Even if your ancestors lived outside the United States, Paper of Record <www.paperofrecord.com> can help you find them in the news. This online archive stores more than 6 million scanned images of newspapers from Australia, France, Ireland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States — plus large collections from Canada and Mexico. Every other Wednesday, Paper of Record tries to add at least three new titles to its site, so if you don’t find your ancestor’s newspaper, check back in a few months. You can also subscribe to the Paper of Record newsletter for updates, coming additions, search tips and other items of interest.
To make efficient use of this site, you really need high-speed Internet access (or else keep a good book next to your computer, so you have something to do while the pages download). You’ll also need Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free download from <www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html>, to view the pages.
Searching this Web site can be a challenge. On the plus side, you can run a simple or advanced search using all your search terms, any of the terms, an exact phrase or a Boolean query. You can query by year, month and day, and with many papers, you can search a single section (announcements, for example) or the whole paper. Your search terms will be highlighted on the page, so you can easily pick out the right passage. And you can go back to your search-results page after looking at an image.
On the negative side, you can search only one newspaper collection at a time. This isn’t a problem if your ancestor’s town had only one paper, but it can be a hassle if the town had two or more. The biggest problem I encountered was that the search missed many passages with my search terms, and often picked up totally unrelated items. For example, when I searched one paper for the name Allan, the search also turned up Jas., you, ation, all crea- and obtain — and it missed some of the Allans. Several pages highlighted Allan in one area, but not in another.