Finding Newspapers: Digitized, Microfilmed And Indexed

by Gena P. Ortega | Jun 28, 2011

There's no doubt that newspapers are an important resource for genealogists. But the problem for most researchers is where to find them. Newspapers, printed on acidic paper, were not meant to be archived for long periods of time and as a result they are not always preserved. While in a few instances, genealogists may find that the local newspaper office will have a newspaper morgue with copies of back issues; most often, a family history researcher is going to find newspapers either on microfilm, digitized or indexed in some way. The following are some ideas to assist you in finding the newspapers you need for your research.

Not all newspapers have been preserved; in those cases consider looking for newspapers that covered a nearby city or the county your ancestor lived in. While the focus of this article is on city newspapers, remember that there were other types of newspapers that may have mentioned your ancestor like ethnic, religious or occupational. A thorough search of all relevant newspapers should be conducted.


Family History Library

While the Family History Library does not carry newspapers per se they do carry books of newspaper indexes. While an index is not as good as a newspaper article because of transcription errors and omissions, they are a starting place. You can search for newspaper indexes and transcripts by searching the Family History Library Catalog for the locality your ancestor lived in and then the category "newspapers." The catalog does allow you to search by state, county or parish, and in some cases city.

FamilySearch Centers , formerly known as Family History Centers, as well as the Family History Library have online newspaper websites available to search. The FamilySearch Portal can only be accessed at a FamilySearch Center and allows patrons to access subscription websites for free. Newspaper related websites on the portal include 19th Century British Library Newspapers Digital Archive and Access Newspaper Archive. Other genealogy subscription websites with newspaper collections are also available on the portal including Ancestry, WorldVitalRecrds, and Godfrey Memorial Library. Those using the computers inside the Family History Library have access to additional websites.

Don't forget to search the FamilySearch Research Wiki for articles on newspapers. These wiki articles include South Carolina, Utah, Wales, and England newspapers just to name a few. With close to 60,000 articles, the Research Wiki is an important first stop to learning more about resources available for your research project.


State Microfilm Newspaper Projects

The U.S. Newspaper Project came as a result of a program, an effort by 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." You can view the repositories, by state, that participated in this program by going to neh.gov. Information on each repository also includes some information of the scope of the project. These listings can point you in the direction of repositories that have newspaper microfilm collections.


State Digital Newspaper Projects

One place to search for digitized newspapers is through state digitizing project websites. These websites were supported from grants through The National Digital Newspaper Program. Projects focused on creating access to newspapers published between 1836 to 1822. The Library of Congress website Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers is an example of a website from this project. These projects are available online and provide researchers with a search engine to use to find articles in newspapers by keyword or phrase. Some state digital newspaper projects include California, Colorado, Illinois, and Utah.

Looking for more websites with digitized newspapers? See the listing of websites at Wikipedia: List of Online Newspaper Archives that provides links to websites with newspaper collections in the United States and the world. Websites in this listing include those that are free and those that require a subscription.


Archives And Libraries

In some cases a state archive or library may have a state's newspapers available on microfilm. Any genealogy research project should include a search through the online catalog of the state archive or library for the locality of your ancestor. Some states have both a state archive and a state library, as is the case for California, while others may have just an archive or a library. To find a list of state archives consult the webpage Directory of State and Territorial Archives and Records Programs.

Libraries in the United States includes all types of libraries for each state including state libraries, government, private, public and academic libraries. Consult these various libraries to see who has microfilmed newspapers available. In some cases you may be able to borrow these microfilmed copies through interlibrary loan.


Google Newspaper Archives

Many of us are used to using Google to find a multitude of information from websites, to images to maps. So it shouldn't come to any surprise that Google also provides a way to find digitized or transcribed newspapers. Google News Archive is a place to find newspapers that are available online. While Google News Archive is a place to find historical newspapers that the Google search engine has crawled it is also a place to find newspapers that Google has digitized through their newspaper partnerships. Unfortunately, Google's efforts to digitize newspaper, which began in 2008, came to an end recently. However, the 60 million pages from 2,000 newspapers that have already been scanned will continue to be searchable through Google News Archive.

Searching Google News Archive is much like conducting any Google search. You can search via a keyword/s or a phrase as well as conducting an advanced search that allows you to broaden or narrow your search terms. Once you conduct a search, Google News Archive places your search results in a timeline view which allows you to further narrow your search to specific years. (This is also a feature you can use in Google by clicking on More Search Tools and then Timeline on the left hand menu visible from your results page).

In Google News Archive, while some of the results may be free there will be some that will require payment.


Historical and Genealogical Societies

A historical society may have newspaper resources as well as other historical resources and documents. It's important to check both a local historical society and a state society, when applicable. One state historical society that many researchers will be interested in is the Kansas State Historical Society. The Kansas State Historical Society has microfilmed copies of newspapers from 31 states as well as Kansas. Through their newspaper page you can search what newspapers they have on microfilm for various states. Once you choose the state you are interested in from the drop down menu you can peruse the list of newspapers. Those with microfilm numbers can be ordered through interlibrary loan from your local reference librarian.

Depending on the genealogy society's collection, some may include indexes of vital records information from local newspapers or clippings. A society may also have microfilmed copies of local newspapers. It's important to survey what the local society has as well as the state society. Collections differ according to volunteers and funds. If the society is not near you, ask whether the society considers research requests and how much their fees are.

To find a listing of historical and genealogical societies in the United States, Australia and Canada consult Society Hill.


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