Using Newspapers in your Genealogical Research

“Which newspaper subscription should I get?” I am asked that question frequently and I see it asked on various Facebook genealogy groups and forums. The answer to that question is, “It depends!”

Newspapers are essential in your genealogy tool box and today, they are readily available online for easy viewing. In the not so distant past, to view a newspaper collection, you would need to visit a library that may have the actual physical paper or a microfilm version. There wasn’t a search function, except to read or skim each page! Modern searches start at our fingertips, with sophisticated search strings and newspapers from across the globe.

To answer the question of which newspaper subscriptions are best, it depends on what that subscription site is offering. Each site has different newspapers available through different years. If you are researching the late 1800s in North East Florida and the site does not have newspapers from that time period or area, it’s not a good fit for your research. Keep in mind, you can always select a monthly plan and cancel/renew your plan as needed. Below is a list of PAID and where to find FREE newspaper sites.


Paid Newspaper Subscription Sites

Newspapers.com
Newspapers.com is widely known for its affiliation with Ancestry.com. The All Access account subscription through Ancestry.com includes the basic subscription to Newspapers.com. According to Ancestry.com, that subscription includes:

  • Access to 13,900+ newspapers on the site, ranging from the 1700s to the 2000s (the Newspapers.c​om Basic subscription)
  • Ability to clip and save specific parts of a page
  • Papers from the United States, Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Panama

If you are considering a subscription to Newspapers.com, consider a free trial. A free trial will last 7 days and gives the subscriber “Publisher Extra” access. According to Newspapers.com, a “Publisher Extra” account gives the subscriber an extra 368 million+ pages and archives through last month plus all of the basic subscription.

I always suggest browsing through the newspapers offered to see if your research areas are represented. From the homepage of Newspapers.com, click on the menu Papers. Within Papers, searching for your area of interest is very easy.

GenealogyBank.com
GenealogyBank.com has a 7 day free trial for those interested in trying their site. They boast over 11,000 newspapers, 250 million obituaries and 95% of their newspapers are exclusive to GenealogyBank. They have an annual and monthly membership, which gives you access to all of the content available at GenealogyBank.

In addition to newspapers, GenealogyBank also has these collections as well:

  • Newspaper Obituaries
  • U.S. Federal Census
  • Social Security Death Index
  • Government Publications
  • Historical Books

To browse the newspapers in various regions, click on “Browse” in the menu and then “Newspapers by State.” Clicking on a state will display the cities and newspapers available. Keep in mind, some newspapers collections are obituaries only, not full archives.

NewspaperArchive.com
NewspaperArchive.com is probably the lesser-known of the three newspaper subscription sites, but it is the oldest, having started in 1999. NewspaperArchive boasts:

  • 13,155 Titles and Counting
  • Over 400 Years of News Articles
  • All 50 U.S. States & 22 International Countries

The NewspaperArchive.com search by state function is available from all search pages. It is viewable under “Browse All Papers.” Click on the country, then select the state, and the city. You can further drill down by year and month as well if you’re looking for something very specific.


Free Newspaper Sites

You read that right! There are free sites for searching newspapers on the Internet. However, there is no site that really brings all of the free and available sites together. My suggestion for searching for newspaper archives is to always look for a state repository first. Many states have repositories available for newspapers, such as the New York State Historic Newspapers (also see Fulton History) or the California Digital Newspaper Collection.

Being creative in your searches will help you find newspaper archives that may be available.

Chronicling America
According to its website, Chronicling America is providing access to historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program. The NDNP is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

University Digitization Projects
Many universities and colleges have their own digitization projects underway for local and state newspapers. Searching universities in the state you’re researching may yield newspapers you never knew existed. For example, the University of Florida and Florida International University have very large collections online.

Google
Google is always our best friend and is a great resource for newspaper archives. Simply visit news.google.com/newspapers and scroll down to look for any newspapers of interest. It is not sorted by state or even by country, just in an alphabetical listing.

The Ancestor Hunt
Kenneth R. Marks created a blog called The Ancestor Hunt and a fabulous group of newspaper links. His site is organized by state, province, special collections and international. 

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an updated list of online newspapers, organized by country. This list is pretty comprehensive and may have magazines and journals for your specific area, in addition to newspapers.

Final Thoughts…

Always research the paid newspaper website before purchasing and if they don’t currently have an area or city you’re looking for, be sure to go back and check again later. Free sites are great, but sometimes not easily searchable or easy to find.