This free Library of Congress site has two parts:
1. Digitized newspapers (1836-1922): The Advanced Search for digitized papers lets you compose complex queries. Type keywords to find in “any of the words” on a page (like using the OR search operator), “all of the words” (all the words must appear on a page, but not necessarily together), and/or “with a phrase” (find an exact phrase). The last keyword phrase lets you run a proximity search by specifying how close two words have to be (Thomas Frost within 5 words of each other would find Thomas Frost, Thomas William Frost and Frost, Thomas). You can limit your search to specific states and/or newspaper titles, a year or date range, and language.
Click on the All Digitized Newspapers 1836-1922 tab to find newspapers by state, ethnicity and language. Then you can browse a specific newspaper by date. That could be helpful when searches don’t turn up good matches or you’re looking for a specific issue.
2. US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present: Use the directory to find information about newspapers published in the United States, most of which haven’t yet been digitized. You can search by state, county, city, years and other criteria. The directory tells you which repositories have microfilm copies you may be able to borrow through interlibrary loan.
This huge subscription collection has newspapers from across the country, including African-American, Hispanic and other ethnic titles, plus obituaries back to 1977. Try searching on just an ancestor’s last name if it’s unusual, or add a first name if it’s common. You’ll get a match whenever the terms you enter in the Last Name and First Name boxes appear within two words of each other in an article. This proximity search finds the names even when separated by a middle name or initial.
To browse a specific newspaper, scroll down on the home page and click List of Newspapers By State, select a state, and you’ll see papers alphabetized by city of publication. Click on a title. Then enter the year in both date range boxes and click on the Begin Search button. Sort the issues by date and jump to the date you want to browse.
Google News Archive Search
Searching Google News gets you links to recent articles on other sites. But the Google News Archive Search covers newspapers back to 1738, including material digitized by Google and other parties. Both searches cover American and foreign news, and include free and fee-based articles.
You might search the Google News Archive for a name. Try putting it in parentheses to search for the exact phrase, such as “Frank Crume,” and adding a place, spouse’s name or other word to narrow your search. You can’t narrow your search to a specific newspaper or a range of years.
The News Archive Search page has an alphabetical list of all the titles in the collection, but there’s no list by place of publication. (Use the Find option in your web browser to look for a word such as Baltimore in a newspaper title.) Click on a title to browse the newspaper by date. The site’s functions are very limited and Google doesn’t plan to add more newspapers to the collection.
By far the largest online collection of newspapers, NewspaperARCHIVE has more than 400 years of papers from around the world. The Advanced Search page provides several options for searching and narrowing your search by date and place. You can search with an initial, as in John H. Pennington or J. H. Pennington, either by including it in the First Name box or in the Exact Phrase box on the Advanced Search page. Note that NewspaperARCHIVE doesn’t support searching with wildcard characters.
To browse newspapers, select Browse Papers from the Browse tab. Next, choose a country, state, city, newspaper and date. Then you can view the pages in that issue. You also can run a search at any of those levels—such as searching all the newspapers in a state or a city—by filling in the search box below the selection options.
Ancestry.com has a sizable newspaper collection, but its subscription-based sister site Newspapers.com has one of the slickest interfaces of any online newspaper website. Scroll down and click on Help to watch video tutorials.
Matches here must contain your search terms (such as a first and last name) on the same page, but not necessarily near each other. The Advanced Search (click Add More Info on the home page, or Show Advanced after you’ve run a search) lets you narrow the search by place and a range of years. Once you’ve run a search, you can filter the results by date (either enter years or use the date sliders), place (click a state on the map or select a state from the list), and newspaper title.
The site adds millions of newspaper pages every month. Instead of running the same searches over and over again, click on the Save/Notify button to save your searches to run automatically. You’ll get an email notification whenever a match is found in new pages.
When you find a newspaper page matching your search, click on Print/Save to save it to your computer. If you click Clip, you can “clip” a portion of a page, along with a note, then print, download or share the clip, or even save it to your Ancestry Member Tree. Click on the Clippings tab to see all your clippings.
ProQuest Historical Newspapers
This collection is available only through subscribing libraries, so check with nearby public and college libraries. You might even be able to log in from home. The library may not have access to the entire collection of 42 newspapers. If it subscribes to at least five, you can search all of them at once; otherwise, you can search only one newspaper title at a time.
Twelve newspapers from this collection are available directly to consumers through ProQuest Archiver. You can access them, plus more than 100 other newspapers from roughly the past decade, on a pay-per-view basis.
ProQuest has developed other newspaper collections that have their own sites, such as The New York Times Archive (download articles from 1922 and earlier and 1987 and later for free). The Minnesota State Library makes the Minneapolis Tribune available for free to state residents. Check with your library for access.
There are also a number of websites where you can find and search newspapers online for free. Learn about them in this short video:
Top search strategies
Play name games. Start with a broad search and then try different combinations of search terms to focus on the best matches. Begin by searching on just the last name if it’s unusual. Then add a first name and search both with and without a middle name or middle initial. Someone who usually went by his first name might’ve used his middle name at times, and in the 19th century, men often went by two initials plus their last name. I’ve turned up numerous articles about my relative John Hudson Pennington by searching for John H. Pennington, J. H. Pennington and Hudson Pennington. He called himself “Colonel” despite never having served in the military, so I also search on Colonel and Col. as if they were first names.
Top Newspaper Websites
|Chronicling America||GenealogyBank||Google News Archive Search||NewspaperARCHIVE||Newspapers.com
||ProQuest Historical Newspapers
|Price||free||$69.95 per year||free searching, fees sometimes apply to view a full article||$9.95 per month for up to 100 page views; $29.95 per month or $99.95 for 6 months for unlimited access||$19.95 per month, $79.95 per year||available through subscribing libraries|
|Size||more than 6 million pages in 1,105 newspapers, plus a directory of more than 150,000 US newspapers||more than 6,500 newspapers and 38 million recent obituaries||more than 2,500 US newspapers||more than 154 million pages in 6,200-plus newspapers||more than 52 million pages in 1,907 newspapers||nearly 30 million pages in 42 newspapers|
|Coverage||35 states plus Washington, DC, 1836-1922||all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, 1690-2010||US, Canada and other countries, 1738-2009||US, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Caribbean, 1607-2011||US, 1700s-2000s, Canada, England, Panama||mostly big US cities, plus Canada, England, India, Ireland and Scotland, 1764-2011|
| Major Newspaper Collections
||digitized newspapers 1836-1922, US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present||more than 6,100 newspaper titles, recent obituaries, vintage ads||French-language newspapers from Quebec||Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, London||Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, London||English-language Chinese newspapers, African-American and Jewish-American titles|
More Online Newspaper Resources
- Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection
- Cyndi’s List: Newspapers
- Elephind.com: simultaneously searches several sites with US and foreign newspapers from 1803 to 2012
- Historical Newspapers Online: a list by state
- Labor Press Project
- Old Fulton NY Post Cards: more than 25 million pages of free New York papers
- Online Historical Newspapers directory
- Penn Libraries Guide: Historical Newspapers Online
- Utah Digital Newspapers
- Wikipedia: List of Online Newspaper Archives
- Wyoming Newspaper Project
- XooxleAnswers: Newspaper Archives: links to free online newspapers from the 1700s to the present
On the other hand, you might find someone you’ve lost track of by searching a collection of newspapers from across the country instead of just papers form your ancestor’s hometown.
Public and college libraries may offer free access to newspaper sites, so check online or call nearby libraries. FamilySearch Centers provide free on-site access to several premium websites with newspapers, including 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Newspaper ARCHIVE, Fold3 and World Vital Records.
When searching a foreign-language newspaper, remember to translate your search terms into that language. OCR may have a hard time indexing text in non-English alphabets, so if your search is unsuccessful, try browsing for the information you need.
Getting Offline Newspapers
Many old newspapers aren’t digitized online, but are available on microfilm that you can borrow for a small fee via interlibrary loan. To find these papers, use Chronicling America’s US Newspaper Directory to identify titles from a particular place and time period. Or you can use WorldCat, a catalog listing the holdings—including newspapers—of many libraries: Search on the city, state and the word newspapers, for example, Houlton Maine newspapers (it doesn’t matter if you abbreviate the state name or spell it out).
• Timesaving tips for newspaper research
• What you can learn from old papers
• Podcast: newspaper research tricks
• Researching newspapers online
• Searching African-American newspapers
• Preserving newspaper clippings
• Three Cool Tools for Finding Your Family in Newspapers video class
• GenealogyBank Tutorial
• Get the Scoop on Your Ancestors value pack