Newspapers are one of the more entertaining avenues of research. The obvious reason for using them is to find birth, marriage, and death notices. You can learn so much more from them though. If your ancestor did something newsworthy (good or bad) you can find them among the pages that we seem to forget about in our rush to the announcements section. Newspapers can also be useful in giving you a feel for the times your ancestor lived in.
One of the problems with researching Canadian ancestors as opposed to other countries is that there isn't one main repository for Canadian newspapers. There's no Chronicling America or British Newspaper Archive. Perhaps Library and Archives Canada could look into this someday. Until that happens though, you're going to have to look more locally to find newspapers online.
If you have Saskatchewan ancestors, then you should add to your browser's bookmarks Saskatchewan Historic Newspapers Online (SHNO). This collaboration between the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan History Online is a work in progress. They state on their website that when completed, they will have digitized Saskatchewan newspapers that cover communities across the province. Right now they have available from 1914-1918, but when done, they plan to have from 1878 to the 1960's.
By the search bar you can search by newspaper title, city, or date. I decided to try by newspaper title, and typed in "Chronicle". I got 564 results. On the left side of the results, it shows how you can narrow your results down. You can narrow down by particular issue, by town, by name of newspaper, or by date. I did notice that under "By Issue" most had two sets of digitized images. I'm wondering if one is a morning edition, and one an evening edition. They looked exactly alike to me, and it does not say one way or the other.
I also noticed that under "Town" Foam Lake is listed twice. It is listed as "Foam Lake, SK" and "Foam Lake". You might want to keep this in mind for your own searches that place names might be indexed under more than one heading.
Next I searched by City. Under the first search under "Newspaper Title" Foam Lake got 252 issues of the Foam Lake Chronicle. So I entered Foam Lake in the "City" search to see if I got different results. This time I got 253 hits, so off by 1 from the first search.
Lastly I tried by date. Here you will have to put in the date numerically, by year-month-day. So, for 12 April 1917 (how diligent genealogists are supposed to write dates), you will need to put 1917 04 12 in to the search box. This date gave me 36 community newspapers that had an issue digitized with this date. Each newspaper had 2 digital editions. Again, I am wondering if this is a morning and evening edition.
Browse the Collection Tab
Hitting this tab shows 96 communities listed alphabetically. Keep in mind that some communities are listed twice, like Foam Lake which I discussed above. Whitewood is listed as "Whitewood, SK" and Whitewood, Sk.". The other thing I noticed was there isn't just Saskatchewan communities listed. Also listed is:
- Calgary AB (26 issues)
- Jersey City, NJ (247 issues)
- Lloydminster, ALTA (196 issues). Under it is Lloydminster, SK (104 issues)
- Manitou, MB (12 issues)
- Toronto, ON (2 issues)
- Winnipeg MAN (52 issues). Under it is Winnipeg MB (624 issues)
Clicking on a community will take you the results page, where each digitized paper is listed. It has the same setup as you get from searching with the search bar. On the left you can narrow your results further. I clicked on Battleford, which had 728 issues. On the left, I can narrow down further to issues of either the Saskatchewan Herald, or The Battleford Press. Now here's a bonus: When I clicked on Saskatchewan Herald, I looked at the dates available and realized that they actually have issues not just from the 1914-1918 stated on the main page of the website, but they have also digitized issues from 1878 to 1887. Just a lesson that when you're looking at projects that are still works in progress, it never hurts to not just go by what the main page says, and explore a little bit to see what's been added since the website started up.
So, you've found an issue you want to look at. Click on the particular issue, and it brings it up. You can zoom in and out, and download it to your computer if you wish. It is also here that you can search for key words within the issue by clicking on the magnifying glass icon. It will highlight the first instance, but a click of a box will let you highlight everywhere in the issue the word appears. I looked at the 20 December 1886 issue of the Saskatchewan Herald. Seeing as how this is a December issue, I typed "Christmas" in the search box. From the highlighted text, I found out:
- St. George's Church will be having church services at 11 am Christmas morning
- Bremner, Sayer, and Sandon, freighters, were at the reserve on Sunday. "...Good things for Christmas..."
- Mahaffy and Clinkskill advertised that you can get a wide assortment of Christmas Groceries, and items suitable for gifts at their establishment
- H. H. Millie had a wide assortment of watches, clocks and jewelry that would be would be suitable for Christmas presents.
- The Montreal Star is putting out a special Christmas "paper" filled with poems, stories, articles and "magnificent illustrations". You can send away for this keepsake for the cost of a 25 cent postage stamp. The publishers are also holding a contest giving away $300 in prizes to children who write to them a letter about the paper.
The SHNO has credited the following organizations for their help with this project:
- Saskatchewan Archives Board
- Saskatchewan History Online
- The Ministry of Education
- Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association
- Young Canada Works
- Conseil de la corporation de la Saskatchewan
- The Institute Francais, University of Regina
If you would like to contact the site with any questions or comments, you can fill out an online inquiry with the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan here.