If you are lucky, these lifecycle events will be documented in the newspapers where your family lived. The pages also allow us to glimpse how people lived, what they bought, what they ate, their social activities and more through advertisements and local event coverage.
If your family lived in New Mexico, you may find information dating back to 1860, as the University of New Mexico Libraries has just received a major grant to digitize the state's old newspapers (1860-1922).
The $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will preserve some 100,000 newspaper pages, some of which are 150 years old, reported the UNM Daily Lobo.
Michael Kelly is the director of the Center of Southwest Research.
“Since UNM Libraries hold the largest collection of New Mexico newspapers on microfilm, we want to take the initiative and make these and other unique resources freely available to everyone in New Mexico,” Kelly said.
The digitized publications will also be accessible via the Library of Congress' online "Chronicling America" database, as well as a New Mexico online database.
For researchers attempting to track early settlers to New Mexico, or historical events, online access will make the process much easier.
“Before, you had to go get the box of materials, go through the box folder by folder, scan what you wanted,” Kelly said.
“Before, scholarship was much more linear. Now there is so much more (online), and you have a chance to compare and contrast.”
According to the story, UNM has been collecting and microfilming state newspapers for years and Kelly estimates there are now 500 microfilm reels each with about 1,000 pages.
The database will also include music, videos, photographs and posters, and make it easier for researchers to use the material for their own projects. Parameters will include searching for a person, place or event.
Unfortunately, Spanish-language papers cannot yet be digitized because of computer software constraints, but Kelly hopes the problems will be fixed by the time the center reapplies for the grant in 2012.
Are your families from New Mexico? What research have you done? Have you accessed the UNM microfilmed newspapers?