Looking for information about the daily lives of your ancestors? Newspapers often provide those types of unique details.
Most public libraries and genealogy societies have microfilm copies of the major newspapers that have been published in their areas. If your ancestor lived in another county, however, that type of information is more difficult to find.
Residents of Missouri are fortunate that the State Historical Society has been collecting and microfilming newspapers since the 1930s. Today, the society is a repository of 41 million pages of newspapers from around the state.
The microfilm is housed at the State Historical Society in Columbia. An online catalog of the newspaper collection is provided at shs.umsystem.edu/newspaper.
When the site opens, check the section called “Guidelines.” Click on “Missouri Newspapers on Microfilm at the State Historical Society” which is in that section.
The next screen provides a map that shows Missouri counties. Click on the county in which you are interested.
The site then provides a list of newspapers that have been microfilmed for that county. Those newspapers will be arranged by town, and the dates of the issues are provided also.
The oldest issue was printed on July 26, 1808, by the “St. Louis Missouri Gazette.”
In checking the list, I looked to see if the society had copies of the old newspapers for Rocky Comfort, the town where I attended school. Of all the towns that I checked, that was one of the few for which no issues have been microfilmed.
The society has issues of newspapers in nearby Stella and Wheaton, as well as five issues of a newspaper printed in a small, nearby community called Cartmell. I noticed that the Newton County community of Kent had a newspaper in 1902 with an odd name: “The Americus Curio.”
Old newspapers are a great way to learn about communities that no longer exist. For example, some of my ancestors lived near Linn Creek in Camden County. That old town was flooded by Lake of the Ozarks.
Fortunately, the society has copies of the “Camden County News” of 1902, “Camden County Rustic” of 1874, and copies of the “Reveille” issued in 1881-1883, 1890-1894, 1896-1904, and 1905-1931. Those issues are a treasure trove of information.
Another town that no longer exists is Indian Springs, which grew quickly in the late 1800s near the border of Newton and McDonald counties. It then withered as quickly as it grew. The society has two issues of that town’s newspaper “Chief” and one issue of its newspaper “Echo.”
The microfilm can be ordered through interlibrary loan by contacting your local library. The charge for each set is $15, which includes postage and handling. The microfilm can be kept for two weeks.
To complete the request, you will need to know the town of publication, title of the newspaper and date or time period. If you have a large list of newspapers that you want to check, you might opt to travel to Columbia and spend a day or so using the microfilm at no charge.
If you, or people you know, have copies of old newspapers that are not on the online list, contact the society at 573-882-1180.
Suggestions or queries? Send to Frankie Meyer, P.O. Box 731, Joplin, Mo. 64802, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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