FINDING Newspapers Online
by Barbara Renick
[email protected]
©2009 Barbara Renick

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Old newspapers, when they still exist, are typically found preserved in boxes, photocopied and bound in book form, photographed and placed on microfilms, and most recently digitized and made searchable online. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of existing historical newspapers are searchable online. Therefore, two newspaper search methods have to be applied: the shotgun approach and the rifle approach. In the shotgun approach you use online databases to broadly search digitized newspapers. The rifle approach uses online sources to determine if copies of historical newspapers still exist for the location and time period of interest. They can then be searched in the time honored fashion (page by page typically on paper or microfilm).

THE RIFLE APPROACH:  In this method you determine what newspapers existed for the places and times most likely to return results for your research interests. You then use those same or other resources to determine how to access copies of the originals (most often on microfilm) via inter-library loan, hiring someone to make copies for you, or going on location to view and copy them yourself. Using online resources (such as library catalogs) to locate books of newspaper abstracts, scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, and paper card files of events reported in newspapers are included in this method, too.


The National Endowment for the Humanities [NEH] since 1982 has provided grants to institutions in all fifty states and U.S. Territories to preserve America's historic newspapers. Their first project was the U.S. Newspaper Program [USNP]. The USNP was a cooperative national effort among the states and the federal government "to locate, catalog, and preserve on microfilm newspapers published in the United States from the eighteenth century to the present." Each project was conducted by a single organization within a state or territory, usually the state's largest newspaper repository. In addition to state projects, the Endowment funded the cataloging of newspapers at eight large repositories with extensive newspaper collections containing titles from most of the 50 states. The Library of Congress also participated in the USNP. The U.S. Newspapers Program Web page includes lists and links to each state's and territory's project Web site with search tools to determine the newspapers available for and/or in a particular county and/or town.

The United States Newspaper Program unfolded in three steps with different goals in each step:
Step #1: Inventoried holdings in public libraries, county courthouses, newspaper offices, historical museums, college and university libraries, archives, and historical societies.
Step #2: Entered catalog entries into a national historical newspaper database maintained by the Online Computer Library Center's WorldCat meta-catalog searchable with FirstSearch--not to be confused with the online scaled-down Open WorldCat Project at the site.
Step #3: NEH awarded grants for microfilming and preservation.

The U.S. Newspaper Program ended in 2007 and was superseded by the National Digital Newspaper Program.  The National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) was organized as a partnership between the NEH and the Library of Congress to provide enhanced access to United States newspapers. This is to be accomplished in phases and should take approximately twenty years (if funding is available). The goal of this program is to create a national digital resource of historically significant newspapers from all the states and U.S. territories published between 1836 and 1922 [this means not all newspapers will be digitized and put online by this program--but at least some are being done and more in phases]. Access to this database is provided by the Library of Congress Internet site and includes a national newspaper directory of bibliographic and holdings information to direct users to newspaper titles in all types of formats (not just digital). A prototype site called Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, was launched in March 2007.


The Library of Congress not only has a significant newspaper collection, but its Web site also offers a multitude of additional resources for finding and searching historic newspapers.
These include:

1. American Memory project which has newspaper clippings, photos, scattered articles, and limited series of newspapers (

2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers ( (mentioned above)

3. Newspaper and Periodicals Reading Room. The LOC Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room page at the LOC Web site contains many layers of links to some extremely significant resources. But you have to hunt for them. (

As noted in the January/February 2008 issue of Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine (Net Family History Section, "The Best newspaper Sites--Part 1: Digital Newspaper Archives" by William Dollarhide page 96), you can download from the Library of Congress Web site their  three-volume set of Newspapers in Microform (in PDF format, but extremely large at 132 MB, 78MB, and 67MB). (
[I am quite thankful to The Helper for this link, since it is very hard to find this resource at the Library of Congress Reading Room Web pages.] You need to pay particular attention to the foreword matter which includes instructions and an explanation of the abbreviations used, since this publication includes lists of existent newspapers with their years of coverage and information on the location of the originals.
Newspapers in Microform: United States, 1948-1983 Vol. 1 A-O
Newspapers in Microform: United States, 1948-1983 Vol. 2 P-Z and Title Index
Newspapers in Microform: Foreign Countries 1948-1983
These titles are deceptive. These volumes include information about U.S. Newspapers back in some cases as far as 1690 with many for the 1800s.


1. Cyndi's List ( has topics for both newspapers and obituaries, but her links are arranged alphabetically under the topic (rather than geographically which would be more helpful in this instance). Cyndi's List is useful once you have determined a newspaper existed along with its titles (newspaper titles often changed over time) to look it up alphabetically.

Cyndi's Lists also includes Newspapers as a subtopic under such geographic divisions as U.S. -- State Name (pick a state of your choice) where you get links to portals such as and ABYZ News Links, but (typically) not specific newspapers.

2. While Cyndi's List is a great directory for sites of genealogical interest on the Internet, it is organized by topics, subtopics, and subsubtopics down to the lists of links. It is not arranged geographically. On the other hand, Linkpendium USA: Genealogy and Family History is a directory that is arranged geographically. You find newspapers as a topic under both the statewide resources lists and county lists of links.

3. The Genealogy Research Guides Web site ( has two sections pertinent to newspapers and obituaries online.
a. Historical Newspapers and Indexes On The Internet - USA :A Genealogy Research Guide
b. Genealogy Research Guides - Cemeteries & Obituaries

4. Newspapers are not well represented in the collection of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The GSU made a decision early on that newspapers were not "genealogically dense" enough to merit the difficulties in finding, obtaining permissions, and microfilming them when compared to other resources. But there are some books of newspaper extractions, scrapbooks, and newspaper indexes to be found by searching the FHLC. This may change if FHLC version 2 includes the ability for patrons to add sources (and links to online versions of those sources).

5. RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees has "City Directories and Newspapers: Windows on the Past"

6. has a page with an excellent list of newspaper resources called "National, State & Local Newspaper Archives."

7.  Online Historical Newspapers Website by Miriam Robbins Midkiff


1. was founded in 1998 as an online media company. It collaborates with more than
700 newspapers in North America, Europe, and Australia to provide readers a way to "express condolences and share remembrances of loves ones." It provides both a basic and an advanced search template for obituaries. In the advanced search template you can search of first name (optional) and last name of the deceased OR on a keyword from the text of the obituary. You can further narrow your search by newspaper (alphabetical list by title), state, or date range. Their advanced search also allows you to browse newspapers by location via U.S. and Canada maps with a click on the state/province feature.

The I Remember app on Facebook collects similar content and is powered by

2. AncestorHunt is a genealogy portal that is particularly strong when it comes to links to obituary and death notice sites with its "Obituary Search & Newspaper Obituaries" and "Obituary Indexes & Search Engines."

3. is a directory of obituary databases and newspaper archives with obituaries on the Web for U.S. newspapers.

4. ObituaryCentral's aim is to serve as a headquarters for finding obituaries and doing cemetery searches. Its tools include:
a. Search Online Newspaper Obituary Collection
b. Order Birth, Marriage & Death Certificates Online
c. Online U.S. Census Records Search for Obituary Information
d. Search Historical Newspaper Collections
e. Obituary Links page
f. Obituary Archive Search Engine
g. Canadian Obituary Links
h. Family Surname Obituary Archives Online
i. Obituary Central Birth Calculator

5. National Obituary Archive lets you search for obituaries, memorials, and local funeral homes.

6. offers resources for obituaries, funerals, and genealogy research.

7.  Google Directory - Society > Obituaries


1. Try Googling the name of your town, county, or state and the words historic newspapers.
2. includes lists and links to newspapers.
3. Editor&Publisher is a commercial site based on America's Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry, but you can do some searches for free. (
4.  (search tool for finding U.S. and foreign newspaper Web sites)
5. RootsWeb Newspaper Indexes contains 493,326 records (51,481 surnames) from newspapers for selected states and counties. (
6. Most university libraries have lists of news and newspaper database subscriptions and services available for their students (many are
only accessible in-house or with student ID, but some are free to everyone). Example: UCLA Library  > E-resources (hidden under Search and Find) > E-resources by Type > News & Newspapers.
7. If you or a family member attend a university, you may have access to the commercial Lexis-Nexis information service. Nexis is a popular but expensive searchable archive of (mostly current--back to 1986) newspaper content. See the Wikipedia entry for LexisNexis for more information.
8. Online Searchable Death Indexes & Records: A Genealogy Guide is organized by state for the United States. (
9.'s Newspaper list

10. Genealogy > Historical Newspapers Online
11. Online Historical Newspapers Website (currently only U.S. newspaper links, but may expand into Canada and UK in the future)

SEARCHING Newspapers Online
by Barbara Renick
[email protected]
©2009 Barbara Renick


DISCLAIMER: This lecture focuses on online sources for historic newspapers. Most newspapers today have Web sites that contain archives of back issues. These electronic newspaper morgues are often (for a fee) searchable, but few have the entire run (pre-electronic publishing) of their particular newspaper available for online searching.

THE SHOTGUN APPROACH: Increasingly large numbers of indexes and images of newspapers (both current and historical) are coming online each year. Online newspaper indexes (many at commercial sites requiring  payment) allow you to do every-word searches. These searches are often free, but to see more than a snippet of the results you may have to pay. Because of misspellings, the lack of quality in the original print, different scanning processes, and the inaccuracies inherent in the software that reads and indexes these scans--online search tools for newspaper indexes often return fuzzy results with too many mismatches. Too many matches and fuzzy results make it necessary for you to work harder to fine tune your search (to better focus and limit your results). This methodology, of course, has the advantage of covering literally millions of articles from thousands of newspapers often with surprising results.


1. Accessible Archives, Inc. (previously known for their searchable CDs) are now converting their databases to online searchable resources. These include a small number of 19th century newspapers primarily from the Atlantic seaboard states.

2. (committed to adding 1,000 newspaper pages per day) has a range of historical newspapers from the 1850s to current times in their Historical Newspapers Collection. Newspapers & Periodicals is one of the categories in Ancestry's "Go Directly to a Specific Title or Collection" option in Ancestry's new search system. [In my personal opinion, the Newspapers & Periodicals search tools are some of the weakest and most complex at, but the newspaper content is so large and genealogically valuable that it pays to learn to use them well.]

3. clumps newspapers and city directories together for the 1800s and 1900s with nearly five million entries from these two record types. Use's Browse Titles option > choose News and Town Records > Newspapers > choose between United States and United Kingdom > for the United States pick a state > all available newspaper titles for that state appear (with a designation as to whether those images are free or not) > years that newspaper is available for searching or browsing > month > date > page > image. At the bottom of the browse column is a search box for you to "Search within" that selected paper, year, month, date, or page. This is a very good search tool for narrowing your results, so long as you know how to drill your way down in the site to find these features.

4. claims to have the largest newspaper archive for family history research with over 3,800 newspapers online from 1690 to today. They have two sections devoted to newspaper content: Historical Newspapers (1690-1980) and America's Obituaries (1977 to current). Clicking on Historical Newspapers brings up their search template with fields not only for the name of the individual for whom you are searching, but also fields for keywords (words you want to include or exclude), a date or date range, and an option to search only new content (with a drop down menu that allows you to go back several months). Next to the search template are check boxes in front of the state names allowing you to focus your search on just a state, city, or specific newspaper. There is even a small link to view the title list, but unlike other commercial genealogy sites, GenealogyBank's list is arranged first by state and then alphabetically by title. This list includes titles from both the Historical News and America's Obituaries sections. GenealogyBank particularly lends itself to newspaper searches. Its parent company NewsBank, Inc. has been an information provider for more than 35 years. GenealogyBank's newspaper collection is heaviest for New York and other New England states thanks to its parent company's partnering with the American Antiquarian Society which is known for having the most extensive early newspaper collection in America (dating back to colonial times).

[Note: There is an institutional version of GenealogyBank called America's GenealogyBank that is sold (and priced by units of content) to schools and libraries that (therefore) does not usually have as much content as]

5. has a total of 11,332 databases of which 1276 are for newspapers and periodicals. At their site you click on the Record Types tab and choose newspapers to see a search template for just their newspaper and periodicals databases or to browse all newspapers and periodical databases from an alphabetical list. If you prefer (as most genealogists do) to search just the databases for your geographic area of interest, you'll have a problem with this alphabetical list. Clicking on the Places tab and then on the name of a state under United States brings up a search template to search all the WVR databases for that state. Located below this search template is a list allowing you to browse all of that state's databases alphabetically--which can also be quite frustrating. WVR's Advanced Search feature gives more options and will probably be preferable for your newspaper searches at this site.

WVR's historical newspaper data primarily comes from and WVR will be doubling their newspaper content in the next few months in an arrangement with


1. NewsBank, Inc. has been an information provider for more than 35 years and is partnered with the American Antiquarian Society, Library of Congress, Wisconsin Historical Society, and more than 3,000 publishers and 90 institutions. One of their products available for in-house searching in many research libraries (such as the DAR Library in Washington, D.C.) is called Readex ( Readex provides Web-based access to nearly 2,000 early American newspapers from all fifty states and includes the Early American Newspapers, Series 1-7 covering 1690-1922 (keep in mind coverage is typically spotty with an issue here and a few months' worth there--very few of the newspapers published in 18th and 19th c. America still exist in their entirety), African American Newspapers 1827-1998, and Hispanic American Newspapers 1808-1980. [To see a list of the newspapers included in the "Early American Newspapers" at Readex as of December 2008 go to:] Created in partnership with the Center for Research Libraries, NewsBank's  World Newspaper Archive is under development and will include historical newspapers published in Africa, Latin America, Slavic and East Europe, South Asia and other regions. In addition, NewsBank offers two historical newspaper collections, the Chicago Tribune Historical Archive and the Dallas Morning News Historical Archive, which cover these major metropolitan areas from the 1800s to modern times.

NewsBank also does obituaries and currently offers more than 22 million indexed and fully searchable obituaries and death records published in over 700 newspapers across all 50 states for the time period from the 1980s to current times. NewsBank's America's Obituaries & Death Notices covers more than 70% of all obituaries published in U.S. newspapers each year.

NewsBank, Inc. is also the parent company for (a commercial service). At you search U.S. newspapers for free, see a snippet including the headline from the matching results, then pay per article (or subscribe) to have the full text--but not the photos or graphics--of that article e-mailed to you. has a total of 2622 newspapers and other news sources. The costs have gone up in recent years. It is now $14.95 for unlimited access for one day.

News from NewsBank in 2009 is

2. has 3,405 newspaper titles covering 842 towns and 250 years (but not all issues of a particular newspaper are usually available). NewspaperARCHIVE claims to be the largest historical newspaper database online. Every newspaper in its archive is fully searchable by name, keyword, and date. They are adding about 2.5  million newspaper pages per month. Searching on just the surname ZUKNICK (a very rare surname) gave 230 matches. This site has many easy ways to refine your searches including: with all the words, with the exact phrase, with at least one of the words, without all of the words, narrowed by exact date or between a range of years or dates, narrowed by four levels of location from country > state > city > specific newspapers available for that city.

This is a very powerful, yet easy to use, tool. Basic searches are free, but to refine your search (especially for common names or words) you'll need a membership. You need a membership to see the images, anyway. Several commercial genealogy sites at one time or another have gotten portions of their newspaper collections from

In an e-mail dated July 22, 2009 the editor of noted that their site has added the catalog from and is working on and newspaper titles for their directory to genealogy resources online.

3. ProQuest produces high-quality information products for academic, school, public, corporate, and government libraries around the world. It is best known in the genealogy community for HeritageQuest Online (often available for free to genealogists through their local library's subscription and searchable via the subscribing library's Web site). What many genealogists do not realize is that ProQuest provides several other newspaper collections to libraries (that may not be mentioned in the genealogy section of a library's Web site).

ProQuest Historical Newspapers™: This database offers full-text and full-image articles for newspapers with many dating back to the 19th century (actual coverage ranges from 1764 to 2007). The collection includes images of every page from every newspaper issue included in the collection--cover to cover--as downloadable PDF files. This collection includes not only historical U.S. newspapers, but also African-American newspapers, and some historical U.K. newspapers. This is a particularly strong resource because users have the ability to cross-search the various collections: national titles, regional titles, black  newspapers, and international titles. Since they have added the Irish Times, Guardian, and Scotsman--you may even be able to trace back to your U.K. roots. Another strength is that content is divided into twenty article types (news, editorials, advertisements, obituaries, birth and marriage announcements, etc.) helping you narrow your results. [I consider this an invaluable tool because the Renicks in Ohio were stock breeders and my searches turn up "Renick" in just about every newspaper because of their stock breeder ads.]

ProQuest Historical Newspapers is the only historical newspaper collection that includes searchable newspapers up to the year 2007. All other historical newspaper collections stop at 1922 to avoid paying royalties to the newspaper publishers. (Remember U.S. copyright laws place material published before 1923 in the public domain.) This makes ProQuest's Historical Newspapers project a particularly strong choice for 20th century research. ProQuest's Search Guide: Historical Newspapers contains search tips and explains their advanced search features (including truncation, wildcards, and Boolean operators like proximity and adjacency--features which really help when you are searching for common names).

ProQuest Obituaries™: This database offers data and images from more than 10.5 million newspaper obituaries and death notices from 1851 through the present. The breadth and depth of this collection make it a major resource for genealogists. Institutional subscriptions to this database are sold as part of the ProQuest Genealogy Center, so you are likely to find access to it in the genealogy section of a library's Web site (unlike ProQuest Historical Newspapers which tends to be listed under Library Resources--Databases or Online Databases). The ProQuest Obituaries search template
allows users to search by name, date, and keyword with advanced wildcard searching available for finding name variations.

ProQuest has a new product that should be released in June 2009: American Periodicals from the Center for Research Libraries. It covers the 19th and early 20th centuries and can be cross-searched along with ProQuest's Historical Newspapers and their other historical collections (like their Civil War Era databases).

FREE  GENEALOGY  SITES has more than 250 relatively current issues of small town newspapers you can read for free. For example, on March 23rd I was able to view online a free copy of the January 22, 2009 Lone Tree Reporter from Lone Tree, Iowa. You can also browse and search their scanned newspaper archive for free. In this online archive some newspapers go back as far as 1865. Click on browse by state to see the newspaper titles available for each state.

What is not immediately apparent is how to get to the SmallTownPapers archive to do a search (whereas via the search box for first name and last name or keyword is very prominent). At SmallTownPapers the red archives search box is not displayed until you click on the name of a newspaper and go to that newspaper's page. The archives search then takes you to or where all of the images supplied by SmallTownPapers can be seen for free.

Find Newspapers Web page via University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (both U.S. and International)

Miriam Robbinds Midkiff's site: Online Historical Newspapers Website organizes your search geographically by country, state,  then county & city, name of newspaper, years covered, cost (free or paid), and resources (host site).

Penn Libraries History Research Guides: Historical Newspapers Online includes partial lists (as found and entered) from Google News Historical Archives,, Chronicling America, and state newspaper digitization projects.


Google has a News tab with an option to search the News (both U.S. and International) but this is a mixture of both current news stories and headlines plus hits from Google's News Archives with includes a growing list of historical newspapers. For genealogists, you'll probably want to search in Google's NewsArchives section ( and NOT just Google's current News section ( after first looking in the Chronicling America database for likely newspaper titles for your area of interest then checking the list of historical newspapers in the Google NewsArchives ( or the Advanced Archives Search at Google ( From the All Newspapers List page at Google, be sure to click on the title of the newspapers of interest (found via the  Chronicling America database) and browse you way through pertinent issues, too.


1. The Web site had a few U.S. Newspapers, but heavier concentrations from Canada and Mexico plus a scattering of other countries in Europe. Google expanded its news service in 2006 to include a news archive and in 2008 purchased At Google click on the News tab and in the upper right corner of your screen you'll see links to "News archive search" and "Advanced news search" as well as a "blog search." Google is strong in U.S. news, but weaker in International news.

International News Archives on the Web ( provides links to non-U.S. news archives.

3. Quezi "Now You Know" list of links to free newspaper archives online from France and other French-language areas

4. Trove "Find and get over 311,134,516 Australian and online resources:
books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives and more" newspapers free?


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