It’s funny to realize there’s a generation growing up that doesn’t know what a newspaper is because they’ve never anticipated the Sunday comics or had a newspaper route, and there are older generations who are intimidated by mastering the new skill of searching newspapers online. But that’s where the papers have gone, online.
If you need a kick in the pants, recruit a young person to get you started in online newspaper research. They won’t even know what a newspaper is, but point them in the right direction and they’ll help you find pay dirt. However you do it, go online and start researching your family in historical newspapers. It can be a family history goldmine!
Newspapers are great for birth and marriage announcements, obituaries, society pages, business news, legal woes, and historical context.
We have some ancestors who were in the theatre business and the best information we have on them has come from newspapers. We can follow their show around the east coast and read reviews and even have a sketch of the actor in costume. Newspapers have filled in a lot of gaps in their family history and helped explain why they lived in certain places.
If you have a subscription service to MyHeritage, Ancestry, or GenealogyBank, etc., they’ll search newspaper collections for you but there are free options as well. The best known state-side option is the Library of Congress’ “Chronicling America” newspaper collection. They have online, digitized newspapers from 1789-1922 and they have an index of newspaper titles from 1690-present so you can see what existed in the area you’re researching.
Check your local library for free, on-site access to historical newspaper collections from subscription sites, including ProQuest, MyHeritage, and Ancestry.
The best listing site for Online Historical Newspapers, free and subscription sites, is by Kenneth Marks, at his site, TheAncestorHunt.com. His site lists all the digitized newspapers he’s found, by locale, and he has youtube video tutorials for how to search online newspapers.
There’s also the Online Historical Newspapers Website by Miriam Robbins which sometimes has newspaper offerings not yet found on TheAncestorHunt.
You can also search for “newspapers,free” with or without a location at OnGenealogy.com for possible papers not yet found on the other two listing sites.
There’s a certain charm to reading a newspaper that makes this less about research and more about reliving a bygone era. Fair warning, it’s easy to get lost in time and nostalgia reading newspapers that have absolutely no bearing on your genealogy work or current news. But it’s worth it!
Happy Hunting! #FamilyHistoryMonth