25 February 2011


     First, I want to extend my condolences to all who lost family members and friends in the recent earthquake in New Zealand. I also hope no further damage occurs, and that the country can recover quickly.
     Second, I want to thank my Castlecomer list friend Jack Langton for alerting me to what is quickly becoming one of my favorite web sites, Papers Past.
     With the world's awareness now focused on New Zealand, I thought it would be appropriate to point out a very valuable resource that the National Library of New Zealand provides for Irish family history researchers: the Papers Past project. This free online database can be of value to all Irish researchers, even if one's family never set foot on New Zealand soil. The database contains over one million digitized newspapers from the years 1839-1945.
     Why would old local newspapers in New Zealand be of value to a researcher in Iowa or Toronto or Dublin? Because where ever the Irish settled, they still longed for news and gossip from home. If your ancestors made the news in Ireland, they may have found their way into one of the 61 New Zealand newspapers in the Library's database.These newspapers are full of news items coming out of Ireland. 
     I began by using broad search terms such as "Kilkenny" and "Castlecomer." The search engine returned numerous articles about local life in Co. Kilkenny that ranged from the king's visit to a local uprising to a mysterious thick black rain that fell on Castlecomer on a July evening (the rain stained clothing and contaminated the local streams).
     Don't forget that this search technique can be effective with other newspaper databases, also. Have you tried a search using your Irish townland or county name in newspaper databases for cities with large Irish immigrant populations, such as Boston or Philadelphia?