I do a lot of genealogy research in Warren County, Ohio. My 4th great-grandfather, Kenneth Anderson, moved to Warren County from Freehold, NJ in 1817 and the family stayed there until 1961. There were two major papers covering this area: The Franklin Chronicle and the Western Star. Neither has been digitized by a major vendor and, unfortunately, I have not lived in proximity to microfilmed copies of either one since I began doing genealogy. The obituary clipping index provided by the Warren County Genealogical Society (WCGS) has been a great stand-in, but nothing can replace a complete, searchable, digitized newspaper.
Last weekend I learned of a project to digitize the majority of the historical run of the weekly Western Star paper. The project is hosted by Ohio Memory (a product of the Ohio History Connection) and sponsored by the WCGS. The paper, under various names, was published continuously out of Lebanon, Ohio from 1807 to 2013. When it is complete, the collection will be a fantastic resource for genealogists researching in Warren County. The project is currently at its midpoint with all existing issues from 1807 to 1891 now available online. Issues from 1892-1915 are expected to follow in the next few months.
Ohio Memory is a digital archive of historical content from across the state which is hosted on the ContentDM platform. It’s an excellent resource if you have never browsed it, but ContentDM sites can be a little finicky in handling search terms. I spent the weekend searching and browsing the Western Star and these are my tips:
- Aim for single word searches, multiple words will rarely appear together and sometimes not at all
- Quotation marks around phrases have little effect on search results other than producing no relevant results
- If possible, use “Browse All” and sort by date to navigate to a particular date of the paper and search within a specific issue using “text search” for the best results
- Sometimes the terms will not appear highlighted on the page, to find them click on the “text” tab to locate the term within the transcription or try the “text and image” display
- Every page where a search term appears will be indicated in the thumbnail list using a red asterisk by the page number
- The papers were microfilmed pretty well and the OCR is pretty true to the text, but it can’t hurt to browse an issue manually, especially the early ones
If you find something, be sure take advantage of the “clipping” feature. It’s identified by an Xacto knife icon next to the rotate buttons. You also have an option of registering an account and saving issues to a folder for later.
There are some holes in the run, as to be expected with a paper that early. Only a dozen issues are available from 1807-1820. A few whole years are missing in the 1850s. Most years have issues missing here and there. There are even a few literal holes in damaged issues or where the best available copy had articles clipped from it.
The Western Star is not heavy on obituaries but it does provide standard gossip columns on individual communities, lists of real estate transfers and marriage licenses, property values around tax time, advertisements, legal notices and other community news. As a weekly paper, it printed some national and international news, but it wasn’t the region’s only link to the wider world. The closest major daily paper was the Cincinnati Enquirer, which would have circulated heavily in the area as a provider of world news.
Here are a few treasures I found while searching the paper for my ancestors!
You can read more about the Alleen Stephenson Digital Newspapers project in this blog post from Ohio Memory: http://ohiohistoryhost.org/ohiomemory/archives/4052
What off-the-beaten-path newspapers do you use for research? Share a hidden gem with us in the comments!