Find Historical News Articles

By Diane Haddad Premium

Q. Two Family Tree Magazine readers posed newspaper research questions. One writes, “I’d like to find a newspaper article on my dad. All I have is ‘ISES Finds Job for Vet Dubbed Human Bomb,’ and I believe it was published in late 1944 or early 1945.” Another says he’s looking for a newspaper article about John S. Crowther, published in 1900 in Terrace, Glasgow, and titled “Arctic Explorer’s Death.”

A. We’ll tackle these two questions together, since they’re both about newspaper articles. Newspaper research can be time-consuming because not all publications are indexed or even microfilmed, and some haven’t been preserved at all. Your first and easiest step is to search a computerized index of historical newspapers. If you can pinpoint a newspaper and issue date for the article, then find which repositories have microfilm copies, a librarian or a volunteer with Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness might make a copy for you. A few indexes to try:

  • and Ancestry.UK collections include searchable images of their respective nations’ newspapers. A US Deluxe membership costs $179.40 per year and UK Deluxe costs 69.95 pounds. You can access a version of free in libraries that subscribe to Ancestry Library Edition.
  • is a pay-per-view site indexing more than 600 US magazines, newspapers and news wires. Five articles cost $14.95.
  • Paper of Record and each let you keyword-search papers from the US, UK and other countries for about $100 per year.
  • Access World News, free at subscribing libraries, offers articles from 1,000-plus US and international newspapers.
  • Free (but less-extensive) resources include Newspaper Abstracts, SmallTownPapers and The Olden Times.

No luck? Find out which newspapers were being published in your ancestors’ hometown around the article’s publication date. Contact the local library or historical society or check the Web site. In the US, your ancestral state may participate in a digitization project; see to learn more. Then see if you can find that newspaper on microfilm at a large public or university library near you, or in the Family History Library‘s online catalog—you can borrow FHL microfilm through a branch Family History Center. Then you may have to crank through microfilm until you find what you’re looking for. For a newspaper that’s still in print, visit its Web site or call to ask where to get old copies.

Check the National Library of Scotland for Scottish newspapers. Its NEWSPLAN microfilming project preserves almost 4 million pages of historic newspapers from 1700 through 1950.