Newspapers are one of the most versatile and heavily used sources of information for researchers, genealogists, students and the general public. Feature stories, society news, classified and picture advertisements, school and church news and announcements, news from surrounding towns, editorials and cartoons, all give the reader a sense of "being there."
Historical newspapers document the daily life of communities in a way that no history book can reproduce, from the grand scope of world events to the smaller stories of lost horses and the claims of patent medicines. Business concerns buy space to advertise and legal notices announce the dissolution of partnerships. Births, deaths and marriages appear next to essays, poems and amusing anecdotes.
In spite of their immense popularity with genealogists and historians, newspapers are also one of the most difficult and inefficient research materials, and they are often not consulted by researchers simply because they are so difficult to use. Five specific problems have been identified for researchers using historic newspapers: lack of access due to not being indexed, deterioration of the physical newspapers, poor condition of microfilm and difficulty in using microfilm and the equipment, limited access to the local paper or film, and the need to search each issue of the paper individually.
Researching old newspapers on microfilm is a daunting, time-consuming task. Unless you know the exact date, finding a particular name, phrase, or event could take hours and hours scrolling through film on a microfilm reader printer–a process wearing to both film and researcher. New digital technology offers the opportunity to open the vast resources of historic newspapers by providing article level and keyword indexing of newspapers.
Besides the many genealogy resources at the Fremont County Historical Museum, several libraries in our county have, or will soon have, newspapers on DVD or the Internet.
Bound issues of the Randolph Enterprise newspapers 1897-1971 are available at the Randolph Public Library until their searchable DVD project is completed.