Newspaper Banner
[home] [state archives & library] [contact us] [odin]
Publishing History in North Dakota
Researching Newspapers
Requests by Mail
Interlibrary Loan
Purchasing Newspaper Microfilm
Listing of North Dakota Newspapers
Looking for newspapers in other states? Check out United States Newspaper Program participants - National Endowment for the Humanities U.S. Newspaper Program

In 1905, the Legislative Assembly enacted the North Dakota Newspaper Law, requiring official newspapers to send copies of every issue to the State Historical Society of North Dakota. In addition, the agency has attempted to collect as many extant earlier North Dakota newspapers as possible. This compilation of newspapers spans the period from early territorial days to the present.

Newspapers contain a great deal of information for the genealogist and the historical researcher. For genealogists, the newspapers may include birth and marriage announcements and death notices and obituaries. Individual newspapers provide information concerning local events throughout the ancestor's lifetime, and state and national events that were instrumental in shaping lives.

Newspaper editorials permit the historical researcher to uncover the dynamics of an area. Information concerning the social and cultural history, economics, politics, and individualism of members of the community can be found. City and county commission minutes and other official records were printed in the newspaper. Advertisements provide information concerning businesses that were a part of the community.


The first newspaper known to have been published in northern Dakota Territory was the Frontier Scout issued at Fort Union on July 7, 1864. Nine years later, The Bismarck Tribune published its trial run on July 6, 1873. This was soon followed by the Fargo Express, The Grand Forks Plaindealer, and The Jamestown Alert. Within a period of ten years one hundred and sixty newspapers were distributed throughout Dakota Territory, and by 1910 over three hundred and forty-four newspapers documented the hopes, dreams, and events of the developing state. The Brinton Newspaper Law of 1919 limited the number of newspapers publishing official notices. As a result, many newspapers were unable to survive on local community advertising. Other factors also entered into the demise of publications, and over two hundred newspapers ceased to circulate within a five year period. Presently, fewer than one hundred newspapers are published in North Dakota.


To obtain the best results, request the newspaper nearest the area where the event took place. Early newspapers usually contain information on an area within a fifteen to thirty mile radius, which was normally considered the trading area of a community.

Many newspapers were established to capitalize on homesteading notices. Once the area was settled, publishers relocated and another nearby newspaper placed correspondents in the community to report the news. Researchers need to identify the publishing order of newspapers which served a community.

In many communities it was up to family members to report to newspapers births, deaths or marriages. Prior to the 1950's, newspapers seldom contained specific sections devoted to births, deaths or marriages. The researcher needs to explore every part of the newspaper in order to locate such items. The local newspaper may provide insight into the life of a community and it's members.

Sources in the State Archives and Historical Research Library that may be helpful in locating dates, events and places include the newspaper abstract files, county and local history books, census records, and cemetery lists.



The newspaper inventory available on-line and in the Reading Room is organized alphabetically by county, thereafter by city or town, and finally by newspaper title. Each microfilm roll, along with the inclusive dates, is listed with the respective newspaper title. Researchers are asked to provide the microfilm roll number on the Daily Registration form before submitting the request to the reference staff.

Microfilm readers and reader-printers are provided in the Reading Room and a diagram of specific instructions for threading microfilm is provided on each machine. All microfilm must be rewound onto the original reel and the take-up reel must not be removed from the machine. Upon request, staff will provide assistance to those unfamiliar with using microfilm.


Staff cannot conduct newspaper searches requested by telephone. All requests must be made in writing and contain the necessary search fees. Research provided by the staff of the State Archives and Historical Research Library includes marriage and birth announcements and obituaries.


All newspapers on microfilm at the State Historical Society of North Dakota are available through interlibrary loan. Requests for microfilm must be made through a participating library and requests may be submitted on an ALA form or through the OCLC interlibrary loan subsystem. A listing of newspapers is available at this website. In addition, the North Dakota Newspaper Inventory, published in 1992, provides library catalog listings of all newspapers held by the State Historical Society and is available for purchase. Researchers may also obtain an inventory of newspapers available for an individual county for a copy fee plus postage and handling. (The number of pages will vary for each county.) We loan up to five rolls of microfilm for a two-week use period. See Interlibrary Loan Charges.


(See Charges For Reference Services)

Copies of individual rolls of microfilm which have been produced by the State Historical Society are available for purchase. (Prices are subject to change without notice.) Patrons wishing to purchase rolls of microfilm should submit their request in writing to the State Historical Society listing the roll number(s) or inclusive dates desired for each title. You will be notified of the costs and the rolls will be sent after receipt of payment.

go to top

Copyright 1999-2002 State Historical Society of North Dakota. You are free to use information from these pages for any non-commercial purpose. Any use of this information should credit the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Photographs shown on the State Historical Society of North Dakota's web site are taken from the collections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota and may not be included in any publication, printed or online, without the written permission of the Society.