Not that long ago, if you wanted to find out whether your ancestor was mentioned in the Minneapolis newspaper, you would have to scan through every page of every newspaper published during his or her lifetime. Most people aren't too excited about doing that. And, if you have spent anytime in front of a microfilm or microfiche reader, you know exactly why.
Now, you can type in your ancestor's name and -- to quote Emeril -- bam! A list of newspaper articles appear on the screen. You can select which articles to view, and even see how the story looked on the full page: did the story appear across the top of page one with a photo or was it tucked back on the Society news page? What was the other big news of the day?
The Hennepin County Library has a subscription to ProQuest online newspapers, which includes the historical Minneapolis Tribune from 1867 to 1922. The current Minneapolis Star Tribune online archives date back to 1986, so there's still a 64-year gap of online issues, but it's a great start for researchers.
The newspaper databases are listed a couple of clicks from the home page (under the "Reference and Research" tab), but here is the direct link. Select the historical Minneapolis Tribune.
Then, you will be asked to type in your Hennepin County Library code number. (I have mine memorized. Yes, I am a nerd. If you haven't committed yours to memory, the 14-digit code is found on the back of your card.)
From there you can type in your search term. I typed in "Edina" and got 492 results. If you have some spare time, it's pretty fun to read through the stories about our community. And I'm not just saying that because I'm a nerd. Who wouldn't be intrigued by stories of a ballot box broken open during a hotly contested election on where to build a new school, Edina or Morningside? Or the first woman election judge? (I wrote about the judge story previously on the blog). Or "ghastly remains" being found by the mill?
A few search tips:
1. Newspapers often didn't print a woman's first name. They were usually listed as Mrs. (husband's name). Adjust your search accordingly.
2. It still helps to know your history. For example, you won't find much for Edina prior to 1888 because Edina was still part of Richfield. Sometimes Edina is referred to as Edina Mills. Sometimes Edina people say they're from Minneapolis. Edina searches may not yield info about Morningside. You'll still have to use some sleuthing skills.
3. Use synonyms to find more info. For example, my son needed to write a story about the Tyler tornado for a history project. Back in the day, tornadoes were also called cyclones or twisters or even, more generically, disasters.
4. Use the advanced search to limit results to a specific time period. Type in "Tyler" and you get results for people named Tyler, which makes the list too long to be helpful. Type in "Tyler tornado" and you miss the stories that call it a twister. Limit the Tyler search to the date of the tornado and a few months after, and you have a list of appropriate stories.
ProQuest makes it easy to cite your sources, email yourself the selected pdf files or print the documents. Look for the links at the top of the page.
I love this service, as you might expect from a woman who has memorized her library card number. But more surprisingly, my middle school son did too. His classmates were surprised by the "new" information he had in his PowerPoint presentation, that they were unable to find simply by searching the internet. "There's more out there than just Wikipedia," said the boy who just discovered primary resource material with online newspapers.
Note: The Edina Historical Society also has clipping files organized by topic and people/family names. They are far from complete, but are also a great research tool. On the downside, you can't search them while wearing pajamas in the comfort of your own home. But we're friendly and relaxed, so come on in for other interesting reading material. We also have issues of The Crier, a monthly newspaper (1930-1941) for the Country Club District, fully indexed in a -- remember these? -- card catalog.
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Jennifer Adam is the Executive Director of the Edina Historical Society. She welcomes your contributions. Comment on a post or send an email (see below). Traditional mail, of course, can also be sent to:
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