Fee or Free African American Newspapers


African American newspapers are one place to look for news about black communities that wasn’t always reported in the popular press. It’s possible to find names, marriages, and births and deaths in these collections. (And for African American research you won’t want to limit yourself to strictly African American newspapers, just don’t overlook them.)

I’m easily distracted in newspaper research and find myself just reading random articles which isn’t a very efficient use of time, but I have one relative I could only trace through newspapers. He was in the theater circuit and moved from city to city and lied about his age. I found his family by following him through newspapers. They’re a valuable resource but it’s easy to get sidetracked and just soak up the historical context. That’s my disclaimer if you lose a day or more in newspapers.

Fee or Free African American newspapers


Fee/Subscription African American Newspapers

Accessible Archives

Accessible Archives has 9 African American newspapers ranging from 1827 to 1909. “The collection also provides a great number of early biographies, vital statistics, essays and editorials, poetry and prose, and advertisements all of which embody the African-American experience.”

Ancestry has a collection called US, African American Newspapers, 1829-1947 with over 200 African American newspapers.

Genealogy Bank

Genealogy Bank touts itself as being the “largest newspaper archive for genealogy research.” I’ve used their site before and it was a fast and efficient way to get newspaper search results.  From what I remember, I paid for limited access, so only a certain number of searches/month but they have an unlimited access subscription price of $35.00 for 6 months which seems very reasonable. “Search our expansive collection of African American newspapers to discover the details about the daily lives of millions of Black Americans from 1827-1999.”


ProQuest used to be the company for digitized papers and they have a collection called ProQuest Historical Newspapers – Black Newspapers. “Each of the nine Historical Black Newspapers provides researchers with unprecedented access to perspectives and information that was excluded or marginalized in mainstream sources. And, all are cross-searchable with all other ProQuest Historical Newspapers–including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times–allowing researchers to evaluate history from multiple points of view. …The ProQuest platform offers powerful and easy-to-use tools, including: full-page and article images in easily downloadable PDF format, complete newspaper runs, and the ability to search 21 different article types.”


Free African American Newspapers

The Ancestor Hunt summarizes African American newspaper collections by state and has online tutorials for newspaper research. This site will list both fee and free collections. links to current Black/African American newspapers and says some of these papers have online archives. “Listed below are links to major African American newspapers, magazines and journals.  In some instances these links also include the archives of these media sources.”

Chronicling America

Chronicling America is the US Library of Congress’ website with free, digitized collections. They have a list of all known African American newspapers and where they can possibly be found (over 2,000 exist but most won’t be online). Or a list of 55 African American newspapers digitized and online at Chronicling America. There’s a new free app, OldNews USA, currently only for Android phones, which aids in searching newspapers at Chronicling America. OldNews USA won the 2017 RootsTech Innovator Showdown so it’s worth checking out if you want to search these papers on a handheld device. (Be sure to search all the papers at Chronicling America, not just the African American ones I linked to above.)


I’ve added smaller collections as I’ve found them including runaway slave advertisements from newspapers, and collections related to slaves (not newspapers and not necessarily African American), and also some general African American collections, not just newspapers. My site is a bit slow to search so my apologies in advance-site speed is on my to-do list.


Wikipedia has a good article on African American newspapers as well as a couple of books that are recommended as “essential starting points for understanding the early history of African American newspapers.” This article also includes the names of some African American newspapers, not nearly as complete as the one found at Chronicling America.


I’ve had my best newspaper successes with subscription sites, because they do the work for me and return the specific newspaper page I need to see, so it’s harder to just browse the paper. But, some of these papers and free sites will have search engines that may yield similar results. Again, I almost hate to recommend newspaper research because it’s so easy to lose track of time, but if you’re learning the history and culture of the area where your ancestors lived, I guess that’s time put to good use. Best in your searches, whether they’re fee or free!



March 13, 2017 |

Free Historical Newspapers for Genealogy and Family History


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.

Library of Congress free newspapers


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, 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 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




October 31, 2016 |

Canadiana Discovery Portal for Genealogy

2 has a free search engine for its digital collections from libraries, museums, and archives throughout Canada. Unlike Héritage which searches specific collections held at Library and Archives Canada, the Canadiana Discovery Portal searches over 40 partnering institutions with over 65 million pages.

Canadiana Discovery Portal


The Portal provides a wealth of free Canadian history online, including: books, journals, directories, newspapers, government documents, photographs, maps, and postcards.

Canadiana Discovery Portal is a great resource for genealogists and family historians looking for primary source material and images related to Canadian history and many of the images are in the public domain and can be used freely.

There will be a paywall for some of the search returns and after viewing the initial few pages of a document you may need to subscribe to Early Canadiana Online to have full access to the document, including the ability to download copies in PDF format. Subscription prices are very reasonable, currently $7.50 (American) for one month’s access with no automatic renewal or $75 (American) for one year’s access with no automatic renewal–a great value for the offering.

Happy Hunting! #FamilyHistoryMonth

October 21, 2016 |
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