Sometimes you want more than an obituary from the local paper. Perhaps you want to confirm a story about an ancestor that may have made the paper (Did Grandpa really rob that bank?) Or you might
want to find the article that reported an ancestor’s achievement (like Grandma’s award for her prize-winning pie at the State Fair). Here’s your guide to digging into the past.
Obituaries: No sweat
If you want an obituary from the local papers, the task is fairly straightforward. Volunteers at the Duluth Public Library have indexed obituaries in the Duluth News Tribune back to 1956, and are pushing farther back every week. If the death was earlier than that, you find the death date and browse the papers for a while after that date.
However, how do you find that non-obituary article? That’s what I plan to discuss in this post.
Everything else: Time is of the essence
The key element is the time of the event you’re looking for. The Duluth daily newspapers have been in existence since 1887 (Duluth Evening Herald/Duluth Herald) and 1892 (Duluth News Tribune). There are different article-finding tools for different times in these papers’ existence.
Here’s a rundown. Starting from the present and moving backward in time:
1995 – present: Full text online
The News Tribune has been online since October 1995. The full text since that time is available on the Duluth News Tribune/NewsBank database, to which the Library subscribes.
This database does not include pictures or other graphic elements such as graphs, but with a citation from the database you can find the article on our newspaper microfilm and get the parts the database version does not provide. A major advantage of this database over the News Tribune website (besides no charge for printing articles from home, 10₵ per page in the library, and no ads!) is the much more robust search capabilities.
The database is available to anyone inside the Library, and from home to anyone who has a Duluth Public Library library card. (By the way, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune are also available for varying time periods through the NewsBank site – but I digress…)
Access the Duluth News Tribune/Newsbank database at www.duluthlibrary.org —> research —> databases —> Duluth News Tribune/Newsbank
1978-1995: Print and online indexes, produced by DPL librarians
Librarians indexed the NewsTribune and Herald for stories of regional interest, starting in 1978, ending when the paper went online in 1995.
- 1988-1995: Online Duluth Newspaper index
The index for this time range is searchable online at the Duluth Public Library website, available to anyone with or without a library card, at: www.duluthlibrary.org —> research —> databases —> Duluth Newspaper index 1988-1995. (Note: Print volumes covering 1988-1995 are also available in the Reference Department.)
- 1978-1987: Printed index only
The index for this time range is available only in print format, available in the Reference Department at the Main Library. These bound volumes are affectionately referred to as the Purple Books.
1929-1978: NO indexing available – Clipping files
There is no indexing for either paper during this period, except for the Obituary Index (1956-present). You may have to browse the microfilmed version of the newspaper for your article – hopefully you have some idea of the time the article might have been published (e.g., a for a high school football-related event, you would “only” have to look for at most 4 years during the fall).
However, Librarians were very active clipping articles from the newspapers for much of this period. The Library has vast numbers of files full of clippings of local interest, many going back to the 1940s and even earlier. I just the other day came across a file beginning at 1920.
There are three separate filing systems:
- Subject clipping files – organized by subjects of local and regional interest. Hundreds of linear feet of these files, mostly Duluth subjects, but also Minnesota regional subjects as well. Subjects clipped cover Duluth’s economy, government, education, culture, and much more, but here are some of the specifically people-related headings: Duluth Artists; Duluth Authors; Duluth Musicians; Duluth Crime and Criminals; Duluth. Schools. Teachers.
- Industry clipping files – organized in notebooks by company name, ranging from just a page or two for a company to notebooks full for major companies such as Allete, Essentia, Grandma’s. Industry clipping files include regional companies as well.
- Biography clipping files – contain information on Duluthians or others who have had an impact on the Northland, ranging again from a short obituary to several inches of clippings for notables (such as Elizabeth Congdon).
1893-1929: Online Duluth Newspaper index
Librarians at the Duluth Public Library indexed both the Herald and the News Tribune in a card file for this period as part of the WPA in the 1930s. Despite the time range indicated in the title of this index, index cards were added to this file – and therefore digitized – sporadically through the 1930’s and even as late as 1941. Several years ago, through the efforts of volunteer Joyce Peterson, the file was digitized and put online. Like the later index, the focus was stories of regional interest only. Very short articles and most sports stories are excluded.
The index for this time range is searchable online at the Duluth Public Library website, available to anyone with or without a library card, at: www.duluthlibrary.org —> research —> databases —> Duluth Newspaper index 1893-1929.
In addition to the resources above, which are available only through the Duluth Public Library, there are a couple of other resources to know about for finding information in early papers:
1887-1922, Duluth Evening Herald and Duluth Herald
Full text online at the Minnesota Historical Society Digital Newspaper Hub (http://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/hub). Before 1923 the newspapers are in the public domain; afterwards, copyright inhibits inclusion in digitization efforts.
1892-1922 Duluth News Tribune: Genealogy Bank
The Genealogy Bank database includes the News Tribune pre-1923. Unfortunately, their pricing for the Library is out of our reach; however, individual subscriptions are quite reasonable.
If all else fails – or as a quick & dirty first effort – try your favorite internet search engine.