Going “deep” with your chronology

Newspaper_headlines_of_Japanese_Relocation_-_NARA_-_195535.tifAs I mentioned in a previous post, when conducting biographical research, assembling a chronology is your first step. But what’s your second? Filling in the background, the setting in which your subject lived – the weather, the politics, the stock prices, the scandals of the day. All that had an effect on your subject, whether minor or profound.

How do you find this stuff out? You can start with the newspaper! Your local library most likely will have either paper or microfilm copies of the important newspapers from your area. There are also several newspaper databases that make research easy (check your local library or the nearest university library).

A database you can access right now (without leaving your home!) is the California Digital Newspaper Project. This stunning newspaper collection contains 61,412 issues comprising 545,955 pages and 6,364,529 articles – what does that mean to you? That means that you can search the Daily Alta from 1849-1891, the Los Angeles Star from 1851-1864, AND the Sacramento Daily Union from 1851-1899 (and these are just a few of the titles indexed).

Researching the Gold Rush? This database has got you covered. Researching the Civil War? This database will provide you with unique insight into how California’s saw the issues. Researching the experience of African Americans in the fledgling state? You don’t want to miss reading through the Elevator from 1865-1898!

The CBSR has received three grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize California newspapers for the National Digital Newspaper Program. Titles digitized as part of the NDNP are available both here and at the Library of Congress Chronicling America website. If your research isn’t limited to California, fear not! There are similar sites to other states as well.

The California Digital Newspaper Project will help you take your chronology to a deeper level. I use it daily (seriously!). I hope you enjoy it!

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