Historic Newspapers

How to search

1. To browse the Kingston newspapers by date, use the shortcuts, here.

2. For newspapers from 1810 – 1849, search the digitized card index by subject, as follows:

  • click the Browse Index Cards tab at the top of this screen
  • type your search term
  • use AND, OR, or NOT (in capital letters) to combine your search terms
  • use the filters on the left-hand side of the screen to narrow your search
  • click the Reset button to clear the filters before starting a new search
  • your results will include only the information that appears on the typewritten cards in the card catalogue at Central
  • if the relevant issue of the newspaper is also available in the Vita Collection and/or the Google Newspaper Archive, the links to these duplicate issues will also appear in your results
  • for more information see "How This Database Was Created" (below.)

3. For newspapers from 1810 – 1900, search by keyword, as follows:

  • visit the Digital Kingston collection on the OurOntario/ Vita site
  • type your keyword(s)
  • keep in mind that the results will be somewhat hit-and-miss due to the limitations of the OCR (optical character recognition) process
  • for more information see "How This Database Was Created" (below.)

Things to know

Boolean Searching

  • If you type a phrase (e.g. ice rink) without using the words AND or NOT, the search will default to a Boolean OR...that is, you will get all the articles that include the word ice plus all those with the word rink.
  • Be sure to capitalize the connecting word AND, OR or NOT. Otherwise, the Boolean operator will be treated as a search term--e.g. your results could include every instance of the word and--giving you 52,000 results

Limited Search Capability

  • There are still many newspaper issues that have not yet been digitized or indexed.
  • In those that have been scanned, the optical character recognition is often poor because the quality of the original texts was faded, blurred or distorted.
  • It is not uncommon to find transcription errors--e.g. Jan instead of Jun, May instead of Mar, 1 instead of 7, etc.
  • If you discover such an error, please let us know, using the Contact button at the top of this screen.
  • Although the Google Newspaper Archive appears to have a search feature, it does not work.
  • Whenever possible, is best to browse the online issues as you would a microfilm reel.

Search Filters Carry Over to the Next Search

  • If you limit your search (to a certain date range, for example, or a certain newspaper) the limiters will continue to apply to your subsequent searches until you go back and delete them.
  • Be sure to press the Reset button every time you start a new search.

Zoom Does not Work

  • On the toolbar in some of the OurOntario/Vita newspapers, the zoom feature doesn’t work.
  • To work around this problem, click the printer icon to open the newspaper page as a pdf document.
  • Then use the + or button in your pdf viewer to zoom.

No Indexing for Paid Ads in pre-1850 Newspapers

  • The hand-built indexes to the early newspapers did not include paid advertisements.
  • This means that birth, marriage and death notices were included only if they were "newsworthy" in some way (e.g. if they involved a prominent citizen, an accidental death, etc.)
  • If you know the date of the birth, marriage or death, you can browse the newspaper images by date to see if an announcment was printed.

Letter at the Post Office

  • A common feature of the early newspapers was a notice called Letter at the Post Office.
  • This was used to notify people that mail was waiting to be picked up.
  • Since the column did not include anything more than the person's name, it is not usually worthwhile to pursue these entries.

How this database was created

Prior to 1975, a subject index to Kingston newspapers from 1810-1849 was prepared. The index entries were handwritten onto slips of paper, and the information from these slips was subsequently typed onto catalogue cards and filed in a set of drawers at the Central Library.

In 2005, the catalogue cards were scanned and digitized using OCR (optical character recognition) technology. They were linked to scans of newspapers from the W.D. Jordan Special Collections Library at Queen's University, and the results were incorporated into the first version of the Digital Kingston database. It consisted of the digitized index plus scans for the years 1810-c1820, and the digitized index without scans for the years c1820-1849.

Since 2005, newspaper digitization has continued in partnership with OurOntario using the Vita Digital Toolkit. This has extended the date range of the online newspapers by an additional 52 years (c1850 - 1900.) OCR work was performed on the newspapers from this date range, making available a certain amount of full-text keyword searching. However, because the OCR was usually performed on "scans of scans," the quality of the transcriptions for this date range is highly variable.

In recent years, the Google Newspaper Archive has also appeared online, providing yet-another option for accessing the early Kingston newspapers. The purpose of the new Digital Kingston Historical Newspapers database is to draw together all of these access points under one umbrella, to add more digitized content as it becomes available, and to provide as much subject access as possible to this valuable collection.