Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega writes about GenealogyBank’s bilingual and Spanish-language newspaper collection. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”
With the current celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), perhaps you’ve been inspired to research your family’s Hispanic ancestors and connections. Did you know that GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives have several ethnic newspaper collections, including Spanish-language and bilingual newspapers?
Historical U.S. newspapers include much more than just English-language newspapers. Ethnic and foreign-language newspapers published in the U.S. provided a local or nationwide community with information that focused on the needs of their readers and news from the homeland.
1) The Newspapers Were Published in Various States
GenealogyBank’s Hispanic Newspapers Collection spans the years 1808-1978 and includes 14 states.
States covered in the collection include:
- New Mexico
- New York
Keep in mind that these are newspapers that you will want to search for an individual ancestor by name in articles like obituaries and marriage announcements – but you will also want to read these newspapers to learn about your ancestor’s adopted community and news from home.
2) Not All of the Newspapers Are in Spanish
GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives focus on newspapers published in the U.S. That collection is diverse and includes newspapers that were targeted to a Hispanic audience in the country. Hispanic newspapers in this collection range from those printed in Spanish only to bilingual newspapers in Spanish and English.
What that means for the researcher is that you should check the language of the newspaper prior to searching. In some cases, even bilingual newspapers are not completely bilingual. Some articles will only appear in one language or the other.
If you need help reading Spanish, consult the Spanish Genealogical Word List available from the FamilySearch Research Wiki to help you with genealogically relevant keywords for your newspaper search (such as birth, married, died).
Genealogy Tip: Find the newspaper you are interested in and browse an issue to get a sense of what news was included, who the audience was, and the best way to search.
3) A Community Means More than a City
The newspapers in GenealogyBank’s Hispanic Newspapers Collection are diverse in terms of the audiences they were reaching. Newspapers may have focused on readers from a specific country like Mexico or Cuba. Some strived for a large reader audience, reaching expatriates and immigrants in the United States, no matter what state they lived in. They weren’t always city- or state-specific newspapers, such as Revista de Cuba Libre.
Another example is Guardia, an “underground bilingual newspaper published from 1969-1982 in Milwaukee.”* GenealogyBank’s collection of this newspaper spans 1969-1975.
The Wisconsin Historical Society notes: “The newspaper was created during the time of the labor movement led by Chicano laborers’ union Obreros Unidos (United Workers) to improve migrant workers’ rights.”
Obviously, this newspaper includes people’s names – but it won’t have the same genealogically relevant articles a location-based newspaper would.
However, there were times that the newspaper was location-focused, and as such catered to the needs of that community. That means you can find information about that city and about people in that location. Take for instance this page of advertisements from Amgio del Hogar, an Indiana Spanish-language newspaper. Advertisements are also for non-Hispanic-owned business in some cases and include some English text or the promise that the merchant speaks Spanish.
Spend Some Time with the Hispanic Newspaper Collection
Conducting a search on GenealogyBank can help you find hits in the Hispanic Newspapers Collection, but don’t forget that you can also browse specific newspaper titles and places and search just that newspaper.
Note on the header graphic: a photo of San Miguel Chapel, built in 1610 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the oldest church structure in the United States. Credit: Pretzelpaws; Wikimedia Commons.
* “‘La Guardia’ Newspaper Organizers,” Wisconsin Historical Society (https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Image/IM91127: accessed 23 September 2022).