Newspapers are a great source of genealogical information, not only obituaries and death notices, but also estate and marriage notices, and — the best part — anecdotes and news about ancestors and relatives. As more papers are digitized and made available online, this wealth of information is more accessible than ever.
The list below of local newspapers was begun in 1992 by Joel Alderfer to assist researchers at the Mennonite Heritage Center, and is limited to Pennsylvania German areas of Bucks and Montgomery Counties. I have updated it with availability of a few papers online, and added a summary of Philadelphia, Allentown and Reading papers that can be accessed at Newspapers.com. This user-friendly site allows one to search by keyword across the entire nation and all newspapers (they’re continually adding more), or to narrow the search to specific states, cities, papers and time periods. I have found the site invaluable for my own research.
In addition, you can find information about the papers listed here, and many others (digitized or not), in the U.S. Newspaper Directory on the Library of Congress website. In each catalog record, click on “Libraries that have it” to see which libraries are known to have copies of the paper.
Historic local newspapers
If you have corrections or additional information, please comment at the end of the post, or send an email to Joel Alderfer at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collegeville Independent, 1877-1984. Began as Providence Independent. Originals at Historical Society of Trappe, Collegeville & Perkiomen Valley.
Perkiomen Weekly Ledger, 1890-1905? A few issues at Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center, Pennsburg.
Harleysville Weekly News, 1886-1912. Rare and complete set was owned by the late Richard M. Musselman, Harleysville; now dispersed. A complete microfilm set, minus the year 1905 (due to a microfilming error), is owned by the Mennonite Heritage Center. We have collected originals of most issues in 1905.
Hatfield Mirror, 1884?-1893; Hatfield Invincible, 1893-1899. Name changed to Hatfield Times in 1899, and Hatfield Valley Times in 1955. Some issues owned by Hatfield Museum & History Society.
Towamensing Item, 1885-1891. Partial set 1888-89 in possession of Mennonite Heritage Center.
Montgomery County Presse (German), 1861-68; Telford, PA, 1868-1902? There were a couple other short-lived German newspapers in Lansdale in the 1870s and 1880s: Stimme des Volkes und Montgomery County Presse and Der Beobachter.
North Penn Reporter (a.k.a. Lansdale Reporter, Lansdale Republican & North Penn Review, The Reporter), 1870-current. Originals and microfilm at Lansdale Historical Society (digitization in process).
Norristown Herald, 1799-current. Originals and microfilm at Historical Society of Montgomery County, Norristown. 1799-1848 abstracted and published by Judith Meier, HSMC librarian.
North Wales Record, 1874-1944. Scattered issues at Mennonite Heritage Center and Schwenkfelder Library.
Der Bauern Freund (German), 1828-1858, first published at Sumneytown; Bauern Freund und Demokrat, 1858-1905. Originals at Schwenkfelder Library (partially digitized). Abstracts of marriages and deaths were done by Ken Hallman (Genealogical Society of PA members have access to these abstracts online); print copies at SLHC and HSMC.
Perkiomen Valley Press, 1874-1899?
Town & Country, 1899-current. Originals and microfilm at Schwenkfelder Library. This is the only local neighborhood paper still operating that hasn’t been purchased by a conglomerate. They recently published a summary of the paper’s history.
Der Advocat (German), 1820-1829. John Royer, publisher. Complete set of originals, 1823-29, were in the Pottstown Public Library (1974). Abstracts of marriages and deaths done by Raymond Hollenbach (1974) available in local historical libraries including HSMC, MHC, SLHC.
Pottstown Times (later known as Pottstown Journal), 1819-1843. John Royer, founder & publisher. Merged with Montgomery Ledger in 1843.
Montgomery Ledger (a.k.a. Pottstown Daily Ledger, Pottstown Ledger), 1843-1924. Originals at Pottstown Public Library and Pottstown Historical Society.
Pottstown Daily News (a.k.a. Pottstown News), 1887- 1933. Merged with the Pottstown Mercury in 1933, which began in 1931. Copies at Pottstown Historical Society. Note: there were many other small and short-lived newspapers in Pottstown, but the above listed were the major papers.
Pottstown Mercury, 1933-current. Available at Pottstown Public Library. 1933-1978 available at Newspapers.com.
Schwenksville Item, 1881-1989. Originals at Schwenkfelder Library.
Der Neutralist (German), 1845-1898. Originals at Schwenkfelder Library. Abstracts of marriages and deaths done for first ten years available at MHC and other local historical libraries.
Montgomery Transcript, 1888-1956. Originals and microfilm at Schwenkfelder Library.
Souderton Independent, 1878-current. Started as Germania Gazette in German. Microfilm at Indian Valley Public Library, Telford, and Mennonite Heritage Center (1881-1981).
Doylestown Intelligencer, 1803-current. Originals and microfilm at Bucks County Historical Society, Doylestown. Abstracts of marriages by Frances Waite and others, Bucks County Genealogical Society. There were other English newspapers in Doylestown over the years, but the Intelligencer was the major, longest-lived paper. 1945-2009 available at Newspapers.com.
Der Doylestauner Bote (German), 1820- ??. Very few copies survive.
Bucks County Express, Doylestown, 1827-1918. Some copies at BCHS.
Der Bucks County Bauer (German), 1835-1848. Joseph Jung, publisher. Forerunner to Der Morgenstern. Some issues at BCHS.
Der Morgenstern (German), 1848-1889. Jung und Loeb, publishers. Scattered issues at BCHS and Mennonite Heritage Center.
A collection of obituary clippings from Der Morgenstern and other local papers was recently donated to the MHC. You can read some interesting examples in an earlier blog post.
Perkasie Central News, Perkasie News Herald, 1881-current. Central News merged with Sellersville Herald in 1943 to form the News-Herald. Originals 1881-1943 at Sellersville Museum; 1943-2000 at Bucks County Historical Society. 1881-2000 available at Newspapers.com.
Der Reformer und Pennsylvania Advertiser and Der Reformer und Agriculturist…, Milford Square, 1867-1881. John G. Stauffer, editor. Some copies at Mennonite Heritage Center and Schwenkfelder Library.
Patriot and Reformer, Milford Square & Quakertown, 1881-1902. Some copies at Schwenkfelder Library.
Quakertown Free Press, 1881-2008. Microfilm at Bucks County Historical Society (at least 1881-1957).
Springtown Weekly Times, 1885-1918. Started by Franklin H. Rosenberger in Quakertown (1885) as the Quakertown Times, but soon moved to Springtown. Copies at Bucks County Historical Society.
Local papers available at Newspapers.com as of 3/26/2020
The Publishers Extra subscription, which is required to view certain major papers with recent issues, is only a few dollars more per month.
Pennsylvania Gazette, 1728-1815 (15,000 pages)
Pennsylvania Packet, 1771-1796 (13,000 pages)
Freeman’s Journal, 1781-1792 (2,400 pages)
Independent Gazetteer, 1782-1797 (6,700 pages)
Philadelphia Inquirer, 1789-current (3.7M+ pages) – requires Publishers Extra subscription
Aurora General Advertiser, 1790-1814 (27,000 pages)
United States Gazette, 1803-1843 (13,000 pages)
National Gazette, 1820-1841 (26,000 pages)
Public Ledger, 1836-1861, 1914-1942 (84,000 pages)
Evening Telegraph, 1864-1871 (13,000 pages) – available for free from Library of Congress
Philadelphia Times, 1875-1902 (81,000 pages)
Evening Public Ledger, 1914-1922 (52,000 pages) – available for free from Library of Congress
Philadelphia Daily News, 1960-current (1.5M+ pages) – requires Publishers Extra subscription
Der Lecha Caunty Patriot (German),1838-1869 (5,900 pages)
Allentown Democrat, 1879-1918 (40,000 pages)
Morning Call, 1883-current (3M+ pages) – requires Publishers Extra subscription
Allentown Leader, 1893-1918 (57,000 pages)
La Voz Hispana (Spanish), 1994-2008 (3,400 pages) – requires Publishers Extra subscription
Der Liberale Beobacher (German), 1839-1851 (2,300 pages)
Reading Times, 1859-1939 (219,000 pages)
Delaware County Daily Times, 1876-1977 (161,000 pages)