Middlesex Journal and index card

Beginning with the publication of the Woburn Gazette in 1844, there have been more than twenty separate newspapers published in Woburn. These papers are a rich source of local history for anyone conducting research into Woburn’s past.  A full run of the newspapers are held on microfilm reels at the Library. Our extensive collections of newspaper subject indexes, on 3 X 5 inch cards, provide citations for specific articles and for obituaries in the papers.  With the launch of our redesigned website we are introducing a new Archives resource, Newspaper Indexes, which provides improved access to the historical newspaper indexes at the Library. Ten new Woburn newspaper indexes now join the indexes for the Woburn Weekly Budget and the Woburn Telegram that were previously posted on the Archives web pages in PDF files. This new resource offers easy- to- read index tables that can be sorted by the user according to subject and description, and viewed on your home computer.

To make these indexes available online it was first necessary to transcribe the many thousands of index cards for each newspaper. The cards were hand-written by past librarians in cursive, that flowing style of penmanship taught to generations of grammar school students. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that the cards began to be typed. Learning to read the cursive text is something of an acquired skill, requiring a familiarity with how each writer formed individual letters in order to accurately record the information. Over the past few years, Archives Volunteers have spent countless hours carefully transcribing the information on the cards and entering the data into tables. Some of the cards also provide supplementary information such as birth, marriage and death statistics for an individual. Once an index’s transcription is complete it is proof read for accuracy. The tables created can be quite large; the table for the Woburn Journal index is over 500 pages long! Only three indexes remain to be completed: those for the Woburn Journal, the Woburn News and the Woburn Daily Times.  The first two are in progress while the index for the Woburn Daily Times, itself comprised of many thousands of cards, awaits transcription.

To locate an article after a citation is found in an index, you can view the microfilm for that newspaper at the Library using our Konica Scan Pro 3000 microfilm reader/scanner. In addition to providing useful navigation tools, the Scan Pro 3000 has the ability to print or to scan an article in several different file formats on a flash drive, including high resolution Tiff files suitable for making display copies. To access the microfilm simply stop by the Reference desk any time that the library is open and ask for assistance. Happy researching!