Newspapers and Newspaper Indexes

Background Reading

  • The Source. 929.1072 So84a2. Essential reading.
  • Ancestry's Red Book. 929.1072 R254b. Gives broad description of the newspaper situation in each state.

Terms Related to Newspaper Death Reporting

A Death Notice: The most common type of newspaper item, usually 1 to 2 column inches. Death notices are considered paid advertisements and are usually NOT indexed by the newspaper that publishes them. Simply stated: no money, no death notice.

An Obituary: A longer newspaper item, usually longer than 2 column inches, sometimes accompanied with a photograph, and usually in the same area of the newspaper as the death notices. Obituaries are considered news items and are usually indexed if the newspaper maintains an index.

A Pure News Item: A big news story that reports a high profile death, usually lengthy, and in a different part of the newspaper than the death notices and obituaries. E.g., President Kennedy had neither a death notice nor an obituary in the New York Times. Pure news items are almost always indexed if the newspaper maintains an index.

Newspaper Collections Held at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP)

The Free Library‘s Newspapers and Microfilm Center has an extensive collection of old Philadelphia newspapers, which can be requested by title or by date. There is an alphabetical title list of newspaper holdings with date rangesNewspaper guide Alphabetical - PDF version, and another listing of newspaper holdings by decade of publication.Newspaper guide Chronological - PDF version For example, to find a death notice from 1865, use the listing by decades to find Free Library newspaper holdings for that year.

The following newspaper INDEXES are available in the Newspapers and Microfilm Center:

  • New York Times. All annual indexes. Personal Name Index, 1851 - 1993. Also online in the National Newspaper Index, an Infotrac database available as a Free Library electronic resource.
  • Public Ledger (Phila.), 1836 - 1875, marriage and death notice index.
  • Public Ledger (Phila.), 1852 - 1870, indexes to local affairs, wants, and personal columns.
  • Public Ledger (Phila.), 1914 - 1939, subject and personal name index. No death notice index. Index overlaps with and is combined with the Evening Public Ledger index, below.
  • Evening Public Ledger (Phila.), 1919 - 1924, 1926 - 1942, subject and personal name index. No death notice index. Index overlaps with and is combined with the Public Ledger index, above.
  • Philadelphia Inquirer, 1860 - 1879, death notice index.
  • Philadelphia Inquirer, 1979 - 1980, state/regional news index. No death notices.
  • Philadelphia Inquirer, 1981 - present. On the Internet at No death notice index.
  • Philadelphia Daily News, 1978 - present. On the Internet at No death notice index.
  • Poulson's American Daily Advertiser (Phila.), 1791- 1839, death notice and marriage index.
  • Pennsylvania Gazette, 1728 - 1791, obituary notices (from Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, v. 10, 1886, pp. 334-349).
  • Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, Feb 1896 - Jan 1903, personal name and subject indexes. (no death notice index, but see the "necrology").
  • Philadelphia Press Index, 1898 - 1912 (missing Aug, Sep, Dec 1901), personal name and subject indexes. Available as a print index and also as a Free Library electronic resource. No death notice index.
  • Philadelphia Tribune, 4 Jun 1975 - 30 Nov 1980, 1 Jan 1985 - 14 Jul 1992, personal name and subject indexes. No death notice index.
  • Philadelphia Tribune, 1994 - present. Online as part of Ethnic Newswatch, a ProQuest database available as an electronic resource on the Free Library web site. No death notice index.

The following newspaper INDEXES are available at the Social Science and History Department:

  • Runaway Servants, Convicts, and Apprentices Advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette, 1728-1796. 929.3748 G92r. ROOM REF
  • Abstracts (Mainly Deaths) from The Pennsylvania Gazette, 1775-1783. 929.3748 Ab89m. ROOM REF
  • Philadelphia Marriages & Obituaries (1857 - 1860), Philadelphia Saturday Bulletin. 929.3 P386p. ROOM REF
  • Genealogical Data from The Pennsylvania Chronicle, 1767 - 1774. 929.373 Sco84g. ROOM REF
  • Genealogical Abstracts from The American Weekly Mercury, 1719 - 1746. 929.1 Sco85g. ROOM REF
  • Genealogical Data Relating to the German Settlers of Pennsylvania and Adjacent Territory From Advertisements in German Newspapers Published in Philadelphia and Germantown, 1743 - 1800. 929.3089 H659g. ROOM REF
  • New York Times Obituaries Index, 1858 - 1978. 016.92 N489y.

Also see:

  • A Checklist of Pennsylvania Newspapers, v. 1, Philadelphia County. Shelved with 016.9748 P3843b in the Social Science and History Department reference section. ROOM REF
  • Newspapers in Philadelphia Area Libraries. 016.071748 N478i. STX
  • Pennsylvania Newspapers: a Bibliography and Union List. 016.07 P385n. STX
  • "The Pennsylvania Newspaper Project," in the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, v. 34, no. 3, 1990, pp. 192-202. Lists Pennsylvania newspapers microfilmed by the project. A929 G28.
  • Pennsylvania Newspapers and Selected Out-of-State Newspapers. States P38-5256. GPD
  • History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820, 2 v. with suppl. 070 B76. NEWS
  • Chronological Tables of American Newspapers, 1690-1820. 016.07 L347c. STX
  • Ask in the Newspapers and Microfilm Center and the Literature Department about union lists of current and old U.S. newspapers and their locations.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP)

The HSP has an excellent collection of old newspapers and indexes. Genealogical Research in Public Documents is a HSP handout that gives detailed listings of important subject headings used in the HSP catalogs. A copy is at the Social Science and History Department reference desk at The Free Library. The HSP catalogs must be used to access their vast collection. A History of Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishing, a handout available at HSP, gives a list of many of the HSP newspaper holdings. The list can also be found in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, v. 70, 1946, pp. 373-76. This list should be used in conjunction with HSP catalogs.

Urban Archives (TUA)

The Urban Archives, in Temple University's Paley Library, has an index to The Philadelphia Bulletin newspaper covering the years 1908-1975 as well as a collection of newspaper clippings, primarily from the Bulletin and ranging from the 1920s to 1982. The staff can consult the index for a record of a death notice or obituary if you give them the deceased person's full name (or first and last names); once you have the date of death or burial (or the date of the relevant newspaper item), you can search the Free Library's microfilm of the Bulletin.

Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies (BIES) merged with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 2002

A Guide to Manuscript and Microfilm Collections of the Research Library of the Balch Institute of Ethnic Studies. 016.325 B667g. (1992) Lists numerous ethnic newspapers. ROOM REF

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS)

Also known as the Mormon Church, the LDS has the largest collection of genealogical material in the world. This collection is worldwide in scope. Numerous microfilm reels of church and public records are available for loan for a nominal fee. Generally speaking, anything that can be borrowed from LDS can be photocopied. LDS publishes a Research Outline for each of the fifty United States. There is a section in each outline that gives a broad description of the overall newspaper situation for each U.S. state.