Saturday, October 3

A World of Free Newspaper Archives

One very, very hot summer day years ago, a news reporter approached me, asked me how I was coping with the heat, and had her photographer snap a few photos.  Next day, I was on the front page of the local newspaper!

Things like that happen, and they may well have happened to your family members and your ancestors.  I'm a huge fan of searching through newspaper archives for information and stories about one's family history.  Online newspaper archives are even better, since it's possible to search through millions of old articles in mere seconds, and free online archives are the best resource of all.

But searching millions of old newspaper articles is not without its challenges, and that's what today's post is about...making the most of free online newspaper archives.

My relatives made the Atlanta Constitution in 1913

The first challenge is where to search.  I've covered Google News Archives, which is the most comprehensive collection available of free newspaper archives. is another huge resource with tremendous coverage in the US and the UK back to the 1700's, and a smattering of items from elsewhere in the world, including some really unusual resources from places you might not expect, like China or Jamaica.  This is a subscription service, but searching is free, as is a good deal of their content (front pages, for instance).

But regardless of how widespread these sources are, the truth is, there are thousands of discrete online archives that cover a particular geography or time period.  Locating and using these to research your family history is much more of a challenge.  But if you identify the right archives to research, they can be much more rewarding as well.  Here are some important resources for free newspaper archives:

While it's great to have such widespread access to old newspaper articles, this diversity has its price.  Each archive is different in terms of its interface, ease of use, searching protocol, and the types of materials retrieved.  Some archives include images, for instance, while others are text-only.

Still, these are well worth exploring.  Your ancestors and relatives are bound to be in there, somewhere.

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