Friday, March 16, 2012

What If You Could Read 50,000 Foreign Language Articles from Chicago Newspapers in English? You Can!

Yesterday, Chicago-area genealogist Jennifer Holik-Urban posted on the ChicagoGenealogy Facebook group to make researchers aware of the Foreign Language Press Survey. It's a new-to-me resource for Chicago research and a valuable one if you have foreign-born ancestors. The site provides access to translations of almost 50,000 articles from newspapers serving 22 ethnic and linguistic groups in Chicago. These translations were done as part of a Works Progress Administration project in the 1930s.

Visit the survey site (use the link above) and click on "Read about this historic project." As researchers, sometimes we have to guess how or why a particular resource was created. That isn't the case here. In fact, the background information is  detailed. If you click on the "Press Survey Codes" link, you can read through the subject guide that was used to pick articles for the project.

Click on "Return to search" to get started. I didn't have a name, so I typed in "bicycle" (inspired by Chicago's unseasonably high temperatures this week?) and explored the results. One of the first entries was a letter to the editor of Skandinaven (28 Mar 1898) titled "Ladies on Wheels." The subject was "Norwegian // Attitudes > Position of Women and Feminism (I K)" and clicking on it brought up related articles. Exploring further, I found mention of German and Polish bicycle clubs, an appeal for contributions to the family of a young Bohemian boy killed while learning to ride a bike, and a biography of the Danish owner of a bicycle company.

Even if you can't find mention of the specific people you're researching, the articles provide a valuable way to learn more about the communities in which they lived.

Thanks, Jennifer. And all the best with your March 28 release of Branching Out, a new genealogy textbook series for kids!


Jen said...

Thanks for the mention Cyndy!

eknutz said...

I worked on this project and I can say it is a truly valuable historical resource. The history of Chicago is so interesting and the Foreign Language Press Survey brings it to life in a very unique way: by enabling one to read the news reports of life in the city from many distinct perspectives.

Bravo to the Newberry Library for bringing this worthy endeavor to the world!

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