Local newspaper indexing project halfway finished

April 15, 2007|By JULIE E. GREENE

A 26-year project to index local historic newspapers is already helping people across the country with research, including tracking down their family history, said Carol Appenzellar, project manager.

The Civil War years, 1860 to 1865, of the Historic Newspaper Indexing Project became searchable online at in August 2006, said Appenzellar, who works for Washington County Free Library.

Since a major marketing push for the Web site in December 2006, more than 30 people from as far away as California have requested articles that they found with the index, Appenzellar said. Mainly the index has been used for genealogy research.

The index is a project of the Washington County Free Library.

The total index project, to span 1790 to 1890, is halfway done, Appenzellar said.

Published versions of the index for 1790 to 1844 and 1860 to 1862 are available at the county library and its branches. The published version for 1863 to 1865 is expected to be available in May. Those copies also are available at the Maryland Archives in Annapolis.


The online index allows people to search Hagerstown newspapers from the Civil War years by name or subject.

Online patrons who cannot come into the library to look up the referenced items on microfilm can request to have copied material sent to them, Appenzellar said. Photocopies of images such as stories cost 20 cents per image. Images can be e-mailed for free.

The indexes list items such as obituaries, marriage announcements, advertisements, legal notices and news stories from several local newspapers. The newspapers' content includes information from what is now the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia; Washington, Frederick, Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland; and Franklin, Fulton, Adams and Cumberland counties in Pennsylvania.

Those newspapers include the Herald of Freedom and Torch Light, Hagerstown Mail, Maryland Free Press and The Washington Spy.

Indexing the newspapers involved some investigative work, as no complete set of the Herald of Freedom and Torch Light and the Herald and Torch Light could be found. They are essentially the same newspaper, which changed its name when its publisher changed, Appenzellar said.

In 1999, library employee Marsha Fuller discovered the Hagerstown newspapers for 1860 to 1862 period were at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore.

In 2003, Appenzellar learned the American Antiquarian Society in Massachusetts had a set of Hagerstown newspapers from 1864 to 1865. She also found out that Joseph Bloom of Oregon had the issues from 1863.

All three sources provided access to the newspapers so their content could be indexed.

Appenzellar, a part-time employee, said she will continue working on indexing 1845 to 1849 this year.

To learn more ...

Search the index of items published in local newspapers from 1860 to 1865 at

To read the Sept. 10 and 24 editions of the Herald of Freedom and Torch Light from 1862, go to Western Maryland's Historical Library online at

The Herald-Mail Articles