Stowe. The Stowe Reporter website has an
archive back to 2001, though the obituaries seem to be for the current
Waitsfield. The Valley Reporter website has
obituaries back to November 2001. There is no search engine.
River Junction. Valley News website has the past week’s main stories only.
have started publishing their own guides to historical newspaper
material. Abstracts of genealogical data in newspapers can be found in
several genealogical journals and books [NEHGS call number for Vermont
Genealogy is F48.V48.1996 + loan]:
“Genealogical Gleanings from the Vermont Intelligencer and Bellows
Falls Advertiser, 1817” by Robert M. Murphy in Vermont Genealogy,
5 : 112-128, (Part Two) 157-171.
“Genealogical Gleanings from the Vermont Intelligencer and Bellows
Falls Advertiser, 1818” by Robert M. Murphy in Vermont Genealogy,
6 : 97-119, 146-174.
Bennington. Vermont Newspaper
Abstracts, 1783-1816 by Marsha Hoffman Rising (Boston: NEHGS, 2001)
[F48.R57] that focuses on Bennington papers.
“Extracts from the American Yeoman Brattleboro, Vermont, 1817” by
Joann H. Nichols in Vermont Genealogy, 3 : 107-125,
Burlington. Index to the Burlington Free Press in the
Billings Library, University of Vermont … 1848 [to] 1870 in ten
volumes (W.P.A., 1940-1942) [F59.B9.H57].
from 1813, the Year of the Epidemic From the North Star,
Danville, Vermont” by Alice Eichholz in Vermont Genealogy, 6
Middlebury. “Probate Notices in Middlebury
Newspapers Part One (1802-1831)” by Lawrence Washington in Vermont
Genealogy, 5 : 26-43, Part Two (1832-1847), 68-78, Part Three (1848-1859),
Middlebury. “Vermont Deaths in Middlebury Newspapers
Part One (1801-1806) by Lawrence Washington in Vermont Genealogy,
5 : 172-179, Part Two (1807-1810), 6 : 30-34, Part Three (1812-1813)
[with Alice Eichholz], 122-132, Part Four (1814-1817), 175-180.
Richford. Index to the Richford, Vt. Gazette and Journal-Gazette
1880-1957: Extracts of Canadian Genealogical Information by Marlene
Simmons (Pointe Claire, P.Q., 1994) [F59.R56.S56 + loan].
Extracts from the Rutland Weekly Herald extracted by Dawn D.
Hance, typed and indexed by Joann H. Nichols: 1800-1805 (Rutland, Vt.:
D. D. Hance, 2002), 1806-1810 (Rutland, Vt.: D. D. Hance, 1999) [Note:
Includes the Vermont Courier, 1808-1810] [F59.R9.E98], 1811-1815
(Rutland, Vt.: D. D. Hance, 1999) [F59.R9.E981], 1816-1820 (Rutland,
Vt.: D. D. Hance, 1999) [F59.R9.E982], 1821-1825 (Rutland, Vt.: D. D.
Hance, 2001), 1826-1830 (Rutland, Vt.: D. D. Hance, 2003).
Johnsbury. The Vital Statistics from Saint Johnsbury Caledonian,
v. 3-10, by Anne Kendall Smith and Stuart E. Smith covers the period
1870 to 1905 [F57.C2.S65].
Any additions to these lists are
always welcomed by the author. He may be reached at email@example.com.