A Closer Look at Newspaper Records Newspaper Research

A Closer Look at Newspaper Records #2

A Closer Look at Newspaper Records #2

Old newspapers are wonderful genealogical resources that should be part of every genealogist’s toolbox. They are much more user-friendly these days than they used to be. This is what you need to know about how these records used to be searched, how they are searched today, and where you can go to find them.

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If you want to use old newspaper records in your genealogy research (and you should), you have got to know where to find them. The good news is that these records are much easier to access and use than they used to be. The era of the Internet has made sure of that. In the past, you would have to go to a newspaper’s physical office, hope they had archives available, and either look through old copies page by page, getting ink on your hands, or scan through old issues on microfiche.

Either way, there was no index of names, so you pretty much had to read through entire issues across a period of months or years, hoping to find some mention of your ancestors. You could spend a lot of time searching through these old newspaper records and not find anything. Plus, you had to travel to the physical offices to look at the records.

If you knew an exact or approximate date a mention of your ancestor might have appeared, you could write to some newspapers and ask them to look it up for you and mail you a copy, which most papers would, when they had time to work in your request, and usually for a small research and copy fee. Old newspapers were always great sources of genealogical information, but it wasn’t always a user-friendly record source. That part has been a more recent improvement in genealogical record keeping.

These days, while you can still do old newspaper research the traditional way, there are much easier ways to do it. There are several websites, both free and subscription, that have old newspaper collections on them. Most of these sites have indexed their collections by names, dates, and other keywords, or have on-site search engines that will scan thousands, and even millions of records in seconds to find the editions with the word combinations you want to read.

You can look at one specific newspaper, at only newspapers from a particular area or region, by a date or range of dates, and even for specific types of articles. This means you can do general searches for any mention of your ancestors, or particular searches for a specific thing you want to find, like an obituary or a wedding announcement.

There are millions of old newspapers that have been scanned and indexed online, and more are being added all the time. If you can’t find a newspaper for the place your ancestor lived, just wait a bit and one of the old newspaper websites will probably eventually have it, if old records of that newspaper still exist (not all do). Looking through them online for mentions of your ancestors is a wonderful way to spend a lazy day of doing general genealogy for fun, or for conducting targeted searches for specific information. If you haven’t used old newspaper records in your genealogy research yet, this is a perfect time to sample them. Go online, find a website that has a good collection, pay the membership fee if there is one, and get searching.



Will founded Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has been assisting researchers for over 25 years to reunite them with their ancestors.