19 February 2013

Newberry Library Launches Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey

A big challenge to genealogical and family history researchers can be that “news” about our ancestors was published in ethnic non-english publications produced where they lived in the U.S. 

Many of us never had or have lost the ability to read in any language other than English.  This can be a real challenge just not when trying to access early church records (e.g. those Lutheran and Greek Orthodox churches of my ancestors in Massachusetts kept their records in Finnish and Russian/Latin, respectively, which means they are essentially unavailable to me) and also newspapers.   

If your emigrant family was from Chicago (as my husband’s was), you will be excited to learn that The Newberry Library has made available online (and for free) The Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey This was published in 1942 by the Chicago Public Library Omnibus Project of the Works Projects Administration of Illinois. The purpose of the project was to translate and classify selected news articles that appeared in the foreign language press from 1855 to 1938. The project consists of 120,000 typewritten pages translated from newspapers of 22 different foreign language communities of Chicago.

I tried to search on some of the Polish and Russian names from my husband’s side of the family with no success.  Hopefully you will be more successful.

Did your family live in a Chicago community where a language other than English was spoken?  Did you search this collection and find them mentioned?

Editor’s Note: It is likely that most of our family members will not be found in this collection.  Even if your family is not found, you might learn something about the emigrant community to which they belonged or similarly the town or locale where they immigrated to.

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