Local History Sources

Sources for Historic and Contemporary Newspapers

General Newspaper Sources

  • Nexis UniRestricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required Nexis Uni features more than 15,000 news, business and legal sources from LexisNexis with an interface that offers quick discovery across all content types, personalization features such as Alerts and saved searches and a collaborative workspace with shared folders and annotated documents. Includes current searchable access to the most current two years of Los Angeles Times articles.


Los Angeles County Newspaper Sources

  • Los Angeles Weekly: Founded in 1978, L.A. Weekly is the nation’s mostly widely read alt-weekly. Search full archives by keyword or browse E-editions from 2016 to present.
  • The Downey Patriot: The Downey Patriot is a weekly newspaper covering the city of Downey, Calif. Established in 2002, the Patriot covers issues of interest to Downey residents and stakeholders, such as city council and school board meetings, high school sports, crime, food and dining, entertainment, non-profits, health and real estate.
  • The Paramount Journal: The Paramount Journal has been a local voice for the community since 1923 reporting on the news and events in Paramount. Note: Paramount was formerly Clearwater and Hynes.
  • Compton Herald: The Compton Herald is a contemporary digital media publication "providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Inglewood, the Los Angeles metropolitan area of California, and the world."
  • The Bulletin Weekly: The Englewood Tribune, Carson Bulletin, Wilmington Beacon, The Californian, and The South L.A. Voice are now The Bulletin Weekly. 
  • LA Sentinel - Compton: The Los Angeles Sentinel, established in 1933, is an African American owned and operated newspaper that puts emphasis on issues concerning the African American community and its readers. Check out their current webpage for contemporary articles, and check out the LA Sentinel on Proquest for articles dating back to the 1930s. 

Demographic Data and Maps

Census and Other Data:

  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • SimplyAnalyticsRestricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required (census data from 2000 and 2010, as well as market and business data). Sign up with your Harvard email! 
  • ESRI Business Analyst OnlineRestricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required This tool allows for community demographic segmentation. 
  • Ancestry Library EditionRestricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required See the "Tips for Working with Ancestry Library Edition" of this research guide for more information.
  • NHGIS provides, free of charge, aggregate census data and GIS-compatible boundary files for the United States between 1790 and 2014. Census data on the census tract level for Baltimore, MD, is accessible on Goliath/Geo/Baltimore.
  • Social Explorer Restricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required(1790 - present) Presents historical census data for the United States through the use of interactive maps and reports at census tract, county, state and national level.
  • PolicyMap Restricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN requiredPolicyMap is a fully web-based Geographic Information System. It captures data in visually powerful ways through custom demographic maps, tables, reports and an analysis tool called Analytics.  Available data includes demographics, home sale statistics, health data, mortgage trends, school performance scores and labor data like unemployment, crime statistics and city crime rates.
  • Proquest Statistical Abstract of the United States Restricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN requiredSummary statistics on the social, political and economic organization of the United States. Compiled from publications and records of various government and private agencies, it is designed to serve both as a convenient reference volume and as a guide to other statistical sources.
  • Raj Chetty's Opportunity Atlas: A quick way to see what areas are doing well and poorly today.


  • Digital Sanborn Maps (1867-1970)Restricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required More than 660,000 large-scale maps of over 12,000 American towns and cities. This digital collection was scanned from the holdings at the Library of Congress. Users may manipulate the maps, zoom in on specific sections, and print them.
  • Fire Insurance MapsRestricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN requiredProvides access to a digital collection of historical color fire insurance maps, real estate atlases, and similar land use maps for North America. High definition, color and gray-scale images display important historical details not visible on black and white map scans. Includes map research tools and search tips to make finding maps for a specific location easy. Maps include publications by Sanborn, Perris, Hexamer, Whipple, Baist, Bromley, Hopkins and others.
  • TopoView This United States Geological Survey tool highlights one of the USGS's most important and useful products, the topographic map.
  • Harvard Map Library Visit the Map Library to look at historic maps, or fire insurance plans! 
  • Harvard Geospatial LibraryRestricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required The Harvard Geospatial Library is a catalog and repository for geospatial data files. When opened using appropriate software, these files (also called layers) show geographic features, such as roads, countries, or tax lots, along with descriptive information about those features, such as road name, country population, or tax lot value. HGL holds thousands of data layers at a variety of scales and also contains scanned images of paper maps from a range of time periods. The data can also be downloaded for use locally using a desktop GIS.
  • Harvard Map Collection Digital Maps Restricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN requiredResources range from 16th century globes to modern maps and geographic information systems (GIS) layers. A selection of our materials has been digitally imaged and is offered both as true picture images and georeferenced copies. This Virtual Collection includes those maps and atlases that are available through the Harvard Image Delivery Service. Those maps that have been georeferenced are available through the Harvard Geospatial Library. Therefore, many of the maps listed will have two records, one for the image that is true to the original and the other a georeferenced image.
  • David Rumsey Map Collection

Mapping LA

Additional Mapping Tools

Aerial Photos and Images

  • Earth Explorer EarthExplorer (EE) provides online search, browse display, metadata export, and data download for earth science data from the archives of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Tips for Working with Ancestry Library Edition

Ancestry.com is a useful tool for accessing census schedules.  Unfortunately for researchers of cities, it was designed primarily for genealogists, and therefore is much easier to search by name of resident rather than location of residence. In order to research your neighborhood of interest:

  1. Find a range of addresses and intersections representative of your neighborhood of interest (use Google Maps, etc.).
  2. Go to Ancestry Library EditionRestricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required
  3. Navigate to US Census Collection, then year of choice.
  4. Navigate to your state and county of interest, and note how the city is divided up (wards, enumeration districts, etc.).
  5. Use Obtain EDs in One Step  (http://stevemorse.org/census/unified.html) to find correct enumeration district and ward by street intersection.
  6. Go back to Ancestry and find the ward or enumeration district of interest.  You may have to flip through many pages to find your location of interest.

Locating City Directories

Digital Collections & Other Resources

Harvard Resources


LA Digital Collections

Redlining in LA

Selected Indexes to Journal Articles

Most useful databases:

  • Avery Index of Architectural PeriodicalsRestricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required The Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals database offers a comprehensive listing of journal articles on architecture and design, including bibliographic descriptions on subjects such as the history and practice of architecture, landscape architecture, city planning, historic preservation, and interior design and decoration.
  • Urban Studies AbstractsRestricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required Electronic index and abstracts to the literature in the area of urban studies, including urban affairs, community development, and urban history. The backfile of this index has been digitized, providing coverage back to 1973.
  • Academic Search Premier (EBSCO)Restricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required a multidisciplinary database that includes citations and abstracts from over 4,700 scholarly publications (journals, magazines and newspapers). Full text is available for more than 3,600 of the publications and is searchable. 
  • America: History and LifeRestricted Access: HarvardKey or Harvard ID and PIN required America: History and Life is the primary bibliographic reference to the history of the United States and Canada from prehistory to the present, covering over 2,000 journals published worldwide. In addition to all key English-language historical journals, America: History and Life coverage includes selected historical journals from major countries, state, and local history journals, and a targeted selection of journals in the social sciences and humanities. In addition to articles, the database includes book and media reviews and citations to abstracts of dissertations.