German American Newspapers for Genealogy at GenealogyBank

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary provides search tips to help you find family history information in GenealogyBank’s online collection of German American newspapers.

America has long been a prized destination for immigrants. In the case of our German American ancestors (known as Deutschamerikaner), many arrived during the early years of the British colonies—with evidence dating to the 17th Century.

This long history of German Americans in America can be researched in the many German American newspapers, or “Deutsch-Amerikanische Zeitungen,“ found in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Early German American immigrants were especially drawn to New York and Pennsylvania, with families typically settling among those of their same origins. Later there were westward migrations, most notably in Midwestern areas such as Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee and northern Kentucky. In many of these areas, you can still find strong German influences on the culture, customs and food. In Cincinnati for example, where I attended elementary school, I remember that the cafeteria often served sausage and sauerkraut—a dish we no longer encountered when our family moved south.

Immigrant community names are often reminiscent of their homelands, as demonstrated in this 1732 estate notice from the American Weekly Mercury:

“To be Sold by Richard Martin Executor of William Harmon of Upper-Dublin, in the County of Philadelphia, deceas’d…a considerable Quantity of clear’d Land and good Meadowing in Dublin-Township; and One Hundred and Ten Acres of Land near Germantown…”

estate sale ad for William Harmon, American Weekly Mercury newspaper advertisement 30 March-6 April 1732

American Weekly Mercury (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 30 March-6 April 1732, page 4

This estate notice was published in the same year that Founding Father Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) published the first German-language newspaper in America, the Philadelphische Zeitung.

Although Franklin’s newspaper didn’t last even a year, publishers recognized the need to communicate with the German-speaking population. So it is common to see bilingual papers with the placement of foreign language articles and advertisements side-by-side with those printed in English.

collage of various ads, Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper advertisements 3 March 1742

Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 3 March 1742, page 4

In the above example from the Pennsylvania Gazette we see a German-language notice regarding an Evangelical Conference; followed by an English-language estate notice for Joseph Woollen, late of Germantown Township; and an English-language ad for the The Pocket Almanack. Note the reference in the last ad to Poor Richard’s Almanack, another of Benjamin Franklin’s publications, which appeared from 1732-1758.

There was such a desire to publish newspapers in German that in 1775, one of the Committees of Correspondence resolved that their notice should “be published both in the English and German news-papers,” as reported at the end of the following article.

notice about a meeting of the Committee of Correspondence, Pennsylvania Evening Post newspaper article 10 June 1775

Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 10 June 1775, page 242

Their concern was that the British Ministry was “fully determined and bent upon the total extinction and utter destruction of American liberty.” These Committees, as noted in a Wikipedia article, were an integral part of the colonists’ resistance to British rule, providing coordinated efforts to distribute information for their safety.

Clearly, there is a lot of good family history information in German American newspapers—so how does one begin one’s search for German ancestors in historical newspapers?

How to Search & Read German-Language American Newspapers

It helps if you are fluent in German, but if not, don’t despair—try the following strategies.

Familiarize yourself with common Germanic words found in ancestral birth, marriage and death notices. Numerous lists can be found on the Web, but here are some commonly-used terms:

  • Familial relationships: wife (frau, gattin), mother (mutter), father (vater, väter), son (sohn), daughter (tochter)
  • Genealogical events: birth (geburt), born (geboren), married (verheiratet), death (tod, todesfall), died (starb, gestorben), buried (begraben, bestatten)
  • Days of the week (in order): Montag, Dienstag, Mittwoch, Donnerstag, Freitag, Samstag, Sonntag
  • Months (in order): Januar, Februar, März, April, Mai, Juni, Juli, August, September, Oktober, November, Dezember

Use a language translator, such as Google Translate (at translate.google.com) to translate German to English. If a word or phrase doesn’t translate exactly, try breaking it into parts. For instance, the newspaper Volksfreund doesn’t translate, but if you separate the two parts into “Volks” and “freund” the translator will respond with “people friendly,” indicating that the translation of the newspaper’s name is something like People’s Friend.

Try alternate spelling variations (don’t expect standardization). If the translator fails, experiment with changing a few letters. Local dialects affect spellings, and over time the accepted way to spell words has changed. FamilySearch’s German Word List, located at https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/German_Word_List, will give you a head start. Some of its suggestions are to interchange: p for b; a for e; and t for d or dt.

“Americanize” spellings. Although German words typically have umlauts applied to letters, such as ä or ü, GenealogyBank’s search engine may perform better if you ignore them.

Let GenealogyBank’s search engine identify what type of article is on a newspaper page.  If you are struggling with the description presented, expand the page information on the left-hand side of the screen, where GenealogyBank’s search engine notes the types of articles found on the newspaper page. In this example, the content of this newspaper’s page two is listed with many German descriptions—but the search engine also explains, in English, that there are advertisements, mortuary notices, and matrimony notices on this page—helping you to better understand the content you are looking at on page two.

screenshot of GenealogyBank showing an article from a German American newspaper

Finally, it’s useful to learn as much as you can about a particular German American newspaper publication. Where was it published? Who was the editor? When did it initiate and cease publication? Were there gaps in coverage, and was it ever published under an alternate name?

In this example, I expanded an article to view the nameplate of the 16 March 1801 (16ten Merz) edition of Die Harrisburger Morgenrothe. With this expanded view, we can read that this newspaper (diese zeitung) was published every Monday morning (Montag morgen) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

masthead for the German American newspaper Die Harrisburger Morgenrothe 16 March 1801

Die Harrisburger Morgenrothe (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), 16 March 1801, page 1

Some of this information can be confirmed at the Library of Congress’s website U.S Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present, located at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/search/titles/. Not only is it a comprehensive list of every known newspaper, but it also serves as a target list for potential research.

screenshot of the Library of Congress website, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Credit: Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

For example, this is the information I found about the German American newspaper Die Harrisburger Morgenrothe using the Library of Congress Newspaper Directory site:

  • Title: Die Harrisburger Morgenrothe und Dauphin und Cumberland Caunties Anzeiger: (Harrisburg [Pa.]) 1827-1839
  • Alternative Titles: Harrisburger Morgenrothe, Morgenrothe
  • Place of publication: Harrisburg [Pa.]
  • Publisher: Wm. Boyer und J. Baab
  • Dates of publication: 1827-1839; Nr. 1476 (11 Aug. 1827)-Nr. 2142 (9 Mai 1839)
  • Frequency: Weekly
  • Language: German

Examples of German American Newspaper Mastheads

masthead for the German American newspaper Erie Tageblatt 8 January 1910

Erie Tageblatt (Erie, Pennsylvania), 8 January 1910, page 1

masthead for the German American newspaper New Yorker Volkszeitung 17 August 1804

New Yorker Volkszeitung (New York, New York), 17 August 1804, page 1

masthead for the German American newspaper Readinger Adler 8 July 1800

Readinger Adler (Reading, Pennsylvania), 8 July 1800, page 1

Example of a German American Newspaper Obituary (Gov. Frank Higgins)

obituary for Frank Higgins, Erie Tageblatt newspaper article 13 February 1907

Erie Tageblatt (Erie, Pennsylvania), 13 February 1907, page 1

For more information, read Mary’s earlier Blog article:

How to Do Genealogy Research with German-Language Newspapers

German American Newspapers at GenealogyBank

Discover a variety of genealogy records and news stories in these 33 German American newspapers:

Click on the image below to download a printable list of the German American newspapers in GenealogyBank for your future reference. You can save the list to your desktop and click the titles to go directly to your newspaper of interest.

German American Newspapers

More Recent Obituaries Are On the Way! New Obits from 7 States

We are excited to announce that this month we will be adding the following 19 newspapers to our Recent Newspaper Obituaries collection, from Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

photo of a stack of newspapers

Credit: Wikipedia

We thought you’d want an advance peek at the list of newspaper obituaries that will be available to search online soon:

Citrus County Chronicle (Crystal River, FL)

  • Obituaries: 05/13/2008 – Current

Anderson News (Lawrenceburg, KY)

  • Obituaries: 07/18/2012 – Current

Kentucky Standard (Bardstown, KY)

  • Obituaries: 03/25/2012 – Current

Larue County Herald News (Hodgenville, KY)

  • Obituaries: 08/30/2012 – Current

Lebanon Enterprise (Lebanon, KY)

  • Obituaries: 07/13/2012 – Current

Oldham Era (LaGrange, KY)

  • Obituaries: 09/01/2012 – Current

Sentinel-News (Shelbyville, KY)

  • Obituaries: 06/15/2012 – Current

Spencer Magnet (Taylorsville, KY)

  • Obituaries: 08/28/2012 – Current

Springfield Sun (Springfield, KY)

  • Obituaries: 07/16/2012 – Current

Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, NM)

  • Obituaries: 08/21/2012 – Current

Los Alamos Monitor (Los Alamos, NM)

  • Obituaries: 05/17/2012 – Current

York Daily Record (York, PA)

  • Obituaries: 06/29/2013 – Current

York Dispatch (York, PA)

  • Obituaries: 06/29/2013 – Current

Chester News & Reporter (Chester, SC)

  • Obituaries: 06/29/2012 – Current

Island Packet (Hilton Head, SC)

  • Obituaries: 03/25/2008 – Current

Lancaster News (Lancaster, SC)

  • Obituaries: 07/02/2012 – Current

Lafollette Press (Lafollette, TN)

  • Obituaries: 06/28/2012 – Current

Bedford Bulletin (Bedford, VA)

  • Obituaries: 06/08/2012 – Current

Galax Gazette (Galax, VA)

  • Obituaries: 05/25/2012 – Current

Handy Quick List: 75 Kentucky Newspapers Now Online

GenealogyBank is growing at a rapid pace—we now have over 75 Kentucky newspapers online. That’s a lot of local city papers for your ancestry research in the “Bluegrass State.”

Here is the complete list of KY newspapers currently available in our archives. Easily search newspapers from Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green and more popular KY cities online.

Bookmark this list of Kentucky newspapers that is frequently updated to stay abreast of newly added titles.

City

Title

Date Range

Collection

Ashland Daily Independent 5/12/2007 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Bardstown Kentucky Standard 9/29/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Bardstown Western American 9/6/1803 – 12/21/1804 Historical Newspapers
Bedford Trimble Banner 9/29/2010 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Bowling Green Daily News 7/2/1999 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Campbellsville Central Kentucky News-Journal 10/3/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Carrollton Carrollton News-Democrat 7/14/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Columbia Adair Progress 4/27/2011 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Corbin News Journal 1/4/2012 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Corbin Times-Tribune 5/15/2006 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Covington Kentucky Post 4/2/1990 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Cynthiana Cynthiana Democrat 10/8/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Danville Advocate-Messenger 8/1/2003 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Danville Mirror 9/3/1804 – 10/24/1804 Historical Newspapers
Danville People’s Friend 1/30/1819 – 1/30/1819 Historical Newspapers
Elizabethtown News-Enterprise 4/30/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Frankfort Frankfort Argus 2/3/1808 – 11/12/1834 Historical Newspapers
Frankfort Kentucky Journal 12/5/1795 – 12/5/1795 Historical Newspapers
Frankfort Palladium 12/25/1798 – 9/6/1816 Historical Newspapers
Frankfort Western World 7/7/1806 – 6/8/1810 Historical Newspapers
Georgetown Telegraph 9/25/1811 – 12/22/1813 Historical Newspapers
Glasgow Glasgow Daily Times 2/9/2007 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Grayson, Olive Hill Journal-Times 7/5/2007 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Harlan Harlan Daily Enterprise 1/24/2003 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Harrodsburg Kentucky People 3/18/1870 – 8/25/1871 Historical Newspapers
Hazard Hazard Herald 10/2/2009 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Henderson Gleaner 4/14/2006 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Hodgenville Larue County Herald News 11/26/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
LaGrange Oldham Era 10/17/2007 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Lancaster Political Theatre 11/18/1808 – 7/26/1809 Historical Newspapers
Lawrenceburg Anderson News 1/2/2007 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Lebanon Lebanon Enterprise 11/20/2007 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Leitchfield Grayson County News Gazette 10/2/2009 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Leitchfield Record 8/20/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Lexington Kentucky Gazette 3/15/1794 – 12/28/1837 Historical Newspapers
Lexington Lexington Herald 3/20/1904 – 12/31/1922 Historical Newspapers
Lexington Lexington Herald-Leader 1/25/1984 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Lexington Lexington Standard 1/27/1900 – 1/27/1900 Historical Newspapers
Lexington Morning Herald 1/1/1896 – 3/19/1904 Historical Newspapers
Lexington Reporter 3/12/1808 – 12/25/1820 Historical Newspapers
Lexington Stewart Kentucky Herald 7/14/1795 – 9/15/1801 Historical Newspapers
Lexington True American 6/3/1845 – 10/21/1846 Historical Newspapers
Lexington Western Monitor 8/3/1814 – 12/20/1817 Historical Newspapers
Liberty Casey County News 8/27/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
London Sentinel Echo 9/18/2007 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Louisville Bulletin 9/24/1881 – 9/24/1881 Historical Newspapers
Louisville Louisville Eccentric Observer 4/21/2004 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Louisville Ohio Falls Express 7/11/1891 – 7/11/1891 Historical Newspapers
Louisville Weekly Courier-Journal 5/19/1879 – 7/29/1889 Historical Newspapers
Louisville Western Courier 11/16/1813 – 9/26/1816 Historical Newspapers
Madisonville Messenger 5/14/1999 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Maysville Eagle 1/19/1815 – 3/27/1818 Historical Newspapers
Maysville Ledger Independent 7/11/2002 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Middlesboro Middlesboro Daily News 5/31/2004 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Monticello Wayne County Outlook 7/3/2007 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Morehead Morehead News 8/31/2007 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
New Castle Henry County Local 10/9/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Nicholasville Jessamine Journal 10/8/2005 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Owensboro Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer 9/1/1988 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Owenton Owenton News-Herald 1/12/2011 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Paris Western Citizen 12/24/1808 – 12/27/1815 Historical Newspapers
Prestonsburg Floyd County Times 10/2/2009 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Richmond Globe 1/24/1810 – 10/17/1810 Historical Newspapers
Richmond Richmond Register 7/15/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Russellville Mirror 11/1/1806 – 12/1/1807 Historical Newspapers
Russellville News-Democrat & Leader 10/29/2001 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Russellville Weekly Messenger 1/26/1819 – 12/19/1820 Historical Newspapers
Shelbyville Sentinel-News 10/10/2007 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Shepherdsville Pioneer News 10/8/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Somerset Commonwealth-Journal 8/5/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Springfield Springfield Sun 7/8/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Stanford Interior Journal 8/31/2005 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Taylorsville Spencer Magnet 7/18/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Washington Republican Auxiliary 8/15/1807 – 8/15/1807 Historical Newspapers
Washington Union 3/8/1814 – 5/9/1817 Historical Newspapers
Whitley City McCreary County Record 6/7/2007 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Williamstown Grant County News and Express 4/15/2008 – Current Newspaper Obituaries
Winchester Winchester Sun 8/25/2006 – Current Newspaper Obituaries