Newspaper Index at RPL – Part 1 (1818-1850)

     There has been some talk recently about the newspaper indexes that are in the Local History Division of the Rochester Public Library. This will tell you what is in the indexes and what is not in the indexes.

     The indexes were done in the Great Depression by the U.S. National Youth Administration which was one of many projects done in that period of time to get people some meaningful work. The newspapers were still at RPL at the time the indexes were created. They were indexed by subject and names of individuals in articles.

     In the first part of the project, all the existing Rochester newspapers were indexed to December 31, 1850. The references were put on cards so that they could be alphabetized. Most cards are typed but some have handwritten notes and further references. Each gives you a letter code for the newspaper, date, page and column. The letters in the lower left corner of the cards are probably the indexer’s initials. Events that are indexed are marriages, deaths, funerals, runaways, business opening, accidents, political positions, arrests and many others. What you won’t find are birth notices. Also don’t expect parent’s names on marriages nor wife’s names when a married man dies. Occasionally it says that a person leaves a certain number of children but don’t expect their names.

  name card

 subject card

     The indexes were put on microfilm and also large printouts of the film were put in 15 volumes so you can easily do look-ups from the volumes. Those volumes are located in Local History and the microfilms are in the retrieval area on the first floor. Through the years I have found names I was looking for in the index but failed to find the names in the referenced newspaper. Those are rare but they can be really frustrating especially if the person you are looking for is in only one newspaper. When you consider the quantity of things indexed there is bound to be a small percentage of errors. The following are those newspapers that are in the first set of indexes (before Dec. 31, 1850): 

  • Rochester Telegraph – (index code RT) – July 7, 1818 – Sept. 6, 1825.
  • Rochester Gazette – (index code RG) – May 30, 1820 – Feb. 13, 1821 (Note: this newspaper is not listed in the codes on the introduction in each volume.) (Note 2: someone has mistakenly changed some of the references to RGLA but you can tell that would be wrong by the time period.)
  • Monroe Republican – (index code MR) – Aug. 2, 1825 – Aug. 1, 1826 (Note: The RPL copy of this microfilm has been lost for many years. Another copy of the film may be obtained via inter-library loan.)
  • Rochester Observer – (index code RO) – Feb. 17, 1827 – Sept. 19, 1832
  • Rochester Album – (index code RA) – Nov. 10, 1825 – Oct. 31, 1826 and Oct. 9, 1827 – July 22, 1828 (Note: this newspaper is not listed in the codes on the introduction in each volume.)
  • Rochester Daily Advertiser – (index code RDA) – Apr. 1827 – Jan. 4, 1829 and various odd issues Apr. 1830 – June 1840 and all July 1, 1840 – Dec. 31, 1850
  • Rochester Daily Telegraph – (index code RDT) – June 26, 1828 – Nov. 26, 1828
  • Rochester Daily Advertiser & Telegraph – (index code RDAT) – Jan. 5, 1829 – Apr. 3, 1830
  • Rochester Gem and Ladies Amulet – (index code RGLA) – May 1, 1829 – Dec. 1, 1843 (Note: most of this newspaper is on-line at: The Gem
  • Anti-Masonic Enquirer – (index code AE or AME) – Sept. 15, 1829 – Dec. 24, 1833
  • Rochester Republican – (index code RR) – Dec. 29, 1829 – Dec. 1849 (but missing 1832 – 1836)
  • Family Journal & Christian Philanthropist – (index code FJ) – Nov. 30, 1833 – March 29, 1834 (Note: this newspaper is not listed in the codes on the introduction in each volume.) (Note 2: located in bound volumes in Local History)
  • Rochester Daily Democrat – (index code RDD) – Feb. 17, 1834 – Dec. 31, 1850
  • Liberal Advocate – (index code LA) – (Only four issues exist; Apr. 6, 1834, also June 7, 14 & 21, 1834
  • Worlds As It Is & General Advertiser – (index code WAIS) – Feb. 20, 1836 – July 16, 1836 (Note: this newspaper is not listed in the codes on the introduction in each volume.)
  • Rochester Daily Sun – (index code RDS) – June 11, 1839 – Dec. 31, 1839
  • Workingman’s Advocate – (index code WA or WMA) – Jan. 1, 1840 – March 31, 1840

        The above list sounds like it would a lot of newspaper pages but most are weekly issues with only a couple that were dailies. The vast majority of issues were four pages with at least two pages of advertising.

     There are other newspapers for this period that did not get indexed. Most are either religious or political newspapers that were published for only a short time. Frederick Douglass’ North Star (1847 – 1851) also wasn’t indexed but now a couple of issues are available on the RPL website (Roads) and the whole collection is on microfilm at RPL.

      On the GenWeb site I have extracted all the marriages and deaths from 1818 to 1824. You can see those listed on the “Vital Records page.” I do plan to continue extracting more newspaper records in the future.

     The Rochester Public Library has transferred the index volumes to digital PDF files. They have also done optical character recognition on the books so it will be possible to search for a name or word after you download the file. The typewritten part of the cards could easily be recognized by their software but the handwritten parts could not be recognized so searching will miss those citations. Seeing as the cards are arranged alphabetically, this shouldn’t create many problems in finding what you are interested in. I am not sure when the indexes will be on-line. I imagine that there has to be some checking involved to make sure the all pages have been digitized and are readable. It could be soon or a while before they become publicly available.

continued in next posting…