We mention newspapers here quite a bit. It’s not because they are perfect sources (they aren’t) or because they will answer every question (they won’t). But they can be a wonderful genealogical resource for a variety of reasons:

  • they can be helpful in “burned counties”
  • they can facilitate the finding of some court cases
  • they may mention details not listed in a court case
  • different newspapers may give a different spin on the same event
  • ethnic or religious newspapers may provide details not given in other publications
  • gossip columns in small-town newspapers can often flesh out details about an individual’s life
  • newspaper advertisements can give information on a relative’s business activity

I’ve pre-ordered Jim Beidler’s  The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide: How to Find Your Ancestors in Archived Newspapers. Based on his German books, I’m certain to pick up a few good suggestions, ideas, and reminders. Not all newspapers are online (most are on microfilm–locating them is the challenge), some are online for free, and some are online in fee-based databases. We’ll be talking more about the book when it arrives.

Some sites to try for your own newspaper research:




7 Responses

  1. I’ve found the most about my people at
    NewspaperArchive.com (fee-based, but worth it to me) and FultonHistory.com (free, with a quirky search, and badly named as it has searchable historical small town newspapers from all over New York State and other states and not just Fulton County) — truly love them both!

    • Thanks for that, Jo. I need to add a couple to the list. Yours and the ones Dan suggested are good. I just didn’t want the list to get toooooo long. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Dan. I’ll add that one. If I’m correct they are not updating it, but it’s still a good source if it has the time/place a person needs. As you mentioned, nothing is 100%–and one should usually check out more than one site.

      • Michael –

        You are correct, they are not updating it. I just hope they keep it, unlike some of their other “projects” they’ve thrown in the trash can after a while.

        Our current local major paper is included in the Google collection, but is missing all issues from 1925 through 1939. The other major local newspaper of that time, which is now long since defunct, is also in the collection (although not one of the online papers mentioned in the Wikipedia list – hence my description of their list as incomplete), and contains those years.

        And it was there that I found a story about my father (in 1933) where he provided the one pivotal, critical clue to the police to help them solve a murder. He was able to identify the getaway car, which the police were then able to track down. This was a highly publicized murder of a well-known (and well-heeled) insurance executive – the man’s name survives on the company to this day, despite no relatives of his being still involved. My father’s picture was even in the paper on page one. He never talked about this, and my mother who was married to him for almost 50 years, never knew about this episode. None of the family did.

        Doodling around on Newspapers.com last night (without a subscription), in the tantalizing search results tidbits that they show even if you don’t have a subscription, I was able to see the beginnings of obituaries, and other stories that will considerably flesh out one of my wife’s surnames. Also saw enough clues in a couple items that may finally tie that family in to the suspected progenitors of the name. After more than 20 years of researching that family!

        You never know what you’ll find.

        • One never does know what one will find.

          I am also hoping that Google leaves the newspapers that they have already digitized online, although it is very possible that they’ll completely abandon the project and pull what they’ve already done.

          As you mentioned, any online inventory of newspapers can be incomplete and it’s always advised to search several sources to make certain that a small digitization project has not been overlooked.

          Very interesting about the 1933 story involving your father. One can find things buried in newspapers that people likely thought no one would ever find–particularly since at the time no one ever thought one would be able to “instantly” search thousands of newspapers or obscure references.

          Some of the sites do offer enough of a clipping that one could find it elsewhere and not have a membership. Fold3.com does that with pension card indexes–there’s often enough there to see that a pension was received and, of course, the real good stuff is at the National Archives–not on the pension card.

  2. Thanks for the interesting, useful post regarding “The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide.” Another wonderful resource is the Ancestor Hunt Newspaper Research Links website. Thanks again!

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