Old Newspaper Resources

old newspaper research
Using old newspapers in genealogy

In this age of digital archives and online databases, its easy to forget the old-school sources like print newspapers. But you really should take advantage of old newspapers if you get the chance because you can find a lot of genealogy information in them.

Birth announcements, marriage notices and obituaries are the most obvious but there are other areas that a newspaper can help you with. You can find:

  • Legal notices
  • Church or school announcements
  • Local news stories that may have been about your family members
  • Advertisements if your ancestors ran businesses
  • Letters to the editor
  • Gossip columns

Not all of these types of newspaper features will provide vital statistics or genealogical information, but sometimes just getting a personal glimpse of someone’s life can really bring some zest to your studies. People are more than just birth and death dates. You might also find unique photos with any of these newspaper pieces.

Your local library is the best place to start your search. Even if your ancestors are not from the area where you are living, there are many good newspaper indexes that can be searched no matter where you are. If you are lucky, you may have immediate access to hundreds of different newspapers without having to leave town.

If you are looking for very small papers from rural area, you will have a little more work ahead of you. Their archives aren’t exactly in high demand and may only be available locally, either through the newspaper office itself or the library in that town. Expect older issues to be on microfilm and not easily searchable except by scanning through page after page manually. Yes, it can be very tedious.

Once you find a page that is of interest, you should be able to print it directly from the microfilm. Some archives may have issues of the actual papers on hand that you can copy from instead. Ask about the resources before you start.

Some larger newspapers have their archives digitized so you can actually search by name or other keywords. If you want to try some online sources, try NewspaperArchive.com (a pay site) or the Olden Times.