The hole in Ohio’s online historical newspaper access.


I am a native to Ohio, which makes me an “Ohioan”.  With the exception of a brief window in the 1980s when I moved to Washington, D.C., to go to school and to work, , I have lived in Shaker Heights, or Marion or Columbus, Ohio.

But in 2012, we were transferred when my husband’s employer said you have two choices: be bought-out, or move to Baltimore, Maryland.  Why move to Baltimore, “They name be Cahrm City, I am sure”?  Because his employer said that they wanted him here, and because we have grown accustomed things like food, shelter and medical insurance.  So we loaded up the truck and moved to Baltimore.

The problem for my genealogy research meant that I was no longer ten minutes to the Ohio Historical Society, now The Ohio History Connection, and no longer fifty minutes to Marion, or two-hours from Cleveland, but EIGHT hours, by car from Baltimore.

This meant my access was going to rely almost exclusively on online sites and databases.

And don’t get me wrong – Ohio’s well covered in these online databases and with digital imaging.  Thankfully, Ohio was the center of it all in the United States for more than a century.

Now, I am luckier than most when it comes to online databases for newspapers.

Newspaper Archive, and now, have most of the Marion Star newspapers online.  Moreover, Chronicling America has the (loopy) Marion Mirror – a newspaper that usually took liberties with facts.

BUT, what I can’t get to from here are the newspapers for smaller communities like Bucyrus, Galion and Kenton, Ohio. Findlay, too, I believe.  Bucyrus is the county seat for Crawford County.  Galion is the second largest city in Crawford County, and for a county with a relatively small population, to have two cities of their size is unusual.  Kenton is the county seat for Hardin County.  Online access to Pickaway, Ross, Madison and Fairfield county is also slim to none online.

The access isn’t there because the 1) commercial companies that put newspapers online want the local newspapers to ship their microfilms to them to digitize them and or the papers may only have one or two sets of microfilm in existence.  The second reason is because the Ohio History Connection has failed to look at Ohio and see where the holes are when submitting content to “Chronicling America.”  They have also chosen to go with special “projects” like newspapers from the Civil War in during the 2014-2015 grant year, and some of this content is already online.

And with the current President, cough cough, who doesn’t believe in funding the humanities, I don’t think we are going to see a significant increase in the funding for Chronicling America.  The only way for that to happen is to elect someone else in 2020 – or in the 2018 Congressional Mid-Term elections.  Otherwise the program will wither on the vine.

At RootsTech I had a chance to speak with vendors from, GenealogyBank and Find My Past.  And when I described this problem, the answers were all pretty much the same: “We’d love to have the content, just have them send us the microfilm.”  No contact information, no description of process, nada. Nothing.

But when a community only has one copy of the microfilm for their daily newspaper of record, they are not going to send it off willy nilly to some “black box”* and then wait la-ti-dah for it to get sent back.  They need funding for the  transport and some type of guarantee that the films will be returned, etc.  In other words they need information on how it works, costs and the features and benefits of getting all online.

And in the case of the Bucyrus Telegraph, Forum and the merged Telegraph-Forum, there is only one copy – and its at the library in Bucyrus.  Fat chance that’s going anywhere.  OHC in Columbus has the papers, but not the films.

So for those of us researching these counties in North Central Ohio from afar, the only online hope is to scour neighboring, larger communities online, cross our fingers and hope for the best.


*The Black Box theory is philosophical idea that ideas (input) go into an organization, or an institution, or some other type of “body” of peoples that is not open, that guards its inner workers and what emerges on the other side are products of that “input”.  And while inside of that shrouded process cannot be seen, it’s impossible to address (because the processes happen behind the scenes) or effect any answers to questions that might arise while the “body” is processing that information.  Within the black box, a disconnect can occur, with the results of input being unlinkable to the input.   So if I say “We need Apple’s” -> [BLACK BOX] -> We could get “fruit” “computers” or “sauce”.

Clear as mud?  I thought so…